Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 22: St. Caterina to Fondo


From Tour of the Alps 2011

We woke up to clear blue skies which made me feel like the decision to wait for better was justified. The climb out of St. Caterina proved to be no problems, and for the rest of our trip we wouldn't get any more flats or other mechanicals. A group of mountain bikers had headed up Gavia just before we left, but I passed them easily as they were a large group and had to stop often to let the slower members catch up.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

As we approached 2400m, however, clouds started rolling in and it became misty, nearly foggy. By the time I got to the summit it was cold, around 46F, and visibility was poor. Gavia was famous for poor weather, and it looked like I wasn't going to get any luck this time around, either. It was so cold that I put on everything I brought, including my long fingered gloves. I used the bathroom at the summit and got out just in time to see Phil come by for a summit shot.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

The descent of the Gavia was scary at the top, with misty clouds coming up the mountain as well as extremely low visibility. The tunnel was scary as well, since it was unlit.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

Once past the tunnel, however, the views cleared up a bit. It looked like the clouds were high above us, but we also had plenty of misty fog blowing up the valley, which lent the place a surreal feel, as though we were in a remote place far away from civilization, as opposed to just being 10 miles away from reasonably sized villages. I made a video, just in case the photos weren't sufficient. The sound of cowbells filled the air and I enjoyed the scenery.

From Tour of the Alps 2011

Gavia is a steep and dangerous descent by anybody's standards, but this time we weren't riding it on a weekend so I could make reasonable time, and soon I was warm and having to stop to take off everything I had put on at the summit. Phil rolled up right after that and we discussed our options. We were too early to stop in Ponte di Legno, and I had gotten a bad case of bed bugs the last time I was there anyway, so we agreed to bypass the town. I had originally thought to stay high on the other side of Passo Tonale, so we decided to ride in that direction and see how things went.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

Tonale is one of the least interesting passes you can ride in the Alps. The top of it is a ski resort and crammed full of tourist traps, shops. I got there in pretty good time as the climb wasn't steep, and then had to wait for a bit as Phil had to help someone else fix a flat tire and hence was delayed on the climb.

It was way too early to stop, so we pressed on with the descent and decided to switch our destination to somewhere near Fondo. The last time I had done this ride, I had stuck with the main road for fear that the bike path would dead end or lead us somewhere we didn't want to go. This time, however, I knew that the bike path would lead us in the correct direction, and I even knew how to spot the bike path sign and so we got onto the beautiful Italian bike path along the valley.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

Most bike paths along rivers do a pretty good job of sticking to them, so we rolled down the river at a good clip, stopping only to take the obligatory picture pun indicating Phil's gender correctly.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

As we approached Cles, the bike path started doing strange things and we opted to rejoin the main road just in time for beautiful views of the lake.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

Despite the overcast skies it was hot and humid, but when we finally stopped for water about 10km away from Fondo, it started drizzling. We met a German tourist and he told us he was planning to stop in Fondo. Since I was feeling fine, we decided we could follow suit. Once past the lake, the road climbs towards Fondo in a series of stair step grades, the flat part of which hosts little villages or towns. Phil asked me if I was worried about the tourist information office closing, but I pointed out that many hotels and restaurants weren't even open till 5pm, which meant we had plenty of time.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

Thus it was we pulled into Fondo on damp roads that were not wet, and indeed discovered that the tourist information office was open till 6:00pm. The local hotel looked expensive, but the tourist information office pointed me at a farm B&B that was nearby. Riding there, I expected to have to sleep in a barn but found myself in a brand new B&B! It even featured air conditioning, which considering the humidity and the heat, we were very pleased with. At 28EUR per person, we were very pleased and took it. After the shower and laundry, the talk to town for dinner granted us a beautiful peaceful evening scene.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

This stay in Italy was turning out to be far better than my previous stays. Between getting cheap internet, good lodging, great food, and a bike path which bypassed the nasty traffic, I started feeling rather optimistic for the coming days.
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