11 June 2018. We made it a few hours the prior evening – roughly 200 miles to Oyen, Alberta. I’ve never heard of it either but there was a relatively new hotel there (Canalta) and we were tired, wet and a little cold. Count me in!
Now to start with, every one of these trips starts out with a discussion about saving money along the way. We bring along food, camping gear and even Dave’s generator and separate gas for it (he has a CPAP machine) and so on. But for mere mortals north of 40, that noble idea gets tossed to the wind at the slightest inconvenience. For the spirited, young and adventurous, this was akin to capituler rapidement. So the first signs of fracture amongst the group appear. A mere 320 klicks and two days late from kickoff, we threw the tent-baby out with the hard ground.
With the rush to make up time, no real pictures taken and few words spoken.
We had a chilly ride in the morning, with the occasional light rain. Now might be a good time to point out that Kevin has heated grips installed…but not wired. Hmmm, seems analogous to “the lights are on, but no one is home”. I offer my thick gloves since I have the enclosed handlebar mitts (which absolutely rock for cold riding BTW). Kevin has his own pair of muffs but his ‘DCO’ refuses to comply with the enclosed hands feeling. So he powers on. Honeybadger.
There isn’t much to see from Oyen to Drumheller, but we did find a place to take a quick break. These are called Hoodoos, along the Red Deer River. Kinda funky.
We ride through Drumheller and stop at a Timmy’s to pay homage. Along with poutine, there are just some things you are obligated to do while in Canada. Coffee and donuts at Tim Horton’s is one and a good stop to warm the bones…especially when you have heated grips but aren’t wired for it. For me, my variable Gerbing controller had only two outputs: African Heat or Angry Wife. No luck finding a convenient shop in the Drumheller so we motor on to a shopping center north of Calgary. No luck, but did score some additional warm gear, such as a tuque. Google that while sitting upon your Chesterfield in a BunnyHug, eh!
So far on this day the weather was chilly, occasionally wet and overcast. However, the sun started to play peekaboo as we approach Banff. If you’ve never visited the Canadian Rockies, I highly recommend visiting Banff – simply stunning. Here’s one of my favorite action shots from the ’09 trip, when we had more time and better weather:
I had a couple of mounting points for my GoPro and I turned it on once we were in the mountains. Please forgive me as the front fender was contoured so that the camera was mounted off camber. But it did provide some decent shots from time to time, like these:
On this particular day Banff was seriously crowded, mostly it seemed with visitors from the Far East. Tour buses on top of tour buses. It was tourist season and unfortunately none of us had permits…
Although it seems we all missed the opportunity to capture it, Kevin’s rainbow colored ‘Wing was a major hit with the East Indians. They took turns sitting on it and taking pictures while we sauntered around the Village looking for a decent place to eat. You can’t really appreciate this unless you’ve been to India and seen the colorful trucks. Google Indian Truck Art if you are interested. For the ADHD types:
Honk OK Please….
After a brief mediocre meal at a cheesy pub, we packed up our tourist gifts for our friends and family back home and headed toward Jasper. As we meander North along the Icefields Parkway, it gets colder. Frozen precipitation begins to fall on us. We pull over for a picture opp at the Parker Ridge Trailhead, approximately 6,700 feet (2,040 m) ASL and 2km shy of Jasper.
When we hit Jasper, the urgency to find a place to spend the night become more imperative, especially given how cold it was. But Jasper is booked solid. Oh well, time to eat. We wait for a table at an Asian restaurant, but not everyone is enthused. No stray cats hanging around this place…
Bellies full, we disembark for the next town that has a place to call it an evening. It will eventually take us about two hours to find a place, but in the meantime we get to enjoy the splendid Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia. If I could spend a week bouncing around in this area and Jasper, it would be too short. Ben also approves it seems…
A small motel in McBride offers room and board for our weary souls. We go 3 up in one room and 2 in the other. Nothing much to report but plenty of sleep interrupted by snoring. Another day in the books.
12 June 2018. Destination Smithers.
GoPro turned on, it was time to ride out and meet up with our chaperone, Mr. Jones in Smithers, BC. Mr. Jones is not riding a pre-1980 Goldwing, but rather a very modern Yamaha Super Ténéré. Seeing as he joined us on the great Maritimes trip in 2015 and had demonstrated an ability to put up with our dissociative disorders, he was the perfect fit. He’s also an OCD planning-type.
But first, breakfast. Nothing looked too appealing in the metropolis of McBride, so we took off for something hearty. Two hours later, we arrived in Prince George to wolf down a brunch at this point. Quick calls to loved ones and get out ASAP.
Since we are due to meet up with Mr. Jones in Smithers, we have little time to check out the scenery. It’s head down and motor on. It’s about 4 hours away and fortunately the weather was nice and sunny. But it was the calm before the storm. We just didn’t realize it.
After we meet in Smithers, we quickly scoot over to a cabin we had rented on the outskirts of town. We talk about the ride so far and make plans to head out for dinner in town. It felt good to shed the ATTGAT gear and ride squiddish for a short, casual ride. For expediency, we double up for a bitch cruise on a couple of bikes. Hyde and Mike jump on his ’75 and Kevin and I double on my bike. Needless to say, Grand Canyon mules have it easier….
And of course, we decide to see who is the fattest…I mean fastest. Now this is probably a better litmus test than Myers-Briggs, the DiSC profile or the MMPI. Picture yourself on a 40 year old metric cruiser that has seen better days. You are over a thousand miles from home and on an epic journey to the Arctic Ocean (okay, okay technically the Mackenzie Bay). You are punchy and have an extra 250 lbs on the back. There are two (over-)loaded pillion rides piloted by competitive friends. Do you race or cruise? Pin it to win it or phone it in? Macho or nacho?
Given the obvious answer, we quickly learn why it is best to stress test near home. Pop goes a driveshaft.
Fortunately, it was a short push-of-shame back to the cabin-site. But, we must eat and so we regroup and consume our meal – East Indian this time around. This time, we took it easy. It’s late. What’s left to do? Dodge mosquitoes and drink.
Another day in the books. And so begins the maintenance overhead that never ceases from this point forward.