CCCTS Rockies Tour - 2013: A Personal View From The Back Of The Pack by Ken Levine

July 2: Day 1, Kamloops, BC
Twenty-six adventurous CCCTS members met at the Kamloops RV Park in eastern BC for the start of the 15 day, 1,125 kilometer (722 mile) 2013 Canadian Rockies Loop Tour lead by Alan Buium. Holly and I drove the 240 miles from Holly's house in North Vancouver to Kamloops in 4 1 /2 hours that afternoon. (We included the obligatory stop at COSTCO east of North Vancouver.) We arrived at the RV Park about 4:30 p.m. and half of the other 24 members were already set up and enjoying a social hour. We quickly checked in, set up our tent, and went to meet the gang. It was great seeing friends we had not seen for a year or more and meeting new members. Also, it was comforting knowing Holly, I, and our cook team would only prepare 2 days' worth of meals during the 15 day trip. Tonight was not our turn to cook.

The first cook team of 4 participants prepared a dinner of spiced chicken, flavored rice, salad, and several desserts. There was plenty of food and it was a great way to start an adventure that offered spectacular scenery, wonderful companionship, a well-organized and run tour, many challenges (we would soon find out), and bicycling one only dreams of in the Canadian Rockies. All of this was at a great price. After dinner, the leader gave us general guidelines and handed out 14 daily route sheets and an overall map. I looked over the ride sheets and overall route map and noticed we would be climbing 6 days all the way up to the Columbia Icefields followed by a gradual descent the next 8 days with many, many hills in-between. There would be 5 mountain passes and a summit to conquer as we traveled east, then north, then west, and finally south back to Kamloops. Also, we would pass through 5 National Parks and one Provincial Park. The elevation profiles looked daunting. The only factor missing was the weather each day. Little did we know that would also be a challenge.

Holly and I then retired to our tent. The night was warm but comfortable and most of the participants were in their tents early for the 5:30 a.m. - 6 a.m. awakening.

July 3: Day 2, Kamloops to Salmon Arm - 81 kilometers (51 miles)

Holly and I awoke at 5:30 a.m. and some riders were already up and packing up their gear. Breakfast was scheduled for 7 a.m. which would become the norm followed by an 8 a.m. departure. We had 51 miles to ride and with a breakfast of oatmeal, cereal, tea, coffee, and desserts, we were ready for the ride.

This first day was easier than I expected as we had a tailwind from the west the whole way accompanied by sun and warm temperatures. The route was on Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway) to Salmon Arm. Traffic could be very heavy on Highway 1 but today it was light. Still, we had to be prepared for the trucks whizzing by.

Our only support vehicle, a rental truck which carried our personal gear, food, and group cooking gear, was stationed about 24 miles from the start and had coffee, tea, snacks, and the rest of last night's desserts - apple pie and Croatian pastries made by David's wife Flavia. From that rest stop, we had another 27 miles to our campground a few miles west of Salmon Arm. There were some hills but minor compared to what we would experience in a few days.

Arriving at the campground about 12:30 p.m., most people enjoyed a cold drink and then searched for a shady site on which to pitch their tents. Showers were available and we made use of a clothing line having first washed the day's clothing., Arriving so early, there was plenty of time to use the free internet access, relax, read, start happy hour early, or just socialize. I know Holly and I had not seen many of the participants for at least a year, excluding last night's brief get together so we caught up on what friends were doing and invariably, the talk turned to past bike trips and future bike trips. Not that people are jealous of what others have done or will do, but it's great to hear about an area you have not done and maybe will do.

Dinner tonight had a Mexican theme with vegetarian and meat burritos (self-made) with all the trimmings, salad, and dessert. The usual social hours(s) followed. Holly and I retreated to our tent at 9 p.m. although it was still light and we enjoyed a good night's sleep.

July 4: Day 3, Salmon Arm to Malakwa - 55 kilometers (38 miles)

I awoke at 4:30 a.m. as it was already light but managed to get back to sleep. Official wake-up time in our tent was 5:45 a.m. or 6. By 7, we were in line for our breakfast of scrambled eggs, cereal, coffee, tea, juice, muffins, and freshly made bread. All were delicious. And it looked like a wonderful day for a ride. We had “only” 55 kilometers (38 miles) to go today but there were 3 hills worth thinking about.

As usual, we left the campground at 8 a.m. after loading all the gear and food into the truck, making our lunches, and getting the official “okay to leave” from our leader. Our destination was Malakwa, 8 miles east of Sicamous on Highway 1. There was a slight tailwind and much of the road was in the shade as the sun was not high enough in the sky to beat down on us. Temperature was forecasted for the low 80s by afternoon as it had been the last 2 days. (Evening temperatures were in the high 50's as best as I can figure.)

One mandatory stop a rider mentioned was at an ice cream shop, the Dutchman Dairy, just off the route printed on today's handout. (There was also a “Happy Birthday to our American Cousins” printed on the ride sheet as this was July 4th.) Everyone stopped for a cone or two of freshly made ice cream. Many people substituted the cone for their lunch. (Holly did.) With the slight tailwind and only 38 miles left, we reached the campground about 12:30 p.m. and then relaxed until the truck arrived at 2:15 p.m.

The group quickly unloaded the truck, set up tents, showered and/or jumped into the indoor pool, and did whatever people did until dinner. (I worked on my journal and email while Holly worked on her email and the trip's financial records. Holly was the official treasurer for this event and had to record daily expenses and reconcile the books.)

Dinner was preceded by happy hour with Bernie and Jim in charge of beer, wine, and pop inventory. They made sure the group always had enough alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to satisfy the thirst riders developed over the miles. Then, when the dinner bell rang, we lined up for freshly grilled hamburgers with salad and all the trimmings. Dessert was strawberries, freshly made whipped cream, and watermelon. Afterwards was the usual clean up and social hour and finally, we were in our tent by 9 p.m. With the campground came the train noises every hour or so as this was the third evening we camped near the main Canadian Pacific Railroad East-West line. Not only were we located near the train tracks but our route from Kamloops east until we head north on the Icefield Parkway would be within sight of train tracks.

July 5: Day 4, Malakwa to Revelstoke - 57 kilometers (36 miles)

Today's theme was “Beautiful, busy, balmy, and beach toys.” We awoke on schedule for the 7 a.m. breakfast. Our trip leaders had to remind us breakfast was at 7 a.m. as some people were very early risers and were ready for breakfast by 6:30. The cook team for breakfast already gets up very early to start the coffee and prepare the hot items so it's not fair to ask them to awake even earlier.

We packed our lunches and headed out for another short day of 36 miles to a campground just outside Revelstoke, BC. Weather was balmy in a good way with another tailwind to help us up the incline we would cover the whole day. The few clouds during the day were puffy and not threatening. Temperatures were comfortable as we crossed over Eagle River several times. We had crossed over Eagle River several times since Sicamous. Our cameras were always ready to record the beautiful scenery of snow covered mountain in the distance, lakes bordering the Highway, fields, water falls, and small communities. Of course, we also got excited and took pictures every time a long coal train (perhaps 125 coal cars or more with 4 or 5 engines) overtook us or came in our direction. We even saw one while visiting Craigellachie, the site of the last spike driven into a rail tie to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway stretching 3,000 miles from the East Coast to the West Coast. The rail line was completed in 1885. There is a monument at the site, gift shop, and historic pictures.

Back on Highway 1, the traffic today was busier than the previous 2 days. There were more double long lumber trucks, RVs, and many 18-wheelers. All gave us a wide berth and the shoulder we rode on was good for most of the time. However, we still had to be very careful where the shoulder narrowed, disappeared, or was broken and when the trucks zoomed by creating a further tailwind.

It was a very delightful day and where did the beach toys come in? While riding along, Holly and I are always on the lookout for gifts from the road. Over the years, we have accumulated a large collection of toys, tools, bungee cords, and some cash (typically $15 - $20 a year). On today's ride, Holly spotted some plastic beach toys along the road including a large plastic shovel, small shovel, and 4 plastic sand molds kids use. She had to stop and pick them up. We donated the 2 shovels and 2 molds to the playground at the camp and gave Alan the turtle mold but the “tiny tug boat” lived in our luggage until we prominently displayed it on our “road collection” shelf at home. We had not seen the beach where children may have used these toys.

With a relatively low mileage of 36 miles ridden today, a slight tailwind, and no strenuous hills to climb, we reached our campground at 11:30 a.m. We showered (for a loonie - $1), put up our tent, and then took a 4 mile walk-about in Revelstoke. We returned to camp about 4 p.m.

Dinner was excellent and consisted of broccoli salad, Mediterranean vegetarian pasta, garlic bread, and cheese bread followed by fresh fruit, sherbet, and ice cream for dessert. Needless to say, very little was left. Afterwards, Holly and I worked on our pictures, journal, and email. By 9, we were tucked into our sleeping bags wondering when the next train would pass by the campground. Fortunately, we both fell asleep before hearing the engines chugging along and the wheels rattling. We needed the sleep as tomorrow would be a much longer and harder ride up to Roger's Pass.

July 6: Day 5, Revelstoke to Roger's Pass (Loop Brook Campground) - 64 kilometers (41 miles)

By now, we were used to the usual awakening at 5:30 a.m. breakfast at 7, and departure at 8 a.m. It was slightly cooler today and most riders wore a light jacket which came off after starting a significant climb to Loop Brook at 3,750 feet, 3 ½ miles shy of Roger's Pass that we would reach tomorrow. Fortunately, weather was good the whole day with a tailwind and slight cloud cover. Temperature got cooler as we ascended in elevation but no rain or even rain clouds.

We passed through Mt. Revelstoke National Park and admired the tall water falls starting in the glaciers or snow fields near mountain peaks and cascading down to the river which paralleled the ever present railroad tracks and Highway 1, our route. We also entered Glacier National Park and finally camped at Rogers Pass Monument where we saw original brick supports that supported the original wooden rail road trestles.

On today's traffic busy route, we went through 3 short tunnels (snow sheds), had our usual mid-morning tea/coffee break (today at Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk rest area), and enjoyed the many wild flowers along the road. There were white, blue, yellow, purple, and orange flowers. We also found more road gifts: a Canadian flag, railroad spike, and a trailer hitch pin.

Holly and I arrived at camp about 1:15 p.m. where most of the riders already had their tents set up. We often stopped along the way to take pictures and were not in a rush to get to camp as this was a tour and not a race. We erected our tent, changed to long pants and shirts to discourage the flies and bugs, ate the sandwiches we carried for lunch, and then relaxed. No shower today because the campground had no showers. We did have a bird bath and figured we would shower twice as long tomorrow. Today was not a hot, sweaty day so a bird bath could suffice. The bathrooms had flush toilets and there were sinks so it was not too primitive. However, there was no Wi-Fi, no hot water, and no electric outlets. So, I could not work on my journal or transfer the pictures from my camera to my netbook as backup. .

Dinner was cucumber salad, pasta, sausage, and brownies/cake for dessert. Of note today was that two riders saw and photographed a momma grizzly bear and her 2 cubs crossing the road in front of them. We knew we were in bear country so all group and personal food, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. had to be secured in the truck overnight. We got to bed about 9 and did not worry about bears visiting us.

July 7: Day 6, Roger's Pass to Golden - 88 kilometers (57 miles)

We slept well last night even though the trains ran nearby. Fortunately, there was a rapidly running river bordering the campground and that provided a white noise background. We awoke at 6, had breakfast at 7, and departed at 8. This morning, campground temperature was 5 C (42 F) so jackets, long pants, and gloves were the morning uniform. Besides the usual hot oatmeal, cereal, and beverages, the cook team made French toast. It was delicious and none was left over.

We rode the 3 ½ miles to the summit at Roger's Pass, elevation 1,330 meters (3,990 feet), which warmed us up. Holly and I took pictures at the summit and then enjoyed a wonderful, but cool, downhill for the next 11 miles. The sky was sunny which made the downhill more enjoyable but the shoulder was rough, nonexistent, narrow, or broken at times. We had to be very attentive especially when we rode through the 6 tunnels (snow sheds) on today's route.

We passed from the jagged, steep, glacier covered Selkirk Mountain range to the more rounded, gentler sloped, tree-covered Purcell Mountain range. All the while, we enjoyed sunny skies. By 10:30 a.m., we had removed our long riding pants, jacket, and winter gloves. For some of the day, we had a slight headwind but that would change the closer we got to our destination, Golden.

At mile 14, we started another climb. About 8 miles later, we topped off at the Continental Divide (although there was no sign), stopped for our mid-morning coffee/tea break at the support truck, and advanced our watches one hour for the change from Pacific Time Zone to Mountain Time Zone. A steep 6% - 8% downhill was next and it was fun. We noticed dozens of coal trains paralleling our route with empty cars traveling east and full cars going west. Each train had 4 engines to accommodate the steep inclines and down hills. We just had our legs for climbing and rubber brake pads to handle the down hills

We arrived in Golden about 1:45 p.m. (old time zone) and stopped at a McDonald's for cold drinks and ice cream. We had descended almost 1,400 feet from Roger's Pass to Golden, elevation 2,635 feet. Our distance covered was 57 miles and during that time, we found 2 good bungee cords to add to our collection. We arrived at the Golden Municipal Campground where there were showers available (for a loonie - $1), Wi-Fi, and electric outlets, if you looked hard enough. So, we showered, did some laundry, worked on our email, my journal, and Holly's group financials. We also saw a herd of Rocky mountain big horn sheep on a hillside across the road from the campground.

The weather stayed very good and dinner was delicious. The entrée was Weiner schnitzel accompanied by potato salad, coleslaw, tossed salad, and 4 types of pies. Nothing was left over.

After dinner, Holly and another member of our cook team drove the truck to the grocery store to buy food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as it was our turn to prepare 3 meals starting with tomorrow's dinner. By the time the truck returned to the campground, it was time for us to get into our tent as tomorrow is a very difficult ride of 106 kilometers (66 miles) starting with a 22 kilometer (14 mile) climb out of Golden. Some riders were using a shuttle service to get themselves to the 22 kilometer mark but Holly and I would accept the challenge. We have done this climb before but of course, we were much younger and foolish then. If we knew tonight what we would know by tomorrow evening, a part way (or whole way) ride would have been welcomed.

July 8: Day 7, Golden to Mosquito Creek (Banff National Park) - 106 km, 67 miles

Today was HARD. Probably the hardest ride Holly and I have done in many years. Today's theme was “wet, wetter, and wettest.” The day did not start that way. Upon awakening at 6 a.m., there were a few clouds but nothing threatening. Boy, how that would change within a few hours. We had breakfast at 7 and departed Golden at 8. So far, so good even with a few sprinkles while having breakfast but we were not expecting any more.

We immediately started a 12 mile climb out of town and as we rode, the rain got heavier. And it got heavier. The group of 8 who elected to use the shuttle van to get to the top of the 12 mile hill left the campground while the rest of us rode the very busy, winding, and sometimes bad or no shoulder road. The precipitation increased making small puddles on the roadway and streams flowing down the road. Add construction, cool temperatures, spray from the 18-wheelers, the longest day of the trip so far, significant climbing, many hills including a later 13 mile hill, and we had one terrible day. Of the 25 riders today, only 9 rode the whole distance. Others used that shuttle service for ½ the route (they paid the driver to continue driving them from 22 kms. to Field, ½ way through today's route), or hitched a ride with strangers or took a taxi part way or were picked up in the truck within 12 miles of the campground. (Holly and I rode the whole distance.) Needless to say, everyone was wet to some degree and many were cold. Fortunately, Holly and I had stored rain gear and warm gloves in our panniers (saddlebags) for the day and used them. We got wet but were not cold.

After reaching the summit of Kicking Horse Pass, we descended to Field, a large tourist center and railroad center on Highway 1. (Field was settled in the 1880's and was named after Cyrus Field, an American financier wooed as an investor b the CPR - Canadian Pacific Railroad.) Everyone who was riding stopped there. It was the only place of refuge during the rain. There was a large fireplace in the lobby, couches, and dryers in the bathrooms and we all huddled around the fireplace, ate lunch, and used the dryers to dry gloves, socks, etc. If the day's ride had ended there, no one would have complained. But, we still had more miles to ride and more rain to endure. I doubt anyone welcomed the idea of going back into the rain and cold and construction zones and traffic. But we came east to ride and that's what we did.

Not until we got about 10 miles from the campground did the rain stop and some sunshine came out. It was a miracle. Even though Holly and I rode the last hour in sunshine and there was a breeze, our gloves, shoes, and socks were soaked while other outer were was only damp. We skipped any sight-seeing stops including the spiral tunnels and Natural Bridge and only took a few pictures. Our cameras were double bagged. It was too wet, too long a day, and traffic too heavy to play tourist.

We got to the campground on the Icefield Parkway, Route 93 that runs from Jasper, Alberta to Arizona, at 4:30 p.m., set up the tent, changed into dry and warm clothing, and then helped with dinner preparation as it was our cook team's turn. With no shower facilities, no electric, no Wi-Fi, no hot water, and no flush toilets, the campground was primitive but inviting after a very difficult and challenging day. We knew we'd get a good night's sleep in a warm and dry sleeping bag in Yoho National Park, Alberta after dinner.

We prepared a Caesar salad, chili, and fresh baked apple crisp. Fortunately, our team leader Delores drove the truck this day and was in camp early enough to get the meal started. Everyone enjoyed the hot food knowing they would need energy for tomorrow's 104 km (64 mile) ride over 2 mountain passes. We got to sleep at 9 even though it was still light outside. We deserved a good night's sleep.

July 9: Day 8, Mosquito Creek to Columbia Ice Fields (Alberta) - 104 kilometers (64 miles)

Holly and I awoke at 5:25 .a.m. to help get breakfast ready for the group. It was amazing that the other 2 cook team members and some non-team members (Doug, Agnes, Allan and some others) were already up and started breakfast preparation. It was amazing because it was minus 1 C (30 F) at the campground. But, breakfast had to be made and lunch fixings put out. Warm clothing and gloves were necessary. After breakfast, we left about 8:30 a.m. to start the 11 mile climb to Bow Pass (2,067 meters or 6,201 feet). This was the first pass of 2 today. The second, steeper and longer, would be at the end of the day.

Temperature was cool when we started but quickly warmed up on the climb. And, it was mostly sunny unlike yesterday. We looked forward to a dry ride and a real bed as our destination was the Glacier View Inn in the Ice Fields. Along the route, we saw several glaciers, waterfalls, rivers, streams, and lots of tourists. The shoulder quality varied from very good (wide and level and paved) to much worse. Traffic was not as bad as on Highway 1 that we left yesterday for Route 93 north near Banff. And with the lesser traffic and lack of trucks (prohibited on this road), we left the railroad tracks and trains behind. We would again see them later.

Lunch was at Saskatchewan Crossing, a popular tourist stop for buses, cars, and RVs about ½ way through the day and next to the Saskatchewan River. Some clouds came in and we wondered if we'd have a repeat of yesterday's weather? We did not although as we steeply climbed towards our tour's highest point, Sunwapta Pass at 6,653 feet, the air turned cooler and we encountered some headwind. From Sunwapta Pass, we had an easy 4 miles to the Columbia Ice Fields and our hotel. Just as we rolled into the parking lot about 5 p.m., Holly noticed a soft feeling in her front tire. We diagnosed it as a flat tube. (It was the second flat for her.) Fortunately, she did not get the flat on the road as 2 other riders did today. We patched the tube later that evening.

Once at the hotel, we checked in, hauled up our luggage to the room, unpacked, had really good hot showers, enjoyed happy hour, and then when to dinner in the hotel. (There were no other dining or grocery facilities around the hotel.) We met everyone else there and had a nice dinner. (Our leader gave us each $50 for dinner as prices at the hotel were high but we spent only half for dinner.) Then it was back to the room to organize our things, repair the flat tube, work on our pictures (many more taken today then yesterday), and work on my journal. After watching some television, it was bedtime in a very comfortable queen sized bed. This was our one and only time staying in a hotel this trip and we thoroughly enjoyed it even though we had to climb to about 6,700 feet to earn the room and bed. But on the way, we added an industrial strength bungee to our road gift collection. All in all, it was a great day with spectacular scenery.

July 10: Day 9, Columbia Ice Fields to Jasper - 102 Kilometers (65.5 miles)

Today was a “spectacu-licious” day, one of the top 5 riding days in my life. What a difference from just 2 days ago. We had a GREAT night's sleep in the hotel and awoke at 6:15 a.m. to go outside to the support truck and make lunches for today. Temperature was cool but forecast was for warm and sunny. After making the lunches and packing our bags, we went to the restaurant for a “delicious” breakfast buffet. We had a typical North American choice of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, hash brown potatoes cereal, fruit, etc. It was wonderful plus we could look outside as the sun came over the mountains and lit up the nearby 2 glaciers. Life was good.

After loading the truck and getting some instructions for the day from our leader, we departed at 8:30 a.m. It was a mostly downhill day but there were a few steep but short hills (up and down) including one near our departure point. Not only would we lose about 3,200 feet in elevation over the 65 miles but we had a good tailwind most of the way. I estimated about 16 mph for as we pedaled that fast, we did not have a head or tailwind.

Traffic was light especially early morning, the shoulder was good, and as we descended some of the hills, Holly and I reached between 30 and 40 MPH. It was “spectacular.” We passed many glaciers and wildflowers and had to stop very often to take pictures of the mountains, glaciers, streams, lakes, and waterfalls. We also stopped at picturesque Athabasca Falls at mid-point to eat our lunch. (The water in the Falls makes its way 6,200 kilometers or 3,800 miles to the Arctic Ocean.) From there, it was more downhill.

As we got closer to Jasper, our day's destination, the valley in which we rode widened, glaciers became less frequent, and snow on the mountains diminished and was replaced by trees. We reached the campground at 2:15 p.m. after 4 ½ hours of actual riding time for the 65.5 miles. Within an hour, we set up our tent that was a chore for us and many of the others as the wind was still blowing hard. We relaxed for a little while and then went to the shower facility which was a 20 minute walk from our site at the other end of the campground. (Next time, we rode the bikes from the group campsite.) The showers were hot and free. It was worth the 40 minute round trip walk. The campground did not have Wi-Fi but there was electricity in the bathroom nearest our site so I was able to work on my journal and Holly could work on the tour's financial books. (She kept a backup set of books on my netbook in addition to a paper book.) We could also recharge our camera batteries and GPS batteries.

We then relaxed and anxiously waited for dinner consisting of grilled pork chops, buckwheat groats, broccoli, and coleslaw. Dessert followed. The food was delicious and the cook team deserved a lot of credit, more than usual, as it was still very windy and difficult to cook. We put up the Club's 2 large cook and eating tents to block the wind. Several times, we had to re-spike the tents but the wind was only a prelude to what would happen tomorrow.

After dinner, we helped clean the pots and pans and serving bowls and utensils as usual, put all the food in the truck as we were still in bear country, and secure whatever was left outside so it would not blow away while we slept. Then, it was to bed for a good night's sleep. The day was truly spectacular with 2 great meals and a very memorable ride. It was memorable in the good sense. (Our lunch sandwiches were good also but could not compare to the breakfast buffet and grilled pork chops for dinner.)

July 11: Day 10, Rest Day in Jasper (8 miles)

We had heard from the leader yesterday that today's weather would not be good and that was an understatement. What a crazy weather day. Glad we had a day off, our first and only on the trip. When we awoke at 7:30 a.m. as scheduled, it was partly sunny outside. So far, so good. Breakfast was called for 8 a.m. since it was a day off and the cook team was preparing pancakes and bacon. The food smelled good and was good. While eating, more clouds moved in and we got some drizzle. And the wind picked up again.

Everyone had plans to ride into Jasper, 3 miles away, to do laundry, sight see, shop, and check out the bike shop. However, Holly and I waited, as did many others, until the rain slackened a little. At times, it was heavy and it would be no fun to ride the 3 ½ miles to the Laundromat in the rain let alone ride around town. So at 10:30, we rode north to Jasper in a slight rain.

The Laundromat was the busiest place in town. I'm sure it was over the legal capacity limit. Most of the group was there. We put our load in the washer and socialized. We finished at noon and the rain became less and stopped shortly afterwards. But for how long would it stop?

We rode around town and did some errands, had lunch, and then headed back to camp arriving at 2 p.m. I worked on the bikes, mostly cleaning, lubricating, and tightening parts. While working, someone in the group yelled “bear” and I went over to see. A black bear was walking across the field where groups camped. It was at a safe distance and did not seem to care we were there. After it reached the woods, we heard a loud noise and then a very loud growl. We found out later a ranger had fired a loud gun to scare the bear off and the growl was the reaction. It was a real treat to see the animal. Of course, this experience reinforced our need to store food and other items with odors in the truck or bear lockers.

At 3:30 p.m., it started raining again and would continue on and off all evening making meal preparation and eating a real challenge. But when you have Thai Green Curry chicken over rice, vegetables and Malaysian dessert custard with oranges and bananas for dinner, you manage to meet the challenge. We had another delicious and unique meal. And another day finished leaving only 6 riding days left.

July 12: Day 11, Jasper to Mt. Robson - 88 Kilometers (57 miles)

We had a cool night as we have had the last few days but looked forward to a good ride even though it was cool to start. Most people had long fingered gloves, long pants, and heavy or rain jackets to start after breakfast. This was one of those days when you are not sure what to wear or carry. Will it rain? Be sunny? Be cold? You select the best combination of clothing you have and your bike can accommodate.

While riding out of camp at 8:15 a.m., we saw 3 elk grazing by the road and they did not seem to be bothered by us. At the 2 mile marker, we turned onto Highway 16, the Yellowhead Parkway (named for a blond haired trader) and headed west and home. The Yellowhead runs from eastern Manitoba to western BC. The first mileage sign we saw on Highway 16 read “KAMLOOPS 439 kilometers (273 miles).” That was our ultimate destination 5 days away. The road was undulating, meaning up and down. At mile 15, we left Jasper National Park, which is the world's largest Dark Sky Preserve, and entered Robson Provincial Park. We saw Mt. Robson, highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at 11,862 feet, and knew we were back in BC. We also crossed the Fraser River that was considerably narrower than it is in the Vancouver area. Also, we knew to turn our clocks back 1 hour. We would have turned back our sundials also but it was totally overcast and cool. Mid-morning coffee break at the truck was 3 miles later and the hot coffee and tea tasted great.

We once again saw coal trains but this time we were riding west in the direction of the full coal cars. We summated Yellowhead Pass at 1,131 meters (3,400 feet), We then followed along Yellowhead Lake for a long distance and arrived at the Mt. Robson Meadows Campground. It was 1:15 p.m. (Pacific Time and 2:15 p.m., old Mountain Time zone) when we finished the 57 miles. Our new elevation was 2,750 feet so we descended about 670 feet over the day from Jasper's 3,420 feet elevation. Of course with lots of climbing, we descended more.

We set up the tent and then the rain started again and lasted for 15 minutes. Today was just one of those days that had a little of everything for us: rain, clouds, sun, head wind, tailwind, up hills, and down hills. The shoulder was good the whole way and the traffic moderate. And we found a pair of wire cutters to add to our collection.

The usual happy hour and appetizers preceded dinner. The main course was potatoes, goulash, and coleslaw. Dessert was cinnamon apples topped with whipped cream. All were delicious.

The evening was nice with a view of Mt. Robson even though the peaks are almost always shrouded in clouds We did not see the tops even the next morning. We went to sleep imagining what the tops looked like.

July 13: Day 12, Mount Robson to Valemount - 35 kilometers (22 miles)

This was a short day's ride so the leader suggested we do a hike to nearby Overlander Falls after our breakfast of French Toast, cereal, etc., The walk would be about a 90 minute round trip. So, we packed up the tents and then most of the group went for the walk. After their return, we left for the short day's ride at 11:15 a.m. There were some slight hills, a major turn to Highway 5 South, and then we arrived at the private campground at 12:45 pm. Altitude was now 2,532 feet meaning the evening would be a little warmer and we were getting closer to Kamloops.

Today was another of those “What do you wear and carry?” days but the rain held off for the short ride and the sun came out after we arrived at the campground which had Wi-Fi, electricity, good bathrooms and showers, and a wonderful shelter for group cooking. Holly rode another 2 or 3 kilometers into town to shop while I worked on email and the journal and pictures, and recharged batteries. As I wrote this about 4 p.m., the cook team was preparing dinner. When I finished my laptop work, I showered and cleaned the bikes. All in all, a very nice day once the rain stopped and was followed by a delicious dinner.

Dinner started with happy hour and appetizers followed by the entrees of African Sweet Potato Stew over rice and Chicken Curry over rice, salad, and fruit with whipped cream for dessert. The group enjoyed another good meal. We got to sleep about 9.

July 14: Day 13, Valemount to Blue Lake - 92 kilometers (57 miles)

It was overcast when we awoke but we were hoping for the best. We took down our tent, organized our gear, and brought our luggage over to the pile of luggage that would later be loaded on the support truck. Breakfast was at 7 a.m. but the rain started at 6:45 a.m. We had another day of major decision as to what to wear and what to carry on the bike. Would the rain return? Would it get colder than the 9 C (48 F) someone said it was? Would the sun appear and the temperature warm up? Will we face headwinds or have tailwinds? The grouped played it cautiously and safely and everyone put on their rain gear and warm clothing. You can always take off but if you don't have it, you can't put it on.

So, fully clothed for the worst (winter gloves, rain booties, long rain pants, 3 layers of upper body clothing with rain gear on the top), Holly and I were off with the group at 8 a.m. The shoulder was good and traffic light. We gradually climbed under overcast sky the first 18 miles that warmed us up. Then, it was a gradual downhill with the occasional uphill to get our attention. We had lunch at mile 36 which was the second time we saw the support truck. The first was for the early coffee break and the second time to provide drinks for lunch and make sure everyone was okay.

By noon, we removed some of the heavier clothing and rain gear. (We carried 3 panniers between us.) Occasionally, we'd see the sun but not for long. The tailwind persisted but no one complained. After a leisurely ride stopping often to take pictures of the mountains, glaciers, streams, waterfalls, and rivers, we arrived at the Blue River campground at 1:20 p.m. No rain since we started and we had descended about 300 feet overall but actually much more since we had up hills. Some members rode into town a mile away but were back quickly. We had a hot shower and I worked on my journal while Holly worked on the trip's financial books. At 4:30 p.m., the rain started. Fortunately, everyone was in camp with tents set up. Dinner preparation was under a large camp shelter. And we ate there also as the rain did not stop until sometime early the next morning.

Dinner was salad, calico bean pot, and rice followed by dessert. Within 2 hours, everyone was in their tents as it got colder and was still raining. We were out of bear country so food did not have to be stored in the truck. However, with all the rain we got, we should have stored ourselves in the truck.

July 15: Day 14, Blue Lake to Clearwater - 106 kilometers (68 miles)

This was our last long day and we looked forward to getting it out of the way with or without rain. We awoke to a cloudy sky but no rain. After last night's deluge, there wasn't a dry tent, inside or outside, in the group. At least that was what I heard. One member even took refuge at midnight in a rental cabin at the campground. We hoped we'd be able to dry things out when we reached today's destination of Clearwater.

After breakfast and deciding what to wear and what to carry on the bike in cast of inclement weather, we departed at 8 a.m. With the slight amount of sun shining through, we were hopeful.

Traffic was light and the shoulder good but you had to be careful of the rumble strips and patches of gravel. The road got dryer as we proceeded and followed the North Thompson River and railroad tracks. The weather changed constantly from full overcast to partly cloudy to partly sunny but finally ended with mostly sunshine and warm temperature. Along the way, most people removed most of their rain gear and warmer clothing.

Lunch for us was at mile 45 as we were making good time over the hills and enjoying a tailwind part of the way. In addition, we found an Alberta License plate to add to our collection.

We ended today after 68 miles at 2:15 p.m. and stopped at the Dairy Queen next to the campground for a well-deserved ice cream. We had descended about 692 feet overall to an elevation of 1,560 feet. There were some moderate rolling hills so we climbed but not significantly. Matter of fact, we had hills to climb every day. Ruediger's daily elevation profiles on our ride sheets warned us on what to expect.

By 4:30 p.m., we had set up our tent, organized our gear, showered, and were ready for happy hour. The sun was shining and the mosquitoes biting. At least we were able to see the mosquitoes unlike this morning when we had to deal with no-see-ums at breakfast.

Dinner was quinoa, sausage, and spinach salad preceded by happy hour and appetizers and followed by dessert of tarts and fruit. Most people chose not to deal with the mosquitoes in the campground and retired to their tents early even though tomorrow would be a short ride. And, weather forecast for the next and last 2 days of the trip was for all day sun and warmth. We have not seen that since Golden. We were optimistic and very happy.

July 16: Day 15, Clearwater to Barriere - 62 kilometers (38 miles)

What a glorious day for riding. Not since Day 6 did we enjoy a sunny, tailwind, no rain day like today. We awoke at 6, had breakfast at 7, and left at 8 after Allan's usual morning blessing having to do with tailwinds, descents, keeping air in your tires, etc. With a sunny and clear sky, a slight tailwind, and comfortable temperature, we were anxious to do the 62 kilometers and enjoy some more overall downhill to our next campground located along a tributary of the Thompson River. Holly volunteered to drive today and set up mid-morning break as it was our cook team's turn to drive and prepare the meals.

Traffic was light and the shoulder mostly good and I met Holly, the truck, and the others for the halfway point tea/coffee break. With the exception of 2 flats I heard about from other riders, there were no problems and everyone reached the campground just fine, many having removed warm clothing they started with today. I arrived in camp at 10:50 a.m. in time to help unload the luggage from the truck, set up our tent, and have lunch. Shortly after, Holly and another cook team member drove to town to get the 7 roasted chickens we ordered for dinner. We would make the potato salad and Greek salad at camp. Dessert was 2 beautiful cream cakes with “2013 CCCTS” on the chocolate one and “Rockies Tour” on the vanilla one. While Holly was gone, I worked on this journal and my email.

Camp was along the River and we enjoyed its noise while relaxing. We had descended to an elevation of 1,272 feet for an overall day's loss of 980 feet. Not a tough day. It was a good ride and we deserved it. At 4 p.m., our cook team started dinner preparation. By 7 p.m., dinner was over, pots and pans washed, and socializing began. We got into out tent about 9 and looked forward to the last day's ride.

July 17: Day 16, Barriere to Kamloops - 88 kilometers (52 miles)

This was the final day of the tour and it was a great one. We awoke at 5 a.m. to a sunny sky and comfortable temperature. It was our cook team's turn to prepare breakfast and lay out the lunch fixings. Of course, by the time I walked over to the cook area, Doug was already preparing coffee as I believe he had every morning while Agnes was helping with the coffee and breakfast as she had done every morning. Allan asked the group the previous evening if we wanted to leave camp earlier than 8 so we can reach Kamloops and the cars and head home earlier. The group agreed to move morning activities up by 30 minutes.

We headed out on the road by 7:20 (everyone was REALLY anxious to ride the final day) and shortly after going around the first corner, the sky clouded up and stayed that way all the way to Kamloops but no rain. It was very good weather for a 52 mile ride with some minor hills but overall, a downhill to elevation 1,158 feet. We descended 114 feet overall. We experienced some tailwind and some headwind but nothing that could deter us from reaching the Kamloops RV Park and our transportation home. And we found our third nickel. We got to the car by noon. Everyone said goodbye to each other and hugs were abundant although we would see many of the riders in only 5 days at the Bellingham Hub 'n' Spoke. We then headed west to North Vancouver leaving the Rockies behind but not the memories.

Summary and Acknowledgements,

We climbed 5 major passes (Bow, Roger's, Kicking Horse, Yellowhead, and Sunwapta) and one named summit (Messiter), toured through 5 National Parks (Mt. Revelstoke, Glacier, Yoho, Banff, Jasper) and 1 Provincial Park (Mt. Robson), covered about 1,127 kilometers or 729 miles and endured rain, cold, headwinds, exhaustive climbing, road construction, railroad noises, mosquitoes, no-see-ums, flat tires, and primitive facilities. Was it worth it? It was absolutely and not only because we found 15 cents. The scenery, camaraderie, good times, history, new sights, happy hours, jokes, food, and local people were worth the effort. We experienced beautiful and rugged parts of British Columbia and Alberta and did it pedaling every inch. No zipping by at 100 km/h. It was truly a wonderful adventure I will always remember and if I forget a detail, I have almost 600 pictures and this journal to remind me. (Holly also has about 600 pictures.) The experience was unique and challenging and Holly and I were up to the task.

Of course, we would not have wanted to do this trip by ourselves and there are many people to thank. First is our organizer, planner, leader, nice guy, and go-to-for-all-problems man Allan Buium. He put so much time, knowledge, and effort into this trip that we did not have to worry about logistics. We knew what was coming and where we would stay. He previously drove the route and noted places of caution, shoulder conditions, directions, and places of interest on our daily ride sheets. His leadership skills are second to none and he is a mensch besides.

Next sharing the spotlight is Ruediger who compiled the elevation profiles and maps for each day's journey. I kidded him that if he made the elevation profiles horizontal or even downhill, we would not have had any climbing. Anyway, it was important to know when monster climbs and descents were coming up, what highways we would travel on, and what towns and attractions we would pass. Thanks Ruediger.

Next was Bernie who supervised the loading and unloading of everything going into and coming out of the truck. He was the point man every time we had to move luggage and equipment and supplies.

Holly was treasurer for the trip and worked on income and expenses and balances every day. She and Allan would collect receipts, record the information, organize receipts in the book, balance the budget, and reconcile any discrepancies. This is one of those jobs most people are unaware of but required by CCCTS policy.

There was also Jim and Bernie (again) who kept track of the liquid beverage stock and consumption. They made sure there was enough “happy” for happy hour.

Beverly handled food inventories and restocking and made sure we had necessary condiments, reasonable amounts of staples, and those odds and ends cook teams required for meal preparation.

And finally, I thank all 25 of you because without each and every one of you, this trip would have cost me a lot more money.

Keep the wind at your back, the air in your tires, and the rubber on the road.

Ken Levine