Days 4-6: Canada ✅

Believe it or not, sometimes I doubt myself (hoping you didn’t read the last post). But when I started this, I told myself one thing: If I make it across the US border, I’m making it to Mexico.

That milestone was reached today after 60 miles of biking while fully exposed to the 95-degree sun. (Special thanks to Mom for buying me the best shirt ever for this heat.)Eureka national border - Great Divide

But, let’s rewind. The last few days have been a blast. Ups and downs for sure, but the towns, people, and dogs, of course, have made the heat much more tolerable. So, rather than breaking it down day by day, this time I thought it might make sense to just give you the highlights.

Wrong Way

I got a strong start on Day 4 and was excited to go through my first town since Banff.  It was the mining town of Elkford and it consisted of a supermarket, a western-theme hotel, a visitor center, and a hodgepodge of houses (how’s that for a vocab word).

Taking advice from the Belgians, I restocked my food supply with fresh fruits, veggies, and of course, the Motts squeezables. I took that as a sign it was going to be a really good day.

Well, much like the trails, Day 4 had its highs and lows. After leaving the supermarket, I headed up the mining road. Now, this part is for the truckers and math whizzes out there. Over the course of two miles, I took the bike uphill over a thousand feet at an 8% grade. If you have a child’s mind and you’d rather relate it to a TV show like me. This was the hill in Rocket Power when Otto goes down “Bruised Man's Curve” and shows up Lars after having a panic attack.

When I summited, I passed the Elkford mine and was about to turn onto the old mine road when I was greeted by a friendly parks worker. He told me the trail was closed due to a washout. He saw me going up the hill and figured I was headed there so he wanted to stop to let me know. (inner Clint: wait what, back up. you knew this and you didn’t stop me!)

So here’s the good news: while it took me an hour to get up the hill, it only took me fifteen minutes to go down. I rerouted and made it to Sparwood by the end of the day.

Apollo

One win did come from this detour. The bike officially has its name: Apollo. No, not in honor of the brave and bold expeditions space explorers went on in the 70s. No, not in honor of the Greek god of the sun.

rocky-hugSource

Apollo after the great fictional boxer, Apollo Creed portrayed by the immortal Carl Weathers. Why Apollo? Because while Rocky and Apollo had their differences, Apollo pushed Rocky to his limits (I also get to be Rocky in this comparison). With me as Rocky, and my bike as Apollo, we’ll team up to conquer the rough and tough Clubber Lang that is the Great Divide.

Sparwood

The stop in Sparwood was a good refresher for the next day. The campsite had running water, there was a pub/liquor store that still puzzles me, and I got to see one of the world's largest dump trucks — how’s that for a tourist attraction?Sparwood dump truck

Source

I was also greeted by a familiar face: Clemens! He rolled in just as I was setting up my tent. We shared a campsite, ate Chinese food, and made friends with Mega, the bartender at said Pub/Liquor store. She was also the cashier at said Pub/Liquor store... Canada is a lawless land. 

Music & Food Trucks

Feeling energized from a full meal and a decent night's sleep, I pushed on to Fernie in the morning. The road followed the telephone lines, and while the uphills were a challenge, the reward was tight forming single-track trails that made you feel like a real mountain biker.

Great Divide single track trails

Fernie is not like Elkford. It’s a bustling resort town with shops, restaurants, and a music festival that Clemens (once again arriving out of the blue) and I walked ourselves into. We ate food from food trucks and made camp in an RV campsite after, Kathy, a very friendly attendant, made an exception for us even though the campground was full.
Fernie Music Festival - Great Divide

And, there were dogs! Across from our site was Sophie, a retriever who was so excited about camping, she barked half the night.

Sophie - Great Divide Dog

Country Roads

Even with Sophie’s excitement, and the occasional coal mine train passing by, I slept great and I woke up determined to put a dent into the mileage.

From Fernie to Eureka, I pedaled for nearly 7 hours across relaxing, nearly flat roads. I sang John Denver’s "Country Roads" to beat the heat as I rode toward the border. Entering the States gave me new life and the final 10 miles to Eureka felt like a breeze.

I also met Mark Beck or “Mr. Beck” along these roads. Mr. Beck is a Great Divide pro and an all-around well-traveled cyclist. He’s raced the Tour de France, rode bikes with Lance Armstrong's team, and held the unofficial record for the longest Great Divide race time (apparently he got lost but managed to still finish!). Mr. Beck does nearly all of his rides for his MS charity and you can find his documentary about the Great Divide on YouTube

What's to Come

Right now, I’m sitting in the A/C enjoying an ice-cold water and trying not to think too hard about the road ahead. With forest fires scattered around the trail, I will have to be very mindful about my route. But, this is a problem for tomorrow. Today, we eat a fried burger and tacos and celebrate a job well done.

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