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Day 10 ~ A Killer Last Day ~ The Day With All the Breakdowns . . . . One Of The Longest Days Ever!!!!

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Chain Lakes Provincial Park ~ Calgary ~ 117 km, 6 hour 15 minutes (supposedly)

Shortly after riding on to the Cowboy Trail towards home, Ryan yelled ahead to Doug. “My back wheel is rubbing.” We all dismounted our bikes to take a look. One of only eighteen spokes was broken and we had 120 kms ahead of us. The wheel was jammed against the frame making it impossible to proceed.

Doug jumped into millwright “McGuyver Mode.” They cut out most of the broken spoke, leaving just enough on each end to twist into loops. Before the final solution was found, a few other strategies were attempted.  After searching the shoulder of the road in both directions, he found piece of wire suitable for the job.

As the sun was blistering down on us, Doug laced the wire between the two loops and then tensioned it by twisting it with an Allen Key. I was hiding in the long grass trying to cool down behind the shadow of a fence post. VOILÀ, after a couple of hours we were back on the road!

Ryan was fairly tentative to ride on his new fangled spoke.  A few hills later, as we approached Longview, more trouble surfaced. h
He couldn’t shift into a higher gear to climb the next hill. Another maintenance stop revealed a broken rear shifter cable. There was no solution to fixing this problem . . . . . he only had two gears he could use ~ fifth and tenth. The rest of the Doug pulled out his bunge-cord tow rope to assist in towing Ryan up the hills. Several stops were made to hook up and unhook the towing rope. The day seemed to drag on as the sun began to lower toward the horizon.

As we crested one of the last hills, we could see skyline of Calgary off in the distance. We celebrated that we only 30 km left to pedal, we had so many mechanical problems today, we thought we were home free!

Not so! Ryan had . . . . . not one, not two, but three flat tires. Argh! It seemed we didn’t have enough trouble yet! We were so ready for this ride to be done. What should have been an easier 6 hour ride, was stretching out to be one of our longest rides going on 11 hours.

As we approached the last two kilometers to Ryan’s house, Doug’s chain broke  . . . . . not once, not twice, but three times. Ryan and I patiently waited while Doug fixed it.  We were so anxious to be finished our ride and couldn’t believe we had so much trouble, all in the same day.  Thankfully this didn’t happen throughout our entire ride!

We turned up the last road with a bit of an incline, about 1k left to go. We heard a crack ~ Doug’s back derailler snapped off and was hanging down, only held up by his chain. It was unbelievable!  We all stopped and looked at each other and laughed so hard. The best part wad the tow rope came out one last time to finish our ride. Marie was waiting for us at the gate to welcome us home. Our adventure was over.

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Day 9 ~ Leaving Blairmore, Past Frank Slide to The Foothills . . . . Oh, The Foothills!

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Blairmore to Chain Lakes Provincial Park ~ 95 km., 5 hours

We were excited to be nearing the highway that would take us toward Calgary, leaving the last few mountain ranges and officially entering the foothills.

As we approached the area of the slide, the road cut through enormous rocks and boulders. Boulders the size of houses were jumbled and strewn off into the distance. We stopped to witness the devastation of the historic Frank Slide, where the side of Turtle Mountain broke away early in the morning, burrying the small town alive. The rubble was 150 metres deep and covered an expanse of 1 kilometre wide. It was overwhelming to see, we rode for miles in silence afterward, processing what that horrible morning was like. (Click on the link below for incredible information about the slide.)

Frank Slide Info

We turned on to highway #22 ~ Cowboy Trail. When thinking about leaving the mountains and riding through the foothills, it seemed like the hardest part of the ride was over. What a ridiculous thought! The foothills are not little hills, they are long sweeping rollers that drop down to river beds then rise endlessly into the distance. From afar the road looked flat, but as our wheels edged closer to Calgary  . . . . . we knew these next two days were going to be challenging!

The air was extremely hot and dry, dry as a bone.  There was no wind to cool us, no gas stations to refill our camel backs, no shade to be found anywhere and biting flies chasing us as we pedaled up the hills. In contrast, there were amazing beautiful fields of yellow safflower in bloom stretching to the horizon and miles and miles of pasture for livestock and fence lines, as far as the eye could see.

Fortunately as we emptied out our last few gulps of water we approached a clean, cold, crisp fast flowing stream where other people had stopped to enjoy the view and refreshing waters. We lingered here for a chilling swim and purified some water to finish off our ride for the day. Our aim was to camp at Chain Lakes Provincial Park. Our site had a panoramic view of the Chain Lakes Reservoir with the Rockies in the distance. There was thunder exploding in the distance, coupled with an entrancing heat lightning light show that completed our evening sitting by the campfire, pondering that our momentous trip was coming to an end.

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Day 8 ~ Thunder in the Valley ~ Double Trouble

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Cranbrook to Blairmore ~ 167 km, 9 hours 20 minutes

It was a beautiful ride into Wild Rose Country, Alberta. Long sweeping roads overlooked small lakes intermingled in green valleys. We were just over half way back to Calgary. It was a tiring ride into Crowsnest Pass and we were hoping to have a “hotel night”. Not only were all the hotels booked stating “no vacancy”, but the town was overrun by motor-homes, tents, trailers and visitors. The streets were filled with people, moving in masses. It was “Thunder in the Valley” weekend . . . . . . . what were we in for?

It was an evening of spectacular fireworks that lasted almost an hour, set off in the valley surrounded by sky reaching mountains. It was delayed for a short bit due to a fierce thunder/lightning storm with a heavy downpour that lasted 15 minutes.

We found a spot away from the crowds to set up camp in the long grass to hide our biking gear. The only trouble was it was right beside a railway track. We had gone in to town just minutes before it began to rain to grab a bite to eat. Tons of people ran into the restaurant to seek shelter from the torrential downpour. The streets quickly filled up with streams of water. We waited until the storm was over, dreading what we would find back at camp. Would all our gear be soaking wet and there would be no place to stay tonight? When we returned to our tent it was floating in about 3″ of water, the tent, ensolite pads and sleeping bags. Without realizing, we had set up our tent in a very low spot. We couldn’t believe our luck, all our gear inside the tent was perfectly dry, we just picked up our tent and moved it to higher ground.

Thunder in the Valley ~ Crowsnest Pass 2011

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Day 7 ~ Creston to Cranbrook ~ Whoa! Mosquitos abound!!

Calgary 2011 + Bike Trip 833Creston to CranbrookStill moving toward the finish! A roadside stop included a short catnap and much needed java. We camped just outside of Cranbrook after crossing the McFee Bridge over the St. Mary’s River. It was a site high atop the river’s bank, overlooking some feeding, moaning cattle and a wide expanse of grassland, with the mountains all around. Thankfully, we were tucked inside before the mosquitoes came out to feed!

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Day 6 ~ “I’m putting you on a bus!” Nelson ~ ferry ride across Kootenay Lake ~ then down to Creston

Nelson to Creston

We rode two hours along the narrow, hilly Nelson Nelway Highway beside the Kootenay River to Balfour to catch the ferry ride across Kootenay Lake. The homes and cottages here were beautiful as they hung along the waters edge. The weather was so changeable today. Cooler temperatures, were followed by rain on and off, then hot patches of air, swirling winds behind, then head on. There was a storm brewing ahead on the horizon as the thunder rumbled around the mountains . . . . . and it was hovered right over Creston, where we were planning to camp for the night.

I had a difficult day today, with the changing weather and overall exhaustion, every part of my body was sore and I was worn out. “When we get to Creston, we are going to the bus station, I’m putting you on a bus!” Doug sternly told me. Thankfully there wasn’t a great deal of elevation change on the second half of our ride today. We followed the Kootenai River, as it meandered down the wide valley/flood plain. It was so scenic and reminded me of the Holland Marsh back home, with the various crops growing on the flat-lands.

When we arrived in town, the rain was just beginning, the storm was ready to unleash it’s anger. We ducked inside a bar for supper hoping the storm would be over when we were finished eating. Thankfully, it was! We found a campground close to town just down the road from the Kokanee Brewery. The Kootenay mountains on the label are seen far off in the distance ~ pretty neat! The “Glacier Fresh” slogan for the beer comes from using glacier mountain stream water in its brewing.

Once camp was set up, Ryan and Doug went to shower up. I didn’t have the energy to shower. I got out of my damp riding gear, curled up in my sleeping bag, drew the drawstring closed around my head, turned toward the tent wall and wept. I was worn out and there was no bus leaving town.

Kootenay Ferry Schedule

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Day 5 ~ Osoyoos to Castlegar?? No, no, no . . . Nelson

Osoyoos to NelsonToday was a very, very long day! Climbing in and out of valleys, down to river beds and lakes, then up the other side of mountains. Along the way we passed several cattle and horse ranches. Interestingly, the animals all sauntered slowly toward the fences to check us out as we passed by. This was Boundary Country, close to the boundary of Canada and the United States and in the middle of British Columbia, right between the Rockies and the Pacific Ocean.

As we passed Christina Lake and began our long climb up the side of Mount Gladstone, daylight was slipping away. We were searching to find a spot to camp, but there were cliffs on either side of the highway. Straight up or dropping straight down. There was nowhere to camp.

A truck had come from behind and had blown his horn. We thought that was unusual to scare us like that, but as we looked ahead, there was a bear peering over a cliff edge close to the highway. We realized the trucker was trying to scare the bear away for us.

There was no way we were going to stop near there. As we trudged on, we turned on our bike lights and were faced with the grim possibility that we would have to ride in the dark for almost an hour before arriving at a safe site. We stopped at Paulson Bridge to talk about our options. Another truck driver stopped to tell us, it was not safe to camp in that area, he has passed through that area quite often and said that there was a mother bear and two young cubs living close by. He told us the highway ahead to was extremely windy and dangerous, especially in the dark.

Generously, he offered to put our bikes in his trailer and he drove us to . . . . . Nelson. We were so lucky to have this guardian angel check in on us! It was close to midnight by the time we had settled into a hotel in town. What a long day!

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Day 4 Princeton to ~ “OOooH” Osoyoos

Princeton to Osoyoos 2 We woke up to rain, so geared up accordingly. The first part of the highway followed along the Silkameen River and was pleasantly flat. What a nice change! We rolled through the old gold mining town of Hedley and could still see abandoned mine shaft entrances high above the roadside in the mountains.

Eventually, Crowsnest Pass ran between two mountains ~ the Snowy Mountain and Mount Kobau. Both protected areas. As the road began to rise toward the sky, we entered the grasslands. We could feel the change in the air, it was an extremely dry and hot as we were approaching Osoyoos, Canada’s desert.

We climbed and climbed before cresting the top of the mountain and found a couple of triathletes unloading their tri-bikes from a van. They were going to practice their downhill descents for their upcoming Ironman in Penticton. Ryan and Doug raced these two athletes down the mountain, the girls on their tri-bikes ~ the boys pulling their trailers. What a sight!

After resting in the center of town by the desert flower welcome sign, we grabbed a bite to eat and began our 18 km. climb out of the valley. The road wound back and forth, back and forth, zig zagging all the way to the top reaching a final elevation of 685 m. It was a spectacular close to the top when we looked back to see where we had come from on the other side of the valley where the sun was shining, behind Mount Kobau . . . . down, down, down, then up, up, up to where we were. We made it up that daunting climb!