I truly hope I have paid all my dues to the Rain Gods so that there will be no rain on race day!
Today Jenna and I headed out to K-Country. The plan was to park at the Village and then ride to the gates of Highwood Pass and make our way up.
I checked the weather report last night and we decided to go a bit later in the day in order for it to warm up, just in case there was going to be rain. After last weekend I'm a little gun shy of cold and rain. Warm and rain would be ok though...right?
It was actually looking pretty nice out when we started out from the village. After a few kilometers I had to shed my arm warmers and Jenna was shedding her jacket.
At first my legs were a little tired from yesterday's hills. I knew from my Penticton experience that they'd be just fine after a while and they warmed up a wee bit. I had a fairly decent pace going on only to be halted by a few creatures of the four legged furry kind.
Actually, the set of deer I saw didn't halt me, but slowed me down. More because I wanted to stare at their majestic beauty than anything else. Jenna was a wee bit behind me and I hoped that she'd get to see them and perhaps snap a couple of pictures.
Riding along Hwy 40 is brilliant. Granted there are some cars, trucks and RVs going by, but you are surrounded by the soaring, snow covered Rockies and huge pine trees. The road winds and undulates in a way that makes it a ton of fun to ride. Sometimes you'd get a peak of the Kananaskis river flowing by, other times it was a rush of water from the top of the mountain flowing down over the rocks.
I was making my way along when I came upon 3 big horn sheep. They were on my side of the road munching on who knows what. I might add that big horn sheep are rather large. Certainly larger than me and my bike. There were a ton of cars that had stopped to take pictures. At this point I was contemplating exactly what is the safe distance to be from them. Huh. Perhaps I should have read up on this before we left?! Where the heck is Jenna with the camera?!
An impatient truck driver decided to zoom by and scared the sheep. At least this allowed me to ride through. I continued on my merry way taking in all the wonderful sites Mother Nature had to offer. The clouds were moving in, but I had hoped it was just going to be overcast and not rain.
I wasn't much farther along when I saw a group of six big horn sheep. This time though they were charging towards me. Can you say 'OH SHITE!'. Some dumb arse had honked his horn or something at them so they ran. I hit the brakes and started praying to the sheep gods. Wait, is that the devil?! No matter, I don't believe in him, haha. I lucked out and they changed course and ran up a little ledge. It was a spectacular site. They have some serious vertical!
I had to wait a bit till all of them cleared. One fellow drove by and as I looked in his window with my silly grin I saw that he was laughing and smiling too. Not sure if that was at me and my predicament, or the fact that we just witnessed an amazing site. Seriously, where the heck is Jenna and her camera?!
I was wondering how much farther it was to the gates. Greg mentioned it was only 15 km from the Village to the gates. I rode this last year and was sure it was longer. I checked my bike computer and sure enough I'd already ridden 19 km. Hmmmm. Meh, I wasn't concerned, I was having a blast out there.
I passed the gas station and kept riding. I wasn't too much past it when I realized I needed to answer the call of nature as it were. Oh look, a point of interest that was somewhat sheltered. Exceeellent. I rested my bike on some barrier rocks and toodled into a treed area. A wee chipmunk gave me a bit of flack when I was walking in, but I ignored him. The call was just too great.
Two things were going through my mind while I was there, one was that I was wearing an exceptionally bright yellow jacket that likely could be seen from the road to show where I was, uhm, er, squatting. The second was, okay, now I'm glad Jenna isn't here with her camera! No bare butt shots of this missy. Once I was finished doing my business I took a gander at the scenery I was emersed in. Holy hannah was it beautiful. I just stood there looking down at the river flowing below. I took in several deep breaths, then closed my eyes and was one with life. It was magnificant!
After my short, yet refreshing break I continued on. I wasn't too sure how far I was from the gate. I still didn't see Jenna, but wasn't worried. I figured she'd take a few pics along the way. Plus, I told her, the self described directionally challenged one, just stay on this road. Do not turn left. Do not turn right. Eventually you will come to gates - I will be there.
Eventually I arrived at the gates. There were several vehicles there and I got to chatting with a few of the riders that just came down. Apparantly there was a grizzly cub spotted near Little Highwood Pass. Huh, this could be interesting. I wasn't too concerned though. What I did wonder about was the thunder I was hearing, as well as the rather looming black cloud that hovered over where we were to ride.
Jenna arrived not long after and we made the call to head up. If it started raining or got too cold we could always turn back.
To start out Jenna actually rode underneath the gates! It was hilarious. I thought we'd have to do a limbo move under them. We hadn't ridden too far when there was a light sprinkle of rain started. It wasn't too bad so we continued on. I was so excited to have Jenna there and to be sharing this with her. She is just as enthusiastic about adventures and being outdoors as I am.
We hadn't rode that much farther when the raindrops started getting bigger and more frequent. One rider, who was coming down the hill, shouted at us that we better have rain gear as the rain was coming down up ahead. We continued on for a little while more and then made the final call. We'd have to turn back. Rats.
After last weekends experience though, I did not want to get caught in the rain and end up freezing and possibly hurting myself three weeks before IMCDA, I also didn't want to subject Jenna to that.
As we started back the rain continued to get heavier and heavier. Although it was getting really soggy out, we both loved how the rain brought out the wonderful scent of the pine trees. It was yummy! Needless to say we didn't 'stop to smell the roses'. We didn't even stop for the gates - we both actually rode under them. Then we started to pedal like mad. We had 35 km to go to get back to the Village parking lot.
The rain was starting to hurt - in fact it was hail pinging off my bare legs. Ow, ow, ow. I was in the lead and kept checking back to make sure Jenna was behind me. That girl can cycle hard when there is threat of drowning on your bike. I was so impressed!! Water was flowing off my helmut and glasses. I could feel a stream of cold water being flicked up my butt and back. My shoes were saturated and getting very squishy. Oh boy!
Remember how Jenna wasn't pedaling down the hills yesterday? Well today she did. We were riding as hard as we could and when we got to the first down hill I yelled back 'Pedal down hill!!'. A little while later I yelled back that we would stop at the gas station to get some tea and hopefully warm our cores in order to make it back to the van. I have to say, considering all the hills I took Jenna through yesterday, she rode like a pro today!
We were the second and third cyclists to stop at the gas station. There was another gal in there, who we later learned was Pam. Slowly more cyclists trickled in. There was an outright downpour going on. Everyone was shivering. They had ridden from the top of the pass in this stuff. Boy was I glad we turned back when we did! We were cold, but not in as bad a shape.
One of the ladies had called someone to come pick her up and take her to her vehicle so she could get the others. She and her ride were kind enough to bring Jenna with them so she could get the van. I hung back savouring my tea and chit chatting with the others.
Turns out some of them were on the California trip with Kelsey! Small world or what. Jenna made it back and we ended up taking Pam and her bike with us to her vehicle at the information centre.
As I'd been waiting for Jenna, I had questioned whether or not we should have attempted the ride back. There had been a lull in the weather. The lull was short lived though and the torrent came blasting down again. As we drove back Jenna even had to use the super fast speed of the wipers! Okay, that would not have been fun to ride in! Soon enough we made it back to the information centre, dropped Pam off and ventured inside to use the facilities and get some dry clothes on.
I was disappointed that I didn't get to take Jenna to the top of the Pass, but I was glad I had her with me. Jenna has an incredible joie de vivre and is super fun to be with. I don't think there is any situation that would ruffle her feathers to the point that she lost her sense of humour! I look forward to many more adventures with her, one of them being IMC and cheering her on.
What a great weekend! A fabulous ride yesterday in the sun, and a gorgeous ride today in the mountains, both with amazing company!
Peace out my friends!