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The Alps. Five Days. 13 Videos. Uh, Some Pics Too


sfarson

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Encouraged to post this. Previously written up. Ignore a sentence here and there. Nevertheless, most content is images/video versus words. The report, by day...

 

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Perhaps you've been to this special place and want to re-ride the rides. Maybe it is on your list of places to experience from two wheels and want an appetizer. Or, you're in the mood for an armchair ride from a collection of onboard recordings delivering almost an hour of the Alps. If so, could find faint interest here.

 

Following business in Brussels and Geneva, working the plan with the fam, arranged for a motorcycle hire out of Geneva. Five days to see the Swiss and Italian Alps. This was a trip from last week. Fresh from the dairy. Time in airport lounges and Lufthansa providing laptop power from the seat had me cranking on the videos and content.

 

While planning for this a friend in Europe suggested staying in a central location and making day rides from this place. Mentioned great rides in every direction from the Andermatt, Switzerland area and that I wouldn't have to try and find a hotel every night during a busy summer vacation time in the Alps. Sounded like good advice.

 

Enough words! On with the content...

 

DAY #1

 

Only one video for this day (Five from day #2 coming up). BTW, these videos, while recorded at a brisk pace, aren't your garden variety see-how-fast-I-can ride videos. Focus here is on experiencing the passes of the Alps. Looked for clips where scenery can be seen, alpine villages perhaps passed through, and recordings from the top. Also, piano and violin accompany some of the vids. Days 3-5 have little more up tempo accompaniment. If looking for driving rock tunes, save your bandwidth, I put those in other vids.

 

Following the collection of the bike and navigating east out of Geneva, came to the Chamonix area and Mont Blanc. Enormous. Glacial. Intimidating. One of the most impressive sights I've seen. Clouds clearing but still hazy when pulling over for the pic and looking up, up...

alp1blanc.jpg

 

Arrived at the Neufenen Pass mid-afternoon, and it provided a nice route to the family hotel where I would be staying in Airolo. The first pass! and an excellent introduction to what was ahead on this trip...

 

Neufenen Pass - Streaming Video

 

On the way to the pass summit, pulled over for this image of the road below, and traversed to get to this point...

alp1neuf1.jpg

 

And from the top. I found the immense glaciers especially awesome...

alp1neuf2.jpg

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DAY #2

 

This is a memorable one. Maybe because it was planned as such. Really wanted to see the Dolomite Range in the Alps having seen great pics of the region. A little research and noted it was gonna be a loooong day, especially as the Dolomites weren't just a pass or two away. Additionally...

 

- Navigating through unfamilar towns.

- Having no GPS or tank bag (The latter especially helpful for reading the map on the fly vs. pulling over, opening the top case, trying to memorize the cities up ahead).

- Sunday and summer holiday traffic.

- Wanting to see the Dolomite passes as well as the oft photographed Stelvio.

- Having over ten passses to ride (A couple at night on the way back).

- Forgetting to pack the clear face shield at home and knowing I would be coming back at night, and nothing open on Sundays.

 

So up at 5:15a and departure at 5:30a. The key navigating challenge was trying to find the way through largish city of Lugano... but hey, this is part of the adventure!

 

And success! Knowing if I could reach Lake Lugano, route finding the rest of the way would be easier. Still early in the morning...

alp2lugano.jpg

 

Arrived at Campolongo in the Italian Alps in the afternoon. This is one of several great passes weaving through the Dolomites. The vid:

 

Campolongo Pass - Streaming Video

 

On the descent, pausing above Corvara. This is one of the most picturesque settings for a town I've ever seen...

alp2corvara.jpg

 

Was very happy to have found the Gardena Pass. This is the one I see pictures of often, with the rock formations looming just above the parking area of the pass.

 

Gardena Pass - Streaming Video #3

 

The formations...

alp2gardena1.jpg

 

A busy day for this destination with visitors, tour busses, cyclists (motorized and not) all coming to experience the area. Was OK with this for I was sightseeing as well. In a way, others present added to the festivities. There would be moments later in the day when I would be very alone. Looking towards the direction/ascent from where the Gardena video is recorded...

alp2gardena2.jpg

 

And another direction...

alp2gardena3.jpg

 

From Gardena it was to Sella Pass. A tour bus almost takes out myself and two riders in front of me going around a hairpin curve. Near the beginning of the vid. More on this kind of oft repeated scenario when posting impressions...

 

Sella Pass - Streaming Video #4

 

From the top of the pass...

alp2sella1.jpg

 

Other directions from the top...

alp2sella2.jpg

 

alp2sella3.jpg

 

Can note the sun is getting lower on the horizon in the image above. Starting to work way back to Airolo hotel but must experience and see the Stelvio Pass. It is around 7:30p when the ascent begins. Sun is almost setting and is behind the pass. Temps are dropping.

 

Stelvio Pass - Streaming Video #5

 

Can anyone explain the purpose of cow bells as seen in the beginning of the vid? Is it to help find scattered cows? A protection device? A nice sound? Drive the cows crazy as they graze the grasses? I should know this but can't remember! Several passes had cows roaming freely at the top.

 

Along the way...

alp2stelvio1.jpg

 

And an image one often sees... the great route to the top of Stelvio Pass...

alp2stelvio2.jpg

 

Also at the top...

alp2stelvio3.jpg

 

A reason for falling behind schedule was missing a turn to one of the planned passes and instead finding myself at the top of an unplanned and out of the way pass! but it was a great ride to the top and had to ask around where the heck on the map was I at!

 

This was the first recording of the day, and just the descent for I didn't know I was ascending a pass until arriving at the summit! From the top and the descent, with a classic Motown tune accompanying -- having nothing to do with the journey except for the title of the song:

 

Fedaia Pass - Streaming Video #6

 

Following Stelvio it got dark quickly. Rode on nervously watching the gas gauge. Stations closed. Almost called it a night in St. Moritz at 11:30p but decided to push on after putting on the cold weather gear and cleaning off all the sacrificed bugs on the dark faceshield. Surely I'd find a station with 24hr pumps taking Swiss Francs. A reason for my predicament was my kind and thoughtful bank noting my card was being used in Europe closed down the account!?! It was during this day I learned this as I tried to get Euros to use in Italy. They didn't give a diddly for Swiss Francs. Additionally, the few stations with 24 hour pumps wanted Euros and/or local credit cards.

 

With the gauge at 1/8 tank and not enough to get back, while riding through the small and dark village of Mesocca at 12:30a, after having no success finding a station with 24 hour pumps, a lone station connected to a garage/home, with a single pump, took Swiss Francs after hours! Yee Ha. Filled the tank. Ate a Snickers and celebrated as the town slept. Stayed at the station for 20 minutes. Warmed up. Watched a spider with a huge web near the lights above the pump. Great location for trapping insects. Must have had over 100 bugs caught in the web.

 

Back at the hotel at 1:30a. A day to remember.

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DAY #3

 

After the previous 20 hour day, day #3 was a relaxed one of scooting over St. Gottardo Pass to Andermatt, enjoying the town, having lunch, picking up postcards, etc.

 

Andermatt, as suggested by the friend as a good "ground zero" to launch rides from, is a finer place to stay, look around, etc... but, a key reason I'm at a place in Airolo is I found a hotel with a vacancy for four nights and high speed internet. Yeah, probably down on the list for most, but it enabled staying on top of things at work and so forth.

 

HOWEVER... one thing didn't work so well at Airolo. There was a train going through the town about every ten minutes, around the clock!!!

 

Here's the recording of the ride over St. Gottardo Pass, from Airolo to Andermatt...

 

St. Gottardo Pass - Streaming Video #7

 

Looking down on the way up. below is the town of Airolo. Maybe you can see that train station and tracks...

alp3airolo.jpg

 

And at the top of the pass...

alp3gottardo.jpg

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DAY #4

 

Day #2 was special. Day #4 was outstanding. Getting familiar with the bike, the roads, route finding, etc. Picking up the pace. Musical accompaniment in three of the day's four vids reflecting the tempo. Was able to follow riders on several of the passes.

 

A great introduction to the day was a terrific Lucomagno Pass. More like a long country road ride with killer scenery as the clouds lifted. The recording ascends the pass, pauses at the top, descends and concludes at a storybook town - Curaglia:

 

Lucmagno Pass - Streaming Video #8

 

Looking to the north from the pass summit. Cows with their bells on the mountainside. Sounded like a Christmas time handbell performance...

 

alp4luco.jpg

 

Second pass on the menu is Oberalp. This pass looms to the east of Andermatt. The recording goes to the top:

 

Oberalp Pass - Streaming Video #9

 

On the way to Oberalp. Even the roads between the passes are blissful...

alp4oberalp.jpg

 

Following a lunch in Andermatt -- bTW, while it was a special lunch at an outdoor cafe, right on the corner of the road leading from Andermatt to Oberalp Pass, watching bikes come and go... riding in the Alps along with meals at these great restaurants is simply just meant to be shared with someone. More on this in the coming up impressions post.

 

So I head north from Andermatt, and after 30 minutes head west at Wasson for Susten Pass. Put this one on your list. One of my favorites. It all comes together on this one... conditions, scenery, curves, climbs, towns. The recording to the top:

 

Susten Pass - Streaming Video #10

 

Three images from the top...

alp4susten1.jpg

 

alp4susten2.jpg

 

alp4susten3.jpg

 

The fourth pass of the day was Klausen. A narrow road in places. Had to pause for cows. Great series of tight S curves on the way. A fun video to the top:

 

Klausen Pass - Streaming Video #11

 

Two images from the summit of the pass...

alp4klausen1.jpg

 

alp4klausen2.jpg

 

OK, returning to Geneva tomorrow. Have a route leading over a couple of passes wink.gif to take.

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DAY #5

 

This day is a return trip to Geneva. Have to turn the bike in. Have a hotel waiting before flying out the next day.

 

Have saved the nearby Furka and Grimsel Passes for the ride back, electing to return alongside Lake Geneva and seeing new sights versus back via Chamonix.

 

Left around 5:30a, thus the ride over the two nearby passes have a lighting combination of sunrise sun and shade. No one on the passes at this early hour, including another ascent and descent of St. Gottardo, as I head north then west.

 

Here's a recording of the Furka Pass near Andermatt:

 

Furka Pass - Streaming Video #12

 

And the pass in the distance bathed with the light and warmth of the rising sun,

alp5furka.jpg

 

Something about being up high, alone. Grimsel Pass is nearby. One descends Furka, then almost immediately one is climbing Grimsel. The peaks surrounding Furka cast shadows on Grimsel, but in the onboard recording one enters the son as altitude is attained. Lyrics of the song note it as well:

 

Grimsel Pass - Streaming Video #13

 

From the top of Furka, looking at Grimsel in the distance...

alp5grimsel1.jpg

 

And from the summit of Grimsel...

alp5grimsel2.jpg

 

It was a great ride back to Geneva. One of the affirmations is riding in the Alps region isn't just about bagging some passes. The secondary roads through the countryside, through small towns, offered roads and conditions equally worthy of a visit.

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IMPRESSIONS

 

A few random impressions or observations...

 

- As noted in a previous post... minimal presence of animals, seen or as roadkill. Saw some signs, but rarely live things crossing in front. Did see a couple of marmots on Stevio but not much else.

 

- Great road surfaces. Yeah, some bumpy sections here and there, but as a whole -- sweet. As tennktm notes... one can dine off of many of these surfaces. The videos show how great the surfaces/conditions are.

 

- Contribution to the quality conditions -- minimal to no sand, gravel, or grit. A reason for this I believe is no shoulder or grassy shoulders. Here in Colorado, with sandy shoulders, vehicles cutting corners kick grit into the curves.

 

- Roads tend to be narrow. Minimal to no shoulders contribute. This also leads to slower vehicles up front not pulling aside to let faster traffic pass. Reasons could be 1). Having no place to pull over for there is no place to pull over, or 2). There is simply the attitude I'm not pulling over for anyone. At least here in the states a few will see faster motorcycles behind and pull to the side to let pass.

 

- The hairpin turns (especially lefthanders) on the passes can be tricky, if not dangerous. Many vehicles coming the other way sometimes just swing wide, right into your lane, and the road is narrow to begin with. Had several larger vehicles, including busses, force me to the far right just to get by before entering the hairpin.

 

- Enjoyed the destination stops at the top of many of the passses. Most had restaurants/cafes, bathrooms, if not lodging, gifts, snacks, etc. at the top. Kinda turns the top of the pass into a destination, more than just being at the top for pics. Can see on a cold day how welcome it could be to warm up inside. On a warm day, great for sitting outside, maybe having a meal, watching others come and go.

 

- Visually, the Alps are stunning to behold. And I'm in the Rockies. While the majority of peaks are not as high, one sees them at a much lower altitude, thus the gap is greater. They seem higher. Plus they are more jagged and rugged looking.

 

- It is an adventure to make a ride like this without the comfort of a guided tour. Can see value going either way. If comfortable with maps, and knowing the towns up ahead you want to pass through, one can do this without a guided tour, plus save money, plus be in control of where/when/how long, etc.

 

Guess this is enough for now. To those who live in the area, or ride to the area, it is one of the top places where one can spend time on two wheels. Just a confirmation if you didn't already know that.

 

One of my typical stops... memorize the map, have a snack, look around:

alp5lake.jpg

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Thanks for the time and energy you put into shooting these videos and sharing with us your wonderful and beautiful riding experiance. As always another excellant job. Thanks Dee Jones That bus didn't give you much room. clap.gif

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Francois_Dumas

Hi Steve, I am glad we urged you to post this grin.gif

 

Excellent story, wonderful photos and videos. I really like seeing my favorite playground through the eyes of others, gives yet an extra dimension to the area !

 

I am a bit surprised that you like it so much, coming from where you are. Having only flown OVER the Rockies and other great alpine sites in the US, I would think they are more impressive than our modest Alps..... so I guess not, uh?

 

As for the cow bells, yes, they are meant to find stray cows.. although it now it often is more of a 'folklore' thing since the mountains are not as inaccessible anymore as they once were.

 

'Pulling over' for riders is mainly not done because most traffic on the passes are 'tourists' I would guess. They are there to 'sight-see', and often have some 'reservations' on driving close by any drop or rocky shoulder blush.gifgrin.gif

 

I don't know if you were told this, but ascending traffic has priority over descending traffic.. that might be one of the reasons you did not always get a lot of room in hairpins. Also 'postal' busses have priority in Switzerland on mountain roads.

 

You did some of the finest passes and had wonderful weather by the looks of it.. that really helps! I have done many of them 'out of season', in rain and fog and believe me, THAT makes it more adventurous than one would care for smirk.gif

 

Great write-up ... thank you very much !!!! thumbsup.gifthumbsup.gif

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Thank for posting this , it just reinforces my need to ride in the mountains .........one day I'm definately going to ride some of these roads .

Brilliant stuff as usual Steve .

 

Steve

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That was stunning, surely this goes into the ride tales that last?

I've copied the post link and sent onto the potential trippers for our euro pilgrimage next year on the basis if this doesn't stir them, nothing will!

 

You've just added a few hundred miles onto our trip!!

 

Excellent thumbsup.gif

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Wow.

 

I was ready to say that after only having viewed the photos. Then I watched each of the videos. What a great way for me to spend a Sunday morning. What a great way for you to have spent 5 days. You packed a lot into that time. Thanks for sharing some of it with us. You've posted lots of great stuff here before, and I think this post tops them all.

 

I gotta finish my video camera mount. cool.gif

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Even a hack like me could come up with acceptable video where you were, but in the hands of one of "our" video masters, absolutely stunning!

Now, when we were in CO, I had enough trouble keeping the 4-wheel rent-a-wreck on the road with all the mountain scenery. How the jebesus did you do it on the bike?? I almost crashed watching the video! "Eyes through the turn, no, look at those MOUNTAINS! AHHH!"

How did you plan for the video mount not knowing what you would be renting? Handlebar mount? (It turns at slow speed.) What kind of bike?

Request: Put the music in the credits. GREAT STUFF! Wanna know who so I can steal it once I get my rig setup. grin.gif

Bravo, Steve! Thanks for helping me kill a slow Sunday at work.

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Thanks for the time and energy you put into shooting these videos and sharing with us your wonderful and beautiful riding experiance. As always another excellant job. Thanks Dee Jones That bus didn't give you much room. clap.gif

 

Thanks Dee... these roads are made for the bikes in your barn. Or is it the other way around? smile.gif So you watched the Sella Pass vid! Yes, not much room but strangely despite this and other unrecorded close passes one never felt threatened for the quality of driving/riding is high.

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Hi Steve, I am glad we urged you to post this grin.gif

 

Excellent story, wonderful photos and videos. I really like seeing my favorite playground through the eyes of others, gives yet an extra dimension to the area !

 

I am a bit surprised that you like it so much, coming from where you are. Having only flown OVER the Rockies and other great alpine sites in the US, I would think they are more impressive than our modest Alps..... so I guess not, uh?

 

As for the cow bells, yes, they are meant to find stray cows.. although it now it often is more of a 'folklore' thing since the mountains are not as inaccessible anymore as they once were.

 

'Pulling over' for riders is mainly not done because most traffic on the passes are 'tourists' I would guess. They are there to 'sight-see', and often have some 'reservations' on driving close by any drop or rocky shoulder blush.gifgrin.gif

 

I don't know if you were told this, but ascending traffic has priority over descending traffic.. that might be one of the reasons you did not always get a lot of room in hairpins. Also 'postal' busses have priority in Switzerland on mountain roads.

 

You did some of the finest passes and had wonderful weather by the looks of it.. that really helps! I have done many of them 'out of season', in rain and fog and believe me, THAT makes it more adventurous than one would care for smirk.gif

 

Great write-up ... thank you very much !!!! thumbsup.gifthumbsup.gif

 

Francois... Thanks much for your thoughts! After some time of reflection, here's how I'd characterize differences between the Alps and the Rocky Mountains of the States...

 

The Alps offer a wider area of jagged, steep, glacial sights than the Rockies. The peaks of the Alps are lower than the Rockies, but one is viewing them at a lower elevation than one sees the summits of the Rockies. The gap between summit and road or valley is greater. This adds to the drama and enhances the scale.

 

Preceding noted, the States don't take a back seat and have quite a lure in a key descriptive word... diversity. The Ouray area of Colorado is known as "The Switzerland of America". Having been there, tis true. One can go several hundred km to the SW of Ouray and find the Grand Canyon. One can go west and see unique-to-this-world rock country of Southern Utah. Go northwest and see Yellowstone, and further... the Pacific Ocean. Speaking of gap... stand at sea level and see the 4400m Mt. Ranier to the east! Incredible.

 

Anyway, the Alps offer a Ouray like experience but more of it. The States have areas like the Alps, but other goodies within an afternoon or few days of riding. Well, this is my take. Both fantastic.

 

Thanks for the cow bell reminder. Couldn't remember, and thought it could be this. I thought it added to the charm of the passes.

 

The right of way granted to those coming up is how it should be. Doesn't always happen that way, but it makes sense. It is even true for mountain climbing here, if on a narrow trail hiking/climbing up, the party coming down should give way to those laboring up.

 

And yes, I was fortunate to hit a five day weather window of dry skies and warming sun. Maybe it was to balance out my experience the previous year when I explored Normandy, France, and the Ardennes area of Belgium! smile.gif...

 

The Ride to Normandy, the D-Day Beaches, France, Belgium

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That was stunning, surely this goes into the ride tales that last?

I've copied the post link and sent onto the potential trippers for our euro pilgrimage next year on the basis if this doesn't stir them, nothing will!

 

You've just added a few hundred miles onto our trip!!

 

Excellent thumbsup.gif

 

Ahhh... nice to be the source for the potential extra miles you may have to endure! Ha! Hope you can make the trip and would look forward to the images so I can relive again.

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Wow.

 

I was ready to say that after only having viewed the photos. Then I watched each of the videos. What a great way for me to spend a Sunday morning. What a great way for you to have spent 5 days. You packed a lot into that time. Thanks for sharing some of it with us. You've posted lots of great stuff here before, and I think this post tops them all.

 

I gotta finish my video camera mount. cool.gif

 

Hey Joel... Thanks. I think we crossed close paths during the 100K ride right? Let's be sure to organize or connect on a ride next season sometime. Maybe with Mike O. and Quaintance and take the RT's/GS's on fine Saturday ride.

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How did you plan for the video mount not knowing what you would be renting? Handlebar mount? (It turns at slow speed.) What kind of bike?

Request: Put the music in the credits. GREAT STUFF! Wanna know who so I can steal it once I get my rig setup. grin.gif

Bravo, Steve! Thanks for helping me kill a slow Sunday at work.

 

GelStra... Thanks much, and now after din <burp>, time to respond. Not knowing the config of the rented bike and knowing I was packing tight for this trip, I brought along a Universal Mount purchased from Aerostich for $30. It does connect to just about anything. The downside is if anything has weight there is some shaking. So I also brought along a Sony DSC-M2 digital camera... small, light, and a decent movie mode. The combo worked OK. Nothing fancy.

 

If there's a tune connected to a vid your interested in, let me know. Will try to place the music credits in the future smile.gif.

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Francois_Dumas
[ Maybe it was to balance out my experience the previous year when I explored Normandy, France, and the Ardennes area of Belgium! smile.gif...

 

The Ride to Normandy, the D-Day Beaches, France, Belgium

 

Yes, I saw that (and responded).. we were there a week or so later than you ..... THIS year I made many of the same pictures you took in 2005 smile.gif

 

That area will always pull me, comig back for more... it is just awesone and humbling..... blush.gif

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...Let's be sure to organize or connect on a ride next season sometime. Maybe with Mike O. and Quaintance and take the RT's/GS's on fine Saturday ride.

 

In...!

 

Mike O

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...Let's be sure to organize or connect on a ride next season sometime. Maybe with Mike O. and Quaintance and take the RT's/GS's on fine Saturday ride.

 

In...!

 

Mike O

 

Great idea! thumbsup.gif

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Thanks so much for the pics and vids!! thumbsup.gifthumbsup.gif I used to live in that area as a kid, and back in the 60's the roads were not as well built. The Gotthart car tunnel was still under construction and most drivers took the train in Airolo to get going. My dad drove over the passes as that was just his 'thing' having driven in ralley's. clap.gif The Alps are beautifull and that is why I like where you live so much as the Rockies are as close as you can get in the US

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Steve, I just took the time to go back and view your videos. I can't add much to what has already been stated here, but what a spectacular trip! Wow!

 

I guess I didn't realize that our Rockies peaked higher than the Alps, and that the fact that we view our Rockies from a higher elevation, making the view/perspective so much different. Without doing any research, I had always assumed that the Alps were much higher.

 

I can tell that you have much more experience riding the passes in CO, based on your courage riding the "edges" in the Alps. As many times as I've ridden in the Rockies, I still shy away from the edge. 550 south from Ouray over Red Mountain Pass comes to mind. eek.gif

 

Thanks for your time and effort on getting this together!

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I applaud your advice about not needing Guide nor Garmin. For me you get much more out of a trip by making your own way around, taking some wrong turns, and stopping frequently. They're the bits you remember months later.

 

I think GPRS takes alot of fun out of touring new areas. Makes trips too predictable and contributes to the 'Numbing Down' of riding.

 

And using a guide means you tend to have less interaction with the locals coz everything is spoonfed. No point in travelling to new countries if you don't get the pulse of that nation.

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Thanks everyone. The memories unique to two wheels.

 

Rider1150GSA... How about that... living in Airolo at one time. That was a small community! And there is the tunnel, the old pass (cobblestones) and the new pass to get over to Andermatt. Great recollection. Think I rode over St. Gottardo Pass five times while in Airolo. Once at dawn, all alone.

 

Tasker... There are a few peaks quite lofty in the Alps... Mont Blanc and Matterhorn come to mine, both 15,000ft peaks I below, but the majority are lower than the 54 14,000ft. peaks here in Colorado. And yes, Red Mountain Pass, the Silverton and Ouray area, the San Juans... "Switzerland of America" is an apt description. BTW, grew up in NE Indy, and seeing my dad there this coming weekend.

 

gosilver... Concur. Should have seen me trying to communicate in Italian at a petrol station to see if anyone would trade me Euros for unwanted Swiss Francs! And someone on a Harley kindly did so at a very disadvantageous exchange rate. Plus, pointing to a map and asking where the heck I was after missing a turnoff to a Pass and ending up at the top of another Pass... turned out it was Fedaia Pass as noted in Day #2 above. Toss in much less money spent, will do the same the next time I go.

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