Norma Leslie has welcomed plenty of visitors to Stettler over the years, but until last week, none ever rode into town on a bicycle.
Her third cousin, John Springfield, stopped here on Thursday during a bike tour of the Rocky Mountains. He began his trip on Aug. 21, departing from Kalispell, Mont. and heading into British Columbia.
Springfield, 66, a retired computer programmer who lives in Newton, Mass., is an avid cyclist who has visited each of the 48 continental United States by bike. In 1976, he crossed from Seattle to Boston.
“I’ve done trips all over the U.S.,” he said. “Now I’m working on Canada.”
While he has visited the Rocky Mountains before, he said he planned this trip to see the scenery in greater detail and at a more relaxed pace.
He also wanted to visit his relatives along the way, including Leslie and her husband Jim, and cousin Gayle English of Sylvan Lake.
Leslie and Springfield may be somewhat distantly related — their great-grandfathers were brothers — but they have remained in touch over the years.
“John always sends me a message when he’s going on a long trip,” said Leslie.
Leslie’s grandparents kept its original Czech name, Skocdopole, after arriving in Alberta in 1905. However, in 1945, Springfield’s father opted to anglicize his name, which translates roughly to “jump into a field.”
As of Thursday, Springfield had logged about 500 miles, an average of roughly 70 miles per day. He was enjoying the cooler temperatures he had encountered so far, although he described Lake Louise as “exactly freezing.”
“I’ve gotten a smattering of rain,” he said. “I like cool weather anyway, when riding, so it’s been pretty good.”
Riding through the mountains proved challenging. He pedalled from Lake Invermere to Lake Louise in one day, going through two mountain passes. The 90-mile trip took him eight hours.
That same day, he encountered a small bear, who came out of the woods. They made eye contact and the cyclist quickly “skedaddled,” in his own words.
It was a brief but somewhat stressful encounter.
“The bear was never any threat, but I didn’t know that,” said Springfield. “I didn’t know if there was other bears around.”
Springfield also spotted mountain goats at Radium Hot Springs, B.C. While he enjoyed the views, he observed that motels and restaurants are few and far between in the mountains.
After leaving Nordegg partway through day six, he encountered a 50-mile stretch with no services, leading to Rocky Mountain House. He expected a long journey, but then met a tailwind that helped him make the trip in three hours.
“I was thinking what would be real nice would be a tailwind, and I got a tailwind,” he said. “If it had been against me I would have been demoralized.”
On Friday, Springfield continued from Stettler to Drumheller, and by Sunday, he had reached Claresholm. His exact route was uncertain, but he expected to continue through the Crowsnest Pass region and eventually return to Montana via Route 93.
Leslie may have appreciated the visit, but she was direct when asked whether she would ever join Springfield on a bicycle trip.
“You can put that in just two letters,” she said with a smile, “which would be ‘no.’”
Springfield is keeping a blog on his trip, which can be viewed at www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Rock2014.