Posted on 7 Comments

20. Singing down to the Bodensee. (June 18)

I dropped down from the mountain ice, with the river misting at my side. From Stuben to Bludenz to Nenzing to Feldkirch. My wheels spun fast between the trees, until the land began to plain, and the white stream expanded into a calm turquoise lens.
2018-06-18_0015.jpg

2018-06-18_0011.jpg

2018-06-18_0008.jpg

2018-06-18_0014.jpg
2018-06-18_0013.jpg
The tunnel panic wasn’t so bad this time, being Sunday morning, the traffic minimal.

There was an Austrian Oompah band playing in a carnival tent, and around the corner stood this beautiful black horse. I took this shot from the hip.

2018-06-18_0012.jpg
I’m officially over the hill. There will be no more mountains ranges until I reach Oslo. Quite sad.

2018-06-18_0010.jpg

Noticed the change in architecture and the cooking smells wafting from the houses.

2018-06-18_0009.jpg

The Rhine River deserves a mention…Rhenus, Rein, Rhein, le Rhin, Reno, Rijn…. I will be following it for the next 1000 kms, so we’ll get to the whole history and geography of it later.

When the road flattened out, I felt it was finally time to admit I was going to Oslo, so I wrote ROM – OSLO on my front carrier label. This had a magic effect on the people around me. Paolo was the first to approach me to talk about the journey, and from then on everyone has been much more friendly and inquiring. They all say….”going solo” with astonishment.

By now the number of HELLO’S that have been said per day, must be nearing a million. A smile works wonders with passing cyclists, and they generally smile back. I sail along from smile to smile.

103 kms later, in Rorschach, Switzerland, I flopped into a bunk bed in this youth hostel. Felt rather like an old codger, but was very pleased to have the room to myself. It had a fabulous view over the lake and a basin in it where I washed my textiles.
2018-06-18_0007.jpg

The plugs and the money are different in Switzerland. All my electronic equipment could not be charged. So I went out looking for food, which was a lot of trouble for my legs. Some nice ladies fed me some green asparagus spears with very yellow hollandaise sauce, and a little beer. – €26.00.

The world cup soccer – Switzerland versus Brazil game was on. Shame, they were all so enthusiastic, boys shouting from cars covered in red and white cross flags speeding past. As I left the restaurant the rain came pouring down and I had a soggy barefoot walk all the way back to the hostel. My sandals are very slippery on the inside when wet.

2018-06-18_0001.jpg

The first thing I look for in a hotel room, is how many plugs there are. The hostel room had one that didn’t work. My ebike battery was critically low on power after 103 km even if it was mostly downhill. Here is a sketch to show you exactly how many electronics I carry with me in my panniers.


Jumped on the bike in the morning, and had 30 kms on the display…of course I could pedal without power, but it’s like going from riding a black stallion to riding a cow.

2018-06-18_0006.jpg

A cyclist told me yesterday that the weather would be bad today. I have heard that so many times, and it turns out perfectly fine.
2018-06-18_0005.jpg

Friends come in all shapes and sizes. This little sparrow had coffee and a biscuit with me.
2018-06-18_0004.jpg

Just tell me how many bike paths do these people have!?!  So many choices! I am taking the Eurovelo 15, which runs next to the Rhine, via Basel.

There wasn’t the exact, perfect looking restaurant in Kontanz area, so I took a chance and went on with only 5 kms of power left on my ebike. Suddenly I was out in the countryside with fields as far as the eye could see, but at least it was flat in case my black stallion turned into a cow.

With just 1 km to go, a hotel appeared like a genie from a bottle, and I fizzled into the bike parking space.

The menu was: “Salad, Il Risotto al pomodoro with fried feta…and a banana-berry smoothy.   After lunch I asked the waiter if they had a room free, and in a flash I was booked into the hotel, and my cables were all plugged into the walls of my room.
2018-06-18_0003.jpg

Little bowl of sunshine.
if you get lost
Sunday 17, Odometer: 1366.3 – today ‘s trip distance 103 kms, average speed 18.6 kph. Monday 18. Odometer 1410.4 – today 44 kms…

Posted on 7 Comments

19. Arlberg Pass to Stuben (June 17)

It was the first day of my 3 week trip so far, that I had absolutely no idea where I was going. The thought of a steep pass made me anxious, so I delayed along the way and dabbled with my paint and took leisurely photographs of flowers.
2018-06-17_0001.jpg

2018-06-17_0002.jpg
2018-06-17_0003.jpg
2018-06-17_0004.jpg
2018-06-17_0005.jpg
2018-06-17_0006.jpg

2018-06-17_0008.jpg
Dilly-dallied all the way along the valley, enjoying the sunshine and thinking about philosophical questions.

As with all things, the time came to confront the monster. I could choose to go by train through the tunnel, a short journey, or should I go over the top?

What do you think?

2018-06-17_0007.jpg

The first avalanche gallery I came upon was steep and many cars and buses came zooming past. The noise was a tremendous echo which is now on my scary list!
I looked up and saw a bus full of people staring down at me. A big sob came bubbling up and got me in the throat, and I had to make an emergency call to my imaginary team.
They answered: Mom you’re the biggest naff we have ever seen, just pedal! No sympathy at all!
So I went on, and the tunnel ended, and it was bright and beautiful there. The views were amazing.

Stopped for lunch at an Alm in St. Christopher where I sat under a big orange umbrella on a mountain top, eating delicious rösti with a fried egg, a decorated  krauti salad, and giant glass of apple juice. That fixed me for bit.

2018-06-17_0009.jpg
None of the hotels were open for the summer, so I had to go on. My battery was almost empty…and I didn’t relish the thought of another steep climb.
But the road wiggled around some curves and then went down very steeply, with zippy switch-backs. Harley Davidson motor-bikers by the dozen came blasting past.

2018-06-17_0010.jpg

2018-06-17_0011.jpg
2018-06-17_0012.jpg

Stopped along the way to book a room at Stuben, using booking.com on my phone. When I arrived at the Apres Post Hotel it looked way too posh! Maybe I had missed a digit on the price. A mistake like that could easily happen while wearing my sports glasses…they’re polaroid and my phone is really tiny.

However, my happiness level went soaring when it was clear that the price was correct. Golly, how luxurious. To top it all, the staff were all pretty girls dressed in traditional costume (dirndl) and they were friendly and efficient.

2018-06-17_0013.jpg
The spa was included, so I had a perfectly solitary swim in a very interesting jacuzzi pool made of stainless steel. At first the shadows play games with your imagination, but you get used to it.

Dined very finely, but the internet didn’t work, so the blog is now a day old.


Don’t take the short cut, you might miss something. Like the people in the bus, they never saw the transparent stream far below the road, the cow that talked to me, the weasels, and they didn’t smell the scent of that flowering tree… and of course, feel the panic in a tunnel.

I am also learning that one must deal with what’s right in front of you, then mostly what you think is a bad thing, actually turns out magnificently.

Last word – you can do much more than you think you can.

 

Posted on 6 Comments

18. How to ride in heaven. (June 15)

First of all, the man did not make another appearance.

2018-06-15_0001.jpg
At Burgusio, where I escaped the man and spent the night, there is the magnificent Marienburg Monastery. We have visited before thanks to Susanne, Simon’s sister. Incredible to see, the highest Benedictine monastery in Europe. The library there has recently been renovated and the book collection is vast. Architecture and technology have come together here in a brilliant way.

2018-06-15_0002.jpg
A perfectly smooth road, mostly to yourself, that winds downhill through floral meadows and cool forest glades. Heaven?

 

2018-06-15_0003.jpg

Miles of cycle track winds down from the lakes of the Reschen Pass, passing over the border into Austria. The villages along the way are perfectly kept, with bright flowers, window decor, and copious roses. I didn’t get pictures today, due to reluctance to stopping on a downhill.
2018-06-15_0005.jpg

My bike is actually facing the wrong direction in the shot, I turned and came back to take the picture for the sign in the background.

2018-06-15_0009.jpg
2018-06-15_0006.jpg

See what I mean, just heavenly!
2018-06-15_0007.jpg

Then things got crazy. It was all a bit wasted on me being so old, but the youth would absolutely love going down a super twisty road, dropping meters per second into a raging ravine. The beginning of the Inns river. Wild noise!!

The road turned left for St. Moritz and all those fancy Swiss peaks, but I went right through a terrifying ravine, on a road, where the cliffs went directly up into the sky. My fancy new polaroid glasses tend to enlarge things and make them more vivid. Cars travelled at a lot more than 100 kph. In the non-tunnel roofed-road-thing to prevent stones from falling on your head, the noise was extreme.

Maybe I’ve had too much forestry-quiet lately.

2018-06-15_0008.jpg

I didn’t bother to put on my wide-angle lens for the valley,  as photos don’t do it justice.

It’s simply awesome. Not “oh AWESOME!!” …but awesome with your mouth hanging open and your brain doing expansive reorganising to fit the visuals, and your heart skipping beats because the raw power of the universe is present.

You become the little jelly bean you really are, a tiny bag of complexity wrapped in a very fine membrane, creeping along on a bicycle.

The river is this raging torrent of white water that echoes off the cliffs which are balancing blocks of rock that, if even a small one should fall it would turn you into a fossil instantly.

I really admire the people who have lived in these mountains, they are super humans. As for the cows, they all have brass bells around their necks and stand with their sides against the grass the graze. They look like stickers on a green wall.
2018-06-15_0010.jpg

There are many cyclists on the pass, mostly couples (wives on ebikes) or fleets of racers (mixed gender). Quite a few women day-riding, but always in pairs or more.

I have not seen any solo female bikers doing long distance.
2018-06-15_0011.jpg
2018-06-15_0012.jpg
2018-06-15_0013.jpg

 

Landeck. Simon made it sound as if it were just around the corner. Thought I might have lunch there. 85kms later @ 17:00 and there I was flat out exhausted again. It was beautiful all the way, and the bike tracks are amazing….but almost 5 hours on the seat….

Found a hotel. Nice big room, with dinner and breakfast included. I was the only one in the dining room at 18:00. The manager is very chatty and knowledgeable, he worked on the QE2. I presume as a chef, as he was very knowledgeable about food.

Usually around mid-afternoon I stop to check (on my phone app) for a room on booking.com. I try to get the cheapest one, but they all begin at around 50 Euro. I prefer the places recommended for their “especially clean rooms”. Most expensive was 80 Euro which was in Trento at the Everest Hotel. All the places I have stayed have lovely new bathrooms, with good showers, and little bottles of fragrant shower gel. Most noticeable after a sweaty day.

I know some people think you just sit on an ebike and go places.

A long shower is a big highlight of the evening, before any fussing with photo downloads. My skin is completely brown on some bits and cream on others, like a giraffe. I would take a picture of my foot stripes, but hehe, maybe tomorrow. My nose is dangerously tanned. My legs are shaping up a bit. I think.

The food has been great. Every evening I’ve been lucky with restaurants or hotels where the food is decent. A little glass of wine is necessary to relax after all the bumping and steering and pedalling. As for choosing, I have noticed that pasta is the easiest thing to digest, and I have no problem gulping down a good crunchy salad. Difficult to finish a whole portion though. Today for lunch I had half a power bar and felt perfect.

The rest of the evening is spent downloading the photos, fixing them a bit and writing this blog. Usually I chat to Simon, my kids or friends on whatsapp, so haven’t felt lonely yet. It has been 3 weeks of cycling and staying at a different place each night.

I am so grateful to Simon for sponsoring me, and for helping me navigate. This trip is a luxury beyond measure!