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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

Been there, done that!

3, 1, 97C, 5!


What the heck does that mean? Read on to find out!





This morning before we left our spot at The Orchard RV Park in Lake Country and headed down to Kelowna to pick up Jerry at Canadian Tire, Richard was on the ‘Drive B.C.’ app checking the roads on the mountain passes to see what the weather would be like for us today. Which way should we go to Vancouver? Hmmmm???


We took our time packing up Newman and headed down to Kelowna. As we were driving I had a nice catch up call with a former colleague and with our financial planner. It’s nice to hear how well the portfolio has been performing, after all of our recent expenses and soon to be expenses with Jerry!


There’s poor old Jerry being hooked up to Newman. Richard was lucky that four Canadian Tire mechanics were willing to push Jerry out from the garage, to exactly where we needed him, to hook up to the hitch on Newman.


We left Canadian Tire at 10:45am heading south through Kelowna. The traffic in Kelowna was just crazy. That’s one drawback to the City. A beautiful place, but way too much traffic for the road system!



Kelowna traffic! It actually looks light in this picture. There is no ’major’ highway through town though, so everything is stop and go traffic with many traffic lights before you get anywhere.


As we were driving through Kelowna traffic I was checking Facebook and I saw this:

One of my Facebook friends put this on Facebook today and I thought it was very appropriate! That’s exactly what we are doing! Checking things off our bucket list one by one and making memories instead of sitting around dreaming about making memories!


So why do the numbers 3, 1, 97C and 5 have some significance? These are the road numbers of all of the highway mountain pass roads in BC that we have driven so far in our two years of going and returning from Vancouver Island.



Here we go. On the 97C. There are no towns between West Kelowna until we get til Merritt! That is a 120 km stretch of mountain highway, with nothing but road!



Immediately the 97C highway starts to go up in elevation.



Ok, I guess they really mean it! NO EXCEPTIONS to carrying tire chains!



There are definitely lots of warnings once you get on this road to Merritt!



Oh, oh! Look what we see up ahead!



Leftover snow on the side of the road. Yikes!



Next thing we know there is heavy snow on the sides of the road, and we are driving in very, very heavy fog. I sure hope that we don’t start to see any precipitation!



A winter wonderland!


We were very surprised how severe the climb out of West Kelowna to Merritt was. We think that this uphill climb was probably one of the most severe climbs we have ever done on these mountain roads in B.C.



Coming out of the fog on 97C towards Merritt.



As soon as we came out of the snow, this beautiful rolling meadow appeared!

We stopped at a truck ‘chain up’ area for a quick bio break for Richard, just south of Merritt, so I could put together a turkey salad sandwich for him before he got back to driving. There was no stopping Richard today. He was a man on a mission who was about to tackle driving Highway 5…..’THE COQUIHALLA!’


Coquihalla in the Halq’emeylem language is a place name meaning ‘STINGY CONTAINER’. It refers to a fishing rock near the mouth of what is now known as the Coquihalla River. The rock is a good platform for spearing salmon. According to Sto:lo oral history, the water babies who inhabit a pool close by the rock, would swim out and pull the salmon off the spears, allowing only certain fisherman to catch the salmon.






The Coquihalla Summit is the Surrey Lake Summit at 1,444 metres and is the highest point of Highway 5 which we were on today, from Merritt to Hope, B.C. Building Highway 5 or the ‘Coquihalla Highway’ was one of the most ambitious highway projects ever undertaken in the Province of B.C. Design of the highway began with the exploration of the proposed route in 1973, followed by an official survey in 1978 when the first construction contract was let. More than 10,000 people were needed to fill all of the jobs, 1,000 pieces of heavy equipment worked non stop every day during the summer of 1985 to build the highway. The Coquihalla Highway is a bridge engineer’s dream, with a bridge or overpass on average every 3,158 metres. 18 highway interchanges, 38 bridge and overpass structures, 19 vehicle underpasses and 50 pipeline crossings were built along the route. When the Coquihalla opened, it became a vital link between Merritt and the rest of the Province. The City of Kamloops and the Okanagan have also experienced tremendous growth and change since the Coquihalla was completed. The Coquihalla is one of the worst roads in winter though. Richard told me today not to distract him as he was going to be very, very focused on his drive today. There were 32 fatal crashes on the Coquihalla from 2004-2013 and in winter there are at least 400-500 accidents each year.



A lot of signs on the Coquihalla reminding us to watch for changing weather conditions. What I found very interesting was the speed limit on this highway was 120 km/hr. A bit crazy, considering the elevation, and changing road conditions!



We made it to the Summit!

As soon as we started to go down from the Summit of the Coquihalla, it started to rain. When Richard had checked the forecast earlier this morning, he said we had a short window to get through the summit, before the temperature dropped and the possibility of snow would exist! Yikes. We got through the summit around 1:30pm, with a temperature of 1C and snow was supposed to start falling at 3pm. That was cutting it close!



By the time we got to Hope, B.C. The temperature had improved a bit, but it was still raining pretty hard.


We were glad that we had stayed in Hope last year, because we knew exactly which gas station to stop for both diesel and a propane fill up. Last year before we headed to the Island we had stopped at the Flying J truck stop on the south side of the highway, and they did not have any propane. This time, we knew exactly where to go and stopped at the Esso station for a diesel fill and propane fill up.



While we were fueling up with propane there was a helicopter hovering over the ground practising some maneuvers.



Leaving Hope, the rain started to fall a lot harder.


As we were getting closer to Vancouver the rain was really coming down and everything was pretty ’socked in’ with fog.

As we got to Vancouver we hit quite a bit of traffic, but the sun came out for the rest of our drive to Tsawwassen.


We are staying at the same crappy RV park as last year called ‘Tsawwassen RV Resort’. There is no ‘resort‘ in sight, let me tell you! We had to drop Jerry off in the front parking lot of the RV park, as he woudn’t have fit on our new gravel pull through 50 amp site. We will hook up with Jerry tomorrow before we head to the 11am Tsawwasen to Swartz Bay ferry. We had planned to be on the Island on tomorrow’s ferry so we made up the time from leaving Fort Erie 2 days late due to the solenoid issue with Newman.


We think that the Crow’s Nest or Highway 3 mountain passes are the absolute worst ones that we have driven. We did them last year on the way to the Island when we were still beginner RV’ers. I know that the switchbacks coming into Osoyoos on Highway 3 are the absolute worst of any we have been on, given that Richard had to go down to 1st gear, coming down the mountain. Today the lowest gear he got to on Highway 5, was 2nd gear. Still a pretty low gear to be in, dragging about 35,000 pounds of metal down the mountain! So now we can say we’ve done all of the mountain highways that would lead us to Vancouver through the mountains! 3,1,5 and 97C! Been there, done that!








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