Re: [CR]Jobst Brandt's Tour of the Alps Collection -- 1959


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Date: Sat, 24 Apr 2004 12:49:34 -0700
To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
From: "joel metz, ifbma/sfbma" <magpie@messengers.org>
Subject: Re: [CR]Jobst Brandt's Tour of the Alps Collection -- 1959


they are indeed! anyone planning on touring the alps in switzerland especially should consult these - a fantastic source of ideas on how to do it... and some great hotel/restaurant references! do not - i repeat - DO NOT tour through the swiss alps without stopping at least overnight at the hotel rosenlaui. you will never regret it - ask any of us who have!

-joel


>The Jobst Brandt's Tour of the Alps Collection -- A collection of
>reports by Jobst Brandt of his yearly 3000km Tour of the Alps. These are
>great classics!
>
><http://www-math.science.unitn.it/Bike/Countries/Europe/Tour_Reports/Tour_of_the_Alps>
>
>
>
>======================================================================================
>My first bicycle tour of the Alps (1959)
>
><http://www-math.science.unitn.it/Bike/Countries/Europe/Tour_Reports/Tour_of_the_Alps/1959>
>
>By Jobst Brandt jobst.brandt@stanfordalumni.org, Tue, 09 Feb 1999
>17:02:22 PST
>Foreword
>
>During my two years in the US Army Corps of Engineers, 9th Engineer
>Battalion, V Corps in Aschaffenburg Germany, from June 1958 to June
>1960, I took leave in the
>summer of 1959 for a bicycle tour in the Alps, something I had wanted to
>do since my family had lived in Switzerland for a year, ten years
>earlier. It was not by accident that
>our bicycle club in California was named Pedale Alpini. In those post
>WWII years, bicycling focused on Coppi, Bartali, Binda and older heros,
>who all raced in the Alps in
>the Tour de Suisse, Giro d'Italia, and Tour de France and other classic
>events. That's where the action was and most of our club made the
>pilgrimage, several of them
>making it to Rome on the 1960 US Olympic team.
>
>In those years, all able bodied men had to serve two years in the
>military or some equivalent, so through ROTC (Reserve Officers Training
>Corps), I chose the Corps of
>Engineers, and Germany for my duty station. I couldn't get stationed in
>Switzerland, so Germany seemed close enough.
>
>I wrote this ride report to Spence Wolf, whose Cupertino Bike Shop
>(10080 Randy Lane) was the source of professional racing equipment in
>our area and served the Pedale
>Alpini well. Spence bequeathed all his bicycle memorabilia to Peter
>Johnson, who at a recent 40 year Pedale Alpini reunion returned the many
>letters, post cards, and photos
>to their senders. I received this text to go with the photo album and
>map that I had kept from the ride, a ride that remains in my memory as
>if it were yesterday, and I think,
>that is why I enjoy going back every summer to see the same places and
>stay with the sons and daughters of the hotel owners that I met on that
>trip.
>
>
>Aschaffenburg Germany (June 1959)
>
>I packed a suitcase with extra clothes and all the things I could
>imagine might be useful on a long bicycle tour, having never done this.
>I also packed my Carradice Nelson
>saddlebag with my best guess of what should be in it, drawing on my
>experience of riding on a tour in California on which I discovered some
>items missing and others
>extra. I especially found that camping out gave me poor rest and
>required hauling sleeping equipment. On that trip we slept in a motel
>every second night or more to recover
>lost sleep. I never liked gratuitous camping, an opinion that my army
>bivouacs reinforced.
>
>I got on a train to Frankfurt, where I changed to a train headed for
>Switzerland and enjoyed the scenery of the Rhine valley as we rolled
>through Darmstadt, Karlsruhe, and
>Freiburg. In Basel Bad (D), customs agents got on the train to inspect
>passports and baggage. When I explained that I had a bicycle hanging in
>the baggage car, I was told,
>"no, it's in German customs at Basel Bad" and that when I arrive in
>Basel (CH), I should take a tram back across the border and retrieve the
>bicycle.
>
>Switzerland
>
>That wasn't difficult but it cost time. I got the bicycle, rode it into
>Switzerland and got on the next train to Lucerne, where I found
>practically nothing changed since I had last
>seen this beautiful city. I changed into bicycle clothing and shipped my
>suitcase to Bellinzona before heading off into central Switzerland to
>retrace the scenic routes that I
>had seen from the family car and train years before. I was not
>disappointed.
>
>I pushed off from the ornate 19th century Lucerne train station on my
>great blue Cinelli SC that felt strange because: 1. I hadn't ridden it
>in nearly a month, and 2. I had a
>saddlebag, weighted down with two Vitomatic (brass housing) cameras
>(color + B&W), spokes, Campagnolo freewheel remover and spare freewheel,
>and two spare
>tubulars and tools. Of course I also had bike and street clothing and a
>rain cape.
>
>I rode along the lake to Kuessnacht and around the Rigi mountain past
>the Zugersee and to my old stomping grounds in Lauerz and Seewen to
>visit friends, where I was
>treated to a lunch, and beer and snacks respectively. The folks were
>surprised to see me in full size, having last seen me as a little eighth
>grader ten years ago. I dropped in
>on my classmate Karl Kaelin the watchmaker in Schwyz, who also invited
>me to lunch. I could not let on that I had just eaten 20km down the
>road, and as a growing lad I
>could handle that fairly easily, having not made a pig of myself
>earlier.
>
>>From Schwyz it's a gradual descent through Ibach to Brunnen on the
>Vierwaldstettersee (lake of Lucerne) where I visited Heri Naepflin
>another old schoolmate who runs a
>hotel in this lovely vacation town in the midst of William Tell country.
>I was invited to stay, and not being in any great bicycling shape I took
>the offer, bringing my distance
>to 40km for the day.
>
>The next morning I started early along the Axenstrasse, that spends a
>good part of its time in tunnels as it hangs on the cliffs that drop
>vertically into the deep blue lake. The
>sun doesn't reach the valley until later, the mountains being so steep.
>It was along this stretch that William Tell fooled the Austrians who had
>taken him captive and were
>caught in a storm on the lake. He convinced them that their only hope
>was a cove along the cliffs. Here he jumped to a crag and made his
>escape on goat trails on the cliffs
>while they were shipwrecked... at least that's the story according to
>Schiller who "chronicled" these events in heroic prose. Today there is a
>chapel at water's edge
>commemorating the event at Tellssprung.
>
>I took pictures with both cameras with some judgment about what I should
>attempt to capture for my recollections of this adventure. After Fluelen
>at the end of the lake, I
>rode through Altdorf where Tell, with crossbow on shoulder and son at
>his side, stands in bronze in the town square, twice as large as life.
>>From here the valley becomes
>narrower before the road starts its climb at Amsteg, the end of
>flatland, to the Gotthard. I ground uphill spritely to Wassen where I
>stocked up on fresh bread and cheese.
>Things changed as I headed into the tunnels and up the Susten pass in my
>47-22 low gear that had always been good enough for the hills at home.
>However, the Susten
>does not let up for 20km and I noticed it, especially in my poor
>condition.
>
>Having anticipated this, I installed my 14-16-18-21-25 freewheel that
>seemed to be the right combination as I continued to the summit. The
>Susten was tough because it is
>nearly straight and constant. At least 3km of road are visible ahead at
>all times but usually more. The air was cool and clear on the top as I
>rode through the long summit
>tunnel after which the road cuts through huge snow drifts before
>exposing a huge glacial panorama with Wagnerian grandeur. The descent
>through this spectacular landscape
>was exhilarating but was interrupted twice as I had to turn the front
>wheel around because the tubular glue was melting and the tire was
>bunching up at the stem.
>
>At the bottom of the hill, in Inertkirchen, I turned south, heading up
>the Grimsel pass to stop at Gutannen for a grocery store food stop.
>These roads were all familiar to me
>from the family car but I had no idea how far or high except that they
>were wiggly lines on the map that had little meaning for me, having
>never experienced them on a
>bicycle. I continued with no plan in mind and found that it was getting
>dark as I came to Handegg, a hotel with hiker's dormitory. Being early
>in the season, no one was
>around, so I parked my bike inside and got a good nights rest using a
>sleeping bag for a blanket. I thought I had done well with 98km for the
>day mostly up hill.
>
>I started at the crack of dawn, that doesn't come all that early in the
>spring, especially between these granite walls. With new life in my
>legs, the Grimsel felt good even with
>the steeper sections and hairpin turns. At the summit lake, between huge
>walls of snow, I met the sun for the first time as I stood on wobbly
>legs from my empty stomach.
>The view into the Rhone valley with the backdrop of the much higher
>Furka Pass was breathtaking, the rim of the glacier catching the early
>light. I downed a couple of fresh
>rolls and cheese before descending the series of hairpins to Gletsch,
>almost vertically below, again with two wheel changes due to creeping
>tire.
>
>The Furka pass was a narrow unpaved but smooth and firm road and was
>easy in comparison, but then having eaten probably made the difference
>as did the fruit I bought at
>a stand in Gletsch where things were otherwise still pretty quiet in the
>shadow of the mountain. The Rhone glacier was a lot shorter than I had
>remembered it but the river
>seemed to flow as fast as ever with its greenish glacier milk pouring
>from the bottom of the wall of ice. I posed in front of the glacier for
>a photo with a volunteer cameraman
>using my cameras. Above, I rode past the closed Belvedere hotel that had
>seen its last guests in 1939, and on over the broad summit with all its
>old auto repair garages for
>the breakdowns that were routine in the 1930's.
>
>On the descent to Realp I completed a couple of high speed sections and
>came out of a hairpin turn when the front tire blew with a resounding
>report. The rim was so hot that
>I burned my finger as I pulled the wheel out. The rim glue was as soft
>as honey as I pulled the tire from the rim, holding the wheel by the
>spokes. On a new tire, I rode
>down to Realp where the road was again paved and on to Hospental where I
>headed up the broad new concrete Gotthard highway that had recently been
>completed from
>Goeschenen to the summit. This part of the road has no special scenic
>attractions but to make up for that, the south side is still old paving
>stones in the Val Tremola with
>many hairpin turns and a grand view into Ticino to the south.
>
>On the way down the hairpins I blew out my new tire as it piled up
>against the valve. I put on another tire and being annoyed at the
>frailty of my tires, something no one had
>mentioned, I rode down the valley taking no pictures and thinking about
>what I would do about this state of affairs.
>
>At Bellinzona I dropped in at the train station and picked up my
>suitcase that I had shipped from Lucerne so that I could have another
>cut at what I needed in the touring bag.
>I got out another pair of tires and shipped the suitcase on ahead to
>Milano, still not sure of what else I forgot. In Giubiasco I found a
>farmer who put up low budget tourists
>from time to time and allowed me and a another guy to sleep in his
>hayloft. I and the hitchhiking student talked about our trips before
>getting a so-so night's sleep. I had
>done only 126km that day but decided not to go up the San Bernardino
>with such bad tire performance.
>
>I started early, heading south toward Milano over the Monte Ceneri pass
>to Lugano where a golden sunrise bathed the downtown as the shadow of Mt
>Sighignola from
>across the lake receded from this corner of the lake. Lugano is
>surrounded by beautiful chestnut covered hills with cone shaped Monte
>Bre to the east and San Salvatore to
>the south, each with a funicular cable car to the top. I rode through
>the luxurious downtown that was preparing for another tourist day, and
>headed south along the lake to
>Melide that by now was out of the shadow of Monte Generoso. I soaked up
>some rays, washed my face in the clear cool waters as I watched
>fishermen load their boats.
>
>Both the road and railway cross the lake on an earthen causeway from
>Melide to Bissone on the way south in the shade of the Generoso toward
>the Italian border in Chiasso.
>The valley was still warm from the day before as I stopped for a snack
>in Riva San Vitale, the little town where I had gone to summer camp
>years ago. Returning to
>Capolago on the main road I watched the Monte Generoso cogwheel train
>head up the mountain on its bench in the vertical cliff before it
>vanished in the horse shoe arch of a
>tunnel.
>
>Italy
>
>In Chiasso, the famous border town, I found the once renowned name
>"Fabbrica Pneumatici P. Sieber" almost invisibly weathered and dusty on
>an old factory. The place
>was dead all except the office where Mr Sieber was catching up on
>hopelessly messed up paperwork while his factory was on "vacation". He
>was gracious and pleasant but
>sounded me out for awhile before he was sure I wasn't a spy or
>something. Then he showed me the whole plant and how the tires were
>(once) made. I discovered later that
>in its heyday this whole shop had been run by Mrs Cinelli before Cino
>swept her away as his wife.
>
>Mr Sieber seemed to be a relic of the pre-war era and lived in this
>factory of dreams that will never come back. He had piles of excellent
>tires that were stored well but didn't
>seem to move out of inventory, judging from dusty idle machinery that
>made them. He had road and track tires, some of which he said were
>prized in Australia. Then he
>showed me his wood rims that he assured me would never melt glue on the
>steepest descents. We went to a nearby Stella factory that stocked
>stainless spokes but made
>primarily umbrellas. Armed with the right length spokes, I rebuilt my
>wheels with wood rims using Sieber's washers and one inch long brass
>nipples for the deep wood
>section.
>
>The whole place was full of fine bicycling equipment like high quality
>road and track shoes. The track shoes were super light and shaped as
>though for high heels. The
>shoes all had solid steel reinforced soles and light weight uppers.
>
>Having ridden only 57km I had much time and energy with which to unspoke
>my useless Fiamme aluminum rims that I hung on a nail in a dusty corner
>as I got to work
>building my first set of wooden wheels. I spent the afternoon tightening
>and truing up my "new" elegant woods. One of the young ladies in the
>office that turned out to be
>Mr Sieber's daughter repaired my blown Clement tubulars that had ripped
>their stitching from piling up on the stem.
>
>The next morning with tires glued and wheels true, I thanked Mr Sieber
>for all his help and rolled on to Milano where I stopped at the train
>station and got rid of some extra
>clothes into the suitcase. I headed east across town on the via Andrea
>Doria and via Porpora to Lambrate, to via Egidio Folli 45 where the
>Cinelli factory is located,
>producing bicycles, bars, and stems at a great rate. Mr Cinelli's office
>lies next to a branch of the Lambro river that is apparently a main
>sewer outfall.
>
>I found a sharp contrast with the surroundings and the buzzing thriving
>factory that was producing such elegant machinery. Mrs Cinelli briefly
>mentioned her days at Sieber,
>and that she had been his secretary for years when a young bicycle racer
>from the Toscana, who dropped in for equipment on occasion, offered her
>his hand. Cino looked at
>my bicycle and how it fit me and said that he would do something about
>that tomorrow after giving it some thought.
>
>In the morning he had me ride around the yard a few times and then
>raised the saddle a bit and moved it forward. He put his newest model
>360mm extra wide bars with deep
>reach on a 120mm stem, placing the brake levers in a better position.
>Down below I got the newest Campagnolo crank spindle and 180mm five-pin
>Cinelli (Magistroni) steel
>cranks that finally gave me true running chainwheels in contrast to the
>previous three pin style. He was disturbed by my choice of wooden rims
>and tried to get me back on
>Fiamme aluminum but I didn't take.
>
>Having put back only 48km from Como yesterday, I was determined not to
>waste that afternoon. I saw a good cross section of Milano on the way
>back to the train station,
>visiting the Duomo, the Galleria, and La Scala before heading north to
>Lecco. On the way I went through Monza and tried to see the Autodromo,
>but couldn't due to red tape
>and the fact that it was after 5 PM. I moved on trying to see the Gilera
>motorcycle factory in Arcore to no avail. Thus I made my way to Lecco
>where it became dark. I
>bought a healthy chunk of watermelon and cycled on to Abbadia, where I
>got supper and room for Lit500 in a little pleasant hotel on the Lago di
>Como. Day's total 63km.
>
>This kind of mileage was not my size as Faustino [as we called our club
>leader] can affirm, so the next day I set out at 7AM for something more.
>Lago di Como was a lovely
>sight in the morning as I ate breakfast on a small boat dock in Bellano
>with my salami, bread, and cheese... water bottle well in hand. Of
>course I saw nothing of the
>Velodrome or Moto Guzzi factory in Mandello del Lario, so I didn't give
>it much effort, knowing how elusive these famous Italian factories are.
>After Sondrio, the bike
>began to get slow and gradually I found myself in smaller gears as the
>mountains rose sharply to both sides.
>
>
>Towards The Stelvio Pass
>
>I had asked Mr Cinelli what the greatest road in the Alps was, to which
>he replied without hesitation, the Stelvio, but that I might not like it
>because it was unpaved. That
>especially caught my interest so here I was heading up the Valtellina at
>Tirano where the road to the foot of this great pass starts its climb.
>After all, Bormio, at the end of the
>valley was at 1255m while I was at a mere 500m as I left Tirano. It's
>not a steep climb but it has its bumps as it passes through one small
>town after another. As the distance
>to Bormio got shorter so did the flat sections.
>
>Farther up the valley, I noticed a single set of trolleybus wires
>overhead that were green with long disuse. I discovered that they were
>part of the AEM electric works that
>operated the hydroelectric facilities up here and that during wartime
>fuel shortage found benefit in running electric trucks. I arrived in
>Bormio at 3:30 and decided to go to the
>top in beautiful afternoon sunshine. After a snack at the store I headed
>up the road that ran out of pavement at the city limit and became a
>coarse gravel and grey powdery
>road that, with a little rain, was pretty solid. I discovered that
>standing up easily caused wheel spin, so I pulled my straps tight and
>worked on a smooth stroke to keep
>traction.
>
>Farther up the Braulio canyon the road went through several tunnels for
>avalanche and rockfall protection. These stone arch tunnels wind along
>the wall with ventilation
>holes near the floor that give a little light, and because they are not
>straight, I could only see where I was going from reflections from the
>wet floor. Everything was dripping
>and water rushed in drains under the walls. The amazing part is that
>these are one lane tunnels in which uphill traffic has the right of way,
>as is common here. Therefore,
>downhill drivers had to assess when to enter by watching what went in
>from below, something that is possible from the lay of the land.
>
>I was discovering why Pirelli named their top racing car tire the
>Stelvio. This has a special meaning to people who know this road. At the
>end of the Braulio canyon the road
>goes up a wall in a series of traverses with tight hairpins to reach the
>upper Braulio Valley at Bocca di Braulio, that ends at a ridge over
>which the Umbrail pass from
>Switzerland joins the Stelvio, about three kilometers below the summit.
>I stopped for a drink at the chapel at 2300m and put away some more
>bread and salami for the bump
>up to the Umbrail, 200m above.
>
>The summit was clearly visible, a mere 260m higher from the Umbrail. The
>distance wasn't so daunting as was seeing the hotels at the top as
>though I was looking straight
>up their walls. Although about three kilometers the setting was
>challenging, with snow capped peaks on all sides and a small road, a
>trace in the snow, leading to the top
>with mostly 10% grade. My legs felt wobbly as I attacked the climb but
>from the last hairpin, the summit pulled like a magnet and I found new
>strength. As I crossed the top
>and rolled to a stop at the wall on the east side I was overwhelmed by
>the scene of what looks like a 1000m drop, with the road and 22 hairpins
>almost vertically below,
>stuck to the wall, with the glacier dome of the Ortler shining in the
>late sun 3905m high.
>
>I circled around and saw that rain and a cold wind were closing in
>directly behind me. A man who apparently understood the thrill of riding
>over this great summit offered to
>climb the revetment and take an inspiring picture of me standing in
>front of the abyss, accented by hairpin turns that vanished beneath the
>stone wall in the darkening canyon.
>Tour buses that looked like ants were climbing the gorge, the Swiss
>postal buses sounding their magnificent three tone bugle call.
>
>I bought post cards and headed down the hill that gets up great speed
>between curves, each of which require almost a full stop. Thanks to my
>wood rims, I had no problems
>with melting rim glue. In fact the tires didn't even have the usual glue
>at the edge and stayed put like new. But braking with wood rims is not
>without problems. They eat
>brake pads. I was glad to have a waterproof jacket to keep my wet wool
>jersey from becoming a freezer. When I reached Prato, I had no brake
>material left and put on new
>pads to continue down the valley. I rode on to a strong finish in Laas
>at darkness with a hearty dinner and a good nights rest at the Gasthaus
>zur Linde after 200km.
>
>I will always remember this day and the thrill of the Stelvio. A new
>adventure into a new region with things I had never seen and done.
>
>In the morning the ride down the Val Venosta to Merano was easy. I
>passed the great Forst brewery at the edge of town and found an entirely
>Austrian atmosphere and
>language in town. This is a time of separatists in this region of South
>Tirol that was formerly Austria, so power plants and government
>installations were heavily patrolled by
>Alpini troops, the equivalent of the USMC. I bought some trophy sized
>fruit that seemed to be a standard for the fruit stands in the market,
>and sat in the park to write
>postcards from the Stelvio. My suitcase had arrived at the train station
>from Milano, so I switched a few things and shipped it back to Lucerne,
>having no more need for it.
>
>>From here it was a short cruise to Bolzano, where I turned east and up
>the Costalunga road into the Dolomites, an area of which I had seen
>exciting pictures. I met a couple
>of Englishmen traveling on a Vincent motorcycle, a marque with which I
>was familiar from several years of working on my brother's Vincent Black
>Lightning. We talked as
>they made roadside coffee before I headed to Welschenofen and the
>Costalunga pass. I reached the summit at sundown when the Rosengarten is
>in its most beautiful colors.
>Between the azure waters of the Lago di Carezza and the evening glow on
>the Catinaccio (Rosengarten) it was hard to imagine a more beautiful
>setting. I coasted down to
>Pozza where I found a family dinner style place with dormitory
>accommodations to finish a short but beautiful 102km day.
>
>In the morning I got off early, heading toward the Sella Group above
>Canazei where the climbs I knew from the Giro d'Italia went over the
>Pordoi, Sella, Gardena,
>Campolongo, and Falzarego, and on to Cortina d'Ampezzo, all places I had
>heard of but never seen. I was not disappointed, in fact, the scenery of
>the Dolomites is so
>beautiful I was surprised at every turn. I climbed the Pordoi and caught
>up to a touring bus in the last hairpins where I raced to the top to a
>good margin as the bus had
>difficulty rounding the tight curves.
>
>The Pordoi doesn't have much of a descent to the east but lumbers along,
>high on the slopes of the Livinalongo, before heading up the Falzarego.
>By now I was back in the
>clouds as I climbed the hairpins from Cernadoi. A bunch of boys in a
>summer school came out to cheer me on as though I were leading a bicycle
>race. This may not be far
>from the truth because I met no bicycle tourists, especially none riding
>a racing bicycle with practically no baggage, so their enthusiasm may
>have been real. The sun came
>out as I crossed the summit where I saw an interesting unpaved road
>heading north called the passo Valparola, something to investigate on
>another tour.
>
>The descent to Cortina doesn't get going until the end of the forest
>where a magnificent panorama opens over the valley surrounded by the
>most beautiful peaks including the
>Tofane, Croda Rossa, Cristallo, Sorapiss, Antelao, Nuvolau, and Averau,
>each with its jagged sculptures to the heavens in bleached and streaked
>dolomite stone. On the
>way down, an overlook on the cliffs between rough hewn tunnels, gives a
>beautiful panorama of this whole scene. I rode into Cortina that seemed
>to be overrun with
>tourists walking every which way in the midst of dense traffic of
>drivers who couldn't or wouldn't find a parking place.
>
>The central square is a beautiful combination of architecture and scenic
>backdrop with a white dolomite campanile with a rich carillon. I rode up
>through town past the train
>station where a sparkling blue and white train with chrome trim was
>about to head off to Toblach where I was headed but by another route. I
>crossed the tracks and headed
>up the Passo Tre Croci that starts climbing right in town with a couple
>of 15% sections. The summit gave a last look across this beautiful
>valley with the sentinels of the
>Cinque Torri appearing to guard the Passo di Giau to the south.
>
>After a short descent the road rises again to the Lago di Misurina and
>the town that boasts that this was the summer residence of one of the
>Popes. According to post cards,
>the lake is a reflecting pool for the Tre Cime di Laveredo, three huge
>spires that lie to the north. At the end of the lake a small bump is
>marked Passo di Misurina 1756m,
>from where the road descends at first steep and then parallel to the
>railway all the way to Dobiacco/Toblach. This time the rain gods decided
>I should wash my bicycle and
>sent me a downpour that gradually let up as I progressed down the
>valley. Dobiacco lies on a flat saddle that descends to Lienz Austria to
>the east and to Bressanone and the
>Brenner route to the west. I headed west and rode down to Fortezza
>Franchese, a great fortress that spans the Isarco river at a strategic
>narrows.
>
>As I crossed the river under the parapets of the great ancient fort to
>get on the Brenner highway, I joined a rider who was working hard
>against the headwind that came down
>the valley. We took turns pushing the wind as he complained about my low
>cadence while spinning a gear that his mentors probably prescribed for
>him. When we
>approached Vipiteno/Sterzing we had a long sprint that I won by two
>lengths still in the "wrong" gear 50-16t. As I cruised into the south
>end of town I came past the military
>barracks where it was dinner time. I got into an exchange with some
>troops who were interested in my bicycle and my adventure. They invited
>me to join them for dinner
>which was rich and plentiful. The church across the street also had a
>youth hostel where I found a good night's sleep.
>
>Sterzing, is the bottom of the hill for the Brenner pass and has a large
>truck stop at the edge of town. It is also the junction of the main
>north south route and the Passo di
>Pennes and Passo di Monte Giovo as well as some lesser routes in to the
>mountains. I headed toward Innsbruck over the Brenner, having never been
>in that well known
>city. Although maps indicate it as a steep road, the Brenner has some
>short steep spots that leave no lasting impression although they could
>give an overloaded car some
>trouble. The summit has a classic boarder jam of trucks that look as
>though they have been there for weeks in customs inspections.
>
>Austria
>
>Innsbruck was no disappointment as it lay there in the beautiful Inn
>valley with a huge granite backdrop to the north. In the city center old
>bright red trams with gold trim and
>stagecoach like trailers made their way through narrow streets and
>ancient portals. I visited the central square where a golden roof
>shelters a second floor porch from which
>the king could address his subjects. After taking a few pictures I
>headed west, stopping for the day in Martina past Landeck.
>
>Back to Switzerland
>
>I followed the Inn river into Switzerland through Scuol in the Engadin
>where there are few paved roads except in towns, but there is also not
>much traffic. I followed the
>river to Susch and headed up the Fluela pass toward Davos. This narrow
>dirt road soon rises steeply past the tree line to expose a great view
>back to the Ortler that dominates
>the scene to the south. When there is snow on the upper part of the
>climb, the road is protected in sections by masonry arch avalanche
>tunnels covered by scree, with vent
>windows. In the summer stays on the outside of these shelters.
>
>The lake on the summit was clear and only a small spot of snow was left
>from winter avalanches that nearly fill the summit gap according to post
>cards. The descent into
>Davos was uneventful and doesn't offer much scenery but Davos is
>beautifully situated at the source of the Landwasser river that flows
>from the Davosersee at the high east
>end of town. From the lake, it's a little bump over the Wolfgangpass
>before a long descent to Klosters.
>
>I rode through Klosters to Landquart along the Landquart river and
>turning east along the Rhine to Chur, Bonaduz and Thusis. Thusis lies at
>the confluence of the Albula
>and (Hinter-)Rhine rivers where the Rhine emerges from an impassable
>narrows, where the Via Mala tunnels through the walls and bridges cross
>the crevasse of the river
>less than a meter wide about 50 meters below, invisible in the darkness.
>Farther up, the road passed through a bore in a rock that would not have
>been there were it not for a
>large dam being built next to it. Ultimately, the hole will be plugged
>and the road detoured over an already completed high bridge. I rode on
>to Andeer where I found good
>lodging.
>
>In the morning I headed up to Splugen, a small town at the junction of
>the Splugen pass that heads south to Chiavenna, I decided that I should
>see this one, even if I'm not
>going to Italy, so I rode to the top of this short but beautiful climb.
>I hope to see the other side some day because even on the map it looks
>like an exciting road. I returned to
>Splugen and on up to Hinterrhein at the base of the San Bernardino pass.
>Here the Swiss Artillery uses the end of the valley practice and where
>each shot resounds for
>several reverberations.
>
>I rode the series of hairpins to the top of the San Bernardino under
>fair skies and cruised along the summit lake that was still partly
>frozen. From here it's a roller coaster
>descent to the town of San Bernardino from which a short climb exposes
>the broadening valley toward Bellinzona. I stopped at the store in
>Mesocco for some food and
>rolled on down crossing my earlier path in Bellinzona where I stopped
>for lunch before heading off to Locarno on Lago Maggiore where I stopped
>to take a few pictures of
>the beautiful lakeside park with red cana lilies and palms, and a blue
>and white Centovalli train along the water, waiting for the lake
>steamer.
>
>I headed up the Centovalli along the East Melezza river on a tiny dirt
>road. Meanwhile the train swished by on the railway below on its way to
>Domodossola. I was surprised
>at the large cathedral in Re, out in the middle of nowhere, but
>apparently a noted pilgrimage site. From Malesco, at the summit of the
>valley, the road descends fairly rapidly
>toward Domodossola through the canyon of the rushing West Melezza river.
>I headed north up the valley along the Diveria to Varzo, where it had
>already gotten dark as I
>arrived. I found a great dinner and hotel for the night after a suitably
>long day of fine weather.
>
>The next morning I started early, before breakfast, picking up bread and
>milk at the bakery and headed up the Simplon, a pass that I had always
>heard of, both for the
>famous railway tunnel and the mountain pass. From Varzo its not far to
>Iselle, the south portal of the 20km tunnel, and where the climbing
>begins in earnest. The sheer
>granite walls are huge and make one wonder how the ancients got through
>here with anything more than pack animals, but there was a road that is
>only partially visible in
>places. The road cuts through smooth rock walls and crosses the raging
>Diveria several times as it climbs in the shadow of the canyon. The
>summit comes gently as the road
>levels off in a high valley with a monastery before the last climb to
>the top.
>
>A great 10m tall granite eagle stands on the summit, across from the
>ancient and massive summit hospizio, a former St Bernard hostel, that
>today houses a post office and
>other public functions. The north side gives an amazing view of Brig,
>the north portal of the Simplon tunnel next to the Rhone river, while
>above, the huge Aletsch glacier is
>just visible over the edge of its giant moraine that curves down the
>valley. The descent was fairly slow with long sections of 13% on the
>winding and rough dirt road. I was
>glad to have my wood rims because I doubt that I would have made it on
>aluminum with the continual braking. This was the longest steep descent
>that I rode.
>
>Although it was still early, the daily wind was already blowing up the
>valley from Lac Leman as I headed toward Sion and Martigny. Below Sion I
>caught an ancient and
>overloaded produce truck that I drafted all the way to Martigny. This
>was familiar territory from family outings but from here I was charting
>new ground as I headed toward
>Aigle, Le Sepey, and the Col du Pillion. Having heard the name Gstaad I
>suspected that this might be a high rent district but the scenery was
>great. I rode over the pass as it
>was getting dark, and down through Gstaad to stop in Saanen, where in
>spite of misgivings, I found a great place to stay with a good dinner
>after a 205km day.
>
>In the morning, after some overnight rain, I rolled down the valley to
>Spiez on the Thunersee and along the lake to Interlaken where I got
>another glimpse of the
>Eiger-Moench-Jungfrau group up the valley. I rode around the Brienzersee
>and from Brienzweiler over the Brunig pass. From here it's a short dash
>down the hill past the
>Lungern and Sarner lakes to Alpnachstadt where the world's steepest
>cogwheel railway heads up the Pilatus that stands guard over Lucerne.
>
>I rolled into town, got my suitcase, checked my bike into the baggage
>car, and headed home after an eventful and wonderful ride that I will
>retrace next summer when the
>rest of the Pedale Alpini riders arrive for the Olympics. This time I'll
>know what to expect and what to take along. Not only that, but I'll be
>out of the Army and a relaxing
>civilian.