Sea Gull Century

SALISBURY, MARYLAND

Even taking 15-20 minutes to get ready at the car I was still wheels down two minutes before sunrise. It was a day to wear my rain jacket. Call it what you want, either a light rain or mist, but it was enough to make me wet and keep the roads wet.

I didn’t know anyone and was determined to ride alone. Although I hoped I would run into the contingent from the Blair Bicycle Club. I would follow the Assateague route, fully aware they had another one called Snow Hill. (I think.)

It rained (mist) for the first 90 minutes. Even if I wanted to jump in a pace line, wet roads and road spray convinced me not to.

I had a helmet sticker that wasn’t too sticky. In fact, I felt it come off just 5.5 miles into the ride. I felt bad about not stopping to pick it up (and I saw others) but I wasn’t in a position to do it safely. But then I came upon the “Beware of Walnuts” sign. There were two, actually, and I was prepared, almost, for a photo op. I safely maneuvered to a stop, turned around, and there on the road was a blinking rear light. I picked it up so that was a litter offset. Good find.

I came into the town of Snow Hill. It is a lovely town with its own lovely river (Pocomoke). The rivers on the eastern shore always fascinate me. The town was decorated for Halloween with a “scarecrow” on every block.

As much as I liked Snow Hill, I cursed myself for making a wrong turn. I was sure I was on the Snow Hill Century route. Any chance of running into friends was eliminated. Eventually I came to accept it and make the best of it. My two goals for the day were (1) don’t crash and (2) see some wild horses. Now I concentrated on not crashing.

Just four miles outside of Newark I came upon a sign which said Assateague – 22 Miles. I was on the right route after all. I perked up.

I continued to ride solo until Assateague with one exception. A huge group flew passed me. I bet there were 50-75 riders. I jumped in at the end. We were going 27-29 mph. Into the wind. I briefly thought about riding on their wheels but the roads were still wet although drying out. But I didn’t know about their bike handling skills. And honestly, this was not a free ride. My highest heart rate and highest speeds were recorded while I was riding with them.

I came to Assateague and found my horses. I was happy. I ate a banana and grabbed some Fig Newtons. I don’t get my money’s worth for these rides. I went past the first two without stopping and only ate a piece of fruit here.

I saw the group that I think I rode with. It looked like it swelled to 100 or more riders. Not for me. I had five guys pass me then I jumped in with them and rode to the next stop. (Potato chips). I briefly let them go when we came upon to riders who crashed by overlapping wheels in a group. At the rest stop I didn’t wait but continued on. I never saw those guys again. I’m not a fan of long rests at the rest stop.

Again, I was solo but eventually was caught but then joined a small group. We rode a comfortable pace to the finish. Well, almost comfortable. At the overpass over US 13 (Mile 100) I followed them right up to the top then a couple of them had a sprint to the end of the bridge. They gapped me at first and then I cramped. But I worked through it and stayed with them to the finish.

The arrival features an underpass and about 200 yards of sidewalk. A slow ride to the finish. It may have knocked down my average speed. Last year I averaged almost 17 mph. Even with the slow finish, I averaged 18 mph today. It was my fastest, and longest, ride of the year. And wettest too (I’ve been lucky.)


 

 

Cook Forest River Ride

COOKSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA

My fundraising for the Keystone Country MS-150 in July bagged me an unexpected bonus: Entry in the Cook Forest River Ride.

Disaster struck as I went to get dressed. I grabbed the only clean bib shorts I had and discovered they were the ones with knee covers. It was chilly but not enough for those.I thought about wearing a dirty pair but that would be gross. Better to be too warm. I had gone out to the car to check to make sure those were the only clean ones remaining on this trip. They were. My fashion choice also slowed me down on leaving the hotel.

Last night I checked the time and distance to the start and determined it was a 30 minute ride from the hotel. This morning it was a 42 minute ride. Not sure what happened but I came into Cook Forest running a little late.

I went to registration, passing my cousin, Kay Walborn, briefly saying hello. Got my swag (t-shirt) and took it back to the car. Riders were queued up. I went to the back of the group but lost Kay. I just couldn’t find her.

I started dead last then started making my way through a couple hundred riders trying to catch Kay. I stopped for a couple photo ops but generally kept going.

The course follows the Clarions River for 17 miles and some riders would do a 35 mile out-and-back. We turned across the river then started climbing. I saw a rider up the road and didn’t think I was gaining on him but eventually passed him. On the top I was by myself.

At Mile 30 I pulled into a rest station. And Kay was getting ready to roll out. She waited for me to grab some water and 1/2 banana. She was shocked I was behind her. She thought the entire time I had taken off ahead of her and she was trying to catch me.

We had been hammering the route trying to catch the other. We were probably never more than 3-4 minutes apart on the road at any time. We rode well together. I had a big advantage in going down hills (weight) while Kay had an advantage going up the steepest hills. One topped out at 22% according to my Garmin. I could not hold her wheel on that climb.

We passed a rider struggling and I told him he had just been passed by a 69 year old woman. She was kicking his butt. Mine too.

Back at Cook Forest they has served up a nice luncheon for us. We ate and then headed back home.  Not sure I would do this ride again but it was quite nice. And great weather today. Kay said that was a first.

 


My Past is Past

DAYTON, PENNSYLVANIA

This wasn’t the trip I planned but this was the trip I got. I drove to Dayton with the intent of doing a 30-35 mile loop around Mahoning Dam up to North Freedom.

I arrived in Dayton to begin my trip. I had preloaded a course on my Garmin and was determined to follow it. I went about 500 yards and turned onto a dirt road. Oh crap. Not sure how long I could do this. Thankfully it was less than a mile.

I followed my course for about four miles when Garmin told me to turn. It was a dirt road. I decided to forgo my plan and ride the “main” road. The main road was a chip and seal road. There were no flats. It was up and up again. Perhaps an occasional down hill. But not many.

I turned to go to Timblin, passing the farm of source Scrap and http://www.aroundlife.net/essay-on-the-day-i-forgot-to-do-my-homework/ Dot Snyder. Scrap is deceased but he was a classmate of my dad’s, and as I would discover later, 4th cousins.

Hard to imagine that 100 years ago this railroad town was a center of commerce. I stopped at the post office and talked to the postmaster, watch Stacey Taylor. She helped me with some of my roads. I had wanted to go up Brocious Road. I found the road, despite missing a sign, but found it was uphill, turned to gravel, and protected by angry dogs. I turned around.

I found my way to St. James Lutheran Church, founded by my great-great-great-grandfather in 1831. In 1989 I visited the church and was not greeted warmly as the locals were afraid my Uncle Tom Sherry and I were there to steal their pastor. We weren’t.

The church closed three years ago and Stacey told me the Lutherans tear down their closed churches rather than let them fall into disrepair. I didn’t have time to walk the entire cemetery but found some of my Sherry relatives. I actually meant relatives named Sherry because the cemetery is full of my relatives.

I left on my planned route and one mile later the road turned to gravel. Although I followed it for a bit, I turned back. I came to Shreckengost Road where I saw a teenage Amish girl. We talked for about 10 minutes. She helped me avoid gravel (go back the way you came).

I went to Ringgold then headed over to North Freedom. I passed Sherry Hollow Road. I understand my great-great-grandfather, Daniel Sherry’s brother, John Sherry, had his farm here.

We lived in the area from 1961-1964. My dad served four churches and I passed the North Freedom Church. I made my way to Salem, or New Salem, and saw the second church. In New Salem I attended a two-room schoolhouse for first and second grades (1-2 were in one room; 3-4 were in another). My teacher for first and second grade was Mrs. Shreckengost.

I left Salem and rode down to McWilliams. Then it was back towards Dayton. My legs were hurting.

I came to the crossroads. Here was Mt. Carmel E.U.B. church which may have close by 1968. It was the third of the four churches my dad served. A forest surrounded it and I thought about the Lutherans. How much better it might have been to simply tear it down.

The sign said Dayton – 8 miles. I knew my planned route was around the face of the Mahoning Dam. And I knew it would be 12 miles. I was very tired and was planning to ride the MS Ride tomorrow. I decided to go the short way.

I got back to Dayton and met a kindergarten teacher at Dayton Elementary School. The school opened in 1963 and we were bused from Salem to Dayton to attend this new school. It has been 54 years since I had been there. She was not impressed.

Back in Dayton, I met a kid on a bike. He wanted to race. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and I told him that I wouldn’t race unless he wore one. Deal breaker.

In a little over 30 miles I had climbed about 4500′. That was extremely mountainous. It was hot. I was toast.

That evening I met my 4th cousin, http://assendared.com/masters-thesis-art-document/ Jody Sherry Scott, in Clarion.  She told me her dad was born in McWilliams. We met at her frozen yogurt place in Clarion, Yo-Licious. I highly recommend it.

 

 


MS Day-2

HOLLIDAYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA

It rained overnight and was very gray at rollout. But it wasn’t raining. I was hopeful we would stay dry. I lined up and they pulled the 100-rider rope right behind me. I was in the first group. But last.

99 riders in front of me

As we started out I moved closer and closer to the front and eventually settled in with a group of 10 which might have been the first group on the road. We worked well together although the hairy legged monster I was following scared me by occasionally just coasting causing me to brake.

Ahead I saw a tractor which I spotted yesterday. I told myself that today I would stop so I put up my hand and excited the pace line. I’m sure they thought I couldn’t hang. I could hang.

Once I took the picture I got back on the road and bridged up to a group of three and the four of us worked together to the first rest. It was quick. No mechanic (I was looking for a wrench) but my bottle was nearly empty. Refill then hit the road.

It started to rain. I didn’t get out the rain jacket and we rode for the next 20 minutes in a light rain although we had wet roads for the next hour.

Halfmoon Twp., Centre Co., Pa.

I rode this section solo although I hooked up with another rider. We rode side by side because even though he gave a nice draft he also gave a nice spray. I’m sure I did too.

There was an ice cream stop at Camp Kanesatake. Ice cream, at least mine, was served by page Katherine Orczeck, the Blair Co. Dairy Princess (Alternate). When I told her mother I rode over Locke Mountain yesterday she said she cannot imagine. Her car barely gets over it.

At this rest I found the Spokes and Skis mechanic. I just wanted to borrow an Allen wrench to reposition my BarFly mount for the GPS. I had a multi-tool with me but it’s much easier to use a dedicated wrench. Fix completed.

Katherine Orczeck

Leaving Kanesatake, I was passed by two young men who were talking about how to work together. They thought they passed me for good but I blew by them just after Spruce Creek. One mentioned that we were leap frogging. No frogs here.

Sign seen near Arch Springs

At Arch Springs I stopped for a photo. They passed and then I followed them to the lunch stop. I soloed to Tyrone after a quick water stop. I was on my own.

Arch Springs

In Antis I was on a narrow street which has cars parked on both sides. There was not enough room in between for a car and a bike. There was room for a car or a bike (or two), but not both. I was in the lane when an SUV turned to come towards me.

I knew she didn’t have room but she insisted. She sheared off her passenger mirror. I chuckled. She saved two seconds which was the time it took me to pass the line of cars. But then she stopped to pick up mirror pieces.

After the Antis rest I saw a rider coming behind me. I slowed, thought he grabbed my wheel, then rode away from him. Geez.

I slowed again and waited for him and we rode together for about 6-7 miles until I rode away from him for good.

Arriving at the finish line in Hollidaysburg I checked the mileage and went for an out and back for another two miles. I caught the two young guys who were leap frogging me. I leaped them again.

At the finish there was a medal. A woman, confined to a wheelchair with MS, put the ribbon/medal over my head – a poignant reminder of why we Bike MS.

 

 


Out of Bibs

STATE COLLEGE, PENNSYLVANIA

I arrived for check-in for the MS-150 ride. I did not see then had to ask for a bib to make “I RIDE FOR…” I was told they sent their supplies to another event which did not return any. I was disappointed.

This is how we connect with people. I wanted very much to ride for my daughter, enter Bethany, Kayla Bracken, and follow site Kristi Wallace. Seriously, how can they be out of the bibs? Press “Order Here.” Without the bibs it is just another group ride. I took out a Sharpie and wrote their names on my bib.

I was delayed. Two groups, supposedly of 100 riders each already left and it looked like ours was the last group.

What starting last looks like

I had been thinking about going over Locke Mountain instead of going to Roaring Spring with the group. Has I been in the front group, or second group, I may have rethought this. But I figured starting last or next to last, I would have to chase to catch the earlier groups to ride in a pace line. And since the pace lines would have already formed, I would be trying to bridge up to the pace lines.

Up Hill Drive. Made me giggle.

Still, I didn’t make the decision until I was on the road. I caught the tail end of the third group then, when it was safe, started to make my way through them. I had three decision points where I could make the move.

West Loop Road. I have no idea what this bicycle route is.

Coming off Frankstown Road was Locke Mountain Road. But there was construction and I wasn’t sure I could get there. Plus there were volunteers manning the intersection. I was past Tel Power Road before I even realized it. On Reservoir Road I continued to work through riders and may have caught some from the second group. As I signaled (bell) I was coming by I passed a guy and his wife. After I passed them I head him say “Wow!,” in apparent reference to my speed. I was doing 18 mph which isn’t exactly fast.

That probably cemented my decision. I really didn’t feel like hearing comments from riders as I passed them (although that may have been a compliment).

Looking out from near the top of Locke Mountain

I came to Loop Road, didn’t see any volunteers, and had gapped any riders behind me. I put out my left arm then turned on Loop Road. I didn’t want any volunteers to see me for fear they may chase me to tell me I was going the wrong way.

Trout Run where it enters Spruce Creek

The pavement on Loop Road was new asphalt. It was sweet riding. Apparently I was on a bike route – it appeared to have a clock tower although I haven’t figured out what it is or where it goes.

BBC Riders on the road

I came to Locke Mountain Road. It was all uphill from there. Most of the lower section, and indeed, most of the climb, showed 14-15% on my GPS. That may have been overstated though – it only felt like 12-13%. There were gnats around my eyes and I continually had to use a free hand to swat at them. Very annoying.

Lunch at Camp Kanesatake

I worked hard. I was soaked in sweat. On the descent I really couldn’t see clearly. Still I had a top speed of 45 mph.

Lunch at Camp Kanesatake

I followed some back roads to Williamsburg. I did not want to be the first rider at the second rest stop. I know there were some people hammering the course and I had cut 13 miles from it. Although I started much later than they did and had to get my fat butt over Locke Mountain I still felt it would be close.

Lunch at Camp Kanesatake

As I came to the end of Shortcut Road I saw a group of six go by. And they were apparently the first. I rolled in and spent a lot of time at Rest 2, mainly because I popped a lens out of my glasses trying to clean them.

Camp Kanesatake

I saw some riders from the Blair Bicycle Club roll in and reintroduced myself to follow link Leslie, a woman I rode 100 miles with in October last year at the Sea Gull Century. They rolled out and I wasn’t too far behind them.

Disc golf at Camp Kanesatake

In addition to Leslie, I rode next to Aurora, another rider I rode with last year, although I did not recall her name (until referring to the entry from last year). I integrated with their group of five until we came to the first of the uphills. I pulled through with the intention of pulling but instead rode them of my wheel.

Volunteers thanking riders at the Cookie Stop

On US 22 I soft pedaled some, waiting from them to come back but they never did. I caught http://stjohns.lambdaphiepsilon.com/cheap-student-version-microsoft-office/ Pat, another BBC rider, on the run in to Spruce Creek. He too, was part of our century group from last year, although I forgot. We talked for a little bit but as the road went down I took off (serious descending advantage – see “fat butt,” above).

Volunteers at the Cookie Stop

In Spruce Creek I deviated onto a side road for photos then when I came back I caught the Leslie group. Once again I road with them until we came to a chip and tar road and they slowed down seriously.

Lunch was at the beautiful Camp Kanesatake. I sat down on the bench and left a giant wet mark. I checked where others were sitting and didn’t see any wet marks. I won the sweating contest.

Beaver Stadium, PSU

The BBC group left and I found myself catching two Old Men On Bikes from Allentown. I really never integrated with them except I did without trying. We caught he BBC group and rode together. About four miles from the next rest I went to the front and pulled.

At the rest, two of the five riders went on and three stopped. They left about two minutes ahead of me, never offering for me to join them. Funny how these things work. I never really was part of their group.

I soloed onto State College, never catching or being caught by anyone. Instead of heading to the finish I went onto campus and stopped at the famous Berkey Creamery. I didn’t see a safe place to leave the bike (it is a college campus) so I decided to move one. After all, it’s just ice cream.

Refreshing mister at the finish line in State College

Throughout the day we watched the weather. The forecast was for thunderstorms and once it got dark. But I beat the rain by more than an hour. After I showered I looked out my window and saw riders finishing over the next 2-3 hours. In the rain. I had a good ride.

 


A Trip Across the Swiss Alps – A Review

WOODBRIDGE, VIRGINIA, USA

Sometime in the winter when I knew that Ride the Rockies would not work out for this year I decided to ride across Switzerland. Over the Alps.

I did not want to “bikepack,” which is to carry all my clothes with me on my bike. I found and had been following the tours at BikeSwitzerland.com. They looked (and look) great but was a little more time and money than I wanted to spend.

I asked my friend, page Ben Zahler, if he knew how I could do this self-supported and he found Eurotrek, a company based in Zürich.

Me with Ben

Both companies offered a self-guided tour over the Alps via Panoramic bicycle Route 4. The cost differences were significant. BikeSwitzerland offered a couple extra days and a little extra riding from Geneva to the start in Aigle. Plus a return to Geneva.

Cost was a factor but so were logistics. BikeSwitzerland started in Geneva whereas Eurotrek started near Zürich. My base of operations would be in Zürich at my friend, Corinne Kolb’s, apartment.

Corinne and Stelvios

Both companies offered rental bikes. I never considered renting instead I flew with my own bike. I do not know what Eurotrek charged. But BikeSwitzerland offered my Trek Domane with Di2 shifting for 600 CHF.

I booked this trip with EuroTrek. They made all hotel arrangements and transported my luggage daily from one hotel to the next, otherwise it was self-supported.

Hotel Huber in Lichensteig

I flew my bike to Zürich. From Washington, D.C., American Airlines charged me $200. Returning, the same airline charged me 84 CHF ($87.50). I have no idea why the price difference. I liked the price coming back.

American Airlines 767 from ZRH to JFK

Day 1 was from St. Margrethen to Wattwill (Lichtensteig). The course was lumpy, even mountainous. Actually it had the most climbing of the seven days although it lacked an iconic mountain pass. I did not pre-load my map to GPS and could not always follow the Rte 4 signs. I also developed saddle sores (which I never get) and feared the worse.

Day 2 was from Wattwill (Lichtensteig) to Linthal. This was the shortest day. It started with a climb (once I could find it) and ended with 30 km of flat farm roads or trails. It was the perfect remedy for saddle sores.

Day 3 was from Linthal to Beckenreid via a ferry at Gersau. It was the best ride of the trip. It featured a hard climb out of the box over Klausenpass. But the rest of the day was super easy. A great descent of Klausenpass followed by the nice trail along a lake I have been one.

Day 4 was also nice but had the opposite profile of Day 3. This one had the lake riding first and ended with a climb up the Glaubenielen Pass down into Sörenberg.

Day 5 was from Sörenberg to Thun. I began the day by riding back up the mountain to the Sörenberg tram to the mountain overlooking Interlaken. Then, given a choice of adding an extra 12 km to Thun, I took the long way. I beat my luggage in then went swimming in the River Aare.

Day 6 was Thun to Gruyères. It felt more like a slog. I got lost in Fribourg. It was hot. Beautiful scenery but nothing breathtaking like Day 3.

Day 7 was Gruyères to Montreux. Somewhere I must have missed a Route 4 turn and just took the main road to Aigle. That was fine.

And that was it. Post trip I found that Eurotrek had GPX files I could have downloaded but I did not know to ask.

Only after the trip did I realize that perhaps a solo trip across the Alps was a bit risky. I mitigated some of the risk by carrying a hand pump with gauge and an extra tube. But a broken spoke or chain or worse, an accident, would have done me in.

As I updated my trip on Facebook I started adding Cycling Tips for Switzerland. The “numbers” were random, of course but here they are:

Tip #38 for cycling in Switzerland … Leave that finger at home. Number of times I’ve been buzzed (0), yelled at (0), thrown at (0), blown smoke on (0), honked at (0), had tires squealed at (0), cutoff (0). You just don’t need it as part of your cycling kit in Switzerland.

(This would end in Zürich on my last day when a woman pulled an impromptu U-turn in front of me causing me to take evasive action. I did not use a finger.)

Tip #19 for cycling in Switzerland  … If you see a house at the top of a mountain and think “isn’t that nice, I wonder how they get up there?” rest assured that after 60 minutes of sweating profusely you will pedal right by that house

Tip #1 for cycling in Switzerland … In small villages and big cities and in the countryside too, you will find the freshest water available for free. Don’t stay thirsty, my friends.

Tip #23 for cycling in Switzerland ... Be cool, wear a helmet. Most do. Gone is the time they knew you were American because you were the guy with a helmet.

Tip #29 for cycling in Switzerland … lose weight

There’s not much I would do differently. I was glad to have my own bike and starting two days after I arrived was perfect although I could have got my bike ready in one day. Well, there is one thing. I would not start on a Thursday or Friday because those days mean that Day 3, Klausenpass would be on a weekend day and I now know that is a popular “driving road” for sports cars and motorcycles.

It was a great trip which I highly recommend. And see Tip #29.

A Smart Decision

BORMIO, ITALY

I had a great week in Switzerland with the weather. I could not ask for more. Well, yes I could. I could ask for two. But I would not get it.

As I prepared to go to Finland on Saturday, Corinne Kolb said to me that it looks like the weather is going to be bad all week. From then I kept an eye on the weather in Bormio, Italy.

My plan was to rent a car and drive to Bormio, stopping in Liechtenstein along the way. I would ride Stelvio Pass from both sides, perhaps one of the most ambitious days on my bike – ever. But the forecast continued to get worse. Daily highs for the town of Bormio were in the 50s with 100% chance of rain.

I’ve driven to New Hampshire where the Mount Washington Auto Road Hillclimb was canceled – twice – because of bad, i.e., dangerous weather. And I viewed going to Bormio with the same risk. The weather on top of the mountain could be 10-20 degrees colder with freezing rain or snow.

When I went with Trek Travel, I at least had a SAG vehicle and extra clothes at the top for crappy weather. This would simply be me all alone against the elements.

I planned to stay two nights plus had the expense of renting a car and gas. I really couldn’t justify the cost of going to Bormio to watch rain. It was a tough decision but I know it was the right one. I decided to return home instead.

My biological cycling clock is ticking. I don’t know if in five years I could get up Stelvio Pass. Or even one. I would like to one more time but not at the risk of death (and one pass over, Mortirolo, is the Mountain of Death). The only time I descended Stelvio I almost crashed head on into a car. It simply wasn’t worth the risk.

And if there was any question I made the right decision, Will Swetnam send me a photo from Stelvio Pass. I made a smart decision.

Stelvio Pass on June 30, 2017

Stelvio – I am hoping I will see you again. In decent weather.

 

Goodbye Switzerland

ZÜRICH, SWITZERLAND

I started the morning in Nurmijärvi, Finland, not far from Helsinki.  I took a flight from Helsinki to Riga, Latvia, connecting to Zürich.

Riga, Latvia

I have been watching the weather in Bormio, Italy, with my decision to be either to travel to Italy or go home early. My return flight is planned for July 3.

After I arrived I checked the weather forecast for Bormio which showed 100% chance of rain for the next three days. It was almost that same percent chance I would go home instead.

The forecast for Zürich was about the same although I didn’t have to worry about snow on the mountain. But having arrived it was a beautiful afternoon.

If I was going home, it would be on Thursday. With rain forecast for tomorrow, I will be tearing down my bike. Today will be my last time to ride in Switzerland.

City riding is not ideal but the ride around Lake Zürich is nice. But I didn’t want to circumvent the entire lake.

I loved the ferry that crosses over the lake. The price is right (CHF 3) and it is a lovely ride.

Program sold at Kiosk at the ferry

I simply went for a ride around the lake. It was beautiful.

The main road was blocked headed back to Zürich. Looked like a rich boat owner had an accident and a crane stretched across one lane of the road to lift it out of the water.

I stopped at the river and took a couple more photos. A commuter passed me and I followed her wheel which took me under the highway to the street I needed to return to Wollishofen.

Zürich – I will miss you. Except for that Barney Fife cop.

 




Three Country Ride Part Deux

SISSACH, SWITZERLAND

Three years ago Ben Zahler and I went for a three country ride. I asked him to come up with one again. He did.

We took a train to Laufer for the start. My train ticket was 13 CHF. My bike ticket was 20 CHF. For a country which is cycle-centric, or maybe it isn’t, I think their train bike passes cost at least twice what they should be.

Welcome to France. I think. I think I can also read this sign. Speed limits in towns is 50 kph (31 mph); in the country it’s 90 kph (56 mph), and on super highways it’s 130 kph (81mph).

Laufer is near the French border of the Alsace-Lorraine region. We rode about 15 km before coming to a French sign. Ben pointed out another sign which noted that Swiss soldiers were not allowed to be on this road in uniform.

Ferrett, France

The road turned up and Ben rode ahead. We quickly established that on this day I would be first down the mountains and he would be first up. We went through some French villages although we were in the outskirts of a much bigger town, St. Louis, when I suggested we stop at a bakery.

Ferrett, France

We both got a chocolate-strawberry croissant then rode to a shade location to eat. We ended up next to a school where students were practicing a dance routine. Never quite figured out what kind of school that was.

Bakery in St. Louis, France

We found our way to the Three Country Bridge that connects France and Germany but looks at Switzerland. Close enough.

Ben led us through Basel, looking for a road back to the town and the climb we did three years ago. We made some sketchy moves in traffic, i.e., probably not riding where we should have.

But we got through Basel and back into Germany until crossing back over at a dam on the River Rhine.

Hello Germany

It was hot, with temperatures in the low 90s. I carried two bottles and was going through those fast while Ben had just one.

Three Country Bridge that connects France and Germany

We looked for water – easier in Switzerland than France or Germany. I didn’t feel I was getting enough and I know Ben couldn’t have.

It wasn’t all pavement today

We began the last climb which would take us over the “hill” to Sissach. It was quite a formidable climb. Ben took off and 2-3 times pulled over until I dragged my butt up to him. I was in a granny gear and wasn’t going to work any harder.

At the top Ben was lightheaded. His wife had biked up from Sissach (quite impressive actually) and he had planned lunch at a restaurant up the hill from the summit. A second summit.

But he said he was so light headed couldn’t control his bike. He rested and gathered himself and then we descended, with me being the fastest.

Ben Zahler

On the descent I hit 75 kph which is 47.5 mph. Had I known I would have pushed it to 50 mph. But it was my fastest speed of the time I was in Switzerland.

Switzerland. France. Germany. It was a most excellent trip. Thanks Ben!

Me. Ben. The last day I wore those ripped shorts.

 

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My Last Day

MONTREUX, SWITZERLAND

This was a bittersweet day. It would be a day of accomplishment but a little sadness as I knew my trip across Switzerland through the Alps would be ending.

I had a nice breakfast at the Hotel Gruyères. It was a very pleasant morning but going to be hot again.

I sat out on the patio enjoying the cool morning weather. I had no complaints about the weather. No rain the entire trip. And really never needed arm warmers.

The first few kilometers would be downhill as I left the hotel but then try, for the last time, to find Route 4. It started OK as I was soon on farm roads.

Train station in Gruyères

In Grand Villard I missed a turn at a traffic circle but soon corrected it as I could see my Garmin showed I was “off course.”

Grand Villard

The back road took me off the main road for a while. A mostly single lane very lightly traveled road, I even stopped to watch a fox.

Eventually the roads would converge and I would be on the main highway.

This road kicked up to 18% but only for a short stretch

I was tired. Physically, I didn’t feel tired but perhaps skipping dinner last night or just seven days in the Alps was wearing on my mind.

Montbovon

I came to a construction area and did not see a turn. Garmin soon warned me I was off course. I went back and surveyed the area. Yes, I missed the turn to Route 9. There was no way through but I hoped the main road would be parallel where I should be.

It would not occur to me until the end of my ride that I wasn’t to follow Route 9. All week I have been on Route 4 and now I confused them. I still don’t know where I should have gone.

I was comfortable following Garmin but if there was a real Route 4 I wanted to be on it. But I stayed on the main road.

I came to what I knew would be my climb over my last mountain. Then I saw a sign for Route 9 to the left. Down in a valley. I followed it for 300 meters and just knew it didn’t feel right. At the point I said “screw following the sign” not even aware it was the wrong sign. The mind was tired.

I think I was on the right road but who knows. But I began the climb confident I would get to Montreux.

The views were great and I had no regrets. I was passed by perhaps 30 sports cars, many of those vintage cars.

At the top was a ski area. I didn’t spend much time here but instead would begin my descent to Aigle.

It was a great ride down. With hairpin turns, I never could really let the bike roll but I wasn’t here for speed.

I came to one snow shed and plenty of picturesque vantage points. I enjoyed the descent constantly scanning taking in the views.

Reaching the bottom I could see Aigle and the figurative end.

I also knew I was in France. Well, not really but very close. I had thought about riding an extra 10-15 km to “end” in France (and come back) but decided I needed to keep going to my real destination in Montreux.

One of three “bikes” in Aigle I found. The other two were pink and yellow.

Beautiful vineyards on the hillside dotted the landscape. Aigle is the home of the UCI, Union of International Cyclists or Union Cycliste Internationale in French.

Those cars came down Bike Route 4

As I reached the flat section of the town I saw a sign for Route 4. Then it dawned on me I had been looking for the wrong signs.

The last Route 4 sign I would see. I still don’t know where the official terminus is.

I saw the cars that had passed me coming off a mountain road. Route 4. The one I was supposed to be on. Oh well. I have no regrets about the route I took but wonder what I missed. And if I should go back someday.

This round portion of UCI is a velodrome

I said goodbye to Route 4 and was going to head to Montreux. But I saw a sign for UCI and decided to see what it was all about. Well, it was about a building. A velodrome. I did not leave a pee sample. (But it would have been clean.)

Vineyards in Aigle

Since there was no longer a bike route, I had mapped my route to Montreux but briefly lost my way. I started to get on Super Highway A9. Oops. I walked the bike back down the entrance ramp when I saw I could not jump the fence with my bike to an alternate road.

In Montreux I had planned to eat. Maybe to celebrate. Never really thought about dipping a wheel into Lake Geneva or lifting my bike but never had a chance. I followed a street into town, I knew I was getting near the train station and the street went under the tracks. When I emerged I was in a shopping area and saw an escalator up to the train station. I grabbed my bike, went up to ticketing, and just like that, it was over.

Seven Days. Switzerland. Over.