Sunday, August 17, 2014

July 18th: Bludenz to Hotel Posthaus, Urigen

Early this morning, I gave Arturo a choice: we could take the train to Sargans, and do the Wallensee ride to Linthal and then Klausen pass, or we could ride through Lichtenstein to Sargans and take the train to skip the Wallensee ride. The former was prettier, but the latter was more attractive to Arturo, since he'd never visited Lichtenstein, and the idea of a country so small that you could bike across it in about 2 hours (assuming you went the long way) was intriguing.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
We first reversed the route we took yesterday to get back to the bike path, and then we headed for Feldkirch, always taking the shorter route whenever we were given a choice. Once in Feldkirch, we stopped to look at the map for directions. Unfortunately, a helpful Austrian came by and told us that the scenic route was the long way. I say unfortunate, because in the intervening years, I'd forgotten that the Rhine river bike path is easily the most boring bike route in the world. It is only scenic if you think long flat expanses of river and the surrounding mountains are interesting. As a result, we ended up on a long and extremely boring stretch of the Rhine river bike path that literally went on for kilometers, seemingly without end.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

It was so boring, in fact, that we missed the border signs signally entry into Lichtenstein, not noticing that we were into a different country until we stopped at one point to check a bike path map and noticed that we were right in the middle of the country! All through yesterday, I'd joked that "You better not blink, or you might miss Lichtenstein", and the joke had indeed come to pass. Since we went all the way this way, we rode into the biggest town in the country and took pictures with various monuments.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

After those festivities, we got back onto the bike path, rode a few more kilometers, and ended up onto a bike bridge directing us out of Lichtenstein into Switzerland. This time, we did not miss the border crossing, though I was so bored I'd started searching for closer train stations on my GPS before realizing that Sargans was coming right up.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

On the Swiss side, things were a lot more military, with pill boxes every 100m, evidence that memories of World War 2 aren't likely to be forgotten soon. We followed signs towards the Sargans train station, and when those signs faded away, switched to the GPS. Once we got to the Sargans train station, we bought train tickets and lunch. The train to Ziegelbrucke was a fast train, but the train to Linthal was a local S-bahn type train, which meant a stop at every tiny town in the area. That gave us time for lunch. One interesting thing was that there were 2 train stations at Linthal, which I had not noticed before! We got off at the wrong one, which led to the Braunwald cablecar/funicular station, which meant that there was significant hiking high up in the mountains which might be worth exploring.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

Arturo had lost his cycling cap during the train transit, and at 2:00pm the weather was so warm that we had no choice but to immediately try to replace it. Fortunately, a kiosk down the street from the main road had a selection of hats, one of which would do as a substitute for a cycling cap, albeit at Swiss prices. As part of the service, however, the store happily filled our water bottles with water as part of the price of the cap.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

Klausen pass is split into two portions of climbing, both approximately the same length and difficulty, interrupted by the hanging valley of Urnerboden. At Linthal, at 600m, the heat and the sun was strongest, and we climbed with sweat dripping off our bodies, taking advantage of every shaded area for relief and quickly draining our recently filled bottles. The two tunnels on this part of the climb provided relief. All through the climb we looked for fountains but discovered that the road was sadly lacking in them, something I'd never previously noticed because I'd never climbed the road in 100F heat before.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

Thus it was that at Urnerboden valley we simply had to make a stop for ice cream at the hotel restaurant we found as we approached town, and there we filled up our water bottles as well. The ice cream was expensive, even for Switzerland, but the waitress explained that the expensive options all had alcohol in them, and we could just order scoops of various ice cream at a much lower price. After a half hour rest, we made the rest of the climb in relative comfort, as it was 4pm, and it was cooler. There was also spectacular view after spectacular view as we rose up into the valley.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

At the summit, there was a hotel where I had begged for plastic bags to help keep my hands warm on the freezing descent in 2007. There was no such need this year as the weather was so warm that we would don wind jackets only to take them off again just a few hundred meters down.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

The descent of Klausen pass is fast at the top, with a one lane road, a guard rail, and sheer steep granite walls on the other. Arturo would later say that it was one of the scariest descents he'd been on during the trip, but I enjoyed it thoroughly, because despite the apparent dangers, you had long sight lines that told you when traffic was coming, and hence the rest of the time you could take the road at full speed.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

Because of our stay at Posthaus Urigen, we would only go 8km down the road today. We got to the hotel around 6:00pm, and had dinner around 7:30pm under the fading light. We could see cyclists still coming up the road for a last gasp attempt at an evening right at 8:30pm.

That night, I got e-mail from Shauna telling me that I couldn't expect to stay at their home on the return, as they'd be away and their roommates (understandably) objected to a stranger staying with them without the hosts. They'd made arrangements for me to pick up the bike box and also offered to put me up at a nearby hotel. Arturo said he'd call his friend David to see if an additional person would be possible where he was staying in Zurich. This added unnecessary stress to the trip, but knowing the price of Zurich hotels, it was worth asking.

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