How does a one-week bike ride take one month to finish?
I have been a touring cyclist for the past 2 years. Having joined an army of successful professionals who threw away security for something juicer, I have become a nomad living on a shoestring budget for the sake of adventure.
The Okanagan Valley was an easy choice for a quick pleasure ride. My last ride was gnarly and in the far north, with bears, rivers and isolation. I was ready for something completely different. I was ready for a little luxury.
On the Kettle Valley Railway trail, I would glide through a dense thicket of delights, especially between Naramata and Okanagan Falls. I expected to discover stunning views and perfect bike trails, wineries, cider-makers, breweries and funky distillers.
More than that, I had heard tell of thriving farmer’s markets, organic produce, artisanal food producers: cheeses, baking, healthy sausage (is that a thing?), delicious vegan treats and some of the best coffee in the valley. This – together with amazing natural beauty, beaches, artwork and cultural events – made the Penticton area irresistible. One week turned out to be impossibly brief.
I set out from Myra Canyon near Kelowna to ride my loaded touring bike to Osoyoos, favouring trails over roads. Would this route even be passable to my type of bike? I could not find an answer online. As a touring cyclist, I know that uncertainties like this often result in hours of pushing a bike through/up/down/over/around some impediment or other. Sand pits, rivers, boulders, thick gravel…it’s all part of the, uh, fun, and results in a quiet self-confidence and rather large quads. Win-win-win.
As it turns out, the Kettle Valley Railway trail was well maintained and rideable. The breathtaking beauty of the trail dropped down into Naramata’s delightful agrarian community. Here I found some of the finest wines in Canada. The picturesque beachfront of Naramata town rewarded my efforts with sweet, ripe grapes growing wild along the shore of Okanagan Lake. Nearby, a farmer’s market offered up dinner: freshly picked organic fruits & veggies with a hunk of Mennonite sausage. Two wineries held free tastings, resulting in the purchase of a bottle of merlot to accompany the best meal I’d had in days.
The KVR trail then wound prettily through Naramata with a gentle descent, ending at Okanagan Lake in Penticton. Here I found a warm, soft, mile-long beach for a post-ride cool down. I also found my favourite new office.
Penticton is nestled between two beautiful lakes: Okanagan in the north, Skaha in the south, with a lazy channel connecting them. My calendar said I was supposed to head to Okanagan Falls, but first I needed to float down the channel on an inner tube with an icy thermos of mojitos. Then it was live music day. Then other cultural events, meeting cool people doing cool things, art galleries and the largest, most varied street market I’ve ever seen in Western Canada.
After a week, I pedaled south past Skaha beach to find a sunny, waterfront trail to Okanagan falls. Here I switched to Highway 97 and had many other delicious and scenic adventures until I came to the end at Osoyoos.
While sitting in quiet reflection on yet another sunny beach, I impulsively picked up my bike and pedaled back to Penticton. It took another three weeks to finally tear myself away – only with a promise to return next year.
Cathrine Morginn is a communications professional who has thrown herself into radical minimalism. Travel, freelancing, volunteerism and time with loved ones now take priority over house and stuff. You can follow her adventures at TrueWheels.ca.