August 21: Barriere to Birch Island, British Columbia - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

August 21: Barriere to Birch Island, British Columbia

AROUND 10 THIS MORNING we stopped for coffee. I said to Steph: "I think this is going to be the only event of the day worth writing about."

I was wrong, in fact, because in the afternoon Steph had a puncture. But I am a kindly soul and I'm not going to waste your time with a thousand words on caffeine and inner tubes.

We have been on the same road all day today, just as we shall be on it for another couple of days yet. This scarcity of routes is something we shall never get used to. We can ride 100km at home without ever getting more than 15km from home and never using the same road twice. And when we have done that, we can do the same in the other direction. It is the difference between Europe, an old continent with roads that developed from cart tracks, and the new continent of North America which was opened in straight lines by explorers.

We have to get to Tête Jaune and turn right for Jasper. It's named after a blond Indian who guided French explorers and came to a sticky end, although not from the French. Tête Jaune means "yellow head", an old way of calling someone blond. It's translated into English to name the Yellowhead highway and a mountain crossing.

The smoke still lingers but now it has been joined by a mist. The smoke is at ground level and the mist higher up. The train with observation cars that cruises up through the valleys passed our campsite this morning. It's not cheap to use and there must have been a lot of disappointed tourists wondering if they had got their money's worth.

"They're fretting because they've spent all that money," I said.

"And we're fretting because we've spent all this effort," Steph replied. She is still far from sure that the air will have cleared enough to enjoy the Icefields Parkway, the climax of the ride. Nor am I, of course. Nobody can be. That's the thing about weather.

We have set up camp in what looks like an abandoned campsite in woods. Nobody else is here, not yet anyway. The showers are clean and there is hot water. But notices on stand-pipes warning to boil the water "due to excessive rainfall" date from 2005.

The few trailers in clearings look abandoned. We walked over to the nearest. The owner has built a frame on its roof and made an apex. On that he has draped a blue tarpaulin, to stop the rain drumming on the metal roof or perhaps to stop water running inside. The trailer's kitchen looks in good order but the rest is a jumble of chairs, beds and a settee. You could live in it, just about. But who would?

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