The Rocky Mountain 1200

Ride Memories by Kent Peterson

I've ridden the Rocky Mountain 1200 Randonnee twice now, both times on a fixed gear bicycle. Rather than write my usual play-by-play style ride report, this write-up is more a collection of scenes, people and lessons found on those high and beautiful Canadian mountain roads.

8:00 PM July 26, 2000

Danelle is appalled at my choice of bicycle, a 1972 PX-10 that I've got set up as a fixed gear. "Have you seen the route profile?!?" She's clearly questioning my sanity. Harold Bridge, a rugged old-school Brit is doing the equipment check and he takes it all in stride. "Fixed gear, eh? I didn't think you Yanks knew about such things."

8:00 PM July 26, 2000

I realize I don't have much Canadian money and I'm thinking about going to a cash machine before the ride to get more. I ask Danelle how much cash I should bring along. "You won't need much," she advises, "there aren't many places to place to spend it."

2:00 AM July 27, 2000

I believe it was a wolverine. It was only in my headlight beam for an instant before it vanished into the trees beside the road, but it was too large, long and swift to be a raccoon. As it loped across the road it didn't move like any kind of dog, cat or coyote. It was low and fast and then it was gone.

2:05 AM July 27, 2000

Did those pre-ride instructions say you should play dead if you tangle up with a bear and be aggressive with a cougar or was it the other way around? Maybe I should've paid more attention to that part of the briefing.

4:00 PM July 27, 2000

The Rocky Mountain 1200 and Paris-Brest-Paris are both 1200 kilometer rides but there are a few differences. The cue sheet for the Rocky Mountain 1200 fits on a single page and about half the instructions say things like "continue on such and such road". There are about 17 pages of turns listed on the Paris-Brest-Paris cue sheets and you go through dozens of small villages. On the Rocky Mountain 1200, you go through country that looks like this:

Here's another difference: on PBP you'll have French farmers yelling "Bon Courage" as you ride past. On the RM1200, the locals really don't even stop to look up from their grazing when you stop to take a picture.

11:55 PM July 27, 2000

I've slept for five hours here at Jasper and I'm eating breakfast and getting ready to head out. Seventy-five year old Jack Eason is across the table from me. He asks, "Are you heading out soon, lad?" "In about five minutes," I reply. "Is it OK if I ride with you then?" "Sure," I reply. I finish my breakfast and look at Jack. He's asleep in his chair. As I'm pondering what to do, he opens his eyes. "You go on, lad. I'll ride with the next fellow." And he shuts his eyes and goes right back to sleep.

2:30 AM July 28, 2000

Here's a great thing about the Rocky Mountain 1200: when it's late at night and your mind gets twitchy, it's really impossible to doubt if you're on course. In this part of the world, if you're on a road, you're on THE ROAD.

6:00 AM July 28, 2000

Sunwapta has some darn steep climbs. I'd probably be faster walking but I'm stubborn

7:00 AM July 28, 2000

The sign that says it's a kilometer to the Icefield's Centre is a damn lie. And you have to ride past the Centre to get into the control. It all makes for the longest kilometer in North America.

10:00 AM July 28, 2000

The bear is little enough to make me nervous. It seems like he's just the right size to have a really protective large momma bear hanging around somewhere. I don't think this is a good time to take a picture. I roll on.

11:00 PM July 28, 2000

I've slept for three hours here in Golden and it's time to move on. Jack Eason's bike is leaning against mine and when I move it I realize that it's no lightweight. Jack is ready for anything. Paul Vlasveld is also heading out now and we join forces for the night ride.

2:30 AM July 29, 2000

Riding at night is really cool. The big RVs are off the road. The truckers are still driving and it's weird when they come by in the snow tunnels. This triggers a weird sense memory in me and it takes a while to place it. It's like the New York subway when the trains roll by the platform. The same light, the same noise, the same pressure wave.

11:00 AM July 29, 2000

There's road construction before Salmon Arm and it's gritty and dusty and hot. In places the road has virtually no shoulder and at one of these spots one of those big RV's with 1-800-RV4RENT on the back skims really close to Paul.

9:00 PM July 29, 2000

I can still smell the burnt rubber from my over-worked front brake on the descent at Monte Creek. Now I'm on Hwy 1 and cruising into Kamloops. "Next time I'll bring gears and a bike that coasts."

9:40 PM July 29, 2000

All done. What a terrific ride. I'll have to come back and do this again next time.

July 21-23, 2002

It's less than 600 kilometer from my house to Kamloops and Harold mapped me out a few different routes. I pick the longest one, the route up the Fraser Canyon. It's a beautiful ride but really, really hot. 95 in US degrees, 35 Canadian. I camped in Sumas BC, took a motel in Lytton, BC and rode into Kamloops on the 23rd. On my way in I coincidentally met up with Michael Koth a German randonneur and he guides me into the Sagebrush Motel in Kamloops. Michael is sharing a room with Peter Noris, a rider I met last year on BMB.

8:00 PM July 24, 2002

Harold looks over Fast Eddy. "I thought you were going to ride a geared bike this time?" "I changed my mind," I reply. I also point out that this time I've got TWO brakes and a couple more years of fixed kilometers in my legs. I'm not using drop bags and I'm also riding with my touring gear. Fully loaded, Fast Eddy tips the scales at just over 50 lbs.

10:00 PM July 24, 2002

A lot of riders, including my friends Jon Muellner and Greg Zaborac take off in the 90 hour group. This time I've opted for the 4:00 AM, 84 hour group. I snap a picture as the 90 hour group leaves and then grab about five hours of sleep.

4:05 AM July 25, 2002

Here's one difference between the 84 hour start and the 90 hour start. In a 90 hour group, I might be with the leaders early on, because I have virtually no warm-up period. In this 84 hour group, everyone goes like hell from the start. At this moment, I might be in very last place on the road. The red tail lights are quickly fading in the distance.

1:30 PM July 25, 2002

The road construction and dust made for hot nasty riding coming into the Blue River control. The mosquitoes are annoying and hungry here so I hide out in the Husky service station while I fill up on food and liquid.

11:45 PM July 25, 2002

The ride into Jasper is so beautiful. I saw an enormous elk in the dim evening light. A huge number of riders are sleeping here in Jasper and I decide to sleep for about 90 minutes here.

7:50 AM July 26, 2002

I'm really, really cold and really, really glad to be at the Icefield's Centre. I made one major miscalculation: when I left Jasper at 2:15 this morning, the weather was still nice and I was still wearing my long sleeve button-down cotton shirt. This is a terrific garment in hot, sunny weather. In the cool of the early AM, I'd added my nylon jacket/vest. At 5:00 AM when the rain started, I zipped the sleeves onto the vest. That's when I should've removed the cotton and pulled on the wool. I didn't do that and when the rain got heavier, I was soaked and I decided to ride it into the Centre. It's a long ride. I was actually glad for the Sunwapta climb, it warmed me up a bit. But this time I wasn't as stubborn as I'd been two years ago (and maybe the touring gear had something to do with it). When I slowed below walking speed, I walked the steepest 50 meters of Sunwapta. It felt good to stretch my legs.

That stupid lying sign still says it's only one kilometer to the Centre when you're more like two kilometers away. But I'm here now and I have dry wool in my panniers. I change into dry things and find Jon Muellner and Greg Zaborac finishing up breakfast. We join forces and head out.

1:00 PM July 26, 2002

Jon, Greg and I really don't ride together that much, we've each got our own paces but we tend to connect up when we stop. They didn't see the bear, but I did. The key to spotting wildlife here is to look for cars pulled over and look where the other people are looking. Like two years ago, again I don't think it's wise to stop and photograph the bear.

7:00 PM July 26, 2002

Still more wildlife. This time it's a pair of bighorn sheep and a fellow randonneur spotted them.

2:00 AM July 27, 2002

Jon, Greg and I all slept for a bit in Golden and we stuck together for the ride out of town but I wind up dropping them on the climbs. The big advantage of fixed gear bikes is how well they climb. Even with the touring gear I can climb pretty well unless it gets really steep. I've been watching the Tour de France most of this month and every time I climb out of the saddle I hear Phil Liggett's voice in my head saying "He's a spirited little climber!"

It's really cold now and I'm wearing all my wool.

7:30 AM July 27, 2002

The 24 hour store is one of mankind's greatest inventions. The store at the top of Roger's Pass extra terrific and it has coffee and all kinds of good munchies. Barb Henniger's support driver Sean Williams stops at the store while I'm loading up on supplies and he offers to take my picture at the summit. So here I am: happy, high up in the mountains with a nice hot cup of coffee. Life is good.

3:52 PM July 27, 2002

The headwind between Revelstoke and Salmon Arm slowed things down, but I always treat headwinds just like they're some kind of constant hill. My average speed is dropping, so I just look at the distance instead.

8:17 PM July 27, 2002

There was a secret control between Salmon Arm and Vernon and just after the control the route went on the really pretty, hilly and twisty Salmon River Road. At Vernon I decide to sleep and tell the control workers to wake me if I'm not up by midnight. But my reliable internal clock gets me up after I've had enough rest and I'm back on the road at 10:40 PM.

1:30 AM July 28, 2002

Here is a cautionary tale. In Canada they have a one dollar coin called a "Loonie" and a two dollar coin called a "Two-nie" (I'm sure they have real names as well but that's what everybody calls them). And they have pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters as well and over the course of a ride you can tend to accumulate a lot of change. Change is heavy and heavy is bad. So I've been very diligent about counting out my change to make purchases so I don't have to carry too much heavy money. Most times, this would be a good strategy.

1:30 AM in Falkland, BC is not most times. In the small hours of the morning a bit of CocaCola can be just the thing to pull me through and the glowing Coke machine makes me happy. And then I count my change and I am sad. I have been too diligent in getting rid of my change. But another randonneur is here, taking a classic sidewalk powernap. He stirs, understands my problem and we pool our change. It's enough to buy one can of Coke. Now I am happy again.

This rider's name is Lance Christensen and Lance is my new best friend. I offer to split the Coke with him, but Lance tells me he doesn't like Coke. He also doesn't like the headwind that we'd both had to fight to get into Falkland. We agree to ride off together.

I don't ride with other folks very often but Lance and I have a nice time chatting and the conversation distracts us from the wind. We chat about many things: engineering, lights, car-free living, Lance's unfortunate crash into Ken Bonner, fixed gears, pedals, spouses, children and exactly when it is that we'll hit the big descent at Monte Creek. I tell Lance to not worry when he drops me on the descent but Lance says "I think I'm going to drop off before that. I thought I was riding strong, but you're really going. I'm going to have to stop and eat." He assures me he's fine now and that I should go on. So we split up.

4:47 AM July 28, 2002

I'm done with a time of 72:47. This is about an hour slower than my time from a couple of years ago, but given the conditions, I'm perfectly happy. Lance rolls in about a half hour after I finish and he looks happy as well.

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