Biking Across Canada

Coast to Coast 8500 KM

 

Follow the adventures of Bryan Thorp as he lives his dream of riding across Canada from coast to coast.

 


Alberta

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Day 16 - June 28 - Sun

Jasper, AB - rest day

Some of you reading this know that I have relatives in this neck of the woods: my Mom is in the continuing care wing of Seton Hospital in Jasper, while my sister lives 75km north east of Jasper. I've been coming to the Jasper area for over 30 years now, often more than 1x/yr, so there's not much new here for me. It's a stunningly beautiful area, but truly a tourist town, as are Lake Louise and Banff. A salmon dinner entre in Jasper can set you back $30. Want to do do your laundry? That'll be $8 for the washer and dryer, not to mention soap. Want to stay at Jasper Park Lodge? I didn't check this time around, but I figure you'd need $300 minimum just to make sure the front desk doesn't laugh at you. Internet access around Jasper goes for $2 for 20min. I did find the odd open Wi-Fi about town, but not reliable enough for any emails longer than a few sentences. I'll wait for the library to be open tomorrow.

I visited my mother in the hospital today and replenished some supplies, and enquired about elevation gains for Jasper and Banff National Parks. Aside from rolling hills in Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland, these two national parks will be my last major physical challenges, unless I run into a tornado on the prairies.

The prairies, by the way, I have always assumed will be a mental challenge. Although a lot of prairie towns may have an even richer history than many of the BC towns I've already passed thru, the scenery's all the same on the prairies! I know because I've lived in Winnipeg, hitch-hiked, railed, bussed and driven across the prairies! BORING! OK, there's the odd exception: the hoodoos near Drumheller, Lake of the Woods, the beaches on Lake Winnipeg, etc... but all in all, the prairies I expect to be a real mental challenge.

Anyhow, my sister finally tracked me down in Jasper, just as I was entertaining a foot long veggie sub (yes, they have a Subway!). We visited my Mom together and then my sister treated me to dinner. I then rode back to the Whistler campsite 4km south of Jasper. I will take another day off tomorrow primarily because I want to spend time with my mother; if not for her, I wouldn't have taken any rest days in Jasper.

It's unfortunate my days off are all bunched together, but in the end it may work out for the best, as I've got at least 3 serious climbing days ahead of me. One of the park employees told me I may be walking my bike up Sunwapta Pass! Ha! I don't think so, even if I'm fully loaded. Hasn't happened yet in my lifetime, as far as I can recall! :-) My plan for the riding days in the 2 parks is to keep the clicks low, say about 100km/day and to enjoy what has been called one of the most beautiful bike rides in the world: the Icefields Parkway. We'll see if I stick to the plan. After all, I'd only done the Icefields Parkway 6 months ago in my truck! The rain pelts down on my tent as I wrap up this daily entry, but I'm dry and toasty!

Day 17 - June 29 - Mon

Jasper, AB - rest day

Nothing much to report for today. I spent time with my mother when she was awake, and when she was asleep, I did laundry, completed my grocery shopping, and caught up on emails next door at the library. My sister drove down to Jasper after work to say goodbye. It was a nice relaxing day.

I researched what to expect for tomorrow's climb over Sunwapta Pass. Jasper's about 1060m above sea level and the pass is at 2030m. That doesn't mean it's a 1000m climb... nah, that'd be too easy, eh?! Most ascents are followed by descents... so the total climb is really derived from a cumulation of all the ascents. My research shows that I'm looking at 1760m of climbing tomorrow for Sunwapta Pass; there'll likely be other minor "hills" before and after the pass, so let's say 2000m for tomorrow.

There's plenty of walk in campsites along the way, but I'd like to snag one early in the day, say 15:00-ish, so I'm assured of a spot, as the summer season is now definitely on. So I'll be up around 05:30 tomorrow, break camp, ride north into Jasper - my destination for the day is the opposite way, unfortunately - for my usual brekky, say goodbye to Mom and then head south again. It should be an interesting day...

Day 18 - June 30 - Tue

Jasper, AB - Columbia Icefield Parkway Centre - 110km

Oh mama, it was frickin' cold last night! My sister did point out to me that it was snowing last night at the higher elevations, and that I might get snowed on! I WAS awake at 05:30 as planned but just couldn't face the possibility of breaking camp with frozen and numb fingers. I have Reynaud's Syndrome which gives me numb fingers in cooler temperatures . However, I finally did drag my sorry *ss out of my tent, broke camp, rode into Jasper and made it to Smitty's for my pancakes by 08:00.

I also dropped by the hospital to say goodbye to my Mom. It was 4C on the short ride to Jasper. I imagine it was closer to 0C during the night. :-( I started down the world famous Icefield Parkway. My 1st break was after approx. 35km. No real climbs yet. The scenery is world class, best appreciated outside one's vehicle. It was pretty cool - from 11 - 14C generally - better then energy sappin' 40C tho'!

I stopped at the 53km mark at Sunwapta Falls Resort with the intent of grabbing some joe as the temperature had now dropped down to 12C. Maybe grab a quick bite, too. As it turns out a small cup of murky coffee of unknown origin is $3 - highway robbery! I went outside and ate one of my cans of chili, a bagel and quenched my thirst with the usual Gatorade instead (I buy the powdered version and mix it with water).

Once on the road again, the temperature continued to drop - all the way to 4C! Wow - that's a new record for temperatures in the middle of the day on this tour! Oops, hold on - it gets worse: now it's SNOWING. I sadly realized I had never checked the weather this am prior to departure - a serious mistake in this part of the world when one's travelling relatively slowly. On the other hand, the weather is well-known to be unpredictable in this region.

Eventually, I came upon the small Jonas Creek campground, which had a really nice main shelter with wood burning stoves. An American motorcycle couple, also taking shelter, started a fire in one of the stoves. Nice! Soon after, a group of roadies - 'racing' cyclists - also joined us. Curiously, one of the women was riding a bike with the MEC logo on the down tube. MEC doesn't sell bikes, but apparently they're going to start doing so this fall; the bike I saw was a pre-production sample. That also lines up with MEC in Vancouver recently doubling the size of their cycling department, and now offering a repair service. I guess the boomers are really getting serious about fitness, or gas prices are really getting bad.

Anyhow, the sun finally came out after about an hour and the temperature went back up to 17C. I called Susan on the public phone at the campground to confirm the weather forecast, just to be sure. I made the decision to continue on to the next campground, Icefield or Wilcox, both approx. 30km down the road. There was a steep climb at Tangle Creek, where I decided to stop once in a while as my heart rate approached its max (173) based on my last tested fitness level. There were quite a few mountain sheep lounging around the Tangle Creek hill, with, of course, lots of vehicles stopped. Eventually, I got a nice downhill and another 10km of riding got me to the Icefield Viewing Centre. By this time tourist info was closed, but I knew that my 2 campgrounds were in the area; I basically wanted to double-check the weather for tonight, which I had heard from Susan, was going to be -4C. It was bad enough in Jasper at near 0C but -4C was pushing it. Well, I saw the Icefield Centre also had a hotel or 'chalet' (one would think they're in Switzerland or a chicken eatery, the way they name these places). I enquired as to the prices, and they started at $265. I turned on the charm and got a room for a about 1/2 that rate. It turns out that the room, although the smallest, not only has a king-sized bed, but a LOFT with 2 smaller beds! I soaked in the tub and wallowed in luxury. Nice! :-)

Day 19 - July 1 - Wed - Canada Day

Columbia Icefield Parkway Centre - Mosquito Creek Campground - 105k

I woke up with a slight headache at 08:00, and went down to the 'Glacier Dining Room' for breakfast. The buffet for $16 or so & didn't look very healthy, so I ordered 2 pancakes for $12. That's the most expensive pancakes so far of this tour, and if memory serves me correctly, the McBride Grill had the best value. However, I did get to eat my pancakes in front of the Columbia Glacier. Unbeknownst to me - because I didn't review my bill - the restaurant adds 12.5% gratuity to your bill automatically; I ended tipping on top of that. Oh well, we'll call that a 'glacier tax'; I'd say the 'tax' was well worth it 'cos it was an awesome view for breakfast.

I guess y'all getting tired of the superlatives, eh? Sorry, but the Icefield Parkway really is beautiful, even better than the Grand Canyon, which I visited for the 1st time in my life earlier this year. The Grand Canyon is a 1-scene wonder, whereas the Icefield Parkway is 230km of varied scenery and animals. Funny, I've seen lots of people driving by a glacier, for instance, with camera in hand, slowing down and taking a picture without even getting out of their vehicle! That's not the way to do it, but here's a suugestion: buy a few bagels, a jar of peanut butter, borrow a plastic knife from a restaurant and STOP at your viewpoint and have a little meal, and, of course, take the obligatory snap. That's what memories are made of!

OK, so they say the Icefield Parkway is the most beautiful drive/ride the the world. However, for cyclists, the shoulder sucks, and big time. It's plenty wide, but it has developed cracks about every meter or more. Each crack comes with a depression that makes for a very jarring ride. Fortunately, my steel frame flexes a bit and my fat Schwalbe Marathon tires absorb some of the impact... but a couple hundred of kilometers of this is quite annoying. Just this one negative would stop me from doing this ride on the Icefield Parkway a 2nd time.

Highway 16 - The Yellowhead - from Prince Rupert right to Jasper is definitely superior to the Parkway. To be fair, the shoulder improved somewhat past Saskatchewan River Crossing. I also noticed numerous broken signs and guardrails on the Parkway... Parks Canada really needs to clean up their act.

So, I finally got in the saddle by 10:30. I reached Sunwapta Pass, but had only done approx. 75m of climbing; last night's climb of Tangle Creek was the hard one. Sunwapta Pass sure had an awesome downhill, though - my computer showed a 450m descent before things got back to normal. And what a beautiful trip down with incredible vistas of the valley and mountains. About 2/3 of the way down the road almost does a 360 degree circle - can't be too many of those in Canada!

I stopped at Saskatchewan River Crossing for a soup and coffee. Not because I was cold, but just to refuel and take a break. I re-acquainted myself with 2 cyclists, John and Neil, who were on the Port Hardy --> Prince Rupert ferry (day 5)! One of them was heading to Calgary and the other to Regina via the Red Coat Trail, as I am. They weren't going as far as I was today; we said our good-byes yet again, and maybe we'll meet later.

Saskatchewan River Crossing is roughly in the middle, and the low point between Sunwapta Pass and Bow Pass. So, when going south on the Parkway, as I am, it's all downhill to Saskatchewan River Crossing and then uphill to Bow Pass - the 2nd big climb on the Parkway. It's a very gradual climb from Saskatchewan River Crossing until it turns into, perhaps a 6% grade, which came at the 80km mark on today's ride. The shoulder has improved somewhat by now also, although there's virtually no shoulder up the pass as it's a passing lane going up. Anyhow, the ascent was quite manageable and also only about 250m in the 6% portion. After that it was a pretty nice downhill almost all the way to Mosquito Creek Campground, which I arrived at by 18:30.

Mosquito Creek is a pretty little campsite, and I'm camped right beside the creek. Yup, there's plenty of skeeters here! Instead if food lockers at this remote campsite, poles and cables were provided to hang one's food bag out of reach of the bears. The biggest physical challenges of the entire tour have likely been met and dealt with, although I have some concerns about Quebec's north shore and parts of NF. Banff is easily attainable tomorrow, so it won't be long before I'm past the Foothills and on the prairies.

Notable about today was the fact that I saw the most cyclists in 1 day since Prince Rupert. I stopped and briefly chatted with a number of them. I met one lady cycling from Oregon, alone, to Jasper, and then back down to Montana.

Day 20 - July 2 - Thu

Mosquito Creek Campground, AB - Canmore, AB - 111km

Whoa! Another cold night last night, which reaffirms that I made the right decision the night before, to stay in a hotel after snow that day! Anyhow, I did shiver somewhat, and as before, I waited until the sun made it over the mountains to warm up my tent shortly after 08:00. No rain during the night, for which I am indeed thankful. I had a bagel with peanut butter, as I didn't feel like cooking oatmeal. I figured I could then ride the 25km to Lake Louise easily enough and get some pancakes.

The Mosquito Creek campground had a newly installed water purification system powered by solar. That means that one can have potable water at any remote campground provided there's a decent water source. I enjoyed my stay at this rustic campground. Hostels International also had a site next door. I am a member but don't mind camping as long as it's not raining.

The ride into Lake Louise was mostly downhill - whoo-hoo! I grabbed brekky and then did groceries. Again, I ran into John and Neil of Campbell River! I keep on forgetting to get a picture of the 3 of us. Heading out of Lake Louise, I took the Trans Canada, and realized that I should have taken the 1A, or Bow Valley Parkway, which is a smaller, scenic and slower road than the TC. I fixed that error 20km later and crossed over to the 1A. The 1A was quite calm and shady with lots of rest stops explaining why, for instance, prescribed burns of the forests are done, the re-introduction of wolves to the area, etc. Very nice, especially since I didn't know this road existed before! Recommended for both cyclists and motorists, but it's a pity that the section starting at Lake Louise is only about 50km long.

I ended up on the TC again. Although a 4-laner, busy and noisy, it had superb, safe shoulders all the way to Canmore, plus it was still a mostly downhill ride! It's payback time! In Canmore, I camped at a small private site. Some numbers for today: Today was the hottest day since day 1 of the tour! It averaged 23C versus 27C back on Vancouver Island. Today also marked the biggest day of net descents (ascents - descents) at 430m. Tomorrow, I hit the 2,000km mark! Almost 25% done! Now that the terrain has very noticeably flattened today, my daily clicks should increase somewhat.

I wanted to provide some background about Greg Salisbury (Susan's cousin), and his wife, Julie. Greg offered to host a blog - based on my text emails - at www.nomadaroundtheworld.com/across_canada
Thanks again Greg!

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Day 21 - July 3 - Fri

Canmore, AB - 7km north of Cochrane, AB - 88km

Well, the night wasn't too cold, as I'm starting to get away from the mountains. I had the usual pancakes for breakfast (4). After brekky, I decided to stop at the Safeway on the way out of town and catch up on my emails using their free wifi (does Safeway have free wifi in Vancouver?). I spent 1.5 hours catching up. In hindsight, that might have been a blessing in disguise. More later.

So, I finally rolled out of Canmore at 11:30 - my latest start yet, thanks to my email addiction. I need to manage my time a bit better. However, please keep the mails coming, I love to hear from you guys. On nights like tonight, I can easily catch up.

Anyhow, my dilemma when planning this trip, was, how to get thru Calgary? Well, I could ride the TC right thru Calgary, but that's plain nuts, although apparently legal, unlike Vancouver, where you have to be as far out as Abbotsford/Chilliwack to legally bike on the TC. So, that leaves going north or south of Calgary. Canmore Tourist Info suggested a seemingly very do-able northern route via Cochrane, AB.

So, I left Canmore and got on the 1A to Cochrane, which was approx. 73km from Canmore. What a beautiful, scenic ride! The shoulders still had the winter debris, and parts of the road were in poor repair, but apparently it seems to be well-known cyclists' road, as I saw many on this road, from lightly loaded tourists to hardcore roadies (but no heavily loaded tourists, like me). Curiously, they were all going the other way, so I didn't get to talk to one all day!

There weren't many communities on the 70+km route to Cochrane, and certainly I don't recall one gas station on the way, meaning there weren't many services. Exshaw had a humongous Lafarge plant with a large train yard to export their product out of the region. The 1A has been the smallest, and 'countriest' road so far of my trip. I think I went thru my last pass although I would call them 'really big hills side-by-side'! The headwinds were ferocious in the pass.

I ate my lunch at the Old Fort Creek bridge, just past the Nakoda Conference Centre. Old Fort Creek was a deep chasm... very scenic. The mountains have given way to rolling hills, or more accurately, drumlins, so I'm still doing some climbing! I came across a few 'Texas Gates' - whoa, these gates/grates across the road are potentially very nasty to cyclists, as they have 4-6 inch gaps. One false move and that could be a bent fork or an endo. Of course, the gates' purpose is to keep animals in or out of whatever. A necessary evil in this part of the country. Parks Canada had the biggest gaps, probably because they had the biggest animals to control, e.g., moose and elk. Bottom line for the 1A: a very nice enjoyable ride/drive whether by bike or by car.

The temperature hit 30+ today, and I had no issues with that. Finally, I get to Cochrane at 17:30 after a leisurely, and very enjoyable 76km. Cochrane on a Friday evening is almost as bad as the big city - I haven't seen this much traffic for a while.

My destination today was Airdrie, AB, at a minimum, so I headed up 22N. After approx. 7-10km I reach 567E and there's a huge RV park at the intersection of the 2 highways. I decide to enquire about campgrounds in the Airdrie area, still around 40-50km away. I find out from another camper (RV) that virtually every campground AND hotel around Calgary is booked solid for the Stampede! Well, as I earlier said, handling my emails this am for 1.5 hours, and delaying my day's start, may have been a blessing in disguise, because I could have arrived in Airdrie and not been able to even get a hotel room, never mind a campground site.

So, this RV park is the most expensive yet: $36, with no discount for tents - wait, I lied - I did get 10% off for being a CAA member. I am the only tent in 125 spaces, everything else is HUGE trailers and bus-sized campers with extensions that come out the side. I have my teensey-weensey 2-man MSR Hubba Hubba tent! I have no choice, really, about staying here, unless I want to sleep in a ditch (did that outside Kamloops when I hitch-hiked across the country in '72!).

At least I have free wifi - I was able to Skype Susan, although the bandwidth wasn't ideal. Susan was in her kayak up the Sunshine Coast when I called! Ain't technology grand?

Tomorrow's plan: I have to complete getting around Calgary, so I will continue on to Airdrie, AB, then work my way down to the TC. I will then be riding the TC until I cross the border into Saskatchewan, where I will then drop down to the Red Coat Trail. I could have got on the Red Coat Trail in southern AB, but it is gravel in parts, and I have zero interest in riding in gravel with my fully-loaded bike.

Day 22 - July 4 - Sat

7km north of Cochrane, AB - Irricana, AB - 75km

Today marked the second lowest daily mileage of the tour (day 10 was 59km) . It has been extremely windy since yesterday afternoon and continues as I write this in the evening. The wind was so strong during the night I had to use my panniers as anchors inside the 4 corners of the tent to keep it from flapping around! Anyhow, I was up by 07:00, ate at my campsite, and was on the road by 09:15 heading for Airdrie.

Big Hill Springs Provincial Park was just a few kms away from where I stayed (no camping at that provincial park). I was still climbing and descending those drumlins, but they were fast fading and were pretty well a memory by the end of the day. Most of the day the shoulders have been only about 2/3m wide, which has been very challenging with the heavy cross-winds (30km/h?) from the south. It takes a lot of focus with these winds to keep out of the cars' way and to stay out of the ditch, especially when climbing drumlins at slow speed.Yesterday I almost ran into a guard rail thanks to a strong gust of wind.

In Airdrie, I visited the local library for Internet access, mailed home a very nice multitool I found on the highway (my daughter needs one for school), ate a late 2nd breakfast, and topped up on groceries. I then finished off the day by riding a short 33km to Irricana. I considered making a run for Strathmore on the TC, another 70km, but I wasn't aware of any campgrounds on the way in case the winds continued to be brutal and I didn't make it. So, I called it a day at 16:45, which is early for me. All in all, I think that my northern detour of Calgary is satisfactory - the weather I cannot control!

For anyone else considering this detour, the routing from Canmore, AB is 1A --> 22N --> 567E --> 772N --> 567E --> Irricana, AB, where I am currently camping in the municipal campground. From Irricana, it's simply 9S to the TC.

As soon as I got to the campground, a quick lightening storm passed thru along with some showers. The wind picked up, too, for an hour or so, perhaps to 60-70km/h. Tomorrow will be interesting; as I said, the cross-winds are from the south and that is the direction I head tomorrow to get to the TC. Ideally, my destination will be Bassano, which is close to 150km from where I am. However, if the winds are as strong as they have been for the last day or so, then Strathmore will be a more realistic destination at 70km. We'll see.

One thing I've noticed is that cows in the fields are interested in my passing by. The other day, one got up from where she was laying in the ground, and walked toward me. Before I knew it the whole herd was on their feet coming to the fence and studying me closely. Is it the shiny spokes on my wheels, or what?

Day 23 - July 5 - Sun

Irricana, AB - Bassano, AB - 149km

Well, it poured last night for a few hours, but I was nice and cozy in my little MSR Hubba Hubba tent. Usually, when it rains during the night, I like to give the tent a chance to dry out, so I leave a bit later after rainy nights. Anyhow, I was up at 07:00, made some oatmeal as there were no restaurants open in Irricana on Sunday mornings. While packing up my tent I found a salamander under my tarp (I did get a photo of 'him')! I've never seen one in the wild, so that was pretty cool. Eventually one of the kids in the campsite volunteered to look after 'him' after my departure (yeah, I missed that photo-op! D*mn!).

I departed from the Irricana municipal campground around 10:00, and made my way down highway 9 and eventually connected with the TC. That completes my detour of Calgary - whew! Just a short way down the TC, I made myself a light lunch of peanut butter sandwiches at the side of a railway overpass, where the railway is just a memory as the tracks have been long since removed. While eating lunch, I watched a crop duster do his stuff across the highway - he was flying just meters off the ground when dumping his load of chemicals. I got myself all set up to take a shot of the plane, but I'd missed my opportunity as he was done! It's not my day today. :-(

I continued cycling east on the TC and eventually I arrived at Strathmore, AB. Well, it was time for my 3rd meal of the day, and only it was only 14:00. I find a Smitty's and order the usual stack of of 5. Another hour later, I'm back on the bike, feeling pretty bloated. 10km later, I''m thinking that the bloated feeling should be disappearing soon. It doesn't disappear at all by the time I get to Cluny, and I realize I'm sick, but still have 36km to go to Bassano.

The distance between towns on the TC is quite significant, not to mention that tent/RV sites doesn't exist in every town, nor in between towns. This ain't BC, it's the prairies! Anyhow, it wasn't long before I was getting sharp stabbing pains in my gut - fortunately, I didn't have diarrhea, as there's few places to hide along the TC. Anyhow, my health continued downhill, and I eventually threw up about 10 times. I stopped 2x to nap at the side of the highway; that seemed to help a bit, but I really needed a motel, and Bassano was the nearest place that would have one. I got near the Esso on the hwy at Bassano and just lay down and puked some more - triggered by the smell if manure - and slept.

It must have been after 22:00 by now as it was pretty dark, but I really didn't care at that point. Suddenly someone is shaking me awake. Apparently, they thought I might be dead. They offered me a ride to wherever in their pickup truck, but I knew it was more trouble getting my bike unloaded and then put in the truck, so I thanked them and said I'd walk to the motel, only about 1/2km from where I was. So, I walked - for the 1st time on this tour - to the nearby motel (I hope you'll all let me off the hook for that short walk!).

I entered the motel office and there was no place to sit, and I knew I would not be able to handle the smell of cooking wafting from the owner's kitchen, so I went back outside the office and lay down on the sidewalk. A short while later, a trucker, who had arrived just prior to me, came out and said 'What's up, buddy?'. I told him I suspected food poisoning, and asked him if he would check me in. He agreed and I gave him my driver's license and credit card. The motel owner came out and escorted me to my room. So, I rolled the bike in, called Susan and passed out.

Susan later told me that she would've come out to get me if she knew what town I was in. Hmmm, make a mental note here: don't tell Susan where I am or I'll never make it to Cape Spear, NF!

Shortly after, I'm assuming, the owner is shaking me awake and wants to drive me to the hospital. I'm confident I'll be fine in a while, and thank him and decline his offer. He showed me a larger bed I could sleep on in my suite - I had just collapsed on the nearest one, and also brought me a bottled water as the tap water isn't very tasty here. Well, I woke up quite a few times the rest of the night in considerable pain. . Btw, I did not see any other cyclists all day - where are they all?

Day 24 - July 6 - Mon

Bassano, AB - rest day after being sick

Eventually, 08:30 rolls around and I wake up feeling fine! I sure was going to be staying an extra day in Bassano to rest up, though! I have no idea what the root cause of the suspected food poisoning was. I have some ideas, though: I should clean my water bottles more thoroughly; I should throw out any opened foods more than a few days old; I should wash my hands thoroughly after touching salamanders and breaking camp ('crap' on the ground and tent), etc.

The motel owner checked up on me shortly after I woke up, and for all I know, during the night. That was kinda nice! His name is Newman Lui and he and his wife run the Prairie Schooner* Motel. I got Newman's photo and promised him a postcard from St. John's. Newman brought me a couple of nectarines later on to aid in my recovery, plus supplied some bleach to clean out my water bottles. Prairie people are so nice and caring!

For the rest of my rest day (?!), I rehydrated, went into downtown Bassano - which is 2km from the TC where the motel is - did laundry, and stocked up on groceries, including a nice pasta diner to make in my room. I roamed the town and took photos of some of the older buildings, not to mention the old CPR station. The station used to be a beauty but sure could do with some TLC now - I wouldn't be surprised if it were eligible to be a protected heritage building.

While walking back to my motel, I saw a '72 Chevy Impala sedan - the one with the inward-curved rear window - driven by an older gentleman. Wow - that was my 1st car and cost me $400 used back in '77 or '78! The one I saw looked to be in great shape and was probably the guy's 'daily' driver! I wanted a photo but alas, I was on foot and couldn't catch up. :-(

Tomorrow, I head for Medicine Hat, AB, about 160km from Bassano.

* What the heck is a 'prairie schooner'? According to www.wordnetweb.princeton.edu it is a ¨large wagon with broad wheels and an arched canvas top, used by US pioneers to cross the prairies in the 19th century¨

Day 25 - July 7 - Tue

Bassano, AB - Medicine Hat, AB - 159km

Well, I felt pretty good when I woke up, but in hindsight my gut bothered me off and on all day, so I'm obviously still recovering. Fortunately, I didn't have to make any emergency bathroom breaks - there certainly ain't no privacy anywhere at the side of the TC!

Anyhow, for brekky, I made myself a large pot of oatmeal and put some yogurt in top of that. I was out of my room by 08:00, and, Newman, the motel owner, was there to see me off, admonishing me not to do too many miles, ¨do I have enough air in my tires?¨, and ¨how's my water situation?¨!! I assured him I am used to doing a lot of miles, etc., and thanked him profusely for looking after me.

Again, everything worked out for me in the end, although yesterday's journey - puking at the side if the TC for almost 36km - leaves something to be desired. I've been looking for a 'slogan' for my tour... perhaps: ¨What doesn't kill me, will make me stronger!¨.

I rode pretty well non-stop to Brooks, AB, from Bassano, which was 50+km. I had some pretty good tailwinds on that stretch, typically riding at 25 - 30km/h. Jeez, Brooks has all the big box stores for such a small town, e.g., The Brick, Wal-Mart, and pretty well any other national name brand one could find in Vancouver! It's like consumer heaven! However, I couldn't find a small mom & pop breakfast place so I settled on Smitty's and got my first omelette of the tour, which included 3 small pancakes that I couldn't finish. As I said, I''m still recovering!

There didn't seem to be many services from Brooks to the next major town, Suffield, AB, but that was no problem, as I had enough food and water with me. The TC shoulder has consistently been about 2.5 to 3.0m wide and smooth and clean since I got on it near Strathmore. The vast majority of drivers have given me tons of room when passing. I'm lucky if a truck gives me 1/3m space at home, even if the truck has a lane to the left to move to. So, there are positives to the TC, but shucks, it sure is BORING.

Sometimes I can't remember the last few minutes of riding because I find I'm lost in thought, aka 'daydreaming'. I arrived in Suffield at the 118km mark, and the highway sign said it was still 1km. I rode the 1km and found I was out of town! I think an arrow must had fallen off the sign and I should have taken a left at the sign - although there didn't seem like a lot to the left, and nothing but train tracks to the right.

No problem. I found a rare shady spot and made myself tuna bagels for lunch. The tailwinds became a kind of crosswinds after Brooks, and continued all the way to Medicine Hat. My speed also dropped closer to 20km/h.

Where the heck are all the other cyclists? Again, I have not seen one other touring cyclist going either way, all day long!

For the night, I'm tenting at the Wild Rose Trailer Park. They boast free wifi, but you can't access it from your campsite - you have to sit outside the office. Oh well, one can't really complain at $15/nite.

Tomorrow's destination? It'll be somewhere in SK, but I haven't figured out where yet - the lack of a SK accomodation guide doesn't help. Eventually, I will get to the SK 'Welcome Centre' about 40km past the border. Plans for SK include riding as much as possible on the Red Coat Trail, as long as there are adequate campgrounds for me.

Thoughts for the day: One thing I find rather disgusting is seeing USED diapers on the shoulders of the roads I'm riding. What's up with that?

Day 26 - July 8 - Wed

Medicine Hat, AB - Maple Creek, SK - 108km

Woke up to find out that it had rained during the night. Not a big deal since the sun was already shining around 06:30. I packed up a bit then headed over to the nearby Petrocan restaurant for the usual pancakes (only 3).

On the way back to my campsite, I chatted with ¨Art, the old fart¨ - yup, that's how he introduced himself - who helps run the campsite. Art heads down to Phoenix, AZ in the winters to help run another place, too. Not a bad life, it seems to me!

I resumed packing and a campsite neighbour, aged 71, came over to look over my bike. He liked my Brookes B-17 saddle and then brought over his British Carradice bag. I actually breifly considered a Carradice bag, if I added a front rack to my fork crown (in addition to the Tubus front rack). Nice bags, albeit heavy.

By the time I'd located a relatively small-sized grocery store and topped up on my supplies, it was 11:15. I'm doing way to much talking these days! So, today was a late start. My first real stop was the Alberta Tourist Info centre on the AB-SK border. Not much there for me, but I prepared myself a small meal from my supplies. I then rode on for a few more clicks and took a photo of myself at the SK border.

Province #3 - whoo-hoo! Only 7 more to go! The next major stop was the SK tourist info, which was on the TC, near Maple Creek, SK. I obtained info on campgrounds before, and at Gull Lake, SK, my target for the night, which was another 75km or so. I also ascertained the availability of campgrounds along the Red Coat Trail. I was told it should not be an issue. I then mentioned that I had not seen any cyclists for almost 5 days, and the tourist info ladies said one had just been in a few hours ago, and he had enquired about other cyclists, too. The ladies also said he was dropping down to the Red Coat Trail right there at Maple Creek. I figured this had to be Neil of Campbell River, who I had met on the ferry from Pt. Hardy to Prince Rupert. I knew he was doing the Red Coat Trail, as I was, so I figured we could partner for a few days, as I also remembered he was stopping in Moose Jaw.

So, I diverted from my original destination of Gull Lake and headed down to the Maple Creek campground, about 9 km away. As I finished checking in, Neil indeed did show up, returning from a shopping trip. It was nice to see a familiar and friendly face! I asked Neil if he wanted company on the Red Coat Trail and he said ¨Sure!¨. So, since I'm 'crashing' Neil's party, I told Neil not to change any of his plans on account of me. Neil's plans for tomorrow were to ride to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, approx. 30km south of Maple Creek. Neil does less mileage/day than I do, but he hasn't taken 1 rest day yet since leaving Campbell River, whereas I've taken 4 rest days. So our riding styles are different. Anyhow, we both went back into town from the campsite so I could get some groceries, plus we went for a beer.

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