Monday, July 5, 2010

Alaska Ride, Day 22

The Icefields Parkway is a road I've heard a lot of positive talk about on the motorcycle forums, having so much beautiful scenery. I wanted to make it a part of this trip.

The road basically connects Jasper National Park to Banff National Park, and in fact takes us further south towards the US Border, so it makes sense to ride it.

However as luck would have it, we got rained on all day.

And it got pretty cold too. And why not? When you ride a road called "Icefields Parkway", it tends to suggest COLD. The road takes you along the Columbia Icefields, a place where the massive Athabasca Glacier carved out a rift. Today, the glacer is still there, though having receded greatly. Riding past the glacier, temperatures fell to 36 degrees F, and still pouring down rain.

Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The leather on my Gerbings heated gloves were soaking up water, and the heating elements were having a hard time keeping my hands warm. My fingers were still luke warm at best, but at least not freezing cold. But my Gerbings heated jacket liner was toasty.

At Athabasca Glacier is a visitor center, with a little museum inside that tells you all about the icefields. There's also a transportation center inside that takes people on these buses with special wheels to drive on the glacier itself. Paul and I opted to check out the visitor center, though we didn't cough up the dough to ride the buses. Mike decided he wanted out of the cold and rain as soon as possible and just kept riding on.

After checking out the visitor center, Paul and I tried to catch up to Mike, but we couldn't find him. We got to Lake Louise, and waited for an hour and a half at the gas station and restaurant. I sent him text messages and e-mails to his smartphone, but he never responded. So Paul and I decided to see Banff National Park, taking in Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon, Banff Caverns, and then the town of Banff.

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta

That night Mike called me. He got lost on the way to Banff, and ended up riding further south. By the time he realized it, he decided to Hell with it and just go home to Southern California. Paul and I decided to keep going with our planned itinerary, seeing Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons, and whatever else we find on the way home.

The town of Banff, AB is just a total tourist town to the extreme. I mean, I thought Jasper, AB was a total tourist town, but Banff really takes the top prize. It's just full on shops, bars, restaurants, museums, and high priced hotels. It's a Mecca for anyone with lots of money to spend and plenty of time to waste.

I tried to find some good bars in Banff, and what I mean by good bars is a bar that serves some microbrews and is filled with folks who love to chat all night long. I could not find such a place. First, all the bars serve only domestic brands of beer. And second, very few people are interested in chatting with anyone at the bar. It seems everyone who comes in, comes with a spouse, friend, or relative, and they just focus on each other.

Banff, Alberta is the most touristy town I've ever seen,
Many of the guys here still wear polo shirts and Oakley sunglasses.

I actually found the Banff Ave Brewing Co., and they have a bar. But their beer wasn't all that good. I've found that Canadian microbrews are either too watery, or too lightly hopped. I mean, ok, I found that Yukon Red Ale was pretty good, and Jasper Brewing's IPA is pretty good too. But everything else is still too light on flavor, and I must have sampled beers from five or six Canadian microbreweries. Maybe Canadians prefer their beer light on flavor, so be it.

Well, having visited Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, it seems that both are equally beautiful, except Banff is far more commercialized with far more bars, hotels, and gift shops all over the park. Jasper has more beautiful sights that you can see from the roadways, while Banff requires you to hike to see the sights. If you like hiking (which I do), Banff is the better choice. If you just want to ride your motorcycle and see some beautiful country, Jasper is the park.

Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta


A kakayer going over a fall in Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta,
He ended up upside down for about 30 seconds, and nearly drowned.


Bow Valley Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta,
This road runs a single lane for several miles.

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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)