September 06, 2009 GMT
Alberta

Leaving Meadow Lake Provincial Park, Saskatchewan on a 70 mile stretch of dirt road I saw five deer, a common sight in these parts. The Moose, Elk and Bears are much harder to spot. It was a warm day but the tent and tarpaulin were damp from the morning dew so I stopped to dry them off on the grass by a side road after a couple of hours riding.

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Alberta Agricultural Scenery

Stopping for lunch at a good local diner and the first hot food in several days since the camping stove packed in, I met a farmer. She was complaining of the drought and the resulting high price and scarcity of hay which she had to buy to feed horses. Drought I thought, what drought. I have experienced more than my fair share of rain crossing Canada and it had been raining only two days previously a 100 miles or so to the east. But no, Alberta has been in a long damaging drought and is desperate for some rain. I thought, YIPPEE, DRY WARM WEATHER. I then felt a little guilty for these selfish thoughts and commiserated with the farmer although I’m not sure if the sincerity came across.

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Alberta Agricultural Scenery And Little Traffic

The scenery changed from forest to agricultural shortly before the Alberta border. Cattle, horses, grain of some kind and oil seed rape. I had thought a lot of central Canada would be growing grain but this was the first I had come across.

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Edmonton Parliament Building

Arriving in Edmonton via highways 55 and 28 I found the hostel, or at least my GPS did and settled in for a weekend of big city life. The Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival, the biggest in North America they boast was a short walk away.

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Edmonton Fringe Festival

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A Hideous Scary Monster Lures Another Innocent Bystander Into Her Lair By Playing The Violin

I located an MSR stove dealer on the local high street and walked there with my faulty stove hoping to get the spare part for the pump. They took the pump into a back room, repaired it and wouldn’t accept any payment. Fantastic service.

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Edmonton Skyline From Chinese Garden

At the opposite side of town the Annual Edmonton Dragon Boat Races were being run from a Chinese Park.

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Edmonton Dragon Boat Race

Travelling across Canada I have heard tales about the cold temperatures of a Canadian winter. Temperatures I cannot imagine, -30, -40 centigrade. One guy said the coldest he had been in 'up north' was -72 centigrade. I don't particularly like cold weather but have decided that I ought to experience a Canadian winter if possible. I hope to find a winter base where I can stay through the winter then continue the motorcycle journey in the spring.

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Approaching Jasper From Edmonton

Heading towards Jasper I stopped at each small town looking for winter accommodation possibilities. Shortly after leaving Edson the Rocky Mountains appeared on the horizon. The first mountains that rise above the tree line I have seen on this trip.

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With Views Like This Behind It's Hard To Focus Ahead

On arriving in Jasper I checked the accommodation adverts and went to view a couple of places. Rents are unsurprisingly a lot more expensive than in the centre of Canada.

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Harley Sidecar Outfit In Jasper

The next day I had to find a fax machine to send the motorcycle insurance renewal form in. I had tried to do it over the internet or phone but the insurance company said I would have to download the application form from their website, print it out, fill it in then fax or scan and email the completed document back. I had my original application form with me so I bypassed a few steps and tippexed (white out I think it is called in America) the dates out and entered the new dates. The new policy was emailed to me a few days later and I got it printed out in a library. It seems an antiquated system compared to Europe.

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>b>Jasper From Whistlers Mountain Treeline

After finally getting the insurance form faxed I was ready for some exercise so headed up The Whistlers mountains behind Jasper Hostel. There wasn’t time to get to the top but I made it to just above the tree line before heading back.

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Canadian Rockies From Highway 93

Moving on, I decided to head back out of Jasper National Park thinking I would have a better chance of finding winter accommodation outside the park. I headed for Nordegg, down highway 93, a scenic route running through the National Park.

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Snow In August, Canadian Rockies

Stopping at Columbia Icefield I saw my first glacier. I was a bit disappointed that the glacier was roped off. To walk on the glacier you had to hire crampons and join a guided tour. Health and Safety was the reason for the rope fence. There is running water underneath the glacier and it is possible to fall into a crevasse into the freezing water.

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Columbia Icefield Just Off Highway 93

The leading edge of the glacier had picked up mud, rocks and debris making it a dirty brown colour. Further back it was whiter but there were a few open crevasses revealing sparkling blue ice. I guess if the fence hadn’t been there I would have been tempted to climb up to a crevasse and peer inside it. Leaning over to capture the blue ice on camera I would probably fall in and meet a frozen watery grave and be unable to finish my motorbike trip. Just as well the fence is there really!

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Columbia Icefield Glacier

Marker stones showed how far the glacier has receded over the last 100 years. It has shrunk about quarter of a mile thanks to global warming.

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Columbia Icefield Glacier, Marker Shows How Much It Has Receded

Nordegg is a small ex coal mining community. The coal mine closed in 1957 I was told by a couple of local retired miners. These miners were taking a four wheel drive jeep up a rugged trail to check out the area in preparation for the hunting season that was due to start.

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Nordegg Hostel

I was tempted to head back into Jasper National Park and continue south on scenic route 93 to Banff but took highway 11 and 22 via Rocky Mountain House and Cochrane to Calgary. This route offered better chances for finding some winter accommodation. The bike was booked into the BMW dealership for its 18,000 mile service and a new rear tyre. When I pulled up outside Calgary hostel I had done exactly 12,000 miles since starting this trip in Miami.

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Cochrane With Rockies On The Horizon

Whilst the bike was being serviced I walked round Calgary city centre then into a number of parks on my way to collect the bike. The service had been completed but the rear tyre I had ordered to match the front was out of stock. The tyre suppliers computer said there was one in stock but when they went to get it on the morning of the service it wasn’t there. I had the choice of continuing with my by now illegal rear tyre, fitting two matching tyres (The dealerships choice) or fitting a different rear tyre. I opted for the different rear tyre and chose one with a reasonably close tread pattern to the original. Once fitted the profile was different and the handling felt a bit light and less stable. This could be that the tyre needs running in or that it mismatches the front. Either way it is legal again and I will fit a new front tyre to match the rear in about 3000 miles time.

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Calgary Skyline

From Calgary I headed west again to Canmore and Banff, both touristy towns in the Rockies.

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Canmore Park

I had an interesting ‘Catch 22’ scenario with my debit card and credit cards which put my travels on hold for a few days. I have had continuous problems with my UK bank debit and credit cards since starting this trip.

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Canmore Hostel Terrace. At Least I Had A View Whilst Trying To Persuade My Bank To Let Me Spend My Money

Experiencing more problems I had to phone Tmobile to top up my phone credit before yet more lengthy, expensive trans-continental calls to the bank. Both my debit card and credit card were rejected. Living outside of America I cannot top up the phone on the internet and in Canada nobody could tell me any shops where Tmobile top up cards could be bought.

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Canmore From Hostel

So my debit and credit cards weren’t working and I couldn’t phone the bank to resolve the issue because Tmobile wouldn’t accept my debit and credit cards! So if you were thinking that riding a motorcycle round the world is all a bed of roses think again. There are the occasional thorns in that bed of roses!

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Canmore Hostel

All the winter accommodation places I viewed wanted someone to move in straight away and I was hoping to find somewhere that I could arrange to move into mid October so that I could ‘pop down’ to California for the Horizons Unlimited gathering between 24th and 27th September. In addition I still haven’t been able to top my phone up so can’t use it to book viewing appointments etc. I have decided to go to the Horizons Unlimited weekend then head back to Alberta and hope plenty of immediate occupancy places are available as it could be getting chilly by then.

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Banff Park

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Banff Park

My last stop in Alberta was Waterton Lake National Park on the Montana border. I headed there as it had a hostel but on arrival it was closed. There was a campsite near by and I got booked in there instead.

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Waterton National Park

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Deer In Waterton

Deer were walking through Waterton town an the campsite continuously. I was thinking of extending my stay and doing some more walking in the area but on the last day a strong wind picked up. The tent next to mine was flattened and my tarpaulin pole had blown down. The wind continued through the night and one of my tent poles bent in a strong gust. Fearing that the tent could be damaged I decided to leave as planned and head for Glacier National Park and the “Road To The Sun” in Montana.

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Cloudy East And Sunny West Side Of Rockies On The Way To Montana

Posted by ianmoor@tiscali.co.uk at September 06, 2009 10:24 PM GMT
 


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