July 19, 2005 GMT
Hoodoo Chile

Banff is quite the resort town. I've never been to Aspen or Sundance, but this has to be as swanky, if not more so. Once there I ran into one of two BMW riding brothers I camped next to in Jasper. They sent me a nearby campground about 3 miles outside of town. In line I was spotted by Toddy--the Kiwi I ran into in Coldfoot on the Dalton Hwy, again in Dawson City, YT, and again in Keno City. He's a great guy, full of stories told in an accent so thick, and with colloquialisms so obscure, you aren't sure you understood the story but you laugh anyway. We split the pricey campsite and he wasted no time inviting two young ladies in the site next to ours to enjoy the fire. They were hitchhiking and backbacking from Germany, heading North after a couple days working on a cherry farm to make some cash. When we heard they hadn't eaten, Toddy and I broke out the provisions, offering leftover pasta salad, fruit salad, meuselix and Snickers bars. We won them over but they declined Toddy's invitation to abandon their croweded little tent for his spacious one. His approach is bold; at a local bar he asked the beautiful server where all the "chicks" were. "In New Zealand," he explains to her incredulous look, "we call them chicks or sheilas." "Well," she said, "you're in Canada now, and if you want to meet any of them you might want to refer to them as women or girls." Ouch.

We saw stars that night for the first time in two months. Rain dampened the exploration of the area the next couple days but we did have time for hot springs, a short hike to hoodoos, coffee and beers in town. I bought some provisions for the girls before they left for Lake Louise. As poor as I feel I haven't missed too many meals. We exchanged info and will keep in touch. (Octoberfest?).

The last morning I'm packing to leave Banff and realize I left the heated grips on again all night. This time I could not even get a dim light. I might have killed it for good. I puncture a juice box and think about my options. I managed to push start it--and pull a groin muscle in the process. I run it hard for 20 minutes the park and pack up. Once packed I try to start it again and ... nothing. The girls tried to help to push start it, to no avail. Then some guys pitched in to help and after a couple tries it got running again. But for how long? Looks like if I turn off the engine it's dead. It's Sunday. There are no motorcycle shops in Banff but there should be in Calgary--somewhere. Would they be open on a Sunday? Would they be open on a Monday? In the USA sometimes not. Could I park on a steep hill?

Well I get to the Olympic village ski jump hill on the west side of Calgary, start down the hill and put it in neutral. I shut off the engine then try to restart it with the starter button. It fires up! I'm good to go. I stop at the nearest gas station for fuel and my debit card is rejected. D'oh! A few calls later and I find out my unauthorized user made another attempt which was luckily denied. I got the green light for card usage. Traffic is insane and all of it cowboys and cowgirls coming from the Calgary Stampede; the annual ten-day animal abuse festival. This year nine horses were killed being stampeded into town. The local paper had an opinion letter to the editor saying "The Bible says the creatures are just lesser animals, so don't feel sorry for them, let's just do better next time." Swell. In Banff we caught some of the calf neck-wringing competition. 3.1 seconds flat? Impressive. I head back towards Banff then take the forest service roads south to avoid traffic.

Anyway, just arrived in West Yellowstone, looking for my campsite and will explore the north side of the park this afternoon. Have some pics to upload but primitive services here won't allow me.

How could I forget to mention Glacier Nat'l Park, right at the USA/BC border? The "Road to the Sun" is the most spectacular 20 miles of road I have seen on this trip, hands down. The mosquitos in Montana are the worst of any I've encountered. In Alaska they are big and noisy. You can hear them coming. In Montana they are small but swarm all over you from all directions. You can only laugh as you set up a tent while wearing helmet and all gear then jump inside to kill the ones that got in with you. Crazy.

Hope to see wolves here in Yellowstone. Tetons next up. Photos in a few days.

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Posted by James McPherson at July 19, 2005 07:48 PM GMT
 


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