Run to the Hills 2012 – Day 4 (July 22, 2012)

July 22, 2012 – By 10am or so most of us had gotten up, had coffee and breakfast, then got packed up. Most of us were heading home, but there were a few lucky dogs who were continuing to ride around. There was a pretty large contingent heading back to Calgary that were ready at the same time so we headed out together.

After, gassing up at Pincher Creek, we continued on up to Highway 22 (AKA the Cowboy Trail) …

… to Turner Valley & Black Diamond. Instead of taking the usual and boring route from here to the city, a smaller number of us took some backroads north to 22X and then on to home.

Run to the Hills 2012 – Day 3 (July 21, 2012)

July 21, 2012 – This was by far the best day of the trip – it was the partial circumnavigation of the south edge of Glacier National Park in the US, followed by doing the Going-to-the-Sun highway west to east through the more northerly part of the park. I also managed to get some culture in during the evening!

Most of the VStrom guys were looking for some more adventure today and one of the guys had identified a long stretch of gravel road up in the mountains. So most of the crew went that-away. Trent and I were the only ones going south – one of other guys wanted to come with us, but hasn’t got a passport which he needed to cross the border.

So by about 930am or so, Trent and I had entered the US at the Chief Mountain Border Crossing.

We were going to stop first at St. Mary for gas, then head south on Highways 89 and 49. It looked really twisty on the maps and I had heard that the road and views were pretty scenic. We’d hit US Highway 2 which runs along the south edge of the park, before heading back up north to West Glacier and western side of the Going-to-the-Sun Highway and Logan Pass.

Most of the road south from St. Mary was nothing special, but when we turned onto Highway 49, I began to suspect that it might be pretty cool. There was very little traffic on the road and so where it was open I used the whole road to crank through the twisties, until I popped up over what I thought was a little rise while in the middle of the road to suddenly see pickup truck coming right for me! Yikes – I cranked the FJR over to the right hard to get back over onto my lane, and decided to slow it down a bit for the rest of the way. We stopped at a scenic overlook for a drink of water and some pictures.

I had managed to get my GoPro camera working for the run over Highway 49 and I managed to get some pretty cool video, once I have it edited, I’ll post a sample.

We carried on, eventually reaching the freeway, Highway 2, that runs around the south side of the park. We did a quick stop for a bio break, otherwise we carried on …

… eventually stopping for lunch at the West Glacier Restaurant.

One of the things that really struck me on this particular day was not being able to talk to the person I was riding with, while riding. Trent and I, obviously talked lots while stopped for lunch or whatever, but since Trent doesn’t have radio or Bluetooth comms, there was no talking. I really missed talking to Louise and I actually felt a little lonely and sad that I wasn’t riding with her.

Stopping at the gas station in West Glacier, dodging RVs and other forms of tourists, we fueled up and headed back in to the park proper, rolling thorough the Park Gates east towards Logan Pass.

Trent and I stopped at Bird Woman Falls to take a few pictures …

The next stop was at the Logan Pass Visitors Center. The weather, while still sunny, wasn’t as nice up here as it was lower down. The wind was blowing and it was a bit chilly. We did a quick wander about, then went back to the bikes and carried on.

We made it back to the campsite around 430pm after an uneventful return from the US. Since we were staying at the Crooked Creek Campground, I went off in search of the crooked creek. I found it. Small, and likely pretty crooked …

And now for the cultural experience – while in town the other days getting supplies, I had noticed a sign advertising a musical event …
… A celtic music festival! In Waternon! Excellent!
Since it started at 7pm, I figured I’d roll into town for about 6pm, get some dinner, then head over to the church. I had an excellent lasagna at a little restaurant in Waterton served up by a rather indifferent waitress, then rode over to the church. Paid my $10 and walked into a full house! And the band had already started in on the first song, so I just took a chair at the back of the church and enjoyed the music. Since I was in my motorcycle jacket, boots, and carrying my helmet – in a small town – I really stood out and almost everyone in the audience turned to watch me as I slid my helmet under the chair and sat down. Thankfully the band didn’t miss a note.

The players were pretty good, a bit rough in places, but the fellow on the acoustic guitar was really really good and I enjoyed watching him play. I stayed to end, took a couple of pictures …
and some video, then zoomed back to the campsite. Some of the guys were a little nonplussed at my cultural and musical tastes, but since I like being eclectic and eccentric, it all fit.

Drinking beer then ensued.

Since some were drinking rum and stuff, there was some laughter, loud laughter and such. So much such, that the campground manager came by to ask us to tone it down – at 10pm! What! Apparently, there are some Pincher Creek, Milk River and Fort Macleod residents who have semi-permanent sites at this campground and we were disturbing their peace. So we toned it down a bit and revelry continued on till after midnight.

This had been a great day, great riding and roads, excellent company, some celtic music, capped off with drinking Alexander Keiths Pale Ale with fellow riding buddies, swapping stories and telling lies. Great fun. Too bad I had to head home the next day.

Run to the Hills 2012 – Day 2 (July 20, 2012)

20 July 2012 – I woke up when I woke – no alarm clock. I had a pretty good sleep, but as usual the little travel pillow I’ve been using is barely adequate – even when bulked up with my fleece jacket. So I’m looking into a new one for the big trip in August.

After a breakfast of PopTarts, instant oatmeal, and a couple of cups of coffee, I was ready to ride – somewhere – although the weather looked a little dicey with clouds all about and the forecast calling for some rain later. The rest of the group was kinda slow in getting ready as well, but eventually there was some consensus – we’d go for a ride around Waterton, up to Cameron Lake, and then to Red Rock Canyon.

By this time there was 9 bikes all lined up and folks getting ready to roll …

The first stop of the day was at the only gas station in Waterton, since a good number of the folks who arrived later in the day yesterday didn’t stop for gas before coming to the campsite, including me – the last time I filled up was at Pincher Creek, 45 minutes away to the north.

From the townsite, we headed up the Cameron Lake road which ends at the north end of the lake. The south end of the lake is actually in the US, just across the border. We hung around the lakeside and some of us took pictures. Being a somewhat dull day with heavy overcast, the view wasn’t as spectacular as it could have been, but it was still awesome scenery.

We took up a fair bit of the parking lot with the bikes …

Eventually we pulled out of the parking lot and headed back to the main road, but first we stopped at a wide part of the road for a staged group picture …

Blood or oil? What's your call?

Blood or oil? What’s your call?

As we all started to pull out, I noticed some red stuff below “Smurph’s” (Scott’s) bike. It looked like blood, so called out to “Smurph” to see if he was bleeding. He stopped and checked himself out and no, he wasn’t. Next thought was oil seeping out of the rear shock, so “Smurph” stopped his bike and a few folks started checking out the underside of the bike. There were a few more red drips found, but it was still unclear what it was. BigDan checked out the first drip more closely and figured it was in fact blood. There was a rabbit roadkill further back the way we had come, and “Smurph” figured he might have added insult to injury and hit the dead rabbit again, splashing some blood onto a fender or the skid-plate. But checking out the underside of the turned out to be a possible lifesaver – the bolt holding the center-stand onto the bike was loose and was ready to let go! If that happened at speed, it could have caused a catastrophic crash. So I believe that I saved his life.

With Scott’s bike fixed up and with no other apparent issues, we gathered up and continued the journey back down the road to main park road. Back at the main road, we went up the road to the Red Rock Parkway for a fast zip up to the Red Rock Canyon parking lot. That road is a lot of fun on a bike, but it really sucks when you get stuck behind some road whales (RVs). We made it to the parking lot and agreed to head right back to town. When we got back to the main Waterton road, BigDan (who was in the lead) decided to go to the Prince of Wales Inn for some more photo opps.

Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton, AB looking roughly NW

A few of us decided to get some lunch while we were here. This young fellow …
Bar Manager at Prince of Wales was the Bar Manager and graciously allowed a large of number of adventure bikers to crash his swanky bar. At first we were in a small anteroom off the main bar area …
… but we became too many to fit as more and more of our group wandered in. So we took up about half of the available chairs! The meal itself wasn’t all that great – not bad – just forgettable. But the views down the lake were very easy to look at.

After lunch we pretty much all headed back to the campsite. A few of the guys zoomed off to Pincher Creek to get some junk food, while the rest of us stayed to keep the entire site from blowing away in the storm that rolled in! Later we all ate junk food and BBQ hamburgers, drank some and went to sleep.

Hopefully the weather next day would be better …

Run to the Hills 2012 – Day 1 (July 19, 2012)

19 July 2012 – Last year at this time, Louise and I rode out to Boulton Creek Campground in the Kananaskis for a bit of a wet weekend with a number of VStrom owners from around Alberta. We’d only met these folks online on a web forum dedicated to the VStrom and took a bit of a chance going out to see them. Our fears were unfounded – they turned out to be a great bunch of folks and we clicked pretty quickly.

So earlier this year, with snow still on the ground, we were excited to learn that there was going to be a Run to the Hills 2012, July 19-22. The location changed from 2011 – it would be held in the Waterton Lakes / Waterton National Park area in SW Alberta. So we patiently waited for July 19th to roll around.

In the meantime, Louise decided to go off on an adventure on her own – see the blog posts on Solo to Sarnia for her story. So it was up to me to represent Team Stephens and mix it up with a bunch of VStroms on my FJR. Lucky for me, they tolerate non-VStroms and welcomed me happily.

I had booked the time off almost as soon as started my new job, but work has this insidious way of trying to screw things up. The Wednesday before leaving, we got into a bit of scrap with a vendor over a project engagement and I wound up having to complete a project engagement document before I left on Thursday morning.

By 11am I had the bike packed, gassed and ready to go. During the morning while working and checking the Run to the Hills webpage, I found out that a couple of the guys were meeting for lunch at Marv’s Diner in Black Diamond, which is about an hour away from our place here. I figured I could easily make there to meet up with them and tag along the rest of the way to Waterton. Finally my work was done and I headed out!

Along the way, just west of the town of Okotoks, I spotted something I’d never seen before! In all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve never driven Highway 7 west from Okotoks to Black Diamond – I’ve been to both towns many times though, just never driven between the two towns. So when I spotted this huge pile on the side of road, at first I thought it was a huge pile of hay bales that had collapsed, but as I got closer I realized that it was actually a big rock. I didn’t stop to take any pictures, but in retrospect I should have. Anyway, here’s a pic from the web and click here to more information on the Big Rock.

Shortly after pondering the Big Rock, I arrived in Black Diamond, found Marv’s, and discovered that I had timed it perfectly … … BigDan and Kay (not sure of the spelling) had just arrived and were already there waiting for Trent. Dan was happy to have me join up, so we all had the special of the day – Cheeseburger and Fries and a milkshake.

Then it was off to the Cowboy Trail (Highway 22) south.

After a couple of hours on the road, we stopped at Pincher Creek for gas, where I discovered I had forgotten to bring micro-fibre cloths for cleaning the windscreen and helmet visor. I suspected the store in the gas station would have some and sure enough – there they were – for all of $1 a piece! I bought two – disaster averted!

Another hour of riding and we were at the Crooked Creek Campground, discovering that Stoney, another non-VStrom owning participant (he has a Suzuki SV650, a close cousin of the VStrom 650), was already there with his trailer setup back in a corner. The campground manager had allocated three tenting sites to the group, which was cool, but the sites were right out the corner of highway and right by the campground sign, which was not so good.

Anyone who knows the area in southern Alberta knows about the wind, so being one of the first on the scene, I decided to pitch my tent right behind the campground sign, hopefully providing a bit of a windbreak. It did and there was also some shade in the late afternoon.

This trip was the first use of the new Redverz Adventure tent. It’s a mid-sized tent with the very cool feature of having a “garage” for the bike! I did’t park the bike in it, but was pretty nice to be able to get dressed standing up straight.
I’ll write up a more detailed review of the Adventure Tent later, but although a different tent than our larger, yet smaller KeronGT, it compares quite well. Might not replace the KeronGT, but it’ll come close. Certainly for solo camping it’s much easier to use than the larger Keron.

Anyway, with the tent set up, Dan, Kay, Trent and I headed into Waterton townsite for supplies. I got some beer. The others got chips.

Back at the site, some more folks arrived and were extremely disappointed that there were no trees for their hammocks. There were attempts to try to make it work …
… but it’s tough to sleep in a hammock when your butt is on the ground.

Eventually, with the riding done for the day, we starting drinking, a couple of beers for me, and lots of various Rums for others. Here, Big Dan sets the fashion standard for the group:

Later, I crawled into the tent, finished blowing up the air mattress and went to sleep.