Sunday, August 30, 2009

Delmont to Burgdorf- 7/31

We were anxious to get to Burgdorf because we had two nights there and a chance to relax a little more and not have to rush and get up so early in the morning. We chose the "long" route for today which took us up a beautiful valley where there were virtually no cars to the village of Movelier.

Up the valley to Movelier

Les & Sue on the climb to Movelier
My little Swiss Miss enjoying the countryside

It was worth it. We then made our way through Laufen (famous city that is one of the major european makers of toilets in all commercial places, named after the city), on our way to climb the famous Passwang.

It was a beautiful ascent winding up the valley to the really steep part of the climb with its "wedding cake" switchbacks (imagine the different layers on a wedding cake, then picture a mountain road with it's winding turns). This was a very steep climb but really gorgeous and worth every percent of the gradient.

Where things started to get steep up the Passwang

Near the summit of Passwang

Every tough climb deserves a great descent and if the time of day is right, a great lunch. The descent lead us to the town of Balsthal. We were clearly in the German speaking part of Switzerland now. Just before entering the main part of town I saw a great looking restaurant so we swung in. What a great surprise. The place was owned by a woman from Kenya and she made us one of their specials, a spicy shrimp dish with some very interesting spices. Very cool.

The restaurant in Balsthal

Our African inspired shrimp dish

Lunchtime map review by the "captains"..."Where the "F" are we??"

After lunch we made haste to Burgdorf through many tiny farming villages. We even got lost on a dirt road in the woods. Quite an adventure, but we finally made it to Burgdorf, 70 miles and 4,100 feet of climbing. Tomorrow would be the Swiss independence day.

Looking back at Balsthal and the Passwang

Typical post-ride cocktail session, in the lobby of the Hotel Berchtold

Mike (front), Chris (back left), and Bob (back right), the "posse" holding court at their usual spot. Three of the best guys you'll ever meet!

Couvet to Delemont- 7/30

Dehydration or not I was told by my ace stoker to "buck it up, get on the bike and ride. I reluctantly obliged and we were off. We had some spectacular forest scenery as we left town and followed the Areuse river to our first climb out of the small village of les Gratte.

A beautiful cycling path that went for miles along the Areuse River

Further along the bike path, fun descent in the woods

Always a climb after a descent, the scenery kept your mind off of the gradient!

Further up the climb

About half way to our destination we stopped for our first pizza lunch in St. Imier. The Swiss do a nice pizza!!

Ahhh the aubergines (eggplant) and onion pizza, quite good...

Probably the craziest fountain we saw on the trip. This village was loaded with them.

More Swiss fountains always adorned with the Swiss flag...

Some beautiful wooded canyons and the our final destination in Delemont. A fairly long day at 62 miles and 4,500 feet of climbing.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

LePont to Couvet- 7/29

With our biggest day ever under our belt we figured the rest of the trip would be "downhill". I don't think so!!! We were now officially in Switzerland. Many people think this country is all "alps", but actually at least a third of it is the farm country and what we came to know as "Swiss Rollers" (those brutally steep up and downs 7-10% grades at about 3000-5000 feet altitude).

Typical Swiss pasture

One of the many impeccable Swiss country houses

One of Maria's great fountain shots- these were all over Switzerland

Roads were great and wew teamed up with our Canadian tandem friends from last trip Les and Sue. We realy have a nice time with them.

Les and Sue the Canadian dynamic duo

Today's ride was shorter, abut 45 miles and only 4500 feet of climbing. We had a short climb out of the hotel up the col de Mollendruz, then a beautiful descent down to la Praz. We then headed inland ridding the mountain ridges above Lac de Neuchantel.

A happy couple prior to the ball-busting climb ahead

This was one of the toughest climbs of the trip with relentless 9-10% grade for 6 miles. This taxed us more than we thought. The evening proved to be my worst as the dehydration caught up with me from the prior day. I had no appetite and actually skipped dinner. Fortunately we had a few doctors on the trip and one of them gave me a few pills that he said would slow my system down and allow me to recover through the night.

Maria and the "posse" as they would become to be known. She was re-hydrating while I was dehydrating

Official Day One- Geneva to LePont, 7/28

We were more than ready to leave Geneva. We'd seen enough of the itscountryside and really wanted to move on the the "real" Switzerland, whatever that was. Today our goal was to ride over 7,000 vertical feet our most ever, and cover over 70 miles. The night's hotel was in Le Pont at the north end of the lac de Joux, in the valley of the jewel. This is where many of the finest swiss watches are made including Audemar Piquet and Jaeger le Coultre.
On the way to Col de la Faucille

We ride two major passes and many valleys. The route took us over the highest pass in the Jura mtn range, col de la Facuille, about a 3,000 foot climb.

On the Col de la Faucille, looking back at Geneva and Mt. Blanc

Our first "Swiss" salad at the French/Swiss border in la Cure

Once at the top we descended down into the next valley, then climbed back up (a routine we'd become VERY familiar with in Switzerland). We took the long way around and made the final 2,000 plus foot climb climb up the Col du Marchairuz, a real bun buster! But the views were spectacular looking down to the "Vallee de Joux".

On the descent looking at the vallee de Joux and lac Joux

Once at the bottom we rode around the west side of this pristine lake to our hotel in Le Pont. Great spot and one hell of an accomplishment for tandem boy and girl! (short video below of the hotel and lake in LePont).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Five Days in Geneva-7/23-7/27

A little miscalculation in when the trip was supposed to start ended up in our favor. We arrived several days earlier than necessary. We got a jump start and put the bike together right away leaving us time for a quick ride on Friday leaving Saturday to check out Geneva which we missed on our last visit here three years ago.

The bridge over the Rhone with the Jet d'Eau in the background

We be-lined it for Geneva the next day via the airport (free hotel shuttle) then a $6 train ride to the center of town. Geneva let us down.... It was Saturday and absolutely dead. There were nothing but watch stores and banks. After a quick lunch we "abandoned" and headed back to the hotel to rest up for our first ride the next day.

At this point the weather was working in our favor; blue skies, views of Mt. Blanc, and warm temps in the high 80's. Just about perfect.

View from the hotel of snow capped Mt. Blanc

After the disappointing day in Geneva we knew it was time to ride. We reviewed the map and chose to ride north up Lake Geneva past the beautiful port Nyon and climb to Aubonne and make our way back to Ferney Volitare through the mountains. This turned out to be one heck of a ride with beautiful rolling pastures and yes plenty of climbing about 4,000 feet worth! What the heck were we thinking. This was two days before the "official" start of the ride and we were already busting our buns. I guess it's the damn French countryside...lures you in.

Just when we thought we had our fill of Geneva, Glenn, tour leader and owner took all the recent arrivals out for a warm up ride the day before our start on Tuesday. We headed back up the western shore of lake Geneva and cut inland through some beautiful vineyards. Maria and I opted for a nice lunch in Divonne while the others rode back. A little carpaccio and seafood salad. We would need the extra nourishment for the days to come!

Switzerland Here We Come!

After months of training and a small set back with the dislocated shoulder a/c we are off on a plane to Geneva. There is a lot of anticipation for this trip. The alps can be a little intimidating. But there were more important things to enjoy on the flight over. Cocktails anyone....

Fortunately there were no hitches in the connections, though flying through London is a pain. We landed in Geneva at 2pm and were ready to settle into our digs at the Novotel just outside of the airport.