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  • Thunder Lake Cycle Tour with EBTC

    Posted on August 8th, 2017 admin No comments

    On August 5-6 I went on the Thunder Lake trip with Edmonton Bicycle & Touring Club.  Earlier this year, Ed Weymouth had come out to the Millet Circuit Cycle & Sports bike Meetup some time ago to talk about touring, and he met us at the start and finish in Onoway.

    Concerns About the EBTC

    Before the trip, I had several concerns

    • I’d heard that the group rode very quickly, and I was concerned about keeping up
    • Perhaps they were all younger riders and I’d feel out of place
    • It had been suggested to me that it was a tight clique of riders who’d didn’t warm to strangers

    I’ll address those concerns as I describe the trip.

    Day 1:  Cycling From Onoway to Thunder Lake

    We assembled in Onoway at 09:00, a group of people around my age, so I fit in well that way.  Introductions and a bit of chat took care of another concern; people in the group obviously knew each other well, but they were friendly and  I felt welcome.  After packing gear onto the SAG van, we left around 09:30 and rode off.   The day was cool, and we rode through some spooky, damp fog patches.  We stopped about 25 km to the Esso station at Hwy 43 for ice cream.  This was actually the wrong place — we were supposed to have taken our break a km or so back at a Domo station.

    Through the fog.

    Through the fog.  Photo by Greg

    The next leg took us at a crisp pace.  I pumped hard to keep up with another rider, who told me we were travelling at 24 km/h.  This is a bit faster than I’m used to, my first concern, but with effort I was able to keep up.  The only result was that I worked a bit harder than usual, and was a little more tired.

    Tom working hard but being passed by Barbara and John

    Tom working hard but being passed by Barbara and John

    We zoomed into Cherhill,where we stopped for lunch at the local ball diamond.   Lunch was do-it-yourself sandwiches: fresh crusty rolls, tomatoes, lettuce, three kinds of sliced cheese, three kinds of sliced meat (ham, chicken, beef), dill pickles, apple juice, cookies, bananas, oranges….   It was at this point that I realized the truth of something one of the group had said, “We are an eating group with a mild cycling disorder”.

    Lunch at Cherhill -- making sandwiches and spraying for mosquitoes.

    Lunch at Cherhill, making sandwiches and spraying for mosquitoes.

    A short leg, 18 km, took us north on Twp Rd 764 to a rest stop at Meadowview Community School.  I was getting pretty tired, some 68 km into the trip, so the break was welcome.  We finished off some fruit and granola bars and cookies left over from lunch before setting off on the final 20 km section.  We rolled into the provincial park at 15:37.   I had really wanted to take a photo of some cyclists in front of the park sign, but I couldn’t catch up to them in time.  Guess I could have waited for a couple to catch up, but by this time I really wanted to get off my bike and set up camp!

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    We grabbed another ice cream break at the camp store, where we sheltered under cover during a brief rain.  Then we set off up a winding gravel road to the overflow area, another couple of kilometers away.   Yay, 89 km over and done.  I think this was my longest ride to date.

    Camping at Thunder Lake Provincial Park

    There were signs of recent heavy rains — a soggy parking lot and wet grass.   We set up our tents around the perimeter of the area and settled in.  The overflow area was beside a creek draining the lake, with a nice bridge (though the trail on the other side was overgrown) over a waterfall.

    Irene poses by the waterfall.  Photo by Greg

    Irene poses by the waterfall. Photo by Greg

    The lake was beautiful in the evening.  This shot was taken from just behind my tent.

    Thunder Lake that evening.  Photo by Greg.

    Thunder Lake that evening. Photo by Greg.

    I was beat, so after I got set up I took a nap.  Didn’t really sleep, just dozed, and woke up when I heard Debbie, the trip organizer, call for supper.

    My tent in the misty morning

    My little orange tent in the misty morning

    Ah, supper.  Ribs barbequed over the open fire, cole slaw, corn-on-the-cob, boiled baby spuds, baked beans, with red wine courtesy of John and Barbara; for dessert, meringues with Greek yogurt and fresh blueberries and raspberries.

    The group at supper, checkered tablecloths and all.

    The group at supper, checkered tablecloths and all.

    After cleanup, the group sat around the campfire with a desultory discussion about immigration; although it was interesting, I think most people were tired enough not to get into it.  Certainly I was beat.  I wanted to go to bed at 21:30 but the group persuaded me to stay up a bit longer.  Nonetheless, at 21:50 I excused myself and hit the tent.  The rest followed shortly.

    Irene, who claimed to be the oldest rider in the group, showing off her tattoo.

    Irene, who claimed to be the oldest rider in the group, showing off her tattoo.

    Day 2:  Return via Barrhead

    We were up around 7:30 for “First breakfast” of coffee, juice, fruit, croissants with jam.   People packed up with great efficiency — they have obviously done this many times — and to my surprise I was one of the last to load up.

    Getting packed to leave Sunday morning

    Getting packed to leave Sunday morning

    The day’s first leg was a nice stretch into Barrhead, where we stopped at the A&W for “Second breakfast”.  Hadn’t thought I’d need anything, but croissants don’t stay with you, so  I had a pancake, bacon, hashbrowns, coffee.  As always when I’ve been pedalling, whatever I eat tastes delicious.

    Lunch at Meadowview School on Day 2

    Lunch at Rich Valley Agriplex on Day 2

    Oooh, a long stretch of 32 km along Hwy 333 to Rich Valley, where we enjoyed watermelon and whatever was leftover.  A few cookies, a piece of orange, a Clif bar that I had in my bag.  Filled my water bottle with Biosteel then left it behind…. good thing I had a second full bottle.

    This is a good time to mention bikes.   I was happy that the gearing on my new bike made the hillsf a lot easier, but not happy with the pedals, seat, or bars.  More work needed on fitting.  Most of the bikes people rode were top-end, a lot of Specialized, a couple of Italian bikes, a couple of carbon frames; the members have been riding for 20 or 30 years or more and seem to be continually upgrading equipment.  Interesting and educational for me.

    Another 12 km took us to the junction with Hwy 43, where I took another brief rest with two other cyclists, then one final 12 km push (which wasn’t bad) back to Onoway, where I recovered my water bottle and said goodbye to everyone.

    The traditional end-of-ride group shot in front of the van.

    The traditional end-of-ride group shot in front of the van.

    Was it a bit of a challenge?  Yes, because the ride was a bit faster than I’d have done on my own.  Was it fun?  Overall, it was an enjoyable ride.  Was i glad i went, definitely.  Would I go again?   For sure.

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