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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Let's Rumble

Monday, July 20
Eureka, MT to Blairmore, Alberta, Canada

Don't forget the "standard" opening introduced in the Happy Wanderer post.

Instead of riding the 1.5 miles (in the wrong direction) to the school for breakfast, we decide on the Casino just across from the hotel. The idea was to get a head start on the early departure, but the table service wasn't all that speedy and we weren't even the first out on the course.

It promises to be an interesting day. First, at 94 miles, it is the longest ride of the tour. We get to cross the border and ride through two Canadian provinces. Throw in a mountain pass ~ that would be Crow's Nest today ~ and there you have it. An interesting ride.

The border crossing is at Roosville. I don't know about you, but my first thought is of Kanga's youngest, not a rough and tumble border town west of the Rockies. I roll up to the border guard's window ~ not unlike a toll booth ~ and we chat about the tour as he scans my passport then wishes me a good ride.

Crossing Over to the Other Side

The ride up from Eureka to Roosville was along a gently rolling road through a wide plain. But after passing the border stop, things changed - the road began to wind through forested hills until we emerged on a high plain with more rugged mountains appearing ahead. Along this stretch we drop down a 1 mile, 8% descent to the Elk River, requiring a 1 mile, 8% climb to get back to the level we were two miles earlier.

Long White Line, Canadian Style

It is nice riding as we head due north with mountains ahead of us and to our right. At Elko, 31 miles into the ride, we turn onto Highway 3. The weather is still good, the scenery is still spectacular, but the riding becomes unpleasant. Do you recall my comments about highway 93 into Missoula (in the Happy Wanderer post)? "Rumble strips, the remaining shoulder a veritable debris field of tire-threatening detritus..." That's also Highway 3 in British Columbia. And it was busy; cars, campers, trucks. It isn't like we had a lot of choices. A look at the map reveals this is about it for getting us to Blairmore. So, we persevere.

The Crow's Nest Highway in British Columbia

The lunch stop at mile 45 is at a pullout with a spectacular view. Traffic has lightened up a bit and even with the rumble strip, the scenery and pure enjoyment of riding through it come increasingly to the fore.

View from the Picnic Stop Along HIghway 3

So we roll along a road that treats us to views of increasingly rugged mountains, views that change at every turn. Approaching the 65 mile water stop, I get behind a truck driving slowly along the shoulder. This is part of a two-vehicle grass cutting crew. The sign on the back of the truck proclaims to approaching cars: Women Working. This is a crew of two men. I don't ask about the sign.The guy driving the tractor with a big mower on the side niftily avoids devastating the water stop and his partner stops the truck to trim the grass with an industrial strength Weed Whacker. I chat with him a bit about the ride then take off. The tractor driver stops and shuts down the mower as I go by. A nice touch. Thanks.

It is only a mile to Sparwood where I stop to look at what is billed as "The World's Largest Truck." HIghway 3, which has pretty much carried us due north since Elko, takes a sharp turn to the east, with a bit of a southerly drift as well. We are now on another of the "Rolling Uphill" sections that appear often during the tour. This is the climb up to Crow's Nest Pass. It's taken some time, but I DO have experience with mountain passes. I'm pretty sure I have already been as high as I will ever be on a bike - 12,200 feet on Trail Ridge Road. The Swiss ride provided the chance to do three named passes. OK, it provided opportunities do a lot more. I just took advantage of 3.

Having established my credentials vis-à-vis bicycling on mountain passes, I can say that Crow's Nest isn't much of a pass. At least not in a way that includes describing it with terms such as "high" or "steep." It is a pleasant climb and we top out at 4,600 feet, (only 2,000 feet higher than our starting point in Eureka). The event is marked with a sign overlooking a fair sized lake. Impressive or not, I did take the obligatory picture of my bike at the top:

Crow's Nest Pass

It's downhill from here to Blairmore and on the way we enter Alberta, Wild Rose Country according to the sign at the border.

Entering Alberta, Canada

Alberta is also home to places-with-names-that-make-you-want-to-know-more. Frank Slide, Leitch Collieries and, my personal favorite at the bottom of the sign...

Things to See in Alberta

Really. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. We will turn off of HIghway 3 tomorrow before reaching this what is sure-to-be-engaging destination. Bummer. Maybe next time.

Blairmore is home to the majestic humble but clean and comfortable Highwood Motel. The little diner across the street offers "Hand-made" burgers and shakes, a nice treat after the long ride. We then go in search of further refreshment and find a tavern named "Tavern." No putting on airs here.

Appropriately if Unimaginatively Named Tavern

The rumble strips and traffic earlier in the day threatened, but did not succeed, to spoil the ride. Instead, it was the amazing landscapes that we rode through and around that mark the day in my memory. I'll leave you with just one more picture:

Just Another Big Rock

Today's Ride:      Tour Totals:
93.7 miles           168.9 miles
3240 feet             6248 feet


Spiffer said...

Great pictures! Sounds like an adventure. Something my coach likes to call "discovery (name of sport here)" (in this case, discovery riding). What pops into my mind also is that if my Dad were around and was on that tour, he (being a native Canadian born of native German parents) would've broken into song at the border. Specifically, "O, Canada", in German. I'm not kidding about this.

Anonymous said...

Even if the pass weren't Alpine, I'd pass on it!!