A few days before reaching Prince George (last blog) I stopped for a drink at a small settlement called Fort Fraser. There I chatted to a Dutchman called Bill. Bill had ridden across Canada a year or so before so understood the trials and long haul nature of cycling. Three days and one hundred and eighty kilometres later, I was camped in a riverside rest stop. Seven o'clock next morning I heard a car pull up, and a voice calling my name. It was Bill on his way to Vancouver, checking every campsite to track me down. His parting gift was a coffee card for a major coffee shop chain (Tim Hortons). Just a small touch of random generosity, greatly appreciated.
I was now starting the climb into the real Rockies, a climb that would take six days to complete, through the towns of McBride and then east to Jasper. Jasper reconnected me with Julian (who I rode from Dawson to Whitehorse with). I was carrying his bear bangers which he didn't want to get confiscated at the USA border. I was to deliver these to his friends, Gary and Claude in Jasper. Gary immediately invited me to stay. The stay started with a refreshing swim in local Lake Edith, complete with elk swimming across from an island in the lake. Gary and Claude dined and entertained me and gave me the luxury of a real bed. Another act of greatly appreciated random generosity.
Left behind in BC were something like 300 raging bushfires. The legacy to the east was a thick pall of hazy smoke and and orange glowing sun. The mountains were turned to bluish silhouettes, layer after layer. From Jasper the real climb started, surreal ghostly mountains in the smoke haze. I had crossed the Continental Divide way back on the Alaska highway, but now the peaks were getting serious, not the babies I thought were so big a month ago. Signs said heights of 3000 metres or 10,000 feet. The pedals became a lot heavier.
I was now on the Icefields Parkway. My head was constantly back at an angle of 45 degrees. Both sides these peaks loomed. I wasn't the only tourist here, when the day ended the campgrounds were packed. I didn't have the energy for another 100 km to the next. Head was down and sulky as I scoured Wilcox camp for any small nook I could sneak my tent into. A cheery voice called "you can camp on our site". Frank and Kim were from Saskatoon. As soon as I had squeezed my tent beside their truck, a red wine was thrust into my hands. My needs were apparent from the body language. Kim resurrected Franks dying fire, Jasper their dog inspected my quinoa meal and walked away in disgust. Conversation started and I enjoyed some great company. The random generosity touched me again. Kim even disappeared with my billy into their caravan and returned with an object unrecognisable without its two months baked on food spills. I departed next morning with an invitation to Saskatoon. Route under revision.
Next day dawned with clear sky. The monster hills showed rocks and ice without their blue shroud. The ride was reduced to half-a-kilometre, photo, turn a corner, photo... The climb reached its peak, the road spiralled downward, rivers began to run the opposite direction, plunging into to deep gushing canyons. It was a visual and scenic feast. I briefly was engulfed in a cycling tour group. The speed and competitive streak crept upward. I looked up, what had I missed in those 20 kilometres? Sense prevailed, I pulled out and stopped for a drink at a tourist hub. A young woman and her friend shyly approached me. She had walked 24 hours for cancer after losing a best friend. They both handed a donation. I was humbled and quickly put back on track.
The day cruised on photo after photo. It ended in Lake Louise, another tourist hub. Everything full. Last resort one of 5 beds in a small hostel room. Happy to escape early next morning down to the kitchen for usual oat bran, nuts and cranberry raisins. The day started with texts from both Trish and Wayne, friends my Africa ride and more recently the New Zealand ride. Trish provided detailed instructions to their house in Exshaw, and Wayne an invitation to join him for lunch in Banff.
Despite being totally comfortable with Trish's instructions, I was approached by two "I have cycled everywhere" cycle touring specialists. The route option competition escalated, highway numbers fired like machine gun bullets. I smiled and tried not to look at my watch too many times. Gratefully I finally headed out the gate on Trish's route. I was treated to the peace of a quiet road, continued scene fest, a gradual downhill and a tail wind. A cyclists dream day.
Reuniting first with Wayne in Banff then Trish was the culmination of years of planning, it seemed surreal that it had come together. Wayne and Trish invited me into their house with huge warmth. This was old friend generosity of the best kind.
Recently Wayne set the Masters over 60 years World record for a ultra-marathon 24 hour running. A staggering 214 km - more than 5 continuous marathons. I am dreading what lays in store for my "rest" days.
Another State Border - just before Jasper
Jasper a tourist town with some character
The real Rockies begin
Boe River Lake Louise to Exshaw
Trish and Wayne lead me into the woods of their backyard
Thanks to my rest day hosts
Up to my knees on "rest day"