There and Back – The Whitehorse Adventure – Day 5

Watson Lake to Whitehorse – 438kms

We awoke in the morning to a light drizzle outside and the prospect of more rain over the course of the morning. Today’s destination would be the titular Whitehorse, but we would have to stop in Teslin for gas, and as it turned out, breakfast too.

After getting the bikes all packed up in light rain, we headed out for breakfast. Our host,Mike, had mentioned that Archie’s, where we had dinner the night before, was a good breakfast place, and we saw breakfast items on the menu. However when we rolled up to Archie’s, it was closed until 11am – it was 830am or so and there was no way we were going to wait.

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So we proceeded down the highway to the gas station at the edge of Watson Lake, fueled up and headed out in the rain.

After rolling along for some time, Louise finally accepted “defeat” and asked to pull over to put on her heated jacket. We stopped at a rest stop where the rain had petered out to a light mist and we both pulled out our heated jackets to put them on. The temperature was hovering at about 6-7 deg at this point.

Now warmed up, we continued heading northwest through the low mountains, and the skies slowly cleared. By the time we reached Teslin, it was mostly sunny and had warmed up to 18 deg!

We stopped at a viewpoint just before the famous Nisutlin Bay Bridge, which is the longest bridge on the Alaska Highway, and features the metal grated surface, which is pretty sketchy on the bikes.

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A few minutes later we were at the Yukon Motel in Teslin, where we topped up the gas tanks, then parked and had an unhurried lunch/breakfast. Lunch included a most excellent cinnamon bun …

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There was a fellow biker stopped here too, from Washington state. He’d come up from just outside of Watson Lake where he was camping in the rain, about an hour ahead of us. He’d come up the Cassiar Highway and was heading to Fairbanks on a BMW GS1200. He’d also had a couple of FJR1300s in the past, so we had a bit in common.

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We arrived at Whitehorse about 330pm or so, found the hotel, got checked in, unpacked and got changed. My hair was bugging me in the helmet something fierce the last couple of day so I thought I’d get a haircut here to see if that would help. With the help of Google Maps, we found a place, but they were close to closing and wouldn’t take a walk-in. We found another place a short distance away and I was sat right down. Sadly it turned out to be one of the worst haircuts I’ve ever had – shaved on the sides, and left longer on top, Oh well, the difference between a bad haircut and good is about 2 weeks, so I’ll get it fixed up later.

A little while later we headed out for dinner. At breakfast in Fort Nelson a couple of days ago, we had been chatting with the guy at the next table, and among other things, he’d suggested that we should eat at the Klondike Ribs and Salmon restaurant in Whitehorse. It turns out that it’s only a couple of blocks from the hotel, so headed there. So did a lot of other people at there was a 45 minute wait! Eventually we were seated and while I had the ribs, Louise had fish & chips – both were excellent. Dinner was finished off with a nice tasty pecan pie.

Back at the hotel, we moved the bikes to the underground parking at the hotel and spread the tent out to dry.

By this point we were pretty tired so we turned in for the night.



There and Back – The Whitehorse Adventure – Day 4

Fort Nelson to Watson Lake – 513kms

When I checked the weather forecast last night it said cloudy and mild, and in fact the morning started that way as we showered and got packed up.

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But by the time we rolled off to the gas station, the skies were clouding up in the east and the west. When we left town after a pretty decent breakfast at the Fort Nelson Hotel cafe, it was starting to sprinkle.

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Now as I sit here in the hotel room at the Air Force Lodge in Watson lake, it’s lightly raining outside.

In spite of the rain it was a pretty good day – one of the bigger days in terms of mileage, some quality time in a hot springs pool, and some wildlife spotted!

As I said, the sprinkles of rain started pretty much as we left Fort Nelson. A ways down the road, as it got heavier, we stopped to put on rain gloves and another layer. Before we reached Muncho Lake for our gas stop it had rained hard, rained lightly and in parts the sun shone. But my God the scenery was fantastic! We crossed over a pass from one side of a ridge to the other, in rain and weak sunshine, but the views caused both Louise and I to utter “wow” multiple times.

Eventually we reached Muncho Lake where the clouds broke and sunshine came out, warming up to 20 deg. We fuelled the bikes, had a bio break and a snack, before heading up 30 kms or so to the Liard Hot Springs.

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The rain held off while we made our way to the hot springs, and the temperature was comfortable. After parking the bikes we walked the boardwalk to springs and enjoyed the steaming hot water for almost 45 minutes.

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The rest of the run north was somewhat tiring, but we were looking forward to stopping for the night at the Air Force Lodge in Watson Lake. Once we crossed in to the Yukon, the clouds closed in and it began to rain, again.

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Arriving at about 6pm, Mike greeted us at the door to Air Force Lodge.

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What a fantastic place and our host Mike was extremely easy to talk to – he had a ton of stories as well some pretty good reno skills. the whole Lodge was rebuilt by him, from an old WWII air force barracks from the old airport that had been chainsawed in half to move it.. This was easily the cleanest place we’ve been to. Mike has his guests take off their shoes at the front door, and that really helps keep things clean and it was pretty nice to be able to walk around in socks or bare feet. The interior was setup barracks or dorm style – each individual room had a bed and little desk, the showers and washrooms were communal facilities just down the hall. The internet was a bit weak though as was the LTE cell connection, so this report didn’t get loaded right away.

There’s no eating facilities on sight though, so we had to run into town to get dinner, we actually did that before we unloaded the bikes. Mike recommended Archie’s, just across from the Signpost Forest, so that’s where we headed. We both had a delicious burger and I had an Apple Pie, then we headed back to the Lodge, unloaded and had a pretty good nights sleep.

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Now for the wildlife report. The past three days were somewhat lame for wildlife spotting, with only a deer and 2 elk spotted. However, here are the numbers to date:

  • Deer: 1
  • Elk: 2
  • Bear: 1
  • Bison: hundreds, well dozens anyway
  • Crows: hundreds
  • dead skunk road kill: 4

Today we saw our first bear in the ditch north of Muncho Lake before the Hot Springs – he was drinking from a stream. We also saw literally dozens of free range bison – singles, small groups and a couple of larger herds. These bison are pretty huge animals, and they looked healthy enough!

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Stay tuned for Day 5!


There and Back – The Whitehorse Adventure – Day 3

Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson – 453kms

As I said in yesterday’s blog, we’d probably be packing the tent this morning in the rain and that’s exactly how the day started. You can’t really see it in the pictures, but the rain was was light but steady right up until we hopped on the bikes and pulled out.

It rained pretty much all night with a few breaks and both Louise and I slept on and off. Louise I think had a bit better sleep than I did because she had earplugs in!

We had three things on the agenda for the morning before heading out on the highway: breakfast, fuel, and the Mile 0 monument. Last night I had a look on the internet for the best breakfast place in Dawson Creek and more than a few sites agreed that Le’s Family Restaurant was the best. So we went there as soon we had everything packed.

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Le’s is a pretty small place, really just an a-frame shed tied into the end of a motel, but the food was good. However the server sure had better things to do than work the tables – zero personality.

Next up was gas, just some random PetroCanada, then on to downtown Dawson Creek for a couple of pictures at Mile 0!

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The curse is officially lifted!

Just outside of Dawson Creek, there’s stretch of Old Alaska Highway that runs for about 10k and goes over the old Kiskatinaw Bridge – for more information on the Kiskatinaw,  check out this webpage: Tourism Dawson Creek – Kiskatinaw Bridge.  I’ve had this bridge on the “list of things to see in the North” for sometime now and I talked Louise into taking the detour to see it.

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It’s a timber bridge with wood planks for the deck, which in the rain, was a bit slippy.

By this time the rain had started up and got steadier and heavier as we left Dawson Creek. Thankfully it never got to the downpour stage, but it was wet all the same. It wasn’t so bad until we got to areas of construction, where it turned into a dirty sandy slime that coated the bikes, our gear, our suits and our helmets. By the time we reached Wonowon (located at mile 101, get it?), we had to pull over and clean up the helmets so we could see again.

Eventually the rain let up once we reached Buckinghorse River Lodge, about halfway between Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson. The picture below shows the delivery end of the gas station …

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… and this picture shows the business end.

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There are three containers on skids; one not really in the picture but on the left of the picture above is diesel fuel; the one that Louise is stepping out of with the credit card machine and activation machinery; and the third which is labeled AFD, which is the gas. The process is you go into the “booth”, insert your credit card, which activates the pump for the gas. then you go out to the corner of the other container, turn on the pump and fill your tank(s), making sure to shut-off the pump when you’re done. Then you go back to the booth to get a receipt.

The Buckinghorse River Lodge Cafe had a lunch special – BLT sandwich and Bean & Bacon soup with endless coffee or tea, all for $9.95! Possibly the best meal deal so far!

The skies finally started to clear and it warmed up over the course of the last 160kms to Fort Nelson, all the way to 21 deg! We were going to camp again, but we’d used up a lot of batteries during the previous night, and we both wanted a shower so we opted for a super-cheap motel – the Shannon Motel. Not great, but not too bad.


Tomorrow is breakfast at the Fort Nelson Hotel, cinnamon buns at Toad River, and the Liard Hot Springs, before calling it a day at Watson Lake in the Yukon!

There and Back – The Whitehorse Adventure – Day 2

Hinton to Dawson Creek – 461kms

Well, it’s raining. I’m sitting here in our tent, posting this while tethered to my iPhone, listening to the rain on the outside of the tent. But the great thing about today is that we finally beat the Dawson Creek curse!

Louise and I tried to get to Dawson Creek back in 2012 – there’s a ride report here on this blog I think. Louise got pleurisy and we never made it then. A few years later a group of us had Dawson Creek in the plan, but on account of weather, we headed south instead. Louise had a trip that included Dawson Creek in the planning for last year, but it didn’t happen. It had become a bit a joke between us and some of our friends that there was a curse on Louise regarding Dawson Creek.

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The morning in Hinton was beautiful – warm sunny and after getting gas and a forgettable breakfast at the Husky House, we headed north on Highway 40 to Grande Prairie where we were planning to have lunch with our friends Carl and Marilyn.

Louise got a rare picture of me here before we pulled out …

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Just under halfway there is the town of Grande Cache – we stopped there for a bio break and to top up the gas tanks. The highway is pretty rough most of the way – with many potholes and the right side of the road is slowly slipping into the ditch.

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The skies in Grande Cache looked somewhat ominous, but there was no rain at all, and the temperature was pretty much in the mid-20s all afternoon.

As we got closer to Grande Prairie, the highway was pretty torn up on the sides due to construction and the speed limit was up and down from 100kmh to 50kmh, then back to 100kmh again. That made the drive a bit slower, but the good thing was that there was light traffic going north.

I had messaged Carl, while stopped at Grande Cache, that we’d meet him at the Holiday Inn in GP. Little did I know that there are two Holiday Inns in GP – the one I meant was the Holiday Inn and Suites at the junction of Highway 40 and 43 on the west, but what I said was Holiday Inn Express, which is on the other side of town. And that’s where Carl was waiting for us. I called him and got it figured out and within a few minutes, we’d hooked up for lunch at the Old Trapper pub. The food was ok, the server was nice, but she had a voice that made one want to scream!

Carl snapped this picture of us as we were leaving …

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The ride to Dawson Creek was uneventful and we arrived in good time, found the campground and set up for the night.


Just before the rain started, we boiled up some water for a coffee, a hot chocolate and a snack and as the rain started up, we retreated to the tent to call it an early night.

So today there is no more curse of Dawson Creek, although it’s going to be a rainy night and we’ll be packing the tent wet I expect. Oh well – it’s all part of the adventure!

There and Back – The Whitehorse Adventure – Day 1

Cochrane to Hinton – 496kms

Louise and I left this morning on our first trip in a long long time. This time we’re going to head up to Whitehorse, Yukon, via the Alaska highway from Dawson Creek north, then back down the Cassiar Highway on the west side of BC through Stewart/Hyder and back home.


Should be just about 5000 kms total.

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The first days plan was to get to Hinton, via Highway 22 north and then 16 west. We had planned on getting away by 10am but we finally pulled away by about 1115am – par for the course though! First stop was the Shell station just north of Cochrane to top up the tanks.

Next stop was a bio break at Sundre …

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We stopped next in Drayton Valley for gas and a bit of a food at Timmies. Louise had soup, while I had a brekkie muffin, butter tart and cookie washed down with a smoothie and a coffee!

Highway 22 north of Drayton Valley pretty much all the way to the junction at Highway 16 was under construction, with a kilometre or so of no highway – just dirt/gravel. Louise road the same stretch a month or so ago and it was raining then making that section a bit sketchy at that time. It was dry this time so going through on the FJR wasn’t too bad.

For a few hours the GPS on both bikes said we’d arrive at the motel in Hinton at 5:56pm and I’ll be darned if we arrived in the parking lot at 5:56pm!

We got checked in by Jong at the office, who was a really nice guy and headed up to the room. For bikes trips, I would much rather stay at motels than hotels, for the simple reason that usually you can park right in front of the door! That makes unloading and loading so much easier.

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After getting the bikes unpacked and changed, we walked down the road to Mr. Mike’s for dinner.

Pretty good first day! Looking forward to Day 2.




Moab 2017 – Preamble

Wow! First post in ages!! And it’s the start of a great series so stay tuned!

Since the middle of 2016, Rob, one of our Run to the Hills riding friends in Edmonton had been after a number of us to make it to Moab, UT in the spring of 2017 for a week of dirt bike riding.

There were a couple of problems with this for us. First, we didn’t have appropriate bikes – my VStrom and Louise’s Triumph Tiger were WAY too heavy for the kind of riding that was envisioned. Second, Louise is still hard at work in April and May and it’s difficult for her to get the time off.  However, I knew it would be a fantastic adventure and something we might otherwise never get to do.

So we decided to go.

First up was setting the date. That took some time but eventually we settled on the first week of May. Then the logistics had to be worked on, like finding a place to stay while in Moab, deciding on when to leave, how long to take to get there, what trailer to use to haul the bikes we didn’t yet have.  Scott found a Vacasa place to stay, we spent an evening on our chat list plotting a route and stops between Edmonton and Moab, and we made hotel reservations.

With these arrangements now made, we figured we’d better get a couple of bikes. In late January, our friend Rob happened upon a Yamaha XT250 in Whitecourt – good condition with low miles. He volunteered to take his trailer out, have a look and if all was good he’d buy it, haul it to Edmonton, and we’d pay him. Short story – Louise wound up the owner of a 2008 XT250.

In the middle of February, I was in Toronto on a business trip when another of our riding friends in Edmonton decided to sell his Suzuki DR650 and buy a VStrom 650. The price on the DR seemed good for the modifications that had been done and so I made the deal on the DR.

With the bikes purchased, we made arrangements with Dan, who has a large enclosed trailer, to go to Edmonton on March 18 and bring the bikes back.

Next up was getting my utility trailer into shape to haul the bikes down to Moab. The 10 year-old Snowbear utility trailer was getting pretty tired, especially the tires and wheel bearings. Louise and I changed out the bearings and put new wheels/tires on, then I added a trailer jack (finally), wheel chocks and tie-downs for the straps.

With the trailer fixed up and ready for the bikes, we loaded them on and figured out spacing and tie-down points.

With the scheduled departure date being April 28, time was starting to run out. Louise had to replace her helmet, so she picked up a Schuberth E1 for a heck of a good price, along with new off-road boots.

We still had to replace the tires on both bikes. The XT250 looked like it had the original tires from 2008 on it, and the tires on the DR650 were pretty worn out. On the DR650 I went with Dunlop D606’s front and back, and on the XT we went with Continental TKC-80’s front and back. Louise picked them up on the weekend before we left and we loaded up the bikes on the trailer and hauled them both to Dan’s place where the tire changing machine is.

Because this is Alberta, before we left, this happened:

Wednesday after the snow melted, I was at Dan’s for tire changing. The tires went off and on just fine on the XT and in short order we were done the first bike. Off the lift, and get the DR on the lift, pull the wheels – we had the process figured out. Until the rear tire, where when we put the new tire onto the wheel, we discovered that the tire was 18″ while the wheel was 17″. No wonder it went on so easy! Anyway it was easily swapped in the morning for the right tire and Dan and I got the new tire on and the wheel remounted on Thursday evening.

Louise had to work on Friday until 3pm, then I’d pick her up at the school and we’d leave for Helena directly from there. So Friday morning and early afternoon I got the Jeep and the trailer packed up and headed off to the school to collect Louise.

Check out the next post for the actual trip!

Trip of Wasps 2013 – Day 1

Tuesday, 20 Aug 2013 – Trip of Wasps Day 1

We had done a bit of packing the night before, and this morning was mostly about packing it all onboard the bikes.

While we were loading up the bikes, Izzy got out of the house and was running around, so Louise decided to try her out in the tank bag …
She kind of fits, maybe she’ll come with us on a trip sometime …

There was one thing we had to pick up before leaving. Louise wanted a sturdy camera bag for her new Canon 35mm camera. So instead of heading directly out, we ducked into the Future Shop at Deerfoot Meadows and got a nice camera bag that would fit into the tank bag.

By 1pm we were well out of town and heading south on the familiar pavement of the Cowboy Trail, aka Highway 22.

After stopping in Pincher Creek for a bit of gas and some food, the rest of the way south, through the border at Chief Mountain Crossing, was uneventful. We pulled into Johnson’s Campground just before 6pm, setup camp …

… then went to the Johnson Family Restaurant for dinner.

Back at the tent after dinner, we enjoyed a cup of tea and chatted with a guy who was fulfilling one of his bucket list items by riding his mountain bike coast to coast. His plan was to get up REALLY early in the morning so he could attack the Going-to-the-Sun road over Logan Pass. Apparently there’s a rule that bicycles have to be over the pass and on their way down before 10am or something like that. So he went to bed early, and because we were still recovering from the deck building effort, we went to bed early too.

2013 Big Trip: Trip of Wasps – the Preamble

Every year we try to have one big trip that we go on together, no matter what other trips we might have planned. It’s been that way since 2008 and our Montreal trip. This year was a little more complicated in that our patio deck was falling apart and it desperately needed to be replaced. It was now at the point where it wasn’t even safe for the dogs to go up and down anymore.

Now since I’d far rather go riding than … well pretty much anything … I had been prevaricating. So Louise, rightly so, got mad and said “No Deck? No Trip!” or something like that. We had agreed on Monday 19 Aug 2013 as the departure date. Based on the departure date, I worked out a plan for the deck and figured what bits and pieces would be needed to actually build the thing, then worked out how long I’d need.

With somewhat limited vacation time, I tried to minimize the time off of work for the deck building, but still wound up taking most of August 14, 15, and 16 off to build up the two of three major parts of the deck – the beam and the deck floor. By Friday, afternoon, we pulled down the old deck (which didn’t take much effort). By Saturday night we had the deck fully secured and the steps built. By Sunday night we had the steps up and the railings on. It was done!

But at what cost! There was absolutely no way possible for us to leave on Monday morning. We were just too worn out from working hard on the deck from early in the morning to dark, while also trying to do my job for a few hours on Wed, Thu and Fri mornings, in the 90 deg plus heat – Calgary was suffering a heat wave that week and weekend.

What made it worse, was that on Saturday, we’d made some reservations to go east to Duluth MN. for the Aerostich rally. Checkin for that was on Thursday, which meant that we’d have to leave Monday to get there in time, and even to just get there then, we’d have to haul ass to be able to arrive Thursday sometime before dark. Since we couldn’t leave Monday, that threw the whole Aerostich rally out the window.

Louise came up with a great alternative on Monday morning. We’d head south then west instead, staying no more than 2 days riding from Calgary, making the route up as we went. The only thing we knew for sure then, was that we’d leave Tuesday and head for the Johnstone Campground in St. Mary, on the east side of Glacier National Park in Montana. From there, we’d take it day by day.

By the way – the deck turned out awesome! And many thanks to Alvin, our next door neighbour and close friend for putting in hours helping out. And also many thanks to Robert for helping out and figuring out the magic with the stair railings.

I should have taken more pictures, but seriously, we just wanted to get the damn thing built.

So Tuesday, 20 Aug 2013 was departure day!

Run to the Hills 2013 – Day 5

Tuesday, 23 July 2013 – RTTH13 Day 5

We were all heading home today, but we had some sightseeing to do. Well, first we had to get up, do brekkie, and get the bikes all packed up. Most of us were heading south on the Ice Fields Parkway, while Stoney was heading back to Edmonton.

All packed up, the day bright and shiny and warm.

We made sure we all hit the gas station back in Jasper before leaving – no repeat of yesterday!

Our first sight-seeing stop was Mt. Edith Cavell, a first for Louise and I – we’d never been here before. The road up was pretty fun to ride, lots of hairpins and tight curves.

We stopped at a lookout point for a few minutes and took some pictures.

That silver ribbon running across this picture is a tributary of the Athabasca River further down the valley from where we came.

That rock formation in the bottom right corner of the photo above …

… likely isn’t going to survive much longer.

I managed to get a few pictures of Louise today, here’s the first …

With the brief stop over, we continued up the mountain … to tell the truth, I had no idea what was ahead, I was just following Dan and Trent until we turned back!

Around a bend, the roadway, which had been pretty good pavement, suddenly turned into rough dirt/gravel. It seemed like this was the end of the road. Louise was all for turning back there, and indeed, there was some confusion ahead until Dan, in the lead, saw the parking lot around another bend and pressed on, compelling the rest of us to follow.

We found a suitable place to park the herd, taking into account the extreme pitch – this was not a level parking lot. There was some jockeying about to get Louise’s bike at the right angle to be secure, due to the lower ride height and side stand angle.

With the bikes parked, we headed to the trail head to check out the views over the ridge.

Best sight on the mountain!

Now there’s just some lunk blocking the scenery.


On the way up the hill, I must have been charging Trent and Dan because Dan asked if I wanted to go first down the hill. So I headed off, racing down the straight parts, and I was having fun right up until the first tight corner, where I scared the hell out of myself!

I’ve become very familiar with and confident on the FJR in the twisties, and while it’s not real sport bike, it’s got powerful brakes that are linked and have ABS. There’s a ton of engine braking available too. The transmission is very smooth shifting. And the tires are fairly grippy sport-touring types.

So I come into the first corner pretty hot and do what I usually do on the FJR – carry plenty of speed until right before the lean point, hit the brakes hard, leave it in gear, until leaning over when I’ll shift down, then lean into the corner and hit the apex, putting in some power as I go. Maybe that’s not actually how out goes, but close enough.

But this day on the VStrom, it didn’t really work anything at all like that. I came up on the curve, hot as usual – hit the brakes and tried to slow down, then shifted down. The bike started to slow down alright, but it’ll do that when the rear wheel is locked up and bouncing. It’s a good thing no one was coming up towards me in the curve, because I needed ALL the pavement to get around that first one.

Needless to say I modified how I entered curves the rest of the way down the mountain. I was still given’ ‘er and wound up waiting for about 5 minutes at the bottom of the road.

Once the gang was all together again, we headed south on 93A towards Athabasca Falls, our second sight-seeing spot.

Hard not to take a great photo around here …

Neither Louise or I had ever been to Athabasca Falls and I highly recommend going there – there’s a LOT of water going through here and while it’s not the highest falls, it’s still pretty spectacular.

Some people …

Here’s Louise, Phil, Trent and Bev, and Kay.

Eventually, we decided we had to get going, so getting geared up again, we all hit the Ice Fields Parkway again, heading south towards gas at Saskatchewan Crossing and holy crap was it expensive gas! It’s the only gas available between Lake Louise and Jasper, so that kind of explains it.

We stopped for lunch at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre. Great lunch, but pretty quiet. We were all by this time a little shattered and with home only a couple of hours away, there was a lot of focus on just getting there. Dan took a picture of the group at the table and we sure looked different than the happy bunch 5 days ago at the Socrates Restaurant in St. Albert! Sadly I don’t have the Lake Louise picture.

Within a couple of hours of braving the traffic on the TransCanada Highway, and in the city, we made it home. It’d been a long day – we rolled in and parked the bikes at 740pm!

Over the five days we racked up over 2700 kms on the bikes and we had a blast! I like Run To The Hills!