Chautauqua Lake

CHAUTAUQUA LAKE, NEW YORK

Even as I drove with my with daughter, Ashley, to Lily Dale, New York, I wasn’t sure where I would ride. Part of me wanted to ride around Chautauqua Lake. Part of me wanted to ride back to Erie, Pa. All I knew was she was visiting Lily Dale and I was going for a bike ride.

I designed and uploaded a route to my GPS that would take me down the east side of the lake, cross at Bemus Point, then head straight to Erie. The distance was around 100 km (62 miles).

Lily Dale sits on the three small Cassadaga Lakes. It was a very pleasant morning, around 70 degrees and sunny. There was a bit of a hill getting out of there – one mile at 10-11% – but once up and over it I rolled on towards Chautauqua Lake.

Stockton, New York

Reaching the main highway at the lake I went down the east side, disappointed that there weren’t better views of the water. I expected a road where I could see the lake the entire time and much of it was too far away behind forests to see the lake.

Bemus Point, New York

I reached Bemus Point, a beautiful small village with a ferry that crosses the lake. I rolled up on my bike. I was the only one there but could see the ferry at the other side of the lake. I waited. I thought I could see it was getting closer. It wasn’t.

Operates Friday, Saturday, Sunday

A couple docked their boat and came ashore. I asked if the ferry was getting closer and he said it only runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Say what? Secretly hopeful he would offer to take my bike and me across I said it looks like I have to ride around the lake. He agreed stating “you look like you can do it.”

Operating since 1811 – just not on Mondays

I headed off south not knowing where I was going – navigating by feel staying close to the lake. My best option wasn’t an option. Just south of Bemus Point is a bridge across the lake on I-86. A road sign stated “Erie 35.” My mileage was right. I had ridden 24 miles, and if I could cross there I would be to Erie around mile 60. But I had much farther to ride because I could not cross the middle of the lake.

At Jamestown I made the turn and discovered a statue to Jamestown’s native daughter of comedy, dissertation services in uk grades Lucille Ball. That made the trip worthwhile.

When I came to Busti, I stopped at a gas station. I saw a man and asked him if he was local. He said he was. I asked how far it was to the Chautauqua Institute and he told me 20 miles. The road sign for Mayville said 14 miles.

Appropriate name for a church in western NY
Panama, New York

I asked if Chautauqua was before Mayville and he said it was. I then said the sign says Mayville 14. He paused and said, “I still say it’s 20 miles.” Sigh.

Another man asked “do you want to ride to Erie?” and was surprised when I told him I did. He told me to take the road I was looking at, Rte 474, and head west. Said it goes right to Erie. Unfortunately, I believed him.

The road was lumpier than I thought

My designed route was north – I was to pick it up at  Chautauqua Institute, but this seemed better. I headed west to Panama and then to Clymer. Just outside of Clymer I saw a road sign “Erie 30.” I had ridden 40 miles since I saw the one for Erie at 35 miles. Forty miles and I was five miles closer!

Ashley was on her way back from Lily Dale and asked where I was. “Not a whole lot closer” I told her. The main road from Wattsburg to Erie is Pa. Rte 8 – a busy two-lane road with no shoulders. I didn’t want any part of that.  I told her to meet me in Wattsburg. I continued on and we met at the Wattsburg-Erie County Fairgrounds.

NY-PA border between Clymer, NY and Wattsburg PA

I went farther than if I had just designed a route to get me to Erie. I wanted to see the lake which I did. Throw in some westerly head winds and some hills that I wasn’t expecting, it was a harder ride than I expected. I only wish the ferry had been running but then I wouldn’t have found the Lucy statue, which was pretty neat.

Three Country Ride

SISSACH, SWITZERLAND

I had never been to Germany and a few months ago I told Ben Zahler that we should ride (or that he should design) a ride that takes us from Switzerland to Germany. And he designed a good one.

I took the train from Zürich to Sissach, met Ben, and went over to Stonebite bike shop, right down the street from the train station. Met a very nice guy working there. I grabbed a Trek Madone with Di2 (electronic) shifting and he fit me to the bike. One problem though. When I tried to shift I discovered the battery was missing and he couldn’t find it. But a couple of phone calls and 45 minutes later we were off and riding – the train.

(Actually there was a second problem. The bike was too large for me and a seat I could not lower. I would be uncomfortable for a day. Oh well.)

Ben, giving a Turkish Couple directions

We took the train to Basel to begin our tour. Winding our way via bike paths, we found our way across and then beside the Rhine River. It was navigating by feel. Within six kilometers we were crossing into Germany.

And almost immediately once we were in Germany, we were leaving Germany. We crossed the Three Countries Bridge into France. I was in Germany for 600 meters. But it counts.

Three Countries Bridge

Once in France we were on pancake flat roads, parallel to the Rhine River and the Grand Canal of Alsace but never quite seeing it. The road was a chip and tar road and a bit difficult to pedal. After 12 kilometers we turned towards the river and followed a road back to a hydro-electric power plant on the river at Krembs.

Hyrdoelectric Plant at Krembs on the Rhine River

No cars but we could cross the damn on bikes. We stopped to watch a ship come through the lock.

Ship coming through the lock at Krembs

Once we crossed the dam we followed the canal south until crossing into Germany. We jumped on a bike bath which was paved but turned to dirt and gravel. Germany has many bike paths next to roads, most are paved but this one wasn’t. We rode it for a few kilometers before finding another path/road which was paved.

Bike path in Germany ran out of pavement

Ben had printed out directions but we seemed to be off cue as much as on and it sure was fun. We followed open roads to wherever they led – which was not to lunch.

Closed on Mondays

Hungry, my breakfast was a Snickers bar in the train station, we found a restaurant/tavern which was closed on Mondays. Then another. And another. Finally we found a place in Kandern in the Black Forest which may have been Pizzeria Sanlorenzo, but I can’t say for sure. After a cyclists’ lunch of pizza, we headed out and up – up a beautiful road through the Black Forest.

Black Forest

Occasionally at a town or intersection Ben would check GPS but just as often we would say – “ let’s go that way” as long as it was headed south or west – back towards his home in Sissach.

Ben and a Bike Path in Germany

We were on country roads, for the most part not heavily traveled, but just as often we jumped on the paved bike paths which followed the roads.

Reaching Rheinfelden, Germany, Ben mostly knew the way except that a landmark old building was missing. A quick question to a tourist and we were headed across the bridge crossing the Rhine back into Switzerland, to Rheinfelden, Switzerland. Two questions really. Which way to Switzerland and is that water (in the fountain) potable? (It wasn’t)

Rheinfelden, Switzerland

Ben said from Rheinfelden it would be 15 km more – all uphill. Before leaving, we found a water fountain with potable water and filled our bottles.

Ben, filling his water bottle

Once we left Rheinfelden we were on a somewhat traveled road until going through Magden. And there the climb began. In earnest.

 

Bridge over River Rhine at Rheinfelden Germany and Switzerland

In the morning we had been riding on dead flat roads along the Rhine in Basel and in France. But in Germany we picked up some hills in the Black Forest and now we had a small mountain to get over. My Garmin was showing it was mostly 11-12%. This was a mini Mt. Washington – 12% but for only two kilometers and not 12 kilometers.

Ben at the summit before Sissach

And it was raining. Cloudy in the morning and sunny in Germany, the rain was coming down in Switzerland. But it felt good on the climb. Once over the top we had 3k back to town. I was able to drop the bike, change, and catch my train, all in a matter of a few minutes.

Meanwhile, back at the bike shop

Three countries on a bike. What a great ride!

Barry and Ben
Barry and Ben

A big SHOUT OUT to Ben and enter Corinne Kolb, my hosts on this day. They were both exchange students in the 90s who I have kept in close contact with. And on this day they were both texting each other as to my whereabouts. I was staying with Corinne and she seemed very worried I would miss my train connections to Ben. And when I left Ben texted her with my EPA. Love you both!

Bridge Jumper

BERN, SWITZERLAND

I came to Bern not to ride but to swim. But I got in a ride. (And a blog entry!)

Bern is a neat city. As a genealogist, I trace most of my family history to Germany and England but I trace my Wenger line to Bern. My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, John or Hans Wenger, was born here in 1705. Welcome home.

I count among my blessings in life the years I worked with YFU. Those amazing foreign exchange students in the 1990s are now amazing young adults in their 30s. Céline Oreiller met me in Bern and knew my bucket list item – jump off the bridge into the freezing River Aare.

Looking back to the city from the bear pits

We walked the downtown area over to the bear pits. We followed a steep hill up to the gardens and across a high bridge back into town.

 

WARNING: Octopi in the River Aare

After lunch we made our way to the Cathedral of Bern, a place Céline had never been. Although I had a Swiss Rail Pass which was good for local transportation, it was in my stored bags at the train station. I cursed my decision not to have it. With it, we could have taken the funicular to the top of Bern. And we could have avoided the river.

The Kindlifresserbrunnen
A literal translation of the name Kindlifresserbrunnen
would be “Fountain of the Eater of Little Children”

Céline seemed to think I really wanted to jump off a bridge, probably because I told her that. Many times. I was content to climb the high towers of the Cathedral. Or just ride local transportation if I had my rail pass handy. She made it her mission to get me into the river.

Cathedral of Bern
Too Large to be captured by my camera

Around 5:00 p.m. the sun finally came out. We looked way down at the river below and found a “city bikes” location which offered “free” rentals, an oxymoron, indeed. For the first time today I was in my element. On a bike.

Céline, Barry

We rode across a high bridge then found some streets to quickly take us down to the river. At first we didn’t see anyone swimming but as we approached the Schönausteg Bridge, I thought must be the jumping bridge. Someone in a bathing suit walked by. We followed him across the bridge and watched him slip into the water and swiftly was taken away (safely).

Schönausteg Bridge

We didn’t see anyone jumping but the bridge looked like one I remembered in the BBC segment on swimming in Bern. Thankfully it wasn’t the bridge over to the bear pits which I thought I remembered.

I wasn’t sure if it was legal. There were no signs prohibiting it. So I went out on the bridge, climbed over the railing, being watched by others, not knowing what they thought. I was in the middle of the river and was standing on the suspension rails of the bridge. I thought I stood there for an eternity although it was really only a few seconds.

Jumping into the river I was carried away by the swift and cold current of the River Aare. At first it seemed cool being caught up in the current. But I remembered the most important thing is to get out of the river – there is a dam downstream.

Céline on a City Bike
I rode the same cruiser model

I swam towards the shore and saw the first take out point about 100 meters downstream – stairs built down to the river with a railing in the water. I tried to grab the railing and missed. I was being carried downstream. Just briefly, I stopped. I found a rock that I could prop my feet against.

The Dam Awaits

I was only one meter (three feet) away from the railing but the current was too strong to go against the current. And I could not climb out onto the river bank. I let go and went to the next one. I almost missed this, actually thought I had, but I grabbed the railing at the last possible second. Mission complete. So I went back and jumped again.

After I changed, we had to find our way back to the bike rental place. We climbed up a hill and found ourselves next to the American Embassy. I stopped for a photo op although was warned not to photograph the Embassy itself. I didn’t but the Swiss guard was cool. He turned his back. I could have.

U.S. Embassy

We dropped the bikes off after our ride and headed back to the train station to pick up my stored luggage and for me to catch the 6:36 p.m. train to Zurich. Bucket list item achieved.

I Love France (and You Too Switzerland)

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

Once upon a time I thought I’d use this day to circumvent Lake Geneva, a distance of about 110 miles. However, I realized the bike rental location I was going to use wanted a two day rental at 40 CHF per day. Plus the weather forecast called for a 90% chance of thunderstorms. The ride was off.

Train Station
Geneva, Switzerland

Well, the big ride was off. Staying one block from the train station, I found a bike rental location called Geneva Roule which was on the other side of the train station. For 25 CHF I rented a BMC road bike for the day. I thought that was a good deal.

Geneva Roule

I did not know where I was going. I was negotiating 100% by “feel” and just a little knowledge. This can be dangerous. Or fun. I knew the train station was north and west of the Rhône river so I looked at the sun and headed south. And east.

Geneva, Switzerland

There are many bike lanes in Geneva. Some are marked along with bus and taxi lanes and many run the same direction as the trolley tracks. Be very careful my friends.

Geneva, Switzerland

I crossed a bridge and then started my ride following Lake Geneva. I reasoned if I stayed closed to the lake I could not get lost. My original ride plan which would take me around the lake was simply using the roads that were hugging the lake.

 

Geneva, Switzerland
Rhône River

I was on city streets and saw there was a bike path next to the lake so I jumped on it. At Vesanaz the road peeled away from the lake. I went through a construction area and dropped most of the traffic as I continued on the back road.

 

Bike Lane painted leaving traffic with 1 1/2 lanes

On the road out of Geneva the bike lane is a bit higher than the regular lane and a bit lower than the walking lane. Each separated by an angled “curb.” Or sometimes the pedestrian lane was simply divided by paint.

Bike Lane with angled curb

And then it happened. I was going through Hermance, Switzerland and was going up the road, a slight climb, with some gravel on the road and a park and soccer field to the left. Maybe it was Chens le Pont or Sous le Cret. Or maybe even Lagraie. Little towns within two kilometers (one mile) of one another.

 

I think the Province/Region sign is behind this construction sign
Welcome to France

It just seemed French and no longer Swiss. And I noticed a road sign, D 20.

I AM IN FRANCE!

French Road Signs
I am in France!

I think I was expecting a welcome sign. A Bienvenue sign. I doubted there would be passport control. But I was riding and had this moment — source I am riding in France. And it was great. I was smiling.

I liked Italy. I like Switzerland. But there is just something about France. I love riding here.

Commune de Nernier, France

I had angst yesterday traveling from Tirano to Geneva. It was a long, but beautiful, day on multiple (four) trains. I worried about being stuck in a smoking room in Geneva (I wasn’t). When I arrived I didn’t know where the hotel was. But getting on the bike and riding in France, that just made everything better.

Commune de Nernier, France

In Chens-Sur-Leman I passed a bakery and cursed myself for not bringing those couple of 2€ coins I still had left. They were in my pants I left in the bike shop and would be so better used stopping and enjoying a chocolate croissant.

Always use SPF 1000 on your feet

As I was riding on a beautiful country road I saw an old church and diverted to it. There I discovered a community called Commune de Nernier. What a neat old village right on Lake Geneva. It was gated and I don’t know if I was allowed to bike in it but I did.

I was just so happy riding for part of a day in France. If I had any doubts how much I love riding in France the smile on my face said it all today.

Commune de Nernier, France

I returned to Geneva and used some time to explore parts of the town. It is a great city and I don’t want to diminish how much I like it here too by raving about riding in France.

Geneva, Switzerland
Rhône River

Looking back, I had a week of climbing some classic cols. That brings a satisfaction, especially Stelvio, unlike anything else. But riding in France today — pure joy!

Geneva, Switzerland
Rhône River

Gavia Pass

BORMIO, ITALY

I was extremely disappointed today when James Shanahan, our Trek Travel guide, informed us we would not be riding the Mortirolo. It was the one climb that I wanted to do on this trip.

Rainy Morning in Bormio

“Italy has its Mortirolo, mountain of death; 124 persons to date have died on Mount Washington. Windier than Mont Ventoux, deadlier than the mountain of death; this is why for cyclists, Mount Washington stands above all other climbs. It is not hard just because it is steep. It is also windy and cold enough to be dangerous.” — New York Cycle Club

I wanted to add Mortirolo to my list but that will have to remain unachieved. Left to my own devices, I would have ridden it and almost decided to anyhow without support. But it was better to be safe than be sorry, especially on the mountain called the mountain of death.

Leaving Bormio

In its place we rode to the Gavia pass. The beauty of an out-and-back (or up-and-down) was is that it is all uphill. Anytime we felt like turning around we could have. And this was good. This was the iconic climb where http://www.ithephotographer.com/high-school-homework-help-biology/ Andy Hampsten rode into history during a blizzard in 1988.

Colin Giffney

Last leaving again, I always seemed to misplace something or needed one more item. I group left and I chased, although not far before latching on.

Caitlin Steel

Most of this week I rode with somebody. Only two of us came with nobody and today I rode with Colin Giffney (the other person who had no one) and Caitlin Steel. I was sweeping and felt better chatting with the last folks than simply riding ahead.

Although it had rained in the early morning, it was overcast and at first I was over dressed. I stopped to remove my jacket and rode only in my short-sleeve jersey.

On the climb Colin decided to really enjoy the memories of Stelvio and not suffer today. He turned back. Caitlin and I continued and were joined by Jim Ashton, who had stopped with his son, http://csharpbuddy.com/need-help-writing-sociology-essay/ Chris, earlier. So Jim, Caitlin, and I made the climb together, talking the entire way.

Our first day was a simple up and over in which I rode the ascent with Caitlin and her husband, see url Nick. The second day, our first real climbing day, I rode the first climb mostly with Chris and Jim. Looking back at the week these were the folks I rode with most.

Today’s climb was steady. There were sections that got to be a little bit hard, I registered 15% or 16% on the Garmin, but we went up together. On the lower section I was wearing just my jersey but stopped to add my jacket as we got higher.

Caitlin Steel, Jim Ashton

At the top of the climb it leveled off, still a climb but only 1-2%. And it started misting a bit.

Jim Ashton, Caitlin Steele

As with many passes, there is a restaurant at the top and our folks from Trek Travel provided lunch for us plus a fireplace to warm up and dry out. For my descent I changed to mostly dry clothes. It took me one week but I learned to include a dry jersey for the descents although today everything would soon be wet again.

Headed out, it was raining. Cold. Fog. Visibility was poor, maybe 75 meters. One of our riders headed down in the wrong direction. Ouch.

As I started my descent I passed 3-4 high school aged boys coming up the mountain, all pushing their bikes. What a reminder that not everyone can ride up this climb. I gave thanks for good health and strength.

I passed three of our riders descending very cautiously then was on my own for a while. Not ironically, I was later joined by Chris and Jim and two others. If they wanted to ride faster today I was willing to let them. Slick wet roads were no fun. But we all settled in and took it as fast as we could cautiously go.

It was here the realization set in that I would suck as a professional rider. Besides not being able to keep up with the peloton on the climbs, these guys take incredible risks on the descents. The thought occurred to me as we descended that if I was racing and someone wanted to go faster than me in these conditions – I would let them. Maybe as a 20-something I would take the risk but as a 50-something I was happy staying upright on the day.

Torri di Fraele

BORMIO, ITALY

Nice ride. Easy day. We all rolled out at 9:00 a.m. We began some small climbing (3-4% is almost a flat road here) to the town of Prado. Turning in town, we began a pretty steep little climb. This climb would take us to the main road, which was basically wide enough for one and one half cars. Luckily, there were few cars on this road because it only leads up to a dead end.

Torri di Fraele

The climb was to Torri di Fraele, towers built in 1391 (how do they really know?) which protected Bormio from invasion. Once we turned onto the real climb, there were 17 switchbacks to the top. Unlike the Stelvio, none were numbered or signed so we never knew our progress.

 

At the top of the climb

Reaching the top I went out to the towers and admired the view. With rain in the forecast, we noticed the weather seemed much cooler and took a main road back down, albeit a bit shorter, straighter, and probably steeper.

 

The big discussion last night was who wanted to ride back up Stelvio today. Two of our group would.

Gary Zentmeyer, James Shanahan, Don Sheppard

I had thought climbing Stelvio after this ride but with a big climb tomorrow and no support today for a Stelvio ride, decided against it. It was a wise decision. Both riders froze today on their descent. They had to be helped out of their clothes they were so cold.

Nick Steel, Barry

I simply did a bit of exploring in town before shutting it down for the day. Neat little town.