Monday, November 12, 2012

EUROPE 2012 part 2

Part Two

Day 11 ON THE Road

When I woke up at 0530hrs on the 11th day of riding something had definitely changed.
I felt great, my fitness level was kicking in and I was super pumped for the up coming challenge. Today truly seemed like my trip was really kicking off and the last few days purely the warm up.
The Albulapass was something I had been looking forward to ever since I started mapping out this route. I studied Google Earth Maps most days before leaving and just loved the way this pass turned into a moonscape at the top.
I had mentioned this area to my friend Don Crowell,  Don told me he had ridden this area many years ago on his motorcycle. He told me the top of the pass was a gravel road and the scenery was magnificent. This route is also only open as a summer road.

Got up just in time to see the girls heading out before 0600hrs. Nice cool dry morning after a few showers during the night.

 I took my time packing up as I was totally out of food, had to wait till 0800 for the local stores to open. The village of  Fillsur was a couple of kms ride from the campground.
I was pretty hungry and buying groceries on an empty stomach is not always a great idea, needless to say I headed out of town very satisfied.

 Some of the locals waiting for their morning feed.

I headed up the bike route and stayed off the road for the first few kms. In the process I ran into Paul de Heus, Paul was also at the camp and we decided to ride the pass together.

Shortly after leaving the village we got into the first part of the climb.

    Paul on one of the switchbacks.

       We traded back and forward as I stopped to take photos.

 After a couple of hours of riding we came upon the village of Bergun and decided it was time for coffee.

From Burgun the climb really started. The coffee and baked goods really hit the spot.

   Loved this sun dial on the side of the building, time was spot on.

The Glacier Express/ Swiss Railway follows a similar route up the pass, however, the train has to go through many spiral tunnels to gain its elevation. Its an amazing feat of engineering to see where this narrow gauge track is laid.

Spectacular high alpine lake, it has a beautiful camp spot being utilized by a few of the hikers.

Looking back down the valley with the lake in the distance. I love this shot. From this point on until my descent, the scenery changes quite dramatically.

Up we go.

You can just see the road just above the power lines. It will take me over an hour of climbing to get to the point were those top hydro towers are sitting.

Almost at the summit, just another 1/2hr till the upper valley.

Starting to see the Scree Slopes and giant boulders

Paul took this shot of me with a roadie trying his hardest to pull me in.

Finally at the top. It was pretty cool up there with wind blowing off the snow to add to the chill.

Stopped in for a beer, coffee, a sandwich and soup before heading down the other side.

As you can see, there is no gravel road on top anymore.

Starting to make the descent down into the next valley. When I hit the valley floor I will turn west back into St Moritz again for one more night.

The fun begins, downhill!!

I said goodbye to Paul at the bottom of the descent, it was really nice to do the climb with a fellow cycle tourist. He was heading east.
   Once again the ride into St Moritz was tough. Approximately 15 kms to ride from the turn off, super  head strong winds again. All I could think of was food.
The afternoon was clear and the sky was an awesome shade of blue.

Once you figure out the trail system into St Moritz.. the views are truly spectacular along the trail.

The train station

The view from just outside the campground looking back at St Moritz

I set my camp up at the lower level of the campground once again. Proved to be a mistake. This shot is of the upper section, unlike my location this section had all day sun and a slight breeze. Believe it or not, it rained quite heavily that evening and became very cold. 
I ate out at a burger joint, expensive and not that great. Got back to the tent cooked a pot of tea, did a bit  of reading and got ready for another cold night in St Moritz.

 The reason for the upper site being much better, it got the sun 2 hours before my lower location, along with a nice breeze to dry the tent and gear out quickly in the morning. Nothing like packing a wet tent,  means pulling it all out to dry at some stage of the day.
 Just plain annoying!

to be continued......

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lance's Bike Adventure... EUROPE 2012 Part 1

Part One

In Memory of my friend, Tom Wingate.
Tom asked me before I went on this trip, "Why would I want to do a tour on my own". Thinking about it brought me to this answer. You may be traveling Alone but you are never Lonely.

Destination Innsbruck, Austria via Frankfurt, Germany via Dulles, Washington from Orlando, Florida

Nothing like rushing to an airport. My fault, couldn't seem to decide what to wear, not!  Just disorganized.
Tight connection in Washington. Landed late and parked as far as possible from my next departure gate.
Ran for the first time in ten years, I am a cyclist after all.
Made the gate just as flight to Frankfurt was boarding.  

Found my seat, got organised.
After two false starts trying to leave the gate, 45 minute stop on the side of the taxiway, we are finally in the air. Two plus hours late with another tight connection in Frankfurt.

Not to much to say about United's service, there wasn't any!
Needless to say, late leaving, giant airport, tight connection, equals new flight time.
The small Austrian Airline I flew from Frankfurt to Innsbruck was awesome.

Landed 1400hrs and decided to get a room at The Penz Hotel, 500 meters from the terminal.

Having pre booked the last night of my tour at this hotel, allowed me leave my empty suitcases with them for the duration of the trip at no extra cost.

Fortunately they had a room.
 Temp was 40c, hottest day they had had all summer and I believe it was a record.
I left all my belongings in my room and walked the 5km into downtown Innsbruck for lunch, wandered the town for awhile then returned to the hotel.
 Spent the evening building my bike, did a short test ride into town before
 hitting the sack excited about getting on the road in the morning.

Rise and shine at 0600
Beautiful sunrise from my hotel room. I made the most of the full buffet breakfast, finished packing and hit the trail at 0800.

The weather turned just as I was leaving the hotel. Light showers for the first couple of hours. 

I have a great rain suit and was too excited about finally being on the road to care about a little rain.
My goal for the day was a town called Landeck, it is approx. 100kms west along the Inn River.

The trail along the Inn is a mixture of farm tracks, village roads and bicycle pathways, traffic is very light. The train track also follows the river into Landeck.

The closer you get to Landeck the more exciting the river becomes, there are many rafting companies plying their trade.
Even though my visit was in July, the spring melt was still in full flow because of the large winter snow pack.

The pastures looked incredible with all of the flowers out on display

 These are typical information maps that you find along the trail.
Since I covered the 100km faster than anticipated arriving in Landeck around 1300hrs, I decided to push on to Phunds approx. 60km away on the trail.

One of the things so convenient about the trail systems, there is always a fresh supply of water along the route.

After stopping for lunch in Landeck I headed up to Phunds looking for a campsite, hopefully on the river.

Beautiful section of trail along the valley, pretty typical of the great views

Crossing one of the many small hydro dams along the Inn

 Got into Phunds around 1700hrs.
Got myself a nice tent site at the only campground in town, actually about 3km out of town.
Price was right, 8.00euro, with wifi and very nice shower/ laundry facilities.
Set up camp and headed to the grocery store for a much needed human fuel supply.

 Very friendly town, met the first of many other cycle tourists on this trip while I was buying dinner. He was in his 60's and on the road for 3 months.

My 700 x 37 tires, sure am glad I purchased these babies. Thanks Don C. for the great review on them.
They proved their worth the next day.


Up with the sun, or should say, lack of sun.
Heading into Switzerland today with my goal being St Moritz

Looking back at Austria as I am about to head into  into Switzerland. Uphill all day, nothing too crazy, nice easy grade as I make my way to Susch where I stopped for lunch.

One of the many train viaducts that I would come across during my time in Switzerland.

Had to stop at this point for a little snack and figure out the route. When I stopped for lunch, I met a couple who told me that the Official Bike Route from Susch to St Moritz was well worth the effort.
    During the morning ride I had deliberately avoided the trail as the road was very quiet and the mileage was flying by with 60 km's under my belt. At the rate I was going, I thought I would have the tent up by 1400hrs in St Moritz. Keep in mind, I am riding a fully loaded touring bike weighing close to
80lbs all up along with a 200lb rider.

As I left Susch, I decided to try the trail route, 40km(25mile) how hard could it be.
My first clue was a trail sign proclaiming 750 meters of Elevation gain.

The trail would rise and fall, dropping through villages down along the river then back up into the hills.

                   These cobbles are amazing, very smooth to ride on, just loved the patterns.

                                         Various views from the dizzying heights of the trail

At one point, after a fairly good downhill section a front rack  bolt came out allowing the right front pannier to rotate and drag along the ground. Luckily it didn't dig in and I was able to pull over and remedy the situation.
Lesson learnt, check the bolts everyday.

                       Bit of a long grunt up that section and I am starting to get tired and hungry.

                                   Fellow cyclist taking shots from the other side of the gully.

My first view of the famous Swiss Railway with the Glacier Express in the background.

 Didn't take anymore riding shots after this point till I got to St Moritz. The weather was turning, rain in the air, wind was howling and I was thrashed.
It had taken me 4hrs of hard riding to do 40 kms of trail. I got into a village and headed for the highway still with 18kms to get to my campsite.
I was on a very busy road with a solid headwind. I loved the off road section, at the time though all I could think was; if I had stayed in the valley I would have been having dinner right now and relaxing.

Anyways, made it to town, set up my tent, had a beer and enjoyed the first of my two dinners for the evening.

View of St Moritz from the southern end of town along with a shot of one of the small shacks in town

My large Shack, I stayed at the Olympic Campground right on the edge of town beside the Olympic Ski Jump.

This is a section of the Olympic Bobsleigh Course. Far different from the modern tracks designs used today. The curved wall is made of stone, the course was basically shaped by hand to create the run.

Day Three on The Road

Up at 06.30, headed into town to the COOP grocery store.
I needed to buy fuel for my Trangia cook stove, it is alcohol powered, apparently the most popular stove in Europe for light touring.
Along with fuel I stocked up on food supplies for breakfast and lunch. Yogurt in Switzerland is amazing, granola is super cheap and the fruit was awesome.

Switzerland uses the Franc, slightly less value than the Euro and more than the US$

The thing I discovered about Switzerland, eating out is super expensive, however the COOP prices are similar to shopping in a Florida supermarket.
Using the grocery stores is very cost effective on a low budget tour. The food is of very high quality and the choices are brilliant.

 The road out of St Moritz was spectacular, I was finally seeing the beautiful peaks as the cloud ceiling had lifted and the sun was shining.
I had decided to head down to Lake Como for a little warmth as the night in St Moritz had been particularly cold with the temp hitting close to zero C during the night. I had slept fully clothed brrr...

 Just about to drop down the Malojapass. Super happy to be going down, this is one spectacular climb and since its early in the trip, I am not really in great condition for a five hour uphill at this stage.

If you look carefully, you can see the switchbacks.

 Believe it or not, thats a Dam up in the alpine. Absolutely massive. From the top of the Pass to Chivianna was downhill all the way, at least until I hit the signs that said "NO CYCLISTS ON THE ROAD FROM THIS POINT" then it was up and down and back and forth. 27km on the road, 50 km on the trail!!!

                                   From here on it was onto the old road then up into the trails.

Spectacular village on route to Chiavenna from St Moritz, just a few kms from the Italian border.

                             Brilliant views of the valley. Made the extra km's worth it.

 When I arrived at Chiavenna I ran into Peter. Peter is from Holland and was on a three month trip.              We stopped off at a bakery for a coffee and snacks and rode for approx. 40kms together.

Finally arriving at the top of Lago Como, there is a ton of camping opportunities along the west side of the lake.

Grabbed a nice little campsite at a town called Cremia at 1630hrs, cost 12euro. Barely managed camp set up and everything tucked away before a massive storm hit. Found I could get free wifi, had dinner and hit the sack.