August 19

August 21st, 2007

A wise man once said that a journey will always end similar to how it began. Well, I’m starting to think that is an accurate prediction. The rain was coming down steadily as I laced up my skates today. I was also faced with a 10 km climb leading into Glacier National Park right off the bat. With the hills, the rain and the cold, it was all reminiscent of my early days in Newfoundland.


I was now deep in the heart of the Park and was trying to mentally prepare for my first big challenge from the Rockies… Roger’s Pass. Just before I began my long trek upwards, I met a pair of cyclists who had just come down the Pass. They had marked the distance from the summit to where we now stood at 20 km. The woman told me that her hands were in pain from using the brakes so extensively on their descent. Yup, this was going to be interesting and slippery.


A sign marking the entrance to Roger’s Pass provided a suitable location for me to pause momentarily and take a deep breathe of concentration. But my trance was interrupted by a telephone call. It was the Mayor of Golden! Unfortunately I had gone through yesterday and we were not able to connect. So he wanted to call to wish me luck. A wonderful gesture. I hope the Mayor in every city from this point on will take a minute to meet me or call me.


Here goes nothing…or everything. The rain continued to pound on me as I worked my way up the Pass. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about in-line skating, it’s how to adapt to changing conditions. With the slick pavement and the steep incline, I had to alter my stride in order to maintain my balance. I inched my way up with a slightly duck-footed style. A few jagged peaks from the surrounding mountains were protruding through the billowy clouds which were rolling over the hills like a waterfall. I can only imagine how breath-taking the views here would be on a clear day. Roger’s Pass was offering me no reprieve from the tormenting climb. I figured that if I could get high enough, I’d be in the clouds and the rain may subside. I figured wrong. The only time I had a break from the rain was when I had to roll through the 5 avalanche tunnels along the way up and 3 others on my way down. But the tunnels were no walk in the park. They were unlit, wet, single laned in each direction, and had barely any shoulder to skate on. I would wait at the mouth of the tunnel (in the rain) until there was a break in traffic so I could race through as fast as possible. Try to imagine me skating as hard as I can, uphill, in the dark, on wet pavement. The only thing that kept my mind at ease was that my Dad was behind me with his hazard lights flashing to warn vehicles coming up behind us. There was definitely nothing easy about going up Roger’s Pass, but I reached the summit unscathed.


My plan to catch people’s attention was working wonders today. I suppose when you see a crazy man skating through the Rocky Mountains in the pouring rain, you can’t help but notice. A family from Montreal came up to the RV while we were parked at the summit of Roger’s Pass to meet me. Pascal and his daughters, Camille and Rosalie, seemed to be impressed with my perseverance to have made it this far and plan to donate online as soon as they get home.


Having conquered my second major pass in the mountains, I could now enjoy a leisurely roll down the other side. Unfortunately I had to try to enjoy it in the rain. It had been recommended to me that I should consider fastening an anchor of some sort to my waist while I was descending some of the steep grades. Today may have been a good day to give that idea a try. I was picking up speed quickly and water was spraying in all directions from my wheels. In an attempt to slow myself down, I began to drag my left foot behind while holding my balance entirely on my right. As I was flying down the hill on one foot in the rain at a ridiculous pace, I started to hydro-plane uncontrollably. My left foot came back around to regain my balance but it was too late. It was as though I was on ice skates that had never been sharpened. With traffic plowing past me on the left, my only hope was to run onto the dirt shoulder and dive for the softest patch of pine trees and rocks that I could find. Thankfully this was just a ‘What If..’ scenario that I was going over to myself in my head. I actually came down the Pass in complete control averaging nearly 50 km/hr! I didn’t need an anchor at all. If it weren’t for the persistent rain, that may have been my most enjoyable stretch of road. But the water spraying in my face all the way down made the trek miserable.


Canyon Hot Springs sounded too good not to stop. When I finally arrived there, I had finished 90 km. Canyon Hot Springs RV Park generously provided us with a site and passes to enjoy the hot mineral pools, which we of course accepted willingly. The hot springs felt amazing on my entire body.


I’ve apparently greatly under estimated my skating capabilities through the Rocky Mountains. I could easily be covering 100 km a day, but I’m now trying to pace myself and slow down so I will arrive in Vancouver on September 8th. Even 90 kilometers a day is a bit too much. But I suppose you never know what obstacle you may face tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll lose some time in the Lower Mainland with numerous stops and appearances at various Boston Pizza’s.

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