The last two days have been a whirlwind of nearly non-stop riding and sightseeing, interrupted by regular fuel stops and irregular meals. Plus, one long construction delay — during which I did not run out of gas, making me 1 for 2 on such occasions thus far.
On Sunday evening — as noted previously — I met up with the other five riders in Spokane, whereupon we rode to Ponderay, Idaho, just north of Sandpoint, which in 2011 was named, “Most Beautiful Small Town in America” by both Rand McNally and USA Today. Not sure what has happened since then but since it’s still beautiful, I can only speculate that other small towns have upped their game.
The next day, we rode to Whitefish, MT (“I hope you enjoy the Fish,” a local told us, making us wonder what he meant since we had asked him for a restaurant recommendation and he had directed us to a hamburger joint…until we realized he was referring to the town). Along the way, we rode along Lake Koocanusa for what seemed like an hour and a half. Much to our surprise, when we looked at a map, we realized we’d only ridden about 65% of its total length, as a good portion of it extends into Canada. I had never heard of this absolutely stunning body of water but it has an interesting story and the name is a contraction of the Kootenay River (which was dammed — damned?) to create the reservoir, plus CANada and the USA. Kootenay+Canada+USA=Koocanusa. Alice Beers of Rexford, MT won a naming contest for the new body of water about 45 years ago and has been impossible to live with ever since.
Once in Whitefish, we checked into our hotel and then, despite it being 3PM or so, decided to ride the circular route through Glacier National Park. It’s stunning. Flathead Lake is gorgeous, the mountains are majestic, the riding is exciting and a little scary and we saw some bighorn sheep from a long distance but the bears (grizzly or not) apparently had the day off. After a serviceable dinner in Whitefish, we went to bed and then left at 7:30 this morning for Banff.
We took the long route. The border crossing was anticlimactic. After listening to a couple of stories from Geof Griebel, who reported having to empty his saddle bags for inspection and answer tough questions on prior trips, I expected to be grilled at the border. Instead, the polite but disinterested Canadian customs agent asked me two questions: What town do you live in? Are you carrying any weapons? I had memorized the answers. Then I was off to join the previous five riders who had been passed through just as easily.
By the way, I was born in Canada and I can still sing the national anthem, “Oh, Canada.” If you ask me to do so, you’re in for a real treat, in much the same way that people enjoy passing kidney stones.
Today’s route afforded us the opportunity to explore Kootenay (there’s that name again) National Park, and in this case, the “National” refers to Canada. Banff is located more or less inside of Banff National Park and we have thus visited three national parks in two nations in two days, validating the title of this blog post.
Banff is a gorgeous town. It’s what Estes Park CO should be — tourist friendly without the kitchiness. Even the high school is classy (see pic) and the view from downtown is gorgeous. We’re staying in the Inns of Banff, in which every room enjoys a mountain view but none enjoy air conditioning. Fortunately, it’s cool enough tonight to leave the sliding glass door to the walk-out patio open…unfortunately, there’s nothing to prevent a dishonest neighbor from climbing from an adjoining balcony into your room to commit burglary or murder. If this is my last post, you’ll know why. I am going to rely on the low crime rate in Canada and stay cool. Probably VERY cool, since the overnight low is forecasted to be 45 degrees (7 degrees Celsius for my Canadian friends).
In the last two days, I’ve ridden about 700 miles and my odometer thus displays 3,160 miles (or 5085 kilometers at the current exchange rate). Given that I’m about 2400 miles from home and we have another day of recreational riding tomorrow, I am on track to exceed my 6,000 mile target for this adventure. I am hopeful that I will not have to ride circles around Berkeley Lake GA when I am agonizingly close to home to ensure I achieve my goal…but will do so if necessary.
Tomorrow’s route, though, is undetermined. We will “meet at the bikes,” as we tend to say, at 7:30, ready to ride to breakfast. We originally planned to ride to Kolowna, BC, but Wayne, our intrepid leader, apparently has other ideas. So, no telling where I’ll be posting from tomorrow night, although I’m confident it will be in either Alberta or British Columbia, which are both provinces in Canada for any readers who are geographically challenged.
It’s late and I really need a good night of sleep. Just one more day of fun before the long slog home, during which I’ll be eating up endless miles of superslab. I’m past the halfway point of my bucket list trip and I can already feel the anxiety of my anxiety-free vacation coming to an end.
I am going to try to focus on enjoying the ride. Literally.
Goodnight from Banff.