July 21, 2010 – 97 miles
We started our day with a buffet breakfast. Knowing I had nearly 100 miles to Jasper, I made an effort to load my stomach. It’s another sunny day, but very cool and crisp.
After turning onto the highway, we rode in the shadows of the mountains. The first few miles were generally downhill and VERY cold. Even still, I wore only my SmartWool long-sleeve shirt on my upper half.
As I rode, I noticed faint lines and numbering spray-painted across the shoulder. The numbers seemed evenly spaced and slowly counted upward. After a few miles, I realized the marks were painted every 400 meters, roughly. Now that the lines were in my mind, I couldn’t NOT see them. Great, I thought. I’ll spend the rest of the day counting quarter miles up to 400! Maybe the lines stopped or maybe I got distracted, but I eventually stopped noticing.
After a few cold miles, I finally reached the sun. How great it felt!
It’s funny how much of an opposite extreme this is from day #1 in the desert south of Hachita, NM. There, I had no shade. Now, I appreciated it’s warmth more than ever.
The road dropped toward a wide river and started following it upstream. Soon, I started climbing up and away from it. Across a bridge overlooking a waterfall, and then further skyward.
The climb lasted about 8 miles. I made it most of the way without resting, except the last few miles. Near the top, I was passed by a group of touring cyclist heading downhill. My time will come, I thought to myself.
I don’t know what time I reached the Columbia Icefield, but it must have been close to noon. There’s a restaurant there that resembles an airport. Except instead of airplanes, buses were constantly coming and going. I knew it is a tourist trap, but I went in for a meal anyways. Overpriced, but what did I expect.
After lunch, we continued riding along a river. It must have been a different river, because we were following this one downhill, now. We had 60+ miles left to Jasper, but knowing it was generally downhill was a mental boost.
Shortly after lunch I reached the fastest speed of the entire trip – 42.1 mph! That’s pretty fast considering I’m riding on knobby tires and have two large panniers up front making me as aerodynamic as a snowplow.
The grade flattened eventually and I resumed trudging along. As the miles wore on, I noticed my butt getting more and more sore. I was getting tired and put more weight on the saddle. Unfortunately the shoulder seemed to be degrading. Every 10 feet there was a large crack in the pavement. Thump thump. Thump thump. Thump thump. Each one rubbing my butt a bit more raw. I contemplated riding in the traffic lane, but the dangerous RV drivers kept me away. I stopped often to apply ointment, but it only ever temporarily helped.
30 miles after lunch, I stopped at a shop near Sunwupta Falls. I saw Mathieu’s bike there and figured I could use a break from the saddle. I ate a brownie, cheesecake, and a gatorade. Anything to ease the suffering in my behind.
After the short break, I saw rain clouds rolling in from the East. I sped up, hoping they’d pass behind me. Lucky I didn’t go too fast, because a few miles later I was riding on wet pavement. It had been raining there just a few minutes beforehand.
A roadie passed me up, while I was climbing a small hill. I later caught up while she was talking to someone in a car she apparently knew. “Where’d you start,” she asked. What to say? There are so many options. “Mexico” and on I rode.
She later caught up with me and asked where I started today. I told her Sascatchewan River Crossing – today’s a long day. Telling her I’d already done 100+ km today seemed to have more of an impact than the 2900 miles beforehand.
She rode ahead and I was alone on the rode. That’s how I’d prefer to ride my last miles – alone to let individual experiences come to mind.
I rode onwards and occasionally glanced at my odometer. Am I really about to finish this trip? Nearly 3,000 miles on the odometer with 10 to go….5 to go…2 to go…
I spent those last miles singing the songs that got me through tough sections in the past. I’m not struggling now and I don’t need the distraction….I’m reminiscing.
I switch on my helmet cam to capture the last moments of my ride. Smooth pavement and traffic – this is not representative of my trip at all.
I ride into jasper and it’s over. Just like that. The last day was the longest – 97 miles by my odometer and I still have juice in my legs.
We checked into a hotel, shower and go to have dinner. Baked spaghetti is what I order, except it’s not as good as I imagined.
Back in the hotel, I flip on the CNN – race issues, the oil spill, celebrity happenings. I didn’t miss this at all.
Before I go to bed, I realized tomorrow I won’t have to wake early. I won’t have to ride from 9 to 5. Tomorrow the rhythm of the past two months will be broken.
Dave, thanks for posting this. It made an enjoyable read and caused me to laugh out loud several times these last few evenings. I enjoy finding a good bicycling blog, especially from people discovering a lot about bicycling and themselves. Your photos are great as is your writing and wit. I’m glad Mathieu posted a link to it. The site (not your writing) is a bit challenging to navigate beginning to end, but well worth the effort.
So, late congratulations on meeting the challenge you undertook. I’m sure its successful completion is an important contribution to the man you became, and that you’ll look back at this trip fondly for the rest of your life. Every young man should take on a significant challenge to prove to himself what he is.
Maybe the mountain biker in me will come forth in this road tourist, and I’ll undertake this challenge as I face retirement this fall and a couple of my cycling buddies try to talk me into waiting until ’13 for the Northern Tier. I would have to have the right companions- as you found in Mathieu.
Thanks for the comment, Steve. Anyone looking to push themselves physically and mentally should take on the GD. But be warned, it’ll change your life and consume your thoughts. Even now, two years later, there are few days where I don’t think about getting back on the Divide. To paraphrase (and probably butcher) an appropriate quote, source unknown, “when life becomes a struggle for food and clean water, one does not have time for existential depression.”
You’re not the first to mention having difficulty navigating the site. Fixing it is on my to-do list.