Today is our longest day of the trip and the forecast is saying hot and sunny. All the more reason to leave early. With no tent to take down, I breeze through my morning routine and I’m the first out of camp.
I leave just before 7 on the mostly flat Highway 5. There’s no need to look at today’s route map more than once as there’s no danger of getting lost. Turn right out of Vavenby, follow Highway 5 for 168 km, and turn right into the next campground.
It’s still cool at this hour and there’s much less traffic. This is the only road from Kamloops to Jasper so it’ll be full of trucks and RVs before long.
About 28 km into my ride, 63-year-old Harold passes me in his aerobars. Harold is known to be a tad competitive, so when he saw me up ahead I’m sure he couldn’t help but reel me in. Harold is incredibly strong. He certainly doesn’t let his age hold him back.
Once I catch up to him, I latch onto his wheel and we take turns drafting off one another, hammering the pedals as far as Avola at 43 km.
There are only two places to stop on this route, Avola being one of them, so I pull in to the convenience store while Harold continues on. I sit on the curb with a bag of roasted potato wedges – last night’s leftovers – trying to avoid speaking to the guy who owns the store. Our route map actually has a note on it saying that he “may not be welcoming to cyclists” so go in at your own risk, essentially.
He doesn’t give me a hard time, but then I’m the first of our group to come through. I’m sure I’ll hear plenty of stories at the campground tonight.
Lots of long, gradual hills make for slow going north of Avola, but it’s all worth it for the scenery.
My next (and last) stop of the day is in Blue River at 83 km. Just moments after I arrive at the Husky convenience store/restaurant, David, Jim and Travis come in and join me.
The ride is only half done at this point, and there’s nowhere else to stop for the next 85 km. I top up my water bottles and hit the road as they’re finishing up, wondering how hot it’s going to get in the next few hours.
Fortunately the road flattens out for the second half with very few hills. The saddle starts feeling really uncomfortable and I still have 50 km to go. I try and distract myself by taking pictures.
That only works for a little while. With just 10 km to go, I want to get off the bike so badly that I go as fast as I can on the last stretch. I finally arrive sunburned, sore and ready for a nap.
There are red ants crawling everywhere when I pitch my tent. Not exactly ideal, but much better than bears.
We have another long day on the schedule for tomorrow, so it’ll be an early night for me. Tomorrow we reach Alberta.