Home > Uncategorized > Going back in time: Calgary to Drumheller

Going back in time: Calgary to Drumheller

Yesterday  ended around half past midnight. Lahav took me back to the U of C residence, complete with my much-improved bike, clean clothes and several new acquisitions – new GPS, three Lindor bunnies (from Jo), a box of Cycle4SchoolBOX cards and stickers and Equator coffee!

Lahav helped me schlep the stuff to my room and promised to email me a suggested route for the next day’s ride – some 160+ km.

The Yamnuska residence is impressive and brand new, to the point that it felt as if we were its first occupants. High tech keys and staffed security desk staff gave us access to two private rooms sharing a very nice bathroom and kitchen. I would gladly stay in such accommodations again.

Next morning, on my way to the dining center I saw two rabbits, perhaps hares. One was not much smaller than our dog Magic, the other looked like a large cat. And it was hungrily eyeing a raven … J

I started up the new GPS once I realized that I forgot to check for Lahav’s email. The new electronic marvel meandered me through several residential areas and then instructed me to go northwest on a wide four-lane road with decent shoulders and perhaps two to three cars a minute! This went on for almost 15 km, at which point I was out of the city and into ‘big sky country’.

Imagine being able to turn slowly and get an unobstructed view – 360 degrees of huge blue sky, and lush fields below then stretching in every direction. And it changed little as I headed northeast. I imagined a painter creating this masterpiece – four fifths of the image would be blue, with a few tufts of clouds thrown in, ranging from white to grey – seemingly random and casual but revealing exquisite three dimensional layering upon closer inspection. And the fields! Gay could explain the tens of shades of green, and of brown, and yellow… My imagination then went to islands in an ocean – the homesteads and ranches, surrounded by their vast fields. Some of the islands were surrounded by greens: lush crops of grains and hay and vegetables. (The wind played with the crops, mimicking the wave effect of numerous fans crowded in a stadium – section after section would rise and then fall with rhythmic, mesmerizing regularity.) And then were the sad islands immersed in blue – small lakes where fields used to be, silent testimonials to the extraordinary amounts of rain during the previous months. Fences that once stood strong and tall were now immersed up to their top strands of barbed wire. Some of these islands looked like disaster areas.

Even though the road was flat and often ran straight for 10 km or more the scenery kept changing in subtle ways. More clouds appeared. Way off in the distance, couldn’t tell how far away, several engines pulled what looked like hundreds of matchbox train cars of every color and type – flatbeds, tankers, car carriers… In another area I saw tan clouds bursting from the ground in rapid succession –the aftermath of  a truck scrambling over a dusty road. Closer by, several types of birds were performing crazy acrobatics, twisting and turning and diving and soaring. Then I got an inkling of why this was, when I rode through a cloud of tiny black gnats. Within a few seconds my arms seemed to get covered by tens of tiny freckles, held in place by my suntan lotion. And some found their way into more sensitive spots: mouth, nose, ears and eyes. Yuk!

Some of the birds, particularly the ravens, were focused elsewhere. Every so often I would spot one standing on the road, dipping its head to the surface and shaking it vigorously. It was tearing apart one of the numerous rodents that had become road kill – gophers, prairie dogs, rats, mice… ranging in size from tiny to almost half a meter long. And at one point I heard a couple of piercing loud shrieks. Following the sounds to their source revealed two full grown field hawks, perched atop a hydro pole, surveying the killing fields. It was my first experience being watched by a bird of prey licking its beak! J

The temperature rose steadily – mid twenties to high twenties and then through 30C. I chugged back my second water bottle. About 60 km to go.  Two bottles left. I also finished my second sandwich and two apples and an orange. Just a couple of energy bars and an apple left. And so far I hadn’t seen a single gas station or restaurant or store!

The beautiful tail wind that helped me average over 30 kph now turned to a southerly.  My riding was transformed into a video game, with me fighting strong gusts to maintain my position on the shoulder and not become road kill myself! This went on for about half an hour and then the wind died down. For a while. And a large cloud overhead blocked the sun. Yipppeee!

My butt was getting sore. I was stopping more frequently. The temperature read 33C. Holy molly! From 2C to 33C in such a short span of time. Then I saw a remarkable sight – the land fell away into a deep valley, surrounded by deeply eroded cliffs. It was as if I had been transported to Arizona or New Mexico. As I started descending into the rift I understood why this was one of the world’s greatest places to find dinosaur remains: they were buried all along this stretch of land and then glacial ice scraped the top layers away, exposing remarkable finds that would have otherwise remained buried indefinitely.

The wind was now blowing directly at me. I was tired, parched and hungry and my arms and legs were turning redder by the minute. And I had a phone interview planned in 30 minutes. I thought I would reach the campsite by then, get a cold drink into me and make the call. And then I realized that the only way to reach camp was via a 12 km loop, going through downtown Drumheller and then doubling back on the other bank of the Red Deer River. I got a map and instructions and pushed hard. 4:00 pm arrived about a kilometre away from camp. So I stopped on the side of the road, drained my few remaining mouthfuls of water and called the reporter. Thankfully he seemed to have read the press release and only had a few follow-on questions. And then we were done. Great!

At the office I was told that I was the first one there…altogether! Even the truck had not arrived yet. I gulped down a big bottle of Gatorade when the truck pulled in. Which kept me from buying another Gatorade, and ice cream, and frigid chocolate milk, and more ice cream…

I chose not to pay for WiFi. Then I had the idea – simply record my day in a Word document and then paste it into a blog post, along with the photos, once I have internet access. Brilliant! So now you have read the first such effort.

imageBig Sky Country — view to the south
imageBig Sky Country — view to the north
imageEntering the Red Deer River gorge and badlands
imageThis is in Alberta, Canada…not in New Mexico or Arizona!
imageWhat Drumheller is known for…

A desert in Canada!

“Fueled by Equator coffee!”

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Gay
    July 1, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Wow what a beautiful description. I can SEE your trip. Keep up the great work. We”re cheering you on!!

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