Week 6

July 5th, 2007
Bonus hills

The riders were four: Alex C, Eric, Shawn, and me. We were surprised we'd lost Daniel, but we were compelled to complete our mission. Unfortuantely we didn't get started til almost noon; unfortunately I was ready at 10. Nap time, on one of the conveniently removed and campfire-smoked van seats! Anyhow, Alex led us out at a blazing pace, up and down through the first 8 miles in 23 minutes. We are 4 of the stronger riders with fast recovery tendencies, so after a 2-minute stretch break, we started the epic climb.

All we'd heard was that the route was in some way gnarly between campsite 1 and 2; Daniel and Alex C had driven it and decided it was a tough ride--and they are the two strongest riders on the team. However, we'd had a lot of sleep, some good food, and some around-the-campfire carbo-loading (with beer) the night before, so we felt pretty good coming out and making the first 8 miles. We chatted about how much better it felt to ride on our own schedule, to not have too-long rest stops to dread, and no need to sweep, hanging back with the riders who are more likely to need mechanical help or extra motivation to make it in. We're all capable and fast enough riders that even alone we could have done a 30 miler without a break, yet we stuck together. I was worried that I'd get dropped on the climb because I tend to get tired faster on the uphills, but we all stuck the first one together--4 miles without a single inch of downhill or flat. We even maintained around 10.5mph up it (my slowest possible speed without danger of tipping over is around 6 mph...and on the hardest hills I tend to stick around 8). We gathered our breath and stretched a little more at the top, and then blazed down about 4 miles of descent. There was no up and little flat during that 4 miles, so we flew down, passing cars and pretty well ignoring the speed limit. We even caught up with the team van that had passed us a few minutes before we departed the top of the pass. It was some of the funnest riding of the entire trip so far!

Then we got back to smaller climbs and descents over the next few miles, and were slowing down pretty consistently, but still sticking mostly together (Shawn obviously had more legs left than we did but indulged us and waited at the top of the hills). While none of us would have been unable to blast through this ride without a break, we were fortunately slowed (and afforded added scenery-enjoyment, since we were after all in a national park all day!) down by a couple of personal encounters on the way in:

1) a pair of circuit cyclers, the Johnsons, who were riding around the nearby national parks and about to head home to the east coast and do a cancer benefit ride in a week; I'll be dedicating tomorrow's ride to Mr. Johnson's father, Jack, who had prostate cancer.

2) A very nice fellow who vacations here yearly and was watching a burgeoning forest fire throwing off smoke from over the horizon (it must be located out past our former campsite, he said) and told us some tales about the local hills. He also informed us that "It's all downhill from here, and the road surface is great!"

And so we set off downhill. For another 7 miles or so, it was literally straight downhill. I hit 44.5mph without pedalling, and couldn't even manage to look back thanks to the buffetting from the wind. It was the windiest downhill I think I'll ever get over 30mph on, and was extremely exhilirating and more than a little scary. The parts without guardrails next to thousand foot dropoffs made me glad my tires are in good shape (yes, Virginia, I checked them before we left).

That ride was seriously its own reward; I'm so glad we did it! We all are. After all, it's nice to remember that riding is fun, it can be fast or slow, hard or easy, but it's still fun to pedal, and a short, fun, hard but rewarding mountain jaunt...man, I wish I lived near the mountains all the time.

We cruised into St. Mary's, had lunch, I chatted briefly with Lori in this quick spot of cellphone service, and found our campsite before 3pm and pitched tents. Then I did some laundry, dipped into a chilly river with fellow triathletes Nelson and Allison for some vague quasi-cleansing (if it's cold, it must...uh...clean you more?), and now it's time for smores and bed--tomorrow we're getting up early to go check out some beautiful spots that others scouted for us today =)

July 6th, 2007
A Canadian waltz

14 of us got up early to go to the sun. Nothing new though--we're getting used to getting up at 5am, even if we've yet to start enjoying it!

The sun wasn't even out yet when we set out, in the car on Going-To-The-Sun road. We drove it because while it would have been a beautiful ride, there just wasn't time enough in the day. And, it turned out the road was a little narrow and poorly surfaced to make the ride entirely safe. Not that we didn't see quite a few people struggling up and down it on their bikes as we drove it!

We showed up at Logan pass just before sunrise-over-the-mountains and set out down a nature path that Vinoj had checked out the day before and recommended. Our destination from the parking lot atop the pass was Hidden Lake. Hidden Lake isn't particularly hidden except that it's about a mile and a half from the pass, most of that up boardwalk...except where scads of snow was still covering the ground and making for some peoples' first experience with snow, non-Texas-style. As a somewhat experienced snow hiker, I knew how to climb hills by digging my shoe or heel in, and to avoid the really packed spots, but I wasn't immune to a little stumbling and flailing as the inner klutz in me showed through. The lake itself was beautiful as only mountain lakes can be, as the sun flowed into the valley and illuminated the mountains reflected in the mirror-lake. In order to make it as far as possible in the time provided, I turned the trail into a bit of a trail run and suffered no ill effects except immediately running short of breath thanks to the extreme elevation (compared to what we were acclimated to at around 3,500 feet).

I communed with the beauty for awhile and then turned back to go back down and get on the road. Almost everyone else (thank you, Alex C and Allison, for being punctual) was still coming up and had apparently decided to mostly ignore the directive that we hurry back to the campsite, and while I had driven the van and was going to drive back, I felt like I'd probably make the rest of the trip unbearable if I actually left anyone behind. I like getting along with people, so I weighed the options and decided that 14 of us would take less heat from Daniel than I'd take from certain personalities who would be left behind, and we sat and waited. and waited. everyone was back...except Claire and Katy. Actually, Katy had been back on time but was frustrated with everyone else being slow since she wanted to stop on the way back for some pictures, so she hitched a ride back towards camp. We scooped her up when we saw her on the way back at a roadside pullout. Claire, on the other hand, had just gotten lost, and eventually found herself about 15 minutes after we'd run out of ideas on how to find her (since she wasn't up the trail we'd come down). Good Times. Or something.

As a result of the long hike and associated delays, we got a really late start on the ride--around 11am. We figured, "Hey, sun's up til 10, no problem getting the hike and/or more sleep in!" For some reason nobody saw the foreshadowing potential in a proclamation like that.

About 8 miles in, we stopped in the last American town we'd see for a month, Babb. We got some drinks and snacks--I ate elk jerky, just because I'd never seen it before. It tasted pretty much like...jerky. Not so much any different from the beef or buffalo. We were waiting for the post office to open so people could send a batch of mail out...and we waited, and waited, and finally got on the road again, 8 miles in, at 12:30.

We'd agreed in Babb not to have a Canadian border race, but instead to ride in together. So of course Daniel, Alex, Allison, Eric and I took off and started racing...and suddenly a tailwind picked up. We were marching along at 30mph, with occasional slants putting us back to 20, or up to 40...and of course, the finish is a downhill. I have the best gear ratio on the team so I can pedal up to about 42.5mph (the rest of the team tops out around 40) before I run out of gears, and so I took the parking lot race...but I suspect Daniel would have found a way around me anyway if it was a "real" race!

We all gathered together at the border and went through customs with little hassle, but much time wasted and much baking-in-the-sun-twiddling-our-thumbs. By now, we're about 20 miles in, and it's 2:30pm.

But then we got to keep our tailwind into the first Canadian town, where I got Canadian money from the ATM and a blueberry milkshake (DQ still exists in Canada, but has different flavors!), and finally made it out of town...into a sudden headwind.

Those last 4 or so miles out of town tired me out so I napped in the van for awhile at the next rest stop, until the drivers woke me up and told me everyone else had left already! I caught up to Claire quickly and rode with her til the next rest stop.

The Headwind stayed with us for the rest of the day, so we were all pretty beat by mile 60. For some reason, we hadn't believed that the 105 miles listed on the website was the real distance, so we were in for a bit of a disappointment when we realized we still had 40 miles to go at 6pm. I personally don't mind riding at night...but I mind being still on the bike at 9pm when I got up at 5am! It all worked out in the end as Nelson and I, 2 of the fast-impatient types, blew out of that rest stop early to try to encourage everyone to get rolling, and stopped at the next one for only a couple of minutes before carrying on. We draft together pretty well, and boy, did we need it--that wind was a huge struggle and it didn't cool off until almost 8pm. We got into the RV park around 8:30 and beat the next riders by almost 45 minutes.

Michael and Natalie had set up the finest dinner...actually it was a normal dinner, but I was ready to eat dirt and it was pretty tasty including bonus cheese! I had the best shower ever. Chatted with the neighbors for a minute. Slept early and often once Collin volunteered to do the shopping for our drive day tomorrow.

July 7th, 2007
Don't blame Canada!

We made it halfway! In days, that is...50% of our time is up. Kinda sad about that, but also feeling pretty accomplished =) It's been 2450 miles for me, but fortunately I didn't add to that today as Collin, Katy and I were drivers on a very tense day...we were riding into unknown waters; no place to go to really, just a city where we were hoping to stay. The hosts we had set up months before (a church) had cancelled on us after we had already left Texas, and we were going to be in the most populous City in Alberta during the height of their tourist season and during a festival that had left even hotels all booked up for months prior. We feared the worst (sleeping in the van beside the road) but rode onwards anyway.

We made a pretty good breakfast -- eggs and coffee were prominent features we don't usually see while camping (though this was pretty cushy camping, it must be admitted). I suffered some nearly explosive stove trouble before figuring out how to keep a faulty valve working long enough to get things cooked safely. Collin and I repeatedly made the point to Daniel that we needed to get the stove situation resolved before heading out into the wilds of northern Canada, where we'd be camping just about every day!

We like to hug.

Collin asked if I wanted to go to Calgary, and I said "of course!" But he meant right that minute, instead of doing rest stops, to find us a place to stay. I turned down his gracious offer and played support team with Katy instead and sent him ahead to try to solicit us some free lodging. I'm not very good at solicitation.

It was apparently a really hard start - 20 miles of headwind left everyone hungry...but fortunately I'd acquired some apple-raspberry jam and that cheered everyone up a little, since we'd had nought but grape so far. Canada has lots of interesting jams and jellies at the same price as grape so we kept up the strangeness for the rest of the trip, working our way through many berries and non-grape-fruits.

The next leg was still hard, but improving, and we hear from Collin--He's found us a place to stay! Yay! Huge thanks to Greenwood Presbyterian Church! Apparently Collin had gotten a list of churches and started driving to each of them until he found some folks in one and begged their help with success. He rocks =)

The third leg was slow and unsteady, as I was out scouting the fourth leg unnecessarily--thanks Brad! (eep, I hope his name was Brad--a local biker rode past one of our rest stops and gave us great route advice involving a bike path and much less highway riding for the bikers!) Once I got back from that and guided people in, we arrived just in time..for muffins! Thanks *again* Brad! He'd ridden home ahead of us and cleaned up, made muffins, and then run over to the church to find us and pass them out. His wife came along and met the team and chatted for awhile (while some unpacked and rested) until we got let in by the minister. We'll be riding for a friend of hers, Joanna, next time we hit the road...a strong woman who was beating leukemia before she had a toxic reaction to the chemotherapy and became paralyzed from the waist down at the very end of the treatment--she's beat cancer, but now she has to relearn to walk. We'll be thinking of you during the long miles, Joanna!

I cooked a quick and healthy dinner (ok, mac and cheese with hotdogs in. veggie dog version too!) for those who weren't going out, replenished my cowboy hat supply ($2!), and then headed out with the team to see (southern) Calgary. We ended up at an awful Italian restaurant with terrible service so it was kind of a bummer. But they did have large beers, so it was ok for those of us who'd already eaten, at least.

Beer led pretty directly to bed and onto the rest day!

July 8th, 2007
Comfortable Calgary

We have to wake up early...it's Sunday and sleeping cyclists in the entryway of the church is a no-go. I seemed to be missing my cold/rainy weather gear, and was a little worried about it, but the trailer was packed so I decided to postpone my worry in hopes that it was inside of there. After all, I hadn't used it in some time and had seen it floating around since the last time I used it, so it couldn't be that far gone.

I love taking public transit in foreign towns. It's great peoplewatching, it's informative about how a town cares about its commuters (train and bike), and Calgary felt pretty good. I'd looked online about how to take my bike on the train and the only recommendation was that you take it in the front or back doors of a car, not the middle. No info about hooks, holders, etiquette, etc. So I pedalled down towards the station, asked directions ("It's just up the inclination!" Do people really talk like that? Awesome!) and went hunting for a ticket dispenser. The ticket dispensers want coins. I have large bills. I find a lady selling tickets. she has no change, and I want a little more for my $20 than a one-way ticket. So she says "eh, pay double next time" and gives me one for free. I like Calgary! And I brake for bowlers!

While entraining (a valid scrabble word, thanks very much), I dodged crowds who were there for the local rodeo--the Calgary Stampede. In fact, there were more strollers on the train than anything else. But still my bike was in the way because I had managed to take it in the middle doors despite all the warnings. No hooks. Had to hold it up for the whole ride, and made the train late in leaving once as it got squished and left the doors in a funky state. After that I'd figured out how to hold it successfully, at least.

Biked around town in the early Sunday morning--hadn't thought about it but nothing downtown was open yet! Except Tim Horton's--I had some of the local flavor for breakfast! It's just a donut shop, but it's been the cheapest meal I've had in Canada that wasn't a free slurpee and pretzel-bagel-pizza from a Seven-eleven (which was tasty, don't get me wrong!). Then I scoped out the local park scene--Prince's Island is where it's at! Then headed to the bike shop at 11:10. They opened at 11. Half of t4k was there already! So, I met up with the crew. Got a new chain and a tune up, and did some serious shopping at my favorite (ok, the only one I know and just happened to be a member of already from online purchases) Canadian co-op..more tubes, nutrition, some camping gear, and everything else I'd forgotten I needed, from baggies to sunscreen (wish I'd thought to call ahead for more Mary Kay sunscreen, but I missed that boat pretty thoroughly.)

Went to lunch with Alex C, Allison, and Katy at an ok japanese place...mmm, fish! Then walked the pedestrian mall and did the internet cafe bit...had to get some blog time in =). Laid in the park and ran up a $24 phone call with mom and dad, then went looking for some beers and dinner. And looked, and looked. Sunday evening is apparently not the time to find a microbrew in Calgary. I finally found a pub after riding (no joke) 20 miles throughout downtown Calgary, and enjoyed the very local flavor of poutine...the ultimate man food. Get this...it's french fries (yay!) smothered in cheese (yay!) with GRAVY on! Heart attack in a basket. Yeehaw. It was tasty. Bed was soon. And all was well in the world.

July 9th, 2007
The worst of times & the best of times

I had a really miserable, ugly blog entry written up about today. Fortunately, fortune smiled upon me before I could post it, so I get to start over with a happier hindsight to play with.

So, I spent the evening in Calgary searching for my cold/rain weather gear..and it was not found. I looked everywhere, and asked everyone point blank whether they had it hiding in their bags or had seen it. No dice. I was pretty ticked off. I almost said furious, but I don't really get furious. I was about as unhappy as could be though--most of that gear was unused, and its value was upwards of $250. There goes a plane ticket to Boston to visit my best friend when I get back to Austin, or a sushi meal, massage, and week of beer...or whatever. I was thinking about it in terms of loss. Of course money is unimportant in the end and there is important stuff going down like cancer, friendship, world events...but I was stuck in my little world of waaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

We got up to a sunny day, and we all packed. Eric packed all his stuff up when it was sunny, and took a nap to wake up to dark clouds and extreme windy. It's gotten colder since we got up. It was blowing hard enough that helmets were flying across the parking lot, flung by unseen hands. It started to sprinkle as everyone else put on their cold gear...and I stood there miserable. Eric and I both were lucky to have our jackets on our bikes, so we put them on, but they aren't for warmth, just for dry..th. We did our dedications including the very touching dedication for Joanna that Brad and his wife requested, and then we were off. And immediately lost on the bike trails. I'd driven part of the route and verified it was bikeable...but we couldn't find our way to that street I'd driven. Finally we get close enough that I realize where we are and guide us over, and we're off. And then the rain starts. A sprinkle. Then a vicious sprinkle. Added to a gusty wind and an unhappy cold snap (our first cold weather in quite awhile), and I'm miserable. I'm guiding people onto the route but then I'm hurrying into the rain and the wind, little pinpricks trying to flense my skin and my will...and I think "frostbite in the name of cancer...worthwhile?" Anyway I know I can make 20 miles at least and I do, out in front of everyone by 10 minutes or so, and I respond "not well" to a how's-it-going from driver Katy and get in the van and try to find some spot of warmth. People arrive and we gather up and huddle up and soak up the little heat that hits our skin...but the cold is in the bones. Eric and I have it bad, him worse than me. The word hypothermia flies around, and Amy points out you can't get frostbite if it's not freezing. Small favors. And then I see some blue. Off on the horizon, but we've had a miserable headwind all day. So, the clouds are flying overhead past us, behind us, leaving some sky in their wake. And Claire busts out with something like "My grandma always used to say that if there's enough blue in the sky to knit mittens for a kitten, the rain's done." We all laugh, and by the time we're done, there *is* enough blue in the sky...and so I head out, cold but warmer since Claire has bonus cold weather gear she's donated to me and Eric. The gloves are the key!

Cresting the next hill, the Rocky Mountains await us--we'd lost them for a few days and it is good to see them again--my spirits lift with the darkness and moisture.

I'm alone all the way to the next rest stop where I chat with driver Shawn for about 20 seconds before we realize that the mosquitoes are extra vicious right at this spot, so he moves the rest stop a bit up the road. There, we chat again for quite awhile till everyone else shows up. Fortunately that gives me some time to sun-dry my socks and shoes from "soaking" to "slightly moist" I'm off again, heading out with the first people to leave. I'm riding angry, infused with frustration at my missing rain gear--on the very day I need it! All of it. Any of it. And my bike has a new chain that's not shifting smoothly. I cuss it out a few times as it misses a gear, and in my anger leave Alex and company behind as we turn onto the TransCanada Interstate. I hit rest stop 3 first and start getting past the pain of my loss and into solutions...if we can just make it to Banff quickly, I can drive back to Calgary and repurchase my stuff--most of which came from that fabulous Canadian co-op that I mentioned in the last post. I could rebuy it. Most of it, anyway. The waterproof socks are, I think, made in some guy's garage and he doesn't sublicense sales. Then I realize that it's 3pm, and the co-op closes at 9, and it'll be 2 hours away once we get there, and we're still 45 miles away and there's no way for even just me to get into the mountains at that speed. So I resign myself to suckitude and sit back and sulk for awhile.

It turns out that the 45 miles into banff are nearly all downhill. Whod'a thunk? It was still too late to make it back to Calgary and we were all too tired after today turned out to be another surprise century but then we were all awed by the beauty--we're riding *through* the mountains now, not just next to them! The bluest creek is flowing next to the highway most of the way...and except for the 2 ridiculous factories complete with smokestacks in the middle of the beautiful nature...it's perfect. Perfect riding, perfect pavement, even the trucks smell like lemons somehow (Really. Can't figure that one out. It's just one type of truck but it's all of that type.)

We make it to Banff around 8, set up camp, and on the way in, I've figured out the solution to my problem...so I call up MEC and get them to ship to the mail drop! No driving required...just money. $213 gets me most of my stuff back (and gets MEC all the points--I'm on a phone in the middle of nowhere talking to a guy who knows which rain pants will rip on the bike's chain and which helmet cover shows up better in the rain despite my vaguely voiced desires over a crackly connection), and shipped on time. I'm relieved, if poorer. We go out for beers...and fun is had.

The next morning, Shawn greets me with a "hey, Mccraw, is this your stuff?" and sure enough he has my gloves, my stuff sack...all my gear. I'm delirious with happiness and irony. Yes, I *felt* the irony. I'd complained high and low and suffered so much...for no reason. My stuff was crammed under the breadbox. No human could have accomplished that feat. It was tectonic in nature. Sigh.

I called mec from the one payphone within 5 miles, and they cancelled and refunded my order moments before it was to ship and all was well in the world, once again.

July 10th, 2007
A 3 hour tour

The morning was joyous, thanks to the return of my gear. I didn't need my cold gear, but I held it in the womb of my bike bag like my dearest friend, never to be abandoned again. I will not let it out of my sight, or my bag, again. The shared gear box is a travesty that does not bear repeated bearing.

The morning went like many other mornings, in that I was ready quickly and looking for something to do. I ate some pancakes. I repacked my bags, I took off some layers. I dodged mosquitoes. I goofed off. I lubed my chain and didn't wipe it off very thoroughly. and then I heard the word. "unsupported." Daniel and Alex C were talking about a tour...tour du Banff, a little side trip ignoring rest stops and delays and the quick route. We were gonna do a scenic tour! I was in like Flynn, and was joined by Nelson, Allison, Shawn, and Alex S. The big deal wasn't the tour--every moment of riding is still a minute in the saddle, fast or slow, scenic or boring. The big deal was that we'd do our own thing at our own speed and not have people waiting on us...including rest stops. We'd have to make it work all on our own. If we ran out of water, it was our problem.

So I stuffed my pockets with food and we set off..for Starbucks! Thanks to IBM, we got more giftcards for the evil empire of coffee than we'd been able to use, so we tried furiously to spend it all up. No worries, I didn't actually spend any *money* there =)

While we flew through Banff (the name of the national park, as well as the large town we camped near) on our bikes, my mind wandered. We were thoroughly surrounded by mountains--cradled between them, snowcaps everywhere, forest-lined roads, mountain goats and elks wandering through. Lots of beauty and wonder, just overflowing...on the road, and we take a right...Route 1A instead of Interstate 1. It looks...kinda unfriendly. scenic to be sure, but no shoulder? Eek. And then we see the bicycle sign. It's made for us! So we cruise on. There are lots of rest stops, which all have informational plaques which we read and joke about "Do you see any elk? The sign says they're supposed to be eating RIGHT HERE!" and hilarity ensues. We finally come upon a commercial facility (the first of the day, about 20 miles in, as it happens) by johnston falls, where the group stops. There is a cafe there that some folks grab a bit to eat at, but Shawn and I decided to hike up to the falls. Catwalks, well-travelled trails, and finally, a rushing waterfall that was fairly scenic...until you went through a half-height cave chiselled out of the neighboring cliff and emerged 15 feet from it. The place is soaking and downright cold from the falls-spray, and all you can hear and see is rushing water, joyous and jubilant. I love waterfalls!

Which segues nicely into the fact that there are waterfalls *everywhere*. (part of) the beauty of snow-capped mountains is that you get a lot of runoff that has to head down to the valley and a lot of rocks for them to go over...waterfallriffic. There will be a sign pointing off to the left or right from the road and you'll look over and finally find thunder falls...no doubt huge but 2,000 feet up and around a corner. The rocky mountains truly live up to their name around here--treeline is lower, maybe 8500 or so feet, so the tops of the mountains are all jagged and rocky, and naked-looking compared to the colorado rockies where the snow tends to touch the trees...

Afterwards, we are 6 (Daniel has wandered off ahead of us), and we finish out with tiredness the long, slow hills up and the zooms back down until we pull into Lake Louise (which is where Route 1A rejoins Interstate 1), and find...lots of people! Usman's wheel has broken and he has to get off this train...back to Calgary and a new wheel for him. We hung out in the last town we'd see for a couple of days, for awhile...eating, drinking soda, enjoying being around people who smelled slightly better than ourselves, and all that good stuff. We were also waiting for driver Claire, who'd been dispatched to take Usman back to town about 5 hours prior and had yet to be seen, until we finally gave up, leaving Usman behind, and pulled out to find her across the street. Then it was off to the campsite 10 miles north, which was aptly named "Mosquito Creek."

An aside about the mosquitoes here--they are fierce birds of prey! Ok, they're about as tenacious as Texas mosquitoes, but there are thousands of them everywhere and they are remarkably resilient--I've watched as one flew out of my duffel bag and another out of my tent...after being squished in there for 12 hours straight! I think it's the power of numbers that makes them so awful, but at least it's offset by the sometimes-cool weather and usually-wonderful scenery. I just would have thought Canada would be too cold for mosquitoes. Shows what I know.

The ride into mosquito creek was uneventful, if long and uphill...and we were all tired despite the short day. Arriving to no-drinkable-water (it was streamwater we had to boil to use for anything useful) was kind of a bummer. Thank goodness I've got water de-bacterifying tablets, but man, I forgot how awful those make your water look and taste. But hey, you get thirsty enough and anything will do.

July 11th, 2007
The Naked Steeps

I met some nice people today--some Canadians who were into our cause and made donations--including a very nice gent, Marc whose grandmother Mary Anna and his surviving uncle Rolly we rode for the next day. Also ran into a would-be cyclist from Michigan who informed us that "it's mostly downhill from here--you're at the highest point on this road!" Vinoj had heard the same thing elsewhere. This, after a medium climb in the morning. Of course, we had the killer climb at the end of the day that made us doubt her sanity, but she gave us a lot of hope until we found the monster.

It was another short-ish ride today, 60 miles up to the glaciers--out of Banff national park and into Jasper national park. Their relationship is a bit like that of Yellowstone and the Tetons, except that both are freaking gorgeous. During these stretches I had to consciously slow myself down a lot so I wouldn't forget to look at the scenery--we were quite literally *in* the mountains. Fortunately we followed a river valley all the way so we were at the lowest point in the mountains, but there were still some tough climbs and some massive downhills.


At a rest stop, most of the team took a dip in a glacier-fed stream. It was running really fast and was extremely cold, and I dipped my legs and head in but didn't go all the way--do the "ball drop" as we've grown to call the getting-the-most-chilling-experience-of-dipping-ones-genitals-in experience. I skipped that not because I wasn't feeling polar-bear-riffic but because I didn't want to ride with a wet pad in my shorts for the rest of the day, and because Katy and I were hatching a secret plot!


Our plot was simple: to skinny dip in glacier water. Katy literally had this on her to-do list for the trip, and I was almost as fanatical--I love swimming in super cold water, and skinny dipping is just better swimming! So we took off super slowly from that rest stop and waited until the stream that people had dipped in came up alongside the roadway (about 40 feet down an embankment, but it wasn't too difficult to make it down), stripped down, and frolicked briefly in the extremely invigorating water. We giggled a lot and wondered at the people on the team who were so modest or so worried about immodesty that they wouldn't have enjoyed this, but were just happy to have eachother and to have the wonderful experience of this moment. Looking back, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have done that in very many places in the US (but I did do it in Boulder with my martial arts buddies, back in 2001/2002). Canada is so much more laid back.





The day to the glaciers was one of the worst climbs yet. It was less relentless than the one that the 4 of us "optional" riders did in Glacier national park, but it started out steeper for a good piece and lasted longer overall, though there were occasional downhill or flattish reprieves. Still, a pretty tough way to end the day...the campsite was at the top, and had a little extra bonus climb up to the where tents were.

In the middle of that killer climb, I heard a rushing off to the right as I crossed a bridge...but I couldn't see anything. I stopped, climbed up onto the sidewalk, and there was a huge, at least 100', waterfall. I just sat kinda mesmerized, and contemplated as cars rushed past, and cast a shadow on a waterfall - a weird sort of permanent impermanence as millions of gallons flowed past but my the hazy outline of myself and my bicycle rode above, yet within, the chaos.

It was a short night of chatting with Alex M before I was ready to go to bed, but instead we took a field trip! At the end of day 2, we took a drive up to the icefields (French word for icefield: glacier) and stood on 15,000 years worth of ice that probably won't last another 150 years..humanity's actions have melted the glacier about 66% in the past 150 years and the pace of the melt-off is accelerating and so that glacier (the easiest to walk onto, and the first we saw up close even despite going into Glacier National Park) is probably not long for this world.




Head back to week 5 or carry on to week 7.
You're welcome to email me: gently@gmail.com.