The Perfect Road

Location: Nakusp, Canada
Miles: 5235.2

I’m making my way back down to the states now, but I’m taking the scenic route, as usual. By scenic, I suppose I mean indirect, since all the routes seem to be scenic. As I studied the map for today’s leg, I had to choose between a larger road marked as a scenic route and a smaller road with no such blessing. I took the smaller road and am really happy I did. I took it because it had a ferry at one point. I knew the ferry would be nothing fancy, but it was a nice change of pace.

Let me tell you, boys and girls, that Highway 6 from Vernon to Nakusp is a great bit of driving. It probably isn’t marked as scenic because it’s too small to be noticed, but it is beautiful, and curvy, and not busy. The pavement is rough in some places, but I was happy to put up with that. I had breakfast at Waddy’s in Vernon, eggs over easy done almost perfectly, bacon, toast, and hashbrowns for five bucks, including coffee or tea. Good deal. I feel good as I find the highway and continue east.

I’m getting better at reading the isolated clouds that wander around dumping rain, and after only a few miles I decided to put the top up. I patted myself on the back as I passed through Lumby and the rain started to fall. There were signs up all over town for the “Lumby Days” celebration this weekend, which probably explains why it was raining there.

My atlas shows the road out of there as being pretty straight, but happily it is not. As the rain began to fall harder, the road became curvier, and the slopes steeper. I recognized the big, fat drops that presaged a hail storm back in New Mexico, and sure enough the drops started leaving little grains of ice behind on my windshield. I slowed down further, hoping that no one would run into me from behind, and glad that I wasn’t one of the motorcyclists I saw passing the other direction.

Then the sky opened up, flinging abuse at me like I was back in junior high. The roar of the ice crashing against my windshield drowned out my music and thunderclaps from even the closest lightning strikes. The road was immediately coated with icy spheres. I was driving on ball bearings made of ice with badly worn tires. Not good. Put an infant in the car and you have a tire commercial. I just wanted off the road. Twice the car skated dangerously, once taking me into the oncoming lane while I pointed the front wheels the right direction and prayed.

Finally I found a place to pull off, but someone else was already in it. There was no way I was going to stop if I couldn’t get all the way off the road. Solid rock was on my right, and I really couldn’t see what was down the slope on the other side. I crept on. After a couple more miles I found a spot to pull over, but by then the hail was letting up, yielding to ordinary, small-drop rain. Not far past that was a little restaurant with several motorcycles parked outside. As my adrenaline levels returned to normal I began to appreciate the road again.

The sun came out, and the wet road began to form its own fog bank, which I failed to photograph well. Once the top had time to dry out I pulled over next to a deer and went into sunshine configuration. When I stepped out of the car I was a little wobbly. I walked around a bit, trying to see the river I could hear far below me, but it was lost in the dense foliage. The deer watched me warily but was not going to give up whatever choice grazing it had found. No other cars passed while I stayed there.

crossing%20the%20lake.jpg Ten miles down the road I had to put the top back up. So much for my ability to read the clouds. Don’t like the weather? Drive a mile. The wet road and my recent brushes with four-wheel drift made me cautious, so I didn’t get the most out of the road, but it is a very, very good road. The ferry was on the far side of the lake when I pulled up, which allowed me to walk around for a bit in the gentle rain. I had a chance to read that I would soon be passing through Osprey Country, and that there would be nests on many of the power poles. I took some pictures, experimenting with different settings on the camera, then when the rain picked up I went back and put King Crimson on the stereo and studied my map. I decided that Nelson looked like a good place to shoot for.

When I got here I changed my mind. Nelson can wait until tomorrow. Nakusp is beautiful. I drove down the main drag and decided I had gone far enough this day. With plenty of daylight left I had time to walk along the lake, which is a long, well-cared-for park, with gardens lovingly tended. Unusual, I think, for a town this size. All along the walk are benches dedicated to the people who first settled here 100 years ago.

The lake is very low, I noticed. If it gets any lower the boat dock is in trouble. That can’t be good at the peak of runoff.

Now I’m at the hotel bar. It’s a good one.

11 thoughts on “The Perfect Road

  1. Man. Maybe your blog fans should take up a collection for new tires. Is it John Sully in Bozeman? John scope out tire joints and bribe Jerry to go there.

  2. Heck no! Jerry’s doing this for the adventure of it, and he’s representing the state of California. When you think of fools driving too fast on wet roads with bald tires, who do you think of? Exactly. Jer, drive those carcasses down to the cord! Take one for the team, and show ’em how we do it on the left coast.

  3. Okay, stepping out of my “unstable California recluse” personae for a moment, go get some new tires.

    In fact, get a lift kit and put some oversize knobbies on that bad-boy!

  4. As for the lake level getting low, that is a dire situation. The New Mexico Sailing Club marina is high and dry this year. That’s why we’re going to California — as best as we can tell, the Bureau of Reclamation can’t drain the Pacific Ocean.

  5. No, the plan there is to raise the sea level just enough to get rid of that pesky Florida.

    I heard that Santa Fe National Forest was closed due to critical fire danger.

  6. Some parts of the national forests are being closed because of the fire danger. Some campgrounds and recreational areas are closed, and throughout the forests, there are restrictions — no campfires, no smoking except in CLOSED vehicles (that is, windows not open), no use of spark-producing equipment such as chainsaws.

    As for how effective such restrictions will be, I’m not optimistic — have you ever known a smoker who keeps his car windows shut while smoking?

  7. Actually, I’ve never encountered a tobacco user who gives a damn about what’s going on outside HIS car — or to clarify, all the irresponsible tobacco users I’ve encountered have been male. Before Pat broke his wrist, he drove the Babe, and I had El Caballero. El Caballero is great in town, nice and nimble, and quite thrifty on fuel. The problem is that it’s invisible to people driving tall vehicles.

    I have lost count of the times when I was stopped at a traffic light next to a tall pickup or SUV and the driver tossed his butt onto my car. If I’m lucky, the butt bounces off onto the street below. More often, the butt rests on my hood, burning a scar onto my paint. Less often, but more seriously, the butt rolls over the rear edge of my hood and into the air-conditioning intake. If that happens, with my sensitivities, I have to put the car in park, get out, remove the butt — regardless of whether the drivers behind me want to get moving.

    Even worse than the smokers are the chawers. They just never, ever, look down before they spit, to see whether there might be somebody down below. Or maybe they consider any small vehicle to be worthy of contempt.

  8. Latest fire-danger update: today there was a fire in the bosque right near downtown Albuquerque. Two culprits are blamed: the direct culprit, an idiot who thought it was a good idea to smoke a cigarette in the woods and toss the butt; and the indirect culprit, the feds who kept the conservancy district from thinning this particular piece of the bosque because it was habitat for the endangered willow flycatcher.

    I wonder how many flycatchers lost their nests in the blaze? I wonder whether the feds will charge the butt-tosser with a federal crime?

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