Invermere to Banff
151km, 1641m of climbing
Google defines stunning as ‘extremely impressive or attractive’ and that is what our final day was filled with. The sights as we headed towards Banff from Invermere were simply stunning. Spectacular, in fact.
We started the day with a breakfast that made the most sense yet – a continental breakfast in which we could choose from toast, bagels, cold cereal, warm cereal, toaster waffles, etc. In essence, something for everyone, and probably quite affordable. This time, as we packed up for our final departure, I didn’t break down in tears. Yes, it’s a wonderful routine, but I suppose I was looking forward to not wearing a chamois for 8hrs a day! I guess I learned from the last time that these are friends that I will keep for a life time. And no matter what, there will always be another ride, more funds to raise, and more awareness to spread.
The group departed in 2 packs, leaving only about 6 of us for the second departure. As we left the hotel, I quickly realized I did not have another gear today. All I would be capable of was spinning the wheels. We rode through Radium Hot Springs (where we stayed on day 1 in 2011) and made the turn to climb out towards Banff. I remember LOVING the descent last time and I think I can honestly say I loved the climb even more this time! The views were incredible as we immediately squeezed between two rock faces. Further up, Ravi was there to warn us of a bear on the side of the road…conveniently across from the digital/mobile ‘bear warning’ sign! The climb was just over 10km and passed the hot springs, thundering rivers, and finally opened up to a spectacular view of the Rockies ahead. Following a brief descent, the group was gathered at a beautiful look-out (where we stopped last time) to take some group photos and take in the sights. After a more lengthy, fun descent, we quickly arrived at our first break.
Leaving this break, however, was not what I wanted to do! I didn’t feel like riding, and definitely didn’t feel like riding into the slight headwind, so I made sure people were around me. Before I knew it, we were at lunch at Vermilion Flats – once again a familiar place. It was bittersweet having our last lunch, enjoying the last spread and knowing that it would all be over in a few hours.
Once again, leaving lunch, I did not feel like riding! After crossing in to Alberta, I knew we had one final climb up to the Great Divide. I managed to hang on to Dan and Clarke until the climb began, at which point I was happy to let them go! I climbed as hard as I could and arrived at the Divide for the ceremonial East vs. West, Jens 2 vs. Jens 1, Emily vs. Andrea pictures 🙂 (last year she even had a change of clothes and took pics on both sides to represent me being there as well!!)
Although I was toast, upon leaving the Divide we were treated to one of the best descents yet – needless to say, I loved it! Follow that up with a blissful ride through Banff National Park and Dan and I were in heaven! We rode along effortlessly, not wanting to let the moments pass by too quickly! We were soaking up our environment in every sense of the word (including getting soaked by a convertable that chose to speed past us while we were crossing deep water over the road). Alas, it was time for everything to come to an end. We briefly hopped on the highway and converged as a group at a rest stop to ride the final km’s to the Banff sign together. At this point, it was slowly starting to register that the ride was coming to a close. As we rode as a group to the Banff sign on Norquay, I savoured the moments. Upon turning the corner and seeing all the friends and family there to support us, the tears finally flowed!!!
It was so wonderful to see Aunt Liz (Sarah’s mom), David (Sarah’s bro), Kim and Daxton (their new baby) at the finish line!!! It was overwhelming to be part of such a large, inspirational group, and to realize we had accomplished our goal as a group and raised over $250,000 for CF. Auntie Liz ran over for hugs and finally got to (briefly) meet Andrea. It was great!
We finally posed for the ceremonial Banff pic and then made our way to the hotel, followed by the pub. The evening celebrations were great – lots of laughs, the drinks flowed, speeches and awards were given and everyone had a great time.
As I am writing this post a few days after the fact, I have definitely had time to reflect. My experience this year was almost 100% different than 2011, but no less valuable. The climbs were harder, the scenery was better, and the toll on my mind and body was different. I had the good fortune of making new friends, while falling into that familiar, old routine with the ones I had made in 2011. I’m not sure that we’ll be back in 2014, but we will be involved in the CF community in some way, shape or form. Afterall, we’re too close to finding a cure to not be!!!
I’d like to take a quick moment to thank all our family, friends, acquaintances and strangers alike for supporting us along the way. Additional thanks to Outdoors Oriented, Musette Cafe, Ever Bamboo, Canadian Cyvling Magazine, Northern Park Apparel, etc. for being such significant donors and supporters! Lastly, I’d like to thank each and every one of the 21 other riders for being so open, welcoming and inspiring. Dan and I are truly blessed to have met such wonderful people.
Now, as always, it’s time to head to bed! I’ll add pictures to the posts in the next few days.
Once again, thank you.