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Tour of the Alps 2003



 
 
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Old September 12th 03, 04:22 AM
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Default Tour of the Alps 2003

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Tour of the Alps 2003
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On Thursday, 26 June, Jeanie Barnett and I flew with Lufthansa from
San Francisco to Frankfurt and then to Zurich where we arrived just
after Friday noon. I had my bicycle, a suitcase and small carry-on.
Jeanie had a carry-on, a small suitcase and a large Bike Pro bicycle
case. We took a train from the airport to Schwyz where Edith Dierauer
picked us up for the short ride to their house in Ibach, the town
where Victor Inox, the cutlery company is at home. We prepared our
bicycles for departure the next morning. We got a good night's sleep
after a great raclette cheese dinner.
----------------------------------------------------------------------

1. Saturday, 28 June (Ibach - Rosenlaui; 104km, 1260m):

We had clear skies and pleasant temperatures, with the heat wave that
gripped western Europe the last few weeks, having blown away. As we
got ready to leave, I realized that the shopping bag with my bicycling
clothes was still standing in my kitchen at home, so we visited two
bike shops to get refitted, size 48 SPD shoes being the main problem.
Back in Ibach, properly equipped, we finally got on the road at about
noon, riding to Brunnen on the Vierwaldstettersee (aka Lake of
Lucerne) and the Axenstrasse that follows the east shore toward the
Gotthard.

The Axenstrasse is noted for its rocky cliffs dropping steeply to the
water, the railway staying mostly in tunnels as we ducked in and out
of tunnels as we made our way to Flüelen at the end of the lake. It
was along these cliffs that William Tell was said to have duped the
Austrians, who had taken him captive on their boat and were returning
to their headquarters when a fierce storm arose. He convinced them to
unshackle him so he could show them a safe landing along the cliffs.
Instead he jumped ship when they got close to the wall and vanished up
trails that only the locals knew. The Austrians went under, according
to the chronicles of Friedrich von Schiller, who created William Tell
as a composite figure of the Swiss nationalists.

http://www.bartleby.com/26/6/
http://agora.unige.ch/ctie/ur/bsu/te...tellsprung.htm

In Altdorf with a mural of the Alps of canton Uri as backdrop, Tell
stands proudly, bigger than life, in bronze, son at his side, with
crossbow (Swiss trade mark) over his shoulder.

http://www.tell.ch/schweiz/telldenkmal.htm
http://www.ur.ch/

There isn't much flatland in Uri and much of that is taken by the
Reuss, the railway, the Gotthard Highway and a four lane Autobahn.
If that weren't enough, a short distance beyond Altdorf, the huge
Gotthard tunneling project at Erstfeld (472m) covers much of what is
left before the Reuss valley ends to become a steep alpine ravine.

Our climb started above Erstfeld, at the SBB hydropower plant in
Amsteg, where the grade changes abruptly across a stone-arch bridge
over the Reuss. The highway wends its way along the granite walls
while the double track federal railway (SBB), in oder not to exceed a
2.7% grade, uses helical tunnels to gain altitude on its way to the
16km Gotthard Tunnel. Meanwhile the four lane Autobahn remains mostly
out of sight in tunnels and avalanche sheds.

The SBB makes three passes using looping tunnels to gain elevation at
Wassen (916m), with the train station lying on the middle traverse so
that trains pass in the opposite direction from their destination,
northbound trains traveling southward and southbound trains,
northward. Although the SBB runs left hand traffic, the route is
signaled in both directions on both tracks so that trains can run in
either direction, making train boarding even more confusing at times.
The town church is famous for being seen three times from the train,
from below, at grade and from above.

http://www.wassen.ch/

We stopped for some eats before heading into the Meiental, hidden
behind a granite wall through which the Meienreuss River escapes in a
slot. The road starts climbing shortly after leaving the town square
as it enters a curved tunnel followed by a stone arch bridge that
connects two tunnels. How the ancients got through here is unclear,
but farther up the old Susten pack animal route is still visible as it
zigzags steeply up the headwall of the canyon. Well graded, the road
has a maximum gradient of 10% but is mostly around 8%. I call it the
glacier highway of the alps for its spectacular ice fields.

A thin high overcast was augmented by thin stratified fog as we
reached the Susten Pass summit tunnel (2224m), leaving scenery still
visible but out of reach of the camera. We could just barly make out
the huge Steingletscher and Sustenhorn intermittently through the fog.
We descended through bare rock tunnels to the base of the glacier,
from where we were out of the fog on our way to Inertkirchen (625m).
We crossed the Haslital and Aar river to climb the short Kirchet pass
(709m) with its four hairpin turns. The Kirchet goes over and around
the Aareschlucht, an impressive slot in the cliffs through which the
Aar river, a hiking path in the wall, and a railway tunnel pass.

http://www.aareschlucht.ch/englisch.htm

Just beyond the pass, across from the Lammi restaurant, we turned off
to Rosenlaui. This road is steep, still only partly paved, and little
more than one-lane wide as it climbs through a forest to the canyon of
the roaring Reichenbach where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Moriarty met
their deaths over the falls in 1891.

http://www.evo.org/sherlock/europe/r...ach_falls.html

Hotel Zwirgi in Schattenhalb, the junction of the road from Meiringen,
was elegantly rebuilt, looking much like the old one that burned to
the ground two years ago. I stopped at the water works for a big
drink of ice cold water where the phrase "Das Wasser ist das Beste"
graces the wall above the fountain. The climb to Rosenlaui is still
no trifle as it rapidly gains altitude past hotel Kaltenbach, finally
leveling off in the Rosenlaui Valley.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s90.html

Although it had rained a bit before we got there, we got a splendid
view of the Rosenlaui Glacier as we rode along the now placid
Reichenbach. At Hotel Rosenlaui we were met by Andreas Kehrli, the
proprietor, who was caring for a large tour group. As has happened
before, the hotel was full but there was still room in the dormitory
annex where we could stay, thanks to the boss. As always, we had a
hearty dinner and a great stay. We got underway early the next
morning after a rich buffet breakfast.

http://home.t-online.de/home/E-J.Bra...002/17bild.htm
---------------------------------------------------------------------

2. Sunday, 30 June (Rosenlaui - Hospental; 138km, 2932m):

We started up the easy part of the Große Scheidegg Pass under
brilliant skies and balmy weather. At the end of the public road, at
Schwarzwaldalp, a steep 100m-long connector got us to the Grindelwald
Bus road. Access is restricted on this smoothly paved road that is
only as wide as the bus that does not slow down for bicyclists.
Something worth knowing.

This beautiful route climbs through meadows with grazing cows amidst
wildflowers, all in the shadow of the Massive Wetterhorn. We passed a
new wooden farmhouse with beautifully hand-carved beams, windowsills,
and flower boxes. An inscription with the year 2002 carved into its
main transom will remind people after it has become nearly black with
time, like its century old neighbors, when it was that the wood was
fresh and yellow.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s84.html

Even with fair weather, or maybe because of it, we could hear icefalls
crashing down the Wetterhorn (3701m) that was still casting a long
shadow our way. From Große Scheidegg (1961m), under beautifully clear
skies, we saw the dark north face of the Eiger in front of the pure
white Jungfrau with Grindelwald (1034m) lying below like a miniature
village amidst steep green meadows.

We were back on public roads as we passed the Grindelwald train
station, where the Berneroberlandbahn (BOB) meter gauge (adhesion and
Riggenbach cogwheel) railway makes connections with the Wengeralpbahn
(WAB) 800mm gauge (Riggenbach cogwheel) train that crosses the valley
to the Kleine Scheidegg (2016m). Here the famed Jungfraubahn meter
gauge (Strub cogwheel) tunnels inside the Eiger (3970m) to the station
in an ice cave on the Jungfraujoch saddle (3454m) between Mönch
(4099m) and Jungfrau (4158m).

Following the cascading Schwarze Luetschine that joins the Weisse
Luetschine from Lauterbrunnen at Zweiluetschinen, we crossed the river
on bridges engulfed in chilled air from the icy river. The road
levels off at Wilderswil (584m), where the Schynige Platte Bahn (SPB),
800mm gauge train (Riggenbach cogwheel) climbs to the Schynige Platte
(2061m) for a marvelous panorama of the Jungfrau group. The
beautifully clear weather brought many passengers to the mountain
railways.

We passed the large meadow in the middle of Interlaken (563m) that
gives a postcard view up the Lauterbrunnental to the Jungfrau. After
crossing the Aar River, we rode along the north shore of the
Brienzersee to Brienz, a small town in a narrows between the cliffs
and the deep blue lake. Here the steam powered Brienzer Rothornbahn
(BRB), 800mm (Abt cogwheel) railway climbs through tunnels in rugged
cliffs to the top of the Brienzer Rothorn (2353m), in my estimation
the premire mountain railway of the Alps. The pungent smell of coal
smoke from one of the locomotives wafted across the road as we passed.

http://digilander.iol.it/zh/cograilways/brienzer.html

We photographed Sherlock Holmes, in life-sized bronze, with pipe,
cape, and deerstalker cap sitting in the middle of Meiringen, the home
of meringue. After Willigen, a short climb up the Kirchet (709m) got
us to the Lammi, that we had passed the day before, for lunch. Under
Eichhof and Rivella umbrellas, we and many motorcyclists enjoyed a
good outdoor lunch.

On the way to the Grimsel Pass up the Haslital, we took a picture of
the huge granite sculpture of man-with-jackhammer at the Kraftwerke
Oberhhasli (KWO) power plant. The climb has three reprieves, one in
Guttannen (1057m), where there is a good grocery store, and another at
Handegg (1402m), where there are accommodations in case of foul
weather and finally above the upper dam. The road climbs between
granite walls up to a lower and upper concrete dam, that are reached
in winter by giant aerial trams.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s90.html

Above Handegg the road enters a one-kilometer tunnel where bicyclists
must (and prefer to) take the old cobblestone road, notched into the
granite wall high above the Aar. The detour is less steep than the
one kilometer tunnel and offers great scenery. As we reached the
upper Grimsel lakes, the Finsteraarhorn (4275m), tallest peak in the
Bernese Alps, lay at the end of the valley to the west, "finster"
(dark) because like the Eiger, it is too steep to retain snow. It
stands over the Unteraar and Oberaar Glaciers, the sources of the Aar
River. There was none of the usual snow or ice on summit lake as we
reached the Grimsel Pass (2165m).

http://www.grimselpass.ch/

From the Grimsel, the Rhone Valley made a beautiful panorama in the
afternoon light, without the usual afternoon fog to wipe out the view.
Nearly straight below, under a series of hairpin turns, was Gletsch
(1759m), with its hotels, train station, and road junction with the
Furka Pass. Above to the east, the Galenstock (3583m) and the gap of
Furka Pass to the south were the backdrop for the Rhone Glacier and
Hotel Belvedere. We stopped in Gletsch at the Dampfbahn Furka
Bergstrecke (DFB Furka Steam Railway) train station and perused their
collection of historic books and paid membership dues before riding up
the Furka Pass.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s67.html

The climb is easy with only one steep section before the photogenic
hairpin turn below the Belvedere (2272m). This place offers a great
opportunity to pose with the bicycle in a hairpin turn with a glacier
backdrop.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s10.html

The Furka Pass (2431m), 266m higher than the Grimsel, lies in the gap
at the head of this bare valley, swept clean except for some shrubs,
by winter avalanches. The Furka gives an awesome panorama that, as I
experienced once on an exceptionally clear day, can include the
Matterhorn to the west. Below, the DFB west portal of its summit
tunnel appeared tiny in this gigantic landscape.

http://www.furka-bergstrecke.ch/

We crossed the Furka summit and coasted swiftly through Tiefenbach and
Galenstock on the long 8% descent to Realp (1538m) at the base of the
grade. We cruised on the long straight road down the valley, next
to the Furka Oberalp RR to Hospental (1452m), the junction of the
Gotthard and Furka Passes. As usual, we found a good dinner and
lodging at Hotel Rössli where we were welcomed as "regulars".

http://www.zumdoerfli.ch/roessli/hotel.htm

----------------------------------------------------------------------

3. Sunday, 30 June (Hospental - Borgosesia; 197km, 1264m):

We rode up the old cobblestone street of Hospental, formerly the main
road in the days when highways connected towns and had no reason to
bypass them. We joined the wide concrete Gotthard highway at the
Furka junction and started up the pass. Here, above tree line, only
scrub brush, grass, wildflowers, and alpenrosen decorate the
landscape. The alpenrose, an azalea prevalent throughout the Alps,
has blossoms with pink and red offset against dark green leaves, often
surrounded by bouquets of deep blue gentians, pale blue
forget-me-nots, and many varieties of daisies and dandelions.

As often, various motor rallies take place on summer weekends and
today it was Lanz Bulldog day, for the one-cylinder farm tractor that
plowed the big fields of Europe in years past. Beautifully restored
tractors with cabs, painted with shiny auto enamel, came rolling by
with the distinctive thump-thump-thump... of that huge cylinder. Each
had a trailer since farm tractors don't have storage space.

home.germany.net/101-27793/bulldog.htm

I posed for a photo oat the Gotthard (2108m) summit sign at the lake
as I had on my first tour in 1959. We photographed the serpentine
curves of the old Val Tremola road from the new road before entering
the long tunnel that emerges high above the Val Bedretto on a flying
hairpin turn, 520m above Fontana. Below, at the Fortezza (1551m),
bicycles must take the old ROUGH road paved with 10cm grey granite
cubes, where the center stripe is made of orange granite. Pavement is
especially bad in curves because the stones are tilted from side
forces. The road levels off and returns to smooth pavement in Airolo
(1165m), the south portal of the Gotthard railway and highway tunnels.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s04a.html
http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s01A.html

From Airolo the road, autostrada, railway and Ticino River cross each
other often as they descend the Valle Levantina. Below Airolo lie two
relatively flat valleys, each with a town at the lower and upper end
that give their names to the Ambri-Piotta and Rodi-Fiesso valleys. At
Piotta the world's steepest federal railway, connects a large SBB aka
FFS (in Ticino) hydroelectric plant with its reservoir, the Lago di
Ritom. The Swiss federal railway logo looks odd on such a funicular
rail car. (FFS) Ferrovie Federali Svizzere.

http://mikeaz.free.fr/suisse/piotta01.htm

At the end of the Rodi-Fiesso Valley we descended from Rodi (925m) to
Faido (711m), while trains, some with distinctive freight and
international passenger cars, passed us in both directions on the
adjacent doubletrack Gotthard railway. "Hey, haven't we seen that
train somewhere before?" Indeed we had, because the SBB uses two
stacked corkscrew looping tunnels to lose altitude on the steep slope.

We passed two more circular tunnels at Anzonico and then rolled into
the wide and flat valley just above Bodio (322m), the south portal of
a new 58km Gotthard railway Tunnel and pedaled on to Biasca where due
to the heat and drought the crossing waterfalls were not crossing and
had only a trickle. In Bellinzona (239m) we took a road construction
detour around Giubiasco that got us away from the Lugano and Locarno
traffic and put us back on our route after Cadenazzo.

http://www.alptransit.ch/pages/e/galerie/index.php#

Most traffic went south over the Monte Ceneri Pass (559m) to Lugano
and Milano while just beyond, at Quartino, most remaining traffic went
toward Locarno on the west shore of Lago Maggiore (193m). We stayed
on the east shore, stopping in San Nazzaro for lunch. We crossed the
Italian border at Zenna where were waved on as usual... but not
always.

In Luino my favorite bancomat wasn't working so we had to find another
to stock up on Euros. From Luino we rode along the lake in a series
of tunnels and slide protection galleries and then climbed over a hill
to Laveno. We took the ferry across the lake and landed in Intra,
on the fancier western shore with its famous resorts.

We rode up the Valle d'Ossola along the Toce River, that flows from
the San Giacomo Pass, and rode along the estuary to Fondo where we
crossed the river to Gravellona and climbed a short hill to Omegna
(298m). Our road stayed above Lago d'Orta (290m) with steep shores on
three sides. We rode along the high east shore, looking down on
resorts and old villas along picturesque shores and a lovely La
Basilica di San Giulio in a monastery on the island of San Giulio off
the tip of a small peninsula.

http://www.orta.net/

At Gozzano (367m), on the south end of the lake, our road headed west
along the hills climbing a short steep hill to Pogno (461m), where the
four-spigot fountain on the piazza would have come in handy but it was
out of order. We climbed west up a canyon in a blooming chestnut
forest, typical of the southern slope of the Alps, and broke through
the ridge at an unexpected tunnel (598m), from where it was all down
hill to Borgosesia (359m). The Sesia was still not entirely recovered
from the summer floods of 2002 but there were swans and ducks in the
less than crystal clear waters. We found a reasonable hotel and had a
cool nights rest, here in the Piemonte.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

4. Monday, 01 July (Borgosesia - Carignano; 161km, 1004m):

We climbed to Valle Mosso and rolled down the long descent to
Pettinengo in the valley, after which we crossed a few low ridges to
Biella (410m). Following the edge of the hills westward, we skirted
several glacial ridges that slope to the Po Valley to reach Zubiena
(492m) and descend to Ivrea (254m) and the Dora Baltea River. We gave
my cycling friend, Brian Tomlin a call, so he could meet us at the
bridge over the Dora Baltea in the center of town. We followed him to
his place where he prepared a gourmet meal for us and his wife who
appreciates his skills as an Anglo-Italian chef.

After lunch, Brian suited up and paced us on a fast ride through the
hills on back roads to Torino on our way south. He dropped us off at
Fiano at a Shell mini-mart to return to work as we headed south to HWY
SS20, the Tenda highway. As we entered Torino, traffic was less than
ideal at what seemed to be rush hour. We threaded our way through the
major routes but there was no letup as we took a slower route through
town that had streetcar tracks in a reserved right-of-way, a salvation
of sorts. Just the same Jeanie took a spill on the tracks and bruised
her hip.

When we reached Carignano, we stopped and an owner of an electrical
appliance shop became concerned about Jeanie's distress. He took us
to the local first aid crew who seemed unduly enthusiastic to have a
patient. We were glad for the ice-pack but the ride in their
ambulance to Torino was not what we had in mind. Once caught in the
emergency room routine it was hard to get out. However, we were
reassured that nothing was broken and that the injury needed healing
time. After some overnight rest in a hotel in Torino, we dodged out
of a return visit the next day and headed south by taxi, picked up our
bicycles and were on our way.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

5. Tuesday, 02 July (Carignano - Sospel); 173km, 2096m):

Rt SS20, the Tenda highway, took us south to Carmagnola, and Raconigi,
the former residence of the Savoy family before Italy abolished its
monarchy. We took pictures of storks nesting in large decorative urns
atop the huge red sandstone palace before heading south to Cuneo.

http://www.leksykony.pl/zamki/wlochy/racconigi.html

As we approached Cuneo, the road turned west along the north bank of
the Stura di Demonte, where a beautifully restored bi-level stone arch
bridge carries road and railway high above the river. As often, there
were plenty of delicious tart Japanese plums on trees along the bridge
approach. I ate plenty of plums for my vitamin-C RDA.

We took a right just after the bridge and stopped for a good drink
from the huge fountain in front of the Cuneo train station. We rode
up to Borgo San Dalmazzo, where turned south on the Tenda Highway
(SS20) to Robilante while SS21 heads west to France over the Col de
Larche. Being Sunday, the chainsaw store in Robilante was closed, so
we couldn't say hello to Eliano Giordanengo the proprietor of this
unusually located shop of which I have reported in the past. However,
we stopped by Ristorante-Albergo Aquila Riale, one of my favorite
stops, for a good lunch that would take us over the hill to France.

Most of the storm damage from last year, along the Vermenagna River,
was repaired with hardly a mark except to the inquisitive eye. From
Limone (990m), the climb to the tunnel gets steeper and makes a few
large hairpin turns on the way up to entrance of the 3180m-long Tenda
highway tunnel (1279m), which was completed in its present form in
1882. A "bicycles prohibited" icon sign stands at the tunnel portal,
just beyond a small shop with refreshments and a good selection of
local maps. Meanwhile, the old Tenda road, looking like a hotel
driveway, takes off across the street to Limonetto. Pavement ends at
the summit and we were back on the 19th century road.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/f64.html

Sixty or so hairpin turns descend steeply into the ravine of the Roya
River. The loose and deeply rutted turns of last year had been
repaired, making the descent easier. Historic photographs of mule and
horse teams, steam tractors, and solid-tired chain-driven trucks that
once traveled this road make today's "hardships" pale in comparison.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/f89.html

Below, in the rocky gorge of the Roya River, we finally left the
gravel and got on the swift smooth curves of the Tende highway, French
Rt N204, where it emerges from the tunnel (1279m). The railway
emerges from its tunnel at Vievola (990m), only to vanish into a loop
tunnel followed by many bridges as it descends to Tende (816m). The
road gradient is about 8% here, so it is not difficult to keep a good
pace down into the Soarge Gorge. The road to the town of Soarge heads
into a tunnel whose few windows in the canyon wall reveal its route as
it climbs to Soarge, a strip of houses glued to the cliffs, some with
as much a hundred meter freefall from their windows.

http://tinyurl.com/k8b7
http://www.provencebeyond.com/villphotos/breilP01.html

After the brisk ride down the Roya, past Tende and the Gorge du
Soarge, we stopped in St. Dalmas for a grocery store snack before
turning west up Rt D2204, just above Breil (286m), to the Col de
Brauis (879m). The landscape is Mediterranean with sparse vegetation,
olive trees and blooming bright yellow leafless broom (gorse) with a
pleasantly sweet scent. About 2/3 the way up, a lovely fountain with
a sign on it to not drink the water was good as ever and I've never
suffered for it over many years although my sore throat wasn't getting
any better.

The descent to Sospel (349m), the junction of the Brauis, Braus, and
Turini passes is pleasantly gradual. We took a picture of the old
stone arch bridge and its collage of buildings over the Bevera River,
reminiscent of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Since it was dinner
time, we found a hotel and ate at the "ice cream store" and deli where
the proprietor, my favorite small town philosopher, presides. Over
the years, he has greeted us as though we were regulars although
visits are only once a year. This time I got his e-mail address.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

6. Wednesday, 03 July (Sospel - St Martin Vesubie; 54km, 1668m):

We headed up the valley on Rt D70 to the Turini Pass (1607m) of Monte
Carlo Automobile Rallye fame. After climbing up the wall of the gorge
of the Bevera, the road enters a pine and larch forest that offers
shade for the bicyclist to make this a pleasant climb. I felt my sore
throat changing into a coughing cold although I climbed with relative
ease. After the descent with its grand views of the Gorges de Vesubie
and the many twists of the Turini Pass below, Bollene-Vesubie
presented the usual portrait shot before we descended to the Vesubie
river (520m).

http://tinyurl.com/k8nn

On the road up the gradual grade to St. Martin Vesubie (930m), fever
caught up with me and I had a hard time reaching town, resting a
couple of times even though it wasn't hot and the grade was light.
The usual Hotel Le Gelas was full so we found a hotel on the main
square where we ate dinner and I took a big rest. St. Martin Vesubie is
a pleasant town lying at the foot of the narrows leading to Col
St. Martin aka Colmain (1500m).

http://www.provencebeyond.com/villph...tmartinP1.html

----------------------------------------------------------------------

7. Thursday, 04 July (St. Martin Vesubie - St. Martin Vesubie; 0km):

No fireworks, just rest.
----------------------------------------------------------------------

8. Thursday, 05 July (St. Martin Vesubie - Barcelonnette; 140km, 3444m):

After a days rest I felt better but unsure of how my wheezing body
would work. To my surprise I got better as I rode up the Colmain.
The climb exposes a beautiful panorama of St. Martin and the Vesubie
Valley as the road, notched into cliffs, passes between rough hewn
tunnels. In several of these tunnels... swoosh! Crag Martins darted
past, undaunted by cars and trucks. These grey-brown, swallow-like
birds, tend their nests in the rocky tunnel ceilings where their young
are safe from predators. Traffic and diesel exhaust seem not to
bother them. We descended toward the Tinée, first through a large
grassy ski area, and then into dry sparse vegetation in the red rocky
Gorges de Valabre (503m).

http://www.fortunecity.com/greenfiel...ionroquero.htm

Across the Tinée, in the Gorges de Valabre, roads that are tiring just
to look at follow tortuous paths up through cliffs to mountain
villages like Ilonse (1200m). We crossed the Tinée at St. Sauveur
(510m) on Rt D30 and headed up the Col de la Couillole (1678m). Near
the top, we passed the ancient village of Rubion, a typical hill town
located on steep terrain as a protection against invasion. Over the
Couillole we descend to Beuil (1450m) and climbed to Croix de Valberg
(1829m).

http://www.provencebeyond.com/villages/roubion.html

We took the "back" road, Rt D29, down to Guillaumes (1200m) and rode
up Rt N2202 in the Gorges de Daluis along the Var River toward the Col
de la Cayolle (2327m). This area appeals to me especially because
most of it lies in a national park with no ski areas and accompanying
development and having only villages with simple accommodations. The
Cayolle is also the first 2000m pass I rode over on my 1960 tour from
which it has remained unchanged. The climb, and especially summit, is
set in the midst of steep alpine meadows that were covered with an
exceptional display of wildflowers this time. There is nothing more
than a narrow parking strip at the summit. We descended through the
Gorges du Bachelard along the Torrente Bachelard to Barcelonnette
(1136m) where we found a comfortable hotel.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

9. Friday, 06 July (Barcelonnette - Le Lauzet; 126km, 2940m):

As most days, we started off with a tailwind, even if it was only a
light breeze, as we rode up the Ubey River to Jausiers and Condamine
(1267m) at the foot of the Col de Larch and Col de Vars. Just above
Condamine the mountain is riddled with tunnels from the valley floor
to cliffs above, where huge fortifications keep a silent vigil for
enemies long gone. Many bullet holes in the stone buildings remain as
combat mementos.

Illuminated in early sunlight, fortifications stood out high above in
the clear morning air as we rode up the Ubey on the Route des Grand
Alpes (D902). We began climbing the Col de Vars (2111m) just beyond
the junction with the Col de Larche (1991m), aka Colle della Maddalena
from the Italian side. Interestingly, Col de Vars has kilometer posts
with distance to the summit and average gradient, and there is a
randonneur sign-in stamp at the summit, something we didn't notice
elsewhere.

At the summit I was surprised to see the ramshackle corrugated steel
shed, that I first saw in 1960 and had collapsed during the winter of
2001, was again repaired after being a mere pile of corrugated sheet
metal last year. Of course I bought some post cards and a soda.

On the descent to Guillestre (1000m), I could make out the gap of the
Galibier Pass in the distant panorama of snowy peaks and glaciers
above the Durance Valley. We took the Route des Grand Alpes (D902)
over the Izoard instead of the main route (N94) up the valley to
Briancon. Our road followed the rugged gorge of the Guil River and
turned up the Riviere canyon where the Passo Agnello route (D947)
comes in from the east. It was easy going up to Arvieux, where we
stopped for a grocery store lunch. Across the street from the store,
an alcove under the city hall with a bench, water fountain, and public
restroom, served as our lunch room.

Our tailwind turned into a headwind as I started up the straight steep
section from Arvieux past Brunnisard to the Col d'Izoard. The going
got easier above Brunnisard, where the grade eased where the road goes
into traverses and hairpin turns that gave shelter from the wind. At
the false summit we saw the rest of the climb across the canyon
zig-zagging to the obelisk that marks the summit. With a short
descent and a bit of climbing, we arrived at the Coppi memorial where
a bronze caricature of Fausto is mounted on a marble plaque. This
treeless landscape looks like the moon, with vast slopes of dark grey
scree at the angle of repose. The exposure makes this climb
especially difficult in warm weather.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/f72.html

From the Izoard (2361m), the gap of the Galibier Pass was again
visible in the distance. Descending the unspectacular road, we
arrived in Briancon (1391m), a large town overrun with tourists and
traffic, where we took Rt N91 (also D902) with its gentle slope of 2%
to 4% to the Col du Lautaret (2058m). We stopped at Hotel des Amis in
Le Lauzet for the day.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

10. Thursday, 07 July (Le Lauzet - Bonneval-sur-Arc); 113km, 2146m):

The Lautaret pass being a fairly flat ride all the way from Briancon
made it was a pleasant warmup before heading up the Galibier that is a
bit steeper but still mild up to the summit tunnel that has been
reopened after 40 years or so, enabling tour Buses to once again carry
their guests over this pass.

The new Hotel des Glaciers on the Lautaret summit, now known as Hotel
Bonnabel, was splendidly built after the old hotel burned three years
ago. Last year I found that the new hotel was designed around the
grand dining room and centerpiece of grandfather Bonnabel's unfinished
project and that it exceeded the expense and class of hotel that I
chose to stay in. I tried it once and that was enough. Neither of
the Bonnabels were there when we dropped in to say hello, so we rode
on up the Galibier in the cool morning air.

http://tinyurl.com/kdds

In contrast to last year, cars were waiting at the traffic light at
the one way summit tunnel (2555m) so I didn't try to ride through it
as last year.

We road over the top (2645m), where we had a panorama of the glaciers
of the Massif de la Vanoise (3600m) and the Massif du Sorieller
(4000m). The descent from the tunnel portal is about 6%-8% to Plan
Lachat where it requires pedaling over a long flat section.

http://www.memoire-du-cyclisme.net/e...tation_tdf.php
http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/f30.html

Valloire (1430m) streets were jammed with an ATV show that took over
the whole town, we lost a bit of time by not taking the detour around
town and weaving through all the stands and parked vehicles. I didn't
believe a trade show could so solidly block all the streets that a
bicycle couldn't get through. It was cloudy with high overcast as we
climbed from Valloire (1430m), to the Telegraph (1570m) before
descending to St Michel du Maurienne (712m).

Looking down from the Telegraph, I was reassured that highway
construction had progressed enough that we would have it fairly easy
in contrast to the detours and heavy construction traffic of last
year. In fact it was fairly calm as we rode up the old highway with
most traffic on the motorway. At Modane (1057m), the railway heads
for the Frejus tunnel (built in 1871) to Torino and the motorway heads
to its 12.9Km tunnel leaving us on a fairly empty Rt N6 toward
Lanslebourg (1400m).

http://tinyurl.com/kdo4

Just above Modane, in Le Bourget, we could see the aeronautical
research center below at the end of the valley as we climbed over
the narrows of the Barrire de l'Esseillon. This pass is guarded by a
huge fortress that in ancient times posed a formidable obstacle to
invaders.

http://www.onera.fr/geographie/modane-avrieux.html
http://www.onera.fr/geographie-en/modane-avrieux.html

I had seen this research center, with its conspicuous group of four
spherical air tanks typical of supersonic research, on previous tours
and wondered whether it was still active. As the noise abated we
descended past the Barrire de l'Esseillon to Lanslebourg for a food
stop before the Madeleine (1760m) a short but steep pass that got us
into the high valley of the arc river.

Above Modane (1057m), after most traffic took the highway tunnel, we
climbed a pleasantly empty road that rises above Avrieux, the site of
subsonic to hypersonic wind tunnels, located here after WWII, probably
for abundant hydropower. This time, as we reached the fortress at the
Barrire de l'Esseillon, the wind tunnel went into action, with roar
of a 747 on takeoff, for about two minutes. In the valley the sound
must be deafening, which this makes me wonder what the residents have
to say about it.

The road levels off next to the Barriere de l'Esseillon, a deep defile
of the Arc River and natural obstacle, guarded by a huge fortress.
Tourists cross the breathtaking gorge to the fort on the Pont du
Diable, a slender truss foot bridge that accentuates the depth of the
chasm. Beyond the gorge, we descended to the valley floor and rolled
gradually up to Termignon (1300m). From here, it's a short climb up
the valley to Lanslebourg (1399m), the foot of the Col du Mont Cenis
(2083m), which heads south to Torino.

We stopped for a snack in Lanslevillard, the upper end of Lanslebourg
before the Col du Madeleine (1746m) a short but steep climb into the
high valley of the Arc. On the way o Bonneval-sur-Arc at the end of
the valley great panoramas of the Glaciers de Evettes on the slopes of
the Croce Rossa (3546m), Via di Ciamarella (3676m), and l'Albaron
(3638m) open to the east. We stooped in Bonneval-sur-Arc (1835m) at
the big sweeping turn the main climb to the Col d'Iseran begins.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

11. Friday, 08 July (Bonneval-sur-Arc - Etroubles); 150km, 2968m):

We made the two long traverses from Bonneval the Gorge de la Lenta, a
box canyon that lies south of the pass. The road climbs the east wall
of the gorge over waterfalls and through bare rock tunnels. Near the
top of the cliff, the Lenta cascades into the gorge through a
slot. Just above the lip of the gorge, the road crosses the river on a
stone bridge and takes two long traverses in a narrow valley to reach
the top of the Col d'Iseran (2770m) surrounded by a breathtaking
panorama.

After a photo stop at the large concrete sign at the summit, we put on
my jacket and descended to Val d'Isere. With beautifully clear skies,
many vistas that I hadn't seen in recent years were visible and
reminders of past tours. At Ste. Foy-Tarentaise (1051m) we took Rt
N90, a shortcut to Col du Petite St. Bernard, something I hadn't tried
before. This was not to be a great shortcut because the road winds
around and goes up and down through several villages without much
scenic interest.

We joined Rt. N90 Below Rosiere (1850m) and rode on to the Col du
Petite St. Bernard (2189m) with a grand view of surrounding snow
capped peaks. After an descent along the Dora di Vinnei to Pré
St. Didier, where the road from Courmayeur joins to continue down the
Dora Baltea to Aosta (581m). We took the road to the Col du Grand
St. Bernard up to Etroubles (1264m). Although there is no separate
autostrada, traffic was moderate to light, probably because the road
is fairly straight and has a mild grade at least up to Etroubles where
we stopped for the day.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

12. Saturday, 09 July (Etroubles - Brig-Ried; 150km, 1692m):

After breakfast we pushed off into beautiful sunny weather and rolled
up the gradual climb of the Valle del Gran San Bernardo to Bosses
(1500m) where the St. Bernard autostrada begins, leaving us with a
nearly empty road. The road is a bit narrower reminding me of my
first ride here in 1960 when there was even less traffic.

Val d'Aosta originally being a French speaking region is a mix of
French and Italian names of places in both languages and mixed.
Courmayeur at the entrance to the Monte Bianco Tunnel to Chamonix, for
instance is almost entirely French speaking.

As we reached the summit of the Gran San Bernardo (2469m) we rode
around the summit lake to take a picture at one of the last Swiss
concrete road signs of the 1950's posed just as I had back then. The
sign is still there because the snow plow driver cannot knock it down,
it being up against the monastery building... but he tried. The base
of the post is cracked to expose its reinforcing bar.

I found the kiosks had horribly bad taste but they sell what the
tourists buy and that is fuzzy, toy St. Bernard dogs in all sizes from
pocket to life size. The descent seems short before joining the
tunnel road, although it is the same elevation change as the south
side. The road has long avalanche sheds and fast alignment so costing
at maximum speed is a breeze.

We reached the valley at Orsiérs (901m) and rode the slight grade to
Martigny (471m) pedaling lightly. As expected, we had a tailwind up
the Rhone Valley that made the altitude gain of 210m over 82km almost
like flatland. In fair weather, this east-west valley usually has a
brisk up hill wind all summer.

Traffic was light, because most of it was on the parallel A9 motorway.
This broad valley is the great fruit basket of Switzerland, just as
the Alto Adige is in Italy. Orchards and vineyards fill the valley
and reach high above on sunny terraced hillsides. Most vineyards are
practically paved with flat river bed rocks to conserve water.

http://www.sion.ch/

After Sion with its twin knobs with castles we passed Raron, at the
portal of the new Lötschberg base tunnel. Tunneling machinery, like
that at the Gotthard, was hard at work bringing out huge tailings from
under the mountain. Visp, the gateway to Zermatt has become a huge
industrial zone with chemicals, oil refineries and truck depots,
something that is more evident when seen from the Lötschberg (BLS)
railway that gives a birds eye view of the valley on its way up to the
tunnel.

After a brief visit in Brig (681m) we started up the Simplon Pass to
stop in Brig-Ried (900m) for the night. It had been a warm afternoon
but up on the hill, the air was cooler and pleasant.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

13. Sunday, 10 July (Brig-Ried - Ronco 114km, 3100m):

As I rode up the Simplon, Jeanie took the old road that is both
shorter and steeper, and joins the new road just above the curved
Schallberg tunnel, in the Gantertal, high above the Saltina, the river
that flows through Brig. About a kilometer farther, on this nearly
flat section of the road, a high concrete suspension bridge crosses
the Gantertal to Berisal (1520m).

http://tinyurl.com/k8at

From Berisal we continued in the shade of a larch forest up to
treeline where long avalanche shelters cover the road most of the
distance to the Simplon summit (2005m). The air on the climb was
pleasantly cool and under the clear sky the Eiger and the Aletsch
Glacier were visible in the haze to the north. The Simplon Pass is
one of the more exciting and scenic routes in the Alps. Unlike other
major passes, it has no highway tunnel beneath it, yet has remarkably
little traffic.

http://www.picswiss.ch/Land10/VS-10-05.html

Today was a low-traffic day as we swept down into the galleries along
the granite walls of the Gondo gorge, high above the Diveria River in
the Val Divedro. After a long zigzag down the wall, we reached the
small villages of Gabi, Gondo, and Iselle (672m) where the 20km
Simplon railway tunnel emerges from its south portal to vanish again
into a tunnel that makes a loop in the mountain to lose elevation at
Varzo (532m). The Varzo bypass, being built over the Diveria looked
like it was almost finished last year but is seems to be stalled at
the moment. The long curved bypass is entirely on a steel bridge over
the Diveria.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s25.html

About a kilometer above Crevoladossola (337m), which lies at the end
of the narrow part of the canyon above the Valle d'Ossola, the highway
enters an autos-only tunnel where bicycles must (and prefer to) take
the old road into town. Shortly beyond the tunnel entrance we stopped
at the graceful and ancient stone arch bridge with Jeanie sitting on
the railing at the top of the arch. We turned east at Crevoladossola
to the Val Antigorio passing Crodo (the home of Crodo Acqua Minerale)
and on to Baceno (655m) for lunch at the confluence of the Toce and
Devero rivers.

It being Sunday, the great waterfall, the Cascata del Toce, would be
flowing, but from what was coming downstream, it looked as though the
heat wave and drought reduced the falls to a minimum. Ente Nazionale
Energia Elettrica (ENEL) the electric power authority takes all the
water except Sundays and Thursday afternoons. From Baceno we followed
the Toce up the Val Formazza where big trucks carried huge blocks of
granite down to the stone works in Domodossola. This region has many
granite quarries that supply these huge blocks to be made into beams,
posts, slabs, curbs, table tops, roofing stone and decorative
sculptures.

As we approached the top of the valley we could see the falls visible
through the trees as the road began its climb in the granite wall of
the gorge. Much of the road beneath the falls is in tunnels and
avalanche sheds that end just before the Albergo Cascata del Toce di
Riale (1675m) that stands at the edge of the waterfall.

http://www.itinera2000.org/tedesco/w...serted-117.htm

This year the Giro d'Italia on Friday, 30 May, had a stage finish
here, with Gilberto Simoni winning the stage in his 39t-21t gear, as
he says. However, for touring, this is a beautiful route that above
the falls enters a high Valle di Morasco with the village of Riale
(1728m). From Riale we took the San Giacomo pass that crosses the
border into Switzerland into the Val Bedretto.

The San Giacomo is an unpaved road from the days of yore, when the
road, probably first built by ENEL to the dam and to end of the lake.
The unpaved road traverses the south side of the valley up to the dam.
Although the road has not been graded recently, minimal car traffic
keeps it ridable. Navigating the rough surface was better than last
year with little need for dismounting. The solitude and striking
landscape make this one of the great roads in the Alps.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/i54.html
http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/i35.html

The road levels off in the Val Toggia (2000m) and then climbs above
the dam of Lago Toggia (2191m). With the heat wave that preceded our
tour, there was no snow or ice on the lake as there was in other
years. Today the lake was emerald blue and surrounded by green
meadows and wildflowers. The road rises gradually past the lake to
the San Giacomo Pass (2313m), where a small stone house at the end of
the road marks the Swiss border. From here, only hiking trails
continue. Over the years I have found one route that works best, the
one marked for the Gries Pass (2479m) and from it, one that descends
steeply to the Nufenen Pass road in the Val Bedretto.

The technique I use for descending steep hiking trails, is to walk
next to the bicycle applying the front brake while not restraining the
bicycle by pulling back (up) on the bars. Pulling on the bars lifts
the front wheel and puts the entire braking burden on the legs of the
hiker. When I saw that Jeanie was having difficulty descending the
trail, we traded bicycles and I discovered that what was easy with my
bicycle, even with one hand on the bars, was difficult with Jeanie's
dual pivot brakes, with their higher mechanical advantage. Although
we weren't fast, the descent was, because it was so steep.

Near the bottom of the trail a mine seeking mountain crystals cut
across the path so that we had to take a steep cutoff. However, the
miners had installed a good temporary bridge across the Ticino River
so we didn't get wet shoes walking through ice water. We stopped at
Ronco (1487m), the first town, a few kilometers down the valley.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

14. Monday, 11 July (Ronco - Bregalia 190km, 3000m):

The morning was a breeze as we coasted down the Bedretto valley to
Airolo and took a picture of the flying hairpin turn on the Gotthard
from Fontana. From Airolo we retraced our earlier route to Castione
(242m), and turned east before Bellinzona, up the Val Mesolcina to the
San Bernardino Pass. The valley is fairly flat until Soazza, where
the road begins to climb smartly to Mesocco (790m).

As we passed Ristorante Beer in Mesocco, where the same host presided
for as many years as I can remember, there was a faded "Chiuso" sign
in the door. This was sad because I so much wanted to once more
experience the owner's ability to recite complex menus from memory and
to keep in his head what every guest ordered without notes. The last
two years, when he was still in business, I arrived on Wednesday, his
"rest day".

We stopped at the grocery store just up the road and confirmed the
suspicion that Hotel Restaurant Beer was closed for good. After a
snack we started up the granite paving stones of Mesocco's 13% main
street into a light breeze. The grade eased a bit at the end of the
cobbles as the road climbed hairpin turns to Pian San Giacomo (1170m).
From here the road meanders across a small valley before climbing over
a ridge to San Bernardino (1607m), a charming little town in a glacial
depression with a lake. The motorway takes a tunnel from here into
the Hinterrhein Valley, leaving us to ride in peace over the pass.

After lunch, we rode up the most scenic part of this climb through
glacial formations, amidst running water and green meadows of
wildflowers, bog cotton, and alpenrosen. Remnants of the ancient
Roman road, with large edge stones, still remained in a few places
where it had not been obliterated by the new road.

We rode around the summit lake and past the San Bernardino monastery
at the top (2603m). There were no dogs with rum kegs hanging from
their collars like those in the gift shop, and I'm not sure there ever
were any.

We descended into the Rheinwald Valley where it was pleasantly still
in contrast to the usual gunnery practice on the artillery range above
the village of Hinterrhein. We crossed the Hinterrhein River at the
motorway tunnel portal, passed the town of Hinterrhein (1624m), and
took the frontage road down to Splugen (1457m) into a light headwind.
After stopping for some food at the market we turned south up the
Splugen Pass.

We climbed along the stream through lush green meadows of the upper
valley were rich with the usual wildflowers and orange dandelions that
seem to thrive at higher elevations. We saw only wagtails along the
creek where in past years I had seen Dippers, odd birds that walk
under water. A Swiss Customs house lies above a stack of hairpin
turns, a couple of kilometers below the summit, standing forlornly on
an outcropping in the eye of a hairpin turn. Border guards have a
sweeping view of the road from the valley up to the Splugen summit
(2117m). Farther down at the Italian station, they gave our
'documenti' a thorough investigation, asked no questions and then let
us continue.

Monte Spluga (1908m), a small village with granite houses with granite
roofs at the upper end of a large ENEL lake, looked a little less
depressing in sunshine than it usual. The granite face of the dam
carries a giant relief of "MDIVXXXV", its construction date. From
here the road is unusual in that much of it is covered in avalanche
protection tunnels, some of which are hairpin turns, stacked one above
the other in cliffs. Although most of its one-lane sections have been
widened, tour busses still avoid it for its tight curves. An
alternate, but longer route with more generous curves branches off in
Isolato.

We descended the Val San Giacomo along the Liro river as the valley
widened and became less steep on the way to Chiavenna (333m) in the
Val Bregaglia. We turned up the valley toward the Maloja Pass and
St. Moritz, crossing into Switzerland at Castasegna (696m) and up to
the lovely old fashioned Post Hotel Bregaglia (820m) in Bondo, where
we stopped for the night.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

15. Tuesday, 12 July (Bregalia - Temú 143km, 2810m):

I was glad to see that although the road was widened, the leaning rock
above Sottoponte was not destroyed and is now a narrows, probably
because the new bypass tunnel was completed before getting a chance to
blast this beautiful artifact.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s15.html

We rode up the Val Bregaglia along the Mera to Casaccia (1458m), where
the Septimer Pass (2310m), a Roman road, heads north, an
interesting climbing adventure that I once took over to Bivio (1769m)
on the Julier Pass (2284m). From Casaccia the road climbs steeply
into a bowl and ascends the south wall to the Maloja Pass. The steep
ramp was modified recently so that it has a pair of hairpin turns at
the upper end... a sort of bandaid for an excessively steep section.

The Maloja Pass (1815m) is one sided with no descent to the east,
which the road convincingly demonstrates as it follows the shore of
the Silsersee and the slightly lower Silvaplanasee. After the
St. Moritzersee, the road descends through a narrows into the Val
Bernina where we joined the Bernina road at Champagna (1714m). We
rode south through Pontresina (1805m) where we made a lunch stop at a
grocery store.

Up the Val Bernina, at the Bellavista curve railway crossing (1950m)
of the RhB Railway, we stopped for a picture, but as the year, no
train came by to be photographed in front of the glacier. Instead we
took pictures of bicycle racers rounding the curve. The upper Val
Bernina is fairly flat but after the Diavolezza and Lagalp funiculars,
the road climbs the last bump to the Bernina summit (2323m). Two
lakes lie on opposite sides of the divide, where the waters of deep
blue Lago Negro flow via the Inn and Danube rivers to the Black Sea,
while those of milky white Lago Bianco flow via the Cavaliasco and
Adda rivers to the Po and the Adriatic Sea.

http://www.trainpics.de/gallery/swit...a/rb17134.html

The south side of the Bernina Pass is one of the longer descents in
the Alps as it makes its way into the Val Poschiavo. A kilometer or
so below the summit, we passed the junction (2045m) to the Forcola di
Livigno pass (2315m) that connects to Livigno from which a road
connects tot he Ofen Pass and Bormio. After riding around Lago di
Poschiavo we made the fast descent to Brusio where we stopped at
Hotel Bottoni for a visit and a large ice cream sundae. Well fueled
we passed the famous Brusio Loop of the RhB railway and crossed into
Italy to Madonna di Tirano.

http://www.rail-info.ch/RhB-BB/pics/rhb5374.jpg

A short way down the valley from Madonna di Tirano we crossed the
valley to Stazzona and the road up through the woods to intersect the
Aprica Pass road (Rt N39). From Aprica (1176m) on the summit, we
descended the long gentle grade to Edolo (690m), passing the foot of
the Mortirolo Pass (1896m) at Monno (868m) and stopping in Temú.

At Temú (1144m), just below Ponte di Legno, we found lodging just up
the street from the Locanda Veduta dell'Adamello that was booked full
but had room for us for a delicious dinner. Silvano Macculotti, the
proprietor, explained that his old hotel across the street was wrapped
up in family disagreement, his family having operated the hotel for
more than three generations.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

16. Wednesday, 13 July (Temú - Kortsch; 110km, 2964m):

We rode through Ponte di Legno (1258m) where Torrente Frigidolfo rages
through the middle of town. We stayed on the north side of the river
to reach the nearly flat, lush green valley below Pezzo (1565m) a
typically picturesque hill town, glued to the side of the mountain in
what appears to be high-risk avalanche territory. The shape of the
slopes above apparently protect it from white death. We climbed
through the larch forest to break out into Appolonia (1585m) where the
Frigidolfo meanders across the flat valley with no hint of its
cascades below, or waterfalls above.

We stopped at the gazebo which currently offers only one flavor of
rusty bubbly mineral water for those who seek its benefits masked by
its foul flavor. This water is thought to give strength to bicyclists
who dare climb the Gavia or at least to those who dare to drink.
After getting past the warning signs of landslides, rockfall,
dangerous narrow road, and a requirement to have tire chains on board
from September to July, we were on our way. Past the second hairpin,
reality strikes as the road goes from highway to driveway width, and
the 16% sign of poster fame sets the tone. The road is only that
steep in a few places, but the signs are a warning for vehicles that
cannot restart on such a grade after meeting a descending vehicle.
The bicyclist can always walk.

We stopped at the cliff, the scene of the poster picture of years ago
that hangs on the wall in the Rifugio Bonetta on the summit. In many
attempts we have not been able to match that photo.

http://tinyurl.com/f389

We stopped in at the Rifugio to say hello to Signor. Bonetta. As last
year, there was "mail" taped to the glass on the poster with a
greeting from a fellow bikie. There were about 100 riders outside
finishing a club hillclimb that came up from Santa Caterina on the
north side. We thanked Signor. Bonetta for his hospitality and rolled
off across the broad summit.

http://www.waltellina.com/ortlescevedale/bonetta/

As we crossed the summit, the Ortler (3905m) and Gran Zebru (3851m)
with their glacial caps and perpetual glistening snow rose to the east
as we descended onto the Valle Valfurva. The Val di Gavia got steeper
as we passed Rifugio Breni (2543m) on the way down to the main road in
Santa Caterina (1734m). Valfurva Valley is a steep dash from the town
of Valfurva (1339m) to Bormio (1197m). We rode up Via Roma, a
pedestrian mall and main street of Bormio, and stopped at the large
Pizzeria across from Braulio liqueur HQ.

Well fed and rested, we rode up the rocky Val Braulio, where the road
clings to the south side below slopes of scree, ducking into the
mountain in long avalanche tunnels before reaching the headwall at
Spondalunga. Here the road makes ten traverses to climb to the Bocca
di Braulio, a curved valley that leads to the Umbrail gap (2502m) and
the Stelvio summit (2757m). From the Umbrail, the last 3km with a
steady 10% climb went well.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/i79.html

As usual, many motorcyclists and bicyclists were gathered at the
summit as Jeanie took my picture crossing the top. We went to the
edge of the precipice to the east where we took pictures of what is
hard to capture with a camera. From here we had a clear view of the
road, glued to the wall, as it starts down the 48 hairpin turns to the
Val di Trafoi. In spite of climbing the Gavia before lunch, I cut
almost a half hour off my time up the hill this afternoon.

http://tinyurl.com/lenc
http://tinyurl.com/len5

As we rolled out of Prato, we ran into our first major headwind but
it only lasted across the Val Venosta to Spondigna, where we crossed
the abandoned FS railway line... wait! the tracks were cleared of
brush and some work had been done on the wires next to the track.
After more than five years of dormancy, the federal railway (FS)
changed its mind and is refurbishing the whole line from Merano to
Málles with new track.

We coasted down to Kortsch, just above Spondigna, found comfortable
Hotel Sonne and relaxed. I needed a rest day and this was a good
location, still up at higher elevations and out in the country.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

17. Thursday, 14 July (Kortsch - Kortsch; 0km, 0m):

----------------------------------------------------------------------

18. Friday, 15 July (Kortsch - Alba; 125km, 1732m):

Although yesterday afternoon was warm, today was the usual pleasantly
cool weather we have had all along. Merano (302m) was 34km down the
Val Venosta and another flat 30km run to Bolzano (262m), a charming
south Tyrolean city on the edge of the Dolomites. We stayed on the
north side of the Val Venosta and found that the old highway, in the
presence of the Autostrada was almost empty as we rode down the valley.

We headed north past the Bolzano train station toward the Isarco
(Eisack) Valley to Cardano, where I couldn't find the road (Rt N241)
other than a large new tunnel that went into the wall north of where
the Ega rushed out of a narrow defile in the rock wall. We were told
that this was the only way now and that bicycles were allowed,
something that was obvious once we went that way. The 1.2km tunnel
took us around the 16% defile for which the Costalunga road was noted.
The tunnel was airy and had broad shoulders, the way a bicyclist would
like.

At the upper portal of the tunnel we rejoined the old road, the
remains of which came shockingly steeply out of the defile below. I
was convinced that this as a positive change for everyone. Besides,
the convenience, the most scenic part of the canyon remained
unchanged. We rode on through Welschnofen (1182m) and into the forest
Just above Hotel Diana, that has a giant mural of Diana the huntress
with bow and arrow, the road flattens as it reaches the summit meadows
and turquoise Lago di Carezza, the reflecting pool for the Latemar
(2842m) with its myriad Dolomite spires. Unfortunately the drought
and heat wave had reduced the surface of the lake to less than half
its usual area and no reflection was seen beneath its steep banks.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/i92.html

Across the meadows, the Rosengarten (2981m) was left in natural stone
color under the light overcast that robbed it of its sunset colors
that give it its name. We passed the junction to the Nigerjoch Pass,
whose lower end is the 24% grade road to Tiers. Then came a short
climb with a few turns to the Costalunga summit (1745m) and a long
gradual descent to Vigo di Fassa and up the valley to Canazei and Alba
(1460m) in the Val di Fassa.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

19. Saturday, 16 July (Alba - Longarone; 130km, 3000m):

Up the valley, a few kilometers from Canazei, we began the climb up
the Fedaia Pass. Here the road goes up the north wall, climbing
through tunnels and avalanche sheds to come out above the concrete
arch dam of the Lago di Fedaia (2054m). We took the old road around
the south side of the lake and crossed over the little bump, the
official Fedaia Pass (2510m) at the far end of the lake. When I first
visited the Fedaia, it went only as far as the dam. The road we came
up is relatively new with its 8% grade but the "old" descends steeply
to the east through a series of hairpin turns followed by a long 13%
straight section into Malga Ciapela (1384m). A little breeze from
ahead prevented me from achieving the usual 100km/h coasting.

From Malga Ciapela we went down into the Serra di Sottoguda canyon
instead of taking the high auto road. This is the beautiful old road,
closed to cars, that winds through the deep and narrow gorge next to
the Torrente Pettorina to Sottoguda. From Caprile (1014m), in the
shadows of Monte Civetta (3220m), we headed north, climbing to Racuva
(1311m) to follow the canyon to Cernadoi (1495m) to join the road to
the Falzarego Pass.

The Falzarego (2105m) lies in a beautiful meadow at the base of Pizo
Lagazuoi (2770m), a striking dolomite peak at the base of which the
Valparola Pass (2192m) heads west into the Val di San Cassiano. The
Falzarego descends gradually to Pocol (1480m) above Cortina, at the
junction with Passo Giau. After a hearty lunch at the restaurant at
the road junction, we headed off toward the Giau, first descending and
then climbing the odd alignment of this ancient road.

Our trip being in almost perpetual clear skies, the scenery was
magnificent as we reached the summit of the Giau (2236m) with a view
across the Valle d' Ampezzo to the Passo Tre Croci and to the
Marmolada to the southwest. Having just eaten lunch we didn't stop at
the Rifugio Piezza (2175m), a half kilometer below the summit, a great
place to eat... and stay for the night.

The descent reminded me of how I rode up this steep grade years ago,
thinking nothing of it. It wasn't paved them. We descended to Selva
di Cadore (1336m) and headed east to Passo Staulanza (1773m) along the
Torrente Fiorentina all the while heading straight for Monte Pelmo
(3168m). The Staulanza is an easy pass and comes as a surprise
because there is no apparent gap past Monte Pelmo. After a hairpin
turn just before the mountain, the pass shows up unexpectedly,

Typical of the Dolomites, this route is a scenic wonder. We rode to
Longarone (472m), notorious for the dam disaster at 22:42 on 09
October 1963 when the town was destroyed by a "tidal wave", that a
landslide from Monte Toc (1921m) had forced over a dam and through a
narrow gulch across from the town, to claim 1909 lives. Our hotel as,
most in that area, had many before and after pictures on its walls.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

20. Sunday, 17 July (Longarone - Cárnia: 143km, 2048m):

We started out under blue skies that gradually turned cloudy as the
day passed. We crossed the valley and rode up the granite wall
through tunnels as we headed to the gap of death for Longarone.
Below, carved into the vertical wall, we saw the old road notched and
tunneled into the gorge as we passed tunnel openings in our toad.
Then we saw the hollow arch of the dam, still in tact, with only a bit
of the rim cracked of on the far side. It is less than 50m across
but at least three times that high, narrowing to almost nothing at its
bottom.

After the last tunnel we emerged just above the dam that still has a
bit of water between it and the mountain that slid into the former
lake. A memorial chapel by Corbusier stands vigil over this disaster.

http://tinyurl.com/li6o (before)
http://tinyurl.com/li6e (after)
http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare...zio/vajont.htm
http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare...io/vajont1.htm
http://www.citysite.it/news/page/fot...ajont/diga.htm

From the dam the road climbs over the mountain that slid into the lake
and descends to Erto (750m), a small town on the far side of a small
pass above the former reservoir. As the map shows, Erto was just
spared of the flood.

http://www.erto.it/diga.htm

We crossed the Passo di San Osvaldo (827m) to a region that doesn't
see much traffic or tourists. The river beds are striking with their
brilliant white dolomite stone and azure green water with such clarity
that the edge of the water is hardly discernable as its color vanishes
to white of the shore. We descended to Barcis (409m) along one of
these rivers, the Torrente Cimoliana, that flows into the Lago di
Barcis, a brilliant emerald in this rough landscape.

The lake drains past a dam into a narrow gorge that is scheduled to be
flooded by a new dam being completed now. I had last ridden through
this fascinating tunnel like road years ago and hoped to see it once
more. The entrance was blocked by a heavy chain-link fence and
warning signs from ENEL. We capitulated, not knowing whether there
were rock slides in the gorge or whether the road was even more
securely blocked at the lower end, which it was.

We took the four kilometer long tunnel, that was built years ago to be
above water. In the meanwhile the dam project was suspended for a
long time and its equipment rusting away the last time I rode through
here. The tunnel was well lighted, was slightly downhill and had
almost no traffic. We climbed over the ridge, the edge of the future
lake, to Maniago (283m) and looked at the downstream side of the dam
as we continued to Pinzano (104m) and headed north up the Val d'Arzino
a little traveled route to Tolmezzo (323m).

This route has a few tunnels along the river before climbing up a
series of hairpin turns that probably offer a striking view of the
river gorge and surrounding mountains if it weren't raining. This was
the only rain of the ride as we climbed climbed the Sella Chianzutan
(954m). After a bit of solid rain and thunder the shower blew away
just after we crossed the summit.

With as little traffic, and therefore, tourism along this scenic
route, we found no lodgings and continued into more traveled
territory. We got on the main route just below Tolmezzo and rode to
Cárnia Piani (281m), where Autostrada, Railway and two highways cross
to find an autostrada hotel and rest stop. We got a comfortable room,
good bicycle parking and a nice restaurant. By the time we were ready
for dinner, the rain returned, making a good showing with a
resounding thunderstorm with light show and heavy metal.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

21. Monday, 18 July (Cárnia - Stara Fuzina: 140km, 3356m):

The sky was clearing in the morning as clouds drifted off to the east
to wash the streets in Venezia as we rode up the valley toward
Chiusaforte (391m) along the Fiume Fella, a huge broad wash of white
rock, its water well hidden between boulders. The Fella and similar
rivers here obviously run full during big storms, an event that must
be terrifying when it occurs. An abandoned single track railway
right-of-way, parallel to our road, was recognizable by its beautiful
masonry bridges and elegantly arched tunnels that still bore the soot
of steam trains from years gone by.

I imagined the grand Simplon Orient Expresses, in royal blue with gold
trim, carrying nobility to Venice in elegant varnish, with Pullman,
salon and dining cars. Meanwhile,returning to reality, the new double
track route entered a tunnel across the river, vanishing underground
for the next ten kilometers only to enter another tunnel and another,
on its way to Villach and Innsbruck, Vienna or Munich. The new route
went into service in 1996, leaving the old classic forgotten and
overgrown.

http://tinyurl.com/lqmg

We turned east at Chiusaforte, up the Sella Nevea (1190m), a scenic
low traffic road to Slovenia. Climbing through a dense forest around
hairpin turns that offered a view of the surrounding spectacular
mountains once in a while, we arrived at the summit to realize that
what looked like piles of snow was really centimeter sized hail stones
that fell during that rumble last night. After a pleasant descent we
joined the main road after the beautiful lake at Cave del Predil (900)
and turned south for a short climb to the Predil Pass (1150m) and the
Slovenian border.

The descent was steeper than I had remembered it from years ago but
the scenery was as great as ever with a clear view down the Koritnica
river to Bovec (pronounced Bovetch). Bovec (769m) was looking elegant
and offered a good choice of restaurants of which we took one with
outdoor tables. I admired the Hotel Kanin across the street (now
three star rating), in which I stayed as the country was emerging from
communism. The receptionist told us to take our bicycles to our room
in the mostly empty hotel.

Between Bovec and Kobarid, down the Soda River, we took pictures of
the Slap Boca, a great waterfall that issues from the dry rocky west
wall of the canyon. We stopped in Kobarid at a wonderful Gelateria
with a delicious selection of Italian style gelato that fit well with
the sunny weather. The scooper had such enthusiasm and showmanship
that we took a second giant cup, with whipped cream and raspberry
syrup, on which he insisted. The scoops flew from one hand held high,
into the ice cream sundae cup with precision, something we could taste
over unimaginative service.

In Tolmin (200m) we turned east up the Baca River to Podbrdo (525m) at
the south portal of the 7,25km long railway tunnel to Bohinjska
Bistrica. When we arrived in Podbrdo, where the map clearly showed a
tunnel train loading symbol, we discovered anew (something I had found
many years ago) that the tunnel trains do not stop here but load in
Tolmin. As we stood dejected in front of the train station that was
just closing, a young lady arrived with her father to take the local
train to Tolmin.

After we told her of our predicament, she happened to talk to a
railway clerk from whom she learned that he was going to stop the
tunnel train to travel north. We thanked her profusely for her
discovery just as her train arrived. A half hour later, the tunnel
train arrived and slowed to a stop. We loaded our bicycles into the
baggage car and rode under the mountain over which I recall riding
with John Woodfill a few years ago, a climb was neither short nor
easy.

We stopped at the excellent tourist information (I) office that told
us where we could get a room on the Bohinjska lake. This was typical
of Slovenia that bends over backward to be hospitable. We stayed in
Stara Fuzina in comfortable accommodations on the shores of this
beautiful lake.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

22. Tuesday, 19 July (Stara Fuzina - Gailtal): 161km, 2696m):

After breakfast we rode around the lake to the bridge where many
people stood looking into the water last evening and found that they
were looking at a large school of trout that were waiting for a
handout. The abundance of fish in streams and lakes makes clear that
reigning in the fishermen leaves a lot for others to see.

We rode down the Sava Bohinjka to Bled (504m) with its beautiful
Blejsko lake where Marshall Tito's elegant but modest vacation
residence is still in fine shape although fenced off and unused.
Below Bled we got on the main road to Jesenice (574m) that runs
parallel to the motorway and has light traffic. After Jesenice, where
the Motorway turns north to Austria, traffic was even lighter as we
stopped in Gozd to take a better picture than the one from years ago.
The only problem was that the city limit sign, in the picture below,
had been placed elsewhere. This route is surrounded by the eastward
extension of the Dolomites, known as the Karavanka typified by the
view of Gozd.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/a46.html

We followed the Sava Dolinka river up the valley to the Italian border
at Ratece (845m), an innocuous saddle (pass) on the way to Tarvisio
(751m) and Pontebba (561m) where we headed north up Passo di Promollo
(1530), a steep and twisty road up rugged Val Aupa, that levels off at
the Nassfeldersee midst of green meadows at Nassfeld, aptly named for
its wet greenery. The Austrian side has ski areas, so the road its
wide with large sweeping turns as it descends steeply into the Ober
Gailtal at Jenig and west to Kötschach (708m) where we stopped for the
day.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

23. Wednesday, 20 June (Kötschach - Zell am See; 112km, 2340m):

We had gotten used to the marvelous weather by now and took the clear
skies and balmy temperatures for granted as we rode over the
Gailbergsattel (982) to Oberdrauburg (621) on the Drau river.
Following the river toward Lienz, we turned north at Dölsach (799m) at
the foot of the Iselsberg Pass (1204m) that connects from the Drau
River in the Pustertal to Winklern (958m) in the Mölltal. From here
it's a gradual climb along the Möll up the narrow and scenic valley
toward the Grossglockner, the highest peak in that Hohe Tauern range,
that gives its name to the toll road, "Großglockner Hochalpenstraße".

http://www.grossglockner.at/

At Heiligenblut (1301m) at the foot of the Großglockner Pass, the end
of an easy cruise up the valley with a bit of climbing here and there
and stopped for a grocery store lunch. The grocery store on the
corner is open every day all day so that tourists can get what they
need. As we put away our fuel for the big climb we could see the
Großglockner behind the tall slender church steeple of Heiligenblut.

The real climb starts in front of the grocery store with a 12% grade
that lets up a couple of times before the saddle at Kasereck (1913m)
after which the road descends to the junction to the base of the
Großglockner and the road to the summit.

The Dolomites to the south were no longer visible as we reached,
Hochtor, the summit (2505m), in breezy pleasant temperatures. After a
photo session, we rode through the 200m summit tunnel and down toward
Mitteltörl, stopping at a geological display of various formations
typical of this range.

After passing the lake we rode through the curved Mitteltörl (2328m)
tunnel, (the middle summit), and down a short 12% grade that took us
to a 12% climb to Fuschertörl (2428m, the north summit). With a clear
sky, the whole Glockner group made a striking panorama. We descended
the 12% run to Fusch in the Fuschertal and continued to the north toll
gate and wildlife park at Ferleiten.

We rolled down to Bruck (757m) on the Salzach River, passing through
villages with roadside displays of wood carvings and rustic furniture,
Austrian art for the tourist. Across the Salzach we headed into Zell
am See and found a nice hotel on the lake.

http://tinyurl.com/lqiq

---------------------------------------------------------------------

24. Thursday, 21 June (Zell am See - Fügen; 108km, 2240m):

We headed west up the Pinzgau Valley past Mittersill where there was a
big traffic jam of cars heading north to Kitzbühel or south through
the Felber-Tauern Tunnel to Lienz and the Dolomites. After Mittersill
the road was fairly empty. A Pinzgau narrow gauge (760mm, 30inch)
train passed us and blew its pennywhistle, greeting us from tracks
that parallel the road much of the way.

We continued west to Wald (867m) at the foot of the old Gerlos Pass
where we stopped at the grocery store for some power to get us up this
grade that has some 7% sections. The old Gerlos road used to go above
the church next to the grocery store and bicyclist can still do that
by riding through the pedestrian path that heads up the hill. As has
been my custom, we stopped at Gasthaus Grubl, a great place to stay,
and say hello to Mrs. Kaiser who runs the place. The hotel lies in a
crook in the road, where a small creek runs over a decorative water
wheel that once drove a generator. The door was open but there was no
one home because Mrs. Kaiser had gone across the road to her vegetable
garden. When she returned, we talked a bit and wished her well as we
headed up the climb up the 500m of 17% that starts here.

Clouds were gathering as we got near the top of the old Gerlos Pass
(1486m), though the road was mostly dry over the summit where it joins
the new road. We seemed to be ahead of the rain because the road was
dry as we descended past the huge earthen dam to Gerlos (1245m). From
here, The road stays high while the Gerlos River rushes down the
Gerlostal, a narrow defile. From Hainzenberg (1000m), the road
finally takes a series of hairpin turns to descend to Zell am Ziller
(575m) in the Zillertal.

As last year, the sky was closing in with thunderclouds but it didn't
rain as we road down the valley. Just before we reached Fügen at
about 3:30 the storm got serious and started blowing branches off
trees, magazines and newspapers from stores were flying around the
main street and tables and benches were pushed over. Jeanie was
convinced this wasn't getting any better so we took a room at Hotel
Sonne, and surprise, were just in time to see Lance Armstrong make a
great showing. After that we got a good dinner and rested up for a
sunny day tomorrow.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

24. Thursday, 21 June (Zell am See - Fügen im Zillertal; 206km, 2056m):

After a solid breakfast I headed west toward Innsbruck (574m) along
the south side of the Inn and crossed to the north bank at Hall. From
Hall to Innsbruck, the old streetcar line on the south side of the
highway has become an excellent bicycle path that took us into town.
We took the road around the west side of town along the Inn and
dropped in on the old city center to catch the local color. The
balcony with the golden roof was in fine trim as were the golden
arches a few houses down the narrow street.

http://www.die-seite.at/sight/golden...goldenroof.php

We stayed on the south side of the Inn toward Vols and on the less
traveled route toward Landeck. Across the river, the railroad climbed
through the vertical Martinswand, a huge round granite-faced mountain
through which it tunnels on the way to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and
Munich. More striking is the Zirlerberg road that rises with a 16%
grade to the roundhouse restaurant and from there up to 22% to the
top. Bicycles are prohibited from downhill use of this road that has
six runaway escape roads.

http://tinyurl.com/jhiu

The road remains fairly flat until Haiming, the mouth of the Ötztal,
at the upper end of which the Timmelsjoch (Passo Rombo; 2474m) crosses
to St Leonhard and Merano in South Tyrol. With mini-markets at most
gas stations, we were well supplied with food as we crossed the high
bridge over Ache River from the Ötztal and then crossed over the Inn,
to climb two kilometers over the narrows of the canyon.

After a two kilometer descent, we turned off to Bahnhof Imst and the
river rafting set-in to take the bicycle path to Landeck. The path
lies between the motorway and the river and avoids the climb to Imst
and Imsterberg that the local highway makes. We saw no rafters but
there were highway maintenance crews removing tree blow-down from the
thunderstorm that was felt over a large area of the Alps.

At Landeck (816m) we took the Arlberg highway (Rt N1), and turned off
at Pians into the Paznauntal and the Silvretta Hochalpenstrasse toll
road (Rt A188), the Bielerhöhe Pass to Bludenz in the Montafontal.

We had a light tailwind up this gradual climb along the Trisanna River
to Galtür. As often, at Galtür, our tailwind turned into a headwind
as the road began to get steeper up the desolate valley. The last
kilometer to the dam of the summit lake of 12% got us to the
Bielerhöhe Pass (2021m). The Silvretta lake straddles the summit and
is contained by an earthen dam on the east and a concrete dam on the
west. With the beautifully clear weather we saw the glacier-covered
Eckhorn (3117m), Wiesbadenerhöhe (2490m), Piz Silvretta (3248m), and
Piz Buin (3312m), set off against deep blue water. We met an English
rowing team that was preparing for high altitude training for the
eight-man crew world championship. The seemed all to be over two
meters tall.

I had forgotten how easy this descent down 32 hairpin turns could be
in fair weather but this road has no tight turns, all of them being
gentle sweepers. After reaching the bottom of the steep part, in
Partenen (1051m) on the Ill River in the Montafontal we rolled down to
Schruns (690m), where we found good lodging.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

25. Thursday, 22 June (Schruns - Schwyz; 158km, 2010m):

After a good buffet breakfast we rode down the Montafontal to Bludenz
and Feldkirch (455m), and headed south in the Rhine valley to Vaduz,
the capital of Lichtenstein. We crossed the Rhine on an old covered
bridge to the west levee bike path that we took to Sargans (482m)
Switzerland. We rode down to Walenstadt (427m) on the Walensee, and
took the bicycle path along the lake, stopping for lunch at a lakeside
restaurant near Mülehorn. The bicycle path the steep shore close to
the water with views of the seven Churfirsten of canton St. Gallen,
whose peaks: Selun (2204m), Frümsel (2267m), Brisi (2279m), Zuestoll
(2235m), Schibenstoll (2236m), Hinterrugg (2306m), and Chäserrugg
(2262m), rise steeply from the opposite shore of the lake. After two
long bicycle tunnels we were in the Linthtal of canton Glarus.

http://www.picswiss.ch/StGallen/SG-l4-04.html

We rode to Mollis (450m) and Netstal on the main road to Glarus
(472m), where we turned off to the Klöntal and the Pragel Pass. The
Klöntal is narrow, with steep rocky cliffs on both sides and a
beautiful alpine lake, almost the width of the valley. Typical of
canton Glarus, the mountains rise above the lake and vanish in the
mist, as our small road climbs past the lake to the Pragel Pass
(1550m). The ride out of the Linthtal is a moderate climb but the
main climb begins after the Klönsee.

The summit is a lovely saddle of pasture land surrounded by steep
cliffs. The descent to Muotathal (624m) in the Bisistal of canton
Schwyz, in contrast seems to descend much farther than we climbed,
mainly because it has long 18% sections. From the summit to Bisistal,
is closed to motor traffic on weekends and on weekdays, there is
almost no traffic anyway. From Muotathal it's nearly flat along the
Muota to Ibach, our starting point.

Many of the places mentioned in this report can be seen at:

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos.html

That was 3346km and 56766m climbing
================================================== ======================

If you have any of my ride reports after 1960 and before 1990, or know
where I can find them, in software or hard copy, please let me know.
I lost these reports when switching from a terminal and server to a PC
and failed to retrieve them before they were unrecoverable.

================================================== ======================
Jobst Brandt

Palo Alto CA


Ads
  #2  
Old September 12th 03, 08:25 AM
Gearóid Ó Laoi/Garry Lee
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Tour of the Alps 2003

Who is Jeanie and what is the relationship between her and JB?

That's what's really interesting about this. Is she Mrs.J.B??

Jobst, we need to know more about the people you meet, the farmer leaning on
a fence, the eccentrics etc., and less about the scenery, because scenery
has to be seen in the raw.


  #3  
Old September 15th 03, 04:52 AM
[email protected]
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Tour of the Alps 2003

Excuse me for hasty editing, but the dates and days of the week were
way off. For those who care, here is the corrects version. I think I
have the dates correct now.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Tour of the Alps 2003
----------------------------------------------------------------------
On Thursday, 26 June, Jeanie Barnett and I flew with Lufthansa from
San Francisco to Frankfurt and then to Zurich where we arrived just
after Friday noon. I had my bicycle, a suitcase and small carry-on.
Jeanie had a carry-on, a small suitcase and a large Bike Pro bicycle
case. We took a train from the airport to Schwyz where Edith Dierauer
picked us up for the short ride to their house in Ibach, the town
where Victor Inox, the cutlery company is at home. We prepared our
bicycles for departure the next morning. We got a good night's sleep
after a great raclette cheese dinner.
----------------------------------------------------------------------

1. Saturday, 28 June (Ibach - Rosenlaui; 104km, 1260m):

We had clear skies and pleasant temperatures, with the heat wave that
gripped western Europe the last few weeks, having blown away. As we
got ready to leave, I realized that the shopping bag with my bicycling
clothes was still standing in my kitchen at home, so we visited two
bike shops to get refitted, size 48 SPD shoes being the main problem.
Back in Ibach, properly equipped, we finally got on the road at about
noon, riding to Brunnen on the Vierwaldstettersee (aka Lake of
Lucerne) and the Axenstrasse that follows the east shore toward the
Gotthard.

The Axenstrasse is noted for its rocky cliffs dropping steeply to the
water, the railway staying mostly in tunnels as we ducked in and out
of tunnels as we made our way to Flüelen at the end of the lake. It
was along these cliffs that William Tell was said to have duped the
Austrians, who had taken him captive on their boat and were returning
to their headquarters when a fierce storm arose. He convinced them to
unshackle him so he could show them a safe landing along the cliffs.
Instead he jumped ship when they got close to the wall and vanished up
trails that only the locals knew. The Austrians went under, according
to the chronicles of Friedrich von Schiller, who created William Tell
as a composite figure of the Swiss nationalists.

http://www.bartleby.com/26/6/
http://agora.unige.ch/ctie/ur/bsu/te...tellsprung.htm

In Altdorf with a mural of the Alps of canton Uri as backdrop, Tell
stands proudly, bigger than life, in bronze, son at his side, with
crossbow (Swiss trade mark) over his shoulder.

http://www.tell.ch/schweiz/telldenkmal.htm
http://www.ur.ch/

There isn't much flatland in Uri and much of that is taken by the
Reuss, the railway, the Gotthard Highway and a four lane Autobahn.
If that weren't enough, a short distance beyond Altdorf, the huge
Gotthard tunneling project at Erstfeld (472m) covers much of what is
left before the Reuss valley ends to become a steep alpine ravine.

Our climb started above Erstfeld, at the SBB hydropower plant in
Amsteg, where the grade changes abruptly across a stone-arch bridge
over the Reuss. The highway wends its way along the granite walls
while the double track federal railway (SBB), in oder not to exceed a
2.7% grade, uses helical tunnels to gain altitude on its way to the
16km Gotthard Tunnel. Meanwhile the four lane Autobahn remains mostly
out of sight in tunnels and avalanche sheds.

The SBB makes three passes using looping tunnels to gain elevation at
Wassen (916m), with the train station lying on the middle traverse so
that trains pass in the opposite direction from their destination,
northbound trains traveling southward and southbound trains,
northward. Although the SBB runs left hand traffic, the route is
signaled in both directions on both tracks so that trains can run in
either direction, making train boarding even more confusing at times.
The town church is famous for being seen three times from the train,
from below, at grade and from above.

http://www.wassen.ch/

We stopped for some eats before heading into the Meiental, hidden
behind a granite wall through which the Meienreuss River escapes in a
slot. The road starts climbing shortly after leaving the town square
as it enters a curved tunnel followed by a stone arch bridge that
connects two tunnels. How the ancients got through here is unclear,
but farther up the old Susten pack animal route is still visible as it
zigzags steeply up the headwall of the canyon. Well graded, the road
has a maximum gradient of 10% but is mostly around 8%. I call it the
glacier highway of the alps for its spectacular ice fields.

A thin high overcast was augmented by thin stratified fog as we
reached the Susten Pass summit tunnel (2224m), leaving scenery still
visible but out of reach of the camera. We could just barly make out
the huge Steingletscher and Sustenhorn intermittently through the fog.
We descended through bare rock tunnels to the base of the glacier,
from where we were out of the fog on our way to Inertkirchen (625m).
We crossed the Haslital and Aar river to climb the short Kirchet pass
(709m) with its four hairpin turns. The Kirchet goes over and around
the Aareschlucht, an impressive slot in the cliffs through which the
Aar river, a hiking path in the wall, and a railway tunnel pass.

http://www.aareschlucht.ch/englisch.htm

Just beyond the pass, across from the Lammi restaurant, we turned off
to Rosenlaui. This road is steep, still only partly paved, and little
more than one-lane wide as it climbs through a forest to the canyon of
the roaring Reichenbach where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Moriarty met
their deaths over the falls in 1891.

http://www.evo.org/sherlock/europe/r...ach_falls.html

Hotel Zwirgi in Schattenhalb, the junction of the road from Meiringen,
was elegantly rebuilt, looking much like the old one that burned to
the ground two years ago. I stopped at the water works for a big
drink of ice cold water where the phrase "Das Wasser ist das Beste"
graces the wall above the fountain. The climb to Rosenlaui is still
no trifle as it rapidly gains altitude past hotel Kaltenbach, finally
leveling off in the Rosenlaui Valley.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s90.html

Although it had rained a bit before we got there, we got a splendid
view of the Rosenlaui Glacier as we rode along the now placid
Reichenbach. At Hotel Rosenlaui we were met by Andreas Kehrli, the
proprietor, who was caring for a large tour group. As has happened
before, the hotel was full but there was still room in the dormitory
annex where we could stay, thanks to the boss. As always, we had a
hearty dinner and a great stay. We got underway early the next
morning after a rich buffet breakfast.

http://home.t-online.de/home/E-J.Bra...002/17bild.htm
---------------------------------------------------------------------

2. Sunday, 29 June (Rosenlaui - Hospental; 138km, 2932m):

We started up the easy part of the Große Scheidegg Pass under
brilliant skies and balmy weather. At the end of the public road, at
Schwarzwaldalp, a steep 100m-long connector got us to the Grindelwald
Bus road. Access is restricted on this smoothly paved road that is
only as wide as the bus that does not slow down for bicyclists.
Something worth knowing.

This beautiful route climbs through meadows with grazing cows amidst
wildflowers, all in the shadow of the Massive Wetterhorn. We passed a
new wooden farmhouse with beautifully hand-carved beams, windowsills,
and flower boxes. An inscription with the year 2002 carved into its
main transom will remind people after it has become nearly black with
time, like its century old neighbors, when it was that the wood was
fresh and yellow.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s84.html

Even with fair weather, or maybe because of it, we could hear icefalls
crashing down the Wetterhorn (3701m) that was still casting a long
shadow our way. From Große Scheidegg (1961m), under beautifully clear
skies, we saw the dark north face of the Eiger in front of the pure
white Jungfrau with Grindelwald (1034m) lying below like a miniature
village amidst steep green meadows.

We were back on public roads as we passed the Grindelwald train
station, where the Berneroberlandbahn (BOB) meter gauge (adhesion and
Riggenbach cogwheel) railway makes connections with the Wengeralpbahn
(WAB) 800mm gauge (Riggenbach cogwheel) train that crosses the valley
to the Kleine Scheidegg (2016m). Here the famed Jungfraubahn meter
gauge (Strub cogwheel) tunnels inside the Eiger (3970m) to the station
in an ice cave on the Jungfraujoch saddle (3454m) between Mönch
(4099m) and Jungfrau (4158m).

Following the cascading Schwarze Luetschine that joins the Weisse
Luetschine from Lauterbrunnen at Zweiluetschinen, we crossed the river
on bridges engulfed in chilled air from the icy river. The road
levels off at Wilderswil (584m), where the Schynige Platte Bahn (SPB),
800mm gauge train (Riggenbach cogwheel) climbs to the Schynige Platte
(2061m) for a marvelous panorama of the Jungfrau group. The
beautifully clear weather brought many passengers to the mountain
railways.

We passed the large meadow in the middle of Interlaken (563m) that
gives a postcard view up the Lauterbrunnental to the Jungfrau. After
crossing the Aar River, we rode along the north shore of the
Brienzersee to Brienz, a small town in a narrows between the cliffs
and the deep blue lake. Here the steam powered Brienzer Rothornbahn
(BRB), 800mm (Abt cogwheel) railway climbs through tunnels in rugged
cliffs to the top of the Brienzer Rothorn (2353m), in my estimation
the premire mountain railway of the Alps. The pungent smell of coal
smoke from one of the locomotives wafted across the road as we passed.

http://digilander.iol.it/zh/cograilways/brienzer.html

We photographed Sherlock Holmes, in life-sized bronze, with pipe,
cape, and deerstalker cap sitting in the middle of Meiringen, the home
of meringue. After Willigen, a short climb up the Kirchet (709m) got
us to the Lammi, that we had passed the day before, for lunch. Under
Eichhof and Rivella umbrellas, we and many motorcyclists enjoyed a
good outdoor lunch.

On the way to the Grimsel Pass up the Haslital, we took a picture of
the huge granite sculpture of man-with-jackhammer at the Kraftwerke
Oberhhasli (KWO) power plant. The climb has three reprieves, one in
Guttannen (1057m), where there is a good grocery store, and another at
Handegg (1402m), where there are accommodations in case of foul
weather and finally above the upper dam. The road climbs between
granite walls up to a lower and upper concrete dam, that are reached
in winter by giant aerial trams.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s90.html

Above Handegg the road enters a one-kilometer tunnel where bicyclists
must (and prefer to) take the old cobblestone road, notched into the
granite wall high above the Aar. The detour is less steep than the
one kilometer tunnel and offers great scenery. As we reached the
upper Grimsel lakes, the Finsteraarhorn (4275m), tallest peak in the
Bernese Alps, lay at the end of the valley to the west, "finster"
(dark) because like the Eiger, it is too steep to retain snow. It
stands over the Unteraar and Oberaar Glaciers, the sources of the Aar
River. There was none of the usual snow or ice on summit lake as we
reached the Grimsel Pass (2165m).

http://www.grimselpass.ch/

From the Grimsel, the Rhone Valley made a beautiful panorama in the
afternoon light, without the usual afternoon fog to wipe out the view.
Nearly straight below, under a series of hairpin turns, was Gletsch
(1759m), with its hotels, train station, and road junction with the
Furka Pass. Above to the east, the Galenstock (3583m) and the gap of
Furka Pass to the south were the backdrop for the Rhone Glacier and
Hotel Belvedere. We stopped in Gletsch at the Dampfbahn Furka
Bergstrecke (DFB Furka Steam Railway) train station and perused their
collection of historic books and paid membership dues before riding up
the Furka Pass.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s67.html

The climb is easy with only one steep section before the photogenic
hairpin turn below the Belvedere (2272m). This place offers a great
opportunity to pose with the bicycle in a hairpin turn with a glacier
backdrop.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s10.html

The Furka Pass (2431m), 266m higher than the Grimsel, lies in the gap
at the head of this bare valley, swept clean except for some shrubs,
by winter avalanches. The Furka gives an awesome panorama that, as I
experienced once on an exceptionally clear day, can include the
Matterhorn to the west. Below, the DFB west portal of its summit
tunnel appeared tiny in this gigantic landscape.

http://www.furka-bergstrecke.ch/

We crossed the Furka summit and coasted swiftly through Tiefenbach and
Galenstock on the long 8% descent to Realp (1538m) at the base of the
grade. We cruised on the long straight road down the valley, next
to the Furka Oberalp RR to Hospental (1452m), the junction of the
Gotthard and Furka Passes. As usual, we found a good dinner and
lodging at Hotel Rössli where we were welcomed as "regulars".

http://www.zumdoerfli.ch/roessli/hotel.htm

----------------------------------------------------------------------

3. Monday, 30 June (Hospental - Borgosesia; 197km, 1264m):

We rode up the old cobblestone street of Hospental, formerly the main
road in the days when highways connected towns and had no reason to
bypass them. We joined the wide concrete Gotthard highway at the
Furka junction and started up the pass. Here, above tree line, only
scrub brush, grass, wildflowers, and alpenrosen decorate the
landscape. The alpenrose, an azalea prevalent throughout the Alps,
has blossoms with pink and red offset against dark green leaves, often
surrounded by bouquets of deep blue gentians, pale blue
forget-me-nots, and many varieties of daisies and dandelions.

As often, various motor rallies take place on summer weekends and
today it was Lanz Bulldog day, for the one-cylinder farm tractor that
plowed the big fields of Europe in years past. Beautifully restored
tractors with cabs, painted with shiny auto enamel, came rolling by
with the distinctive thump-thump-thump... of that huge cylinder. Each
had a trailer since farm tractors don't have storage space.

home.germany.net/101-27793/bulldog.htm

I posed for a photo oat the Gotthard (2108m) summit sign at the lake
as I had on my first tour in 1959. We photographed the serpentine
curves of the old Val Tremola road from the new road before entering
the long tunnel that emerges high above the Val Bedretto on a flying
hairpin turn, 520m above Fontana. Below, at the Fortezza (1551m),
bicycles must take the old ROUGH road paved with 10cm grey granite
cubes, where the center stripe is made of orange granite. Pavement is
especially bad in curves because the stones are tilted from side
forces. The road levels off and returns to smooth pavement in Airolo
(1165m), the south portal of the Gotthard railway and highway tunnels.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s04a.html
http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s01A.html

From Airolo the road, autostrada, railway and Ticino River cross each
other often as they descend the Valle Levantina. Below Airolo lie two
relatively flat valleys, each with a town at the lower and upper end
that give their names to the Ambri-Piotta and Rodi-Fiesso valleys. At
Piotta the world's steepest federal railway, connects a large SBB aka
FFS (in Ticino) hydroelectric plant with its reservoir, the Lago di
Ritom. The Swiss federal railway logo looks odd on such a funicular
rail car. (FFS) Ferrovie Federali Svizzere.

http://mikeaz.free.fr/suisse/piotta01.htm

At the end of the Rodi-Fiesso Valley we descended from Rodi (925m) to
Faido (711m), while trains, some with distinctive freight and
international passenger cars, passed us in both directions on the
adjacent doubletrack Gotthard railway. "Hey, haven't we seen that
train somewhere before?" Indeed we had, because the SBB uses two
stacked corkscrew looping tunnels to lose altitude on the steep slope.

We passed two more circular tunnels at Anzonico and then rolled into
the wide and flat valley just above Bodio (322m), the south portal of
a new 58km Gotthard railway Tunnel and pedaled on to Biasca where due
to the heat and drought the crossing waterfalls were not crossing and
had only a trickle. In Bellinzona (239m) we took a road construction
detour around Giubiasco that got us away from the Lugano and Locarno
traffic and put us back on our route after Cadenazzo.

http://www.alptransit.ch/pages/e/galerie/index.php#

Most traffic went south over the Monte Ceneri Pass (559m) to Lugano
and Milano while just beyond, at Quartino, most remaining traffic went
toward Locarno on the west shore of Lago Maggiore (193m). We stayed
on the east shore, stopping in San Nazzaro for lunch. We crossed the
Italian border at Zenna where were waved on as usual... but not
always.

In Luino my favorite bancomat wasn't working so we had to find another
to stock up on Euros. From Luino we rode along the lake in a series
of tunnels and slide protection galleries and then climbed over a hill
to Laveno. We took the ferry across the lake and landed in Intra,
on the fancier western shore with its famous resorts.

We rode up the Valle d'Ossola along the Toce River, that flows from
the San Giacomo Pass, and rode along the estuary to Fondo where we
crossed the river to Gravellona and climbed a short hill to Omegna
(298m). Our road stayed above Lago d'Orta (290m) with steep shores on
three sides. We rode along the high east shore, looking down on
resorts and old villas along picturesque shores and a lovely La
Basilica di San Giulio in a monastery on the island of San Giulio off
the tip of a small peninsula.

http://www.orta.net/

At Gozzano (367m), on the south end of the lake, our road headed west
along the hills climbing a short steep hill to Pogno (461m), where the
four-spigot fountain on the piazza would have come in handy but it was
out of order. We climbed west up a canyon in a blooming chestnut
forest, typical of the southern slope of the Alps, and broke through
the ridge at an unexpected tunnel (598m), from where it was all down
hill to Borgosesia (359m). The Sesia was still not entirely recovered
from the summer floods of 2002 but there were swans and ducks in the
less than crystal clear waters. We found a reasonable hotel and had a
cool nights rest, here in the Piemonte.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

4. Tuesday, 01 July (Borgosesia - Carignano; 161km, 1004m):

We climbed to Valle Mosso and rolled down the long descent to
Pettinengo in the valley, after which we crossed a few low ridges to
Biella (410m). Following the edge of the hills westward, we skirted
several glacial ridges that slope to the Po Valley to reach Zubiena
(492m) and descend to Ivrea (254m) and the Dora Baltea River. We gave
my cycling friend, Brian Tomlin a call, so he could meet us at the
bridge over the Dora Baltea in the center of town. We followed him to
his place where he prepared a gourmet meal for us and his wife who
appreciates his skills as an Anglo-Italian chef.

After lunch, Brian suited up and paced us on a fast ride through the
hills on back roads to Torino on our way south. He dropped us off at
Fiano at a Shell mini-mart to return to work as we headed south to HWY
SS20, the Tenda highway. As we entered Torino, traffic was less than
ideal at what seemed to be rush hour. We threaded our way through the
major routes but there was no letup as we took a slower route through
town that had streetcar tracks in a reserved right-of-way, a salvation
of sorts. Just the same Jeanie took a spill on the tracks and bruised
her hip.

When we reached Carignano, we stopped and an owner of an electrical
appliance shop became concerned about Jeanie's distress. He took us
to the local first aid crew who seemed unduly enthusiastic to have a
patient. We were glad for the ice-pack but the ride in their
ambulance to Torino was not what we had in mind. Once caught in the
emergency room routine it was hard to get out. However, we were
reassured that nothing was broken and that the injury needed healing
time. After some overnight rest in a hotel in Torino, we dodged out
of a return visit the next day and headed south by taxi, picked up our
bicycles and were on our way.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

5. Wednesday, 02 July (Carignano - Sospel); 173km, 2096m):

Rt SS20, the Tenda highway, took us south to Carmagnola, and Raconigi,
the former residence of the Savoy family before Italy abolished its
monarchy. We took pictures of storks nesting in large decorative urns
atop the huge red sandstone palace before heading south to Cuneo.

http://www.leksykony.pl/zamki/wlochy/racconigi.html

As we approached Cuneo, the road turned west along the north bank of
the Stura di Demonte, where a beautifully restored bi-level stone arch
bridge carries road and railway high above the river. As often, there
were plenty of delicious tart Japanese plums on trees along the bridge
approach. I ate plenty of plums for my vitamin-C RDA.

We took a right just after the bridge and stopped for a good drink
from the huge fountain in front of the Cuneo train station. We rode
up to Borgo San Dalmazzo, where turned south on the Tenda Highway
(SS20) to Robilante while SS21 heads west to France over the Col de
Larche. Being Sunday, the chainsaw store in Robilante was closed, so
we couldn't say hello to Eliano Giordanengo the proprietor of this
unusually located shop of which I have reported in the past. However,
we stopped by Ristorante-Albergo Aquila Riale, one of my favorite
stops, for a good lunch that would take us over the hill to France.

Most of the storm damage from last year, along the Vermenagna River,
was repaired with hardly a mark except to the inquisitive eye. From
Limone (990m), the climb to the tunnel gets steeper and makes a few
large hairpin turns on the way up to entrance of the 3180m-long Tenda
highway tunnel (1279m), which was completed in its present form in
1882. A "bicycles prohibited" icon sign stands at the tunnel portal,
just beyond a small shop with refreshments and a good selection of
local maps. Meanwhile, the old Tenda road, looking like a hotel
driveway, takes off across the street to Limonetto. Pavement ends at
the summit and we were back on the 19th century road.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/f64.html

Sixty or so hairpin turns descend steeply into the ravine of the Roya
River. The loose and deeply rutted turns of last year had been
repaired, making the descent easier. Historic photographs of mule and
horse teams, steam tractors, and solid-tired chain-driven trucks that
once traveled this road make today's "hardships" pale in comparison.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/f89.html

Below, in the rocky gorge of the Roya River, we finally left the
gravel and got on the swift smooth curves of the Tende highway, French
Rt N204, where it emerges from the tunnel (1279m). The railway
emerges from its tunnel at Vievola (990m), only to vanish into a loop
tunnel followed by many bridges as it descends to Tende (816m). The
road gradient is about 8% here, so it is not difficult to keep a good
pace down into the Soarge Gorge. The road to the town of Soarge heads
into a tunnel whose few windows in the canyon wall reveal its route as
it climbs to Soarge, a strip of houses glued to the cliffs, some with
as much a hundred meter freefall from their windows.

http://tinyurl.com/k8b7
http://www.provencebeyond.com/villphotos/breilP01.html

After the brisk ride down the Roya, past Tende and the Gorge du
Soarge, we stopped in St. Dalmas for a grocery store snack before
turning west up Rt D2204, just above Breil (286m), to the Col de
Brauis (879m). The landscape is Mediterranean with sparse vegetation,
olive trees and blooming bright yellow leafless broom (gorse) with a
pleasantly sweet scent. About 2/3 the way up, a lovely fountain with
a sign on it to not drink the water was good as ever and I've never
suffered for it over many years although my sore throat wasn't getting
any better.

The descent to Sospel (349m), the junction of the Brauis, Braus, and
Turini passes is pleasantly gradual. We took a picture of the old
stone arch bridge and its collage of buildings over the Bevera River,
reminiscent of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Since it was dinner
time, we found a hotel and ate at the "ice cream store" and deli where
the proprietor, my favorite small town philosopher, presides. Over
the years, he has greeted us as though we were regulars although
visits are only once a year. This time I got his e-mail address.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

6. Thursday, 03 July (Sospel - St Martin Vesubie; 54km, 1668m):

We headed up the valley on Rt D70 to the Turini Pass (1607m) of Monte
Carlo Automobile Rallye fame. After climbing up the wall of the gorge
of the Bevera, the road enters a pine and larch forest that offers
shade for the bicyclist to make this a pleasant climb. I felt my sore
throat changing into a coughing cold although I climbed with relative
ease. After the descent with its grand views of the Gorges de Vesubie
and the many twists of the Turini Pass below, Bollene-Vesubie
presented the usual portrait shot before we descended to the Vesubie
river (520m).

http://tinyurl.com/k8nn

On the road up the gradual grade to St. Martin Vesubie (930m), fever
caught up with me and I had a hard time reaching town, resting a
couple of times even though it wasn't hot and the grade was light.
The usual Hotel Le Gelas was full so we found a hotel on the main
square where we ate dinner and I took a big rest. St. Martin Vesubie is
a pleasant town lying at the foot of the narrows leading to Col
St. Martin aka Colmain (1500m).

http://www.provencebeyond.com/villph...tmartinP1.html

----------------------------------------------------------------------

7. Friday, 04 July (St. Martin Vesubie - St. Martin Vesubie; 0km):

No fireworks, just rest.
----------------------------------------------------------------------

8. Saturday, 05 July (St. Martin Vesubie - Barcelonnette; 140km, 3444m):

After a days rest I felt better but unsure of how my wheezing body
would work. To my surprise I got better as I rode up the Colmain.
The climb exposes a beautiful panorama of St. Martin and the Vesubie
Valley as the road, notched into cliffs, passes between rough hewn
tunnels. In several of these tunnels... swoosh! Crag Martins darted
past, undaunted by cars and trucks. These grey-brown, swallow-like
birds, tend their nests in the rocky tunnel ceilings where their young
are safe from predators. Traffic and diesel exhaust seem not to
bother them. We descended toward the Tinée, first through a large
grassy ski area, and then into dry sparse vegetation in the red rocky
Gorges de Valabre (503m).

http://www.fortunecity.com/greenfiel...ionroquero.htm

Across the Tinée, in the Gorges de Valabre, roads that are tiring just
to look at follow tortuous paths up through cliffs to mountain
villages like Ilonse (1200m). We crossed the Tinée at St. Sauveur
(510m) on Rt D30 and headed up the Col de la Couillole (1678m). Near
the top, we passed the ancient village of Rubion, a typical hill town
located on steep terrain as a protection against invasion. Over the
Couillole we descend to Beuil (1450m) and climbed to Croix de Valberg
(1829m).

http://www.provencebeyond.com/villages/roubion.html

We took the "back" road, Rt D29, down to Guillaumes (1200m) and rode
up Rt N2202 in the Gorges de Daluis along the Var River toward the Col
de la Cayolle (2327m). This area appeals to me especially because
most of it lies in a national park with no ski areas and accompanying
development and having only villages with simple accommodations. The
Cayolle is also the first 2000m pass I rode over on my 1960 tour from
which it has remained unchanged. The climb, and especially summit, is
set in the midst of steep alpine meadows that were covered with an
exceptional display of wildflowers this time. There is nothing more
than a narrow parking strip at the summit. We descended through the
Gorges du Bachelard along the Torrente Bachelard to Barcelonnette
(1136m) where we found a comfortable hotel.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

9. Sunday, 06 July (Barcelonnette - Le Lauzet; 126km, 2940m):

As most days, we started off with a tailwind, even if it was only a
light breeze, as we rode up the Ubey River to Jausiers and Condamine
(1267m) at the foot of the Col de Larch and Col de Vars. Just above
Condamine the mountain is riddled with tunnels from the valley floor
to cliffs above, where huge fortifications keep a silent vigil for
enemies long gone. Many bullet holes in the stone buildings remain as
combat mementos.

Illuminated in early sunlight, fortifications stood out high above in
the clear morning air as we rode up the Ubey on the Route des Grand
Alpes (D902). We began climbing the Col de Vars (2111m) just beyond
the junction with the Col de Larche (1991m), aka Colle della Maddalena
from the Italian side. Interestingly, Col de Vars has kilometer posts
with distance to the summit and average gradient, and there is a
randonneur sign-in stamp at the summit, something we didn't notice
elsewhere.

At the summit I was surprised to see the ramshackle corrugated steel
shed, that I first saw in 1960 and had collapsed during the winter of
2001, was again repaired after being a mere pile of corrugated sheet
metal last year. Of course I bought some post cards and a soda.

On the descent to Guillestre (1000m), I could make out the gap of the
Galibier Pass in the distant panorama of snowy peaks and glaciers
above the Durance Valley. We took the Route des Grand Alpes (D902)
over the Izoard instead of the main route (N94) up the valley to
Briancon. Our road followed the rugged gorge of the Guil River and
turned up the Riviere canyon where the Passo Agnello route (D947)
comes in from the east. It was easy going up to Arvieux, where we
stopped for a grocery store lunch. Across the street from the store,
an alcove under the city hall with a bench, water fountain, and public
restroom, served as our lunch room.

Our tailwind turned into a headwind as I started up the straight steep
section from Arvieux past Brunnisard to the Col d'Izoard. The going
got easier above Brunnisard, where the grade eased where the road goes
into traverses and hairpin turns that gave shelter from the wind. At
the false summit we saw the rest of the climb across the canyon
zig-zagging to the obelisk that marks the summit. With a short
descent and a bit of climbing, we arrived at the Coppi memorial where
a bronze caricature of Fausto is mounted on a marble plaque. This
treeless landscape looks like the moon, with vast slopes of dark grey
scree at the angle of repose. The exposure makes this climb
especially difficult in warm weather.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/f72.html

From the Izoard (2361m), the gap of the Galibier Pass was again
visible in the distance. Descending the unspectacular road, we
arrived in Briancon (1391m), a large town overrun with tourists and
traffic, where we took Rt N91 (also D902) with its gentle slope of 2%
to 4% to the Col du Lautaret (2058m). We stopped at Hotel des Amis in
Le Lauzet for the day.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

10. Monday, 07 July (Le Lauzet - Bonneval-sur-Arc); 113km, 2146m):

The Lautaret pass being a fairly flat ride all the way from Briancon
made it was a pleasant warmup before heading up the Galibier that is a
bit steeper but still mild up to the summit tunnel that has been
reopened after 40 years or so, enabling tour Buses to once again carry
their guests over this pass.

The new Hotel des Glaciers on the Lautaret summit, now known as Hotel
Bonnabel, was splendidly built after the old hotel burned three years
ago. Last year I found that the new hotel was designed around the
grand dining room and centerpiece of grandfather Bonnabel's unfinished
project and that it exceeded the expense and class of hotel that I
chose to stay in. I tried it once and that was enough. Neither of
the Bonnabels were there when we dropped in to say hello, so we rode
on up the Galibier in the cool morning air.

http://tinyurl.com/kdds

In contrast to last year, cars were waiting at the traffic light at
the one way summit tunnel (2555m) so I didn't try to ride through it
as last year.

We road over the top (2645m), where we had a panorama of the glaciers
of the Massif de la Vanoise (3600m) and the Massif du Sorieller
(4000m). The descent from the tunnel portal is about 6%-8% to Plan
Lachat where it requires pedaling over a long flat section.

http://www.memoire-du-cyclisme.net/e...tation_tdf.php
http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/f30.html

Valloire (1430m) streets were jammed with an ATV show that took over
the whole town, we lost a bit of time by not taking the detour around
town and weaving through all the stands and parked vehicles. I didn't
believe a trade show could so solidly block all the streets that a
bicycle couldn't get through. It was cloudy with high overcast as we
climbed from Valloire (1430m), to the Telegraph (1570m) before
descending to St Michel du Maurienne (712m).

Looking down from the Telegraph, I was reassured that highway
construction had progressed enough that we would have it fairly easy
in contrast to the detours and heavy construction traffic of last
year. In fact it was fairly calm as we rode up the old highway with
most traffic on the motorway. At Modane (1057m), the railway heads
for the Frejus tunnel (built in 1871) to Torino and the motorway heads
to its 12.9Km tunnel leaving us on a fairly empty Rt N6 toward
Lanslebourg (1400m).

http://tinyurl.com/kdo4

Just above Modane, in Le Bourget, we could see the aeronautical
research center below at the end of the valley as we climbed over
the narrows of the Barrire de l'Esseillon. This pass is guarded by a
huge fortress that in ancient times posed a formidable obstacle to
invaders.

http://www.onera.fr/geographie/modane-avrieux.html
http://www.onera.fr/geographie-en/modane-avrieux.html

I had seen this research center, with its conspicuous group of four
spherical air tanks typical of supersonic research, on previous tours
and wondered whether it was still active. As the noise abated we
descended past the Barrire de l'Esseillon to Lanslebourg for a food
stop before the Madeleine (1760m) a short but steep pass that got us
into the high valley of the arc river.

Above Modane (1057m), after most traffic took the highway tunnel, we
climbed a pleasantly empty road that rises above Avrieux, the site of
subsonic to hypersonic wind tunnels, located here after WWII, probably
for abundant hydropower. This time, as we reached the fortress at the
Barrire de l'Esseillon, the wind tunnel went into action, with roar
of a 747 on takeoff, for about two minutes. In the valley the sound
must be deafening, which this makes me wonder what the residents have
to say about it.

The road levels off next to the Barriere de l'Esseillon, a deep defile
of the Arc River and natural obstacle, guarded by a huge fortress.
Tourists cross the breathtaking gorge to the fort on the Pont du
Diable, a slender truss foot bridge that accentuates the depth of the
chasm. Beyond the gorge, we descended to the valley floor and rolled
gradually up to Termignon (1300m). From here, it's a short climb up
the valley to Lanslebourg (1399m), the foot of the Col du Mont Cenis
(2083m), which heads south to Torino.

We stopped for a snack in Lanslevillard, the upper end of Lanslebourg
before the Col du Madeleine (1746m) a short but steep climb into the
high valley of the Arc. On the way o Bonneval-sur-Arc at the end of
the valley great panoramas of the Glaciers de Evettes on the slopes of
the Croce Rossa (3546m), Via di Ciamarella (3676m), and l'Albaron
(3638m) open to the east. We stooped in Bonneval-sur-Arc (1835m) at
the big sweeping turn the main climb to the Col d'Iseran begins.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

11. Tuesday, 08 July (Bonneval-sur-Arc - Etroubles); 150km, 2968m):

We made the two long traverses from Bonneval the Gorge de la Lenta, a
box canyon that lies south of the pass. The road climbs the east wall
of the gorge over waterfalls and through bare rock tunnels. Near the
top of the cliff, the Lenta cascades into the gorge through a
slot. Just above the lip of the gorge, the road crosses the river on a
stone bridge and takes two long traverses in a narrow valley to reach
the top of the Col d'Iseran (2770m) surrounded by a breathtaking
panorama.

After a photo stop at the large concrete sign at the summit, we put on
my jacket and descended to Val d'Isere. With beautifully clear skies,
many vistas that I hadn't seen in recent years were visible and
reminders of past tours. At Ste. Foy-Tarentaise (1051m) we took Rt
N90, a shortcut to Col du Petite St. Bernard, something I hadn't tried
before. This was not to be a great shortcut because the road winds
around and goes up and down through several villages without much
scenic interest.

We joined Rt. N90 Below Rosiere (1850m) and rode on to the Col du
Petite St. Bernard (2189m) with a grand view of surrounding snow
capped peaks. After an descent along the Dora di Vinnei to Pré
St. Didier, where the road from Courmayeur joins to continue down the
Dora Baltea to Aosta (581m). We took the road to the Col du Grand
St. Bernard up to Etroubles (1264m). Although there is no separate
autostrada, traffic was moderate to light, probably because the road
is fairly straight and has a mild grade at least up to Etroubles where
we stopped for the day.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

12. Wednesday, 09 July (Etroubles - Brig-Ried; 150km, 1692m):

After breakfast we pushed off into beautiful sunny weather and rolled
up the gradual climb of the Valle del Gran San Bernardo to Bosses
(1500m) where the St. Bernard autostrada begins, leaving us with a
nearly empty road. The road is a bit narrower reminding me of my
first ride here in 1960 when there was even less traffic.

Val d'Aosta originally being a French speaking region is a mix of
French and Italian names of places in both languages and mixed.
Courmayeur at the entrance to the Monte Bianco Tunnel to Chamonix, for
instance is almost entirely French speaking.

As we reached the summit of the Gran San Bernardo (2469m) we rode
around the summit lake to take a picture at one of the last Swiss
concrete road signs of the 1950's posed just as I had back then. The
sign is still there because the snow plow driver cannot knock it down,
it being up against the monastery building... but he tried. The base
of the post is cracked to expose its reinforcing bar.

I found the kiosks had horribly bad taste but they sell what the
tourists buy and that is fuzzy, toy St. Bernard dogs in all sizes from
pocket to life size. The descent seems short before joining the
tunnel road, although it is the same elevation change as the south
side. The road has long avalanche sheds and fast alignment so costing
at maximum speed is a breeze.

We reached the valley at Orsiérs (901m) and rode the slight grade to
Martigny (471m) pedaling lightly. As expected, we had a tailwind up
the Rhone Valley that made the altitude gain of 210m over 82km almost
like flatland. In fair weather, this east-west valley usually has a
brisk up hill wind all summer.

Traffic was light, because most of it was on the parallel A9 motorway.
This broad valley is the great fruit basket of Switzerland, just as
the Alto Adige is in Italy. Orchards and vineyards fill the valley
and reach high above on sunny terraced hillsides. Most vineyards are
practically paved with flat river bed rocks to conserve water.

http://www.sion.ch/

After Sion with its twin knobs with castles we passed Raron, at the
portal of the new Lötschberg base tunnel. Tunneling machinery, like
that at the Gotthard, was hard at work bringing out huge tailings from
under the mountain. Visp, the gateway to Zermatt has become a huge
industrial zone with chemicals, oil refineries and truck depots,
something that is more evident when seen from the Lötschberg (BLS)
railway that gives a birds eye view of the valley on its way up to the
tunnel.

After a brief visit in Brig (681m) we started up the Simplon Pass to
stop in Brig-Ried (900m) for the night. It had been a warm afternoon
but up on the hill, the air was cooler and pleasant.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

13. Tursday, 10 July (Brig-Ried - Ronco 114km, 3100m):

As I rode up the Simplon, Jeanie took the old road that is both
shorter and steeper, and joins the new road just above the curved
Schallberg tunnel, in the Gantertal, high above the Saltina, the river
that flows through Brig. About a kilometer farther, on this nearly
flat section of the road, a high concrete suspension bridge crosses
the Gantertal to Berisal (1520m).

http://tinyurl.com/k8at

From Berisal we continued in the shade of a larch forest up to
treeline where long avalanche shelters cover the road most of the
distance to the Simplon summit (2005m). The air on the climb was
pleasantly cool and under the clear sky the Eiger and the Aletsch
Glacier were visible in the haze to the north. The Simplon Pass is
one of the more exciting and scenic routes in the Alps. Unlike other
major passes, it has no highway tunnel beneath it, yet has remarkably
little traffic.

http://www.picswiss.ch/Land10/VS-10-05.html

Today was a low-traffic day as we swept down into the galleries along
the granite walls of the Gondo gorge, high above the Diveria River in
the Val Divedro. After a long zigzag down the wall, we reached the
small villages of Gabi, Gondo, and Iselle (672m) where the 20km
Simplon railway tunnel emerges from its south portal to vanish again
into a tunnel that makes a loop in the mountain to lose elevation at
Varzo (532m). The Varzo bypass, being built over the Diveria looked
like it was almost finished last year but is seems to be stalled at
the moment. The long curved bypass is entirely on a steel bridge over
the Diveria.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s25.html

About a kilometer above Crevoladossola (337m), which lies at the end
of the narrow part of the canyon above the Valle d'Ossola, the highway
enters an autos-only tunnel where bicycles must (and prefer to) take
the old road into town. Shortly beyond the tunnel entrance we stopped
at the graceful and ancient stone arch bridge with Jeanie sitting on
the railing at the top of the arch. We turned east at Crevoladossola
to the Val Antigorio passing Crodo (the home of Crodo Acqua Minerale)
and on to Baceno (655m) for lunch at the confluence of the Toce and
Devero rivers.

It being Thursday, the great waterfall, the Cascata del Toce, would be
flowing, but from what was coming downstream, it looked as though the
heat wave and drought reduced the falls to a minimum. Ente Nazionale
Energia Elettrica (ENEL) the electric power authority takes all the
water except Sundays and Thursday afternoons. From Baceno we followed
the Toce up the Val Formazza where big trucks carried huge blocks of
granite down to the stone works in Domodossola. This region has many
granite quarries that supply these huge blocks to be made into beams,
posts, slabs, curbs, table tops, roofing stone and decorative
sculptures.

As we approached the top of the valley we could see the falls visible
through the trees as the road began its climb in the granite wall of
the gorge. Much of the road beneath the falls is in tunnels and
avalanche sheds that end just before the Albergo Cascata del Toce di
Riale (1675m) that stands at the edge of the waterfall.

http://www.itinera2000.org/tedesco/w...serted-117.htm

This year the Giro d'Italia on Friday, 30 May, had a stage finish
here, with Gilberto Simoni winning the stage in his 39t-21t gear, as
he says. However, for touring, this is a beautiful route that above
the falls enters a high Valle di Morasco with the village of Riale
(1728m). From Riale we took the San Giacomo pass that crosses the
border into Switzerland into the Val Bedretto.

The San Giacomo is an unpaved road from the days of yore, when the
road, probably first built by ENEL to the dam and to end of the lake.
The unpaved road traverses the south side of the valley up to the dam.
Although the road has not been graded recently, minimal car traffic
keeps it ridable. Navigating the rough surface was better than last
year with little need for dismounting. The solitude and striking
landscape make this one of the great roads in the Alps.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/i54.html
http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/i35.html

The road levels off in the Val Toggia (2000m) and then climbs above
the dam of Lago Toggia (2191m). With the heat wave that preceded our
tour, there was no snow or ice on the lake as there was in other
years. Today the lake was emerald blue and surrounded by green
meadows and wildflowers. The road rises gradually past the lake to
the San Giacomo Pass (2313m), where a small stone house at the end of
the road marks the Swiss border. From here, only hiking trails
continue. Over the years I have found one route that works best, the
one marked for the Gries Pass (2479m) and from it, one that descends
steeply to the Nufenen Pass road in the Val Bedretto.

The technique I use for descending steep hiking trails, is to walk
next to the bicycle applying the front brake while not restraining the
bicycle by pulling back (up) on the bars. Pulling on the bars lifts
the front wheel and puts the entire braking burden on the legs of the
hiker. When I saw that Jeanie was having difficulty descending the
trail, we traded bicycles and I discovered that what was easy with my
bicycle, even with one hand on the bars, was difficult with Jeanie's
dual pivot brakes, with their higher mechanical advantage. Although
we weren't fast, the descent was, because it was so steep.

Near the bottom of the trail a mine seeking mountain crystals cut
across the path so that we had to take a steep cutoff. However, the
miners had installed a good temporary bridge across the Ticino River
so we didn't get wet shoes walking through ice water. We stopped at
Ronco (1487m), the first town, a few kilometers down the valley.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

14. Friday, 11 July (Ronco - Bregalia 190km, 3000m):

The morning was a breeze as we coasted down the Bedretto valley to
Airolo and took a picture of the flying hairpin turn on the Gotthard
from Fontana. From Airolo we retraced our earlier route to Castione
(242m), and turned east before Bellinzona, up the Val Mesolcina to the
San Bernardino Pass. The valley is fairly flat until Soazza, where
the road begins to climb smartly to Mesocco (790m).

As we passed Ristorante Beer in Mesocco, where the same host presided
for as many years as I can remember, there was a faded "Chiuso" sign
in the door. This was sad because I so much wanted to once more
experience the owner's ability to recite complex menus from memory and
to keep in his head what every guest ordered without notes. The last
two years, when he was still in business, I arrived on Wednesday, his
"rest day".

We stopped at the grocery store just up the road and confirmed the
suspicion that Hotel Restaurant Beer was closed for good. After a
snack we started up the granite paving stones of Mesocco's 13% main
street into a light breeze. The grade eased a bit at the end of the
cobbles as the road climbed hairpin turns to Pian San Giacomo (1170m).
From here the road meanders across a small valley before climbing over
a ridge to San Bernardino (1607m), a charming little town in a glacial
depression with a lake. The motorway takes a tunnel from here into
the Hinterrhein Valley, leaving us to ride in peace over the pass.

After lunch, we rode up the most scenic part of this climb through
glacial formations, amidst running water and green meadows of
wildflowers, bog cotton, and alpenrosen. Remnants of the ancient
Roman road, with large edge stones, still remained in a few places
where it had not been obliterated by the new road.

We rode around the summit lake and past the San Bernardino monastery
at the top (2603m). There were no dogs with rum kegs hanging from
their collars like those in the gift shop, and I'm not sure there ever
were any.

We descended into the Rheinwald Valley where it was pleasantly still
in contrast to the usual gunnery practice on the artillery range above
the village of Hinterrhein. We crossed the Hinterrhein River at the
motorway tunnel portal, passed the town of Hinterrhein (1624m), and
took the frontage road down to Splugen (1457m) into a light headwind.
After stopping for some food at the market we turned south up the
Splugen Pass.

We climbed along the stream through lush green meadows of the upper
valley were rich with the usual wildflowers and orange dandelions that
seem to thrive at higher elevations. We saw only wagtails along the
creek where in past years I had seen Dippers, odd birds that walk
under water. A Swiss Customs house lies above a stack of hairpin
turns, a couple of kilometers below the summit, standing forlornly on
an outcropping in the eye of a hairpin turn. Border guards have a
sweeping view of the road from the valley up to the Splugen summit
(2117m). Farther down at the Italian station, they gave our
'documenti' a thorough investigation, asked no questions and then let
us continue.

Monte Spluga (1908m), a small village with granite houses with granite
roofs at the upper end of a large ENEL lake, looked a little less
depressing in sunshine than it usual. The granite face of the dam
carries a giant relief of "MDIVXXXV", its construction date. From
here the road is unusual in that much of it is covered in avalanche
protection tunnels, some of which are hairpin turns, stacked one above
the other in cliffs. Although most of its one-lane sections have been
widened, tour busses still avoid it for its tight curves. An
alternate, but longer route with more generous curves branches off in
Isolato.

We descended the Val San Giacomo along the Liro river as the valley
widened and became less steep on the way to Chiavenna (333m) in the
Val Bregaglia. We turned up the valley toward the Maloja Pass and
St. Moritz, crossing into Switzerland at Castasegna (696m) and up to
the lovely old fashioned Post Hotel Bregaglia (820m) in Bondo, where
we stopped for the night.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

15. Saturday, 12 July (Bregalia - Temú 143km, 2810m):

I was glad to see that although the road was widened, the leaning rock
above Sottoponte was not destroyed and is now a narrows, probably
because the new bypass tunnel was completed before getting a chance to
blast this beautiful artifact.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/s15.html

We rode up the Val Bregaglia along the Mera to Casaccia (1458m), where
the Septimer Pass (2310m), a Roman road, heads north, an
interesting climbing adventure that I once took over to Bivio (1769m)
on the Julier Pass (2284m). From Casaccia the road climbs steeply
into a bowl and ascends the south wall to the Maloja Pass. The steep
ramp was modified recently so that it has a pair of hairpin turns at
the upper end... a sort of bandaid for an excessively steep section.

The Maloja Pass (1815m) is one sided with no descent to the east,
which the road convincingly demonstrates as it follows the shore of
the Silsersee and the slightly lower Silvaplanasee. After the
St. Moritzersee, the road descends through a narrows into the Val
Bernina where we joined the Bernina road at Champagna (1714m). We
rode south through Pontresina (1805m) where we made a lunch stop at a
grocery store.

Up the Val Bernina, at the Bellavista curve railway crossing (1950m)
of the RhB Railway, we stopped for a picture, but as the year, no
train came by to be photographed in front of the glacier. Instead we
took pictures of bicycle racers rounding the curve. The upper Val
Bernina is fairly flat but after the Diavolezza and Lagalp funiculars,
the road climbs the last bump to the Bernina summit (2323m). Two
lakes lie on opposite sides of the divide, where the waters of deep
blue Lago Negro flow via the Inn and Danube rivers to the Black Sea,
while those of milky white Lago Bianco flow via the Cavaliasco and
Adda rivers to the Po and the Adriatic Sea.

http://www.trainpics.de/gallery/swit...a/rb17134.html

The south side of the Bernina Pass is one of the longer descents in
the Alps as it makes its way into the Val Poschiavo. A kilometer or
so below the summit, we passed the junction (2045m) to the Forcola di
Livigno pass (2315m) that connects to Livigno from which a road
connects tot he Ofen Pass and Bormio. After riding around Lago di
Poschiavo we made the fast descent to Brusio where we stopped at
Hotel Bottoni for a visit and a large ice cream sundae. Well fueled
we passed the famous Brusio Loop of the RhB railway and crossed into
Italy to Madonna di Tirano.

http://www.rail-info.ch/RhB-BB/pics/rhb5374.jpg

A short way down the valley from Madonna di Tirano we crossed the
valley to Stazzona and the road up through the woods to intersect the
Aprica Pass road (Rt N39). From Aprica (1176m) on the summit, we
descended the long gentle grade to Edolo (690m), passing the foot of
the Mortirolo Pass (1896m) at Monno (868m) and stopping in Temú.

At Temú (1144m), just below Ponte di Legno, we found lodging just up
the street from the Locanda Veduta dell'Adamello that was booked full
but had room for us for a delicious dinner. Silvano Macculotti, the
proprietor, explained that his old hotel across the street was wrapped
up in family disagreement, his family having operated the hotel for
more than three generations.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

16. Sunday, 13 July (Temú - Kortsch; 110km, 2964m):

We rode through Ponte di Legno (1258m) where Torrente Frigidolfo rages
through the middle of town. We stayed on the north side of the river
to reach the nearly flat, lush green valley below Pezzo (1565m) a
typically picturesque hill town, glued to the side of the mountain in
what appears to be high-risk avalanche territory. The shape of the
slopes above apparently protect it from white death. We climbed
through the larch forest to break out into Appolonia (1585m) where the
Frigidolfo meanders across the flat valley with no hint of its
cascades below, or waterfalls above.

We stopped at the gazebo which currently offers only one flavor of
rusty bubbly mineral water for those who seek its benefits masked by
its foul flavor. This water is thought to give strength to bicyclists
who dare climb the Gavia or at least to those who dare to drink.
After getting past the warning signs of landslides, rockfall,
dangerous narrow road, and a requirement to have tire chains on board
from September to July, we were on our way. Past the second hairpin,
reality strikes as the road goes from highway to driveway width, and
the 16% sign of poster fame sets the tone. The road is only that
steep in a few places, but the signs are a warning for vehicles that
cannot restart on such a grade after meeting a descending vehicle.
The bicyclist can always walk.

We stopped at the cliff, the scene of the poster picture of years ago
that hangs on the wall in the Rifugio Bonetta on the summit. In many
attempts we have not been able to match that photo.

http://tinyurl.com/f389

We stopped in at the Rifugio to say hello to Signor. Bonetta. As last
year, there was "mail" taped to the glass on the poster with a
greeting from a fellow bikie. There were about 100 riders outside
finishing a club hillclimb that came up from Santa Caterina on the
north side. We thanked Signor. Bonetta for his hospitality and rolled
off across the broad summit.

http://www.waltellina.com/ortlescevedale/bonetta/

As we crossed the summit, the Ortler (3905m) and Gran Zebru (3851m)
with their glacial caps and perpetual glistening snow rose to the east
as we descended onto the Valle Valfurva. The Val di Gavia got steeper
as we passed Rifugio Breni (2543m) on the way down to the main road in
Santa Caterina (1734m). Valfurva Valley is a steep dash from the town
of Valfurva (1339m) to Bormio (1197m). We rode up Via Roma, a
pedestrian mall and main street of Bormio, and stopped at the large
Pizzeria across from Braulio liqueur HQ.

Well fed and rested, we rode up the rocky Val Braulio, where the road
clings to the south side below slopes of scree, ducking into the
mountain in long avalanche tunnels before reaching the headwall at
Spondalunga. Here the road makes ten traverses to climb to the Bocca
di Braulio, a curved valley that leads to the Umbrail gap (2502m) and
the Stelvio summit (2757m). From the Umbrail, the last 3km with a
steady 10% climb went well.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/i79.html

As usual, many motorcyclists and bicyclists were gathered at the
summit as Jeanie took my picture crossing the top. We went to the
edge of the precipice to the east where we took pictures of what is
hard to capture with a camera. From here we had a clear view of the
road, glued to the wall, as it starts down the 48 hairpin turns to the
Val di Trafoi. In spite of climbing the Gavia before lunch, I cut
almost a half hour off my time up the hill this afternoon.

http://tinyurl.com/lenc
http://tinyurl.com/len5

As we rolled out of Prato, we ran into our first major headwind but
it only lasted across the Val Venosta to Spondigna, where we crossed
the abandoned FS railway line... wait! the tracks were cleared of
brush and some work had been done on the wires next to the track.
After more than five years of dormancy, the federal railway (FS)
changed its mind and is refurbishing the whole line from Merano to
Málles with new track.

We coasted down to Kortsch, just above Spondigna, found comfortable
Hotel Sonne and relaxed. I needed a rest day and this was a good
location, still up at higher elevations and out in the country.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

17. Monday, 14 July (Kortsch - Kortsch; 0km, 0m):

----------------------------------------------------------------------

18. Tuesday, 15 July (Kortsch - Alba; 125km, 1732m):

Although yesterday afternoon was warm, today was the usual pleasantly
cool weather we have had all along. Merano (302m) was 34km down the
Val Venosta and another flat 30km run to Bolzano (262m), a charming
south Tyrolean city on the edge of the Dolomites. We stayed on the
north side of the Val Venosta and found that the old highway, in the
presence of the Autostrada was almost empty as we rode down the valley.

We headed north past the Bolzano train station toward the Isarco
(Eisack) Valley to Cardano, where I couldn't find the road (Rt N241)
other than a large new tunnel that went into the wall north of where
the Ega rushed out of a narrow defile in the rock wall. We were told
that this was the only way now and that bicycles were allowed,
something that was obvious once we went that way. The 1.2km tunnel
took us around the 16% defile for which the Costalunga road was noted.
The tunnel was airy and had broad shoulders, the way a bicyclist would
like.

At the upper portal of the tunnel we rejoined the old road, the
remains of which came shockingly steeply out of the defile below. I
was convinced that this as a positive change for everyone. Besides,
the convenience, the most scenic part of the canyon remained
unchanged. We rode on through Welschnofen (1182m) and into the forest
Just above Hotel Diana, that has a giant mural of Diana the huntress
with bow and arrow, the road flattens as it reaches the summit meadows
and turquoise Lago di Carezza, the reflecting pool for the Latemar
(2842m) with its myriad Dolomite spires. Unfortunately the drought
and heat wave had reduced the surface of the lake to less than half
its usual area and no reflection was seen beneath its steep banks.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/i92.html

Across the meadows, the Rosengarten (2981m) was left in natural stone
color under the light overcast that robbed it of its sunset colors
that give it its name. We passed the junction to the Nigerjoch Pass,
whose lower end is the 24% grade road to Tiers. Then came a short
climb with a few turns to the Costalunga summit (1745m) and a long
gradual descent to Vigo di Fassa and up the valley to Canazei and Alba
(1460m) in the Val di Fassa.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

19. Wednesday, 16 July (Alba - Longarone; 130km, 3000m):

Up the valley, a few kilometers from Canazei, we began the climb up
the Fedaia Pass. Here the road goes up the north wall, climbing
through tunnels and avalanche sheds to come out above the concrete
arch dam of the Lago di Fedaia (2054m). We took the old road around
the south side of the lake and crossed over the little bump, the
official Fedaia Pass (2510m) at the far end of the lake. When I first
visited the Fedaia, it went only as far as the dam. The road we came
up is relatively new with its 8% grade but the "old" descends steeply
to the east through a series of hairpin turns followed by a long 13%
straight section into Malga Ciapela (1384m). A little breeze from
ahead prevented me from achieving the usual 100km/h coasting.

From Malga Ciapela we went down into the Serra di Sottoguda canyon
instead of taking the high auto road. This is the beautiful old road,
closed to cars, that winds through the deep and narrow gorge next to
the Torrente Pettorina to Sottoguda. From Caprile (1014m), in the
shadows of Monte Civetta (3220m), we headed north, climbing to Racuva
(1311m) to follow the canyon to Cernadoi (1495m) to join the road to
the Falzarego Pass.

The Falzarego (2105m) lies in a beautiful meadow at the base of Pizo
Lagazuoi (2770m), a striking dolomite peak at the base of which the
Valparola Pass (2192m) heads west into the Val di San Cassiano. The
Falzarego descends gradually to Pocol (1480m) above Cortina, at the
junction with Passo Giau. After a hearty lunch at the restaurant at
the road junction, we headed off toward the Giau, first descending and
then climbing the odd alignment of this ancient road.

Our trip being in almost perpetual clear skies, the scenery was
magnificent as we reached the summit of the Giau (2236m) with a view
across the Valle d' Ampezzo to the Passo Tre Croci and to the
Marmolada to the southwest. Having just eaten lunch we didn't stop at
the Rifugio Piezza (2175m), a half kilometer below the summit, a great
place to eat... and stay for the night.

The descent reminded me of how I rode up this steep grade years ago,
thinking nothing of it. It wasn't paved them. We descended to Selva
di Cadore (1336m) and headed east to Passo Staulanza (1773m) along the
Torrente Fiorentina all the while heading straight for Monte Pelmo
(3168m). The Staulanza is an easy pass and comes as a surprise
because there is no apparent gap past Monte Pelmo. After a hairpin
turn just before the mountain, the pass shows up unexpectedly,

Typical of the Dolomites, this route is a scenic wonder. We rode to
Longarone (472m), notorious for the dam disaster at 22:42 on 09
October 1963 when the town was destroyed by a "tidal wave", that a
landslide from Monte Toc (1921m) had forced over a dam and through a
narrow gulch across from the town, to claim 1909 lives. Our hotel as,
most in that area, had many before and after pictures on its walls.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

20. Thursday, 17 July (Longarone - Cárnia: 143km, 2048m):

We started out under blue skies that gradually turned cloudy as the
day passed. We crossed the valley and rode up the granite wall
through tunnels as we headed to the gap of death for Longarone.
Below, carved into the vertical wall, we saw the old road notched and
tunneled into the gorge as we passed tunnel openings in our toad.
Then we saw the hollow arch of the dam, still in tact, with only a bit
of the rim cracked of on the far side. It is less than 50m across
but at least three times that high, narrowing to almost nothing at its
bottom.

After the last tunnel we emerged just above the dam that still has a
bit of water between it and the mountain that slid into the former
lake. A memorial chapel by Corbusier stands vigil over this disaster.

http://tinyurl.com/li6o (before)
http://tinyurl.com/li6e (after)
http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare...zio/vajont.htm
http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare...io/vajont1.htm
http://www.citysite.it/news/page/fot...ajont/diga.htm

From the dam the road climbs over the mountain that slid into the lake
and descends to Erto (750m), a small town on the far side of a small
pass above the former reservoir. As the map shows, Erto was just
spared of the flood.

http://www.erto.it/diga.htm

We crossed the Passo di San Osvaldo (827m) to a region that doesn't
see much traffic or tourists. The river beds are striking with their
brilliant white dolomite stone and azure green water with such clarity
that the edge of the water is hardly discernable as its color vanishes
to white of the shore. We descended to Barcis (409m) along one of
these rivers, the Torrente Cimoliana, that flows into the Lago di
Barcis, a brilliant emerald in this rough landscape.

The lake drains past a dam into a narrow gorge that is scheduled to be
flooded by a new dam being completed now. I had last ridden through
this fascinating tunnel like road years ago and hoped to see it once
more. The entrance was blocked by a heavy chain-link fence and
warning signs from ENEL. We capitulated, not knowing whether there
were rock slides in the gorge or whether the road was even more
securely blocked at the lower end, which it was.

We took the four kilometer long tunnel, that was built years ago to be
above water. In the meanwhile the dam project was suspended for a
long time and its equipment rusting away the last time I rode through
here. The tunnel was well lighted, was slightly downhill and had
almost no traffic. We climbed over the ridge, the edge of the future
lake, to Maniago (283m) and looked at the downstream side of the dam
as we continued to Pinzano (104m) and headed north up the Val d'Arzino
a little traveled route to Tolmezzo (323m).

This route has a few tunnels along the river before climbing up a
series of hairpin turns that probably offer a striking view of the
river gorge and surrounding mountains if it weren't raining. This was
the only rain of the ride as we climbed climbed the Sella Chianzutan
(954m). After a bit of solid rain and thunder the shower blew away
just after we crossed the summit.

With as little traffic, and therefore, tourism along this scenic
route, we found no lodgings and continued into more traveled
territory. We got on the main route just below Tolmezzo and rode to
Cárnia Piani (281m), where Autostrada, Railway and two highways cross
to find an autostrada hotel and rest stop. We got a comfortable room,
good bicycle parking and a nice restaurant. By the time we were ready
for dinner, the rain returned, making a good showing with a
resounding thunderstorm with light show and heavy metal.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

21. Friday, 18 July (Cárnia - Stara Fuzina: 140km, 3356m):

The sky was clearing in the morning as clouds drifted off to the east
to wash the streets in Venezia as we rode up the valley toward
Chiusaforte (391m) along the Fiume Fella, a huge broad wash of white
rock, its water well hidden between boulders. The Fella and similar
rivers here obviously run full during big storms, an event that must
be terrifying when it occurs. An abandoned single track railway
right-of-way, parallel to our road, was recognizable by its beautiful
masonry bridges and elegantly arched tunnels that still bore the soot
of steam trains from years gone by.

I imagined the grand Simplon Orient Expresses, in royal blue with gold
trim, carrying nobility to Venice in elegant varnish, with Pullman,
salon and dining cars. Meanwhile,returning to reality, the new double
track route entered a tunnel across the river, vanishing underground
for the next ten kilometers only to enter another tunnel and another,
on its way to Villach and Innsbruck, Vienna or Munich. The new route
went into service in 1996, leaving the old classic forgotten and
overgrown.

http://tinyurl.com/lqmg

We turned east at Chiusaforte, up the Sella Nevea (1190m), a scenic
low traffic road to Slovenia. Climbing through a dense forest around
hairpin turns that offered a view of the surrounding spectacular
mountains once in a while, we arrived at the summit to realize that
what looked like piles of snow was really centimeter sized hail stones
that fell during that rumble last night. After a pleasant descent we
joined the main road after the beautiful lake at Cave del Predil (900)
and turned south for a short climb to the Predil Pass (1150m) and the
Slovenian border.

The descent was steeper than I had remembered it from years ago but
the scenery was as great as ever with a clear view down the Koritnica
river to Bovec (pronounced Bovetch). Bovec (769m) was looking elegant
and offered a good choice of restaurants of which we took one with
outdoor tables. I admired the Hotel Kanin across the street (now
three star rating), in which I stayed as the country was emerging from
communism. The receptionist told us to take our bicycles to our room
in the mostly empty hotel.

Between Bovec and Kobarid, down the Soda River, we took pictures of
the Slap Boca, a great waterfall that issues from the dry rocky west
wall of the canyon. We stopped in Kobarid at a wonderful Gelateria
with a delicious selection of Italian style gelato that fit well with
the sunny weather. The scooper had such enthusiasm and showmanship
that we took a second giant cup, with whipped cream and raspberry
syrup, on which he insisted. The scoops flew from one hand held high,
into the ice cream sundae cup with precision, something we could taste
over unimaginative service.

In Tolmin (200m) we turned east up the Baca River to Podbrdo (525m) at
the south portal of the 7,25km long railway tunnel to Bohinjska
Bistrica. When we arrived in Podbrdo, where the map clearly showed a
tunnel train loading symbol, we discovered anew (something I had found
many years ago) that the tunnel trains do not stop here but load in
Tolmin. As we stood dejected in front of the train station that was
just closing, a young lady arrived with her father to take the local
train to Tolmin.

After we told her of our predicament, she happened to talk to a
railway clerk from whom she learned that he was going to stop the
tunnel train to travel north. We thanked her profusely for her
discovery just as her train arrived. A half hour later, the tunnel
train arrived and slowed to a stop. We loaded our bicycles into the
baggage car and rode under the mountain over which I recall riding
with John Woodfill a few years ago, a climb was neither short nor
easy.

We stopped at the excellent tourist information (I) office that told
us where we could get a room on the Bohinjska lake. This was typical
of Slovenia that bends over backward to be hospitable. We stayed in
Stara Fuzina in comfortable accommodations on the shores of this
beautiful lake.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

22. Saturday, 19 July (Stara Fuzina - Gailtal): 161km, 2696m):

After breakfast we rode around the lake to the bridge where many
people stood looking into the water last evening and found that they
were looking at a large school of trout that were waiting for a
handout. The abundance of fish in streams and lakes makes clear that
reigning in the fishermen leaves a lot for others to see.

We rode down the Sava Bohinjka to Bled (504m) with its beautiful
Blejsko lake where Marshall Tito's elegant but modest vacation
residence is still in fine shape although fenced off and unused.
Below Bled we got on the main road to Jesenice (574m) that runs
parallel to the motorway and has light traffic. After Jesenice, where
the Motorway turns north to Austria, traffic was even lighter as we
stopped in Gozd to take a better picture than the one from years ago.
The only problem was that the city limit sign, in the picture below,
had been placed elsewhere. This route is surrounded by the eastward
extension of the Dolomites, known as the Karavanka typified by the
view of Gozd.

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos/a46.html

We followed the Sava Dolinka river up the valley to the Italian border
at Ratece (845m), an innocuous saddle (pass) on the way to Tarvisio
(751m) and Pontebba (561m) where we headed north up Passo di Promollo
(1530), a steep and twisty road up rugged Val Aupa, that levels off at
the Nassfeldersee midst of green meadows at Nassfeld, aptly named for
its wet greenery. The Austrian side has ski areas, so the road its
wide with large sweeping turns as it descends steeply into the Ober
Gailtal at Jenig and west to Kötschach (708m) where we stopped for the
day.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

23. Sunday, 20 July (Kötschach - Zell am See; 112km, 2340m):

We had gotten used to the marvelous weather by now and took the clear
skies and balmy temperatures for granted as we rode over the
Gailbergsattel (982) to Oberdrauburg (621) on the Drau river.
Following the river toward Lienz, we turned north at Dölsach (799m) at
the foot of the Iselsberg Pass (1204m) that connects from the Drau
River in the Pustertal to Winklern (958m) in the Mölltal. From here
it's a gradual climb along the Möll up the narrow and scenic valley
toward the Grossglockner, the highest peak in that Hohe Tauern range,
that gives its name to the toll road, "Großglockner Hochalpenstraße".

http://www.grossglockner.at/

At Heiligenblut (1301m) at the foot of the Großglockner Pass, the end
of an easy cruise up the valley with a bit of climbing here and there
and stopped for a grocery store lunch. The grocery store on the
corner is open every day all day so that tourists can get what they
need. As we put away our fuel for the big climb we could see the
Großglockner behind the tall slender church steeple of Heiligenblut.

The real climb starts in front of the grocery store with a 12% grade
that lets up a couple of times before the saddle at Kasereck (1913m)
after which the road descends to the junction to the base of the
Großglockner and the road to the summit.

The Dolomites to the south were no longer visible as we reached,
Hochtor, the summit (2505m), in breezy pleasant temperatures. After a
photo session, we rode through the 200m summit tunnel and down toward
Mitteltörl, stopping at a geological display of various formations
typical of this range.

After passing the lake we rode through the curved Mitteltörl (2328m)
tunnel, (the middle summit), and down a short 12% grade that took us
to a 12% climb to Fuschertörl (2428m, the north summit). With a clear
sky, the whole Glockner group made a striking panorama. We descended
the 12% run to Fusch in the Fuschertal and continued to the north toll
gate and wildlife park at Ferleiten.

We rolled down to Bruck (757m) on the Salzach River, passing through
villages with roadside displays of wood carvings and rustic furniture,
Austrian art for the tourist. Across the Salzach we headed into Zell
am See and found a nice hotel on the lake.

http://tinyurl.com/lqiq

---------------------------------------------------------------------

24. Monday, 21 July (Zell am See - Fügen; 108km, 2240m):

We headed west up the Pinzgau Valley past Mittersill where there was a
big traffic jam of cars heading north to Kitzbühel or south through
the Felber-Tauern Tunnel to Lienz and the Dolomites. After Mittersill
the road was fairly empty. A Pinzgau narrow gauge (760mm, 30inch)
train passed us and blew its pennywhistle, greeting us from tracks
that parallel the road much of the way.

We continued west to Wald (867m) at the foot of the old Gerlos Pass
where we stopped at the grocery store for some power to get us up this
grade that has some 7% sections. The old Gerlos road used to go above
the church next to the grocery store and bicyclist can still do that
by riding through the pedestrian path that heads up the hill. As has
been my custom, we stopped at Gasthaus Grubl, a great place to stay,
and say hello to Mrs. Kaiser who runs the place. The hotel lies in a
crook in the road, where a small creek runs over a decorative water
wheel that once drove a generator. The door was open but there was no
one home because Mrs. Kaiser had gone across the road to her vegetable
garden. When she returned, we talked a bit and wished her well as we
headed up the climb up the 500m of 17% that starts here.

Clouds were gathering as we got near the top of the old Gerlos Pass
(1486m), though the road was mostly dry over the summit where it joins
the new road. We seemed to be ahead of the rain because the road was
dry as we descended past the huge earthen dam to Gerlos (1245m). From
here, The road stays high while the Gerlos River rushes down the
Gerlostal, a narrow defile. From Hainzenberg (1000m), the road
finally takes a series of hairpin turns to descend to Zell am Ziller
(575m) in the Zillertal.

As last year, the sky was closing in with thunderclouds but it didn't
rain as we road down the valley. Just before we reached Fügen at
about 3:30 the storm got serious and started blowing branches off
trees, magazines and newspapers from stores were flying around the
main street and tables and benches were pushed over. Jeanie was
convinced this wasn't getting any better so we took a room at Hotel
Sonne, and surprise, were just in time to see Lance Armstrong make a
great showing. After that we got a good dinner and rested up for a
sunny day tomorrow.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

24. Tuesday, 22 July (Zell am See - Fügen im Zillertal; 206km, 2056m):

After a solid breakfast I headed west toward Innsbruck (574m) along
the south side of the Inn and crossed to the north bank at Hall. From
Hall to Innsbruck, the old streetcar line on the south side of the
highway has become an excellent bicycle path that took us into town.
We took the road around the west side of town along the Inn and
dropped in on the old city center to catch the local color. The
balcony with the golden roof was in fine trim as were the golden
arches a few houses down the narrow street.

http://www.die-seite.at/sight/golden...goldenroof.php

We stayed on the south side of the Inn toward Vols and on the less
traveled route toward Landeck. Across the river, the railroad climbed
through the vertical Martinswand, a huge round granite-faced mountain
through which it tunnels on the way to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and
Munich. More striking is the Zirlerberg road that rises with a 16%
grade to the roundhouse restaurant and from there up to 22% to the
top. Bicycles are prohibited from downhill use of this road that has
six runaway escape roads.

http://tinyurl.com/jhiu

The road remains fairly flat until Haiming, the mouth of the Ötztal,
at the upper end of which the Timmelsjoch (Passo Rombo; 2474m) crosses
to St Leonhard and Merano in South Tyrol. With mini-markets at most
gas stations, we were well supplied with food as we crossed the high
bridge over Ache River from the Ötztal and then crossed over the Inn,
to climb two kilometers over the narrows of the canyon.

After a two kilometer descent, we turned off to Bahnhof Imst and the
river rafting set-in to take the bicycle path to Landeck. The path
lies between the motorway and the river and avoids the climb to Imst
and Imsterberg that the local highway makes. We saw no rafters but
there were highway maintenance crews removing tree blow-down from the
thunderstorm that was felt over a large area of the Alps.

At Landeck (816m) we took the Arlberg highway (Rt N1), and turned off
at Pians into the Paznauntal and the Silvretta Hochalpenstrasse toll
road (Rt A188), the Bielerhöhe Pass to Bludenz in the Montafontal.

We had a light tailwind up this gradual climb along the Trisanna River
to Galtür. As often, at Galtür, our tailwind turned into a headwind
as the road began to get steeper up the desolate valley. The last
kilometer to the dam of the summit lake of 12% got us to the
Bielerhöhe Pass (2021m). The Silvretta lake straddles the summit and
is contained by an earthen dam on the east and a concrete dam on the
west. With the beautifully clear weather we saw the glacier-covered
Eckhorn (3117m), Wiesbadenerhöhe (2490m), Piz Silvretta (3248m), and
Piz Buin (3312m), set off against deep blue water. We met an English
rowing team that was preparing for high altitude training for the
eight-man crew world championship. The seemed all to be over two
meters tall.

I had forgotten how easy this descent down 32 hairpin turns could be
in fair weather but this road has no tight turns, all of them being
gentle sweepers. After reaching the bottom of the steep part, in
Partenen (1051m) on the Ill River in the Montafontal we rolled down to
Schruns (690m), where we found good lodging.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

25. Wednesday, 23 July (Schruns - Schwyz; 158km, 2010m):

After a good buffet breakfast we rode down the Montafontal to Bludenz
and Feldkirch (455m), and headed south in the Rhine valley to Vaduz,
the capital of Lichtenstein. We crossed the Rhine on an old covered
bridge to the west levee bike path that we took to Sargans (482m)
Switzerland. We rode down to Walenstadt (427m) on the Walensee, and
took the bicycle path along the lake, stopping for lunch at a lakeside
restaurant near Mülehorn. The bicycle path the steep shore close to
the water with views of the seven Churfirsten of canton St. Gallen,
whose peaks: Selun (2204m), Frümsel (2267m), Brisi (2279m), Zuestoll
(2235m), Schibenstoll (2236m), Hinterrugg (2306m), and Chäserrugg
(2262m), rise steeply from the opposite shore of the lake. After two
long bicycle tunnels we were in the Linthtal of canton Glarus.

http://www.picswiss.ch/StGallen/SG-l4-04.html

We rode to Mollis (450m) and Netstal on the main road to Glarus
(472m), where we turned off to the Klöntal and the Pragel Pass. The
Klöntal is narrow, with steep rocky cliffs on both sides and a
beautiful alpine lake, almost the width of the valley. Typical of
canton Glarus, the mountains rise above the lake and vanish in the
mist, as our small road climbs past the lake to the Pragel Pass
(1550m). The ride out of the Linthtal is a moderate climb but the
main climb begins after the Klönsee.

The summit is a lovely saddle of pasture land surrounded by steep
cliffs. The descent to Muotathal (624m) in the Bisistal of canton
Schwyz, in contrast seems to descend much farther than we climbed,
mainly because it has long 18% sections. From the summit to Bisistal,
is closed to motor traffic on weekends and on weekdays, there is
almost no traffic anyway. From Muotathal it's nearly flat along the
Muota to Ibach, our starting point.

Many of the places mentioned in this report can be seen at:

http://www.paloaltobicycles.com/alps_photos.html

That was 3346km and 56766m climbing
================================================== ======================

If you have any of my ride reports after 1960 and before 1990, or know
where I can find them, in software or hard copy, please let me know.
I lost these reports when switching from a terminal and server to a PC
and failed to retrieve them before they were unrecoverable.

================================================== ======================
Jobst Brandt

Palo Alto CA


 




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