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Alps Ride: going across to southern France


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Monday 19th was forecasted to be the best day of the week ahead, so I decided to make it my 'cross-the-Alps' day.


I intended to go over to have a renewed look around the southern Alps, the place where we are looking to buy some land and build us a new home. I just wanted to get a feel of the country again, after having been there in 1994 last!


I planned on leaving early (which I miserably failed to do as usual), quickly cross the main mountain chain seperating us from the 'Haute Alpes' and the 'Alpes de Provence' and have enough time to ride around.


Of course, I was so awed by the mountain world again, taking pictures at every few miles, that my 'quick dash across' was a laugh. It was noon before I found the Col de Lauteret on the other side, and still having some miles to do to Briancon.


From there I rode to Embrun, saw the lake, filled up again, and then went westwards towards Gap. Once there I would take a quicker route back north to Grenoble and take the 'Autoroute' from there.


It all turned out a little different, but nonetheless pleasant. Here are some (a lot!) pictures from that trip.....


First: to show you that it is NOT ALL twisties around here..... the endless straight road leading from Albertville to Chambery, alongside the highway. This road (the N90) is free and almost just as quick as the toll road.




The bridge over the river Isere near Chateauneuf and Molans. This is the place where I cleaned my boot and bike of the sticky substance I got myself into last year wink.gif

From here the road and highway turn southwards towards the Frejus Tunnel and Italy.




At the bridge is a monument for some French resistance fighters.....




From there I took the N6 into the Maurienne Valley, all the way down to St. Michel de Maurienne, from where I took the D902 which takes one over the Col de Telegraph and the Col du Galibier.

('Col' means 'mountain pass', by the way).


Here one of the rather large hairpins (or switchbacks) on the Telegraph.




Down in the Maurienne Valley you can just make out the highway and adjacent 'national route', leading towards the end of the valley and Modane.

From there you can take the Frejus Tunnel (toll) or ride on and go over the Col de Mont Cenis to Italy.




At the summit of the pass is a small restaurant. And a large parking area. The views are not so spectacular here, but it is THE meeting place for hordes of bicyclists scaling the Telegrpah (and many of them, also the Galibier). I have tried a few hundred meters on a bike once, going uphill, and quickly gave up. These people have iron legs, lungs and butts !!!!




One of the 'not-so-spectacular' views.......




This lady stood there waiting for over 20 minutes for her husband to reach the pass. The man was at least 60 years old.... he has my deepest respect ! I hope their photo turned out well !




The other side of the pass, going down a little towards Valloire, and in the background one of the Galibier Grands Rousses mountains.....




Les Verneys is the last village/town before entering the pass road...... what follows is miles and miles of empty, treeless, awesome mountain world where the RT is a VERY tiny bit of technology and 'man' even more humble.....




Absolutely breathtaking in fine weather..... gruesome and dangerous in bad weather ..... been there !!




The writing on the pavement is still from the last 'Tour de France'. That event almost always includes this mountain pass.....




The world here belongs to mountain goats, marmottes, eagles, lizards and not much more......




The last few miles of the pass can be shortened by taking a new tunnel, cutting through the summit. I of course took the old road all the way up.... it DOES become quite narrow at places. But no worries on a relatively small bike.. I've done it in various cars so many times.




Looking up, almost there..... the end of the stretch marks the pass summit. I did not stop, there were too many bikes parked in the gravel already and I could not find a reasonable flat spot to stop the RT...




Below the road I used coming up. The black streaks are from melting water from the snowy patches all along the road. Had to be careful because they could be slippery....




One last look back...... I could have shot a hundred pictures just there !!




But once you are over the top, yet another breathtaking view awaits you ! The sun was in the right spot, skies were clear after some rain before, and the views were just absolutely stunning again !!




In the right of the picture, in the middle, is the point where the road from the tunnel joins the old pass road again.




Below one of the EASY hairpins... the ones higher up are a LOT narrower than that one wink.gif




Weather was still looking good and promising for the remainder of the ride....




A tiny bike in a grand world......




An even 'tinier' bike... making those hairpins a LOT easier to round than on our BMW's... heck, but riding the Beemer is a lot more comfortable wink.gif




Couldn't get enough of it.. I was not making much mileage at that point ...




Here a last one for the BMW Calendar .....




After that I rode down to Col de Lautaret..... and reached the 'south of France'..... more on that in a separate tale....



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Hi Rich,


I guess 'close' is relative. For me it is two days riding to get there..... which is not much for US riders I suppose smirk.gif

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I have been to Italy and Switzerland but never on a bike. Maybe one day I can go through parts of Europe on a bike. Wonderful pictures!

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Truly some awe-inspiring photos. Thanks.


Took the words right out of my mouth! WOW! thumbsup.gifthumbsup.gif



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Fantastic pics and report there Francois, reminds me of when we did the Alps in 04. Now you have me thinking of dropping down there this summer thumbsup.gifthumbsup.gif

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Francois, I'm viewing your pics on a rainy Sunday in Paris while visiting my daughter.


Thanks for sharing, they sure make me wish I had my RT with me thumbsup.gif

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Glad you like the piccies, all. You can never go wrong there, George!

And BMW's can be rented in Paris ! wink.gif (But I know things are not always so easy to combine or organize).

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Thanks for sharing Francois. Its one of my dreams to ride the alps, and they are not that far away... someday, hopefully!


Great pictures, these ones and the ones on the other threads. Again, thanks for sharing, and glad it went so well.


Juan Miguel Venturello

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Hi Juan Miguel,

my pleasure my friend.

You are only a day's ride away aren't you ? Take a long weekend one of these days ! wink.gif


Kind regards,


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WOW, Francois, I loved the pix. Where in those mountains do people paraglide? Looks like there could be some lovely areas!




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Outstanding as usual, Francois! Got ya going with my photos of the Tetons, didn't I? grin.gif Humans can only stand flat land for so long. John Muir once said, "The mountains are calling to me and I must go."




Tiny bike, big train.



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WOW, Francois, I loved the pix. Where in those mountains do people paraglide? Looks like there could be some lovely areas!





Just about EVERYWHERE Steve !

There's a very popular place ABOVE the Lake of Annecy.. we have counted over a HUNDRED Para's in the air on a warm summer day.... SCARY !!!


But they jump off cliffs and summits all around us and there are schools everywhere. You can also 'hitch a hike' for a 2-up jump. Even in winter... with your ski gear on !!!


I must admit I am too chicken to ever try.... I am one of those old-fashioned folks who believe it is insane jumping out of a perfectly good working aircraft..... or fall from a cliff for that matter.. <grin>


@Doug.. THANKS ! Great train !!!






Francois wave.gif

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What a coincidence... we were at exact the same spot 3 years ago. On the first photo it is actually my wife Caroline who makes a duo-jump above the lake of Annecy ! smile.gif











this was in the Vercors near Valence, on the same trip :






I don't want to hickack François' post but if you guys like to read more about the Alps, Bourgogne I have I ride report on this site : http://users.pandora.be/url/Alpen-eng.htm - it's in English ! cool.gif

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NO hijack, great photos...... and for sure one of the best places to be in Europe ! wink.gif


On the second photo you can see the castle on its protruding cliff in the lake!


Caroline has more guts than I have !! eek.gifgrin.gif


Kind regards,


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