Sunday, March 20, 2005 - Perspective
Calgary to Golden on a Bike

- By: Magi Scallion

The question that everybody asked before we started was “Why? Why are you riding from Calgary to Golden?” I had a multitude of answers to this question. I was doing it because I only was going to be here for another 10 days, because I wanted to do the longest ride I have ever done, because I love the mountains, because I had to do 18 hours of training this week, because it was going to be so much fun, and most of all, I was doing it because I could.

The night before the ride, Cyrus Kangarloo and I still had no idea how we would return from Golden to Calgary. Our preparations for the voyage consisted of a couple short telephone calls introducing us, and a brief meeting the evening before the ride. We discussed such things as how many tubes and CO2 cartridges to bring and where and what time to meet. We were both nervous on Saturday evening and spent the evening preparing our bikes and trying to sleep at our respective homes – it was as if we had a big race the next day! The highlight of Saturday evening was when Cyrus confirmed that his parents would be able to give us a ride home from Golden! Until then we thought that we might have to take the bus back!

At 6 am on Sunday morning Cyrus and I met at the big red paperclip by the Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary. By that time I had already ridden 6 km and Cyrus had gone 12. We didn’t waste time and got on the road immediately. It was still dark and quite chilly. I had underdressed in shorts and Cyrus was only wearing short fingered cycling gloves on his hands, although he did have leg and arm warmers. We rode out of town along the main roads because there was absolutely no traffic. That was quite nice. We soon warmed up and the sun started to peak over the horizon as we approached the hill into Cochrane on the 1A.

The descent into Cochrane was a descent in more ways than one. It is a fun and fast hill, but on this particular morning it also signified a rapid descent in our body temperature. Halfway down the hill we hit thick fog. I could see droplets of water forming on my bike and on my bare legs. I had to keep pedaling for fear the moisture on my legs would freeze. Cyrus later told me that he lost the ability to brake because his hands were so cold he could not pull on his brake levers! This freezing, thick fog continued to coat the countryside, and us, until Exshaw. Cyrus and I traded my mittens back and forth and dreamed of warm sunshine that we hoped would soon crack through the clouds.

Shortly before we arrived in Canmore, Cyrus gave me his leg warmers and we were both much more cheerful with the sun shining on us! In Canmore we stopped at a small convenience store to get chocolate bars (“rations”) and some of the best banana chocolate chip loaf that I have ever eaten. I almost wanted to ride back to the store to get more later in the voyage – luckily I was not delirious enough to make a such an irrational decision. We also stopped at Cyrus’s coach’s house to use the bathroom and re-fill our water bottles. I had drunk very little until this point; for most of the ride I had simply been able to open my mouth and drink the thick fog! The short break in Canmore was very welcome and got us re-motivated for the rest of the journey.

Leaving Canmore, we needed all of the positive thoughts we could. There was an incredible headwind along highway 1 until we arrived in Banff and switched onto the 1A. Headwinds are my least favourite part of biking and if anything will put me in a negative state of mind, headwinds are it. It was great to be riding with somebody during that stretch as Cyrus pulled me along and didn’t mind me drafting. Getting onto the wooded 1A was sweet relief! Riding the 1A seemed to take forever, but it was certainly one of the more relaxing parts of the ride. We met up with the national junior team and talent squad out doing a long rollerski.

Another interesting group we met up with on the 1A were two male cyclists on touring bikes. Cyrus and I briskly passed them and greeted them on our way by. Shortly thereafter we heard some huffing and puffing behind and looked back to see these two men time-trialing in paceline style to catch up. They asked us where we were going between puffs. They were obviously not familiar with the area as our explanation of the trip did not draw the stunned reaction that it usually did. One of the reasons I love doing what I call “epic adventures” is to see the reactions that people have when I tell them what I have done. When people don’t seem shocked it takes away some of the fun of the adventure. The gentlemen on the touring bikes were soon again left in our dust.

Cyrus’s parents passed us during our time on the 1A to Lake Louise. They stopped and whipped open the back of their SUV to reveal a huge cooler and box which was reported to be full of food! This was a great relief as we gave them our excess clothing and tools and took the time to have a few small snacks.

This is where I go on a little tangent about parents… Cyrus’s parents are GREAT! I am not saying this because I love food, nor because they drove me back to Calgary. I am saying this because they really are great. I have always been jealous of those athletes who have parents who are not skiers or racers themselves. This breed of parent is always so well-prepared for anything that may happen; they make huge lunches with extensive varieties of food for any palate, they bring extra clothes, and they get so excited about all of the little things that have to do with skiing. OK… so maybe it was the super good food they would bring out at exactly the right time, but Cyrus’s parents are super good people. You heard it here first.

Our next stop was Lake Louise. We basically collapsed there. This was the first stop where I had the opportunity to sit down and really didn’t want to because I knew it would hurt. We hung out at the little village area off the highway, ate some food, filled our water bottles, and dreaded getting back on our “steeds.” We eventually did.

Despite the initial pain, I would rank the ride from Lake Louise to Golden as the best part of the trip. First of all, the ride up to west Lake Louise lodge was a lot easier and faster than I expected it to be. I don’t think that we went below 15 km/h and most of it we were above 20 km/h! The descent was also a lot of fun. Descending is one of my favourite parts of being on a bike: there is something about the back of a motor vehicle that just makes me want to pass it. The only climb in this last segment that really hurt was the very last one before the long descent into Golden. I had convinced myself that it would not be that bad – but it was. At the top of the climb we had a psycho trucker blowing his air horn at us, as if we didn’t know that he was behind us. We were both riding in the gravel in fear that he would crush us. Luckily he got past without mishap, and the rest of the ride down was a breeze – we were going so fast that the trucks couldn’t even think about passing us! Immediately upon our arrival in Golden at 6:15 pm, Cyrus’s parents were there with watermelon, clean clothes and other food! It was amazing.

As a matter of a fact, the whole ride was a great experience and something that I will certainly do again. And when people ask “why? Why are you going to do it AGAIN?”, I will answer by saying, “It is a beautiful stretch of highway, there is good traffic, and the ride flies by with good company and conversation… and because I can!”

Editor's Note: It is approximately 300km from Calgary to Golden.

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