One of the most anticipated part of the trip for me was the Stelvio Pass, the highest road in Europe at close to 3000 meters, it consists of 48 hairpin turns in the Italian alps. This road was originally build by the armies of Napoleon to open a way for his troops and armory to attack Austria.
This morning we again woke to the sound of thunder, and stormy weather as we peaked from our hotel room window.
Starring at the white peaks of the Italian Alps surrounding the ski resort town of Bormio in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige, just at the edge of the National Park de La Stelvio, we felt more in Switzerland than in Italy.
Boy it was wet, pouring out, the peaks were covered by clouds. Over breakfast we reviewed our options; we would first go to the information desk to see if the pass was open, yesterday we had met a couple of German bikers that came in from Milan, and they told us that the latest info on the pass said not open for the season yet. It didn’t look good for today.
Hum! what do they do I thought to myself.
Cliché, but as usual, I expected the best but braced for the worst, and thought about a potential alternative to get to the Adriatic side of Italy from way up here without having to trace back our steps.
Hence, we headed under heavy downpour to the tourist information place, and to our surprised (or maybe not...) you know serendipity theme for the trip and all.... the pass was open, actually I believe it was open just for us.
I am a fool, but hey! First day of the season, time to go for a ride.
We first had to make our way to the top,
The 19 km to the top were perfect to get acclimatized to wet and cold.
It reminded me of Soccer practice when I was a kid and had to fill in for an absentee goalie, first thing you did was get your cleats and socks wet to the ankles, so you would be ready to dive in the mud hole to make that save.
Cascades were impressive.
We made our way to the summit, getting wetter and wetter as we climbed and shedding a degree or two every 100 meters or so.
Ok half way there let's have a look back.
The peaks were magnificent.
I'm getting the hang of this, and we are wet and cold, so all is good in the Alps.
Come on bring it on, we grew up in Montreal and live in Winnipeg, snow is great.
We're not pussies, we're Canadian Hey!
And that Valentino dood so cool with his mesh Jacket with a Corona logo at the top of the Italian Alps.
By the time we reached the summit it was -2 C and snowing. Yup you got it, it was snowing. I was a bit worried about ice on the road, but differed it to a meteorological misinterpretation on the part of ST. It really was +2 C, despite what the temp gauge said.
However this reminded me to proceed with caution.
So it wasn't very sunny, but considering that the Stelvio is a very coveted spot. At times a territorial battleground between sports cars, crotch rockets, and bicycles for every inch of space on the narrow sinuous pass.
Well not today, as we made our way down the mountain, it was not until hairpin 42 that we crossed an Audi Quatro tail gated by a red Ferrari. The Descent was glorious, we had the pass to ourselves, we stopped at least 3 or 4 times to take pictures and admire the view.
The quintessential Stelvio.
Ok, one more.
By the time we reached 2400 meters, Mother nature was even kind enough to reduce the snow to a light drizzle, before resuming the downpour a little bit after hairpin 48.
To the sounds of RUSH, Freewill if you haven't guessed by now, we twisted and turned at every heart stopping curve, zigged and zagged our way down the Napoleon express, veered, and snaked to the bottom of the Stelvio.
Without missing a turn, loosing my line, or causing Jackie to cringe more then required. -not-
It was pure bliss, would the weather had been more cooperating we would have shed all the cargo, and turned right back to do it again.
But, cliché for cliché, once lucky, twice a fool. Instead we decided on a hot cup of Java, and a piece of almond cake so we could warm up before completing the next 3 hours of riding.
And down we were.
We remained under steady downpour till the Alps were far behind us and we entered the province of Veneto.
With the sun finally peering through the clouds and the air, now warmed up to 25 C, to drying our wet gear. By the time we made it to Padova at about 1600, we had gone through the complete cycle and were almost dry fluffed, and although the adrenaline had left my system a while ago, surges of insanity still made me shiver, or was it moments of pure clarity, moments as they rarely exist, still sending tremors of joy coursing through my veins.
Hard to tell, but we still had a wide grin on our face some 200 km later. Whatever it was, today was a perfect day, and will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
Must rest now tomorrow Venice...