Alaska Trip – Day 4, Part 1


Side note to start:  The Icefields Parkway is one of the best rated roads in the WORLD to ride.  It does not disappoint.  After trimming images down six times, I still have 31 photos to post here.  Trying to figure out which photos to post is a major headache.  I plan to try to provide the right imagery to convince others to make the journey if they can.  Actually, on second thought, the view sucks.  Stay away.  I don’t like crowds, in case I get back that way.

So, day four already.  Let’s start with leaving the campground.  Geez, I wonder who’s the last person to get their bike all packed up since he is already having technology problems?

The morning was cold.  As in wearing thermals and using heated gear cold.  I carry a cooking thermometer with me; it’s very thin and hides in the tank bag very well; accurate as all can be.  This morning showed a temp of 42 degrees…I think that’s like minus 127 or something in Celsius, right?

A five mile ride straight into Fernie, British Columbia and a conversation with a local convinced me to do a hard reset on the Zumo and to reload the trip manually while sitting in a gas station parking lot while my fellow riders rejoiced in the consumption of caffeine and the delights of a morning snack…all without even offering something to the guy that would eventually get them going the correct direction, which is back towards Jaffney and Cranbook.  Thanks guys!

Time was wasting away and by the time we got near the cut-off to lead us somewhat towards the Icefields Parkway, I decided the bikes and our bellies needed real fuel after we backtracked an hour from last night’s GPS snafu.  The local gas station outdoor pumps would not take the credit cards I carried…and the new attendant inside could not figure out what the problem is.

I’ll share a secret with all of you that have never been to Canada.  Canada is on the computer chip credit card system.  MOST (but not all) of the gas station pumps need the credit card with a computer chip on it to work properly outside.  Canada has upgraded their credit cards but none of the bank cards I had from the US would work.  The trick is to go inside, hand them your card, tell them you are filling up, go pump, then go back in and use the card for the transaction where they slide it across the right side of the machine.  This is the process through all of Canada…because Chase, Merchants, and Paypal don’t have cards with the computer chip on it.  I was frustrated at the initial gas station…so I just paid in Canadian cash that I had with me.  The attendant at the next gas station in Radium Hot Springs actually finally told us what the problem was.

It gets better.  Much better.

Next stop is the Mickey D’s down the street.  Go in, try to buy breakfast.  Use Chase card.  Rejected.  Use Merchants card.  Rejected.  Use Paypal card.  Rejected.  Use cash.  Happy cashier, ticked off customer.  I had called each bank prior to leaving to let them know I was going to Canada and Alaska.  After waiting on hold for countless minutes at each in the comfort of my recliner at home, all eventually said I would not have any problems when I traveled.

As fate now had it, all three had not set up what they needed to do to prevent the cards from tripping fraud protection.  Now all three cards were locked; each bank had to be called and all the steps taken to prove identify, have fraud protection lifted, authorize cards again, yadda yadda yadda.

The planned fifteen minute stopped had turned into more than two hours.  Poor BMW Rob had to stand in the parking lot wondering why the dual Jeff’s had so many problems.

What makes this event even more hilarious is although it took that long for me to get through to all three of my banks and fix my problem…Jeffrey had in the meantime looked at his account online and discovered that somebody had been using his credit card info back in Montana and was doing their best to buy every item in the state.  His call to the bank took even longer to sort out the problems.

Here’s Jeffrey NOT using Facebook:

Lessons learned:  Call bank to set up international travel.  Call back a day or two later and verify they actually set it up.  Also make sure that you have some Canadian cash with you; your bank can get it for you for a nominal fee.  Don’t expect your cards to work the way they work at home; this all depends on whether your bank has embraced the new technology.  While some banks will send you a card with a computer chip on it, none of my three had them available.  The USA is WAY BEHIND on banking technology.

So, around 9AM or 10AM or some time way later than originally planned, the three of us finally mounted our mechanical steeds and proceeded to try to find a certain parkway.  By the time we reached Radium Hot Springs, we were well behind our schedule and we had quickly learned the lesson that not all three of us wanted to stop at the same spot and take the same photo.  One advantage to traveling with others is I have three times the amount of photos from the trip that we all sent to each other upon returning home.

We had leapfrogged each other repeatedly going north up 93 until reaching the Kootenay National Park entrance, which required a toll.  Rob went through first, paid his fee, and took off.  When I pulled up, I found out Rob paid the single rate instead of the group rate (3 or more for the price of 2… $18 I think it was for the remaining two of us and one of us would have gotten in free).  So I covered Jeffrey and I and into the park we proceeded as well.

The stress of the day disappeared upon driving through the tunnel drilled into the mountain immediately after the first curve of the highway inside the park.  The scenery was breathtaking…and at this point, the vacation for me actually felt like it was starting.  Up to this point, it was blast through miles to get to the things worth looking at.  Now everywhere I looked was a Ansel Adams quality photo waiting to be taken.

Just some samples of the dozens of photos in this park:




Starting today, wildlife was EVERYWHERE.  Here’s a couple of deer I just barely missed while riding and gawking at the scenery around me.  I turned the bike around to see if they were still nearby…they were apparently waiting for the bus or decided to stay close to the road to play chicken with other vehicles:

For a few moments of safety for other visitors, I beeped them with my horn and they took off into the woods.  I do believe this is the last time my stock horn setup would ever work on this bike again, as the road gods claimed it less than a week later in a serious accident that was to occur.

Look at the water above.  Impossible to describe.  Water around home in the rivers and lakes is bluish-brown…all contaminated from man and his way of life.  Up there, water is aquamarine in color…it comes from the mountain glacier melt and from the rain…so clean, so pure.  The color of the water fascinated me during my entire time in Canada.  Hell, just seeing clean natural water once in your life is reason enough to do this trip.

Lots of signs of past forest fires in Canada and Alaska:

I promise the other two amigos they’d get their funny looking mugs in some of the ride report imagery.  Here’s Rob at one of the Continental Divide markers we encountered throughout the zig-zagging trip just before we turned onto Canada Highway 1:

This stopping area also marks that you are now entering Alberta about a quarter mile away.  It was unsafe to stop for a picture, so I got that picture a day or two later as we reentered British Columbia again. Photo to come later.

Eventually we made it to the Lake Louise area.  I had no interest in stopping there because of what I heard about crowds (not a big fan), hard to find parking (ditto), and that it was just a lake at the top of a mountain.  Both Jeffrey and Rob wanted to stop, so I led the way up to the top and gladly watched the bikes while they went exploring on foot.  Rob convinced me it was worth seeing when he returned, so I did the ten minute walk from our parking spot to get photos as well:

The lake was as clean as the rivers I saw just minutes earlier in Kootenay National Park.  The other thing I had already noticed was that this seemed to be a prime tourist attraction for the international crowd from the other side of the world.  There were literally thousands of people crowded into this small area and English was actually a language that wasn’t heard very often as I both walked through the parking lot and as I gazed across the turquoise waters.  I did my thirty second look and ambled back to the parking lot.  I’d recommend the stop for others, but understand the crowds may turn you off quickly like it did me.  If you already paid to get into Kootenay, that admission will cover the entrance admission into Lake Louise as well as onto the Icefields Parkway as well so hold onto your receipt.

Next road…Icefields Parkway.  Make sure to gas up in the Lake Louise area before entering the Parkway…there is only one gas station on the entire Parkway, it’s located closer to the south end.  There’s a distance of around 144 miles from Lake Louise to Jasper; the gas is actually at the Saskatchewan River Crossing if you are looking at Google Maps.

This got long, so let’s just do a DAY 4, PART 2 posting in a little bit.  I promise more wildlife pictures like black bear, grizzly, caribou, mountain goats, elephants…

Mileage:  425 miles give or take…
Areas traversed:  Cranbrook, Lake Louise, Jasper, Hinton
Gas:  $58.01
Food:  $25.02
Lodging: $97.01
Gift:  $4 (yep, big spender here…nothing is too good for my wife!)

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