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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Banff... Bikes... and Bear Spray

Hold on to moments of peace
As life runs by
And go with crazy when all around
Seems so sane
Fight the Fear, Jump in whole, commit yourself
Live every moment and breathe every breath
Along with me

This advice I must live by
Keep smiling as the stars will shine

It is written in the Scriptures for life"

The verse that I wrote for the Guiness book of records single for LHS 'THE Scriptures' has been ringing round my head all this evening... reminding me to take a breath today before 'The CraZy' starts in the morning. It was as I was walking by the Bow River that that song and the flow of the river synched seemlessly with this moment in time....

But I'm getting waay ahead of myself....
As you know I hadn't had much sleep in the last 48 hours and I sunk into bed at well gone midnight after an exhausting travel schedule. I didn't sleep that well... waking up at 0230 convinced that it was at least 0900. Another awakening at 0545 before finally hauling my backside out of bed at just gone 0800. I had a plan for jobs that had to be accomplished but equally I was going to take it a bit easy

First up was putting my bike back together... easy enough. Saddle... pedals... handlebars... front wheel... zip tire the dynamo wire... adjust front brakes... put on aerobars...
No issues there... all going smoothly so far...

Breakfast.... must eat loads .... bacon...sausage... fried potatoes.. fried egg... fruit bowl... pancakes .. nope couldn't manage the pancakes...and why don't other countries do bacon properly???

Then it was time to do my shakedown ride. I chose to do it without kit.. just make sure the bike is running well. But first I had to make a purchase...
I got on my bike and headed down the main street direct to Monod Sports. They had promised a discount on Bear Spray to all racers so I went in and made my first ever purchase in Canadian dollars... for the price of 30ish dollars I got one can of bear spray... a holster... and an animated demonstration of how to release the safety and spray the bear. The advice that followed was free of charge (at least of the dollar kind). " If the bear charges... it usually does a mock charge first... so stand your ground... it will then stop and look at you. If it charges again... spray the hell out of it.. he will go down ... and then you pedal like fcuk"
He seemed pretty upbeat about my chances of survival generally... although he did say that I should take the bear spray to bed with me. Waay ahead of him there for sure!! 😁 That can of spray is going to be my best friend at night.... all jokes aside... it is pretty nerve wracking to be going out alone in bear country and one of the many fears that I have to park in the back of my mind.

Anyway... feeling pretty good about bears now... I threw the unopened newly bought can into my rucksack and headed over towards the start of the trail.annoyingly my handlebars kept going wonky despite tightening up the headset screw numerous times... that is until my jet lagged brain had forgotten to do up the OTHER 2 screws holding it in place... duh!

Surprisingly riding on the wrong side of the road had already become the norm for me and I even remembered that strange rule of being able to turn right on a red light... a peculiarity I learnt about on Route 66 when I was sitting at lights getting honked at! I sped down the avenue (more about the town in a bit) and towards the very impressive  Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

Built by the general manager of the Canadian Railway in 1888 because 'we cant import the scenery so we  will have to import the tourists. This was around the same time that the area was made into a national park. It is an imposing sight... built ... apparently ..  in the Scottish baronial style (that ones for mum!😁).
Anyway I sautered straight past it to the start of the Spray River Trail where my challenge will begin. The trail was dry and dusty gravel... through an avenue of pine trees. It reminded me of some of the rides myself and Nic and David J have been on in Scotland.... only the sun was shining... there was no mud... and no one fell off 😁

Im being careful not to use up my superlatives early on so... it was alright really..  it was peaceful and the birds were singing. In the background I could hear a woodpecker. The smell of pine pervaded everything and as I breathed in deeply... it felt like a bit of a dream. After a year of planning... reading all the books... watching the film over and over (and over) again ... I was standing here. The breeze made all the trees creak and sounds from all corners joined in the tune of nature.

As I cycled on... one stiff climb later... I reached a point overlooking the Bow River and stopped. Today was not for racing... today was for admiring. As I stood there another mountain biker crawled up the hill (making me feel better about grinding up it slowly). We said hi ... and as she plodded onward I noticed she already had the bear spray attached. Mine was safely in its wrapper... in my bag. This made me laff... can you imagine if I'd got attacked by a bear with unopened bear spray still in my bag. Oh the irony. So even though I was only 5 mins from civilisation.. I pulled off the wrapper and attached the holster to my belt. Looking somewhat like a gunslinger .. I practiced pulling it out of the holster in a hurry and flicking off the safety. Yeah I felt a bit silly but more silly not to have tried this and realise at the wrong moment that you cant get it out!
Im keeping it on my belt so I dont get separated from it. (New best friend).

All Bear Sprayed up I carried on ... slowing at corners (just in case) and generally pootling along. I tried out my new aerobars and found to my surprise that they were pretty comfortable and I could cycle nicely on the flat and some slight inclines holding onto them. I stopped again to film the video that hopefully you have now all seen and could feel the sheer joy welling up in me. To be alone amidst nature is how I fortify my soul. How lucky I am... no matter what happens on this journey.. to be able to be here... to be fit (ish) and well enough to be able to contemplate trying this. I urge every one of my friends to at some point in the next month to make a point of getting on a bike... or on your feet... and get outside into the countyside. There are those that (having not hidden their hands when they met me) that have promised to do varying distances on a bike whilst I am away... John D-B ... 50 miles... Graham L... 50 miles... Ali S... 20 miles... so thank you to them for supporting me in that way.

Back to the route... I ambled along... conscious that I was already over 3000 ft higher than I would normally reside and Im blaming that for the out of breathness for sure. The trail was quiet ... no people... and I found myself in reverie... and then... wkthout warning... there was a click.. and a clunk.. and my aerobars sheared off where they attached to the bike... hitting the ground with my actioncam and my gps attached... bouncing perilously close to the edge of a drop... but fortunately stopling just short. FCUK!!

Given that Id just worked out that I liked them... this was a bit of a pain. Not a necessity to my ride for sure... but they provided relief for my hands and a place to mount stuff so if I could get them back on my bike it would be good. Unfortunately the attachments were too narrow to fit directly onto my bars so unless I could find a bar extender in a bike shop... they would have to go. Back to Banff then.

I wasnt too upset. That was the point of this ride.. to check that all was well with my bike. So I turned round and back to town where 3 shops later I had to admit defeat. Repeatedly told that I could get some in Canmore... it was a case of not enough time and too much effort.

I rode back to the hotel to sort that and a couple of other minor issues... my bottle holder was loose and kept slipping on the frame and there was a clicking in my front wheel as it turned.

It was still hot and sunny but the breeze had strengthened and some darker clouds were bubbling up over the mountains. I got back to the hotel and proceeded to sort out the small annoyances and attach my garmit etrex and camera mount to my handlebars. The aerobars went in the bin. A shame but not devestatingly awful!

I then resolved to walk back into town.. find food and then get back for an early night. As I strolled downtown ... I was trying to work out what sort of place Banff was. It wasnt quite a swiss alpine village but it wasnt anything like a typical US town either. It was touristy without being overly so and had a quaint feel to it.
It reminded me in part of Franz Joseph in New Zealand in fact... with signs for outdoor adventure and shops filled with outdoor gear... my kinda place. It was clean... and neat and tidy and I decided that I liked it very much. As I was walking along I realised that in a relative way this had already become a familiar place and tomorrow I wpuld be leaving this comfortable existance ... and by comfortable I mean in a psychological way... and heading out into the unknown. SHIT ... what have I done.. again! You would think I'd learn! But in fact that feeling was part of the buzz I get. Being scared and nervous is part and parcel of testing myself and I wouldnt have it any other way.

I found a pizza place and spent a nice hour there... devouring an entire pizza and chilling out.
On advice from the barman.. I decided to go for a short walk to see the Bow River Falls and headed to the river edge. The Bow River is that glacial blue/grey colour and seemed to flow pretty calmly as I walked beside it. I did intent to stop and sit and read for a bit but 2 sudden sharp pains reminded me why that wasnt a good idea. 2 mosquitos the size of 10p pieces landed on me and sensing that I was an easy target given all the welsh mossie bites.. proceeded to do what mosqitoes do and bit me. Bloody things!
As I proceeded along the river trail... the river reflected my internal feelings over the past day. Calm and quiet... meandering along... then suddenly starting to pick up the pace... becoming more frantic in its rush to get somewhere... white tops frothing up... suddenly tumbling and roaring and chaos.
Life reflecting nature.

Then it was back to the hotel. The clouds were now looking ominous and skudding across the sky from the direction I would be heading tomorrow. Water bottles filled and bags onto bike. Taking care that I didnt lose anything.

And so as I sit here blogging... jet lag takes over me and I fell asleep before posting. And now its morning and im hurridly finishimg this before taking a deep breath and heading out. As I do I want to say that I am simultaneously humbled and overwhelmed by the suplort from both friends and strangers. All the comments and shares and likes are appreciated so much. As I set my wheels to head South... your generosity has already raised over £600 before a pedal has even been turned. I will do my utmost to reply to all the comments but if I dont please understand that signal and time may not be great but I am reading and they boost me no end.

Gotta go now... the trail is calling!