2011 Alps Trip Journal Part IIDay 4
The route this day is from Brunnen, Switzerland to Lugano, Switzerland.
If you look closely at the collage nearby, you will see, in the background, a very long snow bridge protecting the highway. Manuel was looking for a turnoff that would take us to the twisty road you see in the collage but missed the turn and we had the pleasure of riding the entire length of the snow bridge road and return.
The legend of this particular bridge states that the Reuss River was so difficult to ford that a Swiss herdsman wished the devil would make a bridge. The Devil appeared, but required that the soul of the first to cross would be given to him. The mountaineer agreed, but drove a goat across ahead of him, fooling his adversary. Angered by this sham, the devil fetched a rock with the intention of smashing the bridge, but an old woman drew a cross on the rock so the devil couldn't lift it anymore. The rock is still there and, in 1977, 300,000 Swiss francs were spent to move the 220 ton rock by 127 m in order to make room for the new Gotthard road tunnel. The twisty road is a three hundred year old cobblestone road and may not be the most enjoyable ride we had, but it was worth the bragging rights to say we had ridden such a road over Gotthard Pass. The road was fit for foot traffic only since 1235 but was finally opened to vehicular traffic in 1775.
The road was ridden at a relatively slow pace because the cobblestone has some interesting handling characteristics when riding it on a bike. For me, the sense of history was everywhere and, strangely enough, when we passed workers repairing the road, they were using hand tools and they could have easily come from the 18th century. These workers deepened the sense of time travel to a point it was almost palpable.
Here is the edited video of a portion of the ride. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlMRYlIRdJA
The day ended with our arrival at the Continental Park Hotel which was situated on the side of a hill looking down at the town. The view of the town left much to be desired but the hotel had beautiful gardens and private little alcoves where you could sit and enjoy an aperitif or coffee in quite solitude with your friends.
That evening before we had supper, I had spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to establish a connection with the net so I could do email and send the family and friends some pics of the previous day. When I joined the group, they were on a patio just off the bar and were already way ahead of me. They were celebrating something, but I have completely forgotten what is was. (I apologize to my fellow travelers for this mental lapse.) The hotel had allowed them to bring in their own Champaign, and we enjoyed excellent wine and Swiss Chocolate with some soft cheese that I dearly loved. The skies threatened rain and some large drops fell, but we did not move and we never got wet. Two very pleasant hours passed and I got to know Janet Sena a little better. As a side note, Janet seemed a little reserved and did not say much until I realized it had nothing to do with Janet it was the motor mouths of all the rest of us that did not give her a chance speak. By the time our table for dinner was ready most of us were well lubricated. Its funny, I have no recollection of what we had to eat. This was not just the alcohol. I remember at the time I did not enjoy whatever the entree was because it did not look appetizing. This was the only meal we had that I thought was less than terrific.
As promised, I will only say that breakfast the next morning was off the page and we ate in the sunroom with the promise of a grand new day streaming in through the crystal clean glass of the room. (At the top of the collage nearby, you can see the top half of the sun room with two awnings protecting the dinning customers from the direct light of a bright and glorious sunrise)
The leg this day was from Lugano Switzerland to Arco, Italy.
This was one of the most interesting of the legs. Not because of the challenges of the roads, but because of the ride up the western edge of Lake Como and a stop at what I call Legno di Como. I am pretty sure the name is wrong, but I simply can not find a refernce that will I fix this. As you ride up the lake side road, there are lots of unusual sites that trigger your interest, but after a short time, the stop and go traffic becomes a drag. The view of the lake is off and on so you miss some of the majesty. I did have one weird mental blip. As we were riding out of view of the lake, it came to me that all of the houses, the electric trains with their overhead electrical hot rails looked exactly like the view from the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) [see pic nearby] on the ride from Iwakuni to Heroshima, Japan. The Red tiled roofs with stucco sidings and the laundry hung from the bannisters of the small balconies could have been either place worlds apart.
When we stopped at a pull-off on the right side of the road, the parking spaces were right on the water and a small outdoor cafe presented itself. We must have stopped at a dozen cafe places like this, and they are all unique. For me this one was marked by two men who appeared to be in a serious discussion, drinking their expresso with a singular narrow ally way in the background. See pics nearby. Imagine the views from the houses perched on the hills to the right of the shore of the lake. The thin picture is a panorama of the lake from left to right of about 190 degrees. This pause in the ride was a welcome physical respite, but there was, at the same time, an emotional and historical stimulation that gave life to the wonders of learning anew. Learning at my age is such a thrill. If only I had this thirst when I was 19. There was much more to come on the road ahead.
As I review these images, I marvel how cities with histories much older than our own are forced into modifications of architecture to fit the ubiquitous automobile.
We depart this lovely place and head east toward Arco, Italy. Manuel has a diversion that may be one of the most precious of visual gems of our trip. The diversion is a side trip up the side of a minor ridge to a town called Bagolino. The town appears to capture, on some long past story board, the essence of life in Europe as viewed from the movie, The Godfather.
Streets so narrow that one car has trouble navigating turns and intersections. Forget parking! The streets are a combo of ragged asphalt and cobble stones. It's hard to tell if the town is prosperous or not because the buildings look aged, which they are, but there is not a visible sense of poverty. There is room to park bikes so, we do, just in front of another cafe. From this tiny parking lot, 360 degrees of magic can be experienced in the form of a visual retelling of history. I am completely enchanted and mesmerized. It is this...these feelings of a return to some point in the past in which I participated in my mind but not in body. I have been here before!
It is all so strange yet refreshing to the soul. See the pics below:
The road from which we came.
The Roman Catholic church. There is one in every town.
The happy biker!
Here are the edited videos of the days ride.
The rest of the ride to Arco is nice, but Bagolino was the highlight.
In Arco, we take a full day's rest by riding all day on a wonderful circuitus route that starts and ends at our hotel, The Olivo. See the route and a collage below for some images of the town.
Stu and I had just settled down on the patio of the Olivo hotel to test the impact of a little Blue Elixer on our tired bodies with me up wind of the nasty cigars that Stu smokes. When out steps Steve who announces to us that he is going to hike up there and take some pics. He wants to know if we would like to join him. We decline with extreme prejudice.
This was a mistake! Check out the collages below that shows what we missed by sitting on our lazy butts.
Video clips of this leg:
The route from Arco, Italy to Bozen/Bolzano, Italy.
The route above never took place but was replaced with a diversion to the Manghen Pass which was, as usual, a terrifc ride. I will show you some pics of this pass, but first I wanted to show you how dramatically the georgraphy changes around you. The sequence below was taken on a single day in a single two hour periord of riding.
As promised, here are the pics to Manghen Pass and Passo Pordoi
2011 Alps Trip Pordoi and Manghen passes
You are able to see so many different venues.
The weather started to cloud up and we experienced a little misting but nothing of consequence. Manuel had demonstrated some excitement about a clear lake that he was going to show us on our way to Bozen, Italy. He had to show us a photograph of a clear lake with a ridge line of beautiful snow capped mountains in the back ground. Nearby is the view we had. The lake was clear, as advertised. But as you can see there were no mountains. We beat up Manuel pretty good for false advertisement but it was all in jest and he took it well. Not that he had a choice, you understand.
If you look behind the three riders in the photo above, you will see the terrain rising and a little daylight through the trees. That daylight is where the road is. When we returned to the road this is what greeted us.
A rally of antique cars!!
Most cool. Better to follow. The rally cars were spread out pretty good, so we returned to our bikes and hit the road. Just as we pulled out from our roadside parking, a fifty something Volvo passed us. See below.
Now this may not look like much of a car, but I am here to tell you that this car, in combination with a Sierra Hotel driver gave Manuel a hard time keeping up with him on the turns and straights. What a complete hoot. I was laughing out loud at "The Little Volvo That Could" The Volvo would pull ahead, then Manuel would run him down, the three of us would finally catch up and the Volvo would pull ahead again. Over and over again. Such fun! Then, the rain started down in earnest and we pulled off the road at a curb side cafe and had our morning espresso and "coke with ice". It was a great excuse for Manuel to terminate what appeared to be a losing proposition with the Volvo. It was more heat from the group. Not Manuel's morning.
The rain slows and we hit the road again. All this riding leads us to the Passo di Costalungo where there awaits a most wonderful surprise. The top of these mountains is the choice of the rally organizers to have lunch. See below. Make sure you go to full screen to get the best view.
2011 Alps Trip rally cars
The days ride ends at the Bozen Park Hotel: Below is the path from the street to the open air restaurant and check in desk. A nice place to rest and relax. It cost a fortune to use the internet.
This has been a big day, but tomorrow is even bigger. We bid the day farewell with a Dick Ward posed shot.
Go to the article titled, "2011 Alps Trip Journal Part III"