Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 19 Banff to Calgary

It was sad farewells as we say good bye to Ed and Julie this morning.  Ed is off to join Cycle America as a router for the next five weeks, as they travel across Washington and down the West Coast and Julie is back home to Colorado.  Liam was not riding either as he was taking an extra day in Banff.  This left just five riders.  So we were off down the road out of Tunnel Mountain campground in Banff.
We rounded the corner from the campground an there was a herd of caribou with the calves.  They were feeding alongside the road and totally unconcerned that we were there.  The calves were so cute.  
We rolled down the hill and were all set to jump on the TransCanada when Ken T discovered that the bike path to Canmore had been reopened from after the flood which totally amazed us huge portions had been wiped out in the flood.  The repair crews had been busy in the last month rerouting the path and rebuilding it.  This was great news as the highway is extremely busy and noisy.  There was a pretty strong headwind down the pathway but there was a fair amount of shelter from the trees so it wasn’t too bad.  It wasn’t until we broke out of the trees and onto Highway 1A when we hit the full force of the wind.  Earnie and I both tried pulling into the wind and the best we could do was about 12-15 kms/hr.  So Ken C stepped up and he is such a powerful rider that he pulled us all the way from Canmore to the Ghost Reservoir where we had lunch a distance of 60 kms at 25+ kms/hr.  It was an amazing piece of riding.
Lunch was a great break and everyone was feeling pretty happy as we had only 50 kms left to get home and the wind was shifting to the north. After lunch we had only one more hill to climb and the Cochrane hill is normally a 20 minute climb so after our journey it seemed like nothing.  The wind was howling down the hill so it was much more than a simple 20 minute spin but we made it. Once at the top of the hill the wind was a huge cross wind that made steering a straight line a challenge but we made it home.
The last 135 kms were behind us.  The last 7 days had been pretty tough as there was no rest days and 870 kms ridden.  The total tour was 2013 kms in 17 ride days with only 2 rest days.  I was very happy that the tour had been a total success. Everyone had had a great time.  We had seen an amazing piece of Canada. This stuff just isn’t on the tourist maps but the beauty is unbelievable.  

Day 18 Saskatchewan Crossing to Banff

It was cold in the morning as we ate breakfast around the motorhome after crawling out of the motel rooms. Everyone had arm and leg warmers and there were lots of riding jackets to be seen.  If you let out a big breath of air you could catch sight of your breath as exhaled. Never the less everyone as keen to get going as it was a second big day  in a row at 135 kms and we were going to climb the Bow Summit which is the highest point on the tour at 2088 m.  The climb is not particularly hard compared to the Icefield Summit as it is more of a big long grind.

So we were off down the road and a couple of miles down the road my hands were frozen as I had not worn full fingered gloves. Thankfully Julie was down the road who lent me Ed’s spare jacket. Even the climbing wasn’t enough to overheat me.  There wasn’t any wind which was a big help.  However the road surface had not improved and the transverse cracking was terrible. 

About half way up a caught up to Earnie and the two of us ground away together all the way to the summit. The summit is actually a little of a disappointment as there is no sign to mark the spot and no spectacular view.

With the summit behind us it was a 50 kms downhill to Lake Louise where we were having lunch in the parking lot where we at lunch 16 days earlier. By now the sun was up and it was a beautiful day.  Even better we were headed for the Lake Louise Parkway.  This ride takes us high above the TransCanada Hwy. It has beautifully smooth pavement, very little traffic, fabulous views, a tail wind, and is downhill to Banff. This is my favorite ride. So everybody was just sailing along.  

Today was the last ride day for Ed and Julie as Ed was off to join Cycle America for a 6 weeklong tour.  Ed is doing routing for the last part of the National Parks tour.  It was also the last day of the ride for Liam and Siubhan who were going to take an extra day to enjoy Banff.  So were had a good celebration with rider awards after supper. It was great fun and there were several very clever awards.   

It has been a very excellent tour. The riders have all had a great time and we have enjoyed absolutely excellent trip.


Day 17 Jasper to Saskatchewan Crossing

It was going to be a long day we had the climb to the Icefields and 146 kms to ride. So everyone was off to an early start and we were out of the chute at 7:30 Am.  I rode my bike around to the RV dumps station to dump the motorhome and was just cleaning that up when Ken C rode up to tell me that Ed had broken a pedal. Ed rides the Speed Play pedals which have the little round circle to clip into.  The little round circle had come off the pedal as some sort of retainer had broken inside of it.

Ken C and I went to work on getting the old shoe cleat off of Ed’s shoe as the screw heads were badly worn. A little encouragement with a hammer loosened the clip screws however the bolt pattern was wrong so our options to change Ed over to SPD clips where we had some spare parts was frustrated. Ed’s only option was to head into Jasper and get fixed up at a bike shop.  Julie drove Ed into town and Ken and I pedaled off.

At about the 45 km mark we were well into the big ramp up to the summit when I saw this gigantic grin coming up behind me. It was Ed and Julie. The bike shop had fixed Ed up with a new set of egg beater pedals and a new set of shoes. So we were all off.

The Icefield Summit is right at the 95 kms mark and it was at about the 65 km mark when we hit a huge head wind. It was so strong that the best you could do was about 15 km/hr. So Ed, Ken C, and myself battled into the wind together. It was brutal work. Winter has taken a terrible toll on the Parkway road. It has become terribly cracked and broken. There are transverse cracks every 5 feet, this made for a terribly rough ride. In fact I was quite disappointed in the road condition from a few years ago when I rode it last.  

After lunch in the summit parking lot we headed down the big decent this takes you down the “toilet bowl”. The toilet bowl being this huge spiral shaped switchback  which has a lot of super elevation on it.   However the high winds and terrible road surface prevented me from reaching any kind of speeds. I think that the highest speed I was able to attain was 65 kms.

We were staying in the Crossing Resort at Saskatchewan Crossing as the camping in the area does not have showers.  Surly staff, dumpy rooms, and high prices made the poor marks on Trip Advisor seem like high praise.


Day 16 Mtn. Robson to Jasper

You could not have asked for a nicer day when we rolled out this morning. The sky was crystal clear blue.  Mtn Robson was postcard perfect. The sun shining on the south east face and it was so beautiful. So after a quick photo we were off and it was a big climb right away. I had started with arm and leg warmers but never made it to the top of the hill before they were peeled off.   

This was to be an 89 kms ride day which was the second short day after the two long days.  There are 3 long days coming and everyone was glad to have a shorter day.  However there was a head wind and while it wasn’t really strong it was incessant and it made riding just that much more difficult.  The weather was hot and while early on the bright sun seemed so cheery it now beat down on everyone and cooked us.

The route took us past a number of mountain lakes and streams and they were so pretty. The mountains had become much steeper and reached far above the tree line compared to back at McBride where we had been just a couple of days before.

We had a great lunch in a parking lot in Jasper. Some of the crew rode on up to Patrica Lake but I decide to roll straight down to the campground as there was chores to be done. We were camped in the Wapiti Campground which is 4 kms south on the Icefields Parkway. The campsite was barely big enough to fit the motorhome and the showers were close to a km from the campsite. The Wapiti campground has 360 sites and only one shower building. It has only 6 stalls (3 men, 3 women). We were in the early afternoon but there must be line ups out the door.

We had a great supper of pork chops which were really the size of roasts. They were great. In addition Siubhan (Liam’s wife) had stopped at a bakery and purchased desert squares. They were so delicious. It was a wonderful treat.

It was only 89 kms but much tougher ride than people thought.


Day 15 McBride to Mt Robson

I really don’t know where to begin as this was as close to a perfect day as it gets.  We had a beautiful campsite in McBride and the morning was just perfect. The wasn’t a breath of a breeze with slightly broken cloud and perfect cycling temperature.  So not only was it a relatively short day at only 76 Kms but there was only one significant climb of 125 m in height and 3 kms long.

The Yellow Head highway continues to be a cyclists dream with beautiful wide shoulders and perfectly smooth pavement.  So even though my legs were a little on the tired side from two back to back long days the going was easy and there was no really hurray to the day.  I had not ridden the section from McBride into Tete Jaune Cache before but it was a very nice section of road. At Tete Jaune Cache the Yellow Head highway meets the southern branch of the Yellow Head Highway which comes up from Kamloops. As a side note we rode this ride in the Rockies I tour.  From Tete Jaune Cache to Mt Robson we rode though the Red Pass which is not very steep or high but is quite narrow and with the Frazer River just off to the side of the road it is gorgeous. 

We hit the big view point for Mt Robson and Mt Terry Fox were all the riders were assembled for group shots.  Mt Robson was putting on a great display with only the very top in a single cloud. From there we rolled down to the Mt Robson Park sign which is the distinctive mountain goat and the mountain in the back ground. More pictures and climbing on the sign.  

We rolled on down the last kms into the Info Center Parking lot to find Agnes and the motorhome. From there we adjourned to the Mt Robson Meadows campground for lunch and a lazy afternoon.  I enjoyed an afternoon nap.

It was steak night for supper and they were perfect. We enjoyed a couple of bottles of New Zealand wine Jos had selected with the steaks and I cannot say when I have had a more enjoyable glass of red.

After supper I noticed that the clouds had all dissipated leaving a beautiful blue sky. So we walked out to the visitor center from the campground to catch a picture of Mt Robson. The sun was just above the horizon and perfectly illuminating the south west face. WOW it was an absolute picture postcard shot.

It just doesn’t get any better!


Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 14 Purden Lake to McBride

This was second biggest day of the tour at 145 kms. When added to yesterday’s mileage we covered 200 miles in two days. Not bad riding for a bunch of amateurs.
However I did want to talk about today’s ride as it was spectacular.  For the first 60 kms we have brand new pavement with wide shoulders. There are lots of great climbs all in the 2-3 kms range with a few short but steep descents.  The sky is the brightest blue without a cloud to be seen anywhere.  The temperature is right around 17 C and just a hint of a tail wind. I averaged 30 kms stretch of road. I just couldn’t believe what a great ride it was.  After the first 60 kms we hit the end of the new pavement and were on a section which was only a few years old and was still in beautiful condition. However by now the tail wind had picked up. The climbs had gotten considerably longer and much steeper with few descents. So lunch which was at the 105 kms mark came up before you knew it. It took 3.75 hours to cover the 105 kms which was totally amazing considering how much climb was involved.

After lunch was a quick descent to Goat River and then a tough grind up the longest hill of the day.  There was close to 9 kms of 5-7% grade. So by the time I got to the top I was overheating as the temperature had increased to 27C.  Julie was waiting for us in the van and I drained the ice water out of the cooler into my water bottles. It was so cold it gave me brain freeze.  Wow did it feel great getting that ice water.   

After the summit was reached there was only 31 Kms to town and it was all downhill with a howling tail wind so I just glided on into McBride. I found the local ice cream shop and sure enough the other riders were in there sucking ice cream cones. 

We are staying a the Beaverview campground which is just a couple of kms east of McBride and is it every beautiful. There are acres of really nice grass and everyone is spread out.
The barbequed chicken for supper just capped what had to been a perfect day.

Day 13 Quesnel to Purden Lake Resort

There was a lot of serious faces around breakfast as a lot of the riders had never ridden a century before and this was more than a century it was 172 kms and there was 3800 feet of climb as well.  A lot can go wrong in a century ride. Flats, bike malfunction, head winds, changing weather, and then there is rider error caused by fatigue.  But we did get out of camp a bit early and were treated to a glorious day. It was about 16 C with not a cloud in the sky and not a breath of wind anywhere.  
Right away there was a 400 meter climb and I was hot and sweaty by the time I got to the top of that.  But it was such a great day I was just so happy to be out on my bike. The road was great with nice wide shoulders and near perfect pavement. There was lots of  shorter climbs and some nice descents which kept the ride interesting and challenging.
At the 75 kms mark I reached the second big climb of the day which took us up this long winding road passed some microwave towers which could be seen for miles. There was no doubt where the summit was. After the summit the road had a long easy decline which went on for 10-15 kms.  I was riding along a 55-60 kms/hr.  By the time the next little roller came up I had knocked of 15 kms. It was great!
At 105 Kms we turned off Hwy 97 and took the Old Cariboo Highway which is kind of a city bypass road around Prince George.  The traffic had been building steadily and was getting worst so taking the turn off  lost 90% of the traffic and this was great.
Just a few kms up the road was lunch and I was happy to jump off the bike for lunch. We had made pretty good time as it was only 12:15 Pm. This left just 60 kms to go and only a few kms to go before heading east on Hwy 16,  Once we made the right turn onto Hwy 16 we had a nice tail wind which helped a bunch.
 I was glad to see the Purden Lake sign come up and after a quick picture of  entrance to the campground rolled on down to the campsite. Ken C rides a big steel bike ( it is a custom fitted bike and quite a beauty) so Ed and I made him lift the bike over his head for the gate way picture.
Everyone was in except for Ken T and he had taken the turnoff into the Provincial Park. So his wife was dispatched with the car to go find him.  I don’t know how I could have made the instructions any clearer; “It’s the big log lodge right off the Highway on the left.”  Instead Ken road 23 kms up the Provincial Park road.  Ken would up riding 200 kms and was more than a little upset.  I felt bad that he took the wrong road.
 We had a great supper and everyone hit the hay early.

Day 12 A Day Off in Quesnel

Part of the group wanted to go up to visit Barkerville this morning so they jumped in the van and headed off.  I was staying with Ajax as the Barkerville Park is not dog friendly.  This meant that I got up late and had a lazy breakfast with Earnie and Jos.

Quesnel was celebrating Billy Barker Days and so the whole town was dressed to party. The main street was shut down and there was a huge flea market on main street, there was a midway in the big park down by the info center, a farmers market in another park, flower baskets hanging from every light post, bands on the corners, a big rodeo was on, a demolition derby complete with mud bog races and of course a parade.  So being parade types Earnie, Jos, Ajax, and I walked across the big bridge to downtown and found a nice shady spot to sit on the curb and watch.  It was a great parade. It had everything from marching bands, to the Shriners in the little cars. Everybody loved the parade.

After the parade Ajax and I headed back to the motorhome as it was 29C and too hot for a big black dog wearing a thick fur coat.  After a snack a cool down we went for a little walk but it was too hot so were retreated to the A/C in the motorhome where we both enjoyed an afternoon nap. 

By 4:00Pm the Barkerville tour group was back and we sat in the parking lot drinking beer and telling tales.  Jos and I walked up and got takeout pizza for supper and then had a little riders meeting.

It was everything a rest day is supposed to be --- Lazy.

Tomorrow is 172 kms up to Purden Lake so early night.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Day 11 McLeese Lake to Quesnel


Today’s ride was a short one at only 73 kms. So we decided to forego lunch stop and rode straight down to Quesnel. It was mostly downhill although there we two short climbs and the shoulder for the most part was great. The bright sunny day and mild temperatures were wonderful.  The light tail wind didn’t hurt much either.

It was kind of an interesting ride from my perspective as my family lived 45 kms south of Quesnel in a little place called Alexandria. My father ran the sawmill there at what was then Diamond Island Mills. It was so called because the island in the middle of the Frazer River at Alexandria was called Diamond Island.  The cafĂ©/gas/service station is now a jade shop. The house we lived in is long gone and a different house is in its place. The saw mill is gone however the old teepee shaped saw dust burner is still standing as a rusty reminder of my youth. The old two room school house is still standing but has not been used for many years (decades?). The railroad depot is gone. 

My father also had a gold mine up at Wells. But I don’t think he ever found much gold. However he did pass the gold fever on to me and to this day I can remember finding my very first gold nugget.  It was a good one too at almost 0.25 oz.  I could see in my mind’s eye exactly where it was.  So as I rode up the road, I was looking for the spot. You can’t see the creek from the road but I knew where it was. Sure enough I rode right up to the spot. There is a culvert which goes under the highway right by Ross RD. just a kilometer south of Alexandria. I didn’t have a pan with me so I didn’t try my luck. However I know that little creek still has some gold in it.

We have a great spot for the rest day at Frazer River Bridge Inn and RV Park. It isn’t a swank place like the Plaza in Kamloops but it has huge rooms and is impeccably clean and neat. Best of all it is right across the walking bridge to downtown and all of the Bill Barker Days events. We timed the ride so that we could be here for this and will be taking in the parade tomorrow morning and hitting the midway. Although I believe some folks are planning a drive up to Barkerville. 


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Day 9 Cache Creek to 100 Mile House - Addendum

First off I would like to apologize as I incorrectly stated that the mileage along the Cariboo Highway starts at Cache Creek (as per Wikipedia – Oops).  As was correctly pointed out it starts in Lillooet.

 The second thing I would like to say is that we have greatly enjoyed the hospitality we have received on our travels.  A great example of this was the wonderful schnitzel we had up at Happy Landing Restaurant in 100 Mile House. It was GREAT!  

The third and last thing I would like to say is how great the truck drivers have treated us. These guys are get a bad rap. The drivers behind the wheels of those huge chip trucks and the three buggy log trucks are amazing. Never on the shoulder and always way over the center line when nobody is coming. Some times when the road is a little tight a quick tap of the horn to let me know. As an example we were coming up though the construction south of 100 Mile House where the shoulder has been excavated and there is a 4 foot drop.  It is pouring rain and I am grinding along at 25 kms/hr and this logging truck comes up behind me.  He gears down a follows me through the section until the oncoming lane is clear rather than he can make a pass. Thanks I appreciated it.


Day 10 100 Mile House to McLeese Lake

It was a long day today at 135 kms. It was also a hot day today at 30 C. It was also the day of flats and tire failures.  Jos and Ken each had two and I think that everyone else a had at least one flat except Earnie. This added to the sometimes iffy shoulder conditions. The end result was that everyone was exhausted by time they got in.  

 We rolled out of camp at 8:00Am and by the time I got into camp it was 3:30 PM. The ride was very nice and we made great time when we were rolling but unfortunately we never were able to go very far before we stopped to fix a flat.

Lunch was in the William Lake Info. This was the most beautiful info center I have ever seen. It is a huge log building with great carved figures on the logs and an interesting sculpture inside which is based on a Pontiac Firefly which has been loaded down for camping.

Tonight we are camped at McLeese Lake resort which is a nice enough place however it is totally packed and the places for the tents are so hard that it is impossible to put tent pegs in.

Tomorrow we have a short ride into Quesnel and a rest day.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Day 9 Cache Creek to 100 Mile House


What an interesting day!  It started out under broken clouds and about 190C with very little wind.  We could see heavier darker clouds to the south but then we were headed north so who cares.  We were out of camp and then a 2 kms downhill to the right turn onto Hwy 97.

This turn marks the end of the TransCanada #1 highway and the start of the Cariboo highway.  The Cariboo Highway was first constructed in the mid 1860’s as a stage coach road to the gold fields along the Frazer river. So a lot of the towns are designated based on the mileage from Cache Creek. When the road was first constructed it 100 Mile House was 100 miles from Cache Creek. Thanks to the new highway it is only 115 kms (72 miles) from Cache Creek.  

In the morning there was one big climb which was 8 k,s long and we climbed over 450 m before we hit the summit. This climb took us out of the Thompson River basin which we had been following all the way from Salmon Arm to Cache Creek. 

Just before lunch the wind which had been picking up all morning out of the south (yes that would be a tail wind) blew the clouds out of the south and it started to rain. Fortunately we were only a couple of kms from 70 Mile House we lunch was set up.  Liam rolled into lunch announcing he had seen his second bear of the trip. He has seen everything. I have seen a coyote.

While we were at lunch the wind picked up out of the south and was now blowing at approximately 35-40 kms/hr. However the rain was now coming down pretty hard. I had convinced a couple of the other riders to wait out the rain as we had only 40 kms to go and it was only 11:30 AM, but Liam set off and the scramble to get on bikes was on. Pushing, shouting, and spinning of wheels in the gravel. My gloves had gotten thrown in one of the bins in the panic and so by the time I found them I was 10 minutes behind everyone. The rain is pounding down when we hit some construction. They had removed the shoulders of the road in order to widen the road but in the mean time it was a 4 foot drop. The logging trucks were very good about moving over but never the less you got a huge blast of cold water.  

After about 18 kms we were out of the rain and had to climb to the top of Beigbe Summit. This summit is at 1212 m or only 100 meters below the Rogers Pass summit.  With the huge tail wind it wasn’t much of a struggle. I was rolling up the hill at 28 km/hr and this huge “B” train semi-truck had a heck of a time passing me.  On the way down from the summit I hit 70.8 kms/hr but Earnie got first prize at 72.0 kms.
Everyone over shot the campground so I was able to get in first.