Home > Uncategorized > It’s been building up to this day — the Rogers Pass and tunnels!

It’s been building up to this day — the Rogers Pass and tunnels!

I learned a lot of lessons leading up to these days. Good nutrition and hydration. Stretching. Proper bike maintenance. The right clothing. Warming up when starting out. The latter can be tricky – how do you ‘warm up’ when as soon as you leave camp the grade is 10%? I mean, really! And on a breakfast-filled belly! I am delighted that I stay positive with what is thrown our way- resilience is a high value for me.

More rain and tough climbs and colder. I am layered and comfy. Not quite the Michelin Man. Delighted that I spent a long time cleaning and oiling the drivetrain last evening, despite mosquitoes the size of pintos….

We are definitely in the high ground now. In all directions we can see frozen waterfalls and faraway glaciers.

Lots of grunting and heavy breathing, and once again all that effort bears fruit — we are at the Rogers Pass summit. We stopped at the Conservation Center and watched part of a film that teaches hikers and others how to make themselves more appealing to bears. Short of dousing yourself with ketchup they seemed to come up with every other amusing idea if encountering those amazing animals. (I am being facetious off course! But it is curious to contemplate how many people would have the presence of mind to behave as calmly as the film suggests. As opposed to FREEZING! Or screeeeeeeeeeming and running!)

HOT CHOCOLATE! The lovely server at the cafe made some especially for us! That, plus sandwiches and an apple crumble gives us the energy to push forward. Near where we left our bikes are piles of thick brochures about the place. We each take one and stuff it down our shirts — an old cycling trick when you are about to descend a huge distance in very cold weather.

The first three tunnels that we rode through earlier were easy. This left the longer ones coming up. We grouped together and slowed ahead of the entrance, waiting for a break in traffic and especially no 18-wheelers. We had heard so much about the air pressure that they exert in the closed space. And the deafening noise. Not much I could do about the former, but I stuffed earplugs and entered a strange, unreal world of calm. A bit disconcerting. But hey, its all an experience!

Time to fly. A few brief snow flurries remind me of where I am.

Each rider explodes into the tunnel, accelerating as quickly as his legs permit. No debris on the side – we were warned that we would encounter a lot of it and that it would be treacherous. But seemed we lucked out and the tunnel (and the ones following) were cleaned recently!! Yey!!.

We shot out the other end and kept going. In the second tunnel we were passed by two long trucks. Not the most pleasant experience of my life — there is very little room, and they don’t slow down. But we made it.

DONE! We stopped for a breather. Now it was time to descend. About 500 meters, at a steep angle. Hence the newsprint protecting the chest. We dive down. That’s what it was – a somewhat controlled fall. My hands and wrists are aching from squeezing the brakes and yet I am still moving at well over 50 kph. I feel like I am diving in a pool with my eyes open — glasses totally watered over, as is my GPS. Shivering. And being careful not to let the shivering transfer to the steering. Remove one hand for a brief second to … but put it right back on, as the loss of steering stability is too jolting. Just focusing on the space right in front, and staying as loose as possible, and not freaking out. The wind is rattling through my helmet which is covered by a shower cap. Really loud. As if the cap had shredded. When we slow down a bit I pull it off and realize it is still fine. Phew!

This wild bit ends as well. And all is well! Landen is shivering badly and shoots on ahead, to warm up. We recycle the magazines — thank you, Ministry of whatever!

The mountains on this side are different. Actually, the whole vista has changed. The mountains are much further away so you can see more of them. It is a stunning image: huge peaks, most with snow on them, covered in wild greens, shedding water through streams and falls and creeks, reflecting the sky in patches of light or shades of dark clouds. And you can see so much and so far! It feels…open.

And the rain is different. I recall the fact that the Inuit have many names for specific types of snow and ice. I could start something like that for rain: steady drizzle; light annoying drip; solid downpour; flash showers; the lull before more; intermittent; the egg-sized drops that foretell a downpour; and the momentary absence of rain!

We are getting close to Golden. As we descend a hill we reach a massive construction site – a new bridge. The wide river below is chocolate brown, filled with earth swept from the mountains upstream. It is also clogged with numerous trees and logs. And yet it flows. The construction site is a boy’s dream – numerous trucks and earth movers and mud everywhere. Bill is leading this time. His back wheel sends an arc of mud all over me. It will not be unreasonable for me to just step into the shower, clothes and all!

Last 10 km. I am leading. In a battle. Against the invisible foe. Punishing headwind. It is really knocking the stuffing out of me. I am starting to feel like I am done. I gear down, bear down, bend down. Speed is down. Rain is coming down. Huge thunderclaps above. I really want this day to be over.

For the last kilometer Landen moves ahead of me and breaks the wind. I am grateful. We leave the highway, take a few short turns and reach the lovely lodge — a most welcome sight!

Hot potato soup. Two bowls. Hot chocolate. Two mugs. Laundry. Long shower. Pizza. Good cheer comes back so easily!

imageNeed lots of energy to combat the rain, freezing temperatures, altitude gains, distance to be ridden… and what could be better than a peanut-butter, jam and Gorp on whole wheat bread! Times three!
imageLooks like a waterfall. Is actually a frozenfall.
imageFirst tunnel on the way to Rogers Pass. I am wearing three top layers, rain pants and gators, thick wool socks, gloves and rainproof mitts. I could use some more! (That’s Bill, by the way…I haven’t lost that much weight yet. Bill is 150 lbs soaking wet, which we all are most of the time these days :-))
imageMore icefalls in Rogers Pass National Park
imageNew growth following an avalanche.
imageSki anyone?
imageRiding into the clouds.
imageMade it!

imageBalmy, with a chance of violent thundershowers and, yes, flurries!
imageDifferent solutions to the ‘wet’. Landen shaved his legs, covered his socks with plastic bags and then duct-taped the bag to his ankle! Good ol’ Canadian ingenuity!
imageHo hum. Glaciers National Park.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Gay
    June 28, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Ditto all that others have said. Your writing is superb. I get a totally sensory experience reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Am praying for better weather for you all.

  2. June 28, 2011 at 7:55 am

    I’m so appreciative of your great storytelling Ilan! I felt like I was in those tunnels with you…extraordinary. As always, inspiring.

  3. perpetualstrollason
    June 27, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Thanks for your wonderful narrative of your journey! It a highlight of my day to read about your adventure!

  4. June 26, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Your words had me holding my breath for awhile… I can only imagine the exhilaration and the sense of accomplishment. Bravo.

  5. June 26, 2011 at 5:34 am

    There is no doubt in my mind that you are and will inspire many people who ask “What can I do?” If you were not holding so firmly to your intent, I wonder that you would have the stamina to continue. May you be blessed. Love Daryl

  6. Barb & Les
    June 25, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    If you are coming up with dozens of ways to describe a rainy day, you are well on your way to becoming an honourary native BC-er! Too bad you will soon be leaving our lovely province. Still no sign of your cards etc. but they just passed legislation to end the mail strike, so maybe this week. Keep up the good work! Barb & Les

  7. June 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    This is amazing; you are amazing (as are your co-cyclists). So exciting to read and daunting to imagine actually doing all of it. Big, big hugs and big proud grins at all you’re accomplishing!!!! xoxo, Rho. Jen & Soph

  8. June 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    In an earlier post, it looked like Bill’s saddle was pointing up which can be quite uncomfortable; if anything it should be level or pointing down slightly. You might want to mention this to him?

  9. Avi
    June 25, 2011 at 7:44 am

    Well Ilan, yet another adventureous day for you…..and you still have time to tell us about it…sorry about the rain….:-)) Can’t wait to your next story… Cheers, Avi.

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