15th June report, Nancy O’Higgins Jasper to Drumheller, Alberta

None of us could get over the herds of elk right outside our tents in Jasper. A nursing mother kept sidling sideways to get away from all the gawkers with baby firmly attached.

With all the bear warnings issued by the park, and the bear cage waiting by the front gate, we all put everything the park list told us to lock up such as toothpaste and power bars into the truck.

Harold decided in the middle of all the bear hysteria to try out his bear spray and make sure it worked. It does. He felt terrible when Irene came around the corner unexpectedly and walked into a drift. She had to spend the next 24 hours bathing her very sore, red eyes. Something you might not know ‚ water makes it much worse, at first. Everyone else had a coughing attack whenever we went near the cook house or the truck.

Most of us went out for a super meal at the Jasper House resort right across the road from Whistlers campground where dinner was accompanied by many scatological jokes. Amazing how porridge for breakfast every day leads cyclists to become very involved in Grade 4 bathroom humour.

On a higher note, Harold entertained us with a poem during dinner:

A cyclist stood at the pearly gates
His legs were worm and old.
Meekly he asked the man of fate
For admission to the fold.
What have you done, St. Peter asked
To gain admission here
Ive been a cyclist sir he said
For many and many a year.
The gates were swiftly opened
St. Peter rang a bell
Come in and grab a harp he said
You've had your share of hell.

Jasper to Columbia Ice Fields was an 80 k slog followed by the brutal uphill of Sunwapta Pass. The longest person (me) took 9.5 hours. We were unimpressed with the facilities at the Ice Fields Chalet and that they stop serving dinner in the cafeteria at 6 p.m.

Friday we woke to rain to do the steep downhill to Saskatchewan River Crossing. In 24 hours we saw a herd of caribou, rams of the long horn sheep variety fighting everywhere, goats, and Brendan saw a grizzly bear. He was smart and dawdled until a car came by and he cycled beside it on the wrong side of the road, keeping the car between him and the hump-backed bear.

At Kline river, we were allowed to pitch our tents inside a gigantic tent and looked like a tent city. You can guess the weather stayed changeable.

On our trip to Olds, many of us hid in an abandoned building when a storm blew up. However, four of us had decided to add an extra 20k to the day by exploring another route to get there and had to turn back when we hit gravel that lasted another 18k. We were unprotected when the storm hit, then we added more mileage to our day when we didn’t trust a dirt road on our map that actually was only 3k long (and included the shelter the others were in). Our total for the day, (Mary and David, Harold and me, Nancy) varied up to a high of 157k. We were thrilled to arrive in Olds and find we were booked into the Best Western because of a flooded campground, drowned or tired riders, and a unanimous desire for a hottub and comfort.

On the way to Drumheller the next day we were again hit by an electrical storm. This time Harold and I were approaching Orkney and decided to sit it out on the porch of a church. Harold left while the storm was still on because he was on the cook team that night. I had tried the handle of the Orkney Presbyterian Church to find it was unlocked and sat inside ‚ falling asleep — until the storm died down.

Harold got into camp after an extremely fast ride with the wild wind behind him, to find the others had been chasing ground sheets and tents that were flying around. They all sat in the back of the truck drinking Irish whiskey and being surprised at what a fine singing voice Harold has, waiting for the storm to end.

I left the church when the torrential rain and wild wind died down and cycled in flooded roads but calm air. The truck arrived to pick me up 10k out of Drumheller ‚ the first person to be rescued this trip. The next day, our day off, was spent at the Tyrrell museum and doing the usual bike and laundry chores.

Haven’t decided whether this is the Irish Whiskey tour or the Bag Balm tour. Most of us have a personal tin of Bag Balm and swear by its wonders on sore butts. I told Harry, who insists it has to be massaged in for at least 20 minutes, that that sounds more recreational than medicinal!