As part of Sea to Sea (link to facebook page) we just completed almost two weeks of cycling in Super Natural British Columbia. As we cycled each day, the British Columbia tourism tag line definitely reminded us of the Super Natural God that we serve. The landscape leaves one in awe at the beauty, majesty and awesomeness of the creator of this world. And to think that the Rocky Mountains are young mountains that are still gaining in height as they are being formed through the shifting plates of the earth. (So if you are a procrastinator, the longer you wait to do a trip like this the more climbing that you will have to do.) On a bike one experiences all this up close and personal.
Rather than seeing the awesomeness of the Rocky Mountain through the windshield of a vehicle and at predetermined rest stops, we had the privilege of seeing it in its unencumbered beauty. On a bicycle we could pull over at any spot we chose without impeding the flow of traffic.
The grandeur of the mountains, whether one attempts to capture it on camera or whether one tries to capture it through statistics, just doesn’t compare to the experience of being on a bicycle. The height of the mountains could be felt in my legs.
The steepness of the ascent could be experienced by the slow crawl forward. The descent, after a hard slow climb is purely and simply exhilarating, winding down the mountainside at speeds of up to 65 km/hr.
The route we took was along the Trans-Canada highway. There are no secondary roads through the highest passes of the Rocky Mountains. Because of that, we had to contend with a high volume of traffic, both passenger cars, semis, and holiday traffic in campers. The element of risk was never far from my mind. There were sections or road where the paved shoulder narrowed down to less than six inches. There were sections of shoulder with too much debris on it to cycle safely. There were sections of road where we has cars, campers and semis pass within inches of our shoulders. In places where we were squeezed onto the traveling portion of the highway it was a matter of checking for an opening in the traffic and then ‘owning the lane’. The safest vehicles to have behind you when ‘owning the lane’ is to be in front of a semi. You know you are dealing with a professional driver. The riskiest time to ‘own the lane’ is to be riding in front of a rented camper, (not that one can tell looking through a loonie size rear view mirror) probably being driven by a person who is at best unfamiliar with the vehicle and at worst uncomfortable driving through the mountains.
The most interesting time to ‘own the lane’ is when we were traveling through the snow sheds. The sudden change in lighting both for the cyclist and for the vehicles can create some surprise situations. Fortunately nothing significant showed up.
In fact, just before entering a series of three snow shed we passed through a traffic control zone. We were asked to wait for a minute or two to let some truck traffic pass. Then the ‘flag lady’ stopped the traffic for about five minutes and gave us the go ahead. For the next four or five kilometers we had the whole lane to ourselves. Gradually the traffic caught up to us, but they made no attempt to pass us. While we raced through the snow sheds at up to 45 to 50 km/hr they crawled along behind us.
It was a real sense of accomplishment reaching the summit of Rogers Pass. Even though it is only 1300 meters high it took about 7000 meter of climbing and 900 km of cycling to get there. It’s the ups and downs and turns in the road that adds to the beauty of the ride.
The day we cycled through Rogers Pass was a long day with chilly temperatures requiring us to layer up first thing in the morning to 35 C temperatures in the afternoon. We cycled 152 km and climbed 2281 meters while contending with highway traffic, and road construction. We couldn’t break up the day because there are no towns between Revelstoke and Golden. Since it is bear country it is not advisable to set up an improvised camp.
Having completed the ride through Super Natural British Columbia, we are leaving behind the majestic scenery and probable the physically most challenging part of the tour.
And now we will be riding through Alberta the province that a few years ago trumpeted itself as ‘Beyond The Super Natural’. They have meanwhile updated their tagline to “Remember to Breathe”. Even the first couple days in Alberta is proving to be breath taking.