Have you followed this whole journey from the beginning? Follow this link to find all the episodes of our North American Cycle Tour – 2019.
Day 1: Cycling Calgary to High River (Alberta, Canada). 66.5kms
Finally, after all the preparations, we stood astride our fully loaded bikes in the driveway of our housesit in Calgary. It was a sunny day, thankfully, but some pretty strong winds would keep us honest.
We left at 10.15 am, as we never usually cycle all day, so an early start was unnecessary. Besides, we didn’t want to arrive super early. Winding our way out of town, we avoided the busy McLeod Trail that runs south. Rather than being flat, our alternate southern route running parallel to the McLeod Trail was quite hilly, with many long, slow climbs into the strong southerly wind.
In Okotoks, we stopped for a Banh Mi from a small Vietnamese restaurant and took it down to the shady riverbank of the Sheep River to eat. Crossing the river, we followed a bike path as it threaded its way south through new housing estates and out of town.
By mid-afternoon, we had made it to George Lane Memorial Park in High River where we set up the tent for the first time in many a night. The campground was very nice with many trees and situated just next to the town’s main business district.
The friendly managers gave us a place near the toilet block and directed us to a shortcut on a walking path to the main street and The Knee Deep Bar & Grill, where we had dinner. The lady who owned the bar told us about a place to stay in Rexford, Montana, as it was on our way, and she stayed there in her RV every summer. It was only about a week’s ride away, so we said we would drop in.
Considering the wind, we were pleased with our distance today. Obviously, our training had paid off, and we’d only get fitter and stronger as we went.
Wednesday, 5th June: Cycling High River to Stavely (Alberta, Canada). 58kms
Ride Time: 4hrs 40mins / Ave Speed: 7.82mph
We slept well for our first night back in the tent, even though my air mattress deflated slowly overnight. I’d have to get that fixed, and soon, overwise, it could be a rough tour across the mountains for me.
We stopped at an A&W fast food place for breakfast and had a chat with a few of the elderly locals who were hanging around drinking coffee and shooting the breeze, as we found customary. They were very interested in our tour plans, having never met long-distance cyclists. It was a good thing, too, as they told us of an excellent, quiet road to take south that would keep us off Highway 2 for a bit longer.
10th Street East took us all the way down to the tiny hamlet of Cayley, where we stopped for a cold drink and a rest. Just after Cayley, we found ourselves with no choice but to ride on the busy Highway 2. Fortunately, a large, wide shoulder separated us from the trucks and speeding cars.
At Nanton, we stopped and admired the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, which housed an old, fully-restored B52 bomber, the type the famous English Dambusters used. It was complete with a replica, round bomb, just like the real ones – very interesting. We wandered through town and eventually settled on a food truck for lunch.
We pressed on into the relentless wind along the rolling, winding highway. By the time we reached Stavely, we were pretty well spent. In a town of only 500 people, you wouldn’t expect too much of the community campground – and you’d be right! It hadn’t been tended to in a long time, by the looks of it. While we checked it out, a few young hoons ratted up and down in their hotted-up cars, making us feel a little uneasy about sleeping in the open park. We decided to head to the pub (one of the only other businesses in town) and ask around.
Donny, the owner of the Stavely Hotel, served us a Kokanee Beer and told us there was nowhere else to stay in town, but he had a room above the pub we could stay in. The room checked out. It was basic, and the bathroom was down the hall. But it was clean, and we were too tired to go elsewhere.
Donny let us keep the bikes in the bar overnight, swearing they’d be safe as houses – we believed him. After a pub meal and a few beers with the locals, everyone had an early night, and we retired upstairs to a comfortable bed.
Thursday 6th June: Stavely to Fort MacLeod (Alberta, Canada): 57kms
Ride Time: 4hrs 20mins / Ave Speed: 8.1mph
The pub opens at 10 am, and no one does breakfast in Stavely. It’s that kind of place!
Once again, we battled a fierce headwind all day, stopping to rest every 2kms. Lunch was at Claresholm Shell Service Station, our common culinary choice. After numerous meals served in these places, we’d have to guess that only Indian guys work in servos and liquor stores!
Our intended stop of Granum was 2 km off the road, so we decided to press on. Finally, 10 km after Granum we turned side-on into the wind. My bum was so sore! The constant grind into the wind meant you couldn’t freewheel and lift yourself off the saddle, rub, rub, rub it went. So, on and on into the wind, we rode; the only relief from the saddle was to stop and get off.
Crossing Old Man River, Fort MacLeod, was a welcome sight. We were only here six weeks ago, so we knew where to go and were in the campground in no time at all.
We were busted and needed to rehydrate and rest. The girl at the office was intent on putting us way up the back miles from the toilet block – even though there was no-one hardly there. We weren’t amused, and Shazz made sure the girl understood.
Eventually, after some useless mind games, the owner appeared who remembered us, and after some arm-twisting, let us have a site near the toilets. After all, it was only a Thursday early in the season. Somehow they didn’t want to give us a powered site just in case a barrage of RVs suddenly appeared out of nowhere!
Once settled and showered, we rode up to town and the now-familiar Stronghold Brewery, where we got comfortable and ordered a few of their thirst-quenching beers.
Checking the internet, we discovered bad weather forecast for the next few days. On top of the relentlessly strong wind, that was not good news!
Friday 7th June: Fort MacLeod (Alberta, Canada) Enforced Rest Day
Wild winds up to 60km/hr made staying another night in Fort MacLeod a “No-Brainer.” Good job we were in no particular hurry. The forecast for the next couple of days was terrible, and the strong winds would persist for the next few days.
We ventured up to the A&W on the highway in town. While working out what to do next, we eventually decided to get a lift up to Crow’s Nest Pass; a good two days ride from here.
Back around at the Stronghold Brewery, we spread the word we needed a lift for tomorrow, but ironically, it was Caitlyn at the campground (the girl who wanted us to camp a mile from the toilet block) who came good for us. A friend of hers was passing through on his way up to Sparwood in his campervan and said he would take us up there. Relieved, we settled back, knowing we wouldn’t have to ride this dangerous and arduous section of road.
Read on to see how our plans eventuated: Back to the Finish: Cycling Fort McCleod to Eureka.