First, the photo collection: http://ca.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/mac...0e0scd&.src=ph
I arrived at Castle Junction bright and early, about 7:45 am, took my bag over to the baggage truck, signed in, set up Machak, and was on my way by about 8:15 am. Registration was from 7:30 am to 9:00 am, and whenever we were ready to go, we could leave. There's no mass start, which makes sense because setting 370 riders off all at once on roads that are well travelled by long weekend vacationers could be dangerous. This way, everyone headed off alone or in little clumps, so we were spread out over quite a few kms.
The ride starts with a 7 km climb on an 8% grade … good way to start a tour!! I stopped once to use my inhalers, which I should have done before I started, but otherwise cruised right up. The first stop was about 8 kms into the ride because they don't serve breakfast the first morning, and because that climb takes riders a little while. After that, it is basically downhill until right near the end.
It was a lovely (although chilly) ride to the lunch stop at 51 kms … lots of beautiful scenery. I rode with various riders, and was passed by lots. It was nice not to be the only cyclist out there! I met a small group from Manitoba, who I ended up riding with or leap-frogging most of the first and second day. When I arrived at the lunch stop, there weren't many riders in the lunch line, and I had my lunch in no time. But as I sat on a rock eating my lunch, a huge group of cyclists rolled in. I took a couple photos!! I've rarely seen so many cyclists in one group before!!
The wind came up during lunch, and I was into a headwind from the lunch stop to the next snack stop at 81 kms. It was a fairly strong wind with gusts that blew me, and several others, all over the place. Cycling was slow going. Nevertheless, I hoped the wind would continue right to the end.
A group of us were standing around chatting at the last snack stop, when all of a sudden someone said, "The wind has changed". We looked around at the sky as the rain began. I left the stop right away but did not put my booties on. The sky in the west looked like it would clear shortly … I was wrong. The rain just got heavier … and periodically changed to hail. My feet were soaked! And unfortunately we had a tailwind.
The tailwind was fine all the way up Sinclair Pass, but I so desperately wanted a headwind going down the other side to slow my descent. I also desperately wanted the rain to stop, and the road to dry. None of my wishes were granted.
With very vivid memories of my crash on a steep, wet hill 6 weeks ago, I started the descent … and stopped about 0.5 kms down the hill to shake. I was so terrified, I just stood there and shook violently. Another rider stopped behind me and asked me if I was OK. "No" I replied. We chatted for a few minutes and I started to calm down. I took several deep breaths and continued down the hill, stopping every kilometer or so to collect myself. As it happened there were 3 other girls also struggling down the hill. We would stop together and reassure each other before continuing slowly down the hill. I ended up riding with, and leap-frogging, one of those girls the whole second day too. My top speed down that hill was 15 km/h! I slowly covered about 10 kms that way … laying on the brakes and stopping every so often … and was amazed every time I saw other cyclists barreling down the hill at top speed. I expected to come upon carnage around every corner!
With 2 kms to go, the sky really opened up and poured buckets, combined with lightening and thunder. I dashed into a little shelter that happened to be next to the road. Several other cyclists joined me there and we waited out the rain. This shelter was right across the road from the Radium Hotsprings … and the pool was evacuated because of the lightening!!
The last 2 kms down into Radium are very steep (11% grade), the road was like a waterfall, and is very narrow with broken shoulders. Not only that, but the road was thick with vehicles containing disgruntled tourists who had been evacuated from the pool. At that point, I made a decision. I decided to walk the rest of the way. As it happens there is a sidewalk all the way down so that worked out well. I took several photos of that area – it's quite spectacular.
I got to the camping area, picked a spot, and hauled my 33 pound bag clear across the field to the spot I picked. Next time, I have to pick a spot closer to the baggage truck!! I had everything set up in no time, and hiked across the field to the washrooms to change into dry clothes. On my way back, I heard an odd sound. It was like a waterfall … but there weren't any waterfalls in the immediate area, and I hadn't noticed this sound before. I looked over in the direction of the sound and couldn't see anything, but the sound grew louder. Suddenly I realized what it was … rain coming across the field. I sprinted for my tent and dove in … and as I did, I noticed that all the other cyclists were also diving into their tents. It was actually quite funny … much like a bunch of ground squirrels all heading for their burrows!
When that shower let up, I took a walk into town, then returned in time for a big, delicious supper, and then took the shuttle van up to the Hotsprings where I soaked for an hour. That was very nice … I think my aching shoulder appreciated it. I went up to the hotsprings with camping neighbors who were on a tandem, and who had a sister who works for the same company as me. And while in the pool, I met one of the volunteers, an older lady who does quite a bit of cycling, who told me about all sorts of rides here in Alberta. She and I chatted at many of the snack and lunch stops for the rest of the ride.
Back at camp I talked with neighbors on the other side of me … a father and son. The father had met me on this tour two years ago, and his son was into mountain biking 24-hour events, so we talked for a while about long distance cycling.
We all headed to our tents very early, and a short time later, the rain started. I slept quite soundly all night, but each time I woke up, I could hear the rain on the tent. It continued to rain right till 6:40 am, and then stopped. At that point, everyone emerged from their tents and began packing up for the next day.