Thursday, 29 August 2013

Our Euro Tour Day 8,9,10 and 11

Saturday 24 August 2013.
The Gotthard Pass

Airolo - Andermatt 16 stonking miles
Today has been absolutely awesome! Mind you it started off with the usual rubbish breakfast. On the table there  was a bowl full of eggs and a warning label attached saying "raw eggs" nice, there was some kind of device that I think was meant to cook the eggs so I put a couple in and pressed the button expectantly, nothing happened. Then I noticed it wasn't plugged in, there wasn't even a socket near it so Marguerite took it across the room to where there was a socket and we tried again. This time the device did little more than squeak extremely loudly, much to our embarrassment, so we abandoned the eggs and ate whatever else was available. Little more than cereal, yoghurt and some bread and croissants that had been keeping the flies amused for some time.

The ride today though was absolutely memorable. A big, big climb for a reluctant tandem as we ascended switchback after switchback climbing over 3000' in 7 miles to the highest point we will reach on the tour at 6950'. The weather was considerably cooler too, whereas we'd thus far been used to temperatures in the high 20s low 30s we were now down at 16C and it was getting a bit drizzly. More like a Scottish day really.
There were quite a few little shops and restaurants etc dotted around the summit so we had a look around and I had a really delicious bratwurst before the cold got to us and we began our descent.
Another thing that tandems are not particularly good at is stopping. I was acutely aware of this as we headed down the steep road eying the approaching bends with some nervousness. If you let gravity take charge and the speed builds up, very quickly you reach a point where it's impossible to get the speed down sufficiently to take the next corner resulting in carnage.  The disk brake was applied pretty much full on just to stop us going supersonic and the front brake was being used as well to get our speed down for the corners. I tried not to think about the heat build up on the front rim and didn't dare thing about how that heat can build up until the tyre explodes probably killing us as we crashed off the road. We did have a couple of brake cooling stops but I was aware that even stopping the bike in a safe place required a huge amount of braking.
We got down though, but now the weather had really changed and it was pouring down, we were both freezing too so it was very lucky we'd booked a hotel here so we could get in out of the weather. Very lucky indeed as it proceeded to rain for the rest of the afternoon.

Sunday 25 August 2013

early morning traffic

Andermatt - Affoltern 58 miles
Another fantastic day in the Alps with ten miles of awesome if white knuckle descending. Bloody freezing though and we were layered up like we were back in Scotland.
It was a kinda strange morning though as I was having (and not for the first time) an ongoing battle with the garmin gps. I wanted to go directly to Brunnel from Altdorf but the gps was insisting in a rather blasé fashion that we should take an 80 mile detour over the 6500' Klausen Pass instead of the flat 15 mile lake side route. Erm, helloo, get real, it ain't happening. I refused to believe what the gps was telling me, ie that there was no possible bike route along side the bikes forbidden lake road. So it was with some trepidation we munched our lunchies and headed out lake side.

I needn't have worried though, there was an excellent bike path complete with dedicated bike tunnels all the way along a really lovely route so up yours Garmin!

So that was the Alps pretty well done, only a couple off wee foothills in the last 30 miles of the days ride as we purred along Lake Zug until we cruised into Affoltern.
Here though we found we'd got ourselves a booking in a completely bizarre hotel. Seemed to be a combination of hotel, bar, Thai restaurant (closed of course), and some kind of house of ill repute with ladies wandering about all over in various states of undress. can't remember this feature being described on
Never mind, us travellers have to take these things in our stride and we got on with all the usual chores of bib short washing and bum callous attention that was daily aspect of normal life these days.
Once freshened up we had a bit of an explore of the town and identified suitable and unsuitable watering holes before settling for yet another pizza. I never thought I'd find myself getting sick of pizzas but I don't think I'd mind if I don't have another. At least till get back and make one of my own.

Monday 26 august

Affoltern - Basel 55 mile
Difficult to say much about today, certainly where the ride was concerned. It was non eventful and fairly mundane riding after the Alps. The scenery now was very like the North Yorkshire Hills round by Osmotherley for those who know it. Mind you the ride did manage to throw in a fair number of unexpected stiff climbs along the way to Basel. The traffic in Basel was a nightmare, very, very busy and intimidating to ride in. Even with the gps it was difficult avoiding getting onto roads that we weren't allowed on and it was a relief to finally get to a nice hotel in the middle of the city.

Even later after we'd settled in to the hotel and we had a walk round the town we were in imminent danger of getting squashed by trams. they hurtle along and trying to guess which track they're on isn't always obvious. It was worth it though for the lovely Chinese meal we had. A nice change from pizza and pasta.

Tuesday 27 Aug

Transition Day to Bonn
one of many trains
There was always going to be a transition day on the journey as we just didn't have time to ride the whole way and we decided it may as well be today. The plan being to get as far north as would leave us with enough mileage but not too much to complete before the ferry departs from Amsterdam on Saturday. On paper today should have been fairly straight forward. All we needed to do was get us and the bike onto the 12:20 train from Basel to Bonn. The station was literally half a mile from the hotel too. So, it was a nice leisurely breakfast enjoyed and we strolled round to the ticket office. This is where things became apparent we might have a leeeetle problemo. There are various types of train in Germany, the super fast ICE trains (no bikes) the fast national trains (that we wanted to get on) and regional trains that stop everywhere.
While the ticket office man was incredibly helpful he could not get us on to a fast train as the bike compartment was fully booked. All we could do is string regional trains together and take an eight hour journey involving six different trains and much humping of fully loaded tandem around six different stations.  So that's how we spent the day, people watching on slow trains. One particularly interesting chap was reading his magazine when a couple of pages fell out and landed on the floor. He proceeded to jump up, stamp up and down on the pages like they committed a personal affront on him. He then placed the magazine in his bag and then beat the hell out of his bag. Thankfully this dubious character got off at the next station.
We did have some good luck on the journey though. One of our changes was a four minute window. Our train was running late and we assumed we'd miss it. This would have meant we'd get to Bonn an hour and a half later but there was a train on what I thought was the right platform. There were masses of people on the platform and we fought and pushed our way through and flung ourselves onto the train just as it set off.
Once underway though, doubts crept in. "Are you sure we're on the right train?" I tentatively asked Marguarite  "No I'm not sure, not sure at all" she said. I tried to deduce where we were headed reasoning we were following a major river, probably the Rhine so that was good cos as far as i know all major rivers north of the Alps flow north. Also tv satellite dishes all face south so I new we were going north but it was quite a while till we got confirmation from the conductress that we were ok.

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