The license plates read Beautiful British Columbia. No exaggeration there; the country is beautiful. Traveling north on Highway 97, through Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon, a lush, verdant and healthy forest flourishes on both sides of the road. Vineyards and farms inhabit fecund valleys, watered by rushing streams. Distant alpine peaks flash white against a blue sky.
Once into the Canadian Rocky Mountains, it’s easy for a traveler to
imagine famous Mountie Sam Steele, replete with bright red tunic and Smokey-the-bear hat, trailing bad guys up and down the steep slopes. Mounties always get their man.
Just before we crossed over from Washington into Canada, a Canadian we met opined that if you crossed the border from the U.S. into Canada with eyes closed, and reopened them once across, you wouldn’t notice any difference. Don’t believe it.
There are plenty of differences. One of the more pleasing ones can be found in Revelstoke. It’s a small town in the Selkirk Mountains near where the Canadians drove the last spike for their own transcontinental railroad in 1885. The Illecillewaet River, fed by a glacier of the same name, flows into the Columbia River and the confluence of the two divides the town into pieces connected by bridges. We stayed at a park called The Lamplighter – also on my list of places to which I would return.
Visitors come here to do rugged things outside. The French would say they are sportif. The folks who live here have to be able to keep up, so they are also sportif. And this is one difference difficult to overlook. But how to look at a group of people and make such a judgement, sportive or sedentary?
Try this experiment: While waiting in a place where people are passing by in fairly large numbers – sitting in front of the grocery store for example – assign a number to each person you see. A person who is fabulously fit gets a 10. A total obese slob gets a minus 10. Don’t rate very old or very young people, and try not to count the same person more than once.
Now just add the scores as folks pass by. If you watch long enough, the number you tally will reflect the overall fitness of the group you are watching. Math challenged folks can use the calculator app on their cell phone.
So, at the end of the period if the number is minus 7 then you’ve been visiting Slothville. A plus 7 or more would indicate a fit bunch of folks, Muscle Beach. This is the Sportive Index calculated using the BC Davis method for alleviating boredom while waiting for spousal retrieval at the grocery store.
So what’s the Revelstoke Sportive Index you ask? I found just one or two negatives in a long visit to the Saturday Farmer’s Market, so the number just kept climbing and climbing. I quit punching my phone when the index went by 100. Wow. Wotta group! It’s no wonder the grocery in Revelstoke doesn’t bother with low-fat potato chips.
So in addition to imagining Dudley Do-Right chasing after Snidely Whiplash, sportive visitors can find a variety of challenging outdoor stuff to make them sweat. Nearby Revelstoke Mountain offers a 5,620 foot drop for skiers. Every variety of skiing – helicopter, snow cat, cross country – is available. Then there’s the river. And hiking trails.
The elevation at Revelstoke is 1,575 feet and the roadside sign that said, “High Mountain Road, Expect Changing Weather” seemed out of place. Sixteen hundred feet is not high by U.S. standards. However, being that far north (latitude 51 degrees North) makes a big difference. After all it’s way more than half way from the equator to the North Pole.
The road up to and beyond Revelstoke featured some grades of 13%. This is 1st and 2nd gear territory for our 42,000 pound coach, and crawling up through the Canadian Rockies gives a traveler more time to enjoy the scenery.
So fitter people, steeper highways… any other differences?
Diesel prices. Through the roof.