I'd been riding in the dark for 20 minutes. I still couldn't see the end of the tunnel. The air was dark, musty, and even the smallest car sounded like a giant truck. I cursed myself for picking the route, but we were committed. Then I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. My elation lasted all of 2 minutes when I saw that 50m past the end of the tunnel was the start of another tunnel!
The ride up to Passo Mendola was easy and straightforward, though this time Arturo was more impressed, since his last visit was in the rain. Descending the numbered hairpins down towards Bolzano, I was once again impressed by how narrow the road was. It was windy as well, but that didn't affect us very much. Right at the bottom, we gathered together and I gave instructions. "We're going to make the left turn and less than 100m later, we're going to head right onto a bike path. Follow closely because it's going to come suddenly!"
Well, experience helps a lot, because this time, I found the bike path less than 30m from the intersection, by hopping a curb and riding down a little dirt trail. We were at the point of the tour where I had sufficient confidence in everyone's bike handling skills that at no point was I even concerned that anyone would even hesitate to make the jump.
Riding into Bolzano along the bike path was straightforward, but we had to hesitate a bit before leaving town, since we wanted to have lunch. We found a supermarket in a very untouristed neighborhood, bought bread and meat at a bakery, and then ate outside in the coffee shop next to it. I remember being very disappointed when I ordered 3 coffees and got espressos. "If you want coffee in Italy, you have to ask for Americano!" Arturo told me. Lunch was pretty good, and I couldn't get enough of the priosciutto. We then loaded up with chocolate at the local Spar, and headed off searching for the way to Nova Levante.
During the 2014 tour, we rode up there the hard way, via Collepietra Steinegg with its 22% grades. I remembered from my 2007 tour that there was a tunnel route without nearly as much steep climbing, but upon riding into the tunnel I'd realized that my memory had deceived me: the tunnel riding was worse than I remembered.
After the first two very long tunnels, however, we found a beautiful bike path that had no traffic and by passed the remaining tunnels. After that, most of the ride became pleasant until we got to Nova Levante, where suddenly traffic picked up as we reentered the main road. Nevertheless, I had fun climbing --- the road to Karrersee was steep, but it was shaded and the temperature noticeably cooled as we rose.
At Hotel Aurora, we entered the lobby and the receptionist, upon seeing my passport, said, "I'm from San Jose!" We were given a room on the top floor (as demanded by the curse), The place felt a little bit more like a hostel than a hotel. At 6:00pm sharp when the doors to the dining room was unlocked, there would be a mad rush for dinner. We figured out why in a hurry --- the early diners would grab all the good stuff from the salad buffet, leaving late comers the dregs. The hotel did not refill the buffet, so we made a note to arrive at breakfast exactly when the door opened as well!