Fernie to Weymouth 16th to 27th July 2004

Lonesome Pine

Day 52 Friday July 16th Fernie to Coleman

Today was a day that required serious management input. In a word it required planning. The distance to be covered was on the long side of average but it involved crossing the Crowsnest Pass. This will be our fourth crossing of the Continental Divide. At 1385 meters it is not that high compared with our other three crossings but it means climbing almost all day with a short final descent into Coleman.

The weather forecast says it will be 30 degrees with sunshine all day and the roads will be hotter still. Following labour negotiations between management and stoker it was agreed without dispute to leave at 6.45am and stop for breakfast on the way.

We were both almost pleased when the alarm went off. Not only was our room uncomfortably hot but other guests had been unreasonably noisy. We regretted not having stayed in an air conditioned motel. We started off at a good speed and at breakfast the sun was just coming over the mountain. The management had the silly idea that we would cross the pass by 11am.

As the heat increased so did the gradient. No doubt our legs were also becoming tired. We had a brief respite at Sparwood although the management was reluctant to stop. We took photographs of the tandem and riders beside the huge wheel of allegedly the biggest truck in the world. It would never have been allowed on the roads and had been used in open cast coal mines.

Going ever onwards and upwards proved to be a trial. The stoker worked so hard that perspiration dripping into her eyes made them sting. We finally crossed around 1pm. The management, who never likes to be wrong, was not happy at being two hours late. This put him in a bad humour for the rest of the day.

What was worse was that the last 10km was supposed to be a descent. It was more undulating and we lost hardly any height. He grumbled about the ride in particular and the world in general. The stoker, grateful for having arrived, took this in better part than he deserved.

A warm welcome with a cold beer at the B&B soon put things to rights.

Day 53 Saturday July 17th Rest day in Coleman

Rest days come and rest days go and not much is usually said. This one is unusual because Coleman is celebrating "Rum Running". This is an excuse for a mid summer celebration and the area is packed with people. The running started in the 30's when rum was smuggled into the States during the prohibition of alcohol there.

Our very friendly hosts Alannah and Dan said we should go downtown for the parade. Alannah took us down in the car, gave us folding chairs to sit on and then took her place on one of the floats.

It was quite an experience and one of the few occasions here when we were in the community, which we enjoyed. The children were all armed with plastic carrier bags. The Candy Man is not a threat here. Rather like a Pied Piper character he throws sweets and the children run after him calling in delight.

The parade was headed by a kilted pipe band and many floats followed. Sweets were thrown by most and the fire service floats also sprayed water which was welcome in the heat. One thing which surprised us was that many local politicians went by, magnetic notices on their cars giving their names. They also threw sweets. As in real life the ones who only threw one at a time would not have been given our vote.

The stoker photographed Alannah who went by on the front of a road train. Even the Canadian Pacific train which went by on the parallel railway gave a series of long hoots.

It was all great fun and apparently not restricted by the health and safety rules which spoil Weymouth Carnival. Perhaps the crowd is just better behaved. The rowdiness and drunkenness which we have at home was not apparent. It was a very pleasant occasion and we enjoyed it very much.

Day 54 Sunday July 18th Coleman to Lonesome Pine Ranch

We managed to get away by 8.45am, not easy with such friendly hosts. We picked up supplies in Blairmore and were not on the road for more than half an hour before the drive packed up. The management soon established that the rear hub had broken in half and was not repairable. He blamed himself and jet lag. He had asked the bike shop in Vancouver to fit some non-standard parts. They should not have botched the job and he admits he should not have asked them to do it. As it happened we were still in the Blairmore urban sprawl. While the management went to investigate a car scrap yard for a possible replacement wheel the stoker sought help from the local traders.

The scrap yard was a failure but the liquor store proved to be our salvation. This was because of the couple who owned it, not because we sought solace in the stock. A liquor store here is an off licence.

The owners took great trouble in phoning several shops to try and find a new wheel but without success. The management, who was by this time thinking of car rentals or taxis, said almost any wheel would do. The couple thought they might have one and the wife took the management ten miles up the road in her truck to search her store of old bikes. When this failed she knocked on the door of her ex-husband whose new wife took us to her workshop. Here were two mountain bikes, one complete and one in bits. The complete one probably cost 50 dollars in a local gas station and the back wheel was rubbish. The wheel from the other bike looked bad but had originally been a good one. He settled for that and paid 20 dollars. Everyone was happy. We had a wheel and they still had a working bike.

After returning to the liquor store the management set to work. He chanced his arm with the hub, axle and cassette which came with the wheel. He did however need to do a fair bit of work, much of which was with the spoke key, but the width also needed adjustment.

By noon we were back on the road. We went slowly and carefully expecting the rear wheel to fail at any moment. The original was a specially built wheel with 48 spokes. The replacement was off a mountain bike and had only 32 spokes. Things however went well. Even the gears worked without slipping. This in itself was amazing in view of the fact that we have 27 speed shifters and a 21 speed wheel.

We battled our way along the highway in burning heat. We also had to contend with very heavy traffic. The management is a slave driver in these circumstances. No proper lunch stop was allowed and breaks were short and far between. It was no way to treat the stoker but she coped as she could see no alternative.

We arrived at Randy and Ginny's ranch, the Lonesome Pine, not knowing what to expect. It was a short distance down a dirt road. Even though horses were in the corral and trucks in the yard it was a long way from the opulence of Dallas. From the moment we met them it was clear that Randy was a cowboy and they were ranchers. They gave us a very warm welcome and in the evening over a bottle of wine we chatted until later than we should have done.

We stayed in a very well equipped cabin. It did involve walking through the yard and crossing a creek and then a field, but once there we had everything we wanted. Peace, quiet, electricity, running water and WC and a great view of the Rockies.

 We're on the train

Day 55 Monday July 19th Lonesome Pine Ranch to Chimney Rock Ranch

Somehow between cooking dinner and socialising with the hosts the management had another go at the tandem wheel. Not only did it hold up all day but the brake and the stoker's computer worked.

In view of the cloudy weather when we woke the management declared a late start. He attempted to cycle back through the creek with limited success. That is he got half way through before getting his feet wet. After farewells and photos we were finally on the road. The good thing was that it started cool. The bad thing was that it was steeply up to over 1500 metres. The sun also made an appearance and the insects were a nuisance. They prevented us from having lunch and we arrived earlier than expected at Chimney Rock Road. We saw no sign to the B&B which we knew was 3km down an unmade road. With no one to ask, no phone signal, and no other habitation for miles we had no choice but to go on down.

We again had a very warm, cold beer welcome by Debbie and Tony at the ranch. This time we had arranged an evening meal which Debbie made to take into account our peculiar eating habits. After dinner the four of us went out in their truck to be shown around the ranch. It was a great experience which we could not have accomplished on the tandem. First we went to the very highest point. It is amazing what these four wheel drive trucks can climb when handled by someone who knows what he is doing. We were both overwhelmed by the experience, the stoker in particular. We also think that Tony was very proud to show us the ranch which has been in his family for two generations. His mother had been a war bride from Essex who had married a Canadian service man, setting up home in a cabin in the wilderness, a far cry from Ilford. Although now very elderly his parents still have their house on the ranch but come only occasionally.

Day 56 Tuesday July 20th Chimney Rock Ranch to Black Diamond

The stoker transferred her loyalties to the rear seat of a quad bike (ATV) this morning. Tony and she went off down the track to feed some cats. She did come back and ride the tandem and immediately noticed that although it was quieter it required considerably more effort.

Thankfully the weather today was much cooler. We even had a brief but heavy and stormy rain shower. Although the road has been rather monotonous ever since we left the Crowsnest Pass we have been in the rolling and open foothills of the Rockies. There are far fewer trees and we can see the views for a change. That is, rolling hills with the high mountains always to our left.

After a while Tony and Debbie passed us in their pickup truck and stopped. They were going into Calgary and were checking that our wheel was holding up. They also brought some chocolate chip cookies to add to the plums and buns they had already sent us off with. Very hospitable people these cattle ranchers.

We arrived at Black Diamond in the late afternoon pretty weary. It had been a long, hilly and interesting ride. We passed an Indian reservation, oil wells and nodding donkey oil pumps and signs of coal mining. It was also rather a shock to be in an ordinary bed and breakfast after the way we had been treated on the ranches.

Day 57 Wednesday July 21st Black Diamond to Calgary

The last day's cycling into a big town is usually a rather stressful transit day. Furthermore there was some debate about the distance. All the signs indicated that it was a lot further than the management's estimate. Still, the weather forecast was for a coolish sunny day and we were still out in the country. There is nowhere really flat in the foothills of the Rockies but the road is a bit flatter than it has been and we made good time.

We approached Calgary from the west but the direct route in is blocked by an Indian reserve. What was once a barren stretch of land is now edged by Calgary's creeping suburbia. It is no doubt very valuable. In the past we think it would just have been taken back but now that would be impossible. We find the position with regard to the Indians as very odd. In a country with a huge ethnic diversity they seem to have a huge advantage. However, many of them withdraw into their reserves hunting and getting drunk. They do have casinos and golf courses but we are told that these are almost always managed by non Indians. It does not bode well for their long term future.

So we joined the mega highway running east and were eventually able to turn north towards downtown. Traffic was very light which was a bonus. Downtown reared up in front of us like a rather ugly and incongruous mountain. As we passed through it became clear that the architects were at best second rate and it is thoroughly unpleasant. The management did however find a much needed barber in the suburban sprawl.

We checked into a pleasant room in the hostel. It is in a very convenient but rundown neighbourhood, a short distance from the train station.

It had been a long ride and the management did get his distance wrong again.

Days 58/59 Thursday/Friday July 22nd/23rd
Calgary to Vancouver on the Rocky Mountaineer

We did not welcome the alarm at 4.45am. Having repacked our bags last night for the train all we required was a quick shower and out. We were at the train station by 5.40am. The bike had to be divided into three and put into its bags, a process which we usually resist doing if possible. On this occasion we didn't really mind. We won't need the bike until we get back to the UK but we will need to get a taxi in Vancouver. This makes good sense in view of the Vancouver hills and our weak rear wheel.

Incidentally, for technical readers, the wheel has done amazingly well and we won't have a thing said against it. It worked at loads far in excess of those for which it was built. It is a Richley 32 hole rim laced with 14 gauge spokes on a Shimano 7 speed freehub with a wide ratio cassette. The management did tweek it a bit but he never really expected it to last the distance.

The Rocky Mountaineer is a tourist only train which runs through the spectacular Rocky Mountains to Vancouver. It is something of a shock to change from independent travellers to shepherded tourists. The management does not behave very well in this environment. It was, however, a pleasant way to end this tour. For part of the route the train followed the tandem's route and covered days of cycling in just a few minutes. Places where we had lingered for hours went by in seconds.

The train rested overnight in the super heated town of Kamloops and we were grateful for an air-conditioned hotel room. The next day the train followed the Fraser River canyon into Vancouver. Again the heat and the obvious heavy traffic on the adjacent road confirmed our decision not to cycle this route. A short ride in a van taxi with all our luggage saw us back in the comfort of Eileen's condominium in South Vancouver.

Days 60 to 63 Saturday to Tuesday July 24th to 27th Vancouver to Weymouth

Eileen welcomed us back with the comforts of her home. She also organised a great dinner party to celebrate our return. We hardly felt we deserved it. The inevitable tourist shopping done we made for the airport on Monday morning. This time, not only Eileen came to see us off but also the stoker's brother and niece, Michael and Larissa, had come over especially from Gabriola Island.

Flying, particularly with a bike, can hardly be described as pleasant. Flights of this distance are just appalling. Animals would not be allowed to travel in such conditions. At least we did not go steerage this time and paid a bit extra for slightly more comfortable seats. Suffice to say that the flight was long and late and uncomfortable. It also took ages to collect our luggage and pre booked hire car at Gatwick airport. Perhaps MyTravel, who loosely speaking run the plane, EuropCar and Gatwick baggage handlers are all managed by the same company. Their performance seems to be of a similar standard.

We were pleased to be back in Weymouth even if the journey had taken an unnecessary 22 hours and we had even longer without sleep. Now we need to get over the jet lag.