Participants: Bernie and Alexandra Phillion, Dan Carey, Robin Howe, Sharon Folkes, Paul Quinn, Margaret Phelan, Brian Livsey, Leslie Rodgers, Ed and Deb Kinnear, Garry Esau, Dianne White, June Gallagher, Rick and Barb Mathias
Bernie and Alexandra Phillion stepped up to lead a second group of 16 cyclists, as the first one led by Doris Maron was full, on a hub tour of three scenic and historic areas of Southern Alberta – in geology-rich Drumheller,
in the beautiful mountains and trails of Waterton National Park,
and in Canmore under the gaze of the Three Sisters peaks east of Banff National Park.
Settling into each centrally located hotel for three nights was so much easier than relocating every night at a new location; the hub and spoke approach afforded us these benefits, as well as being easier on the hotel staff during Covid precautions – there was room service only upon request.
Ah yes, Covid. We considered ourselves distant from risk of their high rate of transmission, given our activities and locations… when Alberta, overwhelmed by Covid hospital admissions, declared a state of emergency midway through our trip on September 15. We tested their hospital hospitality on the second-last day of the tour – stay tuned for details.
The format was three nights per locale, with two days in which to choose cycling/hiking/eating/exploring, before driving on to the next area, with stops of interest noted for one’s planning. Ride with GPS was provided electronically, and printed out. The paper route maps were definitely useful; the printed GPS co-ordinates were unnecessary for us troglodytes without GPS brain capability.
The first day of 10 was a travelling day with a 5 PM meet and greet at the Quality Hotel, gathering outside on the lawn as the hotel did not offer a group space given Covid restrictions.
The daily 5 PM meeting became the only opportunity to socialize. Name tags were thoughtful for trying to identify those new to us, and the leaders set out the core plan – enjoy yourselves and make plans together during the meeting. Strange days in the time of Covid…
Weather in Alberta became a partner in the planning – rain, “Chinooking winds”, and beautiful big prairie skies and vistas especially for the days driving to other locations…
Drumheller has the dinosaur theme laced throughout the town – some 40 colourful dinosaurs are to be found on street corners. Also on offer was a Blues, Boogie and BBQ concert at the outdoor Badlands amphitheatre on Saturday evening, when the rain stopped and the town dried up for some exploring. There is also a Passion Play staged annually in August that looked intriguing for future visits.
The geology of the area is absolutely unique. One cycles from the Red Deer River bottom up to the prairie flatland through exposed striations of millennia of changing earth forms, glaciations, seas and vegetation. The light bands represent river, the dark bands decayed flora. The Royal Tyrell Museum is a highlight of the area. It is world class and needed at least 1.5 hours to cover the many rooms of fossil discoveries and dioramas. One ride journeyed past the Tyrell, up to the viewpoint of Horse Thief Canyon, down to the tiny winch ferry across the narrowed river, and back to Drum through farmland.
The second ride took us out past the Hoodoos – stone columns with cap rocks – to Wayne over the Road of 10 (plus 1) bridges,
and the Last Chance Saloon, where the line ups were long and the brisket delicious.
Day 4 was driving south to Waterton through rolling prairie and ranch land… the big blue sky of Alberta over it all.
The Bayshore Lodge in Waterton has been the choice of previous CCCTS tours, on the shore of the lake with restaurants across the street. The mountain slopes above the town were burned bare in 2017 – the town was saved by firefighters but it is odd to see the rock colours through the grey tree trunks.
Waterton shuts down after Thanksgiving, with only two hotels and two restaurants open through the winter. We heard tell of two metres of snow falling to hamper movement.
Weather in the form of wind and rain limited our cycling, but there are some awesome hikes, a boat ride to hike up to Crypt Lake, many trails within the park to explore between showers, and a British tea served daily at the Prince of Wales hotel dining room.
Some chose to forego cycling on a fine day, to jump at the chance to visit the World Heritage site ‘Head Smashed-in Buffalo Jump’… another noteworthy view of history in Alberta. The Remington Carriage Museum was also deemed a fascinating visit.
The drive northwards on Route 22 to Canmore struck us as surprisingly beautiful, past wind farm turbines, wide open valleys with vast grain fields being harvested between the Porcupine Hills to the east, and the foothills of the Rockies to our west. A herd of mountain sheep strolled across route 66 near Bragg Creek
The Rundle Mountain Lodge was comfortable with many dining choices within walking distance. Longtime CCCTS member Jim Allen came out from Calgary with wife Gloria to the hotel to catch up with cyclists he has ridden with in many countries. He and Dan Carey could discuss their cycling shoulder injuries and rehabbing…
Temperature early on the first morning was minus one – finger nipping but rose to 6 degrees for the first group ride start on the Legacy Trail from Canmore to Banff, with some planning to go clockwise around Lake Minnewanka. Banff is growing into a larger European styled town with traffic-calming malls and multiple stores for shopping, eating, browsing. As we split into those bakery-bound and those who would grab a coffee before heading up to the lake circuit, one person got to test the Alberta emergency service. Riding with the group through some bus barricades hidden by the first cyclists, one suffered a blunt blow to the abdomen from the end of the wooden arm, necessitating an ambulance ride, care and assessment in the Banff, Canmore and Calgary Foothills Hospitals, where all tests were expedited, and our patient was allowed home in two days. Discharge instructions: no cycling, no alcohol for many weeks to allow healing of the lacerated liver. It was such a flukey accident, and we were glad to hear that all would be well.
Many of the group found that one of the main pleasures of that day was riding together for the first time in the tour, where previously we were choosing our own itineraries depending on the weather, distancing and lack of socializing due to Covid restrictions in Alberta.
Some other points:
1. Bernie’s useful bespoke tool .
2. Prevailing winds – head winds and tail winds rather like sailing, go out with the tailwind and come back later with the reversed so tailwinds both times – suggestion from Jim Allen
3. Mostly courteous drivers, except one guy in a pick up that yelled at our cyclist for his “Idaho stop”, a slowdown only, going through a stop sign with lots of visibility.
4. “Drive the route first” was used by several riders. Practical and meant one had at least seen the area if and when the rain discouraged cycling.
Altogether, this tour presented an opportunity to gather with friends and finding new friends, to explore some of southern Alberta’s historical interest, and to choose one’s activities with an eye on the weather. We all appreciated the leadership of Bernie and Alexandra. Thanks again!