Club Spring Drive 2005

Princeton, Merritt, Spences Bridge

Held: June 18 - 19, 2005

It was one of those cool overcast days that threatened rain. I was a bit overcast myself as I pulled into the far corner of the Chevron on 232 nd not in my actual car. You see I was driving Pam’s new __ __ __ D A 3 and my self imposed isolation served as a bit of an apology. It was the same kind of ugly older sister isolation we 122 drivers endured at Steve’s 544 Fest, and I’m good at it now. At any rate, the rear axle seal on my 122 had leaked all over the right rear drum soaking the brake shoes a couple of days before our run and I had to scramble to get parts from Gregg and Olof and I just ran out of time. It turns out my local mechanic had installed both Woodruff keys between the axle shaft and the drums, backwards and split both drums. Well at least they were consistent.

What did surprise me was that there were 13 vehicles and their friendly contents, (well 12 minus the Mazda) waiting drinking coffee, gassing and gassing up. With Germanic efficiency we were dispatched at 10:00 AM from the parking lot by Director Mac Aree and rendezvoused an hour later at the Main Street Chevron in Hope after a pleasant enough freeway drive. Our next stop was the parking lot for the Othello Caves which are about 10 minutes from Kawkawa Lake. Unfortunately access to the caves was restricted due to a recent rockslide. It was raining lightly by this time and Dave, Richard and I stayed back doing the Block Watch thing as people meandered down the path.

We pressed on to Manning Park along Highway #3 (Destination Highway 44) and it rained lightly along some stretches but it cleared for lunch which most of us consumed picnic style by the Lodge. We were entertained by the antics of bumming Canada Jays and Columbia Ground Squirrels that I’ve concluded are preserved during the winter by abnormally high sulphite levels. The Lodgepole Pines however, aren’t doing as well. They have been felled along the highway opposite the Lodge, victims of pine beetle infestation. It looks like fall has come early with large swaths of rusty red splashed across the stands of trees, signalling their doom and the certain fate of their adjacent still green family members.

The rain never returned once we left the Lodge and sped east towards Princeton. Again we met in the ubiquitous Chevron Station for filling of gas tanks and emptying of others. Colin Dover escorted us to a store called Bugnut Toys ( which has a great selection of good quality metal car models featuring Volkswagens of various scales and other sign, models and car paraphernalia of all makes. The inventory is cleverly arranged on shelves directly against the glass which separated us from our potential purchases. Alas, we were only able to leave nose prints because the place was closed even though it was mid afternoon Saturday. Someone did phone the cell number on the door but the owner was not “available” until early evening. It left us speculating that he prefers mail order to direct sales or he is obsessive compulsive and doesn’t want anyone messing with the displays. I was through there in Mid August on a Monday and fared no better.

We drove the road which winds above the town and the pack soon spread out as people ate up a winding Highway 5A (DH #42) at as brisk a pace as desired. This is a gorgeous stretch, though not highly rated by the DH people with the occasional lake and recreational properties letting you know it’s occupied at least during the summer and ranched year round by those hardy enough to call it home. An hour or so later and we were at the Travelodge in Merritt laying out our favourite event T-shirts and fresh underwear in preparation for an evening of fine dining. We settled on the Greek Place for dinner and wedged ourselves in behind a very large group who were occupying the town for a swim meet. The service and food were pretty darn good but the waitress must have been part of the Merritt Temperance League because she was extremely evasive about serving second drinks.

Volvo people generally tend to be a bit dull in the party sense and tend to go to bed early. In this case I was glad we did because at about 5:00AM Sunday I stumbled awake and remained that way with the sound of a diesel engine warming up, then a second. I looked out the window and saw a crew scrambling to close the road and position heavy duty equipment including a hiab crane and crawler excavator. On a positive note, the eastern sky was clear and rosy without cloud. Over the course of the next few hours the boys erected a beautiful log carved sign across the strip road announcing Merritt as the “Country Music Capital of Canada” YEEE-HAAA. I had coffee, read a bit and waited for the people sleeping on the north side to wake up due to natural causes all with Glen Campbell singing “Witchita Lineman” over and over and over in my head. Well, at least sunny warm weather was with us again.

On the way over to the Home Restaurant, which does not feature heart smart cuisine, I ran into the Johnsons at about 8:30 having the continental breakfast at the Travelodge dining room and encouraged them to join Richard and me for coffee. They did so… AND ordered pie with that coffee… AND… were cajoled into ice cream on the pie by the waitress. But please don’t tell Susan their 40 something daughter. She might not let them go on the next road trip. I like the Johnsons. They live by the modified credo “Life is short, eat dessert first or first thing in the morning”.

Colin Dover suggested we slow things down and stop more frequently on the 75 mile trip west to Spences Bridge along Highway 8 (DH #9) . We tried to access a lookout just out of town but gravel roads thwarted our advance. After 10 miles or so we stopped once again for a glimpse of the Nicola River which threaded its way flanked by green bottom land which went on seemingly forever. Here the Johnsons loaded a Canadian rock into the back of their wagon, I guess as a potential offering to Susan for the breakfast thing. This is a particularly winding stretch of road and it was all I could do to hold back. Our procession of 13 eventually bumped up against a wayward Albertan in an Intrepid who must have been having a flashback to a funeral cortege he was in about 30 years ago. He plodded along at about 30mph through a curvaceous stretch that had most of us tight jawed and whimpering quietly, lamenting lost opportunities of being tossed sideways resisting a little G force. About 4 or 5 cars appeared behind us and when the road opened up a bit most of us peeled off impatiently with Pokey oblivious to it all.

Further along at a bend in the Nicola an eagle perched on a tree that was half fallen over, perhaps waiting for that Albertan to go by. An hour later we formed up in a pull out overlooking the Thompson River just outside of Spences Bridge. We yacked for about 15 minutes and took a few photos of the cars and the Thompson and each other… and suddenly….the Albertan appeared, still doing 30. Were those talon marks at the sunroof? If he had of been going a little bit slower I could have been more certain.

Things sort of broke up from here and most people found their ways home at their own pace. We were now on Highway #1 (DH#29) for the twisting sweeping 68 mile stretch to Lytton which runs along the Thompson Canyon. I pulled over to show Richard the colour change where the Thompson and Fraser rivers converge. It was getting quite warm and the road was in great shape and pretty well void of traffic. I passed Pokey, again still straining to hit 40mph (him not me). He must get exquisite fuel economy but it all pales when you can potentially lose to a cheetah at the drags.

The Boston Bar to Hope stretch follows the Fraser Canyon for 66 miles and is under- rated as a 37 in the DH guide. Some of our group barely missed getting sideswiped by a utility trailer which hit the sidewall in one of the tunnels, putting on a pretty decent light show. No one was hurt but it raises the pulse rate, regardless. Another great trip and one I could do every year. By the way, the Mazda is very nimble.