North to South Tour - From Edmonton, Alberta to Durango, Colorado

North to South Tour - Day 14

07/08/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Fernie, British Columbia
To: Pincher Creek, Alberta
Today: 77 miles - 745 miles total

Our first stop was Sparwood, where we saw the largest truck in the world (again)....then went to the local grocery store for some snack food and Gatorade. Then it was up and and across Crowsnest Pass (4,457 ft) which was not very hard at all, except for the traffic and pig trucks...with their odor as they passed us.

We stayed on Route 3 for most of the ride today. Crowsnest Pass (above photo) has a couple of beautiful lakes, and there is a campground on the shores of one of the lakes, which looked very inviting. Imagine at the top of a pass, with a flat valley, full of cool blue water. Very inviting. We noticed on both sides of the Crowsnest pass (BC and Alberta) they have workers trying hard to eliminate the Purple Loosestrife which is taken over. We think it is a losing battle. At the Alberta/BC border we went though the Truck weigh station with all of the other "big rigs" . We weigh in at 22. We're not sure 22 whats but doesn't sound too heavy?

We had a picnic lunch in downtown Blairmore, a town after the pass. After lunch we passed through what remains of the town of Frank. In 1903, half of a mountain came down on the town killing over 70 people. Today both Route 3 and the railroad pass through huge amount of granite boulders. At any natural disaster site, we are reminded how we will never be in control of Mother Nature.

It was then on to Pincher Creek, a simple 27 mile ride, right? In this neck of the woods, they have a thing called the Chinook Winds. Let me tell you, they were blowing. Pincher Creek is BOOMING, because of oil and the hundreds of Wind Turbines they have to take advantage of the Chinook winds (see the below photo). So while we traveled south, we were blown all over the road....and our progress was slowwwwww. When we headed east, we barely had to touch the pedals! Too bad, the first 20 miles were not east bound!

We are here in Pincher Creek, at the Super 8. This might be one of the last rooms available in town AND this hotel is only half completed. We are not sure how they are allowed to have guests, with all the construction left to do on this building. To get up to the second floor you go up a staircase that is just framed - not drywall? Tomorrow we will be heading to Waterton, then Glacier National Park, so don't worry ....we will be back to camping and no internet.

North to South Tour - Day 15

07/09/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Pincher Creek, Alberta
To: Waterton, Alberta
Today: 40 miles - 785 miles total

We now have a nickname for our tent, The Prince of Wales II. We are in Waterton National Park, and the wind is gusting from the west. It is always blowing from the west! (here on the east side of the Rockies) We had some very hard miles today. Sitting here watching the Columbia Ground Squirrels (cousins of the prairie dog?), the white tail deer, while we are all in the shade of the snow dotted Canadian Rockies....kinda makes those miles go away.

It's just plan beautiful here! We are under a shade tree, watching the white caps on the lake, and thanking our lucky stars! The Chinook winds were out of the south west today, and yes, that was or traveling direction today. We cycled Rte 6 today, with the Canadian Rockies on our right, miles and miles of farmland, and the wind in command. The foothills go up and down as you ride, and with the wind, you can not establish a cycling rhythm.

We had lunch/breakfast at the Twin Butte grocery store / restaurant (breakfast burritos). If you are traveling by there, stop in, you will not be disappointed with the food or the service. The Twin Butte stop was really the highlight of our day, until we spent the afternoon in and out of the shops in Waterton village and plain sitting around by the lake shore. Well almost, at the Waterton National Park's information house, an old man wanted to feel the Real Admiral's legs. He couldn't believe she could pedal SeeMore all the way from Edmonton! Since his wife didn't mine (you think he goes around feeling other men's wife legs?), Mary said go for it.

Two years ago on our trip across the US, the Rear Admiral and I stayed in the Grand Hotel (Prince of Wales) in Waterton, It was our 25th anniversary gift to each other. At $350 a night, a school teacher can only afford so much so this year we spent $21.50 and set up the tent (The Prince of Wales II). I'm just such a romantic guy! I don't know if the Rear Admiral is being kind, but she says the Prince of Wales II is just as good as the grand hotel on the hill. She must be really tired from the Chinook winds!

Tomorrow we head over Chief Mountain and back into the US. Even though it is not a "mountain pass" we been told it is a bit of a toughie.....we will see, hopefully the Chinook winds will take a day off!

North to South Tour - Day 16

07/10/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Waterton, Alberta
To: Rising Sun Campground, Glacier NP Montana
Today: 57 miles - 842 miles total

Happy Birthday Aunt Lynn!

Buffet breakfast at downtown Waterton Villege. We both manage to make ourselves some lumberjack specials. I ate more food, then the Rear Admiral.... I was REALLY hungry. Prior to the breakfast buffet, we broke camp to blue blue skies, and by the time we were heading towards breakfast the clouds and mist had rolled in, and it was pea soup! You couldn't see The Prince of Wales, the Rockies, or even the lake. It changed in a snap of a finger.

Today's climb was on Rte 6 (Alberta's side) and Rte 17 (Montana's side) which is called Chief Mountain International Highway (photo above). Even though it is not a "pass", it wasn't the easiest to get over. What you do is climb from 4200 feet to about 5300 feet in 8 miles. Then you drop down back to 4400 feet, before going up again to 5200 feet at the US/Canadian border. The first part of the climb was done in clouds and mist. We could only see about 50 yards in any direction, and had our rear light (blinky) on. Coming down it was burrrrrrr.....cold, so we put on more clothes. As soon as we started the second part of the climb, the sun came out and it was time to strip out of the extra clothes, and put on sunscreen!

We stopped only briefly, about a mile from the border to eat our oranges. We didn't want the custom agents to take ANY food away from us, so we ate the oranges! We breezed through customs, the border guard was only interested if we were bringing any rocks or firewood into the US. We thought this was a funny question since, here we are, a fully loaded orange colored recumbent tandem...and he thinks we have ROCKS or WOOD in our panniers? As soon as we got out of ear shot, the Rear Admiral and I had to pull SeeMore over before we laughed ourselves off the road. Obviously the guard never rode a fully load bike up a mountain before.

I mentioned breezing through customs, well after customs the good ole Chinook winds were back in full force. SeeMore was getting pushed around, and once he was blown from the right side of the road, all the way to the left side! We had a picnic lunch (holding tightly to our PB&J sandwiches) at an overlook . With no trees or shelter we huddled in a sunny spot on the parking lot, trying not to get blown away. Then continued to ride into the wind until we had to escape for a while, in a cafe in Babb......cherry cheesecake sure helps!

We have the Prince of Wales II erected at the Rising Sun campground, and are about to search for food. There is a lot of evidence of the 2006 forest fire that prevented us from doing the Road to the Sun on our trip across country. But it looks like they somehow managed to save portions of the standing forests, so it doesn't look as devastating as what we have seen in Yellowstone etc. Tomorrow we will try to get up and over Logan Pass, oh boy!

North to South Tour - Day 17

07/11/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Rising Sun Campground, Glacier NP Montana
To: Sprague Campground, Glacier NP Montana
Today: 37 miles - 879 miles total

Perfect, Awestruck, Magnificent, Beautiful, Majestic, Magical, Amazing!

The Going to the Sun Road celebrates it's 75 birthday this year, and we were so blessed to be a part of it. From Rising Sun to Lake McDonald (east to west), the cycling today was surreal. An aroma of millions of Christmas trees, freshly snow covered mountain peaks (it snowed last night!), and blue skies filled our senses on overload. There was very little traffic going up in the morning. It was a steep 14 mile climb up to Logan's Pass (our third continental divide crossing on this trip), but it wasn't that bad at all. Maybe we were mesmerized by what surrounded us as we climb? We stopped 7 miles up (the first 7 miles are an easy climb) for a little admiral loo break. At the Little Admiral loo break we met up with Lavern, a gentleman we met in Skookumchuck B.C.. He is also doing the Great Parks tour, on a Bike Friday. He started in Jasper, and he will probably be in Colorado much faster than SeeMore....heck fire every bike is faster than SeeMore! It's been fun bumping in to him every once in a while .....back to the ride... we stopped just once more at Slyel Creek (for some Fig Newtons). The rest was one pedal at a time. We left Rising Sun at 7:45, and pulled into Logan's Pass visitor center at 10:30 (if your cycling, you need to be at Logan pass by 11!). Logan's Pass is 6,680 feet.

At the Logan's Pass visitor center we had a picnic lunch of PB&J sandwiches with Doritos, and watched a Bighorn Sheep scale the mountain across from the parking lot. Also.....Skiers were skiing down the slope behind the visitor center, then walking back up, and skiing down again. It was a cool 41 degrees at the pass, so we put on long pants, hats, and gloves and tried to stay out of the wind.

Then we started down down down. But we took our time, being on a bike you can pull over into little carved out niches and let the traffic go by. We only went a quarter mile down, before we took our first break and watched the mountain goats on the side of the road. I forgot to mention that Glacier now has shuttle buses, on the east side of Logan's Pass they are regular city size buses, but on the west side are smaller van type buses that are not as tall, (because of the many cliff overhangs, I 'm sure). Also there is a fleet of old 1930 red touring cars for hire. The Ford Motor company donated a pretty penny geting 30 +/- touring cars restored. You see a lot of these vehicles as you climb and go down the Going to the Sun Road, and they all wave at you! Photos? The Rear Admiral took many, many many photos, and even tried her luck making a few videos. We took more time going down, then going up! Photo break after photo break! As we passed the weeping wall, we got wet as the motorcyclists egged us on!

As we were waiting in line to go through the construction part (the park service has it's hand full keeping this road in repair!), the people in front of us got out of their car and noticed that SeeMore's back tire was flatter than a pancake. So we got out of line, went over to a little pull-out (with a spectacular view!) and fixed it. The valve stem was shot, so there was no way to patch the tubr, just got out a spare tube...and we were on our way (back into the next line going through construction). Construction was pretty long, and very muddy! During the road construction and afterwards, we kept going down down down, until we ended up at Lake McDonald. At the restaurant we ordered and devoured an apple carmel calzone (with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, and a huge pile of whip cream). While fighting off each other's spoon, we planned what to do next. SeeMore and I were pretty tried, so it did not take too much convincing to end the day at the biker/hiker site at Sprague campground, which is located about a mile from the restaurant (and right on the lake!). There are some great sites here if you get in early enough.

SeeMore had a bath (we need one too, but there are no showers here!). The Prince of Wales II is up, the last two nights we BOTH have slept well. I think we will make that three in a row.

North to South Tour - Day 18

07/12/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Sprague Campground, Glacier NP Montana
To: Kalispell, Montana
Today: 61 miles - 940 miles total

For a change, we broke camp and cycled into West Glacier Village to have breakfast. It was a bone chilling beautiful ride, the last 10 miles of the Going to the Sun Road. Hardly a car passed us (either way) but if they did, you can bet they had their heater on full blast! I think it's wrong to leave the Glacier area without having something with huckleberries on it. So at the West Glacier restaurant, I ordered the pancakes, with fresh hot huckleberries syrup, while the Rear Admiral ordered her lumberjack special (eggs, pancakes, and bacon). Huckleberries taste like a mild blueberry, and I enjoyed my pancakes fully. When we got out of the restaurant, Lavern's Bike Friday was parked next to SeeMore (above photo) in the bicycle parking only space. However, we did not spot him until we were in Columbia Falls exploring the town.

The Adventure Cycling maps take you through back roads from West Glacier to Columbia Falls. They were very peaceful, but there was one section of gravel road (about 3 miles) that SeeMore didn't particularly like. We cycled into and around Columbia Falls looking for a tube for SeeMore's back tire, nothing. Yesterday, on the Going to the Sun Road we experienced a busted value, and had to replace the rear tube. I replaced the tube using the spare that we carry. We did not feel comfortable going all the way to Missoula (140 +/- miles) with just the tube patch kit. What if another value broke, a rare occurrence, but why take the risk? So we made a command decision to head into Kalispell, for a new tube. Navigating by the GPS we found our selves at a dead end by the old steel bridge. We needed to get across the Flathead river but it doesn't look like anyone is going to go over this bridge for another couple of years! Fortunately there was a little park/ boat launch where people were fishing and picnicing so we broke out our deli sandwich and had lunch before backtracking to the main route where we knew there was a working bridge (and alot of heavy traffic).

We are here in Kalispell with a new tube, living large at the EconoLodge. Kalispell is not for me. It is very busy, and it rubs me the wrong way. That's ok, I probably rub Kalispell the wrong way back! Mary likes the old downtown area. You can see many of the original buildings that were built in the late 1800's. Some times you enter a town or city, ride around in it to get the feel....and you find that it's not your cup of tea.

We are off route, and have some options to get back on route. We will see what happens next! That's what an adventure is all about!

North to South Tour - Day 19

07/13/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Kalispell, Montana
To: Condon, Montana
Today: 62 miles - 1002 miles total

Not much to report about today. There are 3 basic routes from Kalispell to Missoula, Rte 93 which has a lot of traffic, not much scenery but wide shoulders. Rte 35, which goes down the east side Flathead lake, which has NO shoulders lots of traffic and you get a lake side ride (in other words, take your car). Rte 83, which is the road we are on, takes you through miles and miles of timber, follows Swan Lake, and is pretty popular traffic wise. With a shoulder of only about eight to ten inches, the riding took a lot of road concentration....there was to many vehicles passing SeeMore today! Since it is Sunday (we think), you get all the people returning home or starting their vacation. They are towing campers or boats or skidos or motor bikes or horse trailers or..... it would be a great ride, but it's not when the traffic is passing. Tomorrow being Monday (we think), we've been warned that the logging trucks will be on our road in full force. We have 80 plus miles more before Missoula.

The highlight of the day was spending a lazy afternoon at the Swan Lake state picnic area (see photo below). For 3 bucks we got a shaded table, with a view of the sparkling clean lake. We had a picnic, because that is what you do at a picnic area. We went into the water (just knee was cold!), and we took naps on the shore and enjoyed the noise of children behaving like they are on summer break.

We are here in Condon living large at the nice little hotel. I was the one to call it quits today, concentrating on a 8 inch patch of black top all day, can be tiring.

North to South Tour - Day 20

07/14/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

From: Condon, Montana
To: Missoula, Montana
Today: 89 miles - 1091 miles total

Off to a pretty early start (around 7:30) after we ate oatmeal in the motel room . Today the first 50 miles was finishing up on Rte 83. This time most of the weekend travel was gone, but the logging trucks appeared in force. The Rear Admiral and I waved to as many trucks as possible. We don't know if it helps or not. It must be a lonely job at times, and we only hope that the truckers used their CB to report two crazy people on a weird looking orange bike riding along 83, to other truckers. We didn't have any problems, and we have found the logging trucks to be very kind. Still, riding on 83 with little to no shoulders is NOT fun. We passed many lakes (Summit, Rainy, Alva, Inez, Seeley, and Salmon) along with miles of forests and hints of mountains. This route goes primarily through National Forest land. If there was little traffic, I would ride 83 anytime. However, I can not recommend it. I don't know about 93 out of Kallispell, but maybe that would be a better alternative.

We had a picnic lunch at Salmon Lake state park, and the wind was BLOWING. It was too early in the day to quit, but we did have the option to camp here it was a great spot (we alway have the option!). Maybe we will come back and camp during another tour.

Once we turned onto Rte 200, we had 39 miles to Missoula, and a very strong headwind. Thank goodness it was down hill most of the way, but we pedaled all 39 miles....straight into the wind. Rte 200 was as busy as 83, but there was a wide shoulder. It was a very beautiful ride, maybe because I finally stopped looking at the road...and start looking around. You might think of me as weird, but I will take Rte 200 with headwinds ANYDAY over Rte 83!

We stopped for a rest break at the University of Montana's forestry camp. I talked with the young lady who was in charge of the kitchen, she was from North Conway, NH. SeeMore must have impressed her, because she gave us 2 cookie bars. They were sooooo good! She also let us fill our water bottles. THANKS. We meet so many nice people along the way.

We are tired, but living large in a hotel in Missoula. Tomorrow we will explore Missoula.