From Wabamun to Calgary International Airport by bike…with human company!

What better way to get to a bike tour than to bike tour to it? Points against in this case; I was out of cycling condition, dubious about the visual and experiential merits of biking in my home province, and services were simply too far apart between stages in this spartan landscape. I also wanted a gentle ride so both Murph and I could ease into it. I decided that it would be fine – Alberta is flat in the middle, the weather forecast looked superb and I was aching to try some of my gear out. I was also willing to sleep in a ditch if I had to since campsites were not well-spaced, and on the route I was thinking of, every inch of land is fenced and private. I started roughly planning the 350km trajectory.

My brother-in-law, Mika, is a very good amateur road racer and had previously expressed interest in doing a little tour with Murph and me. I’ll admit, I am not generally inclined to tour with another human, never mind a nouveau Greg Lemond. No matter how willing they are to go at my pace, I can’t help but feel the need to rush instead of dawdle along like usual. Add to the mix my enormous over-protection of the old dog…I really doubt a human travel partner could understand and tolerate my need to pander to her limits. Though I feared a failed expedition, I accepted Mika’s offer to come along. I left it to him and his Garmin + Strava app to plan the route with a little input from me.

Six day later, Murph and I are camped just outside of Calgary, and Mika has pushed on to his home which is only another 40 steep kilometres away. How did it go? Well, the weather turned absolutely wet, foul and freezing. The mosquitoes sent us around the bend. We faced strong headwinds five out of the six days we rode, and the route we ended up on, though beautiful, was peppered with long sharp hills and horrible gradients. Though Strava found us pretty paved routes, the traces are left by ultra-light road racers, not loaded bicycle tourists.

Despite all this, we didn’t kill each other! Mika is an incredibly gentle and tolerant person – I probably would have killed me! The route suited his abilities and priorities more but he certainly tried to understand my limitations and work with them. We are from two different cycling philosophies but managed to keep it together enough to mostly enjoy our experience. This is a kind of miracle, for cycle touring with someone new, especially with differing ability and experience (he with the bike-fast-and-far part, me with the bike-slow-and-travel part), requires a colossal amount of compromise. I would have preferred a gentler pootle to Calgary so as to keep my physiology intact and the pooch sweet on cycling, but what I got was a pretty fierce and scenic little ride that I will look back upon as worthwhile despite my frequent and loud cursing. Thank you Mika – you are a true gentleman and a really nice guy!

Only three sleeps to go until the real McCoy. Next stop; Amsterdam layover.

It is my desperate hope that this entitled and self-indulgent travel will raise a ton of money for my favourite charity along the way; The Oldies Club. These gorgeous people work to find homes for overlooked elderly dogs who are stuck spending their golden years in shelters and fosters all over the UK. The link below will allow you generous, dog-loving folk to donate what you can – as little as £2 or $2 – more if you can. Also, please consider them if you are ready to give a beautiful old soul a loving new home. Do it for Murph!! Click on the just giving link below.