Day 2: more driving. 300+ miles to Banff where our ride starts and we start pedaling. We are both anxious to get started after so many months of preparation.
Riding started on the first day at about 3 pm. Distances are large up here, expect it to take longer.
The first day riding was nothing special. One highlight was when a young guy pulled up next to me on a bridge over a river:
Him, noting all my gear, "where are you headed?"
Me, expecting him to be impressed: "Mexico."
Him, not impressed: "Oh, the great divide. I've done that race a couple times. Finished 2nd in 2012."
Things got better when we stopped for the night. The camp ground was "closed" although we could have just walked in. There was no fence or gate. But neither of us was interested in pissing off the Mounties this early in the trip so we set up camp across the road next to a blue porta-john with a padlock on it. Why was it locked? Why was it even there?
Riding day 2: The day began with a long ride along
side Spring Lakes reservoir. No bears, no moose, but still amazing things to see. Mountains topping out close to 10,000 feet while we pedaled next to them 5000 feet lower.
We ended the day at the Boulton Creek Trading Post campground. It was the closest thing to civilization that we'd seen since the start. Something to remembe when you do this ride: start with as much food as you'll need for the first two days. And don't expect too much at the Boulton Trading Post.
Day 3: Leaving the trading post we headed up. A quarter of a mile at 22% grade. So steep walking was tough. Walking while pushing 50 pound bicycles was even tougher.
Once on top though, we began a long descent with occasional little ups. Near the end of the day, the pilot who dropped us at the start met us again, this time with an oatmeal raisin cookie for each of us. Just a couple miles to town and we'd completed the first 109 miles and arrived at our first town. Real food. Real beds (except we camped, so no beds).
Day 4: A short, easy day. That was the plan. A half mile from camp, the road turned up. The next 2.3 miles was a steady 8% grade, which doesn't sound like much and for a little ways, isn't too bad. But for 2.3 miles? No more easy day. If only we'd known.
At the 13 mile mark, the road was washed away for about 100 yards. 100 feet up to the top, about 60 feet down to the river. After evaluating our options (turning back was out of the question, we'd done a lot of descending on 9 miles), we choose to scramble down to the river bank, cross the 100 yards of loose rocks, then climb the very steep bank while wrestling our 50 pound bikes.
After that it was simply 16 miles of headwinds to get here, the town of Sparwood, where we're taking a day off. The next leg is 110 miles of pretty remote mountain roads. We're hoping to do it in two days but maybe three and that will get us to Montana.
Check out pictures from Paul's tumblr account. http://paulrytlewski.tumblr.com