Highway 99

I can still remember the first time the journey from Vancouver to Whistler took my breath away. Nearly 12 years on I have lost count of the number of times I have driven that highway, & its beauty still gets me. Rain, hail or snow it is stunning, but of course a clear blue sky is when it gets the ‘WOW’ factor. Today, even late in the afternoon, with the low winter sun & misty clouds hovering over the mountains, a spectacular sunset was developing. Fiery layers of orange, pink & lilac highlighted the snowcapped mountains, so they looked like they were erupting. You had to be quick to take it in though; once we took the bend at Horseshoe Bay it was behind us as we headed north.

The road ahead is sandwiched between evergreens & ocean, overlooked by soaring rock. A journey of hypnotic bends & curves that roll along the calm ripples of Howe Sound. There was nothing to suggest that the outside temperature was barely above freezing, not even a frost. Further on, as the light rapidly began to fade, I stole one last look at the sunset. The sky was now calmer, paler shades of orange & amber, not as vibrant, but still picture worthy.

It only took a third of the journey before winter became evident. As the temperature dropped to zero, thin patches of snow covered the verges. I managed to pick out The Black Tusk in the distance, only because I know where to look. However, it was no longer black; a crisp white sheet had been carefully placed over it. The mountains had now become shadows, quite dense & eerie. The impressive ‘Chief’ intimidated us as we glided through the ever-growing town of Squamish. From then on there would only be small pockets of civilization in the darkness. The oncoming glare of traffic is mesmerizing, & can easily distract your concentration. Passing a frozen lake is a sudden reminder that there is a reason why we have winter tires.

It a journey I love & will never get tired of travelling. But you know what the scariest & most impressive thing is about that highway? My husband, our friends & thousands of other admirable (or possibly mad!) people ride this every year! And yes, by ride I mean on a bike, with nothing but the power of their legs & determined minds to carry them along the 122kms of tarmac. After my husband’s first Whistler Gran Fondo I developed a whole new respect for that journey, & of course my husband. It may be breathtaking, but take it from him; it’s an absolute bitch on a road bike!

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