Back on the road proper today and again up early. Up at 6 and riding by 7:30. Check out quick. Well, it's all pre-booked and paid for. Didn't stop for breakfast decided we like the riding for an hour and then breakfasting. Cleaned the windscreen of a mahoosive jasper carcass that I picked up yesterday. Bag packing is getting easier as we go along even though we seem to have more to pack at the end of each day.
I have to admit that I think today is the day that I was looking forward too least. There is really only one route over the Rockies from Revelstoke to Banff and that is the 1 - the Trans-Canadian Highway. My expectations before we started were that as it is a main route it is likely to be completely clogged with artic after artic after artic. And, as it's likely to be twisty and turny, expecting a lot of single lane carrieageways. And as it's not the Winter season it must be Construction season, lots of roadworks. So was expecting very slow progress. I'd also wanted to take a detour down to Radium Hot Springs and take the 93, the Koutenay Highway, through the Rockies but that was scotched by Wifey who wants a shorter day today. And the weather is looking grizzly. So, all in all not expecting today to be a highlight of the trip. Funny how things pan out.
As I say, we left at 7:30 and were expecting to find something to eat within the first hour. Looking at the maps there seemed to be a cafe at the top of the Rogers Pass so that's where we'd decided to stop.
Colder today as we climb and grey. Looked like it had rained up here overnight and so the roads were slippy. Good road out of Revelstoke, very hilly, but very light traffic. I initially put the light trffic down to it being earlier, but it really didn't get any heavier the longer we rode. Although it was single lane much of the way there were many passing places and not many artics to pass so made good time.
We arrived at the services at Rogers Pass after about an hour to find everything boarded up. Getting hungry and cold now. Had the heated grips and both heated seats on. Could really do with a cup of tea or a coffee but it was closed. We had seen no other stopping opportunities since the petrol station in Revelstoke nearly 70 km ago. Could be a while until we find somewhere to stop. And it was. There are a few campsites, rest stops and boardwalks through the cedars but nowhere to stop for a hot drink and breakfast.
Well, there was nothing again for another 85 km until we hit Golden. The road was great, vistas epic at every turn and it slowly warmed up. Definitely Construction season though as it felt we had to stop or slow down every 10 km or so. There was one point through some snow tunnels that I was glad their was roadworks. They were very dark and there seemed to be an awful lot of mud through the tunnel. If I'd have hit that at speed it would not have been pretty. Road was also slow as it was very windy lots of 80-90 kph speed limits with the occasional 100 kph and there were lots of hills that held us up behind the few artics that were on the road, but I was enjoying it. Lots of concentration required. I again stuck to 10 kph above the speed limits but today virtually nothing overtook me as the road was so empty. I at first found it surprising that traffic was so light so, on a long ride you have a lot of time to think, and finally it came to me. It is a week day and most freight in Canada, unless local, goes by train so of course the roads are empty.
I have run out of superlatives now. It was stunning view after stunning view. I've never seen anything like it before and it was with us all day. Mountains every which way you look. All day. I want to live in Canada. I want to live here. Awesome scenery.
We finally pulled into Golden at 10:30, but that's not 3 hours on the road, we've crossed another time zone as we went over the Rogers Pass so clocks an hour forward. Two hours since leaving Revelstoke and now more than ready for a breakfast.
Golden is a small place. Sign says only 3800 people but on the commercial strip just off the 1 there are a lot of eateries. Unsurprising as there is nothing for the 150 km to Revelstoke. We stopped at a 50's diner, Legendz, for breakfast. Wifey had two egs and toast with a side of bacon. I had the Legendary Breakfast: 3 pancakes, 3 eggs (poached), 3 sausages, 3 bacon. I'd misread and wasn't expecting the pancakes and so I'd also ordered a side order of sourdough toast. Suffice to say, I couldn't finish it and had to share the pancakes with Wifey, who didn't complain.
As we were eating a girl with a cowboy hat, boots and a very long braided pony-tail came in. Wifey put her hands to her mouth and said like an excited kid "It's Jessie from ToyStory!" I struggled not to choke.
Back on he road and the magnificent vistas and a motorway in the wilderness. Sad in a way that there is a 4 lane highway through all this beauty, and an empty 4 lane highway at that.
Next stop was a comfort break at an information centre at Field 60 km after Golden. Again I'm at a loss for superlatives. Field is a magnificent location. Nice visitor centre with a souvenir shop where I bought a Sibley guide to North American birds and some pin badges.
Quick run to Lake Louise from Field only took about 30 minutes and traffic started to get heavier with tour buses being added to the mix. Now, lake Louise is absolutely stunning. Again superlatives failing. However, and it is one massive however, the Fairmont hotel on the moraine of the lake is truly one of the most hideous buildings that I have ever seen and is absolutely and completely out of place. How did Fairmont get permission to build such a carbuncle. I really cannot comprehend how something so hideously ghastly could be allowed. And especially not here.
Obviously, with such an attractive location the place is teeming with tourists. Bit of a culture shock after the quiet of the last three days. I have been surprised at the number of Chinese tourists everywhere. It's like the Japanese crowds you used to get in the 80's and 90's. Now that China has overtaken the US and Japan as the global powerhouse it's unsurprising.
We had a cup of tea and coffee in a very overpriced coffee shop done out like a Wiener Kaffeehaus watching the porters in their lederhosen and Bavarian hats. Very strange it looked next to the monstrosity. There were an assortment of pricey souvenir shops that we had to investigate. Only postcards bought though.
In hindsight we should've rented a canoe and gone out on the lake to get some snaps of the bergschrund (O-Level glacier geography just comes flooding back). We had the time. Ho hum.
We decided to take the 12 km detour up to Moraine Lake. The guide books say it is more attractive than Lake Louise. Not so sure myself, but there are far fewer tourists. Road there would be great if we hadn't been following a huge RAM 3500 who wouldn't drive quicker then 20 kph and braked at every corner. In the UK it would be a National Speed Limit applies road - 60 mph. Could not understand the problem. Anyway, pulled up took some photos of the surrounding arrettes - there's the O-Level geography again - and hit possibly the best souvenir shop we've seen so far anywhere in Canada. Weather not great this high, but we were warm enough. Buildngs far more in keeping with the environment than at Lake Louise being timber. Ride back down the mountain was slightly better until we ran into another dork who seemed to have lost the ability to drive.
Heading out of Lake Louise we went straight over the 1 and turned onto the Bow Valley Parkway that parallels the 1 almost to Banff. This turned out to be the highlight of the trip so far. Virtually no traffic. Speed limit 60 kph and a wide road with sweeping bends. Want to do it all again now. Saw and stopped at the foot of Castle Rock. But the real highlight was the fauna. Did have to put the waterproofs on for a bit as there were showers, but they soon stopped and the sun came out and it started to warm up nicely as we dropped down the valley.
Second thing we saw at the side of the road was a young elk. Pulled over and took some picture. It was completely unruffled by our presence. Just stood there munching about 20 ft from us. Third thing we saw were prairie dogs which were everywhere at the various rest stops, chirrupping away to each other, and, like the Elk, not particularly phased by the humans. Fourth was the turkey vultures soaring over the river and above the cliffs.
The first thing we saw within the first 5 km of joining the Parkay, and for me the pièce de résistance of the whole trip, was a lone wolf crossing the road and lopping through the trees at the side of it. Epic. Wifey just managed to get a snap in the trees. Incredible. More than made up for the lack of bear.
Although there were not many vehicles there were a lot of cyclists. On such a quiet road unsurprising. In the middle of nowhere though, more surprising. Loved the road. 55 km log and although we restricted our speed was the usual 10 kph over the limit, i just seemed to fly by. Quick rejoin of the 1 at the end of the Parkway and into Banff before we knew it.
Banff is another very touristy place. Not as bad as Whistler, but strangely reminded me of Blackpool without the tower and with mountains rather than a beach. Not impressed with the hotel, the Banff High Country Inn. There was an Aussie girl on reception doing her nails wearing the grubbiest shirt. Place doesn't look clean and out room is right next to the lift on the third floor. And the place is heaving with a Dutch coach tour.
Main Street Banff is souvenir central. I think we walked through each and every one. Wifey bought socks for the kids and a t-shirt for herself.
Had dinner in a pub called Tommy's. Nice bar. Wifey had chilli and chips. Chilli came in a huge bun. I had their elk Santa Fe burger. Could have had buffalo but I like venison. Have to admit chilli and burger were both very good. Had a couple of pints of one of the Canadaian reds but can't remember which now. Very good though.
As with Lake Louise, Banff is awash with Chinese tourists and is far busier than Revelstoke. Just want to get on the bike and go back to Revelstoke. Missing the town strangely. Looking forward to tomorrow's ride through the Kananaskis range on the Kananaskis Trail. Big loop around and under Calgary hopefully we'll see bear.
Back to the hotel room and still not liking the hotel. All pervasive grubbiness getting to me. Watched Duck Dynasty while writing this up. Forecast for tomorrow is sun and lots of it.