I’m leaving for a road bike trip, this year through the Cascade range in Washington. I was a novice the first time I packed my bike for one of these trips. Fitting the bike in the hard-shell packing case looked impossible. Now I do it without guidance or tsuris–although it still looks impossible to fit the bike in the box.
It was a short trip this year, on the bikes about 150 miles over four days up the Hudson River valley from Nyack to Saratoga. The distance between the two is more than 150 miles, but we drove from Coxsackie to Saratoga because (1) we didn’t want to bike through or around Albany and (2) we needed to make dinner reservations. It was really three half-days of riding because we drove from home to Nyack Thursday morning, returned home from Saratoga Sunday afternoon, and stayed off the bikes and out of the rain Saturday morning. We experienced some spectacular scenery around West Point, bucolic scenery at various points along the way, and the best that Routes 9W and 9G can offer in between–which was nothing special. This trip was much more about the camaraderie than the biking, and contributed richly to group lore. We had 98 degree temperatures, a fender bender between our two vans, a stop my childhood home,
thunderstorms, molasses-slow waitstaff, lost drivers in Poughkeepsie, constant disagreements about the route, visits to FDR’s home in Hyde Park and the battlefield at Saratoga, rain, some of the best coffee ever at Uncommon Grounds in Saratoga, endless amusement courtesy of Anthony Weiner’s expense, gelato, few photographs, no flats, no serious injuries, and no major disputes. And so we turn our attention to next year’s trip.
This post and coming pictures are belated, as we returned from Calgary on the Fourth of July, but immediately after returning home I left for two days, came back for two days, and left again. What this post lacks in spontaneous trip-based immediacy it will make up in brevity.
Eight of us bicycled down the Icefields Highway from Jasper, Alberta, Canada to Lake Louise, Radium Hot Springs, Sparwood, and Waterton Park to Glacier National Park, Montana. I never totaled my mileage; it was enough. Prior trips have taken us through higher altitudes but the passes and other climbs and headwinds made for a reasonably difficult ride. We ended the trip by climbing Going-to-the-Sun-Road (sample FAQ from the official National Park Service site: How scary and creepy is it to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road?) west to east to the top of Logan Pass. We planned to ride up both sides but weather–heavy rain, sleet, winds, lightning–deterred our east-to-west ride. We made it without injuries, accidents, or serious disagreements, with only minor mechanical problems, and in awe of our surroundings. My descriptions are uni-dimensional–I’ve over-used “spectacular,” because it fits. Some random observations:
- Drivers were almost uniformly polite and respectful, passing us with ample room. There were exceptions. of course, but as a group the drivers we encountered were less hostile to bikers than, say, Colorado drivers.
- Canada is expensive. The Canadian dollar was worth roughly $.95 American but prices more than made up the difference. Each day it would cost almost $20 to purchase four bags of ice for our coolers.
- The Canadians one sees in Wal-Mart (or the Real Canadian Superstore) are generally about as pleasing on the eye as U.S. Wal-Mart shoppers.
- The couple we met on their day off at Sunwapta Resort, Angie and Steve–she’s a nurse who looks like Hilary Swank’s big sister, he does search-and-rescue for the Canadian park service, and they were biking the 70 miles to their home in Jasper after skiing on the glacier all day–made us feel dull in comparison. We were tourists; they’ve made their life in this spectacular wilderness.
- I did not, however, envy them their Ceasar Cocktails, a Canadian variant on the Bloody Mary made with Clamato, a clam-juice-containing bastard offspring of V-8. Yuck. I’ll pass.
- On the other hand huckleberry ice cream is to die for.
- I did not eat at Tim Horton’s, but not on principle. Craving coffee and donuts one mid-morning we would have debased ourselves for a Tim Horton’s, but the towns we passed through were too small. Needing a sugar jolt on the drive back from from Glacier to Calgary we had to choose between Tim Horton’s and A&W; seven of us opted for root beer floats at the latter. The ice cream came in hockey puck-like frozen vanilla–or white, at least–discs that had not the texture, taste, or satisfaction of ice cream.
If and when more of the trip comes back to me I’ll post more. Enjoy the coming pictures.
Fred said some days the temperature is perfect, some days the wind is perfect, some day the road is perfect, and some days the scenery is perfect. Some days two or three of these things combine. Today, or the first two-thirds of today’s ride, we had all four. Deep blue sky, dry air, hot sun, cooling breeze, wind at our backs, well-kept and smooth roads with few vehicles–and unusually polite drivers in those vehicles, traversing an ocean of grass (a cliche until you see it) with a Rocky Mountain backdrop. At times we moved at 20-25 miles per hour without pedaling. It was incredible.
The wind is fickle, though, and a few hours later it hit us anywhere from 90 degrees right to head-on. Most of the final 30 miles was hard work. We rolled into Waterton Village about 4 pm tired, parched, sore-legged, and elated.