LoneStar: Banff to Texas

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by LoneStar, Jul 23, 2014.

  1. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    “Well welcome to Alberta” the guy said in a rough cigarette laden voice. “I suggest you park your bike around the corner because it gets a bit rough outside the bar here at night.” I thanked him both for the welcome and warning and talked a bit before moving the bike. He and a couple of other patrons from the Texas Gate Bar had come out to see the bike and the grizzled guy riding it. He wiped my rear plate off, which had been covered in mud, and was quite surprised to see I’d ridden from Texas. I was warned that Cochrane was the training ground for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and I’d be hassled for any possible reason, thus the plate cleaning being a gesture of friendship.

    I’d arrived in Cochrane, Alberta after a long day in Glacier National Park and Waterton on the Canadian side. This was my first trip into Canada after riding from Texas 11 days earlier. I’d left in the Texas heat and ridden 11 hrs and 600 miles to get to Raton, New Mexico, then met up with the Horizons Unlimited campout in Grant, where I connected with my friends Rob from Michigan and Jim from Texas, whom I’d had the pleasure of riding into Mexico with a year or two before. After the campout, Rob and I continued north and explored Colorado a bit before meeting up with another friend, Dennis, from Michigan. We rode together through Wyoming and into Montana where we parted ways, they continuing on eventually to the BMW Rally in Minnesota.


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    But I digress. The Texas Gate Bar lay next to the Rockyview Hotel, a 100 year old hotel on the tourist strip in Cochrane, and the only lodging I could find before reaching Banff, my "Holy Grail" of the trip. The room was tiny and up 3 flights of stairs and dragging my gear up took the last bit of energy I had after 12 days of riding and camping. Todays ride had been from a campground in GNP across to St. Mary’s and north across the border. Highway 22 had paralleled the Canadian Rockies to my left and the beautiful rolling grasslands to the right. The temps were a bit chilly after some warm days in Wyoming and Montana.


    Into Canada
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    Marvin the Martian rides...
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    Banff was my goal because a few years earlier I’d ridden to Montana and regretted not busting into Canada, being so close. Banff was also my goal as I’d heard it was even more beautiful than Glacier and that was hard to imagine. Funny thing is, as I progressed northward, folks would say Glacier National Park was the penultimate place to see, then I’d meet folks who said they loved Glacier until they saw Banff, and then folks who’d been to Banff would say Jasper beat Banff for beauty. I’d love to see them all, but Banff seemed to be the best compromise for time.

    More tomorrow!
    #1
  2. Ernest T

    Ernest T Long timer

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    Bill?
    #2
  3. Texasclouds

    Texasclouds Been here awhile

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    We stayed in the Yoho Forest in Field BC. Cool area, have fun up there!
    #3
  4. Texasclouds

    Texasclouds Been here awhile

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    Nice time of year to be there as well. We thought Golden and Banff were ok, but we enjoyed the hiking trails at Emerald Lake, Lake Louise (i think this is where the 7 glaciers viewpoint trail is), Takakkaw Falls, and the Twin Peaks Trail (checkout the chalet up top).

    We flow to Calgary and drive a rental car over...would love to be able to ride it one day!
    #4
  5. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    Hey Texascloud - thanks! Weather has been cool enough to shut me up about being hot in Texas lol.
    #5
  6. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    I got a decent night’s sleep in the old hotel, and woke up early, schlepping the gear to the bike down the third floor narrow stars and headed around the block for coffee and wifi. So far this trip has been a bit thin on connectivity, as the parks and campgrounds have been in areas with no cell coverage and when I’ve moteled it, for some reason internet has been poor to nonexistent. After coffee and a muffin, and a bit of email I fired up the bike and found a gas station, by the time I got gas and geared up again, I’d had three conversations with other patrons about the bike, where I’d ridden from and suggestions of places to see. So far the Canadians have been so friendly, except for the lack of a drawl and the use of “eh”, I’d almost think I was back in Texas :D


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    From Cochrane I took Highway 1A, which I guessed was the old original and looked a bit more interesting on the map, until it eventually connected back into Highway 1. The temp was a bit cool and the skies overcast and threatening, but on the horizon I could see blue skies over the Rockies.


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    The road was a nice ride, with plenty of curves and increasingly beautiful scenery, until the merge into the main highway. It wasn’t long before the mountains and valleys were eliciting “Holy Crap!” and other juvenile remarks of wonder. The peaks were stunning and the valleys filled with evergreens and pale green rivers were absolutely beautiful. For those who haven’t been, the “Park” is basically a very well maintained multi-lane highway, with the mountains distant on either side, with relatively few pullouts for photos or vistas. It is not like Glacier or other parks where one is close to the scenery, the scale of the area and the mountains being much grander.



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    After I bought my park pass, it wasn’t much longer before the exit for the town of Banff came up, and I tooled into the posh ski resort town for a few pics and to say I’d been. It is much like Aspen or any other resort, with pricey shops and milling tourists. The day was spectacular and clear with blue skies, sun and few clouds. I found a coffee shop and wifi, only to find the internet not working. Sheesh.


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    My plan has been a bit vague, needing to be back in Kalispell by Thursday afternoon, and I had planned on heading on to Golden and then turning south, but began to realize I would be riding long days to make it and after being on the road for nearly two weeks and pushing it, I decided to make it an easier ride. I rode north to Lake Louise, and though bombed by tourists, the lake was truly stunning. I did a few selfies and snaps of the lake, then turned back south for 93 and the road through Kootenay Park to Radium Hot Springs to shave a couple hours off of the next day’s ride.


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    Highway 93 was certainly no slouch for scenery, and after a while I got a headache from looking up and around so much. I stopped at several spots for pics and to walk a bit. At the “Welcome to British Columbia” sign, I pulled off to find a husband and wife on a Harley taking selfies. We talked a bit, and they had ridden from Minnesota and were heading down to the east side of Glacier NP. Wishing them well, I headed on for Radium.

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    Several times deer crossed the road, and at one point there was a herd of mountain goats on the roadside. They didn’t seem to afraid and I was able to get a few pics from fairly close range.



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    It was late in the day by the time I rolled into Radium, finding a good motel and then hitting the hot springs for a soak.


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    The Banff/Kootenay Parks are indeed as stunning as I’ve heard, and I regret not having time to make it to Yoho and even further north to Jasper. A good excuse to come back… wink wink nudge nudge.

    The last 2 days have been slabbing it - albeit through some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. Tomorrow I head south for Kalispell

    Manańa Amigos!
    #6
  7. HPTuner

    HPTuner Been here awhile

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    Great pics! Stunning scenery for us flatlanders....:D
    #7
  8. rick danger

    rick danger The further adventures of

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    Nice pics! I'm planning on heading out there around aug. 20. I'm not planning on camping. Maybe you could give me an idea of hotel availability, or lack there of? Thats something I've been worrying about.
    #8
  9. No False Enthusiasm

    No False Enthusiasm a quiet adventurer Supporter

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    You're doin' a good job of scouting out the route I hope to follow next summer.

    As always, thanks for excellent photos and commentary.

    NFE
    #9
  10. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    Hey Rick! Hotels are pretty much only at the main towns and within the park entrance towns. That said they are usually booked well in advance since the area is a big draw for tourists. You will ride for many miles seeing nothing but incredible scenery and a few campgrounds.

    Keep that in mind and for example I only saw one small town motel between St. Mary's/Babb in Montana until I reached the outskirts of Calgary. The lodges within Banff Park are pricey and booked. At Radium Hot Springs there were a bunch of small nice older motels, and lots of vacancy but the owner said it's been a slow start this year due to the fires.

    This place is the most stunning scenery I've yet seen and everyone says the further north you go it just gets better. Hard to imagine :deal :D
    #10
  11. selkins

    selkins Gotta light?

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    Nice pics and enjoying your writing. How far north are you planning to go?
    #11
  12. Texasclouds

    Texasclouds Been here awhile

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    We stayed nearby in Field, BC:

    Truffle Pigs Lodge
    100 Centre Street, Field, Yoho National Park, British Columbia V0A 1G0, Canada
    (250) 343-6303
    http://www.trufflepigs.com/lodge/


    It was clean and I think around $170/night.
    #12
  13. dfwscotty

    dfwscotty Long timer

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    Incredible photos! Great trip.
    #13
  14. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    I didn’t sleep much due to a recurring neck spasm that causes a headache, most likely from so much camping and getting tweaked. After two weeks on the road, I’m noticing that my departure times keep slipping later and my riding times are getting shorter :D.


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    Anyway after some coffee and repacking, I started loading the bike in the chilly wind and threatening skies. A big Dodge diesel pickup pulled up next to me and a guy jumped out and came over to the bike. He looked it over and then said “Oh, you’re on a BMW! That means the RCMP won’t hassle you downtown.” I asked what was going on and he replied that the Mounties had been pulling over all Harleys and making them empty all their cases for inspection. He pointed down the street to a white pickup and said “There’s RCMP right there to catch anyone trying to get by.” Not too long after, a group of Harley riders came by, riding slowly and staying off the throttle. The RCMP truck drove away after they passed, and I found out the guys had rolled into Radium and in classic asshole fashion were revving the engines with loud pipes. Score one for the RCMP for busting their lame asses.


    The guy in the pickup also owned this bad boy
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    I fired up and rolled downtown, to a sight of no Harleys or RCMP, but when I turned onto Main Street came slap dab onto the rear end of a Bighorn sheep strolling leisurely down the street. I tried to drop back in case he was in a mood to start a butting contest. He eventually wandered off the road and I got past to find a gas station.

    At the pump I met a guy on a 1200 GSA all loaded to the gills. His name was Dennis from New Joisey and he was heading north for Alaska. We chatted a bit and he headed off into a dark and threatening rain cloud sweeping down off the mountains. My path led south and away from the worst of the rain, but it was still cold and spitting rain.


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    The beautiful scenery rolled past, somewhat dulled by the blue and dark overcast skies, and the chill reminded me of a Texas winter day. Hard to imagine the 100º sweltering heat I’d ridden out of from Texas.


    A dreary day...
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    As I rolled on south, I passed Skookumchuk, and became enamored with the name… repeating it to myself and chuckling - something I needed as this trip has had it’s issues. As I mentioned, I’d ridden up a week earlier, camping and pushing hard. Amidst it all, my tent had issues and I had to buy another, my Olympia Ranger pants and Teknic jacket both leaked like a sieve in a cold heavy winded rain and hail storm outside Cody, my pannier leaked and filled with water, had had to camp in a major dust storm with 50 mph winds and to top it off my phone was stolen in the REI in Missoula. More PIA than usual on this trip.


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    I came up on the town of Fort Steele and wheeled into the parking lot of the old Fort. It was windy and cold, and I needed a stretch so I wandered over to the steam train about the time it fired up after filling with water. From there I wandered into the entry building and looked around a bit. The actual fort grounds looked very interesting, but I had neither the time nor patience to pay the fees and wander through. Still it would be an interesting stop when one has the time.



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    From Fort Steele I continued on south for the split where 93 separated from 3 and went on to the border of the U.S., playing tag with a couple of groups of Harleys and dodging lumber trucks, as well as eyeing deer on the roadside.



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    I approached the border crossing at Roosville, with some minor trepidation simply due to the knowledge that customs officers target solo riders, especially ones with ponytails :D. The traffic was much heavier at the crossing than when I’d entered Canada at Chief Mountain Border Crossing, with maybe 30 cars in front of me and a good line of about 100 or so on the U.S. side heading for Canada.

    Passing through the barrage of cameras and sensors when it was my turn, I rolled to a stop and the agent started with the routine questions while watching his monitors for who knows what information is supplied. He paused for a moment, likely looking at the 3D X-ray scan of what was in my colon, before saying “Y’all have a safe trip back to Texas.” It was the second time he’d used “y’all”, initially asking “where did y’all come from?” Don’t know if he thought it was just proper English for a southerner, but it made me wonder if someone was on the seat behind me I was unaware of.

    As I headed south for Whitefish, I remembered that my new phone had been shut off while in Canada - I'd had to get a new carrier while in Missoula and had forgotten to add roaming - and pulled off to turn it on and heard the resounding dings indicating texts, calls and emails from the last 3 days. Blech.


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    On the way south, the skies cleared and the blue sky was a nice sight to see, bested only by the warmth of the sun after a chilly days ride.

    More tomorrow amigos!
    #14
  15. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    A good breakfast of huckleberry pancakes is a great way to start the day anywhere :D


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    Techno-ho
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    From Whitefish I went back into Glacier and set up camp, then rode to Kalispell to pick up a friend for a few days of camping and hiking in the park. So far I’ve had good luck camping as a "Hiker/Biker” in the full campgrounds in the park. The park hosts have been good about letting me park the bike in some other spot in the campground and just paying the $5 nightly fee.



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    The first trip through the park a week earlier had been during the heavy smoke and haze from the Washington forest fires, which created a mysterious feel to the park since the mountains were dark silhouettes, but this weekend the air was clear, cold and sunny.


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    I tented next to Markus and Brita, a young German couple - both architects - who were taking a year off of work and traveling extensively. They had flown to NYC, then rode a bus to Chicago and taken the train to Glacier National Park. They were disappointed to find the backcountry hiking permits were no longer allowed for foreigners but were having a good time anyway.


    Hiking the high line trail from Logan Pass was fantastic, and about the closest to Switzerland I’ve seen. The green was saturated due to the additional chlorophyll in the plants due to the short growing season, the temps were perfect and flowers were in bloom.


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    The last afternoon we were warned an area of the park had been closed due to a bear attack in which the bear spray didn’t stop the bear, but a gunshot did. The bear was assumed wounded so the rangers had shut down an area.


    Glacier National Park is just a fantastic place and sad to be heading out...
    #15
  16. Havingfun

    Havingfun the road less traveled...

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    ... tremendous photos and text. Thanks for sharing.
    #16
  17. bluestar

    bluestar sheep shagger

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    Great RR and pix. :clap Hope you enjoyed that cool weather cause Texas is hot. :knary
    #17
  18. Mudclod

    Mudclod Mojo Moto

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    Outstanding images. Thanks!

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    #18
  19. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    Thanks guys I'm having a ball... and YES I"M DREADING THE HEAT IN TEXAS! :lol3
    #19
  20. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    Thanks for the compliments on the pics too - there is an old saying that "if you can't take good pictures, just take pictures of a beautiful woman and no one will notice." I think Glacier is a mighty fine looking woman :lol3
    #20