Adventures In Glacier – Part V (Dancing With Death)

<< Adventures In Glacier – Part IV (The Big Mistake) (Previous Post)

Part V: Dancing With Death
During the next two hours, as the sun continued to set behind the dark mass that followed me on my trail, and my body began to freeze, I cursed the atrociousness of my decision.

By the time I was half way through the Rockies, which I initially thought I would not have to cross, my feet were soaked and frozen, my body shivered non-stop and my hands shook harder and harder with every passing mile. By that point, every hotel I passed should have been my last stop for the night. But I saw the Moe’s house (my destination) as my salvation and my tunnel vision kept narrowing upon it, making it impossible to stop.

When I started getting small waves of warmth and seeing things along the road that were not there, I realized I needed to pull over because hypothermia was setting in.

I pulled into a 7-11 somewhere along the Crowsnest pass. I staggered inside and managed to get to the bathroom to run hot water over my hands. I was delirious with cold, my bloodshot eyes sought the coffee pot. As I stood by the glass enclosed trays of chicken laying under heat lamps I could not help but press my face against the warm glass.

Coffee in hand, body shivering, face against the bubble of warmth, I began to cry. The enormity of my mistake overcame me and I could not hold back the tears. Almost 10 years of riding and I was still capable of such stupidity! Not only should I have checked the route before leaving, I should have stopped at a hotel long ago.

The tears, sadly, did not make me cross the road to the motel located across from the 7-11. Instead, my tunnel vision tightened further and I began preparing for the road.

I found some small hand warmers that I put in my boots, along with a ski mask, and some gloves that were slightly less wet than the ones I had on. The two kids and woman running the 7-11 were very kind to me. They put my gloves and mask under the heat lamps and gave me a piece of chicken to chase the 5 Advil and 2 muscle relaxers I needed to take in order to continue down the wrong path.

A few minutes later I was back on the steed and for the first 20 seconds felt good and could feel the warmth of the facemask. But that feeling fled as quickly as it was painstakingly found. By now I was engulfed in darkness and could only see clearly about 10ft or so in front of me. It did not help that every passing car lit up the little droplets of water on my glasses rendering me blind for a few seconds – every half minute. If there were a few cars in succession, I could only pray that I would stay on the road. And pray I did! I invoked the Great Mothers mercy; I begged only that she not let any animals in my path. The cold I would somehow bear, but there would be no chance for me if a big horn sheep, deer or moose were to wander in front of my steed.

I tried taking off my glasses so that I would not ride blind half the time, but the rain would hit me right in the eye-balls, and I was forced to replace the shades. And so I had no choice (or so I thought) but to ride on, half blind, freezing, shaking and thinking every shadow or dark patch on the road was a beast running in front of me (hallucinations I continue to have to this day).

I still had more than 100 miles to go – my speed kept shifting from 50mph to 80mph, depending on the amount of fear I had at the moment regarding the unknown darkness.

80 miles – I’m praying; every two minutes I prayed, again and again: I can handle the cold, just don’t let an animal come in my way.

60 miles – I’m getting colder and colder and am starting to shake more violently; I’m less and less sure of my ability to handle the cold.

40 miles – I see lights in the distance, a town, if I can only reach that town…

30 miles – The tears are coming back; why did I put myself through this?! I could have stopped, I could have checked the map, I could have been warm…

20 miles – I’m shaking and delirious and can see nothing but the Moe’s house…

10 miles – I can die at any moment – either an animal, or a car I can’t react to quick enough, or running into something because I’m blind half the time…

5 miles – So close, within Lethbridge city limits, so close, don’t let me die now, it can still happen, it can happen within 20 feet of the house…

The garage… the door opening… inside… off the bike… staggering into the basement… must untie boots, unzip jacket, unbuckle belt, slide of shirt and underwear… Garret staring in amazement: “oh my god, oh dude, holy shit, oh my god, bro…”… must warm up – shower! WARM UP!… hot, wet, not cold, warmer and warmer and warmer… dry off, breathing stabilizing, shins and feet still cold… bed, covers, more covers, a bowl, darkness…

(Next Post) USA The Ride: Part I >>