Remember what I said about plans? The top lesson that I have learned so far is that planning anything outside of the vaguest inclinations will all go to waste, and are all illusions of control that we rarely have over our lives. To wit:
Prior to arriving in Calgary to begin my ride, I phoned a local bike shop and made an appointment so that I could make sure everything was in good working order after coming off of a plane. I was all set to bring it in for Saturday morning (I flew in Thursday afternoon), which would have been great except that my bike didn't make it on to my flight. Or the flight after that. Or for three subsequent flights, in fact, until someone at the airline made it a priority to finally get my bike to me.
This would have been more problematic, but it all kind of worked out because my friend and support crew of one, James, was loaded down with an unexpected amount of work, and needed a few extra days.
Which was all fine and dandy until I considered that summer weekend traffic to Banff would be unruly, at best, and I realized I should ride on a day ahead of him, thus avoiding traffic. So, I packed up my things to hit the road, and went to bed after several hours of giddy sleeplessness.
Which was great, until I woke up with the fiercest headache this side of the Atlantic, a sore throat, an upset stomach, and blocked sinuses.
Whatever. I was getting on my bike.
I strapped my supplies on, stopped by my friend Theresa's office to pick up my toothbrush and hat, and headed out to begin my adventure...by heading southeast instead of northwest for the better part of an hour. By the time I passed the spot I had started from, I had lost two hours of my day, with an already late start due to illness. I know this all sounds very face-palm moment esque, but it was a beautiful day, and a solid dose of over the counter pain meds allowed me to ignore most of my ailments. Plus, I only got turned around a handful more times before making it out of Calgary (seven is a handful, right?).
Lesson number two bears mentioning here: unless I am intimately familiar with my surroundings, I am directionally challenged and can be relied upon to go entirely the wrong direction.
On this trip to date, without fail, every time I had the opportunity to turn more than one direction, I got it wrong. It's part of my charm; I don't have any intention of getting better at it. Anyone planning to see me en route, take note: if you're waiting for me somewhere, please allow 10-120 minutes for potential/inevitable navigation failures.
As I rolled toward Banff, the struggle to keep food down was tempered by the absolutely mind-blowing scenery. British Columbia is excited about how pretty it is, but its neighbour to the east gives it a solid run for its money. Rolling green pastures are set against the backdrop of the Rockies, while the Caribbean-hued Bow river winds its way alongside perfectly paved roads. In the mountains, deep forests give way to sheer rockface on standing giants that dwarf the sky. It is breathtaking in its majesty, and is a perfect way to kick off a bike tour, sick or otherwise.
As I passed my halfway point, I realized it would be very nearly dark by the time I got to Banff, and that making it to my intended campsite wasn't going to happen. Thankfully, my friend Theresa organized a hostel bed for me just outside of Banff in a small town called Canmore. By the time I got in at 7:30, buying food nearby was not an option. I stopped a group of people to ask about where I could grab a bite, and it turned out that they owned a food truck that had just closed. Graciously, they gave me a box of kimchee fried rice, gratis, and sent my on my way up the 15%+ grade gravel road to the hostel to settle in.
I awoke the next morning to a text that James was still delayed and a sore throat fit to kill. My head throbbed, and the floor swam in front of me. Closing my eyes offered no reprieve, and the pain prevented me from going back to sleep. I thought of riding anyway, but reports from another man who showed up as well as a search of my own told me that there weren't any campsites available for almost a hundred miles west of me, and I was in no shape to ride further than that. Given how I was feeling, it was excuse enough for me. I postponed my plans to ride, booked an extra night to stay, and spent the day curled up in fetal position hoping for the worst to pass.