Day 7 Prince George, BC to Banff, Alberta 423 miles
We had a lot of plans today but as these things go, we did not stick to them. Sarah and I got up early and got all packed and ready, ate some food with Jim and Barry in the hotel and then got the bikes all loaded up. We were getting ready to leave and I told Jim he could lead since we “left” him a couple times yesterday. We had not filled up with gas, and Jim said we would get gas on our way out of town. First we passed a Husky station on the right, then further up the road we passed a 7 Eleven with gas, and then a sign said “check your fuel next gas 200km.” Jim missed the sign. But he had put “gas stop” in his GPS so he was confident there was one up the road. I waved at him and told him we should turn around and get gas and tried to signal 200km but he pointed to his GPS, confident that there was gas. When we approached the “gas stop” I immediately noticed the extremely ancient gas pumps, the empty parking lot and the lack of lights on in the building. CLOSED.
Well we still had a long way to go to McBride which was the next gas stop. Sarah had her 1 gallon can in her saddle bag so we put most of it in hers, she was the lowest and then a little in mine and Jim’s.
Yesterday, Sarah had filled up with me and the gas stations have a weird process that you have to “pre-approve” a specific amount on the card then it will charge only the amount you spend. Most days, Sarah and I can fill both our bikes with a $50 limit. At our last gas stop yesterday I filled up and Sarah filled up after me. She wasn’t able to fill up all the way, but we were getting close to the end of the day so we didn’t worry about it. We were all very confident we would not make it to McBride, well Barry was pretty sure he could make it but I did not have enough range and neither did Jim.
We headed out with the plan to make it until Sarah ran out then we would stop. Eventually, Sarah had dropped off and wasn’t behind me and Barry stopped with her so Jim and I turned around and pulled over with Sarah and Barry. Despite the disappointment of being on the side of the road, we were all ok and together. Sarah immediately started making signs that read “NEED GAS.”
A lot of really nice Canadians stopped to try and help but none of them had gas. One biker, who was riding a 2007 FLHX in Pewter Denim, the exact same bike I made my first trip down the Alcan on, had a large gas can on his bike but it was empty. He was from Edmonton, so he was on his way home. He took the can off and gave it to us so we could get it full enough to get all of us back to town.
We knew the rest of the Rogue Riders would be coming soon, and we knew Mike Sweet (our local hero) would have gas and hopefully a siphoning hose. While we waited, Sarah picked some wild flowers for me and she found a cool fuzzy caterpillar. I played some of my audio book and we chilled on the side of the road, waiting for the rest of our group. Finally they all rounded the corner and we waved them to stop. At first it was the front of the pack and shortly after them the rest of the group caught up. We had all the bikes pulled over while Mike got us his gas for Sarah and we all got a lot of pictures and laughs about our 45 minute road side wait for them to get there.
Between the whole group we only had 1 gallon of gas. So we made the plan that Sarah would take the 1 gallon and we would all ride toward McBride and we would just stop when/if we ran out of gas. While we were getting the bikes loaded back up, I noticed Jim had the gas can…(in my brain) “Why the F&^# does Jim have the gas can? Barry thinks he can make it so he or one of the other riders should have all the gas cans so they can get them filled and come back for us, Jim will only make it as far as me and if he has the gas can everyone will have to stop again and figure out moving the gas can to someone else…” So I expressed this in less words, took the can from Jim, fished out a bungee cargo net and put that shit on the back of Barry’s bike.
As we headed toward town we lost Sarah first, she is definitely consuming more fuel than that bike should, so we will have to get that looked at…then I went out about 17 miles closer to town than her and Jim went out about 100 yards past me. Sarah had Mike Sweet stop with her and wait, I had Cheryl and Jim had someone, but I am not sure who it was. I could see Jim from where we stopped but I wasn’t about to walk that distance on my knee. Cheryl and I made small talk about our love for riding and her near retirement. While we were sitting there a Mounty pulled up and stopped next to me. He asked if everything was ok and I asked if he had any gas. Unfortunately he did not have any gas, but he was friendly and gave a nice warning that in B.C. if you are going 30km over the speed limit they will impound your bike for 7 days…yep 7 days!! He mentioned that several in the group that was heading to McBride to get us gas were breaking that rule. He assured me he wouldn’t hassle them since they were on a rescue mission but warned they should slow down for the rest of the ride. Nice of him to not bust all of us, and give us a nice warning. I sent a text to Barry and Jim although I figured they wouldn’t get it till I was in town since the signal was so bad out there.
As we sat there, the figure from Jim’s bike started walking toward us and was getting closer. Eventually we saw that it was in fact Jim and he got to us and suggested I push my bike up to his. It was mostly downhill, so despite my knee I started to walk my bike with Jim pushing it from behind. We made it about 1/5 of the way when I saw Dewey heading toward us. Barry ran out of gas about 2 miles from town so Dewey filled up the large can and came to all of our rescue.
He got Barry to town, gave Jim and I some fuel and headed back to Sarah to get her on the road. We made it to the gas station and waited. I was really hoping there was enough fuel to get Sarah back and after about a 30 min wait they finally came rolling in. We refilled the two smaller gas cans and Sarah took the big one as her new passenger with her flowers on the back seat.
While we were at the gas station our Mounty stopped behind us at the pump and got out of his car and said “you made it!” He actually was pretty nice, so we chatted for a min and after he took a call in his car I walked over and asked for a selfie with him. He asked that I only include him in the blog if I was going to be nice. I assured him that I appreciated his kindness to stop and the warning and that I would be kind in my blog, so there it is. While we were stopped we all ate some snacks and chilled for a while.
Some riders had already headed on, I don’t blame them, I wouldn’t have waited for my gas shit show either. The big group that was still there headed out so Jim, Barry, Sarah and I waited a few minutes to head out after them.
We headed toward Jasper and eventually caught up with the group. When we got to the park, I was in front, we passed the group when they stopped for an “ABC’s of Touring” photo for HOG. We got to the park gate and I bought two passes to get us all through after some counting, recounting and figuring out there were 2 riders with passes already and some random couple that had snuck into our group. Once we had all that sorted we were able to get everyone covered with 2 passes. When we got close to Jasper, I realized it was a right turn toward Banff and a left turn to Jasper. I waved Dewey up so he could lead, as I was pretty sure we were supposed to go into Jasper. As I suspected he turned left so we all went into town to get gas. While we were stopped, I was doing the math on how much farther we had to go. So, Sarah and I ate some snacks and agreed we wanted to keep riding. Jim wanted to stay there with a large group of the riders to eat, so Barry, Patti, Sarah and myself decided to hit the road. We gave the second park pass to Dewey to get the rest of the group through although there were now 8 of them and only 4 of us. Not my circus, not my monkeys…one of them might have to pay for a pass. I lead our group and it was some of the best scenery of the trip. The mountains although still slightly shrouded by smoke were magnificent. I was in Banff a year and a half ago during the winter and summer is a dramatic difference. The road was curvy but not too technical. Pretty much everyone was breaking the speed limit so we kept up with the faster cars and passed the slower ones. It was still breathtaking and beautiful. If I wasn’t leading we probably would have stopped for some photos, but its me, and when I am heading to a destination I take mental pictures of the cool scenery and enjoy it from my bike. There was a super cool looking glass walkway overlook that was crowded with tourists, but we just kept on.
Maybe I will make a point to spend 2 days in Jasper/Banff next time through.
I didn’t stop at all from Jasper to Banff. I didn’t hear any complaints so I kept going, not that I can actually hear complaints while doing 75mph but hey I try to be sensitive. We bombed into Banff and after a few wrong turns I got us to the hotel. We unloaded the bikes and the only parking was down a hill into a parking garage so Sarah and I parked right in front of the Best Western sign on the side of the street. I make my own parking spaces and I am not going to park in the claustrophobic parking garage.
After we got our shit unloaded and Patti’s stuff in our room till her roommates showed up, we decided to go to dinner in town. We were all going to ride, but Barry missed that memo so he walked out in his walking clothes so we all agreed to walk. Patti and Chris parked their bikes in the garage and we all walked to town. The restaurant I picked was closed, so we headed back to the main street and went to Park Distillery. I had a tasting of their different liquors when I was here with my girl Shawna for the winter trip I won from Harley. They did not disappoint and we all had some good food and a few of us some good drinks. Jim walked over and met us and had dessert and Gary walked over a little earlier and had a beer with us. We got to sit outside and enjoy the rapid dusk to evening light change and the cooling air.
In stages we all walked back to the hotel and here we are now. Tomorrow we head back to the US of A and will be landing in Kalispell, MT. I am excited to get back to America, but also slightly feeling the sadness that we are already halfway through our journey. We have so much more to look forward to, but I can’t help but feel a little sad that we are already through this amazing part of journey.
We will be getting an early start again tomorrow, and we are all hoping for a quick border crossing.