I realized I’d found my happy place in Pemberton, BC, the day a cowboy rode past me and asked, “Which way to the beach?”
(How could something so delightfully absurd not make you feel right at home?!)
Pemberton boasts a passionate equestrian set as well as a series of hitching posts for those who like to saddle up for their cowboy coffee. (It also enjoys a secret place in the hearts of hundreds of brides who chose to get hitched here. Coincidence? Maybe not.)
But it’s also home to an extremely high population of iron-horses. (My personal preference. Less manure to manage.)
Although the town has never hosted a race between horse and bike-rider (hey, Nimby50 organisers, I think there’s potential there…), Pemberton is definitively cycle-central – so much so that back in 2010 when the local government conducted a survey, they discovered there are more bikes per capita than cars or kids. (Given the baby boom underway, resulting in approximately 80 new babies born in Pemberton each year over the past decade, that really says something.) Last year, the community voted for “biking” as the Best Pemberton Trend.
Obviously, this passion for two-wheelin’ made Pemberton the obvious place for the first Slow Food Cycle to take seed.
Slow Food Cycle Sunday is an agritourism showcase first held in 2005 that has since taken root in a host of other communities, from Agassiz to Sooke.
But Pemberton was the first.
Every year, on the third Sunday of August, Pemberton farmers hang up the tractor keys, dust off their best boots, invite all their musician, artist, and chef friends to the farm, and host a 26km long, pedal-powered food festival.
Combining bikes, food and farms, with incredible mountain views, Pemberton’s Slow Food Cycle Sunday is a cruiser-friendly free-to-participate sensory smorgasboard. Riders pedal up a flat country road and stop at will at any of 10-15 different farms, to purchase snacks and fresh produce from a range of food sampling stands, award-winning chefs and producers inspired by field-fresh produce.
It’s a moveable feast.
And the way to tour this giant farmer’s market?
Apart from that ‘restriction’, anything goes.
Every year, first thing in the morning of the Slow Food Cycle, I love to sit on the patio of the (proudly locavore) Mt Currie Coffee Co at the entrance to town, enjoying an affogato, or a green smoothie, or an Americano, and watching the first keeners start to roll into town. They’re headed for the registration desk on Frontier Street, where they’ll pick up a map and sign in (so organizers know from how far afield this year’s pedal-peloton has come from.)
Last year, the tally was almost 4000, almost doubling the town’s population for the day, with visitors hailing from up and down the corridor, and all around the world.
As diverse as the participants are, so too are the steeds.
(Local photographer, Dave Steers, volunteers every year with the Pemberton and District Search and Rescue crew. As people tend not to require any rescuing, he has plenty of opportunity to train his lens on the action. Check out his gallery from past events, on flickr.)
Girls on cruisers in sweet summer dresses. Kids on run bikes with a support vehicle in the form of the parent-powered bike and trailer for when their little legs weary. Huge downhill rigs more accustomed to cranking down the Whistler Mountain Bike Park trails than a flat valley road. A steampunk version of a penny farthing. Tandems. A giant papier mache salmon. (Seriously.) If it has two wheels and is powered by the human machine, it goes.
Michael Pollan famously wrote that the most efficient and healthy food arrives at your plate fuelled primarily from energy from the sun. Compound that with humans pedaling bikes, and you have a clean, green, celebration that is bound to inspire the locavore in you.
It takes 56 calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver 1 calorie of food energy to your plate. For the consumer to understand how much energy goes into their food, I think all they have to understand is, if it’s local, it’s less. ~ Michael Pollan
So please, back away from the drive-through, just for one day, step out of your vehicle and put your hands on the handlebars. The panacea to our Fast Food Nation woes awaits.
Cruiser, tandem, downhill rig, ‘art bike’… whatever your bike style, you’re welcome at the original Slow Food Cycle, an all-ages celebration of bikes, food and farmers.
What’s not to celebrate about that?