Monday, December 16, 2019

A Photo Journal: A Month Pedaling the Long Way

When you have a whole month to get from Point A to Point B, it clearly makes sense to go the long way, especially when doubling your mileage means quadrupling the gorgeous vistas.

Me and Don, doubling our mileage to quadruple our views.

My buddy, Donald, and I staffed an Adventure Cycling trip together in Whitefish in early July. A month later, we were leading another trip together out of Bellingham. As we both share an interest in hitting the open road (albeit dirt road) on two wheels, and as we both had a month of free time between trips, we decided to cycle together from the ending point of our first trip to the starting point of our next trip -- the long way. 

This is a photo journal of the month we spent pedaling from Whitefish, Montana to Bellingham, Washington...via Jasper, Alberta.

We began our cycling trip in Whitefish. From there, we cycled north to Banff along The Great Divide, opting for the lesser-traveled Grizzly Alley alternate.

We pass colorful fields of rapeseed in Montana's Flathead Valley.

Don pedals up Red Meadow Pass, our initiation into the trip.

We enjoy our visit (my first!) to Polebridge, Montana.
I'm thrilled to see a Little Free Library -- and a well stocked one it is!

Meet Don and his salty ass.

It's only Day #3, and Don is already sending a decent-sized box of gear home.
You'd think he is a newbie!
Here he props the box atop his handlebars as he pedals to the nearest post office.

Grizzly Alley, by far, is our most favorite part of the route.
It has some lovely single and double track...

...and plenty of wildflowers.

Me, being all cute and everything...

...and Don trying to be all cute and everything, too.

While Don may not exactly be "pretty," his bike sure is pretty.
Don's panniers blend in well with the yellow flowers.

We both love pedaling through Grizzly Alley.
It is quite remote and we hardly see any people in three days of riding.

We had heard about a section along The Grizzly Alley
where we'd have to ride along and through creek beds.
That section finally appears in the final miles of the alley.

The 2" tires on my Surly Disc Trucker touring biking aren't quite up
to the challenge of riding through some of the creek beds.

The 2.5" tires on Don's Salsa Fargo are more apt at tackling the creek beds,
though Don resorts to pushing his bike just after I snap this photo.

Whether riding or pushing, this section is a blast!

Shirley proudly sports some river gunk on her rear derailleur.

Surly is, of course, curious what is behind the sliding door.
She's also intrigued by the mention of "heli," as she'd love to ride in a heli one day.

Don is the official Trip Mechanic.

Here he cleverly uses a clothes line as a bike stand.

Don is also the official cook.
I could care less about the hassle of cooking over a stove,
but if Don offers to heat some tea water for me every now and then, so be it!

While Don has mechanic and cooking duties, I have photography duties.
Here I implore Don to "stop below this gateway and hold this ridiculous pose,
'cuz although that climb just sucked, someday you're gonna look back
at these photos and wish you were here again."
At 6,250 ft, Elk Pass traverses the Continental Divide
and separates British Columbia and Alberta.

I just love this photo. A perfect dirt road, green flower-filled grass, a blue sky
painted with fluffy clouds, and a yellow bullet-holed kilometer marker.
Welcome to cycling through the middle of nowhere!

Riding singletrack into Elkford.
Shirley loves her some singletrack!

We had planned to bike from Banff north to Jasper along the new-ish section of The Great Divide, but we opted to ride the Icefields Parkway instead when we heard that the new section was nothing to write home about. I had ridden the Icefields Parkway twice before, while Bicycle Adventuring in Glacier, Banff, & Jasper National Parks four years prior. I had no qualms riding this section again; I was excited to share the Icefields with Don, who had never cycled the parkway before.

Don sits aside Vermilion Lake, with handsome Mt Rundle looking ever so dapper.

Pedaling along the Bow Valley Parkway,
with Castle Mountain looming in the distance.

Don's Salsa gets an unusual flat while biking
along the very clean shoulder of the Bow Valley Parkway.
(Don later determines the flat is due to a defective rim.)
Fixing a roadside flat is never fun,
especially when using a tubeless set-up.
I wish I had a photo of the white Stan's Sealant all over Don!

I prepare a bagel snack to keep Don from getting hangry while he tends to his mechanic duties.

Soon enough, after a steep and traffic-laden uphill,
 we find ourselves at glorious Lake Louise.
This lake makes me feel so incredibly at peace.

The beautiful views don't stop there!
Our riverside camp at Mosquito Creek Campground is pretty
stunning at sunset as well.

And then there is Peyto Lake, the bluest lake in all of the Canadian Rockies.

Me loves them signs! Bring on the downhill. Whee!

I smile every time I see this sign.
Either direction, you can't go wrong.

After arriving at Jasper, at the north end of the Icefields Parkway, we headed west on the Yellowhead Highway to TΓͺte Jaune Cache and then south towards Kamloops.

Moose Lake is absolutely stunning.
It mirrors the sky and surrounding mountains so perfectly.

As we head south towards civilization, Don and I become a bit itchy.
Literally itchy for me, as one evening I have a terribly uncomfortable
allergic reaction to the tons of mosquito bites on my face.
(I wish I hadn't sent my mosquito net home after biking in Alaska!)
Fortunately for Don, mosquitos don't care for hairy Italian dudes.
With regards to the figurative itch, we feel as though we have seen the best of the sites,
and we are now just pedaling miles just to pedal miles.

I wake the next morning to a slug-infested tent.

This is my tent.
I pull sixteen (yes, I count them) big-ass slugs off my tent,
and I flick off all their slug shit.
The slug trails are still waiting, to this day,
to be cleaned from my tent.
Don, by the way, has no slugs on his tent. None. Zilch.
That's probably cuz he's a hairy Italian guy.

Side note: After packing up the slug-infested tent, I was ready to get outta Slug Hell and start riding for the day. I swung my leg over the saddle. I spun the crank around, placed my foot atop the right pedal, wrapped my fingers around the handlebar grips, and instantly let out the loudest, girliest shriek ever. Unbeknownst to me, underneath my right handlebar grip was another big-ass slug, and I had just pressed my fingers deep into the mother fucker. Oh my gooey gawd! They were everywhere! Don busted out laughing, to which I likely replied, "Fuck you." I also think it was at this time that I suggested we get our bodies and bikes to Kamloops and consider alternative options from there.

We reach out to Kamloops Warm Showers Host Extraordinaire, Rob,
who lets us crash at his place for a few days.
The three of us spend hours sitting on Rob's front porch gabbing about everything and nothing.
Rob treats us like royalty. We don't want to leave.

While in the mosquito-free and slug-free comfort of Rob's luxurious home, Don and I decided to alter the plans for the remainder of our trip. We hopped on VIA Rail Canada (think "Amtrak," though with far better service) in Kamloops and trained to Vancouver. From Vancouver, we cycled across the Canada-US border, headed to Anacortes, and then spent out final few days enjoying the carefree San Juan Islands.

Despite the skeeters and slugs, this was a magnificent trip on a (mostly) magnificent route with a (mostly) magnificent cycling partner. (Don would have been entirely magnificent had he received at least one mosquito bite and had at least one slug on his tent.) Nowadays, nearly every time Don and I chat, we mention something from our month-long pedal together. It was truly a memorable trip, from Whitefish to Bellingham -- the long way -- for the both of us.

Signing off on this trip from Fidalgo Bay in Anacortes.

Many photos of moi were taken by Don. Thank you for letting me share your photos, Don.


  1. I LOVED reading this and looking at all the beauty. Also, you made me laugh out loud several times before starting my work day and for that I am quite grateful.

    1. Thank you for reading...and laughing. πŸ˜€

  2. Fantastic journey, storytelling and memory . . . Rob de Kamloops

    1. Thanks, Rob. And thanks for being a HUGE and transformative part of the journey.

  3. Love Polebridge ... and cyclists who ride in get a free pastry!

    1. Free pastry?!? Wha?!? I gotta go back and get my pastry! 😁

  4. Great hearing the full accounting,...

  5. Speaking as a hairy Italian I can tell you skeeters love me! Though slugs don’t! I woulda loved to hear that girlie squeal! Shirley did a great job and wore hay river gunk well!

    You were both cute and stuff!

    What an amazing trip and photos! I am surprised there were no bear sightings. Any bald eagles?

    Funny thing, only cyclist think taking the long way is a good idea! And we are correct!

    1. Oh, there were lots of eagles. And we saw five black bears and one grizzly, in total. Surprisingly, none of our bear sightings were along Grizzy Alley. I still think it's amazing that in my one month cycling through Alaska, I only saw one bear. Yet every time I travel through this part of BC and Alberta, numerous bear sightings are always guaranteed.

  6. Oh my goodness, those slugs! Yuck! I was squirming right along with you. The rest of the journey looks fabulous though.

    1. Thank you for the anti-slug sympathy. πŸ˜€


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