Friday, July 17, 2009

Kalispell Rest Day

Kalispell day off is spent in doing chores and more chores. Clean the camping equipment, restock the motor home with supplies, do laundry, and a hundred other tasks. It hardly seemed like a rest day. However, Agnes and I did get an opportunity to wander though some of the art galleries in Kalispell. We wound up purchasing a print of a pair of bears, a decorator bowl, and a set of stone coasters which has animals carved on to them. We were staying right downtown in the Travel lodge. It was really convenient. Close to the laundry, bike shop, shops and restaurants. Too much to due in too short a time. It hardly seemed like a day off, but then nobody said that this was an easy business.

On the road again!


Highway to the Sun

Ok! I am a little more than a little behind on my blog. It has been a total blur. Get up ride fall into camp eat, crash, get up ride, etc. So at rate the day after the big rain storm we awake to a killer head wind coming straight out of the pass. However this is the Road to the Sun day and a ride not to be missed. It is considered by many to be a riding icon. So we got into a pace line and head off. It is 16 kms of flat along the lake on the east side of Glacier and it is all we can do to make about 13km/hr into the wind. However we do get to the start of the climb where you gain 2200 feet over about 8 miles. As we hit the climb we turn into the trees and the wind is gone! So we do the climb quite easily to the summit. It is cold at the summit so we only stayed a few minutes and then down the other side the views are totally outstanding and what a ride it is. Over the course of about 10 miles you lose 3000 ft. From the West park gate it is an easy cruise into Kalispell where we have a welcome day off. What ride it was just great! I believe it this is a ride you have to do to believe.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Headed South

We did a short ride though the town of Pincher Creek admiring the painted murals and the black smith tongs which the town has put up as the Pincher Creek’s symbol. They have gone a great job of making the town look very well dressed. The town camp site which is called the Veterans Memorial Campground was very well maintained, had great hot showers, and was very reasonably priced. I would definitely recommend it to anyone passing through Pincher Creek.

As we pulled out of Pincher Creek it looked pretty gray and ominous. The clouds were low and a dark shade of almost blue black. However in true cyclist optimism everyone was pleased that we had a slight tail wind. There was lots of laughing and talking as we hurried south each one of us hoping that beyond the next set of hills would be clear sky. However the rain started well before we reached Waterton and we were pulling on the rain suits and grinding away in spattering rain. We reached Waterton and low and behold the rain clouds parted and out came the sun. It was great, we had a marvellous view of the valley before us and of the mountains of Waterton National park. The towering peaks were shrouded in the mist and it was very pretty.

As we pasted the entrance to Waterton and turned towards the US boarder, Juerg had a flat tire and I stopped to help him. We had just gotten the tire off and Frank showed up with his frame pump. It was perfect timing. Although I am not sure I think Juerg is leading with 2 flats.

The road south to the boarder is a steady climb which goes on for what seems like miles. In actuality I think that there were two summits. The one had a view point which had some rest rooms. There were jokes made as to why you would put toilets at the summit. However the rain had restarted by this time and in a much more pressing manner and once again everyone was wearing the rain suits. We had organized the ride so that we would have picnic lunch just before the boarder and sure enough as we turned the last corner there was the motorhome and a wonderful picnic lunch.

So there we are at the boarder. On the US side is a solid wall of the blackest clouds you have ever seen. I am really worried at the temperature has now dipped to just above freezing and riding 50 kms in freezing rain does not sound like a great idea. However the decision is soon made for me as the sky’s open up with the fierce down pour I have ever seen. There is no doubt now we are going to SAG into St Mary’s. The picnic is stashed and a dash is made across the boarder where we loaded the bikes on to the bike racks.

As we cruised down the road there was a self-supported cyclist who had joined us at our picnic lunch about an hour earlier. He was standing soaking wet under tree. Agnes wheeled the motorhome over and we loaded him in hurried off. I am sure he would have gotten hypothermia if Agnes hadn’t rescued him.

Arriving in St Mary’s people were cold wet and out of sorts. So some people took cabins some a rental house and others camped.

“You win some, lose some, and wreck some.” Dale Earnhardt

I guess this fit the wreck category


Blown Away

Well I guess that the good part is that it didn’t rain. The sun was out and so was the wind. Dean had called it dead on the money, when he said if it is sunny then we will have a head wind. Boy! Did we ever. Riding down from Longview to Pincher Creek was a real struggle. However we formed up in to a pace line and got it done. There are some very strong riders here and they did a lot of pulling into the wind.

Highway 22 is considered the Cowboy trail as it was along here where the rangers drove the cattle for the summer grazing. It is a beautiful area set up against the mountains to the west and the prairies to the east. The rains have turned the entire area a wonderful green and the landscape is covered with herds of cattle peacefully grazing. The modern day ranchers have placed large cut outs of cowboys, horses and cattle along the road and have built elaborated gates to advertize their ranches. It is a very cool place to ride.

Lunch was at the bottom of a hill and was out of the wind so we cruised in and had a great feed. It was nice and sunny. Being out of the wind was very nice and we soaked up the sun.

Pincher Creek is an interesting town and has painted a lot of the buildings with murals. They have done a lot to beautify the town and it really shows how much civic pride there is. Although I have been though Pincher Creek before I guess I never really saw how much has been done.

The ride was about 138 kms and after battling the wind all day was very glad to reach Pincher Creek. Vicky and Rita had driven ahead to secure our campsite as the Pincher Creek campground does not take reservations. It was a very nice campground with great showers and we had a huge meal of barbequed chicken and spaghetti it was just great. I was totally stuffed.


Highwood Pass

You can talk all you want about all the spectacular rides around the world; Tour De France, Golden Gate Bridge, Colorado Rocky Mountain Park, etc. However the Highwood Pass in Kananaskis is one of the more spectacular. It is clearly a jewel we should be proud of.

Everyone was up early to a chilly breakfast around the motorhome and we were off. It was going to be a big day. The ride from Willowrock to Longview is 156 kms and we have a huge mountain pass to climb. The road is an excellent one for cyclists as there is a very wide shoulder and the grades are not too steep. The road is in excellent shape as the majority of the road is closed all winter. The bright sun of the morning gave way to some ominous black clouds as we climbed higher into Peter Lougheed park but it was near perfect riding conditions. A slight head wind but the broken clouds gave us some shade and kept us from over heating.

Agnes had picked a beautiful spot for lunch and had the motorhome pulled over in a view point which over looked the mountains. Just as we arrived the sun came out and warmed everyone. I don’t think you could have had a more idyllic spot for a great picnic. Lunch consisted of cold cuts, cheese, fresh vegetables, and fruit. WOW.

After lunch was the assault on the summit at 7263 ft. Willowrock camp ground was at around 4600 feet. Tom who had come from San Francisco the day before was definitely feeling the altitude and looked a little gray but it hadn’t dampened his spirits. The climb is about 10 kms of 4-10% grade so it’s a challenge. From there it was down hill, and what a down hill. We were hitting speeds of 65-70kms/hr on the bikes.

About 35 kms out of Longview I blew a rear tire and nearly crashed. It went down so fast that all of a sudden the bike was loose and the rear came around on me and I only just pulled it in. Carl jumped off his bike and took charge of the tire change. Frank had his huge frame pump out and the new tube was installed and inflated before you knew it. Having a pit crew along is great.

However the storm clouds were closing in fast and we had to pull on our rain coats as it was about to blast us with a down pour. After we got on the bikes we hadn’t gone thirty feet when the sky opened up and down it came. The lightning was hitting all around us in huge jagged flashes. Within minutes the road was completely awash and we were tearing though the puddles. We rode as fast as we could go, not that it helped as we soaked to the skin. About 10 kms further along we saw there had been a lot of hail so good thing I had a flat as we would have been hailed on. Ouch. A huge white tailed deer jumped out right in front of Tom, Jim and Juerg. It was a beautiful sight.

By time we rolled into Longview we were spent. However there were hot showers and the sun was out and we had a huge meal. It was a great day.


Rockies Tour Day 1

The big day has finally arrived. Months of planning and work and here it is. Riders have assembled from all over the world; South Africa, Switzerland, US, and Canada. I am so honoured to have such great people to ride with.

Bright sun greeted the riders as we prepared to depart the morning of July 3. The excitement was intense as everyone was making last minute preparations. Some people were loading of groceries from the fridge into the motorhome. Others were hauling of bags from the house and packing of them into back of the truck. Don and come over and was going to ride us out of town. Doug came over to see us off. Finally all of the tires were pumped and the last of the bags was loaded and we were off. The first incident coming at the end of the block when Agnes cut the corner too sharp with the motorhome and hit the mail box, tipping it over and putting a scrap on the motorhome. However that wasn’t going to dampen any ones spirits as this was just part of the big adventure.

Don lead us out this route which he and Jennifer had conceived which lead us through a lot of residential neighbourhoods and we were able to avoid riding up the busy Crowchild freeway. I was sure glad of that. If I had of been doing the lead that is where I would have gone. Just put your foot to the pedal and go for it.

After clearing town we rode along until we came to Cochrane, where we stopped at a bike shop. Dean had discovered a major crack in his helmet, just as were leaving. So he needed a new one. The shop was quite small and the helmet chose was a pink one with little flowers, a green one with dinosaurs, and a white one. Dean finally choose the white one as it was closest to his size. Several of the riders thought the green one was the best choose.

The campsite was out at Willowrock campground just after the Seabe turnoff to Kananaskis. The bike tour support consisting of Agnes, Sandra, Rita and Vicky had prepared a fabulous evening meal of barbequed burgers and salads. Although the day was only 88 kms everyone was glad to be in camp and in a great mood. My son Kurt drove out to join us bringing extra beer and an extra cooler. He even remembered to put the beer on ice!
Just a quick word on the pictures. The group picture is one of the riders and our support staff and the other is of Rita giving Juerg a hair cut using Phantom's clippers (Phantom is the big dog).

What a great day for a bike ride!