Cycling Across Canada

Lake Louise/Banff.

Before daybreak, I hopped on Sonja to pedal the short ride from the hostel in town to the famed Lake Louise. A world-renowned view I’d never before seen. Though the morning was grey and dreary, I thought I’d be foolish to travel through without catching the main attraction. And, so, I succumbed to an expected path. Willfully. An easy trail beaten down by sight-seekers and flashing crowds. Besides, the trek was only five kilometers, barely off-route.

Upon arrival at the hallowed tourist grounds, I was greeted with low visibility. I could see faintly beyond the nearest edges of the prized lake below, with no sightline of the mountains providing the majestic background. Discouraged, I punched a quick spurt of camera shots of the foggy nothingness, imagining the incredible pictures I’d seen many others capture. Nevertheless, photographic proof or not, Lake Louise had been conquered. I could strike off this familiar place from my internal must-see list, comforted slightly by the knowing that I was now armed for any future conversations in which this place might be mentioned. A trivial form of accomplishment, I know.

For a moment, though, I must admit I felt I’d missed out on the evidence of my encounter. Then, I remembered my days-long escapade through all of the mountains prior. Every scene can become a destination on a bike.

I acknowledged the postcard views with a sarcastic salute into the quiet grey, turned Sonja around, and started on my route. I vowed to cherish every beautiful view unexpectedly offered by nature that day.

From Lake Louise, the Bow Valley Parkway runs essentially parallel to the Trans-Canada through Banff National Park. For a cyclist, the Parkway offered an inviting alternative. The Parkway featured far less traffic; a speed limit of sixty kilometres per hour served as a formidable deterrent to most drivers.

Even on a cloudy day, the views along the Parkway were serene, gifting the impression of being on a trail in the middle of nowhere. Take that, Lake Louise. I sought to treasure every second. A quiet revenge on my own submission to find the trendiest attraction earlier that morning.

After the Parkway ran its course and reunited with the Trans-Canada, I was ready to roll to my night’s destination in Canmore. Then, I noticed a sign pointing to the Banff village. For the second time in a single day’s ride, I felt magnetized by the common tourist’s invitation. I felt beckoned to another expected destination. What if I’m missing out? I couldn’t stop myself. I followed, again.

I rode into an undesirable adrenaline rush. Perhaps, I’d have enjoyed this village in a different mindset. But, the entire place felt out of alignment in my slower-rolling world. The scene overwhelmed with artificial noise and a consumerist’s overbearing touch. It was a jarring escape from my journey’s routine. Navigating through the rushing crowds, I managed to avoid a full-stop on my brief tour, and I pushed on.

I adopted a false sense of superiority as I rode through and away, unable to shake the knowing that my own desire to follow the familiar had brought me here, to avoid missing out.

The tourist weights of Banff lingered as I approached Canmore. I struggled to fix my mind on camping for the night, feeling the urge to be warm and enclosed. I failed, once more. I yearned for a taste of my own luxury. Clearly, I wasn’t immune.

My third strike for the day.

With a low-simmering of self-shaming inside, I found a mid-tier hotel, paid my dues, collected my rewards points, and rolled my life into one of its comforting rooms. The air of superiority that had arisen before was mostly gone. In its place, I felt relaxed and comfortably upscale. Quietly disappointed in my enduring tendencies, yet consoled lovingly by the luxuries of professional hospitality.

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