Sunday, July 13, 2014

Alsace Trip, 2014

Our two week adventure began with a nice flight to Basel, Switzerland, then a 45 minute van ride to our hotel in Delemont, Switzerland.  We stayed in this hotel fiver years ago on our Jura mountains trip. This valley is surrounded by heavily forested mountains and miles of rolling grazing lands for the local cattle.  

Bike assembly is always tedious especially after 12 hours of flying.All went together well except my botched tire change resulting in a pinched tube.
July 13-
A short "tune up" ride was planned for today; 35 miles and 2500 feet of climbing.  While the altitude is virtually negligible, the grade are steep as hell.  My Garmin flashed 15% at one point...brutal!  But with the steepness came beauty and the gorge du pichoux was another example of why this area is some rewarding to ride.

 July 15
Delemont to Thann-
Nice climb out of the gate through Soyhiere to Hippolts kirch.  It was a semi cloudy start with reasonable temperatures.  Being our first real day out after a few 30 milers it took a while to get our legs under us.  Only a few of us decided to take the long route today.  Once into France we rode through village after village of cute and very clean Alsatian towns, all almost looking the same with their tutor style trimmed homes.  Our first lunch at a small restaurant filled with locals in Dannemarie; 5.50 euro, light sausage with salad and Maria’s nice mixed salad with meats.  Our final climb of the day was longer than expected.  We found a nice short cut on the decent that lead us right to our hotel next to the park in Thann.  BTW, the FDJ team stayed our hotel two days earlier.  Very cool.

Miles-  65
Feet climbed- 4,678

Typical Alsatian countryside

Great lunch in Dannemarie, 5.50 Euros

The FDJ team stayed at our hotel two days ago

Beautiful hotel in Thann

July 16-
Thann to Riquewihr
The weather was picture perfect with warming blue skies.  Today we would climb the famous Col du Grand Ballon.  We backed into the middle of this col by climbing the supposedly easier col de Amic- not so.  Great conversation at the summit with a local French rider who said that locals claim if you can climb the Ballon you can climb anything in France.  This was no easy climb as we rode up with riders Germany and France.  We were the first to the top at over 3,000 vertical and the day had just started!  We again opted for the long route which only a few others selected as well.  A short descent led us along one of the most scenic ridgeline rides we have ever done; lakes and valleys on one side and beautiful rural farms on the other.  Lunch was enjoyed at a local auberge de ferme- farm house.  There were only locals here and all German, no English. We pointed to an entrée on another table; cast iron pot of potatoes and ham with a beautiful salad verte, perfectly hardy and filling.  We would need it for the remaining climbs into our final vineyard laden destination on the valley floor at Riquewihr.

Miles-  60
Feet climbed- 6,200

The famous Grand du Ballon climb

Riding the ridge after the Grand Ballon, about as good as it gets

Local lunch at the auberge de ferme

July 17-
I guess you could call it a rest day as we rode into Colmar and back, about 20 miles, the “Venice of the north” to enjoy the canals, local market, beer, and a local Alsatian tarte flambé (ultra thin pizza).  Perfect day; easy on the legs and stomach!

Tonight’s dinner was at La Table Du Gourmet, a one star Michelin restaurant that came highly recommended to us.  It was a real treat and maybe one of our best degustation meals ever.

Miles- 20
Feet climbed- 200

Our little canal trip in Colmar

The three person wrecking crew

Our Michelin star dinner in Riquewihr

Fish and watermelon course

Another fish course

Veal course

July 18-
Rest day

No riding today.  It was time to taste the local wines in our quaint but tourist ridden village of Riquewihr.  Good wines, with our favorites being the the Reislings and Cremants, all very reasonably priced even for their grand crus. We found an entertaining local artist that had some beautiful local paintings all done on copper plates.  We purchased a lovely landscape of the Colmar area very reminiscent of the areas that we have ridden.

July 19-
Riquewihr to Obernai
A cool start to a hot day of climbing.  Fortunately we rode through many forests but the climbing seemed like a constant 8-10% all day.  We hit our groove in the early afternoon, probably as a result of skipping our normal big lunch.  Traditional Alsatain climbing; forests, good roads, pebbly descents.  All in all another big day.  A typical Saturday evening party in tour complete with a live band.  Crazy.

Miles-  60
Feet climbed- 6,200

Party central in Obernai

Maria and Glenn

July 20-
Obernai to Mont St. Odile
Our “rest day” ended being a short mileage, big climb to the Mont St. Odile monastery.  It was another beautiful climb up the forested mountain that averaged 8%+.  Dramatic vistas at the top where you could see for miles even with the light rain that descended upon us.  It was time to head back.  A tricky, technical descent with wet roads.  Fortunately we had brought our “light” rain gear set up for this ride.  Our new Mavic rain booties performed admirably!

Miles- 17
Feet climbed- 1,847

Beautiful views from the top

July 20-
Obernai to La Petite-Pierre
There is nothing like starting the day in the rain.  You can never get psychologically set to ride in the rain.  Fortunately the conditions were not too bad.  The rain was light and all of our 4,000 feet of climbing was in beautiful forests.  No “on the road” pictures today.  We hoped for a shot of the castle in Dabo, but it was in the clouds.  We were just focused on getting this day’s ride over with.  Riding with our tandem pals from Salt Lake City, Arden and Becky helped.  They rarely ever ride the long rides but chose to today.  They are great climbers! 

Our hotel in La Petite-Pierre is about 5K from town and on spectacular grounds.  Tres Bon!!!

Miles- 54
Feet climbed- 4,081

A lot of gear today with the light rain

Our beautiful, peaceful quarters in La Petite-Pierre

Looking the other way from our hotel to the small lake

July 22
Rest day in La Petite-Pierre
The weather was a bit gloomy today so we decided to sleep in and enjoy the lovely grounds at our picturesque country hotel.  A quick breakfast, then into a fabulous lunch with local trout ("truite") and a lovely bottle of white bordeaux.  Perfect rest day!
Perfect white bordeaux with the trout

Light dessert- yumm

July 23-
La Petite-Pierre to St. Die des Vosges
A perfect start to the day with a 6 mile descent from our hotel.  We savor these! There was much discussion the night before about riding the "forest" roads which we agreed to do along with 8 others.  What an adventure!  We rice for about 10 miles on a perfectly paved single lane road through the woods. m The road decided to climb and I mean climb; 10-12%.  At the top the road turned to direct and the real fun began.  Dirt and rooks for about 6 miles.  I took all my concentration and riding skills to man our "sled" in these conditions.  We survived along with our good friend Alan and George.  Unfortunately just before the pavement appeared again we flatted.  It was not good.  A rock had slit our side wall and we went through two tubes before we figured it out.  No need to panic.  Alan came back to check on us and loaned us a tube. We made it to the van stopped at the top of the pass.  A nice lunch, then I noticed my fix to the slit tire did not work.  There was an extra tire in the van and atet a quick change we were back on the road.  This turned out to be a long day, but what an adventure!

Miles- 69
Feet climbed- 4,518

The beginning of the "forest" road- perfect conditions

Assessing the "dirt"- time to press on boys

Logging area- the road got rougher

Peek-a-boo mountain views in and out of the forest

July 24-
St. Die des Vosges to Gerardmer
We decided to take the medium length route today, but it was still no walk in the park.  We rode with our tandem pals Arden and Becky.  They set a brisk steady climbing pace.  We worked our way up a beautiful valley passing small ski resorts and hotels.  We made it to the summit at the Col de Falimont and were pleasantly surprised to see a beautiful log cabin restaurant ready to greet us for lunch.  This was a plush spot. What the heck.  Little English was spoken here, but we managed to order some nice salads and soups, a great bottle of wine and we were off descending!  Wand, what a descent it was almost all the way to Gerardmer, beautiful lakeside summer resort town.  After getting temporarily lost in the city we found our hotel just across the street from the casino!  The rooms were small but we had two days here and we were ready to relax.

Miles- 40
Feet climbed- 3,930

Top of the pass looking east

View out of our hotel room onto the lake

Dinner that night.  Surprisingly good pizza

July 25-
Gerardmer rest day
That's right another rest day!  This was a picturesque spot, so we decided to walk around the lake and wing it for lunch.  Good call!  The walk around the lake was a little more technical than we thought it would be.  There was about a one mile section where we had to negotiate major tree roots, rocks, etc. It was all worth it with the lunch we had at the west end of the lake on a small hillside hotel.  A great day!

The Tour de France went through this town about a week before we arrived
Our lunch spot

Our lunch view couldn't have been better

My gal on the walk back

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