September 09, 2014

It's a Bucket List Thing: Stelvio Pass!

Another riding day of roughly 340km lied ahead of us. We were buzzing with anticipation because it was Stelvio Pass Day! And while Gary was headed to the dealership to get his tire fixed, Oliver guided the group over picturesque Bavarian byways (Allgäu).

Somewhere in Bavaria
A native Allgäuer

After a coffee break in Immenstadt we learned that Gary would already be able to join us for lunch. The dealership staff must have gone out of their way to get him back on the road. Lunch break was held at Zugspitzblick, which offered a pretty panoramic view of the surrounding mountains, if it weren't for the heavy rain clouds.

Another promise of rain
Fenan, Tom and Collum getting all excited.
At Zugspitzblick - Viewpoint Zugspitze
Clouded view on Zugspitze, with almost 3000m elevation Germany's highest mountain

The roads were getting wet again when it started drizzling. Everybody was hoping for some weather improvement when we would get closer to Stelvio Pass. We rode over Fern Pass, located in the Tyrolean Alpes in Austria at an elevation of 1,212m. The scenery was awesome, and I caught myself already planning another trip into the area, likely with Roland on Vespa. Unlike in France we hadn't any issues finding petrol stations along the way and my Sportster was well fed all the way with the best stuff - 100 octane - they had to offer.

Stelvio Pass, here I come.
On the bottom of the pass road Gary instructed us to leave each on their own pace. Some wanted to take the opportunity to ride hard and fast, while others wanted to take in the scenery and take lots of pictures along the way. It took me about ten hairpin turns before I got into the rhythm. My Sporty seemed to like it as much as I did. I often had to shift back into first gear to manage the steep turns, but the surface was dry. I forgot all about being cold. I kept watching my mirror expecting to be overtaken at times but no traffic narrowed from behing. In the beginning I was suspecting the guys to have blocked the road for me to provide for a nice ride up, but no, there was indeed next to no traffic. What a bliss.

Stelvio Pass (Stilfser Joch in German) at 2,757m elevation is the second highest paved mountain pass road in the alps and belongs on every two or four wheeled motor head's bucket list. It was featured on Top Gear, and Moto Guzzi even named a motorcycle after it. Construction started 1820, and it took five years to completion. The pass road is about 50km long, and with it 48 hairpin turns overcoming an elevation of almost 1,900m from Spondinig. After reaching the top it was another 36 breathtaking turns down towards Bormio in Italy. At the end of the ride only surgical intervention could have removed the wide smile on my face. No mistakes were made to put a damper on my ride. I was indeed in biker's heaven. And I was proud of the accomplishment, as the road is considered one of the most challenging pass roads in Europe.

Everybody on their own now.
Where I came from
Where I am headed
I did it!
On top
Gathering before riding downhill as a group
This looks easy, doesn't it?
Smiling all the way.

For the last stretch downhill we gathered again to ride as a group to the hotel. Our accommodation was again a very nice one, and well worth a repeat visit. Underground parking for the bikes, big rooms, outfitted with hardwood floors and furniture, and yes, another rain shower head in the beautiful bathroom. I had my last supper with the group at a fantastic Italian restaurant (you just can't go wrong with Italian food). The other riders would continue their journey to the European Bike week at Faaker See in Austria, while I needed to return home the next day. I wish I could have stayed with them. It was a great mix of people (aren't bikers somewhat family anyway?), friendly, caring, and I was glad to have met them. Each of them helped me to become a better rider. 

Gary who did an outstanding job planning the tour, organising the accommodation, and leading the way on his Leading Ladies. Thanks for having me. Oliver, who had my back and showed me how to conquer mountain roads. Kay, who cared the way women do, and her husband John, who turned out to be a tremendously funny guy once I got to understand his lingo. And the four Irish lads who very gentlemanly took turns to check on my well-being. In a way the Stelvio Pass was my Yellow Brick Road, and they reminded me a bit of the characters of the Wizard of Oz (I hope they'll never read this.). Tom, the wizard, seemingly able to solve everybody's problems, and taking charge when needed. Fenan, the Cowardly lion, who was not at all a coward, but a very sweet and shy man. Collum, the Tin Man,  slender, laid back and with a big heart and last but not least, Jack, not really looking like Scarecrow, but rich with experience, and a wise man, helping me overcoming my fear of riding second. I had a blast, and I certainly hope to be able to join Gary again on one of his tours.


Nightlife in Bormio, Italy
My last supper with the group.
From left to right: Gary, Kay, John, Oliver, Tom, Fenan, Jack (Collum avoided being in the snapshot)

***

Stilfser Joch - Man muss es mal getan haben.
Und wieder lagen 340km vor uns. Wir waren aufgeregt und neugierig, denn der Tag war dem Stilfser Joch geweiht. Gary ließ bei einem nahe gelegenen Harley Werkstadt den Hinterreifen reparieren. Es stellte sich heraus, dass das Ventil kaputt war. Oliver übernahm die Führung und leitete uns durch das Bayrische Hinterland (Allgäu). Nach einer Kaffeepause in Immenstadt erfuhren wir, dass Gary uns bereits wieder zum Mittagessen einholen würde, welches wir am Zugspitzblick einnehmen würden. Die Straße bot zwar schöne Landschaften, aber leider fing es mal wieder an zu nieseln, und so war der Ausblick eher verhangen. Jeder hoffte auf Wetterbesserung für das beste Teilstück des Tages. Wir überquerten den Fern Pass in den Tiroler Alpen in Österreich (auf 1.212m) und ich ertappte mich dabei, dass ich bereits die nächste Reise in diese Gegend plante... vielleicht mit Roland und den Vespas. Anders als in Frankreich hatten wir hier keine Probleme, Tankstellen zu finden und ich gab der Sportster das Beste, was die Tanksäulen hergaben (100 Oktan).

Am Fuße des Stilfser Jochs wies uns Gary an, dass jeder in seinem eigenen Tempo die Passstraße hinauf fahren sollte, und das war gut so. Manche wollten heizen, andere lieber Blümchen pflücken und Fotos machen. Ich brauchte etwa zehn Spitzkehren, um meinen Rhythmus zu finden, aber dann war es Fahrspaß pur. Auch meine Sportster schien die Kurven zu lieben. Erster Gang, zweiter Gang, wieder zurück... alles kein Problem. Und überholen kam mich auch keiner. Ich hatte schon die Jungs in Verdacht, dass sie für mich die Straße gesperrt hatten, damit ich in Ruhe hinauf klettern konnte, aber es war wirklich kein Verkehr. Großartig!


Mit 2.757m Höhe ist das Stilfser Joch der zweithöchste asphaltierte Pass in den Alpen und gehört auf die Wunschliste eines jeden Zweiradfahrers (oder Auto-Enthusiasten). Top Gear ist hier gewesen und Moto Guzzi hat ein Modell nach diesem Pass benannt. In 1820 begann man mit den Bauarbeiten und es sollte fünf Jahre bis zur Fertigstellung dauern. Insgesamt 50km lang, hat der Pass 48 Spitzkehren von Spondinig kommend. Dabei werden fast 1.900 Höhenmeter überwunden. Hinunter nach Bormio sind es dann noch einmal 36 Kehren. 

Am Ende der Strecke musste ich mir das Grinsen chirurgisch aus dem Gesicht entfernen lassen. Ich hatte so einen Spaß und machte nicht einen Fahrfehler. Die Gruppe sammelte sich nun wieder, und wir fuhren die letzten Kilometer gemeinsam zum Hotel, welches wieder eine ausgezeichnete Wahl war. Große Räume, Echtholzböden und -möbel und ein tolles Bad mit Regenwasserdusche. Was will man mehr?

Es war mein letzter Tag mit dieser Gruppe und wir verbrachten den Abend in einem phantastischen italienischen Restaurant (Italienisch ist ja von Natur aus gut.). Die anderen würden nun ihre Reise zum Faaker See in Österreich fortsetzen, um die European Bike Week zu besuchen, während ich am nächsten Tag wieder nach Hause musste. Ich wünschte, ich hätte mit ihnen fahren können. Es war einfach super, und jeder leistete seinen Beitrag, mich zu einer besseren Fahrerin zu machen. Vielen Dank Gary, Oliver, Kay und John und Tom, Fenan, Jack and Collum.  Ich hoffe, dass ich nächstes Jahr wieder mit Gary auf Tour gehen kann...

13 comments:

  1. Sonja, you have such a hard life!

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  2. Nun, nach meinem Schräglagentraining, will ich das auch tun. Nur die Anfahrt ist so übel weit. Aber zutrauen würde ich mir das - JETZT. Ich fuhr in Kopf mit, auf jedem Foto!

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    1. Im Kopf mitfahren, das ist eine tolle Analogie. Genau das mach ich auch, wenn ich andere Moppedblogs lese.
      Die Strecke ist lang, aber denk mal, wo die Iren und Engländer ganz herkamen... Es braucht halt mehrere Tage ;-)

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  3. Wow, what a fabulous achievement, and ridden with such an obviously nice group of people. Deep envy here! Great photos too.

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    1. Well, thank you. You should be able to ride it too, with that fabulous bike of yours.

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  4. Great report and use of analogies....makes each rider come alive in the reader's mind. Of course, great pictures too! Although Stelvio isn't very high up, it sure looks like quite the road to ride, someday.

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    1. Thanks Dom, the passes of the Alps are indeed not very high compared to some pass roads in the Rockies, but the hairpins... it's a complete different experience altogether. You like it or you hate is. There doesn't seem to be much in between.

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  5. Great job Sonja!! I do think it is on everyone's bucket list. And you did it with so little traffic. Nicely done. Love the new blog header pic too.

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    1. Thanks Brandy, it is definitely a must do for European riders, very similar to some roads in the US, it comes with a certain myth. (e.g. Deals Gap a.k.a. Tail of the Dragon).

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  6. Richard M has left a new comment on your post "It's a Bucket List Thing: Stelvio Pass!":

    Beautiful photos! And you're right on about it being on just about everyones list. And it sounds like you went with a great group.

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    1. RIchardM, it was a fun group indeed, and very well managed, thanks to Gary and Oliver.

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  7. What Chiller tek said... X3

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