Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Day 10 Flims to Zurich

To our surprise, by daybreak all of the nasty weather had cleared out and the sun was drying things up quite nicely (to the dismay of Squirrel & Garbanzo), because today's ride included the Oberalp Pass again!

After packing and cleaning the camper we finally got rolling at 11:15 instead of 10! We made pretty good time reaching the top of the Pass. However, due to the cold front that passed through on Friday, it was clearly quite a bit colder than the first time we climbed it. Since we already had all the pictures we didn't spend much time at the top. We all looked forward to the long descent, but after about 1 mile from the top we picked up some very strong headwind, so we actually had to work instead of coasting (I never reached more than 35mph, even on the 10% slopes!). The descent lasted for about 28 miles or 1.25 hours.

Once we reached the bottom we travelled along the Vierwaldstaetter See and into the town of Schwyz. Schwyz is one of the 3 original founding states, that formed a pact to free themselves from the Habsburgers. It has a very nice cobbled town square with lots of old buildings with murals depicting the historical events. We decided to take a quick break to chow down and refuel (mile 85, 30 to go).

After a short climb we passed along the lake of Zug. About halfway through we stopped so I could show the guys the old lake house my grandparents use to own. For me it was somewhat of a trip down memory lane. The next 15 miles were quite uneventful. We had one more climb, but compared to the true passes this was just a small hill! Once over the top we headed down to the lake of Zurich, where we took the ferry across. One more last climb of about 3 miles, but this sucker included the steepest climbs we encountered all trip, 2 sections of 15% for 1/3 of a mile! One last descent and we reached my parents house.

Total was 115 miles in 6:37:00, and 9491ft of climbing.
The overall total was 600 miles in 6 days or 35:42 hours of riding time and 51,400ft of climbing.

I just can't overemphasize how lucky we were with the weather. Except for the one day were we had rain for about 30 miles, it was simply fantastic!! This is almost unheard off. I guess the old Swiss saying is true: When angles travel the skys will smile upon them!

Sunday is packing day and Monday Squirrel heads to Karlsruhe by train, while Garbanzo & I will do some shopping for our Honeys (no, that will not include you Kyle)!

A huge thanks goes out to my parents for lugging all of our baggage around and to my sister for letting us stay at her camper in Flims.

Day 9 Rest Day

Friday was our scheduled rest day in Flims. August 1st is also Swiss Independence Day (from the Habsburger (Austrians)) in 1291!

Almost as planned it started raining around 3PM, which turned into off and on thundershowers. Around 6PM Squirrel wanted to do some hiking, mostly to show the Swiss that Americans could do it as well as they did! So the two knuckle heads (Brick & Squirrel) set out on this 1 hour hike to some observation platform overlooking the Rhein gorge (the Swiss Grand Canyon). Naturally, after 5 minutes into the hike it started raining again, and eventually turned into this downpour! We were absolutely soaked from head to toe 45 minutes into our route. Finally we reached the platform, but by that time it had gotten so foggy we could barely see the river way down below, and since there was lightening and the platform was built out of several flights of steel, we basically just ran up to the top, looked around real quick and took a couple of shots and ran back down!!

Of course now we had to hike back up the mountain for an other hour in the rain!! Naturally, by the time we got back to the camp site the rain started to let up. At least the "Smart One" (Garbanzo) was nice enough to start cooking dinner.

Due to all of the fog and the 120% humidity, we could only hear the fireworks, but not actually see it, except for some glow in the distance.

Since this rain wasn't a quick passing storm, I started getting really worried about our Saturday return trip from Flims to Zurich. None of us was really excited about riding 115 miles in the rain! So I came up with some alternatives, which included a combination of buses and trains!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Day 8 Flims - Davos Loop

This was a suppose to be an easier ride with not to much steep climbing. Well, that wasn't quite the case! The first 25 miles were fairly flat and the next 10 gradual uphill. Garbanzo was really struggling with is legs and his tush!!! He decided to turn around as to not hold us up. He picked the right place to reach this decision too, because after just 1 more mile to road started kicking up for 6.2 miles at and average of 7.5%, and then again for 2.7 miles at average 10.3%! I could hear Squirrel moan every time the road kicked up! We finally reached Davos after 48 miles and having climbed 2800ft. We stopped at an other cafe and eat a ciabiatta (panini). After this short break the road finally dipped down, but not for too long, of course! Luckily, this was fairly short, 1.4 miles, average 7% with some 11% thrown in.

Now the real descent started, 22 miles of twist and turns with speeds in the high 40's. 15 miles of rolling terrain brought us back to the now famous "oh not again climb to Flims"! Squirrel was really struggling now, even spinning in his 27. I got in front of him and started pacing him to the top. I myself kept wondering why it seemed a bit harder then on some of the previous climbs. The answer was that I was climbing the entire hill in my 21, thinking I was in my 24!!! I guess it's all for muscle tension work!

Squirrel had only one thing to say: This was a hard and brutal ride! Good thing there is a rest day tomorrow!

The total was 95 miles with 8050ft of climbing in 5:42hr. Once again, we were blessed with absolutely fantastic weather.

Day 7 Lugano to Flims

According to Squirrel, this was an epic day! Sice he's ridden many of those with Ted, we're assuming he knows what constitutes and epic ride!! We started just before 10AM and after about 4 miles reached the Swiss-Italian boarder, where we got our passports stamped (freakin tourists). We continued our route along the lake of Lugano and then crossed over a small hill to get down to the lake of Como at the town of Menaggio. It was absolutely picture perfect. The route followed along the lake northwards to the end in Dubino from where we started some very gradual climbing to Chiavenna. At this point we've been riding for 2:50hr and covered 51 miles, so we decided to at a cafe for a "real" panini! Squirrel also had an expresso and some gelati! After about 30 minute we got started again and that's when it hit us - the "real climb"!!!

18.96 miles, 6100ft with many 1 mile stretches of 9 and 10% average grades, lots of switchbacks, tunnels and burning hot sunshine! I've never looked so forward to the next tunnel, but getting a bit relief from the sun was great. Once everyone reached the top we stopped again so we could have our second "real" panini, and a bottle of coke!! After this break it was pretty much all down hill until the climb back up to Flims. Unfortunately, we encountered some light rain, that turned into some heavy rain and wind with about 20 miles to go, which made the climb up to Flims just that much harder. Squirrel took full advantage of that and sat on my wheel until 2/3 up and then dumped me! What are friends for!

When it was all said and done, we covered 110 miles and 12,000ft of climbing in 7:11hr of actual riding time. Needless to say, we couldn't wait to hit the warm showers, do a bit of stretching and then fill our bellies!!! Of course, once again we didn't actually get to bed until 1AM.

Day 6 Rest day in Lugano

After our long ride the day before we were all looking forward to a good nights rest, but with all 3 of us in the same room, and Squirrel snoring like a freight train coming and going, only one of us was getting a restful night!!! Finally,I just could not stand it any more, so I got up and stumbled over to his bed, grabbed his ankle and shook him. This just about freaked him out, thinking he was being attacked by some Italian Mafia Boss' vice grip of death! Unfortunately, it only stopped his snoring for about a half hour!

We met for breakfast at 8:30 and then left the hotel around 10:30 to go into downtown Lugano. We walked through the park along the lake and also waded into the water, but it was quite cool. So we continued walking to the cable car train station that took us to the top of Monte Brè. The panorama view was pretty amazing, even though it was a bit hazy. After about 1 hour we had enough of the scenery and we rode back down. Once back in down town we stopped at the small open market where we got a swiss-italian panini (of course, this wasn't quite the real thing for Squirrel, since we hasn't actually in Italy, 4 miles form the boarder)! Since the temp reached about 92F around 4PM we made our way back to the hotel to take a dip in the pool, and actually get some rest!

We returned back to downtown for dinner at a restaurant right on the quai. The food was good, but the service was extremely slow. Garbanzo & Squirrel treated my parents and myself which was greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Day 5

Today, we road from Flims to Lugano, 120 miles with 2 big climbs and 5 mile kicker at the 105 mile mark. First off, hats off to Vic for ordering up great weather for our trip. The temperature was very comfortable the entire way and no rain. Second, Vic is determined to stay in Switzerland. He keeps leaving his saddlebag open and his passport is the first thing to hit the pavement. We are not talking once or twice either.

The first climb was Oberalppass, 30 miles of gradual climbing followed by 10 miles of avg 8% with many switchbacks!! Of course, Vic and Squirrel ride away from Garbanzo, each of us finding a rhythm. In general, many Swiss seem to be in great shape, considering seeing this 70 year old couple descending on their 40lbs tandem bike with panniers everywhere! We regrouped at the top for the photo-op. We descended Oberalppass with a tour bus and cars in the way spoiling some of the fun. The second climb over the St. Gotthard Pass begins immediately once you reach the valley. This is the pass where the Romans came through on elephants a few thousand years ago. They were smart to use elephants rather than bicycles. The pitch on both climbs were anywhere from 8%-12% steady.

We had lunch on top of St. Gotthard, consisting of Bratwurst, Alpen Cheese with bread and a refreshing warm Coke! The descent was fast and furious without traffic, until we hit the old cobbled road (remember the Romans). Brick had some excitement on the way down. He is pedaling along and all of a sudden the pedal is not attached to the crank any longer, just to his shoe. We stop with Brick giving Garbanzo a hard time for telling him not to tighten his pedals real tight. Well, turns out the pedal barely spins on the spindle and it just works its way loose after a few strokes. Luckily we were able to convince an Italian speaking auto mechanic into really tightening the pedal to the crank and oiling the spindle. Wait until Brick tries to take that pedal off when packing up the bike.

The next 60 miles were pretty countryside and uneventful until we get into Bellinzona where Squirrel’s true colors came to shine, his fetish of having to chase down every freakin scooter!!! This boy has way too much energy after climbing. On his last attempt he gained about 100 meters on us, so he was unable to hear Brick whistle as he decided to enter the freeway (funny, that the Swiss have a rule against that)!!! After waiting for a few minutes for Squirrel to realize he was being honked at by every passing car, but due to his loud singing of “O sole mio”, Brick and Garbanzo were unable to reconnect with Squirrel! So we had no choice but to continue on the designated bike route on our own. Brick had some choice words, especially after having endured similar antics going down/up (don’t ask) to Flims on our first day on the bike. Fortunately, we were able to catch back up with Squirrel on the short, but very steep climb to Lugano. Him waiting half way up this climb saved Squirrel from hearing all of Brick’s choice words!!

Just as we reach the top of this climb Brick really starts to struggle so we pull into this gas station and buy some cokes and snickers bars. We sit our tired asses down on the few chairs and this short break really feels great. As we’re getting ready to get going again we notice the store owner pumping her fist at us for wetting her chairs with our wonderful sweat!! Luckily she didn’t sick her “Tiffosy” on us, so we simply just rode away while pleasantly smiling at her!

We arrived at the hotel and enjoyed dinner with Harry and Cindy, Vic’s parents. They are the greatest, schlepping our luggage all over Switzerland and being our tour guides off the bike.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day 4

We decided to ride to shorter loop from Flims to Tiefencastel, then up and over the Lenzerheide Pass down to Chur and back up to Flims. The estimated length was 57 miles or about 4 hours. The reasons for picking the shorter loop was due to Squirrel messing around with his gears and the front break cable until 1AM the night before! ..and because Garbanzo had lower back problems (yeah right!)

So Squirrel and I took off around 11:45. The decent from Flims was a really nice reward for yesterday's climbing. Once we reached the valley we had a few rollers of about 11 miles with a constant uphill slope. At about the 2o mile mark is when wwe started climbing for the first time. About 5 miles averaging about 4% with the first 2 miles of average 6% and 13% max. At the end of the 5 miles we crossed the old Solis bridge over the huge gorge. While we were talking pictures Squirrel fell in love with the Italian Chick! Not because she was riding this very nice De Rosa bike, because of her white shorts!!!

It was a challenge to get him to get focused on the next stretch of road, which kicked up for 1.2 miles at an average of 8.2% and max of 13.5%. He had a short dip and then the real climb up to Lenzerheide started. Total climb was 8.4 miles avg grade of 5% with max 14.9%. The first 4.2 miles however were the though ones, avg at 8.2%. Once at the top we put arm warmers and vest on for the decent. Sure enough, .5 mile into it, it started raining, so we had to take it a bit slower than anticipated, but also because of the slow moving cars. After 9 miles we reached the valley below and luckily the rain stopped, to make it nice and humid for our climb back up to Flims!

Once we got back to the trailer we had 59 miles in 3:43, total climbing 6591ft. In the mean time, Garbanzo, "the-stay-at-home-mom" had made our beds, cleaned the trailer, did the laundry and had gone shopping for dinner. Today's menu included tomatoes with mozzarella, pork steak, pasta, green beans and read wine! Since Garbanzo and I did the cooking, Squirrel had to do the dishes!!!