Sunday, July 23, 2006

July 23rd, 2006 Locarno, Switzerland to Zuoz, Switzerland

After some great experiences in Locarno and based on my body and mind fatigue from the endless switchbacks and (yes it sounds silly but) invariably magnificent vistas of the passes, I decided to start heading back towards Munich, hitting what I could along the way. I hopped on the autobahn north and cranked out 60 or 70 km to the San Bernadino pass. I was finding that the F650GS loaded with my stuff and me was very happy at about 100 to 110 kmph. That seemed usually fast enough to hang out in the right lane being passed and having to pass occasionally. Leading up to the San Berrnadino, traffic was moving about that pace through very even sweepers although I took the opportunity to squeeze by in the wide lanes when I could.

On many of the big passes, they've built tunnels beneath the mountains which not only provide a more direct route but enable the artery to be open year round. As a result, the old pass roads are usually fairly uncongested. That being said, on the day I was there, the San Bernandino tunnel was closed for some reason and traffic was being routed over the pass itself. On the top was a beautiful 360 degree panorama which included views back down what looked like overlapping switchbacks from that angle. Amidst the green grass scattered with gray stones were Star Wars-eque structures that were actually exhaust/access towers coming up through the mountain from the tunnel far below.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

At the bottom of the other side of the pass, traffic was routed back onto the autobahn but I opted to stay on the old side road. And it was literally the side road, running right along the left side of the two lane high speed road. But, without any traffic, I was typically able to make my happy 100 kmph between 50 kmph town sections.

Guilty about "cutting and running" on some of the passes I'd planned to hit, I took a right at the town of Splugen and headed up the Splugen Pass road which would get me over the mountains towards St. Moritz and the little town of Zuoz where I had planned to spend two nights. Around the time the Splugen crosses the Italian border, the road begins a series of downhill switchbacks, mostly one lane and many inside tunnels. At some points, you can look over the side to see the next 5 or 6 turns hanging on the hillside below you. Unfortunately, because of the narrow road and blind turns, there was no where to stop to get a good picture of the road. Before I knew it, I was down into very Italian looking and sounding villages.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

Around 4 or so, I stopped and managed to mime a salami and cheese sandwich at an outside cafe under some pine trees. The rain started as I left the cafe and continued for a half hour or so. There was a dark look to the clouds to the north and more and more of the steady stream of bikers heading towards me had their full rain gear on, but I figured I could deal with being a little wet. I joined some other bikers under an overpass to put the pack fly I had brought at the last minute over the mando and electronics in my backpack. At about 100 kmph, the air would catch it pretty good and work like a parachute.

The Maloja Pass just before St. Moritz was very pretty with a big lake and picturesque towns built right on the water. I took some pictures of a scene that would have seemed over the top if I didn't see it with my own eyes. A small village nestled in a narrow alpine valley overlooking an eerily blue lake with a lone sailboat lazing by. St. Moritz itself seemed like an overbuilt Aspen with newer and bigger hotels being hastily built in the off season.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

A few kilometers north, the small ski town of Zuos didn't look like much until I found the old cobblestoned center and grabbed the first hotel room I looked into. My fatigue had definitely caught up to me as I absentmindedly cut too close to a planter while pulling the bike around back and put a nice dent in the side of the right hard bag. No real harm done except to my ego. Sitting at the table after a dinner of homemade tricolor ravioli drenched in butter recounting my day into my "poor man's computer" that the German guy at the table next to me thought was "super," I resigned to finish that beer and head up to watch one of the 5 channels of TV (none in English) and decide whether to take the direct or the "endless switchbacks but invariably magnificent vistas" route to Innsbruck the next day.

I just saw a car with an "80" in a circle with a line through it, the highway sign for the end of an 80 kmph speed limit area. I guess Sammy Hagar couldn't find anything to rhyme with "80 kilometers per hour" for the European release of “I Can’t Drive 55.”

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