August 24: Valemount to Lucerne, British Columbia - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

August 24: Valemount to Lucerne, British Columbia

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AT LAST, this ride is beginning to fulfil its promise. Much of the past three and a half months has been like the first world war: brief moments of intense excitement broken by long periods of nothing in particular.

The Adirondacks were beautiful but the Great Lakes were a disappointment. They were visible only at the end of rich people's gardens. We enjoyed the ride up the Mississippi. We were impressed by our first sight of the Rockies, and we liked Going-to-the-Sun Road, although we would have liked it more had it not been so relentlessly billed as one of the most beautiful roads in North America.

We loved the restored fen land before Cabinet Gorge. But the Cascades were largely a disappointment except for the ragged, rugged, snow-topped splendour of Mount Washington.

This ride is beginning to fulfill our hopes.
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We liked Montreal, Chicago, Seattle and Vancouver. But that is a surprisingly small tally in what is now more than 8,500km. What we will really remember is the spontaneous and breathtaking friendship and generosity of the people we have met, especially in the USA.

Perhaps all that is inevitable in a linear ride. To get from one glory to the next demands the less than glorious in between. We have pinned so much on the Canadian Rockies. We were promised over and over that they would be the highlight we hoped, which was why we rode from east to west, to save the best to last. We clung to that hope as we endured the miserable week that followed Vancouver. And because of that we were close to despair when forest fires covered Kamloops and our route out of it in choking smoke.

And now, here we are, camping by a glistening lake, pine trees all around us, mountains peering down at us from two and a half thousand metres. Their sides are a mass of green, of trees, of smaller vegetation, too, that from this distance looks like verdant sponge. The tops of the mountains brush the clouds, their bottoms as dirty as a small boy's thumb, their tops a fantasy pillow of virgin white.

We climbed from Tête Jaune, named after a blond Indian guide who helped French explorers and then, although not for that reason, came to an unpleasant end. We came face to face with the sheer mass of Mount Robson, its snow, angular peak piercing the cloud until it tore itself free to stand in the sun.

Much of the traffic stopped at the mountain's face. The map suggested, as it did with Tête Jaune, that there was a community there. But there isn't. There is little more than an opportunity to buy gifts and souvenirs. It's there that you go if you want the best view of the mountain because, looking back over a shoulder it never looks as good again.

The road remains fairly busy, however. There is truck traffic and the usual procession of RVs, each proudly burning its share of climate-changing fuel for the benefit of the two people aboard. But the gradient is undemanding and we topped 1,000 metres and stayed there much of the morning with no real effort.

The delight of cycling: we could stop whereas drivers had to push on for a lay-by and a far inferior view.
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We rode beside the turquoise water of Moose Lake, an elongated moment of beauty which the TV folk could appreciate only from intermittent lay-bys. You have my word that the best views are given to cyclists and walkers, who can stop where they choose.

Things do spoil this beauty. The pine beetle has struck here, too, and the balder mountains to our left have large brown stains of dead trees. It looks as though an illness had struck and, in a way,

Tired but happy...
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Untired and serene...
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that's just what had happened. But, pine beetle or no, this remains beautiful. And the joy is that by everyone's promise, it is simply a prelude to what happens beyond Jasper, which we will reach at lunchtime tomorrow.

Our one encounter today was with three lads, in their 20s, from Edmonton. They were riding bikes of 1960s and 1970s vintage, loaded and not with the sort of gearing my feeble legs would have demanded. They were riding from Edmonton to Vancouver and they had another week in which to do it.

Sign of their passage was clear when we pulled into this campground. For looped over a rubbish bin was a discarded tyre.

"We're not the first cyclists here, then?", Steph asked the bearded and quietly-spoken warden, the sort of man to whom living among trees and to the sound of bird song was a lot more important than earning big money in a city.

"No," he answered. "They were here last night."

"Three lads from Edmonton?"

"Yes, that's them. They'd only ridden from Jasper, they said."

"Why only from Jasper?" It's only about 40km down the road.

The warden smiled.

"The way they phrased it was that they had made some bad decisions the previous night."

Message understood.

Three lads swung on this rope across the water from our tent. I waited with enthusiasm for one to fall in but nobody did.
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