Road Trip: Crowsnest Pass, Waterton On a Retro Bike – Suzuki TU250X

I know motorcycles are not really this site’s main focus but perhaps a retro inspired ride like the Suzuki TU250X would be enough to spark some interest. Failing that maybe the Rocky Mountain vistas might tempt a few eyeballs. I even have a couple legitimate curbside classics to share along the way. Follow along as a I ride my small motorcycle through some big scenery.

This route map is not entirely accurate but gives you the general gist of the day’s trip. Starting and ending in Lethbridge, Alberta, the terrain along the route consists of prairie, foothills and mountains. There were a few smaller detours onto smaller, more interesting roads along the way. The stated distance above misses out on about 50kms as well, so I would estimate the whole trip was a touch over 450kms (280miles).

My ride is a newly acquired 2016 Suzuki TU250X which as the name indicates has 250cc of displacement from a single cylinder engine. It has retro-standard styling but with mechanical improvements such as fuel injection and a front disc brake. I had bought it in lightly used condition only a short time previous to this but the purchase included a long, cold ride home. A story for another day perhaps.

This ride took place in mid-May, and with temperatures between 10-20C (50-68F) and no wind, the weather could not have been better. We headed off through the prairie on a main highway before pulling off to fill up in near by Fort MacLeod. My riding partner was also riding a Suzuki but his is just a tad bigger …

The first real stop is at a river along a secondary road near the Oldman dam. Just visible on the horizon are some windmills which are prevalent in this area of the province.

While highway travel is not exactly this bike’s strong suit, the little one cylinder engine runs quite well at cruising speed. The previous owner had removed all the decals from the bike making it look a little plain perhaps.

I did promise some Curbside Classics, so here you go.

A 1950 Dodge DeLuxe fastback and 1958 Chevrolet Biscayne. The Dodge is a Canadian market example affectionately known as a “Plodge” as it is a mash up of Dodge and Plymouth components. I would imagine the fastback body style is quite rare these days.

The 1958 Chevrolet Biscayne is more common, but it is still nice to see a survivor condition, low-trim level four door sedan.

Next up is Lundbreck Falls at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.

Spring time with the snow pack in the mountains melting leads to a larger than normal water flow.

A view of Turtle Mountain. Millions of tonnes of rock came off this mountain in 1903 burying the town of Frank.

We visited Frank’s slide last year on the Beater Challenge so I will quote that description.

We soon came across Frank’s Slide which is a well known mining disaster. On April 29 1903 the eastern edge of mining Town Frank was covered by 90 million tons of rock sliding down from nearby Turtle mountain. The mountain was the site of an active coal mine which likely contributed the slide on an already unstable mountain. Ironically many of the men working in the mine were safe and returned to find their families and homes gone. Total loss of life is estimated to be between 70 and 90. The railway was covered but quickly repaired, the mine re-opened and the remains of the town re-located. With the exception of the highway and railway cutting through it the site of the slide remains as it was in 1903.

A light bit of off road work led us to one of the numerous abandoned mining buildings in the area.

As it was heading towards mid-day we stopped to pick up some for food at a local grocery store for lunch. Good thing my riding partner had some nice hard cases as my bike has absolutely no storage.

The Crowsnest Pass is a mountain pass through the Rockies as well as collection of the communities of Coleman, Blairmore, Bellevue, Hillcrest, and Frank.

Another opportunity to view some mining ruins this time in the form of coal coke ovens.

My riding partner has a trailer nearby so we stopped to cook our lunch.

The hamburger was much better than the photo might suggest, as we made them from fresh buns, cheese and never-frozen 1/2lb beef patties.

The little Suzuki picked up a touch of dust after traveling on a few short gravel roads.

After lunch it was time to head out of the mountains and back into the foothills. This lead us to the hamlet of Twin Butte with its restaurant and general store.

Some of the traffic that comes by is rather … rural.

I am told that this location is a popular stop for folks on motorcycles. In addition to our Suzukis there was also a BMW K1300 and a Harley Davidson of some kind. I have no idea why there is a artificial cactus at the edge of the parking lot.

A Mustang club meeting of some kind? They left before I could find out.

We lingered a while to have refreshments and take in the decor.

Soon we were on the move again as we head south towards Waterton Lakes National Park. There are buffalo down there in the valley although given their size, ironically they are rare to see.

At the gate to Waterton National Park. The park is located in the extreme southwest corner of Alberta butting up against the Montana and British Columbia borders. It is a part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park which is designated as a World Heritage Site.

A variety of other motorbikes were out for the day as well.

A beautiful part of the world that unfortunately sustained heavy damage from Kenow Wildfire last summer. It will take many years for the larger trees to recover.

The iconic Prince of Wales Hotel located in the Waterton Lakes National Park on a hill over looking the town site. It was built in 1926/1927 and narrowly escaped the fire.

The town site is visible below. If you zoom in, an eagle can be seen near the center of the photo.

Another shot of the historic hotel which was named for the Prince of Wales in an unsuccessful bid to have him include a stay there during his 1927 Canadian tour.

We rode down to the town site where there were still small patches of snow in mid-May.

Cameron Falls is a popular and easy to reach scenic spot as it is within the town site.

Some Hutterites (similar to Amish or Mennonites) in traditional dress enjoying throwing snowballs at each other.

Time for another classic? How about this Sixties Chevrolet 4×4?

It is hard to tell but there is a steel pig in the bed advertising a BBQ joint.

One last look back at Waterton before we head back onto the Prairie.

On ride home we managed to grab a bite to eat in Cardston, Alberta which is a mostly Mormon town so not much is generally open on a Sunday. After this we had about just over an hour’s ride back through prairie.

Since this trip I have made a few modifications to the Suzuki including a more retro seat, a tank badge and I relocated the signal lights the rear. This will allow me to fit some side bags from an upcoming longer road trip.