Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Final Day- the ride to Ferney- 8/9

It was our last day so we decided to take the long route back to Ferney Voltaire. What a great decision even though it was 68 miles and 4500 feet of climbing. We climbed for "cols" in what proved to be a magnificent day. Only 6 of the 20 rode the long route. The biggest challenge of the day was navigating through Geneva and the thousands of people out for a big festival. Fortunately Les knew the ins and outs and got us safely back.

A beautiful French mountain chalet

The road down the valley. Finally some longer!

Four of the six final day "long route" riders

Our lunch stop, a make shift patisserie, but good

My stoker, "stoking up" on some after lunch desert!

One final shot of the Jet d'eaux in Geneva as we blasted by

Switzerland will be a great memory. We learned to suffer on this trip with all the steep climbing but we wouldn't have it any other way. All in all 770 miles and 55,000 vertical feet climbed. Another Williams milestone. Many thanks to Glenn Erickson for his magnificent route and hotel planning.

Chatel, the return to France- 8/8

Today we would ride back into France. Boy, what a difference in the roads; not as steep, more water fountains, and better food. We almost felt like we were home. What wasn't like home was another day of rain. We climbed the col du Pillon in the pourng rain, then descended the Col de la Croix. This was a wicked, winding descent full of turns filled wtih cars and massive buses. They were doing road work so we got right in the lane with the cars. It was over 13 miles down. Thank God for disc brakes!!!

Being soaking wet we made a mad dash for Monthey and lunch. It was probably the best tasting pasta I have ever had given the conditions. After lunch we climbed again into Corbeau then a rapid descent to Chatel.

The "captains" drying out and waiting for lunch

Chatel is a ski resort town on one of the many "smaller" mountains at the base of famous Mt. Blanc. We were wet, tired, hungry, and thirsty; 13 days down and only one more to go.

I took this shot for my dad, a Bultaco trials bike. Pretty rare to find one of these in the USA

Looking out our hotel room in Chatel. Over those mountains looms Lake Geneva.

Saanen- 8/7

One of the many beautiful valleys we rode that day

We had done a little more whining on this trip due to all the climbing but as we rolled into the last few days we were feeling quite sad it would be over soon. We were slowly making our way back to the south eastern shore of Lake Geneva. We managed to get quite lost in the middle of a gorgeous forest only to be bailed out by Megan, one of our group, who pieced together some French to find out we were only one "hill" away from where we needed to be.

Do you think we were lost? Megan, top left bailed us out with her superb French

This was beautiful country and we could see the famous Gruyere (the cheese) castle from miles away perched atop a small mountain. The views were much better from the road though. We lunched there and it was a GIANT tourist trap. We ate and rode on to Saanen.

The castle in Gruyere

In we stayed in a "sports hotel" complete with a Mac computer in every room. The food here was fabulous. They even had an Italian winery giving a free tasting.

Fribourg Rest Day- 8/6

Today we decided to actually rest and check out the town of Fribourg. It was almost as much work as riding since we were down in a bowl and had to climb out to get to the main part of the city. Lots of history, pretty church, and of course a nice Italian pizza lunch.

The climb to the main part of town

The fountain at the "Hotel DeVille"- city hall

The "funiculaire" a giant size tram/escalator to the main part of town

Maria was in charge of wine for dinner back at our hotel so we met with the chef and picked out some great ones, and of course got to taste them (one of the small benefits). This small boutique hotel had some of the best food on the trip.

An evening meal at the Au Sauvage- very cool private dining room

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fribourg- 8/5

Glenn convinced all of us that we must ride to Lauterbrunnen to see the beautiful granite cliffs before heading back to Thun and ultimately Fribourg for a two day stay. Lauterbrunnen is a very popular tourist destination and as a result had a ton of traffic on the only road there. No question the village in this valley surrounded by giant rugged granite cliffs was impressive.

Now it was time to head away from the big mountains back along side the Thunder See. This was a beautiful ride along this classic lake shore road.

We headed northwest through a picturesque valley with glimpses of the big mountain peaks we had come from. The area was filled with lovely small farms and orchards; great riding, and a nice restful lunch stop.

Navigating Fribourg was a challenge as our hotel, Au Sauvage, sat in the bottom of a bowl with the city above it. It ended up being a long day, 71 miles and 4300 feet of climbing.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Grindelwald a real rest day- 8/4

I had never been to Grindelwald and had still not seen the "big" mountains, the Eiger, the Jungfrau, the Monch. But once morning arrived those awe inspiring peaks came to life and they were spectacular.

Our hotel in Grindelwald.....

The view...

We planned to actually take the day off and ride the train to the "top of Europe" as they call it on the cog train. You ascend from Grindelwald at 3,300 feet to the Jungfraujoch (top of Europe) at 11,300 feet. This is the highest train station in Europe. It was a spectacular day and the trip up was great. There were hundreds of hikers and mountain bikers traversing there way up through the few small villages between the bottom and the top.

First views beginning the ascent up the mountain

Once there, we lucked out and got some spectacular views of the mountain tops and the ice fields. The altitude just about killed us and we could hardly walk. After a nice lunch at one of the cafes at the top we headed down. A great experience that has to be done if you are in the area. Just ignore all the tourists and focus on the mountains.

Views at the top including the ice fields

The final afternoon sunset to die for!

Kemmeriboden to Grindelwald- 8/3

Unfortunately it was time to leave the magical spot of Kemmeriboden and head to the "big mountains" of Grindelwald. This was a journey we had been looking forward to the entire trip. Today's route would take us through the towns of Thun and Interlaken. We were hoping to ride by the hotel where our daughter was conceived 22 years ago, but the weather would prove otherwise! At he top of the major climb at Schallenberg Strasse we hit a major rain storm. This was unfortunate because the descent was magnificent all the way to Thun at the edge of the Thunder See. We were beyond soaked after descending at nearly 40 mph. Thank goodness for disc brakes.

We decided enough was enough, and after a short conference with our tandem pals Les and Sue, we headed straight for the train station. Finally shelter and the opportunity to dry out. We weren't there 30 minutes when the "posse" rolled in, wet and cold as well. They were so happy to see us there. After coffee and hot chocolate we had a blast on the hour train ride to Grindelwald. What we thought would be a terrible day turned out to be one of our most fun!

Two wet souls happy to be at the train those new helmet hoods!

On the train, loving life!

The "posse", Mike, "Mr. Short Sleeves" on the left was border line hypothermic but coming back to life quickly

Dr. Bob and yours truly reliving the rainy descent stories coming into town....

The weather in Grindelwald wasn't much better, but cycling a mile to the hotel was a piece of cake!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Burgdorf to Kemmeriboden- 8/2

After struggling to sleep that night due to all the fireworks celebrating Swiss independence, (Glenn thought would be so great to experience), we were welcomed with RAIN! Today we would ride 43 miles and 3100 feet of climbing to Kemmeriboden. We were definitely in more mountainous terrain now as we slowly made our way into higher alpine mountains. For the first time Maria and I learned what it was like to really ride in the rain and be wet. Fortunately it was not cold but being wet most of the day wasn't our idea a a great time. But, the scenery got prettier and prettier. Like our friends Meagan and Leann told us from Portland, "it's not about keeping dry, it's about keeping warm..."

Our riding partners Les and Sue blazing the trail in the rain

Our first real mountains in the distance

Looking out our hotel room while "drying" out....

This hotel was s small lodge in the middle of nowhere but very popular with their desserts, a vanilla ice cream on top of homemade meringue. An incredible afternoon snack.

The hotel.....

The dessert....

This place was quite magical and one of the best spots on the trip!

Burgdorf- Rest Day 8/1

We had high hopes for resting today but there was too much pretty scenery to be viewed so we ventured out with Les and Sue for a morning jaunt. We experienced more rolling farmland and ended up for lunch at a working cheese farm.

Typical Swiss farm road---yes, it was a climb!

Innovative vending machine at a farm loaded with fresh bread, honey, and fruit

This was "nome" country and Maria was crazy about these little dudes on nearly yard.

We still ended up with 40 miles and over 3,000 feet of much for the rest day.