My Aunt and Uncle are cattle ranchers. They live in a no-cell-reception, off-the-map area near Alexis Creek in northern B.C.
They have a really active lifestyle – they’re always chasing their cattle around on their dirtbikes (easier than horses), or going waterskiing at the nearby lake.
They took us on a tour of their vast property where 200-some cattle graze and they grow hay to bale and store for winter.
Dirtbikes are the easiest way to get from one place to another. So they put me on one. The fools.
I’d never driven anything with a clutch before. This is the kind of thing that would have had me scared and in tears in Jr. High school.
Here’s the mantra I kept chanting in my head: neutral gear, kickstart, idle, clutch, move thing to first, hold clutch, throttle, slowly release clutch.
I’m really awkward at coordinating the clutch. As we were halfway across the property, we stopped so Mike and Corinne could show us some of the huge bales they already stacked.
They looked like giant shredded wheat cereal.
I stopped my bike to take some photos and then as I was preparing to go between the stacks, I jumped off my clutch really quickly and my front wheel flew up as I was propelled right into the side of a giant bale. My neck snapped back and my face banged into the side of a hay bale. I was fine, just sore with straw in my eye.
Not deterred, I got back on (after Mike cleared the engine, which had flooded when I crashed and the bike tipped over). After some prodding from my aunt actually, I ended up riding across the plains in second gear. I did it!!!
The joke is that I was on the littlest dirtbike. Only 100ccs. The ones my family was riding had a lot more power. They’ve been riding forever.
Uncle Mike above is great at riding dirtbikes. He’s also broken his collarbone and dealt with numerous other bike injuries. You can tell he loves it.
They tell me the key to looking pro is learning to release the clutch ‘gently’, and remembering to give it enough gas in the upper gears so it doesn’t stall when you release the clutch.
Around the property we saw the cattle, the huge irrigation systems, the hay and the jumps.
Readers, I did not try the jumps.
There’s one that’s made out of a cow my uncle had to bury after it wandered to a secluded part of the property and got into trouble while trying to give birth. As my uncle put it, “her sacrifice was not in vain, because I made a ramp out of her.”
It’s called the dead cow jump.
We had fresh steak, sandwiches and cold beer in iced mugs when we got back. We had to be on the road to Whistler by 3:30pm.
I wish I could have stayed longer. It was great to see my family. We had to catch the morning ferry to Vancouver Island so we could meet our friends and drive up to Sayward with them.
I was still shaking the hay out of my clothes as we got back into the car.
A little poof of straw dust appeared every time I opened my wallet .
The next time we’re back, we’ll learn how to waterski.
We headed east to Williams Lake and then turned sharply south down one of the most beautiful highways I’ve ever been on.
Also, one of the most dangerous.
The BC-99 South is a highway best viewed at sunset. It has painted canyons, rivers and stunning gorges lined with emerald farmland. The irrigation machines cover the agricultural plateaus with an avalon mist.
There are tiny towns with twinkling lights in the purple dusk situated on the edge of a sheer cliff face. All this around hairpin turns that make things disappear around corners as quickly as they come, so you’re whipping your head around so fast you wonder if they were ever there.
You pass through a lot of small reserve towns. I see a sign that says, “All natives go to heaven because they have rezervations.” across the street from Lightfoot Market and Gas.
You see a gas station and think, “Wow, that gas is so cheap!” But keep driving kids, because that is reserve gas and unless you have native status it is not for you.
We drive past grazing deer, up and down switchbacks, up and down hills so steep they’re at 13%, 14% and then 15% grade. Howling with excitement each time we came to a steeper hill.
Be careful here. In winter, this is a death trap. There are no lights on this highway and six bridges that only fit one vehicle at a time.
There are runaway lanes at sharp turns (they’re shorter roads that go about a kilometre off the main road at sharp turns – they’re meant for large trucks that don’t slow down in time. You can take the runaway lane to avoid colliding with another vehicle, or flying off the cliff).
After the sun sets, the shadow of darkness runs away from your headlights as you scan the roadside ditches for the telltale reflection of deer eyes.
There are rest areas every five kilometres or so. And by rest areas, I mean a larger shoulder of highway where you can pull off if you get driving fatigue.
We stopped a few times for coffee.
After driving for about seven and a half hours from my aunt and uncle’s house, we reach the Wal Mart in Squamish where we set up camp for the night. We weren’t alone. About 30 other camping vehicles were spending the night with us. In the morning, the Horseshoe Bay ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island would only be a 40 minute drive away.
Day 22 Costs:
- Gas in Clinton: $75.47
- A&W: $20.34
- McDonalds coffees: $5.37