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A Yank in the Alps, 20 Passes, 13 Videos, 5 Days, Images & Impressions

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by sfarson, Jul 22, 2006.

  1. sfarson

    sfarson On a Ride

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    Perhaps you've been to this special place and want to re-ride the rides. Maybe it is on your list of places to experience from two wheels and want an appetizer. Or, you're in the mood for an armchair ride from a collection of onboard recordings delivering almost an hour of the Alps. If so, could find faint interest here :strum.

    Following business in Brussels and Geneva, working the plan with the fam, arranged for a motorcycle hire out of Geneva. Five days to see the Swiss and Italian Alps. This was a trip from last week. Fresh from the dairy. Time in airport lounges and Lufthansa providing laptop power from the seat had me cranking on the videos and content.

    While planning for this a friend in Europe suggested staying in a central location and making day rides from this place. Mentioned great rides in every direction from the Andermatt, Switzerland area and that I wouldn't have to try and find a hotel every night during a busy summer vacation time in the Alps. Sounded like good advice.

    Enough words! On with the content.

    DAY #1

    Only one video for this day (Five from day #2 coming up). BTW, these videos, while recorded at a brisk pace, aren't your garden variety see-how-fast-I-can ride videos. Focus here is on experiencing the passes of the Alps. Looked for clips where scenery can be seen, alpine villages perhaps passed through, and recordings from the top. Also, piano and violin accompany some of the vids. Days 3-5 have little more up tempo accompaniment :strum. If looking for driving rock tunes, save your bandwidth, I put those in other vids. :wink:

    Following the collection of the bike and navigating east out of Geneva, came to the Chamonix area and Mont Blanc. Enormous. Glacial. Intimidating. One of the most impressive sights I've seen. Clouds clearing but still hazy when pulling over for the pic and looking up, up...
    [​IMG]

    Arrived at the Neufenen Pass mid-afternoon, and it provided a nice route to the family hotel where I would be staying in Airolo. The first pass! and an excellent introduction to what was ahead on this trip...

    Neufenen Pass - Streaming Video #1

    On the way to the pass summit, pulled over for this image of the road below, and traversed to get to this point...
    [​IMG]

    And from the top. I found the immense glaciers especially awesome...
    [​IMG]
    #1
  2. scottr

    scottr Banned

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    :lurk
    #2
  3. Thomas

    Thomas Viva Las Vegas!

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    Been doing this for a couple of years now. Riding from campsite to campsite in the Alps.

    You can ride for days on end, and nothing but curves, cols, passes, offroad trails, profiteroles and friendly people..

    Sweet.

    Keep it coming.
    #3
  4. sfarson

    sfarson On a Ride

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    Thomas... you have a great place to ride to annually. I would probably do the same. Have your observations as well after last week's trip. Now to post day #2!
    #4
  5. sfarson

    sfarson On a Ride

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    DAY #2

    This is a memorable one. Maybe because it was planned as such. Really wanted to see the Dolomite Range in the Alps having seen great pics of the region. A little research and noted it was gonna be a loooong day, especially as the Dolomites weren't just a pass or two away. Additionally...

    - Navigating through unfamilar towns.
    - Having no GPS or tank bag (The latter especially helpful for reading the map on the fly vs. pulling over, opening the top case, trying to memorize the cities up ahead).
    - Sunday and summer holiday traffic.
    - Wanting to see the Dolomite passes as well as the oft photographed Stelvio.
    - Having over ten passses to ride (A couple at night on the way back).
    - Forgetting to pack the clear face shield at home and knowing I would be coming back at night, and nothing open on Sundays.

    So up at 5:15a and departure at 5:30a. The key navigating challenge was trying to find the way through largish city of Lugano... but hey, this is part of the adventure!

    And success! Knowing if I could reach Lake Lugano, route finding the rest of the way would be easier. Still early in the morning...
    [​IMG]

    Arrived at Campolongo in the Italian Alps in the afternoon. This is one of several great passes weaving through the Dolomites. The vid:

    Campolongo Pass - Streaming Video #2

    On the descent, pausing above Corvara. This is one of the most picturesque settings for a town I've ever seen...
    [​IMG]

    Was very happy to have found the Gardena Pass. This is the one I see pictures of often, with the rock formations looming just above the parking area of the pass.

    Gardena Pass - Streaming Video #3

    The formations...
    [​IMG]

    A busy day for this destination with visitors, tour busses, cyclists (motorized and not) all coming to experience the area. Was OK with this for I was sightseeing as well. In a way, others present added to the festivities. There would be moments later in the day when I would be very alone. Looking towards the direction/ascent from where the Gardena video is recorded...
    [​IMG]

    And another direction...
    [​IMG]

    From Gardena it was to Sella Pass. A tour bus almost takes out myself and two riders in front of me going around a hairpin curve. Near the beginning of the vid. More on this kind of oft repeated scenario when posting impressions...

    Sella Pass - Streaming Video #4

    From the top of the pass...
    [​IMG]

    Other directions from the top...
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Can note the sun is getting lower on the horizon in the image above. Starting to work way back to Airolo hotel but must experience and see the Stelvio Pass. It is around 7:30p when the ascent begins. Sun is almost setting and is behind the pass. Temps are dropping.

    Stelvio Pass - Streaming Video #5

    Can anyone explain the purpose of cow bells as seen in the beginning of the vid? Is it to help find scattered cows? A protection device? A nice sound? Drive the cows crazy as they graze the grasses? I should know this but can't remember! Several passes had cows roaming freely at the top.

    Along the way...
    [​IMG]

    And an image one often sees... the great route to the top of Stelvio Pass...
    [​IMG]

    Also at the top...
    [​IMG]

    A reason for falling behind schedule was missing a turn to one of the planned passes and instead finding myself at the top of an unplanned and out of the way pass! But it was a great ride to the top and had to ask around where the heck on the map was I at!

    This was the first recording of the day, and just the descent for I didn't know I was ascending a pass until arriving at the summit! From the top and the descent, with a classic Motown tune accompanying -- having nothing to do with the journey except for the title of the song:

    Fedaia Pass - Streaming Video #6

    Following Stelvio it got dark quickly. Rode on nervously watching the gas gauge. Stations closed. Almost called it a night in St. Moritz at 11:30p but decided to push on after putting on the cold weather gear and cleaning off all the sacrificed bugs on the dark faceshield. Surely I'd find a station with 24hr pumps taking Swiss Francs. A reason for my predicament was my kind and thoughtful bank noting my card was being used in Europe closed down the account!?! It was during this day I learned this as I tried to get Euros to use in Italy. They didn't give a diddly for Swiss Francs. Additionally, the few stations with 24 hour pumps wanted Euros and/or local credit cards.

    With the gauge at 1/8 tank and not enough to get back, while riding through the small and dark village of Mesocca at 12:30a, after having no success finding a station with 24 hour pumps, a lone station connected to a garage/home, with a single pump, took Swiss Francs after hours! Yee Ha. Filled the tank. Ate a Snickers and celebrated as the town slept. Stayed at the station for 20 minutes. Warmed up. Watch a spider with a huge web near the lights above the pump. Great location for trapping insects. Must have had over 100 bugs caught in the web.

    Back at the hotel at 1:30a. A day to remember.
    #5
  6. Cooltours

    Cooltours Rider of passion

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    What a FF! That's what others do in a week!! Your day #2 can be compared to gambling at the Mirage in the morning, spit down the Grand Canyon in the midday's heat and head over to fisherman's warft for late afternoon icecream only for having the Big Sur as a desert after that! Crazay!
    Quite a bit missleading your video-music... programs like that would have deseverd maybe some guitar-staccatos by Ingwie Malmseen;-)

    Hope you'll knock on my door before you're in town next time!
    #6
  7. Cooltours

    Cooltours Rider of passion

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    ...do have 3 purposes:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    a) They are necessary to detect where your cow is. During the summer month' they often are up on alps an very remote an dangerous areas on altitudes above 2500m/7500ft. The are watched by on or two herdsmen. These herdsmen usually know their cows only by the sound of the bells. So during times of thick fog, the cowboy can hear where every single one of his cows is and can intervene in case the cow gets too close to walls and steep precipice’.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    b) The bell’s belt displays the status of the cows owner. In autumn, when the cows get chased back down to the valley again, they get very colourful and extravagant nice belts with lots of extravagant embroidery around their neck. This way decorated, the cows get chased all the way down from the alps. It is still THE big event in plenty of the alpine valleys when herdsmen and cows come back after spending one summer on the mountain-meadows, bringing the cows back to their owners stables.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>c) Finally cowbells have a last, often too much underrated purpose: They keep honeymooners awake all night long. Brides and bridegrooms who spend their honeymoon in a remote alpine hut because of romantic reasons. The cowbells keep them from sleeping even after what ever they have spent their evenings before with. So this is the reason why cowbells are one important instrument to keep the national population in a good size. <o:p></o:p>
    #7
  8. Red J

    Red J Teacher, leave us kids alone.

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    Awesome as usual, Steve.

    MUST go there.

    You do good work for the Swiss tourism industry. :lol3
    #8
  9. sfarson

    sfarson On a Ride

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    Hey Red J... Good to hear from you. Hope riding is well this season.

    Steve
    #9
  10. sfarson

    sfarson On a Ride

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    DAY #3

    OK, back from a group ride :strum. After the previous 20 hour day, day #3 was a relaxed one of scooting over St. Gottardo Pass to Andermatt, enjoying the town, having lunch, picking up postcards, etc.

    Andermatt, as suggested by the friend as a good "ground zero" to launch rides from, is a finer place to stay, look around, etc... but, a key reason I'm at a place in Airolo is I found a hotel with a vacancy for four nights and high speed internet. Yeah, probably down on the list for most, but it enabled staying on top of things at work and so forth.

    HOWEVER... one thing didn't work so well at Airolo. There was a train going through the town about every ten minutes, around the clock!!!

    Here's the recording of the ride over St. Gottardo Pass, from Airolo to Andermatt...

    St. Gottardo Pass - Streaming Video #7

    Looking down on the way up. Below is the town of Airolo. Maybe you can see that train station and tracks...
    [​IMG]

    And at the top of the pass...
    [​IMG]
    #10
  11. sfarson

    sfarson On a Ride

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    Cooltours. Great perspective on the cow bells. Makes sense. Especially "C". :wink:

    Came close to planning a ride up towards Zurich but alas will save for another day... perhaps when exploring the German / Austrian Alps. How do they compare?
    #11
  12. Cooltours

    Cooltours Rider of passion

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    offers plenty of nice riding places. How ever, I just know the area of the "Schwarzwald" or "Blackforest", which is the area right in the south-western corner of the country, starting right behind the CH/D-border.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    I'm personally never really sure whether I like the Schwarzwald more or the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on">Alps</st1:place>. It changes with every ride and usually it's the one I'm touring at the moment. The mountains in the Blackforest are rather tall hills but the curves are endless, the scenery is breathtaking and the villages are romantic. Food is great, costs are low and speedlimit on normal roads is 100km/h / 65 mph.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">Austria</st1:country-region></st1:place> offers more tall mountains: The Grossglockner, some special roads like Zillertaler Höhenstrasse or others. Most positiv thing in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">Austria</st1:country-region></st1:place>; The Austrians are probably the most kind and friendly hosts you can imagin. However, I'm not very much an <st1:country-region w:st="on">Austria</st1:country-region> - Fan, absolutely prefer the Blackforrest, the Dolo's and of course the Alps and western <st1:place w:st="on">Alps</st1:place>. Don't really know why, that's probably just because they're beating us every winter in our favorit sport, downhillracing. <o:p></o:p>

    I'd love to support any of you FF's if it comes to plan a trip somewhere around here.
    #12
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Viva Las Vegas!

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    There are three routes over the Gottardo.

    1) Tunnel
    2) Blacktop-wide lane tourist route
    3) Cobblestoned version

    We did the last.

    [​IMG]
    #13
  14. Joyseeker

    Joyseeker a biking sweetie

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    :clap
    #14
  15. Joerg

    Joerg Long timer

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    Yes!
    [​IMG]
    #15
  16. sfarson

    sfarson On a Ride

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    Thomas, Joerg... I saw riders on this cobblestone option as I was on the other above ground route. Looked like a nice alternative.

    Posting the DAY 4 rides soon as I gather the content. This was a fun day.
    #16
  17. bross

    bross Where we riding to? Supporter

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    Awesome pics, vids and commentary, thanks for sharing. This is on our trip list for next year!:clap

    Do you have to worry about animals on your roads? Do you have deer, goats, etc.
    #17
  18. mept

    mept Adventurer

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    When in Europe about ten years ago I went over a pass which was after a somewhat brief crossing into Italy then back into Switzerland in a general direction heading toward St. Moritz. The only thing I remember was riding up the mountain from a small Italian town with the best Lasagna ever, driving up in the dark arriving at the top of the pass which was also the border, which was not open 24 hours. No rooms available in the very Italian speaking town at the top, requiring having to drive down again in the dark. We knew it was very dark, very twisty, and quite steep. In the am we drove in the day time. I recall driving though tunnels on the way up, the tunnels were newer lower on the hill, but the final portion went from a cement lined tunnel, at times with the view out the one side, but ended in what looked more like a mine shaft, narrow, unfinished walls, I think one lane traffic too. Upon exiting a pull off to the left afforded views down into a tremendous valley. After this spot was the small town with the border crossing. Really the only clues I recall was the unique tunnel, and the border location and that this was traveling in I believe a northern or NW direction toward St. Moritz. Let me know if it rings a bell with you from your travels. Also, I really have enjoyed the memories the sites of your pictures and videos have provided me. Thanks
    #18
  19. mept

    mept Adventurer

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    When in Europe about ten years ago I went over a pass which was after a somewhat brief crossing into Italy then back into Switzerland in a general direction heading toward St. Moritz. The only thing I remember was riding up the mountain from a small Italian town with the best Lasagna ever, driving up in the dark arriving at the top of the pass which was also the border, which was not open 24 hours. No rooms available in the very Italian speaking town at the top, requiring having to drive down again in the dark. We knew it was very dark, very twisty, and quite steep. In the am we drove in the day time. I recall driving though tunnels on the way up, the tunnels were newer lower on the hill, but the final portion went from a cement lined tunnel, at times with the view out the one side, but ended in what looked more like a mine shaft, narrow, unfinished walls, I think one lane traffic too. Upon exiting a pull off to the left afforded views down into a tremendous valley. After this spot was the small town with the border crossing. Really the only clues I recall was the unique tunnel, and the border location and that this was traveling in I believe a northern or NW direction toward St. Moritz. Let me know if it rings a bell with you from your travels. Also, I really have enjoyed the memories the sites of your pictures and videos have provided me. Thanks
    #19
  20. sfarson

    sfarson On a Ride

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    bross... After I finally get all this stuff posted (By tomorrow), gonna post some impressions. One of them is this... while I noted deer crossing signs, except for two marmots at Stelvio pass and a night time crossing of a rodent in front of me, I didn't see a single animal on or near the road. More amazingly, I didn't see any road kill or evidence of past road kill.
    #20