Monday, July 9, 2012

First week on the road

So here we are in sunny Calgary, slumped into an enormous couch in Kev and Tony’s 9th floor apartment, hiding from the cowboy hats, pointy boots and tasseled shirts that jangle at us from every street corner. The Calgary Stampede just started, so the city is in party mode, adorned in its shortest jean shorts and sleeveless flannel, ready to drink enough beer to kill a small caribou herd. And while our livers slowly process Stampede related toxins, it’s a good time to reflect on an awesome first week of transcontinental adventuring.
Matt ponders. Matt sips.
With 1900kms on the clock so far, we took the scenic route from McMurray to Calgary, via Nordegg, Jasper and Banff. Remember the goal of this trip is not to get anywhere specifically, it’s just to have fun ride motorbikes for a year, so we’ve got plenty of time to check out the side roads. If you have any suggestions of where we should go, please let us know!
Lakes make Atley hungry
First up we headed to Red Deer for Atley to meet the infamous Caveman. After our 2 previous weeks of working on the bikes and general trip preparation in Fort Mac, it was great to be able to kick back and not have a million jobs to do. Cavey treated us to some expensive tequila and pickled fish, a stone age standard. We celebrated Canada Day at Sylvan Lake without Caveman however after we lost him on the highway in the first 3 minutes of the ride out there, but still made the most of the cheery national celebration without our local tour guide. We spent most of the time in Red Deer reading about suspension upgrades for our bikes, as Mark’s rear shock seems to have failed. He’s managing with it ok though, so we’ve left the problem for Future Us to deal with when we’re in USA, the land of cheap motorbike parts and oversized everythings.
Caveman make fire
From Red Deer we headed west through the rain to Rocky Mountain House then Nordegg. I hoped to be able to find a free camp somewhere near Abraham Lake, that big blue lake the highway follows between Nordegg and Banff National Park. Luck was on our side, because the first unmarked gravel track we turned down was blocked by several boulders with Kawasaki KLR650 size gaps between them! You’ll have to try harder than that Canada:  Australia 1, Canada 0. With a huge lake front area to ourselves, a fast flowing stream, and awesome views in every direction,we decided that we’d best camp 2 nights there.

Lake Abraham
"This place is shit, do we really have to camp here?" -Atley
Seeing as this was the first time in the history of the universe that Mark Atley had seen the Rocky Mountains, we threw a few things in our backpacks and headed off to see if we could get to the top of this thing:

Vision Quest
Turns out we totally could, and smashed the 800m ascent and decent of Vision Quest Mountain in 4 hours. Mark celebrated the ascent by wearing flat soled skate shoes that slid easily on all surfaces, to up the ante of his first mountain hike.

Converse One Star skate shoes. Footwear of choice for the majestic mountaineer.
Coincidentally the next day was scheduled as Awesome Motorbike Riding Day, so we removed our side cases, stashed them in the bushes near our camp, and proceeded to ride the Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic roads in Canada. Glaciers, mountains, rivers, the continental divide,wildlife, massive RVs driven by retired Americans and zero police enforcement of the speed limit, what more could you ask for? This 300km route weaves through valleys between untouched world class peaks in the middle of Jasper and Banff National Parks and it’s truly a privilege to travel through such spectacular country, so I’d like to thank Kawasaki and my mum.

Icefield Parkway glory
We returned to another fantastic evening at our camp on Lake Abraham that night, and were sampling some chilled cans of Pilsner, when who came wandering by:  Herman the black bear, trawling through what quickly became HIS stream! Luckily Mark and I had so far resisted the urge to spill the blood of the local fauna while at that location, so with no carcasses to fight over, Herman wandered past our palid, boney limbs, and off towards the delicious garbage of the lodge 2 km away. Moments later he returned expressing interest in a straight-to-VHS video arrangement, see below for the outcome.

The next day we rode the southern end of the Icefield Parkway in more blue sky and warm weather, through Banff on the way to our destination of Calgary. Once there Kevin treated us to a tour of some local Ale Houses with great success. The next day began with a free Stampede breakfast, boccie ball in the park, a few hours at the Stampede grounds eating pizza on a stick and drinking beer with the local wildlife, then ended with Chinese food and scotch on the 9th floor balcony. It’s a hard life being on a motorbike trip.

Air Quest
Majestic Quest

Glacial Ice. Need a really big Scotch.
Lakes make Matt very excited. Very.
Cowboy line at the Calgary Stampede

Now click on Herman below to watch him tour our campsite! 
Make it full screen by clicking on the very bottom right corner of it.....

So that leaves us about to depart Calgary and head west to see what there is to see in the land of British Columbia. The forecast for Golden says 31 degrees for the next 6 days and we've stocked up on a few supplies from MEC, so we're ready for some more mountain adventures. Peace!

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