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Old 07-04-2009, 12:21 PM   #61
achesley
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Looks like you guys and gals had a great time , Thanks for sharing.
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Old 07-05-2009, 06:43 PM   #62
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An Alp and a Col or two...

The road from Villard de Lans toward Grenoble was another fine piece of curvaceous asphalt - perfect for biking.




It was hot when we stopped for fuel on the outskirts of Grenoble, after coming down the first of many roads that looked on the GPS screen like so much folded spaghetti.


Tubastew and Mrs. Tubastew decided that they wanted to do more than watch the tail end of a row of bikes for a bit (and they were having trouble keeping up ) so we bade them farewell, promising to meet up again in Andermatt in a couple of days. I was so overheated and ready to get some air moving around me that I didn't bother to dig out my camera and hang it round my neck ready for the coming scenery.

Did I say it was hot? Well that continued as we made our way more-or-less eastward toward Briançon. Our route followed the Romanche valley with towering peaks either side.




The peaks became more towering but the heat did not abate until we started to gain altitude. Passing the man-made Lac du Chambon, we went through our first long tunnel, experiencing about 1/2 mile of deliciously cool air. I rode standing on the pegs for most of the way through. Had no idea the Duchess' big RT fairing blocked so much of the breeze and my Joe Rocket Ballistic jacket's vents just don't work well at all - not on this bike anyway. So much for adding vent holes in the screen.


The ascent continued steadily with no excessive gradients and the scenery continued to astound - The higher parts of the surrounding mountains were now all patched with pure white. "This is it!" I said to myself... "This is what I came for."






Finally reaching the high point of Col du Lautaret, at 2058m (~6750'), the sun was blazing under an azure sky and I was still not cool enough, so I swung into an open car park. "Time for an ice cream!" as I yanked my helmet and jacket off. It was at this point Miss Bling noted that her gearshift had just fallen off.


The pivot bolt for the shift lever had backed out and the whole assembly was dangling on the shift rod. Pimpdaddy swung into action, demanding tools like a surgeon performing a tricky operation. In the end a screwdriver and adjustable wrench were all that was required. I must confess that while he was working, I nipped into the restaurant and ordered that ice-cream.


Dewnmoon wandered off in search of stickers or other souvenirs.


Pimpdaddy finished the repair work and found a source of free flowing (and very cold) water to refresh himself a bit - Then he went inside and joined the rest of us in an ice cream.








Down the far side of the pass we soon reach Briançon and keep heading East on the Route d'Italie.





Over the Col de Montgenèvre at 1854 m (~6000+') via some nice switchbacks (hairpin bends) and within a couple more miles we crossed the border into Italy.
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Old 07-06-2009, 05:16 PM   #63
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...continuing into Italy

Still waiting for some of the other participants in this experience to chime in with their viewpoints. Until then...

Heading down the pass toward the plains of Italy, we suddenly came upon a most imposing structure - The Forte di Exilles. Despite it's appearance, completely dominating the passage through the pass, from my research, it seems to have been taken and retaken, damaged and rebuilt, many, many times over its long history.


Not sure why I didn't get many photos for the rest of the day. Pimpdaddy took plenty however, as we headed roughly for Torino (Turin.)










We found a small-town local pizza restaurant, which also seemed to be the local "hangout" with kids in cars coming and going from in front the whole time we were there. We must have been hungry and thirsty because we ate just about everything on the table and went through umpteen bottles of water.


With a sudden and rapidly increasing intensity, distant lightning began illuminating the mountains we had recently left. Finishing our food quickly, we decided to take to the Autostrada and pay the tolls to get as far ahead of the storm, as quickly as possible.

Things nearly went pear-shaped right away as Pimpdaddy took a wrong turn at a complicated and confusing little roundabout and somehow ended up on the Autostrada headed the opposite way to the rest of us. While we were parked on the on-ramp, discussing our options, he miraculously appeared back behind us again - and he swore he didn't break any traffic laws to do so. Whatever, we were pleased to see him.

It was now after dark, which cooled things off a little but I was still unpleasantly overheated. Rather than everybody having to get into pockets and purses at every stop, I undertook to pay the tolls for the whole group. The toll booth operator would take payment for all the bikes at once but had to punch the button to open and close the barrier for each bike, which seemed quite comical. This worked until we got past Torino and came to where there were no humans, only machines and I could not figure out how to pay. Eventually, pushing the "Big Green Button" spat out a ticket and the gate opened. The penny finally dropped , so we all collected tickets except Dewnmoon. The machine wouldn't give him one because the sensors hadn't seen the previous bike pass. Eventually it was sorted out and off we went again.

It was getting late by the time the storm seemed to be well and truly behind us. We pulled off the toll road to look for a place to stay, near Milano, in the town of Novara. Again, one bike was missed by the sensors and this time we took advantage of the error, saving the price of one toll (all bikes should go for free I reckon!) Good old TomTom unerringly took us to a place where there was no sign of a hotel. The second attempt, however, yielded a tolerably-priced establishment, the Hotel Victoria, with a guarded and covered "bike shed" parking area. Taking no chances, we packed the bikes tightly together and used every chain, cable, lock and alarm we could muster.

It was a bit disappointing not to have reached Andermatt but getting there in the dark would have been a waste of a good Alpine pass anyway. For such a long day, we had not really gone very far. Not counting all of the riding in the French gorges, we had covered just about 250km or 155 miles. Still, it had been another fine, fun day of riding.
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Old 07-07-2009, 08:31 AM   #64
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Enjoying your rr Phillip (it's Phillip, right?) I'm the guy who sold you the DR350. Hope you're having good luck with the jetting.

I just picked up a 79 R100RT. Let get the airheads out for a spin when you get back! (Or does Duchess live permanently in England?)

Ride safe.
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Old 07-07-2009, 10:56 AM   #65
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Old 07-07-2009, 08:49 PM   #66
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolvertone
Enjoying your rr Phillip (it's Phillip, right?) I'm the guy who sold you the DR350. Hope you're having good luck with the jetting.

I just picked up a 79 R100RT. Let get the airheads out for a spin when you get back! (Or does Duchess live permanently in England?)

Ride safe.
Ah... DR350 jetting - another ongoing saga - but it's slowly getting better. I'm enjoying the bike.

Yes, The Duchess resides permanently in England, at my parents' place. I get to Europe fairly often for work, so if I want to drop in on family, I have transportation there.
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Old 07-07-2009, 11:29 PM   #67
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Just went back and plugged a whole load of extra photos into the last few posts - mostly from Pimpdaddy and Dewnmoon.
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Old 07-08-2009, 08:28 AM   #68
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Straight, flat and hot to twisty, jagged and cold, in one morning

Another one of those 'Continental' breakfasts then we unchained the bikes and brought them over in front of the lobby to pack.






We were away fairly early (by my standards anyway, and considering we had arrived pretty late), heading north toward Switzerland.

Initially, we followed what must have been a Roman road - Dead straight for quite a few miles, with the modern addition of a roundabout every mile or so (I'm fairly certain the Romans didn't have roundabouts.)


The landscape began to undulate as we approached the Piedmont hills, and we suddenly found ourselves on the shore of Lake Maggiore, looking across to the Eastern shore, dotted with buildings ranging from modern to ancient.




When TomTom instructed us to turn up a narrow road away from the lake, I had no idea what we would see. It was still quite a surprise, however, to round a corner and see a huge bronze statue.


Photos do not convey the scale of of the statue of San Carlo Borromeo very well. This thing is huge - apparently it was the largest accessible bronze statue in the world before the Statue of Liberty. Steep stairs and ladders ascend to a viewing room inside his head at over 30m (100 feet) from ground level. If only we'd known... as I have a penchant for climbing things (towers, tall buildings, etc.) and would definitely have stopped for a better look. The views from the top are supposed to be magnificent also (you can reportedly see out Carlo's ears and eyes.) Ah well... it was hot so we paused only briefly to snap a few photos then rode away.

Down the other side of the hill we joined a major road and promptly entered a series of long tunnels - around two miles with a couple of brief glimpses of the sky along the way and long sweeping curves almost continuously.




Leaving the lake behind, our route took us off the major road again and up Val d’Ossola, alongside and repeatedly crossing the Toce river, highway and rail lines as the river and all transportation arteries meander their way across the narrow floodplain. The river was a milky blue colour, indicating the high oxygen content typical of meltwater streams in the mountains. There are numerous small towns and a surprising amount of heavy industry located along the narrow valley floor.

We stopped for fuel and had an unpleasant surprise - Why is it always Miss Bling's bike?


A bit of digging about and the offending screw was extracted - with no hiss or bubbles. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky we found it before it worked its way all the way in. Good job I brought a full toolkit too.


The route turned eastward and the valley narrowed and began to climb. Looking up the valley, we got glimpses of big snow-capped mountains - Alps! After a few miles, we came across uniformed guards and were waved under a large canopy across the road. There were great dirty snow piles coming down ravines and being eroded at the bottom by the river.






Round a few more corners and through a few short tunnels, we came across another set of guards in different uniforms - "Hey! We're in Switzerland."


I was expecting some sort of questioning or passport check between EU and Switzerland but they just waved us through.

The valley became steeper and narrower and climbed higher. Then the road broke free from the valley bottom and began to climb still faster. The views across the valley became more and more spectacular. I was whooping in my helmet - "Yes! The Swiss Alps! We're really here."






We came across what looked to me like a monastery. It may have been but is known as the Old Simplon Hospiz - A Stop-over point for travellers crossing the pass. We would come familiar with this type of building on every pass, although I still think this one is particularly unique and impressive. One can only assume they are built so tall to keep them out of deep snow in wintertime. The low cloud was an omen of things to come.


Such an idyllic spot. We stopped to smell the roses (dandelions, actually)


The temperature was dropping noticeably and a few people adjusted their layers to compensate - I was just beginning to cool off.


Just around a bend or two and we were at the top of Simplon Pass (2,008 m/6,588 ft), we were just about in the cloud and it was raining so we pulled over again to add more layers and stash vulnerable cameras and other electronics out of the weather. There are several 'hospiz'-type buildings, hotels, restaurants and gift shops at the top of this busy pass but none of them appeared open for the sale of stickers, coffee or ice cream - Darn!


Ah well... keep moving... Miss Bling's hungry again and Andermatt is still another pass away.
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Old 07-11-2009, 06:55 PM   #69
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Heidi High Andermatt!

From the top of Simplon Pass, heading down into the Rhone valley, the road initially hugs a steep face. Views continue to be stunning and the road sublime. We didn't get many photos of this bit due to the weather.




The roads are made for biking (well, at this time of year, anyway) and the locals also cater to two-wheeled visitors.


The valley-bottom is shared by the river, road and rail lines as well as numerous small towns, villages and ski resorts.




I'd been hearing a faint rumbling noise behind me and suddenly paying attention, wondered if the driveshaft or final drive could be going out. After a while, I realized it must be Miss Bling's stomach - as it was more than three hours since she last ate. I asked TomTom to find a nearby restaurant and it actually did! We pulled off into the village of Grengiols, doubling back on ourselves under a railway bridge and following a few switchbacks up into a village, perched improbably on the steep side of the valley. We stopped in a small square. The place seemed to be deserted and the tourist office was closed. Also, it didn't look like there was anywhere to park.

A man wandered out of a nearby building, signposted as a cafe. He nodded and pointed at the ground when I asked him where to park. So I kicked the stand down and ducked through a curtain of hanging ropes into the building he had emerged from to see if there was any food available.




The decoration inside was 'interesting'. The old fellow I had spoken to outside and another old man were sat in a back corner playing cards or something. The barmaid/waitress (we called her Heidi ) spoke a little English with a strong Germanic accent. With my little German, it was determined that, yes they had Ice Cream and Coffee so I ordered one of each, then stuck my head out and called to the others.






Uh-oh! Problem! None of us have got to a hole-in-the-wall to obtain Swiss currency yet but Heidi is adamant we should pay in Swiss Francs.

Problem solved with a little more stretching of our language skills! Heidi didn't want small change in Euros but will happily change any other currency - as long as we pay with notes. Really nice surprise was that ice creams and coffees for almost all of us came to just ten Euros. We were advised to expect everything in Switzerland to be very expensive.


As we were leaving, Dewnmoon decided to go exploring and found a steep, narrow, cobbled path that disappeared off up the hillside. He headed up on the GS with Pimpdaddy close behind. The track turned to dirt and stone but not before they reached a fantastic vantage point with views into the village below.




Back on the main road, head on a swivel - What amazing scenery! The Swiss are obviously happy to see people on bikes enjoying their country.




We saw some very interesting old buildings with the second storeys stood on top of stone slabs, presumably to keep rodents out of food stores.


Getting closer to Andermatt now - and there's another pass ahead, with switchbacks zig-zagging their way up a steep mountainside ahead




What a treat! -- Pass after pass! We quickly gained altitude and started to see snow by the roadside. We were getting closer and closer to the clouds, however.












We arrived at the top as the fog closed in thicker. ...a little posing for the cameras then start the exciting descent. I had my visor up and was constantly blinking the dew off my eyelashes. Mrs Pimpdaddy, behind, said she was just following the glow of my rear foglight - trusting that I wasn't going to ride off a cliff.






As we emerged damply from the underside of cloud, we came across a man and a large shaggy dog, bringing a herd of cows and a goat down into the valley, presumably to be milked. I've never knew large cows could move so sure-footedly on such steep terrain. Of course, they all had bells around their necks; so, of course, we all had to stop and watch.






Moo!


Down the last few curves into the valley again






Over the next few miles, riding up the valley, the cloud came back to meet us again.


Totally high on the excitement and adrenaline of steep passes, fog, snow, and almost indescribably beautiful scenery, we rolled into Andermatt - altitude 1,447m (4,747ft) just before it began to rain.
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Old 07-13-2009, 11:47 PM   #70
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The day's ride

... what a great day! Wow! I've been riding for almost 30 years and this one day was among the best of the best... maybe THE best... Maybe

Maybe we should be insanely jealous of the bikers who live in this area and get to ride this stuff all the time - but maybe not. Maybe there's only that one chance to experience the roads and the scenery with a wonder, an excitement and an intensity that would be so hard to ever repeat.

The rest of the day; the red wine, the Batmobile, reunion, Whacky rallyists, etc. will have to wait. Maybe one of the others will tell about it.

Only 234Km (145 miles) !
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Old 07-14-2009, 12:38 AM   #71
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Thumb Great Report!!!

I just got back from a trip to the "Switzerland of America" Ouray, CO. The mountain roads are very similar and the weather was much warmer.
Ride Safe and have a GREAT TIME!!!!
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Old 07-19-2009, 08:49 AM   #72
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A quiet evening in Andermatt

Andermatt was the place I had in mind when the idea for this trip first began to take shape. The town is a major skiing destination in the winter and supposed to be motorcycle-friendly the rest of the year.

As we pulled into town, every indication was that we could expect a warm welcome.

The bear is the symbol of the town, and we would see old motorcyles used as decorations or signs in multiple places.

Andermatt has one main throughfare, a narrow, cobbled street between old buildings of three and more storeys.


So far, we'd had some good luck with hotels, simply by looking for a place to stay when we decided to stop for the day. In Andermatt, we tried the same thing but with a more efficient approach. We split up and went up and down the main street, some by bike and some on foot, with an agreement to meet up again in a few minutes and compare notes.

The first place I tried, the Hotel Sonne, was a tall wooden building in typical "alpine" style, with flowers in hanging baskets and a large fish tank on the street in front. They gave me a friendly welcome, had a reasonable rate, including breakfast, a motorcycle garage and a decent restaurant. When we got back together, it was the obvious choice, several Swiss Francs per night cheaper than the next best alternative. We parked the bikes and went to freshen up, agreeing to meet again in a few minutes to go and find some food. We sent a text to Tubastew to tell him where we were.


We had quite a debate about how to back all five bikes into the garage and whether or not there was enough space - but we got them all in.




We had a tiring day, even though we only covered 145 miles, so expected a quiet evening. Yeah right!

While we were walking the main street together, looking for a cash machine, a car full of brown-hooded monks drove by on the narrow cobbled street. As we were looking at each other in surprise, wondering where the monastery was, the Batmobile roared past, with Starsky and Hutch in hot pursuit. Coming the other way was a crew of pirates in the Black Pearl. There's something crazy going on here. We found out what it was when we met up with Tubastew, Mrs. Tubastew and a large and raucous group of crazy Brits in the restaurant.




The brits were on a Wacky Rally - They were mostly in fancy dress and had decorated their cars in various themes. Each team had three days to drive a cheap old car (purchase price limit of £250) to Budapest, accomplishing various challenges along the way. This was their first day and they had driven through five countries on their way to Andermatt. Stragglers were arriving throughout the evening. They were all tired but seemed to be having a great time. I think they were every bit as intrigued by what we were doing as we were by them.
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Old 07-19-2009, 09:51 PM   #73
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Laugh Bonkers to Budapest

Right after breakfast, I tried to post a few more photos - sitting on a hard wooden chair in the corner of the lobby - the only place I could get both a wireless signal and a power outlet. Not surprisingly, that lost its appeal fairly quickly.

We heard that the Wacky Rallyists were about to leave so went out to see them off. They had been told to meet in the car park at the end of the main street - but there was one at each end so most of the cars were driving up and down the main street.






















Chatty group!


They're off!


Kidnapped for ransom! We wouldn't pay so they walked the plank


Do you think it still runs?
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Old 07-21-2009, 09:55 PM   #74
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It's all about the passes, Baby!

Back to the riding... Oberalp pass starts right on the edge of Andermatt and was our first pass of the day, after filling our tanks at the only fuel station in town.

The initial climb up the side of the valley goes by quickly - switchbacks and a short tunnel one after the other until suddenly, you round a corner to find yourself in the bottom of the high valley, heading East. There are some great views of Andermatt on the way up, and by the side of the road, colorful remnants of the spring flowers that emerge shortly after the snows melt away.


The railway also goes to the top of the pass, winding up inside the mountain while the road goes up the outside. In one spot, the railway emerges from the mountain, curves tightly around, right next to the road and disappears into another tunnel. It makes me think of some of the improbable model train layouts I remember seeing as a kid - Perhaps they were not quite as fantastical as I thought.




Down the East side of the pass, the road sweeps along the valley, passing numerous small villages. We stopped several times looking for Oberalp Pass stickers. We never found any stickers but I did procure a tin of aniseed candy which I passed around. Half the group made appreciative noises and the rest spat it out and made a face - It just goes to show that bikers are a diverse bunch with equally diverse tastes






Turning sharp right in the small town of Disentis/Mustér (home of the small lake that is listed as the source of the Rhine), we followed the Val Medel up to to Lukmanier pass (1960m / 6430ft) and crossed to the Blenio valley and rode down toward the town of Biasca. Although it was not as high or perhaps as spectacular as others we had crossed, the landscape on this pass was still truly inspiring. We stopped by Lake Santa Maria, a manmade reservoir near the top of the pass so Ms. Bling could eat.




Some good limestone here I gather.


In Biasca, we turned northwest, back toward Andermatt. At this point, cries for bathroom and food again could be heard. I gather there are some really nice restaurants in the area, with incredibly picturesque settings - We didn't stop there but instead found what appeared to be one step from a truck stop, next door to a gravel plant. The ice creams were good though.

Just before we stopped, we passed a fire station and Pimpdaddy skipped the eating to go and talk "fire" and trade patches (it's a fireman thing I guess - There must be a word for it) He came back absolutely bubbling over with excitement about all their fabulous equipment - couldn't stop talking about it whenever we stopped in fact. When he got onto their oxygen rebreathers for tunnel rescues and rappelling gear, etc., it almost made a convert of me I'll leave him to post some pics.

The route along the Valle Leventina was framed by mountains on all sides, including a whole range of snow-capped peaks ahead, although it was somewhat spoiled for me by the presence of a railway and a surprising amount of industrial activity, not to mention the mostly elevated major highway - still it kept most of the traffic away from the roads we were on I suppose.



We rode right through the town of Airolo and straight onto the old cobbled road up the St Gotthard Pass [More to come...]
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Old 07-24-2009, 01:08 AM   #75
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St. Gotthard Pass

There are three roads from Airolo to the other side of the pass: The newest is a 17Km tunnel (the longest in the world for many years) that emerges on the far side of Andermatt; The other two go over the pass. We got to ride part of both. We started out on the old cobbled road, also known as the Val Tremola but got caught in roadworks and somehow found ourselves on the wrong side of the new road - but we followed it the rest of the way up. I only discovered later that we missed the "best" part of the old road with steep and tightly packed hairpin bends.

This road was awesome. Riding at speed and making tight turns on a nice smooth cobbled road was an unusual experience and on the new road, we were able to wind the bikes up, steadily gaining height, ears popping all the time, while treated to absolutely stunning views across and down the valley. Not a good place for the Agoraphobic!








We stopped part-way up to admire the views and shop for stickers.


[....more to come]
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MSF Ridercoach IBA: 35353 95 R1100GSA, 93 GTS1000, 85 R80RT, 93 DR350/435, 99 RX125, 78 DT100
January 2010 New Zealand South Island ride
Summer 2009 UK to Alps ride
Summer 2008 UK End-to-End ride
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