June 17, 2014 – Grossglockner Hockalpenstrasse, Austria
I rode over it today it was COLD! I thought I took a picture of the temperature sign, but I guess I didn’t get the button pushed. It read 3C at the top. I had my heated jacket on the entire day.
I was mistaken. The mountain is 3900+m in elevation, the pass tops out just over 2500m. A fantastic pass and I only wished for more sun. I rode a big loop to the southwest of where we are staying and where we are staying is the only place with any sun. It was warm here but quite chilly everywhere else. My route took me over several other passes but none so high or so twisty. All had great scenery and most had very good roads.
Just as I left this morning there was a group of about 20 riders on vintage bikes going the other way. Most looked like old British bikes. Very fun.
Here is a video of climbing the pass from the north toll booth. Yes, Virginia, it costs real money to ride this road. The motorcycle toll is €24 – about $34 at the current exchange rate. The road is in excellent shape and road crews were up there today repaving some sections. No complaints from me about the road.
More high altitude adventures tomorrow.
June 18, 2014 – Dachstein Glacier, Austria
Our high elevation adventure today was the Panoramic Gondola ride to the Dachstein Glacier at 2900+m. Just like yesterday it was mighty cold on top. We dressed as warmly as we could. The sign showed 4C.
The weather has been conspiring against us the last couple of days. We’ve been lucky with no rain and it is clear at night but it clouds over about 10 in the morning until dinner time. The tourist bureau needs to look into that. For about 30 seconds while I was out on the suspension bridge up on the glacier, my head felt warm. I looked around at what might be causing it and realized it was the sun. Alas, too short.
We had lunch at the top. When we got through the line we were walking around with our trays looking for a place to sit. There were several large tables with only a couple of folks at one end so I set my tray down and started taking off my coat. A young girl, maybe 10 or 11 sitting at the other end started yelling at me. Really loud and she kept repeating the same thing over and over. You would have thought I had cut off her leg. She was really loud and folks were looking at her. Obviously, Mom or Dad had put her in charge of keeping the table clear. So I put my coat back on and picked up my tray and stuck my tongue out at her as I walked away. She went nuts! I wandered off in search of a free spot, confident that I had further cemented relations between our two great countries.
When we checked in here there was a Summercard for each of us. It got us on the bus, up the mountain to the lift, and the gondola ride to the top. And all the way back and for free. That excursion would have been at least 50 Euros for both of us. There are several other cable cars and ski lifts we could take for free, as well. Pretty nice for the folks here to pay for all that. Everyone on our bus and everyone at the gondola ticket window had one that I could see.
This is an interesting area. Imagine Winthrop combined with White Pass but without the stores in town. There are a few places that rent sports equipment, but only one or two places to get a coffee and absolutely nothing for breakfast. Most places don’t open until 10 or 11. We went to dinner at our normal 8PM and the first two places were closed and cleaning up. The last place had some daily specials they hadn’t sold so we had that. It was quite good so we went back this evening – this time at 6. This isn’t Italy. Or just about any other place we have been. At 9:30 PM as I write this, everything is closed.
Speaking with some snow boarders today, they told me the snow usually lasts through June and last year they boarded on July 20th. There is some late fall or early winter snow sports but the weather is usually too bad in the dead of winter. High winds and no visibility, so they close for several months. One interesting thing – it costs more to take the gondola with sports equipment than without. And our free trip was only good without sports equipment.
I am uploading a video. On our ride down in the gondola, I had a front window spot so I propped my camera on the rail and filmed the trip. We are the only guests this evening so I have all the bandwidth to myself but the uplink speed is modest. I am 45% complete with 205 minutes remaining. I’ll edit it in the morning. If you take a look at when the upward car goes by you will just see two guys standing on the top of the car. Not.A.Chance.
Of course, when we got to the bottom the top of the mountain was in full sunshine. Life is hard here in Austria.
We are off to Italy tomorrow but first we have to go to Germany.
June 19, 2014 – Salonetto, Italy
Find Balzano. It is northeast of Milan deep in the Dolomites. Now follow the main road to the left like you are going to Merano. About halfway on the right you will see Salonetto sitting up there on the hill overlooking the valley. We are here for a few nights.
Debb is still not at her usual energy level so we decided to take the freeway to get here. We left Ramsau and headed for Salzburg. Before leaving Ramsau we stopped for gas and a coffee, and when we left there was a band playing next door. I walked over to see and there were about 50 folks in uniform playing while some older folks walked by following a big banner being carried along.
Turns out in Austria and Germany, today is a holiday. Some kind of religious holiday, a lady told us. As we made our way along we noticed that there were no trucks on the highway and all the parking areas were filled with parked trucks. Trucks are not allowed to be on the road on this holiday. Some exceptions for perishable goods and the like. What a nice treat to ride so far and not have trucks in the way. Of course, as soon as we arrived in Italy it was back to normal.
Our route took us north through Salzburg, west into Germany toward Munich, then south on E60 up the hill to Italy, then down the other side to Bolzano, and here. The last two stretches are toll roads, 8.50 Euros in Germany, another 6.5 Euros in Italy. You will be happy to pay it. This is the most scenic freeway section I have ever been on. Mountains all around, great highway engineering to marvel at, and every now and then a really nice castle perched on a hilltop. Just wonderful.
The road getting up here to Salonetto is full of switchbacks and lots of sport bikes were having a go. Debb and I were moving chicanes, but we held our lines.
The weather forecast for this area looks good so I will be climbing the switchbacks for the next couple of days. Stay tuned.
June 20, 2014 – Timmelsjoch, Jaufenpass, and Penserjoch, Italy
June 22, 2014 – Passo dello Stelvio – and 4 more
It was everything I hoped for… and tractors!
I am sure I have never seen so many bikes and so many tractors together in one place. What a treat! There were hundreds at the top – what time did they leave to be there already? – and hundreds more on the way. One tractor blew up only three switchbacks from the top and more were being towed up by their more reliable friends. Lower on the pass, the tractors were well aware of their status as moving chicanes and did their best to stay out of the way, but at times, with the bicyclists and cars and other motos, it was a challenge to keep moving. Nearing the top it was stop and go. The weather was perfect and everyone kept a positive outlook. Even the ambulance crews were cheering on the older and slower tractors and their crews.
Passo Gavia was my favorite. The road going up and down was one lane for much of the way and I was happy to let the excited Boxster driver and his mate go past me and help open the way ahead. In twenty minutes he got ten car lengths on me. The road going up was pretty ratty in places and the snow banks were sliding out over the road making it barely one lane in places. I was fortunate to not pass a single car going in either direction on the way up. Coming down, the road was in excellent condition but even more narrow and the Boxster had to back up two different times to allow traffic to move. When it did move, it was a very fun ride.
Passo del Tonale was the least exciting of the bunch. I have done it before and the road isn’t all that exciting. It is a short distance to the top from the west and going down on the east side is one town after another. It gets a little rhythm in places but not often enough.
Brezer Joch is more the top of a hill between two apple orchards than a pass. It reminded me of riding the hills above Wenatchee. When I got to the top and parked by the sign I realized the trials bike leaning against the logs was running. By the time I had gotten off my bike and removed my helmet the young rider came out from behind the logs. I’m sure he was surprised to see me. He hopped on and rode off up the dirt road. By the time I had taken my pictures and got my helmet on he came back and headed down the road. On the back tire, of course.
By far the best riding was passo Palade. It had a great flow going up and coming down and the views on the north side heading toward Moreno are unmatched. It was a delight to ride. Also, I was passed by several riders at serious speed. Isle of Mann speed, it seemed to me. Yowser!
I filled the tank twice and added 225 miles to the odometer. That took me 8 hours. I can’t think when I have spent so much time in second gear.
So 8 passes in two days, about 365 miles total. This is a fine place to be on a motorcycle. Watch those mirrors!
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