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May 26- Day 19

Again I wore thermals, this time I was glad to do so. It was COLD! Easily hit 0 degrees last night. But again, I had trouble because parts of me were too warm inside the tent. Some people had plans to get up early to see Lake Louise at sunrise, but nobody's alarms worked (and who wants to get out of their sleeping bags in this temperature?).

A crow tried to make off with Erin's powerbar, Glen and Steph's laundry which they had hung out to dry last night are now frozen stiff. Last night Steph left some nuts out on the table and were stolen by a red squirrel. The plan is to go into town and have a group breakfast. This will probably be the last time we are all together in one place anyways.

Erin went for a shower and would hook up at the bakery later, but the rest of us, all seven people and six bikes (one recumbent, one tandem, two with trailers behind them, the other two standard) drove into the village en masse like a gang (or a pack of Shriners, depending on your point of view). We talked for over an hour about trip, gear and project related topics. A man by the name of Mike took pictures of the lot of us, with seven different cameras, fortunately he loves photography.

After everyone packed we got a group shot with all our bikes and gear, a fellow camper was good enough to help us in that regard (one of the drinking buddies mentioned earlier).

The repair job the local bike shop did on Erin's bike rack was shoddy as hell. It wouldn't last two weeks before breaking again, and Erin is the non-confrontational type. So as we left we rode as a gang together back to the bike shop and demanded they do the job right. That felt good. Charles in particular is very demanding of good service and intolerant of incompetence, definitely one of his major pet peeves. It looks like we're riding to Banff together, the first and last ride we'll all be together.

We took the Bow Valley (1A) instead of the Trans Canada to Banff. At times we raced, other times we took it easy and chatted with whoever was nearby. We stopped at Baker Creek for a quick lunch (but I wasn't hungry). Steph and Glen went on ahead, but we soon caught up with them.

The next stop was at Johnston Canyon, where Charles, unfortunately had to permanently part company. He had to make it to Canmore tonight, while the rest of us were settling for Banff. We dismounted and took a leisurely hike along the canyon, where there was a beautiful waterfall and steep cliffs on either side, rocky overhangs, and a small cave that took you to the heart of the waterfall. Too bad it was all laid out tourist-friendly. Still, it was quite a sight.

When we left I took the lead, but all too quickly noticed a fallen tree on the road. Ilan and I tried to move it while the others moved on ahead, but didn't make too much progress. I went back to tell someone who could call a park ranger (it could be quite a hazzard at night), and Ilan and Shannon pressed forward. Despite this huge head start everyone had, I actually ended up catching up and passing almost everyone. I saw a male elk with growing horns along the way, a first for me.

Time spent cycling: 3:00:22

Distance traveled: 68.01 km

Total distance: 1166 km

Average Speed: 22.6 kph!

Maximum speed: 69.5 kph

Current Location: outside of Banff, in Banff Provincial Park.

When we went out onto the #1 again, and later into Banff, we had to cross over some Texas Trails (perfectly round spaced out beams that cars can go over but not animals). Kinda scary to go over on a bike.

The seven of us gathered together just outside of Banff and tried to find a hotel for the night (the plan was for Ilan and Shannon to get a room and sneak everyone else inside later). But it being Friday and all, that didn't exactly work out. We ended up going to another park, and saw tons of elk along the way.

Overall this trip was mostly downhill as the average speed might hint. But there was still a fair share of climbing as well. We covered good distance in only three hours, but will have to go longer and harder if some of us are to make it to Calgary tomorrow. What my plans are, I'm not 100% sure, but we'll see. Tonight, however, it's a spaghetti dinner for everyone, except Steph and Glen, who plan to turn in early.

Those two are an interesting case. Steph is 21 and Glen is 27. They are not officially dating yet, but are obviously thinking about it. They're in a very odd and very cute "awkward" stage of not even knowing whether they should be a couple or not. Just today I overheard Steph say when she got back from the camp phone that her mother asked if he had "made any moves" on her. Basically they ummmed and aaawwed around the whole issue. They are so... awkward is the only word to describe it!

Ilan during the course of this trip has become the defacto tour guide, since it's he who manages to get us deals at wherever we stay (if we stay in a park), and takes us to places of interest (like Johnstone Canyon). His outgoing spirit extroverted personality is definitely part of what keeps things fun.

Shannon, while game for anything and of good humor, is not as extroverted. Like on the tandem bike, she lets Ilan take the lead.

Erin is fun and outspoken around people she likes, but afraid to speak up for herself when it counts. As I said before she's non-confrontational. She is very much an outdoors person, and has been on many canoeing trips as well as a camp counselor.

Linda is to Erin as Shannon is to Ilan, the follower, not the leader. She always has a smile on her face, and is in quite excellent athletic shape and coordination (she managed to ride my recumbent without support even though she never rode one before!). Despite this, Erin is usually in the lead while riding. Erin has more drive and desire I can only assume, while Linda isn't in that much of a rush. More laid back and easy going.

I finally got a fire going all on my own. While back near the Hot Springs I had set it up and chopped the wood, I did not get the fire going on my own. This time I did, with a single lit twig. We're having smores tonight, and man the spaghetti smells great!

I had the strangest and nearly profound experience this night. This is about midnight. The dinner was eaten, Steph and Glen had decided to join us after all, where we struck up conversation involving gun control and government for a while before S&G decided to go to bed. Afterwards, we cleaned the dishes, and I did what I had been planning to do for Ilan and Shannon since the night after we met. I told Ilan about my tradition of giving a token of gratitude to people like him, just like I had the two kids near the Appellations in my Halifax trip. I gave him my New Guinea Kina. He appreciated it so much he gave it back and insisted I say the whole thing to Shannon as well, since it was thanks to both of them. We cooked the smores, talked, reminisced, and eventually when it was dark... sang campfire songs.

This sounds corny, and at first it was, but it so totally took me back that I just couldn't fight it. It was such a wonderful warm feeling, full of laughter. Erin works at summer camps, and just likes to sing these songs outdoors whenever. Ilan and Shannon also are very well versed. Let's see, the songs I remember...

There's a hole in the bottom of the sea...

My eyes are dim I cannot see (Corner Master Store)

One about a tree in the ground, which adds on limb, branch, twig, nest, egg, bird, wing, flee, elephant...

BINGO (in full Round version)

Twenty froggies go to school (a new one to me, I actually recorded them singing it. hehehe)

oh man, I'm drawing a blank!

We had to have sung over twenty songs, two thirds of which I remember vividly... well to be honest I only sang along in about 5, I was too embarrassed to fully join in most of the time (Linda didn't sing once... way too shy). But while maybe ten years ago I would have been so embarrassed I would have left or started singing "Miller Time" in retaliation, it was so richly positive that I was taken in. I enjoyed it, I have no shame in that. For those of you who think I should feel shame, you just weren't there, in the moment. It was, perhaps, the best way to spend the last night with a group of people you have come to see as friends in such a short period of time. Wow.



Onto Day 20...