Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Anatomy of a Town: Kamloops, Part I

       Let's talk about a town called Kamloops. It's a city someone decided should be built on the side of a mountain. Not all of it sits at a high altitude though, a small percentage can be found on a flood plain where two rivers meet in the centre of town but for the most part, if you have somewhere to go, you're either headed up or down a hill, and it's a pretty steep one no matter how you approach it.  
Thankyou Google Maps, Click to Embiggen

       I'm going to break it down into four parts for people unfamiliar with the locale: the North Shore which is the large, flat, aforementioned floodplain, and when you first drive through it it makes you think “oh my god, it's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas”, and it has a desert climate a crime rate to match. Downtown, which is south, across the one and only bridge connecting it to the North Shore and is relatively flat but still possesses a modest incline of it's own. Sahali, which is up the mountain (south) from Downtown and is perched on a terrace. And Aberdeen, which is further up the hill (further south still) from Sahali and has no flat parts to speak of; it's all hills. There are decidedly few traffic arteries connecting the areas of town and for every two that exist, only one will be pedestrian friendly.
       My typical commute on a longboard will demand making my way from Sahali (just to the right of the Thompson Rivers University label on the Google Map) through Downtown, headed east (to the Green “1” above “Valleyview Drive”) or to the North Shore. It's a 4km trip either way, and it's just about all downhill at least one of those trips. As mentioned earlier, there is one bridge connecting Downtown to the North Shore but its a pedestrian friendly connection and doesn't have much demanding geography. Getting from my apartment in Sahali to Downtown is a different story entirely, however. There are three (and a half) ways to get down that part of the hill. Two of them are 4 lane highways which lack sidewalks, one of which is a 'real' highway (the Trans Canada) and fines pedestrians for walking along the side of the road. The other is called Summit Drive which has a very small shoulder for cyclists and is super busy during daytime hours. It's also a very long and winding road which adds time to my commute and doesn't put in me in a part of Downtown which is easy to traverse. This leaves me with one (and a half) options.
Battle, top looking down
Bottom, looking up to curve

      The half option is Battle Street which is two very quiet blocks south of my apartment. This option is “half” because from where I live, getting to Battle is only doable on foot since my apartment has it's parking lot gated off and that lot connects to the aforementioned quiet two blocks. The other side of the parking lot connects to the rest of Sahali, so it's understandable why the gate here is locked to keep non residents from screaming through the complex at all hours. Battle is a somewhat appealing option given how quiet it is and how it has a fairly wide road, but it has quite a few blind corners mind you, and a very narrow sidewalk if I had to resort to that. I might try this one if I turn out to be any good at carving. The last option for me is a street called Columbia. This is a busy a four lane artery I won't be riding down the road on, but it has a generous sidewalk which I think I can get down at slightly better than running speed, with a little advance practice that is. Although the sidewalk is very large here, it has a steep hill on one side, and retaining walls holding up townhouses on the other, making it feel tighter than it is. Columbia is a slightly steeper option than Summit Drive or the Highway, but is slightly less steep than Battle Street. Given the sidewalk space and the fact that it spits me out at a nice gently inclined area of Downtown which should carry me to the end of my commute, it's the most preferable for now. Another nice thing is that Kamloops' hospital is located on Columbia, so if I wound myself I'm only a stones throw away from medical attention.

Very near the top 
Columbia, bottom up
Middle up
       Though I don't plan to do much in Aberdeen, I did mention it and so should address the means of getting in and out of it as well. There are three ways to get there: the Trans Canada Highway again, Hillside Drive, and Summit Drive which turns into a nicer road when it comes out the other side of Sahali. As mentioned earlier, the highway prohibits pedestrians which is a good thing for the stretch between Sahali and Aberdeen since it's a whopping six lanes wide there with traffic flow to fill it. Hillside is another bustling 4 lane road going up the side of a mountain. Like Columbia, it has a nice big well kept sidewalk for pedestrians. Unlike Columbia, it's not hemmed in on one side by retaining walls so there's a little more wiggle room for a slow speed bail. Where Summit Drive meets Aberdeen it looks nothing like it does between Sahali and Downtown. On it's way up the hill it goes through several changes. It tapers into a two lane, instead of four lane road, gets a hell of a lot steeper, and also becomes a lot more pedestrian friendly with nice big sidewalks on either side. Toward the top of the hill it turns back into a 4 lane road but not as it was before, it's much more like a boulevard with grass and trees making up the centre line and also becomes much more gentle at this part.
       There is a plethora of other areas located on the hills around Kamloops, each one having just one road entering them, and as my skill rises on a board, I'll be making missions of my days off from work to try and tackle some of them. I'll do a Part II to this post addressing each one later on, but I think this was enough geography homework for one day.
       P.S. I'll get some perspective shots of some of these roads soon to give you a better idea of what these roads look like. I have spotted some experienced riders having a good time on all of these roads with the exception of the highway, perhaps some day I'll be able to join them?

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