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May 25- Day 18

No sore throat, in fact I feel great! It's a clear and very chilly morning. I had worn my thermals with my clothes for the first time last night, and was TOO warm as a result.

I'm typing this at a picnic table that's in the sun, letting my back get warm.

I hate RV parks. We camped pretty far away from them, but looking at crowded row upon row of similar if not identical RVs is a worse feeling than seeing Clone Homes. These weekend warriors shell out cash to have the comforts of home while traveling maybe a few hundred kilometers away? I like RVs, personally. I want one, but only as a mobile base of operations, not for a weekend getaway.

So, the plan for today is basically this: get to Lake Louise, come hell or highwater. If Ilan and Shannon hope to make Banff by Friday night, we're going to have to make it there. For those who don't know, Lake Louise is right by Kicking Horse Pass, the highest elevation we're going to have to climb (something like 1600m I heard). After that it's mostly downhill to Banff, and to Calgary.

Glen and Steph left first by about a half hour. Before this, however, Steph enlightened me to the fact that I sometimes snore. Must have been the way I was sleeping, because I don't think I snore any more than the average person. By 9:30, the rest of us were on our way as well.

After a half hour of climbing uphill, the five of us stopped by a ledge that looked down on a rapid river, a railroad crossing over it. There were some observers from a white water rafting company there (who do ski instructing in the winter) waiting for their latest group to go by, so we waited for them as well. When they did pass, it looked so easy and relaxing from our height, but you knew they were actually being tossed about like rag dolls.

When we started up again, I found to my dismay that my bike computer had been damaged again. This time I didn't have any slack to work with, so I had to lower my bike computer to the shaft of the handlebars, sideways. It took me a half hour and everyone moved ahead. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to catch up, and accepted that notion, but after a couple of hills I found them waiting for me, I think they wanted to make sure I was okay, which was great.

We stopped at a scenic spot inside Yoho National Park by Kicking Horse River for lunch. They had sandwiches, I had some GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts... but in my case it had M&Ms in it as well), beef jerky and granola.

An old woman on a bicycle came by on the other direction, and was she ever cool! She had biked around New Zealand, travels everywhere, and a few years ago had built an igloo with her husband in Alberta when it was -25 degrees out. It was so well built she said it was +8 inside! Then she biked off again into the direction we came from.

When we eventually hit Trail, I didn't know if I was still in BC or Alberta... the map shows it as BC, but there was all kind of Alberta signs telling me different. My knee gave out in a big way there, I could barely walk, and I had a sinking feeling I might end up being left behind if it didn't get better. While we rested there I massaged it vigorously until I had a sudden burst of pain and yelled out Then the pain went instantly away. Perhaps I had a muscle or tendon or something out of place and had put it back in?

Finally, we faced Kicking Horse Pass. Rogers Pass was nothing compared to this, largely because of its length. The grade is workable, but it keeps going up and up and up. The peak is 1660 meters, but we never once saw a sign telling us we reached the top. What a gyp, since it robbed me of a photo op. Near the top we stopped to watch a black bear on the railroad (ended up napping there), and ran into another cross Canada cyclist, Charles. He's got an accent I can't place and uses a trailer behind his bike, like Glen. Not once did I walk my bike, once again I managed to power my way all the way up. Even Erin and Linda agreed that being in a group definitely helped motivate them.

After that it was mostly downhill, and the next thing you know we were in Alberta.

Welcome To Alberta: Enjoy the crappy shoulders!

I stayed on the road most of the time. The shoulders were CONSTANTLY cracked and repaired at regular intervals, bumpbumpbumpbumpbump.... no thanks.

Time spent cycling: about 5 hours

Distance traveled: 84 km

Total distance: 1097 km

Average Speed: 21.0 kph

Maximum speed: 80.4 kph

Current Location: Lake Louise campground, in Banff Provincial Park.

(the time and distance are rough, based on Erin's computer, speeds are based on mine)

The five of us had become spread out into three groups at great distance from one another. Ilan and Shannon in front, me in the middle, and Erin and Linda way behind. When we got to Lake Louise, Ilan waved me in to make sure I found where they were, but there was no sign of the girls. After ten minutes or so, Shannon and I went down the road on foot to see if we could find them. Charles of all people was the first person we saw, who told us they were just up the road repairing a broken rear rack. I went ahead to go help them, but they fixed it before I got there. So in the end, all 8 of us hooked up again outside a bakery in Lake Louise. There is a campground not too far away where we gathered for the night, and split the cost of two campsites between the lot of us. About 4 bucks a piece.

So I suppose this is nearly the end of one journey. There will be no way all of us will end up in the same place like this again. Ilan and Shannon are going to be picked up from Banff, Erin and Linda will be taking a more northerly route out of Alberta than I, and the others I don't know well enough to know what their plans are. As for me, since I'll be holing up in Brooks for a few days, I guess our paths probably won't cross again. But you never know...

Charles' motivations for the journey are different than the others. He's not doing it for charity or awareness, nor is he simply going on an adventure back to Ontario. He lived in L.A. for the past six years and just moved to Vancouver where he has some relatives, and is so burnt out that he can't even think of getting another job right now. This trip is to clear his head. I wonder if it's going to have that affect on me?

Lake Louise is apparently still frozen over! Erin and Linda visited there this evening, but said the light was insufficient to get a picture. Rats. This lake is something like 1730 meters above sea level! Maybe in the morning a trip there will be warranted.

I still can't believe that I'm in another province! I can't believe I made it over the Rockies!!! I always knew this would be the hard part, but Ilan and the rest have made it easier. I wonder how the transition back to solo journey will feel? I wonder if I will suffer withdrawal? But still, the idea that there are more people ahead and behind me that I might run into is comforting. It's just that the odds of it are highly reduced now. After all, there are only 2 ways out of BC, but hundreds across the prairies.

The grizzly situation is taken seriously here. There is a food lock up shed just for people like us, and signs warning that hikers are to go in groups of no less than six in certain areas. Every picnic table has a bear warning screwed into it flush against the surface so as not to make the table uneven (it's strange, it even uses a three pronged screwdriver, something I've never seen, to keep people from taking it off).

Everyone but me has a North Face tent. Four tents, three different types, and they are all unhappy with them in one way or another, ranging from minor irritation to anger. One type leaks through a seam that can't be fixed, another doesn't breath enough and condenses inside, the third has a third pole that won't touch the ground and also has a condensation problem. Me, I have no problem with my tent, except for headroom sitting up. But I haven't had a wet morning yet.

A bit of bathroom graffiti I thought was interesting or funny:

"A piece of QUEBEC was here, so I FLUSHED it."

(and in response) "It's because of people like you that Quebec is going to flush ITSELF. If this is what you want, bravo! If not, you're an idiot!"

"THIS IS THE LOUDEST CAMPGROUND IN THE WORLD!"

(and in response) "except in october, it's to quiet"

"Labrador to Charolette Islands: Coast to Coast '99"

Yes, I know, bathroom humor. But to find that in a park washroom in Lake Louise was too good to resist.

Lastly, there are three guys here that came by car in the site next to us, drinking and videotaping everything in sight. They seem nice enough, but not my crowd, others are talking to them by their campfire (we don't have one since you have to buy a permit), which I suppose is part of their motivation. Me, I'm going to bed.



Onto Day 19...