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  1. #1
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    The Alps - Five Days to Explore - Images / Videos

    A tour of the Swiss and Italian Alps.

    Following business in Brussels and Geneva, working the plan with the fam, arranged for a motorcycle hire out of Geneva. Five days to see the area. This was a trip from last week. Fresh from the dairy. Time in airport lounges and Lufthansa providing laptop power from the seat had me cranking on the videos and content.

    While planning for this a friend in Europe suggested staying in a central location and making day rides from this place. Mentioned great rides in every direction from the Andermatt, Switzerland area and that I wouldn't have to try and find a hotel every night during a busy summer vacation time in the Alps. Sounded like good advice.

    Enough words! On with the content.

    DAY #1

    Only one video for this day (Five from day #2 coming up). BTW, these videos, while recorded at a brisk pace, aren't your garden variety see-how-fast-I-can ride videos. Focus here is on experiencing the passes of the Alps. Looked for clips where scenery can be seen, alpine villages perhaps passed through, and recordings from the top. Also, piano and violin accompany some of the vids. Days 3-5 have little more up tempo accompaniment. If looking for driving rock tunes, save your bandwidth, I put those in other vids.

    Following the collection of the bike and navigating east out of Geneva, came to the Chamonix area and Mont Blanc. Enormous. Glacial. Intimidating. One of the most impressive sights I've seen. Clouds clearing but still hazy when pulling over for the pic and looking up, up...


    Arrived at the Neufenen Pass mid-afternoon, and it provided a nice route to the family hotel where I would be staying in Airolo. The first pass! and an excellent introduction to what was ahead on this trip...

    Neufenen Pass - Streaming Video #1

    On the way to the pass summit, pulled over for this image of the road below, and traversed to get to this point...


    And from the top. I found the immense glaciers especially awesome...

  2. #2
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    DAY #2

    This is a memorable one. Maybe because it was planned as such. Really wanted to see the Dolomite Range in the Alps having seen great pics of the region. A little research and noted it was gonna be a loooong day, especially as the Dolomites weren't just a pass or two away. Additionally...

    - Navigating through unfamilar towns.
    - Having no GPS or tank bag (The latter especially helpful for reading the map on the fly vs. pulling over, opening the top case, trying to memorize the cities up ahead).
    - Sunday and summer holiday traffic.
    - Wanting to see the Dolomite passes as well as the oft photographed Stelvio.
    - Having over ten passses to ride (A couple at night on the way back).
    - Forgetting to pack the clear face shield at home and knowing I would be coming back at night, and nothing open on Sundays.

    So up at 5:15a and departure at 5:30a. The key navigating challenge was trying to find the way through largish city of Lugano... but hey, this is part of the adventure!

    And success! Knowing if I could reach Lake Lugano, route finding the rest of the way would be easier. Still early in the morning...


    Arrived at Campolongo in the Italian Alps in the afternoon. This is one of several great passes weaving through the Dolomites. The vid:

    Campolongo Pass - Streaming Video #2

    On the descent, pausing above Corvara. This is one of the most picturesque settings for a town I've ever seen...


    Was very happy to have found the Gardena Pass. This is the one I see pictures of often, with the rock formations looming just above the parking area of the pass.

    Gardena Pass - Streaming Video #3

    The formations...


    A busy day for this destination with visitors, tour busses, cyclists (motorized and not) all coming to experience the area. Was OK with this for I was sightseeing as well. In a way, others present added to the festivities. There would be moments later in the day when I would be very alone. Looking towards the direction/ascent from where the Gardena video is recorded...


    And another direction...


    From Gardena it was to Sella Pass. A tour bus almost takes out myself and two riders in front of me going around a hairpin curve. Near the beginning of the vid. More on this kind of oft repeated scenario when posting impressions...

    Sella Pass - Streaming Video #4

    From the top of the pass...


    Other directions from the top...




    Can note the sun is getting lower on the horizon in the image above. Starting to work way back to Airolo hotel but must experience and see the Stelvio Pass. It is around 7:30p when the ascent begins. Sun is almost setting and is behind the pass. Temps are dropping.

    Stelvio Pass - Streaming Video #5

    Can anyone explain the purpose of cow bells as seen in the beginning of the vid? Is it to help find scattered cows? A protection device? A nice sound? Drive the cows crazy as they graze the grasses? I should know this but can't remember! Several passes had cows roaming freely at the top.

    Along the way...


    And an image one often sees... the great route to the top of Stelvio Pass...


    Also at the top...


    A reason for falling behind schedule was missing a turn to one of the planned passes and instead finding myself at the top of an unplanned and out of the way pass! But it was a great ride to the top and had to ask around where the heck on the map was I at!

    This was the first recording of the day, and just the descent for I didn't know I was ascending a pass until arriving at the summit! From the top and the descent, with a classic Motown tune accompanying -- having nothing to do with the journey except for the title of the song:

    Fedaia Pass - Streaming Video #6

    Following Stelvio it got dark quickly. Rode on nervously watching the gas gauge. Stations closed. Almost called it a night in St. Moritz at 11:30p but decided to push on after putting on the cold weather gear and cleaning off all the sacrificed bugs on the dark faceshield. Surely I'd find a station with 24hr pumps taking Swiss Francs. A reason for my predicament was my kind and thoughtful bank noting my card was being used in Europe closed down the account!?! It was during this day I learned this as I tried to get Euros to use in Italy. They didn't give a diddly for Swiss Francs. Additionally, the few stations with 24 hour pumps wanted Euros and/or local credit cards.

    With the gauge at 1/8 tank and not enough to get back, while riding through the small and dark village of Mesocca at 12:30a, after having no success finding a station with 24 hour pumps, a lone station connected to a garage/home, with a single pump, took Swiss Francs after hours! Yee Ha. Filled the tank. Ate a Snickers and celebrated as the town slept. Stayed at the station for 20 minutes. Warmed up. Watch a spider with a huge web near the lights above the pump. Great location for trapping insects. Must have had over 100 bugs caught in the web.

    Back at the hotel at 1:30a. A day to remember.

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    DAY #3

    After the previous 20 hour day, day #3 was a relaxed one of scooting over St. Gottardo Pass to Andermatt, enjoying the town, having lunch, picking up postcards, etc.

    Andermatt, as suggested by the friend as a good "ground zero" to launch rides from, is a finer place to stay, look around, etc... but, a key reason I'm at a place in Airolo is I found a hotel with a vacancy for four nights and high speed internet. Yeah, probably down on the list for most, but it enabled staying on top of things at work and so forth.

    HOWEVER... one thing didn't work so well at Airolo. There was a train going through the town about every ten minutes, around the clock!!!

    Here's the recording of the ride over St. Gottardo Pass, from Airolo to Andermatt...

    St. Gottardo Pass - Streaming Video #7

    Looking down on the way up. Below is the town of Airolo. Maybe you can see that train station and tracks...


    And at the top of the pass...

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    DAY #4

    Day #2 was special. Day #4 was outstanding. Getting familiar with the bike, the roads, route finding, etc. Picking up the pace. Musical accompaniment in three of the day's four vids reflecting the tempo. Was able to follow riders on several of the passes.

    A great introduction to the day was a terrific Lucomagno Pass. More like a long country road ride with killer scenery as the clouds lifted. The recording ascends the pass, pauses at the top, descends and concludes at a storybook town - Curaglia:

    Lucomagno Pass - Streaming Video #8

    Looking to the north from the pass summit. Cows with their bells on the mountainside. Sounded like a Christmas time handbell performance...



    Second pass on the menu is Oberalp. This pass looms to the east of Andermatt. The recording goes to the top:

    Oberalp Pass - Streaming Video #9

    On the way to Oberalp. Even the roads between the passes are blissful...


    Following a lunch in Andermatt -- BTW, while it was a special lunch at an outdoor cafe, right on the corner of the road leading from Andermatt to Oberalp Pass, watching bikes come and go... riding in the Alps along with meals at these great restaurants is simply just meant to be shared with someone. More on this in the coming up "impressions" post.

    So I head north from Andermatt, and after 30 minutes head west at Wasson for Susten Pass. Put this one on your list. One of my favorites. It all comes together on this one... conditions, scenery, curves, climbs, towns. The recording to the top:

    Susten Pass - Streaming Video #10

    Three images from the top...






    The fourth pass of the day was Klausen. A narrow road in places. Had to pause for cows. Great series of tight S curves on the way. A fun video to the top:

    Klausen Pass - Streaming Video #11

    Two images from the summit of the pass...




    OK, returning to Geneva tomorrow. Have a route leading over a couple of passes to take.

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    DAY #5

    This day is a return trip to Geneva. Have to turn the bike in. Have a hotel waiting before flying out the next day.

    Have saved the nearby Furka and Grimsel Passes for the ride back, electing to return alongside Lake Geneva and seeing new sights versus back via Chamonix.

    Left around 5:40a, thus the ride over the two nearby passes have a lighting combination of sunrise sun and shade. No one on the passes at this early hour, including another ascent and descent of St. Gottardo, as I head north then west.

    Oh btw, before departing, recall the comments about the trains of Airolo? From 5:10a to the 5:40a departure, six trains went by.

    Here's a recording of the Furka Pass near Andermatt:

    Furka Pass - Streaming Video #12

    And the pass in the distance bathed with the light and warmth of the rising sun...


    Something about being up high, alone. Grimsel Pass is nearby. One descends Furka, then almost immediately one is climbing Grimsel. The peaks surrounding Furka cast shadows on Grimsel, but in the onboard recording one enters the sun as altitude is attained. Lyrics of the song note it as well:

    Grimsel Pass - Streaming Video #13

    From the top of Furka, looking at Grimsel in the distance...


    And from the summit of Grimsel...


    It was a great ride back to Geneva. One of the affirmations is riding in the Alps region isn't just about bagging some passes. The secondary roads through the countryside, through small towns, offered roads and conditions equally worthy of a visit.
    Last edited by sfarson; 07-25-2006 at 03:16 PM.

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    A few random impressions or observations...

    - Minimal presence of animals, seen or as roadkill. Saw some signs, but rarely live things crossing in front. Did see a couple of marmots on Stelvio but not much else.

    - Great road surfaces. Yeah, some bumpy sections here and there, but as a whole -- sweet. The videos show how great the surfaces/conditions are.

    - Contribution to the quality conditions -- minimal to no sand, gravel, or grit. A reason for this I believe is no shoulder or grassy shoulders. Here in Colorado, with sandy shoulders, vehicles cutting corners kick grit into the curves.

    - Roads tend to be narrow. Minimal to no shoulders contribute. This also leads to slower vehicles up front not pulling aside to let faster traffic pass. Reasons could be 1). Having no place to pull over for there is no place to pull over, or 2). There is simply the attitude I'm not pulling over for anyone. At least here in the states a few will see faster motorcycles behind and pull to the side to let pass.

    - The hairpin turns (especially lefthanders) on the passes can be tricky, if not dangerous. Many vehicles coming the other way sometimes just swing wide, right into your lane, and the road is narrow to begin with. Had several larger vehicles, including busses, force me to the far right just to get by before entering the hairpin.

    - Enjoyed the destination stops at the top of many of the passses. Most had restaurants/cafes, bathrooms, if not lodging, gifts, snacks, etc. at the top. Kinda turns the top of the pass into a destination, more than just being at the top for pics. Can see on a cold day how welcome it could be to warm up inside. On a warm day, great for sitting outside, maybe having a meal, watching others come and go.

    - Visually, the Alps are stunning to behold. And I'm in the Rockies. While the majority of peaks are not as high, one sees them at a much lower altitude, thus the gap is greater. They seem higher. Plus they are more jagged and rugged looking.

    - It is an adventure to make a ride like this without the comfort of a guided tour. Can see value going either way. If comfortable with maps, and knowing the towns up ahead you want to pass through, one can do this without a guided tour, plus save money, plus be in control of where/when/how long, etc.

    - Saw many two-up riders. Nice to see. How special the area is, and how well it is to experience with others... other riders or someone holding you from behind.

    Guess this is enough for now.

    One of the typical stops... memorize the map, have a snack, look around:
    Last edited by sfarson; 07-25-2006 at 03:18 PM.

  7. #7
    TOR1150R
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    Absolutely amazing.
    Thanks for sharing the pics and report!!

  8. #8
    Grow'd up Mini Trail munchy's Avatar
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    Alex:
    Thanks for the link to the free maps. I grabbed them all and have been pouring over them for days... which will stretch into weeks as I plan this trip. Your tips and links have been invaluable, a great service.

    I have heard an ugly rumor somewhere that in order to rent a decent bike, e.g., a BMW, one must reserve the bike a year in advance. This makes my planning a bit difficult, since I usually plan about as far ahead as my next meal. Has anyone heard anything similar? Just curious. Renting from Knopf is a $300 deposit, of which $100 is all that is refundable for cancellation before 30 days out. And it is already December. I'm thinking that a flight to Frankfurt, rental from Knopf, and traveling the twisties to the Interlaken area would be a great start. Want to see the Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau, just because (my last name is Moench) and do as many of the roads as possible, as shown on the ADAC maps, in a week to 10 days

    Merry Christmas, by the way.

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    MOA #104910, Twisted Shaft Motorcycle Club #241

  9. #9
    Alps Adventurer GlobalRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Munchy
    Alex:
    Thanks for the link to the free maps. I grabbed them all and have been pouring over them for days... which will stretch into weeks as I plan this trip. Your tips and links have been invaluable, a great service.
    Well for some of us, thats part of the fun that we get by organizing our own tour. I love browsing over maps and dreaming.

    BTW, if you get to an ADAC office, and there is one near the Franfurt airport, you can pick up full sized maps of those downloads. I can't say for sure, but being an AAA member might get you privaledges at the ADAC. I believe most auto clubs have agreements.

    Quote Originally Posted by Munchy
    I have heard an ugly rumor somewhere that in order to rent a decent bike, e.g., a BMW, one must reserve the bike a year in advance.
    Cripes! Its a conspiracy by the organized tour operators. They want you to take one of their overpriced tours.

    Quote Originally Posted by Munchy
    Renting from Knopf is a $300 deposit, of which $100 is all that is refundable for cancellation before 30 days out. And it is already December.
    I haven't dealt with any of the rental agencies, but I have always heard good things about Knopf and usually recommend them and a few others.

    If you're worried about having to cancel for work related reasons, I always get my vacation leave approved before I pay for my airline tickets, etc. If they want to cancel my leave, they're left with the cost of the airline ticket, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Munchy
    I'm thinking that a flight to Frankfurt, rental from Knopf, and traveling the twisties to the Interlaken area would be a great start. Want to see the Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau, just because (my last name is Moench) and do as many of the roads as possible, as shown on the ADAC maps, in a week to 10 days.
    For a first time, thats a good plan as its an easy run down the A5 into Switzerland. There is plenty to ride there and since you only have 7 to 10 days, why rush it. Make sure you have a Swiss and/or Austrian autobahn vignette if you are going to take any of them. Rentals will usually have the autobahn vignettes stuck to the bike somewhere. And isn't it spelled M?Ânch?

  10. #10
    Grow'd up Mini Trail munchy's Avatar
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    Yes it is spelled with the oomlat but a) I don't know how to make that in a posting and b) somewhere along the line, we changed it to "oe" when my great grandfather emigrated to the US. Weird as it is, my clan pronounces it so it rhymes with "lunch." My Dad tells us that his father was called "pink mink" with the more appropriate German pronunciation. And of course, we have the ruddy complexion so it fits.

    My vacation plans have been screwed up several times before, due to the profession I am in where trials, settlement meetings etc., involving many lawyers from all over the country get cast in stone and I'm stuck. I work on the grand tobacco litigation for a state attorney general's office and that's what messed things up last time, though that was several years ago. But the tobacco litigation is rearing its ugly head again.

    2002 R1150GS
    MOA #104910, Twisted Shaft Motorcycle Club #241

  11. #11
    Subaru Rally Specialist nhlkats's Avatar
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    wow!

    p.s. interesting music choices

  12. #12
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    Thumbs up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Best of the Web material

    sfarson,
    you have a great ride reports here.
    Best of the Web material
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    Enjoy the travel photos at: klasjm.smugmug.com

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