See the Calgary Cows!
We left Dallas at about 11am and arrived in Calgary to beautiful, cool weather. We shuttled downtown to the Marriott for the afternoon and evening. We hoped to catch the Calgary Cannons, their minor league baseball team, but discovered that they had played a day game at noon and it was done. The concierge suggested we walk down to the riverfront and catch Shakespeare in the Park. We did this and it was great. We only stayed about an hour since they were doing MacBeth and the mosquito's liked the performance very much. Anne noticed that people could actually sit on the grass here (no fire ants!). We had dinner sitting on the porch at Prego's in the market square in downtown on the riverfront. It was very nice and relaxing. Calgary is a beautiful, clean city. It's hard to believe that it is so cold for most of the year. The city is known as "Cow Town" and is the Canadian equivalent of Fort Worth. A group called Udderly Art commissioned artists to paint these fiberglass cows positioned throughout the city sponsored by various companies with the proceeds going to charity. They are positioned mostly along the mall in downtown with others spread out at various spots around the city. Some are pretty fancy, others pretty strange! Since Calgary gets so cold in the winter, it has enclosed walkways that criss-cross the city. These walkways go through office buildings and over roadways. They are completely surrounded by retail shops. We walked some of it both before and after our trip. It was very nice. We both wondered why Dallas doesn't do this (for the opposite reason!).
We got up and had breakfast then headed over to the Glenbow Museum. They had a Carl Rungius art exhibit. Carl Rungius had painted many wildlife and scenery pieces of Alberta and British Columbia. They had a large exhibit of his work on display. Also a wonderful Innuit exhibit.
Today was a traveling day to Banff. We arrived at our hotel, the Charleton Cedar Court. Our room was a bit less than expected, with a very small 1st floor with the bedroom on a loft. The bathroom was on the first floor! (?) We had scheduled our return on Saturday for this place, but cancelled and scheduled back in Calgary at the Marriott which was nicer and cheaper. Banff was so crowded as we walked the streets that be popped into an Irish Pub and had a beer and some munchies. The pub wasn't very crowded at all and we really enjoyed sitting there looking out the window. Turned out it was Heritage Day in Alberta, a Canadian long weekend named something different in each Province, but held at the same weekend in all of them! That's why it was so crowded.
A (slow) cab took us to the Banff Springs Golf Course Clubhouse where our trip started. Backroads was already there with their van and we hello'd Marla and Reda (like Rayda), our trip leaders. We had breakfast with the rest of the 26 guests, introducing ourselves and getting briefed on rest of the trip.
I had problems with my gears within the first mile of the trip. Just as we approached the first uphill, my front chainring got stuck on the large ring and wouldn't move. We stopped and fiddled with it for a while. At the same time Anne's chain fell off and lodged between the chainring and hub and we had to pull very hard (getting incredibly dirty!) to get it back on the gears. Marla and Reda showed up and messed with my bike some, but with no luck. They switched it out for a smaller bike, but the gears worked. Reda said she would change out the cable tonight and maybe that would fix it.
We had ridden maybe 25 miles and were very close to Baker Creek Chalets. But not close enough! It clouded up quick and we heard thunder, the wind picked up and the trees creaked. We jumped off our bikes and quickly pulled on our (new) rain gear. We bought this gear the week before the trip just-in-case and thank god we did that! This stuff was great, with hoods that fit over our bike helmets, and tails that wrapped around under the seats. I wrapped my wallet, camera, and other stuff that I didn't want to get wet. The rain started and quickly built. The wind blew hard into our faces as we biked toward the chalet. Just as the Backroads van pulled up with Marla laughing at us, it started to hail! She asked if we wanted to shuttle on in, but we didn't want to shuttle! We were already wet and wanted to go ahead and bike on in! The Baker creek chalet was rustic (to say the least) with little cabins that each of us stayed in. They had one saving grace, a small fireplace that we could use to dry out our soaked clothes. It worked too, by the next morning our biking gear was completely dry and ready for another use.
Which we got the very next day.
The ride included a steep 2 mile uphill, followed by a gradual 6 mile uphill to Lake Moraine. We parked our bikes and hiked around to an incredible view of the lake. From here we biked back down and up to Lake Louise. Lake Louise was very crowded and we didn't stay long for that reason and, it started to rain! We pulled our rain gear back out, which we had stashed on the back of our bikes, and headed back down the hills. It was crowded and wet and felt very dangerous, but we didn't have any problems except getting all stuff wet again. We stayed the night at the Post hotel, an incredible resort. Anne got a nice Jacuzzi tub bath there to help work out the kinks of the biking.
At lunch today we discovered that Bob worked at Mostek in Carrollton in the late seventies, about 2 years before I started there. What are the chances!?
We sat with Brian at the Post Hotel, had drinks and talked a while before dinner. He had funny, interesting stories about dot-com companies and their "irrational" business models. The poor company executives and employees are clueless and caught up in the excitement of the technology.
Today's ride included the Great Divide option. This option went back up the steep hill toward Moraine Lake and turned right toward the Great Divide. This route was blocked off due to a tree that had fallen across the road. We stopped at the border of Alberta and British Columbia. A stream here flowed north then split, the left side flowed west toward the Pacific, the right toward Hudson Bay and the Atlantic. It was a marvelous site. As we walked the area we saw a Great Canadian Railway Tours train coming down the tracks. there must have been 10 chipmunks that jumped from the tracks and ran away when the train got close! We rode on and turned back onto Highway 1, crossing back into Alberta, with a fantastic view of a river down and off to the right, as we headed to the Icefield Parkway. At the end of lunch, as we were getting ready to leave, an older woman stopped us. "Do you remember me?" She sat beside Anne on the flight from DFW to Calgary! She was from Austin, meeting her son in Calgary for a vacation! What are the chances? We talked for a few minutes, then headed back onto the road. The biking ended at the Num-Ti-Jah lodge, an old hunting/fishing lodge built at the end of the 1800s. It had been refurbished over the years and was still rustic, but nice. We stayed in the "old" part of the lodge above the library. Our room had no TV, telephone, radio, and only a single outlet. The bathroom was added in a strange step-up room with a closet that stepped down! We settled in an went on a 3 hour hike around Bow Lake to a magnificent waterfall and strange, rock-filled field. The rock field was so difficult to navigate through that someone had built rockpiles to mark the passage. It was very easy to get lost, and I think some of the rock piles were fake, built by pranksters to throw off the hikers. On the way back we saw a Hoary Marmut. This thing looked like a little like a beaver or porcupine and was very fat, like a sausage with legs. We learned later that it hibernated 9 months of the year and it was getting ready for it's yearly snooze. We had put our hiking boots in the van before the biking began for the day, and when we picked them up to do the hike Anne's hiking boots were soaked! Apparently the water jugs had spilled and poured water directly into Anne's shoes and socks. Anne showed Marla and she loaned Anne _her_ shoes and socks! That was so nice. Anne said they were nicely broken in too! Anne took her shoes and socks and put them on the heat radiators in our room and they were completely dry by morning. We missed part of the wine and cheese tasting party with the entertaining naturalist but saw enough of it to learn some about the Marmut, Piku, Mountain Goat, and Dipper. Jori and Mel got picked on by the naturalist and did well winning fine prizes. We had dinner that night with Nancy and Mike, Rob, David, and Richard, the Kansas City team.
Today was the most difficult day of biking with an 8-mile climb up to Sunwapta Pass. The climb was only modestly steep, but _so_ long! About halfway up we ran upon Mountain goats blocking traffic. This was a classic "bear-jam" where the cars stopped to watch the wildlife and traffic backed up and snarled. The ride up the pass also had strong headwinds switching to tailwinds at the massive switchback carved out of the mountain side. We pulled off twice to admire the great view looking up at the cars on the road at the top, followed by the view looking back down from the top. All along the route today there was ice and snow visible on the top of the mountains followed by the incredible sight of the Athabasca glacier when we arrived at the Icefield Chalets. We parked our bikes and checked in at the chalets, then caught the bus to the glacier, then climbed aboard the Snowcoach to head out onto the glacier. Backroads had arranged a Champagne view of the glacier. That is, they had 4 bottles of Champagne for us to drink while walking around on the ice. We had an interesting time walking the carefully manicured area on the glacier. It was treacherous out of the groomed area, with crevasses and giant, water filled holes that disappeared under the ice. David had some fun with a group of Japanese tourists jumping into the middle of their photos. They seemed to enjoy it a lot! It was so cold on the glacier! Anne took some photos, walked around a little, then got back on the Snowcoach. I was freezing too, so I joined her. The glacier moves out a few feet each year, but melts back even more. So it has been slowly receding over the years leaving gravel and dust behind. It looked like a gravel pit or the surface of the moon at the edges. The Icefield Chalet rooms had spring loaded faucets because the water supply was glacier ice water. Anne thought it tasted somewhat salty, but I didn't really notice it much. It took two people to get warm water out of it, one to hold the hot and cold on, the other to wash up. Dinner was chinese at the Icefield Chalet restaurant. Anne and Bill discovered a common thread with Motorola where he worked as a consultant. Bill and Bonnie also lived in Dallas for a while, in Irving!
This was the longest day of biking. I had trouble with my gears again and couldn't get the largest chainring to work correctly. I decided to keep going anyway and not wait to try to get it fixed. I still had two working chainrings in front, the granny gear and the middle gear, so I could handle it just fine. It was very cold leaving the chalets. Our toes and ears were very cold so we wore our "long sleeve" gloves and used our rain gear as wind breakers. They turned out to be invaluable! This ride had a wonderful long, long downhill that led to the Saskatewan River, one that we could open up and roll on. No switchbacks, no blind curves. We had lunch at the Athabasca Falls where we talked with Gretchen. Turned out we biked at almost the same speed as she did, so we biked the rest of the way in with her up the steep hill leading into Jasper. The road today was a bit of a pain with thumpity thumpity in the road along the shoulders. So we road down the white line and in the middle of the raod keeping a careful eye in our rear-view mirrors for cars. While stopped trying to fix my bike Brian biked up. He had waited today to start last. He stopped for a while then went on ahead to "leave a snot trail for us" to follow (his words). Poor Gretchen had bike problems again today with a dragging front brake. Reda helped her to fix it and she was able to continue. There a 2 large deer at the entrance to the Jasper Park Lodge. We stopped and got some pictures here. When we arrived at the front desk our room was not ready, so we took our drink tickets and sat outside with Tom, Jori, Julia, and Murali watching Tom get wasted. Later that evening we had a long, very nice dinner with Mel, Janet, Bob, Lynn, Brian, and Marla. Reda also came by for a picture. Mel sent Steve, our waiter after chocolate for him and Anne when we discovered that their single chocolate desert was unavailable. The dinner went way late. Janet just about fell asleep on Mel's shoulder, but they had a sushi party planned for later that night (wow!). I wonder if they managed it? We found out that both Brian and Bob were both heavy metal guitarists! Amazing what you learn at dinner with a little wine and a lot of time. We also had to take turns changing the subject on Mel away from politics while Janet was kicking him under the table.
Today was a no biking day! So we slept in late and had a late breakfast. About half the crew had scheduled a rafting trip for the morning but we wanted to hang around the grounds and take it easy. At breakfast we saw many of the rest of the crew including Sam and Jan, Mel and Janet, and both Marla and Reda, our Backroads sitters. After breakfast we went out and sat on the edge of the lake watching the Canada geese come and go. The water was so clear we could see their little feet swinging around under the water. Sam and Jan rented a canoe and went cruising around on the water. We had to be _very_careful_ walking the grounds. Can you say Goose Shit? It was _everywhere_! Most everyone was leaving at about 1pm to catch busses and vans to head back to Banff and Calgary. Reda and Marla setup a beautiful picnic lunch for us and gave away small prizes to everyone. It was unique and nicely thought out and done. Gary and Lisa set up a separate van shuttle through SunDog Tours to go directly back to Calgary, dropping us at our hotel in downtown. We joined them and Betsy to cut 3 hours off the trip! That was great. We got back in time to find a nice little family owned pizza place, Michael's (a Calgarian secret told to us by a bellhop in the Marriott), in downtown Calgary. We ate pizza and watched the storm blow in.
We slept in this morning, then got up and headed down for breakfast at the Marriott. Guess who we saw??! Sam and Jan! They stayed at the Marriott too and had flights out to Livermore near the same time we did! We ate breakfast with them and talked, then split up to walk the city some more. We shared a shuttle back to airport and ran into David and Richard there going through US customs! We all said our goodbyes and headed to our gates.
Canada has similar money to the US with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters that are about the same size. They also have paper money in 5, 10, and 20s that are common. I don't know about above that, we didn't see any 50s or 100s. They also have coins in $1 and $2 denominations, called the "Loonie" and the "Toonie". Marla explained this to me and quizzed me on it later. This makes paying for things very interesting. In the US suppose you owe $ 6.11. You could give them $ 10.11 and get back 4 ones, reducing your coins. Not so in Canada, you'd get back 2 Toonies for your trouble. So I have to think about change using these two new coins. Here's another example. In Canada suppose I owe $12.23. I could give them a 20, a Toonie, and a quarter and get back a 10 and 2 pennies. Ugh. I stood in the checkout stand a lot inspecting my coins and thinking.
Temperatures here are in Celsius. We learned a trick for conversions.
10 == 50 20 == 68 30 == 86 40 == 104Notice that 68 and 86 are very easy to remember. Now take your current Celsius temperature and subtract it from the nearest Celsius conversion point and multiply times two and add it to the fahrenheit conversion point.
An example -
Suppose the temperature outside is 22. That's 22 - 20 = 2 times 2 = 4 add 68 = 72. It's currently 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside. I made the chart and Anne came up with this nifty conversion!
The weather reports on TV gave "POP" percentages. We figured out after a while that this meant "Probability of Precipitation". In the mountains the rain and storms were completely unpredictable. We rode in clear blue skies for a while then around another mountain peak into a different valley and the clouds were thick, black and a storm blew down on us.
The Metric System
Canada uses metric. I'm sold on metric, it is so easy to use. Mileage is easy to convert. Just multiply the Kilometer by 6 and move the decimal point. Example, 20 Kilometers = 20 times 6 = 120, move the decimal point left one and get 12 miles! Biking in Kilometers was easier, the distances aren't quite as far (since the kilometer is shorter than the mile) so we could do 109 kilometers that last day and that seemed like a lot! Gretchen's personal best!
We saw a lot of American cars. Fords seemed very popular with a lot of Focus and Taurus running about. There were very few SUVs here, although a lot of pickup trucks.
On the first day we stopped at the Johnston Canyon Campground for lunch and hiked out to the "lower falls" of the Silverton Falls. Anne noticed two funny types of tourists. There were the Americans with kids. These are "Undulating Amorphous Masses". They moved slowly, the parents walking along saying "Come back here!" "Slow Down!" "Stay on the path!" etc. The kids would run in all directions, jump on things, pick them up, run into people. They'd make slow progress up the path. Then there were the Japanese tourists "Regimented Hiking Machines". Off the bus, Line Up! 3 across! 5 deep! Ready.... March! Off they'd go trying to get the most scenery for the buck. It doesn't help that they drive on the left in Japan. It causes confusion as to who has the right-of-way at any given instance on the path, even if there was room, which there isn't. It helps that I stand a good foot above most of these folks and maybe 50 lbs more. Anne could fall in behind me and we'd make it through, with only a few smiles and nods and bumps.