Baby steps

August 10, 2012 at 1:56 am

So, after nearly having exploded with rashes and itches we managed to depart. What was it like?  (if you’re interested in just the pictures, scroll down. All pictures are clickable, which will take you to a larger version if you click again)

Immediately after leaving the magnificent-looking and magnanimously overpriced Banff Springs hotel, you’re on the trail. The “Goat Creek Trail” . A small forest road snakes its path, uphill and downhill, through Banff National Park. Towering mountains loom threateningly to the left. To the right are mostly trees and scrubs.

We encounter two pairs of construction workers, working on one of the many small bridges. There are no flat sections, the trail goes up and down continuously. Sometimes there is a nasty bump with gradients of about 15%. Up and down, but slowly we are gaining altitude.

It is not all forest track. Soon we encounter Smith-Dorrien Spray road, a big, broad, dusty gravel road. After that one, we are riding next to Spray Lake Reservoir. We don’t see a lot of wildlife — mostly squirrels and birds. Ah… and mosquito’s, of course. My skin still reacts violently to each mosquito bite but it doesn’t get as bad anymore as two nights ago. After the lake we rejoin Smtih-Dorrien Spray road again. We meet another cyclist: a dutch guy named Rob, who is also doing the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

The day ends in Mount Sarrail campground after more than 7 hours of pedaling. Excellent day!

Soon however, the next challenge poses itself: how to camp bear-safe? We are at spot 5 of Mount Sarrail campground and there was a bear sighting reported at spot 26. Totally paranoid, I stuff everything in a metal bear box. Including the sheer boatload of cookies, brownies and other assorted delicacies we got from a couple of old ladies. Sweet!

I tuck in at 10, hearing lots of strange noises. Too tired to worry for a long time though… I had a sweet, dreamless sleep until 6:30.

The second day was good as well, though not as good as the first one. Again there are magnificent views; sometimes it seems like you are riding straight into the stone wall of the Rocky Mountains. There is a lot of bear scat along the way and many parts of the route are densely forested. Sometimes I get paranoid and it’s time for another loud ” HEY BEAR!!”. Today marked our first Great Divide crossing too, on top of Elk Pass at 1964m altitude, albeit quite an unceremonious one. Not even a small sign to acknowledge our “Riesenleistung”!

Near the end I’m bonking (meaning not having eaten enough, draining all the energy from your legs) and when we arrive in Elkford I’m pretty spent. Nothing that a bottle of Mountain Dew and a Snickers can’t solve though.

It’s such a blast to ride these trails. The densely forested mountain slopes are immense. There is virtually no traffic. It really puts the mind to rest. So far, so good!

Riding data:

Day 1: Banff Springs hotel – Mount Sarrail campground
Riding time: 7:21:28
Distance: 101,23 km
Amount climbed: 1421m

Day 2: Mount Sarrail campground – Elkford municipal campground
Riding time: 4:53:51
Distance: 77,83 km
Amount climbed: 823m


Riding partner Mathieu, and food. Lots of food. I have been trying to spot the allergy source, but so far, no dice!

Bummed out in Banff

August 7, 2012 at 8:24 am

Today had a strange ending. I’m writing this from a bed in the emergency room in Banff hospital.
After some laundry & shopping I met with Mathieu. He was looking good & ready to go. We ate a steak at the Bumper’s Inn motel. It was really nice talking with him about the upcoming ride. After buying food for the first two riding days we both went to our own hotel. It was about 21:30.

That is when the itching started. And man it was warm! I took off my clothes and checked for weird stuff. Man, was there something going on. On my back a couple of BIG swellings. And over my abdomen, on my thighs, lots of smaller ones as well. They looked positively inflamed. The itching drove me mad. In fact I was getting rather hot as well and I noticed my face got puffy; my lips, nose and ears started swelling too. Yuck! I had no idea what was going on and went down to the reception desk to ask for medical help.
So I got a cab to the hospital and paid a visit to the emergency room. Was it an insect? Something I ate? I had never had any allergies, at all. So, quite concerned, I went to the hospital for help.
Quickly “hiveshives” was diagnosed, an allergical reaction to… something. They were going to give me some intravenous histamine to combat the swelling. Now, anyone who knows my background with opening veins and intravenous tubes and so forth can guess what happened next… While the nurse prepared a point of entry for the needle, I protested and warned them I was going to pass out, which I promptly did. Fortunately I was already lying down…

It had been a busy day at work. I closed the door behind me and jumped on my bike, commuting home towards an eventful evening with friends, good food & games. The weather was beautiful and I clearly remember each turn, crossing or even gust of wind…

… There’s four strangers around me, looking down on me, telling me to take it easy. Apparently a doctor and a couple of nurses. Where am I? I seriously considered being in a dodgy SF movie where the main character wakes up and hasn’t got the slightest idea how he came there, what he’s doing here or even who he is.
This nurse, who is this nurse? Suddenly I remember. I’m in Banff hospital, trying to get rid of some freakish allergic reaction. Now the faces slowly start making sense as well.

Ah, it’s always so disorienting, waking up after having fainted. Especially because I perceived my “dreamtime” to have lasted for several hours. But I was out for just a couple of seconds.
I must say, fainting helps in getting rid of the nausea. Some kind of medicine slowly dribbles its way through a tube into my system. They even put some oxygen ducts in my nostrils, but they were removed later on. The swellings, or rashes or what have you are subsided. But the doctor wanted to observe me until 2 in the morning, in case I have a rebound reaction. I have a prescription to get tomorrow, so no early start of the ride for me. I think I’ll extend my stay at the Douglas Fir for one night.

Tomorrow then is for medicine-hunting and seeing whether I can claim the whopping hospital- & physician fee at my insurer. There’s a lot of fun that can be had with 1400 canadian dollars (worth it though, and the staff were very friendly and helpful).

What can you do, eh? What can you do. Major bummer.


August 6, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Currently still in Banff. I’m starting out with Mathieu tomorrow!

Here are some pictures from the past few days. I did my best with the klutzy hotel computer software. Sometimes you have to work with what you have, eh?


First picture in Canada! Shot in the Tuscany quarter of Calgary.


August 5, 2012 at 5:58 pm

So here I am, currently in Canmore, doing a short iPhone-update. Sorry, no pictures as of yet.

The flight was uneventful, which was good. I watched “The Big Lebowski” again, very nice.
The bike arrived in good order, props to KLM. After assembly my Warmshower-host Peter, picked me up from the airport. Absolutely everything was going according to plan! Highly unusual.

So we had a “leisurely” spin through Calgary, going 30 kph on average, very nice at 1000m altitude 😉 my pasty sea-level body I stayed for 2 nights at my host (thanks again, Peter!) doing the final tune-up of the bike and buying the last supplies such as bearspray!
Next day marked my depart. Peter accompanied me through Cochrane and to the trans-Canada Highway. Clear skies, 30 degrees Celcius and my only company were the gentle rolling hills between Calgary and the looming Rockies. Ah, and the screaming highway traffic of course. Ugh!
I finished at Willowrock campground after 90K and about 700m of climbing. Not bad for a first day. The lovely attendant gave me pasta and sauce, because the campground store didn’t have any warm foodstuffs.
Canadians are nice — I got a big mug of coffee from Ken & Eileen from Calgary here at Canmore.
Today I ride my sunburnt body (stupid pasty-white dutch boy ;-)) towards Banff. Hope I can find a campsite there! So far, so good. It’s beautiful here, a nice little town ringed by forbidding, austere mountains. A promise of blood, sweat and tears (hopefully, just sweat).

PS despite surviving my first night in bear country, the bear thing still freaks me out!