September and October are two of the best months for cycling in the North Okanagan. With many sunny days, temperatures ranging from 15 to 25 degrees C, and back roads free of summer traffic, it’s a great time to explore on two wheels. The weather tends to be so reliable that I rarely consider an alternative plan. So when we ride our bikes up Bella Vista Road to Planet Bee Honey Farm and Meadery, even though the sky is dull and gray, there is no plan B.
Observing the live hives we learn about the six to eight-week life cycle of the female worker bees, the drones who exist only for the purpose of fertilizing the queen bee, and the queen herself, who eats royal jelly produced by the workers, lays about 2,000 eggs a day and lives to the ripe old age of three to five years. We taste the variety of honeys but decline the mead (honey wine) tasting as we are heading back out onto the road.
An hour has passed and it is now raining. Determined to finish our tour, we ride the couple of blocks to my house and abandon the bikes for the car. Yes we love to cycle but the truth is, it’s the stops along the way that are the best part of the journey!
With windshield wipers sweeping the rain off our view, we trace out what would have been our bike route: down Bella Vista Road, continuing east on 30th Avenue, a right turn onto 26th Avenue and then a left turn on 25th Avenue, which continues east to a T intersection, then south on Francis Road. A right and then left turn on to Pottery Road, which we follow to 476 Pottery Rd. Here, in a tidy clap board house, is South of Pine Street Fashions, our next destination.
We open the squeaky screen door and are greeted by owner Shella who asks if we would like a latte while we browse. Being neither sweaty nor wet, there seems no barrier to trying on some of the new fall fashions. We leave, tossing our purchases into the car; no need to cram them into panier bags! This justifies our car tour, even though the rain has stopped.
We drive north on East Vernon Road, through the pastures of BX and acknowledge the steepness of the road up over Black Rock and how fast we would have coasted down 39th Avenue on our bikes. Our final destination is The Greater Vernon Museum and Archives, a place we have all intended to visit but have never quite made it.
Inside we walk along a wooden sidewalk, past the stories of fur traders, early cattle ranches and orchards and the B.C. gold rush that pushed Vernon from a sleepy town to a transportation hub, the epicentre for stage coaches, paddlewheelers and the railroad. We see the art of Allan Brooks, the namesake of the nature centre perched up on the commonage, and the work of famous potter Axel Ebring, and admire the vintage clock from the old post office. An hour is not enough time and we promise ourselves that we will return. We leave the museum under a sunny sky knowing that we could have biked the route, but we are not disappointed: it was a great morning!
Moira McColl is a freelance writer and cycling enthusiast in Vernon. This is the fourth in her Urban Wanderer series on cycling in the area, with the hope that it will encourage locals and visitors alike to explore the North Okanagan on two wheels.