Two weeks on the road and now in the Canadian Rockies

Finally sitting in a cyber cafe after two weeks on the road and posting. I’ll try to fill in some details. We just arrived in Banff, Canada this morning and easily found a nice campsite a few miles out of town. A rain shower while we were setting up our campsite. Except for yesterday a rain shower at some time of day or night has been the norm; but the rain only lasts for ten or twenty minutes once or twice a day. Yesterday started with a clear blue sky. A bit cloudy in the evening, but no rain. Banff is a real tourist town and is a lot more developed than when I was here thirty years ago skiing. But that’s not too surprising. Lot’s of shops and eateries and condos. Busy and probably more so tomorrow—today’s Friday.

We just came from four nights in the Kananaskis region about 30 miles east of Banff. Kananaskis is a valley that connects to the main valley that runs east of the Canadian Rockies (Continental Divide). Two bike rides—one a bit tough—lots of hike a bike and rain. The other was fantastic. A 2000 ft. climb up a fire road followed by a fantastic downhill with bits of everything—steep, rocky; roots and more roots and flowing down through the trees. And wildflowers and scenery.

Did I say scenery? The Canadian Rockies has scenery. Mountains of all shapes and sizes. A distinct treeline. In seemingly a few hundred feet, goes from trees and green to grey rock. I think the rocks are sedimentary which is much different from the Sierras which we are used to. Have to wait for pictures.

We’re camping here for six nights. Visit some museums, buy some souvenirs, hike and bike and take pictures. Then we’ll move north to Jasper. We’ll stop by the glacier on the way or make a day trip out of it.

We started our trip with a long drive to Callahan, Calif. to visit Gary and Mary. Callahan is the setting for the annual Hayden family get together. Callahan has been the home of the Hayden clan for several generations and Mary is a Hayden. Mary married Gary, one of Greg’s college roommates, at the Callahan church in 1968. We were happy to be invited to attend and meet more of the family. And in particular, Sara’s fiance Scott, a worthy addition to the clan. As you might guess, Sara is Mary and Gary’s daughter. Unfortunately we’ll miss the wedding.

Then off to Bend, Oregon to visit Steve, Greg’s brother. We all kayaked on the Deschutes River which runs right through Bend. Bend has a stong outdoors orientation with many good restaurants and outdoor shops. Oriented to tourists and the environment. But suffering more than almost anywhere from the housing collapse. I don’t remember the precise numbers, but housing prices are approximately halved from the peak. We only had time for one bike ride, but it was a great ride in a city park about two miles from the city center. We did an out and back in the forest and a flowing fast mostly smooth trail. 25 miles. Steve had initially planned to show us the more popular hard core riding, but the weather was threatening so we had to get out and back early. We weren’t disappointed in the Mrazek Trail.

Then a two day drive to Canmore which is just down the road from Banff. Just after we crossed the Continental Divide we saw a moose along side the road. It wasn’t a good place to stop and we were late, but we realized that it’s probably the only moose we’ll see. In our campsite in Kananskis the rangers were around with their antennas tracking three bears that were near camp. They work very hard to keep the bears from getting habituated to humans and to prevent any harm to we humans. They must be doing a good job, because they don’t need bear boxes in the campsites. It’s fine to leave food in your car which doesn’t work in California (many of you know that Greg’s learned from personal experience).

But back to Canmore. We made that our first stop because they were having a three-day folk music festival. A great festival in its 33rd year. Held in the town park. Workshops during the day and six acts each evening. Most of the audience persevered through the rain showers each evening. A bit of an adjustment for we Californians. But we wrapped ourselves in a tarp, put up our umbrellas. A good mix of long time and new performers: Buffy Sainte-Marie, Geoff Muldaur, Vieux Farka Touré (Ali Farka Touré’s son, but totally different style), and Matt Andersen, a young blues musician.

Some Canadian Rockies photos.

Site Name

Knobby.ws or KeepTheRubberSideDown.com?

Both and capitalization does not matter. No “www.” either, but should work if added.

KeepTheRubberSideDown.com is fun, but too long. RubberSideDown.com was already taken and still is being used by a motorcycle parts supplier.

Knobby because it is a short term associated with mountain biking. Knobs are the raised bumps on mountain bike tires that give traction in the dirt. From that knobby and knobbies are frequently used in the mountain bike world.

ws? Where did that come from? Western Samoa if you must know. Since all the good dot coms and dot orgs are taken up, some web site hosts started pushing ws for “world site” or “web site.” And Western Samoa is small enough that they aren’t likely to use all their names.

Site name change to Knobby.ws

The domain name is changing from KeepTheRubberSideDown to Knobby.ws. The former, athough fun and descriptive, was too long for emails. The prefix ws is supposed to conjure web-site or World Site, but is really Western Samoa.

The changeover as far as the blog is concerned will be mostly transparent and either URL will get you here for now, although a few things like embedded Google Maps won’t work if the KeepTheRubberSideDown is in the URL. Eventually the KeepTheRubberSideDown will cease to work. Whenever I think the transition is complete and I don’t want to pay the $9 or whatever is per year to keep the extra domain name. But the main driver will be to simplify it.

I’ll also be dropping my old linkLINE email on a similar schedule.

For you non mountain bikers, knobby refers to mountain bike tires which have “knobs” on them for traction.

The saga ends—a serious problem resolved

The trip home was necessary. Louisa had a torn retina which was laser repaired this afternoon. She’s lucky it didn’t detach in the ten days since it tore, because an untreated tear leads to a detached retina which results in blindness.

Sadly the photos of her eyes she was given in Conakry are not her eyes. The doctor in Conakry should have known that for at least two reasons: 1) the photos are of eyes that were a patient who has had a dye injected and he didn’t inject Louisa, 2) the lesion in the photo is in the right eye; the problem was with the left eye. He neglected to perform other necessary diagoses.

Fortunately Louisa’s eye doctor in the US gave good information by email to convince us of the necessity of getting good eye care. We considered going to Paris, but figured that we would lose time finding our way around the French medical system, so headed straight home. We didn’t know how lucky we were to get a flight booking; we had completely forgot about it being Thanksgiving week—we realized it when we heard someone on our flight from JFK mention Thanksgiving.

Travel guide

To complement and/or update the information in the Lonely Planet and Rough Guides for West Africa, I’ve together some notes. Partly for us since we plan to return next year and for other travels who plan to go. I’ll update the links here as I do the pages. UPDATE: We had the 2002 edition of LP and the November 2003 edition of Rough Guide. Lonely Planet West Africa was updated to the sixth edition in October 2006, so much of what I have to add may already be the new edition which we now have, but didn’t when I wrote most of this.

We found Guinea easier than we expected. The people are helpful and friendly, with few touts. The lack of touts may be that there is so little independent tourism that the tout industry hasn’t developed. Another example of the lack of tourism is that the restaurant service is not westernized—I’ll explain what I mean by that. The staff is nice and will try to meet requests, but little initiative is shown. I’m mainly speaking of the medium quality hotels which are often the top hotels away from Conakry. When you walk into the restaurant things move at a leisurely pace; maybe it’s developed from the hotter parts of the country were that may be only pace possible. After serving you, the waiter disappears. Hors d’oeuvre were almost never offered. None on the menu, occasional peanuts. Petit déjueuner was often as expected, but often confiture was omitted and not available. Although sometimes it was a special treat as in Labé with guava jam. The lack of confiture is consistent with a seeming lack of sweets, certainly desserts were rare. The cookies/biscuits offered at taxi stand shops were never locally made, but imported from Brazil, Turkey, and India in our limited experience.

The transportation system is adequate. Phones aren’t too good. Although the cell phone service is better than land line apparently. People often carry phones for two cell phone providers since calls within each system works, but system to system doesn’t work as well. The phone numbers now seem to be eight digit, usually a 60 in front of the six digit number found in the guidebooks and many on-line resources.

Water is available on the street in at least four ways: 1) bottled, 2) labeled sealed plastic bags—supposedly safe—I got away with drinking it once, 3) hand tied plastic bags (presumably local generally unsafe water, 4) in pots. All the hotels had tap water, but no signs assuring any kind of treatment or quality. We use iodine and bottled water.

Knowing French definitely enhanced our visit and makes it easier to travel. Louisa’s French is good enough for communication. Mine is at the basic travelers level. Since they have so few tourists, they don’t seem to understand how to deal with people who aren’t fluent.

The articles:
Conakry update
Kindia update
Labe TBD. Main comments: stayed at Tata which was fine. Different CyberCafe which worked well, but not air conditioned.
Traveling with Bicycles