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Thread: More Alps: Finding GS Land

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    Flirting With The Redline 6000 Posts! atomicalex's Avatar
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    More Alps: Finding GS Land

    From my blog...

    Day -4: Arrival

    Well, I arrived, at least. My gear bag did not. Thanks to Delta’s FlyDelta app, however, I at least know where it is. In Atlanta. Oops. It made it onto the next flight over, though. That is good.

    One problem: my tank bag is not going to cut it mounting-wise. Off to polo to see what they have. I’ve already decided to try to grab Gericke’s cool top-opening gear roll – 75 litres of waterproof goodness that is easier to access than my 90l end-opening roll.

    I do have all of my electronics. I carried those, my helmet, and my jacket on the plane. I figured it might be a good idea to bring the expensive stuff on my person.

    Still to do today – check on the rental and do that shopping.
    Last edited by atomicalex; 09-24-2014 at 12:47 PM.
    Katherine goes to Fahrschule - the German rider training thread :: Nine Days in the Alps :: BRC 2014 :: Finding GS Land
    2012 CBR250R (sold), 2001 Super Sherpa, 2004 BMW F650GSa - not a big Ford truck...

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    Flirting With The Redline 6000 Posts! atomicalex's Avatar
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    Day -1: Please Garmin, Don't Die

    My old Garmin nüvi 1490LMT is being whiny. Please don’t die, little black box of wonder. I mean, please don’t die until after the trip is done and I have recovered all of the data from you. Please?

    Seriously, this poor thing is beat and I think this might be its last real big trip. The US one I have is much faster, except for when it estimates motion and then has to recalculate. It’s a good thing I really do not like tomtom and I really do love BaseCamp. Otherwise…. Garmin….. What are you doing? Your OS sucks!

    On the plus side, this arrived.

    Last edited by atomicalex; 09-24-2014 at 01:32 PM.
    Katherine goes to Fahrschule - the German rider training thread :: Nine Days in the Alps :: BRC 2014 :: Finding GS Land
    2012 CBR250R (sold), 2001 Super Sherpa, 2004 BMW F650GSa - not a big Ford truck...

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    Flirting With The Redline 6000 Posts! atomicalex's Avatar
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    Day 0: The bike, Duisburg to Bad Bellingen

    On Day -1, we have the brilliant idea that we can leave early. This would turn out to be one of the best decisions we made, for a lot of reasons.

    At 10AM, my riding partner drops me off at Motorrad Briel in Duisburg, Germany, to pick up my rental bike. I have arranged for a BMW F700GS, a parallel twin adventure bike. Sadly lacking luggage. I knew that ahead of time and have brought my tank bag with. I also have purchased a Streetline 25l dry bag from Hein Gericke, as my 75l pack roll seemed stupidly cumbersome and large, given my pared-down packing.



    Much to my surprise, the stock height seat is fine with the preload cranked down. All of my personal worries about needing a lowered bike are gone once I sat on the thing and pushed it up. Both feet are mostly down – my heels graze the ground – and if I scooch up all the way, it seems just like the fit of my old CBR250R – perfect. I try out the low seat, but have concerns that it will put my knees at too tight of an angle for day-long riding comfort. I decide to take the plunge and ride with the normal seat. I will question this decision about one hundred and fifty times a day during the trip – it’s little more than a foam-covered 2×4 and has precious little no support for my girlie hips. About 100kms per stretch and I need to get off of it and stand around a bit. The low seat is carved out and the sitting area is much wider, more similar to the seat on my trusty old F650GS single. Which, now that I think about it, seems like a veritable butt paradise, considering I can go for entire tanks of fuel (350kms or so) without even considering my posterior comfort.

    We slab it down to Bad Bellingen, near Lörrach, our original planned point of departure, had we managed to get AutoZug tickets. Unfortunately, the part of DeutscheBahn that runs the AutoZug has their heads in the air on pricing, and we preferred to spend that money elsewhere. We hole up at Haus Daheim in Bad Bellingen, just off the A5. Quaint, and more importantly, biker friendly. We get two nice rooms, a great breakfast, and a garage to stow the bikes in overnight.



    Last edited by atomicalex; 09-24-2014 at 01:32 PM.
    Katherine goes to Fahrschule - the German rider training thread :: Nine Days in the Alps :: BRC 2014 :: Finding GS Land
    2012 CBR250R (sold), 2001 Super Sherpa, 2004 BMW F650GSa - not a big Ford truck...

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    Flirting With The Redline 6000 Posts! atomicalex's Avatar
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    Day 2: Wassen to Novi Ligure

    Leaving Wassen, we get a good indicator of the weather we can expect for most of the trip. Sankt Gotthard is called the Weathermaker for a reason – but better said in German – der Unwettermacher. We have more rain. Super.



    Regardless, it is time to head on over to the Furkapass. Famed for its appearance in Goldfinger, it’s a beat-up, often single-lane stretch that has some truly rewarding views. Armco is completely missing, the only side securements are the electric fences used to keep the sheep and cows off the road. Given a weekend to ride, I would consider riding the loop of Furka, Nufenen, and Sankt Gotthard over and over and over. Three wonderful and unique passes that have a ton to offer any moderately experience rider. Furka brings us up into the clouds again and over the tops, where we are greeted by warm sun.







    Just as Furka is visible from Grimsel, the curves of Grimsel are visible from Furka. The road to the left is the lower southwest ramp of Furka. On the way down, there is a marker for the Rhonegletscher, one of the sources of the Rhone river. We periodically see the Furkabahn, an old steam cog railway that brings cars and people through the passes.







    We follow the 19 south to Brig and turn onto the 9, the Simplonstrasse. Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express takes place on what is actually called the Simplon-Orient Express, a very real train route that brings travelers south to the sunny beaches of Italy. The nearly 20km long Simplon tunnel houses the tracks, along with a rail car service that carries cars and persons through in 20 minutes. Hmmm. Not for us. We have different tunnels to take, the long and elegant avalanche galleries that make up most of the northern ramp of Simplon. We go over the top, again to find sun and warmth. We tuck into our breakfast leftovers for lunch, and then head southward to Domodossola, Italy. Regrettably for me, this will turn into the start of a nagging gut problem that will eventually cost me one and a half riding days and quite a few euros.











    From Domodossola, we continue south on Italy’s A62 in pursuit of the Italian coastline. Italy’s Autostrada system is well-built, with hundreds of short tunnels to carry traffic easily through the mountains. Tolls are handled with tickets, similar to the usual turnpike ticket in the US. We are both a bit tired and I am puffing up like a balloon from the cheese. We stop for a bit near Praolo so that I can deflate myself. It’s warm and sunny and we are baked like cookies. From there, we head south to Alessandria and Nove Liguri. We find a hotel after some fussing – Italy is not as well-organized as the German-speakers up north are – and a couple of dead ends. The hotel Gambero d’Oro is thankfully open and willing to host two ladies on motorbikes. Dinner is outstanding northern Italian fare. I have keyed in on milk being an issue, but not yoghurt.
    Last edited by atomicalex; 09-24-2014 at 02:17 PM.
    Katherine goes to Fahrschule - the German rider training thread :: Nine Days in the Alps :: BRC 2014 :: Finding GS Land
    2012 CBR250R (sold), 2001 Super Sherpa, 2004 BMW F650GSa - not a big Ford truck...

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    Flirting With The Redline 6000 Posts! atomicalex's Avatar
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    Day 1: Bad Bellingen to Novi Ligure

    The issue with leaving early is that we have a reservation at a cheap hotel in Wassen, Switzerland for Friday night. I have figured out that we can alter our route to run a loop section of it on Friday, instead of holding out until the planned later point in the trip. This is a big win for us, as we have good weather for the most part and get some of the best passes of the trip in early.

    We depart Bad Bellingen on the A5 and cross into Switzerland, purchasing Vignettes at the border. A Vignette is a sticker that shows you have paid the annual toll for riding the highways in the country. For 2014, the Vignette is red and yellow, and features the well-known symbol for the Autobahn. Without it, you are subject to rather impressive fines. 33€ later and we are good to go. A quick stop for fuel and the real game can begin.



    We follow the A2 in Switzerland from Basel down to the Sustenstrasse (11) and begin our first climb.



    The Sustenpass is a mild, gently curving pass that is a perfect first Alpine pass. It’s one that you can ride to get into the swing of things. It brings you into to the moment with good views and open twisties. To reach the top, we ride up through the ceiling and out on top of the cloud cover, a really unique experience. We have sun on top to augment the lovely views. From there, we swing south on the 6 to ride over the Grimselpass. Grimsel is an old pass with a long commercial history. The kehren, or switchbacks, are stacked in groups and the Furkapass kehren are visible as you descend. The bus traffic is impressive, and we see a fashion photography crew on the descent.





    In Ulrichen, we turn off onto the Nufenenstrasse. In truth, this was my personal highlight of the passes we rode. Nufenen is challenging and strong, well-built, but demanding. I love it. The top is once again up in the clouds after we ride up over one layer of clouds to the pass itself. At the western base, we enter Airolo, where one must choose between the new Sankt Gotthard road and the old Via Tremola. A few loops of getting turned around, and we settle onto the Via Tremola, a cobblestone goat path that climbs the side of the mountains. Once again, riding into the clouds, we find nothing but dense cloud cover at the top. So dense that we are not sorry to leave it at all. A note on the Via Tremola – it’s awesome. Definitely technical and would be way more fun on my Sherpa (I mean WAAAAAAY more fun), and all you could ask for from an old historical road. I highly recommend taking it. If you take the new road to the top, you’ll find it’s not particularly curvy and offers none of the challenge that is the purpose of pass-running.







    From the Sankt Gotthard, we descend back north into Wassen and stay at the Gotthard Backpacker Hotel, a modestly priced (for Switzerland) hotel with few trimmings, but really nice showers. The barbed wire toilet seat makes me laugh. Soooo Texas…







    Tonight, I discover that my riding partner snores loudly. The snack baggie of 3M Tekk plugs looks very good to me when I find it in my tank bag.
    Katherine goes to Fahrschule - the German rider training thread :: Nine Days in the Alps :: BRC 2014 :: Finding GS Land
    2012 CBR250R (sold), 2001 Super Sherpa, 2004 BMW F650GSa - not a big Ford truck...

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    Day 3: Novi Ligure to Col de Turini

    In Novi Ligure, we encounter our old adversary, the Italian automated gas pump. After losing 20€ to a mistaken pump grab, a kind Italian lady offers to buy our credit slip. Then, she makes the same mistake. Oh, Italy….



    From NoviLigure, we get back on the Autostrada and head further south, eventually picking up the A10 west. We ride through the Italian soap and spice region and everything smells amazing. We stay on the highway until we exit for Monte Carlo, Monaco, which we visit prior to returning to Menton, France, the base point for the Route des Grand Alps. It is a heady ride, we stop at the Monte Carlo beach for a snack and try to find our way up to the palace. Monaco costs us time, but is fun, and crosses another country off the list, no matter how small it is. At this point, I come to the conclusion that my Garmin unit is not broken, but missing maps. Somehow, the set of maps called “Alps” by Garmin and NavTec does not include the Alps Maritimes. Crap.



    We ride back to Menton on the D6007 coastal road, a road I know well from visiting my cousin who has lived in Menton for many years. It is fun to take the turns on a bike instead of fighting them in the car. We stop again in Menton for a proper meal. These old FIAT Pandas pop up everywhere. The Panda was the last car built with flat glass panes instead of modern curved ones and was resold under many nameplates, including SEAT Marabella. I pull out the big map of the Alps, a Freytag 1:500K tablecloth and begin marking up the overview maps I printed using www.gpsvisualizer.com. I have seven segment printed, so I sort out what is missing and mark the appropriate ones with cities, passes, and road numbers.



    From Menton, we start the climb of the Route des Grand Alps following the Route de Sospel. Sospel is a little hippy artsy town north of Menton and always makes me smile with the people one sees there. We continue on the D2566 north to Col de Turini.





    Turini!! Highest point on the Rallye de Monte Carlo! Every bit as cool as it sounds, and slightly terrifying in the process. The road is poorly maintained and narrow, our first taste of what riding in France will largely be like. Far from the commercial passes of the north, the passes in France are more of afterthoughts. Think along the lines of Hey! We built a road over a mountain! How cool is that! Oh, look, those Swiss guys call the top of it a pass! Let’s do that, too! But we have nothing to carry over it except cows, so um, let’s not worry about maintenance. Those silly automated carriages are never going to be used here! All over France, we see what amounts to road ruin.



    On the way up, we ride through a short tunnel that marks the Col de Castillon. To the left is Col de Braus, but is is getting late and we are unsure if there will be a hostel on the pass or not. There is, the Hotel les Trois Vallees, host of the aforementioned rallye and about one hundred other French driving events. The inside of the hotel is papered with rallye placards and photos of cars and drivers. It is a total rush to be there. Dinner is a welcome piece of salmon with rice and veggies. The room looks southeast, with a small balcony perfect for airing out boots and such. We are not the only riders there, a group of diverse bikes has shown up from Germany, seems like one of everything.





    Last edited by atomicalex; 09-26-2014 at 02:28 PM.
    Katherine goes to Fahrschule - the German rider training thread :: Nine Days in the Alps :: BRC 2014 :: Finding GS Land
    2012 CBR250R (sold), 2001 Super Sherpa, 2004 BMW F650GSa - not a big Ford truck...

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    Flirting With The Redline 6000 Posts! atomicalex's Avatar
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    Day 4: Col de Turini to Castellane, Grand Canyon du Verdon

    I frequently tell people that the view is very fine from GS Land, the mythical place that I inhabit when I am riding my old yellow GS single, sitting up above the sad little cagers, seeing the world with all of my senses. But if GS Land was actually a place, where would it be? It would be where the roads are questionable, the cows are plentiful, and there is always a little farm road or trail beckoning. The view is not of scenery, per se, but in scenery. A place of great majesty, where history is written in the stones by water and wind. Where every single sense is attacked, confronted with stimuli demanding attention and respect. It is a very good place to be.

    We descend from Turini on the M70, a small road that carries us to La Bollène Vesubie. From there, we ride the M2565 north and west over the Col Saint Martin to Saint Sauveur -sur-Tinée and the M/D30, which takes us over Col de la Couillole. M appears to mean “single lane with cows” and D “double lane with sheep”. From Beuill, we head west on the D28 to Guillaumes, crossing the Col de Valberg, and ride the D2202 south through the Daluis Gorge.











    Near Dèchetterie, we pick up the N202 west and cross the Col de Toutes Aures. We continue west to Lac de Castillione , where we pick up the D955 south to Castellane. From Castellane, it is the D4085 south over the Col de Luens and the D6085, the Route de Napoleon. In l’Artuby, we pick up the D21 and begin the proper tour of the Grand Canyon du Verdon, but not before first crossing the Col de Clavel. In Comps-sur-Artuby, we pick up the D71, and in Aiguines, the D19, then the D957. We get separated looking for fuel, and meet up later in Castellane. At the D952, we head east, turning off for the Route des Cretes, the D23.

    The Grand Canyon du Verdon is a gorge cut through the south of France during the ice ages. Six million years of running water have left lower France scarred and wounded by nature, leaving some of the most beautiful views in the entire country. We ride the left route – Route Gauche – and look into the cavern as we ride. We travel through the Tunnel du Fayet, which will be visible from the other side. We cross the Col d’Illoire and Col d’Olivier near Aiguines. On the right side, we cross the Col d’Ayens, and then ride the Route des Cretes – a loop that takes us around the mountain and looks out over the gorge. The Route des Cretes is very poorly maintained, and for the first half, is one-way. The two-way part is rather tight with motorhomes and other traffic. This is another area that I would consider for multiple trips through in the future. Like Nufenen and Furka, it is difficult to find comparable riding and scenery all in one place.

















    Last edited by atomicalex; 09-27-2014 at 07:07 AM.
    Katherine goes to Fahrschule - the German rider training thread :: Nine Days in the Alps :: BRC 2014 :: Finding GS Land
    2012 CBR250R (sold), 2001 Super Sherpa, 2004 BMW F650GSa - not a big Ford truck...

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    Flirting With The Redline 6000 Posts! atomicalex's Avatar
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    It is on the Route des Cretes that I realize that I have found GS Land. It is the south of France, tucked in between the great gorges and bleating sheep, waiting for someone to visit.











    After the Route des Cretes, the road is often covered by overhanging rock. It is breathtakingly beautiful. We follow the D952 back to Castellane and stay at the Grand Hotel du Levant, which is fully renovated inside. The view from the room is of the market place, where I capture some nougat to take home as a prize for my sons. Fog looms menacingly.



    Katherine goes to Fahrschule - the German rider training thread :: Nine Days in the Alps :: BRC 2014 :: Finding GS Land
    2012 CBR250R (sold), 2001 Super Sherpa, 2004 BMW F650GSa - not a big Ford truck...

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    Awesome report so far!! The huge smile on your face in the photos tells the real story!!
    2009 Kawi Vulcan 500 LTD- Woodrow

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    Flirting With The Redline 6000 Posts! atomicalex's Avatar
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    Day 5: Castellane to Col d'Izoard

    Castellane is lovely in the morning. The market is waking up, and so are the riders. I am brave and eat a yoghurt, this works. We pack out of the garage after watching a fish delivery truck turn around inside of it, without coming near the bikes. Either talent or practice, but totally pro.

    My map fix is working, I navigate from point to point using the well-located directionals. This is a bit of a surprise, I do not expect such completeness from France. We head north on the D955 in the direction of Barcelonette, changing to the D908 near Le Coulet des Fourches. This takes us to the Col d’Allos. We rejoin the D902 in Barcelonette, where it turns into the D900. In Jausiers, we turn off onto the C4 and head for the roof.











    We ride to Col de la Bonette – the highest pass in the Alps – and further out to Cime de la Bonette – the highest paved point in the Alps. Atop Cime de la Bonette is a small observation deck. I walk a bit up to take pictures, the ground is unstable and my boots are not really up for the task. The fog is pressing us, we ride to the actual pass and take some photos. Col de Restefond is on a dirt road to the side, unfortunately, we do not find it on the way and pass it. The road is now the M64. It further changes to the M2205 as we continue the descent.











    From Bonette, we ride south to Isola where we pick up the M97 to Isola2000 (Isola at 2000m), and on to to Col de la Lombard. At some point, we pass a marker for the Col de Granges Communes, but cannot find it on any maps later. We do not find the old Lombard road, instead take the new one, SP 255, it is a nice ride and not as difficult as noted in the books we have read. I have maps for a short while in Italy. We turn northwest on SS21 north to the French border and Col de Larche. We rejoin the D900 on the French side, and I am Garmin-less again.



    The D902 appears, we ride north and cross the Col du Vars.



    Last edited by atomicalex; 09-27-2014 at 11:26 AM.
    Katherine goes to Fahrschule - the German rider training thread :: Nine Days in the Alps :: BRC 2014 :: Finding GS Land
    2012 CBR250R (sold), 2001 Super Sherpa, 2004 BMW F650GSa - not a big Ford truck...

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