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Ride to Rocky Mountain House

August 5, 2006

It felt like a good day for a ride on the GS, so I decided to take a route from Edmonton towards Rocky Mountain House (a kind of gateway town into the Canadian Rockies) that would take me on some fun gravel roads. So I headed south on Highway 2 out of Edmonton, and then took Highway 39 east from Leduc. It was a beautiful Alberta day - mostly sunshine, with some wispy clouds - and temps in the mid 20's C (high 70's F).

The riding is through typical Alberta plains - lots of farmland. Just past Tamarack Valley on Highway 39, I took Highway 20 towards Lodgepole. A little ways past Lodgepole, the road turns from asphalt to gravel and I find myself at the Brazeau Reservoir. I pulled over at a little parking area to stretch my legs.

Brazeau Resevoir

The road now stays dirt/gravel and heads basically due south towards Highway 11 (about 60 miles away). In most areas, the road is fairly straight and firm hardpack although there are a few areas where it either turns into some looser gravel, or occasionally has some washboard areas.

At one point, I'm doing about 85mph on the dirt road, hit a series of washboard bumps, and I feel something bump against my back. I immediately thought that my topcase had opened for some reason and the lid had hit me. I take a quick look in the mirror, only to see my topcase has removed itself from the bike and is taking a series of rather large bounces on the dirt road behind me. I hit the brakes, and slow down into a sliding u-turn to go retrieve the case. Surprisingly, it's in pretty good shape with only a few scruff marks. It wasn't tweaked in any way and had no dents whatsoever. So I put it back on, though a little concerned that it had popped off. Of course, I later found out (from reading the Adventure Rider forum) that this is a common problem with GS topcases, and decide that in the future I'll remove the topcase if I'm planning to hit dirt roads. Other than a few scruff marks, the topcase looks good as new (with no cracks around the mounting point) so I haven't decided yet if I will warranty the case or not.

Here's a view from the road - this is looking back north.

Anyways, I have a fun time basically hauling ass long the dirt/gravel road, and finally hit Highway 11 about 20 miles west of Rocky Mountain House. At this point, I'm hungry and the bike needs gas so I ride east to Rocky Mountain House. After filling the tank on the GS and filling my stomach with a burger, I decide to take Highway 11 west for a ways to check out the road. I had never been on this route into the Rockies before so might as well see what it's like.

About 60 miles west of Rocky Mountain House, I come to Abraham Lake and am stunned by the beauty of the glacial sheen of the lake. It's a huge lake formed by the Bighorn Hydroelectric Dam, and I stop at several points to take pictures.

Abraham Lake

I continue heading West on Highway 11, and soon come to the Kootenay Plains area, bordering the North Saskatchewan River (which feeds Abraham Lake).

Kootenay Plains Area off of Highway 11 in Alberta

This area is very scenic in the foothills of the Rockies. Much of the area is preserved as the Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve, and serves as a grazing range for elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and other animals. It's a place I'd like to investigate further when I have more time to hike many of the trails in the area.

Kootenay Plains

At this point, I turn around to head east back to Rocky Mountain House, and then northwest. By the time I arrive back in Edmonton, it's been another great ride with almost 500 miles under the saddle.