I rode Salt Lake to Banff and back. Slept in a hammock. Took me 12 days. I did it all alone and I loved it.
Banff has been on my bucket list since I was 16. I just left my job. Got a new bike. Figured it was time to go. I didn’t plan for it to be a solo trip but no one else could take the time and the ones that could, did not have a motorcycle. So I started planning. I looked at a map and found all the national parks near by and just made my route. I was not nervous to go by myself until I had my Grandma texting me saying how dumb I was to go alone. Maybe she was right but I wasn’t NOT going to go just because I did not have a buddy. I figured bring a knife, buy some mace, say prayers and be smart.
I have never done this before and honestly did not know what I was doing. I texted some friends for tips but other than that I was winging it. People always ask how I plan my trips: I pick a goal, research for hours to plan it all out then I realize I am going to learn everything I need to once I get there, so I stop stressing. The only thing I really made sure of was my bike. I took Frenchie to a shop to make sure I knew what was going on aka how to fix any problems on the road. I made my saddle bags because it was cheaper and I have always wanted to know how to work with leather. It was so fun but so hard needless to say they worked great.
All I know is that I HAD to make it to Banff. If I failed I could always come back home. Better try and fail then not try at all. My first stop was a small town called Victor, Idaho. My mom was a camp counselor there for 2 weeks and I had the opportunity to speak to about 25 teenage girls. In the LDS Church we do these things called Firesides which is ultimately a speaker that just shares a message. I really love speaking especially to younger girls. The things I wish I would have known at that age AMIRITE? It was amazing, the camp is called Quickwater and that cute little town was stunning. Super grateful I got to experience it.
I headed out to Jackson Hole which was a beautiful ride through the mountains. I found the church in Jackson Hole and did a quick change in the parking lot. I was quite the sight to see: trying to fix my helmet hair in my tiny mirrors and stuffing everything in my saddle bags. I love finding small church wards when I travel, so fun to meet other people my age just trying to figure out life. Also I have to mention most of these kids were in chacos and everyone brought their Nalgenes. These were my type of people. I cruised town after that and got some good recs on what hikes to do. I had to grab a lens for my camera and I met photo prodigy Issac Spotts. He gave me lots of tips because I am an idiot when it comes to cameras. Give him a stalk, he takes amazing photos.
I made some more friends at a camp spot at Jenny lake that let me squat on their campground. Thanks goodness because I was about to go rogue and hide my bike behind some trees and set up camp, which potentially is not a bad idea but when you don't have a bear canister...things get tricky. The next morning I hiked Ampitheatre Lake which was KILLER. 10 miles roundtrip, 3,000 feet elevation gain. Park at Lupine Meadows and follow the trail up, it is pretty tracked out so go early if you can. Make the extra effort past Surprise Lake, it’s worth it. If you follow the trail to the right around Ampitheatre Lake you can hike up to a saddle that has a great view of Grand Teton. I ate lunch up there, it rocked. Some cute couple told me about it on the way up, #localsecrets.
Later that night my new friends and I headed to Mormon row. It was this abandoned little village I guess you could say that was a front row seat to the sunset. Nights like this are what I live for. Random people in a random place making memories. My friend Asa (@asap_rodgers) was riding back across the country on his bicycle, best tan lines I have ever seen.
TIPS FOR THE TEETS: every camp ground in the park fills up by around 10 am so get there early if you want a chance at somewhere to sleep. Gros Ventre Campground usually has spots incase you need a backup. There are a lot of free spots outside of the park but bears are everywhere so make sure you keep all food and toiletries in your car. Since I was on a bike, I needed a storage bin so I had to find real campgrounds. Yes, bear spray is a thing but if you are staying in a popular campground or hiking a popular trail you most likely won’t need it. If you wanna be extra and do some backcountry hiking, get sum spray.
I camped closer to Yellowstone the next day and met Steve. Every campground was full but Steve let me share on his campsite. I had a hammock so I really only needed 2 trees. I was a little nervous but he ended up being a huge blessing. In hiking they have something they call Trail Angels, where it's someone unexpected that helps you on your way. Steve was a trail angel. He was riding back to Maine, 12 grand children and he gave me lot of motorcycle touring tips like:
“Your bike seems fashionable but how functional is it?”
“When you want to get serious about this Moto travel thing you need to get a BMW”
Thanks for the honesty Steve. Besides his subtle shade he was really excited that I was out traveling by myself and thought it was really cool that I had the guts to do it. I really would have been in a bad spot had he not offered to share so THANK YOU STEVE, there's one person in my corner.
Yellowstone was next. For anyone that has been there then you KNOW it is any nature lover’s playground. I was drooling all day. I felt like the log ride at Disneyland but real life and on my bike. TIPS FOR YELLOWSTONE: Old Faithful is the obvious main attraction, it gets packed fast. Get to the park by 8 am, I got there at 8 and still had to wait 20 minutes to get in. Head straight to Old Faithful then Grand Prismatic spring. I would honestly go even earlier because there is just about no parking and when hundreds of people are trying to park, it could take an hour to even get out of your car. So whatever you do, do it early before the Chinese tour busses show up. Also make you stop at the Old Faithful in, the woodwork is unreal. I could have stayed there all day and just read. Truly so cool. Also I heard the Huckleberry things are a must try but since I’m off that sugar life, you go try it then tell me.
I camped in Bozeman that night then rode up to Glacier National Park on July 4th. I rode through Montana backroads and came across the cutest little towns. Towns where there was no service, one gas station and because it was the 4th they were having little rodeos. I thought, “I think this is what America actually is.” I grew up in the city so I never have experienced the small town life but there were some good vibes from these small town people. One guy in Ovando, MT (dirt roads, 12 kids in the high school, population 100) I met, he was a logger, wore a cross on his neck, sleeveless flannel that he cut off, we started talking. He commuted an hour to Missoula (the city) because he would rather live in the country and have his own space then be around people. We could not have been more different but he was the kindest guy. He introduced himself as Larry and as I went to shake his hand he TOOK HIS HAT OFF. I was so flattered and I think I swooned. SWOONED. WHO DOES THAT ANYMORE. So here’s to you Larry, you became v attractive after that move, don’t break too many hearts in Ovando.
Glacier was everything I wanted and more. Yes the Tetons and Yellowstone were rad but COME ONNNN. I was up at 6 riding on the Going to the Sun Road and I hiked Siyeh Pass. I talked to some townies and they told me that was a hike I could not miss, they were right. There as a point when I turned around to look at the view and I got teary eyed because it was so beautiful. God crushed his job when making this earth. OR the Big Bang really out did itself, whichever you believe in. I believe in the God part but the Big Bang is cool too.
I headed over to Many Glaciers and saw these amazing lakes. Glacier is YUGE but if you have the time go check out this part you should. There are some easy hikes and it’s just so dang pretty. TIPS FOR GLACIER: if you are in a car, which I guess everyone usually is, get to the park at like 6 am and go park at Logan’s pass. That’s where the biggest parking lot is so you can leave your car there then take the shuttle around the park. If you go to a specific hike then plan on leaving your car there all day because it’s really hard to get places because Going to the Sun road is 2 lanes and it’s the only way across the park. I met a couple that left their car at Logan’s Pass and it seemed like the easiest way to go. Otherwise you will be stuck in traffic and you wont’t find parking. The shuttles are awesome and super consistent.
Calgary was next on the list to stay with some old Luge friends. Laura Glover, you are the best thanks for feeding me and giving me a landing pad. We stopped by Stampede because that was also a bucket list item. We watched a Cattle Penning Competition, it was exactly what it sounds like and it was awesome. Talented humans. We went to a party after and I met some cowboys that taught me how to country dance. I wore a cowboy hat and bolo tie. True story, wouldn’t take it back. I went to church in Calgary and some old men from the ward were ecstatic that I was making this trip. They looked over my bike for me and told me some rides I had to go one. They checked my oil, chain, tires, the whole 9 yards. Pays to be into a hobby that Grandpa’s like, they treat you like family and make sure you send text updates. Aren’t they so cute?
Canmore: the cute town before Banff that should be to ACTUAL main attraction. Typical town with one Main Street, a rad bagel shop and a homely bookstore to go with it. I camped here and met so many fascinating people. There were a few couples at my campsite that had been there for over a month and there were townies going in and out of their tent all night. Again, **a knife, mace, and prayers**. I did this hike called Grassi Lakes, it was 4 miles out and back. Super easy but UNREAL. I thought you had to hike days to find water like this.
I rode through Banff the next day and onto Lake Louise. Holy crap. People talk about Switzerland and Europe being the place to be but I think Canada is pretty underrated. Tell me you aren’t falling in love. I hiked to Big Agnes tea house, around the beehive then to Plain of 6 Glaciers tea house. Again. Unreal. So much gratitude that I got to go and see these beautiful things. It’s about 11 miles all the way around but I loved it. The tea houses are rad definitely check them out. I headed to Morraine Lake which was just as/if not more beautiful than Louise. Bring food and go sit on those rocks, one of my favorite moments on the trip. TIPS FOR BANFF: again get there early. If you don’t you have to park in a lot that’s way far and you have to shuttle in. They won’t even let people into the Morraine Lake lot once it is full. Thankfully a motorcycle solved these problems.
I continued through the Canadian rockies to end up in Revelstoke. Our rockies have nothing on the Canadian ones. It was a 3 hour ride but I could have gone 10 it was so beautiful. I mean just look at the mountains in the back ground. Ignore the goofy smile, I was just so content and happy with the ride I just did.
Revelstoke back to SLC. Took two days, about 1,200 miles. It started dumping on me right before the border when I crossed into Washington. It was terrible and so cold but I loved it all. It start out cloudy but I woke up at 5:30 to try and beat the rain. The riding was dreamy, paved windy road and not a car in sight. I think this is when I truly fell in love with riding bikes. Not sure if it’s because of Luge but something about the speed and curves and feeling the pressure around corners. Ok maybe it is because of Luge, either way there are not many things that get my blood pumping and during training. I was so excited to feel that tunnel vision again like I felt. Life was great until it was a torrential downpour. I could not see my windshield and I barely could see through my face shield. It was rough. Waterfalls pouring off the sides of my tank onto my legs. My boots were swimming pools. I was soaked through at every angle. I stopped at a gas station at one point and trudged inside leaving a trail of water. I rode a lot with a hot water bottle in my jacket, it helped a ton with the cold. Imagine a girl walking into your gas station, visibly drenched, having a bad time. She walks up to you, whips out a pink hot water bottle and asks to fill it up. I don't how he did not bust up laughing. The first town I got to that had any sort of sunlight, I stripped immediately in a gas station parking. I was quite the sight. Passed through Couer D’Alene… WHO KNEW. You Idahoans got some secrets up your sleeve that you tell no one about. If you ever get to go there you will never make fun of Idaho again.
I camped in Missoula, got a new tire then rode straight home. At that point I had another 10 hour day ahead of me so I was itching to get home. I rode through the Bitterroot National Forest which is a place everyone should know about. It was so pretty, it looked like straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Vibrant green but dark pine trees interspersed through out. It was a straight hour of passing cars and getting really low on those corners. My mom would kill me but it was WORTH IT. The ride after that was boring and once I hit the Interstate I was just trying to power home. Let me tell you, 10 hours of riding is no fun. Me at my last gas station: ROUGH. I went from so confused why I would do a ride like this, then v relieved on got home to "Ok wow I'm really proud of myself." Notice progression below:
I feel very empowered that I did something like this. I have a sense of confidence that I did not have before and above all I am so grateful I got to experience this adventure. It's these kind of trips that make me tick. That make me very passionate about life and that make me feel like myself again. I learned so many things that I was not anticipating. I had no idea what I was doing yet somehow I made it back in one piece. My roommates were just as surprised as I was that I made it back alive. People always say, "How did you do something like that? How did you know what to do?" Well I didn't like I said before but above all I had enough confidence to try and I always knew if something went wrong I could call AAA or just go back home. I never could think about the end goal of making it back home because I honestly did not think I would make it. I prefer to think hour by hour, day by day and what do you know we made it. I think people would be very surprised to see what they are capable of if they just try and not let the fear of failure get in the way.
WHAT I LEARNED:
People live in fear
It was interesting because majority of people in the US were so afraid for me but as soon as I crossed the border to Canada, everyone was really excited for me and proud of me for going for it. I think people live in fear because it is easier. When you have fear you instantly cut off opportunities that make you go out of your comfort zone. Fear of failure, fear of the future, fear of other people, could be anything. Made me rethink in what areas of my life I have fear.
We lead with certain identities because we love the feedback we get
It was really refreshing to be amongst strangers that had no idea about the Olympics. Luge came up a few times in conversation but no one ever cared to ask more about it. I loved it. There were points in conversation when I realized, "Oh these people like talking to me genuinely because I am providing value outside of my personal accomplishments." I think identity is something I have been trying to figure out the past few years but I was super grateful to have the realization of, "I am enough as Kate. I don't need to be Kate the Olympian for people to like me. I am enough and I have been enough." Sounds dumb but living in a place where the Olympics happened back in '02, it's hard to deviate from an event that everyone loves. No one ever asks about books I am reading or documentaries I am into, they usually ask about the Olympics. It's totally fine but it has played with how I view myself.
RV people are my kind of people
America is great and always was great and we are very lucky to live here
Fringe jackets are not the most practical BUT it made me laugh everyday so I'll still wear it