Monday, August 24: 35 miles / 934 ft. elevation gain / TOTALS: gain: 20,428′ / miles: 355.5

DSC02888 We left first today to have time to tear down the bike in Jasper in time for our 1:45 bus ride out. And since it was mostly down, we really rocked. Again, it was very cold. But we were bundled up for it. The day was suddenly smokey. We couldn’t figure out where the fire was. We stopped at mile 14 to look at Athabaskan Falls. This was similar to Sunwapta Falls, a narrow break in the rocks where the entire river tries to get through at once. Even as early as we arrived it was crowded with half a dozen tourist buses. And again we had Aussies interested in our bike and travels. Also met a band of guys who are biking from Lake Louise to Whistler in 7 days. 621 miles and 36,000′ of climbing. Now that’s a big trip! They were fun to chat with and expressed their admiration for our climbs on a tandem.

DSC02889We left the falls and as we did, a large group of our riders swooped down. We were still in front, but not by much. We climbed out then returned to the fast downhill run. I got it in my head that I wanted to see how far down we could get before that peleton caught us. I didn’t tell Sheila that. She just kept adding power. Found out later that she too had set that same internal goal. Great minds!

There really wasn’t much to look at, either. With the smoke. you could barely see the river, much less do anything bu make out the outlines of the mountains around us. So we just pedaled. Every time we had a hill, I thought I’d see the peleton coming up behind us, but they didn’t. We even stopped at an outhouse and they didn’t pass us by.

We were getting close to Jasper. Now I wanted to beat them in. We rode hard and swung into the train station just minutes ahead of them. Yahoo! Our breakaway stuck! The peleton was defeated!

DSC02883I spent 2+ hours taking apart and repacking the bike. We grabbed some food, said goodbye to our guides, and caught the bus for Calgary. It was billed as a 7 hour ride.

That bus ride was really weird. It went right back along our route all the way to Banff. It was like watching a movie backwards and from the other side of the screen. And in this case, it was like watching a black and white version instead of technicolor. All the vistas we’d seen before were suddenly washed out into shades of gray. Bow Lake was dull as used dish water. We realized how lucky we’d been to see those sights freshly rain-washed when we rode through.

It turned out that the smoke was from the Okanagan Complex of fires in Eastern Washington. We were hundreds of miles from there. It reminded us of the fragility of our existence on this planet and how we shouldn’t take any moment for granted. It may not all be technicolor. We’d best enjoy what we see and do at the time.

red sun due to smoke

In Banff we had a great dinner at Masala, an Indian restaurant on Wolf Street. Highly recommended. You can see from this shot of the sun in Banff how red it and smoke-obscured it was. Then we continued toward Calgary. But a fatal accident west of Calgary had shut down the Tran Can Highway, so we had to use back roads. That worked for a while, then we got caught by the wave of refugees from Highway 1. It took us a couple extra hours to get to Calgary airport. Then we had to get to our “airport” hotel which turned out to be a $40 cab ride away. (What Airport hotel doesn’t have a shuttle? Airport Traveller’s Inn – avoid it.)

That was pretty much our trip. The scenery was exquisite. The cycling was gigantic fun, even when it was really hard. Our fellow cyclists were fun to ride with, even though that only happened occasionally. The tour company was practiced. They moved our gear, set out snacks and lunches along the ride, helped out with tired and wet cyclists. It all worked out pretty well. We certainly wouldn’t have wanted to do this on our own. It was another epic experience.

Day 7 - Columbia Icefield