|01-14-2011, 12:00 PM||#1|
Joined: Jul 2005
Location: Sparks, Maryland,USA
Spluga Was All Downhill "illustrated"
I was cruising south down Passo Spluga…. You caught me…. It’s impossible to just cruise down Spluga. It’s too damn steep and tight and way too over-stimulating for a leisurely cruise, in spite of the smooth tarmac and the fact the road is a major high altitude North South passage between Switzerland and Italy.
I had topped the pass, the international border where the Swiss border station still is in operation and was riding alone, south down into Italy soon coming to the village of Monte Spluga. Before the opening of all the European Union borders the Italian border station was in Monte Spluga. The village has become a popular rest spot for bikers but perhaps these days the snacks are all it could be noted for. A large Moto Guzzi flag waves in the alpine breeze over the Café Vitoria and bikes are usually parked grip to grip all around.
Monte Spluga is on a high plateau not far from the top of the pass and as you ride on you go past a very cold looking lake and a few stone huts, then the road begins to tilt toward the warmer forested slopes far below.
After about ten miles you come to a turn-off that leads to the ski resort of Madesimo, then the road becomes particularly steep as you enter a stretch called the Sendio Wall. Here the road-builders were very creative. Their solution was to weave a path down a heavily wooded section; the trees growing from under and between huge exposed boulders and rock outcrops. Beveling a road two lanes wide was impossible so they constructed terraces with buttressed stonewalls then leveled out a surface to their edges. The lanes twist and turn to conform to the side of the mountain wall, than suddenly dart into tunnels cut from solid rock often surprising you with a tight 180-degree hairpin in the middle of the dark…bang! then you are out into bright sunlight again or under a strong canopy constructed as an avalanche barrier. All this demands your entire focus witch is a shame since the panorama of the landscape is so beautiful.
I had ridden this pass before. The time I enjoyed most it was completely devoid of traffic.
But this time was different.
Traffic was extremely heavy with a stream bumper to bumper but still flowing at a super-natural pace. In traffic like this there was sure to be face-offs at the narrow hairpins. This poor motorcycle tourist was sure to arrive in Italy with more gray hairs then he started with in Switzerland.
On this particular day there was no way I could keep up the same pace as the more experienced locals. I had been falling behind the biker in front of me on his Harley dresser, which was embarrassing, but would have been all right except there was a rusty old open body jeep right on my tail pushing hard and getting frustrated with my riding technique. I knew I was not doing to well when on a steep but not very curvy part of the road a Honda scooter zipped around both the jeep and me then disappeared around the next rock outcrop.
As hard as I could ride I could not put any space between the jeep and me. Every time I checked the mirrors I would catch a passing glimpse of one of his headlights, that’s how close he was. Then I got a view of his windshield. It was 100% totally crazed with cracks. I don’t know how he could see through it. His frustration mounted and he was constantly looking for a place to pass. But it was just too tight. The longer this went on, the tenser I got. I would look over my shoulder on every switch back trying to get a view of the driver.
Then I saw him…a cool young Italian dude, long hair blowing in the wind, and a stylish two-day growth of beard on his face. He was twirling the steering wheel from lock to lock with one finger. Hard left then full right and left again. The entire time totally at ease, his other arm draped over the empty passenger seatback, and his left foot propped up half over the edge of the jeeps cutout door opening. All this with a half smoked cigarette dangling almost vertically, as if super-glued to the out side of his lower lip. There I was “wrapped tight”…. and there he was, totally relaxed applying the pressure. Then in a flash he was around me. I don’t even know how. I like to think he got me in one of those dark hairpin tunnels cut into the mountains wall. But that would have defied some law of physics or something.
I am sure I continued down the pass blocking a few other’s pace, so when I got to the town of Chievenna at the bottom I pulled into a small parking area for a bank and its ATM to try to calm myself. What was parked right there but the same Honda scooter that blew past the jeep and me further back up the pass. I was so humiliated by the whole experience I could hardly stare straight at the scooter pilot, in her low cut tank top, tight clingy skirt and stiletto heels.
Check out my blog and see a movie link to a Splugen Pass you-tube.
Sparke screwed with this post 01-14-2011 at 07:23 PM
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