To Calgary

I’m in Calgary! How cool is that? I could not be happier to be done with the mountains.
I was awoken early this morning by the sound of numerous raindrops hitting my tent. But I had done such a great job setting it up that I wasn’t worried. Some days I do a great job with my tent. Others days, onlookers must wonder why I waited until I was camping to figure the thing out – perhaps I had a day pass from somewhere. I had to pack up my tent a bit wet, which is not ideal, but it’s life.
When I started riding at about 9, the sun was out and the air had a morning chill to it. What I wouldn’t have given to have kept that temperature throughout the day. I got back on highway 1 and headed east. As I was climbing a hill in the morning, I saw the cloud. The dark, ominous storm cloud ahead of me. The road is so twisty and turny, and the storms in the mountains are so unpredictable, that I thought maybe I would pass by it. As if laughing at that thought, the storm cloud produced lightning in the distance.
Up and up I went, and then the howling winds started. If you’ve ever driven a vehicle on the highway in high winds, you know how difficult it can be to control that vehicle. On a bike with panniers it’s twice as hard. Uphill.
The rain started just as I was approaching an overpass. I decided to take shelter under the overpass and try to wait out the storm. I put on my fleece and my rain coat, whined for a bit, and waited. It was then that I realized I really had to pee. I was left with a decision – wait out the storm and stay dry, which could take a long time as that one ominous cloud now had friends, or brave the storm and find a bathroom.
Out of the overpass I went, unhappy and wet. I had to tell myself to “suck it up, princess” to get out of there. The temperature had dropped significantly, and the wind had picked up, so my hands were freezing cold. About 3km later there was an exit for a casino. Hoping that the casino didn’t enforce a strict dress code, I pulled off the highway. After crossing 2 (2!) cattle guards, which they call Texas gates, I reached the casino. There was nowhere to put my bike where it would stay dry, so I leaned it up near the door and went inside. If you walk anywhere with enough confidence, even when dressed like a wet rat of a vagabond, you an use the bathroom. I immediately fell in love with the warmth of the building, and wanted to stay there forever. I waited a few minutes an the rain looked like it was letting up a bit, so I left.
It had gotten a little bit warmer, in part thanks to washing my hands in very hot water, but the storm was ever present. To the south I could see a huge storm cloud that let out a 10 second peel of thunder. Awesome.
Past the 2 (2!) cattle guards I went, back onto the highway. I pedalled and pedalled, unhappy about everything. I quickly realized that it would probably be to my benefit to eat something. It had been a few hours since I’d eaten, and on my roughly 4000-5000 calorie a day diet, that was too long. I had become hangry (so hungry that I was angry), but I could not fathom stopping to eat in that rainstorm.
And then, all if a sudden, I realized I had a shadow. The sun was out! I was in the eye of the storm and could see it on all sides of me. I scarfed down some food and rode on, rejoicing in that glorious sunshine.
I was able to stay in the eye of the storm for quite some time. I kept climbing the hill and then reached the top. I had read in the guide book that this was the final official hill before the Prairies. In other words, this hill marked the end of the mountains for me. Like other large hills, this one had a sign at the top indicating the elevation. When I saw the sign, I stopped to take a photo and said a brief speech to mark this momentous occasion. It was out loud (people if Paris style) and went a little something like this:
We stand here today, to mark the passing of an age. I am officially finished cycling the Rocky Mountains. Rocky Mountains, it was nice while it lasted. Although my sojourn was short, I appreciated being a part of your beautiful landscape. Thank you, for everything you have given to me. I will be back to visit you again, but in a car. It’s been real. Peace.
After that there was a nice downhill. There were a few serious inclines after that, but no more actual hills.
About 30km out of Calgary there was a service station with a restaurant, so I stopped for a meal and a giant cup of tea (it was too cold to drink water). As I was making my way to the restaurant it started raining again – the storm had caught up to me. It stopped raining while I was in the restaurant, and started up again as soon as I left. I was able to pedal out of the storm, but I could see the clouds following me.
The landscape flattened out quite a bit, and I could no longer see mountains either in front of me or next to me. It was a little odd, as I had become accustomed to their presence.
As I entered west Calgary the rain started again. It was like Mother Nature knew I would be in a hostel tonight and wanted I get in one last storm while she could.
I settled into the hostel and took a walk around the neighbourhood, you know, because I don’t get quite enough exercise during the day. My hostel is across the street from the Calgary Stampede stadium, which unfortunately isn’t on until July. After a meal and a shower, I am going to sleep in a bed, and enjoy it. Because I’m in Calgary.

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3 thoughts on “To Calgary

  1. Congratulations! B.C. , part of Alberta and the Rocky Mountains behind you. What an accomplishment Kat! YAHOO. I loved your tribute to yourself and the country. And when you do come back in a car, you will always look at those mountains and be reminded of your amazing trek ( I think that word can be used even if not on foot). And…you are a very entertaining writer, with a keen eye for detail! Prairies …..here she comes!! My brother and family live in Saskatoon if you need anything in that vicinity.

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