Monday, August 21, 2017

Aug 21, 2017 Cranbrook – Fort Steel – Wardner –Cranbrook

When we rolled out of the tents this morning is was only 45 F (8 C) and it felt quite chilly.  So I donned my thermal shirt and wore it as a jacket.  It worked quite well.  We stopped on the way out of town at Timmies and got a breakfast bagel and large coffees. We also picked up some sub sandwiches to go at there was no place on the route to get lunch.  We had also put the trunk bags on the bikes and packed extra water into  them as there was no water past  mile 11 (18 kms). 

After breakfast we rode up to Fort Steele and the big water wheel which is town marker.  Fort Steele is a historical re-enactment town which portrays life in the 1865 gold rush era.  As I was riding to Fort Steele I was thinking of how many times I have made this run on various camping and bike trips.  It also brought back memories of the Rockies I  tour when we stayed at Fort Steele. That was a great tour.  It also brought back memories of camping there with our first Bouvier De Flanders, Phantom.  He was just a puppy and this was great stuff for him.  

At Fort Steele we refilled our water bottles being the last opportunity and headed south down the Wardner-Fort Steele Road.  This is a little used back road along the east side of the Bull River.   It is 18.75 miles (30 kms) of great pavement with no cars and marvelous views.  There are three climbs along the route but only one is significant as it reaches 8.3% over less than a mile. The rest of the route is downhill pleasure.   Along this road however was the highlight of the day.  We had just a short distance to cover when we came up to this overlook of the river and the valley below us.  There were three bald headed eagles feeding along the river below us.  It was amazing watching these magnificent birds flying and circling.  Then one of them flew straight over our heads and landed in the top of a tree right behind us.  Soon the female came and landed in a tree next to the first tree, and finally a third male came and landed in the tree.  The first big male sat there staring down at the two cyclists, wondering if we were good to eat or if we had anything worth taking.  Fortunately my Timmies sandwich was tucked safely away. We watched for maybe thirty minute before the staring down ended with Ken and I riding off.  

We crossed the Bull River on the highway bridge and turned down towards Wardner which is only a name on the map.  This took us down another little used road which wandered through the hills and provided us with some great views.  We stopped at 11:30 Am to catch the eclipse but it was only a small slice out of the orb of the sun and it never got very dark. However we did get an opportunity to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the country side and eat our sandwiches.   Not one car passed us while we were there. 

Soon enough we were back on the highway and into Cranbrook.  By now the temperature had reached around 73 F (28 C) and when we spotted the DQ sign we pulled in for strawberry milkshakes.  

It was a relatively short day at only 55 miles (88 kms), however the total climb was 3600 ft (1100 m).  However it was a really excellent ride down some very nice roads. 

Ken had a great suggestion and that is that we should make this an annual event.  There are several wonderful rides out of Cranbrook and the campsite is excellent.  I would like to second this motion.  All in favor?    Passed unanimously!


Aug 20, 2017 Cranbrook – Kimberly – Ta Ta Creek – Fort Steele – Cranbrook

You know some days riding are just special and it is these days which go down in riding lore as one which stories are told.  Maybe in the middle ages the minstrels would have written songs about them.  We don’t have minstrels and instead we have the internet and blogs.

The day started off at 7:00 am with us crawling out of our tents into a rather chilly 46 F (8 C) morning.  As the sun was just up we figured it we might as well have a good breakfast.  Denny’s sounded good and the portions are huge.  There was no way I was finishing the Lumberjack Slam with bacon, sausage, ham, scrambled eggs, hash browns, sour dough toast , pancakes and coffee.   However I made a good stab at it. 

I had plotted the route on the Garmin however I couldn’t find the route on it as we had deviated from the route to go to Denny’s so we wandered about in an industrial area until we stopped a pick up truck and asked how to get to the Cranbrook to Kimberly bike trail.  Simple answer was turn right at the next intersection and pick it up just be for the railroad tracks.

Once on the pathway it was beautiful sailing along a perfectly paved, rails to trails route. This route is called the North Star trail and covers 15.5 miles (25 kms).  It is generally up hill to Kimberly however being an old rail line the grade never exceeded 3.5%.  This must have been pretty steep in the steam locomotive days.  We crossed an old trestle which had concrete sleepers laid over the ties making a perfect  cycling surface.  Once in Kimberly we spotted an  A&W and head straight in for a frosty  mug of root beer.  It just gets better and better.

Recharged an re-hydrated Ken and I headed off to Ta Ta Creek.  There is a little tail wind help so we are feeling pretty pumped.  The road has just been resurfaced and is absolutely perfectly smooth asphalt.  From Kimberly to Ta Ta Creek it is 20 miles (30.5 kms) and it is all downhill.  Over the distance you lose 2970 feet (905 m).  Once on the downhill we hardly turned a pedal over.  While I never kept any stats on what we averaged I am sure that is was north of 25 mph (40 Km/hr).  I do know that I hit a top speed to 40 mph (64 km/hr).  What a total blast.   I am not sure when we have had such a great ride.

The section down to Fort Steel was totally uneventful in comparison to the wild ride we just completed. It was approximately 20.5 miles and started off flat but soon turned into a bunch of mostly uphill rollers. We were starting to feel the miles so we stopped at the Fort Steele trading post and campground store where I enjoyed a 600 ml bottle of ice cold Grape Crush.  Now honestly when is the last time you sat down with a giant ice cold Grape Crush on hot day?  It was superb.

The last leg into Cranbrook had a bunch of larger climbs however we had only 11.25 miles (18 kms) to go so we put it in gear and head for home. 

Once in Cranbrook we stopped at the grocery store where Ken went in and picked up some supper.  Back at the campground Ken cooked supper which turned out to be Italian sausages on buns washed down with a fine bottled vintage courtesy of Sean and Bike Dreams.  An absolutely perfect finish to a marvellous day!


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Aug 19, 2017 Cranbrook to Yahk (and back)

Ken and I were up and on the road by 7:00 Am.  The first stop being Tim Horton’s for breakfast bagels and coffee.  Out on the road  the sun was out and it was a glorious morning to be riding.  We headed straight down highway 97.  The highway wasn’t very busy in the early morning and we were just sailing along.  The highway had a good shoulder with rumble strip on it so any traffic there was, was well away from us.  
There were only two short and not too steep climbs on the route and they were right by Moyie Lake.  The views from the top of the climbs down the lake were absolutely stunning.   The total climb on the way to Yahk was only 827 ft (252M) over a distance of 40 miles (64 Kms), and that included the two climbs.  So the road was pretty flat.  It seemed like there was a lot more down than up and in fact there was on the way south to Yahk however it was only 177 feet (54 m).  
At the 31 mile (50 km) mark we stopped to decide if we were going to call turn around or go the extra distance as this was the first ride since the Golden Triangle for Ken and my first ride in over a month.  We decided on the full distance as the wind was forecast to pick up in the afternoon from the SW which would give us a nice tail wind home.  
After a snack at the Yahk general store (and that is only in the most general way).  It is the commercial hub of Yahk.  We headed back to Cranbrook.   The wind failed to develop and in fact turned into a head wind most of the way although there was a lot of swirling so there were moments of tail wind.  
Along the way we spotted a fellow getting out of his truck along side of the highway with a bow and arrow set.  I called out “Going Hunting”  He answered back “ Nope going fishing”   Fishing with a bow and arrow set?  Never heard of that one.  Bow hunting season doesn’t open until Sept 1.  
Up over the two climbs by Moyie Lake where we stopped for a Coke.   I asked about the guy with the bow and arrows and was told he was probably just sighting the bow in.  Really? 
Ken and I dragged your butts into camp after what turned out to be a 136 kms ride and with a head wind most of the way.   We were both happy that we had completed a fairly tough ride, averaging 17.7 mph (28.5 kms/hr).

A fine supper in the local craft brew house topped off a great day of riding.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

BIke Dreams Great Divide Aug 14-18

Aug 14, 2017  Canmore to Kananaskis Lower Lakes Group Campsite  Alberta       

It was a relatively short day for the riders so there was no need to get an early start. However before the official start there was the mandatory group photo.  The site chosen for this auspicious event was the bear statue in front of the hotel.  Apart from videos and the zoo none of the riders (save for Wallace) had actually seen a bear so everyone had mounted canisters of bear spray and bear bells on their bike.  The excitement in the air was so heavy that one could have used a knife to cut it.  So photo taken and the riders are off down the Spray Lake road and headed south.

After so much preparation work it was hard to believe that this was actually going to launch.  Having said that I don’t know when a better prepared expedition had every started.  The big Penske truck I was driving had real shelves which were filled with clear plastic bins which were all labelled and all of the supplies had been checked and triple checked to ensure that everything was operational. 

The two chefs walked over to Safeway to purchase the food for the evening meal and I drove the truck over and filled it with diesel. At Safeway all the goodies were loaded and we were off.  It was only a  56 mile (90 kms) down to the campsite so we were there early. 

I spent the afternoon chopping broccoli and preparing the potatoes.  Doesn’t sound like and exciting afternoon but the two chefs turned out a fabulous meal and  it was so worth it. By time all the dishes were washed and put away it was bed time. No wifi and so no blog however I was too tired to write one anyway.

Aug 15, 2017  Kananaskis to Elkford BC

The Elkford pass is closed to vehichular traffic so both the lunch van driven by Ken C and the Penske had to drive around.  This is a 186 mile (330 kms) drive.  You have to drive the length of the Kananaskis Park taking the Kananaskis pass which is truly spectacular. Unfortunately it was so smoky that you could not see the mountains.  They were just these huge blueish blobs even though you are right in the height of the Rockies.  Down the Cowboy Trail which is one of my favorite rides and one I did often when I lived in Calgary.  Across the Crowsnest Pass to Sparwood.  Naturally we stopped at the Frank slide to catch a few photos.  There was not time to visit the Frank Slide visitors center which tells the story of how the mountain collapsed and buried the little town of Frank.   We stopped in Sparwood and purchased groceries for the evening meal.  I was just amazed at how much food was purchased.  However as you are feeding a total of 31 people and 24 of them just rode over a mountain pass on mountain bikes it takes a lot of food. 

The major high light of the day however was not the drive but in the morning there was a Grizzly bear in the camp.  He was totally unperturbed by this bunch of campers and was just minding his own business.   He was just filling himself with the berries which were on the bushes surrounding camp.   While I have seen lots of bears and lots of Grizzlies, I have never seen one which just went on about his business as though we weren’t even there.  Bears are generally such reclusive animals the best you can hope for is a fleeting glance as the disappear into the woods.

By time dishes were done and everything was packed away it was 9:00 pm and I was beat.  However Rob who is leading the tour wanted to have a staff meeting in the pub across the street.   By 11:00 pm the meeting was done and so was I. 

Aug 16, 2017 Eklford to Sparwood BC

It was a short day for both the Penske and for the riders as it was only 24 miles (35 kms) down the highway to Sparwood. The riders however had closer to 35 miles (55 kms) as they were taking the trails.  I had a light day however Ken had to drive one of the riders into the hospital in Fernie as he had developed an infected finger.  Then back to Elkford to pick up a rider who had had enough and needed to be picked up.   In all Ken put in  130 miles (220 kms).  

Driving was light however there were lots of vegetables to chop and more potatoes to prepare.  Being a driver on the Penske has a ton of other duties.  So by the time it was all said and done I never had a moment to sit down and write the blog and I fell into my tent around 10:30 exhausted.

Aug 17, 2017 Sparwood to Wigwam BC. 

This was one of the hardest days on the tour as the ride was 137 kms and took the riders over two mountain passes.  Fortunately I didn’t have to ride a bike down this trail but I had a huge diesel Penske to ride and I could take the highway down about half way before turning off on to a gravel  logging road.

As it was such a long day the riders were off at 7:30 am and we packed up the truck and went to get groceries. 

The road got narrower and narrower and ever more pot holed as we head down it.  Finally I realized we had missed the turn to Wigwam as the road was headed east and we should have been going south.  By now the one side is a sheer cliff face and the other side is a 300 foot drop into the canyon below.  After  a few kilometers I find a place which is a few feet wider than the Penske is long.  So now I have to make a u-turn in a spot which is no more than 7 feet wider than the truck is long.  It must have taken 50 back and forth iterations before We were able to head back down the road to find the correct road to Wigwam.   We did find it and 19 miles (30 kms) later we rolled in to Wigwam.

Wigwam is a primitive campsite on the Great Divide trail. It has no water, one long drop and a few campsites.  Forget showers, cell service, wifi, even level ground to set tents on. 

The first riders rolled in at around 5:00 pm and the last at around 7:30 pm.   I cannot imagine spending 11.5 hours hauling a mountain bike over tow mountain passes.  These riders get my admiration.  We ate at around 8:00 pm and it was well after dark by time we closed the back door on the Penske.   

Aug 18, 2017 Wigwam to Eureka Montana

It was only a 50 mile (80 Kms) for the riders and a short drive for the Penske so it was a leasuirely start in the morning and I think that everyone was glad to get the extra sleep. 

I piloted the big rig back out of the woods and out to the highway to Elko where Ken and I had stashed our vehicles the week before. 

In Elko I handed the keys to the Chris who was the US driver and said my goodbyes to the crew.  Ken and I then drove on down to Cranbrook where we are going to do a few spoke rides.

The week of work with Bike Dreams was really hard with a lot of long hours.  However it was totally worth it.  Rob and Sean are absolutely wonderful people and working for them is great.  The food prepared by the two chefs Gerdi and Emily was totally over the top.  The riders themselves were really exceptional.  I was amazed at how many came up to me to thank me for coming out to help. All of the smiles and warmth was over whelming.  Maybe a person can feel good in that you put something back into the system when for so many tours I have been helped by various people along the way.  Was I pleased to be asked to do this?  No I was honored.    Would I do it again?  Absolutely!


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Aug 13, 2017 Canmore

There wasn’t much to report to day however it was a day of meeting up with old friends. 

The morning started off with a staff meeting and discussion of just about everything under the sun.  From first aid, to insurance, to permits, to phone numbers, to has any one seen the syphon hose for the coffee carafe. 

After the meeting I spent about 2 hours working on one of the riders Garmin. We had quite a time getting it to take all the routes and getting the maps installed. My Garmin Connect wouldn’t recognize his Garmin and the Garmin wouldn’t take the maps as it said that it had no space in the hard drive or in the card.  However I did get all the routes in and the maps working.  I felt pretty good that I was able to help one of the riders solve a serious problem and he felt great that he wasn’t going to have to ride without any routing. 

Ken T or Texas Ken and Judy showed up for lunch and we were just getting ready to head out for lunch when Wallace K showed up.  I first met Wallace on a Bike Dreams trip back in 2012.   Wallace and Ken T crossed paths when the three of us did Bubba’s Pampered Pedlars Southern tier ride in 2013.   As we were headed out the door we asked Wallace to join us but he was meeting his wife.  The three of us headed off to lunch.   Ken C wasn’t around so we called him and he joined us later.   We had a terrific lunch and spent a lot of time catching up on everyone’s adventures. 

At 5:00 Pm was the first Rider Meetings.  This was the first chance for Rob and Sean to brief the riders and to lay out for all the riders how the Bike Dream system works.  It took quite a while to go though all the things but we did get through it.  In the end Rob handed out the rider jerseys.  I was very pleased to receive one as I will only be here for a few days of the tour.  It is a real beauty.   I feel quite proud to be part of this tour which is the world’s longest off road bicycle tour.

Tomorrow we are off on the way with down the Kananaskis.  I will be piloting the big Penske --- Look Out!


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Aug 12, 2012 Canmore Ride Preparation

After a hearty breakfast in the hotel breakfast room we had a staff meeting.  This was a good opportunity to cover a lot of the things which are going to be needed for the tour and things which need to be finished before we start.  One of the things which came up and I was unaware of was that it is now required to carry bear spray when riding in the back country.   Seems to me that riding with a bell would be a much better policy.  The bears would hear you coming for miles off and be long gone before you got there as opposed to riding silently up surprising a bear and  then fumbling with a bear spray canister which has a very limited range. However I am sure that the vendors of bear spray would sooner sell $40 containers of spray than $5 bells.  
After the meeting Ken and I filled the water containers which took us close to two hours to drag all the containers out and over to the hose and drag all the water jugs back.  It may seem like that everyone is going to be well hydrated on the tour but it is really surprising how much water 23 cyclists and 6 staff can drink on a hot day. 
I received a note from my good friend Texas Ken is coming up to Calgary and would like to get together with Calgary Ken and myself tomorrow. I immediately phoned him back and arranged to meet him.  It will be good to see him as it has been way too long seen we have had a visit.
After lunch there wasn’t much to do so Ken C, Jim and I wandered over to the Canmore Show and Shine.  I was very pleasantly surprised at how many cars there were (close to 200), and the quality of cars.  There were quite a few rare examples of cars such as one of two 1966 Pontiac GTO convertibles in the flame orange which was not a “Judge” There was a Studebaker Avanti which was absolutely pristine. A genuine Cobra which was not a kit car.   The story of the show is that I was looking at this very nice bright emerald green Kamann Gia convertible.  As I was taking a picture of the car this lady appeared out of the crowd and started chiding me for admiring this car.  “Don’t look at this car.  Look at my car instead. “ she said.   “Look at me, now look down there and tell me which car is mine.”  One look at her and one look down the row and it was obvious.  She was dressed in matching yellow and crème to this stunning example of a Nash Metropolitan.   We walked around to admire her car, and it was a beauty. What a fun car show and made even more so by meeting one of the local car enthusiasts.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Aug 9 through Aug 11 Getting ready

Aug 9 2017  Kelowna To Elko
I was meeting Ken down in Elko today so I had to get on the road early.  Not real early but by 8:00 Am so I was up early loading bags and worrying everything.  There are a lot of forest fires in British Columbia this year and a lot of them have resulted in road closures.  So I had to make sure my route was open and the smoke was so heavy that it was like driving in a dense fog.   I had somehow thought it was only about 3.5 hours down to Elko but when I looked on Google the night before I found out that it was really closer to 7 hours.   Good thing I looked.   So I was out on the road by 7:45 and there was very little traffic so I made good time.  Being a two lane mountain road there are very few passing opportunities so I was thankful for the light traffic.  It was an interesting drive as a lot of the route was one we had cycled when we did the Rockies III ride a few years before. The big bridge was neat, the Paulson Pass did not seem nearly so high and the big downhill into Castlegar not nearly as much fun in the car.  Generally it was a pretty uneventful trip which is exactly what you want from any driving trip.  The smoke had made my eyes sore by time I arrived.   Ken had 3:40 drive down so I expected he would be at the campground before me. I was quite surprised to have beaten him in and phoned him to find out where he was.  He was pulling into the campground.   It wasn’t much of a campground just a bit of dried out grass and a few bird speckled tables in a field.  So we drove into Fernie for great burgers for supper and lots of catching up on things as we had not seen each other in some time.  No internet so not posting but not much to post.
 Aug 10 2017 Elko to Canmore
During the night a fierce wind storm came in and blew almost all of the smoke away.  So when we got up it was almost a perfect blue sky day.  There was only a little bit of smoke haze remaining and by time it was 10:00 am all the smoke was gone.  Ken had been planning ahead and had pack granola, yogurt and orange juice so we had a good breakfast in camp.  It took two of us to roll up tents as the wind was still pretty stiff and the tents were flapping pretty wildly in the wind as we rolled them up.  We hung around waiting for a call from Sean who is the Bike Dreams guide we were to meet at the border so when he called we had to jump in the car and hurry down the last 38 kms to the border.  As this is a commercial business they need to employ Canadians to drive in Canada.  So Ken and I are the drivers for the week.  By now it is close to 12:00 Pm so we head back to Elko to store my car and Ken’s truck.  We had lunch in the Cranbrook Tim Hortons which was Sean’s first “Timmies” experience.   On the way up we passed by the big Radium fire which had closed the highway for the last couple of months.  However it is under control now and is only a few smoking patches.  Never the less it was pretty impressive and when it was a big roaring monster it must have been really something.  When we arrived in Canmore it was around 6:30 Pm and everyone was keen to get rolling on getting the equipment set up so we wound up working until 9:30 PM and had not had supper.  We rolled in from supper around 11:30 and I was way too tired to post a blog. 
 Aug 11, 2017  Canmore Work progresses              
We were downstairs at 8:00 am and ready to go.  However as the breakfast room was jammed we walked down the street and found some bagels which were great.  We were back half an hour later and started into sorting and all of the groceries and supplies that Rob has bought for the tour.   There are mountians of boxes of bars,  hundreds of rolls of TP,  boat loads of spices and a thousand other items which needed sorting and putting away.  By noon a lot of the sorting was done and Ken and I started washing the dishes and camp cooking equipment.  There is a mountain of stuff to wash.  It is surprising how many plates and bowls and spoons and forks and knives and pots and on and on you need when you are cooking for a tour of 30 riders and 6 staff.   It wasn’t until around 5:30 when we were finished.  The crew went out for supper at 7:00 to a pub which was absolutely great.  I am really impressed with the crew which has been put together for this tour.  We have two highly qualified chefs, a skilled bike mechanic, and a very experienced lunch van driver.  This does not include Sean and Rob who are the two Bike Dream guides.  Or the  two Canadian drivers eh. 


Monday, August 7, 2017

Aug 7 2018 Preparing for Bike Dreams trip

Two years ago I did a week of bike support driving the lunch van for the Bike Dreams Great divide Tour which runs from Banff Alberta south along the Great Divide to Antelope Wells in New Mexico on the US/Mexican border.   This is the longest off road bike trip in the world at 2808 miles (4500 kms).  I meet the crew at the US/Canadian border and drove truck to Banff and then followed the tour with the lunch van south.  At the Us border I turned the wheel over to my American counterpart.    It was a pretty fun experience and so when I was asked to join them again I jumped at the chance.  
Fast forward to today as I get ready to pack up to go meet the crew at the border.  I recruited my good friend Ken C to come with me and drive the other vehicle.   We will drive down and meet at Elko on Wednesday afternoon and the meet at the Elko campground which is behind the OK Tire store and not much of a place but they did have a good shower two years ago. Then on Thursday morning Ken and I will meet the crew as they cross the border at Roosville just 38 kms south.  
Yesterday I dragged my tent and camping equipment out from the storage closet in the basement and set my tent up.  I don’t think I have used my tent since I went camping with Bike Dreams two years ago. Kind of sad as I really do enjoy camping.   
After the bike tour Ken and I are going to drive up to Cranbrook and extend our camping trip.  From Cranbrook we will do a week of spoke rides into the mountains surrounding Cranbrook.   There are several passes which can be ridden on out and back basis.   So this means I needed to get my Giant down from the ceiling in the garage where it has been hanging.  I needed to clean the grime off it and get it lubed and ready to go.  I mounted the rack for carrying my trunk bag which will be needed for lunches and a rain jacket just in case as you never know when it may rain.    My Giant is an all carbon bike with Dura Ace components.  A triple chain ring in the front and FSA cranks.  The Easton wheels have proven to be bullet proof and still run as straight and true as the day I bought them.  My Giant probably has close to 70,000 miles on it and it has carried me across the US on three of my coast to coast adventures and all through Europe.   I am really looking forward to a week of spoke rides with Ken.
For some reason I had it in my mind it was only a three hour drive over to Elko from my place in Kelowna.  Looks like it is more like 7 hr.  Good thing I checked.   

One more thing --- Visit the Bike Dreams web page and check out the ride: