Thursday, 16 October 2014

This summer there was another "blitz trip" on the program.
The Executive Board (the missus :D) had granted a 5 days off free to plan card.

I had three things on my wish list:

1 A few "Big bertha bike friendly" gravel passes. On Conti's TA2.
2 The highest / best-known French Alpine passes
3 Discovery work in the Italian Alps west of Cuneo.

In order to realize point 1 reasonably safe (given my limited experience in this area), I had decided that I would only go after 3 days dry in this area, and preferably 2 days thereafter to do 2 and 3.

And last Saturday was the day.`

On my own. Just me.
A bit selfish but my trips are for me.
I can do what I want, when I want.
Ride all day. Stop when I want. Or don't stop.
Just away from talking, concensus, common ground, compromise. 
That's the rest of the year.

That's me...on my motorcycle holidays.

What passes etc did we encounter on our travels:
Susten, Furka, Grimsel, Cormet D'Arêches, Col D'Iseran, Col du Mont Cenis.

Col delle Finestre, Assietta Kammstrasse, Col d'Izoard, Col / tunnel Parpaillon, Bonette
Col Lombard, Colli di Cueno (= Colle Fauniera (also called Colle dei Morti), Colle di Valcavera, Colle Esischie)
Colle di Sampeyre, Col d'Agnel(lo), Col d'Izoard, Col du Galibier, Col du Madeleine. Route des Crêtes.

About 3200km.

This was the route (route going there from Holland there and back is not attractive and is Autobahn mainly).

In Switzerland, fresh snow had fallen on the higher peaks.

(Sustenpass west side)

 (sustenpass east side)

(Furkapass, where James Bond's Goldfinger has the famous car chase scene)

Early up as Sunday+sun= busy. 
Done Sustenpass, Furkapass and Grimsselpass.
At 10.30 I was already heading to France. Lots and lots of daytrip people heading my way for a day out in the Swiss Alps.

Cormet D'Arêches (60km below Lake Geneva) was next and just before that you can drive along the beautiful Lac de Roselend. See how the slopes just seem to glide into the water.

(Lac de Roselend)

Then follows Cormet D'Arêches. Gravel with some mean stony patches.
A laugh for the true offroad veteran but exciting for me as it was the first mountain offroad experience for me. Lovely gravel piste. 

(Cormet D'Areches)

Then Col D'Iseran. Already 6.30pm and totaly desolated exept for a German in his Volkswagen.. Chilly as well at 7 Celcius.

(Col de L'Iseran from the North)

(The summit at 2700+ meters)

Then cross into Italy : Col du Mont Cenis (+lake). Cloudy and eerie atmosphere...

Sleep in Susa Italy, Piedmonte, in a B&B called "Scotty&Co" but only speaking Italian :D .

Next day it is early up. Top up on the engine oil as a whole lot of gravel lies ahead.

Next up is Col delle Finestre. Well to do gravel.

Weather wasn't bad at all. :D

(Col delle Finestre: The Giro d'Italia also once came by here....)

Assietta Kammstrasse. My must have for this trip.

Local wild life testing my "don't use the front brake on gravel reflex". All goes well.

just moments later...a fox and its pal (who just crossed over).

On the Assietta it's quiet. 5 crossers, 2 cyclists and two BMW GS.

On this very spot I spent like 25 minutes. Sandwich. A bit of water. Looking around me. taking in the scenery. Sole mio. Lovely. This is one of the reasons to do this.


One keeps looking and making photo's.

The GSA was doing just fine.
Weight works also in a positive way as one does not come to a standstill at every bump.
I felt perfectly comfortable "dancing" with the big bird on gravel.
And the bottom torque works wonders.
The bicyclists however go down the track way faster than me :)

Then, unfortunately, the last planned gravel piste: Col de Parpaillion. Stonier. Steeper. A bit meaner. Lovely.

Cherry on the pie: the 500 meter long tunnel at 2637 meters. One of the highest in Europe.

A bit tense I drive into the arched tunnel.
Over 500 meter at over 2600 meters.....
Pitch black. Water falling from the ceiling. Potholes up to 50cm deep filled with ice cold water.
Mud. Patches of ice (in August!). Rocks.
But there's light on the end of the tunnel. Literaly.
Don't go into the light. But we go anyway. :D

Tunnel de Parpaillion at 2600m video

I feel quit the man when I park my BMW on the other side of the tunnel.
A small 1 cylinder 4stroke pulls up next to me. The better tool for the job.
An Italian gentleman on it, telling me he's 73. Mmmm, perspective.

(Parpaillion east side driving down)

Then onwards to Col de la Bonnette. Moon like landscape. Highest paved pass in Europe.
Alianating. Not beautiful. Impressive none the less.

By the way. It's not the road half way on the mountain side....look at the top of the ridge....yes, there it is!

(The summit @2802 meters)

At the top of 2802m a French girl on her bicycle finishes her run to the top.
All the way from the valley. a 2200m climb! Wow! What an achievement.

Spending the night in a run down ski resort called Isola2000, right on the border of Italy and France.

Walking to my hotel room I have this incredible deja vu moment. The Shining....!
Looking around me for twins or Jack Nicholson.

But all ends well. :)

At night fierce thunderstorms pass over the mountains.
Next morning into Italy via Col de Lombarde with rain. What a contrast with yesterday.
But it looks to become brighter on the Italian side.

Then there are several passes of the Col del Cuneo range (west of the town of Cuneo), of which the Col dei Morti (pass of the dead !) impresses me beyond words. But I'll try anyway. The landscape is fierce and desolate. The pictures, like usual, don't convey the feeling. But trust me...

It is a tiny road. Filled with potholes, gravel and missing road. I am totally alone for almost 2 hours...

Then we weave our way back into France: Col D'Agnel(lo) at over 2700m. Better wetter as in more sun. But cold with a near gale wind at 7C.

Second time Col D'Izoard, this time from South to North. The tarmac is absolutely great.

In the curves near the summit, professional photographers take your picture which you then can buy and download later online (which I did of course)

 Followed by Col de Galibier, more to the North-West.

Then via the Col de Madeleine I leave the Alps.
After a night sleep in Switzerland I drive home via the Vosges Route des Crêtes, which means "summit route"

Last year September with 30C and now with 9C !

A very enjoyable trip with lots of sun but on the chilly side.

Main takeaways for me:

"Big Bertha" (Kampfelefant) does all well (offroad, highway, in between)
Best investment below €100: a set of rok straps
Best investment over €100: a set of HyperPro's
Most impressive pass: Col dei Morti
More offroad!! Next year the "Ligurische Kammstrasse" is on my wishlist.