Northern Rockies Tour – Summing Up

How does one sum up this Northern Rockies tour?

Difficult, breathtaking (in more ways than one), stunning, magnificent. Words fail. The true highlights for me: Logan Pass, Sunwampta Pass and Columbia Icefields, Bow Lake, Lake Louise, riding through fires, the moose(!). I truly LOVED every bit of the camping – 12 nights in a tent at great campsites. My tent is now rolled up in my garage wondering why it’s not being used.

The bike and gear really served me great. Each tour I think I realize this more. For the future, I need a new camp pillow (or maybe just a good washing of the existing one). I also need new tent stakes. Those aluminum ones I bought in Lake Louise were not durable at all.

This tour can’t really be called ‘remote,’ yet the availability of food is limited at times, and there are some respectable distances between overnight options at times. Upfront, there was uncomfortable uncertainty in where we might be able to stay. For most miles and many overnights, there was zero cell phone coverage.

Our threesome tackled the challenges very well.  Perhaps we all earned, or re-earned, a handful of touring merit badges:

  • for Climbing
  • for Tent Camping
  • for Self-Sufficiency
  • for the Columbia Icefield Parkway
  • for Logan Pass
  • for Smoke Riding (ha-ha).

I sweated the availability of campsites in the Canadian national parks for weeks prior to the tour. But we learned that the rangers tend to accommodate touring cyclists even in full campgrounds. Likewise, the existence of the hiker/biker tent sites at many campgrounds is not readily evident until you actually go up there. One reason for that may be that “camping” these days has come to mean “RV-ing.” Anyway, this is valuable information for the touring cyclist.

Still, as the tour progressed, something wasn’t quite right, difficult to put into words. I loved nearly every mile of the ride each day but I sensed that, as the miles went by, it was bordering on a chore for my partners. When I wanted to stop or deviate or linger, they seemed more interested in minimizing the time and miles to camp each day. While that’s perfectly OK with me – each rider needs to ride their own ride – I sensed that at times my partners felt otherwise.

The tour ended for me with mild sadness – pretty typical. This is my eighth extended self-contained tour, and it’s always the same.  But this time, it almost feels like the end of an era. Jack and I have been at this for 7 straight years. The stack of great memories is piled SO high, I wonder if our tour recipe is getting long in the tooth. Riding 60 or 70 or 80 miles each day, tenting each night, and repeating is perhaps a bit taxing on ageing bodies and minds.  It’s a ton of fun, but perhaps we have had our fill, for a while anyway.

Brainstorming a few recipe changes:

  • No group decisions, other than where to meet at or near camp at day’s end.
  • Schedule diversionary activities (sporting events, movies, music, sport activities, etc.) as much as possible during and/or between ride days.
  • Insert wives into the picture – if they can be convinced. For instance, wouldn’t it be nice for them to manage an RV or camper in support?
  • Do one or more shorter tours, say, 3-10 days duration.
  • Shorten riding plans to, say, 40-50 miles per day average.
  • OR, perhaps consider a wholesale change to use bikes with motors 🙂 (I’m talking real motorcycles, not assist-bikes.)

These are all topics for discussion for the coming year.