Monday, August 31, 2009

Glacier trip day Six

Worlds largest truck

Crowsnest Pass

Mountains behind

Prairies ahead


How they party in Pincher Creek

What tired looks like

Campsite in Pincher Creek



Fernie to Pincher Creek



Stats:

7 hours, 36 minutes

135.65 kilometers

Average speed 17.9 km/h

Max speed 56.4 km/h

I was up at 5:00 to pack and load up. I was first in line to get my free breakfast at the Super 8. And the only one in line at 5:50. It seems to me that the free hotel breakfasts are improving, and I got my money's worth for sure.

It was still dark when I started out and it was raining. So on with the rain gear and off towards Sparwood. Thankfully the traffic was pretty light that time of day. I was glad I had lights and blinkies this morning.

By Sparwood the rain had stopped, the sun was out and it was time for a coffee. There is a little museum and displays about mining in the area and it features “The World's Largest Truck”. It seems a lot of people think this is a big deal. Before I saw it I thought it was a pretty lame thing to get excited about. But I ended up taking some pictures when I saw it. That thing is bigger than my house. Pretty impressive.

I got a coffee and a brownie, took off the rain gear and buttered up for the hot day ahead. The night before in Fernie, I had called my uncle in Lethbridge and he offered to meet me for coffee the next day in Coleman. He said it was his way of being part of my trip in some way, since he was unable to join me.

Our rendezvous was about 70 kilometers into my day and I got there around lunch time. He found me on the highway a bit west of town, took most of my gear in his car and went to wait for me at the bakery. I'd forgotten what an unloaded bike felt like.

My uncle Fred is hardcore. He has done several tours, the most impressive to me is the solo ride from Inuvik to Houston in about 8 weeks. Drinking out of ditches, stealth camping and outrunning bugs up North. He's a stud. He would have been on this trip with me except he was in the middle of a move.

Fred bought me lunch and we swapped touring stories for a bit. He went through my gear and we culled some more weight. I was now at the lightest I could achieve with limitations of my camping gear. Removing that weight really made a difference. The load was lighter and much lower on the trailer and it made the bike handle way better. Next time I'll take less stuff for sure.

The rest of the day was hot, hot, hot. And very hilly. This would be the hardest day of the trip with the distance, the heat and the rolling hills. I had a rear flat on a very steep hill and had to lay everything down in the ditch to change it. Flats suck.

I made Pincher Creek about supper time and went to the visitor center to get some camping info. There were two campgrounds in town, and I took their recommendation and headed to the mobile home park/campground. A bit of a step down from the last few days for sure.

The random groups of drunks wandering around town didn't make me feel great about camping right in town. And the shouting match that turned into a fight right across the street from where I had supper didn't help much either. The RCMP had to come to put and end to the shoving and yelling, hauling two guys away to sleep it off. I guess that's how they roll in Pincher Creek on a Friday night.

I got back to camp, had a shower and a few 'sports drinks' strictly for hydration purposes of course. In the tent by 8:30 to get away from the bugs. I dozed on and off while the drunk guys next door blabbed by the fire. But they shut down at 11:00 just like the rules say, and I had a very restful night.

Glacier trip day five

Morning on Dickey Lake



The Cutting Board



It works in the magazines



Airport Road north of Eureka



These guys have the right idea



Dickey Lake to Fernie, BC

Stats:

6 hours, 39 minutes

117.96 kilometers

Average speed 17.7 km/h

Max speed 56.6 km/h


I woke up at 4:38 this morning feeling really buzzed. Maybe too much sun yesterday? Or not enough water? I drank two bottles overnight to try to catch up and still woke up feeling pretty rugged. Packed up and on the road early.

A few miles up the road, I was on a steep climb when I heard heavy breathing behind me. I was freaked when I turned around and saw a bear chasing me! I sprayed it with my bottle, yelled and even stopped and tried to scare it off.

It was a magnificent yet endearingly charismatic creature, obviously intelligent and emotionally complex. I could see that in it's eyes. There was a soul in there. But it is a wild and dangerous soul.

It was snarling and snapping at me. At one point in got hold of my pant leg and tried to pull me down. It was clear now: It was going to be him or me. Pushed to the breaking point, I grabbed a broken beer bottle from the side of the road and slit it's throat.

After that, something primal took over. Before I really knew what was happening, I had dug out the hunting knife I always carry camping, and had gutted and skinned the bear. Right about then the rednecks from the day before pulled alongside.

They offered me a Bud Light tall boy, which I gratefully accepted since I had worked up quite a thirst in all of that work. They had some rags to clean the blood off my hands. They also took the hide which they are making into a bearskin coat for me, and they gave me $15,000 for the gall bladder.

Sweet. My trip was paid for and I can buy a touring bike for next year's trip. But I am getting ahead of myself. Once we had cleaned ourselves up, finished the Bud's and spread the entrails along the ditch for the crows, we had a solemn moment together.

As Ted Nugent says, it is a serious and very spiritual thing to kill an animal. I scrolled through the playlist on my IPod to find Cat Scratch Fever, put my hand over my heart, and had a moment. I feel like the spirit of the bear somehow empowered me the rest of the day. Hard to explain, it's a gut kind of thing.

I continued north on Highway 93 and the traffic was very light. I met two guys in Eureka who were riding the Great Divide mountain bike route. They were taking a week to do the section from Banff to Kalispell Montana. Both riding full squish and pulling BOB trailers.

After that it was time for my second breakfast at The Cutting Board. It's in a renovated old building with tons of character. The owner is a cyclist and they seemed very happy to see me. I had the best piece of carrot cake ever. And of course a lot of coffee. It took me a long time to get motivated to get moving again.

Eventually I slathered up with sunscreen and hit the road. Just north of town was another ACA alternate route. A nice quiet two lane road through the country which featured the steepest climb of the entire trip. This is purely subjective because I don't have a GPS, but it was killer. Good thing it was really short. Again, beautiful views and basically no traffic.

The back road took me right to the border and I made the easiest crossing into Canada ever. Must be the bike. I went into the bathroom and filled my bottles. Then I noticed the big sign on the mirror saying the water wasn't potable. Doh.

The stretch from the border to the intersection with Highway 3 was very scenic, no traffic and really hot: perfect. Only problem was the BOB tire. I had patched it the day before, but it wasn't holding air. I patched it again, but the tube was pretty old and rotten. Yes, I should have put in a new one before leaving. And the spare one I bought at MEC was the wrong size.

It got to the place where I would have to fill it every 30 minutes, then down to 15 minutes so I stopped to try some fixes. First, the old tie a knot in the tube trick. It didn't hold air. Then I tried to cut my spare 26” tube, knotted it and pumped it up. It leaked too.

Then in desperation I tried the stuff it with grass method I had read about in Mountain Bike Action years ago. Not so good. All this screwing around took an hour or more and I was getting pretty fed up with it.

So with eight kilometers to the next town I just rode it flat. All the way to town I was weighing my options. I could try to find someone with a kids bike and buy the tube and tire off it. Or I could hitchhike to Fernie, buy a tire and tube, hitchhike back and fix it. Or I could phone a shop in Fernie and pay them to bring me the spare.

That's a stout little tire, no damage to the rim. So I arrived at the much anticipated ice cream and burger joint in Elko. The other journals I read gave this place high marks. And while I was in line a guy pulled up with a bunch of bikes on a rack. And one was a kids bike with the right size tire.

I offered him $40 cash, more than double its value. But no, he had searched really hard to find those tires and couldn't part with them. Yeah right. They came on the bike at Canadian Tire and he could go buy ten more that size any time. What a load of crap.

So that option exhausted, I went searching for a phone. There was a gas station and Kal Tire just up the road. I phoned the only shop in Fernie, explained my plight and he took my cell number and promised to see what he could do. He called to say that a customer in the shop was headed my way and she would bring my tire and tube. Fantastic.

I wanted to pay him by credit card, he said just to come into the shop when I got to Fernie. What a guy. So I sat in the shade with a bag of chips and a Coke waiting for my angel. I got the spare, mounted it and hit the road.

Now I was heading east on Highway 3. This was by far the busiest section of road the whole trip. Heavy traffic with about a foot of shoulder. But again, super courteous traffic. It was a non issue. Manitoba drivers could sure learn a thing or two from the way it is out west.

I got to Fernie late in the day, pretty pooped from the heat and my tire drama. That and the fact that all of my clothes were dirty warranted a stay in the Super 8 to use the laundry. Luxury.

Lesson learned? Next time new tires all around and Mr Tuffy tire liners or Slime. Flats suck with a loaded bike and trailer.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

FGD Challenge Update—Post Provinicial ITT

Mike did us proud again by taking second place in his category at the Provincial Individual Time Trial. Good performance, Mike!

It's not confirmed, but it's suspected that no FGBC riders took part in today's race against the clock. So, unless we're wrong, today's race gives us a 22-0 win for the day. In the overall, RRR's advantage is extended to 37 points, but that will likely change after tomorrow's start to the cyclocross season.

Glacier Trip day four

Scenic detour



Ranch house



Ranch number two



Highway 93



The view from my tent at Dickey Lake



West Glacier to Dickey Lake

Stats:

6 hours, 59 minutes

118.41 kilometers

Average speed 16.9 km/h

Max speed 49.7 km/h

The day started cool but it was sunny and calm. I used the Adventure Cycling Association’s map. It’s worth buying. They have detours to take you off the main highway at several high traffic areas.

Leaving the park in the morning, I was a little depressed about it. It is so beautiful that I expected everything else to be a let down. There was no need to worry. I spent most of the day riding in a river valley with mountains on both sides.

I stopped for a second breakfast in Columbia Falls, and had something called a Buck Shot or Body Shot. Two shots of espresso and the rest dark roast coffee, to wash down my five-dollar brownie. Mmmm.

By the time I finished my coffee it was getting warm and I could peel off the jacket and knee warmers. I rode to Whitefish to find Glacier Cyclery, a shop that many people who tour on this route recommend. I bought a SRAM chain, put it on, and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way.

Leaving the shop they warned me about how terrible and dangerous the highway was for the next four miles. Phooey. These people have no idea. It was better than most any highway riding in Manitoba.

I took the Adventure Cycling detour on a back road through ranches. If I ever come into a big pile of money, I will buy a place right there. It was gorgeous. It was perfect riding conditions, warm, no wind, amazing scenery, pure bliss until I had a flat on the BOB. I patched the tube but that story would get much more complicated over the next day and a half.

The rest of day I rode north on Highway 93, and the shoulder was only about a foot wide, sometimes less. It was smoking hot and there was moderate traffic, but the drivers were very courteous. Maybe riding with a trailer buys you more space on the road? Only one yahoo in a truck all day, and that was in Whitefish. Amazing.

At an afternoon break in the tiny town of Olney, I bought a Coke and a chocolate milk at the local hardware store. While I sat drinking them in the little two foot strip of shade I could find, a pickup pulled up right in front of me. Two filthy guys jumped out and they left it running with the AC on. They looked like they had been wrestling in coal dust all day and I was glad I was doing my work on the bike.

One of them gave me a look of scorn, and I thought I was going to have some trouble with the locals. But they strode in and came out with a tall can of Bud Light each, got in the truck and drove off. Road rockets on a hot day. Now that's country living.

I camped in Dickey Lake, a little state park right beside the highway. There is a big lake and it is obviously a popular spot with the locals. Lots of boats pulling skiers, wake boarders and kids on tubes. Not the most peaceful spot when I arrived.

The old guy who runs the campground let me camp for free since I was traveling by bike. Very nice of him. He told me he spent his honeymoon in Winnipeg. That was three marriages ago, so maybe that wasn't the best start.

The cyclist's camping is in the day use picnic area right beside the lake. The campground was up the hill and way back from the shoreline. It was definitely the best spot in the place. I chatted with a local guy who had recently lost his job at the sawmill where he had worked all his life. They were paying for him to back to college. I hope things work out for him.

It was a beautiful spot. No showers though. Not ideal after a long hot day of riding.

Glacier Trip day three

My morning commute to Apgar Village in Glacier NP



Sunrise on Lake McDonald



Shuttle stop



Riding shotgun on the shuttle bus



Old dock on St Mary lake



Bridge to Baring Falls



Baring Falls



Grizzly baiting on the way to St Mary Falls



Waterfall on Highline Trail



Worth a thousand words



Highline Trail with my new buddy



Bishops Cap, I think



The view above Logan Pass visitor center



Touring Glacier National Park

I had planned to spend Tuesday touring the park. It just didn't seem right to roll through such a beautiful place and not spend any time there. The park staff had suggested a few good day hikes so that was the plan for the day.

I rode the three miles back to the Park, most of it on an asphalt path through the forest and locked my bike to a tree. The Park operates a shuttle service that is free, and has stops all along the Going to the Sun road. I bought a coffee in Apgar Village and made it to the bus stop for about 7:30. I rode the shuttle to Logan Pass, the highest point on the road. The day before it was so foggy I couldn’t see anything, but today it was totally clear.

There was a handful of seniors on the bus when I got on, all up early and ready for a day in the park. Very impressive. I met a guy on the bus and we hiked together for the morning. He was originally from the area near the park, and after years living elsewhere he had moved home to retire. He has a lot of Canadian golf buddies from Lethbridge and our conversation ranged from cars to environmental issues to staying in shape to health care. For us old timers, health care is a hot topic you know.

We hiked part of the Highline Trail, one of the most popular in the park. It isn't hard to see why: the views were amazing and there were wildflowers everywhere. Apparently they have had an unusually cool and wet summer too, and it isn't normal for there to be flowers in bloom this late, it's usually too hot and dry. Recent rain had started all the little waterfalls running again, so that was pretty good timing for me.

My new friend was a great tour guide since he’d been coming to Glacier all his life. Almost twenty years older than me, he was fit enough to set a fine pace for the two of us for our three hours together. It was interesting to me that at least half of the people we saw hiking were older than me, and all looked very lean and fit. And most of the people we saw who were younger than me were more of the typical American body size. Um, not so lean or fit looking.

We saw several bighorn sheep right up close. He had a great grizzly bear story from a camping trip in the area when he was a kid. They all lived but had a pretty good scare. Apparently a grizzly has never attacked a group of three or more. But there are attacks and deaths in the park regularly. A bit sobering.

After parting ways, I headed to the east side of the park with the goal of hiking to three waterfalls. About three kilometers into that one, my legs just gave up. And I was a little spooked hiking alone after all the grizzly mauling stories I had just heard. I retreated to the shuttle and went for lunch.

I finished the day in Apgar Village on the west side of the park. There were some people playing those giant German trumpets in the park in full Alpine kit. I wandered the gift shops which made me miss my family, since that is something we have all enjoyed on holidays in other resort towns like this.

A great day and I am glad I took the day off to see a bit of the Park.

Friday, August 28, 2009

They're Here!

Just in time for cyclocross season!


To those that ordered, watch your inbox.

Waterton Glacier trip Day Two


My little cabin in the mountains, morning in Saint Mary



Saint Mary Lake on Going to the Sun road



Here is where the real climbing started



Summit at Logan Pass



6 % downhill for 12 miles



It's pretty hard to keep your eyes on the road



My afternoon rest spot



Not a bad place to kill a couple of hours



My campground in West Glacier








St. Mary to West Glacier, Montana


Stats:

5 hours, 34 minutes

94.33 kilometers

Average speed 16.9 km/h

Max speed 52.9 km/h

This was the day I had been afraid of: The climb up Going to the Sun road. It is one of those must drive/must ride roads. More here: http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/goingtothesunroad.htm

It turned out to be one of the best days of riding I had ever had. The weather was warm and sunny, no wind and the mountain air really does seem cleaner. And the scenery was breathtaking. I took a ton of pictures and each one made the previous one seem like it was a wasted shot.

It was gradual climbing until I hit the real climb. I spent about 80 minutes shifting between my 22 X 34 and 22 X 30. And trying not to panic. There was no let up in the grade that whole time. Nothing I've ever ridden comes close to that climb. But I lived. And actually really enjoyed it.

At the summit is the Logan Pass Visitor Center, and I felt like I had earned a coffee and a pastry. No such luck. No restaurant up there. Next time I’ll have to pack a thermos of coffee. It was barely above freezing and so foggy I couldn’t see a thing. So I put on all the riding clothes I had and headed down hill.

After crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, I saw a sign that read: 6% grade next 12 miles. Sweet. 50 plus was easy and I had to brake constantly to avoid rear ending the cars.

They restrict the hours that cyclists can ride certain sections of the road, so I had to wait about 20 kilometers from the west end of the road in a picnic area beside Lake MacDonald for two and a half hours. Napping and reading on a Monday afternoon. That’s what holidays are for.

I finished the day on the west side of the park in the town of West Glacier. I camped at a private campground for $10 a night and had the tenting area and the picnic shelter to myself. Kraft dinner for supper and off to bed.

Day two done. Lesson learned? I can climb a lot longer than I thought I could.

Waterton Glacier trip Day One



Welcome to Montana



The US border



My RV. Next time, less crap



Rain. Not exactly the start I had pictured



What a dork



The first of many climbs



Day one

Waterton to St Mary, Montana

Stats:

4 hours, 58 minutes

79.7 kilometers

Average speed 16.0 km/h

Max speed 54.6 km/h

I started my ride at the junction of Highway 5 and Highway 6 just outside of Waterton National Park.

My brother in law was kind enough to get up very early on a Sunday morning to drive me to the starting point. Thanks Rich. It was about 7 degrees and raining. The empty roads, beautiful scenery, paved shoulders made it easier to put up with a little rain.

If the speeds seem low, it's because I had way too much weight and because my pace was somewhere between 'barely moving' and 'leisurely'. And I spent many years scaring myself on motorcycles, so I wasn't too interested in maxing out the top speed on the descents. There was just enough of a wobble that it kept my attention going downhill.

I had installed a new chain and cassette two days before leaving and that should ensure a trouble free drivetrain, yes? Well about 20 kilometers into the day on a down shift I dropped the chain and tried to shift it back on. I twisted a link in this episode, and things weren’t so good after that. The chain skipped every couple of revolutions, so it was pedal, skip, jar the knees, peddle, skip, and so on all day.

It made climbing hills a little tougher than they already are. Since the chain was new I assumed it wouldn’t need any attention, and I didn’t have a spare chain pin. Oops.

I got to St. Mary, Montana at about 2:30 and checked into a camping cabin at the KOA. It was great to have a heater to dry out gear and I was expecting to do some bike maintenance which is how I justified being a softie and sleeping in a cabin.

I talked to every person I saw with a bike rack hoping someone might have a spare 9 speed Shimano chain pin. No luck. That's a great way to meet new people. "I see you ride bike. You wouldn't happen to have a spare Shimano 9 speed chain pin would you?"

At the park visitor center they offered their tool box, and which contained two pairs of Vise grip pliers. I grabbed both ends of the offending link and straightened it to the point where it worked almost like new.

Day one in the books. Lesson learned? Don’t assume new parts won’t break.

Carla und Henriette

Young Luc may have some bike skilz, but Carla und Henriette kick his skinny ass.

Bike chicks are awesome. This is how it's done.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

FGD Challenge Update

There's been a couple events since the last update - the first of the fall crits and the Eddy Merckx ITT.

Though not the only to show up, Jonny G was the only FGD Challenge participant to actually race in Tuesday night's crit. His 3rd place finish was good for 20 more points to the FGBC's total. That put them up by 16 points overall.

Last night, only RRR riders chose to participate in the Eddy Merckx "retro rules" ITT. Mike, who finished in 4th, and Brad, who hung on to a top 10 placement, stepped up to help RRR reclaim the overall lead by scoring a total of 31 points.

With just a 15-point variance, I present today's scoreboard:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August 25, 2009: Bad Things in 3s

Yesterday I awakened with the usual excitment saved only for Tuesdays. First, Monday is over; that's a good thing. Second, there's the weekly TNR ritual with the FGBC brethern. And, on this particular Tuesday, the first of the fall crit races.

Despite all the good in store for the day, things went didn't start off on the right note. Soon after putting on a pot of coffee I realized my weekend at the cottage had exposed me to lots of poison ivy. Both legs, both forearms, and several knuckles were burning with little red blisters. Great! The scalding hot water treatment did the trick again and gave me reprieve for most of the day.

The rest of the day was uneventful, if not a productive day at work. The poison ivy took a back seat to my daydreaming of racing in my first-ever crit race. How would I do? What would the competition be like after they combined the different categories into A and B fields? Would anybody from the FGBC be there to contest my dream of earning some big points towards the FGD Challenge? Time would tell in just a few short hours.

Having not raced in a road event this year, I arrived early to sign-in and get a number. Shortly after my arrival I was told the race was cancelled due to an oil slick on the course. "What? You got to be kidding me!" Apparently I had wrestled with butterflies all day for nothing. I called up Larry to inform him of the cancellation and save him a trip across the city before riding home to salvage some time with the kids before their bedtime. Poison ivy and now a cancelled race...grrr.

Well, at least the TNR will prove to be what salvages a disappointing evening, right? Things started off on a slow and casual note, which was cool. Lots of guys were out, so it was fun to chat and talk about the upcoming cyclocross season and watch young Luc and Johnny M taunt fate with their bike antics (I recall Brad and me saying they're asking for a wipeout). Soon we found ourselves following big Tom K's lead as he navigated us through what he's planned out for the Bourkevale/Bruce Park cyclocross race. I remember thinking "Cool...can't wait to race this in a few weeks" as we approached a set of stairs going downhill. A few went to the right of the stairs, but I figured the left side was just as good and did my own thing. The next thing I know I was gaining lots of speed, and then sliding down the wet, grassy downhill on my side. Catching the tip of my right shoe while sliding on my right side, my foot was suddenly pointing uphill after an audible "pop". Apart from pain, I don't recall too much of what happened from that point. I was surely in a state of shock as I barely remember smiing for any of Chris' post-crash photos.

What I do remember, however, was Jonny G informing me that the cirt race had indeed taken place earlier in the evening and that he finished a very respectable 3rd in the B race to push the dark side ahead in the FGD Challenge (thanks Jonny...what a great guy for adding insult to injury). Not only had I curtailed my TNR with an unfortuante twist of fate (Luc and Johnny M rode home in one piece as far as I know), but the most anticpated part of my day went on without me.

Poison ivy...a "cancelled" race...and a crippling injury—it sucks to be me.

I spent this morning at the Pan Am Clinic where it was discovered that I have a non-weight bearing fracture (fibula, not the tibia thank goodness) and two ligamental fractures.

The estimated 6 weeks of recovery means I'll miss most of the CX season—an absolute bummer after my spring cyclocross bike purchase. I'm disappointed to say the least, but I guess that leaves me to shoot video and heckle like these guys (you don't have to watch the entire clip to get the idea).




Mmmm...yummy

Thanks to the TNR gang for hanging around as I tried to compose myself and for the good-natured ribbing. A very special thanks goes to Tom K for time trialing back to his place to get his Jeep so I could have a ride home.

Now where'd I put those T3s?