Cool blue beautiful mountains and valleys make for curvy winding highways, perfect for exciting and scenic motorcycle touring. And many people know it. There are several famous routes for pleasure bikers, and the Kootenay sees a huge number of free-wheeling motorcyclists every summer.
Rebecca Jewell found an opportunity in the seasonal surge of bikers through Nakusp – or rather it found her – and she set up Riders Retreat.
“I was working at the Leland Hotel and I found that so many motorcyclists would come in and have dinner and a few drinks then try to get a room somewhere,” Rebecca recalled. “I remember being on the phone for hours trying to call accommodations in every surrounding town. I just started offering up my spare room…and then my basement suite…and then my bus… Pretty soon I didn’t have anywhere else to put them.”
In 2010 she opened her campground equipped with tents and full-sized beds, a kitchen, and showers to traveling bikers. It’s a full glamping experience for riders who want to tour unencumbered. Folks wanting to soak their riding muscles get discounts at the local hot springs, and catering is available for those who don’t want to cook. It’s glamping from the back of a bike at its best. And for those who like to golf, the campground is a very short walk from the Nakusp Centennial Golf Club which also gives guests a deal on the links.
Rebecca says she enjoys the camaraderie that bikers have when they come to camp. Riders are an adventurous and social bunch who like swapping stories around the fire. And the stories they’re telling each other about their time at Riders Retreat keep people coming back and new bikers coming.
“Word of mouth is really how people hear about Riders Retreat,” said Rebecca.
Like most visitors, Rebecca was struck with the natural beauty of the Kootenays and made the move to Nakusp in 2007 from Calgary. Rebecca’s parents also made the move and the campground is a family affair with all three work full-time during the high season.
Rebecca’s business has benefitted by her own business acumen and from the generosity of Nakuspians. One of the motorcycles that makes up part of the Riders Retreat sign came from a long time Nakusp RCMP officer.
“Every time I saw him he would tell me I need to put a bike on my sign. One day he showed up with that one. The other I pieced together from a motorcycle parts yard in Calgary when it was being sold. My budget was nil as we were just opening,” she remembered. “I made a deal with the gentleman that he could have free accommodations for life (the only one I’ve ever given out) if he didn’t charge me for the bike. Funny story, I ran into him in the K2 last year and he retired and moved just outside of Nakusp. He never did come and stay once. I think I got the better end of that deal.”
Riders Retreat accommodates all sorts of groups and couples, all boys trips and all girls trips, but the solo riders are always the ones that ride in and end up staying for days, said Rebecca.
“They love that they are always so welcomed by us and our guests. They make friends around the campfire or over coffee in the morning. Lots of times they join up with others for day trips or meet back here the following year. It’s a safe haven and a very social atmosphere.”