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View Full Version : A wee taste of Switzerland


velotel
08-23-2012, 02:54 AM
Rolling with Julie, thatís what I kept thinking the first day on the bike. As in the Sound of Music, the film version. Some of you might not be old enough. Came out in í65. A surfeit of sweetness and beautiful people, music and singing, good versus bad, and everyone living happily ever after. Or at least the good people. The basic Hollywood film from that time. Outside of the nuclear sugar blast, the film has stunning scenes in the Austrian mountains. Seeing those scenes was like shooting up a pure dose of alpine air.

The first day was like that, but without Julie singing and dancing in the fields, just my wheels humming on the road. And powerful motors rumbling the air. Subdued rumbles. Subtle, the Swiss. Assuming driving around in a Bentley GT convertible defines subtle. Or in a Ferrari, or an Aston, or a Maser. Iíd include Porches but there were so many of those - almost all convertibles - they were like pickups in the US. Even saw what I think was a Pagani Zonda but not sure on that. Saw two Ferarri Californias, front engine, two seats, open top. Gorgeous. Of course.

Pays díEnhaut, Switzerland, thatís where. Near Gstaad. Discovered after arriving Gstaad is some high class ski resort; looks boring for strong skiers. Sean Connery hangs out there apparently. Found with Google Earth. Pays díEnhaut, not Sean. First Google Earth holiday. Searched for a place within 3-4 hours in the mountains (easy in Switzerland) with roads and cols to ride. Found Chateau díOex, small village, looked good. Checked out photos of the area, found some by a cyclist. Place looked very good. Booked a room, turned out to be a major good call. Note in advance the cols here arenít the high cols Switzerland is famous for, the ones youíve seen in posts by Karen and Gothard.

The hotel is excellent, not cheap but could have been worse. Switzerland is expensive. Late arrival, settled in, had dinner. An excellent one with a very good swiss wine. Never drunk a swiss wine before. With all the vineyards theyíve got figured there had to be some good wines produced. There are.

Morning, ready to ride. Two cols, around 70K, totally unknown. Iím off, up the valley. Oops, not yet. Few hundred meters down from the hotel have to stop to let a train go by. Lots of trains in Switzerland. Classic. Okay, Iím off. More traffic on the road than Iím used to riding with. Most move left generously. Cruising along, sucking up the views, warming up the legs. Get passed by a fine looking blond. I didnít feel like picking up the pace. Pictures to take. Got to a place where I had to shoot and there she was stopped, on the phone. I rode off, she was still talking. Stopped to shoot again, she rode by. I was pretty amazed riding there because of how many women - and I have to say good looking women at that - I saw riding road bikes. And I mean riding, like driving a pace, looking good on the saddle. Might have seen more women than men! Way different than where I am in France.

Approaching Gstaad and I see a bike path sign. Swing right. Excellent. Rode that path a long way up past Gstaad before it finally ended. Didnít see anything of Gstaad, the road totally slips by anonymously. A one lane road Ė barely Ė restricted to local traffic but with bikes and pedestrians prioritized. Along a small river, through fields, past sawmills, past homes. Youíve heard Switzerland is clean. Clean doesnít begin to cover it. Theyíre astonishing. Even the sawmills and industrial zones are neat as the proverbial. Must be in their genes.

Rejoined the main road, the one to Col du Pillon, summit 1546, about 450 meters up from where I rejoined the road well past Gstaad. A bunch more not far off flat rolling, not much traffic out here. The real climbing starts after Pillon, only about 5,5K long but the last 2K has some sustained double digit ramps. Winding road in a thick forest with glimpses of mountains. Nothing spectacular with the col, just a roll over in a narrow valley from one drainage to another. Whatís wild is the tram soaring up the mountain to a summit at 3000 meters, the tram hanging free between stations. First tram rises to 2500 meters, second tram dangles across a huge basin, long distance but only 500 vertical. Must be great views up there. Glacier on the back side from the col.

Down the other side. Commitment. Getting back meant having cross a col. No problem, riding well. Fast descent, good turns. Only two emergency stops, photo stops. I never stop in downhills to shoot. I did there. Twice. Couldnít help myself. Wasnít easy because the descent was good, fast and curvey. Swept through the village of les Diablerets. End of the fast descent, now just fast cadence, biggest gear. On the south-facing side of the valley, pizza oven conditions. Both big water bottles empty, tongue dragging on the top tube. Kept looking for somewhere to fill a bottle. Hit the junction with the road to Col des Mosses, the road back to the Chateau díOex. Up, sustained, not sure how steep but at that point felt pretty steep. Sun baking me dry. Gotta be a fountain somewhere along here. Like cops and taxis, nowhere in sight when needed.

Houses in the distance. Houses equal water. Looking saved by the bell. Ride through a one-way section of road work. Tempted to ask the workers if they have some spare water. Figure they probably need it worse than me. The heat is brutal on the road. Spot a small shelter on the left. Yes! A fountain, water pouring out of a curved wooden post. Saw lots of those there. Still wondering how they do that. Fill one bottle, drink it dry, hit me again mate. I hang in the shade for awhile, enjoying the view. Reminds me of Colorado. Mountains here are rounder, softer than the Alps Iím used that are mostly rock, ice, and snow. Okay, off again. Turns out I wasnít far from the col. The road went mostly limp and I was flying along at a pretty good, for me, clip. An air bath, refreshing.

Over the col, not sure when, thatís how gentle it is. Not even a sign, just some parking lots and buildings. Iíve been looking forward to this drop. The carrot that drove me on through the pizza oven. Iíd driven it the day before. Fast, curvy, lots of back and forths, good pitch for lots of acceleration. Iím flying. Pass a motorcycle then two cars. Closing fast on a slow truck. Not good. Passing zones are short; heís long. Into a sharp right, over a bridge, and weíre in a small village. Straight road out of the village, the truck speeds up, drops me. Same with the two cars and the motorcycle. The road dives into a series of wonderfully round S turns and Iím hauling butt, leaning over, carving through. Until I notice the view. On the brakes, Kodak corner here I come. Shoot some pics while ignoring the dirty looks my bike is giving me. Off again. Hard and fast. More linked bends through the forest. Then like a pheasant bursting cover, Iím out in the valley, back in Julie-land. Quick look to see if any milkmaids are dancing in the fields. There arenít. A GT-R roars by. So much for Julie and her songs. Across the valley and into the village and up to the hotel. And I do mean up. Great hotel, wonderful place to stay, just one bump : the half K plus up to the hotel has some brain splittingly steep grades! Plus the pizza oven is going full strength again. Halfway up thereís a fat pocket of shade under a building. I circle twice slowly in the shade then go. Second half turns out to be easier, slightly, than the first half. Pull into the hotel. What the heck is that parked there! This is one gorgeous car. Never seen one like it. Paris license plates. Another guest. Turns out to be a 1953 Bentley Continental R Fastback. Slick car. Slicker than the owner. A loud Frenchman with major money and inflated idea of himself. But entertaining, in small doses. Has some dog that resembles a small Siberian. Apparently some Japanese race that the emperor had. He speaks japanese to it. Heís telling stories about Sarkozy and Hollande, the former hired by the King of Morocco to an advisor, the latter and his 10 million euros heís stashed in banks in London and Switzerland. Funny guy, full of tales and himself. He replaced the Bentley flying B hood ornament with a bust of Leninís head. Have to give him credit though; heís a got a car worth something like a million greenbacks and he drives it regularly. Shows some class to my thinking. Overheard him tell someone heís got a Ferrari worth way more than the Bentley. Like I said, entertaining guy, in small doses. On the other hand the car would be wonderfully entertaining in huge doses. Just not sure where Iíd put my bike.

On to the pics. Included shots of houses generously bedecked with geraniums for Karen. In truth not having shots of houses hidden behind geraniums would be all but impossible in Switzerland.

alancw3
08-23-2012, 04:50 AM
spectacular pictures and great narrative! thanks for sharing. idyllic cycling!! you are so fortunate to have experienced!

thinpin
08-23-2012, 08:18 AM
Rediculous

tiretrax
08-23-2012, 09:59 AM
Another great report from you. Thank you for posting. Beautiful pictures, including the Bentley. Keep posting cool car pics, as well as the amazing terrain.

soulspinner
08-23-2012, 10:27 AM
Thanks again! great stuff...............

bobswire
08-23-2012, 10:28 AM
Thanks for sharing,it's as close as I'll ever get to feeling what it is like riding in that part of the world. Gotta ask, do you see many Ti frames on the roads in Europe?

bikerboy337
08-23-2012, 10:32 AM
Thanks for posting... makes me so jealous of the scenery. Hoping someday I will be able to head to europe for a few rides like these...

Karin Kirk
08-23-2012, 11:11 AM
NICE!!

Thank you for the geraniums - that definitely made me smile. :)

I adore that part of the world. I have not been to Chateau d'Oex, but George recommended it on a previous visit. I like Gstaad (lots of people don't) and yes, the riding around there is blissful. Not huge, dramatic passes but idyllic, pleasant scenery in every direction. And some back-breakingly steep pitches on those narrow farm roads! What fun. I want to go back, like, right now.

So true about the cars! Funny how you said that Porches are too common to even mention. Nothing against Porches of course but yes, that area is a fancy car parade.

Nice work on the ride, the photos and the narrative. A great way to start the day, sitting here with my coffee and great memories.

jlyon
08-23-2012, 11:47 AM
Very Nice!!!

The only thing I would change would to replace Lenin's head, for some reason it really disturbs me that it is resting on the front of that Bently.

ctcyclistbob
08-23-2012, 11:57 AM
Just beautiful, both pictures and writing.

Thanks for this.

redir
08-23-2012, 12:17 PM
Beautiful. I hope to go there next year. I have a friend in Zurich and she's offered her place to stay for years now. After seeing this I have to go!

d_douglas
08-23-2012, 01:17 PM
I just moved back to Canada after years in Geneva. I am so happy to be back in the homeland, but I must say, the scenery in Switzerland is pretty spectacular!

George K is your ultimate tour guide for the Alps should you ever go again - (ask Karin!) - he has hosted me many many times on beautiful rides.

Hopp Suisse!

vqdriver
08-23-2012, 01:31 PM
very nice read and pics.
that countryside looks like a parody of a disney movie.

just
too
perfect

thank you

tuxbailey
08-23-2012, 01:39 PM
Wow. Thank you for sharing.

velotel
08-23-2012, 04:14 PM
Gotta ask, do you see many Ti frames on the roads in Europe?
Almost never, but I also don't pay much attention. Everyone over here is totally into carbon. I was in a bike shop here the other day, nothing but carbon. Also not a single bike with Campy. This in a shop that sells a lot of expensive bikes.

Smiley
08-23-2012, 06:44 PM
I want to see a picture of that Blonde biker babe :)

NICE

choke
08-23-2012, 10:43 PM
Beautiful countryside....I'd be tempted to just sit down and stare for quite a while. I enjoy your writing almost as much as I do the pics....you know, you should start a magazine or something. ;)

And that Bentley is sweet.

Ahneida Ride
08-24-2012, 09:17 AM
:banana: :banana: :banana: :banana:

jerome
08-24-2012, 04:59 PM
Gstaad, Megeve and Courchevel

the places to go to see great cars in the Alps.


have you seen great bicycles in Gstaad or around ?

best

velotel
08-24-2012, 05:23 PM
Gstaad, Megeve and Courchevel

the places to go to see great cars in the Alps.


have you seen great bicycles in Gstaad or around ?

best
Yea, my Eriksen.

monkeybanana86
08-25-2012, 12:05 PM
man those are great pictures. and i don't know anything about cars but that batmobile is pretty cool