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Alpine peaks tour 2011

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Mr Grumpy:
Day 1 - Thursday - Chelmsford to Esch-sur-Sure


The journey begins


Whose stupid idea  was it to set off so early? I'm on holiday and shouldn't have to get up at this unearthly hour. So up at 4:30, shower, load up bike and off to the catch the 6:50 train at Folkestone. Bloody chilly this morning - even had my heated grips on for a while - must be getting old or soft. Missed the 6:50 crossing due to bloody M25 road works so have to get on the next one.


Got a lot of miles planned for today so that's the reason for the early kick-off. Quick fill up after getting off the train at Calais and then a motorway trundle as far as Cambrai (avoiding peage) where I take a customary lunch stop. Problem is, it's only 11:30 and they don't start serving food until 11:45. Have to wait , still, it can't be bad, sitting in the main square with sun shining and not a cloud in the sky. Now I've done the boring bit and can look forward to some good roads from here on.


Not disappointed, either. some lovely roads through the Ardennes and in to Luxembourg. Fantastic forest scenery, quaint villages  and just generally fantastic riding country. Only problem is, I have a bloody awful cold and coughing and sneezing in my helmet just isn't pleasant. and just makes the riding even more tiring.


Short stop at Bouillon (I think this town should be twinned with the village of Stock in Essex) for coffee and cake before the final push to Esch-sur-Sure. Arrived about 6 p.m. after a total of just over 380 miles travelling. Bloody knackered! Still, the hotel has everything I need - shower , restaurant and beds. Hotel itself is basic, but comfortable and clean. Only worrying thing was getting stuck between floors in the lift!!


Hotel at least has garage for secure bike parking, although, as it's also where they keep the bins, it does pen and ink a bit.

Mr Grumpy:
Day 2 - Friday - Esch to Mulhouse


An idiot abroad


Feeling bloody awful this morning as, apart from my coughing keeping me awake, the damned church bells seem to chime every quarter hour. To top it all, the refuse collection trucks are picking up at 6:30 in the morning, making a hell of a racket right outside my window, then 5 minutes later, the church bells go into a full scale peal. I'm going to need copious amounts of caffeine today.


A good start to the day on some lovely twisty roads, though the overnight rain left them damp and slippery which affected my confidence for a while. The sun soon appeared, though and I was able to get into a rhythm. Well, up to a point. Had a route planned on the TomTom but I hadnít studied the whole of the route in full detail and found myself in a rather industrialised area near Saarbrucken. Got through that and was heading for some more good roads only to find that the road I needed was closed for construction works. So I tried a few diversions only to find that some of the other alternates war also closed. Found myself going round in circles and wasted over an hour following detours and re-working the route on TomTom.


Once I got going again though it was back to some fantastic roads, including the Col de Donon (D933) in the Alsace region.


After coming off the Col de Donon, I stopped for petrol. Then the problems started. After filling up, the Tiger just wouldnít restart. I tried everything, but it wasnít having it. Nothing. Only one thing for it then, call the RAC. They told me it would be a one hour wait, so I sat idly by the bike fiddling and sipping water in the sweltering sun. Then it dawned on me - nowt wrong with the bike except the knob behind the handlebars.


Piece of advice - if your bike wonít start, check the feckin kill switch - What a tw*t


Now, my planned route still has 130 miles to go on real twisty roads, but Iíve now had 2 big delays and Iím bloody knackered (did I mention I have the Ďflu?). So all I want to do is get to my hotel, have a shower and a lager and get a bite to eat. So the rest of the day is mostly a dual carriageway blast to my next hotel near Mulhouse.


Oh well tomorrow has to get better - doesnít it?


Total miles today: 275

Mr Grumpy:
Day 3 - Mulhouse to Bach


Enter the Alps


What can I say, other than this was just an amazing dayís riding. After working my way through Mulhouse, I was soon across the Rhine and into the hills. My first venture into this part of the world and it was just amazing. Most of the morning spent among some excellent twisty roads (L131, L123 and B317 in the Schwarzwald being some I can remember) with beautiful forest scenery. Plenty of other bikes about too.


Although there was a bit of a boring bit (relatively) early afternoon, it was soon over as I approached the Alps. Now the scenery changes from just beautiful to spectacular. The B308 which comes from the Bodensee is just brilliant. Supremely smooth surface, leading eventually to the Oberjoch pass and the climb into Austria.  The tricky bit on this road was the section along the Alpsee. Basically, as it was super hot today, there were a lot of scantily clad young ladies along the shore of the lake swimming and sunbathing, but of course my attention was being diverted away from the road by the sight of so many sailing boats on the lake. Beautiful :-)


The one thing Iím finding about this part of the world is that they appear to be quite rigid about time keeping. I pulled in one place for lunch at 2 oíclock and was told they only served until 2. Managed to blag some bread and sausage salad though. Then, due to some TomTom confusion earlier in the day which probably added an extra 50 miles or so to my dayís travelling I arrived about an hour or so later later than I intended, to be told that the restaurant was about to close. Quickest shower ever, to make sure I got fed :-)


Total miles today: 284

Mr Grumpy:
Day 4 - Bach to Piesendorf


Sensory Overload


So today I planned a fairly light day of just under 200 miles which, allowing for coffee and lunch stops I anticipated getting to my next stopover at around 4 p.m.  Anyway, I was chatting to the owner of the hotel as I was checking out this morning and he recommended a road which he thought I really ought to try - the Hahntennjoch. 


Now, as it happens, I can say that I am almost completely over the cold/flu thatís been troubling me over the past few days, but last night. I was kept awake for some time by a different ailment which I wonít go into other that to say that a couple of Immodium soon sorted that problem out. Nevertheless, I wasnít 100% this morning but like a fool I took the hotel proprietorís recommendation. I knew this was going to be good when I turned off the ďmainĒ road and saw a string of German bikers making their way up this snaking belt of tarmac some way ahead. And I wasnít wrong. This was an absolutely superb, belting, super twisty road which the Tiger just seemed to love, to the extent that it wasnít long before I caught up with ze Germans. This was what I need to kick start my day and was far better than any other remedy I can think of. As I came down on the other side of the pass, I was thinking to myself that this must be one of the best biking roads ever!


I was wrong!


After completing this addition to my itinerary, I was able to re-plan and take in the whole of my planned route which started with the FernPass which on paper and in practice is an amazing, smooth and fast piece of road. And if there was no traffic, that would certainly be the case. But of course, no traffic is the opposite of the fact and there was solid traffic in both directions meaning it was impossible to make progress. Then I got to a tunnel (with a stupid name like Leermonster or something) where I sat at a red light for 20 minutes!! Honestly!!


Anyway, the light eventually changed to green and we started to move and after a short while I turned off onto a road which I believe is the B23. Wow!! This is the Carlsberg road. Honestly, if thereís one road youíd want to ride every day for the rest of your life, this is it. This was sensory overload, the scenery was just stunning - unbelievable! The road was just superb, fast, twisty, sweeping bends. Really, really awesome.


It was on this road, that I saw one of the weirdest things. I had stopped for a coffee by the lake, along with scores  of other bikers and noticed a couple who were, shall we say, advanced in years (bit like myself, I guess), in full bike leathers, but with a dog. Now my immediate thought was - sidecar. Wrong. When I got back to the parking area, I saw this couple getting on a brace of BMW GSís, fully loaded with Touratech and Hepco & Becker luggage, including fuel and water containers - the lot. The only oddity was that the top box on ďherĒ bike was an oversized top box with vents, windows and such, in which the poor little pooch was housed.


Anyway, I digress, following on from  this most amazing piece of road, it was then time for some ordinary stuff. By that I mean, just ordinary, fast, sweeping roads just like the ones we all ride every day ;-) This is where the sensory overload comes in. I canít remember one road from another, I mean seriously brilliant roads. I canít remember all of it off-hand, so when I get back, Iíll try to review my Tom Tom routes and post them in google maps or something.


So you think thatís enough for one day? Not on your nelly! My planned route took in the Zillentaler Hohenstrasse. This, my friends is a completely different kettle of fish. This is a high pass, a private road (toll is four Euro (or as itís fittingly pronounced in German - ďfearĒ).  Weíre talking single lane. I mean tight hairpins - and if you want to know how tight a hairpin, think about doing a feet up u-turn in your drive - but with a zillion foot drop at the side! OK, thatís a slight exaggeration, but only slight.  On the climb up, it seemed that if youíre going to meet any other traffic, it must be compulsory only to meet it in one of these hairpins. Picture, if you can, me, on a fully loaded Tiger, meeting a dirty great van on itís way down and having to squeeze by each other - the van with just rocks to his right and me with a sheer drop to mine. I was literally riding on the last inch of tarmac before the void, but the Tiger proved to be as sure-footed as a goat.


This was quite a scary climb in places, but once at the top, boy was it worth it. The views are just out of this world. Now this is not one of the best biking roads, in the normal sense, but if youíre in this area, Iíd say itís a must do. Itís challenging and tiring but itís just awesome.


Coming down on the Schwenbeg, I was at least a little more at ease knowing that the drop was now on the other side :-) and I assumed that that must be the last of the passes before I got to my hotel. Wrong again. I thought that, as Iíd added a bit in the morning, if I scrapped the itinerary and just let TomTom take me straight to the hotel, that would do me for the day.Good theory. Except, of course, at this stage, the quickest route to the hotel was also the one that I had planned, which still had quite a way to go and some more excellent sweeping roads, interspersed with some tight first gear bends and hairpins. This also included one of the bumpiest, narrow, mountain roads Iíve ever ridden.It was several miles of tight, twisty and very bumpy road, with the rain just starting to fall, the light beginning to fade and cows wandering aimlessly hither and thither in your path


All in all, today was one of my best biking days ever. A mix of experiences and beautiful scenery which I could never even hope to describe and even the pictures which I eventually post will not do justice.


The best till last. The Tiger takes everything in itís stride. It just absorbs everything you can throw at it. It even copes with my clumsiness and at no stage so far has it missed a beat or left me wanting for more. This is one awesome bike. Certainly with the riding, Iíve been doing to date, there is no other bike I would rather have.


I love my Tiger


Total miles today - a mere 233

Mr Grumpy:
Day 5 - Piesendorf to Segonzano


Let there be rain


 I woke up this morning and looked out my bedroom window only to find that someone had stolen the view. That is, all that I could see was cloud. This didnít bode well. Shower, breakfast, load up  the bike and see what happens - maybe it wonít be too bad. Wrong again.


As I got on the bike there were a few spots of rain but as I moved out of the village and onto the main road, the heavens opened and I was caught in a heavy downpour, so no more than a hundred yards up the road, I had to stop and change my gloves and put a rain cover on the tank bag. I also had to make decision. Todayís plan was for more mountain passes, starting with the Grossglockner and then some more in Italyís Dolomites.


To be honest, I had convinced myself that I didnít want to ride the passes in the rain and that I should look for a quicker route to my next port of call. After all, Grossglockner will still be there next year. However, not being the sort of person to listen to reason, I decided to push on as planned but cut out some of the additional passes Iíd included in Italy around Sella.


It turns out that this was a good call. Not that the rain eased off at all, far from it. But the Grossglockner is just amazing. The climb up soon took me to cloud level where visibility was at times ridiculous. You can imagine, this was not a fast climb by any stretch of the imagination, but it was nevertheless enjoyable apart from one dodgy moment when some cows which were minding their own business in the middle of the road, suddenly decided they didnít like the coach which was just ahead of me and ran in various directions including one who decided to run straight in my direction but changed her mind at the last minute.


I rode on up to the Bikers Nest on the Edelweissspitze spur and stopped there to get some coffee. For anyone not familiar with this section, itís a tight series of hairpins leading up from the main pass and is all cobble stones, so especially interesting in the rain. There was also a break in the cloud, so I grabbed a couple of photos while there was a view of sorts. Apparently, this point has a view of more than 30 peaks over 3000 metres. On another day, possibly. After a coffee and a quick look around, I pushed on again, intending to stop at the highest point of the main pass - the Hochtor. You get to this point after a short tunnel section. The contrast between entering the tunnel and exiting was unbelievable. On entry, there was still a reasonable view across the mountains, but I emerged into a complete white-out of dense cloud. But I expect there was a view there somewhere.


Further on, thereís another spur which climbs up to Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Hohe. This is the nearest vantage point to get a view of the Grossglockner peak and the glacier. I parked up, bought a mars bar and a drink, but saw nothing. I know itís there somewhere, but today it was being coy.


Nothing left to do but carry on. I left the Grossglockner with mixed feelings. Certainly it would be better without the rain, but then I suspect it would also be much busier. As it was, there was very little other traffic. Itís also somewhat expensive at Ä19


After coming down from the pass, it was back on to what passes as normal roads, i.e. fast sweeping bends through the valleys until After a short while I entered Italy and another mountain pass which I canít remember the name of but which took me down to Cortina where TomTom had a fit and kept taking me round in circles and up and down the tightest little roads imaginable as well as trying to get me to go the wrong way round the one way system in the town centre. Eventually, after much cursing and threatening to throw TomTom in the river, I managed to get out of town.


Bear in mind, that at this point, itís still pi55ing down and Iím now climbing up yet another mountain pass. This time itís the Giau pass. This is another series of tight twisty hairpins and Iím feeling very uncomfortable about this, but it doesnít appear there is another option, so on I go. By this stage, Iím ready for a coffee and a bite to eat, so seeing a sign at the side of the road for a cafe that is ďapertoĒ, I follow the sign which takes me up an unmade track to a nice looking little cafe which has a sign in the door stating ďclosed on MondaysĒ.


Eventually, I reach the top and thankfully, thereís a cafe there which is open on Monday and Iím able to get a coffee and a toasted sarnie. Bootiful!  As I was warming up and drying out with my much needed feast, I was wondering at the mentality of the group of cyclists who were doing this same climb in the same conditions, apparently for fun. Then I was shamed by the sight of  some Harley riders, in jeans, leather jackets and no gloves. I guess I need to toughen up.


The ride down the other side was just a long series of hairpins, tight and narrow. Nadgery enough in the dry, but in these conditions, it can best be described as buttock-clenching :-)


Tom Tom then led me to a road which I though looked odd, but TT was showing it had a proper ďSRĒ road number, so I obediently did as I was told. This road soon changed from tarmac to just an unmade track and after a couple of bends and a few hundred yards, I came to a steel barrier across the ďroadĒ. Time for another u-turn, then off for a straight forward run to the hotel. Yes? No - next up was the Fedeia pass,  This was much nicer than the previous pass and flowed far better. the cloud was also beginning to clear and there were smatterings of sunshine. The scenery was great, but at this stage, I just wanted to make progress and get to the hotel.


Only 195 miles today, but in the conditions it seemed like much more. I think I earned my beer tonight. Oh, and the Tigerís looking pretty dirty now. It might need a wash when I get back.

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