Day 10: Two Grizzled Bikers
After several hard, long rides in the past week, we looked forward to today’s ride from Hinton, Alberta, to Dawson’s Creek, British Columbia, a distance of only 285 miles over lightly traveled roads. We got off to a relatively late start, at least for us, pulling away from the Husky gas pumps at 7:50 with tanks full of $4.40 per gallon fuel and wearing heated gear to ward off the early morning chill.
As we rode west for a few miles before turning north again, we beheld the beautiful Canadian Rockies. We would stay in sight of them most of the day, though we only rode on Alberta highways through smaller mountains and foothills as we skirted the massive mountains to the west.
The views, of course, remained beautiful most of the day with viridescent forested hills as far as we could see in front of us and bright blue skies punctuated by billowing, cumulous clouds. Even as we moved slightly away from the mountains and onto the plains of northwest Alberta where yellow-topped canola fields and lush hay and alfalfa meadows spread out around us, the fecund fields gave us a pleasing palette to look at as we rolled by.
When we left the domain of Parks Canada, we joyously left the crowded haunt of tourists behind and, relative to yesterday’s ride, we often seemed to have the road to ourselves. Only two towns between our starting point and our destination interrupted our pace and the Alberta highway department carefully placed warning signs that gasoline and other services would be unavailable for 125 kilometers (75 miles). A leisurely sub-speed limit pace gave us time to stop and see the views and smell the roses (or whatever flowers happened to be blooming nearby).
One of those towns was Grand Cache, otherwise known as the home of the Canadian Death Race. Unfortunately, Mark and I were four days too early for this year’s extreme running event or we could have challenged the 75-mile course up, over, through and down the nearby mountains and canyons. And we would have had 24 hours to complete the course. Darn the timing that made us miss this 14th annual test of endurance and sanity. If you’re interested in participating, check them out at www.canadiandeathrace.com. We did, however, enjoy coffee and a muffin (sorry, no pie) at the local A&W before continuing on our own modest test of endurance and sanity.
The only downsides to today’s ride were several stops and slowdowns for construction, including one 10-mile stretch that had us parked on the highway frequently when traffic narrowed to one lane while paving took place in the other. But even stops of 10 or 15 minutes didn’t result in long lines of cars and trucks since there weren’t too many of us on the road to begin with.
Not much else to report today.
Oh, did I mention I shot a grizzly?
Rolling down the road, I saw a brown lump grazing in the clover next to the road and radioed back to Mark: “Bear, bear, bear. Stopping now.” Even before I rolled to a quick stop I noticed the hump on the bear’s back that marked it as a grizzly or brown bear and not the smaller black bears we had seen briefly yesterday. I grabbed my camera and started shooting, but realized the sun was ill-positioned behind the bear. I needed to be between the bear and the sun. So I mounted up, made a sharply executed u-turn and got on the sunny side of the target for a better photo opportunity. We had the bear to ourselves; no other travellers stopped and most of the few that did go by didn’t even slow down. That was good news and bad news since with no cars around I had no place to seek shelter if the bear decided he (or she) preferred to be an omnivore rather than an herbivore. Consequently I kept a greater distance than I would have liked, but still managed to capture a couple of decent shots.
I think I’ve discovered a new word, or a new meaning for an old word. If you encounter a grizzly bear on the side of the road, you have been “grizzled.” Next I’m hoping to get “moosed.”
Tomorrow is a non-riding day, but much to do in Dawson Creek, “Mile 0” of the iconic Alaska Highway.