Day 4 – Lake Louise to Grande Prairie, Alberta


Here’s the daily map update on our route.  The mileage is shorter up here because we’re going a lot slower each day as the roads are more challenging, and the wildlife is everywhere.  It’s slower going, but the riding is amazing.

If you’re still reading the blog, thanks!  I know that this trip’s blog has been less entertaining than past blogs, but we’ve been all business so far as we’re trying to front-end the miles in the trip to allow for time to explore the whole way home.  It has been extremely long days of hard riding, and at night, it’s been all I can do to just get the posts up with some photos. It’s been difficult to even stop for photos because we have been so geared up to put in miles.  Taking our time was just not an option the first four days with so many miles in front of us.  Maybe we were both concerned that if we didn’t make massive time each day, it would be too easy to not complete our journey.  I’m hoping to spend a bit more time on the blog going forward, so hang in there!  Getting more into the groove will heat up the creative juices for sure…

The end of last night. Should have just slept there...

Today was a roller coaster ride as much of the trip has been.  It’s amazing how much mental and emotional gymnastics happen each day on a trip of this scale. Every day is affected by how you “think” about the challenges almost more than the challenges themselves.  Or maybe that’s just me wrapped up in this thing called my mind.  Probably a really good life lesson in there somewhere.  I’ll try to find it and get back to you…

I'm feeling very small in this environment from the day before. Just got the photo, so thought I'd post it today.

This morning was very rough after way too much beer followed by wine we didn’t “need” and a 3am bed time.  Oh well, we were sort of celebrating our entry into the mountains after three tough days in the never ending planes. We needed it.  It’s a vacation for crying out loud.  The morning started out briskly at 42 degrees F.  And I felt terrible.  I tried begging Brad for another hour of sleep as I laid texting him in my luxurious bed, but my texts wouldn’t go through, so getting up was the only option. I didn’t want to be that guy.  The night prior was the main culprit in my general condition, but I think all the hard riding had caught up with me, and I was also just cumulatively overly tired.

Our start to the morning.

Everything hurt on the morning ride.  My right butt cheek was killing me (probably more on that later), my eyes were watering all morning, and the cobwebs would not shake out.  It was also freezing as we waited for the sun to rise above the mountains and start heating our backs. The ride from Lake Louise to Jasper was some of the most extraordinary scenery I have every ridden through, and all I could think about was getting to Jasper and finishing that leg.  It was by far the longest 150 miles of the trip so far.  It was literally like being in church as a kid where I’d look at the clock every ten seconds and could swear time was going backwards. Can time really be moving this slowly?  It seemed impossible at the time and again on Day 4.  The miles just refused to tick off.  The ride through all that beauty was about survival and nothing else.  We passed a restaurant about 90 miles from Jasper, and I made the call to keep going – I immediately regretted it, but we just had to keep going.  It was worth it when we made Jasper.

This is what we rode through all morning. In pain.

We finally pulled into Jasper, and it was way past time to stop.  We ordered massive breakfasts (the server actually warned me that what I was ordering was huge – I was ok with that).  We took a longer than normal break so that I could finish the prior day’s blog, and slammed as much coffee as we could stomach. I expected the next 6 hours to be very long, very painful, and very hard  just like the morning was.  At least I was prepared for it.

Photos from the morning “survival” ride:

More beauty in the morning that I could barely enjoy.

Just another angle.

Ahhh.

Wow, was I pleasantly, surprisingly, wrong.  I’m not sure what happened, but I got a second wind that lasted throughout the rest of the ride and felt absolutely amazing.  Just two hours earlier, there were actually creeping doubts about what we’re doing.  Nothing major, but I was really low.  Really low.  All of a sudden, the miles were flying by, and I was back into a zone that I’ve found on prior long-distance trips but had not felt in this one yet.  Instead of focusing on miles (kilometers for my Canadian friends), it was just enjoying each moment, each twist, each mountain and view, and the miles were merely a beneficial by-product.  Everything was the moment, and nothing else mattered.  It was incredible, and the scenery continued to amaze.

Photos from the afternoon leg:

Incredible. And now I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Yes, its repetitive, but worth showing.

Absolutely amazing to ride through this terrain.

I could stay here forever and ride.

This was also our first day of seeing real wildlife.  As we pulled out of Lake Louise, we passed a bear just off the road, but were unable to get a picture as stopping that close seemed to be ill-advised.  But, we were able to get a few photos of some of the wildlife.  It was so cool to see.

Traffic jam Alberta style!

These guys were actually really cute - especially the little guys.

You know you’re out there, when in one day, you see bighorn sheep, goats, bears, and elk.  Add the bald eagle and numerous deer, and we’re doing well so far.  Later in the day, we saw another bear (black bear) by the side of the road.  We stopped to get a photo, but he looked at us, moved back about 50 feet, stood up to at least 5 or 6 feet tall and rambled off into the woods.  It was awesome.  From where we were,  he looked really cute on his hind legs.  I wanted to bring him home and snuggle next to the fire place.  Probably not a good idea…  Don’t worry bear experts, I’m kidding.

Here’s Brad checking out our first elk:

Probably a bit close, but so cool. Look out Brad!

Meet Elroy the furry-racked Elk.

We continued on through the beauty, and made our way along the road.  At one point, we were getting a bit tired, so we stopped when we saw a sign that looked like there might be some coffee available.  It ended up being a great stop!  We ended up at a Park service building and met Isabella and Tanya, the friendly Park Service ladies.  We stopped for coffee but instead ended up making friends over tattoos and stickers.  They’re no of course big fans of the Milwaukee Grand Cafes and promised to sport our stickers on guitar boxes and cars.  I’m wearing my maple leaf with pride.

Showing off our new tattoos (they're not real Mom) with one of our new friends.

Celebrating new friendships. Canadians may be the friendliest people on the planet.

Isabella and Tanya preading the word! There can't be better spokespeople for the brands.

Prior to meeting Isabella and Tanya, we saw a sign that warmed our souls.  Scenic Route to Alaska.  Yes.

Just what I needed.

After leaving there, we continued on for a while before stopping for gas where we met Alex and Mike.  These two guys are on their way from Denver to Deadhorse – the same place we’re headed – on two KTM’s with stickers touting their journey called “Arctic Bound 2011 – 10,000 miles.  30 days.  2 idiots on motorcycles.”  Sounds like two other guys I know…  Kindred spirits no doubt.  They were kind enough to give us a few sticker for our rigs.  And, Alex’s dad owns a company called Trailmasters, which makes motorcycle gear, and I think he made a sale to me in the parking lot.  Alex, if you’r reading this, I gotta get those auxiliary bags.  Any way your dad can ship them to Deadhorse?  They’ll be much needed for the trip home!

Awesome.

Men among boys.

My new rad sticker!

This is one of the great things about these trips.  Strangers come up to you and ask about the bikes and talk about past trips and dream trips and why-the-hell-are-you-doing-this trips.  One Harley guy we ran into in a restaurant maybe said it best – “Oh yea.  You GS guys.  If there’s a road out there, you’ve gotta see what’s at the end of it.”  I guess that’s right.  Not sure why, but we gotta see the end of the road, and then get back home safely.

We finally made it to Grande Prairie, and we were both ready for a stop.  Physically, we were both feeling extremely beat up, but mentally, I’m feeling about as good as I have the entire trip.

Post morning hangover. Ready to roll. Let's rock.

And I’ll sign off with a self portrait.  Hey, it’s my blog.  Leave me alone.

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21 Responses to Day 4 – Lake Louise to Grande Prairie, Alberta

  1. wagtube says:

    Dude, be careful doing mental and emotional gymnastics at the same time. That shit is dangerous. I tried it once. I tore my medulla oblongata, pulled a hamy, knocked over a vase, farted, and then started crying.

    • ericgwagner says:

      I just sold my medulla oblongata for a sixer of Schlitz and a pack of smokes. I think I got a pretty good deal. Hope yours is recovering.

      By the way, i don’t think the gymnastics caused the fart – you woulda done that anyway.

      • wagtube says:

        I was trying to be discrete. I snuck one past the keeper and ruined my jeans, hence the crying. Bring me some venison on your way home. Keep fighting boaday. Human nature is inescapable, but we persevere. Go see what you set out to see. Also, be careful, The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana.

  2. Mack says:

    Stunning.

  3. Al H says:

    Eric , looks like an awesome trip ! Enjoy and you & brad be safe!

  4. Daddy Wags says:

    Eric, unbelievable. Where did you buy these pictures. Somehow these might have been added to my list of things to do. You are right that your narration seems to be more of “gotta get the miles in or we aren’t going to get there” but I love to read your stories.

    BTW, one of the good guys from Spancrete, John Schnell, asked me to give him the link to your blog. We may be granting him a personal leave of absence to pursue the dream to get to Canada on a bike.

    Keep the news coming. And be safe.

    Dad

    • ericgwagner says:

      Thanks Dad! Yea, pretty much anyone can take good pictures up here. Sort of idiot proof. Glad to hear John’s going to be checking out the blog.

      Riding safe, as always. See you in a couple weeks

      Eric

  5. Daddy Wags says:

    I love it that you have your Cafe Benelux hat on. We will be there tomorrow with Bill and Peggy. Really looking forward to that.

    Daddy Wags

  6. Bill Seater says:

    I’m late to the party, but WOW! Leslie’s cousin Eric lives in Alaska, outside Homer I think, and has done many rides from Alaska to Florida, as well as through-out the state. He has much insight into what to expect and probably to avoid. Let me know if you wish to contact. GREAT STUFF! Go boy’s go. Bill

    • ericgwagner says:

      Thanks for the post Bill. We’d definitely take info on Alaska as our intense pre-trip planning was basically a cup of coffee at Alterra and a quick glance at a map. If he’s got tips, that would be great!

  7. Bill Seater says:

    Brad may also want to contact Jeff Salisbury as he may know how to contact Mark Freshwater. He has been there for close to 30 yrs. If nothing else it may be a kick to see him.

  8. Melinda Krueger says:

    GS?

  9. jennifer cizek says:

    wagtube has got to be your brother, I am laughing out loud. Oh to be a fly on the wall and catch that family fun banter all the time, that would be great.
    Wags, have you considered writing a book?

  10. jennifer cizek says:

    I just got home this morning from New Delhi, India and was looking at the distance to India from Chicago on the flight map and realised that your round trip equals one way to India. Don’t let that mess with your head, just be amazed at yourselves.

    • ericgwagner says:

      Yikes. That’s pretty awesome. Wow. We won’t let it mess with our heads any more than the evil temptress bar wench in Beaver Creek messed with me last night. That chick knows how to overserve a guy…

  11. Jack Waite says:

    “Your happiness is related to your outlook on life.” That’s from a fortune cookie.
    Sounds like you found that happy point.
    Those pictures are all postcard quality–incredible.

  12. Eden Linton says:

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is required to get set up? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very web savvy so I’m not 100% positive. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Cheers Birmingham Roofing Contractors, 3506 Inverness Landing, Birmingham, AL, 35242, US, 205-301-2113

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