Gra Nomad Wanderings

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Photos coming... hang in there... come back later.

Well it doesn’t get much better than the Icefields Parkway. Do you know anywhere more spectacular? If so, let me know, as we still have about 4 months left before we’re due home in Oz.
I’d driven Jasper to Banff in Alberta a number of times when we lived in Canada in the early seventies. The pristine beauty of the turquoise blue lakes, the majesty of the lofty mountains and the awesome grandeur of the mighty glaciers stays with you forever. It didn’t matter whether we traveled the route in spring, summer, winter or fall, the scenery was unbeatable. When I became a cyclist, I vowed I would one day cycle that beautiful road. This was my chance to finally do it.
Fay and I set out from Jasper in cool weather, heading south on highway 93. We were riding our tandem Two’sDay, made by Bike Friday in Eugene, Oregon. We’d had the bike 4 months and had ridden it in various places as we DROVE round the USA and Canada. Bill was travelling in his Chevy pickup as support.
We were certainly a bit short on serious training for such a trip. Little did we know then that the higher altitude would also play a part in the coming days.
We stopped at Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls to take photos and renew our memories. Our Panasonic Lumix with the Leica lens certainly gave us great records of our trip.
It was sure encouraging when we caught sight of Bill on his bike in the distance as we neared the end of day 1. He had made it to Beauty Creek International Hostel and taken his bike off the back of his truck and was coming to meet us. Isn’t it amazing how much different it is when we get encouraged by someone?
That day we rode 95 km in 5 hours. Yes, that’s an average of 19 km/hr – pretty low, but it had been a consistent up hill ride, and perhaps a bit further than we should have done in the circumstances.
While the accommodation was Spartan or “primitive” (Bill’s words), we did Ok and got a fair night’s sleep.
Our early departure on day 2 meant our toes froze up as we pedaled the first 8-10 km. I guess we were wearing our Shimano bike sandals with NO SOX! We figure if you wear sox, it makes you look like a Pommy! Seven degrees was the temp until the sun got high enough to give us some sunshine and warmth. We had a 9 km climb as we approached the Columbia Icefields Information Centre (with food and accommodation).
As we started up the steeper hills we began to run out of puff. We needed to stop every so often and rest. Of course there was always plenty to look at so that wasn’t really a problem. I think it’s 50% tougher riding a tandem than riding a single bike. Anyone want to comment? We even walked up one steepish bit (don’t tell Jim).
As we rode in some parts the shoulder was a bit thin and the drop off (just the other side of a small metal railing) was STEEP! Scared the willies out of me. There were times when I decided I’d rather ride on the LEFT side of the road AGAINST the traffic rather than that close to the huge drop.
Our eyes scanned the car park on arrival at the Icefields Centre. No Bill. No Chev truck (which I had decided to throw the bike into). Fay told him we’d take 2 hours to get there, and exactly 2 hours from departure we rolled into the Icefields Centre – right on 10 o’clock. Our trip of 19 km had indeed taken us 2 hours - about 1.5 hours of riding (with some walking,) and another half hour recovering at various points.
After we’d just about finished our hot chocolate and muffin (just like I have in Dubbo after a leisurely 50 km road bike ride) Bill finally appeared.
Fay tried to encourage me into riding on. Bill was worried about me. But it’s amazing what a hot chocolate and a muffin can do eh? So, we set off once more. I mean… it’s gotta get easier surely. Fay believed that the altitude was a major factor in how we were feeling. The next section was easier. We went down to a lower altitude. We stopped here and there simply to photograph glaciers, not because we were stuffed.
After a short climb the terrain settled into a slight downhill all the way to Saskatchewan River Crossing. Just before we reached the Crossing, we met a couple from Tennessee on a Meridian tandem. We had a good chat. They warned us about the lack of shoulder on the stretch leading up to the Bow Summit. It had been pretty scary for them coming down they said. That didn’t sound good for climbing it. We had heard that a cyclist was recently killed on that section. That’s it! That’s it!
Fay helped me fold the Banana Split and put it in the back of the Chev at the Crossing. After a feed there, we DROVE on to Mosquito Creek Hostel. I felt great. We had averaged 20 km/hr.
Bill’s verdict on Mosquito Creek Hostel was not quite as “primitive” as Beauty Creek. In fact it was quite… can I say “flash”?
The next day was a slow day out of the traps. We had agreed to get Bill to drive us BACK to Bow Summit where we would view Peyto Lake (had never done that) and then ride to Lake Louise – a bit over 40 km and Fay assured me it was “mostly downhill.” Bill could go ahead so he could watch the British Open golf on TV in the bar there.
Remember those narrow shoulders? Well, how do you feel (on a tandem) when you’re flying down there – steep as – with a STEEPER slope just out of the corner of your right eye? I was uneasy (translate scared.) We managed to record a maximum speed of 66 km/hr but I don’t know what speeds we’d have achieved if we’d “let the pony have his head.”
The tandem rolled into Lake Louise, ahead of time having averaged 28.5 km/hr for the 46 km. I was mighty happy to have arrived.
Yes, I had achieved my goal. Thanks Fay and thanks Bill. I couldn’t have done it without 2 very special people in my life – a wife and a brother.
We’re now resting Calgary. The plan from here is:
* To Glacier Park in Montana
* To Whitefish, MT
* To Spokane, WA
* To Seattle, WA
* Fly out of Seattle for Toronto 3 August

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


As we've travelled around, we've met heaps of people, made new friends, seen sights we'd dreamed of and some we hadn't dreamed of, done things we hadn't known about and had opportunities to do things and go places beyond our plans.
We're now 5 months into our 10 month trip. We've been influenced by many people that we've met. Some recommended a book (or 2), some had a neat saying on the fridge, a cool website, others gave us a recipe or a story. I'd like to give that opportunity now to you. You can either click on comments below or you can email me on - too easy. Here are some suggestions - feel free to use any or all of these. Or others. I'll do a few to show you.

1 Book - have a look at author Brian Pettit (Aussie living on Vancouver Island) and also Willie Weir (intrepid cyclist who's been everywhere and is always worth a read)
2 Saying - Only those who see the invisible can do the impossible.
3 Website -,,
4 Place to visit - Machu Picchu (Peru), Iguacu Falls (Brazil), NW Western Australia.
5 Movie to recommend - Dinner for One, The Day the Earth Stood Still (check out Michael Rennie's speech at the end).
6 Things to do - buy a tandem bike, fly over San Juan islands, visit Torres Starit Islands north of Queensland, cycle Jasper to Banff in the beautiful Canadian Rockies, take your grown children on a trip.
7 Other (story, poem, Bible verse) Ps 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

I'll probably think of heaps of other stuff later on. Have a go. Step out of your comfort zone!

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Read previous post...

We've invited all these people to Oz, so could everyone still back there tidy things up a bit. These folks REALLY LOOKED AFTER US.... big time! Thanks heaps!


The NWTR has been and gone!
We sure had a ball. Unfortunately I can't get photos on here at present, all because Tor isn't here! If he was here, we'd be right! Hey, at least he left his bed for us to sleep in! Which would you rather?

Fay and I rode 117 km on Sat and then 105 km on Sunday. I was thrilled that we were able to ride that far over the weekend.

Then we caught up with 2 families (Krogs and Linthicum-Platts)! Legends! We went out with them on the Monday and rode a quickish 71 km. Average 25.1 km/h. That's quick for us for that distance.

Now the aftermath: we're staying with Krogs (except for Tor) at Seattle and then later today going to Everett airport and going flying with Dave (who with Kelly rode a tandem at Corvallis last weekend.) Dave told us to come to Seattle and he'd fly us over San Juan Islands. So, today's the day. After that it's back to Vancouver Island BC to return Bill's truck. Maybe get a few more photos on this site.

Organisation of the NWTR was superb! They really did a great job. Fay and I won a speedometer for being the people who travelled the furthest. We also were entertained by Willie Weir (he's written a book too) on his cycling adventures all over the world. He threw out a few challenges too! Makes me wonder why we really have a vehicle at all! (Take note those people with 3 or 4 cars! Did you read this Ron?)

We really have been greatly blessed. Trip's going great. Talk to you from VI.

Hhhmmm... guess there's not much for people to make comments about is there?

Thanks Relan, Vlad/Joellen, Lynn/Monte/Kiersten, Dave/Kelly...