Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Day 7: Brig Reid to Vinadio


Eager to escape the heat, we departed Brig Reid as early as possible, climbing out on the old Simplon highway to avoid the traffic on the main road. The road was surprisingly pretty, but before too long rejoined the main highway just before the bridge.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

Past the bridge, the road goes pass several towns, and while the scenery was OK, it was nothing to write home about. As we neared the summit with a series of galleries, I spied a ramp leading on top of the gallery and decided to chance it in case it led somewhere fun or bypassed riding through the gallery altogether. On top of the gallery (which was kind of cool because I could barely hear the traffic below me), I hopped a fence and then rode it until it peter'd out along a cliff as the gallery turned into a tunnel. That forced me to turn around and re-enter the gallery.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

There was a ton of construction inside the gallery and tunnels, so the riding wasn't much fun, though there were a few escapes available only to cyclists, when in the tunnel itself, any traffic would echo off the walls and make the place loud. I somehow bypassed the traffic lights constraining the uni-directional traffic and had to take shelter behind some walls when I saw giant trucks coming my way.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

Once out of the tunnel we were just a stone's throw from the summit with its eagle statue as a monument to a brigade that served during World War 2. The views were pretty, but I was rather disappointed. "I don't think I'd recommend climbing Simplon pass again." I said to Phil.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

Well, the climb might be no great shakes but the descent on Simplon was nothing short of fantastic. The road swooped and zipped along, diving into tunnels and galleries where we were as fast as traffic or faster (a truck had ran out of gas or had an engine failure in one of the galleries causing traffic to be backed up behind it) while all around us the mountains of the alps rose up and then dropped off next to the road in sheer cliffs. The road went along the river along most of the way, granting us good views.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

I thought that we should meet near Domodossola, but the road flattened out and then split into two, one clearly marked not allowable for cyclists. I would learn later that there's a bypass for that road that went over the tunnel, but I wasn't going to chance either XiaoQin or Phil getting lost, so I waited until everyone got there and we pulled off, stuck the bikes into the car, and headed off for lunch.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

Serious storm clouds gathered and I could see rain as we ate lunch, but we were driving all the way to Southern Italy today anyway, so felt quite smug about being in a car. The drive took well over 4 hours, and by the time we got to Vinadio with a few stops for gas, tolls, groceries, and Euros, it was near 6pm.

Vinadio looked like a nice town, and the first hotel we picked was reasonably priced at 40EUR for a half pension, so we took the rooms. XiaoQin was impressed by the price and the furnishings. "Why do you complain about Italy so much? This is pretty nice!" After the tasty dinner, however, she tried to take a shower and discovered that there was no hot water. I went down to the manager and complained, to which the reply was, "The boiler is broken. Give us 10 minutes to fix it." Of course, the boiler was broken all night and XiaoQin never got to take a shower. She settled for a sponge bath instead. "We'll be in France tomorrow, where this sort of thing doesn't happen," I said to her.

This being Italy, I triple-checked for bed-bugs instead of the usual double-check, but having found none, we slept quite well.
From Tour of the Alps 2011


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