A change of plans leads to an almost-forgotten highway
Story and Photos by Trevor Marc Hughes
It was a sunny Sunday. There were many other motorcyclists passing in the other direction. Friendly waves were visible as they rumbled past me in the cool of the Fraser Valley. There were more and more of them, seemingly hungry to pack in as much riding as possible in the fertile lowlands, as though they didn’t have anywhere else to go.
British Columbia had an alarming number of wildfires in the summer of 2017. Many raged near the Cariboo Highway corridor: Highway 97, specifically between Cache Creek and Williams Lake. I had planned a longer ride on this weekend, one that would have had me riding near Quesnel Lake, but there were too many highway closures and evacuation orders. I wished the best for those who had to leave their homes.
Change of Plans
Instead, I decided to do some motor-cycle exploring close to home. Highway 7 jumped to mind. This slower-paced and scenic secondary highway is the route I prefer to the speedy straight shot of Hwy 1 when leaving Vancouver and riding east. It would have been the start of my route up to the Cariboo. Whenever I’ve ridden Hwy 7, I’ve seen signs for many interesting towns and historic stops. This was my opportunity to get to know my recently acquired 2010 BMW F650GS and stop in at some of those bypassed places, culminating in the town of Hope: “The Gateway to Holidayland.”
Highway 7 gets really interesting east of Mission. Rolling through massive expanses of farmland, the road twists and turns through small communities such as Hatzic and Dewdney. There was enough open road to enjoy twisting the throttle and getting into fourth gear while taking in fresh, crisp valley air. I geared down quickly to take the sharp left leading across Nicomen Slough and into the small community of Deroche. The bike bounced over railroad tracks in first gear. The tree-lined highway cleared to become a wide open landscape during the crossing of the bridge over the Harrison River. Log booms floated and aging wood pilings stuck out on the vast expanse of water. I smelled fresh-cut lumber. I straightened the bars, focused on the road ahead and looked forward to my first stop.
Stepping Back in Time
I took a right to navigate some cracked and narrow roads bordered by cornfields to Kilby Historic Site. A barn wall provided a welcome bit of shade for the GS and me as I removed and stored my riding gear. I sauntered into the orientation barn, an aging wooden one-story building that once served as a horse shed. Staff in period costume served me lunch on red-and-white checked tablecloths as the tinny sound of 1920s radio played from speakers above. I was being steeped in Fraser Valley life from a century ago. Kilby Historic Site is a place where the Fraser and Harrison Rivers converged and where a CPR station brought many travellers to Harrison Mills.
Boardwalks and ramps led me to the T. Kilby Hotel and General Store. Inside, Ernie, an interpreter dressed in 1920s garb, standing next to a gleaming antique cash register and in front of shelving filled with century-old tin packaging, told me of the horrible flooding the area has experienced over the last century. Boardwalks connected the community.
My GS crunched along the parking lot gravel as I pushed on. The warmer afternoon made putting on my riding gear more uncomfortable, but I opened…