Bring it on Banff!


Yesterday was about survival. First, we escaped certain death at the hands of a mysterious stranger with the nickname Johnny Big Lure. In all reality, he and Kim were great and it was a pleasure to get to know them. There were, however, some real concerns coming from home. 

We received this email from Kristen's dad:

"What does Johnny Big Lure mean? You didn't really share a room with them did you?"

Kristen laughed so hard she actually cried. But I really think that meeting John and Kim was such a great part of why traveling is important. We're learning more and more that it's good to reach out and get to know people that we probably would never have connected with otherwise. 

Safe travels, my friends. Hopefully we'll catch up with you both on a scuba trip one day!

Pretty much right as we left our roomies, Kris had a strong allergic reaction to something and the glands in her eyes swelled to an unbelievable size. It began to pour freezing rain, the traffic was pretty nutty and we had a serious disaster all within the first hour. Kris hopped out of the sidecar and forgot the camera was on her lap. The Canon G9 took a pretty dramatic tumble and died before our eyes...

All that to say, we were both in a pretty foul mood when we walked up to Lake Louise. Nature gave us a swift slap to the face and we came to our senses. 




We're looking pretty thick with every bit of clothing we have on our bodies. 



I think we get why so many people come here. 

We left after looking around the hotel on the lake (which I'm sure is insanely expensive) and drove north to the Ice Fields Parkway. As we got to the gate, I stopped on the side of the road to fish my wallet out so I wouldn't hold up traffic when the girl in the booth started yelling and waving us over. We drove up, confused, and she exclaimed, "I've been waiting for you! Your friends passed this way about an hour ago. I'm so glad to see you guys!" We were understandably confused, but it turns out Kim and John had taken the same route and had chatted it up with this girl. We talked for a bit and then she said, "Best be on your way", with a wink before I could pay. We rode onto the parkway feeling a bit better about things. 

Let me tell you, the Ice Fields Parkway that connects Banff and Jasper is the most stunning ride I have ever been on. Jagged mountains are everywhere, glaciers and glacial lakes and rivers dot the scenery and the trees are unbelievably thick.

I think Bow Lake was even more blue than Louise:

Kristen wanted me to mention that she didn't alter the blues in any of these pics. The lakes are just that blue. 

We crossed over Bow Pass when we hit our first bit of serious weather for the trip. We were riding along when all of a sudden a white wall formed in front of us. We were engulfed in snow. Thankfully, the heated clothing made the whole thing enjoyable. The snow lasted for about 30 minutes and then dissipated. We had never experienced snow on Elga and for some reason, we couldn't stop laughing all the way through the pass.





We saw these goats:










And we saw several ravens that probably weighed more than Bacon:







We rode a bit further into Jasper National Park and climbed into the Columbia Ice Field where we were blown away by the chance to hike onto an actual glacier. We don't have any pics from the hike (the snow and wind was intense) but I do have these:

After hanging out in the visitors center for a bit to try and get my wet socks to dry, we headed down into the lovely town of Jasper (we saw several wolves and an elk that was so close Kristen could have pet it). 

We survived the day and slept very, very hard.

The Eyes of Texas Are Upon Banff


Kristen and I could have never imagined that we would meet so many people because of a little motorcycle. The Ural is the ultimate icebreaker - in the sidecar world it's known as UDF (Ural Distraction Factor). Every single time we stop we are swarmed by people that want to hear about our trip. It honestly may be the most redeeming part of our travels. We've received a multitude of business cards and phone numbers scribbled on napkins from absolute strangers offering food, lodging or aid in case of emergency. It has really opened our eyes and I feel as though we're being taught a lesson in generosity. 

Before we left Pincher Creek today we had a nice breakfast with a family we met in Glacier the day before. The Callaways are great and their two young boys were absolutely in love with Elga. We said our goodbyes and headed off across the windy Alberta farmlands towards Banff. 


We stopped for gas in Longview and saw a three-wheeled contraption for sale that we should buy for our next big trip.

A local gave us some advice that differed from our plans, so we took off west of 22 towards Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and the Kananaskis. Despite the rain and wind and cold, the views were worth it. It is a wild park full of uncultivated beauty. 

We had to laugh at the name of the cattle guards here in Canada. Texas Gate!

We then kept heading north until we ran smack into the superslab that is Highway 1, then headed west to Banff National Park. Upon entering the park, the weather turned sour and seeing as Kristen was threatening physical pain if I made her sleep in the wet and cold outdoors, we headed to the town of Banff to find a hotel room.

After I turned around on the highway, we were suddenly being followed by a suspicious red BMW. They followed us for several miles and even into the gas station we stopped at when we arrived in town. It turns out that the owner and his wife almost bought a Ural for their current cross-country trip and were super excited to see one on the road. It turns out that they weren't quite as sketchy as we thought, and we ended up having dinner and sharing an expensive hotel room with them. 

Here's to you Kim and Johnny Big Lure!

Tomorrow we head through the park!



Oh Canada!


Kristen and I spent the past few days hanging out in Bigfork, Montana at a house right on the Swan River. It was pretty difficult to leave, not only because we were very comfortable and relaxed, but also because my neck and back is absolutely seized up at this point. Apparently, my riding position is not very healthy. There is a nasty pinch in between my shoulder blades - I'm pretty sure it's a nerve thing. 

I have been feeling so bad that I actually spent $50/tire to get my tires changed out because I just can't do the work myself. By the way, Heindl Engineering was really great in getting us some parts and the tires quickly. The dealer network for Ural is just ridiculous!

Anyway, we got back on the road and headed into Glacier National Park. 

Following the suggestions of several other riders, we headed straight to the "Going to the Sun Road" and found it to be inspiring.

The only problem was that halfway up to the summit, we ran into some pretty serious weather. The truth is we got caught in a downpour. Not only that but it was cold and windy and extremely busy with traffic. I think I would like to come back some day and do this again at a different time because the clouds covered much of our view and I really think that this could be a special ride.

Either way, we left the park after finishing the road to find some lunch, but before doing so we gassed up. At the station, an attendant, named Ivan, came up to us and said,

'An Oooral! You 'ave an Oooral!'

It turns out Ivan was from somewhere in Eastern Europe and was absolutely in shock to see a Ural in America.

'Zees ees sheet! You need a Harley... Back een my cuuntree, my fazer 'as many Ooorals. But he would trade zem all fer a Harley.'

What I thought was most funny about the encounter was that he could not believe that my bike had an electric start. I have a feeling the Urals that he's used to are very different than my 2007.

Anyway, we left the park and headed northwest towards Waterton Lake National Park but before we arrived we achieved a major accomplishment: we made it to Canada! On the way to the border:

We then crossed the border and spent a good amount of time enjoying Waterton Park (which is actually only split from Glacier by the border and is equally as impressive).

It would be really cool to stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel (pictured below). It would be a great anniversary spot - you can even scuba in the lake!

We then drove on to Pincher Creek where we're spending the night. Fantastic day despite the moody weather!

Detained in Deer Lodge


We woke up feeling moderately rested at the classy Sharf's Motor Inn and headed down for our breakfast. This is worth mentioning because while Kristen had a nice, healthy meal of eggs and toast, I had a cinnamon roll that had been sliced like bread, fried and served like pancakes with syrup and powdered sugar. I could actually hear myself getting fatter.

With a belly full of goodness, we walked across the street to take a tour of the Old Montana Prison. The woman in charge of the motel told us to get there early so that we wouldn't get caught up in the crowds. 

The crowds. In a prison.

I love this place.

It turns out that we were put in our place after skeptically smirking because there were a ton of people touring the prison. Enough people, in fact, that at several points we had to hang back so that we could see the "attractions" after the crowd thinned. 

"Why would you go to a place like this?", you may ask. We honestly went to gawk at an odd tourist trap and left feeling completely creeped out. This place is straight out of The Shawshank Redemption. The cells were tiny, there were bars everywhere, the air was thick with bad history, and "The Hole" was horrid (too small to stand up or lie down). 

The thing that really got us were the gallows. I know they were just set up for show, but something was just wrong about the whole thing. In a Hitchcockesque setting, they stood in a building with hundreds of pigeons cooing overhead. 

Our payment also got us into a car museum, which was surprisingly impressive in its oddness. 

Our ticket also got us into a place called Yesterday's Playthings. Inside were hundreds of toys and dolls. Did I mention that I hate dolls? And clowns? 

After an overall creepy day, we jumped on Elga and rode a beautiful 200 miles to our Aunt and Uncle's place in Bigfork, Montana. Day redeemed.

Since then, we spent a bit of time in town (Kristen found her "one" piece of jewelry for the trip), we cooked lunch and I did Elga's 10,000 km service. I actually really enjoy working on the bike, but today I woke up with the worst back and neck pain I've ever had. I'm hunched over like I'm from Notre Dame and doing the service was a chore. Hopefully some rest will do me good.

Tomorrow we head to Glacier National Park and CANADA!

Tourists from Yellowstone to Deer Lodge


Jackson Hole is a gem. 

We liked it so much that we decided to spend an extra night even though we're on a bit of a schedule. We were able to replace a couple of tires, we walked around the downtown area a bunch, met a wonderful photographer at his gallery (David Brookover), found our new favorite artist (Melissa Graves Brown), Elga received an anonymous flower while we were away from the bike, and we ate an incredibly greasy and perfect hot dog and burger. Life is good.

We reluctantly left Jackson Hole and headed up to the Grand Tetons. After about 5 minutes out of town we ran into the mother of all traffic jams. We have never driven through this park or Yellowstone but I guess I shouldn't be surprised that a lot of other people want to see them as well. 

Turns out that there's a reason for all the traffic. Mount Moran and Jenny Lake are absolutely spectacular even with moody weather. 

What a boss.

We had a quick lunch and moved on from the Tetons - we will definitely be coming back. We headed north into America's favorite park, Yellowstone. The traffic was pretty horrendous and while on our way to Old Faithful, an older gentleman in a Suburban very nearly ran us off the road and subsequently off of a mountain. I was not happy, understandably, and went to see wonder of Yellowstone with an annoyed spirit. Old Faithful stayed true to its namesake and blew us both away. What a display of nature's glory. We feel so blessed to have seen such a show. 

After hanging out for a bit, we hopped back on the bike and headed for the nearest campsite.

I slept like an absolute rock with the mountain air blowing gently through the tent. Kristen, however, woke up wondering how I ever talked her into this. I think her sleeping bag was not made for the mountains...

Do to being freezing all night, Kristen decided to try out her heated gear for the first time. I'm pretty sure this is going to become a necessity from now on. She's in love. Anyway, we saw a bunch of elk that were all being pestered by an eternal flock of photographers, so we took our leave and headed out the west exit. 

The afternoon was a real treat. Montana is gorgeous and huge and wild. Even Kristen, a beach lover, told me that she was ready to move. Hebgen Lake and the surrounding area was awesome and we had a fantastic day of riding until getting to Butte and highway 90.

We decided to jump on the interstate for a quick jaunt when the skies opened up. We both got drenched as there was no exit in sight and spent decided after another 20 minutes of riding to find a place for the night. We rolled into Deer Lodge and stayed at a motel/casino directly across the street from the local prison. More on that later after Kristen edits the pictures from today!