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Fasten your seatbelts it's going to be a fun ride

Friday, November 23, 2012

The cursed snow and rain

All through this trip there has been talk of Susa and the amazing gelato there by the boys but after lots of cold rain, we nixed the idea.
 We had a wet night in France but then proceeded through the Southeastern part (Rhone-Alpes) to get to Lake Maggiore in Switzerland and Como in Italy but not before riding through exceptional, high elevation flatland's with rolling emerald green fields and roaming livestock and dotted here and there with dense forests. This went into my top 5 rides ever. Thanks Dan!

I was so in love with the topography that I didn't stop once to take a darned photo but we did stop in a tiny town and have the weirdest donar kebab yet but in a lovely courtyard where two young boys looked up to no good.

As the day went by, we watched ominous clouds and then finally made it to a campsite called Gran Bosco that Dan and Danny have been to before. Max is the manager and was kind enough to let me stay in a friend's trailer because I was too cold to camp. He even hooked up the electricity and the blankets were so heavy I barely moved all night and enjoyed hearing the wind howl outside.

My home for the next 12 hours. 

Thought it worth mentioning the bathrooms we all know to use flip flops in public showers but honestly, 90% of the facilities we've used in the campsites were cleaner than most hotels I've stayed at.

So we woke up and with Max's help checked some webcams on the highest pass in Europe and it looked clear. Col de I'Iseran and the St Bernard and some other pass that escapes me now.

My favorite photo of the trip.

Not really, but this lake was beautiful.

Riding through these passes was scary as all heck. It was freezing. I had no heated grips. I was wearing summer gear and I have Raynaud's. I was screwed. My hands froze so completely that at one point we had to stop and warm my hands on Dan's headers. I burned my gloves but they were smoking enough before I burned my hands to stop in time.

I was so glad to be with them. Dan has been an excellent leader and all along this snow covered ride kept saying all the right things like "the tires are making good contact with the ground" that inspired confidence in me. We saw other miss-guided riders (they probably saw the same lying webcam we did and also decided to do the pass) and we eventually made it through and all I can say is NEVER AGAIN.

The last pass of the day.

Finally got back down to lower elevation and made it to our last camp site together on Lake Maggiore.

It was beautiful but those clouds looked ominous. Remember we are going on day 4 in the rain.

We took off from camp in the rain, and rode in the rain, all the way to Lake Como but thankfully the rain stopped just long enough for us to see Bellagio.

All of the hype of the beauty of this lake was an understatement. I was giddy with gratitude that we made it.

Our time together was coming to an end. This was the point that Adam was to ride with me back towards Serbia/Bulgaria but I was faced with doing it alone.
I coordinated with my Friend Fred who lives in Mulhouse France to meet in the Grindelwald, but we had a long hot tunnel (gotthard) to go through, and since all of us were cold and wet, we were happy for the 100+ degrees inside.

After that it was a turn off to take Sustenpass to Grindelwald and the boys kept going north back to Germany. I was scared to be on my own. It was far from the plan for me to be alone for the next 10 days and stupid really but what choice did I have.

If it wasn't freezing and snowing and raining, I would have been fine. Well I got all the way to the top of Sustenpass only to find it was closed. (Dan's maps made it look like a valley pass or I would have never tried) So what came next was 4+ hours of freezing rain all the way around to get to my destination that was only 30 mins away from the pass. Thank God I had Danny's GPS that they installed on my bike so I didn't get lost or spend too much time pouring over maps in freezing rain.

But when I say I am going to be somewhere, come freezing rain and snow...I'll be there. I arrived at the campsite and they didn't have cabins and I actually burst into tears. I was so cold. My friend wasn't there and I didn't know where to go.

I ended up down the street at a clean hostel that the campsite managers helped me get settled into and this was my home for a couple warm nights.

Fred walked in a couple hours later, a little wet and cold but not to bad and we went into town and had some excellent Aberlour 12 (we tried the 15 year and found the 12 to be more to our liking) then had fondue (with bacon) and turned in.

The next morning....I woke up to this! The North Face.

Oops,skipped something very important. Breakfast. All you an eat. Milk from happy cows. Water from the Eiger. Apples from the local orchards. (Dad, I ate an apple, don't fall out of your chair)

We decided to spend the $200 bucks and take the top of the world train ride through the North Face and this was worth every penny.

View of the glacier from the top.

And I thought I was cold the day before. My hair was blowing straight up.

Ice tunnels.

And sculptures.

Majestic views in every direction and the sun came through the clouds for a bit

I met Fred at a bar in San Francisco and what made our friendship stick was his 20 motorcycle collection that he casually mentioned. 

I also took on a stowaway and enjoyed some champagne before we made our way back down the mountain.

Went for lunch. Excellent asparagus cream soup.

And great sausage with mustard from a tube.

I said my goodbye to Fred and went back to the hostel for one last night of comfort before pushing on to Venice Italy.

I had some friends in Milan that I could have stayed with for a night (riders I met on my ride through Turkey) but decided to just push the freakin rain again)

I arrived at the campsite near Venice which was actually a mud hole from all the rain and got a nasty smelling little bungalow but some good pasta and went to sleep.

Took a bus into Venice the next day and started it off well with a pastry.

Cool doorbells here.

San Marcos square 

Loved these pink glass lights

Stopped for an overpriced lunch in an outside cafe where I asked for prosecco with a dash of limoncello in it (a big faux pas here in Italy) and found this pink pigeon.

My yucky 15 euro salad.

I found a store with smurfs! I collected these when I was a kid.

Lots of courtyards

Went back to the campsite, had dinner and prepared to leave the next day for Croatia. Yep, in the rain again...

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