By: Luke Webster
I’ve always admired people who develop lasting traditions. I don’t mean boring, normal traditions surrounding commercial holidays; I’m talking about the wild, quirky, epic traditions that produce months of anticipation and cause people to cock their heads sideways wondering whether they should question your sanity or be jealous.
Over the past couple of years I’ve begun to intentionally plan and scheme what traditions I can create or hijack for my own life. Most of the traditions are still in the planning stage, but one has begun to form in the past two years. I’m not entirely sure how many years it takes to establish a tradition, but after two years of bike trips and with the stoke and intention to plan many more trips in the years to come, I think it’s safe to say that the September Sufferfest is a family tradition that will last a lifetime.
The ideas began with me and my Dad—how can we make an epic bike trip tradition? Soon, both brothers were in on the scheming, as well. Every September, we would take time away from our normal lives to embark on a 1- to 2-week bike trip somewhere around the United States—or, maybe, one day the world.
Last year, with some hiccups due to unpredictable weather and changing work schedules, my Dad and I set off to cycle around Washington for 10 days. With the inaugural trip under our belts, we set our sights on a dream excursion for 2018—to bike the 600+ miles from Jasper National Park in northern Alberta, through Banff National Park, to finish at the southern terminus in Glacier National Park.
The Bike Trip Begins in Jasper
For me, the beginning of our bike trip held mysterious and magical anticipation, having seen thousands of pictures of the wondrous Jasper National Park. I was beyond excited to think about cycling through the glacier-filled and snow-capped mountains of the park.
As we began the trip, we slowly got into our new routine. Wake up – drink coffee – bike – drink more coffee – bike – drink even more coffee – bike the final leg to our destination for the day – repeat. Life slowed, conversation deepened, and we began to get lost in the new routines of our world, far removed from our lives back home. Even if only for 10 days, we were on an adventure that would shape our memories and relationships for decades to come.
Needless to say, Jasper didn’t disappoint—except for one caveat. In the midst of the majestic mountain peaks, glacier-blue meandering rivers, and awe-inspiring glaciers were hordes of RVs, logging trucks, and tourists. Somehow, Instagram forgot to highlight those aspects of the park when advertising the beauty of Jasper.
The Bike Trip Continues to Banff (Lake Louise)
To add an emotional and intimate connection to our trip, we were retracing our dad’s pedal spins from his college days, following a similar path he took on a bike trip during a summer of work at Glacier National Park in the 1980s.
As we meandered south, we barely escaped the moody weather that comes with the change of seasons. The special part of cycling in September is that you avoid the worst of the summer crowds. However, you face much more unpredictable weather—a foot of snow fell on Banff and Jasper just a few days after our trip.
Finishing the Bike Trip in Glacier
Crossing the southern exodus of Alberta into the United States, we traversed beautiful prairies, and battled killer head winds, reaching the American Rockies as we cycled into Montana. Due to fires in the western half of Glacier, we ended our trip in East Glacier. But, with an extra day on our hands, we decided to race up the world famous “Going to the Sun Road.”
We ended the trip as all good cycling trips should end—with good food, and lots of pedaling.
Here’s to more traditions, both big and small, that truly accent the beauty of life, and prioritize the relationships with people we love the most.
Luke Webster is an outdoor lifestyle and adventure photographer with a goal to preserve the excitement, awe, and community we can feel in nature. Learn more about his work on his website.