Long before I lived in the Okanagan, the little town of Peachland, on the shores of Okanagan Lake, had captured my imagination. Watching Real Estate TV from the comfort of my Burnaby home, I dreamed with longing of the day I would become a Peachland resident. Well, I haven’t made that happen, but I am now close enough to visit regularly and spontaneously.
According to the town website, Peachland is situated on 11 km of lakefront and is positioned midway between Penticton and Kelowna. To me, though, Peachland is simply near enough to my Lake Country address to be a viable day-trip destination, even on those occasions when I am responsibly sticking to my monthly gas budget. And so, given a succession of glorious Autumn days and a nasty case of writer’s block, earlier this week I packed up my lap top, and I hit the road.
Even travelling Harvey Avenue during the a.m. rush-hour work commute, I made it from my front door to the eastern end of Peachland’s Beach Avenue in under an hour. My first stop, once there, was Todd’s RV & Camping. In 1956, the Todd family opened their three acre Okanagan lake shore family home to campers, and 62 years later, Todd’s RV & Campground continues to welcome visitors to the area. Ten years ago, our family was among their guests.
The summer my children and I pitched our tent at Todd’s, the children ended up with a nasty case of swimmer’s itch from sliding down the chain anchoring the dock in the lake. They were also quite fascinated by the small wooden cross they discovered behind our site. Apparently, we had pitched out tent under the apple tree where the Todd’s family cat had been buried. We played card games, and walked down to the Blue Parrot (which sadly no longer exists) to purchase double scoop ice cream cones. The pictures of that vacation now adorn the hallway wall at home; the memories remain some of my favourites.
Carrying the happy memories of that camping trip with me, I climb back into my car and head south on Beach Avenue, stopping along the way to step outside and snap pictures of the resplendent Autumn-dressed maple trees lining the lake shore. Clusters of people in sweaters and vests — bundled against the chill of a breeze blowing inland off Okanagan Lake — travel the walkway. My car and I pass these little groups and their canine companions, and I find myself reminded, as I am each time I arrive in Peachland, of how much the vibe of this little town reminds me of Whiterock, BC.
Beach Avenue in Peachland is dotted with kitchy little curio shops, pubs, and small, independently owned eateries. Bliss Bakery also has a location there, and it is my plan to head inside with my laptop and settle in for a spell. When I arrive, there is not a single free table, and I decide I don’t need coffee badly enough to stand in the lengthy line and wait. Instead, I find myself drooling inside Deja Vu Gift & Decor. The instant I walk inside, I know I have fallen in love. The curiosities and odds and ends of decor items and paintings are calling my name. I want to purchase everything I see inside this store, from the model airplanes flying in the shop window to the photographic paintings on two-by-four planks, to the many little sparkles glimmering in the streaming sunlight, to the large Trojan Horse-on-Wheels in the corner. I want, I want, I want. My credit card and I flee, although I do pocket their business card on my way out the door.
Beach Avenue is also home to the Gasthaus on the Lake Pub and Restaurant, which is where I stop for lunch. This is not my first time at the Gasthaus. On that occasion, I had my cocker spaniel, Daisy, with me, and I ordered the beef stew to go, then shared it with Daisy at the park across the street. This time, I sit in, and when I look up, find the coolest chandelier ever shining down on me. I order the Beef Goulash, which tastes as amazing as it smells. My bowl is empty in a span of minutes, with my taste buds begging for more.
As I drive, I notice a succession of scarecrow figures in front of various local businesses. Peachland, it seems, is in the middle of their second annual Scarecrow Competition. Looping my way off the main avenue of the town, I pull in to Peachland’s strip mall and park in front of Bosleys pet store. At one time in my life, I managed a Bosleys location, and Cam, who owns the Peachland store, was always one of my favorite people within the company. Today, I have missed him, but I chat briefly with his wife and learn that the store is doing well. Also, I tell her how much I enjoy their scarecrow.
“You need a, ‘No animals were hurt in the making of this scarecrow’ sign,” I tell her. And she laughs, and credits a staff member’s creativity for the decapitation.
I spend a fairly extensive time at both the Art Gallery and at the Peachland Museum. Both are free to the public, although the Museum does not open until 1pm. When I am there, though, I will snap photos of artifacts from an earlier time in Peachland’s history. With every picture I take, my mind is at work spinning the beginnings of future historical novels. Right, I think as I snap photos of typewriters and a.m. radios and ancient photographic gear, I remember those. I wonder, I think, what it would have been like to be a miner/railroad engineer/ logger back in the day. I wonder, I think, what it would have been like to ride the SS Sicamous (the steam-wheeler now part of a Penticton Maritime museum) when she rode the lake. Wondering, you see, is step one in novel-making.
At the Art Gallery I see an exhibit of paintings from Kelowna area artists, and I talk with a former history teacher about the building the gallery is housed in and its relationship to the Okanagan’s protected bat population. She really knows her stuff, and the information she gives me about bats and BEEPS (Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society) is too intriguing to turn into a footnote on this blog. It deserves a post of its own. Writing that post is my plan for my weekend, so stay tuned for more on BEEPS and the Peachland Art Gallery.
By the time it is 2 o’clock, I am getting ready to call it a day. The wind blowing in my hair as I walk from place to place in this town has put that good, fresh Autumn chill into my skin. My cheeks are pink, my nose is pinker. It will be a relief to climb into my car and turn on the heat. Still, every experience I have had today has been positive, from the amazing beauty of the lake to the friendliness of the residents and the uniqueness of these local businesses. As I head for home, I feel the smile on my face reaching all the way to my heart. It has been a good day, and I am recharged, and I even know exactly what has to happen next in the novel I am crafting. I shift into drive, and leave both Peachland and writer’s block fading out my rearview window.