GRMA Day 15: An Up and Down Day
(Note: For those who were using the GPS Tracker, it will be offline for the next 10 days. It uses very expensive cellular data which I have turned off for now.)
I had looked forward to this day since I began incubating plans for this Adventure. Two years ago Marilyn and I rode the Icefields Parkway south on our return trip from Alaska so I knew the scenery would be spectacular. And today, the scenery didn’t disappoint. When I could see it.
Unfortunately, rain fell intermittently throughout the day and combined with mountain temperatures in the low 50s made for less than ideal conditions. Still, when the clouds parted and I could see the awe-inspiring beauty of the Canadian Rockies I pulled over when I could just to be able to drink in the mountains for more than a two-second glance through my face shield.
The skies were blue when I began today and the ride up the western slope of the very steep mountains energized me like a double shot of espresso. Leaning into the curves, twisting the accelerator and drawing on the power of the Harley-Davidson V-Twin to pull me up the hills is a feeling only motorcycle riders who ride hard can fully appreciate. But as I neared the top of the mountains and the Icefields Parkway, I could see the darkening clouds gathering in the north. I covered my bag, removed my chaps, put my rain suit on over my heated jacket, and broke out the rain gloves. I was ready. And in about 10 minutes the first shower hit as I rollied down a 7% grade with sharp curves. I was glad I had new rubber under me on the back.
Even when the rains abated, I kept the rain gear on because I knew I would probably need it again and changing in and out of it was time I wouldn’t be able to spend riding and taking in the view. Rain fell on four different occasions as I motored north to Jasper, but never hard enough to cause me to think about seeking shelter. Good thing too, because there wasn’t any.
I did have one other unfortunate delay today. For more than two hours the Parkway was closed in both directions as police and emergency services worked what I’m certain was a fatal motorcycle accident. I was stopped about 30 cars back from the scene of the accident and heard various reports from people who walked up to see what was going on. A Yamaha bagger, apparently went off the road, killing one of the people on it. The other person was life-flighted about an hour and a half after the accident. No one knows, I guess, what happened, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the driver was distracted by the beauty all around him and in a split-second went off the road and down the hill. It was tough knowing what was going on 500 feet in front of me and knowing that a brother road warrior had probably been killed. You never know when your time is up, so live life to the fullest while you can.
I had hoped to take far more pictures today than the rain and the accident delay allowed, but I snapped a few shots that may hint at the spectacle this 150-mile long postcard presents. I love the Rockies in the United States and, of course, the cute little Smokey Mountains, but the Canadian Rockies have to be the best in North America. Forest-covered lower slopes and soaring jagged summits capped with snow and ice, thrusting into the cerulean blue sky–these are mountains that make memories. The lakes and the streams that thread down the mountains and through the valleys are not blue and not green but an alchemist’s unholy cross between the two. “Rock flour” produced as massive glaciers systematically grind and crush granite into minuscule particles goes in the meltwater to float suspended in the lakes or tumble downhill in the streams and rivers. What a sight.
Tonight I’m in Jasper where the residents seem to have developed a unique economic system. First they determine a fair price for such things as hotels and restaurant fare and then they double it for all the tourists who come to admire the mountains. And the tourists do flock here, with more languages than may be found at the United Nations. Jasper is packed with camera-toting interlopers (like myself) and the over-priced hotels are booked solid. I had a good $20 meal this evening. But it cost me $40. If that’s the price I have to pay to see these mountains, so be it and a bargain it is.
No pie for lunch today. No lunch at all for that matter. I was pretty much astraddle the saddle from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. except when I walked around waiting for the road to clear.
Tomorrow I’ll make a downhill ride similar to this morning’s uphill gallup as I leave the largest peaks of the range and travel parallel to the mountains again on my way to Prince George where, if all goes well, I’ll take care of some motorcycle maintenance. When I finish the northern loop of the GRMA in about a week, I’ll get another shot at the Icefields Parkway.
Another note: I expect the WiFi to get weaker as I move around for the next week and stay in the boondocks at mom & pop places, but I’ll post pictures when I can.
More pictures from today I like: