By Peter Maser
It was a dark and stormy night (really, it was) as the members of Team GT 2008 pulled into the Banff Hostel, their spirits dampened by the heavy downpour that had followed them from Canmore.
It was, it seemed, an inauspicious start to the GT, usually held on the May long weekend but this year taking place on the Labour Day week-end.
Happily, it was not to be. The Cycling Gods smiled on us and the rain we had feared gave way to mostly sunny skies and that in turn produced an enjoyable ride. True, it was chilly in the mornings and the traffic was bad to severe at times, but everyone made it in safely. Some were sore, perhaps, but there were no injuries, no serious mechanical problems and apparently no serious hangovers.
A review of the highlights is in order:
- The trip was beautifully organized. Kudos to Gary and Ed.
- The meals were great — abundant, nourishing and creative.
- Ditto for the conversation, on the road, at day’s end, over meals, wherever.
- The leg from Castle Mountain Junction to Golden (day one) was notable for a gusty but superb descent over the new bridge that spans the Kicking Horse River. It was heartening to see, if only briefly, a fine example of bridge architecture, something that is in short supply in Canada (If you want great bridges, try Porto at the mouth of the Douro River in Portugal).
- Mary’s Motel in Golden is a cinder-block delight, a period piece of such hideous design and construction that it deserves to be treasured (those who remember classic movies like the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or the Creature from the Black Lagoon will understand).
- The parking lot at Mary’s Motel is in keeping with the motel itself, a vast and daunting expanse of asphalt that Team GT turned into a wine bar, reading room and dining hall. Who knew you could have so much fun in such emptiness?
- The leg from Golden to Radium (day two) was notable for its rolling terrain and a dead bear by the side of the road (remember, this is a highly subjective review).
- The leg from Radium to Castle Mountain Junction (day three) was notable for the climb out of Radium, a sometimes demanding ascent that had everyone sweating by the summit and the first rest stop. Because of the temperature (low) and the altitute (high), it didn’t take long for a chill to set in, driving a clutch of riders to seek shelter in the van. With the heater going full blast and so many bodies on board, the vehicle was soon like a sauna.
From the first rest stop to Castle Mountain Junction, the vehicle traffic on the highway grew steadily, to the point that some riders questioned whether it was too much, whether the Labour Day edition of the GT was something to be repeated or whether it should be relegated to the history books as a worthwhile but unsuccessful experiment. There was no answer to this question, but it will clearly provide fodder for discussion during the cold months ahead. Until next year, whatever the date, Vive le GT!