|09-17-2012, 01:06 PM||#16|
Joined: Feb 2007
06/20, The Dolomites Best Loop (Part 1)
Today was going to be a slam-dunk. The sun was shining, we were in the middle of the Dolomites, and we were on motorcycles. For our first day in the area I had put together a loop that would take in the best roads and sights that I experienced 2 years ago. It was nice to start the day knowing the roads were going to be great, as opposed to the last few days where we explored and hoped for the best.
Breakfast was excellent and even more filling than last trip since the hotel has added made-to-order egg dishes to their offerings in the morning. I went with the bacon and eggs, and found the eggs delicious but the bacon nearly raw - the concept of crispy cooked bacon hasn't really caught on in the area I suppose. They don't know what they're missing.
One of the best things about the Hotel Mesdi (and there are many good things) is it's location - it's literally on a hairpin curve at the base of my favorite pass in the Alps, Passo Pordoi. You turn right out of the parking lot and start swinging the bike side to side as you ascend the mountain. That fun would have to wait a bit on this day as first order of business was fueling up and the nearest gas station was 4 miles on the other side of town. On my last visit this station was always staffed, but this morning we had to figure out the automated fueling station for ourselves. No credit cards were accepted (credit cards are hit-and-miss for gas in the area), so you had to guesstimate how much fuel you would need and prepay with euros. Unless you have multiple bikes with you to take up the excess it's best to underestimate what you think you'll need.
With all the bikes having more gas than when we got there (but not filled) we doubled back through town, past the Mesdi, and began the ascent of Passo Pordoi. I'll say it once again - I can't tell you how thrilled I was to be back in this area and particularly on this road again. We broke off to "meet at the top" and I zoomed ahead to setup for some pictures of the guys coming up. I can't decide what I was looking forward to more - riding the pass or seeing the reactions of the other guys when we talked at the top.
Between the buffet and the eggs, you could eat enough for the whole day at breakfast
The view out the back of the hotel
The view out the front of the hotel
Rain gear is not going to be required today
Took a bit to figure out the cash machine
No one rode straight to the top though, unless you're the most hardcore "ride all day" type you have to stop and take in the magnificent vistas in front of you. As I expected, the other guys were blown away by the road and the views - and the day was just getting started! We leapfrogged each other up the pass as one person would pull over to take pictures, then another, etc. This side of Pordoi sports 33 hairpins, or tornantes, and we made the best of them.
At the top we made our traditional shopping stop - I was looking to add more pass pins to my collection (though I already had Pordoi of course) and Dave was collecting stickers. In hindsight, 1.5 euro stickers make more sense than 6 euro pass pins, especially as the count rises into the teens. I think I now have about $150 worth of Alps pass pins on my walls at work.
Peter checks out the view of Arabba
Some of the turns of Pordoi are visible in this view down to Arabba
Frank's the first one by
You see every kind of bike in the Alps, and pretty much everyone of them is tearing it up
Peter on Passo Pordoi
Dave enjoying Passo Pordoi
At the top of the pass is a tram to the top of the mountain
We continued down the other side of the pass, working through another dozen or so hairpins mixed in with just "regular" tight turns until we picked up the start of Passo Sella. Sella is probably the most popular pass in the area and generally is much busier than the rest of the passes. Parts of it are also quite a bit tighter than Pordoi, and this combination of cramped quarters and lots of traffic somewhat diminishes my enjoyment of it. What it does have over some of the other passes are fantastic views at the summit - I dare say it may be the most beautiful view in the Dolomites at the top. If you can get a clean run up Sella, with little traffic to deal with, it can be an amazing experience. Unfortunately this is rarely possible.
And it certainly wasn't possible on this Monday morning as Sella was quite busy with cars, pack of cyclists, other motorcycles, and busses. Each of these modes of transportation is dealt with differently, with cars being the most trivial -you just pass them. You pass cyclists as well, but they often cause backups as cars get jammed up behind them waiting for a long enough section to pass. Motorcycles, at least for us, are more of a threat from behind. None of us just put-put along the road, but almost without exception bikers in the Alps are exceptionally fast, skilled and from what I could tell, fearless. They come up quick, and at the slightest opening (or in some cases imagined openings) they flash by. It's the busses that are the worst though, and more often the issue is them coming the other direction. With some of the hairpins on these roads, as another STN'er put it, "tight enough so you can read your own license plate", you can imagine how much of the road a tour bus needs to make the turn. Yup, every square inch of it. If you see them coming with a corner between you and them, you need to recalculate how you're going to get through. My biggest moment on the way up Sella involved a pack of cyclists. I was rounding a super-tight right-hand turn that was very steep, and turned the corner to meet up with about a dozen cyclists going 1mph. With cars and bikes coming the other way blocking my pass I was reduced to pretty much paddle-walking the bike up the slope until an opening appeared.
The top of Sella (well, the first top you come to, there's a much larger area another mile along) is very tiny but always packed with bikes. We managed to find spots to wedge our bikes into (Dave lost his first spot to a car that stole it "sorry") and walked around a bit.
I wonder if the guy on the GS500E packed his own chute?
While I'm mighty impressed with cyclists who can ride up mountain passes, they really mess with traffic flow
That's a tough view to beat (but we'll try). The Dolomites are like no other mountans in the world.
A gaggle of KTMs. I think there were 4 or 5 Dukes in the mix, a bike you hardly ever see in the states
Saw a couple of these KTM SM-T's over there. Sweet bike.
It was fun watching people walk onto the balcony and try to figure out why Dave (and others) were doubled over
Stunning, just stunning
Did you forget how much I lust after the CB1300S? Here's a reminder.
There were also a couple of quads out today
Dave enjoying a $6US can of Diet Coke
Me and Dave at the top of Sella
Dave and Peter
Me and Peter
Dave, Peter and Frank at Sella
We had a nice run down the other side of Sella and, turning off onto Passo Gardena, left most of the traffic behind us. Gardena is another pass with fantastic views, perhaps not as dramatic as those on Sella but still beautiful. It was tricky finding a place to park the bikes as a bunch of pay lots had sprung up since my last visit. We did our round of pass-pin/sticker shopping and I set up on a hairpin to get action pics of the guys.
There are hundreds of curves like this in the Dolomites
Frank getting some pics
You see all kinds of vehicles on these roads. Later in the week we say a couple groups of these crazy trikes.
Pretty Guzzi California Vintage
Peter on Gardena
Peter giving the FJR a workout (and with that long wheelbase the FJR was giving him a workout as well)
Peter on Gardena
And back down he goes
We kept running into this group of VMax's over the next couple days
That's one red bike you've got there
Dave heads down so I can get some (more) photos of him
Hayabusa with sidecar, interesting...
Dave on Gardena
|09-17-2012, 01:07 PM||#17|
Joined: Feb 2007
06/20, The Dolomites Best Loop (Part 2)
Next up on the "Best of the Dolomites" loop was Passo Valperola which has a rocky landscape distinctly different than the rest of the surrounding area. Valperola leads up to an area of the Dolomites that was the site of fierce fighting in WWI - in fact this area of Italy belonged to Austria before the war. Fort Tre Sassi was closed when we arrived, but you can look down the hillside and just make out a series of buildings and trenches that were used during the war. We spent some time at the top, walked back a bit to the rifugio for some shopping, and the blasted down the short straightaway to the top of Passo Falzarego. The short stretch between these 2 pass tops is a good place to "clean out the carbs" as it's about nearly flat and straight as an arrow, something that can't be said of too many stretches of road in this part of the world.
The buildings are hard to find at first, which I suppose is the point
Easy to tell when the fort is open
Inside the fort were thousands of artifacts from the battles in this area (forgive the smudge bottom-center, took me 2 days to notice it and clean it)
The buildings blended in beautifully with the rocky landscape
Looking back up at the fort
Peter's very impressed
View on our short walk to the rifugio, which you can just see part of in the upper-right section of the photo. We did not hike down to the pond.
There were lots of interesting trails available for those with more time
The top of Passo Falzarego is always busy, and this day was no exception, though unlike Sella or Gardena there's plenty of room to go around for parking. We parked for a while, got some more snacks (lunches were becoming a distant memory), and generally took in the scene and ogled the bikes. The route I planned for today allowed us a lot of time for distractions which worked out well.
Parking lot at Passo Falzarego
The view in the other direction wasn't too shabby. Lots of easy hikes in the area.
Made me miss my Multistrada
Didn't know there was such a thing as an R850RT
We saw a lot of Multistrada 1200's over the course of the trip, but none was tastier than this Tricolore. rool: :inlove:
There was a pack of Versys there as well, pretty perfect bike for the area I think
This was the most unique one, with Motech aluminum cases
I bet pops is a demon on that XL
It's one of those VMax's we keep running into...hey, check out that rear wheel...
Seriously? Does anyone really need MORE braking power on their rear wheel? Please enlighten me.
This guy had an awful lot of bling on that VMax
We saw a couple of the new VFR1200's
We took Falzarego down towards Arabba again, turning off onto SP563 before getting there. SP563 is a tiny, crooked little road with about a dozen hairpins that descends sharply on its way to Passo Fedaia. On the last trip we had come up 563 in the rain, with an Audi wagon on our taillights the whole time - this run was much more pleasant. Once on Fedaia we split up, with instructions to meet at the dam. Fedaia is an out-of-the-way pass that doesn't really go anywhere or connect anything to anything so it doesn't see a lot of traffic. It's also pretty spread-out so there are some nice fast sweepers to balance out the hairping sections. Fedaia runs through an area known as the Marmolada, home to the mountain of the same name, which is the highest peak in the Dolomites at 3,343 meters. At the top is the dam of Lake Lago de Fedaia, and was used in the beginning of the "Italian Job" remake.
We took a nice long break at the dam, seeing as the weather was just so perfect and the day was still relatively young. My planned route from this point was just to continue west on Fedaia, then turn north to meet up with Passo Pordoi and back to Arabba. After another ice cream (a pattern?) we decided to extend the day's ride. No problem, I figured, there's no shortage of great roads in the immediate area.
We doubled back down Fedaia (which was no hardship), then found ourselves on SP20, a little connector road that would lead us to Passo Giau, our next goal. Like many (most) roads in the area, SP20 turned out to be fantastic, working it's way through a deep canyon and past waterfalls. In a small way it reminded me of Smoke Hole Road in West Virginia, which is no bad thing.
View from the other side of the dam, you can see 3 long galleries on Passo Fedaia
My steed on the dam
Peter crossing the dam
|09-17-2012, 01:08 PM||#18|
Joined: Feb 2007
06/20, The Dolomites Best Loop (Part 3)
Passo Giau was a favorite from our last trip, and it didn't disappoint this time around either. It's one of the two main passes to get from the "big" road that cuts through Arabba over to Cortina D'Ampezzo, and it's by far the lesser used one. Each side of the pass is distinctly different from the other - the southern/western approach is mostly hairpin after hairpin (maybe 20 or so?) but the northern/eastern ramp is a mix of every kind of bend imaginable with stunning views down to Cortina D'Ampezzo and the surrounding mountains. I much prefer the northern section, as the hairpin-short straight-hairpin-short straight thing can get monotonous after a while. Giau rose to the top of Frank's list of favorite passes, and I suspect it was close to the top of everyone else's.
We did our normal "meet at the top" thing, with everyone getting to do the pass at their own pace. After a short stay at the top I went ahead to setup for some more action photos since the background here is tough to beat.
Looking down the north ramp of Giau. Cortina D'Ampezzo is the town at the bottom.
The views on Giau are spectacular
Dave, Peter and Frank on Giau
Man I love those big nakeds
I lusted after this 1990's Triumph Sprint 900 when it came out
Can't escape that CB1300S
And now for the action shots of the guys. I liked several variations, so forgive the somewhat repetitive shots.
Peter coming down Giau
Next up was Frank
And last but not least, Dave
I zipped back on the bike and had a great run down the north ramp. At various places I passed some of the guys parked on the roadside taking in the sights so I found myself a nice hairpin to setup on and get more pictures.
This will do nicely
Dave's first by
Here come Frank
There goes Frank
Once we dispatched Passo Giau we headed for Passo Falzarego to get us back to the hotel. We had done half the pass earlier today, from the intersection at the top with Passo Falzarego west so this half up to the summit was new for the day. This half of Falzarego is pretty wide-open after some twisties at the start, and for the most part and you can maintain some decent speed. We stopped for a minute at the top just to regroup, and then Dave and I took off first. It was a lot of fun following Dave down the pass, I find I don't mind increasing my pace a bit when following someone I trust.
We rolled into the Hotel Mesdi around 7:00 with a full day's perfect riding behind us. It was one of the best day's riding I'ver ever had, and I know the other guys were thoroughly impressed with motorcycling in the Dolomites. A delicious dinner only added to the experience.
My chicken. Tasty.
Not knowing what it was, Dave ordered the Beef Carpaccio from the menu. Now, Dave is not a picky eater by any means, and he'll try just about anything. I wish you could have seen his reaction to the plate of raw meat placed in front of him. Absolutely not interested. I am NOT an adventurous eater, but I'm usually pretty OK with beef so I tried a couple small pieces and found it delicious! Dave eventually swapped meals with someone.
|09-17-2012, 01:09 PM||#19|
Joined: Feb 2007
06/21, Vajont Dam Day (Part 1)
The Vajont Dam towers over Longarone (not my photo)
A couple years ago I was watching a show about Engineering Disasters that did a long, detailed segment on the Vajont Dam disaster in Italy. The dam was completed in 1960, and at a height of nearly 900 feet above the valley floor it was, at the time, the highest thin-arch dam in the world. Unfortunately, to make a long story short, they may have known a lot about engineering dams at the time but they didn't know enough about geology. In the middle of the night of October 9th, 1963 an enormous section of mountain (about 350 million cubic yards) on the left bank slid into the reservoir, displacing about 30 million cubic metres of water. A wave of water rose up the right bank destroying the village of Caso, 850 feet above the level of the lake, before over-topping the dam and crashing down nearly 1600 feet below and onto the villages of Longarone, Pirago, and others. It's estimated that a total of 2500 lives were lost.
For more detailed info:
What's incredible is that the dam is still standing today. The disaster only chipped away a small section of the top of the dam, so it appears nearly perfect as it looms over the rebuilt town of Longarone. In preparing for this trip I was excited to see that Longarone is only an hour or so south of Arabba, and would make a great sidetrip. Even if no one else was interested in joining me I was going to check this out. I was pleased to find out that the other guys wanted to see it, although none of them had heard of it.
I was awakened by the 7am church bells. If you miss them at 7 you'll get another chance at 7:15, then at 7:30, and so on - 9pm is the final bell. We had another way-too-filling breakfast (where Frank announced the location of the mystery fridge) and walked out to the sunshine to get the bikes ready for another perfect day.
I had laid out a route to the dam that included a named pass, Passo Staulanza, and continuing as the road turned into SP251. Our ride to the start of Staulanza was marred by an abundance of truck traffic, but that thinned out as we turned onto the pass proper. As fun as Staulanza was, and it was a very twisty if not particularly scenic pass, it was the rest of SP251 that impressed me. Miles and miles (and miles) of twisty pavement, with a rock face on your left and a dropoff (with guardrail) to your right. Try to imagine the best part of Hawk's Nest in NJ, but extend it by 10 or 15 miles. No hairpins on this one, just lean-left, lean-right, lean-left for perhaps 20 or 30 minutes. My route for the day would have us backtracking on this particular section before heading over to Passo Cibiana and points north, so I was looking forward to rerunning it on the mountain-side.
Don't mind me
Fortunately the Monster rider saw the goat in time
Somce decent turns on Staulanza
Just before Longarone there's a long tunnel, and immediately as you emerge from it you can look up in the mountains and see the Vajont Dam, impossibly high above you. I wish I would have stopped to get a picture, but I was thinking there would be a better vantage point. There wasn't.
We had a little bit of confusion figuring out how to get up to the dam, but eventually the route became clear (read: we saw the sign for it). A series of tight hairpins took us higher and higher over Longarone and eventually into a series of tunnels, each with cutouts looking out over the valley. I was initially a little alarmed at the tightness of the tunnel until I figured out they were one-way and controlled with signal lights. As you exit the last tunnel there's a set of buildings on your right and a parking lot, which is the visitor area for the dam.
I'm sure I can't adequately describe the feeling I had up there. At the parking lot you are looking out over the reservoir, or what used to be the reservoir. It first appears that you are just looking at a grassy, rocky field, but you're actually looking at what used to be the mountainside that came down to fill in the reservoir. Chilling. You can only see the backside of the dam from the parking lot, to see anything else you have to walk back through the tunnels. Frank stayed behind and the rest of us headed cautiously into the non-pedestrain-friendly tunnels. There were some interesting vistas available at the various openings in the tunnel wall, but it was only when you came out the other side could you get a good look at the front of the dam and get a sense of it's impressive height. The thought of a wall of water crashing over the top and roaring down to the towns below.... well, you really don't want to think about it.
What used to be a reservoir hundreds of feet deep
Backside of the Vajont Dam
Memorials in the tunnels
On the front side of the dam you can see some of the structure stabilizing the rock
Oh man, how do we get down to that road?
The front of the Vajont Dam
You can get a sense of the landslide scale in this shot
Tunnels to get to the Vajont Dam site
"..and on the right we have the female reproductive system"
|09-17-2012, 01:10 PM||#20|
Joined: Feb 2007
06/21, Vajont Dam Day (Part 2)
While the rest of us had been checking out the dam, Frank had been busy plotting out a new route for the afternoon on the Zumo. I didn't have any "must-do's" on the rest of my planned route so I didn't mind too much a change in plans. Besides, this was a group tour and everyone should get input. In the months leading up to this trip I had impressed upon everyone (those invited as well as those who ultimately went) that this was a "choose your own adventure" trip. If people wanted to stay together that's fine, but I strongly encouraged folks that they could do anything they wanted, ride anywhere/anyhow they wanted, and hopefully we would all just catch up at dinner. I wasn't sure how that was going to turn out, whether some folks would splinter off and ride their our own routes, but so far we were all sticking together and that was working out fine. I think if there were more people on the trip we might have had multiple groups doing different routes.
One of the side benefits of a trip like this is getting to try out different bikes, and I was itching to swap out the TDM for one of the other bikes. I had ridden an FJR before so that was last on my list, and Frank was going to lead on the Varadero with his GPS, so I tossed my camera in Dave's CBF. The ergos were more compact than the TDM but still on this side of comfortable.
We retraced our route down to Longarone, doing all the hairpins downhill this time. I haven't spent time on an inline four in a long time, and have never had any long rides on a liter bike (even one as neutered as the CBF) and it was taking me a while to adjust to the different power delivery. I really enjoy the twin's strong midrange surge, be it the TDM on this trip or my Multistrada. The CBF's linear climb to a top-end rush was an entirely different experience and, to me, not well suited to hairpin strafing, at least on the downhills. I would open the throttle on corner exit and instead of a nice surge of torque propelling me a bit faster I had a lot of revs racing me to the next corner entry. I'm probably not explaining it well, but I like the lumpier "torque on demand" motor more than the "rev the rocket" type.
We had a bit of trouble back in Longarone trying to get out of town and onto the GPS-plotted route. More than once we found ourselves dead-ended, or circling the same street a couple times, before finally being able to get on the right track. This was my first time on the trip without a GPS, and it was at once both liberating and maddening. It was nice to let someone else do the leading and not keep looking down to make sure you didn't miss a turn, but when things go awry the OCD in me gets frustrated and it was hard not to be able to see what the issue could have been. The Zumo's were continuing to be a source of frustration on this trip - it's surprising how quickly you go from "what would I do without this?" to "I'm going to through you in the next river!" when it misbehaves, or doesn't do what you think it should have done. 97% of the time the Zumo's were faithful and invaluable servants, the other 3% they were routing us down one-way alleyways.
The road to the first pass on the new route was pretty uninspiring, just a busy commercial route through uninteresting towns. Passo d. Mauria turned out to be just so-so, beat-up pavement, no views to speak of, and short. We got to the top only to find that everything was closed, so no new pass pins (or ice cream) for us. Hey, sometimes you take a chance on a road and it doesn't work out, we've all been there.
Alps version of a ghost town
I felt I'd had enough of the CBF to get a good feel for it, so swapped with Peter for the FJR. Dave took his bike back, and Peter took my TDM. The route didn't have us continuing over the pass, so I pointed the FJR back down the road and we took off. My goodness the FJR is a rocketship. Very comfy, and very, very fast. To be honest I can't say it loved being on a tight, twisting pass with crappy pavement, but in it's element it's probably killer. By the bottom of the pass I was eager to get on my TDM, and Peter was equally as happy to give it up. He thought it felt 'loose' and 'broken'. I wish I liked either of the other 2 bikes more, but I was relieved to be back on the TDM (and have my GPS back). Our next stop was via Santa Ana, a small pass north of us about 20 or 30 minutes away.
Unfortunately that pass eluded us. We did a couple passes up and down the town but were unable to find the turnoff. Eventually we gave up and continued north in the vague direction of Cortina d'Ampezzo. We had a little stretch of busier boring road to contend to, but then found ourselves on Passo tre Croci which, at least on the southern half, is a fantastic fast road through the woods with some nice sweepers. Definitely a fun bit of road for some super-legal velocities. The hairpins (always there are hairpins) start near the top, and the ramp down to Cortina is a typical Dolomite twisty perfect affair.
We spent too much time at a too-crowded gas station in town (including some time being concerned about the blue gas coming out of the nozzle), eventually filling up 3-abreast on the same 50 euro note. Tanks replenished, I led the group up to find Drei Zinnen, a viewpoint that eluded Jim and I last trip due to crappy weather. That wouldn't be an issue this time, but my lack of knowing exactly where it was would be. More Zumo-induced hilarity getting out of Cortina before we could start back up Tre Croci, then we had to pick our way through a string of construction vehicles trying to back into us, then finally a fun run up the pass. I stopped to talk with Dave on the side of the road, only to realize it wasn't Dave but just some random biker on a black CBF. When we got to the top (again) of Tre Croci I had had enough time to figure out that Drei Zinnen was out of our reach for the day if we wanted to get back to Arabba at any decent hour. The run down Tre Croci (#3) had us entertained by a girl driving one of those tiny 3-wheeled trucks downhill at an alarming pace. You see one of these ahead of you and figure you'll zip right by in a moment or two. I'll be damned if it wasn't tricky to get around this girl barrelling down the pass.
Gas in Cortina - we try to save by buying in bulk
From Cortina there's two ways to get back to Arabba, over Passo Falzarego or Passo Giau. Hands down we chose Giau again. I had a great time following Dave down Giau, we were really in a good groove. That groove continued for me as we left Giau for another run on our newly-discovered SP20 and over Passo Fedaia. We stopped at the dam just to regroup, then completed the western ramp of Fedaia that we skipped yesterday. Fedaia passes very close under the biggest mountains in the Dolomites,which lead to Dave ranking them highest on his scale of rocks - "That's a big fucking rock!". Dave throws out perhaps one or two curses per trip, so you can imagine how impressed he was.
Frank on SP20
Peter on SP20
And finally Dave
Very cool geology on SP20
Nothing special, just a boring connector road in the Dolomites.
Looking back on SP20
Lago de Fedaia
The TDM on Fedaia
Frank enjoying Fedaia
Now there's something you don't see every day
Dave and Peter at Lago de Fedaia
2-up on Passo Pordoi
Really, there's no reason to come ride the Alps
Peter on Pordoi
Frank working it
These folks were having a great time going down Pordoi
I can't recall where it happened, but I have a note about "crazy yellow biker". It might have been on the Pordoi, not sure, but as I'm approaching an uphill left-hander, with plenty of traffic coming down at me, I get passed by a guy on a yellow bike who then basically lane-splits the hairpin between cars going in both directions.
We arrived back at the Hotel Mesdi with enough time to sit outside and enjoy a beer before dinner. I love this place - we sit down, a couple minutes later one of the waitresses comes out to see what we would like, and a few minutes after that we have a round of beers, some hand-cut fries and other assorted goodies.
Topics of conversation included:
Nice way to unwind
Dinner was very tasty tonight, topped off with a very good apple cobbler. After dinner we walked around downtown Arabba a bit (if there is such a thing) and checked out the ski lift area. Dave and Peter are avid skiiers, and at various times during our stay here you could practically see the wheels turning in their heads about coming here to ski.
Ever get that feeling you;re being watched?
Apple cobbler was delicious
These lifts would open in a few weeks to take summer hikers
Nothing to do
The back of the Hotel Mesdi. Dining room is on lower-level right, bar area lower level left.
|09-17-2012, 04:04 PM||#21|
I'd rather be riding
Joined: Oct 2005
Great stuff. My father's family comes from Fonzaso and Agordo, not too far from where you were. I haven't been there since 2000 or 2001. Beautiful area, thanks for posting these nice pictures.
Whenever we are riding, we are an ambassador to our sport
I'd rather be riding!
|09-25-2012, 11:24 AM||#22|
Joined: Feb 2007
06/22, Black Rose Pizza Day (Part 1)
I was very happy to see we woke to yet another day of great weather. Today was going to be a mix of old and new, as I wanted to get back to the Black Rose Pizza restaurant in Falcade, and I was also eager to explore some of the smaller roads to the west of the main Dolomite passes. I had a pretty ambitious route layed out but I did build in an escape point back to the hotel if we were running out of time. Our bellies (over)stuffed from breakfast yet again, the first order of business was heading over Pordoi. Not a bad way to start the day, not at all.
The run up Pordoi was fantastic, as was the section down to the intersection with Sella, but from there the road was clogged with trucks and busses. You can sit for quite some time while 2 busses figure out how to pass each other. We passed where we could, but even so it was slow going down to Canazei.
Our menu for dinner tonight. I maked my room number next to my choices.
Peter coming up Pordoi, and another smudge in the middle of the lens. Wish I was more diligant about that.
Frank on Pordoi
Peter on Pordoi
Frank nearing the top at tornante #30
Dave coming up
Got some nice shots of the guys going down the western side of Pordoi
Pordoi is still my favorite road in the world
We had about a 20 minute ride down SS48 to get to the start of Passo San Pellegrino, but our trip was slowed to get around the scene of bike accident involving a Ducati Monster and, most likely, one of the construction vehicles doing roadwork. We also passed a tour group of BMW C1 "super-scooters".
Passo San Pellegrino doesn't have an abundance of hairpins, but that can make for a nice change of pace. It's mostly sweepers up to the top, and while the scenery isn't as jaw-dropping as on Sella or Giau there ins't nearly the amount of traffic on it. We shared the road mostly with other bikers, with an occasional car or bicycle group along the way. The top of San Pellegrino is pretty bare, so we didn't waste a lot of time there before continuing on. Just before the intersection with Passo Valles there are, of course, some pretty fun downhill hairpins. We were riding solo back down from the top, and since I was in front I stopped at the Valles intersection, which just happens to be on a hairpin. Pretty soon Frank came along, and I sent him ahead to "wait at the top". Dave was next, and he agreed to be the lookout for Peter, so I headed up Valles. A few miles ahead I found a nice section of straight road with a great backdrop for photos, so I pulled off to wait for Dave and Peter. What I didn't know at the time was Peter had sailed right on by Dave at the hairpin and had continued down into the town of Falcade. Dave had to give chase. Of course when Dave and Peter did come by a truck was lumbering down the road ruining the shot. Grrr. At least when I continued up I spotted a terrific hairpin location for more photos, which I would direct the guys to a little later (we would be rerunning these 3 passes in the opposite direction).
Almost everywhere in the Dolomites you find ski lifts. These are at the top of Passo San Pellegrino
Passo San Pellegrino
And I waited....and waited...
View at the top of Passo Valles
Dave on Valles
Looking back down Valles
The southern ramp of Valles is a really nice ride next to a roaring creek, twisting and turning, rising and falling. No hairpins on this one (that I recall), just a great series of turns through the forest. At the end of Valles is a tight left turn to start up Passo Roll, easily missed.Thankfully everyone regrouped on this one and we each took off for our run of Rolle. Lots of hairpins on Rolle. At the top of Rolle we turned around and did Valle again on our way to the Black Rose Pizza in Falcade. I remembered the hairpin photo-op and went ahead on Valles to setup for the guys. After the hairpin photos I was back on the long straight section of road where I waited earlier. There was a cyclist hauling downhill here, and I clocked him at just over 50mph. Not too shabby.
This road should do nicely for photos
Here comes Frank
Frank having fun
Pretty sure Dave scraped his toes on this hairpin
Peter manhandling the FJR
|09-25-2012, 11:25 AM||#23|
Joined: Feb 2007
06/22, Black Rose Pizza Day (Part 2)
We found our way to the back alley off the back alley that was home to Black Rose Pizza and, with great expectations on my part, went in for lunch. On my first riding trip to Italy in 2009 (which was also my first time ever in Europe) I declared their pizza "the best Pizza in Europe" and I was eagerly looking forward to another perfect pie. Everyone ordered their own pizza, and I went with my beloved "buffalina" from the last visit. This time around, sorry to say, it was only excellent and not exquisite. The guys seemed happy with what they ordered, and I know the Cokes went down well on this hot afternoon.
Lined up at the Black Rose
Not as perfect as last time
Everyone was happy with their pizzas
I had one more bike to try out - Frank's beast of burden, the Varadero. He was eager to give the TDM a whirl as it was pretty close in form and function to his Weestrom back home. We topped off our gas tanks in town and then had the pleasure of re-riding Passo San Pellegrino again on our way back to SS48. I liked the power delivery of the Varadero, and the riding position was really nice and spread out. The brakes left something to be desired, but this would probably be easily remedied. When we switched back to our own bikes at the end of the pass Frank was not eager to give back the Yamaha after professing his love for it.
A short run up SS48 took us to Passo Costalunga, which on the last trip Jim and I had voted "worst pass of the trip". The ride up to the top confirmed my feelings - it's just not that much fun. No views to speak of, fairly heavy traffic, and terrible sightlines for most of the curves. Now on that last trip we only rode this eastern side and back, but this time we continued along to the connection with Niger Pass. The "new" section of Costalunga was a little more interesting, but didn't change my vote.
One of the reasons I had picked Niger Pass was because on the map we had it was listed as "24% grade", which sounded like it could be fun. Niger was also one of several passes that led west to the Autostrada where we could pick up other more interesting roads back east. I had spent some time on Google maps finding the tiniest through roads in this area and had plotted a zig-zaggy course using several of them. While Niger pass was decent, I don't recall it being any steeper than the rest of the passes in the area. The highlight was a fantastic view of the Dolomites for a split second when you left the top, which became almost immediately obscured by trees. Our string of perfect weather also came to an end on this pass, as the rain started on and off as we headed further west. There was more traffic than we would have liked on Niger, and even more as we got closer to the Autostrada. Some of the tiny roads would have been much more fun if we weren't just in a conga line of dozens of cars, or at least if it wasn't raining.
Eventually the rain started tapering off and we started working our way back east on a road that got progressively narrower and narrower. We were deep in farming country now, and were surprised to see how much farming is seemingly done with manual labor. No giant green John Deere harvesters out here, just old women with pitchforks and hoes.
The narrowness of our road was matched only by the fantastic views down into the valley far, far below us. We took turns stopping and taking pictures for a while, and then had a pretty slow run down the mountain to connect with a main road that would lead us to Worz Joch. The slow run was primarily dictated by the serious consequences of an off-road excursion - there wasn't much of a shoulder to speak of, and then a steep roll down the hill.
I'm actually happy to be there
Great views and a narrow road as we work our way down to the valley
Fun, fun, fun
What a view!
Wow, is this still a road?
We needed gas again before ascending Worz Joch, and that stop turned into an adventure in itself. The attendant/owner only spoke German, and was earnestly trying to explain something vital to us about the pumps. I tried to enlist Peter as a translater since I knew he spoke a little Italian, having not figured out the guy was speaking German. How could I mix up German and Italian? Eventually we worked out that it was cash only (or credit-only, I forget now), and he had to do all the pumping. I sprung for a $4 coke and pretty much guzzled it in one swig - it was pretty hot down in the lowlands.
The west approach to Worz Joch was another new section of road to me, having only down the eastern half last trip. To think that on that trip I remarked that Worz Joch was especially narrow - this side made the other look like Route 13 in Delaware. The road was about as narrow as I'd ever seen, essentially one car wide like the smaller farm road we were one earlier but this one was designed to handle more traffic. It started raining a bit as we ascended, and the temperature starting dropping as well. By the time we reached the summit I was pretty chilly, wet, and it was getting late. This "getting late" situation was becoming a recurring theme on this trip. You always want to pack so much stuff into every day that you inevitably end up running out of time to do it all. We were always the last ones back to the hotel, with other groups already sitting around enjoying drinks when we rode up. Next time I'd like to make a concerted effort to plan a shorter day and return to the hotel feeling good, rather than pretty worn out. On the other hand, you can see more by riding more. Tough call.
Going up Wurz Joch. That's one narrow little pass.
More rain accompanied us on the run down Wurz Joch, but it was almost forgiven when we came across a perfect, horizon-to-horizon rainbow at the end of the pass in town. Somewhere along the way we had passed by two orange Laverda's, which increased my "Laverdas seen on the road" count to....2. There was some GPS-induced confusion (once again) after town finding the main road back to Arabba, followed by a pretty uneventful ride down SS244 into Corvara and then over Passo Campalongo. Not entirely uneventful though - while passing a hotel my glance lingered too long surveying the parking lot full of bikes, and when I looked up again the car in front of me had slowed dramatically to turn into another hotel. My first experience with ABS was satisfying.
Looking back the way we came up Wurz Joch
OK, I'll put up with a little rain for this
Hot Alfa Romeo Brera hatchback
Dinner was, of course, delicious. I had the Penne Arrabesque followed by "air dried beef". I could have had three plates of the penne, it was excellent. The "air dried beef" was just OK, but the Panna Cotta for dessert made up for that. The texture was a bit rubbery but the taste was wonderful. After dinner we moved to the bar for another round of drinks, and had a good time shooting the breeze (I bet the Erdinger Weissbier helped).
My Penne was very tasty
Lasagna filled with rocket (arugala)
My air-dried beef
I went upstairs to my room, and wanted to check the Zumo to see how long the route was going to be for tomorrow, our long ride to Passo Stelvio. The zumo wasn't in the room. Hmm, I must have left it in the mount on the bike. The Zumo 550 has a locking mount, which you need a special key to thread a small screw into the clamp preventing removal of the GPS. I wandered outside a little tipsy, and was not thrilled to see no Zumo in the mount. Maybe I put it in the topcase? Opened that up, rummaged through it, nothing. Hmm, I must have put in my pocket or something and brought it inside with me. I went back to the lobby of the hotel and spent a couple minutes looking through their brochures of the area, for what reason I have no idea. After a while a guy comes up to me and asks me, in the best English he can muster, if the red bike is mine. I replied that it was, and then he said a lot of things from which I picked up "navigate" "left on bike" and "manager". Turns out I had taken the Zumo off the mount (with Frank's key) and had left it on the seat when I went inside. And remember when I say "the Zumo" I really mean "the Zumo my friend Jim lent me". These guys noticed it and brought it in to the hotel manager. Wow, could that have been bad. THANK YOU GUYS! I found most of the hotel staff downstairs in the restaurant off the bar and the manager indeed returned the Zumo. She also mentioned we should park the bikes under the hotel rather than in the parking lot our front. Good for cars, she said, not so good for motorcycles.
|09-25-2012, 11:26 AM||#24|
Joined: Feb 2007
06/23, Ride to Gavia (Part 1)
Today was a big riding day as we were leaving Arabba and heading to Passo Stelvio on the border with Switzerland. On the last trip Jim and I had planned a route from Arabba to Andermatt that went over Passo Stelvio, and even though we made good time and head good weather (with the exception of one downpour that we waited out with some other bikers under an overhang) by the time we we had gotten to the top of Stelvio we were ready to call it a day. Unfortunately we still had something like 5 or 6 hours of riding to go at that point.
To avoid that this time, and to ensure us some extra fun time on Stelvio and the roads around it, we booked rooms at the Hotel Folgore, a hotel one hairpin away from the top of Stelvio. We figured we could arrive at Stelvio early afternoon and run up, run down, do whatever we liked for a while and we'd have a hotel right in the middle of it all. What's the saying about the best laid plans?
I was sorry to have to leave the Hotel Mesdi this morning. This was my second stay here, and to say I love the place is an understatement. The food, the service, the location, the staff, everything just conspires to make for a truly memorable stay. I was a little concerned that the rest of the group would not be as impressed with the hotel as I had been, but as the trip progressed everyone commented how fantastic the place was, and how it was a highlight of the trip. If you're ever in the area (and I can't recommend riding in the Dolomites strongly enough) please think about staying at the Hotel Mesdi. Tell them Ken sent you, and say hi to Agnes and Simon for me.
After breakfast we gave our waitress, Agnes, a nice combined tip and settled our bills (including my 35 euro beer tab) at the front desk. As we brought our hardbags out to the bikes I noticed there was a handwritten note on mine telling me about the GPS. Thanks again guys! The skies were gray as we began our (regrettably last) trip up Pordoi. Reluctant to leave the Dolomites behind we made a run up and down Sella as well, and were pleased to have very little traffic to deal with. While it was less crowded, it was also less warm - thermometer at the top of Sella read 10 degrees Celcius. There were a few noteworthy moments that morning - having a pair of Ferrari F430's pass by us on Sella; watching Peter make a pair of passes on the inside of hairpins coming down Pordoi; seeing a pack of crazy trikes at the top of Sella.
Dave and Peter coming back from the ATM as we get ready to roll out of the Dolomites
Clouds on Pordoi
Frank coming up Pordoi
A beauty shot (is that possible?) of the TDM900 on Sella
Passo Costalunga was out gateway out of the Dolomites, and I have to say the western half is a lot of fun. Even after the "pass" part of it fizzled out and it just became SS241 it was still a nice ride almost all the way to Bolzano. Getting through Bolzano was a different kind of fun. We ended up on a short section of almost-highway (but thankfully not on the Autostrada) that was packed with cars and barely moving. We dawdled along with traffic for a few minutes, and I didn't know if being more aggressive was a good idea with a group. When a group of bikers passed us splitting lanes between us and oncoming traffic that made my decision for me.
What a hoot it was zipping around the stopped cars, using turning lanes, using the center line, using whatever open space was available to us. We weren't flying by, not by a long shot, but just being able to move was a welcome relief. It was one of those moments where you're just soO happy you're on a bike. Fortunately everyone kept together for the most part (aided no doubt by Dave keeping me informed over the Scala when we got too far strung apart) and we found our exit that would take us to Passo Mendola.
The skies were getting rapidly darker as we stopped for gas in Bolzano. Once again we were flummoxed by the gas pumps - this place was pump first, pay later. While we were hanging out for a bit and contemplating donning our rain gear a brand-new BMW K1600GTL pulled in next to us. We got to talking to the couple for a bit, and found out they were on vacation from Oregon and the bike was a loaner from BMW - as was all their gear! How did that happen, we asked. Turns out he's a motorcycle travel writer by the name of Bruce Hansen. Along with various magazine articles he's had published he'd written a book in the same series as Hermann's Alps book we were using - Motorcycle Journeys in the Pacific Northwest (available through Amazon and other places). He and his wife were charming to talk to, and we could have easily spent more time talking with them but the darkening skies had us eager to move on.
Dave trying to figure out how he can get a free BMW
Comparing their fashionable footwear
The ride over Mendola was fun - for about 5 minutes until it started to rain. And rain, and rain, and rain, and thunder, and lightning... It was truly an epic rainstorm. We passed a couple groups of (smarter) riders that had tucked in to some natural rock overhangs as we continued higher and higher. Normally there's a great view on this road, as it hugs the side of a rock wall and sports a mostly-open view of the land far, far below. On this day, though, you couldn't really see anything due to the rain. By the time we got to the top of the pass we looked like drowned rats. We thought about killing some time at the top to see if the rain would pass, but decided to just soldier on. I made a quick stop at a store that, in 2009 at least, sold very cheap soccer jerseys hoping to pick some up for my soccer-obsessed 10 year old son but the store had changed hands. This store was the source of his favorite souvenir from the last trip, a garish yellow Valentino Rossi jersey.
I can't really say much about the ride from Mendola to Passo Tonale, other than it rained pretty steady the whole time. Once in a while it would taper off and give you some false hope, only to come down even harder a few miles later. Of course the Zumo kept us entertained with a couple off-route excursions, but other than that we just slogged our way west. By the time we were ascending Passo Tonale it was officially "downright miserable". The top of Tonale is a surprise, because instead of just a refugio or a couple shops there's basically a whole city. Not much looked to be open, or at least didn't look like they had any customers, so we ended up at the same sandwich place I stopped at last time. I'm sure the staff loved us coming in and taking over a table just for all our soaking wet gear. Lunch choices were limited by the fact that they were out of bread, but we were more interested in hot beverages.
While we finished our lunch I brought up the obvious - if the weather was going to continue like this it was pointless to continue on over Gavia and Stelvio. While I'm quite sure we could have have done it, no one would have enjoyed it. Both passes have famously spectacular views which would t be obscured by rain and clouds. Any hairpin-strafing enjoyment would be nixed due to the wet roads, and if the temperature dropped there was a good possibility of some ice on the roads as well. We had gotten lucky the other day with Grosglockner, which started out rainy and foggy as well, but we really had no choice once we got there but to get to the other side. On this day we could decide to hotel it this side of Gavia and still be able to do Gavia and Stelvio tomorrow. We agreed to ride on to Ponte di Legno, the last decent-sized town before the start of Passo Gavia, and make a decision based on the weather at that point.
We did have one good laugh at the sandwich place though. When I used the one-person men's room it was not obvious how to flush the toilet. There was a button right next to me on the wall, perhaps this was it? Imagine my surprise, upon pressing the button while still trying to all the layers of pants back up, to find that it rings a bell at the front counter indicating someone needs assistance in the bathroom. I don't think I've ever zipped up quicker. When I relayed this story to the guys at the table, Peter started cracking up - he had done exactly the same thing!
As I was getting back on the bike the waitress came running out with my (smaller) camera. Yesterday the GPS, today the camera. Not good, not good.
Tasty gathering of classic 911's at the top of Passo Mendola
A shame it has to be out in weather like this
We probably left a gallon of water on the floor
Oh yes, beautiful day for a ride
Which turned out to be an easy decision to make, since if anything the weather got colder and wetter as we rode. We were expecting Ponte di Legno to be a good-sized town with maybe a few hotels to choose from - we were wrong. First off it took us a few false starts to find the town "Centro" - the Zumo was pretty much useless at this point, it's delay in realizing it was off-route making navigation almost impossible. We resorted to following the signs for Centro (I know, so old school), and found ourselves heading down a steep, narrow, twisting, soaking wet cobblestone street. This couldn't be right, could it? I was quite concerned about the wet cobblestones but the bike never made a misstep. A couple minutes (felt like more than that) and the narrow street opened up into a tiny piazza with a restaurant on one corner and a coffee shop/bakery on the other. No obvious place to park, the rest of the group behind me found a spot to wiggle their 3 bikes into but I had already gone by and no way could I reverse direction on those cobblestones. I rode around the corner and found an alleyway in which to leave the bike.
Not wanting to sit and have an expensive meal at the restaurant, we chose to walk into the coffee shop. Which, as it would turn out, would kick off of one of the most amazing experiences of the trip.
Nice shot of the road we came down
Sure, it's a parking spot. Right?
|09-25-2012, 11:27 AM||#25|
Joined: Feb 2007
06/23, Ride to Gavia (Part 2)
We sat our wet selves down again, and it was obvious that there was no point in continuing to Stelvio. We were cold, wet, and the weather showed no signs of improving. We ordered some drinks and desserts and tried to figure out what to do. We had been hoping to find some obvious hotels in town, but that was not the case. There was one right on the piazza, but didn't look like it had seen a guest in months.
At our urging, we convinced Peter to try out his Italian on the coffee shop owner to see if he knew what the weather was going to be like for the rest of the day and tomorrow. Peter claims his Italian is not very good, and he's reluctant to use it, but he gave in and engaged the owner in a conversation. Man, you would have thought Peter just stepped off the boat. No idea why he didn't feel comfortable speaking Italian up to this point, the conversation was flowing just fine.
I have to say there's really no way I can relay how special the rest of the day was, it might be one of those "you had to be there" things.
A couple minutes later the owner's brother comes out with a laptop, showing us the weather forecast. Not good for the rest of the day, but tomorrow should be sunny and warm. We had Peter ask them about hotels in the area, and they suggested two, then disappeared. I sent some texts to my travel agent (my wife, thank you baby!) and she cancelled all of our reservations at the Hotel Folgore. When the brothers came back they told us they had called the local B&B for us, and talked to the owner to make sure he had rooms. There was also a restaurant within walking distance, and they had called them as well to make sure they were open today. They highly recommended the place, gave us directions, and told us the B&B owner, Yuri, would be waiting for us with an umbrella at the turnoff to his road. Seriously? We thanked the brothers, Michael and Pino, profusely and rushed back out to the rain to get on our way.
Michael and Pino, with Peter in the middle. I think it looks like they're making him an offer he can't refuse.
We were assured it was just a few kilometers away, but (I know, this is getting old by now) we still managed to lose our way a couple times. At the top of one road, sure enough, was a man standing with an umbrella motioning emphatically for us to follow him. He ran down the street as we rode slowly, and directed us into a garage to park the bikes. In the front of the garage was a Ducati Monster S2R, so that was a good sign already.
I don't know how to describe Yuri; he was about the happiest, kindest, enthusiastic, most helpful person I've ever run across. He's always smiling, always talking, and was always eager to help us with one thing or another. Once we got off the bikes he insisted we give him all our wet gear so he could get it dried overnight. He made a couple trips running back and forth between the garage and the house while we kind of stood there in disbelief. When we came back I talked with him a little about Ducati, and Valentino and MotoGP, and he had some funny comments - "Yamaha too smooth, boring for Rossi, Ducati like BANG BANG BANG! More fun!".
To own a Ducati at the base of Passo Gavia...heaven
Yuri tending to our wet gear - while making us laugh with stories, of course
The foggy rainy view down into the "big" town of Ponte di Legno
Peter talking with Yuri outside the B&B
Our man Yuri
The hilltop "suburb" of Ponte di Legno. This little village has about 300 permanent residents, the "big" town about 1000. In ski season this swells to 25,000.
He told us we had a whole floor of rooms to ourselves, and showed us around the B&B. He was obviously very proud (and rightly so) of his house and town, and his enthusiasm was infectious. Breakfast was included of course, and he asked us what time would we like it. We replied 8am, and were told that's a little late for mamma's home made bread. 7:30 it is, no problem! As we got unpacked in our rooms (sure enough, a whole floor just for us, with 2 shared bathrooms) the weather cleared up a little, but we didn't care by this point. Back downstairs Yuri was happily showing us some of the old "simple" things he had on display - a wooden sausage press, a daguerreotype camera, etc. We talked to him a bit about the coffee shop, and Peter asked if the Michael and Pino were brothers. "You mean Chip and Chop?" There were a lot of laughs in the ensuing conversation.
Walking back outside, we were amazed at the views back down into Ponte di Legno and the mountains.
Weather starting to clear. Nice deck right across the tiny road.
I highly recommend it
Yuri has a fondness for "old, simple things"
Yuri's B&B, and town
Looks like some of the town could use a little freshening up
When we asked where we should go for dinner, he started to give us directions, then thought better of it. "Follow me!" We spent the next half hour on a guided tour of his beautiful town, stopping here and there as he described life in the town as it used to be, or what the significance of a certain sign was, or why there were troughs of water outside, etc. A couple of times a window would be thrown open and an old Italian lady would yell down "Yuri!" and they would chat for a minute. By the time we finally got to the restaurant we were totally taken in by Yuri and Ponte di Legno.
The most traffic the town sees all day I bet
Most residents had ancestors in WWI, and they proudly display memorabilia
What a photogenic street
Yuri telling us how, back in the old days, you could use the water out here for different things at different times. Basically it was fresh water in the morning, and got less so as the day went on.
10 lire fine for fouling the water too early in the day
I don't recall what he was telling us here, but it was interesting (and probably funny)
This little fella was lonely
The weather had definitely improved by the time we got to the other end of town. No regrets.
The tour continues
(I have a confession to make. Being born and raised in The Bronx, I'm more suspicious of people than most. I always think there's a scam unfolding when a stranger approaches. While on our tour Yuri took a call on his cell and stepped away for a minute, and I imagined he was having this conversation: "Yes, yes, four motorcycles, you can come get them in the morning. Tonight I slit their throats while they sleep." I do eventually trust folks, but it takes a while.)
The food at dinner was excellent, the place prides themselves on local dishes and their portions were more than generous. The best part, for me at least, wasn't the food. Once the dishes from dinner were cleared away, our waitress brought to the table a bottle of grappa, a bottle of regular limoncello, and a bottle of homemade limoncello. On the house. Grappa's not my thing, but the homemade limoncello was fantastic. As Peter and I were making short work of the limoncello who shows up at the restaurant but Chip and Chop. They figured that they sent us here, they should check and see how we were doing - and share some wine with us. One of the more memorable dinners I've had.
Frank, Dave and Peter
Densest chocolate cake in the world
The homemade limoncello was wonderful
Marco Simoncelli chips
The walk back to the B&B was easy, even in the dark. I went to sleep 95% sure I'd wake up with my throat intact.
|09-25-2012, 11:29 AM||#26|
Joined: Feb 2007
06/24, Gavia and Stelvio (Part 1)
The only negative thing I can possibly say about our experience at Yuri's is that mamma's bread was nothing special - and that's really nitpicking. Yuri greeted us at breakfast and had a fine spread laid out for us. He brought out our dried gear, then posed for some pictures and introduced us to gramma and his uncle ("he's the General, I'm just the last soldier") while we finished getting packed up. Eventually it was time to say goodbye to Yuri and his hospitality (total cost for a room with a great view of the mountains, full breakfast, and a personal town tour guide? 35 euro per room - what a deal!), and after posing with the bikes for a group shot we took off for Gavia. Not even we could get lost on the way to Gavia, as Yuri's road is practically on the pass.
My room with a view
Yes, it's going to be a good day
Breakfast at Yuri's
Yuri taking care of our gear
The Four Horseman of...something
What can I say about Passo Gavia? It was suggested to us by some Dutch riders we met on our last trip, and they described it as this "it is two way, but how do you say, sometime no possible?". With a recommendation like that Jim and I couldn't turn it down, and it turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip - and a road whose pictures sparked concern for some of this year's group. Yes, it is that narrow. Yes, it is fun. The views are superb, the pavement, with a couple exceptions, is in great shape, and there are hairpins a'plenty. The section on the middle of the pass is what really gets your attention. While the road is just about one-car wide, it's no narrower than the western half of Wurz Joch. On Gavia, however, there is a lot of exposure on that narrow section with steep dropoffs into the abyss. We're not talking La Paz death-road drops, but you can't afford to fool around.
I had a small moment on the very first hairpin when I rode over some fresh manure on the apex, but quickly recovered. I stopped a bunch to take photos of the pass and the guys on the pass and really enjoyed my trip up to the summit. There was a lot less snow this year, possible because it was 2 weeks further into the summer than last time. Once everyone arrived at the top we hung around a bit before finishing Gavia. There isn't much to say about the northern descent, it's very scenic and has a good mix of hairpins and sweepers, but after riding (conquering?) the souther half it's a bit of a let down.
Peter heads up Gavia
So does Dave
One of the places you have to watch for oncoming traffic
Man, that's a tight hairpin - but fun!
Section of exposure on Gavia
You can see the upcoming blind hairpin on the Zumo
Just another hairpin
TDM on Gavia
Dave and Peter taking a moment
Here comes Peter
OK, that's a winner
View from the cockpit on Gavia
Peter's a natural at drawing a Maple Leaf
Pavement gets a little worse when you get near the top
You can see the ascent of Gavia on the left
Peter on Gavia
You can get a sense of how steeply the road ascends that hairpin
Neat glove drier
Great pictures of Gavia when its really snowy
Oh, that's not good
The top of Gavia
Frank descending Gavia
Looking back up Gavia
TDM on Gavia
Peter coming down Gavia
|10-15-2013, 08:51 PM||#28|
Joined: Feb 2007
06/24, Gavia and Stelvio (Part 2)
There was a short connector road to get to the base of Stelvio, then a quick gas stop. Unlike most of the passes we've done, where finding them can sometimes be a challenge, you can't possibly miss Stelvio as there are signs all over town directing you towards it. The start of Stelvio is plenty of fun with a couple hairpins to get you warmed up. The nearly pitch-black tunnels were a challenge, as they were very narrow and often contained ninja bicyclists that you could hardly see. The best part of the ascent is when you come around one of the turns and get a glimpse of the zig-zag climb up the mountain that lay ahead of you. It definitely gets your attention.
We had to share the pass with a lot of other bikes, bicycles, cars and busses but it wasn't overly crowded - I for one had a great time. We again kept passing each other as all of us stopped for photos at one place or another, and I loved knowing that my buddies were most likely having the time of their lives today. I find the southern ascent (which we were coming in on) is more fun than the northern descent, as the northern side just seems like an endless series of hairpins with not much else to add any variety to the ride. The southern side does have a lot of hairpins (and since we were going up they were trickier) but it's not the defining feature - there's a lot of different types of turns to keep you entertained. I had a twinge of regret when we passed the Hotel Folgore near the top, which is where we were supposed to stay last night, but I'm very happy the way things turned out.
Nice group of Lotuses leaving the gas station
Waiting for some action
Griso starting the climb up Stelvio. You can just start to see the back-and-forth hairpins ahead
No slight on Frank, but I'm betting that guy doesn't stay behind him for long
Looking back down the start of Stelvio. You can see the long series of dark tunnels and galleries that lead up to the hairpin ramps.
Unfortunately you had to deal with traffic on hairpins sometimes
Looking down Stelvio
Higher and higher we climb
Back and forth, back and forth
5 layers of road
Almost to the top
Peter ascending Stelvio
This is really a lot of fun
|10-15-2013, 08:54 PM||#29|
Joined: Feb 2007
06/24, Gavia and Stelvio (Part 3)
The top of Stelvio was, as usual, a circus. On my 2009 trip the very cold temperatures and strong winds probably kept the crowds thin, but today was a beautiful summer afternoon. Bikes by the hundreds, dozens of souvineer vendors, several food carts, all contributed to the carnival-like atmosphere - which I loved. We squeezed the bikes into a hole in the crowd and walked around the top of Stelvio shopping, eating and oggling the bikes. One of the things Dave (and probably Peter) was looking forward to was the possibility, I kid you not, of skiing while we were here. It might have worked out had we stayed here last night, but there certainly wasn't enough time today to make that happen. As a consolation prize we decided to take the cablecar from the top of Stelvio to the ski areas just to check out the view. Now I'm not a huge fan of cable cars, but the things we do for our friends...
Frank and Dave shopping
Mmm, big nakeds
The scene at the top
Nice pipes on that Griso - this was the bike that was behind Frank in an earlier picture
Don't see many "Big One's" anymore
Looking ahead to the descent
I bet that's perfect for these passes
Those MT-01's are all motor
"Oh man, can you believe where I am?!"
Dave and Peter atop Stelvio
Tasty tasty tasty.
My "naked" dog
Dave waits for a dog while a bus passes by
My Zephyr! I had some great times on that bike...
Man do they have some ugly cars over there
Hey, it's that same CB1300S!
More trinkets to buy
I guess they do have year-round skiing here
A Stelvio on Stelvio!
Welcome to Sticker City
Several of these crazy trikes were here today. I just now noticed that my Zephyr is hiding behind this one, I would have loved to get a closer look at my old girl.
Busy, busy, busy
(Somewhat) aerial view of the top of Stelvio
Up we go
Higher and higher
Looking back towards the lower tram station
Looking down on the northern descent of Stelvio
We killed some time on top of the mountain, and I have to say I was blown away by the scenery. We do a lot of vacationing in the Rockies in Colorado and I always feel at home in the mountains. It was very cool to look down and see bikers riding on Stelvio, then look over and see people skiing down the slopes. As I said before I'm no fan of riding in cable cars, but this was definitely worth the few minutes of elevated heartrate.
Thankfully we didn't have as long a day ahead of us as last time, but we still needed to get moving again to make it to Linderhof at a reasonable hour. Back down the mountain we went, and after a quick round of stamp/postcard buying got ready to roll out.
Dave's on top of the world
Peter was impressed
I was very suprised to see how gentle a ski slope lay at the top of Stelvio - heck, I'd give that a try (I've never been on skis)
That has to be the bathroom with the world's best view
Nice view from the sinks
Peter lost in thoughts of skiing
Heading back down the mountain
Guy's doing some serious traveling on that V7
Nice Aston Martin, with a Bentley Continental right behind
Another Stelvio on Stelvio
Blinged-out Kawasaki ZR1100, the big brother to my Zephyr 750 and another bike I lusted after back in the day. This was replaced in K's lineup by the ZRX1100.
Check out the encased video camera on the ZR1100
This Sportster was pretty cool
Probably a fantastic bike for pass bagging
One of the dozens of new Multistradas we saw
No accounting for taste
|10-15-2013, 08:54 PM||#30|
Joined: Feb 2007
06/24, Gavia and Stelvio (Part 4)
On a couple of occasions earlier in the trip Frank's Varadero experienced some troubles starting but after a couple stabs at the starter would eventually fire up. This time, up at the very top of Passo Stelvio, one day before the bikes had to be returned, it steadfastly refused to start. It would crank and crank but never turn over.
Our first thought was to try bump-starting the bike, so Frank rolled out into the middle of the zaniness and tried, without success, to bump-start the bike. And tried, and tried. Figuring this was our best bet at getting things going, Frank used the downhill grade of the pass to repeatedly try to get the bike going. We had a quick discussion before deciding which way to descend, and agreed that there was it made more sense to head to the town at the southern entrance (which we passed through earlier) rather than continuing north into unknown territory. The three of us waited at the top, fully expecting Frank to roar on by in a few minutes. When it was obvious that wasn't going to happen, I headed downhill to catch up with him and see what was going on.
Frank was on dirt pull-off area trying to get the bike started. He had coasted down a number of hairpins repeatedly trying to get the bike to life. We looked the bike over for a while, doing a lot of beard-stroking and head-scratching, and Frank thought maybe the bike was low on oil. The sightglass really didn't show any oil, so that was a concern. I left Frank there and rode (quickly) back up to Dave and Peter and sent them on an errand to find a biker with some spare oil. Returning (quickly) to Frank, enough time had passed with the bike stationary that the sightglass was showing an acceptable oil level. Frank wanted to try some more bump-starting, so I rode (quickly) up to Dave and Peter to call them off the oil search.
We all rode back down to Frank and when he left to continue coasting down the pass we had some time to discuss our options. Perhaps we could find a biker with more mechanical skills to help us out, or maybe there was a shop down in town that could fix the bike. If the bike was dead, though, what would we do? The bikes were due back tomorrow (Saturday) by 1, but we could be later if needed. Dave and Peter had reservations on a train to Rome Saturday night, and my family was arriving in Munich Sunday morning. While you never want to leave a man behind, it wouldn't make any sense for all of us to stay together if the Varadero wouldn't run. There were a couple hotels right on the summit that had rooms and restaurants, so it wouldn't be like we were leaving Frank to the wolves in the wilderness. Still, no one really looked forward to abandoning one of the group. Hopefully it wouldn't come to that.
We watched Frank below us, slowly working his way downhill before pulling into another parking area, and we rode down to join him. I had put PDF's of service manuals and owners manuals for all the bikes both on my phone and my iPad, so we started doing some reading. Of course nothing really helped. We called Herman, this time knowing the trick of dialing + in front of the number. After playing a little phone tag on his answering machine he got back to us, but didn't really have any helpful advice. Eventually he said he would try to find a mechanic nearby that could come help us out. OK, that was a plan.
Frank coasting downhill
Well, that didn't work
On the phone with Herman
More quads out for play
While waiting on the Varadero we saw a few dozen of these VW Eurovan/Vanagons/whatever in packs coming (excruciatingly slowly) down the pass, creating lots of passing fun for bikers
Literally the minute we hung up with Herman the bike started. Wahoo! We'd probably spent 30 minutes poking and prodding the Varadero to no avail, and now, magically, it was running just fine. I called Hermann back to tell him we were fine (for now), and told Frank not to turn the bike off under penalty of death. We rode back up to the summit and started our descent on the other side. Whew.
Had a great ride down Stelvio, enjoying the photo stops in this perfect weather and getting in a nice groove when I got back on the bike.
Looking down the northern descent
Frank approaching a typical 0-degree right hairpin on Stelvio. Fortunately no oncoming traffic to deal with this time. You can see the ramps up to the summit in the top of the picture.
Frank on Stelvio
Dave had some traffic to contend with
While I was shooting on the hairpin this bus just missed me. I was watching him come down, all geared up and ready to move the bike if needed, but he didn't so much as tap the brakes coming at me.
Check out the BMW rider making a super-tight turn and passing the bus on the inside. I had my own fun passing the bus a little later (though just in a straight line).
Stacked roads and Dave
Nice to have the hairpins to yourself
The sidecar guy would tilt the rig a good 30 degrees in the air on most downhill right-handers. I followed him for a while just for the laughs.
What a great thing to read - Aperto!
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