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Entering Saskatchewan

June 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Day 17: Redcliff to Eagle Valley campground (101 km)

I was abruptly awoken when the bright motion activated lights were activated by a Wanderer wandering around the washroom. I can honestly say this is the first time I have woken up in a shower cubicle. It took a moment to get my bearings. I had slept very well (bar for the usual midnight midgy bite scratching fest) whereas the Wanderers had barely had four hours of sleep between them.

“Were you not woken up by the hailstones crashing on the roof?”

Nope. Turns out that even if you’re sleeping in a shower cubicle you can still snooze through apocalyptic hailstorms if you have used micropore tape to seal your ear plugs in (top tip from the road).

We were all glad not to have slept outside. I guess the awful weather that had showered, thundered and crashed on the washroom roof would have been far, far worse in a tent. We are also extremely, extremely lucky to have already passed Canmore and Calgary. You’ve probably already seen on the news that the main highway (which we’d cycled on just a few days ago) had been closed by the severe floods. My thoughts go out to those who live there.

On the road we headed due east (as usual). The wind swung east south east and then swung again so it felt like a complete headwind. Fractional differences in the direction of the wind really push down or pull up your average speed. The winds here can be so exhilarating and depressing – and you cannot even see it.

After a couple of kilometres we were looking for a spot to eat a protein bar when we saw Stan and Shirley ahead who were fixing a puncture. (Stan and Shirley are a couple from the Okanagan who are biking across Canada.) We stopped to exchange stories from the road.

We cycled happily until lunch (not withstanding Katie’s flat tyre and panic attack) and were grateful that it was sunny and the threatened thunderstorms did not appear. Over lunch the wind changed direction. You could tell by the Canadian flag flapping overhead outside the tourist information where we sat (tourist info for what exactly? The place we were in, which you could hardly call a village, consisted of a gas station, a trucker restaurant,one house and the tourist info).

At lunchtime I thought I saw the woman who had served us at the tavern yesterday evening. When she came over to put some rubbish in the bin I greeted her in an overly enthusiastically friendly. “Hey, how’s it going!”

Oh, it’s not the same woman. Still she was friendly and asked where I was biking to. She had a friend who cycled across Canada a couple of years ago. We chatted. She wandered off. Five minutes later she was back again with a piece of paper in her hand.

“If you get to Kakabeka Falls then you can stay with us,” she said handing over the piece of paper. “We don’t have a spare room but you can sleep in the living room. And, you know, have a warm shower. We have a sauna too.”

Wow.

I remember asking Kumiko back in Victoria what she thought was the best thing about cycling across Canada. She paused for a moment. Then replied thoughtfully “the kindness of people.” I would agree.

Shortly after lunch we arrived at a huge signpost announcing our arrival in Saskatchewan. We pulled over to take photos. The sun was now shining, we had a tail wind and the two trimmer that had just gone by threw off the smell of freshly cut grass. I could really like Saskatchewan.

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Just as we were about to push off Sofi tripped and somersaulted off her bike. This is no exaggeration. From basically standing on a static bike she managed to land on her head and scratch her helmet. We were worried that she might be concussed. Still miles from anywhere this was not good. After another 10k of cycling we stopped so Sofi could rest as her head was hurting. Luckily she didn’t feel nauseous and painkillers and fizzy cherry sour sweets seemed to do the trick.

The scenery today has actually been quite exciting. We’ve had a couple of rolling hills. Apple green fields. Cows. Hardly any traffic. I felt like to could cycle for ever. In fact, I ticked over 1500km today.

Our campsite for the night. Monty doubles up as a washing line.

Our campsite for the night. Monty doubles up as a washing line.

Cycling into the prairies

June 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Day 16: Brooks to Redcliff (98.5 km)

Cycling through the prairies could drive you slowly insane.

When we set off this morning the scenery looked like this: green fields on all sides, large dome of sky, grey strip of tarmac heading straight forward, a ceaseless line of pylons on the left.

The prairies have just dulled my senses.

The prairies have just dulled my senses.

20km later and the scenery had not changed. An hour later it was still the same. Still the same. If I didn’t have the odometer on my bike I wouldn’t have believed that we were actually moving forward so endlessly monotonous were the surroundings.

Dino: "caption for this picture?" Sofi: "It looks the same as the other one"

Dino: “caption for this picture?”
Sofi: “It looks the same as the other one”

The only excitement of the day came in the form of two birds. One plover and one wader (possibly a curlew sandpiper) which we saw in quick succession after lunch. I thought that the unchanging scenery was the mental challenge of the day- I was wrong. It was the wind.

After lunch the wind really picked up. The wind progressed from bad to awful. It was an east-north-east wind and we were headed directly east. Our average speed was battered by the wind. It dropped from 20km per hour, to 15km, to a miserably punishing 12 km. The distance between us and the campground seem to expand as our speed dropped. Oddly the land was slightly undulating. It was actually faster to climb the hills (marginally) as the incline of the hill gave us a precious bit of protection from the ceaseless wind.

Trucks rumbled past. A couple times today we felt ‘the suck’. The suck is the feeling of the vacuum around the passing truck – first the air current pushes you out and then it pulls you in like a tumbling ocean wave. It’s scariest when it pulls you over the rumble strips.

After 90-something kilometres of riding we pulled into the small town of Redcliff, a few kilometres short of Medicine Hat. The town isn’t much. It’s a small place where people drive pick up trucks and the wind kicks dust into your eye. But it has a municipal campground.

Thankfully the tornado warning for the area has now been lifted. Yes, tornado. However there is still a severe weather warning for overnight.

Upon arrival at the campground we inspected the cleanliness of the washroom. We decided that it was safer to bed down inside rather than camp out in the open. (The washrooms here are very clean.) The wanderers were going to sleep in the disabled showed until one of them realised that the shower was motion activated (!) so we’re now all bunking down in the disabled toilet cubicle. At least it’s en suite.

I write this blog post from inside the local tavern, having just eaten my own body weight in chips, burger and carrot cake. Outside the heavy rain, blasting wind and shaking trees do not look inviting. I am glad to be sleeping inside tonight.

Tomorrow we have another 90-something kilometres to ride. I really hope the wind is on our side. Our backside that is.

Thunder and sunshine

June 19th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Day 15: Calgary to Brooks (106.5 km)

“Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me, That ever with a frolic welcome took The thunder and the sunshine” ~ Tennyson, Ulysses

A shock of electricity burst in white sparks as it struck the pylon next to me. My vision flashed. Thunder cracked like a hammer against the anvil of my head. Booming, deafening thunder a metre from my skull. I cowered.

The words of John and Kumiko’s last email ran through my head: “…and don’t cycle in thunderstorms.” Here I am, cycling on Monty, in the eye of the storm.

I could see the washroom up ahead. I pulled off. The rain started lashing down more heavily, I opened the door and pulled Monty inside. I’m safe, I’m alive, I’m out of the storm.

The wanderers had sent me a message “hope you and Monty are sheltered right now.” “Monty & I are sheltering inside a washroom. lightning cracked above us.” I replied. They were in a car and had just passed a sign for 19k to Strathmore. I was 15k from Strathmore. Worried that they were about to drive past me I tried to type as fast as I could… Before I could get to the end of my tweet I heard the crunch of wheels outside the washroom.

I opened the door to rain and a Mercedes GL550 SUV. The rescue.

The wanderers climbed out and helped pile me and Monty into and onto the Mercedes. My wet feet squelched inside my cleats. And then we were driving. Karen, one of the wanderer’s aunts, in her car was the saviour of the day. She drove away from the charcoal clouds, away from the flashes and the cracking lightening. She drove until the sky was blue.

And then we climbed out the car and I saw still wet but it was hot. Only puffs of white cloud sailed overhead. We ate lunch at a picnic bench. Having eaten my fill of avocado and crackers I lay on my back and looked up. A rainbow shone in a perfect arch around the sun. I smiled. I was safe.

It was so hot we peeled off layers before getting in our bikes and heading out into the prairies. The land was flat. The road was dead straight. And the wind was behind us. Trucks rumbled by close enough that you could smell their loads: logs, hay bales and manure. Highway 1 cut a straight line through endless grassy fields. A red-winged blackbird called from a fence post. We passed some cows. Sometimes my vision would flash in an echo of the morning’s thunder. Yet all around was sunshine. And on we cycled, non-stop for 46km.

We pulled over at the outskirts of Brooks. This is a strange town. It’s famous for its XL meat processing plant which recently have to recall its products. Our campsite adjoins the town museum. The museum features farming machinery, a fake Adventist church and one train carriage. What a place.

We ate Popsicles in the sunshine at the campsite.

Addendum: We had just finished eating dinner and Katie Wanderer checked the weather online to discover a weather warning for “severe thunder and lightening with large hail stones.” There was a motel over the road. The wanderers went over to negotiate a price and, given that our lives are collectively worth the €85, we packed up camp as fast as possible before scuttling over the road under ominous violet clouds. Lightening cracked like a bloodshot eye on the horizon.

Thank you for praying for me. I am glad to be alive. I have survived the thunder and the sunshine.

P.s. I should add that the day actually started nicely as Steve and his young son Reid (people I’ve been staying with) led me through the bike paths of Calgary. It was a real pleasure staying with the family.

Running out the mountains

June 18th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Day 14: Canmore to Calgary

There’s nothing like starting a 95km bike ride with a quick run. Call me nuts, but before I left the UK I thought it would be fun to do some trail running in Canada.*

Finally this morning I actually made use of the running gear I’ve been lugging around by joining Betti, Ric and Sofi Wanderer for a refreshing 5k run along the river. Betti and Ric are incredibly lucky to live in Canmore – it is such a beautiful place. And we were incredibly lucky to stay with such wonderful hosts. Grey mountains watch over the old mining town on the edge of the Rockies. We ran on perfect dirt trails alongside an ice-cold fast flowing Bow river.

The run was followed by a delicious breakfast (I’ve been craving fried eggs so much!) back at the house. We carried on chatting and laughing for hours. It was midday before the Wanderers and I packed up our panniers and said our goodbyes. I sure hope to be back in
Canmore again one day.

Duatheletes. From left Katie, Sofi, me, Betti and Ric. Thanks for a great run.

Duatheletes. From left Katie, Sofi, me, Betti and Ric. Thanks for a great run.

What a beautiful day for cycling. Sunshine, lots of short hills to sprint up and long, easy descents. Fuelled by fried eggs, laughter and the 5k run warm up, my legs felt powerful as I climbed out the saddle to sprint the short hills. Slowly the mountains slipped further behind us. Over the course of the day the surrounding jagged mountaineer smoothed into rolling hills and then flattened into a pancake horizon of green fields.

Goodbye Rocky Mountains. Hello country roads. (Someone will get this)

Goodbye Rocky Mountains. Hello country roads. (Someone will get this)

As we headed out of the mountains the wind picked up. First it was a soothing brushing across my chest, then it wrapped around my head, muffling my ears. Then a strong northern wind battered against my wheels, buffering my bike back and forth as we descended. Towards Calgary I approached a number of sharp descents that were nerve-wracking to tackle in the wind. A large articulated lorry (semi) stormed by, whipping the wind so much that my tshirt nearly flew off.

There weren’t many places to stop. By 4pm we hadn’t found a shelter for lunch so sat out under the sun munching crackers and avocado. I turned around to catch a last glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. It’s been an adventure. I do love a good hill climb. And I hope to come back here (Kettle Valley rail trail Ruth?) But the mountains are only the beginning.

I’m headed into the prairies and it will be like this all day: hot, flat and windy. In order to get to Winnipeg in time for Canada Day I’ve got some serious biking to do. Expect 150km days and long, hot hours in the saddle. I’d best get running.

*This idea was inspired by my New Zealand travel buddy Sina would used to go on a run almost everyday while travelling around Canada and NZ. I thought it a very cool thing to do.

Slumbering bear

June 16th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Day 13 Lake Louise to Canmore (89 km)

Chateau Lake Louise is pretty impressive. Seriously if you’ve not heard of it you should look it up. The wanderers had a spare bed in their €750 a night room so had invited me (and Monty) to stay with them. I’ve not been sleeping much in Canada and was looking forward to a decent night’s kip.

There was a moment wandering around the sixth floor hunting for room 6923 and still (after about an hour) unable to find the wanderers when I was beginning to wonder if it was just a big wind up. There weren’t any rooms with four digit numbers. I’d been told to find the East elevator and was hopelessly trying to take a bearing from the sun in order to work out which way was East. To no avail. Eventually Sofi Wanderer found me sitting in the lobby. I was trying my best to look inconspicuous in a five star hotel whilst wearing trail running shoes, shorts and a bright red waterproof. We picked up Monty and whisked him inside on the elevator without anyone noticing.

The view from the view was impressive.

Room with a view

Room with a view

Oddly I had the worst night’s sleep. The bed was so soft and squidgy that I constantly felt like I was sinking. I woke up again and again. At 3am I couldn’t get back to sleep. I was very tempted to blow up my thermarest and sleep on that but worried that noise of inflating it would wake up the Wanderers. Eventually I did get to sleep by lying upside down on the bed with a pillow between my legs.

6.30am – time to go swimming.
There is only going to be one morning in our lives when we have the opportunity to swim in the crystal glacier-fed waters of Lake Louise and then sink into a hot tub: this was that morning. The water was so cold that “if you threw an ice cube in the water it would stay there”. We crawled in like Golum over the wet rocks, swam about 10m and then Golumed out again. We padded down the carpeted corridors wrapped in towels trying to find our way through the labyrinth to the hot tub.

I'm going to start a list of lakes in the world I've swum in. Lake Louise joins Lake Baikal.

I’m going to start a list of lakes in the world I’ve swum in. Lake Louise joins Lake Baikal.

8:15am – breakfast
The cheapest breakfast on the hotel menu was €18. But we are but humble cycle tourists. The girls had only beef jerky and one protein bar in stock so I shared out all that I had. We were limited to 3 crackers, one third of a spoon on peanut butter scrapped as thinly as possible, two thirds of a banana each and a mug of coffee. We ate like peasants in a palace.

11am – actually doing some biking.
Our cycling route to Canmore was supposed to be ‘all downhill’. Katie Wanderer was looking forward to an entire day of coasting. She had absolutely no intention of pedalling if it could be helped. It was disappointing then for us to find hills en route. The route had been described as downhill and mostly flat.
Indeed, encouraging people had on multiple occasions described the approaching terrain as “Oh, mostly downhill and flat compared to what you guys have biked already.”
As Katie pointed out, what we’ve biked already are several Rocky Mountain passes. “I want you to compare flat with flat, not flat with Allison’s Pass.”
Fair point.

Cycling along highway 1a to Banff we saw three peletons of cyclist, an elk and a black bear. I’m particularly pleased about seeing the bear as we were almost out of bear country.

Photo credit: Katie Wanderer. Yes, we were that close.

Photo credit: Katie Wanderer. Yes, we were that close.

Talking of bears, it turns out that I’ve nearly seen a bear twice. Firstly Nic and I cycled straight past a bear on our way up Allisons Pass and didn’t realise. But the Wanderers (who stayed an extra day at the campsite in Canyon Hot Springs) found out that the next morning that a bear had been wandering around our campsite, indeed was right outside our tents in the night. We (wanderers and I) had stashed all our food in the laundry room, far from our tents. Bryan (being arrogant/ stupid?) had left all of it outside his tent, neatly packed in a bag just a few yards from our canvas abodes. The wanderers discovered all this when the saw the wardens setting up traps the next morning. Needless to say, I’m glad I found out about this a safe 200+km away.

We cycled to Banff and stopped for a prolonged break, trying to wait for the rain to stop (it didn’t).

Sarcastic signpost on the way to Canmore.

Sarcastic signpost on the way to Canmore.

The last 24km to Canmore were delightfully along bike path. The wanderers were staying with a family friend so just out of town they phoned them to get directions.
“Erm… We also have a third cyclists with us. Could she camp in your garden?”
Well, it turned out Betti and Ric live in a condo but were more than happy to let me unroll my thermarest in their living room. After a wonderful evening with them (featuring great food, private Irish folk music performance and lots of laughter) I lay down on my thermarest on the floor of their living room and had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in Canada.

The first leg

June 13th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The first leg might not be the hardest but it is the hilliest. Over the last 2 weeks I have cycled approximately 1,000km across British Columbia and into Alberta. It’s been awesome, or as they say in Canada “it’s been arsum.” I have loved every pedal stroke.

I for one am very interested to know what happens to the shape of one’s legs as they pedal thousands of kilometres. This is what my leg looked like in Ruth’s kitchen the week before I left…

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Analysis: actually already got a bit of tone around the gastrocnemius. No line of separation at the top. Legs are nice and clean. (I really miss those pjs, they are so comfy.)

This is what my legs looked like this morning…

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Analysis: disappointingly similar level of muscle tone. Miscellaneous and unexplained bruise on right calf. Lots of midgy (ie mosquito) bites. Permanent smudge of chain oil. Legs slightly hairy as difficult to shave without slicing off midgy bites.

Apparently there is some ‘trend’ for high school girls in Canada (and presumably elsewhere) to have ‘the thigh gap’ (ie legs so skinny that there is space between your thighs when your knees touch.) This is absolutely ridiculous. I think it’s horrendously sad that young women feel they must contort and damage their bodies in such a way in order to meet an unhealthy model of beauty. Needless to say I do not have the thigh gap. Nor do I want one.

I’ll tell you what is beautiful: thighs made for cycling. 20 inch thighs made of muscle, bone, joint and love. Thighs so strong you can scale a mountain pass. Thighs with deep tan lines from riding for two weeks in the sunshine. Thighs with midgy bites because the critters can bite through Lycra. Thighs that ache from cycling mile after mile and mile. Thighs that will carry you across a continent. Forget false ideals. What is truly beautiful is the ability of the human body to go and keep going.

I love my legs in all of their lumpy-bumpy-bitten-bruised glory because they are strong and will carry me to Winnipeg and beyond. Here’s to the next leg!

Day 12: Golden to Lake Louise (85 km)

I’m so tired I could face plant into my couscous.

The only time in my life when I’ve been this tired was when my Mum and I went on a 24 mile walk. My mother, I should point out, is a hardcore walker. Whereas I am not. I think I did actually fall asleep into my dinner that night.

Today I cycled 85km up the infamous 10 Mile Hill and over Kicking Horse Pass. It was my fifth day in a row of cycling. As soon as I got back onto the highway and began the first steep ascent the leg burn kicked in. I began to wonder whether racing my own imaginary Giro d’Italia up a mountain pass, then only eating left overs and not stretching was perhaps a bit… Foolish.

I climbed. All day I climbed like a tortoise. I felt zapped of energy. The tank was empty (because some fool decided to only feed it two meals in 118km yesterday!) My muscles and joints ached.

And then I remembered how the tortoise won the race. Sometime last year I did a 100k women only bike challenge with my mother around the rolling (read: hilly) South Downs. I remember my mother overtaking pink gym bunnies half her age. Some had stopped and were pushing their bikes up, other pink bunnies were only pedalling just enough to save falling off backwards. And my mother pedalled past them…

The trick, I recall, was to slip into the lowest gear possible and then just keep pedalling. So somewhere in my exhaustion I remembered this. And thought “if my 58 year old mother can cycle up these hills then so can I.” And so I kept pedalling. I munched some more jelly beans. Thought about my mother and the pink gym bunnies. And somehow found the strength to tap away at about 7km up this Rocky Mountain pass.

I wanted to get to Field for lunch but by 2pm I had done 50km (7km short) and my tank needed desperate refilling. I stopped by the side of the road. There was nothing around except wilderness sliced in half by highway. I was apprehensive about lunching in the wild alone for fear of bears.

So as I hung out my tent to dry in the sun and spread my avocado I began to sing. I started with John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” (obviously) but soon ran out of lyrics. So I started Aretha Franklin’s “I will survive” which seemed equally suitable. My avocado was finished but my tent was not yet dry. So I used some precious battery on the iPad to listen to some tunes (namely “what a beautiful day” by the Levellers and “C-A-N-A-D-A” by Raffi.) And I sung. And I danced. And felt very happy and not so scared of bears.

Drying out in the sun

Drying out in the sun

I pedalled off happily only for the leg burn to hit within 1 minute up the relentless hill. When I arrived at Field I was accosted by a lonely cyclist who gave me his card and clearly wanted to chat. I did not. I wanted to cycle up the infamous 10 Mile hill before I collapsed.

Straight out of Field it was horrendously steep. Horrendously. Alongside the road was a river – a gushing fast-paced whitewater river that was beautiful to see but was also a cruel reminder of the gradient.

The rest of the day basically continued in this way. I felt weak. The hill went up.

Somewhere near the top. Not sure if this is BC or Alberta as there was no sign.

Somewhere near the top. Not sure if this is BC or Alberta as there was no sign.

Finally the mountain relented and I was freewheeling. The end was near. The most beautiful thing I saw all day was the sign “Lake Louise next exit”. I let out a yell.

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Finally, finally I had arrived. For weeks I’ve been telling myself that if I can cycle to Lake Louise then I can cycle across Canada.

And now I know I will.

Ps. I actually left BC and entered Alberta today but I didn’t see a sign which was most disappointing.

Day 11: Canyon Hot Springs to Golden
(118 km)

48, 49, 50…
The seconds ticked down as I lifted out the saddle, gave out a roar and sprinted towards the finish.
58, 59…
Bang on 2 hours, 15 minutes and 0 seconds I slammed on the brakes and jumped off Monty, diving off the road and onto the verge where the signpost stood.

Did you see the Giro d’Italia stage this year where Visconti climbed up the Galibier in the snow? He impressively clung on and won the stage in epic style. That was me today

Here I am at the top of Roger’s Pass. I’d ascended the pass non-stop since the campsite, a solid 34km of steep climbing. I was desperate to reach the top in the fastest time possible- I’d been busting a gut trying to keep my average speed above 16km per hour.

No Wanderers to cycle with today hence awful selfie pic

No Wanderers to cycle with today hence awful selfie pic

At the top I was greeted by a tour guide and a horde of English tourists. They were trying to ask questions about my trip, where I was from, oh yes I know Oxford etc. but now I know why tour riders go straight for the team truck before they talk to the media. “Sorry, I don’t wish to be rude but I need to go now before my legs seize up,” I said jumped back on Monty.

Despite my epic ascent I still had 80km to ride.

To begin with there was a fast descent slowed only by tunnels and construction works. One tunnel was so dark that you couldn’t see the ground which was fun. The downhill felt short lived for then I began climbing again.

At 60km I stopped for lunch. I was so pumped with energy that I could only eat a few forkfuls of my pasta. I wanted to get back on the road. I stood up and looked at the road climbing up the hill ahead. And there I saw it…

The black outline hovering on the hard shoulder. Was it moving? Yes, it was moving. The bear was wandering up along the road, exactly on the hard shoulder where I wanted to cycle. My heart started pounding. I looked at an RV that was parked nearby, the woman inside looked completely unaware of the danger.

I took the monoscope out my pannier to get a better look.

Oh. It was Bryan. The guy whose recumbent bike I had tried out for size the previous evening. You will be amazed how much a recumbent bicycle looks like a bear.

This is Bryan

This is Bryan

I jumped back on my bike and continued up the hill. I cycled across a time zone. My legs were bursting with energy, pumping like pistons as I charged up the hill getting faster and faster. Now I was no longer in the Giro d’Italia but doing the bike leg of an Ironman. I ripped open an energy gel with my teeth and leapt out the saddle, pushing up my speed.

You know you've cycled far when you cross a time zone

You know you’ve cycled far when you cross a time zone

My legs were spinning out the kilometres faster and faster. As if I was in some sort of trance. I couldn’t stop, I didn’t stop. I just kept on racing to the finishing line.

At 100km out of nowhere three cyclists appeared on the road coming towards me. Three men. They all had thick beards and heavily loaded panniers. They cheerer, waving their arms in the arm, roaring me on. I have no idea if they were a hallucination. By this point I couldn’t tell what was uphill, what was downhill. There were only legs. Energy. Water. And scenery so sublime that I forgot at every stroke about the lactic acid in legs. I was going to win.

As I approached Golden I counted down the kilometres one by one. At each rise of the road I got out the saddle and fiercely hunted down the hills. I was getting faster and faster. I saw Bryan the bear in the distance again. I chased him down and sped past. Less than 10km to go.

Finally I skidded into the Tim Hortons at Golden to wait for Bryan. I didn’t matter that I’d beaten him (although nice that I had beaten a 34 year old man on a recumbent). I had beaten myself. My average speed we 19.3km per hour- that is faster than I usually cycle to work – and today I had cycled 118km over two mountain passes.

Sir Edmund Hillary once said “It’s not the mountain that we conquer but ourselves.”

Today I conquered both.

Rocky Mountain High Part 1

June 12th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Day 10: Revelstoke to Canyon Hot Springs (38 km)

Short doesn’t always mean sweet.

Today was the shortest day of the trip at a mere 38k. But I wasn’t feeling great and the steep grade didn’t help as I slugged up towards the Rockies at my slowest speed yet.

Even though the muscles in my legs actually feel fine I was in a sore achy pain from my mid back all the way to my feet (lethal combo of period pain, old back problems and many miles of uphill). The back of my left knee twinged uncomfortably as I hit hard on the pedals.

The only relief from the pain was the gorgeous views: huge mountains all around peaked over the thick forests like chunks of frozen toblerone. Veins of melted snow tricked down the crevices in the mountain tops and reappeared as foaming creeks at the roadside. Today it was hot – almost too hot – as we ascended to Canyon Hot Springs.

Rocky and Monty start ascending the Rocky Mountains

Rocky and Monty start ascending the Rocky Mountains

The campsite here is a bit of a joke. Everything is so expensive. After a hot days cycling I was annoyed to find that the showers were $3, especially having just forked out all my change to do some laundry. So in protest I decided to wash in a large sink (a talent I picked up in the good old days of cycling to college) and rather than spend $4 on a dryer I hung up my soggy socks and undies on the signpost.

Yes that means I have actually washed my one and only cycling jersey

Yes that means I have actually washed my one and only cycling jersey

After popping painkillers today, feeling literally weak at the knees and the daunting summit of Rogers Pass on the horizon I am feeling a bit apprehensive about tomorrow’s ride. There are also some tunnels ahead on the way to Golden that other cyclists have reported as very scary. But who said cycling across Canada was going to be easy?!

Random addendum
Best bit of the day: having a go on Bryan’s recumbent (who’s Bryan? Guy who is cycling across Canada and back who rocked up at the campground later afternoon)
Worst bit of the day: watching Katie Wanderer slow-mo crash into a bed of poison oak. Ouch.

That's actually a neck rest above my head. I'm just that short.

That’s actually a neck rest above my head. I’m just that short.

Into the Mountains

June 10th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (3 Comments)

Day 9: Enderby to Revelstoke (112 km)

Thunderstorms and cycling do not mix. The rain began to patter down on my tent as I stirred for breakfast. My mood was a gloomy as the low cloud when I checked the weather forecast to find thunder storms predicted for the 112km of cycling that way ahead.

Today I was cycling with the two Wanderers. These two had always turned up at the campground many hours later than I had on previous parts of the trip. But this was most certainly not because they cycled slower. They flew out the Enderby campground at a stonking pace (24km per hour!) and didn’t stop until 40km later.

Feeling slightly the worse for wear after yesterday’s revelries, when we stopped I collapsed on a coffee and cookies. We didn’t move from the comfy cookie-eating coffee-drinking position for over an hour.

With extra caffeine in me, I led the mini-peloton for the next 25km. It’s here that I joined the Trans-Canada highway for the first time on my trip. I smiled, knowing I would be following this road for more of less a month.

Then the heavens opened. The rain quickly soaked my windproof jacket and I could feel the water seeping slowly down the collar and into my socks. The wanderers both had waterproof covers for their shoes. With the threat of more rain in the next few days I vowed to buy the nicest, most waterproof pair I come across.

And yet it was glorious. For by now we were cycling into the mountains. Gone are the dusty, ochre-hued rocks of the Okanagan. Here the looming clouds cast shifting lines of darker green on the billowing, ascending pine forests. The mountains disappeared into puffs of white cloud. We cycled through noise and solitude. First the howling rumble of articulated trucks, zooming motorbikes, the earth-shaking rumble of a passing freight train and the lively, gushing creeks. Then the ceasing traffic noise would amplify the quiet sounds of cycling in the forest: the water trickling through the rocks, the wind in your ears, the slick watery hiss of your tyres on wet tarmac and one bodyless bird reciting melodies from above the forest.

Wandering into the Rockies

Wandering into the Rockies

The thunderstorm never materalised. Nor any hard climbs. With less than 2 miles to go Sofi Wanderer had a flat tyre easily fixed at the road side. But as we finally freewheeled our way to the campground the sky cleared and the snowy peaks of the Rockies were illuminated by the glowing evening sun.

Tomorrow it begins: the ascent of Rogers Pass and my route through the Rocky Mountains.