Day 18 – Jasper, AB to Whitefish, MT, US of A

We awoke in Jasper feeling great about our mature decision making the night before and got a decently early start (for us).  As we emerged from Jasper, we were instantly greeted with what was maybe the best riding of the trip.  I’m sure you’re sick of hearing that, but seriously, the ride from Jasper to Lake Louise is absolutely spectacular as you roll through a valley cut by a blue river through the Canadian Rockies.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get many photos – we are clearly in “go home” mode like a couple of pigeons loaded with important messages from the front, but we had to stop for a couple.

The start of an amazing ride.

Brad's better side. Zing.

You know how I am about black and whites.

I could easily live here. Perfect.

I could ride this road forever.

Canadian Rockies. Love the Canadiennes and their Rockies.

The only way to burn this completely into my brain is a quick photo. Don't worry Mom (and Ali), we were going slow with no cars (or moose) around.

After the spectacular riding, we entered the US, and my bike was “randomly” chosen for inspection (I personally think the criteria was smell, but whatever), so that delayed us about thirty minutes or so.  The guys were cool about it, and they pointed us to cheap gas.  We’d been putting off getting a full tank until the US since gas in Canada is approaching $8.00 per gallon in some areas.  Yikes!

We pulled into Whitefish, Montana, and found a place to stay.  Not really the honeymoon suite, but again, we were lucky since it was Huckleberry Days and the hotels were all booked up.  I think we might have had two of the last rooms in town.  There were also some other riders staying there, and you just might meet these crazies later in this post…

I have GOT to get the number of their interior decorator...

We jumped in a cab and headed to downtown Whitefish.  One of my new favorite places!  It’s blessed by NOT being on the freeway, and as a result, it has character and is full of local color.  It hasn’t been ruined by all the typical shwaggy freeway development that happens to so many towns in our country. Absolutely great town.  The local color is great, but it can backfire as we quickly found out – Calamity Jane decided that I was her target for the night.  Sweet.  As Brad and I are minding our own business sitting on a bench in the bar enjoying our first cheap beer in weeks, she comes stumbling over with her dog and sits right next to me.  For some reason, she decides it would be good to get her stinky mut up on the bench and practically in my lap.  I’m not sure if I can smell her or her dog, and I don’t care.  Either way, it ain’t pleasant.  So, Brad and I shimmy out from the table and mosey up to the bar thinking we’d escaped.  Nope.  She comes over and starts asking us why we walked away.  We told her we just wanted to sit at the bar, and she accused us of being Alaskans.  Actually, I was pretty pleased by this.  After she let me know that she was definitely into me (she was not a shy woman), we finally pealed ourselves away and meandered towards the door suffering her ranting onslaught of derision as we slithered through the crowd.  Had she been clean to a socially acceptable level and sober enough to form sentences, I’d have been very flattered.  As it was, well, not so much.

Yea, that's about right.

After wings and burgers at the next bar, we sat having some wine when we noticed something up on the wall, and it literally had my name on it.  A HUGE jockstrap with “Eric” in gold glitter right down the middle.  Yea!  I finally found my junk helmet!  I can now return to the Yukon and shower without fear!  I admit, I’d need to take the waste in a little bit, but the rest of it would definitely work.  They’re supposed to be tight, right?  And the bartender, Dana, was nice enough to treat us to a photo too.  Look closely – I mean, what are the odds?

And then we met the Canadians.  Oh shit.  You recall the other riders staying at our hotel?  Well, they sauntered up to our table at the bar just as we were about to wrap things up for the evening and be good little boys.  The next thing we know, bottles of wine are being ordered, and we’re hearing stories from the way, way, way up “up north.”

I'm ready to go home, but here come the Canadians!!! (Gratuitous self-portrait and sponsor shot - Cafe Centraal)

Our new pals: Andy, Mike, Me, Murray, aka, The Canadians, or the Saskatoonans.

These lunatics are from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, eh.  And just when I was feeling pretty cool about what we were doing on our motorcycles, I was once again slapped down a couple pegs.  I won’t even try to retell these stories, but these guys go on snowmobile trips up past the treeline for hundreds of miles.  With no trails.  “Yea, eh.  We head out with about ten sleds eh, and if one goes down, we double up eh.  Once we get down to 5 sleds, we have to leave people behind eh.”  Of course.  And they don’t even bother with camping equipment because it’s so cold you couldn’t survive camping anyway.  And keep in mind, there are NO trails and no people – they just hope to find a camp or a barn to sleep in.  One of my favorite stories:  “Yea, we were going along and hit a deer eh.  It woofed us eh.”  Eric: “Woofed you?”  (it might have been wolfed us, but the wine was flowing and it was loud).  “Yea eh, it woofed us – it knocked us off the sled eh.  I called back to Bill, ‘Eh Bill, you ok eh?’  And Bill says, ‘Yea eh, I’m ok but I don’t know where I am eh!'”  He doesn’t know where he is because it’s so freaking dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face.  It’s a darkness we can’t even know.  “So, I finally find the sled eh, and I squeeze the break light eh, and I hear Bill say, ‘eh, I can see you know.  I’ll crawl over eh.’  The front ski of the sled was trashed eh, so when we found the next camp, there was an old bed frame eh.  So, we cut through the frame and welded the metal to the sled for a front ski eh.”  Yea, of course.  I’d have been eaten by the wolves and these guys are turning beds into skis for snowmobiles above the treeline.  They’ve found that fine line between bravery and whacked-out crazy insanity.  You decide.

I’m doing a crappy job of trying to explain these stories, and without the benefit of the great Canadian accent, much is lost.  Let’s just say that I had the “you have to be shitting me” look shining through smiles and laughs for most of the evening.  It was awesome.

He's a real go getter. No, really he is.

After way too much wine, the bar shut down and shoed us away.  We walked out together, but Andy took off for some unknown reason.  (I hope I don’t have Mike and Andy’s names reversed – come on – the wine was aflowing.)  So, the rest of us waited for a couple minutes and then got into a cab.  On the way, we stopped at a hotel that looked like a party place to see if we could get some more beer (clearly we needed some).  All of this took about 10 minutes.  Then we got home, and to our surprise, Andy was already there!  With a 12-pack!  And passed out!  I don’t know how he did this, but in 15 minutes, he managed to find a place to buy beer when EVERYTHING was closed, make it back to the hotel BEFORE us, AND pass out.  As Brad said, “Yea, he’s a real go getter.”

We stood around for a while talking motorcycles and having a beer promising to stay in touch before everyone called it a night.  It was one of those rare nights that erupt only when travelling.  Only fellow travelers have that openness to allow experiences like this to live.  Save a spot for me on one of these shorter, safer (well, let’s admit it, more pussy) trips guys…  Hope to see you soon.

Our daily updated – made it from “U” to “V” today:

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