Raindance Over The Rockies

Across The Mountains By Bicycle

By Neil Peart, 21 pages, limited edition of 50-100 copies privately published by The Cumberland Press in 1988 (experienced June-July 1988/written July-September 1988); the first five chapters, transcribed by Eric Hansen and John Patuto

To my critics and comrades,
Danny and Mark

Experienced June - July 1988
Written July - September 1988
©Neil Peart

Photographs by Byron Harmon
Illustrations by Ben Lim

Indian Legends adapted from
Indian Legends of Canada by Ella Elizabeth Clark
McClelland & Stewart, Toronto 1960
Legends of Vancouver by E. Pauline Johnston
McClelland & Stewart, Toronto 1961

Printed by The Cumberland Press, Toronto


when the world was young

In the long ago time, in the country by the western sea, there lived a giant; Naba-Cha, or Big Man. His lodge was made of three hundred caribou skins, and every day he ate a whole moose, or two caribou, or fifty partridges. Big Man made war upon the plains tribes to the east and south, and even upon the Snow Men to the north.

Big Man had captured a young Cree boy, named Caribou-footed, and the giant was very cruel to him. But the boy had a friend in Big Man's house, Hottah the clever young moose, and Hottah told Caribou footed to gather a stone, a clod of earth, a piece of moss and the branch of a tree, and then he carried the boy away on his back.

When they were pursued by the enraged Naba-Cha, riding upon his giant caribou, Hottah told the boy to throw out his clod of earth. When he did so, great hills rose from the earth between them and the angry giant.

When Big Man came in sight once more, Hottah had the boy throw out his piece of moss, and suddenly a muskeg swamp was formed, in which Naba-Cha and the giant caribou foundered.

Next it was the stone, and where it fell there rose a magnificent height of rocky mountains, their snowy peaks reaching to the sky and shining in the sun. This kept Big Man away for a long time, and when he finally caught up to them again, Hottah told Caribou-footed to throw out the tree branch. A great forest thrust up from the earth, the trees so thick that the giant and his caribou could not pass between them. The caribou became entangled, and was left behind.

Finally Hottah and the boy escaped across a wide river, and when Big Man came along and begged Hottah to carry him across, the clever moose dumped him in the middle of the river, to be lost forever.

And now there are the foothills, the great snowy mountains, the muskeg swamp and the mighty forest, where the young Cree boy threw the clod of earth, the stone, the piece of moss and the tree branch.

And that is how this country was made.
A Legend of The Dogrib Indians

1 - raindance, sundance (rocky mountain hop)

We left Hope behind us.


That is, we left the town of Hope behind us, and pedaled westward at 6:30 on a dark, wet morning. Steel wool clouds hung low from an anthracite sky - the recent dawn had brought no sun, and little light. Ahead the shining surface of the Trans-Canada Highway reflected a dull and grainy world, a hasty watercolor in the early morning dimness.


The wooly sky poured - no; bucketed, torrented, deluged, waterfalled, cat-and-dogged, showered, flooded, cascaded - down on us, but we were used to that. The sombre western skies had parted and wept on us at least once on five of the eight days since we had rolled out of Calgary. Averaging about ninety miles a day, on heavily laden bicycles, we were tired now on the final ride, and looking forward to arriving in Vancouver. With another hundred miles to cover that day we could have done without the sobbing skies. But it was not ours to choose.

I rode up beside Gay on the wide shoulder of the drowned highway, and we talked for a few minutes as we pedaled behind four other riders, my brother and her son among them. Each pair rode slotted between the rooster tails of spray arching up from the rear wheels of the bicycles in front. Droplets of water were flung face-high in a steady fountain, a silvery arc shining against the steely dark road and the wrought-iron and green wash of the trees on the far side of the highway. With the pressure of each pedal stroke I felt the water welling up inside my shoes.

There was a constant ssshh sound from my wheels as they sliced through the rainwater on the flooded pavement, and occasionally a mighty whoosh! - a sibilant roar dopplered past my left ear as a car or truck sailed by. And sail they did; cutting a bow wave of spray to fan back at us frail cyclists, to soak us yet again, only in an angular direction - multiplying the torrent descending from above and the spray rising from our own wheels with carwash jets from the side. Showered in three dimensions.

As Gay was another traveler who kept a diary, I mentioned to her how easy the journal of this trip would be to write:

"We cycled, we ate, we slept. And then it rained."


Nine intrepid knights of the road had wheeled out of Calgary on a bright morning, a strong wind rising as we saddled up at the hotel. It fortunately settled into the friendly support of a tailwind, and this was a good omen; to pick up an easterly tailwind against the usual prevailing westerlies. We pedaled across the high plains country, gradually spreading out along the wide, paved shoulder of Alberta Highway 1A to ride alone or in pairs, according to our preferred paces. Sandy-brown prairie dogs scurried for their holes in the dry earth, the less swift lay still by the side of the road.

I rode up by myself for awhile, hawks gliding above the nearby fields, and crows and magpies escorting me over the open, slightly rolling country. Magpies, natty tuxedos-on-the-wing, are unknown in my native eastern Canada, but in Europe and the West they are the most striking of birds; the elegant black body, white shirtfront and epaulettes, the wings and long formal tails black with flashes of white.

Rail fences and barbed wire enclosed the ranches, the undulating pasturelands broken only by occasional stands of low poplar trees, their silvery leaves twinkling like bright coins in the breeze. A pair of overstuffed black ravens, much larger than their crow cousins, were a dour presence like fat, bedraggled undertakers against a short green field. Along the western horizon stretched the blue-gray line of the Rockies, still far off, a solid unbroken rampart with faint veins of snow in the sheltered ridges.

I looked down at the map on the handlebar bag in front of me, tracing our steady progress west along the red line of Highway lA. Then I turned my eyes back to the road as I sped through a long downhill, and past the small town of Cochrane. A few miles later I smiled to see a sign marking the storybook name of Ghost River.


ghost river

A band of Stoney Indians was camped on the north end of Ghost River, and at night they would hear a herd of buffalo stampeding eastward. One warrior, determined to discover what was driving the buffalo, kept his horse ready all night beside his tepee. Around midnight he heard the thundering hooves, and jumped on his horse to chase after them.

He saw a rider ahead of him stampeding the buffalo, a naked man with a feather in his hair riding a gray horse. The pursuer pushed his horse faster and faster, but as he finally came alongside them the horse and rider disappeared.

They were ghosts.

That is how Ghost River got its name.

Assiniboine Legend


Bruce rode up alongside me in his "La Vie Claire" racing team jersey, the colorful geometric Mondrian rectangles made famous by Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond in the Tour de France. Bruce was in his late thirties, solidly built with light brown hair and a faint moustache, and the only cyclist in this group I hadn't known before.

As Bruce and I pedaled along together, side by side on the six-foot shoulder, he told me that he worked in the hazardous waste business, and I asked him if he meant creating it or disposing of it. "Disposing of it", he laughed, and I asked him what he thought of the idea of one day sending it all to the moon, which had always sounded like a neat solution to me. "I don't know about that", he said doubtfully. "Maybe to the sun."

That was an intriguing thought, I reflected on it a little more as we cycled on: "I guess the main problem still would be to get it safely launched, without the risk of having the whole lot blow up on the ground." My imagination began to toy with the idea of a giant barge that could be raised up to an already orbiting vehicle, by long carbon-fibre cables, or maybe some kind of ray...and then a bump in the road brought me back to earth.

Bruce spoke of the surge of public concern about this problem a few years back, which had made him hopeful of a solution, but the brief furor had seemed to subside into apathy again of late. I offered the opinion that it was just the "cause of the week" syndrome; that a fickle public had moved on to starvation in Africa, then drugs in schools, then obscenity in Rock lyrics etc.

I said that all of these environmental concerns were too much subservient to political interests, and that too often the real causes were ignored - the belching, stinking, spewing poison of factories in areas where jobs were considered more important - while the "pretend remedies" were enforced instead, like pollution controls on cars. I said that it was my understanding that at their worst cars only contributed about 6% of all the nasty stuff we put into the air.

"I don't know about that", said Bruce doubtfully.

In mentioning the fact that he'd never heard of Rush before, Bruce told me that since he'd converted to Christianity ten years ago he didn't follow music much anymore, though he liked "that Swedish group" (Oh God - Abba! I'd never met a real Abba fan before), and songs by groups like Air Supply. I nodded slowly and remained silent, my eyes on the road.

Bruce went on to tell me that he had been in the Coast Guard when he was younger - his way of escaping the draft I believe it was - and had been stationed in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, where he'd had a wild time, doing drugs and driving around in a big purple hearse, but that was all behind him now. He'd also been one of those investors hurt badly in the stock market upheavals of the previous October, as he had been heavily margined in his speculations and had been wiped out, instead of making the million dollars he had hoped for. He shook his head and remarked bitterly: 'That may not be a lot of money to you, but-".

With surprise at such a statement, I assured him that a million dollars was indeed a lot of money to me.

I remarked that it was nice to envision this country as it must have looked to the first white men, finally reaching the limit of those monotonous prairies only to face this fortress of mountains, and Bruce asked if the Indians in Canada had been as badly treated as in the States. Having read a bit on this subject, I replied that yes; Canadian history was no less shameful. "I've thought about this a lot with regard to Africa", I said, "and the problem always seems to be when whites try to enforce their values on the other cultures they encounter. Like the Africans, the North American Indians had been self-sufficient without complexity or progress. Though you and I may prefer our ways, on their own terms they'd been doing okay."

"I don't know about that", said Bruce doubtfully.

The hours and miles went by smoothly on the flat highway, spokes shining in the sun as we followed the course of the Bow River, aquamarine and foaming white as it tumbled over its rocky bed. Heavy evergreen forest lined the banks, and the air carried the scent of moving water and sun-baked pine needles. The river looked so inviting that I parked my bicycle against a signpost and climbed over the worn rocks to splash my face, arms, and legs in it, washing away the dried sweat in the cold water.

I had thought to linger there and wait for some of the others, but as I stood beside the road, drying in the sun, I found myself surrounded by hordes of small black flies, circling and landing all over me. They were unshakable; if I moved away they moved with me, a tornado of insects, and soon I was riding away again to escape them.

Even then, whenever I had to climb uphill, I slowed down enough for these ubiquitous pests to encircle me once more, and I thought how terrible it would be to have a flat tire here, to have to stop and fix it amid an orbiting cloud of flies. And again I thought about the Indians, and the white explorers.

The mountains gradually loomed nearer, still a wall of battlements stretching from north to south. The coniferous trees on their sides became visible as countless dark triangles, like daubs of green oil paint. The individual peaks and ridges stood out now in smoky shades of blue, gray and purple, and above the treeline rose the sharp, barren summits, light gray and streaked with snow.

Somewhere around Exshaw Bruce and I stopped at a roadside gas station for lunch, followed in by my brother Danny and Gay's son Stanley, who had been riding together just behind us. They leaned their bikes against ours, Danny tall and well-built, with thinning straw-colored hair and a darker moustache, his face wearing the same intent look it had since childhood. Stanley was medium height and slender, the stiff waves of his fair hair cut short around the ears and longer at the back, his youthful features as quiet and composed as his nature.

The four of us gathered around a Formica table in the humble restaurant, and Danny and I explained to the two Americans the Canadian haute cuisine of the hot hamburg sandwich, evidently unknown south of the 49th parallel. "It's like an open-faced hamburger on a slice of bread [traditionally white, naturally], with French fries and vegetables on the side, and then gravy poured over the top."

"Mmm, good!", we smiled.

I remembered those rare and special evenings; washed up and going out for dinner with the family; piling into Dad's red '55 Buick hardtop to drive to the Niagara Frontier House, a modest little white diner on Ontario Street. To a child there was magic in such a place; sliding into a booth beside Danny, three years younger, squirming against him and our much-tormented little sister Judy. Then to look around with bright eyes at the enchantment of dark wood, shiny Formica and stainless steel, the Hamilton Beach milkshake machine, a chrome and plastic juke box on the wall by each booth, the square red Coca-Cola dispenser, the tray of pies and donuts on the counter.

Living in the Global Village of suburbia, we might sometimes enjoy the luxury of Dad bringing home take-out fish and chips, or Chinese food, maybe even go out to a drive-in burger place, but to go to a real sit-down restaurant was a true occasion. I would invariably order the same thing; a hot hamburg and a chocolate milkshake, and it seemed a wonderful feast to me then. Sadly, like the decline of the milkshake, it's hard to get a good hot hamburg these days.

But after the morning's long ride, we all ate hungrily, and rehydrated ourselves with repeated requests for large glasses of water and Coke. Bruce caused a raising of eyebrows among the cognoscenti, asking for cheese on his hot hamburg, and when it was delivered with gravy poured over everything, he understood why - it was not a pretty sight

As the Americans enthused over their hot hamburgs, (well, a little), Bob, Rosie and Gay came in the open door, bright-colored jerseys, long black cycling shorts, and their cleated shoes clicking against the linoleum floor. I recalled my first meeting with these three, at Narita airport in Tokyo, where all of us awaited a connecting flight to Shanghai to join a cycling tour from there to Beijing. A fateful meeting for me, as in later summers they had enticed me into this world of "heavy touring"; one year over the Alps from Munich to Venice, the next over the Pyrenees from Barcelona to Bordeaux, and now the Rockies

These three were the motor of these tours, and Bob was the dynamo, the spark plug. A squarely built, driven man in his late forties, he lived for challenges and the charting of them, equally at home studying the contour lines of a map, or pounding grimly up a high mountain pass. His face was obscured by a shaggy light-brown beard, which sometimes framed a stern intensity, sometimes a madman's grin.

Bob's supercharged energy needed a voltage regulator, and this was Rosie. She filled the spaces in Bob's maps and mountains with islands of comfort and rest, arranged the logistics and drew in the invisible contour lines of scenery, history, and art. Her wide and refined features were topped by short, angular hair, graying naturally, though she still carried herself with a girlish lightness, a suggestion of slender, skittish grace.

Gay was the radiator, attenuating the running temperature with a battery of maternal warmth and youthful light. A bob of wavy blonde hair flattened by her helmet, the features of a kindly schoolmistress, and blue eyes that smiled through her glasses with a sprightly intelligence, or over them with wry skepticism, or a gentle tease.

In China my own restless motor had been held in check by a sorry rented bicycle, and with that handicap I could just about keep up with Gay, if I worked hard enough, so she and I had pedaled many miles together along the narrow Chinese roads. Our companionship had grown to friendship through the medium of frequent letters, though ironically when we traveled together now we seldom saw much of each other, me charging away up front and she maintaining her steady pace back with the more relaxed riders.

...sun really burning down now, no clouds anywhere, beautiful blue sky though. That tailwind, can't feel it anymore, must be blowing the same speed I'm riding. Strange to cycle with no air moving, like pedaling one of those stationary bikes. Worse - so hot - like jogging in a sauna or something. No the scenery's better. Hmm.

Sweat trickling under my helmet - tickles. If I raise my eyebrows the foam liner overflows, runs down my face, hangs from my nose and chin. Damn - dripping on the inside of my goggles now, all blurry at the bottom. Can't be bothered to stop and clean them.

Map showed all uphill to Banff, but I guess that tailwind makes it seem almost flat - nice riding. Coming into the foothills here, woods thicker now beside the road. Mountains way up there all of a sudden - like a stage set, all forested lower down, then those peaks - so bright, kind of violent-looking. Beautiful.

Feel a bit tired, sore - late in the afternoon, the usual doldrums - fatigue I guess. Always happens, start out so strong and eager in the morning, full of adrenalin and race ahead of everyone, then in the afternoon start to fade, ride slower, steadier pace. Well, let's just cruise for a while - let the others go ahead, just keep them in sight up there.

First day too - remember last year in Spain, felt weak and dizzy that first afternoon, Henry too, had to take a break - all right after that, never happened again. Wonder if I'll make it all the way to Vancouver - knees could give out, or I could just run out of energy. Or - no. Don't even think about that - you're not going to crash.

Never mind that; if I make it - maybe I just won't enjoy it this time. Harder than any of those other tours, a lot - riding more miles every day, no rest day - what if it's just not fun? Maybe the other times it just felt good when it was over. I always remember that part - when it's over.

Look at that sign - Stock At Large - yellow metal all full of bullet-holes - shotgun - road signs always a target out here. All over the west, signs shot to hell.

Now that's a postcard view - that lake on the left, still part of the Bow River I guess, pretty with the sun on it, glittering I guess you'd say. Hmm. Stand of white birches on the right, so bright against the shadowy woods, almost like they're glowing. The mountains - all around now, rearing up above the trees - must be alpine meadows up there, that paler green - and way up high the snowpeaks, shining in the sun. Yes.

Eyes getting sore, sun-tired I suppose. Should really wear dark lenses instead of these clear ones, but they change all the colors so much. Like to see things right.

What's this sign coming up? - ah, Banff National Park, getting close now. Good. Remember reading about the Olympic cyclists, how the trainers monitor their muscle temperature to see if they're overheated. Yeah, it's true - I feel it - muscles really do get hot, friction maybe, or just work producing heat as energy.

That sensation just under the skin, sort of a tingling warmth, must be the circulation. Skin hot too, sunburned, especially the left side - going west all day. And sticky - dried sweat. I guess when you're pedaling along it evaporates so quickly you don't notice how much you're sweating. Just leaves the salt. Better grab the water bottle, don't want to be dehydrated too.

Knees hurt a little, not too bad, kind of a dull ache. Stiff all over though, been on the road for - what? - about eight hours. Do a couple of neck rolls, that helps - arms shoulders and back tired too, fingers numb from the handlebars. The seat, the contact point - oh, yeah - pretty tender, saddle-sore, but not so bad if I don't move. Ha ha.

Time to get there now. Had enough. Yup - time of day when I just want to be there.


water spirits

Before the white men came, near the place they call Banff, the Indians used to hear a spirit in the hot springs. When they bathed in the waters for the medicine in them, they would hear the spirit singing, or whistling like the sound of the bone whistles used for the Sun Dance. Then they would leave something as a thank you to the spirits, for the use of the water, and for the yellow ochre paint

But now the strength has gone out of the water, the mysterious power is there no more. The Indians say it is probably because the white people do not pray to get well, as the Indians used to pray to the spirits to cure them of their sickness, and were healed by the strength of the waters.

Assiniboine Legend.

2 - siding 29(banff springs eternal)

The town of Banff was protected, presumably against bears, by high fences of wire mesh, and the highway was interrupted by a "Texas Gate", a section of pavement replaced with steel pipes laid crossways, to prevent animals - or cyclists - passing it. I could walk my bicycle over, as I wore touring shoes that are like stiffer running shoes, but for those wearing slippery cleats it was a serious obstacle. Everyone made their way across or around it anyway they could, while I walked each of their bicycles over the pipes. Bob simply took off his shoes, got down on all fours and crawled from pipe to pipe, to a chorus of laughs and camera clicks.

Majestic peaks stretched high in every direction, mighty tapering towers of forest and bare rock topped with points of luminous snow. The rough-hewn symmetry invited the fantasy of unearthly temples, of great pyramids raised by an immortal hand.

Like a conquering army we descended upon the tidy streets of the town, the air of unreality heightened by a gentle blizzard of fluffy white seedlings floating in the still air, a slow-motion ticker-tape parade. The cottonwoods heralded our arrival with a dream-sequence, as if we moved inside a plastic souvenir snowstorm.

After ninety hot miles I felt dirty, sweaty and disheveled as I stood wearily at the hotel desk, sorting out the room assignments. I had volunteered to coordinate rotating partners among the six single men, but as I often find with these complicated mathematical problems, I never got it to work right.

In the second floor room I dumped my panniers on the bed, and walked out on the balcony. The Bow View Motor Lodge overlooked a lazy stretch of the milky turquoise river we had followed most of the day, smooth here and reflecting an Impressionist portrait of pine, spruce and aspen. Directly below lay the paler waters of the swimming pool, next to it a steaming spa, and my tired body said "go there".

By the time an hour had passed, as we relaxed by the poolside with drinks, books, and Bob with his maps, we became mildly worried about Henry and Bill. Though on the Alps tour they had been notorious for seeking out an afternoon beer or two, we couldn't imagine where they might have found to stop on this route. Like most of this group of cyclists, I could relax better once I'd reached my destination, and thus tended to be urgent about "getting there", but Henry and Bill could relax just fine along the way, and were happy to make as many stops as there were places to sit and have a beer, and maybe some fries - pommes frites - to tide them through the afternoon.

And sure enough, after another half hour they wheeled up, Bill thin and graying, rosy-cheeked under his salt-and-pepper beard, and Henry shorter and thicker, with glasses shielding the roving eye, and amiable features shielding the prurient wit. True to form, they'd found an English-style pub down the road in Canmore, and passed an enjoyable hour soaking up the atmosphere - and the wares - and they came in laughing.

Danny and I were detailed to choose a restaurant for dinner, and took an exploratory walk through town, the light clear and golden and the cottonwood snowflakes drifting in the stunning mountain air. We selected a suitable place to feed the troops, then made a stop at the liquor store, where I loaded up on miniatures of whisky and cognac to carry in my panniers. Like a nineteenth-century British explorer, I was determined to keep civilization alive in the wilderness.

In the cool of early evening Danny and I led the group a few blocks to the main street. With such a cinematic setting among the surrounding mountains, forever changing with the light, Banff could not really fail to be an attractive town. But now at the beginning of the summer tourist season the streets were a slow-moving parade of T-shirts, shorts and cameras, licence plates from many provinces and states, inexpertly guided RVs and diesel-smoking tour buses. The stores, restaurants and motels were all a bit self-consciously "on display", like a Hollywood set of a Swiss village, carefully groomed and dressed for the town's raison d'être of charming tourists - millions of them every year.

But still, it looked "nice". Gay remarked that "it probably once had a charm it only pretends to now", and no doubt that's true. (Where's that damn time machine?) Shop windows displayed Indian crafts and the usual motley array of souvenirs, and display signs and even store names appeared in Japanese characters. Danny told me he had once played guide to a busload of Japanese tourists on a trip through the Rockies, and their greatest thrill of the tour had been to collect the glacier ice to drink with their whisky.

Banff began life humbly as a railroad siding - Siding 29 - in 1883, near the mineral springs noted by one of the first surveying expeditions for the Canadian Pacific Railroad. But before long the president of the railroad gave it a more romantic name, after his native Banffshire in Scotland, and a few years after that the area was declared a National Park. Canadian Pacific Railroad built a huge resort there, the Banff Springs Hotel, and brought in Swiss guides to lead the early tourists into the Rockies.

In the dining room of the Norquay Hotel, named for one of the peaks above the town, we sat down at a long table to enjoy a fine meal of fresh salmon and good western steaks, and to bemuse the friendly waiter with endless requests for "more water" for this group of dehydrated cyclists. Wine, as ever, eased the pains of cycling, and the popular dessert choice of Peach Melba was a suitable reward for the thousands of calories we had burned. It's wonderful to know you can't possibly eat enough to replace the fuel you're using - a Licence to Indulge.

For the second time that day Bruce remarked to Gay "how surprised I am at how well you're doing", and I saw her brow furrow at this expression of ill-considered praise, the kind that actually rings with insult. "Damning with faint praise" - like the time drummer Carl Palmer invited Buddy Rich to hear him play, and at the end of the show Buddy gave him the thumbs-up sign, and said: "Really looked great, man."

Gay may not have looked the long-distance cyclist's role, being round and compact, short-legged and - like Bob and Rosie - in her late forties, but she was a veteran of many previous campaigns through England, France, Italy, China, the Alps and the Pyrenees, and she would always get there. She didn't mind if she had to walk a bit on the steeper climbs, she just kept going steadily, like the famous Tortoise.

While we'd pedaled together in China, she'd told me that the Boysens were planning a trip over the Alps the following summer, but that she probably wouldn't try that one. Of course, she'd been there in Munich, and she'd been there in Venice at the end. That winter her letters expressed doubt about the Pyrenees tour, but she'd been in Barcelona for the start and at the end in Bordeaux, and this year she'd been there in Calgary, and she'd be there in Vancouver.

Bruce and Bob were the most serious cyclists among us, at least in terms of competitive urge. Both were involved in amateur racing, and both had competed in one of the toughest challenges of all, a two hundred mile race, just the previous week. Bob had completed it in the impressive time of a little over twelve hours, and though Bruce had dropped out near the end of that one, he was a regular competitor in shorter races and velodrome events. Hulking, boyish Bruce was known to the other club members as "The Terminator", while the older, squarely-built Bob was nicknamed "Le Cruel". Like many nicknames, both were misleading in some ways, but certainly apt in others.

Near the end of the dinner I heard a commotion of rising voices at the other end of the table, and turned to hear the two of them embroiled in a loud debate on cadence. The Terminator maintained that a high pedaling rhythm was better for everyone, while Le Cruel emphatically denied that generality, his own style making use of a slower rotation powered by exceptionally strong leg muscles. As Bruce offered the "conventional wisdom" on this subject, saying that rapid spinning and high RPMs were the most efficient technique, he was ungently reminded that Le Cruel had "dropped" him on their "friendly" sprint into Banff, and Bob dismissed the "accepted doctrine" with a forceful rebuttal of "Bull-shit!".

And when Bruce persisted, he gave it to him again: "Bull-shit!".

A few other diners turned our way, wondering what this incomprehensible debate over recondite cycling techniques was all about, and indeed - some of us wondered too. Gay and I had discussed in letters our mutual discomfort with open hostility, but this was certainly a harmless display, and from across the table I saw her smile to herself, and then over her glasses to me.


rainbow waters

Long ago a tribe of giants lived in this country, and one of their chiefs, a famous hunter, wished to make a mighty hunting bow out of the rainbow. He climbed the highest tree on the highest mountain, and tore the rainbow from the sky.

But even as he seized it, the colors faded.

Enraged, the giant flung the rainbow against a mountaintop, where it shattered and fell to the bottom of a lake. And even now the colors of the rainbow may be seen at sunrise in the waters of Lake Louise.

Assiniboine Legend.

2 - pilgrims(to paradise and perdition)

During Rush's first Canadian tour in the summer of 1975, we traveled across the country by rental car, sharing the driving duties among the three of us in the band and our tour manager. After flogging the big Chrysler from show to show across the prairie provinces, at extralegal speeds, we parked the hard-driven car at Lake Louise on our way over the Rockies, and spent a couple of hours walking along the paths beside the fabled lake. Alex had told us about the beauty of this spot, having paused there on a previous cross-country odyssey in search of his "roots" - from his home in the suburbs of Toronto to his birthplace in Fernie B. C. - and he had driven all the way across the country with a friend in an old MGB that, typically, used more oil than gas.

On first seeing Lake Louise I'd been amazed and enchanted, and thought it the most beautiful place I'd ever seen. Though I've traveled to many beautiful places around the world since then, Lake Louise still remains one of the most affecting.

The color of the water struck me most; a crystal of transparent turquoise; or maybe green; or aqua; everchanging in the light, but always the richest of colors that nature can paint. High mountains circle it with glory; on the far shore glows the grayish-white of the receding glacier which formed the lake, as it spills down from an ice cap of blinding white tiers to leave a moraine of crumbled rock at the water's edge. On the left a high jagged peak, patches of snow and coniferous trees clinging almost to the summit, and to the right another series of rocky peaks framing a rounded buttress, aptly named the Beehive.

The Stoney Indians knew it as "lake of the little fishes", and guided surveyor Tom Wilson there in 1882, the first white man to see it. Although he called it Emerald Lake, it was soon renamed after the daughter of Queen Victoria, who was also the wife of Canada's Governor-General. The intrepid Wilson went on to name another lake, fifteen miles away, Emerald Lake, and there the name has remained. As with Banff, the coming of the railroad made Lake Louise a popular stopover, and tourists and mountaineers were sheltered in comfort at Château Lake Louise, the present lodge replacing an earlier building which burned down in 1924.

Danny and I parked our bikes in front of the massive wooden hotel which overlooked the lake, and walked stiffly over to park ourselves on a bench by the water. The climb from the valley below had been torturuous, several miles of precipitous uphill under a strengthening sun, and we were both sweating heavily. The clouds and rain of morning had given way to a bright midday, the sun cheerful in a clearing sky. Climbing a long steep hill was not improved by this change of weather, but it did much for our reward - that view.

Cycling in mountainous country offers two valuable advantages: the absence of the strong winds which are the bane of flatter regions, and the continuing prize and surprise of magnificent views. The old cliché: "to see what's on the other side", has pushed me up many a hill, and the promise of a panorama always seems worth the struggle to pedal myself up there.

We had awakened in Banff under a leaden, drizzling sky. A colorful flock of red, yellow, green, and blue rainsuits, a child's paintbox of protective coloration, we began to gather in the dim lobby at seven, and decided to find some breakfast and see how the weather turned. "I feel terrible", said Bruce.

Hunching our shoulders against the rain, we trudged the few blocks to Smitty's Pancake House along the wet gray street. Danny impressed us all with his state-of-the-art foul weather gear - a green garbage bag over his body with holes torn open for his arms and head. A good improvisation, but he would live to regret its inadequacy.

Much of Smitty's menu consisted of that generic international-house-of-blandcakes fare, filled and covered with a choice of glutinous, gore-colored treacles. Loaded up on empty carbohydrates and caffeine, we went onward to face the elements. "I feel great!", said Bruce.

A light drizzle continued as we cycled out of town, tires wisssh-ing on the wet pavement. At the anti-bear boundary fence we safely negotiated the homicidal-when-wet Texas Gate. The bilingual sign - rouleaux a passage - seemed a little out of place, with not more than a handful of francophones for a thousand miles. When I'd told Bruce I spent much of my time in Quebec, he'd commented: "Yeah, it's really beautiful there. It's just a shame about the French."

Confused, I wondered if he meant the French language, as I knew he'd skied at Mont Tremblant in Quebec, maybe he'd had trouble communicating.

"What do you mean?", I asked him.

"Well, you know, so arrogant."

'Ah', I thought, 'a racist slur'.

"I don't think that's true", said I.

"Yeah - don't they want to separate from Canada or something?"

"No, I think they got the attention and the respect they wanted. They just felt like second-class citizens in their own country, but a lot has changed. I like the people there very much."

The Terminator had seemed unconvinced, but he only shrugged and dropped the subject.

Feeling sparky and springy that morning, I pedaled briskly ahead as we turned west onto the Trans-Canada Highway, riding by myself in the heavy 3-D humidity. Then I saw Danny reflected in my little helmet mirror, coming up behind me, and we rode together for a while. Leaving the Trans-Canada after a few miles, we angled onto a less-traveled parallel route, which proved to be one of the finest cycling roads of the whole tour.

Newly paved, the Bow River Parkway was a gently unfolding ribbon laid between banks of pines, spruces and firs. I was reminded of the Black Forest; the tall pines a heavy canopy above the shadowy forest floor, smelling rich and damp in the morning rain. Like those delicate perfumes which respond to body heat, the spice of pine needles is strengthened with heat, but deepened with moisture.

In the English gray air above us, a narrow channel between the walls of the dark woods, a crow flapped across the road with a harsh caw, and more crows lumbered into the air at our approach, leaving the smashed animal they had been dismembering, a shiny string of pink intestine stretched across the road. The drizzle faded imperceptibly as we rode abreast in the middle of the lane, moving along well and talking easily together on the deserted highway.

Danny and I had traced a winding and divergent route to bring us to this time and place, to be cycling side by side down a wet mountain highway. As children we had grown together, then apart, then together again as adults. The two of us boys had shared a room - bunk beds of course-and spent a lot of time in each other's company - many games, adventures, long hikes along country roads, and, in the autumn, together we'd carefully arrange hundreds of shiny brown chestnuts all over the basement floor, to outline towns and highways for our toy cars. But as we passed into the teenager's shadow-world, we wandered different paths.

I blame myself. I was a defensive, rebellious individualist, all involved in weird music and playing the drums, desperately non-conformist, wearing bizarre clothes (a purple-lined cape and fluorescent hand-painted running shoes in winter come to mind), and being a far-out kind of guy. While Danny was everything I wasn't; academic, athletic, a member of every club and every team, a mainstream kind of jock. Each thought the other had been adopted.

Danny was always a terrier; amiable, bright-eyed and determined, digging into things with an earnest and oblivious seriousness, while I was more like Louis, my mother's epileptic poodle; decorative and unusual, but high-strung and intractable.

Danny fought like a terrier too, and as brothers will, we quarreled and scrapped. Though he was three years younger, by our teenage years he was wiry and as strong as me, and I remember the last fight, a marathon wrestling match across the living room floor, twisting, rolling, and straining, until we ended up locked together in a hold neither of us could break. Neither able to move a limb, neither willing to surrender, we lay knotted in a rigid tangle until the sound of Dad's car in the driveway pulled us apart. We never fought again, but we disappeared into our own lives for a period, Danny to university and me to chase the muses.

In my twenties I suddenly discovered that playing drums had built my stamina to the point where I could actually enjoy something physical, and I was introduced to cross-country skiing. Then it was long-distance swimming, and then bicycling - of all things. And at the same time Danny's taste for music and literature began to grow, and we exchanged more frequent letters, he in Vancouver now and me off everywhere with the band, and our letters were full of discussions about our lives, our reading, a shared ambition to write, his passion for marathon running and my growing interest in endurance sports. And then we were close friends again, grownups with interests and activities in common, and our similarities and differences gave us plenty to needle each other about. I still say he's adopted.

In the thirty miles to Lake Louise not more than a handful of passing cars disturbed our peace, and then the only ones to fear were the dreaded house-trailers and RVs, those unwieldy newly-rented or seldom-driven behemoths unpredictably conducted by novice - and nervous-pilots. Winnebago, Wayfarer, Airstream, Bonaire, Funcraft, Starcraft - these were the perils of the road here, not the generally courteous and accurate truck drivers we encountered. Though Bruce would later meet the exception to that rule.

Danny had shared a room with Bruce the previous night, and he told me some of his adventures. Now; I have always known Danny to be slightly squeamish about pain and biological matters, the kind who nearly faints at the sight of blood, and apparently The Terminator had gone into meticulous detail concerning a cyst in the area of his perineum; "like sitting on a pebble"; its size, location, discomfort and prognosis, and then went on to tell Danny about his unpredictable reaction to altitude, and his allergy to penicillin. He wanted Danny to make sure no one would inject him with it if "anything happened" to him, leaving Danny to wonder what the hell might "happen".

And, The Terminator insisted on having the light on in the bathroom, and the air conditioning left on; not for the cooling, but for the noise - so no outside sounds would disturb his slumbers. In the morning he'd reported to Danny that he'd had a good night: "I only woke up four times."

On the other hand, I had shared with my agreeable room-mate from the whole Pyrenees trip, Henry, a Prince Among Men in most ways, but with the unfortunate tendency to rend the watches of the night with a sonic buzzsaw of snoring.

Château Lake Louise lived up to its name, built on the grand scale in the dignified fashion of a great manor house, sprawling atop the moraine at the end of the lake which is reached by the road. Inside was a warm, aristocratic ambience of wood paneling and heavy dark furniture. English tea was offered in the vast lobby, but Danny and I climbed the stately wooden staircase to the Victorian Room, to reserve a table for the lunch buffet and await the others.

The vision framed by the wide picture windows seemed impossible; too perfect, too beautiful; a celluloid print of greens and grays, tiers of shining white and the Aqua-Velva lake. Danny spotted a figure pedaling along the shore, the unmistakable Mondrian colors of Bruce's cycling jersey, and ran down the stairs and outside to let him know where we were. The others arrived soon after him, hot and tired from that last steep climb, but admitting, as they admired the unparalleled setting, that it had been worth it.

Delicate cold salmon, firm avocado halves stuffed with tuna salad, pink and white flakes of crabmeat, a myriad of salads, new potatoes, white asparagus, crisp green beans, tender white fillets of sole, rare roast beef - I devoured it all.

And then the desserts: chocolate mousse, brownies, fresh strawberries with whipped cream, watermelon, cakes and pastries. Danny and I both lit up, sharing a congenital passion for sweets, particularly chocolate, and on a trip like this there was no reason not to indulge. Bruce would comment that he'd "never seen anybody eat as many sweets as you two", and dubbed us the "Chocolate Brothers".

After lunch some of the later arrivals cycled off to tour along the lakeshore, Henry and Bill went to find a beer, and Danny and I made a stop at the candy shop downstairs, to stock up with a supply of sweets to keep us going between meals - and perhaps to forestall the onset of hypoglycaemia - "sugar debt" - on those long cycling days. (Honest.) We had to forgo the temptation of the wonderful variety of chocolates, as they would melt in our handlebar bags, but there was a good selection of my cycling favorites, the hard candies with the soft rich centres, that would each provide enjoyment for several miles of pedaling, as well as a short, sharp shot of sugar.

The shiny brown-and-gold-wrapped Chocolate Eclairs, with soft caramel in the middle, and the double-whammy grape-flavored hard-soft combo looked most alluring to me, and I purchased a mixture of those, while Danny selected a tasteful melange of the hard-soft Mixed Berry and Raspberry. The blond young fellow who worked behind the counter was himself a cyclist, and told us we had a nice ride ahead of us, with only a couple of climbs to make before we reached the town of Golden, our destination for the day.

Partway down the busy and winding highway, the one we had so teeth-grittingly ascended, we turned onto a narrow sideroad, a heavily wooded and less-traveled route that took us through the Kicking Horse Pass. The name was born in 1858, when the explorer and surveyor Sir James Hector, just after he came upon the mineral springs at Banff, was kicked by a pack-horse and knocked unconscious, and nearly buried alive by his Indian guides. This event is also commemorated by the Kicking Horse River, which we now followed down through Yoho National Park. (I like that name.)

The pass marked our crossing the frontier into British Columbia, and an arch over the road announced the Continental Divide. This signified the line between two watersheds, the Bow River flowing back eastward as we left it, to wind its way down across the prairies, while the Kicking Horse flowed ahead westward into the Columbia, to meander south to the Pacific at Portland.

Mercifully shaded from the glaring sun by the overhanging forest, Danny and I were joined by Stan, as we cruised easily on a gradual descent. At lunch Bob had spread his chart of the side elevation on the table, and examining the afternoon's ride we were led to expect an easy downhill all the way, but it didn't quite happen that way. First, one of my rear panniers was knocked loose as we joined up with the Trans-Canada Highway again, and rather than dismount I just leaned back and lifted it onto its hanger.

Wrong. I rode the next several miles with the pannier pressing the brake pad against the rim, wondering why I was having such trouble keeping up with Danny and Stan, and having to pedal downhill in low gear.

And even after, with Einsteinian brilliance, I deduced that problem and corrected it, a steady headwind worked against us all afternoon, making even the descents hard going. On a bicycle, I hate a headwind more than anything. Certainly a headwind on the flats or downhill is not as arduous as pulling yourself up hills, but no matter how steep or long a climb is, you can persevere and have the satisfaction of conquering it, beating gravity. You can struggle all day against a headwind with nothing but frustration. It just seems so unrewarding, the invisible wind an unworthy adversary compared to a mountain or a great distance, and it enrages me to the point where I wish I had a machine gun - I'd shoot the effing wind.

We also had our first encounter with an optical illusion that would become a common torment - a road with the appearance of descending that is actually flat, or even slightly uphill. Some trick of topography fools the eye into seeing the road descending before you, yet you're pedaling hard to maintain your speed, and if you look over your shoulder you see the road obviously descends that way. Danny complained that it felt as if his bike "suddenly turned to lead", for no apparent reason.

The bitch of a wind in my face, the devil of a sun glaring down and up again from the baking pavement, and a couple of long, low-gear climbs to sweat and pant through. Black-smoking trucks and weaving Winnebagos tortured their engines in their own desperate battle against gravity. Huge tandem dump trucks with great burdens of dirt and stones struggled past my elbow in a blast of heat and foul smoke, or strained against their engines on the way down, in the acrid stench of frying brake pads. Bruce once remarked that it seemed as if a lot of Canadians were employed in moving dirt around.

At last we arrived at the top of a high ridge, and stood for a moment at the side of the road looking down at the miniaturized town of Golden spread far below us, down beside the dark railroad tracks and the blue waters of the Columbia River.

Mary's Motel, in Golden, British Columbia.

It looked - well, probably just how you think it looked, exactly the kind of place described so lovingly by "Humbert Humbert" in Lolita. Two long rows of connected "units", planked wood painted dark brown with white doors and window trim, large rectangular windows with floral-print curtains, each "unit" as identical as echo repeats but for the stamped metal numbers on the door. At one end a bright-red soft-drink machine stood guard outside the small lobby. A few tall pines, a parking lot full of unwashed older Fords, Plymouths and pickup trucks, and out behind the main building a modest outdoor swimming pool and another chain of brown walls, a receding row of picture windows reflecting the trees, cars and sky, and the repeating pattern of numbered white doors, like exclamation points.

Inside, the "units" were rudimentary, but neat and clean: a pair of floral-print beds that matched the curtains, wood-grain wallboard, wood-like Formica dressing table, wood-ish chair, the wood-oid door opening to a spotless, white-tiled bathroom, and a doorless, woodless closet with wire hangers permanently attached to the metal rod.

Stan and I wheeled the bikes into our room, changed into bathing suits and immediately headed for the pool. The cool water was a sensual delight as I dove straight in, stretching my tired body with a few lazy strokes underwater, then coming to the surface to feel the sweat and dust of another ninety miles washed away, and the heat dissipating from overworked muscles.

I lay back in the sunshine beside the pool, looking up at the sky between the high forested walls of the valley. Bomber squadrons of small cumulus clouds crossed overhead, swiftly passing over the sun to leave the mountain air suddenly chilly. The puffs of cloud were stretched and torn by the the jetstream, the upper windflow heralding a change in the weather.

In the early evening a storm rolled in, with a driving rain that pelted off of the dusty cars, and quickly formed pools in the gravel. We decided to taxi to dinner, though getting a pair of taxis on a rainy evening in Golden was not unlike that exercise in New York - it took some time.

I stood outside on the sheltered walkway, watching the heavy curtain of rain lashing down. The other Knights-Templar emerged from their rooms, comparing aches and sunburns, displaying the backs of hands mottled by cycling gloves. During those two sunny afternoons of riding westward one whole side of my body had been sunburned to a tender rareness - but as we had always kept the sun to the south, it was confined to the left side of my arms, my neck and my legs. I remarked that I was sore on "both left legs", and everybody laughed, Le Cruel saying that he'd "heard of two left feet, but not two left legs."

Two sets of headlamps appeared in the gloom, yellow against the gathering dark. Four watery beams, slashed by silver wires, swept over the flooded pavement and picked out circles of ephemeral stalagmites, like spotlights across a cave floor.

Jackets over our heads, we ran laughing through the torrent to the cars, in a lunatic race on tiptoe, knees pulled high in short jerky steps, with plunging stag-leaps and sidesteps to avoid the deep puddles. A mad and glorious dance in the rain.


sky world

One time the animal people wished to make a visit to Sky World, and they decided to shoot arrows into the sky until they could make a rope of them. Coyote tried, but his arrow fell back to earth, as did those of Fish, Toad and Snake.

Then the two Hawks, who had visited the sky and were skilful archers, shot their arrows straight up, and for a day and a night they whistled through the air until the animals heard them strike the sky.

More arrows were shot into the notches of the first ones, until a rope of them stretched almost to the ground. Raven stuck his bill into the last arrow, and the animals climbed over him to the sky.

Glutton ran off at the last moment to see to his traps, and when he returned all the animals were gone, including Raven. He was so angry at being left behind that he pulled down all the arrows and scattered them over the land.

This is how the Rocky Mountains came to be.

Kootenay Legend.

4 - rogers pass(major rogers' neighborhood)

...what time is it? - still pretty dark in here. Five-thirty. Hmm. Little sore - legs feel heavy. Skin and lips dry, have to drink more water today. Is that rain? Yup. Really hammering down too. There between the curtains - all that water dripping from the eaves like melting icicles. Looks foggy and dark out there. Hmm. Might as well walk over and have a look. Quiet, though - don't wake Stan up.

Look at that - like a bloody lake out there. Little waves rippling on the parking lot. And that dull wet sheen on the cars - need some wax. Hmm. Guess it was just a tease when it cleared up after dinner last night. Well, more two-wheel watersports today.

Signs of life - Stan turning over, rustling the sheets. Ha - that's funny - one eye opens, looks around, then he says "morning". Not sure if it's a greeting or a statement. . .

The brave crusaders, in waterproof armor, prepared their mounts in the dim morning. There were few words spoken, and the monotonous percussion of the torrent masked all other sounds. "I feel terrible", said The Terminator.

By the time we'd pedaled back up to the highway we were drenched once more, but the rain seemed to be diminishing. After breakfast (at another Smitty's pancake house) the sun even made a cameo appearance between the heavy clouds. "I feel great!", said The Terminator.

The swift-moving highway traffic soon dried two lanes of pavement beside us, but the centre and the shoulders remained dark and wet. Bruised, cottony streaks of cloud sagged along the high wooded ridges, and snow-streaked mountains rose like mirages right over them, high above the Columbia River to my left. The dripping forest grew down to the highway on the right, smelling of humid growth and damp decay. Once a stronger odor wrinkled my nose, the familiar roadside spectre of death, and I looked into the undergrowth to see a deer laying on its side in the ditch, a swollen, caramel-colored corpse with open eyes. Fascination slowed me down to look at it, but sadness kept me moving on.

I crowded close to the painted line on the edge of the pavement, as here the road was narrower, without the luxury of a paved shoulder. In the blast of wind from a passing truck I lost my balance slightly, and with a sudden shock of terror veered off the pavement and into the gravel.

'Oh-oh. Shi-i-i-i-i-i-t!'

Desperately trying to control the bike against the loose stones, and simultaneously to free my feet from the toestraps in case I fell - okay, easy now - weight down on the pedals, arms rigid - dammit - easy now, steer gently - I hung on until I slowed to a crunching stop.

I stood for a moment to collect myself, and watched a baby Killdeer, a tiny brown and white bundle of fluff, as it dashed about and cheeped in its own flight of panic. A passing car sent it tumbling over and over to the roadside, then it was on its tiny feet again, and with horror I watched it run back toward the pavement, to be crushed flat under the wheels of a truck. I shook my head, and with a flutter in my stomach pushed off onto the road again.

The map showed a spot marked "Donald" on the highway, but there was no Donald to be seen. The thriving, riotous community once called First Crossing, then Columbia Crossing and finally Donald Station, had long been deserted. It was once the headquarteis of the CPR's mountain division for a few heady years, but when that distinction was moved to Golden, the streets became empty of wildly carousing railway workers, red-jacketed Mounties, and "fallen angels" of easy virtue dragging their skirts in the mud.

Jack Little reported from there in the Calgary Herald of November 19, 1884:



It lightens up some of the grandest works of the creator; and if it hadn't to lighten up Bob Philips' saloon, and the Cosmopolitan saloon, and the Queen of the West, and the Swede Hotel, and the Italian restaurant, and the French quarter, and all the rest of the gambling, drinking, fighting little mountain town which lies stretched along the frozen bank of the Columbia, where the CPR crosses it first, it would have nothing to regret.

The Italian saloon: It is a little but 12 x 16 and it dispenses beer, cigars, and something more fiery, in unlimited quantities. The bar-keeper - Saints preserve us! - is a woman - and Saints preserve her! what a woman! There is an accordeon squaking (sic) in a corner... In fact music is the strong feature of the town... On all sides the music of the dice-box and the chips... the merry music of the frequent and iniquitous drunk; the music of the dance and the staccato accompaniment of pistol shots; and the eternal music, from the myriad saloons and dives along the street of the scraping fiddle. In the French quarter a dance is going on. The women present are a Kootenai squaw, 'the first white lady that ever struck Cypress', and two or three of the usual type of fallen angels. A gang of men and boys lines the walls, and a couple of lads dance with the damsels in the centre. There (is) a lamentable sense of shame at Columbia Crossing.


And today there is nothing at all; the forest has reclaimed the place where the ghosts of some almighty hangovers must still haunt the silent woods.

From the shades of Donald the highway turned away from the Columbia, and led me high up; a long twisting climb overlooking the deep valley of the Beaver River. Looking up and shifting down, I kept hoping that the top of each bend was hiding the end of the climb, but up and up it went, as I alternately stood to use my body weight to bear down on the pedals, or shifted down another gear to spin easily at a comfortable, steady cadence.

The Terminator caught up to me partway up, and between breaths I remarked that I'd read we were in a different mountain range today; the Selkirks, and wasn't it strange to think that they were millions of years older than the Rockies we'd been in the day before. I hadn't meant to start a fundamentalist argument, but he responded with: "I don't know about all that stuff, dating things. They're always finding out that carbon-dating is wrong."

Surprised, I replied: "No, it's not that. It's because the Selkirks are so much more worn-down and weathered". He gave a non-commital reply, then was accelerating past me, and was soon out of sight around the endless uphill curves.

At last the road leveled out, and as I picked up speed on a rapid downhill I was comforted by the concrete wall at the side of the road, standing between me and a steep precipice. I thought of this contrast with the unprotected mountain roads in the Pyrenees the previous summer, where an accident or a mistake, like my lapse earlier that morning, would have meant a fatal plunge over the edge.

During another winding, panting ascent I looked back in my mirror to see Danny coming up once again, and he fell in behind me as we climbed, only to descend again. The rounded peaks surrounding us were broken by lighter green naked patches, the scars of lumbering, and I mentioned to Danny that I wondered how long it would be before these mountains were stripped bare. He replied that he believed the lumber companies worked with reponsible conservation these days, and certainly you have no choice but to hope so, but it hasn't been the history of our pale tribe, and it is unnerving to think that, as with the military, you have only the government to trust to monitor and control it.

On a momentary flat stretch of road my eyes lit up to see a coyote, rusty brown and shaggy gray, standing in a short meadow at the roadside, its sharp features and pointed ears following our passage before it trotted across the highway behind us and disappeared into the woods.

On yet another long uphill we were overtaken by Stan, and he rode with us as we reached the gate of Glacier National Park. Together we pulled off the road for a break by the signpost, which informed us that there were 400 glaciers within the park, and 12% of it was covered by permanent ice and snow. Time also jumped back an hour, and here we changed from Mountain Time to Pacific Time. A free hour to ride in.

A cool lightness in the air and more numerous snowpeaks bespoke the altitude we had gained already in the morning's ride. One of the highest of those distant peaks bore the intriguing name of Iconoclast Mountain, and farther south there was also an Anarchist Mountain.

But the greatest climb was still to come - a steep fifteen hundred feet to Rogers Pass.

Major A. B. Rogers, an American engineer, was hired by the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1881 to find a pass through the Selkirk Range. With "a plug of tobacco in one pocket and a sea biscuit in the other", this rugged and rough-spoken man, famous for his flights of profanity, led his nephew Albert and ten Indian porters up the Illecillewaet River from the west. They traveled early in the morning and after sundown to avoid the perilous footing and avalanche dangers of midday, and after two weeks they seemed to have reached a summit. Climbing to the top of a nearby mountain, they crawled out on a ledge to see a pass leading to the northeast.

"Such a view! Never to be forgotten!", wrote young Albert, "Our eyesight caromed from one bold peak to another for miles in all directions. The wind blew fiercely across the ridge and scuddy clouds were whirled in the eddies behind the great towering peaks of bare rock. Everything was covered with a shroud of white, giving the whole landscape the appearance of snow-clad desolation."

The railroad's agreement with Major Rogers stated that if he discovered a pass it would be named after him, plus he would receive a bonus of five thousand dollars, a terrific sum in those days. But he claimed he "didn't do it for the money", and sure enough; the cheque was never cashed.

Where adventure and ambition have gone, art will not be far behind, at least in the dictionary, and a painting entitled "At the Rogers Pass, Summit of the Selkirk Range, B.C." hangs in Canada's National Gallery, painted by John A. Fraser in 1886, only a year after the railroad was finished.

The Hill. When you know you face a long climb, your concentration focuses on that alone; for the whole ride it stands like a monolith before you. Then, as you begin the ascent, that concentration crystallizes into a linear drive. Tighten the toestraps so you can pull up more on the pedals, watch the angle of the grade ahead to choose the right gear. Sometimes standing and whipping the bike from side to side, wrestling it uphill by brute force as long as you can, then back in the saddle to spin and catch your breath. You feel the blood pulsing - pounding-through your body, trying to carry enough oxygen to your straining muscles.

If the grade becomes more gentle for a moment, you grab a quick drink of water, trying to swallow it between rapid breaths. It is a Zen kind of tunnel you enter, without pain or hope or apparent struggle, oblivious to your surroundings, without thoughts or awareness. There is no end, no past, no future. There is no "now". There is only The Hill.

For some it's a simple matter of will: There's the mountain, the mind wants to go up it, so the legs can damn well shut up and take it there. There are other ways to overcome the body's natural reluctance to undergo such punishment; Gay plugs into her Walkman, drawing on the energy and tempo of the music to help her body keep going, and also, one suspects, to distract it.

Stan soon went on ahead of Danny and me, lighter and carried on springy, teenager's legs. Danny commented between breaths: "Some things you can develop - as you get older - your strength - your stamina - but you never - get those legs again."

The heavy overcast helped to keep us from overheating too much, but though the air was chilly I was flowing with sweat. Danny had lent me an absorbent headband to try to keep the salty drips from blurring my goggles, but it was already saturated and overflowing down my face. Trucks labored by in low gear, moving only a little faster than we were, while cars whooshed easily up and down the highway. Overheated brake calipers strained to hold back the massive tractor-trailers against the steep decline, and once more the sharp stench of brake pads stung my nostrils.

In my mirror I saw another cyclist coming up behind us, the red shirt and black helmet telling me it was Le Cruel. Gradually he worked his way up to us, then slowly moved ahead, the back of his shirt salt-stained with his effort.

We reached the showsheds - a series of manmade tunnels constructed to lead avalanches overtop of the road - as the clouds closed in and became mist. Seeing the first black mouth yawning ahead, I stopped to switch on the generator which powered my lights, hoping at least to make myself more visible in the narrow tunnel. It was dark and damp inside, the invisible road surface broken and crumbled beneath my wheels. The feeble headlight was no help in seeing the road, as even the shorter tunnels became opaque, the light from the far end glaring in the looming blackness. The frequent trucks were frighteningly loud and close, and when their headlights came up behind me and illuminated the road for a moment, I tried to steer as close to the damp concrete walls as I could on the rough surface, pulling in my elbows to make myself smaller.

Clouds became mist became drizzle, to add to the challenge, and we paused and dismounted for a few minutes in the shelter at the end of a snowshed, to catch our breaths and gulp down some water. "We must be nearly there", Danny said hopefully, looking down at his solar-powered cycle computer, "we've climbed almost ten kilometres already."

But there were a few more showsheds, and a few more kilometres to climb yet. Clouds became mist became drizzle became rain, and I stopped once more to put on my plastic shell. The air was heavy with moisture and chill, and for that reason at least I was glad to be working hard uphill, well central-heated. A good argument for head-protection was demonstrated by a stone tumbling down the ridge above the road and striking my helmet with a sharp knock as it bounced into the ditch.

Finally we saw the spread of buildings carved out of the drenched forest at the side of the highway, marking the top of the pass. And oh; the physical sigh of relief that courses through you when you see the goal in sight - on previous tours the Simplon Hotel at the breathtaking summit of the Simplon Pass in the Alps; even the uninviting cluster of gas stations atop the Port D'Envalira in the Pyrenees, which marked the end of a three-hour, eighteen-mile, five-thousand-foot climb. And here, Rogers Pass; a gas station, the Best Western Glacier Lodge, and a museum housed in a replica of an original wooden snowshed.

We turned into the driveway as the rain began to fall in earnest, and found Bruce, Stan and Bob huddled under the eaves of the Best Western. Chaining our bikes together in the shelter of the portico, hoping no one would protest this dry parking place, we went inside to dry off.

The dining room was just beginning its lunchtime buffet, and we took a table near the window where we could watch for the others coming up the rain-soaked road. We eagerly loaded up our plates with salads; green, potato, bean, cabbage; then returned to load another plate with hot roast beef, fried potatoes and steamed vegetables. We emptied every glass of water in sight, then dehydrated all over again with too many cups of coffee - but we needed its warmth.

Through the teeming rain we made out Rosie, a dark figure hunched over her pedals, bent against the strain and the rain. Then Gay right behind her, slow and steady, both of them soon joining us at the round table with audible sighs of misery - and relief. A tour bus set down its passengers in front of the lodge as well, and they too, conspicuous by their dryness, came filing into the dining room.

But of course - there was still no sign of Henry and Bill.



When the animals were ready to leave Sky World and descend to the earth, they found the rope of arrows was gone. They decided they would have to catch Thunderbird, and use his feathers to fly down to earth.

When the lightning flashed, and they heard Thunderbird coming, they quickly captured him in a noose and pulled out his feathers. Eagle took the best feathers for himself and soared proudly away, while others flew down and became the lesser birds, and those that leaped down became fish or land animals. But there were not enough feathers for everyone.

Some people say that the creatures who did not return from the Sky Land were killed by the Sky People and were changed into stars.

Kootenay Legend.

5 - raindance - II(sundance - 0)

I stood over the snow-covered Selkirk Mountains, their white-frosted peaks stretching up sharply toward me. The steep mountainsides were scarred with bare, treeless chutes where mighty avalanches had torn away the forests and rocks, cascading again and again, year after year, under the weight of tons of snow. Thirty feet most years, sometimes as much as sixty feet of snow buried Rogers Pass, one of the heaviest snowfalls in the world. This made the railroad a perilous link from east to west. In the years before 1916, when the Connaught Tunnel was blasted through Mount McDonald to avoid the treacherous Rogers Pass, over two hundred people had been killed - buried beneath tons of sliding, roaring, tumbling, suffocating snow and debris.

As I looked down upon the wintry mountainscape, a tiny train threaded its way silently through a deep cut along the half-covered track, then under the snowsheds where the heavy waves of avalanches had been diverted. At the front of the train a huge rotary snowplow would clear the way, like digging a deep square trench, and would throw a blinding white cloud of snow into the air to settle above the high snowbanks on each side of the track.

In the warm shelter of the museum I turned around to look at another model, this one of an avalanche site - massive locomotives cast aside like toys, the tumbled snow and ice littered with shattered trees, and dozens of men with shovels working feverishly to dig out the victims - or their bodies.

The CPR finally gave up on Rogers Pass in 1913, and built a five-mile, multi-million dollar tunnel through Mount McDonald. Then the pass was abandoned to nature for almost forty years, with no one to hear the annual avalanche championships, until the Trans-Canada Highway pushed its way through in 1962, building more snowsheds and installing a sophisticated avalanche monitoring system, including a giant howitzer which fires shells into unstable snow masses.

A bronze bust of Major Rogers, with a stern aspect and flowing side whiskers, greeted me in the lobby of the small museum. Among the rough wooden beams a pair of comfortable sofas were placed around a stone fireplace and a television showing videotapes of the local wildlife. For a few minutes I watched the Bighorn Sheep in their autumn rut, rearing back and crashing their great curved horns together in a violent, echoing crack.

In the lodge there had been two mounted bears in a glass case, a fearsomely erect Grizzly and a young Black Bear, and here in the museum several of the smaller native animals were represented by mounted specimens, apparently killed on the highway; a wooly white Mountain Goat with short black horns perched on a modeled rocky ledge, a chubby grizzle-furred marmot forever crouching in a glass case, an iridescent blue-crested Steller's jay on a stand over the information desk. As the rain poured down outside the low wood-beamed building, I lost myself in the lure and romance of history and frozen life, forgetting the climb, the rain, and the miles still to go.

Unwillingly, I hauled myself out of this reverie and ran back across the rain-drenched parking lot to the restaurant, to find that everyone had left except Danny, Henry and Bill, who sat at the round table by the window nursing bottles of beer. Our "sweep team" had finally come in out of the rain just as most of us were finishing lunch, water teeming off of them to form a circle of puddles on the floor.

I signaled to Danny through the window that I was leaving, then went over to the bikes to put on an extra sweatshirt under my red plastic shell, and to get out my long-fingered winter gloves - if I stayed warm I could put up with the soaking. After all; you can only get so wet, then it doesn't matter anymore - you're wet. But you've got to be warm.

A shimmering curtain of water surrounded the portico, dripping from the eaves, while beyond its shelter the rain hissed and seethed. I followed Danny onto the highway shoulder, the pavement dark and running with water, and soon we were coasting downhill, the shiny road curving away down the mountain, clouds low around us. Danny's green garbage bag whipped and snapped in the wind of our passage.

I stayed back far enough to be out of his spray, then as we picked up speed I fingered the brakes, sensing my tires aquaplaning, no longer responding to the road. I steered as delicately as I could, and blessed my cantilever brakes, firm even on wet rims. The spray coming up from my front wheel drenched my legs and feet, and a gray mingling of water, dirt and oil ran down my shins to blacken my white socks.

Danny flew on, getting farther ahead of me in his headlong flight, the garbage bag flapping out behind him. Now that I had my bike under control, I started to worry about him, and grimly hoped he wouldn't crash. We were traveling at more than forty miles an hour, and a crash would be a very bad thing. As Le Cruel had once tersely put it: "Turn you into hamburger." I winced and shifted in the saddle.

I wonder if there is a seat of empathy in the groin.

No - not there.

But behind, in the perineal area. When I think of someone else suffering something really painful, some kind of screaming agony like having their skin flayed off on a wet highway at forty miles an hour, or suffering the tortures of the Inquisition, I feel a twinge just there, as if an "empathy gland" was stimulated, a kind of connective tissue responding to the pain of others.

If a child stubs a toe - God! - I can hardly stand to think about it, feeling again the wounds we suffered in those barefoot summers. Running fast over the lawn, then faster, as fast as you can, laughing and strong and immortal - then bang! - the world suddenly stops and dissolves into an orange haze of pain. Nail and skin split wide open, the bloody mangled flesh...oh.

With a chilling mental picture of Danny losing control and hurtling off the road, or worse, onto the road, I winced and shifted in my saddle, sending him a telepathic message: 'Don't stub your toe.'

The river on our left in this steep valley was the Illecillewaet, which means "fast water", the very one that Major Rogers followed up on his expedition. From pictures I'd seen, we would have been surrounded by the most magnificent scenery of the trip - steep forested slopes rising up to densely-packed shoulders of bare silver rock, the sharp peaks mantled with shining white glaciers in pyramids and towers. "Such a view! Never to be forgotten!", wrote the Major's nephew. That's what we would have seen.

An occasional vignette like that had broken through the heavy clouds as we lingered over lunch, a slide-projection of ethereal white peaks framed in golden light, daring us to believe the weather would clear. But still the glowering sky - I looked up to a blanket of charcoal clouds and countless falling threads of gray rain. The topographical distinction which confers so much snow upon Rogers Pass also guarantees plenty of rain - one out of every two days during the short summer. This, then, was every second day.

...why are the afternoons so long? Mornings go by so fast and pleasant, now time seems endless and plodding. And the rain - Jesus. Tired wet and cold. Pavement slippery, strong crosswinds sometimes - have to be careful - lot of traffic too. Couldn't enjoy the scenery even if I could see it. Truck in the mirror - brace yourself, here it comes - blah, soaked again. A sheet of spray. No - a shroud of spray, a watery ghost hissing by. Hmm.

Mount Revelstoke National Park now - must be getting close to Revelstoke. Hope so. Almost a hundred miles we've done today - and that climb. Nothing around here at all, just forest, just these dripping trees forever. Can't even see into them, so dense and deep and dark. Heart of the forest, heart of darkness.

Oh-oh - in the mirror again - here it comes - OGABENNIW. Crouch down, look away, keep the water out of my face...Another hissing ghost.

Sudden blast of icy air sometimes - what's that? Ghosts? Ha. Must be those waterfalls - so steep they are, narrow strands of white water between the trees. Meltwater from the glaciers I guess - brrr - cold.

Danny far ahead now - I must be slowing down. Sign there to turn for Revelstoke, but I don't think we go that way - the hotel is right on Highway 1, we should keep going straight.

No, Danny - don't turn - damn. Now what do I do - follow him? I'm sure that's the wrong way - I don't want to pedal one extra minute. Christ. Never looks at a map, that guy, always lost. Likes to "explore" his way around - couldn't imagine being like that - must have some kind of impressionistic view of the world. Ha. Poor Janette, married to a lost soul - always has to navigate for him. Like his friends. Like his brother. He doesn't even like to drive-unbelievable - so different from Dad and me. Must be adopted.

Well, here's the turnoff - this way or that - what shall I do? Turns downhill here too-probably have to climb it again to get back to the highway. Great.

He can find the hotel himself - he's a big boy. Can't be very far along this road - I'll meet him there.

What if he's waiting at the bottom - we've ridden together most of the day - maybe I should -

Oh shit - all right. Let's go.


[end of Chapter 5]