by Ken Myhre [TORA 1000 route]
Dave Oliphant and I left Dan Paarsmakt's house outside of Cochrane on Friday at 4:30 am. It was still a bit dark and so we needed our lights for possibly half an hour. Maurice Smith had not made it by our start time, but we were not worried and expected him to catch up soon. We had a nice, but cold ride to Canmore experiencing the normal headwind through Exshaw. It was still not warm enough to take much off as we headed around the Minnewanka loop and on to Castle junction and then Lake Louise, for lunch with the holiday hoards. We now were able to take some of winter duds off. At the Junction we talked with a couple from Edmonton who were doing the Golden Triangle in one day and who knew about our AR group. Sorry but I did not get their names, but possibly the Edmonton bunch knows of them. Our ride up to Bow Summit was getting slower as the headwind gradually gathered steam. At Sask River Crossing we were having supper when Maurice finally pulled in. He had only been 20 minutes behind at the start but had had to go into Banff to find spokes he had broke on the Minnewanka loop. The wind continued to grow and the pull up to Athabasca seemed to take forever. At least the traffic was light, now that the daylight was dwindling. Often I have had a tailwind heading north down from the pass going north, but that only lasted a few kms and then the NW wind returned. I was first into Sunwapta Lodge where we hoped to get our last fuel for the day. It was 11:00 and they were open, and people were still eating, but the cook had gone home. When Dave and Maurice pulled in a few minutes later Maurice could not eat anything and lay down on a bench outside. Possibly the extra effort catching us was the difference. Dave and I pulled into Jasper at about 1:30, where we had booked rooms in two different places. This first day, 400 km, might need to be reworked. In head wind situations like this it almost did us all in.
I went by the house where Dave and Maurice were supposed to be at 6:00 and only found Dave. But I did not have any time to worry as Maurice pulled in a few minutes later. The people at Sunwapta had let him sleep on a mat in the lobby and he had left at 3:30 to catch us again. We had breakfast and headed on. Our second day was about 370 km, which included the second little side trip (the first being Minnewanka) to get us up to 1000. Yesterday's NW wind held and was even straight W some of the time and so we had lots of help on the continuous large rollers to Entwhistle, where we gathered for supper. This day was mostly on the four lane divided Yellowhead highway (#16), and it seemed to have lots of good sized gravel left over from winter on the shoulder. At one point Maurice hit the wrong piece and blew a tire and broke another spoke. The little add-on detour, out through Seba Beach, was a bit of a gamble as it had just been picked out of a mapping package and it did not turn out like the package indicated. But it turned out fine and with Minnewanka are probably the two pleasant riding sections on a road-clogged long weekend. We stayed at the Ramada Inn in Drayton valley and had a luxurious 6 hour sleep and full breakfast in the morning.
Day three began with a drop into the North Saskatchewan River and then continuously growing rollers and headwind to Rocky. I was on my on my own now as the climbing was just too much for me to keep up. 20 or so km of road work approaching Rocky did not help either. But a full meal at Rocky and a dramatic turn in the weather can do wonders. How often are you happy to get hit with hard driven rain? As I got outside of Rocky a strong N wind accompanied by a deluge blew me towards Sundre. I'll take this over headwind when I am really tired. At Sundre I noticed my two buddies in the coffee shop we have used often, but as I was still digesting lunch and hoping to do a quick stop I pulled into the service station. To no avail, as they rode by a minute or two later and I would have no chance of catching them, particularly if they thought they were trying to catch me. The final run home was tough as we were now on the Hwy 22 Race Way. 1000s of the biggest RV and Travel Trailers in the country each year gather here to see who can drive the fastest and spew the most pollutants into the air. Again the rollers continued and I got slower and slower until the final ten minutes when the road flattened and the wind driven rain returned. I pulled soggenly into Dan's driveway at 8:00.
This was a tough ride for me, but also it is great to have it behind me. Dave and Maurice are such strong riders and it is so helpful for me to be able to ride with them. I think our times were Maurice 62:35, Dave 63:10, Ken 63:30.