Sixty Miles Later I Biked Into The Biggest Rodeo Stampede In The North

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July 11, ‘80

After a breakfast of blueberry muffins and coffee, we thanked Tony, Noel, and Stan for all their hospitality and then started hoofing it out of the backcountry. Up around Jonas Pass, Peter and I left the trail to explore the rising mountain columns above us. I discovered the entrance to a natural amphitheater, and in the center was a huge rock. With a little imagination the rock became an altar. Of course, I had to climb it, and lying prone on top, I offered myself up to the gods as a sacrifice. All that was play, but lying there, looking up at the cloud whiffs breezing by, all play stopped. I was filled with primal emotion. When it came time to leave, I felt completely renewed. When Peter and I met back on the trail, we started out for the hostel once again, and we made it back before dark.

The following day, after I said good-by to Peter (we exchanged addresses), I started bicycling toward Banff. The weather was good, and since I was already at the highest point of the Jasper-Banff highway, it was downhill from there. After coasting into what seemed like a bottomless valley, I was greeted by a strong headwind. Ten miles later, I sought shelter at a youth hostel. On the door, I found a poorly scratched message that read, “Make yourself at home. Gone to Hilda Creek hostel to work. Be back tomorrow.” All alone in the hostel, I watched the rain fall through the hostel’s solitary window. After a period of long silence, I reached for my journal and started to catch up on the events that had just taken place.

The next morning, and after only two hours of bicycling, I had to look for shelter once again. Just before the downpour, I went into a tavern at Lake Louis. After the rain subsided, I was back on the highway and headed for the largest tourist town in the Canadian Rockies. However, the beauty of Banff was more than worth the hassle. Upon arrival, when I asked for directions from some guys about to enter a tavern they invited me in for a couple of beers. Later, the same fellows treated me to a “welcome to Banff joint” just outside the tavern. When I finally did get to the Baniff hostel, I got the shower I had been waiting for and called it a night. My last shower was on Vancouver Island.

After heading due east on the following day, and sixty miles later, I was no longer in the Canadian Rockies; I was rubbing shoulders with cowboys and cowgirls in the town of Calgary. I biked right into the middle of the Stampede, the biggest rodeo in the northern hemisphere. At that hostel, I had to stand in a long line. I was lucky to get a bed. The only thing that saved me was that hostel members got to go in ahead of non-members and I was a member. Outside, a whole city block full of hostel kids was left standing with no place to go.

After I stowed my gear, I went exploring. The streets were crowded. It was like New Orleans at carnival time, except I wasn’t on Bourbon St. and, “aw shucks, it was just me and a whole bunch of bandannaed cowboys being happy together.” After getting a taste of the streets, I ambled into a rodeo bar and got myself a beer. The ear blasting country band was playing lasso music. After all the bicycling solitude, I wasn’t up for that kind of noise, so I decided to pack it in early.

Back at the hostel, in my corner seat, in between writing down sentences in my journal, I sat back and watched the activity going on around me. There were lots of people. I had a great place to sit, between the kitchen and dorms. I was having so much fun “people watching” that I didn’t even go outside to watch the fireworks. Tomorrow, I’m off on a different kind of bicycle trip, hopefully on a flat, dry, surface, under sunny skies, with little or no competing traffic. I can dream, can’t I!

Now I Know Earthy-The Prairie-Total Immersion

Some Farmer’s Field, Alberta

July 13, ‘80

I awoke to pouring rain, and found myself out in it promptly at 9 a.m., the hour everybody had to leave the hostel. For five continuous hours I bicycled in the rain. Nothing-new there! In fact, I was beginning to feel like a rain god. I had been telling people that rain followed me everywhere, and if it hadn’t been for the disc jockey on the radio telling me that the sun was about to chase the clouds away, I think I could have easily convinced myself that I did have some sort of mystical rain connection. With that thought, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. It’s amazing what you do to amuse yourself when you’re t
raveling ten miles an hour and you’ve got thousands of miles to go. Anyway, the sun finally did come out, and bicycling got a whole lot better.

I stopped at Drumheller, a town on the edge of the Alberta, badlands. But that was after the big decision. I had to decide whether or not to visit Jean in Saskatoon, or take the southern route that followed Canada’s border with the States? I figured going north would add another six or eight hundred miles on my trip, but how could I pass up an opportunity to visit Saskatoon, Saskatchewan? That name alone had magic power. And, Jean, the girl I met back on the train in British Columbia would be there. What more could I ask for? Besides, she promised me a beer! On the other hand, if I took the southern route, I would have to fight the trans-Canada traffic, and if there was anything I disliked more than bicycling in the rain, it was bicycling in heavy traffic. Of course, I knew the beer Jean promised me might not happen—so, to alleviate my fears, I stopped at the nearest hotel and ordered up my usual four drafts.

After talking with some locals, I toyed with the idea of sticking around to explore the badlands. Apparently, lots of paleontologists were attracted to this place. From just the small part that I bicycled through, I had no trouble envisioning roaming dinosaurs, and that was in addition to its natural beauty. In fact, the place was called the valley of the dinosaurs. But, as much as I wanted to stay, I also knew it was getting dark, and I needed to get my tent set up, so I bid the friendly bar people adieux, and headed out of town. A few miles down the highway, I set up my tent and called it a night. I went to sleep anticipating dinosaur dreams, but I also hoped to see a morning sun. If the sun turned up, I knew I would be called back to bicycling. If it didn’t, well–I didn’t have to worry about it because it did.

I awoke to sunshine. I couldn’t remember the last time that had happened. It was a no-shirt day, too, my first of the summer. You had to like bicycling in bad weather to make long distance bicycling worthwhile, but under a hot sun, on a good highway, with little traffic, and the Chinook winds at your back, you forget all about the bad stuff. After weeks of mountain biking, I found the prairie beautiful. My head was swimming in the fragrances pouring off the yellow flowered wheat fields. It’s funny, but I have not talked to one person who liked crossing the prairies. Maybe they were heading in the wrong direction. Moving through one field after another, I gained a new appreciation for the adjective, earthy! The prairie was total immersion. The people in the cars and trucks were incredibly nice, also. Most of the time, I had to deal with honking horns, not this time, though. The Albertans were really friendly. They made me feel like a human being–a good feeling.

It’s getting to dark to write. I’m in a farmer’s field, not far from the highway. I just hope tomorrow will be as good as today!


3 Responses to “Sixty Miles Later I Biked Into The Biggest Rodeo Stampede In The North”

  1. Dag T Says:

    July 11th, my birthday and the first one spend together with my new boyfriend, who became later my first husband and father of my son. I guess we were that day in Paris but the rest of the summer was just alike yours… sometimes hitch-hiking and mostly walking with our heavy survival ruck-sacks, tend and sleeping bags through the Normandie, Bretagne and the British islands… camping in fields or near some farm… haha… you and me, we experienced more or less the same at exactly the same time… amazing 🙂 oh, BTW I wrote a little diary as well, I used it later to write my “Hitch-Hikers’ Horror Stories”, a radio play broadcasted in Germany in 1982 😉

  2. dave Says:

    It’s always fun (and somewhat gratifying) to think back to when we were experiencing life footloose and fancy free. Remembering the good times and not-so-good times is made even better when shared with people of similar experiences and interests. Thanks for the comment (I also have some “Hitch-Hikers’ Horror Stories,” but that’s perhaps for another time).

  3. Dag T Says:

    I’m looking forward to reading YOUR Hitch-Hikers’ Horror Stories one day 🙂 in the meantime (while waiting) I’ll translate mine into English 😉
    so we will be able to compare them reading loudly to each other somewhere in the lonely mountains 😀

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