Sidebar: Letters from home

One of my biggest fears when I embarked upon this journey was that I would be lonely. But there have been very few times that I’ve had that feeling of loneliness. I’ve met really interesting people along the way and I’ve always felt that I’m in close touch with my friends and loved ones. With cell phones, Facetime, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and my blog there are many ways to stay in touch.

Most people are shy about leaving comments on a blog. Don’t be shy. It’s the interactive aspect of blogs that make them so popular.

I’ve also received a lot of emails and they’re really appreciated.

I’ve received emails from my brother out West letting me know that his family reads my blog every day and he keeps me updated on his family. Perry sent me the lovely art work from my neice Hannah. She’s so talented.

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Artist: Hannah Schmitt (use only with permission)

My brother Cliff in Pickering sends me notes of encouragement and promised to cook Bison for me (he’s a great cook.

I’ve received emails from our friends Ray and Elaine, and Cecile and Brian telling me how much they are enjoying my blog and encouraging me to continue. Vicki forwarded me a message from my cousin Brigitte in Germany informing us that her niece Sandra won a gold medal in the special Olympics. Fantastic!

I also received many emails from colleagues at work. Viviane’s mom offered me a place to stay over night in Ignace. Anthony gave me great recommendations on places to stay. Donna told me about Fort William in Thunder Bay. And there are many more.

But my favourite emails are from my Vicki, love letters really, telling me about her experiences while she was on a cruise with her mom in the Mediterranean. There was a pretty massive 10 hour time difference between us. I would fire off an email in the evening and I couldn’t wait to wake up to her reply early the next morning.

Vicki would regale me with the sights and sounds of such places as Santorini and Mykonos. Meanwhile I would tell her about climbing the Rogers Pass, Revelstoke, Golden and the fantasticaly interesting people I’ve met along the way. One thing we always had in common wasn’t the water or the rocks or the trees or the historic buildings but rather the amazing people we met along the way.

When I get back I plan to pull out everyone of those letters because they keep me pedalling day after day and they have come to form the colour and fabric of this journey.

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Day 10 – Golden BC to Lake Louise AB – Total Distance traveled 925kms

Today started with a climb up “10 mile hill”. I was very happy we stayed in a hotel above Golden and so we avoided killer hill # 1 at least. We climbed into Kicking Horse Canyon and were presented with incredible vistas.

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That tiny white squiggly line is Kicking Horse River

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First I have to tell you about the Bighorn Sheep deterrence system. When you exit the driveway of the hotel you have to cross these grates that are quite terrifying if you’re a cyclist. The idea is that the sheep can’t walk over these tubular grates. Neither can cyclists wearing hard soled cycling shoes.

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Bighorn sheep and cyclist deterrent system

So what happens when the sheep do get in by say, I don’t know, hitching a ride in a pickup truck perhaps? Well, they need to get out. For that you need a 1-way cat door sheep door. This one looks particularly inventive:

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Against all temptation I did not try to go through this

Then there’s clever exit door # 2. For this one, the Big Horn climbs the ramp and does a double back flip landing lightly on its pearly toes hoofs.

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Now back to the 10-mile climb. The best way I can describe this is that your playing cat and mouse with the Kicking Horse river. Climbing far above it at one point, crossing over long bridges, through massive cuts in the rock. When you think you’ve left the river long behind, you look to the side and there its, right beside you.

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It must have taken Iron Man 2 days to cut through this rock

After the end of 10-mile hill the road basically flattens out until about the 46 km mark you pass 1200m. Another interesting landmark is the spiral tunnels. the original rail line was so steep on the Big Hill it had to be replaced by the Spiral Tunnels in 1909. If you are patient enough to wait for a long train to pass you can see it both exiting and entering the tunnel at the same time.

Just before the final assault on Kicking Horse pass you come to Field. We stopped at the Alberta visitor centre (which is in BC before you get to the border) and enquired about getting something to eat. We were directed to Field and were pleasantly surprised by a nice cafe/gift shop/liquor store called the siding. A couple if double expresso’s later and we were on our way.

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More to come, right now I want to go play in the snow before I have to checkout here…

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Stats
Distance traveled today – 86kms
Moving average – 15kms
Moving time – 5 hours 41 mins
Max elevation – 1550m 1800m (the last climb to Lake Louise was higher than the pass!)

Day 9 – Golden BC – Rest day

Happy Mothers Day!

After a grueling day yesterday, and Kicking Horse pass ahead of me, I decided to take a rest day in Golden BC. The Golden website is awesome. You should check it out..

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Golden BC

The great thing about traveling through this part of the country at this time of year is that it’s what folks call the “shoulder season”. It’s too late for the winter activities like snowmobiling and skiing but too early for rafting, gold, hiking, swimming and all the other summer activities. As a result, hotels are inexpensive and there’s always a room available.

From our hotel it’s a 15 45 rmin walk into town (downhill of course). I really didn’t even want to look at my bike today. So walking it is. On way down the steep, paved walking/cycling path I listened to Jen and Rob debate what was larger: a hamlet, a city or a town. We weren’t quite sure what to call Golden. Just outside the hotel stood a heard of bighorn sheep. Everyone was nonchalantly passing by as if it was and everyday experience, which i guess it is.

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Jen and Rob just moments before they were attacked by bighorn sheep

Golden is a spectacular town. It’s clean, has lots of patios and shops, has two rivers flowing through it, parks, a grocery store and it’s surrounded by white capped mountains backed by a deep blue sky. It wasn’t very busy while we were there and we had no trouble finding a seat on the terrace overlooking the Kicking Horse River and enjoyed a beer and wraps.

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After lunch we crossed the timber-frame pedestrian build by volunteers in 2001. There are biking and walking trails everywhere. We walked along the shoreline and on to an exposed shoal in the river where we dipped our feet in the water, skipped stones, and lay down on the warm rocks for a power nap.

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After a long walk we were thirsty again and headed to the Island Restaurant which is beautiful log building and enjoyed some more of the cuisine (you work up a big appetite cycling). While we were there another group came in from a day of heli-skiing. You could see the look sheer pleasure on their faces as they regaled each other with stories of big powder and major wipeouts. We vowed to return to Golden one day to try some of the other adventures the area has to offer.

At any given time there is a community of cyclists criss-crossing our great county. On the way back to our hotel I met another couple cycling across Canada, Heather and Mike from Flin-Flon Manitoba. They had just arrived from Rogers Pass and planned to take a rest day.

Tomorrow we plan to head out early because we have a long and grueling climb up to Kicking Horse Pass. There’s a section called “10 mile hill” that’s giving me the butterflies again. After traversing the pass we’ll continue on to Lake Louise, at which time we’ll part ways, Jen and Rob heading to Jasper and I onward to Calgary.

It’s amazing how quickly you can make life long friends on a trip like this. I’m really going to miss Jen and Rob, but Rob has assured me he’ll stop by our home in Ottawa on his way out to St. Johns. You can check out Rob’s blog at FollowThatBike.com. It’s entertaining with lots of photos and you’ll see quite a different part of BC.

Tomorrow we’ll also cross the border into Alberta. I have to say I’ve really been impressed with the warmth and hospitality of the people here and the beautify towns and countryside. I’ll miss it a lot.

Link to the United Way of Toronto fund raiser now set up

Many of you have asked me if I’m raising money for a charity on this trip. I pleased to say that am! I now have a link to a site called Giving Pages where all proceeds will go to the United Way of Toronto. You’ll receive a tax receipt for your donation. I intend for this to contribute to the Allstream corporate fund raiser.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog please consider making a donation here.

If you don’t live in Toronto, don’t sweat it, but remember Toronto needs all the help it can get. It is the home of the Maple Leafs after all 😉

Day 8 – Climbing Roger’s Pass to Golden BC – Total distance 839kms

I stayed at a nice hotel last night in Revelstoke but the WiFi was down all night. The hotel staff gave me credit to use a pay Internet terminal so at least I could let every know I was still alive.

I got an early start this morning because I was going to climb Rogers Pass. My plan was to continue on to Golden BC today but there is also a hotel at the top so if your tired you can stay there.

Revelstoke is awesome. Skiing, hiking, cycling, mountaineering. If you’re into the outdoors this is your dream town. Revelstoke

There are still traces of snow and there’s supposed to be a lot of snow at the top of the pass. But its going to be a warm day, approaching 20C.

I made it to Rogers Pass. I think I’m going to start a petition to rename it the “Allstream Pass”. Rogers already gets enough attention and I’m still mad at them for changing the name of the Skydome to Rogers Centre. What do you think?

Here I am at Rogers Pass, not photoshopped or anything. This is really me!

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Rogers Pass

Here’s an idea: Photoshop your face in there instead of mine and I’ll donate $100 to the United Way of Toronto on the winner’s behalf. That means you’ll get the tax receipt. Email your entry to me at chrisjschmitt[at]gmail[dot]com. The most original and funny wins.

On the way up to the pass I bumped into the two cyclists I met the day before in Revelstoke. We were 4kms from the top but climbing a very steep part. We decide to continue on and meet at the top for lunch. For $12 we ate a huge plate of delicious poutine and a half litre of even more delicious beer in the very rustic restaurant. We probably lingered around there a bit too long but we were on a natural high.

Upon leaving the restaurant I noticed I had another flat. I changed this flat even more quickly that the last, maybe too quickly because when I got back on my bike I noticed my derailer cable was lose. I had to take the wheel back off again before I could find the source of the problem, which is quite a task when the bikes loaded up with 2 panniers, a tent, sleeping bag and a camel back.

At about 12kms we encountered a bit of a nasty surprise. There was a traffic fatality on the highway up a head and it was closed. We cautiously cycled by a 2km line of trunks, campers and cars until we reached the front of the line. The authorities redirected us on an alternate path to get into Golden. He said “go up the hill and turn right at the stop sign”, and he softly chuckled. We should have suspected

The hill turned put to be a grueling climb. I shall call this part of the trek “heartless hill”. I got maybe 200m up the hill and finally conked out. I got off my bike and started walking. The hill continued climbing bend after bend. I caught up with Jen and Rob laying on the road, exhausted. I was so tired I forget to unclip my foot from the pedal when I stopped and I fell over with my bike falling on top of me. My pride was hurt more than anything else.

Now a great way to get help is to simply lay down on the middle of a road (I’m only partly joking). Shortly after a nice couple in a pickup truck slowed down and asked if we were ok. They told us we were only 1/3 of the way up the hill. They continued on and we continued on rather disheartened. Later Jessie returned in the pickup and offered us a ride to the top which we graciously accepted. I dont consider this “cheating” because we weren’t supposed to going this way anyway.

Jessie helped load our bikes and gear in the pickup trunk and drove us up the hill and dropped us off at the stop sign. The rest of the ride was pretty much downhill and very scenic (and cold).

Some people might look at these kinds of events as nasty. It wasn’t. Quite the opposite, it’s times like these that you realize that every experience is amazing. We would never have gotten to meet Jessie, or pass by this incredible canyon on the way down.

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A blurry pitcher of the canyon (I was shaking from the cold)

I was able to easily convince Jen and Rob a hotel with a hot tub would be a good idea for the night and that’s exactly what we did. The great folks in the hotel served us a late dinner where we met an interesting gentleman from north of Toronto who was training to be a cowboy, a singing cowboy at that, because he toted a guitar on his back. Afterwards we enjoyed our hot tub (this assistant manager left it open for us – where else would they do that?).

All-in-all it was a day to remember.

Stats
Distance cycled – 150kms
Moving average – 17.3kms
Moving time 8 hours and 40 mins
Highest elevation – 1330m (Rogers pass)