Today was a special day - I was in the Crowsnest Pass visiting my fellow Ironman muchacha, Julie! We were happy to wake up to a fabulous day considering the storm that blew, quite literally, through town last night!
Julie had to work today, but was able to start out for a short while on the bike adventure she had planned out for me. The mission? To cycle to Castle Mountain! Quite fitting for someone who jokingly refers to herself as a Princess. Well, Ninja Princess to be exact! Hmm, wonder if I'd come across any Knights in Shining Armour, or even more exciting - a dragon!
To get there we headed east on Highway 3. The highway wasn't too bad to ride on, there was a decent shoulder and surprisingly not too much traffic. The only area that is a bit dodgy is when you are cycling past the Frank Slide. To say there are lots of rocks in this area would be a HUGE understatement. WOW.
Not long after we passed the slide, we turned onto the secondary highway that leads to Castle Mountain. Julie rode with me for a wee bit up the first hill, then had to head home. Not before giving me instructions though, "Just follow this road until it turns to gravel". Alrighty then, just what I like, straightforward instructions!
Off I went on my merry way.
As I toodled off I couldn't help but think how wild it was that I'd was cycling off into an unknown area and road all on my own. I think the wild part was that I was really looking forward to this adventure! I had no idea how far the ride was, although I had mentioned I'd only planned a three hour journey, and I had no idea what the route would be like, although Julie mentioned she sent me on a hilly route to please the mountain goat in me! How cool is that?
The first thing I noticed was how wonderfully peaceful it was. Very little traffic and, for the most part, no residences. I had a gorgeous view of the mountains, lots of farmland, the odd creek or lake smattered in, and let's not forget the azure blue sky. There was nary a cloud in the sky that day, just sunshine! I made sure to give my thanks for that!
The route itself was rolling and curvy. The hills weren't too steep, but some were long. The song 'Love Rollercoaster' by Stevie Wonder (also sung by the Chili Peppers of course) popped into my head and stuck there for most of the ride.
At one point I rolled into a wee town named 'Beaver Mine'. I made a mental note that there was a general store there, just in case I'd need more water. Thankfully it wasn't too hot out so I figured I'd be ok. In fact it was the perfect temperature. The cycling gods were being mucho kind to this gal.
Once I got past Beaver Mine, the hills became a bit longer. Was it wind or was it me, because with each hill it got progressively harder to get any speed! I seriously couldn't tell. It seemed I wasn't going up the hills as quickly as I originally had! I'm still trying to figure out what stage of recovery I'm in from Coeur d'Alene, so was trying my best not to get down about not having a ton of strength. The inner mountain goat in me wanted to crush the hills though!
At one point I looked at my watch and noticed an hour thirty had gone by. Hmmm....I really did want to ride to the end of the road and explore. The farmlands had turned into a pine forest alongside the road and I really didn't want to leave the area.
You see, I'm a B.C. girl and there are times when I really miss living there. Actually, I don't so much miss living in the Lower Mainland, as much as I miss the Island where my Pop's family lives. I love the Island. I was born on the Island so it's in my blood. It has this distinct smell to it - apart from the pulp mill smell, of course. The air there is crisp and has the scent of pine and cedar in it. Oh, and let's not forget salt when you are near the ocean. But I digress.
As I rode in amongst the trees I could smell that familiar smell of pine and cedar. If I could close my eyes, which I wouldn't do as I was riding....I could almost pretend I was home. Aaaah. I was taking deep breathes with every pedal stroke. Not because I was climbing a hill either - Cheeky Monkeys! I was savouring that wonderful smell....
I decided I had to stay on this path and follow it no matter how long I was out there. I had, yet again, found another happy place.
It actually didn't take me too long to find where the dirt road began at the entrance to the Castle Mountain Resort. To get there it took me just under one and three quarter hours. There were a ton of little Provincial campgrounds in the area. As well, there was a fabulous creek where I decided to stop. I sat there for a little while and just listened to the water rush over the rocks. Siiiiigh.
Eventually I decided I should head back lest Julie start worrying about me. I told her I'd bike to the store afterwards.
Oh. So you recall how I wasn't sure if it was me or some wind force that was slowing me down on the hills? I can confirm now that it was wind. I started pedaling back and was flying! I made it back to Beaver Mine in, what felt like, a blink of an eye! Oh, how I love pedalling fast and really MOVING! It's brilliant! One day I shall be able to do that in a headwind!
I must ask now though, what is it with wind?? How come sometimes you can feel there is a strong headwind and other times not? I mean, I felt the crosswinds when I was crossing through a valley as they damn near knocked me off my bike, but I really didn't feel a super strong wind when I was heading out to Castle Mountain. There had to be though as I still had hills to climb on the way back and yet you'd swear this time I was friggin Lance Armstrong! Things that make you go hmmm...
As I rode back I had an entirely different view. I could still see the mountains, of course, but I also saw wind turbines in the east, which stretched far out into the horizon. Now I know that some think these an eye sore, but I think they are quite graceful with their three long angelic white arms reaching up to the heavens with every turn. Very nice. (Truth be known, I'd rather see these than oil rigs!! Yes, I wrote that and I live in Alberta - remember I'm a tree hugger though!)
Along the way I decided I should really look up how this road winds because I was almost back at Highway 3 when I started to slow down again. There was a flag along the way and I noticed it was a easterly wind. Nuts. I had to head back west. Would I feel the wind this time?!
I won't keep you in suspense with that question, the answer is yes. Well. Sort of. It's not like I had this great wind blowing at my braids. Then again my braids were tied in the back. Hmmm. Anyways, I couldn't feel the wind per se, but it had to have been there! Why, you ask? Because at one point I was pedaling with all my might, DOWNHILL, and I was only going a mere 16 km/h!!
Now I realize that I just came off an Ironman, but seriously. It's been over three weeks now and I would normally blast down a hill like this at about 60 km/h - certainly not 16 km/h! Urgh. There was wind dammit!
Here I thought I was used to wind as we get it quite good in my town. It's strong enough to blow over my barbeque with gas tank! However, the winds down here are used to power wind turbines, so I'm thinking it has a wee bit more power than 'our' winds...
The wind definitely made it a tad bit long getting home. It wouldn't have been so bad had I been in the happy place, but I was on a major highway, so it wasn't as scenic. The Frank Slide is quite amazing, however.
Finally I made it to Julies store. Her and her mom were happy to see me as she had started to wonder what I was up to. She had ridden back in the wind too though so figured it might take me a bit. All in all I ended up riding 96 km today. I ended up taking a nap in the afternoon (something I don't have to do nomally), which tells me that there is still a wee bit of fatigue there, but at least I felt great while I was actually riding. So I am progressing!
Despite the winds I had an amazing day! I am very thankful to Julie for sharing such a beautiful bike route with me. Thank you!!! I hope to get down there again so we can go for a ride together and perhaps she can share another fabulous route with me.
Peace out my friends!