We take the R1200RTW on a 1,000 km ‘day ride’ – The Lake Louise ‘lunch run’

Mid-morning 'rest break' in Bentley, en route to Nordegg and Lake Louise

Mid-morning ‘rest break’ in Bentley, en route to Nordegg and Lake Louise

The idea of riding nearly 1,000 km round-trip for lunch sounds like lunacy.

It all started quite innocently.

Setting:  Lunch break at a burger joint in Rimbey on last Saturday’s 429 km after-breakfast ride.

Me:  (Almost rhetorically, expecting no reply.)  Hey, what are you guys doing next week, say Monday or Tuesday?  Maybe we should do a ‘lunch run’ to Lake Louise – The Post Hotel – for lunch.  My chef friend Hilary says it has one of the best restaurants in Alberta.

Most of the others sitting around the table:  (General grumbling, men fighting to stop their eyes from rolling to be polite.)  ‘Yeah, that could be done’ was the most positive response.

Robyn:  That sounds like fun.  I’ve been thinking I don’t have time this year to do a big ride except for the upcoming BMW national rally in Billings.

When the time comes, everybody in our merry band is busy, unavailable, except Robyn.  We agree on an 8:00 AM meeting and departure from Blackjack’s Restaurant in Nisku.

“I’m late.”

Wednesday morning, I leave the house at 7:15 AM, plenty of time, even with morning rush hour traffic, to make it to Blackjack’s well before our 8:00 AM meeting time.  I make a point about being punctual and on time for meetings.

I merge the RT onto Whitemud Freeway eastbound.  The morning rush hour traffic is just getting started so traffic is flowing.  I slip the RT into a line of traffic that is moving in unison, get comfortable in the saddle, flick on the cruise control with my left thumb, then assume the ‘relaxed, low stress, cruising position’ with my right hand holding the handlebar and placing my left hand on my left thigh.

Gaaack! I immediately notice my wallet is NOT in my left-side cargo pocket.  I’ve left it on the dresser at home.  I have to turn around at Southgate Mall, return to the house.  As soon as I get home, I text Robyn, “I’m late.  Forgot wallet.  Leaving now.”  When I arrive almost half an hour late at Blackjack’s, Robyn is gracious about my tardiness and says he arrived extra early.

It’s a perfect morning for a long ride.  The sun is shining and the 12 C temperature is comfortably cool, even with my mesh Olympia jacket with its single layer rain jacket zipped in.

The QE2 isn’t particularly busy this morning, and we exit westbound Hwy 12 to Bentley then Hwy 11 to Nordegg.  Bentley to Nordegg is a beautiful drive, and the Blindman River Valley (in and around Bentley) is picturesque, rolling countryside.

We pull into Nordegg to refuel.  The gas station has only regular unleaded and diesel; no premium unleaded.    The BMW R1200RTs (like most of the cars from the German luxury car brands) specify premium unleaded fuel.  We fill up with Race Trac’s regular unleaded and the RT has returned a respectable 4.9l/100 km (56.5 imp. mpg).  Filled with unleaded regular instead of premium fuel, the RTW runs just fine.

The Harley Crowd

We wait for a column of Harley riders to thunder past before trailing them westbound.  There’s perhaps 30 or 40 of them, traveling at a comfortable 10 kph over the posted speed limit.  We follow a few hundred metres behind, and the column turns off and into David Thompson Resort.  Robyn observes the Harley group’s tail rider is oblivious to traffic (us) approaching the rear of their column, which has backed up and almost stopped on the highway as riders at the head of the group slow to turn left into the resort.  Their tail rider merely slows and waits his turn at the end without leaving a significant gap and flashing his brake light to warn approaching traffic as an experienced group rider would do.

We turn southbound on Hwy 93 and as usual, the vistas are magnificent.  The Icefields Parkway always makes the list of Best Drives in Canada or Best Drives in North America.  Motorhomes and holiday trailers are starting to show up; it’s the start of vacation season.

As we get closer to Lake Louise, Hwy 93 is being re-paved.  And for the first time in my memory, there is no toll booth to collect money for driving this scenic piece of Canadiana.

Post Hotel Restaurant, Lake Louise

At 1:53 PM,  we’re inside the Post Hotel’s restaurant.  Something I didn’t know, according to the Post Hotel’s website, their restaurant has recently been listed by Conde Nast Traveler (a widely read, highly regarded travel magazine) on their Gold List for “Best Food in the Americas.”

For our very late lunch (I was worried the restaurant might be closed between the main lunch hour and supper time; thankfully, it was still open), there’s only one other table occupied in the rustic dining room, which is elegant with white linen tablecloths and, of course, the magnificent view of the mountains.

Service is swift.  Robyn orders the Grilled Salmon Fillet Burger  with fries ($20.00) and I order a main dish which I’ve enjoyed here on numerous occasions, the Veal Osso Bucco “a la Milanese” with homemade spatzle ($29.00.)  Our dishes arrive quickly and Robyn enjoys his burger, and I am delighted with my rich, braised veal shank.

Robyn prepares to dig into the Grilled Salmon Fillet Burger

Robyn prepares to dig into the Grilled Salmon Fillet Burger

Veal Osso Bucco with homemade spatzle

Veal Osso Bucco with homemade spatzle

While we savour our superb lunch, we dispense with it with well-practiced efficiency.

View from the Post Hotel parking lot

View from the Post Hotel parking lot

At 2:56 PM, a mere 1 hour and 3 minutes after being seated in the restaurant, we pull out of the Post Hotel’s parking lot and join the Trans-Canada Highway 1 eastbound.

Traffic through Banff National Park is busy and quite a few drivers are not heeding the posted 90 kph speed limit.

Somewhere near the Banff townsite exit, there is a huge speed trap located on the paved median, with six cars pulled off waiting to be ticketed.

We cruise past the trap at an indicated 100 kph (94 kph according to the GPS) with the radar operator clearly setting his sights on our bikes and giving us a pass.

Stoney Indian Reserve, Highway 1A

Just past Canmore we leave the Trans-Canada and take the more enjoyable Highway 1A that runs through the Stoney Indian Reserve.  The temperature has risen to the mid-20s and we stop to remove jacket liners, open air vents and take a swig of energy drink to overcome the usual, post-heavy lunch (for me) drowsiness I’m prone to experiencing.

Along Highway 1A, we stop to strip out jacket liners and quick drink.  Home is still 4 hours away

Along Highway 1A, we stop to strip out jacket liners and quick drink. Home is still 4 hours away

For a Wednesday afternoon, we meet a surprising number of motorcyclists on this twisty 2-lane road.  Finally, at Cochrane we join up with Highway 22 for the long stretch home.

Riding north on Highway 22 (The Cowboy Trail) is usually more enjoyable than the drudgery of the QE2.  In the late afternoon light, the fields are green and the traffic isn’t insane.

For no particular reason, I choose to leave Highway 22 and take us east to the small town of Carstairs.  I’m surprised.  There’s obvious signs of a housing construction boom, and along with rows of new townhouses, there are some monstrous, mansion-like houses in the middle of large fields.

At Carstairs we refuel for the second time of the day.  The RTW has sipped Race Trac’s regular unleaded at a miserly 4.4 l/100 km (63.7 imp. mpg), no doubt aided by the low speeds in the long construction zone on Hwy 93 and the slow pace through Banff National Park.

It’s 5:30 PM when we leave Carstairs and we continue north on Hwy 2A to Olds where we rejoin the QE2.

The R1200RTW is a superb long distance motorcycle.  It gulps long distances effortlessly, providing a comfortable yet sporting platform for riders who like the feeling of connection and engagement with the motorcycle.  But, like any motorcycle, it’s not perfect.

The last 2-1.2 hours has me squirming in my saddle.  The AirHawk seat cushion helps, but either I’ve got too much air in it or not enough; I’m not sure.  The new footpeg relocating kit has improved the legroom of the RT significantly, but my right hip is starting to ache.  There appears to be no solution for fixing an aging body, but it’s a good excuse to keep throwing money at the bike to try to make it ‘perfect.’

Robyn and I part ways at Anthony Henday drive.  He takes the eastbound exit, I continue west, and roll into my driveway at 7:53 PM, and I’m knackered.

The BMW Navigator V GPS shows my total mileage for the Lake Louse lunch run (including backtracking to retrieve my wallet) has been 993 km, spittin’ distance from 1,000 km.

That’s a solid riding day in anybody’s books, a ‘mini’ Iron Butt ride if you like.

Now, the bug-encrusted RT is waiting to be cleaned and prepped for the next ride.





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