July 16, 17, and 18
The first three days of our trip were relatively unremarkable with respect to the potential for problems or hassles that are always possible on an extended road trip. On the other had, it was extremely enjoyable to visit family and friends as we detoured ever so slightly to visit my mother in Chicago (6/16), Bob and Sally in Ixonia outside Milwaukee (6/17) and my Grandmother in Oshkosh (6/18). At 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 18th we pulled out of Oshkosh and began our westward trek..
After driving straight for 21 hours (1133 miles from Oshkosk and 1932 miles from Memphis)and having traveled through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and halfway through Montana we faced our first significant challenge. A glance in the passenger side rear- view mirror brought to light the fact that a cloud of smoke was coming from around the passenger side tire on the trailer. The problem became far more critical upon closer inspection after pulling over to the side of the road. Transmission fluid coated the face of the trailer, the tailgate of the Explorer, and was dripping from the under-carriage of the truck onto the road. The sight of all this oil was further exacerbated by the flow of water onto the pavement from the condenser of the air-conditioner. The transmission fluid dip-stick barely recorded a trace of oil at its lower most level. I put out my thumb for a ride into nearby Lewistown, MT and was picked up by the first vehicle that approached us which happened to be an eighteen wheeler. Jerry was delivering merchandise to the Pamida discount store located on the eastern city limits of the Lewistown and he transported me to the store just as it was preparing to close for the evening. After purchasing five quarts of transmission fluid, a funnel, and a bottle of Squirt for Dan waiting back at the car . . . I was back on the highway with my thumb out, but to no avail. Forty-eight year old male hitch-hikers simply do not stand the best of chances in soliciting a ride by such means. An air-horn honks in the distance and it's Jerry signaling me to come back over to the truck. As he drops the landing gear on the trailer, he motions for me to climb back into the cab for the trip back to the car. After arriving at the Explorer, we pour two quarts of oil half expecting to see it spill out onto road beneath the car as quickly as it is poured in. Alas, it does not! Jerry agrees to follow us back into town, but we stop three miles down the road to see if anything is leaking as well as to recheck the transmission oil level. No change! The long and short of it is that after driving for as long as we had driven in addition to driving in overdrive which we shouldn't have been doing while pulling a trailer . . . we caused the transmission to work harder than it needed to thereby agitating the oil to the point of foaming and exiting through an exhaust port. That evening we picked up Jerry at his parked semi and took him with us as or guest for pizza as a means of showing our appreciation for his unselfish assistance.
This morning I talk to Ricky for his mechanical input and then stop by Dave's Transmission in Lewistown for his concurrence along with a $12.00 pint of transmission conditioner to help it to run cooler. The last oil change was 3,000 miles ago so before leaving Lewistown I also changed the oil and filter on the truck.
We drive for several hours before reaching Raynesford, MT, stopping at a restaurant where Ted Kozinski worked for a couple of years some time back. He must have had an amicable separation since everyone had their hands & arms and the place was still standing. We got a tip on some campsites which confirmed Dan's previously made choices of King's Hill which is part of the Little Belt Mountains rising before the eastern face of the Rockies. We settled on Many Pines, a Forest Service campground at around 6,000 ft elevation. One could toss a rock into a neighboring stream whose sound puts us to sleep later on as the water cascades over the rocks. We pulled the bikes out after setting up camp and cycle to the top of the pass at 7,500 feet . . . down the other side about 15 miles and back up the pass and back down to our campground. On the way back up the pass I see something in the road ahead of me that resembles a small bear that might have been struck by a car. By the time I arrive at the spot I find to my surprise a new sleeping bag with Kyle's name on the stuff bag. I think of poor Kyle this evening as he arrives at his destination only to find himself sans sleeping bag. Many horse-flies hovering over our heads and expending our limited energy as we swat them continuously while climbing the pass. They're so big . . . and you swat so many that your hands soon become sticky. While awaiting Dan to arrive at the crest of the pass on our return to the campground . . . I killed so many horse- flies that it looked like my bike and I were standing in and the amongst the fallen soldiers at Gettysburg. Dinner down at 5,600 feet at Bob's Motel and Restaurant in Neihart where we met another proprietor of the Lazy Doe Restaurant located further down the mountain in Monarch who agreed to open up his place early to serve us breakfast the following morning. He was pretty shit-faced when we left him at the bar, and our greatest concern was cycling fifteen miles down the mountain only to find the restaurant closed the following morning.
Dan and I awake at 6:45 a.m. to a sunny morning, but low in temps at around 40-42 degrees. We make coffee . . . find a spot of sunshine where the sun is peaking over a neighboring mountain and warm ourselves up. By 8:20 we're on our bikes heading down the mountain to the Lazy Doe and so impressed to see not only that Mr. Garvin Johnson is open, but he has a table set for two with juice and coffee. Breakfast of scrambled eggs with a slab of ham and then back up the hill to our camp. Before leaving the restaurant, Dan arranges for us to use a shower Garvin has on the premises at the most modest fee of $1.00 per.
Break camp and head to Great Falls where Steve McCoy will be arriving on a FedEx jet at 6:00 p.m. His plane arrives a half hour early - dinner at Eddies Steakhouse where Steve and Dan each order a cowboy steak and then off to Canada. Arrive Lethbridge 11:00-11:30 where we layover at a Travel-Lodge.
Busy morning as we wash dirty clothes and Kyle's sleeping bag at the hotel and repair a leaking tire on the truck that has one nail and three additional leaks. Leave Lethbridge around 10:00 and arrive at our campsite at Mount Fernie Provincial Park in BC on the other side of the continental divide. Another great campsite with a river nearby - heavily wooded - only 38 campsites and very private.
We cycle into town . . . Dan and I have two of our wheels trued for $5.00 C which is only around $3.50 U.S. - something that costs around $8 - $12 back home - and a cup of coffee at an espresso bar before riding another 23 miles or so up the valley and back to the campground. Again, nothing heavy . . . simple conditioning rides to better prepare us for the more rigorous riding to be expected starting on Saturday. Dan showers at a nearby water spigot and I head for the river for my "standing bath" shortly thereafter. Most refreshing. One of the girls (CM's) in the campsite next to us give Dan and Steve a ride into town for some beer, chips and ice while I am typing away at the narrative and building a campfire. Although warmer today . . . it promises to be another cool evening. We see little of the starry nights we were so anxious to see . . . it doesn't get dark till 11:30 or midnight and we are usually in bed well before then. Tomorrow we arrive at the start of our tour through the Rockies at Windermere, BC.
Up at a 7:00 a.m. as Dan and I get our bikes ready for an early morning 40 mile ride down the valley to Elko and Steve makes preparations to ride into town for an hour and a half of swimming at the Aqua Park. The riding is great from the perspective of the scenery and the smells of pine/wild flowers, but the double-bottom trucks whizzing by within a matter of feet of one riding on the shoulder is beastly. Steve doesn't like it at all, and Dan and I compare it to riding on the shoulder of Highway 64 between Memphis and Somerville.
We begin breaking camp around 11:00 a.m. and are in town by 12:30 for lunch at the espresso shop while I am getting the derailleurs re-adjusted after replacing a worn out chain. Again . . . only $5.00C. Dan is so amazed with the prices that he begins contemplating how he could get his TREK touring bike rebuilt into a de Rosa, Clark Kent or Colnago for chump change. A quick trip to the state liquor store for more beer, ice and Irish whiskey and we're off to the west.
We arrive three hours later at Windermere Creek B&B tucked neatly against the side of a mountain on 106 acres which is where our cycling tour will begin Saturday a.m. Scott (from Halifax) and Astrid (1st generation Canadian from Germany) are the proprietors and have created a really nice resort. It consists of the original homestead cabin built in 1887 where we stay along with two additional cabins located nearby, and three guest rooms in the main house. Scott and Astrid spent their working careers in the hospitality business with their last ten years of employment as the head waiters at The Chateau on Lake Louise. They purchased this property six years ago and have forgone their prior 6-8 wk holidays in the Philippines or Costa Rica in order to build their own best future. Since settling in, they've restored the old homestead cabin, and have erected the two newer cabins nearby. Lastly, they've groomed several hiking trails along the face of the mountain to which the property abuts.
Dinner tonight at the Black Forest Restaurant where we enjoy schnitzel and German beer. Our conversations at the table spread to other tables as Steve and I take opposing positions as to the direction of north vs. west . . . some of the patrons agree with Steve and others with me. Conversations relative to the sexual maturity of men vs women includes the perspective of our waitress. It is fortunate she has a good sense of humor although I'm certain she mutters "ugly Americans" under her breath as she leaves our table.
Dan and I begin to calculate the miles ridden since our trip began a Thursday ago.
Ixonia, WS - 27 miles
Neihart, MT - 70 miles
Fernie, BC - 76 miles
Checked our odometer today on the Explorer and it reads 2,688 miles from Memphis through Wisconsin to Windermere, BC.
David and his wife Maureen David & Maureen Thomas are very helpful in critiquing our cycling route to Jasper with us, sharing the names of restaurants we might wish to visit in Banff and Lake Louise, and providing the inside scoop on spas and massages in Banff.
Today is a work-day as Dan and I unload the trailer - assemble the bikes for those arriving later today. I clean up the inside of the car and wash its exterior due to all the bugs and road grime accumulating over the past 2,800 miles. Dan takes the clothes into town to the Laundromat for washing. Steve does a little trailblazing on his bike to determine the best route and mileage around Lake Windermere as an alternative to cycling from Canal Flats that has some tough hills which might discourage some of the others who haven't had a chance to become conditioned to the terrain and altitude. We call later to book reservations for 8 heavy sports massages at the upper hot springs after learning that the Banff Springs Hotel facilities have been essentially booked by its guests for Sunday afternoon. We've asked for a group discount and are expecting a call from the owner later this afternoon, but learn one must book 10 for a discount. Nevertheless, the massages are modestly priced at $30 for a half hour and $43 for a full hour.
Donna and Henry arrive from Couer de Alene with their friend Dana and her boy friend Larry. It's close to 8:00 pm, so I must be off for Calgary to pick up Renee, Trula and Ricky who arrive at 11:00 tonight. The four of us get back home at 3:30 in the morning, but not without first seeing the northern lights while traveling through Kootenay National Park.
4 hr and 21 minutes 62.96 miles - Sinclair Pass is one heck of an 8 mile climb - bet it took an hour to crest it. It's brutal at times and Henry declares at the crest that the "Hill Man" is dead and has morphed into "Down-Hill Man". I think he leading us on. After all, he was ahead of me spinning his way up the pass and it is doubtful I would have caught up with him at that pace had he not pulled into a turn-about where Dana and Larry where waiting with camera in hand. David (of David & Maureen) joined us for his annual ride up the pass. Maureen met us at the crest at Olive Lake picnic area. Steve, Ricky and I added 32 miles or so to our day's ride with a quick trip around Lake Windermere. We started by taking Hwy 93/95 south from the B&B to Fairmont Hot Springs and then took Westside Road around the lake to Invermere . . . back to Windermere and onto Radium Hot Springs where we met up with the remainder of our group. The climb up Sinclair Pass begins at Radium Hot Springs. A quick descent into the Kootenay River Valley and 12 miles or so later we arrive at McLeod Meadows campground located on the Kootenay River. The river is glacial fed - a beautiful turquoise in color - and rather cool to bathe in, but it beats going to bed sticky with the sweat of the day. Donna and Henry return to Radium where their friend Dana has found a B&B for them to stay the night. Dinner consists of turkey and ham sandwiches - chips - cheese - soda - cookies.
David and Maureen invite us (Steve and I) to stop by their home in Calgary on our way home. I thank them for the generosity and tell them we'll get back with them after consulting our trip plan for the ride home from Edmonton.
Our neighbors in the campground are from Holland. Since we have no refrigeration we give them all of our perishables such as meat - mayo - salsa - etc. and they return the favor by giving us a bottle of Pinot Blanc.
Something is not right today. Seems like everyone has a bug up their butt about something or another. I've sensed the uneasiness since yesterday. I suppose it is the net result of having so many different personalities so tightly contained within the constraints of a trip requiring much physical effort.
We break camp and load up the trailer which Henry and Donna will hitch back up to the Explorer on their way from the B&B in Radium to Kootenay Lodge located 20 miles from the campground where we all intend to meet for breakfast. We arrive at the lodge at 9:30 only to learn that they require reservations which is quite frustrating since I've been in e-mail contact with the manager since last fall and even mentioned our plans to stop by for breakfast on the way through. Common sense prevails and they agree to serve us breakfast where a tense discussion is initiated to identify the sag driving assignments for the upcoming days.
Our ride today from McLeod Meadows to Pension Tannenhoff in Banff amounts to 74.8 miles with a total elapsed time of 4 hrs and 21 minutes on the bike. On the descent down Vermillion pass I clock 49.9 mph!
Our sag planning has not worked out as anticipated. For instance yesterday those of us ahead of the others never saw the sag until we arrived at the campground. Today those bringing up the rear are not supported as they wilt in the heat while the sag is in Banff trying to find the Pension to off load the baggage as the previously laid plans call for. The plans are flawed so we drop the requirement to off load baggage and redefine the need for the sag to always be accessible to those who need the support (water, tire repair, or simply being "tuckered out") henceforth.
Herbert who owns the Pension is extremely accommodating - gives us each a cold glass of orange juice upon arriving and even takes Trula, Dan and Ricky up to the Upper Hot Springs for a 1 hr sports massage while the sag vehicle is out looking for Donna and Henry. Donna, Renee, Steve and I get to the Upper Hot Springs for our massages an hour later. We're all so relaxed after the massage we walk around like zombies.
Henry and Ricky find a great restaurant for dinner tonight at an establishment called the Rose and Crown in Banff. Unknown to all of us at the time, a narrative we received from Geoff Allsup of Woods Hole, MA who made a similar trip back in 1994, gave this same restaurant very high marks for its quality "pub-grub." We had an enjoyable meal including such menu selections as liver and onions, shepherd's pie, calamari the size of onion rings or sliced elephant's trunk, and even buffalo burgers! The tension of the past two days is broken this evening over hugs and toasts, and all appears to be back to normal.
As I type this out, I'm glancing out the window from a huge sitting room at our lodge towards a glacier high atop a mountain on the other side of the lake from where we are. The melting snow is forming a beautiful cascading waterfall leading into Bow Lake located far below - you can even hear the waterfall from our rooms even though its several miles away . . . but, we'll talk about all that later.
What an absolutely incredible day! In contrast to last night which was miserable with rooms that were too hot, and children in a rented condo adjacent to us carousing until 11:00 . . . the same children waking up in a strange place at mid-night and crying our of fear or uncertainty. We all rise at 6:30 to begin the task of packing. Herbert agrees to serve breakfast early at 7:45, so everyone is up and about early in order that we be ready to hit the road as soon as breakfast has been finished. We're on our bikes by 8:45 and begin our trek towards Num-Ti-Jah located on Bow Lake vis-a-vis Lake Louise. The roads from Banff to Castle Junction are a little rough, but we come across a beautiful campground by the name of Castle Mountain Campground on Highway 1-A (mentioned for future reference). After a quick break at Castle Junction we proceed west to Lake Louise. Our plan is to have lunch at the Youth Hostel, but like typical men (Ricky, Steve and I in the company of Renee) we refuse to ask directions when we arrive at Lake Louise Village. The commercial area looks more like a rustic outlet mall so we decide to follow the signs for Lake Louise thinking (with testosterone not our brain cells) that surely the Youth Hostel must be located nearby the lake and The Chateau Hotel. The 4 km climb up to Lake Louise itself could best be described as climbing a tree on your bike surrounded by countless tour buses, Winnebego's and automobiles whizzing by. We arrive at the top only to learn that the Hostel is located back down in the village. Upon learning that she was led astray by the testosterone trio . . . Renee departs for the village and the rest of our group in utter frustration without ever seeing the lake. It really is a beautiful site . . . an almost religious experience that is only cheapened by the thousands of tourists milling around. Lunch at the hostel is great although a bit pricey - $10.85 C for penne pasta (no meat), a side dish of potatoes and a soda. On the other hand the other recommended restaurant at the Post Hotel would surely have cost much, much more and could hardly have been any better. I suspect that cyclists are the most appreciative customers at any restaurant with their voracious appetites.
After lunch Steve and I head towards Bow Lake while the others pile into the Explore to see Lake Louise in a more reasonable manner. In contrast to what everyone describes as a relatively flat road . . . we quickly find the ride out of Lake Louise on Highway 93 to be a steady ten mile ascent until we find our first flat spot and an anemic descent before continuing our consistent climb towards Bow Pass. Although not nearly as severe as the climb up Sinclair Pass it slowly begins to wear one down and the climb becomes purely mind over matter. We arrive at Num-Ti- Jah around 4:00 after a 68.4 mile or 5 hour and 10 min ride from Banff. Steve buys me a beer and we relax waiting for our friends to arrive.
This is such a wildlife paradise be it plant or animal. Colors of yellow, blue, indigo, red, white, green and orange abound as wild flowers bloom on both sides of the road. If one isn't smelling the fragrance of the wild flowers, then one inhales the aroma of pine which permeates the air. We see small red squirrels jumping from limb to limb in the trees, chipmunks scampering about, deer, big horn ship, elk, and today we come across a mother bear and her two cubs along the side of the road between Lake Louise and Num-Ti-Jah.
Num-Ti-Jah is a very rustic lodge with only 28 rooms which was built in the late thirties and expanded in the late 40's. This is a place one doesn't want to pass up if ever in this part of the country. It's located on the shores of Bow Lake which like many glacial lakes is a dirty turquoise in color . . . a color similar to the two -tone cream on turquoise paint jobs found on 1955 Oldsmobiles and other cars of that era. The rivers and lakes in the mountains are in different shades of blue, emerald, turquoise or milky in color dependent upon the amount and type of glacial dust suspended in the water. Dust that is comprised of rocks and minerals that have been ground into a fine powder by the glaciers in the mountains above and carried down by the glacial melt.
Dinner tonight in the lodge restaurant which is moderately priced - steak - coho salmon - creme brule - apple pie ala mode - espresso and sambucca.
Today is a rest day and we all sleep in till 8:00 . . . that is with the exception of Henry who is up at 5:30 and casting his fishing lure in the lake shortly thereafter. By the time we all meet for breakfast Henry has already caught two 1 lb trout.
After breakfast Henry returns to his fishing and catches two more trout . . . Renee hikes up towards the waterfall, but finds that her presence on the trail serves only to preserve the continued survival of several species of biting insects. Steve, Ricky, Donna and I meet her on the path on her return to the lodge and refuge form the "skitters" as we hike out towards the falls. It is a 5 to 6 km trek, but well worth it. Although the air is warmer with the approaching mid- day and one is working up a sweat walking and/or climbing . . . the river formed by the waters from the melting glacier cool the air and make one most comfortable. Ricky immerses his hand in the river water and pulls out five numb fingers. All but I (and Renee earlier) had the foresight to apply insect repellent and I find myself feeding many families of mosquitos and flies as I trek along the paths having become Renee's surrogate in her absence. I head back at a cliff overlooking the falls while Steve, Ricky and Donna push on. They return a couple of hours later - exhausted - having romped in the cold mist of the falls.
This afternoon we make a few new friends as the Backroads tour group begins arriving in the early afternoon. We had passed them going the opposite direction as we were heading towards Banff on Sunday. We apparently passed them once more, unbeknownst to all as we headed from Banff the following day towards Num-Ti-Jah. Early on in the ride - for instance in BC (Winderemere/Radium) and in the Banff area we found the cyclists to be somewhat unfriendly. We'd wave as we passed them going the other way only to be ignored. Even those we overcame on the road were only friendly to the point of maintaining minimum decorum. However, it seems the further north we get the friendly the cyclists become. Ricky and I surmise that there is some resentment of all the U.S. Americans intruding into a Canadian paradise as well as the fact it costs us so little to visit Canada yet so much for a Canadian to visit the U.S.
Tonight's dinner is equally good although Donna's steak is a bit over-done. Dessert and/or coffee in the library away from all the noise and commotion in the dining room with the many new guests at the lodge tonight.
One closing note, when we return to Num-Ti-Jah in the future we will be certain to get rooms with our own private baths. Although our rooms had a nice view and were reasonably priced at $83 U.S. per night including all taxes, we had still had to share bathrooms. For twenty dollars more one can get a room with a private bath.
Up early at 6:00 a.m. so we can be showered, dressed and packed . . . ready to depart Num-Ti- Jah as soon as breakfast is over .
We begin the ride with an immediate climb out of Bow Lake to the top of Bow Pass, but the ride quickly turns into a swift descent of roughly 2,000 feet. I clock 51.5 mph on the way down. If the Backroads tandem that passes us as we stand along the road for a photo shoot later on is being "stoked" on its descent . . . it should probably have approached 60 mph. At breakfast the following morning however, the husband acknowledges that their speed falls far short of 60 as the wife threatens no sex forever if they don't begin applying the brakes immediately.
The further north we ride on Hwy 93 (The Icefields Parkway) the even more beautiful our surroundings become. On the other hand, despite the more beautiful landscape the water seems to be more milky in color and absent are the vivid blues, turquoise, and emerald lakes and streams we passed by earlier.
After a brief stop at The Crossing where we pass over the Saskatchewan River - gasoline prohibitively priced at 67.9 Canadian per liter - minimal provisions are purchased (lunch and beer) before the merry band proceeds north towards our destination of the Columbian Icefields. Fifteen miles or so past The Crossing Steve, Ricky and I pull into a "turn-around" were Renee can easily pull in and maneuver the Explorer and trailer so that we too can enjoy a bite of lunch. When we are about to depart two cyclists heading the opposite direction and loaded down with gear (total weight of bike and gear 100 lbs) pull into our "turn-around" - we begin to talk and offer to make a sandwich for them. We learn that one of them . . . Al is from Maryville, TN . . . having left the Knoxville area on May 15th - cycling to Vancouver - taking a train to Jasper and meeting him as he heads south today. We exchange personal info and head off into our own direction.
Shortly after lunch we hit Sumwapta Pass which takes us to 6,677 feet or above the tree line and into the alpine zone. There are moments when the climb becomes a little intense or painful, but all in all a breeze compared to Sinclair Pass which was climbed on our first day. We all cycle hard up the pass and on towards our goal, but the wind is cool as it blows off the glacier above. After 58.22 miles - 4 hr and 4 minutes we arrive at our destination at the Icefields Chalet which is total mayhem. The hotel accommodations for the guests are combined with a tourist information center and departure point for the Columbian Glacier located on the other side of the road which combined with the fact that their is no signage for the hotel guests . . . leads to utter confusion. The accommodations are rated by everyone to be well above average, but the restaurant sucks and the logistical layout a total travesty. It is either a combination of the former or something in the air because I become extremely irritable upon arriving at the Icefields Chalet and a real pain in the ass to be around. I end up having to apologize to Renee and Donna for being such a bore and the following morning as we prepare to leave I'm attacked once again by the Icefield Chalet hebee-jebee's. Despite the super rooms . . . I'm glad to be free of this place and its restaurant that serves Eggo's (no shit) in lieu of real waffles!
Although it rains last night, we awake to another day in paradise. We decide the evening before to take the first bus up to the glacier this morning in order to avoid the throngs of tourists that will be arriving as the day passes. Its an unusual experience to stand upon a sheet of ice that is as thick as the Empire State Building is tall, and based on the speed that the glacier moves . . . anywhere from 150 to 175 years old.
Today's ride is a quick descent of roughly 36 miles from the icefields to Sumwapta Falls Resort. It's my turn to sag, but it is agreed that due to the short distance and friendly terrain covered in today's ride that it doesn't require the sag attention necessary in earlier days so I motor ahead to Sumwapta with the trailer. I make my final good-byes to some of our Backroads friends who are taking a break at the resort, and then climb on my bike and head back towards my friends who are heading north. I pass Steve after 7.7 miles who is whizzing by down one of many descents and get photos of the remaining group 4 miles further as they pass by on their way north. My total ride amounts to 23 miles thanks to everyone's generosity in forgiving me the tedious tasks typically associated with the job of sag. . . thanks!
The rooms are above average, and the help very friendly and accommodating. We sit around for beers in the early afternoon before some head off to read, to hike to the waterfalls or for short naps. After our naps we return to the bar to sample Singapore Slings which soon become Slingapore Swings. Greg Worthylake (from Halifax, NS) is the general manager of the resort and the one responsible for the character and quality of the people and service we've witnessed at Sunwapta Falls. He's very hands on . . . but doesn't micro-manage his people. He beams in response to our compliments, but gives all the credit to his people. No surprise! We ask Greg for his recommendations for restaurants in Jasper and Dan expresses a preference for wild game. Greg responds by recommending Chateau Jasper and even makes the phone call to secure reservations for our party for the next evening at 8:00.
Our meal at the restaurant is one of the finest of our tour, but significantly less expensive than say Num-Ti-Jah. One of their dining distinctions is the homemade bread that they serve with salmon butter. It sounds somewhat ghastly at first blush, but is quite delicious. We kept our waiter very busy fetching additional loaves of bread and salmon butter all evening long.
Surprisingly enough there are is no alcohol flu this a.m., but Renee and I are the last to get out of bed at 9:00 a.m. After breakfast we begin our final leg to Jasper - visit the Athabasca Falls - enjoy the cool air and overcast skies. The ride is very pleasant with many gentle descents and only a few little "nubs" to climb here and there. Henry and Donna leave much earlier at 6:30 in order to do a little fishing at Honeymoon Lake which they find too shallow and Horseshoe Lake which they determine to be one of the most picturesque lakes they've seen during their entire visit. Henry gets a good strike and wrestles with a large trout which eventually frees itself from the lure. After an hour of fishing without results Henry and Donna resume their ride towards Jasper. We (Renee, Steve and I) arrive in Jasper after cycling less than 2 hours with an average speed of 18.8 mph over the 35.8 miles between Sunwapta Falls and our destination.
Jasper is a very pretty little town . . . much less "Aspenish" than Banff where we find our accommodations at the Astoria Hotel most acceptable. We purchase three bus tickets to assure a safer and more comfortable ride to Edmonton where Dan, Trula, Donna, Henry, Ricky and Renee will catch flights home. Steve will accompany me as far as Minneapolis where he'll catch a FedEx plane on Monday for his flight home. I call Maureen and David and leave a message on their answering machine regretfully declining their kind offer to stop by their home in Calgary for dinner or to spend the night. Too many miles to go to get home . . . I've been gone since the 16th . . . no sense in taking a chance in missing Steve's flight on Monday . . . so it's the best decision although we both would like to see Maureen and David one more time. Perhaps we'll see one another on their next trip to Florida or our next visit to the Canadian Rockies.
We repack all the bicycles in the trailer around 3:00 in the afternoon for the trip back home to Tennessee. The bus riders will leave at 6:30 tomorrow morning for an express ride to Edmonton with the rest of us following close behind at 7:00 a.m.. We're scheduled to pick the bus passengers up at the bus station in Edmonton when they arrive shortly after 11:00 to be certain everyone gets safely to the airport in time to catch their flights. But the bus is 30 minutes late and we don't pack the Explorer with the entire compliment of eight people until 11:40 for the 20 mile ride to the Edmonton's international airport.
After dropping everyone off, Steve and I find a cigar store where I purchase a couple Cuban cigars for friends back home. It's just no fun crossing the border without some form of contraband. Unable to find hotel rooms in Regina, Weyburn or Estevan, SK, Steve and I decide to drive in shifts and make a straight run for Memphis - cancel Steve's flight out of Minneapolis and complete the 2,320 mile trip in exactly 50 hours - arriving home at 10:00 a.m. on Monday.