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Rocky Mountain 1200


A Rocky Ride
by Harold Bridge

The 7th edition of the Rocky Mountain 1200 took place from Wednesday July 23rd through to Sunday 27th. Being a mid-week event during the holiday period there can be difficulty in getting enough help. With over a 100 riders from all over the world to be looked after; 13 controls to staff and stock with food; riders’ sleep requirements & keeping check on who wants waking when, the demands on the approximately 75 volunteers can get quite exhausting.

I of course volunteered and was given a seemingly sinecure of a job. The 443.7 km control at Jasper would be the first sleep stop for many. But the showers were at the Aquatic Centre, 700 metres from the control. I was to shuttle the riders (who were that fussy) in my Ford Focus station wagon, er, estate car.

About 75% of the riders opted for the 90 hour schedule that started from Kamloops on Wednesday 23rd @ 22:00. The rest, on the 84 hour schedule, started 6 hours later. All had to be finished by Sunday 27th @ 16:00.

The Jasper control would be quite busy as at that point the later starters would be getting in among the earlier starters. Although I arrived a little before “opening time”, things were well under way with 6 or so volunteers cooking & laying out food ready for the onslaught. I kept account & added 27 kms on the odometer while in Jasper.

By this point the lack of preparation of some was showing and there were a few DNFs. One of note; Alex Pope, the BC Randonneurs’ treasurer, had his family in support & Barb Pope was a bit concerned about her husband. As well she should be. Alex is unique. He is the only rider I know who mixes randonnees with medal winning track racing. At the Provincial track champion-ships a few weeks before, a rider crashed in front of him, Alex went AOT & landed heavily. However, he got up, remounted & finished the race in first place. But when I saw him a few days later he was moving with difficulty and by the start of the 1200 he was barely in good enough shape to start. But with a $500 entry fee one doesn’t DNS easily.

With our duties completed we were free to go home & some did, after we had breakfast at a hotel. The short way home was return by the way I came. But for me, the Icefield’s Parkway beckoned. It is one of the World’s great scenic rides, or drives. Lake Louise is 234 kms south of Jasper and the Parkway takes one over 2035 metre Sunwapta Pass, 111kms south of Jasper, and over 2065 metre Bow Summit a further 110 kms south of Jasper.

My concern was that I had been existing on cat naps over the last 36 hours or so & was unsure if I should be driving by myself. The problem was solved just after I got on the Parkway. A young woman, who turned out to be Montreal French speaking, was hitch hiking. We had fun with me trying to understand her English & me trying to re-invent my limited French. But I did notice as the road unfolded that her English improved. I think her French was a defence system that she decided she didn’t need. Well, I am an Englishman at heart after all!

In 1980 I had left my camper at Banff & ridden through Lake Louise & UP to Bow Summit. I then propped my bike against a tree & hiked up the trail to the Peyto Lakes Lookout. I had no camera! I suggested to the hitch hiker, Caroline, that we detour at Bow Summit & do the climb up to the crowded viewing platform. When we got there she gasped at the vista. She was enroute to Banff & once we got to the Trans Canada Highway I dropped her off & said adieu.

In most places one travels to & through the signs are clear & easily seen. Lake Louise is part of the Banff National Park system & as such is a Federal concern. They don’t want signs spoiling the scene, although the town itself is no great beauty. The route information is in tiny font that one has to stop to read. I usually have difficulty at Lake Louise sorting out which way I need to go.

At the Lake Louise control one of the Japanese riders was waiting for a ride. After a short stop at the control I piled him and his bike int’ wagon & we were off – in the wrong direction!

An illegal U-turn on an empty road (except for Tracy Barill heading to the Storm Mountain control) got us back to Lake Louise & away to the west. Takashi Kato spoke good English but the unfamiliar accent coupled with the wind noise made conversation difficult. I thought I was taking him all the way to Kamloops. But at Golden he insisted on getting the bus (my driving?) & I left him at the Visitor Centre.

Too much in need of sleep I took a room at the nearest motel, showered, drove “Down Town” & had a decent meal in a busy restaurant. I was in bed about 20:30 & the next thing I knew was 05:30 Sunday.

Despite a service by my regular mechanic before leaving home, I had been having red line problems on the hills. But it was not until Golden that I thought to buy a jug of coolant. Duh!

I sailed up Roger’s Pass.

Gary Baker was just dashing off to the store for more supplies as I parked at the Seniors’ Centre in Revelstoke. Without asking Gary’s permission, I temporarily inserted myself into the control team. But Jaques, Michael, et al looked like they needed a break anyway. After all, Gary was out shopping most of the time.

Mike Poplawski was riding his single banger BMW &, like me, needed coolant.
But poor German design means a special funnel is needed to get the coolant in there.
My solution was to extract the internals of a ball point pen & use the body held under the funnel. So my coolant was of use there too.

At that point I thought I should get back to Kamloops without wandering around the northern extremities of the Okanagon. I didn’t know if I could get all the way that night. I thought about visiting a one time work mate in Salmon Arm. But past 22:00 he might well be abed &, anyway, could I have remembered the way to his house? I made do with a Coffee & Danish @ Tim Horton’s.

The limitations that come with age showed up while driving the Highway in the face of headlights. There are sections of the Trans Canada that seriously need maintenance & widening. The bits that are finished are good. Once past Monte Creek the road is suburban & well lit & I was in the Curling Club about 23:00. Danelle suggested I take a room at the University for 2 nights for $60. No soap or toilet paper included! But I slept.

The Activity Centre was packed with bright eyed Randonneurs & tired looking helpers during the “Wrap Up” party. While there I was instructed by Himschoot to be at the White Spot at 09:00 & at Merritt for lunch. But awake too soon I felt the need to go early & entered the White Spot about 07:00.

Two riders, who I am sure were Eric Ahlvin & David Rowe, Oregon Randonneurs, were already seated & invited me to join them, (although they didn’t look like they were falling apart).

In conversation, my years give me lots of history to talk about & the lecture earned me a free breakfast. I asked the waitress that if she heard a 09:00 group asking where Harold was, to tell them I had left. I was home for lunch having put 1,986 kms on the wagon since Tuesday.