Gruyères

GRUYÈRES, SWITZERLAND

I knew it would be a long day and I hit the road before 8:00 a.m. for the ride out of Thun. It projected to be a lumpy ride and it certainly was. At 103 km, it was the longest day, and at 1,736 m, it would be the second most climbing.

As I got ready to go outside the hotel there was a group of Chinese tourists. One by one they told their friends to come over and lift my bike. Then gave me a thumbs up.

My plan was to follow the Rte 4 signs first and the GPS I had mapped out second. And that mostly worked.

The first 5-6 km in Thun were pancake flat. Then, boom!, the road turned up. First I was on a small highway then Route 4 turned to a paved farm road. And it kicked up. Short but up to 18%.

At a house in the country but still near Thun

This was mostly an uneventful day. Halfway through I had a great descent out of one village – the kind you know the road it going to bottom out and kick up again.

It did. I went over a river just past an out of commission covered bridge, and entered the canton of Fribourg.

Fribourg city was an adventure. I followed the signs for a while but at the top of a bridge/retaining road was a traffic circle. The way back was marked with an arrow but the way forward was not. I had to choose. I chose wrongly.

Sometimes when I choose wrong, if my GPS file is showing I am parallel to where it thinks I should be going, I just keep going hoping they will come back together. It was clear I was blazing a new trail in the wrong direction.

Fribourg

I stopped at a bike shop for directions. They weren’t perfect but they got me onto the trail where eventually I picked up a sign again. In all I probably spent 30 additional minutes in Fribourg trying to pick up the scent. Maybe even longer.

MyWay Bikes

The day was mostly full of rollers. And lots (five) of covered bridges.

MyWay Bikes – These guys got me back on track

It was pretty but did not come close to matching the scenery on Day 3 going up Klausenpass to Beckenreid. And there was this one kicker near Gruyères that went up over 20% but was no more than 75 meters.

In Gruyères I found a bakery. I got a roll and some salami and a big bottle of grapefruit soda. Then I climbed the hill to the castle. Or chalet. I didn’t know it but that would be my dinner.

Lake of Gruyères

Although the man who dropped my luggage in Thun asked if it could be ready at 8:30 a.m. (instead of 9:00), I still beat my luggage. I wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, I just took a hot shower then sat naked on my bed until my clothes arrived.

In the early evening I decided to walk down into town. Clothed. By down I mean down. Two mountain bikers were coming up that old cobbled walkway. Chapeau!

Although there was a restaurant in town and a few at the chateau by where I was staying, I didn’t feel like paying the high prices of dining out. The bakery closed just 15 minutes earlier. So I decided I was done eating for the day and would wait for breakfast.

Dining in Switzerland is generally expensive. On my third and fourth nights I had nice dinners but at a cost of 35-40 CHF ($36-$42) each. For one.

Bakery/store in Gruyères

But last night’s meal at McDonalds (8,90 CHF) in Thun and skipping dinner tonight would be kind on the budget.

Hotel de Gruyères. Notice the jerk who hung cycling shorts in the bedroom window.

This was the only place I watched TV. Three soccer matches. Confederations Cup between Mexico and New Zealand. A friendly (I think) between Italy and Croatia and Denmark vs. Germany. Not sure those last two games were live. They may have been old but they were new to me.

A good night’s sleep and I will be ready to roll in the morning.

 


Thun

THUN, SWITZERLAND

Headed to Thun today. Happy birthday my friends!

The stay last night was at the Hotel Rischli. I really enjoyed it. The desk clerk, Yvonne, was very nice. She had presented me with a complimentary card which I could use for the aerial tram. Although I did not use it yesterday.

But first – goats. Just outside the dining patio was an enclosure of the cutest goats. They also had an enclosure of rabbits too.

Yesterday when I went by the gondola I did not feel like pedaling the 4.5 km back up the mountain. Today I looked at it differently, one from a fresh mind.

The ride over to Thul was supposed to be a short one and why should I be in a hurry. I decided I would bike back up to the gondola.

I had no clue where I was but in looking at the advertisements I saw they also advertised a cog railway. My friend, Corinne Kolb, and I took that three years ago and it dawned on me that we saw a gondola come up the mountain.

I rode to the base, presented my comp pass, and saved 38 CHF (which was about $40).

It was cool being back there. This time I could look down and see the cog railway engine sputtering away.

On the ride back down on the gondola the “conductor” made sure to point out where there were mountain goats. He asked me if we have them in the U.S. and I told him Colorado (of course other states do too).

It was a quick descent back to Söreneberg and a stop at the hotel. Since my luggage hadn’t been picked up, I decided I would carry a set of clothes just in case I got to Thun quicker. I couldn’t imagine I would with the trip being so short and now it was after 11:00 a.m.

But first there was time for a ride on their Alpine slide. This one was cool because the ski lift dragged the rider and sled to the top on an enclosed course.


At the top the pool automatically disengaged and it was a quick ride down the mountain. Pretending I’m a kid.

Sign in Schangnau looking back to Sörenberg

About one km out of town, maybe farther, I came to a sign which showed to directions to Thun (actually Schangnau). Why I didn’t capture that picture, I don’t know. I just wasn’t thinking I might want to display it in a blog.

But it would be an additional 13 km to go the long way, which is, of course, what I opted for.

There was some pretty scenery Nothing iconic like I saw this morning or at Lake Luzerne though.

It was just a nice ride through the Swiss countryside.

Oh, there was one climb. Up to the Schallenberg.

That would have been the high point of today’s ride if I hadn’t gone back up the mountain and started at the tram in Söreneberg.

The ride down the pass was great and then I was treated to some back county farm roads. It was all downhill or flat.

When I saw the John Deere tractor I thought of my dad. He loved his Deeres.

Getting near Thun the bike route stayed high while the main road descended. That meant one thing: A fast run down to Thun when it came.

I went looking for the River Aare as a landmark. I found the river which had a swimming area built into it. This side of the river was fast moving but not nearly as fast as the other side or as it travels through Bern.

My hotel, Hotel am Schloss, was situated just below a castle. The room was small, the window did not open enough for air (no A/C) and it was hot. And my luggage did not arrive until 5:45 p.m.

Still, I managed to go swimming in the river, in the process burning the bottoms of my feet on the scorching asphalt.

I swam in the River Aare three years ago in Bern. I knew I had to do it again. There were some bridge jumpers although the bridge wasn’t nearly as high as in Bern. Instead I followed a couple as they found some steps to the river.

The river in Thun is split by an island and this swimming channel was clearly slower than the other side. But one only needed to jump in and float and be carried away. Pretty fun!

Dinner tonight was at McDonalds – 8,90 instead of 35 or 40 CHF. My only issue was I went for WiFi and a little A/C. But it seems WiFi is available only if you have a code which will be texted to you – if you have WiFi to receive the text. Sigh.

The hotel was AM Schloss. It had no A/C and only a small window over a busy street. It was pretty miserable sleeping.

 


 

Covered Bridges and another Mountain

SÖRENBERG, SWITZERLAND

The day started with breakfast at the Seerausch Hotel in Beckenreid. It was the first hotel where they had a full buffet including eggs. So good but the view of Lake Luzerne was better.

The Panoramic Alpine Route 4 would quickly take a lakefront road. There standing in the grass close to the lake was a topless woman talking to another person. She was probably getting ready to catch some rays.

The water of the lake is clear. The morning was perfect, about 68 degrees (20 C).

I would follow the Blue Route 4 signs where I could find them and rely on my Garmin as backup. And I would need them.

A real surprise was coming to a covered bridge. I couldn’t tell when it was built…

…but it sure had sweet decking (floor).

The first direction decision came at a culvert. There was a sign and I thought I followed it correctly but it took me in this 100 meter loop under the road I was just on.

I didn’t mind it one bit because it gave me a unique view of the mountains.

I got of course a bit in the little town of Stanstad. I did a two block loop, looked closer at the signs and compared to Garmin and kept going.

This was 10 meters from the turn for Route 4 at Lake Luzerne but sure is pretty

I crossed a bridge then followed Rte 4 on a lake road to Alpnachstad.

I followed the road next to the lake. There was a “sidewalk” which was really a boardwalk.

The Pilatus-Bahn cog railway

I was expecting about a 30 km (19 mile) easy cruising ride this morning and that is what I got. Cobbles. But for a short ride.

The town of Saren is beautiful. In the center was fresh water, which I would need. And the fad of 2017, Fidget Spinners, is global.

On my way out I entered a forested area then crossed what appeared to be a stream project. Had I looked to the right, and maybe I did, I would have seen what I was in store for.

Along the lake I was back on a highway. Some roads have bike lanes which is really one meter to the right. The lines presumably make the drivers aware that we are there.

At Giswil I came to a second covered bridge. It’s not quite Bedford Co., Pa., but I was a happy camper. Or rider.

Leaving Giswil, I uncharacteristically made a good biking decision. I stopped for a photo then jumped in behind two riders who looked like they were riding the Alpine route.

Ahead I could see a road climbing, steeply, to the left. I knew I had a left turn coming up. They turned and the one guy turned back. I passed him and started climbing. It was steep.

I checked Garmin and it said I was “Off Course.” Well, sometimes one can be 10 meters off and it says I’m off so I was going to ignore it. I started climbing higher and could see I was going away from the route I mapped.

The two men has stopped already and I asked (MAJOR LANGUAGE BARRIER – not sure they were German speaking) if this was Route 4 (I held up four fingers). They said it was.

I thought back to the turn. There was a sign but I didn’t look. The thought of going back down those steep 400 meters to check the sign then climb it again disturbed me but not more than taking the wrong route. I grabbed a quick photo and went back down.

I was glad I checked. I was right. Rte 4 continued straight for another 400 meters before turning onto Panorama Strasse.

Hey, that looks like my RAV4

This road was mostly a one lane road. Two cars could not pass. But there were some sections every 400-500 meters or so where a car could pull over to let one pass in the opposite direction.

I looked up and figured I would pass by every house on the mountain. I was right.

There was room for a car and a bike but only inches between a bus (city) and this bike. Thank you bus.

I was sweating profusely. On the lower slopes were simply farms and no trees. I was exposed to the blazing sun.

The climb was 11.8 kilometers (7.3 miles). Much of the way the grind was 8-9%.

Looking back to the washed out stream I had crossed

In my mind I had calculated the climb to be 11 kilometers but as I watched Garmin I had a math error. I was off by one kilometer. It’s tough when you think you’re at the summit but you’re not.

Somewhere, and I have no idea where, the open section gave way to woods. It was a welcome relief from the sun.

In the wooded section the Garmin showed higher grades. It was registering 11-12% and even up to 18% (which I know it wasn’t – my body knows 18%).

Actually a 7-8% upgrade here

Unlike Klausen Pass yesterday, where I was passed by 203 motorbikes, today I would be passed by 13 and only one “was in a hurry.”

I went long stretches not hearing anything but birds of the forest and the occasional cow bell.

The higher I went the more cows I heard. I crossed a cattle guard and was in an open cattle area.

On this corner was an air sock and this guy sitting with his toy. He showed no interested in interacting with me even as I stopped and took an obvious photo.

I went through those two bottles and saw a water fountain. I stopped and filled up. Very cold water. They would last me another 2-3 kilometers.

I came upon perhaps 40 school kids on a hike. For a while they seemed to be walking at the same pace I was climbing. But I soon passed them. A couple kids tried to run alongside of me but they didn’t last long although I thought they may beat me to the summit.

What I thought was the summit was still 1200 meters from the top. A man sat their with his toy airplane. Their was a windsock attached to a pole and he brought along his own wind sock. I thought about asking him for a photo of me climbing but he had no interest in even making eye contact.

The views on the descent weren’t nearly as breathtaking as those on the ascent. Or maybe I had more time to take them in on the climb.

Right before Sörenberg I stopped at a cable tram. Interesting, but I didn’t know where it went. Although I would find out later.

Going through Sörenberg I saw some young ladies in front of a school for Hospitality Management.

I stopped and asked if they spoke English (the sign was in English). They all did. Four young women from Vietnam. I also asked if I should go to Vietnam for bike riding and they laughed and said “Oh no.”

I checked into Rischli and the desk clerk offered me a discount card for the tram. As she was showing me the brochure it also included a cog railway. Then I realized this approach was the back side of the mountain that Corinne Kolb and I had traveled three years ago. Had I spent the money to see the views from “up there” I certainly would have been surprised. And maybe pissed. LOL.

Dinner was out on the patio. I wanted to order Rösti although at the time I did not know the name. I settled for a Pork Cordon Bleu dish which is what I had yesterday in Beckenreid. It was delicious but at 35 CHF a bit pricey for this traveler.

 


A Gorgeous Lake

BECKENRIED, SWITZERLAND

I am blown away at the view of Lake Luzerne and it’s hard to remember what an awesome day in the saddle it was. Or out of the saddle.

Just 55 degrees at 8:00 a.m. I put on arm warmers which would last all of about half a kilometer. I was prepared for how tough a climb last night by meeting the couple from Zürich. I saw them this morning at breakfast too. “Tough,” he said.

The cobbles would last about 150 meters through the first switchback

I would be climbing the Klausen Pass. I studied the route map and new what exactly to expect. Just not cobblestones.

I would normally ride without stopping but I figure this will be the only time I am ever here. So I said I would stop for photos. The first was the snow shed and I also turned on my lights.

Gorgeous snow sheds or tunnels.

The snow sheds had windows to the outside world and breathtaking views. However, I did not capture enough. As I climbed higher I sometimes thought there would be better vistas only to find the road went straight into the forest and I was no longer able to see the valley below.

Cows. Lots of cows.

The climb up to the pass was 23 km. At 10 it was a plateau (mostly), sort of like Big Meadows in Skyline Drive in Virginia. To the right I could hear the symphony of cowbells playing in the distance. I wondered if they needed a director.

The white building to the right, ahead, is the Wilhelm Tell Hotel

In the plateau area, a false flat mostly for about five kilometers, are free range cattle.

Just another gorgeous view

I would go through a small village of Urnerboden. To the right was the Hotel Wilhelm Tell. I didn’t think much of it at the time but this was said to be the birthplace of Swiss Hero William Tell. (The area, not the actual hotel.)

Urnerboden
The plateau area
Bees, lots of bees.

After the second section the road kicked up again to the summit, this time about eight kilometers.

The solitude of the climb was interrupted by motorcycles passing me, one within inches. In addition were lots of sports cars, Porsche, Jaguars, even saw four Deloreans. Unfortunately, many drivers treated this road as their race course.

On the climb I passed two cyclists, a man and a woman, and got passed by three, two men and a woman. And 203 motorcycles.

I would characterize the climb has hard but not the hardest. Four climbs: Mount Washington; Hurricane Mountain Road (NH); San Pellegrino (Italy); and maybe Henrietta Road (PA), all brought me to my knees making me think I should quit. This ride never did it. It was just a slog, a 2.5 hour slog to be sure, but I knew I would make it.

With the hard part over and drenched in sweat, it was time for the easy part of the day. The descent.

I thought I might bomb the descent but instead took it easy. The words of Wayne Stetina resonated with me when he told me four years ago that he never bombs a descent he hadn’t seen before. I decided I would take it easy.

I stopped frequently for the views. In addition, the road was too beat up and too windy to let the bike roll.

It’s pretty far down there
I held the camera and said “Cheese,” a universal word.
Altdorf

I descended into Altdorf, a beautiful town. And then I saw it. Lake Luzerne.

Lake Luzerne

Leaving town I found a bike path to avoid riding with the cars in the tunnels, of which there were five or six.

Lake Luzerne

The bike lanes in Altdorf were well marked. Once I was in a dedicated lane sometimes it was bike-only and sometimes it was bikes and pedestrians.

Lake Luzerne

In the tunnels, often the bike lane would go in with the cars and the pedestrian path would be on the outside of the tunnel, high above the lake. Sometimes the bike lane would be outside as well. Simply gorgeous.

The one thing to watch out for is bike paths could become sidewalks without notice. And there are penalties for riding on the sidewalks.

As the road got closer to Brunnen it was harder to determine where the bike lane was. But I managed to find my way, at times following two locals (I presume).

Lake Luzerne

 

Lake Luzerne

 

Brunnen
The signs in Brunnen

I came to a small stadium for FCB (Footballclub Brunnen). Either it was too late in the match to collect admission or the game was free but it was free for me. I wanted to see the referees of which there was one. Two thoughts: I was surprised they were using just one referee and my refs in Woodbridge are better.

The rest of the ride was lakeside to the ferry at Gersau. What a beautiful road.

On board I saw a cyclist. Everything about her could have been American. She was on a Cervélo bike (which is Canadian and more likely in the U.S. than Europe), wore a Specialized kit (based in California), rode Speedplay cleats and had a Garmin 500 GPS. But she was a local who ride halfway around the lake (60 km) then took the ferry back.

I saw the hotel but went looking for the Klewenalp. This where Ashley and I went with Ben Zahler seven years ago.

Ferry from Gersau to Beckenreid

It was enjoyable riding along the lake in Beckenreid.

I found it, then bought some ice cream and watched the paddle steamer. We rode that boat in 2010.

Only then did I check into the hotel. I was told when my luggage was dropped off the guy wondered if I beat him. He said I always do. I didn’t know it was a race. But actually I arrived an hour earlier and had spent the time riding around.

A room with a view!

Tomorrow he doesn’t stand a chance.

The hotel was Seerausch. Simply gorgeous. I would love to return here.


Beautiful Bike Paths

LINTHAL, SWITZERLAND

Breakfast was the at Hotel Cafe Huber in Lichtensteig. As I finished the owner came went to the bakery and gave me some bread to take with me. Very nice.

Breakfast at Cafe Hotel Huber. Orange juice and sparking water would be added.

There would be two issues to deal with today. I never get saddle sores but developed those yesterday. Although better, they would stay with me today. And second, those signs…

Lichtensteig

Or more accurately, lack of signs. On a cool morning I rode downhill into Wattwil. That was my reward for riding uphill to Lichtensteig yesterday.

A view from Wattwil

When I came to the town I turned on the main street to follow Bike Route 4. I also uploaded the route to Garmin. I had gone no farther than one kilometer when Garmin told me I was off course.

Bike Route 4 – to Zürich?

I turned around and went back into town. I went another way when I saw the blue Route 4 sign. I lost that trail too. I turned around.

The start of the day’s climb. It’s steeper than it looks.

I decided to follow Garmin no matter what. Leaving town I turned on a road that was not marked with a sign. About one kilometer later, I had to turn and there was the sign. I was on the right route after all.

A cyclist farther up the hill. I would catch him.

Two or three or 10 times during today’s ride I chose to follow Garmin where there was no sign. Eventually, I would be proven right. In contrast to yesterday, I did not ask anyone for directions today.

Hey look! Frisbee game ahead.

I have already decided that it would be next to impossible to follow this route solely by depending on the signs. They simply are not everywhere they need to be. I would not say the route is well marked but “pretty well” marked.

I had studied my route today and knew leaving town I would have a climb. Not too tough (compared to yesterday) and then a descent. The map showed flat or a slight climb the rest of the way. And that played out as expected.

The descent offered gorgeous views of Lake Zürich (or perhaps that is Obersee, the “Upper Lake” portion of Lake Zürich) in the distance and the mountains ahead.

Flat roads ahead. With nice views.

At the bottom of the hill, I lost the signs and went with Garmin. I turned on a narrow road that was flat and straight. It was the right direction.

I was just 25 km in (15.5 miles) and the rest of the day would be flat to trending upward. I would also be on these narrow roads with no traffic although occasionally riding back on a highway.

Where one of the Rte 4 signs leads. This river comes from Lake Walen.

I came to one turn for Route 4 and it went down to the river and followed a gravel road.  I stopped for a snack then waited at the top to see if any road cyclists were on this path. One coming in my direction looked at it and exclaimed in German “they must be crazy if they think I’m riding on that crap.”* He then headed straight and I decided to follow.

Along open road were just cyclists and walkers. I didn’t see any runners. And horses.


I saw a young man, Marcel, and stopped and asked if he would be my photographer. I wanted a picture of me on my bike with the mountains in the background. He agreed.

Mugging for the camera with a Swiss flag

Marcel and I had a nice conversation of at least 10 minutes, maybe 15, standing alongside this wonderful path. Well down, my friend!

Marcel

I really can’t offer much more. The route signs were pretty good but not perfect. But the weather was perfect.

At Glarus Süd there was a festival in progress. The bike route was blocked with signage to take a different route to Linthal.

I figured if the route to Linthal was marked, why not take it, but another couple came by and went passed the closure. I followed them.

I was glad because I don’t know if I would have known how to get back on Bike Route 4 and it was a great alternative.

As I made my way through the people, one woman said “Nice velo.” I liked that!

I found myself pedaling slower than normal, a little in part due to saddle sores but mostly because my eyes were constantly scanning the scenery. No need to race this route and fly by.

Hotel Bahnoff

My hotel in Linthal is Hotel Bahnoff. It is a much larger room than the Hotel Huber and the Wifi is pretty good. Time to catch up and study tomorrow’s route as well.

POSTSCRIPT:  At dinner I sat out on the patio at the hotel. One table over came a Swiss couple who had just hiked whatever pass I am climbing tomorrow. They are from Zürich. We had nice conversation all evening during dinner.

___
*Ha! I have no idea what he said but that was certainly the gist of it. Seriously.


Lost Among All the Signs

LICHTENSTEIG, SWITZERLAND

This is the start of my Panoramic Alpine adventure. Corrine Kolb got up earlier than normal and took the tram to the train station in Zürich with my suitcase while I biked there. I beat her.

After I boarded I thought I saw no identifying marks on the train and wasn’t 100% sure if I was on the right one. I thought I had remembered boarding on Platform 8 and we went with that. I wonder how many people board the wrong trains?

The Austrian side of the River Rhine

I arrived St. Margrethen then found one guy working behind the counter. I explained that I needed to leave my luggage at the luggage counter. At first he didn’t understand but then took the bag in his back room. I wondered all day if it would be delivered to the hotel.

Well hello Austria!

Jumping on my bike I went exploring for a gateway to Austria. The one I had mapped out I didn’t find but found another. After asking two policemen if it was safe for bikes, they showed me a bike path on the bridge and I quickly crossed the River Rhine. The river was much narrower than I anticipated.

The first Bike 4 sign I found

I found a willing participant to take my photo with an Austrian flag, then gave her the flag for her son. I then crossed back into Switzerland to begin my journey. Time spent in Austria: 15 minutes.

Bike shop in St. Margrethen

There was but one problem. And I hoped that it would not be a huge problem. Actually it wasn’t huge other than causing me a lot of angst. A lot.

On the first climb

I mapped out the ride on Ride With GPS but forgot to upload it to my Garmin. Stupid me. The maps that Eurotrek provided me were in my checked luggage. At the train station. I would have to follow bike signs.

Panoramic Alpine Route 4 is a road bicycle route that is marked across Switzerland. My tour papers said it is well marked. I say that it is not.

Street sign in Oberegg. I did not get to descend this one.

I found the first sign for Rte 4, followed it, then quickly lost it. In St. Margrethen. I came to an intersection and there was no sign which way to turn. I turned right. I did a loop.

Stopped for water and thought I’d try this blue Fanta even though I don’t drink sods. I still don’t know what that was.

I saw a bike shop that were authorized dealers for Trek. I didn’t see any Treks inside. I asked them where to pick up the route (1). They sent me back on the loop I just did. They did not seem real interested that I stopped in.

Oberegg

I came back to the same spot. This time I went straight. Eventually I saw another sign. I was on the right road after all.

Water stop in Oberegg

Leaving St. Margrethen I turned onto a side street, if a mountain road with switchbacks is a side street. For the next seven miles I would be climbing while profusely dripping with sweat. Much of the climb seemed to be 10-12%. I won’t say I wasn’t prepared, I will just say I wasn’t expecting that. OK, I wasn’t prepared.

Cows playing bells

Climbing through heavy forest I welcomed the sound of cow bells. Lots of them. I didn’t welcome the smell of cow manure. Lots of it. But I guess that comes with cow bells.

I kept my eyes peeled throughout the ride for more signs. Mostly they were there but sometimes they were not or perhaps perfectly hidden. In one small town I completely “lost the scent” and asked a young man on a bike (2).

He knew nothing about Rte 4 but suggested I go back to the traffic circle and this time go straight. I came to a T and there were the signs. He also told me I may have to “Ask (my way) Across Switzerland.”

Trogen

Actually absent any signs one would assume to go straight so that one wasn’t a problem. It’s where there were turns but no signs.

Maybe an ancestral home for me?

In Appenzell I last saw signs right before I reached the town but at the traffic circle there was nothing. So I went straight. I only went a few blocks and ran into two cyclists, apparently local, who knew nothing about this bike route (3).

Teufen

I went back to traffic circle and saw nothing. But I did see a police sign so I went to the police station and asked them (4). They knew nothing about the route but they knew Google maps. They printed out a map for me. But I still didn’t know how to get out of town.

Appenzell

I saw a bike shop and stopped (5). The owner vacations in Fort Lauderdale and was very gracious. He filled my water bottles and told me how to get to next town. I followed his directions – 1km and turn left – and those worked.

Bike shop in Appenzell

As we talked he told me I would turn left then go up this “little hill.” It was a mountain! Actually, looking at it now that I did it, it was only a mile. A little hill.

Appenzell

Actually, going off course in Appenzell worked out. I saw some neat shit I wouldn’t have otherwise. The town center is pretty. Horses came by and one dropped a load. One of the staff grabbed a shovel and bucket and cleaned it up in less than one minute than ran and jumped back on the wagon.

I went seven miles to the next town, Urnäsch and came to a T. There was the Rte 4 sign and I had been on it the entire time. Not only didn’t I know it but I figured my bike friend just got me headed for Wattwill the best way he knew how.

Urnäsch. I was on the right road the entire time.

Maybe with so many miles in my legs made the last section seem the toughest. Near Hemberg I had been descending when I turned and started down another descent. I didn’t know this one would bottom out and throw another nasty ascent of a mountain at me. I had had enough.

I guess this was the high elevation for the day. It was the only marker I saw about altitude.

On my scale of 1-10 for difficulty, 10 is can’t/won’t do it. A 9 is have to stop but will carry on. An 8 is lots of swearing at the mountain. Today was an 8. A solid 8.

I got to Wattwill where I had to ask two more people directions (6,7). They were in front of a post office soliciting people about swimming pools. That’s not happening in front of a USPS office.

 

They were both early 20s so I figured, correctly, their English would be superb. And it was. They directed me the last four miles (although they teased me with 4km) but I checked into the Hotel Huber. No A/C (still waiting for mountain air to cool down – it will) and WiFi only works if I leave my bedroom door open. But the bed is comfortable and that is what I need most. And my luggage did arrive.

In the end if was a pretty hard day. It was made even worse by not having directions or a map with me. I ended up asking seven people in my Ask Across Switzerland tour. Diner was at the L’Angolino Pizzeria and then off to bed – with the door open for Wifi.

 



Pissed in Zürich

ZÜRICH, SWITZERLAND

I arrived yesterday and quickly built my bike. Something was wrong. I felt a rattle in the fork although things were tight. I caught up to a cyclist at a light and asked for a bike shop.

Unknown cyclist but nice guy who towed me to Cyclone Bikes

He took me to Cyclone Bikes where a young woman wrench (that’s cyclist talk for a mechanic) told me I simply had tightened the screws on the fork before the top. I just needed to reverse the order. I did and felt ready for the Alps. I also bought a CO2 cartridge.

Things worked perfectly after that and my exploring and warmup would be finished for the day. I went back to the apartment of Corinne Kolb who graciously let me store my stuff while I biked across Switzerland.

Corinne Kolb and Stelvios

Today was a beautiful day, I tried to map a ride which would do more than circumvent the lake although that looked like a nice ride. I added some of the hillier terrain in town.

My plan was to head up to the zoo which is next door to FIFA headquarters. From there I would stay north of lake before coming back to it at its southeastern end.

From downtown I started climbing immediately. It’s about two miles all uphill all the way to the zoo. I visited the FIFA HQ then could not have Garmin pick up the way out of there. With the lake as a landmark, I started back towards the lake, although sooner than I wanted to.

Hotel Restaurant Erlibacherhof

But the route along the lake is nice. I came to a ferry, which took me by surprise. I should have adjusted but I didn’t.

I went to the Kiosk concession stand by the ferry and had a nice conversation with the woman making me a hot dog. I admired the ferry and she said I should take it. I told her I was going around the lake and that would cut my workout short. What she should have done is what I thought of as I rode back towards Zürich.

She should have suggested that I cross the lake on the ferry then ride south back up to the ferry on the east side. Take it back over and complete a figure eight. In other words, I was going clockwise and could cross the lake then go counterclockwise back to the ferry and cross again, finishing clockwise. A perfect figure eight.

Instead I crossed at south end as planned and as I was riding up the west side of the lake I thought about the ferry more. When I got there I went to the front of the line and never made my final decision until the ferry worker waved me on. So I did an over and back. Same distance but not as sexy as if I had one a figure eight.

I really enjoyed the time crossing the lake but it would have been better one quarter of the way across and again at three quarters of the way.

When you ride on the streets in Zürich there are sometimes bike lanes which is basically 1/4 of the full lane. Sometimes the lane ends abruptly and directs you up onto a sidewalk for a few meters or a couple hundred. Some are marked better than others.

Transition from walk to bike lane

Corinne had told me horror stories her cyclist-boss had said about the police. They set up traps and wait. I found one.

Going uphill on the lake road, I came to a construction zone. There was a red light and I was first at the light. To go, I would be first and slow up a hill, holding up traffic. There was no bike lane because of the construction.

To the right was a bike path. So I thought. There was nobody on it as far as I could see and it looked like any of the many bike lanes I had seen. I rode up it when I heard someone calling. It was a policeman. I suspect I could have ignored him (not heard him) but I went over to him.

He started speaking Swiss-German which I did not understand. When it was apparent, and I was wearing my AUSTIN, TEXAS Livestrong jersey, he switched to English to tell me I was on a sidewalk. I apologized, told him I truly didn’t know, and hoped that would be end of it.

Instead he said that would cost me 40 CHF and asked if I had cash. I did not. But he would take a credit card. He explained how on a bike I might hit people. I started to ask “what people?” (there were none) but thought better of it.

I was pissed. I tried to do everything right and police should have some discretion to educate and not just punish. But he was young and perhaps hadn’t learned when to bend. He got his 40 CHF and left me with a negative feeling about biking in Zürich.

Nearing the apartment I turned on Widmerstrasse (or the street leading to it). I went under some tracks and there was a couple walking bikes. Strange, I thought. The road kicked up a little for 25 meters.

Couple pushing their bikes up the street with steps

And then it turned hard right. And straight up. I couldn’t even look down at Garmin. My guess is more than 25%. On my left the sidewalk was steps. Steps!

I think DO NOT ENTER except Bikes and Buses. I think.

I was less than two km from the apartment then went and sent Corinne my adventure. Told her that I told the cop I knew a good lawyer but they didn’t know her. She laughed at me.

The week can only go better.

 


A Mountain and a Rail Trail

HOPEWELL, PENNSYLVANIA

Probably eight years ago I asked some riders from Altoona what the hardest climb in the area was. I was thinking Blue Knob or Horseshoe Curve. One rider told me to find Henrietta Mountain Road. And today I did.

Parking at Hopewell

This was was tough. Although it wasn’t too long, just two miles. It’s always hard to compare climbs but I can compare it to some other two mile climbs or sections I have done.

That’s pretty good company, I would say.

I started my ride in Hopewell (Bedford Co.) on the H&BT rail trail. More on that later.

At Saxton I found the infamous Henrietta Mountain Road. I did no research and instead, just rode. It seemed to kick up to 7-8% right away. But after a quarter mile after an intersection, the real climb began.

It seemed to kick to 12% then went even higher. I have no real pictures because I wasn’t stopping although my body wanted me to. The road was winding but with only one sharp turn I hesitate to call a switchback. It was heavily wooded on both sides. It was beautiful. But it offered no panoramic views because it was so wooded.

Summit of Henrietta Road looking back towards Saxton (the tough side)

I tried to not look up the road because every time I did I could see it was going higher. After two miles, although I had no idea at the time, I could see the top. And here I made a mistake by not researching the climb. I assumed the road went over the top and down the other side. So I simply turned around.

A barn on Rte 26

The descent was steep. Rough pavement. And windy if not sharp turns. It wasn’t fun. I couldn’t let the bike roll. What I learned after the fact was I should have kept going. I could have gone another 3-4 miles where I would have joined Rte 164 coming out of Martinsburg. Then It looks like a straight descent back to Saxton. In other words, a fun descent. Oh well, next time.

Crushed limestone at Hopewell

I rode back to Hopewell and explored the trail a little more. At Hopewell going north for two miles, the trail is crushed limestone in great shape. A road bike is fine although I wouldn’t want to ride 20 miles on this.

Gravel road headed south from Hopewell

Going south the trail was a road. A gravel road that led to a camping area. That was harder on the bike. I rode a couple of miles then decided I had had enough. Wrong bike for this surface.

H&BT trail near Cypher

The signature landmark on the trail seemed to be the trestle over the Juniata River. I had decided the surface wasn’t right to pedal to it.

Bridge over Juniata River near Cypher

The trail head seemed to be on my way back to Somerset where I was headed. So I drove to Cypher to bike that section.

I don’t know if it was good or bad but the trestle was probably no more than a quarter mile away. But it was gorgeous. Maybe even more gorgeous was the cut in the hillside. The trail here was crushed limestone, again.

Bridge over Juniata River near Cypher

It’s a beautiful trail. If there wasn’t the section by the recreational area which was a gravel road, I’d have no problem recommending a road bike for the surface. But this trail needs the wide tires. I may do this on a mountain bike and will not Henrietta Mountain on a road bike. Again.

Cut in the hillside by Cypher

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Atlas

LAMPASAS, TEXAS

The event was the Texas 4000 Atlas Ride, the official first day of the Texas 4000. Riders had the option of riding 25, 50, or 70 miles, often determined by the friends and family that came to the Atlas Ride.

I drove to Cedar Park and met Will Swetnam, who brought along a Garmin mount since my BarFly mount broke yesterday. I made it to the start with five minutes to spare.

After the National Anthem, the current 2017 team of Texas 4000 riders were the first to depart. They were followed by alumni riders. Then the rest of us.

I had no expectations for the ride. At first I was sitting in with a group then decided to go faster and bridged up to the next group on the road. A “train” came by with about 10 riders and I jumped in. We were flying until we came to rest stop one. I stopped but no one else did.

Back on the road I kept my own pace until another group came by. We had a good pace until we came to a rest stop. They all turned right (rest stop). I turned left (70 mile route). I was all alone.

I soloed for about two miles then pulled over to fix my handlebars which were misadjusted. Eventually another group came by. One of the riders was Scott Towle from the 2004 group – the original group. The official story was that Chris Condit, the founder of the Texas 4000, was in San Francisco, when the Hopkins 4K was just finishing. And that brief moment was the inspiration for the Texas 4000.

Later I saw a Hopkins 4K jersey from 2006. I did not get the rider’s name but he shared stories of the early years. He offered his opinion that the Texas 4000 does a much better job at building community within the teams than the 4K for Cancer does.

The 50 mile and 70 mile rides followed the same course except the 70 mile ride diverted to the west, probably 10 miles and found some wonderful grazing area protected by many cattle guards. It was a free message on the bike.

For much of the ride it was overcast but humid. I was drenched. There were some raindrops but nothing of significance until safely in the food tent.

Will and I rode together the last 30 miles. We integrated with a group of 2017 riders and I started talking with Trey Curran, a rider with the Sierra route. As we got close I remembered the Silent Mile. Surprisingly Trey, nor his teammates had heard of it. When we came to the last mile, I slowed and looked for the signs. Jake. Alex. Amelia. I even doubled back to make sure I didn’t miss them. Found them all.

I ended and was greeted by name. I think that helmet sticker (and number) was a clue. I turned into the mail area and saw Ayesha Kang, my Bicycle Buddy from last year.

I got food and sat with the Rockies 2016 team, having met them last year.  Then Vanessa Beltran found me. I moved to sit with her 2014 Ozarks team. While eating the skies opened up and poured. It lasted about 20 minutes but sent water throughout the tent we were sitting under.

I also got to meet my bicycle buddy from this year – Luis Salazar. Luis is a bright and athletic young man. I also learned that he will not make it all the way to Alaska as he will have to return on Day 48 to start medical school. Well done my friend!

After the rain we sought out the signs from the Silent Mile. We then found Amelia Schmidt’s bicycle buddy, Lauren Nix. She wrote a note on the sign for Amelia – to be delivered to her front yard on Tuesday.

As I was leaving, Trey came over to say goodbye. That was actually very touching.

The Texas 4000 does it right. A wonderful event where friends and family can ride with this year’s team – 25, 50, or 70 miles. And very well attended by alumni. I just wish we didn’t need cancer rides.

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A view of the ride using Relive.

 

Ride of Silence

ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND

The first hot day of the year, the temperature hit 93 degrees. I timed my day to start a 60 mile ride at noon before heading up to Rockville for the Ride of Silence. Big mistake.

I headed out on the W&OD from Dunn Loring out to Clark’s Gap. Being so hot I didn’t have enough water. After 60 miles I was pretty well drained but looked forward to a brief meal before the Ride of Silence. A 70 minute trip on the Beltway to go 13 miles changed all that.

When I got to Rockville I went to 7-Eleven and got a quart of chocolate milk and a Snickers bar. Then rode to the town center. I arrived the same time Bob and Eveline Roberts arrived.

Wear red arm band if you have been hit by a car. I earned this one in Charles Town, WV in July, 2012.

Bob and Eveline are the parents of the late Jamie Roberts, killed on a cancer ride on June 13, 2014, in Kentucky. The ride organizer, David Merkin, asked Bob to say a few words. Before rolling out there was a report from WHHG TV who also interviewed Bob and Eveline.

At 7:00 p.m. we rolled out, with a police escort, through downtown Rockville. Someone saw our bikes, probably 30-40, and yelled out and ask if this was an organized event. A rider yelled back – “Yes, this is the Ride of Silence!”

Although it was supposed to average 10 mph, we averaged 12-13 mph. At one point going up an incline my heart rate hit 165 bpm. Wow!

We rode 10 miles, in less than an hour. We never put a foot down thanks to the Rockville police.