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Sea to Sky in a Z4 Cabriole

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Story by Joe Leary

The sheer number of scenic journeys that one can embark upon throughout British Columbia is impressive, but ranking near the top among Brian Jessel’s favourites is the breathtaking route between Vancouver and Whistler. Outfitted with a brand-new 2006 Z4 Cabriolet for the journey, I navigated this sporty machine over one of the most beautiful and scenery-rich landscapes in all of Canada, the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Here is a play-by-play account of my adventure.

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Under a partially cloudy sky in early May, with the temperature hovering around 15° Celsius, I left the confines of the city for a day of uninhibited driving pleasure.

12:54 Hit the Sea-to-Sky Highway, and noticing the road work signs, figure I’ll be coming to a stop, sooner or later.

1:00 Make that sooner. About two kilometres from Porteau Cove, traffic stops so construction crews can continue the highway expansion plans for the Whistler Olympics. The road is vastly improved so far, and we’re still four years away. If traffic is going to stop, at least there’s some great scenery to enjoy.

1:15 After about a 10-minute delay, we’re rolling again and reach Porteau Cove Provincial Park. What a day for a drive, and I can’t tell you just how well this baby handles the long and winding road.

1:20 The temperature is climbing and the on-board gauge shows it’s now 15° C. That’s always been my signal to open the roof. Those of us in the BMW Cabriolet Club call it the 15 Degree Rule, i.e.,“Make 15 the rule, lest you look like a fool.” Should I open it? Nah, I’m enjoying the tunes way too much… maybe in a while.

1:23 I reach Britannia Beach and finally see a passing lane. The sign says: “Whistler 64 kilometres.”

1:26 At Murrin Provincial Park and Petgill Lake I ask myself, “Where has this been all my life?” It looks as idyllic as a Robert Bateman painting. I make a mental note: must come back!

1:27 A sign informs drivers that we can now pick up local radio, because everything else has faded out by this point. No thanks, I’m digging the CD I made for the trip, and this sound system is awesome!

1:28 Traffic is stopped briefly, again. This is stop number three, but we’re moving now, and as I cross Gonzales Creek, the legendary Stawamus Chief lies ahead yonder (apparently, I picked up some hillbilly talk along the way).

1:31 At Shannon Falls Provincial Park it occurs to me that I’ve passed more provincial parks than I have cars thus far. Also, this is the first traffic light I’ve seen since Taylor Way in West Vancouver.

1:33 I stare in awe of The Chief. You can stare but do not point. Legend has it that bad luck will befall anyone who dares point at The Chief.

1:35 Welcome to Squamish! Upon arriving in Canada’s Outdoor Recreation Capital, I immediately hit the local 7-Eleven to buy lottery tickets. Perhaps Squamish holds the key to my fortune. Good thing I didn’t point at The Chief because I need all the luck I can get. On the way out of the store, a guy admiring the Z4 jokingly asks if I’ll trade cars with him. I decline and drive away! Heading out of Squamish, you can’t help but notice the number of businesses indicating “Help Wanted” That’s the sign of a booming town.

 Canadian Tire and the Sea to Sky Hotel are just two of the many advertising hiring for all positions. I never did look good in an apron, thus I decide against filling out applications.

1:45 Garibaldi Provincial Park. The sign says, “Whistler 55 kilometres.”

1:47 Brackendale, “the Eagle Capital of the World.” Word must travel among the winged set to earn that distinction. This car really performs! I’m cruising along beautifully and now have the jazz stylings of Maynard Ferguson cranked up. Appropriately enough, it’s a tune called “Country Road.” Heck, since I’m on one, and it’s a nice straight stretch of road ahead, and there’s nary a car around, I can finally open this baby up (carefully obeying the posted speed limit of 80 km/h, of course).

1:50 I realize it’s been about 20 minutes since I last saw a provincial park. Have we possibly run out of them? Wait a minute, there’s one: Alice Lake Provincial Park, the fourth one so far.

1:53 Another nice stretch of open road 42 kilometres outside of Whistler provides a chance to crank the car up another notch. Why not? It’s raring to go!

1:54 The sign indicates a scenic attraction lies ahead, so I pull into the Tantalus View Retreat. Scenic doesn’t begin to describe it. They should change our province’s slogan from Beautiful B.C. to Breathtaking B.C. Among the tourists to pull up and gaze, I notice a couple in a car bearing Saskatchewan license plates. To paraphrase Dorothy talking to her dog, Toto, in The Wizard of Oz, those prairie folk must be looking at this scenery thinking, “Gee, we’re not in Saskatchewan anymore.”

2:00 Back on the road and the temperature has now reached 16° Celsius. I’m still waging the debate with myself. Do I protect the hair and fire up the air, or pop the lid? Hair wins!

2:11 Garibaldi Provincial Park. Yep, that’s number five. Cross Rubble Creek.As in Barney Rubble I wonder? Somehow I doubt it. Suddenly the traffic is stopped again. Finally, I pop the top; it’s 18° and rising.

2:15 The open lid is short-lived. I want to hear some classical music on this amazing sound system, so the lid goes up, A/C goes on, Andrea Bocelli goes in, and all is well in the world.

2:22 Brandywine Falls. This will be the sixth provincial park I’ve encountered in 79 minutes (one every 13 minutes). Just after the Brandy wine River, there’s another stretch of road with passing lanes. Yeah! I’ve been staring at the back of a Jeep Cherokee for too long… that soon ends

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2:30 Traffic is stopped at the train tracks for the crossing of the Whistler Mountaineer, a daily rail service between North Vancouver and Whistler. I was on the inaugural run on May lst and trust me, it’s real and it’s spectacular!

2:32 The sign says “Welcome to Whistler,” and it’s followed by more signs pointing out the Whistler Interpretive Forest, whatever that may be. It does, however, beg the question, albeit Kafka-esque: If a tree falls in an interpretive forest and no one’s there to interpret it, does it even fall?

2:35 Arrive in beautiful Whistler, B.C., exactly 117.8 kilometres from Robson and Burrard.

3:45 I’m in Whistler Village, sitting outside of Zeuski’s having a couple of brewskies, taking it all in. My goodness, as picturesque as Whistler may be in the winter, it’s nothing short of spectacular in the late spring and summer also.

5:30 Dinner at Hy’s, and what better way to end the day in Whistler? It’s the same great menu and outstanding service we’ve come to know and love from the fabled steakhouse chain, but this location broke the mould by offering guests a resort ambience. Opened in 1998, Hy’s Whistler has 190 seats with a 13-seat bar, and is finished in rich cherry wood. Managing partner Richard Baker tells me it has “the best clientele, anywhere, and is a reunion of sorts every week. The same people tend to come back to the Whistler location the same week each and every year, and everyone is in a good mood.” The customer service is phenomenal, as is the food, and my daytrip to Whistler comes to an end over an 11-ounce New York steak with lobster, garlic mashed potatoes and beefsteak tomatoes, accompanied, as always, by a basket of Hy’s legendary cheese toast.

It’s a spectacular finish to a picture perfect day – and as for the BMW Z4, I can report that it was a blast to drive, and drew many an eye along the way. James Bond really was onto something.

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