Finishing up our Canadian Rockies Ride 2022

Part 5, the final push July 7 – July 12, 2022 116.6 miles / 2,832 Ft Elevation climbed

It’s bittersweet but we both agreed that we felt like we were missing out on the fun stuff back home. Fun stuff like tending our gardens, which we rely on for canning foods. Fun stuff like the rapidly changing life of everything that makes UP Michigan so incredible. We LOVE to cycle tour, but we LOVE our little red house in UP. Touring UP in the fall is incredible and we’ve decided, at least for the time being that we are going to spend summers in the future at home. There is entirely too much cool, fun stuff happening right out our back door. Somehow we will have to figure out the logistics of long distance touring, but in the winter. What does that even mean? At this point, we are not sure. But in the meantime, here goes the final push of our Canadian Rockies Tour.

We left out of Lundbrook Falls campground and immediately started our climb back into the mountains of Alberta, Canada. We would be passing back into British Columbia, Canada soon. The terrain changed rapidly and I have to admit that I would much rather cycle in the mountains than the flat grasslands.

We passed through an area where a huge rockslide took out a town many years ago. “The Frank Slide was a massive rockslide that buried part of the mining town of Frank in the District of Alberta of the North-West Territories, Canada, at 4:10 a.m. on April 29, 1903. Around 44 million cubic metres/110 million tonnes of limestone rock slid down Turtle Mountain. Wikipedia ” Estimates of those killed was about 90.

We knew we had to hit a pass, CrowsNest Pass on our way back across the mountain range. The elevation wasn’t bad at 4,298 Ft above sea level. The cycling was pretty easy for the most part.

Our destination for the night was Sparwood, British Columbia where there is a campground, Mountain Shadows Campground with hot showers. We both were pretty ready for a shower and we looked forward to it. The campground was incredible, we were even entertained by a cute chipmunk.

We slept great again in our little red tent. It’s funny, I just realized that our living quarters both on the road and off are red. Little Red Tent and Little Red House near Lake Superior. Anyway, we packed up and rolled this morning, heading into Fernie.

We saw Mike the Bikes bike and trailer in the ditch so we stopped. Mike was drying wet clothing out across a log in the ditch. He joined us for lunch at the 3 & 93 Dairy Bar for lunch. This is at the intersection of Hwy 3 and 93, which makes sense as to why they call it that. We all enjoyed burgers and fries and ice cream. It’s a rule, if it’s an ice cream place we must indulge in said ice cream. So we did and it was excellent!

Mike joined us for our remaining night in BC Canada. We headed to the Kikomun Creek Recreation Site. This time there were about half a dozen RVs pulled in. We pitched our tents and Mike joined us for a lentil soup supper. His bike is not really all that suitable for gravel roads but he did good as we wove our way to the rec site.

The next morning, July 9, 2022 we departed way with Mike the Bike. He was continuing his journey and we headed south towards the US/Canada Border.

The Elk River Bridge is one of those river bridges that I have developed a definite Love-Hate relationship with. Maybe it was my imagination but it seems like it has gotten easier. That and the realization (over and over) that hills are a mind game. I have learned, NEVER EVER look at the top of the oncoming big hill. These monsters always look like they go on forever but to just hit it and not look up makes it a whole lot easier.

But then again, cycling is more mental than physical. A positive, can-do attitude goes a long way in completing longer tours.

We exited out of Canada and back into the US just north of Eureka, Montana. We headed for our truck, loaded the bikes and gear. From there we met up with Sheila, Nate and Alex at Fire & Slice, a local pizza place.

It’s time to head for home.

We camped again at the Yellowstone River the evening of July 10 . The sunset was incredible. Devil’s Tower has been a land feature that I have always wanted to see. On July 11, 2022 enroute back to Michigan we got to see it. We ended up just driving through since every parking lot was full. The National Wonders are way too busy for our tastes. Our final night of camping was a boondocking site near the Badlands.

When we departed the Badlands on July 12 we opted to drive on to home. The bike tour was a fun ride all in all but the limited grocery store options and resupply options for us brought back a lot of miserable memories from 2016.

Canada is beautiful, there is no question about that and we both are very pleased with our Continental Divide bail out. We had wanted to revisit the Icefields Parkway and we did. We had wanted to revisit some of BCs Rec Sites and we did. But now that we redid some of this we are ready to move along from revisiting Western Canada.

Our local UP Michigan tours will happen and we are excited about the rides we have planned in 2023. It has taken me way too long get this tour written but life just seems to keep us very busy.

Words of “You are too young to retire or Won’t you get bored?” OMG, there isn’t enough hours in the day to do all we do. Spring, Summer and Fall we will be staying home. We have a garden to tend, foraging for wild fruits, canning up foods and just watching UP come to life in the spring to look forward to. The “Bones” to our September UP Ride are pretty much set. We are also looking toward embarking on a multi-month tour winter of 2023-2024. The planning has started but details and logistics have not been finalized.

A Bicycle Tour has started to formulate in our brains and the call of the wide open spaces reverberates through our minds. We are definitely not ready to hang up our panniers or touring bikes. The possibilities are quite endless and who really knows where we will point our bikes to, but we will bag up and head out again.

Canadian Rockies Ride 2022

Part 4: Nordegg Alberta Canada to Lundbrook Falls Campground

June 28, 2022 – July 6, 2022 304.3 Miles / 12,783 Ft elevation climbing

We have become quite good at creating routes for bicycle touring, after all we had a lot of practice throughout South America back in 2018. Too much information all at one time can be very overloading so we break down our tours into segments. It makes a big ride more manageable. We’ve often been asked how we did such a long ride when we did Alaska to Argentina. The answer is simple, one day at a time. That tour was no different than a single day ride, the only difference is we did a lot of single day rides and each of those days we pointed our tires south and we pedaled.

With new maps downloaded onto our GPS units, we had our sites on cutting through some farmlands in southern Alberta. Then we head west into the mountains to get back to Eureka, Montana. We truly hoped for roads with less traffic, more backroads. The short growing season in Canada promotes some of the most beautiful flowers.

Our routing hopscotched us from campgrounds to campgrounds and motels . The night of June 27 we spent at Beaver Dam Campground just outside of Nordegg. June 28 Twin Lakes CG; June 29 Gateway Motel in Caroline; July 1-2 Sun Plaza Motel in Sundre; July 3 Bottrel CG; July 4 Gooseberry Lake CG; July 5 Chain Lakes CG; and finally July 6 at Lundbrook Falls CG.

The cycling felt more like we were in Texas than Alberta, Canada. Traffic consisted of big pickup trucks, aggressive drivers, oil pumpjacks, cattle ranches and did I mention the aggressive drivers? Yes, yes I did.

We hit some rather cold and rainy weather. On tour we often gut it out and cycle but when the chance arises to get a motel room, it’s always a treat. Staying in Sundre allowed us to wait out one series of storms. However, the day we headed for Bottrel Campground we ended up taking shelter in a baseball dugout. High winds and a lot of lightening and rain was fast moving so it passed quickly. We did get wet though. We stopped again to wait out a passing storm at the Clearwater Trading Post.

The day of cycling going into Gooseberry Lake Campground was VERY rainy and cold. We spent much of the morning cycling in 37F temps with pouring down rain. Had we had a good hotel option we would have taken it. But cycle touring is about rolling with what Mother Nature has to toss at us.

The cold rain event finished up on July 5, breaking into blue skies and distant mountain view.

This region of Alberta was even home to the city of Longview. It was much smaller than Longview, Texas but fun to go through none-the-less.

We came across a place called Little Chicago Memorial, Oilfield Town. It commemorated the oil drilling in Alberta. It was quite interesting to read but a pretty definite stain on the countryside. We took a break here, read all the plaques and information. This amount of oil drilling and oilfield life sounded like a northern version of Texas.

We’ve been rolling with tubeless tires. I did manage to pick up a huge staple that caused me to flat.

We were pretty much dried out when we rolled into Chain Lakes Campground. This was probably our least favorite place to camp. It was better suited for RVs but as usual, we made due. We did take advantage of the sunshine and strong breezes to dry out our gear. It seemed like everything was still wet.

While we were relaxing at our campsite, we were visited by a man who was also bicycle touring. He called himself Mike the Bike. and he had quite the set up.

On July 6, 2022 we cycled with Mike the Bike. It was fun chatting with him, he is from Calgary and was heading west to visit his son. We parted ways when we turned off to our final campgrounds on the segment, Lundbrook Falls.

Once we got our tent set up, we spent the afternoon lounging, listening to the falls and watching the birds. This was incredible.

Tomorrow we head back up into the mountains for the final push back to Eureka, Montana.

The Great Divide Ride – Hinton to Nordegg Alberta Canada

Canadian Rockies Tour Part 3 June 21, 2022 – June 27, 2022

161 Miles 9,310 Ft in Elevation gained

We tour for the solitude. We tour for the views and vistas. We tour for the peace that takes hold of us, way deep down in our souls. We tour because, well just because.

Life on the road as a full time bicycle traveler is not always easy. I’ve said it time and time again, it’s the hard & tough days that we remember. As time goes by, the rose colored glasses come out and the pain and agony fades but the memories are still bold.

There is no “right way” to bicycle tour. Panniers or no panniers, bike packing style vs pannier style. Load everything but the kitchen sink … oh wait, scratch that as there is a collapsible version of a sink that can be carried along. Okay, lets rephrase that to everything but the porcelain commode, even though there are days we would really appreciate one. Pack what is only relevant, there is no one way to do this wonderful form of travel.

We hybrid it. We ride with back racks and back panniers and a handlebar bag of one kind or another. We have fork racks on the front that carry nalgene bottles that we use for storage. We cook so carrying a full kitchen (minus that kitchen sink as we found it didn’t get used and we left it behind on someone’s picnic table). We carry 5 days of food, we carry a stove. On this tour we used our Solo Stove and burned wood for cooking. I love this way! We eat a lot of lentils and brown rice. We eat raw oatmeal in the morning but we do enjoy HOT coffee, not instant every morning. I should clarify this, Curtis cooks. I enjoy. We each have our own tasks that we are responsible for. He cooks and I set up the tent. This includes inflating air mattresses every night and rolling out the sleeping bags. ZPads are also one of our things. We sleep in such utter comfort, air mattress on top of the ZPad give extra warmth as well as comfort and support. Pillows are articles of clothing, usually a fleece with down jackets inside. It just works. Again, no right or wrong way to do things. It’s a rhythm that we perfected across the America’s. We are slow and we don’t force a set number of high miles every day. Life as a bicycle tourer has to remain sustainable. We have to be able to get up the next day and do it all over again.

With that said, the realization that we are slower than most becomes glaringly obvious. Canada is beautiful but Canada has a lot of miles in between towns. These sparse towns may or may not have a grocery store. It is not uncommon for the residents to drive an hour to get groceries. Well, on a bicycle what a car can do in an hour takes us all day, if we are lucky. Resupply points are vital and if we can’t make the mileage of each day work with the food supply we carry then we can potentially get ourselves into a serious situation. Hungry is not a good thing to be on a bicycle. Cycling creates this food monster that can pack away a serious amount of groceries in one sitting. We have to be smart about our abilities and our style.

We left Snaring River Campground and headed for Hinton, where we would officially start on the Continental Divide Route. There is a beginning out of Jasper but we were off route from it at the Snaring River. Instead of the off road trail to Hinton, we opted to stick to the pavement. This turned out to be a smart move. The road was amazing and we cruised along like the wind. It was awesome. We arrived in Hinton on June 21, 2022. This will be a resupply town complete with laundry and big grocery stores. We settled into a hotel room for the night.

One night led to 3 nights because of a bad storm and cold cold rain event. If the weather sucks that bad, we have learned that if at all possible to stay put. We didn’t roll out of Hinton until June 24. While we were in town we got laundry done and enjoyed some great chocolate and some adult beverages. We also really looked into the logistics of the divide route from here going forward.

When we departed Hinton on June 24 we headed into the mountains, cycling the official ACA Continental Divide Route. The road changed from paved to gravel/dirt relatively soon. The road was very muddy from all of the recent rains. The trees and countryside were beautiful. The first half of the day we climbed and then downhill into our chosen campground, McLeod Rive CG. We found a beautiful space right next to a very swollen river. The camp host was very excited to see us on bicycles and provided us with a lot of dry firewood.

June 25 was fun, hard but fun. We saw our one and only wild grizzly bear and it was more than enough excitement for us. The suspected resupply location today is in Robb. This turned out to be a “Chip store” and bar. No real supplies but we did order lunch at the bar, $15 omelets. A tad bit pricey but we knew going into this ride that food and restaurants especially are crazy expensive in Canada.

The beaver are busy in the river valley and we came across one of the most beautiful beaver dams we have ever seen.

We stayed at the Pembina Forks Campground for the night. It was okay at best and had some of the worst mosquitos.

June 26 was tough. The hills were steep and the lack of rain causes everything including us to be covered in a fine powdery dust. The ride uneventful, scenery beautiful but again, oh so dusty. We stopped at Brown Creek Campground for the day. A group of 3 touring cyclists came in late in the afternoon. It was Sheila and her two adult sones, Nate and Alex. They had started in Jasper and were doing the Divide. It was great chatting with them. I got to see my very first Calypso Orchid today, beautiful!

We are trying to keep our daily mileage lower to make the climbing more manageable. The realization that our ability to actually cycle the entire route thru Canada was a startling revelation to us both. We can handle elevation gain, we can handle distances but what was difficult was carrying enough food to last through a segment based on our cooking set up, food supply needs and overall weight. It wasn’t practical to cycle the divide past the town of Nordegg. We decided to change the route and head east toward Calgary. The really amazing thing was we were both totally okay with this decision. Neither of us have anything to prove and we are ready to go home. Homesick??

We left our campsite early and rolled into Nordegg. We stopped into the Miner’s Café and WOW did we EAT!! Turkey and Swiss sandwiches with chips followed by Berry Rhubarb Pie Alamode and then a serving of Maple walnut ice cream. Yea… cyclists can really pack away the groceries!! Todays ride was filled with very steep and dusty hill climbing.

We actually met up with Sheila and her sons in Nordegg.

Sheila and her sons continued on the divide route. Curtis and I decided for our style of cycling, we would end it in Nordegg. From here we will take a southern route through Alberta and then back across the mountains into British Colombia.

Our minds continuously took us back to our little red home in UP Michigan. Indeed we were homesick but not for the sake of just being away from home. It was more like we were missing out on the fun back home. We were missing the garden, the yardwork, the berry picking, the wild foraging. We were missing it all.

Now for a not so direct route back to our truck, we are cycling now to get home.

The Ice Fields Parkway to Jasper, Alberta

Canadian Rockies Tour Part 2 June 16, 2022 – June 20, 2022

143.4 Miles / 230.78 Km Elevation Gain 6,327 Feet / 1,928.47 Meters

Lake Louise is a very bustling city where we really needed to stop and resupply before continuing on to the Ice Fields Parkway. We stopped at the overpriced grocery store for basics and bought a few bread items at a local bakery. In 2016 we stayed at the bear-fence enclosed campground but this year we opted to push on to the southernmost campground on the parkway. Our destination was Mosquito Creek Campground.

We departed Lake Louise and found a short bicycle trail just past the exit towards Jasper. We had pre-purchased our park passes which we presented at the entrance kiosk before continuing on. This early in the season campgrounds are just now opening up.

The scenery on this parkway is spectacular. Snow capped peaked surrounded us and the ride was not difficult, just a lot of traffic.

This trip we are riding on Salsa Fargo TI bikes and they are most awesome! The wider tires are so smooth and handle rough roads and potholes with ease. Oh sure, they roll a bit slower than a skinny tired road bike but the comfort more than makes up for the pace.

Wild Camping or Stealth Camping is really not an option within Jasper National Park. The forest rangers get a bit grumpy when they find someone doing so. We often push the envelope with wild camping but not here. We stayed at 4 campgrounds within the park boundary: (1) Mosquito Creek Campground (2) Rampart Creek Campground (3) Wilcox Campground (4) Honeymoon Lake Campground.

We saw a few black bears in the park as well as a lot of big horn sheep. We also saw prairie dogs, red squirrels and chipmunks.

I had remembered in 2016 how difficult this roadway was, but that wasn’t the case this time. I don’t know, chalk it up to familiarity? Chalk it up to experience? Chalk it up to other roads we conquered? Who knows, the realization that a road is a road and we only build them up in our own minds to be fearful.

Fear is a funny thing, it can totally freak a person out to the point that they do nothing in life. No, the realization that most mountains in our minds are nothing more than mole hills in reality. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s healthy to hold a sense of fear, it keeps our wits about us. But to focus on the fear, the dwell on the negatives, these just cripple us.

The Icefields Parkway, whether it is cycled from North to South (2016) or South to North (this ride) is nothing short of fabulous! Curtis and I take it slow, I think on a good day our overall pace is like 8mph! On a loaded bike, day after day cycling has to be sustainable and the slower pace allows us to truly enjoy our surroundings. And this Parkway does not disappoint in that beauty department.

We met quite a few cyclists along the Parkway. We met some along the road and others at the campgrounds. Cyclists are a funny group of people, no one cares where you are from, what country you hail from. No one cares your politics or religion, no one cares your gender, but it seems like no matter who we meet or where we meet them, they are kindred spirits.

Clockwise starting with the the top left: Angus from the UK, George (don’t know where he’s from), Heidi (age 60), Duncan & Debbie (UK), John & Will (US), Chris (St Paul, MN), and Dave (Calif).

Anyone who has followed us in the past knows that I am passionate about the local flowers. Curtis is always so patient when I stop for photos only to stop again a few minutes later.

The pine beetle infestation has been very detrimental to the forests in the north. Whistler Campground was hit very hard since we stayed there in 2016. This time we decided to continue into the city of Jasper, stop by the grocery store and then head on to the Snaring River Campground.

This closes out our Icefields Parkway segment on this tour. We will be changing on to the Great Divide Route in Hinton, Alberta Canada as we depart the Jasper area.

Canadian Rockies Tour – Part 1

June 3, 2022 – June 16, 2022 Eureka, MT to The Icefields Parkway, Canada

264.2 Miles / 425.19 Km Elevation Gain 13,444 Feet / 4,111.14 Meters

It felt amazing to be heading off on a new adventure. Plans had been made for us to cycle The Continental Divide back in 2020. Covid-19 brought those plans to an abrupt halt. We focused instead on making our little red house that we purchased in August of 2019 into a cozier home.

This region of Canada is a revisit for us. On September 1, 2016 through September 11, 2016 we traveled this area from Jasper, Alberta to the US Border north of Eureka, MT. We were southbound back then. We decided to revisit the area by cycling south to north this time, making Jasper, Alberta our northern most destination. Our original plans were to begin the The Continental Divide Trail from Jasper and head back to the US, making this a 2-3 month long trip. The ride in 2022 for us would begin and end in Eureka, Montana.

We broke the route into segments. Our first segment would take us from Eureka, Montana to Radium Hot Springs, Canada and then on to Lake Louise where the Icefields Parkway started.

British Columbia has Recreation Sites which offer free camp sites, most of them at least. We hopscotched our way from Eureka stopping at Edwards Lake Rec Site, Kikomun Creek Rec Site, Horseshoe Lake Rec Site, Johnson Lake Rec Site, Findlay Falls Rec Site before rolling into Radium Hot Springs.

There were so many birds along the way.

The camping was no charge at the Rec Sites, most had Out Houses (BYO TP), fire rings and water sources. Most water sources were rivers and streams. Water is a huge factor for us when we camp and we filter water with an MSR Filter. Some water sources are more memorable than others. This one particular water re-supply stands out for us. Findlay Falls was a hike to get to and then Curtis has to be an acrobat to reach the fast moving water. Cold and crystal clear, this was incredible tasting water!!

My oh my how Radium Hot Springs has grown since our ride through there in 2016. It was a town, now a bustling city that we had wanted to revisit. We took a stroll down memory lane and ate at a local German Restaurant. It was definitely as good as we remembers. The new chaos of the city was not what we expected but we took an extra day off here and stocked up with groceries for the road.

Our departure day from Radium Hot Springs was on June 13, 2022. The day greeted us with pouring down rain and it was cold! We had our first real pass to conquer, Sinclair Pass. This time we would not take hypothermia and the rain for granted. In 2016 it was pouring down rain with temperatures near freezing as we approached this pass from the north. This time, we approach from the south but again it was cold and rainy. We geared up with as few clothes as possible to climb the pass. We planned to hit the pass, strip off the wet clothes, put on dry clothes and rain coats for the fast, long 6+mile drop. Our campground was just past the end of the downhill. We did have one other main concern this time, the pass summit had had a lot of grizzly bear activity. Slow, cold cyclists = meals on wheels. Luckily we did not see any grizzly bears only bear shit on the road and WOW do they leave a mound!

McLeod Meadows Campground ended up being home for us for 2 nights. We did so because of the hard cold rain and we opted to hunker down and stay put. We had a cook shelter complete with a wood stove, real toilets and a place to fully dry out our gear. We tent camped the first night but moved into the cook shelter for the 2nd night. The park host/ranger came by and said it was ok to sleep in the shelter since there was almost no one else in the park. Most that were there were in RVs. We literally hung the tent from the rafters and strung lines to hang wet clothes. We kept the wood stove going at all times and drank an enormous amount of hot beverages. Hot chocolate sounded good but we didn’t have any so the next best thing was we started cutting fudge into cubes and putting them into our mugs. It was actually pretty good!

We departed McCleod on June 15, 2022 and continued our way toward Lake Louise. We saw our first black bear as we cycled. Sites along the way were beautiful. We saw a lot of wildlife. It’s amazing how familiar the entire ride was. Memories from 2016 flooded back in.

One place we were both really looking forward to revisiting was Storm Mountain Lodge Restaurant. We took the time again this year and stopped for supper, enjoying incredible Bison-Elk Burgers along with a bowl of steaming hot Pumpkin Soup. OMG! Incredible!!

Before we left Storm Mountain Lodge the manager that had left to go home for the day called back to have the staff warn us of a “Huge Grandpa Grizzly” literally on the road that we would soon be on. We opted to hang out at the restaurant for a few extra minutes and then we cautiously headed out. The idea of running into one of the big grizzlies, yea not very high on our wish list. It was downhill from Storm Mountain Lodge. We were flashed over to the side by an oncoming motorcycle. It turned out to be a man that we met back in Radium Hot Springs. We chatted with him on the side of the road for about 10 minutes, giving the grizzly bear time to move along. And it had, by the time we passed it was lumbering into the trees in the distance.

We had planned to stealth camp but quickly changed our mind with such a known big bear in the area. HI Castle Mountain Wilderness Hostel welcomed us with open arms. We were warm and dry and enjoyed the evening chatting with the other guests, including another cyclist, Ron. He rode with his cat Patrick. Never did see Patrick but that’s ok.

June 16, 2022 was an amazing day. Castle Mountain loomed beside us as we cycled down The Bow Valley Parkway. We met so many cyclists from so many different region. It was incredible.

We stopped for lunch in Lake Louise. The Magpies were very friendly. We bought a few groceries for the road and continued on our way.

Next stop is ….

The Icefields Parkway

Keweenaw Peninsula Fall Tour 2021

Sept. 16, 2021 – Sept. 29. 2021

Our Salsa Fargo Bikes ready to roll.

I guess you could say that bicycle touring is in our blood. Yea, I have to admit that the call of the open roads and secluded byways call to us. After all, we did live on our bikes for just shy of 3 years. But our goals in touring have changed. Neither of us want to live on the road month after month, year after year. We settled into more of and “event” type touring. It’s good to be able to roll out the side door and head into the woods.

This is the 3rd tour up onto the Keweenaw and we never tire of it. We take the days slow and meander our way east north east from our little red home. The ride never gets old, we have found favorite camping spots along the way to Copper Harbor, MI and then we head on up to the far tip. This year we went to the Missile Range and wow. The touring for us isn’t just about the cycling, it’s about the experience, the camping, the laughter and the sites along the way.

Day 1 – Sept. 16, 2021: We loaded up our Salsa Fargos and hit the road. Today we are attempting to make it to Misery Bay via logging roads. It was quite the adventure and we found success in the roads / trails that we were pretty sure were there. We set up camp in a grove of trees out of site of the roadway. We passed active logging operations. I’m pretty sure the men thought we were crazy but that’s ok, we are use to is.

Day 2 – Sept 17, 2021: We departed the Misery Bay area and checked out the boat ramp for future rides and additional camp possibilities. We climbed away from Lake Superior and stopped near the top for a quick snack. We traversed gravel roads today as well as 4 lane roadways. We ended our day on a bike path and found a lovely campsite at Cole Creek. We crossed the small stream and set up camp.

Day 3 – Sept 18, 2021: Gratiot River, one of our all time favorite camping spots is in our sites for tonight. We packed up at Cole Creek and headed out. There is a steep drop off of the bike trail into Houghton. Then it was along the Portage Canal and across the lift bridge entering into Hancock, MI. We found out trail out of town and set our sites on Calumet. Most of our ride today was on trails and we loved it! This route today is one of our favorites and we keep coming back to it time and time again. We have an amazing campsite along the Gratiot River and it was there waiting for us, including the stash of maple wood that we had left last year!!

Day 4 – Sept. 19, 2021: We slept late and took our time as today is going to be a very short day. We took the road to a logging road and cut in. We took this route over the hill back toward Lake Superior. It’s an incredible off road, through the weeds route. We made our way to Silver Falls and tucked back into the power line clearing. We could have gone further today but we decided to take it easy. So needless to say this afternoon was a time of watching clouds. yea, watching clouds, the shapes and colors drifting by in a sea of blue. Butterflies danced among the wildflowers, birds sang their many different tunes. It’s days like today that make life feel good.

Day 5 – Sept. 20, 2021: The ride from Silver Falls to Copper Harbor was very fast. We got into town and secured a hotel room for tonight. Curtis got a very sad phone call, Covid19 took the life of his older brother Greg. This wretched virus has touched so many families.

Day 6 – Sept. 21, 2021: Copper Harbor is a cool little tourist village. We picked up breakfast from our favorite coffee shop and then headed into the logging roads. We decided to check out the Missile Range. It is probably the most beautiful camping area we have ever done and that says a lot. It’s an uphill ride on rough dirt roads. There is a number of water crossings and we had a blast. There are campsites along the water and we found a beautiful one, complete with fire ring.

Day 7 – Sept. 22, 2021: It’s so incredible here that we are spending another day. So today we walked the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior. We build a Cairn in honor of Curtis’ brother Greg and my sister, Juli-Ann. Greg died a few days ago, we lost Juli to lung cancer in April. Today was a day to just be and that is a very good thing sometimes. We built a fire tonight and watched as the sun dipped low and the stars came out so bright. Sleeping to the sound of the waves on the rocks was magical. Yea, days like today are why we tour.

Cairn we built for Greg & Juli-Ann

Day 8 – Sept. 23, 2021: We are heading out today on unknown roads. We hope to make it to the Lower Montreal Falls but it doesn’t look like much of a road to get there. The initial road was dirt and we headed toward Fish Cove. We ended up filtering water here and passed on camping since there was literally nothing flat to pitch. We backtracked from Fish Cove to a over grown trail. This got quite dodgey and we ended up on single track along Lake Superior. Finally making it to the Montreal River, our big question of the day was “Do we cross the river here above the lower Montreal Falls or do we camp on this side of the falls and cross in the morning? Well, we decided to cross. The water wasn’t too deep and we ended up making a number of trips across the slippery rocks to get our gear from one side to the other. One woman was filming us and she stated to us later that she was sure we were going to get swept away. Not likely but she thought so. Anyway, we made it across and found a spot to camp. Today was tough and from what we are hearing from the hikers that come in from the way we will be leaving tomorrow, we are in for a push to get back to pavement. It’s all good.

Sunset at the Lower Montreal Falls

Day 9, Sept. 24, 2021: Coffee first and then it’s push time. Yea, the folks yesterday were not kidding! The trail was quite narrow and at time ran right along the lake. It was tough, a lot of log crossings and hoisting of the bikes but we made it. The hill getting away from the lake …BRUTAL at 20% grade!! We ate lunch at Lac LaBelle and then continued on to Gay, MI where we opted for supper at the bar. We camped at a local campground where we could finally shower. Tonight the rains started.

Day 10, Sept. 25, 2021: Gray skies and drizzle, the temperature was also dropping. It’s going to be a chilly wet ride today. The rain even coming in will last about 2 days so we decided to head back across the peninsula to Gratiot River. It rained, then it hailed on us. We stopped in Mohawk, MI for lunch at Slim’s Cafe and wow was that good! After a hearty lunch we braved the cold and wet and headed to our camp spot at Gratiot River. We put up the tarp and tent. We were soaked and cold but having a tried and true dependable site made it all worthwhile. Before long Curtis made up hot soup and we snuggled into a warm sleeping bag. The sounds of the river lulled us both to sleep.

Day 11, Sept 26, 2021: It’s still cold and rainy so we are staying put. There were a few times throughout the day that the rains stopped so we did some Gratiot River area exploring. We continued to dry our clothes on a line and enjoyed the river.

Day 12, Sept. 27, 2021: Goodbye Gratiot River, until next year! The rains were passed and we crossed back to the other side of the peninsula, cycling through Dollar Bay. It was a fast uneventful ride. We booked a room in Chassell, MI. Nothing that great, pretty run down actually. Curtis bought a couple of beers from the local C-Store and I got some ice cream. Life is good.

Day 13, Sept 28, 2021: Our destination today is Emily Lake and much of it will be on back roads and trails. It was a spectacular day until the very last segment. The roads got pretty rough and the trails were very sandy so needless to say that involved a lot of pushing. Emily Lake is so beautiful and we found our favorite spot and set up camp.

Emily Lake Campsite

Day 14, Sept. 29, 2021: We left Emily Lake and headed for home. The entire ride this year was incredible This no doubt will be an annual event, some of the most beautiful countryside we’ve ever cycled. But it’s good to know we have a warm cozy bed and a hot shower waiting for us at home.

Rain or Shine

Touring means you ride rain or shine, for us that also means snow, frost and sometimes ice. But today, it was just rain. We know our butts are soft and our legs out of shape but we still want to try and get in a few rides to toughen up those sit bones and help the legs a little before embarking on our Fall Tour.

Dripping wet and loving it! Cooler temps are finally here and we can break out the long sleeves!!
Wet roads with the rain falling gently made for an enjoyable ride.

Today wasn’t a long ride, 13 miles with almost no elevation gain but it was FUN! We splashed through puddles and I dodged the muddy spray that was splattering up from Curtis’ rear tire. We both sported the mud splattered back that is just one of those things to be expected when rain riding.

Ontonagon has remarkable ATV/Snowmobile/Bike trails. One of these trails run through the village along the Ontonagon River.

Trail through the village

It’s always fun to get back on the bikes, while we are riding both of us talk about the future of our riding, the epic routes and trails that we still want to explore. The ride and route list seems to grow longer than years permit but it is still fun to plan. After all, planning is half the fun…right? Anyway, this year we will ride our Fall Foliage Keweenah Tour with plans to spend 2-4 weeks on the road/trails.


It’s a Pandemic People – No excuses

Social distancing, masks, vaccines; conversations revolve around these topics, overshadowing living. The reality that Covid-19 and all of its new variants is here to stay and there is nothing we can do about that but we need to learn to be safe and work around this forever with us virus.

Covid-19 screwed up our 2020 plans of cycling the Continental Divide but then again it messed with a lot of peoples plans. Oh well, adapt and modify but do it safely.

Social distancing is easy where we live, there are very few people and we live with a very low population density. Social distancing is and always has been the norm and its just the way we like it.

2021 has been a rollercoaster year, again postponing our summer tour plans. After my time in south Texas (December – April) I was emotionally spent, frazzled and flat worn out. I just wanted to go home. I hate to admit it but bikes have been dormant, lost in space so to speak and every time we think “now’s the time” something new rises up and grounds the bikes once again. Fall is fast approaching and it’s time to make it happen. It’s time to dust off the bikes, air the tires and pack those panniers.

Today is August 20, 2021 and we got out for a short 10 mile ride.

Taking the Salsa’s for a spin to Lake Superior. What a lonely, lovely spot!

Sliding onto the saddle of my Salsa Fargo I feel like I am getting re-acquainted with an old friend. We spin down the roadway and find ourselves at a quiet beach. This is peace, this is freedom, this living the life we choose with no excuses.

Life is Good ; Life doesn’t get much better than this!

After family has gone this next month we are loading up and hitting the road. We have gained weight and our butts are soft but we need this. We need the open road, the secluded trails, the lonely campsites. It re-sets the soul and we are ready, not physically but mentally. Cycling is physical but more than that it is mental. Hills are a mind f*ck and if you let them conquer you they win. The realization that “I can do it” is a strength that I rely on and push that little negative voice to the back. It doesn’t take and enormous physical ability to tour but it takes an open mind and willing attitude.

So get ready, CJBikeTours will soon be ready to roll. See you soon!

Carretera Victoria Austral

We departed home on a Tuesday morning, June 23, 2020 once breakfast and coffee were done. Bikes were loaded up and we headed for Pat’s IGA for some lunch provisions. The lupines are thick around Pats and we took advantage of the photo opp to get the ride started.

From place to place throughout the North and South American continents, things are not so different. Plant species are very similar if not the same; our region of North America is not much different from Patagonia. Weather is not much different, climate is not much different, bugs are not much different and back roads are not much different. One could say we live in the North American Patagonia.

Skies were overcast at the temperature was 48F/9C, beautiful weather to cycle in. We headed out of town on M64, heading west before turning south on Norwich Road. A destination was researched and the Norwich Bluffs our goal.

It’s been a while since we’ve toured. It’s been a while since we’ve spent more than a couple of hours in the saddle and needless to say these aging, overweight bodies felt every pedal stroke. The steady climb to our destination made us feel like we were dragging lead bricks behind us. We stopped for a Clif bar break, we stop to look and eat wild strawberries, we stopped to look at flowers and the Monarch caterpillars eating as well. The Sandhill cranes called out to us as we passed by. We stopped at Pioneer Multi-use Trailhead for a lunch of fried chicken that we had picked up at Pats earlier. This put us only a couple of miles from our destination for the evening.

We continued on Norwich Road and then turned east on Victoria Road. Victoria Road is a gravel road going up along the Norwich Bluffs.

We gradually climbed 1.3 miles on Victoria Road before turning off on a non-motorized trail. It was slightly overgrown and 1.6 miles to the top of the bluffs. The grade was a constant uphill. We were able to cycle some of it but soon had to stop to hoist bikes over downed trees. Then I hit a tree that was hidden in the tall grasses. I had been able to ride over many but this one that was slightly off angle took me out. I was literally pinned into the long grass into a mix of dead tree limbs and branches. I could feel myself falling almost in a slow motion drop. Curtis was laughing and got a few photos before helping me out of my predicament. I was pinned in such a manner that I couldn’t get my right arm out to push myself up. It seemed I was in some kind of notch between branches. It was funny. After a few attempts, with Curtis and I working together we were able to get me semi up and the bike off me. From here we pushed, there were too many hidden downed trees and the grass was pretty high. We passed beautiful rock outcrops. The grades were up to 12% in places and the push with loaded bikes was often times not easy but we kept going.

I really cannot move, my leg and right arm were pinned in a depression between the small tree branches. I was able to finally get up and out with just a few bruises and a lot of laughing.

We pushed to the end, 1.6 miles in distance. The old watchtower pilings were all that was left of it. We found an interpretive trail that is right off the North Country Trail. We had passed a lot of water sources on our push up, but there was not any water at the top. Hoping to camp on the edge of the bluffs was a no-go. The vegetation was pretty overgrown and we decided it was best to head back down the trail to one of the water streams.

We saw small snakes and some frogs and toads today but other than the chipmunks that was pretty much it for the critters.

The proverbial question of the day is “Does a bear shit in the woods?” Yes they do and from the numerous piles we found while looking for an adequate campsite I would say that there are quite a few up here! We brought along bear spray as well as scent-free bags and our bear bag for food storage.

We found a spring that had good water for filtering. Perched on the edge we dropped the filter end in and started to pump. Something is wrong. The water isn’t filtering through, rather it is spraying out where it shouldn’t be. Upon further investigation we found that a gasket was missing making the filter un-usable. All water would have to be boiled. On a positive note, we had packed along our new solo-stove that is a wood burner so our fuel source was plentiful.

The tent site we found was actually an old campsite complete with a grown over fire ring. We did not make a fire but we could have it we had chosen to. It was near an old downed tree.

The forest floor is very densely covered with leaf litter and downed trees. Chipmunks visited us often and watched while I set up the tent. Oaks and Maple Trees along with Beech trees were the predominate tree life with an occasional Hemlock thrown in.

We walked the woods, discovering a few mushrooms and other plants. We watched the chipmunks play and we noted large piles of bear dung. Tonight we will need to be bear aware and make sure food is hung. Birds sang, woodpeckers tapped out their morse codes and we sat back, enjoying our supper and enjoying the cool breezes.

This plant was a new one for me. It is called Squawroot (Conopholis americana). It is also known as Cancer Root and Bear Cone. It’s a strange and fascinating little plant that looks like a pinecone, produces no chlorophyll of its own, and lives mostly underground as a parasite on the roots of oak trees, seemingly without harming them.

Curtis boiled water and then cooked supper. Supper was our standby, Lentils & Brown Rice with dried vegetables mixed in. It’s a simple meal but it’s filling, nutritious and tastes so good after a hard day.

One new piece of gear is a small saw that works great for cutting small pieces of wood for the stove. Sure this small maple branch still needed to be split but the saw made it easy to get the lengths appropriate for use.

Bugs, yea there are bugs but there are bugs everywhere. Mosquitos were not too bad and we had the occasional horse fly come by. Bug spray is a must! Once we turned in I discovered a tick that was attempting to sink it’s tiny fangs into me. I ended its life, it had chosen the wrong host. Sleep came quickly.

Total miles today, Tuesday June 24, 2020 was a mere 21.1 miles with 1,347′ of elevation gain.

We were both awakened a few times through the night but sleep took over. Morning arrived with blue skies and light breezes.

We enjoyed our coffee and oats. While were were on the Carretera Austral in Patagonia we discovered that oats could be eaten raw. It was out of hunger and need to conserve resources that we discovered this and have not cooked oats since while touring. Our oats were mixed with walnuts and dried tart cherries.

With the tent packed up and the gear stowed away we made our way back down to Victoria Road. Mosquitos were thick and Curtis donned his bug net. For some reason they weren’t bothering me quite as bad.

Once back to the road we headed east / northeast on Victoria Road. At first it was gradual climbing but before we knew it the first 10% grade hill was behind us, then we hit a 12%. By the time we hit the next 12% grade hill we both opted to get off and push/walk it. We were not on Victoria Road rather we dubbed it Carretera Victoria Austral.

We climbed then we would drop and then we would climb again. The road was remote, the entire 2 days we only saw 3 cars. This is definitely my kind of traffic! We stopped often to look at flowers or watch the butterflies dance across the flower tops. Chipmunks darted across the gravel in front of us. We were definitely in our element.

The road changed from gravel to pavement as we entered Victoria, MI and we turned right and headed down the steep hill to Victoria Dam. This was a beautiful place to enjoy a peaceful lunch. I had made up banana pancakes with peanut butter before we left home. This is a hearty lunch, good carbs as well as protein. We sat and watched the beautiful waters of the backed up Ontonagon River. This is a popular canoe launch and also portage.

The push to get back up the hill back to Victoria Road was tough, reaching 16% grades according to my GPS. Plus this offshoot to the Dam was again gravel so grip was an issue.

Back on pavement we headed once again down to the Ontonagon River before embarking on the 1.6 mile climb out of the river valley. Gear down, go slow and crank is about the only way to get up a long hill. Grades were not bad, maxing out at 9.8%, at least it was not double digit!

We opted to take a gravel route from Rockland, MI back to Ontonagon and found an ATV trail that used to be a railway. We were passed by 2 ATVs but other than that the only traffic was the birds and butterflies. At one point on the trail we were swarmed by hundreds of tiny yellow gold butterflies. This was quite magical.

Our ATV trail dropped us out at Woodruff Road and from there we made our way home.

Total miles today, Wednesday June 25, 2020 was 27.2 miles with 1,989′ of elevation gain.

We will do more overnight bike trips and this one just wet our appetite for more of them. It is something we both enjoy especially being able to combine cycling with camping in the wild.

Yea…. it was good to be back on the open roads.

Winter Wonderland

It gets cold up THERE. It snows up THERE. WHY would you EVER want to live THERE? Statements that we have heard repeatedly after announcing we were looking for a place up north near Lake Superior. We searched this region specifically because it does get cold and it does snow among a vast number of other reasons. The locals asked if we were staying thru the winter as many land owners are seasonal and leave shortly after Labor Day. There was never a doubt that we would remain thru the winter.

The colors of fall were spectacular. November 1, 2019 we had brisk temperatures and leaves on the ground. Walks along our lovely lady, Lake Superior is always a treat and we never quite know what she is going to show us.

So many golden maple leaves!

The first snow came on November 2, 2019. It was a light dusting that blanketed the land and trees in white. Apples and leaves clung to the trees in a final attempt to hold onto the last days of fall. The snow muffles all sounds and the world seems so quiet and serene. The waves slapped the shoreline of the lake coating driftwood and dunes with a light layer of ice. Ice cycles dripped from so many areas along the beach.

Walks thru the woods became a reoccurring activity. Snow was not deep yet into the first week of December and the quiet of the landscape was inviting. Winds were squelched to almost zero deep in the trees.

Hemlock & Pine Forest Hikes

The Salsa Fargo bikes that Curtis built for us are incredible snow bikes and with snow on the ground we took advantage of the wide wheels and stable handling. There is always fun to be had if you look for it. Oh sure, we could have hid in the warmth of the house and avoided “the cold” but why would we ever want to do that when there is so many things to do and places to explore. And fun & exploration we did! We rode bikes, hiked thru the trees, built bonfires and sampled ice cycles.