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Old 11-11-2009, 01:56 PM   #91
Chiggers
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RR so far - certainly has given me a few ideas. Looking forward to next installment.

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Old 11-11-2009, 09:13 PM   #92
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Traveling with five bikes gives any kind of stop the potential for major disruption. Every time I pause for a few seconds to take a quick photo, it breaks everyone's rhythm, and then if someone else decides to remove their helmet or get off their bike, the short pause turns into a ten minute break. Also, if I feel like goosing the throttle and blasting up a couple of straights between the bends, it takes a while for some of the others to catch back up (OK that does not happen too often as The Duchess is by far the slowest bike in the group.) However, if we get to a turn and have to wait for the straggler(s), that can lead to further delays, etc. Once we add Alpine passes to the mix, there are stops to shop for stickers and other souvenirs, look at the view, etc. Of course, a delay of any sort increases the likelihood that Ms. Bling will need to eat or pee - and there's another chunk of time eaten up.

Still, we aren't exactly in a hurry and everyone seems to be having too much fun to care. It does give me a new appreciation for anyone leading a big group - I am being followed by several very experienced and competent riders. If there were novices or anyone lacking the confidence to keep up the pace on these roads, it would be frustrating indeed.
Re-reading the above, I decided I should clarify that it is most definitely NOT a complaint. I was just describing some of the dynamics of riding with others. If we were a less well associated group, then stopping anywhere except at a few predetermined break points would be impossible. Besides, the whole trip has been a lot more fun for the camaraderie of good friends.
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Old 11-12-2009, 08:08 AM   #93
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Great RR. Slart I can understand the whole group dynamic thing. I used to ride with a couple of guys that had to stop every 100 miles for a smoke...used to piss me off royally. Picking the right group of people to ride with (assuming you are riding in groups) is all important. When things get a bit pear shaped on the road and peoples spirits get squashed a little its even more important.
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Old 12-30-2009, 12:03 PM   #94
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We are just a group of good friends - mostly pretty easy going and while we can cover a lot of ground non-stop, it's no big deal if someone suddenly decides they absolutely HAVE to pull over for whatever reason. Besides, when you're in the Alps and you all like taking photos, there's no real reason to keep riding and riding and riding just because...
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Old 12-30-2009, 12:24 PM   #95
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nice to see all the familiar roads.
i've been there last summer, drove most of the mountain roads.
did more than 5000kms in 3 weeks.
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Old 12-30-2009, 01:26 PM   #96
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We'll pass!

We woke after a rather scratchy night (no sheets on the beds, only blankets) to a cool, damp morning with a grey but bright sky.




After a hearty breakfast of.................... bread, cheese and cold meats (again!), the sky was blue once more, clearly illuminating a high dam, perched improbably high on the opposite side of the valley.




We packed up and set off back up Maloja pass and along the Sils lakeshore to St. Moritz.


Things that you are interested in tend to catch your eye. A keen botanist would notice an unusual flower that a layman would walk past without a second glance for example. As we were leaving St. Moritz, we passed a large parking lot, almost empty except for three or four bikes riding around under the watchful gaze of a guy in a hi-viz jacket. "Training!" I thought, and when I looked in the mirror all those behind me were gesticulating wildly, having spotted the same thing. When I pulled up in the parking lot, the guy in the hi-viz was waiting for us. He walked over and held his hand out "Instructors?" - I guess it goes both ways.




We chatted for a bit and watched him put some people going for their top-tier unlimited license through their paces. As part of the test, he rode on the back with them to see how they managed a few laps and some other manouvers with a passenger. He's a braver man than me, that's for sure. I wouldn't ride on the back with most of my students.


We also got some route advice and I was pleased to hear him recommend the roads I had already planned to take. Sometimes even a blind mouse finds some cheese!

The suggestion was a route to cover Berninapass, on into Italy over Livigno Pass, Passo d'Eira, Passo di Foscagno and finally the great Stelvio Pass.

Sounds like a good bit of riding - We'd better be on our way!
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Old 01-01-2010, 10:43 PM   #97
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Pass heaven!

Despite the lure of the passes, we still managed to waste half an hour looking at the town and hunting for souvenirs and stickers.


Pimpdaddy managed to find something to indulge his fetish for all things fire-related


Finally departing St.Moritz, Val Bernina led us southeast, climbing a few hundred metres, passing the Morteratsch glacier on the way (which we missed because it has retreated so far from the road in the last few decades - I was most disappointed because it has some ice caves under it that I would have loved to have visited.) We stopped a few times to soak up and photograph the mountain scenery before reaching the summit of Bernina Pass at 2230m. Amazingly (to folks from Louisiana) it was snowing lightly at the top.








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Old 01-01-2010, 10:52 PM   #98
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Counting passes

The far side of Passo del Bernina is a biker's heaven of wide, sweeping curves, a smooth, dry road surface, and nature's beauty all around.


Turning off sharply just a couple of miles from the summit, we passed a Swiss border post, but had to ride another couple of miles or more up Forcola di Livigno (Livigno Pass, 2315m) before we crossed into Italy once more and encountered the Italian border post. We stopped here but were quickly waved through, as has been the case at all border crossings so far.




Although it drops around 500m over the following 8 miles to Livigno, the road from the top of the pass has no sharp bends and we arrived in the town in just a few minutes.




Livigno is supposed to be a shopper's paradise... a duty-free enclave in the mountains. That may be so if you're after designer goods, booze and cigarettes but for a bunch of bikers looking for pass stickers and a cheap lunch, there's not much of interest. After wasting a few minutes riding up and down looking for lunch, we gave up and headed for the next pass.


My GPS had been desperately trying to route us up the east side of the valley all the while we were in Livigno so we quickly obliged, dashing off a few quick hairpins and ticking off the fourth pass of the day, Passo d'Eira (2211m.) The tiny village of Trepalle, includes Passo d'Eira as part of its district and thereby claims to be the highest permanently inhabited village in Europe.


It's almost like cheating as there is very little climb down and back up between them, but a bit further down the road, we summited Passo del Foscagno at 2291m (pass number five) and via a few more switchbacks, dropped down into Val di Dentro,which led us quickly through the heart of several small villages, finally dropping down to the town of Bormio, where we stopped for a late lunch.




[Didn't know until writing this that Bormio has hot springs and outdoor spas. That would be fun! ...As if I needed another reason to come back again!]
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Old 01-02-2010, 02:13 AM   #99
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Great ride report, brings back so many memories I am going to be taking home with me. I have been stationed in Heidelberg, Germany for three years and have put 23,000 miles on my Sprint during that time. I would have warned you about Furka Pass in June if I had discovered this site sooner. I went over it the first week of June last year and it was cold, wet and foggy. I think my average speed was about 15mph. I relied solely on my gps to know where to turn it was so thick. I spent the night in Brig going over Simplon Pass toward Barcelona. Great report and glad to see you had much better weather than I. The weather this summer was about 100 times better than 08. I think it rained here in Germany 300 out 365 days last year and this was a fairly dry year. Only got rained on once during this years 10 day trip. Czech-Austria-Italy-Switzerland-Austria-Germany.
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Old 01-02-2010, 07:56 AM   #100
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Thanks for your kind comments!

We only had one day when it rained all day - and that was in Germany
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Old 01-03-2010, 03:31 PM   #101
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Thumb Can't top this pass!

We arrived in Bormio a bit late for lunch and didn't want to comb the whole town for food so had to settle for coffee and pastries. An attempt at shopping failed to provide any stickers or other worthy mementos. Anyway, I was in charge of the maps (GPS) and knew what was coming so was eager to get under way.

It was raining lightly when we began moving again, heading North, and kept doing so, on and off, as we climbed higher, so we hardly took any photos for the next few miles. It was a great ride however.


After just a mile or so, we encountered a couple of switchbacks, helping the road to gain elevation up the side of a deep valley. A short distance further and another jog up the mountain required two more tight 180-degree turns. After two or three days of doing this it's getting easier but is still both a challenge and a pleasure.

Brake... down a couple of gears (clonk, clonk goes the Duchess). Twisting my neck to see as far around the corner as possible and swinging out wide... Ease the clutch in as she drops into the corner... Nice and smooth... feed on the power as the road straightens out again. Then upshift and accelerate, already looking at and planning for the next turn in the other direction.

Some more zig-zags in quick succession and then the road snaked off across the mountainside on the right hand side of the valley, with long stretches of steadily-climbing gentle curves interspersed with short tunnels - often wet inside with tight enough bends that you couldn't see the exit. By the time my eyes began adjusting to the dark, we were back out the other side.

Here's a looong video clip:


BAM! Coming out of the last tunnel, a fabulous sight hits you between the eyes - a steep scree hillside, marking a great step up in the valley, with a perfect folded ribbon of tarmac sweeping back and forth across the slope and disappearing out of sight over the brow ahead. The great Stelvio Pass!


I was whooping and "yeeeaaahhh haaaaahhhh"ing in my helmet as I followed Miss Bling round one turn after another, stacked in quick succession, with awe inspiring views, spray and thunder from the torrent at one end. The light rain had stopped and the road was in perfect condition, apart from the odd shards of rock, proving that the scree slope is a living part of the mountains.




The rest of the gang had stopped near the bottom for a closer look at the water cascading alongside the road. I hoped there would be time for me to get some action shots, so I turned around shortly after the main slope eased and the pattern of steady left-right-left-right curves was broken, and raced part-way back to find a good vantage point on a ground up bumpy patch of asphalt that's part of the old road, even narrower and more tightly convoluted then to rest.




I was disappointed to be at the top, but the road, now straight (well, relatively speaking) was still climbing, working its way up the left hand side of the valley now. It was noticeably cooler up here and the landscape had changed significantly. Here there was only short grass, dotted with small yellow flowers, whereas small trees and scrub were all alongside the road below.


After a couple of miles, the valley turned and presented another series of zig-zagging roads climbing the slope ahead - Stelvio isn't over yet!

We pulled over to take it all in - all breathless with excitement. But we couldn't stop for long, the road beckoned still further and we were off again... At the top of this section there was snow along side the road - great banks of it many feet deep. The slope is less and the road now ascends in great, sweeping turns - This is the highest we've been on the trip so far, and still the top is not in sight.




Once again, I pulled off the road, quickly trying to find a vantage point to photograph and video the others coming up the mountain. By the time I was back on my bike, they'd all passed by.


The summit, a few hundred metres up the road was almost a disappointment, as I was expecting another long series of twists and turns. There were a lot of shops open and more activity than we'd seen on any other pass, so we parked the bikes for a good look about. Huge grins and chatter all around... What an awesome climb! That's what we came here for. We're at over 9000 feet and the air is noticeably thinner - and certainly colder. The rattle and sting of ice pellets falling, despite the bright sun and blue sky, just added to the sense of awe and excitement.


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Old 01-03-2010, 09:20 PM   #102
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"Where's Dew and Mrs. Dew?" Nobody knew. The others said that they (Mr. & Mrs. Dewnmoon) had set off up the last part of the pass just after me, but I hadn't seen them go past and they weren't here at the top of the pass either. We eventually decided they must be taking photos somewhere... "They'll show up."

We were distracted by the arrival of Lola.


Lola is a very well traveled dog, judging by all the badges. This was extraordinarily cute but also strangely obsessive.


We grabbed a snack and went to look for souvenirs. This was the best place yet for availability of biker-friendly trinkets and somewhat sensible prices.





I picked up a T-shirt for Captain Nemo, another friend who couldn't make the trip. We all bought a pocketfull of stickers and a few other bits and pieces.

Still no sign of Dew. They can't have gone very far - it's not as if this is a huge place. There are several hotels here and a cable-way to more buildings and presumably ski-runs even higher than our lofty position, but only a few spots to park.


We wandered down the road a little way to see if they had, perhaps, carried on over the pass for some reason. What can I say? WOW! The view down the East side of the pass is stupendous. It seems, if anything steeper and twistier than the West side had been. We watched for a while but there was no sign of a yellow GS on the roads below.


We took a few tourist shots. It was several degrees below freezing and a cold wind was blowing ice chips about. None of us had been especially cold on the bikes but once you got your helmet and gloves off it was bitter.


The continued absence of Dewnmoon was getting concerning. We ruled out the possibility they were eating in a hotel somewhere as we couldn't see the GS. Pimpdaddy ran a short way back the way we'd come but didn't see them there. We had not made any plans for the night so there was nowhere to meet them. I sent an email to Dew. If he was able to get it on one of his many electronic gadgets later in the day, at least they would know we were looking for them. We finally agreed to press on and hope thet they had not fallen off a cliff somewhere and that either we would catch up with them or they would catch up with us.

I keyed an onward route into the GPS and we started down the pass.
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Old 05-21-2010, 05:49 PM   #103
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It's long way down...

Switchback after switchback after switchback...

I took off ahead of the others to try and get some photos and video.


It was a fun challenge to get ahead quickly while riding one handed, shooting photos with the other and trying to enjoy the awesome road and stunning views. Passed some very fit cyclists going up! (Now I know what the granny gear on my mountain bike is for )
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Old 05-21-2010, 06:53 PM   #104
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The drop!

Little did I know what was to happen as I pulled up at the end of a long dogleg to video the others coming behind me...
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Old 05-21-2010, 07:51 PM   #105
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Sh** happens!

That's what happens when you're so busy enjoying the scenery you lose focus on the riding I suppose. Ms. Bling said that the car startled her and then of course she fixated on it and could not continue the corner. If only her legs were 1/2" longer she could have saved it!

No serious harm done - Minus a blinker lens but with spirits undampened, we continued down the pass.


There were clear signs that some people had much more serious issues than a little tip over.




The view up from the bottom (well, somewhere approaching the bottom) was nearly as impressive as looking down from the top.
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