Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 25: Mils to Bludenz


The started off beautifully, but the forecast this afternoon was for rain. We hopped back onto the bike path towards Landeck, well aware that we would have to choose between Silvretta and Arlberg pass once we got to Landeck. We were now short of cash, with no more than 18 Euros between the two of us after paying for the hotel, and so had to look for a bank as well.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

Austrian bike paths are second to none as far as facilities are concerned: drinking fountains dot the bike paths as do ads for lodging that are tastefully and discretely placed, since cyclists traveling at 10mph do not need loud and garish ads, unlike car drivers at 75mph. We rolled along the beautiful path, set a good distance away from the main highway, going in and out of forests into farmland.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

Sooner I was expected we were in Landeck, but on a Sunday could not find anything open, not even a bank. I noted that the bike path sign had switched to Pfunds. Looking around we decided that Arlberg would be a safer path, since avoiding Silvretta would buy us some time in case of poor weather. We rode along the bike path to Pfunds but after half an hour looked at the map and realized that Pfunds was in the direction of Ofenpass, not what we wanted at all!
From Tour of the Alps 2011

We turned around and rode back to Landeck and this time, found our way to Pian and then rode our towards the Panoramic highway to Arlberg. The road was mostly flat and not too exciting, but had relatively little traffic. Clouds started gathering overhead, which justified our earlier decision to avoid Silvretta.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

We stopped for lunch at a small town, using up all of our available cash, and then rode into the town where the pass started. To our dismay, the freeway had an exit in this town, and a steady stream of car traffic went up the Arlberg highway! It started drizzling as we started the climb, but even for Californians this wasn't considered rain yet. The grade steepened to 10%, and the constant traffic was annoying. Silvretta would have been better as the top part of Silvretta was a toll road, eliminating all but the most enthusiastic of tourists. The fog, however, thickened, and anything that looked bad on the Arlberg would be worse on the Silvretta. Fortunately, the final tunnel leading to the pass summit had a bike bypass, which turned out to be a gravel maintenance road leading alongside the tunnel. We could hear the sound of traffic coming from tunnel vents and were pleased that we had views truncated by fog instead.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

We arrived at the Arlberg pass in fog that did not let us see more than 10 meters ahead. We quickly put on everything we owned and started the descent.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

The steep part of the descent went by quickly, once again with several bike path bypasses for the big tunnels, which made it a lot less scary than expected. Visibility got a bit better after we descended to 1500m, but once we got down to 1000m the rain came down in earnest! At first it wasn't too bad, but the lower we got the harder the rain came. The rain pants and the jacket only kept me from being soaked through --- my shoes started making the squishy noise on every pedal stroke, and all parts of my body was damp.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

Once the route flattened out the bike paths became useless. We found ourselves riding in muddy gravel paths in the forests and the paved roads seemed like a much better bet. Having passed the intersection with the freeway, the main road also had a lot less traffic. We made it into Bludenz. Not wanting to waste time with looking for the tourist information center, we ended up at Hotel Rossli, where we had stayed last year, also in the rain. "Every impression I have in Austria is rain." said Phil. I assured him that I had had good weather in Austria, but maybe Austria was to Phil what Italy was to Mike Samuel.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

The hotel was manned by an old woman who didn't know how to give us an internet password, or even where the bike storage was, forcing us to leave our bikes outside in the rain. We took a shower, dried out our shoes using hairdryers, and went out looking for food. This time, we found a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffett which for a relatively low price gave each of us three dinners and three desserts. By the time we came back to the hotel, it was manned by someone who knew what he was doing and had our bikes stowed away and gave us an internet password.

I used the internet to call Doktor Stefan Burkhardt, an outdoors person who was living in Zurich. Stefan had done me the favor of scouting out Tannalp back in 2007. We made plans to have lunch some time when Phil and I were back in Zurich, but in the mean time he looked into the weather radar for us and reported back bad news. It looked like the mountains would be cold and rainy or fogged in, with Wednesday being the worst. "Your best bet is to head to the Bodensee and do some riding there. If the weather sucks, the Bodensee will probably suck the least and might even have good sun." That put paid to any plans to ride the high mountains. I thanked him and we turned in for the night.
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