Even though I had a delayed flight from Sydney, I made the bus I was booked on that would take me from Calgary to Banff. Beginning from Banff was only because I could get a frequent flyer ticket to Calgary and not to Whitefish or similar. The bus driver seemed shocked that I hadn’t arranged accommodation in Banff, as I had planned just to rock up to the closest campground, but I ended up getting a bed at the youth hostel. I walked into town, had a half decent meal (and a couple of fantastic beer- poured into an ice cold glass, the beer froze at the bottom then floated to the top), but was puzzled by the waitress. She was young and good looking, and kept flirting with me, I thought she may just be working the tip ("Hi! Welcome to Raisins!"), but I took it as she wanted me .
I had hoped to get going by midday the next day in order to shorten the distances I had to ride per day to get to the start, but after shopping for rainpants, getting the bike put back together (and taking it to a shop to bend the derailleur hanger back), posting off my travelling clothes, and slicing the sidewall of the rear tyre, it was about 1700. It had rained most of the time I had been there, and after the tyre mishap, I was a little demoralised. (Retrospective- I had put pressure on myself to get to Eureka quickly, and by riding the 200 miles over 5.5 days, because I was unsure about how far I could easily ride per day. This stress was not necessary, in the future I would do it in a couple of days easily). After having dinner at the franchised spaghetti place (“The pastas are quite large- most people aren’t able to eat a whole one by themselves”- Yeah right, two pastas, several beers, and a loaf of bread later I was asking what they had for dessert), I was feeling a little better, and amazed by the several daylight hours that I had left, I set off in the rain.
Canada Riding Day One: Banff to Spray Lakes: 17.9 miles
Reading the local paper in Banff, there was a bear attack on the same trail that I was riding, only a few days before, but I spent most of the time looking at the scenery- fast flowing rivers and massive chunks of rock behind them are quite impressive. I made good progress and stopped for the night besides Spray Lakes Reservoir when it started to get cold and windy.
Canada Day Two: Spray Lakes to Elkford: 91.7 miles
The trail beside the lake was closed due to backburing, but I wasn’t about to ride several miles back to go around- the trail was safe anyway, being so close to the water. My morale took a hit not long after passing Canyon Dam- incessant rain and lots of clothing made me loose my cool. So, I pushed for about 500 metres, then got sick of that and started riding again.
Spray Lakes Reservoir
The gravel road through the Peter Lougheed Park was of good quality, and had fantastic views (I can understand why I saw so many tourists), but tiring (Retro- I had ridden only 30 miles, but my mental capacity for riding long distances was pretty small. I would get used to riding as the days went on- those first few days I would get bored quickly, and 10 or 20 miles seemed like a long way. But, by telling myself to shut up and keep riding (and by going into dreamland) I was able to ride all day without wanting to stop by the time I got to Mexico).
I saw two black bears (mother and cub) sitting on the gravel road, but before I could whip the camera out, a motorbike tourist had honked his horn and they had run away. I tried to stretch my quads at the Boulton Creek trading post (Uh Oh! Already?), and got a hot meal, the again set out in the rain to ride Elk Pass. The elevation gain was not a problem, but the mud at the top was. Luckily, the sun came out for the descent and it stayed that way for the rest of the day. After reading some info on bears, I thought that they would not pose a threat, but on that descent, I realised why people carry whistles- coming around a corner at speed and colliding with a bear would not be pretty.
Descent into Boulton Creek
The road to Elkford was long, but with amazing mountain ranges running down both sides of the trail. I met two guys with trailers, who I mistakenly thought were racing.
For most of the ride so far, the three computers I brought have been only working intermittently. They would take it in turns to give me info, so that most of my navigation was done by looking at the directions and terrain on the map. Made the last few miles into Elkford even harder as I underestimated the distance and picked up the pace. It wasn’t raining in Elkford, just overcast. I got an expensive room in a motel as I didn’t want to sleep out in the rain, then rode down to the only restaurant I could find. I was the only one in the seafood (with Chinese buffet) restaurant, and I put down a whole lot of food. I sat up for a few hours watching tv, eating fatty food from the servo, and icing my knees.
The road to Elkford