BREATHTAKING! It all comes together

Mark Friis

JULY 2016


The There comes times in your life that you have to say enough. Before setting off on this tour I had made a life changing decision. I would step away from the biking advocacy organization I founded and would take my life back in the form of announcing I would ride bicycle around the world. So this was going to be my last tour for awhile. That had a subconscious effect that I would later discover that would steer me on a different path to approach hosting. 
I was approach by a wonderful lady from an Orange County club that heard about what I do from another friend. We started discussing options for locations and I investigated what might be possible. The big one was Canada, specifically, Banff, This would be a hellava undertaking but the psychotic side of me was up for the challenge and so it went. With everything in place, all the bags and bikes delivered to my house, Travis and I set off for Calgary with a van full of personals and thousands of dollars worth of bikes. The two and half journey took us through Utah, Tetons and Yellowstone. As we left Yellowstone driving fatigue was setting in and we were ready to get to the tour start. A few trips to Calgary Airport and we had most of our guests set up at the hotel. 

We awoke to a cool light rain and out came the proper equipment to survive the moisture. As we exited the Calgary Metro area, the mountains started to peak through the mist and the rain continued on and off. You got a sense that the area was something amazing but we never got a full view. We managed to stay fairly dry at the camp as we huddled under the canopy and tarp, which lead to many people really meeting for the first time. The next day would see most of the clouds dissipate but as typical in the Rockies they always seem to linger. Part of the group decided they wanted to take the van to Lake Louise and ride the second half. As we entered one of the most tourists laden areas, it was apparent that getting up to see the iconic hotel would be a bit of a chore so we had lunch at the foot of the climb. The slight disappointment would later be eviscerated by some of the most stunning lakes I've ever come across. The route continued north to the Icefields and though the views were there, it wouldn't really be to the next day that the gang would really take it all in. 

We stayed at a resort that evening, which wasn't much of an evening. Some of us were sitting in the restaurant admiring the sunsetting when someone asked what time it was, 10:30. WHAT?! We laughed at the craziness of seeing the sun setting at nearly 11PM. Off to rest. Next morning was breakfast and despite it being the height of tourists season, light traffic with the best views. Our destination was Fields which required some miles of the Trans Canadian Hwy. THough busy, it provided an ample shoulder. That shoulder did have intermittent rumble strips which took down one of the group as he was about to enter the camp. The locals were quick to stop traffic to keep everyone safe while we loaded him up to head to Banff and eventually to Calgary for surgery. My second ever casualty. As we hoped for the best for Steve and his wife, we continued the trek westward. The following day was our exit from the Rockies and off to Golden, a quaint mountain town. This was mostly a downhill run with a few climbs early. On one of the steep descents, Miguel was in a tuck screaming onward when his frame start to wobble and it looked like we were witnessing a bad ending. He didn't panic, kept his cool and stopped the bike which seemed to be the only thing to stop it from behaving like a wet noodle. Crisis averted. It was our shortest day so we enjoyed the town and relaxing at camp. Things were really coming together as all the different individuals started igniting new friendships. Stories and personal thoughts were shared, and it would just continue throughout the rest of the week.

Our ride to Glacier the next day to us into the Provincial Park that shares names with Glacier National Park in the US. Both are equally stunning. We got to camp early and I was struck by how clean and modern the camp was. Free firewood, granite countertops in bathrooms(never seen that before) and much more. It was also at the entrance of some historical and epic trails. Hiking seemed to be a good thing at this point to, as I've learned from previous tours, my batteries can start to run low attending to everyone. Making sure all goes well for the rides, shopping and cooking takes an emotional toll regardless if things are going smooth, which they were. The solitary hike did wonders and I made a spectacular dinner to send everyone to their tents with full tummies. In the planning of this trip I came across a resort that could house our entire group and it sat on a lake with a pool and all the amenities you could ask for. There was unfortunately one thing would definitely not ask for, MOSQUITOES! I'm not talking your typical summer day in the South, I'm talking full infestation. We moved like the Flash unloading the van and getting things inside. THe proprietor stood out there talking to us. I could see dozens of the blood sucking insects biting his face and he having not a care in the world about it. Poor Andrew was so eaten up that when he removed his shirt he looked like he had historic case of the mumps. We couldn't use the kitchen so Travis and I donned bug nets and cooked out in the swarm, there had to be a bunch of those suckers (pun definitely intended) in that meal. After dinner the host regaled the group of his war stories in Germany while some of us took our chances in the pool with a lot of beer. THe only relief was to immerse your entire body with just your face exposed. Funny way to drink though. Later the resort assistant joined us for pool and other games in the basement where she also told us some tales of her travels. Some were quite, how shall I put this, revealing and we were left thinking if she was implying something. Well, we didn't inquire and headed to bed to lick our skeeter wounds. 

One more day of camping after this and then the final run to Kamloops. On the final day we had a choice to ride on the south side of the river along the main highway or the north side a lightly used dirt road. Now if you know me I never turn down some dirt for my skinny tires but some of the gang wanted to give it a whirl. It proved to be a bit much for some so they took the next and last chance to get on the highway. The rest muscled through the rolling hills skating on their 25 c tires and after what seemed like 100 miles the pavement revealed itself again and the last 10 miles we laughed but glad it was over. It all ended with a huge dinner with the group and lots of storytelling and gratefulness. 

After the experience of the five previous tours, I felt like this one was the one that everything came together for me and I could mentally and psychologically handle the demands of the touring experience. The fact that so many people hardly knew others and that we all got along was further encouragement to keep it going. But at that time I was planning my own adventure, solo.

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