WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: WanderNorth 10 - Pincher Creek, Alberta
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 23:33:25 -0700

    In New Hampshire they used to say if you don't like the weather, wait a minute. The weather finally decided to crowd the clouds, and the beauties of yesterday were shrouded in drizzly mist. It is still a scenic ride, but the awesome factor is greatly diminished. If you have a choice in passing through here, wait for a clear day.
    Twenty-nine kilometers north of Banff, I randomly chose to avoid the clouds ahead, skip Calgary and zip back over the continental divide to Radium Hot Springs. Later, listening to the weather channel, I found this was a most propitious randomization ... Banff enjoyed 10 centimeters of fresh snow during the day!
    While crossing the divide and coming down the pass, it suddenly occurred to me what was missing in this ride since entering the high country. Although the Canadian Rockies are stunning in their form and density, they are more distant from the road than in the US. The roads in Canada almost completely follow a river through the center of its valley. The roads are "less involved" in the geometry of the geography - even in the passes. Maybe it is because a lot of the roads in the US mountains coursed from mining town to mining town and weren't laid out along trapper trade routes. This came clear when the closest thing to what I would call a canyon yet in Canada (ok, I'm spoiled by California) presented itself in the last few kilometers above Radium ... and then it was signed for only 50 kph. On the positive side, riding through these great open valleys with 360 degree swivel-neck vistas is like sitting in an IMAX movie, but one you can control with your right wrist. Motorcycling is the real time version of the environmental participation movie.

    Often when following a road through less settled country you will see "the old road" paralleling it or sweeping away to curve over a hill that the new road blasted through. I like watching these old roads and seeing them adjust to the land rather than having the land adjusted for them. No, I'm not lost in the fantasy of travel in 'the good old days' ... but I do wonder what adventure it must have been to rumble over a one lane roughly paved track taking considerably more time to travel less distance than we are used to now. Think ahead to what it might be like in oh, say 100 years when someone finally invents an anti-gravity propulsion. Personal vehicles won't need to touch the ground and can avoid all that friction and bumps ... so the "road" surface won't be as important. How fast will they go? Will they follow specific tracks or use the same roads as today? Will today's roads become "the old road" that someone wonders about then? (No, I'm not advocating flying cars like were touted in Popular Mechanics in the 1950s. I've seen today's average driver have enough trouble with directional stability without also having to worry about the vehicle dropping from the sky while reaching to change the virtual reality holodisk ...).
    What stories lie untold down "the old road"? Sometimes it is fun to take the time to ride the cracked pavement with the grass growing where no centerline ever existed. (Be careful about those old bridges, though.) It was one such diversion excursion near Skookumchuck, BC, that led me around a corner to find a mama black bear and her cub foraging at the edge of the road. As I motored by, the cub sat up on his hind and watched with interest. I've seen that same look on kids faces many times.

    Making a lie of what I said yesterday regarding geographical boundaries, this time as soon as I crossed the Alberta border the land changed to flat endless plain of the great prairie. And the wet clouds caught me again. Think I'll settle in early and make it a short day.

Randumb observation from the Department of Redundant Repetition Department:
    In the town of Municipality of Crowsnest Pass (its full and proper name) there is a tourist information sign for local attractions. One such is the "Bellevue Underground Mine". Pause ... pause ... thunk. Are there any that aren't?

289 miles
Lake Louise AB/BC93 BC95 BC/AB3 AB6 Pincher Creek
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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