European Alps Rumble 2001 (long) pt.3


Mapping the next ride...
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27. September Thursday

FINALLY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Just THE day for biking: blue skies, sunshine but frost on every roof in town, time for an extra skivvy.
After the usual lengthy brekkie it’s up the Campolongo-Pass for starters, the last bend of the downhill run down the other side joins up with the road up to the Groedner-Joch (Saddle)

where we see some iced-over run-offs across the road and slow right down, just in time to enjoy the Sella mountains panorama in the sunlit glory of it’s early-winter whitecoat, framed by the dark-blue backdrop of a morning sky at high altitude… one of those truly magic moments.
Roads turn dry and we’re swinging the barges from one bend to the next…we’re having FUN…and getting good at it.

After the Groedner-Joch peak it’s down some narrow twisties, then up the Sella-Pass, one pass flowing into the next like fitting pieces of a puzzle. THAT”s the life.


Finishing up at the intersection to the Pordoi-Pass (which would complete the 90km/ 4-pass circle) we give that one a miss and hit the 20kmdownhill stretch into Canazei in the south-western corner of the “square”. It’s south again to Moena; just before town we head west up the Karer-Pass road, what a ripper, then another turn after 30km gets us across the Niger-Pass…which quickly becomes Goodies favourite with magnificent views to the Rosengarten group-of-peaks and the rolling, green slopes dotted with picturesque homes and farms on the other side.


A 20% descent rate gets the brakes cooking and one can guess where the local main town of Bolzano might be in the steeply carved valley below.

Then it’s up the dead-end road to Seiser-Alm for lunch, very pretty but very touristy.

The view to the green slopes below topped by the myriad of snow-covered peaks reaching into Austria in the far distance is worth the ride alone (if it wouldn’t be for the road J).

Sticking around just for an hour or so, it’s time for the road to Kastelruth, St. Ulrich and Wolkenstein, another well-known ski and tourist area followed by the eastern run up to the Groedner-Pass, which was broken by a cappuccino and plum-cake with cream, enjoying the vistas and sunshine from the outside terrace, watching throngs of bikes whiz by, Sella mountains in the background. This is God’s country for bikes and bikers …

Tourist coaches on their return-legs become a real nuisance along the Sella and Pordoi-Passes on the way home.

The last stop of the day at the top of Pordoi-Pass


is another sight we won’t forget for a long while:
Hang-gliders broke the late afternoon sky with their multi-coloured canopies and it was great to watch them dancing in the updrifts provided by the surrounding high peaks. Ideal conditions, fantastic views and thousands of bends mark a day not to be forgotten for a long, long time to come. Surely one of the best of the trip.

Some bread, cheese, ham and grapes (and a bottle of tasty and lethal local Sauvignon) finish a ripper of a day. Biker’s heaven, and we’re smack-bang in the midst of it, yeeeha!!
205km, 7 ½ hours of actual riding, bends, bends, more bendzzz

28. September Friday

Clear blue skies once more, we’re all hyped up after yesterday.
The trip mapped out the previous night; even breakfast-time is cut to a minimum. Up the by now “usual” Pordoi-Pass, this time in early morning sunshine, only some of the 58 hairpins are still in the shade.
Literally traffic-free, we slip into Canazei once more for a fill-up after 25mins, record time without even thinking about it.

(Local definition of a hairpin = has to be an uninterrupted, continuous bend of at least 180 degree, even the shortest straight bit in between disqualifies it from a hairpin-bend. Usually they’re 200-230 degrees, since the road has to be built “out-of-the-hillside before its loop back to be parallel with itself)

All real hairpins are numbered with small, numbered plates at the apex due to easy of finding the carnage if and when it happens.
(A call to ambulance: “Eh, 2 stiffs at number 24” makes it easy for the ambos)

Right in Canazei we head south-west up the Fedaia-Pass,

proving a real gem, again without traffic and right along the foot of the Marmolada mountains with their glaciers and rugged white peaks, an emerald-coloured lake and the ragged rock of the lower slopes in the foreground.

The road up top follows through a multitude of tunnels and galleries, before it’s down into the valley on narrow roads, wrestling the bikes into steep, tight bends, letting them just roll downhill in between.

Reaching Alleghe we turn south to Agordo, then west, climbing out of the valley up the Aurine-Pass to Gosaldo, continue up the Cereda-Pass to Tonadico (there’s a silver Peg coming towards me…hey, buster, that’s mine J).
After a coffee it’s north and up the Rolle-Pass
to the ski-resort up top, the road is bumpy and tricky, traffic sparse, no Armco’s anywhere. The lower part leads through the usual pine and larch forests, by now interlaced with the multi-coloured glory of the early autumn…deciduous trees create a sort of confined atmosphere before the overpowering ragged peaks high above and the perfectly blue sky.

Small picnic areas are dotted along the roads, most of them in great lookout positions.
At the top of Rolle-Pass we break for lunch and have a long chat with a Dutch guy on a CBR400 touring by himself, packed to the gills with gear.
Packs of bikes pass in both directions, the sights and sounds are glorious, particularly considering the towering mountains in the background.

The bareness of the saddle is replaced by the timber section along the way downhill before the turn-off to the Valles-Pass.
6km up and it’s out of the trees again for a quick look-around, then a steep and twisty downhill jaunt, just about missing the turn-off to the Pellegrino-Pass, which proves to be mostly snaking along one hillside and seeing speeds past the 100kmh (a rarity around here) on some short stretches.

Downhill, then west to Predazzo and Cavaleze, which is well signed. Another tack north and up the Lavaze-Pass (one of the smaller variety, there’s still an 18% single-lane climb section through the centre of town), which proves very scenic before the drop into the Eggen-Valley, the high part of the loop-road providing more stunning vistas to the distant chains of white peaks.

Time to turn towards home, the following Karer-Pass is another gem, this time in it’s entirety.
A stop at Karer-Lake is a must, the green waters of the lake looking artificial.

Back onto the main road and a quick 10km to Canazei for more go-juice, before the now standard hop across the Pordoi-Pass. That’s how is was planned …

The setting sun tinges the white peaks and light-coloured rock faces into a pinkish glow, some of the road is in the shade already, the afternoon is getting late and the locals are out to play.
By now I’m better used to the weight and handling of the Galactica (Beemer) and pull away from Goodies Honda. A TRX 850 sticks to my tail, we overtake a few cars in tandem but after about 2 klicks I don’t want to hold the guy back any longer.
Swinging wide before a hairpin, he whizzes past on the tight, inside lane, the roar of the parallel twin is a beauty.
With the Pegaso he’d gotten a run for the money, the bastard J.

Keeping up the rhythm I overtake a few more cars, carving wide (on my lane) on the run into a hairpin…just to be nearly head butted by a Super-Motard version of a 750 Super-Tenere coming down the hairpin and running wiiiiide.
Left with no more bitumen at the edge of the road we somehow make it past each other…just to stare his mate in the face. This one a Super-Motard DR650. Just about to shit myself because of the first encounter and loudly swearing at his mate, I still can’t believe how far cranked over that DR was, wouldn’t have been not that far off scraping the handlebar-weights, I’ve never seen a bike that far cranked over and still on the road.

The sound of that single was something else, too…
And another one, the last of a trio, a GSXR 750 which luckily wasn’t going quite as hot and gave me enough room to squeeze by without being right at the edge of the bitumen.
The sweepers further up calmed me down again, stopping up top to get over it all and watch the Para-Gliders catching the winds high above, circling in never-ending twists and spirals.

The quiet was broken by the deep bellow of a V-twin somewhere down the valley; this HAD to be a Duke. I walked back to the edge of the car park and was able to oversee the last 10 hairpins, it had to be a matter of time until the bike appeared in sight and it was great to listen to the sound, winding it’s way up.

Burble= setting up before the bend. Then the even revs through the bend followed by the explosive bite of the twin-pot winding up…and up…and up. Something red and fast flashed into sight, a flitting smear of colour between the hairpins, the sound getting ever more intense.
This thing was rocking seriously and someone was using it the right way, too.
The final stretch without hairpins produced the Grande-Finale. The sound rose to something that made the hair stand-up, the bike flew through the bends and a trick-996 streaked past, just to disappear over the top of the pass, the noise still rising and dropping on the downhill stretch. The impressive surroundings added to the whole and brought on an attack of the goosebumps. Goodie showed up and we sat around for a while, just gazing, talking little.
Spirits flew high; the soul went walkabouts, too much for words…

Shadows grew long and it started to get chilly, we just let the bikes roll downhill, finding their own way home through the 33 hairpins. After a couple of urgent phone calls the local pizzeria seemed as good as any other place it town and a chinwag with an English couple on holidays over a beer and some tucker finished the day.

Stats: 278km/10passes/1red 996 with aftermarket pipes at the right time at the right place, 2 close shaves within 1 second.

29. September Saturday

High clouds dotting the sky.
We’re packed up early, ready to leave Arabba and the Sella Mountains. A tear in one eye, the other wide open for things to come. North across the Campolongo-Pass down-valley past Corvara and the morning clouds start to break up. At the village of St. Martin it’s west up the Wuerzjoch-Pass towards the Peitlerkofel mountain range and it’s getting narrow, very narrow.

In hindsight it’ll be one of the really outstanding roads up to this point, with sunshine to boot.
Not an easy ride but a very rewarding one, plenty of bikes coming the other way, mainly BMW GS again. We dip back into the Eisack-Valley at Klausen, turning south to Bolzano (Bozen), everything is signed in Italian and German.


The sun is out and it’s getting warm.
The way through Bolzano becomes a nightmare. Of course we had to pick the worst time of the week, it’s Saturday lunchtime, the Bolzano street-markets are in full swing and traffic is absolute chaos, everyone going for the same gap, wherever one might appear. Cars, zillions of scooters, pushbikes, mums with prams, all going for the same piece of real-estate. We even see a cop frustratingly dropping his arms, removing the white gloves and simply walk (speak: dodge) off a busy intersection, leaving everything to it’s own faith.

Our expensive, rolling plastic-works becomes our main worry, buffer zone being the paintwork; it’s often THAT close. It’s miraculous that the roads aren’t littered with corpses 3ft deep.
No road-rage here, no shaking of fists or even lifting of eyebrows.
4 inches of gain seem to be worth limb and life, while using the horn permanently to attract someone’s attention to yell over the din of the traffic and ask how mum is going… incredible.
Skirting one of the plazas there must be at least 200 scooters lined up, parking in a no standing zone. Goodie tries to stick to me for dear life, getting separated there’s no chance to close up again.

Somehow we find the turnoff to the Sarner-Valley where traffic is more civil, yearning for a break, sweat pouring down the face inside the helmets.

Shaky knees and the fear of getting run into, thoughts of having to wait for parts or repairs and the 25 degrees showing on the onboard thermometer of the BM have created a sauna inside the jackets and helmets.

Out come the liners and off we go up the hill into the high valley of Sarnthein, the road apparently being one of the local racetracks. Open uphill sweepers have to be earned by passing through all of the 17 tunnels at the start of the road before the run through green, open farmland, a delight at 80-120 km/h.

The valley ends at a mountain-face, the road tightens and narrows before the climb up the Penser-Joch (Saddle) with long and windy sections, few hairpins, along the hillside.
Up top the weather changes and we dip into the narrow and tight timbered section on to Sterzing, turning west and back up the Jaufen-Pass, the surface chopped-up badly, not much fun here. Past the top, clouds draw in lower but the narrow, often single-lane band of asphalt is better, the swag of hairpins a delight.
The quick-snack-shack in one of the hairpins is too tempting and we stop for a banger and coffee with great views into the surrounding valleys.

(Just imagine: Steep hairpin bend, cradling the outside of the bend is a levelled off area, peppered with tables/benches, rubbish bins and a snack-food stand.
People sit on tables about 20 ft (5meters) away from the road.
Every road-planners/ Road safety manager’s nightmare.
Trucks, cars, coaches, bikes and tractors hurtling down the mountain, hitting the anchors just before the bend.
Totally unthinkable in Australia, quite a common sight over here).

Keeping south, down the Passeier Valley towards Merano, the valley floor is hustling and bustling with the local apple, pear and grape harvest. Little tractors pulling trailers full of crates bursting with fruit make the going slow, eventually we get into Merano taking the wrong turn-off and finishing up in narrow lanes of the historic Old-Town part of the small city, a dedicated pedestrian zone.

The aim was to find Evelyn, a niece of a friend back home, who’s been to Melbourne some years back, loosing her heart to the Strathbogie Ranges near Melbourne.
After some searching and asking the locals we’re finally given the right directions but via one of the local shortcuts leading along single-lane apple-orchards-trackworks, a beauty of a road…just far too short.

It’s just on dark as we rock up at Evelyn’s front door for a happy reunion.

After a quick settling-in we’re off to the beer garden of the local brewery (the 2 parts being separated by a curved timber footbridge of carved timbers spanning a main road) demolishing the huge grill platter plus accessories. Evelyn’s friend Leo only speaks Italian and the conversation becomes very lively using hands and feet.
The laughter alone makes it a great night out. !!

30. September Sunday

Low clouds and rain!
The bikes stay home, we’re off with Eve and Leo showing us the city on foot, the only way to go. One of the many historical places in this area, there’s much to gawk at, the Sunday markets adding some spice as well.

Old Roman fortifications, bridges and buildings from the 1500’s pepper the old town, it’s great to see it all still standing and functioning in everyday life.

Back home at lunch, it’s time to catch up with news from back home, the phone session taking up the early afternoon.
Later we’re off to Eve’s parents and other relatives which finishes late that night after much laughter, food and drink…and more food and drink… and more food and drink.
Welcome to an Italian family gathering, the way only they know how…

1.October Monday

With shops open again and blue skies to boot, it’s shopping time.
Onya bike and off to an Aprilia dealer (after some wrong turns and backtracking).

I finally finish up with a new pair of Alpine Star road boots- - very nice. Bike gear seems to be around 80% of the Australian prices, most clothing on a par, though.

We also manage to find a photo shop, which can transfer the photos from the digital flash card to CD making fresh room on the flash cards for more pics. Burning a lousy 64Mb to CD takes 6 hours and A$27 but what the heck…

In the meantime we’re off south towards Bolzano, after a few klicks the turnoff into the Ulten-Valley presents us with a magic 45 kilometers, winding their way through the valley, finishing after the last 10km of single-laner with a A$3 parking fee-come-drink-voucher at the high end of the valley.

After the drink it’s a nice walk up the slopes to a great, sunny spot amongst the big granite boulders dotting the grassy slopes with magic views to the snow-capped peaks beyond. Too much out of breath to continue the steep uphill climb we just hang around, soaking up the sun and the murmuring of the small creek bubbling all around us.
The ride back is a roll-down-the-hill-affair, the harvesting still in full swing.
I retrieve my old boots, which have been airing outside Eve’s place and consign them to a box of rubbish waiting for collection, no sentiments, they’ve had the gong and they’re on-the-nose big-time.
As it’s getting dark, Leo comes home and carries my helmet (left it on the bike outside) and the old boots through the door. Someone has watched us consigning them to the rubbish, assuming we didn’t know and returning them to the front door, how’s that?

The Chinese banquet at a local Merano restaurant wraps up another great day, this time of a quieter and more content note.
Returning after dinner my boots are back, again. Unbelievable, they’re becoming boomerangs. I stick them into the wheelie bin this time, squashing the lid shut and hoping that whoever the honest soul might be, will be asleep and NOT retrieve them AGAIN.
We’re having a good laugh before it’s off for some shut-eye. The great local red kicks in like a plank over the head.

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