Route 93: Firefighting in Canada Blog

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Here is a recap of my 2013 Fire Fighting in Canada Magazine Blog posts from last years trip up HIGHWAY 93 etc.
Start at the bottom and work your way up.
Stay tuned again next week when I start actively Blogging for all Fire Fighters across Canada on my Highway 16 Fat Bike adventure to End MS.
May 17, 2013 – Editor’s note: Jasper, Alta., Fire Chief Greg Van Tighem began a journey on April 22 in Wickenburg, Az., to raise awareness of and funds for Multiple Sclerosis. You can see more the website http://www.endms93.com and follow Chief Van Tighem on Twitter at @_gvt

May 17, 2013, Jasper, Alta. – After a terrible sleep due to a busy critter living in the attic space above me, I awoke early to make it to the highway before the top crust on the trail warmed up (I had planned to sleep-in in order arrive in Jasper, Alta., at the designated 4 p.m. time).

My first stop was to the Icefields Centre, where I enjoyed a cup of coffee thanks to my friend, Scott Wilson, who just happened to be doing a concrete job there.

I stopped at the Sunwapta Falls Resort and had a visit and some lunch courtesy of Stewart Heckley. I was still running early, so I took my time getting to the Goat Lick, where I met Mike, Shirley, Andy and my camera man, Dave.

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Almost home. . .
Columbia Icefields Centre

The next thing I knew, the crew from Jasper Motorcycle Tours showed up to say hello and, as it turned out, to escort me back home. The next crew to arrive was Libbie, George, Janka and my Ely Nevada friends, and the Lake Edith McLeans (wow!). Next, we were joined by the Jasper Park Lodge Fire crew and Engine 4, and then we began to pick up groups of my cycling friends, including the Rockhoppers MS Bike Team, as well as two more fire trucks, an ambulance and a couple of RCMP cars.

By the time we hit Highway 16, we must have had at least 50 cyclists. When we approached the Mile Zero, Mayor Rich Ireland met me and congratulated me.

The whole procession carried on down Main Street to the Big Rock, and what a surprise I had there! More than two hundred Jasper citizens were there and there was music, etc. The mayor welcomed me home, Geke Duncan from the Hinton MS office spoke, and then it was my turn. Needless to say, it was a bit overwhelming. I didn’t expect such a welcoming. The town of Jasper is an incredible community, full of incredible people and they proved it with this amazing welcome home.

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My lovely daughter, Emily.
Photo courtesy of Fitzhughh.

My next stop was to the Jasper Brewing Company to hoist a pint of the special edition Mile Zero IPA. It is a good one – no, it is a great one! Double hopped greatness brewed with love and skill by Brew Master Dave! Best IPA on Route 93!

May 16, 2013, Lake Louise, Alta. – After a great night at the Mountaineer Lodge, I realized I needed to have booked the Hilda Creek Hostel 48 hours in advance – oops.

After sweet-talking Jane at central reservations, she agreed to book me in and provided me with the door code. I was glad to have this looked after as I headed north on the most beautiful section of Highway 93 – the Icefields Parkway.

The day started out overcast, but the sun soon came out and it turned into an awesome late-afternoon ride through the Rocky Mountains. The final hour of the day was spent climbing the dreaded Big Bend hill to Parkers Ridge.

I arrived at the roadside trail and the hostel at 7:30 p.m. and set off to hike and push my bike the final 500 meters to the Hilda Cook Shack . . . not!

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The ski trail from hell.
The trail to the Cook Shack.

For anyone who has been to the Hilda Creek Hostel, you are aware of the amount of snow that the area receives and in mid- to late-May. The snow starts to melt and the ski trail heading into the buildings starts to lose its integrity. What followed was two hours of hell! I could not take a step without breaking through the fragile top crust and immediately sinking down to my waist in snow.

I ended up stashing my bike and bag in the bush and crawling through the snow all the way to the hostel! By the time I arrived at the building, all my clothes were soaking wet and my feet, legs and hands were freezing numb.

Not fun! And imagine, just a few days ago I was riding through the desert!!!

May 13, 2013, Radium Hot Springs, B.C. – My ride yesterday was scheduled as Jaffray, B.C., to Radium Hot Springs, B.C.

I started out south of Jaffray at the 3-93 Dairy Bar, where my brother Bernie forced me to eat another awesome ice cream cone!

I was greeted in Jaffray and officially escorted in by fire command, given a tour of the station and a huge donation – wow! Thank you Jaffray Fire!


After a quick sleep, I was off to the Fairmont Hot Spring in B.C. for brunch with the Patrys! Then I was off to Invermere, B.C., to check out the local brewery and fire hall. Unfortunately, the brewery was closed and a big storm front was moving in, so I moved on to reach Radium.

I jumped in the hot springs in Radium, then headed up the dreaded Radium hill to a stealth camp for the night! It rained most of the night, so I slept in a bit and headed out at 8:30 a.m. It kept raining for the next seven hours, or so, until I reached Lake Louise, Alta., with a front tire issue, which was fixed promptly and freely by the great folks at Wilson Mountain Sports! My bike mechanic, who was Jay Hootes’ cousin, was cool!

Thanks to the hospitality of Vicky and Chad, I am now enjoying Lake Louise’s best hotel: the Mountaineer Lodge! Nice!

May 12, 2013, Fairmont Hot Springs, B.C. – I was kidnapped off of Highway 93 by Don Patry, and was held captive at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort campground in British Columbia.

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I was forced to eat smoked salmon eggs benedict with Robin, Eryn and Lorreta!

May 11, 2013, Jaffray, B.C. – Endms93 and the Kona Sutra arrived back in Canada on May 10, having cleared customs at 1 p.m.

The road from Whitefish, Mont., to the Tobacco Plains area of British Columbia is officially the worst strip of pavement on U.S. Route 93. It is badly in need of a major overhaul. It’s full of cracks, potholes and crumbling shoulders – or no shoulders at all. I shredded a continental tire that was supposed to last for 3,000 miles.

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After a cautious 17-mile ride – on a shredded rear tire – from the border to the junction of Route 93 and Route 3, I was picked up at the junction’s Dairy Bar (which has the best soft ice cream on Route 93).

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My brother had taken to the Ski Base shop to have the tire on my bike repaired. I spent a great evening in Elkford, B.C., at the home of the Bernie, the fire chief, and his wonderful wife, Michelle (my sister in law).

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I was treated to a huge steak dinner and a nice soft bed.

May 11, 2013, Roosville, B.C. –

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May 9, 2013, Polson, Mont. – Route 93 follows the west shore of Flathead Lake in Montana. They call it Flathead Valley, but so far I haven’t seen anything flat about it! The road winds around the contour of the lake’s shore and is continually climbing and dropping like a giant rollercoaster with beautiful views of the lake and the distant snow-capped mountains. But, as I found out, the weather is.

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I awoke to the most brilliant sunrise over the lake, and as I headed north up Route 93 towards Lakeside, Mont., the sky was clear. Then I heard thunder behind me and looked back to see huge, dark clouds sneaking up behind me. I put on my rain gear and continued on in a light rain. But, as I neared Rollins, Mont., lightning struck behind me and, moments later, a boom of thunder scared the heck out of me! Immediately, the road was pelted with hail, and a torrential downpour took over.

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To my relief, I eventually made it to Rollins and took cover under the porch of the gas station’s store! Julie Gay and the good folks there took me in, and provided me with hot coffee and water. They even made a donation and gave me a safest green Rollind Fire Department hat! Again, I meet nice people).

An hour later, I was back on the road again. I arrived at Lanny McDonald’s Tamarack Brewing Company – just as the doors opened for lunch.

I had the IPA beer-battered chicken tenders – they were awesome!

May 8, 2013, Polson, Mont. – Yesterday I planned a day off in Missoula, Mont., but yesterday turned into a rough one. After looking at the maps at the Adventure Cycling Association headquarters, I decided I had better make some miles.

I arrived at St. Ignatius, Mont., just before dark, after taking way too long to fix a flat rear tire outside of Ravilli County. My cycle-tunnel hands made it difficult to get the tube and tire on and off!


I met a fellow biker (Jeffrey James) outside of Missoula. He filled me up with fruit and Gatorade, gave me a pair of sunglasses and invited to stay over; but I had to carry on. 


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The back forty at Jeffrey’s place on Route 93.

I’m heading to Flathead Lake in Polson, Mont., now. First, to Polson and possibly Kalispell, Mont., depending on how my body feels!

May 7, 2013, Darby, Mont. – Photos by Greg Van Tighem.

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Near Darby, Mont.

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May 6, 2013, Salmon, Idaho – The ride from Mackay, Idaho, to Salmon, Idaho, was a long one, and the rain and wind only added to the time to complete it. All told, I was on the bike for 12 hours yesterday.

I was rewarded along the way by some beautiful scenery and some very diverse landscapes. I even got to watch a cow round up in progress, branding and all. I saw a variety of birds and animals, including elk, deer and two red-tailed hawks.

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Route 93 mostly follows the Salmon River so not a lot of elevation gain. A great day!

May 3, 2013, Arizona to Nevada – Photos by Greg Van Tighem.

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Nice old bike at the Wickenburg Museum in Wickenburg, Ariz.
Boulder City Fire Department in Boulder City, Nev.

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Route 93 North Fire Department and Route 93 South Fire Department.

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The strip in Las Vegas, Nev.
Watching the Calgary Fire Department play hockey in Las Vegas, Nev.

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My two biker buddies, outside of Las Vegas, Nev.
Found a soap box derby racer in Boulder City, Nev.

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The road before I was rescued . . .
My rescuer, Dan MacLean from Lake Edith, Alta.

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Alamo Valley: a green belt in the desert.
Payton and Claudia of the Shoshone Chamber of Commerce in Shoshone, Idaho.

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Trees outside of Acro, Idaho.
Downtown Acro, Idaho.

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Welcome to MacKay!
Thank you to Chief Randy for hosting me!

May 2, 2013, Shoshone, Idaho – I left Jackpot, Nev., early yesterday morning. It was a cold night camping out; the temperature got to minus three.

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After seven hours of cycling, I arrived in Shoshone, Idaho, and was met by Payson Reese, the president of the Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, his wonderful mother, Claudia, the owner of the local antique mall, and Lanita, the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce and owner of the motel I stayed in – the only one in town.

Shoshone is a beautiful little town, with tons of character, lots of historic buildings and homes, extra wide streets and extra friendly people. I had the best chicken fried steak on Route 93 for supper and the second-best breakfast burger for breakfast.

Today, after a meeting with Mayor David Wendell and local newspaper, the Shoshone News Press, I am off to Craters of the Moon National Monument.

April 28, 2013, Las Vegas – Thank you Steve and Sharee Dongworth for being my Las Vegas hosts.

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April 26, 2013 – There are lots of interesting rock formations along Route 93 in Arizona but this one really caught my eye on the Wickenburg to Wikieup stretch.

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Its about 40 feet high and is situated on the west side of the road; it looks like Snoopy from both directions but more so when looking back from the north as in this photo I snapped. What do you think?

Here is an interesting gas station and restaurant and amusement area I visited on the Kingman to Hoover stretch; the owner offered me free camping and the chance to shoot a 50 calibre machine gun . . .

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April 25, 2013, Boulder City, Nev. – I said farewell to my hosts Marlene and Tim at 7 a.m. and started up Route 93 to Boulder City, Nev. It was actually cold at 7 a.m. – I had to wear a jacket until about 9 a.m.

Route 93, north of Kingman, Ariz., is much more bicycle friendly: a four-lane divide and nice wide shoulders all the way to the Hoover Dam.

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The bicycle-friendly section of Route 93, north of Kingman, Ariz.
Photo by Greg Van Tighem.

This apparently is not a good stretch of road on which to be a rabbit, though; I counted more than 20 roadkilled bunnies before the Dam. I also found two more snakes and four coyotes to add to my list – and a million grasshoppers.

There is a 10-mile uphill stretch leading to the Dam, but, fortunately, it is not too bad. It is interspersed with a good bit of downhill; unfortunately, on one of the down hills I lost my Optic Nerve sunglasses.

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The Hoover Dam sits on the border between Arizona and Nevada.
Photo by Greg Van Tighem.

The road to Boulder City from the Dam was hot and windy, and the last three miles was all uphill. But, at the end of the hill was an ice-cold beer at the Boulder Dam Brewing Co. (not an IPA), with brewmaster and Rotarian, Todd.

Boulder City is a great little town – full of antique stores, and cool little cafes, and. . . gambling is not allowed.

There are a lot of very active seniors volunteering in Boulder City, including the lady who helped me at the Chamber and these crossing guards:

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Seniors volunteering as crossing guards in Boulder City.
Photo by Greg Van Tighem.

My next stop was the fire hall and a visit with the chief and fellow Rotarian, Kevin Nicholson.

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Tomorrow, I am cycling to Las Vegas. . .

April 24, 2013 – Flag presentation:

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Fire Chief Greg Van Tighem presents the Municipality of Jasper flag to the mayor of Wickenburg, Ariz.

April 23, 2013, Kingman, Ariz. – Today was a tough one, I’m not going to lie. . . I started early from Wikieup, Ariz., and had brutal headwinds for the first 19.3 kilometres (12 miles). I also had to deal with narrow shoulders on the road – and sometimes no shoulders at all. Twice I had to hump my bike up the opposite side of the road in the bush to avoid being clipped by a vehicle. A good Samaritan offered me a bottle of water and ride out of Death Canyon, as he called it. I accepted both.

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Not bike friendly!
Photo by Greg Van Tighem

It wasn’t all pain though; I saw some amazing countryside, lots of unidentifiable birds, three million mesquite trees in bloom, three dead snakes (one skinned?), four dead coyotes, one dead skunk and had a coffee and a donut at Dunkin’ Donuts – yummy. . .

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Photo by Greg Van Tighem

I met a power line worker whose wife has MS, so we had a good chat and, before I left, he donated $60 and told me to find a cure so she could get better.

And the good news is that I am going to be re-united with my iPod, which I apparently left at the airport – thanks George!!

April 22, 2013 – I left Wickenburg, Az., at 9:30 yesterday morning after a send-off ceremony hosted by the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce staff. The mayor spoke on the sister-city relationship with Jasper, and presented me with a key to the city! I spoke on behalf of Jasper and Mayor Ireland and presented gifts from Jasper. The fire and police departments escorted me out of town, and away I went!

Route 93 is not much of a bike route – there is lots of gravel. For the most part, the shoulders are wide enough, but there were times when it was less than two inches wide and times when bushes grew out.

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Greg Van Tighem in Nothing, an abandoned town in eastern Arizona.

I stopped at Nothing – Nothing is the name of an abandoned townsite – and I asked a woman to take my picture. It turns out she is a Boston doctor who does clinical research for MS and is working on a cure, and she had lots of positive comments on their progress!

There was lots of hill climbing today, and the average temperature was 104 degrees. Wouldn’t you know it – there was even a bit of headwind too.

I met a rancher and his wife at the Hidden Oasis RV Park in Wikieup – listened to old rattle-snake stories for over an hour, and then he offered me his motor home to sleep in! I just might take him up on that it!

A big thank you to the Wickenburg Volunteer Fire Department for hosting me!

April 21, 2013, Wickenburg, Az. – I made it to Wickenburg early this afternoon and spent the day playing tourist. Wow, what an interesting town, and friendly people, and amazing weather. It’s hot!

I visited all the local sites including the Chamber of Commerce, the Museum and cycled all over the area.

The boys at the fire station have been amazing, (they have had three calls while I’ve been here) – they cooked up a great western-style dinner of baked beans and elks sausage etc.

Off to bed soon as tomorrow we are up early for the ceremony and then start up Route 93 to begin the adventure.

April 21, 2013, Sun City, Az. – I made it to Sun City just outside Phoenix last night. It was snowing in Calgary when I left and nice a warm in Arizona on arrival.

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Cacti in Sun City, Ariz.
Photo by Greg Van Tighem

I was picked up at the airport by [former Jasper municipal manager] George Krefting and whisked off to his very nice golf-course home in Sun City to enjoy a few ice cold beer on the patio.

This morning, we have put the bike back together and are now installing the new bike computer then its off to Best Buy to pick up a Spot Tracking device, then off to Wickenburg to meet the folks at the Chamber and Fire Department.

Stay tuned for more this evening.

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