Tuesday, September 6, 2011

sunshine in the Swiss Alps

view from my hotel balcony
We were greeted this morning with very welcome sunshine after all the rain yesterday. Everyone was in great spirits as we set off toward the first of 4 mountain passes in Switzerland – our 5th and final country during this trip.
As we rode through the valleys toward the Swiss town of Susch, I was really glad that I put the warm liner in my motorcycle jacket; plus I also had on a Smart Wool base layer topped with a light fleece shirt since the temperature steadily dropped to a low of 40 degrees.  Factor in the windchill generated from sitting on the back of a motorcycle, and it was cold! When we reached the top of the Fluelapass between Susch and Davos in the Swiss Alps, the temperature was 52 degrees and just right for a hot chocolate in the Hotel Fluela Hospiz, a family-run inn built in 1869 at 7,837’ above sea level. The small stone hotel is off the grid, getting their power from either a diesel generator or water. This was our first stop in Switzerland, and where we learned how expensive everything is. Our cup of hot chocolate cost $5.25 in US dollars!

Mike at the top of the Fluelapass

Hotel Fluela Hospiz

Zooming up and down the hairpin turns on the mountain passes is becoming almost second nature for our group, and everyone is feeling more confident in their driving skills after yesterday’s steep roads in the rain. The Swiss mountain roads are wider than the ones in Italy, and while there was a fair amount of truck traffic on the roads today, Mike only had to pass one tour bus. He was excited to pass a logging truck on the way up our second pass, the Julierpass.  It’s definitely a thrill to be on the back of a motorcycle speeding up a mountain, passing a logging truck! See more on today's video here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVjKYP8IqV4
Julierpass hairpin turns
The top of the Julierpass was busy with lots of motorcycle riders from several  different countries. The small grill served only the basics for lunch, including their special “Mc Julierburger” which Ron couldn’t pass up.
We rode through St. Moritz, a famous Swiss ski and spa resort city and on to our third pass, the Ofenpass in the Swiss National Park. All of today’s passes rise above the treeline in a gravel, rock-strewn landscape that reminds us of the moon. Many of the mountains are dotted with ski areas, which makes me wonder how difficult it is to drive up these roads in the winter!

top of Julierpass

Once back down in the valley we crossed into Italy and stopped in the 700 year-old walled city of Glurns for an afternoon break, which of course meant trying out the local ice cream. The market square in the center of town was packed with both tourists and locals trying to navigate the narrow, cobblestone streets and sidewalks.

center of Glurns

We finished our ride today winding our way through the valleys, passing small towns, farmers working in the fields, and the ever-present cows in the meadows. Even though we rode 195 miles today, we finished a bit earlier than usual, which meant we had time to sit outside our hotel and enjoy the late afternoon sunshine and warmth. A perfect day!

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