Archive for May 31, 2013

Finally flat as far as the eye can see!

Day 43: May 27 – Regina to Indian Head

Heading East out of Regina I can’t say I really noticed the flat at first simply ‘cuz it was raining and I was keeping a keen eye on the pavement ahead of me trying to dodge puddles that might be hiding unsuspecting potholes which could cause me to spill.  Needless to say, the paved shoulder out of Regina was not the smoothest, but fortunately I was able to make it out incident free.

Although I'm faster when not contending with a headwind, I don't think this is my speed :)

Although I’m faster when not contending with a headwind, I don’t think this is my speed :)

It rained for the first two hours of the ride today (I will take rain over wind any day of the week)!  Unfortunately mother nature must have noticed that I was back on my bike ‘cuz after two hours of rain she shut down the rain and cued up the headwinds.  I’ll be perfectly honest: more than once when I took a quick breather from the wind there would be a fist shaking at the sky while proclaiming ‘You win wind, you win.  You’re strong.  I get it.  Now can’t you work WITH me?!?!’.  This lasted for about 3hrs at which point (thankfully) the winds died down and the rain started up again.

Wind, wind go away....

Wind, wind go away….

While it rained two separate truck drivers pulled over and offered me a ride.  One as far as the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border another ‘to get ahead of the rain’.  Despite the offers, I declined and forged on.

Other tourers!

Other tourers, but heading West!

The tourers in the bottom right give a sense of scale to how large this storage facility is

The tourers in the bottom right gives a sense of scale to how large this storage facility is

Today I actually tried using my clipless pedals again for the first time since

The cleat on the right is twisted

The cleat on the right is twisted

Medicine Hat and at one point when I tried to unclip my right foot it would not for the life of me unclip.  So I unclipped my left foot, stopped my bike and actually had to take my foot out of the right shoe to get detached from my bike.  Turns out the clip on my cleat turned when I tried to unclip.  I quickly changed back to my trusty old school running shoes.

I rolled into Indian Head (68km later) just after 4pm and stopped by the tourist info to see

Me in front of the sculpture of an Indian Head in (you guessed it) Indian Head

Me in front of the sculpture of an Indian Head in (you guessed it) Indian Head

what was worth checking out.  They seem to promote a round barn, but it was a few km’s off the highway so instead the lady at the tourist info and I discussed my journey and the wind.  She commented that although the winds are known to get strong, they do not usually persist at that strength for as many days in a row as what they have been.  After our chat, I used the washroom unwittingly dragging a lot of mud through the building.  I apologized but she laughed it off saying that’s what vacuum cleaners are for.

At the Indian Head campground I was met by three kind ladies.  I asked if they happened to have a cabin that was pet friendly and they did!  I wouldn’t have to set up camp on the wet ground!  After checking in (and knocking over a flower pot with the front wheel of my bike – it was a clumsy afternoon for me), I immediately booted up my laptop and turned on some music while I made this cabin my home for the next 15hrs.  I might be converted to cabin camping.  You get the pleasure of being close to the great outdoors, yet the convenience of a roof over your head and a mattress to sleep on.

My cabin home complete with a swinging chair

My cabin home complete with a swinging chair

Hanging my clothes to dry

Hanging my clothes to dry

Dinner is cooking outside and I'm dancing to the music indoors protected from the mosquitos - a perfect camping experience!

Dinner is cooking outside and I’m dancing and singing to the music indoors protected from the mosquitos – an ideal camping experience!

Today's din - mashed potatoes

Today’s din – mashed potatoes

Dash licking up the scrapes - no food is wasted here!

Dash licking up the scrapes – no food is wasted here!

Dash checking out the mechanics of the swinging chair

Dash checking out the mechanics of the swinging chair

 

Water before purifying

Water before purifying

And after purifying

And after purifying

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 44: May 28 – Indian Head to Broadview

Leaving camp around 9:30 I was immediately greeted with a train going through town:

Train heading through Indian Head

Train heading through Indian Head

It was a rainy day, but winds where extremely mild and the temperature was around 15 degrees, so I was a happy duck!  The winds remained mild for the WHOLE day, so this was actually the most pleasant cycling day I have seen in about a week and a half.  I think it’s safe to say I have now properly tested out my new Ortlieb waterproof panniers and they have passed with flying colors!

Glorious flat land! :)

Glorious flat land! :)

A quick stop in Wolsely

A quick stop in Wolsely

Lots of water and marsh area along the highway in Saskatchewan

Lots of water and marsh area along the highway in Saskatchewan

With the flat land, bare landscape these buildings can be seen from many km's away and always indicated a town was coming up!

With the flat land and bare landscape these buildings can be seen from many km’s away and always indicate a town is coming up!

I made pretty decent time to Broadview, covering 83km just before 3pm where I checked into the Sweet Dreams motel which had good reviews online and I wasn’t disappointed.  Nothing fancy but decent price, clean place, friendly people and you can tell they care about their property.

Sweet Dreams motel in Broadview

Sweet Dreams motel in Broadview

Sweet Dreams motel in Broadview

Sweet Dreams motel in Broadview

After getting settled into the motel and showered I took Dash for a walk to the local park.  Nobody was around so I let her run off leash.  She pranced and bounced around for about 45min before I got tired of standing out in the rain and I started getting hungry, so I picked up a club sandwich at a local restaurant and headed back to the motel.

Train in park in Broadview

Train in park in Broadview

Park in Broadview

Park in Broadview

Day 45: May 29 – Broadview to Moosomin

The headwinds returned.  3km into today’s ride I saw a rest area and pulled off with the excuse that it would be good for Dash to get out and run.  In reality, I needed to change my mentality to tackling these headwinds.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t naive enough to believe that I would get a tailwind every day.  But considering winds are supposed to be predominately out of the NW, I was expecting a tailwind at least 40-50% of the time.  Since Calgary I have cycled 13 days, 2 with a tailwind, 8 with a mid-strong headwind and 3 with a weak headwind.  Alas – the direction or strength of the wind is not something I can change or control, so I need to change my approach.  Instead of cursing and getting frustrated with every km I crawl by at a painfully slow 7-13km/hr, I will embrace the fact that I can (and will!) tackle these kilometres no matter how slow or fast I conquer them!  I have also removed all shame in walking on flat land (which I have had to do more than once) and have no objection to hunkering down in a hotel on the days that the wind is quite simply too much for me (I’ve determined this is around the 40km/hr + range).

This was a turning point for me.  When I got back on the bike I was actually able to smile and sing along to my music once again as I rode into the 30km/hr winds for the remaining 70km I conquered today!

I arrived in Moosomin just after 5pm where I booked into the Motel 6, what looks to be a fairly newly built motel.  The gentleman who greeted me said that I was the 4th person who has stayed there this year who is cycling across Canada.

I grabbed dinner at the Red Barn, a restaurant pretty close to the hotels and just off the highway.  Chicken and mashed potatoes – it was quite tasty!

Dash enjoying some free run time!

Dash enjoying some free run time at the Broadview rest area

Large machinery on the highway

Large machinery on the highway

Two more tourers heading West!

Two more tourers heading West!

P1020499

Windmills!  Reminds me of some areas of Ontario!

Windmills! Reminds me of some areas of Ontario.

This is the kindof flat I expected the prairies to be...!

This is the kind of flat I expected the prairies to be…!

Some info on Moosomin

Some info on Moosomin

 

Day 46: May 30 – Moosomin

This morning I woke up to high headwinds (40km/hr with gusts up to 65km/hr) and cloudy skies with the forecast of A LOT of rain (30-40mm), so I immediately went to the front desk of the hotel and booked myself for another night.  I will be spending the day cowering from the wind in Moosomin!  My first errand was to pick up some peepads for Dash and then drop by the grocery store to pick up some fruit, banana’s, chocolate milk, crackers, etc.

It's hard to get a picture of the wind, but here's a look as the rain started around noon

It’s hard to get a picture of the wind, but here’s a look as the rain that started around noon

Getting back to the hotel I then went through all my gear and identified what I have yet to use.  Those items I took down to the post office (gentleman working there was super friendly) and shipped them back home (thanks Sue for offering to pick these up for me!!).  So what items did I ship home?  For starters – my clipless cycling shoes – these just aren’t working for me, from here on out I’m riding in my runners or sandals.  Someday when I’m not carrying 100+ lbs of gear on my bike then perhaps I will give these shoes another try, but it won’t be this summer.  I also sent home my wind pants, a t-shirt I have yet to wear, a sarong (I might regret this one when I get to beach areas, but I can always buy a new one then), bear bag and rope for the bear bag (I still have a bear canister for storing food when camping in bear country).

Mural in Moosomin

Mural in Moosomin

Main street in Moosomin

Main street in Moosomin

I also had the opportunity this afternoon to call and chat with both of my brothers!!  It was great to catch up with them and I’m looking forward to seeing lots of friends and family when I go through southern Ontario!! :)

The remainder of the day I spent perusing other blogs of people who are currently cycling across Canada.  One fellow is about 150km west of me right now and also chose to hunker down for the day to avoid getting frustrated (and exhausted) trying to ride into the wind.  For some reason this makes me feel more justified about my experiences with the wind!

What has become almost a daily tradition – I also google mapped where I currently am and scanned out to where Victoria BC is.  It’s quite remarkable to look at the ground already covered!

My unexpected temporary home in Moosomin!

My unexpected temporary home in Moosomin!

 

Day 47: May 31 – Moosomin

NE winds are still humming along at 35km/hr with gusts near the 60km/hr mark, the rain stopped late morning, but the temperatures have dropped to single digits.  So I managed to read the rest of the book God Bless You Mr. Rosewater (I really haven’t read near as much on this trip as I thought I would have by now), reading up on blogs of fellow cross Canada cyclists and looking at the logistics for the Brandon to Sauble Beach leg in a bit more detail.  The perfect way to spend a rainy day!! :)

I also took Dash out for a couple quick walks where she immediately found some mud to dig around in.  While out on one of these walks the owner of the motel asked if I needed a ride into town or any items picked up (I didn’t need anything, but the offer was appreciated).  Last night when I stepped out to pick up a Subway sandwich, I was walking back to the hotel in the pouring rain when the owner drove by and gave me a lift the last .25km.  These simple acts of kindness along the way will undoubtably be on my top 10 moments of the trip.

Moose Jaw & Regina

Day 38: May 22 – Moose Jaw

After an incredibly great sleep I swung by the hotel front desk to pick up some

Dash had a good sleep too - I didn't place the blankets this way, this is all her doing...

Dash had a good sleep too – I didn’t place the blankets this way, this is all her doing

grub at the continental breakfast.  I did notice on this short walk that my legs, in particular my quad muscles, were still aching from the previous days ride.  Boy was I glad I was going to have a few days off the bike to rest and recoup.

Dash and I headed out to the Moose Jaw tourist info (about 4km one way) to take some pics with Mac the Moose.  Mac claims to be the world’s largest moose and was created simply to draw in tourists (I guess it worked!).  The tourist info in Moose Jaw was quite nice, it has a replica steam train coming out of the back wall which looked pretty cool (more impressive than Mac the Moose).

Looks like a nice park - I didn't explore because it wasn't pet friendly

Looks like a nice park – I didn’t explore because it wasn’t pet friendly

Snowbird statue at the Moose Jaw tourist info centre

Snowbird statue at the Moose Jaw tourist info centre

Mac the Moose!

Mac the Moose!

Mac the Moose, Dash and I

Mac the Moose, Dash and I

Replica steam engine in the Moose Jaw tourist info centre

Replica steam train in the Moose Jaw tourist info centre

Some info on the train the replica was designed after

Some info on the train the replica was designed after

On our way back from the tourist info I stopped by Canadian Tire to pick up another spare tube for Dash’s trailer and re-stock on poop bags.  It was only an 8km walk today, but my body was telling me that was enough.  I got back to the hotel around 3pm and fell asleep until 7pm!  After waking up I picked up a pita from Pita Pit and a frozen yogurt (can’t remember the name of the shop) and got to work on my blog.

Day 39: May 23 – Moose Jaw Tunnels

Today was going to be a super mellow day, my only goal was to check out the Tunnels of Moose Jaw.  It is believed that in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the majority of the buildings in Moose Jaw were being heated by steam, the boilers were kept in the basements of these buildings.  The engineers who maintained these heating systems decided to build tunnels connecting the buildings underground so they could move themselves and their equipment easily without exposing themselves to the cold prairie winters.  Although that was the original purpose of the tunnels, they did serve other uses.  The tours explain two of these other uses.

Each of the two tours are about 50min long and are guided by actors who play fictional characters.  One tour is called Passage to Fortune and tells the fictional tale of a Chinese immigrant in Canada in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  After the Canada Pacific Railway was completed in 1885 many of the Chinese who worked on the railway started heading East from British Columbia looking for work.  Many ended up in Moose Jaw and worked for very low wages.  In order to survive off the poor wages and to hide from the locals (who were not particularly friendly to them) they took up living and working quarters in the tunnels.  The tour is a mix of history and fiction and I found it a very well executed tour, even if the material is discussing rather unpleasant Canadian history.

The second tour has less history and more speculation mixed in and is called the Chicago Connection.  It talks about the role Moose Jaw (and its tunnels and railway connections) played in bootlegging liquor during the Canadian and US prohibition days – this part is true.  Where it becomes more speculative is the focus around the connection to Al Capone.  The tour focuses on Al Capone having spent time and had dealings with locals in Moose Jaw.  From what I’ve researched there is no confirmation one way or the other as to whether Al Capone frequented Moose Jaw.  Regardless, it’s still a very interesting story, the tunnels and underground rooms are cool to see and the actors do a stellar job!

Unfortunately pics aren’t allowed on either tour – so I have no pictures of the tunnels which is really a shame, ‘cuz it is impressive how extensive they are.  I guess it means you’ll have to come to Moose Jaw yourself to check the tours out! lol!

Other then the tours I checked out the local bike shop to see if I could get a replacement tire.  I’ve rotated my back tire to the front, but almost all of the middle tread is gone so I think it’s in need of being replaced sooner rather than later.  Unfortunately the local shop didn’t have the brand I prefer so I’ll have to check out the bike shops in Regina when I get there.

Pedestrian cross walk in Moose Jaw - does this mean you can only cross if walking your moose?

Pedestrian cross walk in Moose Jaw – does this mean you can only cross if walking your moose?

I had chinese for dinner today and the fortune seemed rather relevant...

I had chinese for dinner today and the fortune seemed rather relevant…

 

Day 40: May 24 – Moose Jaw Murals

I will be the first to admit that although Moose Jaw is a very pleasant town it doesn’t need three days to tour and explore.  One day to explore and one day to get a little R&R would have sufficed, but winds are still calling to be out of the East around 40km/hr with gusts up to 60km/hr.  So quite simply – I’m hiding from the wind today.  Turns out it was a good day to hide ‘cuz it also rained for a couple hours in the early afternoon.

In my hiding I have spent a fair amount of time reading blogs of other folks who have cycled across (or sections) of Canada.  It’s great to hear what kind of insight others have on upcoming terrain, what parts they found easy or difficult, what experiences they had, etc.

After the rain passed I went for a little stroll through town to check out a handful of the 46 murals that are spread across Moose Jaw.  A pamphlet is available describing what the murals are depicting, so I’ve included the description in the pic comments below.  I also picked up some Gatorade and protein bars for the upcoming days ride.

Downtown Moose Jaw looking at the old train station (now converted into a liquor store)

Downtown Moose Jaw looking at the old train station (now converted into a liquor store)

Inside one of the nicest liquor stores I've seen

Inside one of the nicest liquor stores I’ve seen

Another look at the Moose Jaw liquor store

Another look at the Moose Jaw liquor store

This was the entrance to the 'Passage to Fortune' tunnel tour

This was the entrance to the ‘Passage to Fortune’ tunnel tour

Motel trying to capitalize on the claimed Al Capone link

Motel trying to capitalize on the claimed Al Capone link

A perspective of Main Street looking North (about 1883) just as a storm is on the way

A perspective of Main Street looking North (about 1883) just as a storm is on the way

Representing the pioneer's hopes of a golden future by 'proving his land' 5 acres per year for 5 years to obtain title of ownership

Representing the pioneer’s hopes of a golden future by ‘proving his land’ 5 acres per year for 5 years to obtain title of ownership

A fireman's prayer

A fireman’s prayer

Showing some of the changes of equipment a fireman uses over time

Showing some of the changes of equipment a fireman uses over time

For pioneer women on the prairies a cow was a prized possession.  The lady is Mrs. Elizabeth Elliot.

For pioneer women on the prairies a cow was a prized possession. The lady is Mrs. Elizabeth Elliot.

On August 19, 1911 Moose Jaw's Streetcar took it's first run

On August 19, 1911 Moose Jaw’s Streetcar took its first run

I had a couple coolers with my greek dinner and went to bed early.

Day 41: May 25 – Moose Jaw to Regina

I had originally set my alarm for 6:30 this morning, knowing that they were calling for a strong headwind again and wanting to get to Regina by 3 or earlier to pick up supplies I wasn’t able to find in Moose Jaw (dehydrated food, new tire).  However I wasn’t quite ready or willing to wake up at 6:30 so I proceeded to sleep until 7:15.  After grabbing some of the hotel continental breakfast I packed up my gear and was on the road just before 9am (I’ve got this packing up process down to about 1.5hrs now!)

Unfortunately the weather forecast wasn’t wrong.  The winds were strong out of the SE (25km/hr with gusts over 50km/hr – to be honest tho, I couldn’t tell when it was a “gust”, it was all strong).

Around the 30km mark a fellow cross Canadian cyclist caught up to me, he slowed down and rode beside me for a bit while we chatted.  Jacques is originally from Switzerland, living in Quebec now I believe and started his ride in early May.  He is giving himself about 3mths to cross the whole country and is riding to raise money for a charity.  After cycling a couple km’s and taking each others pictures we parted ways (Jacques is cycling at a quicker pace than I).

Jacques - another cross Canada cyclist

Jacques – another cross Canada cyclist

Me!

Me!

Jacques quickly pulling away from me - I'm determined to be the slowest cross Canada cyclist!

Jacques quickly pulling away from me – I’m determined to be the slowest cross Canada cyclist!

I should point out here that the terrain has FINALLY flattened out!  Now if only the wind would co-operate….

Finally the flat prairies I imagined!

Finally the flat prairies I imagined!

I saw many more farmers working the fields today than previous days

I saw many more farmers working the fields today than previous days

Around 40km I started to feel myself dragging so I stopped and tried eating a protein bar.  I say try ‘cuz I could only get about 3/4 of the way through the bar before I felt like I was going to upchuck and started to get really woozy.  I immediately set my bike down and took a seat ’till the feeling passed.  I’m 90% certain the protein bar was the culprit for this weird reaction.  It was a new bar that I hadn’t tried before and I will quickly be throwing out the other 4 I bought at the same time and go back to my tried and true Clif bars.

For the last 35 of the 74km covered today I had to take a break every 5km.  This in addition to my slow riding speed meant that I didn’t get to the hotel in Regina ’till 5:15pm.  Which meant that I wouldn’t be able to pick up a new tire or more dehydrated food today.

Regina from a distance

Regina from a distance

Me at the Regina info map - I was too tired to smile at this point

Me at the Regina info map – I was too tired to smile at this point

After settling into the hotel and having a shower (the BEST part of every day on the road is the shower as it immediately makes you feel human again!), I took Dash for a walk and ordered a hamburger from a local pub.  While waiting for the hamburger I continued to walk Dash who gathered the attention of a couple locals.  A lady has her own min pin so we had to compare notes on the breed and a guy who stopped and parked his car to come out and play with Dash. :)

Day 42: May 26 – Regina

After breakfast I went to enjoy the hotel’s pool for a little while.  Unfortunately the hot tub wasn’t in service.  Following my little swim I took Dash for a walk to the local bike store to pick up a new tire, some electro gels and jubes and a new cloth backpack for the sightseeing days (all the threads were coming undone on my previous one and the duct tape just wasn’t holding it together anymore).  Dash seems to be a hit in this town, while walking several people stopped to try to pet her and one guy biked by calling out ‘hey, cute dog!’.

Train in Regina

Train in Regina

Downtown Regina

Downtown Regina

After the bike store I headed to Wascana park.  It is a very nice park and is located along Wascana Lake, however I was surprised to find that they have a road that runs through the majority of the park area.  I guess this makes the park more accessible.

Wascana Park

Wascana Park

Wascana Lake

Wascana Lake

Dash on patrol

Dash on patrol

Bike trail through Wascana Park

Bike trail through Wascana Park

Dash and I hanging out in Wascana park

Dash and I hanging out in Wascana park

A worn out tire

A worn out tire

Once back from the park I immediately started work on changing my tires.  This was a slightly messier job than

And what the same tire would have looked like new

And what the same tire would have looked like new

normal as it seems as though I cycled through some not entirely dry tar yesterday – I have tar with little stones stuck to my tires and splayed across my bike frame and some of my gear.  I’m pretty sure this hotel is going to love what I leave behind for them! lol!

 

While petting Dash tonight I noticed a little red bug with a hard back hanging out on Dash’s fur.  I immediately dug the little bugger out (no freeloaders allowed here) and investigated the rest of Dash.  Turns out she had three of these little bugs on her.  They didn’t seem to be causing her any discomfort but it does concern me a bit, I have no idea what this bug is and where it was picked up.  I’ll give her a bath and start doing daily inspections to see if they re-appear.  In the meantime, I’m happy that I started her flea and heartworm medicine early this year!

The Prairies – Part I

Day 33: May 17 – Medicine Hat almost to Maple Creek

After a couple day’s rest I was ready to be back on the bike and my expectation was that once I cleared the hills in Medicine Hat I would be on relatively flat terrain.  I mean this is the prairies, right?  How wrong I was.  Although not necessarily steep hills, there are hills a-plenty!  Constant, rolling hills.  Every time I reached the top of one hill I would hold my breath expecting to see nothing but flat road on the other side only to be met with another hill.  Turns out I was travelling just north of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park (shared between Alberta and Saskatchewan) and has the highest elevation between the Rockies and Labrador.

Houses on the hill

Houses on the hill

Farm watering system

Farm watering system with hills in the background

Cows, with hills in the background

Cows, with hills in the background

Some Alberta history

Some Alberta history

I didn't see any buffalo, so thought I would at least take a pic of the sign!

I didn’t see any buffalo, so thought I would at least take a pic of the sign!

Town of Walsh.  Most western town in Alberta along the Trans Canada Highway

Town of Walsh. Most western town in Alberta along the Trans Canada Highway

My last view of Alberta!

My last view of Alberta!

Shortly before noon I crossed into Saskatchewan!

Saskatchewan here I come!

Saskatchewan here I come!

The hills continue in Saskatchewan

The hills continue in Saskatchewan

About 30km in to Saskatchewan I was minding my own business cycling down the nice wide paved shoulder of the highway when I saw what I’m PRETTY sure was a wolf heading my way!  I didn’t stop to take a picture, but the creature was grey-ish/white and was probably about 90-100lbs.  He was trotting along the fence line on the same side of the highway as me, but in the opposite direction (heading west).  He looked at me for about 5-10 seconds (I’m pretty sure picking up Dash’s scent) and then as quick and nimble as can be he hopped over the fence and carried on his way. There are not a lot of towns along this stretch of the highway, however there is a campground (Eagle Valley Park Campground) a few kilometres west of the turn off to Maple Creek (Maple Creek is 4 or 5km south of the highway).  This put my distance for the day just over 90km and seemed like a good place to stay for the night.  I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at this campground – free, super clean showers, nice staff, nicely maintained grounds and it looks like they are in the process of installing a pool and lounge area. Although I was the only camper in the tent section when I first arrived, a motorcyclist showed up around 7pm.  He is in the process of riding his bike across Canada as well – I’m pretty sure he’ll make better time than me!

Eagle Valley Park Campground

Eagle Valley Park Campground

Bar and sitting area at campground

Outdoor bar and sitting area at campground

The tenting section

The tenting section

The RV section - more populated!

The RV section – more populated!

Sunset at Eagle Valley Park Campground

Sunset at Eagle Valley Park Campground

Day 34: May 18 – Almost Maple Creek to Gull Lake

Waking up around 7am I was surprised to see my fellow cyclist/camper friend was already packed up and ready to head out for the day so after a quick wave and well wishes on each other’s journey I started packing up my camp.  I’m proud to say I’ve now gotten this process down to about an 1hr and 45 minutes.  I’ve shaved off 15 minutes.  It’s a start, but I think I can still do better. :) A few kilometres into today’s ride I came across a provincial tourism info office so I stopped in and picked up a map and booklet on the province.  It turns out

Some history on the ranches in Saskatchewan

Some history on the ranches in Saskatchewan

the lady who was working at the tourism office stayed at the same campground as me the previous night.  We chatted for a bit where she informed me that flooding is not currently an issue in the province along Highway 1 (good news) and that the terrain remains ‘rolling hills’ until Moose Jaw (not so good news). Back on the road I was quite disappointed to see that my nice lane-wide paved shoulder was quickly reduced to a mere two foot shoulder.  I know this still sounds like a wide shoulder, but when you’re on a highway with oodles of transport trucks and the speed limit is 110km/hr, that 2 feet is a little too close for comfort (for me at least). In almost all cases the transport trucks were kind enough to move over to the far lane (in fact, most transport trucks do this even when I have a full lane wide paved shoulder), however there were two scenarios when a transport truck passed me at the same time as a car and therefore wasn’t able to move over.  I had to be careful to not let the draft of the vehicles suck me on to the road.  I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when after 20km the full length paved shoulder returned!!

This is not flat

This is not flat

Nor is this

Nor is this flat

Around 65km into the ride today I saw a road side ice cream stand – and it was open!!  I couldn’t resist stopping in!  The lady at the stand said there was a couple gals there two days prior who were also cycling across Canada.  It always gives me a little peace of mind hearing of or seeing others who are tackling this same journey.

Ice Cream!!

My first roadside ice cream stand on the trip!

The last hour of the ride the winds really started to kick up (I guess mother nature felt I had to work off the calories from the ice cream?)  I was pretty happy to see the campground in Gull Lake (with 80km under my belt for the day) and for the 2nd night in a row there was 1 other person camping old-school in a tent instead of an RV or trailer!

After setting up camp, showering and eating my dehydrated beef teriyaki stir fry I took Dash and I out for a stroll around town after which we quickly zonked out for the night.

Day 35: May 19 – Gull Lake to Swift Current

Today was a shorter day (just under 60k) and I had a hotel booked in Swift Current, so I was looking forward to getting to my destination and exploring the town.  I spent most of today’s ride singing along to my music (as I do most days), but today the Lion King’s I just can’t wait to be king jumped out at me.  I know it sounds incredibly childish, but the lyrics around freedom – ‘free to run around all day, free to do it all my way’ seemed so fitting.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not particularly tied down in my day to day life in Toronto but there’s something about being on the open road with no commitment or obligation to others for months to come that is incredibly liberating.

Oil drills at work

Oil drills at work

Ok - there are SOME flat stretches in the prairies!

Ok – there are SOME flat stretches in the prairies!

South West Terminal buildings

South West Terminal buildings

And those pesky rolling hills again

And those pesky rolling hills again

Signs of the spring flooding in Saskatchewan

Signs of the spring flooding in Saskatchewan

Again in the last hour of the ride the winds really began to pick up and it even started hailing/raining for about 10 minutes.  The rain passed quickly, the wind did not.

Heading into Swift Current, at least the tractors proved some buffer from the wind!

Heading into Swift Current, at least the tractors proved some buffer from the wind!

Me in front of Swift Current - the river the town is named after

Me in front of Swift Current – the river the town is named after

Once getting settled into my hotel I did my customary post ride check of my

Wire lodged in Dash's trailer tire

Wire lodged in Dash’s trailer tire

bike and Dash’s trailer to discover that Dash’s trailer had another flat tire and here’s the culprit:

So I changed the tire tube, showered, slipped over to Subway to grab some lunch (it was only about 2pm) and headed out for a walk.  Swift Current is an incredibly cute town with loads of walking/cycling trails.  They have a 22km trail that runs along the river and passes through a very busy golf course.  On my walk I also picked up more gatorade, beef jerky, a banana, apple and slice of banana bread for breakfast and snacks for tomorrows ride.

Walking/cycling trails in Swift Current

Walking/cycling trails in Swift Current

Horseshoes on pavement anyone?

Horseshoes on pavement anyone?

A golf cart style bike - looks comfy!

A 4 seater golf cart style bike – looks comfy!

Day 36: May 20 – Swift Current to Chaplin

After a short day yesterday and an incredibly comfortable sleep on an actual mattress I had an abundance of energy when heading out.  Turns out I was going to need it because the wind was strong from the get go.  I had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast for the past couple days and they are calling for the winds to stay out of the East (which is NOT the predominate wind direction otherwise I would have biked from Newfoundland to BC and not vice versa!).  They are also calling for the winds to get stronger over the next five days up to 30-50km/hr.

The flag shows the wind is not in my favor

The flag shows the wind is not in my favor

Who put those hydro poles in that pond?

Who put those telephone poles in that pond?

Heading out of Swift Current there was a particularly long steady climb which I walked up a good portion of.  While I was walking a police officer passed me and pulled in to a turn around area near the crest of the hill.  Within minutes he had somebody in his crossfires to pull over.  After issuing a ticket he went back to the turn around area and had a 2nd car pulled over again within minutes.  He  repeated this a 3rd time before I finally climbed the hill and continued on my way!

First busted vehicle

First busted vehicle

The second culprit

The second culprit

And the third

And the third

Pretty much every day that I’ve been on the road I have had at least one trucker honk a tune of encouragement as he passed by, each and every time it makes me break out into a ridiculously large grin and gives me an extra boost of energy for a few minutes.  Today as I had my head down into the wind I heard a honk from behind me and when I looked up a motorcyclist was passing by giving me a thumbs up.  I don’t think anybody will ever understand how much these little gestures provide encouragement and motivation and reminds me that I’m really not in this journey alone.  The amount of support I have had from friends, family and strangers alike is quite incredible – so thank you!!

I didn’t notice as many rest areas in Saskatchewan as what I was finding in Alberta, so needing a break I had to make my own rest area:

Making my own rest area

Making my own rest area

Alpaca farm

Alpaca farm

Me in front of Reed Lake

Me in front of Reed Lake

The bills on these ducks are massive

The bills on these ducks are massive

Another improvised rest area

Another improvised rest area

 

Dash dumped out her food in the trailer and started chowing down

Dash dumped out her food in the trailer and started chowing down

Road across Reed Lake

Road across Reed Lake

More poles in the pond - signs of flooding me thinks

More poles in the pond – signs of flooding me thinks

I did not make particularly great time today, but I was still able to cover about 87km in just under 8hrs of elapsed time.  I was certainly happy when I started seeing signs of the town of Chaplin – my destination for the night.  Chaplin is a very small town on the north side of Chaplin Lake a salt water lake.  I had never actually heard of inland salt water lakes (my lack of knowledge), I had always thought oceans were the only source of salt water.  Regardless, it looks like the main business in Chaplin is mining the salt from the lake.  I also noticed all but one road in Chaplin is gravel – makes me wonder if paving the road with the salt nearby would cause too much damage to the pavement (that’s just me speculating).

Salt on Chaplin Lake getting dusted up by the wind

Salt on Chaplin Lake getting dusted up by the wind

Salt on Chaplin Lake (not snow)

Salt on Chaplin Lake (not snow)

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Campground with salt plant in the background

Campground with salt plant in the background

Dash exploring Chaplin

Dash exploring Chaplin

Gravel roads in Chaplin

Gravel roads in Chaplin

Salt banks

Salt banks

Salt banks

Salt banks

The weeds makes me think this ball diamond doesn't get much use

The weeds makes me think this ball diamond doesn’t get much use

Sunset in Chaplin through the trees

Sunset in Chaplin through the trees

Chaplin campground - I think I interrupted the locals driving routine, at least 5 different cars/trucks pulled in to drive around this loop in the time I was there.  One car actually started to pull in, saw my tent and immediately reversed and left!

Chaplin campground – I think I interrupted the locals driving routine, at least 5 different cars/trucks pulled in to drive around this loop in the time I was there. One car actually started to pull in, saw my tent and immediately reversed and left!

Sunset in Chaplin

Sunset in Chaplin

Day 37: May 21 – Chaplin to Moose Jaw

With over a month on the road I haven’t had a lot of tough days yet, but today was definitely a tough one.  The winds were absolutely relentless and with no trees or shrubs you are left completely exposed.  I also didn’t know of any campgrounds between Chaplin and Moose Jaw (87km), so I knew I had some ground to cover whether I liked it or not.  I woke up just before 6 and was on the road by 7:30 in the optimistic hope that I would get an hour or two in before the winds really picked up.  Not so.  The winds were out in full force.  And to add insult to injury, the winds were so strong I could barely hear my music.

It took me about 9.5hrs to cover these 87km.  At several points I had to get off my bike and walk ‘cuz my legs were simply too tired to keep pedalling into the wind.  BRUTAL!  Today was definitely a day I had to draw on all the support of friends and family.  To look at the positive (as dad kindly reminded me) – the temperature was ideal for riding, low 20’s so not too cold and not too warm and it wasn’t raining.

After getting settled into the hotel and calling my parents I headed out to pick up some groceries, some coolers and KFC (I know – not good for me, but I was sooooo craving grease!).

Hills everywhere!

Hills everywhere!

Town of Mortlach from the highway

Town of Mortlach from the highway

This landscape does not provide good protection from the wind

This landscape does not provide good protection from the wind

A much needed Subway stop in Caronport

A much needed Subway stop in Caronport

I believe this was a snowbird (although I could be wrong)

I believe this was a snowbird (although I could be wrong)

Signs of Moose Jaw - so close, yet sooooo far!

Signs of Moose Jaw – so close, yet sooooo far!

Getting closer...

Getting closer…

Moose Jaw - FINALLY!!!

Moose Jaw – FINALLY!!!  Now just 6 more km to the hotel

 

1,000km milestone and the Alberta Badlands

Day 30: May 14 – Brooks to Medicine Hat

I was preparing myself for a long day in the saddle today knowing I had about 105km to get to Medicine Hat, but thankfully after the wind took its revenge on my tent overnight it threw me a truce offering and was at my back all day.  I was able to cover the 105km in under 5hrs in the saddle, an average speed of 22km/hr, which is a first since carrying all the gear.  These are the kinds of days I LUV riding!

I also crossed a milestone today – I now have my first 1,000km under my belt! Can I get a WOOT, WOOT! :)

I think there will be a lot of shots of me in front of these rest areas - I haven't let any of them pass by yet!

I think there will be a lot of shots of me in front of these rest areas – I haven’t let any of them pass by yet!

Flat - just the kind of terrain I like!

Flat – just the kind of terrain I like!

Truck taking up my lane!

Truck taking up my gloriously wide paved shoulder

I actually made it to the hotel by 2pm.  They were still in the process of cleaning my room but allowed me to leave my bike in the lobby while I slipped out to get a celebratory ice cream!  They also offered Dash some water, showed me where there was a washroom, park and patio.  Great customer service!

After getting into my room around 3pm I spent about 3hrs unloading my gear and checking my bike and trailer.  I discovered that my front right rack seemed to be a bit loose and that Dash’s trailer had a flat tire.  I check the tires and brakes every morning, so the flat was definitely not there this morning.  I snugged up the front right rack and put some air in Dash’s trailer.  Unfortunately the air was coming out almost as quickly as it was going in.  So I took off the tire and investigated the tube where I was able to find the hole.  I quickly threw out that tube and replaced it with a new one.

It surprised me a bit that Dash’s trailer would experience the first flat, but on the positive side, a flat on Dash’s wheels is a much quicker fix and doesn’t immediately hinder my ride as much as a flat on my bike would.

I’ve also noticed that my rear tire is showing signs of wear.  I’ll keep an eye on it, but in the next week or so I’ll probably have to rotate it with the front tire (which doesn’t wear as quickly).

Day 31: May 15 – Dinosaur Provincial Park

After sleeping in and enjoying the continental breakfast and about an hour in the hotel’s water park (it has a decent waterside and hot tub) I called the rental car company to pick up my car for the next 24hrs.  By 1pm Dash and I were on the road headed the 150km to Dinosaur Provincial Park.

This park is known for two things 1) the scenery of the badlands and hoodoos 2) it is the largest area of dinosaur fossils found in the world.  I think the park is open year round, but the guided tours don’t start until the May 24 weekend.  They also have a campground within the park that looked like it would be a great place to stay in the summer.  In addition to the guided tours, they have 5 trails within the park that allow you to walk through different areas of interest. 1 trail explores the prairie landscape, 2 trails bring you up close and personal with the badlands, 1 trail explores some of the dinosaur fossil finds and 1 trail goes through the wetland area.  I walked the first 4 of these trails and really can’t put into words the interesting landscape, so hopefully some of the pictures will do it justice:

Prairie landscape

Prairie landscape

A sacred stone?

A sacred stone?

The explanation of the stone

Explanation of the stone

How the badlands got their name

How the badlands got their name

A view of the badlands

A view of the badlands – a farm in the upper left hand corner gives a perspective on how much area this terrain extends for

Me in front of the badlands

Me in front of the badlands

Dash looking out at the badlands

Dash looking out at the badlands

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Driving down to the base of the badlands

Driving down to the base of the badlands

Trail winding through the badlands

Trail winding through the badlands

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A look at the rills, pipes and tunnels

A look at the rills, pipes and tunnels

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Hoodoos

Hoodoos

Story behind hoodoos

Story behind hoodoos

Picture depiction of the life of a hoodoo

Picture depiction of the life of a hoodoo

 

The rust color is the exposed iron in the rock being exposed to air and rusting

The rust color is the result of the iron in the rock being exposed to air and rusting

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The front fossils of a Hadrosaur

The front fossils of a Hadrosaur

The back of a Hadrosaur fossil

The back fossils of a Hadrosaur

Part of what a fossil excavation site looks like

Part of what a fossil excavation site looks like

Another part of what a fossil excavation site looks like

Another part of what a fossil excavation site looks like

In a quarry where many dinosaur fossils have been found in the past

In a quarry where many dinosaur fossils have been found in the past

The badlands tucked away out of site in the valley

The badlands tucked away out of site in the valley

Startled these deer as driving back from the Dinosaur Provincial Park

Startled these deer while driving back from the Dinosaur Provincial Park

Day 32: May 16 – Chillin’ in Medicine Hat

After a quick visit of the World’s Largest Tippee and letting Dash run free in the off leash park area I returned the rental car and proceeded to update my blog and enjoy a day of rest and recovery!

World's Largest Tippee.  Created for the 1988 olympic games in Calgary, since relocated to Medicine Hat

World’s Tallest Teeppee. Created for the 1988 olympic games in Calgary, since relocated to Medicine Hat

Worlds' Tallest Tippee - meant to symbolize Canada's past with First Nations people

Worlds’ Tallest Teeppee – created for the 1988 Calgary Olympic games to symbolize Canada’s Aboriginal heritage

Some of the artwork painted on the circles within the World's Tallest Tippee depicting some of the past of First Nations people

Some of the artwork painted on the circles within the World’s Tallest Teeppee depicting some of the Aboriginal heritage

 

First view of the Prairies

Day 27: May 11 – Calgary to Strathmore

I tried, I really did try to get an early start to today’s ride but sleeping in to 9am and then taking 2.5hrs to pack up all my gear (I need to make this process more efficient) meant I wasn’t on the road until just before noon.  This was going to be my first day with ALL my gear.  Although I did have a lot of it from Vancouver to Victoria and back, I didn’t have my tent or camping gear.

My bike now equipped with ALL my gear - the main difference is I now have a tent and canister strapped to the back rack

My bike now equipped with ALL my gear – the main difference is I now have a tent and canister strapped to the back rack

Setting out from the Calgary hotel I was very wobbly – the extra weight throws balance off which always takes some time to adjust to.  As such, I thought it safer for me (maybe not pedestrians) to stick to the sidewalks until I got proper control of this cargo.  Besides, highway 1 at this stretch through Calgary has a very limited shoulder and high volume traffic.  After about 5km there was no longer a sidewalk on Hwy 1 so I headed a couple blocks north and took a road that ran mostly parallel to hwy 1.  This road ran for about 5km at which point it no longer headed east, so I dropped back down to Hwy 1.

I took my chances and fortunately saw no coyotes in this park

I took my chances and fortunately saw no coyotes in this park

At this point I felt I had control of the bike and fortunately Hwy 1 now had a nice wide paved shoulder!  The only thing I had to content with were a few on/off ramps and then I was in the prairies heading to Strathmore.

Part way into the ride I came across a little town called Chestermere, so I stopped in a local park to grab some food (protein bar, hydra-jubes, trail mix – this will be a typical lunch on my riding days) and purified water from the river for the rest of the days trip.

Park in Chestermere

Park in Chestermere

After purifying, this is my water source for the day :)

After purifying, this is my water source for the day :)

Dash keeping a close eye out for coyotes in the area!

Dash keeping a close eye out for coyotes in the area!

Although a short ride (only 60km), today was a tough ride as there was a decent headwind and even with long stretches of flat, there were still some pretty gradual (2-3km long) climbs.

Regardless – I made it to the campground around 6pm and after a month on the road I was for the first time tasked with the process of setting up camp.  To my pleasure the campground backed on to a couple of baseball diamonds and there was a tournament going on – made me feel right at home! Shortly after I pulled in to my site a truck pulled in to the site beside me.  Apparently grandparents had came to watch their grandson play ball, so now I had a friendly couple to chit chat with as I set up camp.

A month in and I'm going to spend my first night in the tent

A month in to the trip and I’m going to spend my first night in the tent

While I was setting up camp, Dash was busy burying her food in the dirt

While I was setting up camp, Dash was busy burying her food in the dirt

Which she later ate...

Which she later ate…

Dash scoping out the new tent

Dash scoping out the new tent

After the tent was set up and I was showered it was time to make dinner.  Dehydrated food will be my primary dinner source when camping as it is pretty quick and easy.  You simply have to boil a couple cups of water, add the boiling water to the dehydrated food, let it stand for 10-15 minutes and then voila – you have dinner!  I can’t say it’s the tastiest food out there, but there is a decent array of variety (mac and cheese, chicken enchiladas, beef teriyaki, mashed potatoes, etc) and the convenience is appreciated after a long day on the bike.  I have to say a quick thank you to Kaye as she was the one who first introduced me to this kind of cooking while at camp – thanks Kaye!!

Cooking at camp

Cooking at camp

With dinner done, dishes washed, my iPhone and bike GPS recharging, the ball tournament wrapped up for the day it was time to sleep.

Day 28: May 12 – Strathmore to Bassano

My sleep in the tent was surprisingly comfortable thanks to the thermarest mattress – after night 1 the thermarest was already worth its weight in gold!  I woke up around 7am and began the 2hr process of dismantling camp.  Have I mentioned I need to make this process more efficient?

Dash not quite ready to wake up yet

Dash not quite ready to wake up yet

Decided to go back to sleep in the trailer while I dismantled camp

Decided to go back to sleep in the trailer while I dismantled camp

Teams getting ready for their game Sunday morning

Teams getting ready for their ball game Sunday morning

I was able to get on the road shortly before 9, but quickly realized I didn’t have any breakfast food on me so I stopped at a convenience store and picked up some fruit and a turkey and spinach wrap (not really breakfast food, but good energy food).

Today’s target was Bassano, about 95km.  Another tough ride, although it could have been a lot worse.  The wind had slightly shifted direction so for the vast majority of the day I had a strong cross wind (better than a head wind!).  For about 10km I had a head wind where I was doing well to reach a speed of 10km/hr.  Around the 78km mark I was just about to stop and take a quick break when I was quite literally pushed by the wind at my back.  The wind proceeded to push me around 25-30km/hr for 8km.  CRAZY!  I’ve never experienced that kind of push from the wind before.

I have noticed that a couple truckers will actually honk a little tune as they pass – this kind of morale support from strangers always puts a smile on my fance and gives me an extra boost of energy. :)

In addition to washrooms, these rest areas provide a bit of much needed shade!

In addition to washrooms, these rest areas provide a bit of much needed shade!

Cool looking bird

Cool looking bird

Farm equipment

Farm equipment

Proof that their ARE hills in the prairies!

Proof that there ARE hills in the prairies!

But to be fair, there has been more flat than hills which is a-ok with me - I much prefer flat!

But to be fair, there has been more flat than hills which is a-ok with me – I much prefer flat!

Arriving in Bassano I quickly saw that the campground in town was still closed for the season (even tho all their advertising indicates they open May 1).  Fortunately there was another campground a couple kilometres outside of town, so hoping that one was opened I headed there instead.  I had to walk the last kilometre to the campground because it was on a gravel road and I was being sideswiped pretty fiercely by the wind causing me to be pushed off the road.  Thank goodness this campground was open!  There was only one couple there in an RV, but at least it was somebody!

My next incident with the wind today was setting up the tent.  After getting the main portion of the tent set up Dash was pushing her nose to go inside.  I let her in while I went to get the fly and when I turned around the tent was tumbleweeding across the campground with Dash inside!  I quickly grabbed hold of the tent and let Dash out where she shook herself off, unscathed thankfully!

After Dash's tumbleweed experience I decided to move the tent behind the cover of a solid looking tree

After Dash’s tumbleweed experience I decided to move the tent behind the cover of a solid looking tree

So many sites to choose from!

So many sites to choose from!

Day 29: May 13 – Bassano to Brooks

During the two hours of breaking camp, Dash and I had a visitor this morning:

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Today was a short day – about 55km and the wind had slightly shifted direction again so I had a stronger tail wind than cross!  YAY!  I think as much as bridges were my nemesis on the west coast, the wind will be my nemesis through the prairies!

My original plan was to rent a car in Brooks and head to the Dinosaur Provincial Park, unfortunately the only rental company in town was going to charge $200 to have Dash in the car, so I decided I would chill for the afternoon instead and rent a car in Medicine Hat where I can rent from a pet friendly company.

Passed by another tourer!  See mom and dad?  I'm not the only one doing this solo!! lol!

Passed by another tourer! See mom and dad? I’m not the only one doing this solo!! lol!

Digging for oil

Digging for oil

Still the theme of the trip - 'closed for the season'

Still the theme of the trip – ‘closed for the season’

Arriving in Brooks by 1pm, I was happy to set up the tent to provide a bit of shade!

Dash getting out of the sun

Dash getting out of the sun

With all the RV's it makes me think the tent doesn't belong...

With all the RV’s it makes me think the tent doesn’t belong…

Around 5pm Dash and I went for a little stroll through the town of Brooks – very cute, small town feel.  On our way back to the campground we came across a baseball diamond so I hung out there and watched a few innings (I think I’m going to miss not playing ball this summer! lol!).

That night I was woken up for about two hours overnight as the wind unleashed it’s fury on my tent.  I figure it can do whatever it wants to my tent overnight as long as it co-operates with me when I’m on the bike!

Some artifacts in the Brooks Historic Museum

Some artifacts in the Brooks Historic Museum

A mural in Brooks

A mural in Brooks

Part of the same mural in Brooks

Part of the same mural in Brooks

 

Calgary

Day 22: May 6 – Olympic Park

After breakfast my first task of the day was to see what gear I wouldn’t be needing anymore so I could send it home with my parents.  The original hope was that my extra layers (mitts, wool socks, wind pants, long pants, sweaters, etc) would only be required through the Rockies, but now I’m not so sure.  I still sent most of this gear packing…I guess I can always pick it up again if needed, right?

The second task of the day was to clean the RV and rid any evidence of Dash.  This included washing the linens (thankfully our campground had laundry facilities), mopping the floors, cleaning the windows (where Dash sometimes leaves smudge marks) and searching the interior for any places she may have hidden kibble.

With the chores of the day out of the way, we grabbed a quick lunch and headed over to Winsport Olympic Park to check out the bobsleigh and luge rides.  This was something I was REALLY looking forward to!  Unfortunately when we got there we were informed that they are in the process of switching the track over from the winter track to the summer track and will be closed until May 17.  Booooooo!!!

Instead we settled for climbing the hill where the track ran.  We ended up getting on to a mountain bike trail to avoid being on the road.  At the top of the hill we sat and observed the view for a while as Dash dug around in the mud.

That night we picked up a couple more drinks, headed to a local pub for dinner and settled in for an early night.

Bobsleigh and Luge park

Bobsleigh and Luge park

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Bobsleigh track

Bobsleigh track

Bobsleigh

Bobsleigh

Top view of a shorter track

Top view of a shorter track

Part of the mountain bike trail

Part of the mountain bike trail

View of north Calgary from the top of the bobsleigh track

View of north Calgary from the top of the bobsleigh track

Dash playing in the mud - this took some cleaning

Dash playing in the mud – this took some cleaning

Starting point for the bobsleigh and luge track

Starting point for the bobsleigh and luge track

 

Day 23: May 7 – Dropping off my parents and the RV

Waking up at 4am (not intentionally, Dash apparently couldn’t sleep and felt the need to wake me up), I managed to also wake up my parents.  Because we were all up we decided to head to the airport early.  However as we were all very tired, we were quite slow moving so ended up not leaving the campground until 5am anyway (when we were originally planning on heading to the airport).  It’s been great having my parents around as a support crew for the past two weeks, it was the perfect way of easing into this journey!

Dropping my parents off at the airport I headed back to the campground to go back to sleep!  Waking up around 9:30 I took Dash for a walk, grabbed breakfast, topped up the fuel in the RV and headed to my hotel for the next 4 days.

When I started loading my gear into the hotel I noticed a somewhat peculiar smell but didn’t pay much attention to it.  After everything was in my room and I closed the door the smell became more and more funky.  After a few minutes Dash started sniffing around so I went to check out what she had found.  Low and behold – two dirty diapers under the foot of the bed! Ick!  I immediately went to front desk and explained my findings.  He didn’t even bat an eye, instead found me another room and asked if I wanted to check it out before moving everything over.  The second room smelled much better and although not as clean as I’d like, it didn’t have any bugs or dirty diapers so I moved all my gear to the new room.  I think I will not be booking any more hotels at this chain!

Once settled into the new room I left Dash behind and headed out to drop off the RV.  It was a pretty smooth drop off process with no issues and no detection of my dog having been there!  With the paper work complete, I hopped on my bike and headed back to the hotel where I started the process of uploading pictures and updating the neglected blog.

Glad they have a sign to warn of impending danger!

Glad they have a sign to warn of impending danger!

View of downtown Calgary

View of downtown Calgary

Bike bridge crossing the highway

Bike bridge crossing the highway

My bike on said bridge!

My bike on said bridge!

The sparse terrain in north Calgary

The sparse terrain in north Calgary

I'm not sure what these birds are called, but they are everywhere out here and there coloring is quite distinct!

I’m not sure what these birds are called, but they are everywhere out here and there coloring is quite distinct!

 

Day 24: May 8 – Downtown Calgary

After sleeping in, I headed out for a leisurely stroll do the downtown Calgary area.  The main goal was to drop by MEC to pick up some supplies I would need for the next lag of the trip including protein bars, fuel for my campstove, hydration packs, dehydrated food, a lighter, facecloth, waterbowl for Dash (her previous one has a leak in it), more sunscreen and toothpaste.  However on the way I came across a trail that ran along the bow river and ended up leading to a park very near the downtown core (Prince’s Island), so I obviously had to meander through here!  After having enough park time I finally headed over to MEC to pick up my supplies and go back to the hotel.  I picked up some food on the way home (an albertan beef burger!) as it was around 7pm by now and Dash and I had probably covered about 15km today (so much for a rest day!).

After polishing off the burger I headed to the hotel’s pool and hot tub – now that’s relaxation!!

Bow river in Calgary

Bow river in Calgary

Downtown core of Calgary

Downtown core of Calgary

One of the many, many, many pedestrian and cyclsts paths/bridges in Calgary

One of the many, many, many pedestrian and cyclsts paths/bridges in Calgary

A rabbit spotted on Prince's Island park

A rabbit spotted on Prince’s Island park

Downtown Calgary from the park

Downtown Calgary from the park

Prince's Island Park

Prince’s Island Park

A pedestrian street in Calgary

A pedestrian street in Calgary

 

Day 25: May 9 – Email and Blog catchup!

Nothing exciting to report today – other than a short walk for Dash I spent the whole day getting caught up on emails, my blog (it is a timely process but the momento that I will have of this trip is certainly worth it and my legs can use the R&R!), researching weather across the prairies (will flooding be a concern, what are the overnight temperatures dropping to?) and looking into things of interest I might want to check out in the coming days.

Day 26: May 10 – Horseback Riding

With my last full day in Calgary I decided to take the opportunity go an a horseback ride!  This was something I’d never done before and it felt like

Horsin Around stables

Horsin Around stables

something I should experience out West. :)  I found a place called Horsin Around on the SW edge of Calgary that offered 45min rides for $35.  No clue if this is a good rate, but seemed reasonable to me.  I contemplated biking the 23km to the stables, but decided to be lazy and take transit.  It was about an hour and a half train, bus and walk to the stables (would have taken about the same amount of time on bike tho, so this was a-ok with me).

C-Train in Calgary - the transit system was very easy to navigate

LRT in Calgary – the transit system was very easy to navigate

The folks at the stable were incredibly friendly and as I was the only one who was going on the 1pm ride they were quick to have me sign a waiver, get a helmet and got on my horse named Moose.  My guide Jessica was riding a horse named Penny.  After a very quick lesson on how to start, stop and guide the horse right and left we were out to the fields!  For the most part Moose just followed the guide horse (Penny), so I don’t think I really did much (this was for the best I think).  But when we went up a couple of the hills we did actually move the horses into a trot (vs a walk) – quite an experience to feel how powerful these animals are!  I have a new respect for those who ride these animals at a gallop!

Horsin Around Office

Horsin Around Office

A pic of Moose's head on the move...

A pic of Moose’s head on the move…

Penny - our guide horse

Penny – our guide horse

Part of the field we rode in

Part of the field we rode in

Moose and I at the end of the ride

Moose and I at the end of the ride

 

Moose and I at the end of the ride

Moose and I at the end of the ride

Moose and I are still friends after the ride!

Moose and I are still friends after the ride!

Forty-five minutes for my first time out was the perfect amount of time, Moose was a super calm horse and Jessica and I had a great little chat while we were on the trail (she’s originally from Barrie, having moved out to Calgary 2 years ago to be closer to the mountains).  I may have to go on another horse ride sometime during the summer, this was certainly a highlight of my time in Calgary!

Another attraction that I originally wanted to check out while in Calgary was the Heritage Village, unfortunately it is not open for the season until May 18 (is anybody noticing the trend here?).  They still have the ‘Heritage Square’ open, but my research online indicated this was a very small version of the real deal so I decided to skip it altogether.

Reflections on the ride from Vancouver to Calgary

I would completely do this leg of the trip again ‘cuz there is SOOO much to see and do.  It would be nice to actually bike the whole thing (and not rely on the RV), however I would do so under the following conditions:

1) I wouldn’t ride this section solo – it’s doable, but the motivation of another cyclist (or two or three or more) would be helpful on some of the steady inclines.

2) Allow 4 weeks and only try to cover about 40-50km per day – this would allow plenty of time for exploring local wineries, trails, hot springs, etc.

3) Wait until at least mid-May before leaving Vancouver to allow warmer weather through the mountains and ensure more of the attractions, trails and campgrounds are open.

Canadian Rockies – Part II

Day 19: May 3 – Lake Louise to Banff

Although the weather had turned quite nice the past couple of days, we were still surrounded by snow and I was certainly happy to be in an RV and not in a tent (not to mention the park wasn’t allowing tent campers yet due to the bear risks)!

Snow in our Lake Louise campground

Snow in our Lake Louise campground

I don’t think it’s possible to go to Lake Louise and not visit the lake that it’s known for, so of course, that was our first destination for the day!  Unfortunately because it was still frozen I didn’t get to see the aqua blue that it is known for…

Lake Louise

Lake Louise

A skating rink on Lake Louise (I think the ice was too thin to skate on)

A skating rink on Lake Louise (I think the ice was too thin to skate on)

Here was the common theme of our trip through the rockies:

I think I started the trip about 2 weeks too early - a lot of trails and activities were still closed due to the off season

I think I started the trip about 2 weeks too early – a lot of trails and activities were still closed due to the off season

After visiting Lake Louise, it was time to get back on the bike!  Today’s destination was Banff, 60km, the majority of which would be via the Bow Valley Parkway – this would keep me off of hwy 1 for most of the day and we were promised many information stops along the way.  They weren’t kidding – this is a great scenic route to take if travelling between Lake Louise and Banff and keeps you pretty close to the bow river.

Texas Gate - these are not crossable on a bike, even walking across you have to tread closely!

Texas Gate – these are not crossable on a bike, even walking across you have to tread closely!

The Bow River - I finally get to see the aqua blue water!!!

The Bow River – I finally get to see the aqua blue water!!!

A look down the bow valley parkway

A look down the bow valley parkway

Dash making a friend again!

Dash making a friend again!

 

This section had a lot of fallen trees

This section had a lot of fallen trees

One of the many views from the pull off sections on the bow valley parkway

One of the many views from the pull off sections on the bow valley parkway

The clearness of the water was quite spectacular - you can see the rocks under the water!

The clearness of the water was quite spectacular – you can see the rocks under the water!

Of course I have to get Dash in a shot!

Of course I have to get Dash in a shot!

View from the bow valley parkway

View from the bow valley parkway

 

My parents came across this guy on one of the pull offs on the bow valley parkway and made sure to flag me down so I could see him too!

My parents came across this guy on one of the pull offs on the bow valley parkway and made sure to flag me down so I could see him too!

An elk grazing by a picnic table just off the bow valley parkway - I dared not get any closer!

An elk grazing by a picnic table just off the bow valley parkway – I dared not get any closer!

 

Another pic of the elk

Another pic of the elk

It's hard to tell, but these are bighorn sheep, spotted on the bow valley parkway (they were pretty high up, so this is the closest I could zoom on my camera)

It’s hard to tell, but these are bighorn sheep, spotted on the bow valley parkway (they were pretty high up, so this is the closest I could zoom on my camera)

This is half the herd of bighorn sheep I spotted in the mountains off of bow valley parkway

This is half the herd of bighorn sheep I spotted in the mountains off of bow valley parkway – the little white speckles at the top of the first mountain (close to centre frame)

On another pull off area we came across the Johnson Creek Falls – this 2.7km hike one way would take us by two falls (lower and upper).  2.7km doesn’t seem like far, but when the trail is snow packed and slick in many places it was very slow going.  Lots of people were out walking the trail and the views were well worth the trek, although there was a moment where we thought dad was going to go sliding off the trail – fortunately he was able to get himself stopped by a tree on the side of the trail with no harm done!

Johnson Creek Trail

Johnson Creek Trail
Slick snow packed trail

Slick snow packed trail

Johnson Creek Trail

Johnson Creek Trail

By the lower falls on the Johnson Creek Trail

By the lower falls on the Johnson Creek Trail

Johnson Creek Trail

Johnson Creek Trail

Johnson Creek Trail

Johnson Creek Trail

Upper falls at Johnson Creek Trail

Upper falls at Johnson Creek Trail

Walls at the Upper Falls on Johnson Creek Trail

About the walls at the Upper Falls on Johnson Creek Trail

 

The 'alive' wall

The ‘alive’ wall

Heading into Banff, we took one last break just off Hwy 1 to take in the views:

On the outskirts of Banff

On the outskirts of Banff

On the outskirts of Banff

On the outskirts of Banff

And then headed to our campground for the night at Mountain Tunnel Village.  Unfortunately the road leading to this campground had more mountain than tunnels, so I walked a good portion of this road and rewarded myself for a hard day on the road by soaking in the Banff Upper Hot Springs where I think everybody in town was soaking for the evening!

Day 20: May 4 – Banff to Canmore

Today our target was Canmore (only 25km) so we took the morning to explore Banff via the Gondola up Sulphur Mountain, where they have a 1.5km boardwalk that takes you to the old weather observatory.  The other option was to hike up the mountain – 8.2km one way.  Given the snow coverage I imagine this would take the majority of the day and we did see people making the trek – kudos to them!  I have to mention at this point, the cycling certainly does fatigue my legs (in particular my quad muscles).  I don’t notice it when I’m actually riding (which is good!), but I definitely notice it when walking.  Especially when walking up hill.  I’m hopefully as the muscles build this fatigue will go away, but ’till then, I’m an incredibly slow walker! lol!

Dash enjoying the Banff Gondola ride

Dash enjoying the Banff Gondola ride

Part way up the Banff Gondola

Part way up the Banff Gondola

Banff from Sulphur mountain

Banff from Sulphur mountain

1.5km boardwalk to the weather observatory

1.5km boardwalk to the weather observatory – why do there have to be so many stairs?!?

Sulphur Mountain - looks like a good tobogan ride if the trees weren't there!

Sulphur Mountain – looks like a good tobogan ride if the trees weren’t there!

Me on Sulphur Mountain

Me on Sulphur Mountain

The 1.5km boardwalk to the weather observatory

View from the top of the Gondola

Weather observatory on Sulphur Mountain

Weather observatory on Sulphur Mountain

 

Banff Gondola

Banff Gondola

Looking down the gondola track

Looking down the gondola track

Brave soles hiking the 8.2km trail up the mountain

Brave soles hiking the 8.2km trail up the mountain

Dash watching the scenery on the gondola ride down to the base of the mountain

Dash watching the scenery on the gondola ride down to the base of the mountain

After a morning exploring Sulphur Mountain, we found a picnic area for our snack/lunch before I once again got on the bike.

Originally I was thinking I would be on Hwy 1 for the short jaunt from Banff to Canmore, but as it turns out there is a paved bike trail that runs on the west side of the highway for all but one kilometre of the trek.  AND it was mostly flat/downhill.  AND as it was a Saturday, there were plenty of other cyclists out!  I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole ride! :)

Trail between Banff and Canmore

Trail between Banff and Canmore

Waiting at the campground in Canmore while my parents re-stocked a handful of groceries

Relaxing at the campground in Canmore while my parents re-stocked a handful of groceries

We arrived in Canmore relatively early in the day (around 5pm), so we cracked open a drink and enjoyed the sun before heading into town for dinner at a local pub where I had another delicious fish and chips!

Day 21: May 5 – Canmore to Calgary

The original plan today was to ride to Cochrane (about 75km), so I got a relatively early start (around 9:30).

Heading out on Hwy 1A (also known as the bow valley parkway) I came across a sign at the bottom of a hill warning of Rocky Mountain Sheep in the next 2km and wouldn’t you know it – at the top of that very hill – there they were!

A hear of rocky mountain sheep

A herd of rocky mountain sheep

Two of them even stood up to pose for me (although they may have just been disturbed by my music! lol!)

Two of them even stood up to pose for me (although they may have just been disturbed by my music! lol!)

The landscape along this stretch of the bow valley parkway was quite diverse, starting out winding through the valley of the mountains and then giving way  to foothills, which then led into a wooded area and finally breaking way into flatter more brown (less green) sparsely treed area.  Never a dull moment for watching the surroundings!

From a cycling perspective the road started out with a nice paved shoulder, but at the junction of 1A and 1X the shoulder was no more.  Fortunately traffic at this point was still relatively light, so traffic was able to easily get around me.  It helped that over half the traffic was motorcyclists.  I think everybody who owned a motorbike was out today!  For a few kilometres there were signs warning about pedestrians on the road, and yet again – the signs held true – I saw about 6 or 7 solo pedestrians walking down the road.  Given that there were no towns around in walking distance, I’m not sure where they were headed.  When I met up with mom and dad next they said they were hitchhiking.  That made sense, I guess they weren’t expecting a lift from me! lol!  About a kilometre or two before getting to Ghost Lake a paved shoulder was once again available! Yay!

The changing terrain along the aqua colored bow river - mountains, green treed area and sparse brown land

The changing terrain along the aqua colored bow river – mountains, green treed area and sparse brown land

Me in front of a lake on bow valley parkway just outside of Canmore

Me in front of a lake on bow valley parkway just outside of Canmore

The mountains and trees are getting more distant...

The mountains and trees are getting more distant…

I made it through the mountains!!!

I made it through the mountains!!!

Morleytown history

Morleytown history

Morleytown church

Morleytown church

At about 55km in to the days’ ride we arrived at the Ghost Lake reservoir where we broke for a 2 hr rest/lunch.  The highlight of this rest was watching two canoeists trying to navigate a small channel of cracked ice across the lake!  They were able to cut through one area of ice, but apparently got stuck at the 2nd section where they took about 10min to turn around.

Ghost Lake reservoir

Ghost Lake reservoir

Ghost Lake reservoir

Ghost Lake reservoir

Ghost Lake reservoir

Ghost Lake reservoir

Two canoeists navigating a small channel in the iced over lake

Two canoeists navigating a small channel in the iced over lake

The same two canoeists - still above water!

The same two canoeists – still above water!

Because I was making such good time, it was such a gorgeous day weather wise and I still had oodles of energy, I decided to not stop in Cochrane but instead head straight for Calgary (making it a 108km day).

 

On the east side of Cochrane I was faced with a massive hill and for a moment was regretting my decision to continue to Calgary.  Fortunately there was a pull off point half way up the hill where I pulled over for a breather.  Turns out just up the hill from this spot was where hand gliding was invented and our timing couldn’t be more perfect, a group of handgliders were just getting ready to take off!

Me halfway up the hill heading out of Cochrane

Me halfway up the hill heading out of Cochrane

Pic my mom took of me climbing the first half of the hill in Cochrane

Pic my mom took of me climbing the first half of the hill in Cochrane

And me heading out for the second half of the hill

And me heading out for the second half of the hill

A house built into the hill

A house built into the hill

Watching the hand gliders is a good way to catch ones breath

Watching the hand gliders is a good way to catch ones breath

The same hand gliders

The same hand gliders

A look at Cochrane from half way up the hill

A look at Cochrane from half way up the hill

Between Cochrane and Calgary highway 1A became a major divided highway, however it still had a super wide paved shoulder and I wasn’t the only cyclist on it!  More importantly – until I started to hit the suberbs of Calgary the terrain was once again FLAT!

My parents headed to our previously discussed campground in Calgary and when I got there around 6:30pm I was very quick to suggest that maybe we should find another campground.  Mom and dad seemed very responsive to this suggestion so we put the bike on the bike rack and headed to another campground more to our liking.  The first campground we had arrived at was quite ‘dumpy’ – I’ll leave it at that.  Mom and dad said there was a note on the door that the campground is under new management and providing a notice that people are going to have to start paying to stay at the campground otherwise have their RV confiscated.  I think these new managers have there work cut out for them!

 

I thought I would see more horses along the way - maybe through the prairies?

I thought I would see more horses along the way – maybe through the prairies?

Cyclists outside of Cochrane with the mountains in the background

Cyclists outside of Cochrane with the mountains in the background

And the cyclists rolling down the highway.....

And the same cyclists rolling down the highway…..

The Calgary suburbs

The Calgary suburbs

 

Canadian Rockies – Part I

Day 17: May 1 – Vernon to Golden

This was another non-riding day for a few reasons:

1) We had some mileage to make up if we were going to make it to Calgary for mom and dad to catch their plan home in less than a week

2) The chillier conditions take a drain on the body, so I was ready for a rest day

3) The lady at the tourist info centre cautioned us that cyclists ‘get hit’ riding on hwy 97 north of Vernon (however while driving we found this stretch of the hwy to be as cycle-able as the rest of the hwy)

4) I was a bit nervous about the likely increased volume of traffic on Hwy 1, the terrain (I much prefer flat cycling over hills!) and whether the shoulder would be wide enough for cycling safely (turns out that although traffic was heavier, there is a very wide paved shoulder through all of the mountains on hwy 1 – totally cycle-able!  There are a few tunnels between Revelstoke and Golden however that get very narrow – these are probably the ‘riskiest’ spots)

Knowing that I didn’t have to get bundled up to start riding, I instead enjoyed some relaxing time in the campgrounds outdoor hot tub!

Relaxin' in the Swan Lake campground hot tub!

Relaxin’ in the Swan Lake campground hot tub!

Morning view from the Swan Lake Campground

Morning view from the Swan Lake Campground

A family of Canadian Geese at the Swan Lake Campground

A family of Canadian Geese at the Swan Lake Campground

We made pretty good time to Revelstoke and enjoyed a picnic lunch with a mountain backdrop:

Picnic lunch in Revelstoke

Picnic lunch in Revelstoke

Mountains in Revelstoke

Mountains in Revelstoke

After visiting the tourist info we were informed that the majority of the trails and parks in the area were still closed for the season, regardless they suggested we check out a couple trails just east of Revelstoke ‘at our own risk’ of course.

We also inquired about a helicopter ride over the mountains, but at about $200/per person for half an hour, it was out of our price range.

So, after lunch we headed to the skunk cabbage trail (named after the rather putrid smell):

Flowers in the skunk cabbage trail

Skunk Cabbage

Boardwalk on the skunk cabbage trail

Boardwalk on the skunk cabbage trail

Dash and I on the skunk cabbage boardwalk

Dash and I on the skunk cabbage boardwalk

Followed by another boardwalk trail (I can’t remember the name of this one…)

The tall trees on our 2nd boardwalk east of Revelstoke

The tall trees on our 2nd boardwalk east of Revelstoke

Now that we had adequately stretched our legs and gotten our walks for the day in, we headed back to the RV and onwards to Golden where we did our normal nightly routine: had dinner (I’m savouring the last few nights of having the luxury of a fridge, a cooktop, stove and microwave accessible), did the dishes and went for a walk checking out our surroundings.  It has also been nice having my own personal chefs with me to date.  Mom and dad cooked all the breakfasts and dinners.  For lunch we stayed more to snacks (cheese, crackers, beef jerky, cold cut sandwiches, fruit, etc).  I’m not envying the days ahead where I will have to setup camp after a long day ride AND make my own meal!  I’ve been spoiled to date! lol!

Standing inside a partially hollow tree

Standing inside a partially hollow tree

Rocks embedded in the root system of a fallen tree

Rocks embedded in the root system of a fallen tree

A snow covered boardwalk - I see know why this trail is still closed for the season

A snow covered boardwalk – I see know why this trail is still closed for the season

Mountains!

Mountains!

Day 18: May 2 – Golden to Athabasca Glacier to Lake Louise

After a day of rest, I was itching to get back on my bike again!  However I also had a mission in mind – I wanted to take the bus ride that takes you out to walk on the Athabasca Glacier.  Knowing that this was far too far to ride in one day, I decided to bum a ride in the RV from Golden to Lake Louise and then from Lake Louise I started cycling north on the Icelands Parkway, asking to be picked up at 2pm so we could still make it to the Glacier for the last ride of the day (which headed out at 4:50pm).

We got to Lake Louise around 11:30am, so I only had about 2.5hrs of cycling.  The first 10km or so was pretty slow going as it was mostly uphill – although the grade wasn’t as steep as the uphill climbs in the okanagan valley.  The scenery was phenomenal!  And the parkway had a decent paved shoulder and such little traffic.  I imagine in the summer this road is a cyclists DREAM!  The 27km I rode today would be my highest altitude of cycling at about 1,700m.

Golden campground - what a view to wake up to!!

Golden campground – what a view to wake up to!!

My bike on the Icelands Parkway in front of a still frozen lake

My bike on the Icelands Parkway in front of a still frozen lake

Me infront of the same lake

Me infront of the same lake

Icelands Parkway

Icelands Parkway

Proof of being on the Icelands Parkway with my bike :)

Proof of being on the Icelands Parkway with my bike :)

Icelands Parkway

Icelands Parkway

I couldn't take enough pics of the views from the Icelands Parkway

I couldn’t take enough pics of the views from the Icelands Parkway

Dash playing in the snow on the Icelands Parkway

Dash playing in the snow on the Icelands Parkway

Mom and dad on the Icelands Parkway

Mom and dad on the Icelands Parkway

 

Before getting to the Athabasca Glacier we pulled over for a quick jaunt to the Mistaya River Canyon – it was pretty cool to see how the water has formed the rocks around it in whirls…

P1010827

Mysta Canyon with the whirl rock formation

Mistaya Canyon with the whirl rock formation

Mysta Canyon

Mistaya Canyon

And now the highlight of the day – walking on a glacier!  The Athabasca Glacier is located on the Icelands Parkway half way between Lake Louise and Jasper.  There are two options for getting on to the Glacier, you can either take the bus which is about an 80 minute trip with about 30 minutes to walk on specific are of the Glacier or you can hire a guide to hike and explore the glacier.  This second option was not yet open for the season, so the bus it was.

The Athabasca Glacier is a very small area (about 2%) of the Columbia Icefields.  The Columbia Icefields are located on the other side of the mountain range you see from the Icelands Parkway and is only accessible by hiking – although this is only recommended for experienced folks as there are many crevasses in the ice.  The Athabasca Glacier is 6km long, 1 km wide and about 300 meters thick.  I’ve never been on (or even seen) a glacier before, so this was a cool experience that I’ll definitely remember and our driver on to the glacier was quite entertaining!

A steep decline to the Glacier - as per our driver, it's 'all about the angle when going down steep slopes'

A steep decline to the Glacier – as per our driver, it’s ‘all about the angle when going down steep slopes’

Our bus on the Athabasca Glacier

Our bus on the Athabasca Glacier

Dad, me and mom standing on the Athabasca Glacier

Dad, me and mom standing on the Athabasca Glacier

A view of another glacier in the mountains behind us

A view of another glacier in the mountains behind us

The blue tinge is a glacier in the mountain

The blue tinge is a glacier in the mountain

'the waterfall' this is where the columbia icefields feeds into the athabasca glacier - it's hard to imagine this ice waterfall is moving!

‘the waterfall’ this is where the columbia icefields feeds into the athabasca glacier – it’s hard to imagine this ice waterfall is moving!

Another glacier in the mountains!

Another glacier in the mountains!

The moraines - these are the land formations the glacier leaves every year as it recedes and expands

The moraines – these are the land formations the glacier leaves every year as it recedes and expands

 

By the time we finished the glacier tour it was about 7pm and it had started to snow.  Our original plan was to camp in the parking lot of the Icefields Parkway centre (as the campgrounds in the area were not yet open for the season), however not wanting to get stormed in, we decided to make the drive back to Lake Louise and camp there for the night.

 

Okanagan Valley

There was too much to see and do while crossing the Rockies and only 2 weeks to do it with RV support from my parents, so I haven’t been great with updating the blog.  Now that I’m settled in Calgary for a few days I’ll update the events of the past week and a half in a few posts over the next couple days…

Day 14: April 28 – Osoyoos to Penticton

After a restful sleep with no trains in sight or sound at Nk’Mip campground in Osoyoos we set off for our first destination of the day – the Osoyoos Desert Centre where we took a self-guided walk along a 1.5km boardwalk through ‘Canada’s only desert‘.  We had to look closely, but we managed to see several cacti.

Low growing cacti in Osoyoos

Low growing cacti in Osoyoos

Osoyoos' desert landscape

Osoyoos’ desert landscape

Deer at the Osoyoos Desert Centre

Deer at the Osoyoos Desert Centre

 

Calm waters at Lake Osoyoos

Calm waters at Lake Osoyoos

The next destination was FAR more interesting and what I believe the Okanagan

My kinda capital

My kinda capital

Valley is known for – a WINERY!!! :)

The lady at the Osoyoos visiter centre suggested Tinhorn Creek, as they are pretty laid back and allow you to walk through their vineyard.  With a relatively flat ride on hwy 97 I made good time until taking the turn off to the winery.  What looked like a pretty innocent grade turned out to be the start of a pretty steep hill.  When I realized I wasn’t going to be able to ride up the hill I tried to unclip my shoe from the pedal and just barely got my foot released before coming to a halt.  My first almost topple!  I’m pretty new to riding with clipless pedals and at this point am thinking that they are better suited for the prairies where the terrain will be flat! lol!

Now on to more important business – the winery!

Tinhorn Creek winery

Tinhorn Creek winery

After walking up the remainder of the hill (we even left the RV near the bottom of the hill ‘cuz we weren’t sure what kind of terrain and parking/turning around room we would have at the winery – turns out there is a decent sized parking lot that is relatively level):

Well worth the walk up to the winery

Well worth the walk up to the winery

We were greeted at the entrance of the winery by a pleasant lady who quickly poured us a rose and showed us where we could start exploring the winery.  They offer a self-guided tour with plaques placed around the showroom, the vineyards and barrel facilities, allowing you to wander (with wine sample in hand) at your own pace.  Definitely worth the visit if you are in the area!

A sample of the vines

A sample of the vines

The inside of a wine barrel

The inside of a wine barrel

Tinhorn Creeks' barrel facility

Tinhorn Creeks’ barrel facility – about 900 barrels in total

The view from Tinhorn Creek winery

The view from Tinhorn Creek winery

Dad and I at Tinhorn Creek winery

Dad and I at Tinhorn Creek winery

As we left the winery our friendly greeter (being aware of the fact that I was on bike) forewarned me of a ‘bugger of a hill’ heading into Okanagan Falls.  I usually take these warnings with a grain of salt, because everybody’s impression of a hill on a bike is different, but in this case she was spot on!  If I were hauling all my gear there is no doubt I would have walked the majority of this 4km stretch, but given the gear was in the RV and it was just me and the bike I was able to cycle the whole hill.  Having my parents along for these two weeks as a support vehicle has certainly come in handy!

Mom, Dash and I

Mom, Dash and I

Scenery along Hwy 97 between Oliver and Penticton

Scenery along Hwy 97 between Oliver and Penticton

 

Scenery along Hwy 97 between Oliver and Penticton

Scenery along Hwy 97 between Oliver and Penticton

One of the many, many fruit stands between Oliver and Penticton (majority were closed this time of year)

One of the many, many fruit stands between Oliver and Penticton (majority were closed this time of year)

With 62km under my belt for the day, we stopped for the night just south of Penticton on the north end of Skaha Lake.  Looking across the lake, we saw a road on the East side of the lake that looked relatively flat, had we taken that road from Okanagan Falls I probably could have avoided the 4km climb!

Dash protecting us from the duck at the campground

Dash protecting us from the duck at the campground

Day 15: April 29 – Penticton to West Kelowna

The theme of today was – cold!  While having breakfast it actually started snowing!  Weren’t we just in the desert yesterday?  How can we now have snow?

The chilly morning sky

The chilly morning sky – you can’t see it, but that is snow not rain!

Nevertheless, I was determined to get back on the bike, so after layoring up and getting instructions from mom and dad about a trail they had found on their evening walk the previous night, I was on the road!

Trail along the channel between Skaha Lake and Okanagan Lake

Trail along the channel between Skaha Lake and Okanagan Lake

Due to the chillier conditions today, there were no side trips of significance today, but here are some pics that I took along the 58km ride from Penticton to West Kelowna:

Hwy 97 between Penticton and West Kelowna

Hwy 97 between Penticton and West Kelowna

View along Hwy 97 between Penticton and West Kelowna

View along Hwy 97 between Penticton and West Kelowna

 

Evidence of snow across Lake Okanagan from our campground

Evidence of snow across Lake Okanagan from our campground

Day 16: April 30 – West Kelowna to Vernon

Happy the snow is at least on the other side of the lake

Happy the snow is at least on the other side of the lake

As it looked like Dash was going to be running out of food soon (she is eating WAAAAY more here than back home, I think it’s because of all the activity every day), our first stop today was a vet clinic to pick up more food.  We researched a place in Kelowna that was en route, so mom, dad and I agreed to make that our first meeting point for the day.  Immediately when leaving the campground I was headed for another 4km climb.  Which I probably should have been able to bike the whole way, but I’m blaming the coldness for having to walk a good portion of this hill where I was passed by two pedestrians:

Passed by the ladies in pink and white on the right

Passed by the ladies in pink and white (behind the garbage bin) on the right

A final vineland shot...

A final vineland shot…

Getting to the top of the hill in West Kelowna which would lead to Hwy 97 to cross over to Kelowna, I received a phone call from my parents giving me a heads up that there was a bike trail across the bridge (good news), but that the stretch on Hwy 97 before picking up the bike trail had very little shoulder and traffic was busy (not so good news).  While enjoying the downhill ride I started to see just how busy Hwy 97 was and before getting on to the Hwy I noticed my bike GPS recommend that I make a right hand turn before the highway.  Thinking this might take me on some side roads until I could pick up the bike trail and thereby avoiding the busy highway I decided to follow it.  How disappointed I was to find myself 15 minutes later back at the top of the hill I had just come down.  Another circle!

It felt like a good time to take a break, so I found a bus stop bench, took a seat and re-strategized.  After consulting my iPhone I identified that there were no through roads between me and the bike trail, there was however a ‘relatively’ small green stretch dividing me from the bike trail.  Hoping this was some kind of park that would have a trail, I decided to head that way and see what I could find.  Turns out, the green stretch was a fairly steep ridge.  This wasn’t looking promising.  Not losing hope just yet, I stopped a gentleman who was flattening his cardboard recycling and asked if he was aware of any trails that would get me to the bottom of the ridge.  Much to my relief, there was a trail!

Trail down the ridge - this would have been a tough one with the gear and trailer...

Trail down the ridge – this would have been a tough one with the gear and trailer…

A look up the ridge that thankfully had a trail!!

A look up the ridge that thankfully had a trail!!

Lake Okanagan from mid-ridge in West Kelowna

Lake Okanagan from mid-ridge in West Kelowna

Once getting across the ridge, the bike trail was very easy to find and I was finally on my way to Kelowna (2hrs and 10km later….it appears as though crossing bridges is my nemesis.  Score so far – Bridges 3, Tami 1).

Traffic on this bridge heading into Kelowna was busy, it took 5 pictures to get an unobstructed pic

Traffic on this bridge heading into Kelowna was busy, it took 5 pictures to get an unobstructed pic

My bike on the bridge between West Kelowna and Kelowna

My bike on the bridge between West Kelowna and Kelowna

Bridge and West Kelowna

Bridge and West Kelowna

After picking up Dash’s food and taking a lunch break we headed north out of Kelowna via Glenmore Rd.  This road turned into a nice country road and was a pretty pleasant ride to Winfield.

In Winfield we lost the country road and were once again back on Hwy 97, where I took a ride in the RV until the tourism info in South Vernon.  Heading into the south side of Vernon on the sidewalk of Hwy 97 (back on my bike again) I came across a lady struggling to move (or steal?) a couch so I stopped to give her a hand.  She was quite funny insisting that she wouldn’t be defeated by a piece of furniture.

With 51km cycled (and about 30km driven) for the day I arrived at our campground on the north end of Swan Lake.

My first round about on a bike!

Vernon – my first round about on a bike!

 

Dash chillin' in the RV

Dash chillin’ in the RV at Swan Lake

 

3 for Bridges:

1) Richmond to Vancouver

2) Crossing Hwy 99 in Delta

3) Crossing West Kelowna to Kelowna

1 for Tami:

1) Crossing Fraser River to Mission – that one was seamless!