Monday, 4 January 2016

Last Year's Big Trip for Me

Happy New Year to everyone! Hope you all had a peaceful and quiet time with your families and friends. Time to get into some posting to remember last year's rides before they fade away.

The snow has fallen, the temperature has dropped and we're staying inside again for a few months. The weather got up to a balmy -2 C (28F) today with a -6 C windchill which was actually kind of nice for my lunch time walk. I pulled out my cold weather parka today as I froze last week with the -30 (-22F) windchill days. There's no just grabbing any old coat at the door when you're venturing out in Saskatchewan in these winter months. It requires planning...just like an inter-provincial road trip on your bike. 

We finally went on one last year at the end of May. I had spent the long winter before that planning a trip for us. Purchased an Airhawk seat and a bungee net. 

A Little Break to Stretch and Unclench from the wind! 
We rode to Calgary by way of the Trans Canada Highway. A distance of 756 kms (470 miles). 

On the way west at a gas station stop, an older gentleman told us he envied us. He was about 75 (perhaps older?) and had done many, many trips on his motorcycle but could not do it anymore.  I enjoyed listening to him though. 

A pronghorn antelope went galloping across the highway at one point just behind me and in front of my husband. As I watched the deer, it doubled back as it saw the twinned highway on the other side and decided to go back to where it had come from. It got fairly close to my husband and he thought it was going to run into the bike - but the antelope veered at the last moment. Whew! That was close!

We stopped at Tompkins for a break and it's the windiest rest area I have ever encountered. I needed the break to unclench and stretch. We tried to stop every 100 kms (62 miles) to do just that, and also to fill up with gas every 200 or so kilometres (124 miles) as my Gladius doesn't have a super big tank. It forces you to stop and smell the roses. Trips are about the journey and not the destination right? 

I had worn my full wind/rain inner suit to stay warm on the first day as it was coolish when we left in the morning and I know that with hours of wind blasting at you, you can get chilly very quickly if not prepared. Well, the temperature warmed up by the time we got to Medicine Hat about 6.5 hours later and by that time, I was too hot and had to remove the wind/rain liner and stuff it under my bungee net. (Very handy by the way to hold all kinds of stuff.)

At Medicine Hat, we stopped for a meal and then rode the last three hours to Calgary to stay with friends. It was a long day but felt a sense of accomplishment pulling into the city. At the end of a long day on the highway, we then had to face the super fast traffic of a big city with multiple lanes. My only focus was watching the traffic around me while watching for our exit. 

While in the Calgary area, we rode around and through Banff and along the secondary roads to Canmore and back to Calgary one day. Lovely ride, had to stop for Big Horn sheep that were massing in the middle of the road at one point. The back road to Canmore includes a path not unlike a roller-coaster with banked turns and surprise corners. Yeah, that was fun!

Also, we rode down through Priddis to Black Diamond one afternoon. Beautiful ranch country there with hills and forests. Stopping briefly in Bragg Creek to fill up with gas and noticed a gang of sport riders all wearing leathers in the most amazing colours matching their bikes. All young men, but they all looked over at us and said "Hello!" They looked like they had had a great day, and were taking a break before they took to the highway again. I was amazed at all the bikes in and around Calgary that travel in packs on a lovely sunny weekend day. We just don't see too much of that in my little city. I saw all kinds of brands and sizes and vintages and all manner of outerwear. Nice to see that. The riding season is so short for me and apparently, the riders feel the same in Alberta! 

Coming back through going east again, there was so much wind, it was seriously trying to topple us over. I felt like I was riding at an angle for quite a while, fighting to keep it upright while pouring on the throttle for balance. My husband's bike is heavier than mine and it actually ran out of gas fighting the wind! Picture this: I'm riding along and at some point, I realized he was not behind me anymore. I pulled over and waited a few minutes. Just about the point where I was going to find a u-turn area between the twinned highways to turn around, he came roaring by and did not stop, but motioned me to keep going. Of course, at that moment, it started to rain and it was another 20 kms into Swift Current when I saw him pull into a gas station. When I caught up to him I asked "What the heck dude?" He said that his bike had just coughed to a stop and wouldn't start again. He remembered it has a small reserve of gas but had to flip a switch and then it coughed back into life again. My dirt bike had had one too - I'd forgotten that in the ensuing 25 years since I rode one. My Gladius does not have one, but does have a "Low Fuel" light. I haven't seen it yet. Even though his bike has a slightly bigger tank and we rode the same distance, his bike was just working much harder. 

I also discovered on that trip that even with the driving rain, I was dry inside my suit. Thank you Joe Rocket - my investment just paid for itself.

And, just to give this story a Saskatchewan flavour - somewhere during the ride back, a big cattle semi drove by us, spraying dirt and who knows what else on me and the bike. Ewww! Had to wipe off the visor with my glove and was seriously impatient to get to the next town to find a car wash. After riding 40 kms in that state, the rain came down in a torrent and took care of the problem! Thank goodness! By the next town I was totally clean, again. Still have to smile thinking about that all these months later.

A test of endurance to be sure, but I did it. Put 2200 kms on the bike by the time we rolled back up the driveway. 

Some friends asked us the next day if we wanted to go on a ride out to the lake and we said, "No thank you. Not really, not today. We're good. We'll join you another day though". We were sore from fighting the wind. 

I know that a good portion of you go on much longer rides, but for us it was a good experience and we were tired enough, and most happy with what we had done and seen on our two wheels out there on the open road.