Monday, August 11, 2014

July 13th: Bruneck to Schlanders

At breakfast, we looked out and saw blue sky, mixed with some clouds. Arturo overhead the inn-keeper telling some guests that despite the weather forecast, it would be sunny all day. Given that he'd lived here all his life, he probably knew a lot more about the weather than the weather models, and so we elected to ride.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
The Pusertal bike path rolled along nicely, and one of the first things we discovered was that the next town, San Lorenzo, looked almost as pretty as Bruneck did. No regrets though, since the Messner Mountain Museum was for both of us an interesting stop. Most bike paths meander around and add meaningless elevation to the ride, but the Puster bike path was so much fun and did a lot of descending in the direction we rolled in, so I didn't mind so much. As we approached Muhlbach, someone honked at us and Arturo stopped. I'd dropped my wind jacket from my pocket as I'd ridden, and a kind motorist had seen it, and then followed us to give it back to us! Taking the cue that clothing does not belong in pockets, I quickly stuffed it into one of my saddlebags' side pockets before continuing.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

The Pusertal bike path ends in Muhlbach, where it connects with the bike path heading to Sterzing to the north, and Bolzano to the south. I was tempted to ride north to use Jaufenpass to get us over to Merano, but one look in that direction convinced me: it was definitely raining, and raining very hard in the mountains. Today, for better or worse, had to be a valley day. Looking south into Bolzano valley, we could see low clouds hanging on the hill sides and occasional rain, but nothing looked like it threatened the river-side, which is where we were headed.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

Near Schabs, I noticed that the bike path noted 12km to Brixen, but the main road was only 6km. My intuition told me that when there's a huge discrepancy like that, the road's a much better bet, so we pulled off the bike path and followed the road. The road traffic was still very light on a Sunday morning, and we were almost immediately rewarded by a straight-shot terminal velocity descent into Brixen, where we had no problems picking up the bike path again. Bicycle touring really does require all of your faculties to be involved: you can't just blindly follow bike paths, GPS tracks, or road signs. You constantly have to be alert and observant to choose the best route. Your body has to ride the route your mind has chosen, and even your digestive system has to work to convert all that food into motive power. There's no other activity that combines all this into one package and I love it.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

The ride along the bike path back into Bolzano took us past familiar territory, leaving us time to muse and ponder the imponderables. For instance, why was it that adventure cycling is dying out? We thought it ironic that it's 2 forty-somethings doing an adventure tour here, while the younger people we'd met or knew over the years weren't the adventurous types we'd met when we were younger. Then I realized that for Arturo and I, the younger people we'd met in recent years were all self-selected: these were the people who'd actively chosen a big established company as a safe, secure place to work. Doing that when you're in your 30s and have a family to support might be a responsible decision. Doing that when you're in your 20s, during the years when you're most able to take risks indicates that adventure and uncertainty frightens you. So if we wanted to meet young, adventurous people, we'd have to find different venues to meet them other than a big established company that's well-known as a "safe choice" to have on your resume. By contrast, Arturo and I were both first generation immigrants with experience in startups. Touring didn't bring any kind of uncertainty more severe than what we'd each chosen for ourselves years and years ago.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

We rolled into Bolzano too early to stop for lunch, and elected to ride out of Bolzano. I found another short cut using a secondary road that was none too traffic'd and we cut another 6km off the bike route before finding the bike path towards Merano. At Terlan, we took a short break from the bike path to try to find lunch, but ended up only at an ice cream shop which served paninis that came out of a sealed bag and had to be heated. Back on the bike path, I finally realized that we had perfect conditions to teach Arturo the basics of pacelining, and I gave him instructions on how to draft, and how to behave when drafting, including some now little used etiquette bits, such as shouting "On your wheel" when you first latch onto another rider's wheel. With that little bit of minor instruction the miles flew by and we were soon in Merano. From Merano, the bike path wasn't very well marked, so we ended up using our GPSes set for Lagundo. That road finally joined up with the official bike path at the Dam near Toll:
We admired the dam for a while under what had turned into a hot sunny day with 80 degree temperatures. The contrast was pretty incredible, as we could clearly see rain on the mountain sides. After a bit of time on the bike path, we realized that this was part of a long-distance bike path from Landeck to Trento and beyond. Tourists of all types were coming the other way, in the downhill direction, and Arturo would later remarked that we saw more bike tourists on this one day than we saw on all the previous days of the tour. The Adige bike path was well marked, and attractions in each town were advertised on signs throughout the route. We also saw the train running in both directions, so clearly the strike did not affect this route. Not that we needed the train that day: the riding had been easy, and the weather was holding.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
I had hoped to make it all the way to the foot of the Stelvio today, but at Schlanders, Arturo's foot started hurting. Cycling is a repetitive activity on the foot joints as well as the knees, so at the first sign of injury you have to stop. Otherwise, the injury will exacerbate quickly and you'll lose the rest of the tour. Schlanders was the first place TripAdvisor failed us, since it told us about a hotel that was more than 20 minutes away in the wrong direction, and we wasted time looking for it. Fortunately, a local told us about a local B&B that was more than acceptable in both price and quality of food. The B&B's staff ooh'd and aah'd appropriately when told that we'd come from Bruneck, and then when we said we were headed to the Stelvio the next day, they carefully explained to us that it was going to rain tomorrow, but the day after would be ok.
Come what may, we had gone nearly 100 miles that day (my GPS registered much less because of a problem with the wheel sensor magnet), and ate appropriately off the fixed menu.

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