Texas Hill Country
Plano, Texas, United States
Nov 26, 2019
Leaving Prince George, I knew I was in a valley and I'd be climbing out and into the Rockies for the next three days. Didn't sound easy.
But it was! Despite going into the mountains, and being surrounded by them almost the whole way, the road was remarkably flat. Followed the same river upstream for three days, slowly gaining elevation, some hills here and there. And had the best, most consistent pavement I've seen the whole time! For three days straight! I was so impressed by the pavement that I took a picture!
A shoulder almost the size of a lane, no cracks, smooth asphalt, no gravel or debris. Every transportation department at every level of every government everywhere, this is how it's done. Now you know. Now you have no excuse.
It's still raining every day, but it's still limiting itself to only about an hour a day total, and only light rains. Since the sun comes out during some part of the day, I get to dry out, so it's not that bad. An annoyance, but not a hindrance. It's just...does it ever stop? C'mon, man, it's summer!
Good roads, not bad conditions, and a new saddle and handlebar grip have made for some good riding. Being able to ride pain-free, forget about everything and just pedal has made a huge difference in my average day. Two small changes that have meant a lot. And I think they even look good on Valeria.
I'd seen about nine bears so far on the ride, and had been warned mostly about the Yukon and northern British Columbia. But on my first day out of Prince George, I must've seen about as many as I had the entire ride combined! Still all black bears. But for once, I saw a mama and her cubs. Two of them, with enormous ears. When she saw me, mama stood up. The first time I've felt any alarm with a bear.
"Don't worry mama, just passing through. I don't wanna hurt you or cause any trouble!"
She got back down on all fours and ran away, making grunting noises as she did. First time a bear looked scared of me, rather than confused or mildly alarmed. The cubs hesitated, probably not sensing the same danger, but followed their mama.
On Dorrie's recommendation, I camped out at a no-service campground at a lake. No running water, no electricity, only an outhouse and a trash can, but free! And gorgeous! I was tempted to take a dip, but it's still cold here.
The riding was good enough that I might've even been able to make it to Jasper in two days instead of three, but I'm glad I didn't. For one, that lake was awesome to camp at. And for another, I had some killer hosts in Tete Jaune Cache. Just the five minutes of getting off the highway and riding to their place was a treat.
Barb and Ian are a couple that had done plenty of riding in Canada, including a few self-supported tours of their own, and gave me some useful tips about riding in Jasper and Banff National Parks for the next few days. Not to mention a fully satisfying dinner and breakfast! Ian was particularly curious about Valeria and my touring setup, and noticed that my dynamo hub wasn't working. He asked why and took a closer look.
"So you see there, the wire's cut or something. I think all the parts still work, so I want to take them off and send them home, because..."
"The wire's all that's wrong? That can be fixed."
"Yeah, but anything that breaks after a week, I'm not sure I trust it."
"I can fix this. C'mon, bring it into my workshop."
I should add that Ian builds houses for a living.
Only half an hour later, Ian had not only gotten the whole system working again (the wire only needed to be crimped back onto the connection), but had fixed it us so the same problem wouldn't happen again.
"You see here, it just got separated. Probably when you were trying to plug or unplug it." He put some sort of plastic tubing around it that made a bond to the wire, more like a real wire. "It looks like it was just wrapped in electrical tape or something before. Like it was done by a good bike mechanic who doesn't work with electronics. This stuff though, this is gonna hold up way better."
He gave me a few more tips on how to hold it when plugging and unplugging so I don't yank the wire out from the connection again, but I think it's in much better shape than it ever was. And to think later the same day, I was planning to visit a bike shop in Jasper and have them chop it all off!
On the way into Jasper, my goodness, did it start getting pretty!
I remembered more than one of the Texas 4,000 Rockies riders saying that Jasper and Banff were about the most beautiful places they'd ever seen. I was impressed, and I wasn't even there yet! Started looking forward to the next few days in a big way.
It started raining in earnest in the afternoon, making me glad it was a shorter day. Wound up visiting a bike shop in Jasper anyway, just to get a second opinion on my semi-wobbly headset, though they thought it was fine (I'm still not sure...).
My host for the evening wasn't due off work until around 8:00 PM, so I went over to the city park, plopped on a park bench, and intended to use the Wi-Fi. Didn't wind up doing it so much, because I wound up talking to a local who worked at the visitor's center, then a pair of charming Dutch ladies on vacation. When I told them the Netherlands beat Spain 5-1, they were thrilled. One of them is a teacher in San Francisco, so we wound up talking a lot about teaching and California.
Just about 8:00 PM on the dot, my host, Bruce, strolled up to the park bench and walked me back to his place. Bruce is a passenger train conductor and had just arrived from Prince George. Of course, it took him less than three days. We wound up staying up late, swapping funny stories and drinking wine. Good times.