Thursday, 24 September 2009

On blowing into Alberta

Well, I'm now in Fort MacLeod and back on schedule. A good thing too as Greyhound Buses aren't for bikes it seems. I left B.C. yesterday via the Crowsnest Pass. In Sparwood, I stopped to look at the world's largest truck. It went into service in 1974 with a 350 ton capacity. Apparently, that size was too big and it remained a one-off and was used until the cost of replacement parts got the better of the economics.
In the last few days in B.C., I fell into a couple of road games. One was counting how many vehicles were stuck behind an RV. I got to 14! Another was smelling the pine logs on the backs of logging trucks.
Crowsnest Pass was the easiest pass I have encountered on this trip. Getting up to the Frank Slide interpretative centre was harder. As I entered Alberta, I gained a powerful tailwind, that if it wasn't a Chinook, then it was a first cousin. Generally out of the West, it has blown, if not blasted me along the roads, and allowed me to catch up with my schedule. Rather than stay in Coleman as was my plan, the wind blew me on to Pincher Creek where I spent the night.
This morning I made the relative mistake of taking secondary highway 785 to Head-smashed-in UNESCO heritage site. This turned into fairly loose gravel that resulted in my bike skidding a lot. I once slid out and had to use my hand to stop my fall. Fortunately, no damage was done, either to myself or my bike. In spite of and dangerously because of the gravel, on one downhill section, between gravity and the tailwind, I found I was nearing 50 km/h which was too fast given the treacherous surface.

The pavement returned near Head-smashed-in. While it was possibly s mistake to use that route, it did give me an idea of secondary road conditions in Alberta. I'd had the notion that it might be possible to shadow highways using the plentiful secondary roads of the Prairies. Given my experience today, I don't think my idea was a very good one.
Head-smashed-in. Not a great place for bison

Head-smashed-in was interesting, but I don't think I can really describe it. There is something a little spooky about it, and what it represents. While it has been used since about 6000 years ago, there is also a strange, lengthy (1000+ years) period when it wasn't in use.

Leaving the historic site, I was again blasted along the (paved) road by the wind for 16 kilometers at speeds in excess of 30 km/h for the whole way! There is a very good reason to bike with the wind in the Prairies! Part of me is quite eager to come back and continue the Trans-Canada project!

It has been quite hot in Alberta. As my arm has mostly healed, I wore a short-sleeved biking jersey today for the first time since my mishap in the Myra Canyon. Yesterday and today, I made a point of washing my biking clothes immediately after getting into my motel room in order to take advantage of the blow-dryer wind. Tomorrow is supposed to be much cooler.
In Fort MacLeod, I went into the reconstruction of the original NWMP detachment which was essentially an RCMP museum, but a fairly good one. The video of the great march of the NWMP from Manitoba to here rather gives the impression that the commanders of the original NWMP were "Englishmen" rather in the mold of Franklin and co. Luckily, the Southern Prairies in summer aren't as harsh as the Northwest Passage!

I turn North tomorrow for High River. Calgary and my flight to Montreal on the following.

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