JASPER TO BANFF
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