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Feb 3, 2013

Join us to ride Jaspar to Banff

EDITORS NOTE: This tour has been postponed due to our bike crash on Memorial Day, 2013. Sheila fractured her hip and won’t be riding at all this season! As of 3/1/2015 we have decided to do a different version of this trip with Cycling Escapes.

This is a route we’ve yearned to ride for a long time. The logistics are complex and the commercial tours are spendy. At first we thought we’d do it with Cycle America who we did our cross country trip with. Their dates don’t work for us and it was way more than we wanted to spend. Long ago we bookmarked this tandemist’s detailed tour description thinking we could do it ourselves.

Eventually after considering many options we’ve settled on doing it with Mountain Madness Tours. They are based in BC and have a lot of experience. They will carry all our gear and provides support each day. The trip includes your choice of primitive hostels or expensive hotels as well as transportation back to your car at the end. We’ve worked with them to create our own ETC tandem tour. Since we’ll already be in Bellingham for this year’s NWTR we thought we’d just piggy-back this tour onto the rally. The challenge is that the accommodations up there are limited and get booked quickly. We still need to find two more couples as soon as possible but we have gone ahead and booked the tour.

Please look this over and let us know if you have questions or are ready to sign up.
There’s only room for 8 people, so 2 more tandems can join us on this great adventure.
What follows is the proposed itinerary. Your input is welcome.

Sunday, July 7

Group drives from US to Jasper (approx. 8.5 hrs from Bellingham). Stay in Jasper for the night at Beckers Chalets

Monday, July 8: 24 miles

hostelBen meets group in Jasper mid-morning, shuttle cars to Hostel car park a few minutes out of Jasper. Pass by Jasper Park Lodge and Lac Beauvert on the way. Stay at HI-Athabasca Falls for the night. This is a wilderness hostel with limited creature comforts – no running water, no showers, and no flush toilets. They do have purified water for cooking, a refrigerator, stoves, and solar-powered lights.

Tuesday, July 9: 68 miles

After a steep, winding climb we stop for lunch around Tangle Falls rest area then continue down to the Columbia Icefields. We then climb up to the top of Sunwapta Pass, down a nice steep hill and along some flats and rolling hills to HI-Rampart Creek where we stay the night.

Wednesday, July 10: 58 miles

banff-jasperToday we ride past Saskatchewan River Crossing then up hill again to the top of Bow Summit (highest point on the Icefields Parkway). From here it is all down hill past some spectacular lakes, rivers, glaciers and mountain peaks all the way to Lake Louise to the HI-Lake Louise Alpine Centre. This hostel is quite a bit fancier than the wilderness hostels and is a great place to relax after completing the most challenging part of the ride. Lake Louise is just down the road and is a great place to stretch out the legs during a stroll around the lake later in the afternoon.

Thursday, July 11: 37 miles

The last day of riding is a mixture of flats and gentle rolling hills along the Bow Valley Parkway towards Banff. Depending on the group and the time available on the day we can extend this ride past Banff to Canmore. We pack up the bikes and luggage and drive back to Jasper (approx. 3 hrs) and stay again at Beckers Chalets.

Friday, July 12

On your own to stay as long as you like or drive straight back home.


  • Price per couple:  $1200 inc tax.
  • National park entry fee’s per vehicle is about $100 for 5 nights parking. You will have to pay this as you enter the national park near Jasper on the first day.
  • Price doesn’t include food. The group is responsible for food purchase and preparation of main meals during tour. They will set up prepared food and snacks at various points during the ride. Each accommodation includes a kitchen and has access to either onsite or relatively nearby restaurants.
  • Hotel supplement: add about $500 per couple for 3 hotel nights.
Jan 6, 2013

Heading for Arizona Sun

As is our wont, we decided to slip out of the cold, rainy  Northwest to get some sunshine, recharge our batteries, and do some riding in the Southwest. Since Spencer now works half time, it was pretty easy to cobble together a 3-week trip to Tucson. We thought we’d drive down for a change so we’d have our car for excursions in Tucson. Little did we know how exciting that trip would be.



It all started as we prepared to leave. We’d planned on Sheila having her computer down and spiffed up while we were gone. We hadn’t planned on the laptop we were going to take to suddenly need the same work done. It turned out to be just the start of the Electronic Revolt.

We were unable to update the maps for our Garmin so we’d be able to find our way around rides in Arizona. OK, so we have three problem systems. That should end it, right?

Wrong. The iPod stopped playing before we got out of Washington. Emergency calls to Sheila’s brother helped us get it back online. Our cell phone began to act weird, shutting off intermittently and generally being a nuisance. Maybe this was all just a way to tell us to leave it all behind?

We spent 3 days driving the 1700 miles to Tucson. Visited with my brother and sister-in-law in Eugene (where we woke up to frosty conditions), and saw a great view of Mt. Shasta on our way to see my dear friend Russ in Lodi (who let us watch the first half of the Duck bowl game!!)

We stopped for two nights with  our friends Gail and Tom in Phoenix. They fixed us a wonderful vegetarian chili with raspberry brownies for dessert and the next day drove us to their summer home in Prescott, AZ. Quaint little town, especially if you like bars. Their courthouse square was ablaze with lights still up from Christmas. We especially liked this tree with lighted red and green ornaments and a white chain of lights illuminating the trunk and branches.

We finally made it to our rental casita (guest house) on Sunday the 6th. It’s a pleasant little place. The owners even installed a bike rack so we could lock up our tandem in the back courtyard. Sweet. We’re in a familiar neighborhood, not far from a Trader Joe’s, Sprouts organic market, and Lovin’ Spoonful veggie diner. We’re looking forward to some great riding in the days ahead.

Jan 10, 2013

Desert riding

We had two main goals for our trip: getting into the nice, warm sunshine and riding our tandem. The first four days down here allowed us to make progress on both of them. The sun shone, although it was not quite as warm as we would have liked. It ranged from low 60s to 71 during those first days. It was decidedly cold during the nights, though, dropping toward freezing. Good thing we don’t ride at night!

We attended Monday night’s GABA (Greater Arizona Bike Alliance) meeting to see if we could connect with some other riders. The presentation was a slide show of a bike trip along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. That was pretty neat. We also met a woman named Susan who promised to set us up on a couple of rides later in the week.

group-ride-TucsonTuesday we rode with a GABA group from Green River on a leisurely trip to Wisdom’s Restaurant. It was a relatively flat 35 miles with a 1.5 hour lunch break in the middle. If you’ve ever ridden with us, you know how much that long a stop made our teeth grind. But the company was fun and we saw some old sights from our 2003 Arizona trip, including the now closed Longhorn Bar. One change was the stop by Border Control as we headed north on I-19. Thank you Arizona. I feel safer now.

susan-constructionThe next day we connected with Susan. She led us on a 52 mile jaunt up the Santa Cruz bike trail and toward Twin Peaks. The day warmed right up and we actually were able to take off our long pants! Susan rides a recumbent just about at the same pace as we do. We really appreciated her leading us around, especially when it meant getting past some major trail construction. We made a date to ride again the next day.

Today we woke a little tired and sore so we got her to lead us on a quick loop through the hills near Sabino Canyon. We only clocked 25 miles. A bit shorter than we usually ride, but we’ve got two weeks, right? We were home by noon and safely settled in before the big storm started rolling in.7DayForecast

Oh yeah. It’s coming. The next 4 days are going to be the coldest stretch of weather they’ve had here since 1971. Highs in the 40s. HIGHS in the 40s. We’re not going to ride. We’re going to snuggle in, do our relationship review, watch some movies and maybe do some sightseeing. We hope to get back on the bike again before we leave…..if it warms up.

Jan 17, 2013

Vacation in the ice box

January 10-14, 2013 was the coldest stretch of weather they’ve had in Tucson (and throughout the SW) since 1971. No day got warmer than 45 degrees. The lows at night ranged from 27-17 degrees. It was generally sunny, but it was definitely NOT riding weather. We hunkered down to wait it out.

To be honest, that had been part of our plan the entire time. We wanted to have time to do our annual relationship review, take a one day meditation retreat and have some time to just chill out. We didn’t expect it to take quite the literal meaning it did.

HitchcockWe saw a couple of movies during that stretch – “The Sessions” with Jody Foster and “Hitchcock” with Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins. Both were excellent. Sessions was the true story of a quadriplegic man who decides he wants to experience sex. He consults with his priest, then hires a sex surrogate. It is witty, poignant and very well done. “Hitchcock” follows the story of Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville, as they created his masterpiece, “Psycho”. Hopkins is spot on as the master of suspense and the interplay of the two main characters is magnificent.

bicycle-dreamsSunday we were going to ride again with Susan but it was still too cold. But we did go see her beautiful condo for dinner and then she showed us a documentary film on the 2005 RAAM (Race Across America) called Bicycle Dreams. It was amazing, inspiring and heart-breaking. Susan has volunteered in the RAAM command center in Tucson. Her home is dotted with victory trophies from her cycling triumphs on her recumbent. She’s been most gracious and we will be riding with her these last two days now that it’s finally warming up.

We also spent a day on our annual relationship review. This is always a highlight of our year. We take the time to review what happened last year, what we expected to happen, and reflect on how things change. Then we see how we are doing in our relationship, our other relationships, and our relationship to the community as a whole. We usually spend the time snuggled together on a couch and with this weather, that was a necessity. The only thing that was missing was a roaring fire. Not many fireplaces in Tucson.

KC Cave bacon
KC flowing column
KC Soda straws
KC Kublai Khan
We decided to take a day trip to Kartchner Caverns. We’d heard it was beautiful and was naturally around 72 degrees and 99% humidity year-round. Going underground to get to warmth was somehow appropriate for our situation. The caverns were discovered in 1974 by two cavers who immediately knew they’d found a rare treasure, a living, wet limestone cave. They conspired to keep it secret even as they got the Arizona State Parks to convince the legislature to create the park in 1988. It was developed with an eye to preserving the integrity of the cave’s ecosystem. You go through 3 airlocks which keep out the dry outside air, stay on a special pathway, and don’t touch anything. Along the way you see enormous rooms, cave bacon, flowing limestone formations, soda straws, beautiful “drapery” forms and much more. One column is more than 58′ tall and massive. You really have to see it to believe it. And, unlike most tourist caverns, it is still growing. And did I mention it was warm? Note: they do not allow cameras so these photos are from the web.

On the 14th we spent a silent day in meditation. We alternated sitting and walking every 30 minutes all day. It was a good break from our normal routine of constant communication and internet busy-ness. We celebrated the breaking of silence with a trip to Lovin’  Spoonfuls, a vegan restaurant we found two years ago when we were here. The  milkshake was wonderful, but the lasagna was disappointing. That’s the way life goes.

January 15 we got word that my mother died. She had been declining for months and her final departure came relatively fast and was fairly peaceful. Much of the  family was able to be with her for her final breaths and that was good. She was a great mom and a fantastic person. She’ll always be with us.

We decided to go out riding even though it hadn’t warmed up. We braved the 40 degree weather and rode to the Pima Air and Space Museum. It’s one of the largest air and space museums in the world, and the largest non-government funded aviation museum. Hundreds of planes of all types and an excellent group of docents to tell you about them. I visited a B-17 exhibit to learn more about the plane Daddy flew in.Spencer in front of a Beachcraft at the Pima Air & Space Museum I had a docent point out the place where the flight engineer flew and learned that he would also have been the top turret gunner. Daddy had never mentioned that. Hmmm. There’s always more to learn about people.

So a third of our vacation closed with a promise of a warming trend. It might even get up to 70 before we leave. To that we say, YAHOO!

Jan 18, 2013

Warm? In Tucson?

Our last four days in Tucson were unseasonable compared to what we’d been experiencing. They were warm. I mean, it got all the way up to 71 degrees! It was like being…..being….being in the desert Southwest. Who’d a thought it? We took full advantage of the switch from highs of 46 to get out and get on our bike.

Spencer Ernie and PatWednesday we connected up with Ernie and Pat from Iowa. They are snowbirds who have recently purchased a place in Sun City. Ernie is a former teacher who also runs a bike repair shop in W. Des Moines during the spring and summer. They also ride a tandem so it was a treat to ride with them. They led us round and round and down and up. The down was the entire first half of the ride, the up was the second half. Oh well. The sun was shining and we zipped along most of the time. It was 39 miles of bliss.

We left them to visit a couple of cohousing communities in Tucson, sharing a “bring-your-own” dinner at one of them. Lots of interesting discussions and food for thought as we get closer to finalizing our involvement with CHUC, our own cohousing plans.

A MountainThursday we teamed up with our new best friend Susan again for the next two days. On Thursday we got together late in the afternoon for a 34 mile loop. We rode up Sentinel Peak where there is a huge A created with rocks then painted annually by the University of Arizona students. Then we toured around the west side of town ending with a long spell on a bike trail along one of the river washes. Temperatures were in the high 60s and we loved it.

Friday we left early enough that it was reminiscent of our cold days of riding. We had staked out a route which would take us to the East Saguaro National Park and toward Colossal Cave. Long-fingered gloves and tights gave way to short sleeves and short pants before we were too far into it. Riding around East Saguaro is a kick. There are screaming, twisty downs and a 2 mile climb on the back side of an 8 mile, one way loop. Tons of fun with nearly no auto traffic. We got way ahead on the downs but Susan caught us near the top of the climb. What followed was a cat-and-mouse game which eventually went to us as there were just a few more downs than ups.

Spencer Susan and SheilaFrom there we headed into a STIFF headwind for about 8 miles. It was hard, hard, hard and ever so slightly uphill to boot. The payback was spectacular. We rode effortlessly at 25+ for 10 miles or so with that big wind pushing us along. When we got back into town, we ended our ride with milkshakes at Lovin’ Spoonfuls. We were as content as we could be.

After visiting with Susan for a while, she had to leave and we began to make preparations for our return. While Sheila struggled to complete client work on this under-powered netbook, Spencer rather unsuccessfully tried to get the tablet to cough up route info. The frustration level in the casita was palpable. Eventually we got enough worked out to feel ready for the road.

The plan is to spend Saturday night with Spencer’s teaching friend Margo Fitzgerald in Palm Springs. Then we’ll get as far up I-5 as possible on Sunday, perhaps Redding. Monday we hope to make it back to Seattle. Hopefully the gods will be smiling on us as we make our way north. We’ll miss the sunshine and will surely return to this cyclist’s paradise.