August 8, 2014 – Welcome to America
Day 205 - Distance biked so far: (14,049 km)
I spent a day in Banff and really enjoyed the small town. I went to an art gallery on the main street and spent a few hours looking at pictures from a local artist. He was there and gave and a small group a tour of his work. He focused on wildlife had a picture story of 3 grizzly bears that he has been following since they were cubs in the Banff area. They are still roaming around together and he spends time every few months looking for them and taking their pictures. It was remarkable to see the growth in the cubs over the last few years. Here are a few pictures of the beautiful town.
I cycled from Banff into Calgary to visit a friend that I had never met in person. Celine Soulard is a fellow cycling enthusiast and we have been communicating over the years. She was very generous in her support of the relief efforts after the typhoon in the Philippines despite not even knowing me. She follows along on my trip and it was a pleasure to meet her and her golden retriever Tashi. I stayed with Celine, Eric and Tashi for 2 nights and really appreciated their generous hospitality. Celine has many stories of her very adventurous life. She is also a restless spirit and planning her next bike trip down in Central America.
I cycled out of Calgary along one of the numerous bike paths and then headed south along the Cowboy Trail towards Waterton Park. It is a spectacular part of the country with the prairies running right up to the Rocky Mountains that you could see in the distance.
I reached Waterton and the first view was the Prince of Wales hotel perched on a cliff overlooking the small town.
The beautiful sunny day disguised the storm approaching but for now the scenery was incredible.
The weather forecast on the day I arrived called for a wind warning with winds in excess of 100 kmh so I thought it would be a good time to have a day off and do some hiking. I set up my tent in the late afternoon and walked into town to see the sights and have a dinner. After my meal and as I was walking back to the campground a sudden hailstorm hit. The entire road was covered in small ice balls with cars being pelted and people running for cover. I stood undercover for about 20 minutes as the temperatures plummeted and when it passed I returned to my tent. The tent was nowhere to be seen and the campground looked like a tornado had ripped through. I had put all my pannier bags in the tent for added weight but it still managed to end up over 100 meters from where it was set up and my rain fly was torn.
I tried to apply duct tape but there were too many holes so had to move my tent inside one of the picnic shelters to sleep for the night. The next morning I bought a sheet of plastic and can put that between the tent and rain fly to provide a waterproof cover until I find a new tent.
Here are a few of the ice balls from the hailstorm. Getting hit by one of these would sting.
On July 25th I cycled across the border into the United States. The border crossing is at the remote Chief Mountain on the edge of the Waterton/Glacier National Park. Waterton Park and Glacier Park are extensions of each other that happen to have an international border run through. It is the world’s largest Peace Park, not sure how many others there are though.
Here is a summary of a few things since I left Bangkok on January 15, 2014.
- Days on the road – 190
- Km’s cycled – 14,049
- # Of flat tires – 3 (none in Canada despite cycling 730 km of gravel on the Dempster Highway)
- Countries visited – 6 (Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, Canada)
- Money found on the road - $28.31 (to be donated to Angel House after 2 years on the road)
Books read in Canada
- Land of the Midnight Sun: A history of the Yukon (Ken Coates, William Morrison)
- Walking Home from Mongolia (A walk from Mongolia to Hong Kong) (Rob Lilwall)
- Moods of Future Joy: A bicycle trip around the world Part 1 (Alastair Humphreys)
- Thunder and Sunshine: A bicycle trip around the world Part 2 (Alastair Humphreys)
- Twenty Thousand Miles to See a Tree: An Around the World bicycle journey (Cindy Cohagan)
- Canadian History for Dummies (one of the best general History books I have ever read) (Will Ferguson)
Welcome to the United States of America
I was wondering about the level of security at the border. My bags have never been searched and thought they might crossing into the U.S but the guard just asked a few questions and welcomed me in. I know that a lot of people now try to avoid the U.S because of the over zealous immigration policies at airports but the land crossing was easy and in a matter of minutes I crossed into country number 7.
I crossed from the province of Alberta into the State of Montana.
Montana is the 4th largest State in the U.S.A, an area slightly larger than Japan, but ranks only 44th in terms of population. It is far more populated than the areas I cycled in the Yukon however, so it felt like I was definitely back in civilization. The State of Montana’s economy is largely dependent on ranching and grain farms and I would be passing through those on my way south.
The Waterton and Glacier National Parks are both World Heritage Sites. I cycled south and soon passed the official entrance to Glacier National Park. One of the world’s great bicycle rides, in addition to the Icefield’s Parkway that I rode in Banff/Jasper last week, is the Going to the Sun Road across Glacier Park. The road is one of the most difficult roads in North America to snowplow in the winter as Logan’s Pass, at the top of the Continental Divide, often has up to 24 meters (80 feet) of snow. Due to the severe weather, it is only open from early June to mid-October. With the narrow and windy road going up or down, they have placed restrictions on when you can ride a bike. The road is closed to cyclists between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm so I went up to the pass in the morning and then had to wait 5 hours until I could descend. I used that time to go for a hike. I carry hiking boots in my panniers so it was another chance to use them.
The road going up was under repairs but for the most part was hard packed dirt. It is a steady incline but not particularly steep. Here are a few views, climbing up the Going to the Sun road on a picture perfect day.
As I neared the top, I stopped to take in the views and a couple was in a car parked to the side. The girl came out and said she was so inspired that I biked all the way up on a fully loaded touring bike that she insisted on taking my picture. I assured her that the road was not steep and it was a very enjoyable ride but she said if anyone deserved a picture it was me, so she snapped away. Maybe I looked worse than I felt.
It was quite hot outside but still snow and ice on the side of the road.
At the top I changed from cycling shoes to hiking boots and spent a few hours on the spectacular trails that branched out from the Visitors Center. On this one you can see the traces of the road that I’ll be cycling down later.
At 4:00 pm I got back on my bike and headed down. It was the best downhill I have ever biked despite having to use my brakes a few times to slow down on the curves or to stop from running into the cars in front. There is a speed limit going down and I would easily hit that and have to slow. Here are a few views going down.
In Montana, they put up white crosses to mark the spot were people have died on the road. It’s a good reminder for drivers and I was amazed at how many I saw as I cycled south.
The people in Montana are working hard on their manners.
I was soon down on the flat ground and following one of the many lakes heading towards Missoula.
I biked late one day as I had a relatively late start. The weather here is very hot during the day but cool at night and in the mornings I am struggling to get up as early as I used to. It is usually a sign of fatigue when you don’t jump out of bed so I will take a day off in Missoula to rest a bit. There were some long uphills coming through Jasper, Banff and Glacier so maybe the cumulative effect is starting to make me tired. One night I was looking for a place to camp and noticed a small building off to the side. It was a small roadside information site with a picnic table and bathroom and I decided it would be a good place to stop. I didn’t really look around too much as I had to cook my dinner and set up my tent before dark but I did notice a small road going under the highway I just turned off. I thought it was one of those U-turn roads where you get off the highway, go underneath and then back the other way. Behind the washroom was an old trailer that was abandoned but with the warm weather and clear skies, I decided to not put up my tent and would just sleep beside the trailer on my air mattress and sleeping bag. It was in the open but I would be hidden from view beside the trailer.
The next morning I got up and as breakfast was cooking, wandered over to the information posters. It turns out that the road under the highway wasn’t a U-turn but one of those roads built for animals to cross under the highway. The tunnel had a camera in it that would take pictures of the animals to monitor the numbers and types that were using the tunnel to get across the highway. The sign had pictures of the animals that crossed through in the past few months. The pictures showed black bears, grizzly bears and a few mountain lions. In other words, all the animals that could have eaten me. I slept about 10 meters from the path leading into the tunnel. My first thought was I was lucky nothing came through last night or at least, nothing that I heard. My second thought was that at least there was nothing that could have crawled over me since I wasn’t in my tent. On my walk back to get breakfast, I noticed this sign.
Montana has the most outwardly signs of religion that I have seen anywhere in the world. There were large billboards everywhere sponsored by churches or religious groups with messages focused on anti-abortion or with crosses and bible verses written on the sides. There were also numerous churches of various sizes. In a somewhat ironic twist, the other highly visible establishments that seemed over represented based on the population were liquor stores, gun and ammunition retail outlets and casinos. I’m not sure what that says about the people in Montana but they do appear to have somewhat conflicting priorities.
I have always had some inner conflicts over how people pick and choose what they believe in. For example, most religions are opposed to killing. In Buddhism, one of the precepts is an admonition against the taking of life, which means all life, including animals and insects. I attended a 10-day silent treat in Thailand back in 2012 and remember one of the Buddhist Monks giving his Dhamma talk. At one point a mosquito landed on his arm and instead of swatting it like most of us, he carefully picked it off his arm and let it free. For them, life is life, and so they are also vegetarian. I like that consistency in thinking. In the Christian faith, there is also a Commandment that says thou shalt not kill but it has different meanings to different people. Conservatives are strongly opposed to abortion yet often support capital punishment. There is argument over when life starts which creates the conflict in terms of abortion and then there is the retribution value of capital punishment. There also appears to be little opposition to killing animals as hunting is quite popular with many people. The end result is that you can have areas with a lot of churches and gun stores, side by side, with little sense of irony. I’m still trying to figure out how the large numbers of liquor stores and casinos fit into this picture.
The road going south in Montana ran right through the Bitterroot Valley with prairies on one side and mountains on the other.
|Prairies and Mountains|
There are areas here that you would picture if you think of the remote areas of Montana. I think of rivers, mountains and fly fishing and this is exactly the kind of scenery that I would see.
As I entered Missoula, the temperatures continued to be warm. I saw this sign at 7:00 pm, it translates to 37 Celsius and it was much cooler than it had been earlier in the day. On the roads without shade, it makes for some hot days and it promises to get warmer as I head through Idaho and Oregon next week.
Missoula is the second most populous city in Montana and home of Adventure Cycling (ACA). I used to be a member of ACA but let it expire when I left the U.S back in 2007. ACA is an association dedicated to promoting cycling and has extensive maps of bike routes throughout the U.S. I will be following a few of their maps as I head across to the Pacific Coast and I wanted to see their headquarters, only partially because they give all bike tourists free ice cream. The building was a cyclists dream with an extensive collection of books on cycling and collections of numerous cycling memorabilia. All touring cyclists get there photo taken with their bikes and get on the wall of fame.
While I was there I had my entire bike and bags weighed. It turns out they weighed 55 kg (121 lbs.) but I wasn’t carrying any water. There was a time in the Outback of Australia that I carried 8 large bottles of water that weighed 12 kg (26 lbs.) so during those long stretches, I was pushing a total of 67 kg (148 lbs.). I’ll be thinking of what I can throw away before I head to South America and start cycling up the Andes Mountains.
In a few days I crossed the Lost Trail Pass at 2,138 meters (7,014 feet) and entered the State of Idaho.
From 2002 to 2007 I lived in Boise so this was in a sense a homecoming for me. I rode down the mountain pass and soon saw the familiar dry hills of Idaho.
I was still following the mountains on my left and they offered a stark contrast to the rolling brown hills.
My route in Idaho will follow the Salmon and then the Payette River all the way to Boise. The Salmon River was first and I would cycle along it for a few days. Here are some views as I headed south and west towards Boise.
|Beauty of Idaho|
The speed limit is low in some of the small towns because if a car here hit someone, you would lose 14% of the population.
I passed a lot of people fishing or on kayaks and white water rafts.
A lot of the highways have an Adopt a Highway program that is a fantastic way for the local people to keep their roads clear of garbage. I have seen a lot of the signs in Canada and the U.S but I’ve never seen someone out on the road actually picking up garbage. One day I passed a lady carrying a garbage bag so I stopped to talk. She said when you sign up for the program, you promise to keep your designated stretch of highway (usually a 2 mile stretch) clean. That means picking up garbage at least once per year. It is a simple plan but could really be of value in a lot of places in the world. A lot of people in SE Asia would love to have cleaner roads and beaches but the governments do not have the resources to devote to the environment. Using the Adopt a Highway or Adopt a Beach approach, you take government out of the equation so things could actually get done. It would be great to see a similar program in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia or the Philippines.
|Adopt a Highway|
One day I had to face my ultimate dilemma. On one hand I could have a good coffee but on the other, the café owners were keen supporters of the NRA (National Rifle Association) an organization I am deeply opposed to. The coffee won out but I certainly did not join the NRA.
One day I rolled into the small town of Lowman, Idaho when the skies opened up and I took a brief refuge from the rain in front of an abandoned restaurant. As the rain slowed I headed out and a few minutes later noticed 2 dogs running across the field towards me. They were barking but didn’t look terribly aggressive so I simply got off my bike, an effort that typically stops dogs in their tracks. One of them lost interest but the other was getting close and more aggressive at the same time. I swung my bike around and tried to run my front wheel into him, an aggressive act that typically makes dogs back down. He immediately ran around behind me and kept inching closer. I turned my bike but with the weight of the panniers it fell down with me on stumbling down on top, with the dog only a few feet away and still showing it’s fangs. I grabbed my water bottle and raised as if I were going to throw it at him but it just seemed to make him more aggressive. I was now down on my knees with him very close and not showing any sign of backing off. I quickly opened my handlebar bag and pulled out the bear spray I have carried since I was in Inuvik, took off the safety and let him have it. The high-speed orange spray hit him directly in the face and he ran off yelping. I have never had such a close call with a dog that seemed intent on biting me but the spray worked. I read later that although bear spray is most effective on bears, it has often been useful to deter a dog attack. It is an irritant and the effects would wear off in about 15 minutes and does not cause permanent damage, although that was the least of my concerns. That dog should not be running loose but hopefully he will think twice about doing that to other cyclists.
The road from Lowman to Banks turned out to be a spectacular ride. The road meanders through a remote canyon and the lightning and thunderstorm that day made it eerie but beautiful. Here is a few picture of the canyon approaching Garden Valley, Idaho.
I slept in the wild just outside Garden Valley and then continued following the Payette River towards Boise. I biked along rapids and could hear the rushing water all day.
The north fork of the Payette River in Banks, Idaho has Class 5 rapids that only elite kayakers would dare to challenge. They are considered Class 5 when the rapids are so big and continuous that if you fell there would be little hope of getting out of the water. This is the end of the Class 5 stretch of river.
Later that day I arrived in Horseshoe Bend, just outside of Boise. I had forgotten about the hill leading out of the town but was soon on a long stretch that rises 500 meters in a 5-mile stretch. The hill wasn’t that steep at 7% but as I went up, I kept stopping to pick up coins. As part of my support of the Angel House Orphanage, I pick up loose coins on the road and track the amount as I continue around the world. As luck would have it, I found 7 different coins on the climb. I admit it is a little strange to lose momentum by stopping on a long climb to get off your bike and pick up a penny but every little bit helps. I ended up finding $0.40 cents on the 8-kilometer stretch and then spent the rest of the distance to Boise calculating how much I would collect if I found the same amount of money as I rode around the world. My planned route is 50,000 km so if I found $0.40 cents every 8 km, it would mean $2,500 dollars at the end of my trip around the world. Now you know the very important things that occupy my mind at times.
As I approached Boise I passed the 14,000 km mark.
On Tuesday August 6th, I entered Boise. I am staying with different friends for 3 nights before continuing my route to the Pacific Coast. I have decided not to cycle back home to Ontario but will cycling west and south to Los Angeles. Once I am there I will be leaving my bike and fly back home to visit my family and friends for a few weeks. I didn't want to bike all the way across the Prairies and then have to bike back again to make it down into Mexico so will stay on the West coast and continue my route south.
My first stop in Boise was with Robert and Jeri and they welcomed me with open arms. Robert is the man who has created and managed my website for the last few years and is a former co-worker at an accounting firm in Boise. I arrived there and they treated me to a wonderful dinner at an Indian restaurant while we caught up on our lives. They couldn’t do enough for me and after a great night sleep in a real bed and a delicious lunch of pizza, I was on my way again. The visit was way too short but I thoroughly enjoyed my time and I can’t say enough about the hospitality they both offered. To Robert and Jeri, thank you for sharing your home.
|Robert and Jeri|
On Wednesday afternoon I cycled across town to visit the home where I used to live. This was my home for 4 years.
My next stop was with Patrick and Rachel Hugens. I had never met them but was introduced to Rachel on Facebook. We ended up having a lot in common. They are both avid bicycle tourist and often host other cyclists coming through town. They met each other years ago on their separate bicycle tours and have travelled extensively on bicycles around the world. Patrick is also Dutch and while there they gave me some Dutch salted licorice that I love. We talked about our various trips and plans going forward and enjoyed a fantastic dinner and a few beers. They were very trusting and allowed me to wake up on my own schedule as they left their home to go to work early in the morning. It is the kind of hospitality that is so endearing, people welcoming strangers into their home and having complete trust in them. I know they experienced a lot of that trust as they rode their bicycles around the world and now they are offering the same in return. I love that exchange of generosity and I just hope that one day I can return it to both of them. Here is a picture of Patrick and Rachel Hugens of Boise.
This is the Boise River that runs through the City. It is a right of passage for those living here to float down the river on an inner tube on a warm summer day.
The Capital building of Boise.
For my last night I met up with my friends Hugh and Pam. Hugh is a good friend who helped me a lot when I was going through some difficult periods in Boise. We often had good fun conversations so it was a great chance to catch up. Pam cooked a delicious dinner and Hugh and I talked until late. It is too bad I wasn’t there longer as we had a lot of things to discuss. The next morning he had to leave for work early so I had a chance to talk with Pam for a while and also enjoyed that very much. It was great to meet up again and thank you both for your very generous hospitality and friendship.
As I have mentioned in the past, the purpose of my around the world bicycle trip is to raise support and awareness of the Angel House Orphanage in the Philippines, their website can be found here, http://www.angelhousephilippines.org
As I continue around the world, life goes on for all the children being raised without parents. In mid-July 2-year old Ja and his 1-year old brother Jo arrived at Angel House for temporary care. David and his staff find homes for abandoned children but also will assist parents who cannot care for the kids for various reasons. Angel House provides a safe haven on a temporary basis for some children who need a break. There are now 15 children being cared for and the staff is being kept very busy.
|Ja and Jo|
It is hard for me to imagine how a donation to any form of charity could provide more of a direct help to those in need. David does not receive any form of corporate support or financial assistance from a church but relies solely on individuals around the world. Please consider helping David and his staff cares for these beautiful children. If you are interested in providing financial support or wish to help in any way, please contact me via e-mail or David at the website above.