Author Topic: Over the hills and far away...  (Read 7064 times)

John Saxby

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Over the hills and far away...
« on: June 11, 2016, 12:01:02 AM »
...less than a week from today, I take the VIA train from Ottawa to Toronto, the first leg of my Tour des montagnes. From June 16, I'll be offline and out of sight until the third week of July.  Here's why:

With Osibisa, my Raven, in the baggage car, I'm due to reach Hinton, Alberta, around midday on June 21st. This is the starting point of my tour of the western mountains.  From Hinton, I ride west towards the Rockies, and the northern terminus of the Icefields Parkway, Jasper. From Jasper, I head south towards Banff, Canmore, Crowsnest Pass, and the US border. From there, I continue south to Glacier National Park, and then westwards via the Road to the Sun across the Continental Divide towards Idaho, Washington State, and the Pacific Coast.  In this westward leg, there's a zig north to visit friends in Nelson, BC, and a zag back south to Kettle Falls, WA. From there, due west through Cascadia to Whidbey Island.

Here are two tiny urls to google maps which show the route, mileage, and altitude profile:

Hinton to Bonnerís Ferry, Idaho (about 1160 kms):  http://tinyurl.com/hcz3ytj

Bonnerís Ferry to Whidbey Island, WA (about 1003 kms):http://tinyurl.com/je6eleb

From Whidbey, I'll catch the ferry to Everett, WA, and from there, take the Amtrak back east, to Seattle, Chicago, and finally Utica, in upstate NY.  Utica is about 3 - 4 hours' drive S of Ottawa, and Marcia, bless her, will drive down to collect Osi 'n' me.

I'm taking the Amtrak back east because the price is about 40% of the fare charged by VIA, but also as my homage to this man, and his fine tribute to railways in the States:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXGFKpWUOW0  (I'm heading east, not south, but it's in the same spirit.)

This trip has been a while in the making: Back in the early '70's, on my first road trip across Canada, much of it on the newly-opened Trans-Canada Highway, I passed some cyclists going east up Rogers Pass, and thought, "Hey, I gotta do some of that one day."  (Not sure I'd cycle the TCH on Rogers Pass these days, the truck traffic being what it is, but those were early and more innocent days.) In later years, I've travelled the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper, on two wheels and four, and the same impulse returns, to make the journey on my bike. It's taken a while to get things organized, what with work and family commitments, and now there's a wee bit of urgency, too, as I've learned that Canada's mountains are eroding rather less slowly than my reserves of strength and endurance. More soberly, as I approach 70 next year, I've seen too many friends pass before their time, and others struggling with debilitating diseases. So, while I still have the privilege of good health, there's no reason to delay.

This will be demanding, I'm sure, but manageable too, I hope.  I have planned about 23 cycling days for the 2100+ kms, about 95 kms a day, or about 6 hours in the saddle each day at 16 kms/hr.  (The variables, of course, are weather and terrain, and any unforeseen reasons to change the route.)  There's space for some shorter days as well, and for a break in Nelson.  I'm early enough in the season that I should be able to avoid very hot days; the flip side is that with my luck, I'll get cloud-mist-rain-cold weather on the northern part of the Icefields Parkway, from Jasper to the Columbia Glacier at the summit. (I was trying to negotiate with Rual to borrow his camera so I'd get brilliant sunshine, but he wasn't biting.)  I'll camp when I can, but I have a Hostel Int'l membership in case the weather gets really crappy on the Parkway; and in the states, there are inexpensive motels if I need to dry out.

I do expect that I'll see some splendid scenery nevertheless, and you'll see some photos too.  I'll keep a journal, but I won't start to assemble it until I've finished my tour on Whidbey, and on the train back home.  With luck and a bit of discipline, I'm hoping to post that here and on crazyguy in late July or (more likely) late August.

Enjoy your summer rides, may they all be safe and adventurous (but devoid of adversity) and we'll be in touch ... eventually :-)

Tailwinds, all -- John


« Last Edit: June 11, 2016, 12:02:55 AM by John Saxby »

Matt2matt2002

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2016, 10:54:48 AM »
Best wishes.
I'm sure everyone here will look forward to hearing about your tour.
Tailwinds and cold beers to you.
Matt
😉
Never drink and drive. You may hit a bump  and spill your drink

mickeg

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2016, 12:18:10 PM »
I have been on the Glacier Waterton loop including Crows Nest Pass (rather flat, if you did not see the sign you would not realize you are going over the continental divide), Waterton Park, and Going to the Sun Road.  You are going to have an outstanding time. 

Your day between Waterton and the East side of Glacier will be a tough day, there are several very steep very tall hills.

When I got to Logan Pass, there were a bunch of roadies with their ultra light bikes, I suspect they were part of a supported tour group.  When I went riding past them with my Sherpa loaded down with four panniers, the Ortlieb 31 liter duffle on top and handlebar bag, the roadies just stared in amazement that someone could ride a loaded touring bike up the hill.  I tried to make them feel like wimps, but I don't think I succeeded.  The uphill section of Going to the Sun Road going from east to west is not too steep, I think it was roughly 5.5 to 6 percent grade if I recall correctly, it was much less steep than the prior day.

Going down the west side of Going to the Sun Road, I stopped twice to check my rim temperature, first time it was not too bad and I got right back on the road.  Second time I decided to wait for about 5 to 10 minutes for my rims to cool off.  I do not know if that prevented a blow out but it gave me time for a few more photos.

There is a cycling restriction on the west end of Glacier Park, cycles are banned on part of the road between Sprauge and Apgar campgrounds for most of the day, I do not recall what time the ban ends but it might be about 4 pm.  Both Sprauge and Apgar have hiker biker campsites.  Those campsites are designated for people without motorized vehicles, they charge per person instead of per site, the price is quite reasonable.  Sprauge is a nice smaller campground whereas Apgar is much larger.  But Apgar is near a small store and restaurant, whereas Sprauge has no amenities of any significance.

Whitefish has a good bike shop, Glacier Cyclery, they sell Going to the Sun Road jerseys if you are looking for a souvenir.  I planned to buy one when I finished my trip in Whitefish, but forgot to.  But last year a neighbor went out there on a supported tour, she bought one for me.
http://www.glaciercyclery.com/shop/mens-going-to-the-sun-jersey/

I have not been west of Whitefish where you are going, can't comment on that.

Amtrak, I prefer window seats on the train over aisle seats.  And I prefer the shady side of the train, not the sunny side.  A bit cooler in mid day if the sun is not shining on you and the sun is not shining in your eyes.  I think the scenery looks better that way too.

The Amtrak Empire Builder train goes through a lot of scenic country, but also through a lot of rather dull area.  I spent a lot of time in the lounge car, it was a bit less cramped and more scenic.  I assume you will have a coach seat, not one of their small rooms.  More than two days on that train can get a bit old and it can get a bit pricey if you are buying all your food on the train.  I suggest getting on the train with a lot of picnic supplies such as bread, cheese, crackers, summer sausage, and maybe some snack foods.  I however always ate the cheapest breakfast in the dining car that they had, it came with coffee for a reasonable price.  Some reading materials can help cut the boredom.  I had a 7 inch Android tablet with a bunch of files I wanted to read.  The seats have 110 AC outlets for charging, etc.  If you have not ridden Amtrak before, their luggage policies are much better than airlines.  But they are firm on the weight limit for checked bags.  If you have not used an Amtrak bike box before, they are huge.  You keep both wheels on the bike, pull off the pedals and do something with the handlebars.  My Sherpa is a tall size, I need to remove the handlebars to make it fit in the box.

You will have a great time.

I attached the limit for photos.  My campsite in Sprague, Crows Nest, the Border, the place I stopped to let my rims cool off.  Do not take photos of the border from the USA side, the US border guards will think you are a terroist, but the Canadians did not mind at all.

John Saxby

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2016, 03:00:12 PM »
Thanks, George, that's very helpful, especially the heads-up on the stretch between Waterton and the border.  Your info on the actual grade of the Going to the Sun is valuable, too.  To get an early start on the climb, I may stop the night at St Mary or perhaps the first campground in the park from the East, depending on where & when I stop near Crowsnest/Pincher and beyond -- I've thought of camping at Belly River, just before the border, a short day to the eastern side of the park.

I was aware of the restriction on the Going-to-the-Sun road, from both journals on crazyguy and the Glacier NP website, and had sorta set my dials for camping at either Sprague or Apgar.  About 8 years ago, we did a family holiday in the area and spent a few days in cabins at Apgar -- lovely spot.

Whitefish SP has apparently set aside a biker camping area as well, so I might stop there as I go through Whitefish. Thanks too for the reference to Glacier Cyclery. I rang them to ask their advice on a back-country NFD road between the 93 and the 37 (beside the Koocanusa R) and they confirmed that it's quite doable on a touring bike.

Your reminder on keeping the rims cool is very welcome, too.  I replaced my pads with new Koolstop salmon pads, but have a spare set if necessary.

Hoping now that the current cool-wet weather on the norther part of the Parkway eases in the next ten days -- happily, any forecast of more than about 3 days in most parts of Canada is pretty much guesswork.

Cheers,

John


John Saxby

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2016, 03:01:06 PM »
Thanks, Matt, and safe travels in sunny Sri Lanka.

John

Matt2matt2002

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2016, 03:12:00 PM »
Thanks John. Kind of you to remember.
Sometimes I think I enjoy the prep for my tours as much as actually doing them!
This one will be my first solo abroad. No one else to blame when things go wrong and just me to take the credit when it goes well.😉
Never drink and drive. You may hit a bump  and spill your drink

mickeg

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2016, 04:37:47 PM »
There is a huge campground in Waterton Villiage, we stayed there our last night in Canada before going down to St Mary.

I do not know if the salmon pads wear faster than the normal pads.  Two years ago after I finished my Astoria OR to San Fransisco CA (892 miles or roughly 1300 km) Pacific Coast trip, my brake pads were almost gone.  I suspect in the rockies you will wear out pads just as fast, but if the Salmon pads wear faster, ... ... keep an eye on them.

Attachments, photo of my brake pads from my Pacific Coast trip, the elevation profile for the day before Going to the Sun road (15 July 2012) with the steep hills, and the elevation profile from Going to the Sun road (16 July 2012) and map for my day of Going to the Sun Road.  The day we did Going to the Sun Road, we went to Apgar and ate restaurant food there, it was not cheap but the tour group had it in the budget.  The start of that day was at a private campground at St Mary, I do not recall the name of the Campground.  The profiles and map are from my GPS data and the Garmin Mapsource software, screen shots converted to photo format.

I went out there to be part of a tour group but I hated to go that far without spending some time there so I went early and spent several days at Glacier park before I joined the tour group.  That was fun, I spent a couple days using their free shuttle bus that runs on Going to the Sun Road.

Andre Jute

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2016, 05:09:36 PM »
Tailwinds, John. That will be an inspiring ride, and you seem to have planned it in extensive detail. I especially like the "modesty" of "only" 95 kilometers per day within so ambitious a plan. I look forward to your report.

Coming up for 70 is just the right age to be young at heart ó with proper planning!

Danneaux

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2016, 05:43:19 PM »
So excited you're on the cusp of your Big Tour, John. May it be all you hope and filled with just the "right" kinds of Adventure!

All the best,

Dan.

RonS

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2016, 12:11:37 AM »
Happy trails, John.

If you pass through Burlington at the end of your voyage on a weekend, PM me. It's a nice day ride from my front door (100 km) and I would enjoy the opportunity to meet up.

Ron

JimK

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2016, 12:41:02 AM »
That's an awesome ride you have planned, John! And you'll again be in my neighborhood, plus or minus a thousand miles or so! Your route includes bit of US-89 which runs right through Ogden, UT. One of my big fantasies these days is just to ride that road up to Glacier. Enjoy your adventure!

John Saxby

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2016, 03:11:15 AM »
Thanks for your good wishes and well-chosen advice, guys.

Tracking the forecasts for the Jasper end of the parkway, the weather sounds good for a change: high teens, sunny and cool. BUT.  Ah, jeez, there' always a "but":  there's a chance that the admin staff of VIA Rail will be on strike in the next day or two. Their contract expired in December 2015.  One would think, one would think, given the high-profile fuss about climate change and all, that the new gvt would give a nudge to VIA management to Do the Right Thing and keep the trains running. I'm hoping that this will be a last-minute-to-midnight agreement.  We'll find out in a few hours' time. 

Will keep you posted.  Meantime, I've worked through packing my gear and some food--there's always the tension between weight, the terrain and weather of the mountains, and enough carrying capacity--and I'll do a last ride on my Raven, loaded this time, up into the hills across the river tomorrow.  It'll be a bit slower than my training rides...

Danneaux

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2016, 03:57:10 AM »
Looking forward to hearing about how your shakedown cruise goes, John; please keep us apprised on that and the possible rail strike. What rotten luck and timing if it happens! Fingers crossed for your good luck.

All the best,

Dan.

mickeg

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2016, 03:47:51 PM »
You are going to have a great time if they can avoid the strike.

I can't say anything about VIA, but Amtrak is quite reasonable for luggage for cyclists.  The photo shows the gear  for two people.  My duffle with red ends and black sides, it was my carry on to have on the train. The size of it would have qualified as a full size piece of luggage to check on an airline, but Amtrak allowed it as a carry on.  The duffle with blue ends and black sides was also mine, it was my checked gear, this would have been oversize if on an airline.  And, one of the bike boxes was mine.  But, they were firm about the weight limit of 50 pounds for each checked item.  I do not recall the cost for the bike box and shipping that box as one of my allowed two pieces of free checked items, but it was quite inexpensive to buy the box and pay the bike fee compared to airlines.

The duffels have mesh sides and thin nylon ends, quite light and they sat in the bottoms of my rear panniers during my ride.  If my notes are correct, the duffels were 340 and 410 grams empty, thus carrying them on my tour was not a concern at all, I almost forgot I was carrying them.

The photo is at Portland Amtrak station in May 2014 shortly before I got onto a shuttle bus.

John Saxby

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Re: Over the hills and far away...
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2016, 05:33:15 PM »
Thanks, George.

Just learned that VIA and the union reached a tentative agreement just before midnight yesterday, as I'd hoped. Nothing like an assured drop in summer-holidays revenue to concentrate the mind :-)

I'll do my short shakedown cruise this aft in the hills, a chance to remind myself what 8 - 9% hills feel like with a loaded bike.  The weather today is similar to what the forecast says for the Parkway, for what that's worth: sunny, cool (mid-high teens), with a 25 km/h NW wind.  Better than rain, and manageable. 

I do have a spare set of new brake pads in my kit -- learned from my experience on the Gaspť a few years ago that less-than-new pads can wear out quickly on extreme descents. (Though I'm not expecting any 17%ers on this trip, I will pause on the long descents.)

Yes, Amtrak has been very helpful so far.  They say I can get a box at Everett WA, and that they'll charge me $15 for three legs. Thanks for the heads-up about the weight.  I checked my Raven's weight with racks, seat bag (with some tools), Tangle frame bag (with rain gear & Click-stand), and tent, and it comes in at 40 lbs. So, I'll start with that, which should be OK for the 50-lb limit.

I can place two panniers ( strapped together as one piece) in the baggage car, and take two on board with me, along with my handlebar bag, so that should work OK as well.

Thanks too for your suggestion of a seat on the north side of the train. Reminds me of the old POSH advice for the well-heeled taking passage from Foggie Olde to Injah, back in the day: Port Out, Starboard Home.

Cheers,

John
« Last Edit: June 13, 2016, 05:40:02 PM by John Saxby »