Canada

Canada
Even though its name suggests a forbidding trail more suited to snowmobiles than motorcycles, the Icefields Parkway had been on my "must do" list for a long time. Often conjuring illusions of Everest  -  with vast swaths of snow, vertical walls of ice, and crevasses wide enough to swallow a tour bus  -  and, because it's there, I had to ride it last September.

The reality is different, though no less spectacular. Like massive battlements, the towering ridges to one side throw a crenellated pattern of shadow across the road. Triangular peaks rear on the other, heaped together like planetary building blocks. Which I suppose they are. Between them, the Parkway runs, a ribbon of concrete that slides lazily along the valley floor. It's a miraculous landscape, sprawling some 150 miles against the backbone of one of the world's largest ranges, although the valley itself never rises above 7,000 feet.

I confess to mixed feelings about the ride. Unforgettable images from the last trip to Jasper troubled me. One glance in my mirror and I see my friend Dave overcook a bend and ride his Tiger down a ravine to its demolition and his busted right arm. Lucky fellow. That same evening we stood somberly in a Jasper bar while the wall-mounted tv endlessly flashed the jarring tapes of airliners diving into glass and concrete towers. Over and over, numbed, my mind played REM's "It's the End of the World as We Know It." September 11, 2001...