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Old 21-07-10, 10:45 PM   #1
Ed
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Default Uncle Ed's Alpine Ramblings - beware, image intensive

Intro

This is as honest an account of my Alps trip as I can write. No blushes spared


I kept a detailed diary. It's very long, and similarly this report is very long. I've prolly gone overboard, I'm sorry if you find it boring. There are hundreds of pics. I wanted to give a true flavour of what we did, where we went, what it was like. If you lose interest, well there are always other threads!!!!

I’ve wanted to go to the Alps ever since I saw Pete & Lissa’s pics on here three or four years ago. But what really triggered it was Tim’s thread last year, but nobody wanted to come with smelly old me – time not right, no money, other half not happy – so I went with Bike Tours UK, run by Bill Roughton, from Nottingham. Great bloke, relaxed but businesslike, knows the area well. There were 16 of us all told, on 15 bikes – my 675, a Gixxer thou, two Versyses, several BMWs, a Tenere, a Hornet, a ZX12R, a Fazer thou (Bill’s) a Rocket III, a KTM SM990 R, a Sprint, and a Blackbird.
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Old 21-07-10, 10:46 PM   #2
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Thursday

Ready to leave. Late, as usual.



Met Andy from Rotherham on his Sprint at Huntingdon. Found it hard to understand his strong south Yorks accent!!! Uneventful 273 mile ride to Kent, wondered why I’d worried about Dartford Bridge – not scary at all, I even stood up on the pegs and admired the view. Andy wouldn’t filter cos he had the panniers on so I roasted in the heat in the jam for the bridge. My bike has an underseat can, it felt like my legs were on fire, and engine running lumpy in the heat.. Saw some really aggressive filtering – death wish, or balls of steel??? Stopped at Andy’s guest house first, the Garden Lodge – hmmmm. Then on to mine, Crete Down Guest House on the hill above Folkestone. I think I won. £50/night with a huge brekkie. Lovely. The owner is Henryka McDuff, welcomes bikers, highly recommended, and only 10 mins from the port.

The B&B



The B&B’s neighbours


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Old 21-07-10, 10:47 PM   #3
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Friday

As you can see from the pics, it was a hot day. On to Dover where Andy and I were first to arrive, now there’s a first for me!!!! We all met at the car park between the roundabout and Eastern Docks. Initial impressions of a great crowd were to be confirmed as the week wore on, it was amazing how a group of strangers gelled and became great friends. All from very different backgrounds – IT, a roofer, a printer, a nurse, police officer, aircraft engineer, electrical engineer, maintenance engineer, Aga engineer, retired, me, and don’t know what Paul did, I can honestly say that I liked them all on first sight. Could I work out how to convert my speedo to kph… just as well I can do the mental conversion easy enough. Waited on the concrete for the Sea France ferry – 27C in full leathers – but I would get used to that. The first vehicle I encountered in France was a Brit registered bus and it cut me up on the bend onto the A26 autoroute. Lots of place names redolent of WW1 battefields, Arras, Cambrai, Somme, sign for the Canadian war memorial at Vimy (which I have seen before, in 1998 – caribou standing on a small hill facing German lines – Canadian soldiers proudly explained that a caribou never turns its back on an enemy). Hammered the 285 miles through 32C and rolling countryside of wheatfields, woods and water towers to Mussy-sur-Seine, a pretty but tired village of honey stone houses, this is the land that time forgot, via the fabulously twisty and wooded D433, by now it was getting dusk and half expecting a deer to run out in front of the bike. Although it had been so hot I was sorry to arrive at the hotel as the D433 was so good. We stopped the night here:



It was so hot on the way south and I was desperate for a beer, so desperate that I didn’t get changed for the evening – sticking to my leathers, yewwwwwwww. Didn’t taste the first one, I think I necked five. Or was it six. €3 each. Hell, I’m on holiday, I’m not counting, it’s only money, I don’t care. Nice dins, quiche lorraine, salad, roast pork with tagliatelle, then stinky cheeses, apricot tart, good craic, fantastic. This is going to be such a laugh…



Room was a bit basic but I was so tired I’d have slept on a clothes line. To be fair the hotel was being renovated and other rooms were very good. I was so tired (and OK, ****-faced) I didn’t need no rocking.

Here’s a few pics of Mussy-sur-Seine. I didn’t have time to take them before we left, I took these on the way back:

The weir on the Seine



Looking the other way from the bridge



Lovely hanging baskets





Main Street





Blimey this house is old:



View from the hotel window



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Old 21-07-10, 10:49 PM   #4
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Saturday

Got up late, ran downstairs and didn’t see the low beam. Thwackkkkk!!!!!! Owwwwww!!!!!! It caused a damn great lump and a scab that kept catching on my lid, falling off, bleeding, repeat. Croissant as fresh as a daisy and hot strong coffee, perfect. Getting ready to go, here’s Luke on his Gixxer thou:



Simon and his GS:



Marv’s Rocket:



Tony’s KTM:




Left Mussy at about 10, it was scorching hot already. This is simply a fuel stop at a supermarket just down the road at Chatillon-sur-Seine, but look at that heat haze – not bad for 10.15am.



And then it just got hotter and hotter. Now riding the D971 through the beautiful Seine valley almost to Dijon, at Val Suzon I remember an old man fishing in a trout stream, and wild horses running next to the country road. But the French have a serious problem with rural depopulation of these beautiful honey stone villages as there is no work, nothing for people to do, so the younger inhabitants leave, and only the elderly remain. Boarded up houses are a common sight – it’s such a shame that these beautiful places are literally dying on their feet, with nobody to replace. Down the steep hill into St Seine L’Abbaye, up the other side onto fantastic open tree lined straight where I went to overtake a Brit registered Seat Leon – ******* sped up – leaving me on the wrong side of the road at 85 and just at that moment a Discovery came round the bend. Oh holy shiiitttt… not enough room to get past, the Disco closing fast, yanked the bars as hard as I dared, the Disco sailed past….

Liz, Ian, Paul and I got lost in Dijon, but soon found the A39 south, where the others were waiting at the peage. 100 miles of autoroute, 36- 37C… had hoped to race the TGV but alas no train. The autoroute was empty apart from a few slow wagons. Stopped at the Aire du Jura, where there was this delightful gadget, ‘le point fraicheur’ (chill point). It sprays a fine mist of cool water, not the dry ice that Marv suggested:



And here’s me taking a chill, boy didn’t I need it, sticking to leathers:



Getting to ready to leave the Aire du Jura:





Left the A39 at J9 (Pont d’Ain) – so pretty – and so damn hot in the queue for the peage, my leg’s on fire again…these bloody under seat pipes…

We took the D1504 to Chambery, this is a great road that goes on and on and on with fantastic scenery, getting hilly, and suddenly across the Rhone into Savoie departement, so exciting, through the Gorges de la Balme – sheer rock face right next to the road, on both sides – into the Tunnel du Chat. I was totally unprepared to come out to this magnificent sight:



The Alps, baby!!!!!

The town on the shore of Lac du Bourget is Aix-les-Bains. No we didn’t go there but it looks purrrdy:




Me



David and Carole had got a crossing from Hull to Zeebrugge and had met us at Mussy. They really are lovely people. I hope I’m still riding motorcycles when I’m 70:



Here’s their bike, not my cup of tea but in fabulous condition:



Lizzie couldn’t resist an ice cream:



After this, Chambery was a disappointment. Bit of a dump, in fact. I got lost there on the way back, just confirmed the first impression. Then, the A45 racetrack to Albertville, N90 to Bourg St Maurice. Scenery getting wild. Stuck behind a bloody bus!!! Soon past and into the town, pretty spot. Some 900 miles from home, here’s the (very nice) campsite that was to be home for the next 6 days:



That’s the cabin that I shared with Lizzie.



It was the St Jeanne d’Arc festival, French pop music, hot dogs, fireworks and a damned great pyre, good atmosphere wasted on us tired bikers, we had a few beers and went back to go to bed. But Tony and Col dragged us round to theirs for a few more bevvies and the rest of the night is a blur. That seemed to happen quite a lot… Man, that Leffe is evil stuff!!!! Meant for sipping, not necking!
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Old 21-07-10, 10:54 PM   #5
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Sunday

Slow start, just as well, I was so dog tired after the hot ride down. Late starting as er shall we say we were not all fit to ride immediately and anyway Bill lost his bike keys. I can’t remember where they turned up but I do remember he felt a bit of a divvy

We started off going up to Les Arcs. Bikes parked at a layby somewhere on the road up there:





Now I’ve never done serious hairpins in my biking career and I didn’t know how to go round them. I always pussyfoot around the two hairpins on the road to Bala. Bill gave expert instruction and demonstrated. It wasn’t long before we all followed like ducklings behind mother duck We went up to Arc 2000 – it’s 2000m above sea level. Built for the 1968 winter Olympics, it’s a French council estate in the mountains. Really disgusting place:



We climbed up a hillside for reasons which defeated me, as nearly did the hill, but I took a few more pics. The rooflines of the buildings are supposed to follow the mountains. Do they? Judge for yourself:





Wild flowers everywhere in the Alps, these were doing well for 2000m above sea level:



Up this bloody hill, this is Bill, our leader:



David, Ian, Luke and his dad Chris:



And Andy, who I’d met at Huntingdon. Anyone spot the irony?:



Liz checking Paul’s camera, with Dave unimpressed:



The lovely Col from Essixxxxxxxxxx:



We started to practise the hairpin just below the village. That’s Luke coming up, and Nathan (ZX12R) going down:



Great corner position from Andy on the Sprint (coming up)



Pretty good from Simon on the GS too:



And I got a few more but I think you get the picture…

We pressed on towards the Parc National de la Vanoise. It starts on the hillside above Bourg, it’s just stunning. On the way this is where paragliders jump off:



It’s a hell of a long drop…

So Tony and Marv decided to chuck Col over the edge



Bikes lined up:



It was England –v- Germany that day so some buggered off back to the campsite to watch it. I carried on into the Parc National – as far as you can go. Didn’t take any pics.

Came back to find Marv cleaning the Rocket



That bike is in pristine nick, Marv brought all his cleaning stuff with, and then I noticed that the KTM had had a good catlick too:



Quick wander later





This is Liz’s Versys



Bill’s Fazer thou



Dave’s Hornet



And the man. Needs a caption compo dunnit!



Guess who’s



Nathan looking cool



That evening we had decided to borrow the site firepit (it’s a whacking great gas cylinder cut in two, it took four of us to lift it and even then it was damn heavy.

What is it about men and fire. Tony and Col cooking the grub:



Here’s a pic of the communal chow time



Col the chef


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Old 21-07-10, 11:03 PM   #6
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Monday

Oh did I wake up with a thick head… bright sunny and very warm at 9am, we set off for Col de l’Iseran, the highest road pass in Europe.

On the way to Val d’Isere you go through some fantastic narrow tunnels, hell how do they get big buses up here, they’d be brushing the rock walls. A welcome cool minute, it was only about 10am and it must have been 30C already. Even better, I was following the Rocket and the KTM – oh the noise!!! On the way to Val d’Isere you pass Lac du Chevril, we stopped for a quick photo shoot. It’s a large reservoir.:







Looking the other way up the Isere valley:



Tony and Luke getting friendly with the sheep…



And on through the upmarket town of Val d’Isere, much nicer than Les Arcs, stopping to allow everyone to catch up. Made a bit of a change for me to be up front:



The view – the town is in the bottom of the valley:



From here on the road gets really scary, vicious hairpins and sheer drops through snowfields. Gulp. It reminded me slightly of the road from Marbella to Ronda, which I rode with Peter Henry at Christmas 2005, except that here there was snow all around! The Spanish road made me feel dizzy and sick, and I wasn’t completely recovered from my off the year before, this didn’t, even though it’s damn high, although the 675 engine wasn’t very keen on the thin air at this height, especially as it runs a slightly lean mix anyway:



You’ll have seen all this before from other peeps’s pics. It’s worth seeing again!! And again and again and again… here’s proof that I haven’t simply swiped Tim’s pics from last year (or Dyzio's from this):



This pic has a very special meaning for me. It will sound cheesy but I don’t care, I’m not embarrassed to share my feelings. I mentioned my off just now, it was June 2004, I mashed my pelvis, and at the time I seriously wondered whether I’d walk again. Well I did, and I ran a few marathons too, but there I was from a hospital bed in Telford to the highest road in Europe. Yes friends, I’d come a long way.

The ickle church at the top:



The Essixx boys at the top



There were a lot of bikes (maybe even Dyzio???) up there that day, including some diehard cyclists – those hills are so so steep, and go on and on, hats off to these guys, they are as fit as a fiddle. No way that I could cycle up there. I saw the result however of trying to be too clever in terms of downhills later that day. Here’s the bikes:



Some summer skiers. I was to see more skiing at the end of the week, read on.



Gorgeous Alpine scenery:



We then started to ride down the other side, towards Bonneval-sur-Arc. Nice twisties on the way down so we did what we did at Les Arcs and rode up and down it a few times. Here’s a shot of the bend I was waiting at with the camera:



First off, Tony on the KTM:



Next, Col on his Blackbird. That bike corners like it’s on rails. I like this pic – look at where Col is looking.

Andy looking highly purposeful on his Sprint:



Bad boy Luke on his Gixxer thou:




Luke has an Akro on his bike. That hellacious din bouncing off of the mountains… Luke you’ll never know what offence you caused a bunch of German old dears out for a nice morning stroll…

Nice contrast this. Next thing, Marv trundled round the corner on the Rocket. Marv mate I know the physics about keeping a bike upright in a corner but c’mon Marv this is taking the ****!!!!



The other hooligan, Nathan on his ZX12R



My bike in the snow:



Anyways after quite a while of these Alpine antics we set off down to Bonneval to have a nosh up. Steak and fries in my case.




Bonneval is a pretty little spot, whacking great hill with mucho hairpins on the way down. The village is full of listed buildings, you’ll see why.



Local residents




Take a lot to water the geraniums



Purrrdy



This is the war memorial in this tiny little village. The village is tiny now, just think what it was like 100 years ago. Look at what happened to the Blanc family and to the Anselmet family.




It reads:

‘To our martyrs of the liberation, Anselmet Victor P 45 years and Anselmet Victor A 51 years Shot as hostages by the Germans 29 August 1944 at Chanas (Isere)’

In these politically correct times where so many prefer to turn a blind eye, we must never forget. I whispered a prayer for them all, and shed a tear for their selfless bravery.

And onwards. A terrific straight through the valley of the Arc, the noise of 15 bikes bouncing off the mountains, and then the twisties. Feeling how lucky I was to be riding some of the most beautiful scenery on earth, great bikes, great company, full tum, what else could you want??? As I type this I’m reliving it, the feeling that I didn’t want it to end.

Suddenly, my mental reverie came to an abrupt end with blue and red flashing lights. For some poor biker, speed had overtaken skill and he’d gone through a hedge and come off. Slowly slowly onward, nobody liked to say anything but it shook us up. On through more fantastic twisties until more blue and red lights. Remember what I said about cyclists bombing down the hills? Lady luck ran out for one – twisties turned into a sudden hairpin, he lost it. Unfortunately there was a car coming a bit wide round the bend, he collided with it head on and went through its windscreen. The paramedics were there, but he looked in a bad way. Shudder.

Up to the Col de Mont Cenis. I felt I was starting to get the hang of this now, starting to throw the bike around more than I’d ever dared – tyres don’t show it though, I blame the aggressive profiles!!!! – anyway I fended off Marv to the top, when he shot past on the straight. Beautiful twisty road. Stopped at the café – I thought the cafe was a bit dismal:



but the lake it overlooks is fantastic and the mountains are simply stunning:





Wild flowers everywhere:



Heard a distant tinkling, cowbells! Beautiful Alpine shorthorn cattle on their summer pastures:



Bill had been itching for a go on the Rocket. He got his way:



Time to come down. Much as I loved the way up, I hated the way down – so many hairpins, I find it hard to do them downhill. Into a small town, Lanslebourg, we seemed to be forever gong down, down, down – to about 600m – and as we dropped lower, it got hotter and hotter. 35 – 37C I’d say. It was a bit of a ride to the next col, the Col de la Madeleine, and a bit dull TBH as it was a busy road with no redeeming features at all. But we had to get there today as the next day the road up to the col was to be closed for resurfacing. We went through a small town, La Chambre, nothing worthy of note except for the road up. Through the town square – pink paved, tubs of red geraniums – and there is this huge valley towering overhead. The houses petered out and then the fun began. It’s fantastic I mean, really ace One of the best roads we did. Punch drunk on 50 – 60 uphill hairpins!!! Most of them 2nd, but some 1st gear. I raced a German ZX6R up there, sadly like the football it was not to be England’s day but I didn’t get the same drubbing as the soccer team. And at the top he congratulated me, saying that he rode it very often so knew the road well. Going up the views were fantastic but I didn’t really see them, I was going too fast.

Here’s the top. The col joins the Maurienne valley with the Tarantaise so you can see both ways, Mauriene first:





The French put pylons everywhere:



Lukey boy:



Moi:



How the hell did this shack up the top get planning permission:



Well today Bill kept the best wine till last. The descent from Madeleine is one of the epic features of the whole trip What a fun road – OMG it’s feckin scary. Really sharp hairpins, some of them double back – I’d say they’re 210 – 220 degrees, blind corners, poor surface demands mega concentration, you think the road is opening up and wham!!!! A bloody great hairpin I knew there were a few bikes behind me off the top, so I stopped and took a few pics of how they came round said corner. Here’s Chris (Luke’s dad) on his orange glow in the dark Versys. Just as he was coming down, a car came round and he had to change his line at the last second:



David you’re on the wrong side of the road:



Simon:



The Rocket:



And finally, Mr Tony ‘Look Where You Want To Go’ Colby on the KTM:



And then a 35km blast on the D90 back to Bourg. Dave came round and we polished off the leftovers. Tired. Beer. ****-faced. Bike talk. But quite a bit of it, I didn’t hear. My hearing is getting worse
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Old 21-07-10, 11:16 PM   #7
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Tuesday

I can’t resist gooey sweet things in the patisserie, which explains why I had this ‘Croix de Savoie’ for brekkie. Savoie is the department, and its crest is a red and white shield, so this sweet delight was a pastry thing with raspberries and hazlenuts, with icing sugar. It doesn’t look like a cross I know, that’s cos I’d already polished off quite a bit!



Lazy start after a long ride yesterday, I discovered that French daytime TV is even worse than Brit rubbish. It was a slow start, as you can see from Dave’s feet poking out of his tent:



But it turned into another epic day I took the 675 offroading. And got soaked three times.

Not before I’d had a scare with the bike. I filled up on the way back yesterday, squeezed as much as I could in. This morning it got hot. I mean H-O-T hot. 35C. And I noticed a dark patch under the bike



The fuel had expanded so much in the heat it was coming out the overflow Holy ****!!!!!! It made a right mess, so to stop it getting worse I put my camping towel over the tank. Nice:




Some just wanted to doss around, others were up for a ride, Bill wanted to take some pics of some glaciers so off we set up the Cormet (another col) de Roseland. Pic on the way up:



The others waited for me here cos I had got stuck behind a bloody great car transporter. I couldn’t believe it – such a huge thing on such a narrow twisty road. ******* kept blocking me too, but I got past on a sweeping bend.



Yours truly




but before we got up top we turned off some track through a deserted hamlet Les Chapieux up to a little mountain hut called Les Lanchettes (1960m). The road was OK to start with, paved, over a ickle wooden bridge that was a bit slippery. But the paved road ran out and it turned into a steep dirt track. Well Bill had buggered off up the track, so we followed. The dirt gave way to stones and the stones gave way to rocks and dirt, hairpins and all, then a bloody great ford with rocks in the bottom. I was terrified I was going to shed a tyre or dent a wheel – the rocks were sharp and big drops between them. I shouldn’t have gone up there really but I wanted to see if I could do it Also the bellypan hit the deck a few times… but I did it. We go to the top. This is the view down the valley:



Simon of course breezed up on his GS, the smug git:









I didn’t think the glaciers were worth the risk and I felt irritated, partly with Bill and partly with myself. Maybe it’s to do with global warming but the glaciers were small, and not the shiny white I expected.


Don’t be deceived by the blue skies. Suddenly it clouded over. Back down the track, if I get a puncture here… eeeek. Round the rocky hairpins, through the ford. Front end very unhappy.

And up the col – getting ever darker. Sweeping uphill bends, starting to rain. Damn. At the top, didn’t stop, you then drop down to the most fantastic view of Lac de Roseland. It’s iridescent green. But we didn’t stop. On and across the dam, see pics below, it just gets better and better, turned off up the Col du Pre, (‘Pre’ means ‘meadow’ – very apt), and stopped for lunch here. Just as well, it started hammering down:





And here is the view. The pics don’t do it justice, it was stunning:








Looking the other way:





The rain had turned into a ferocious storm, with a spectacular pyrotechnic display over the mountains. Forked lighting, terrific thunder, a monsoon – the works. It slowly eased off.

I’d been lugging my waterproofs around with me for the last few days - and we'd had 35C each day - and I was fed up with it so today I’d left them at the campsite. Oops, bad mistake, I had only my lightweight textile mesh gear and I got soaked.

Onwards – over the top of the col, Bill was doing more offroading and didn’t think the 675 would make it, well they ended up riding through a river, here’s Simon (Bill took this pic):



So I rode home with Andy via Beaufort. Wet doesn’t begin to describe it, I was so drenched that when I walked into the chalet I trailed rivers of water running off my saturated clothes Ick!!!! The road from Beaufort over the col is simply fantastic, hairpins, great bends – but the monsoon spoiled it. Plus it was school run time, so lots of cars, not nice.

Well the rain stopped and Andy and I headed into town, where we met up with the Essex lads at a bar A few Stellas later… They’d been there since 4, it was now 6, so you can imagine the state they were in. Wandered back, took the short cut through the woods – and someone decided it would be a great idea to paddle in the Isere river Into the water, splash!!! oh **** it was cold, just paddling and general dicking about… 5 blokes half cut… Col picked up a huge rock off the river bed and dropped it right in front of me the *******, I disappeared under a tidal wave, so I soaked him back. Oh children, children… By this stage the others had reached the far bank and I was stranded on this little stone island in the middle so they decided they had to rescue me… I knew what was coming, I ain’t that stupid, legged it for the bank and just as I was climbing up… it only took a gentle shove… splash… full immersion, I think they call it

All 5 of us





More dicking about, soaked through, what must we have looked like when we got back to the site… beer... more beer… I don’t remember much else
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Old 21-07-10, 11:29 PM   #8
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Wednesday

Bill was planning a big ride today. Woke up with a thick head – as did everyone else - how many times have I typed that – so we left a bit late It turned out to be a day of drama. Up Cormet de Roseland, today we stopped for a photoshoot.




It was Nathan’s 30th birthday. Happy birthday mate



And then on, down the other side, where I made the worst mistake in many years and it nearly cost me dear. The first bend off the top is a right hander followed by a sharp left hairpin. Cos I’d been taking pics I was second to last to leave, and I just followed everyone else as they cut the corner, half way through the corner on the wrong side of the road – oh holy ****ing ****, where did that ******* car come from… French registered Renault - I swerved but there was no escaping, he did an emergency stop, we missed by millimetres. I assumed it was safe and it wasn’t. Stupid thing to do. I can still see the driver’s face. It shook me up real bad and spoiled the morning. I couldn’t concentrate on the fabulous downhill to Beaufort, and it stayed with me all the way up Col des Saisies. Lovely road too, can see round the hairpins so can take them nice and wide, staying in 2nd. Cool

Up to the posh town of Les Saisies, much nicer than Val d’Isere even, 1650m, pit stop at the top in the stinky loo. Nice jumblage of bikes!




Another fantastic war memorial there:



Not the first time I saw these two (Dave and Liz) together



And on again. We headed for the dull town of Megeve, then for St Gervais-les-Bains, busy road, bit boring. St Gervais is a lovely town but the years have not been kind, it is faded gentility, it would have been very fashionable years ago, now eclipsed by its more chic and famous neighbour, Chamonix.


The town has a serious traffic management problem and once again my right leg was on fire with the heat from the exhaust. Owwww. N205 on to Chamonix, it goes across a viaduct up the valley, the views are simply awesome, breathtaking view of Mont Blanc – but Bill didn’t stop. Mind, given the dual carriageway that was more like the straight at Le Mans, I could understand why. We shot up this road, embarrassing speed really, just as well I’ve got over my fear of high bridges as this dude was just a tad up in the air. Don’t go into the tunnel!!! It’s 12km long, €23.20 for a bike one way, and way into Italy before you can turn round and come back

N506 around the edge of Chamonix, it turns into the D1506, on to Argentieres, and then up the Col des Montets – 1461m – not high by Alpine standards but awesome nonetheless. Down through the Gorge des Trientes until we reached the lunch stop here, at Vallorcine: I liked this place:







Lunch was the local speciality, ‘Poya’ – lightly toasted white bread, local Reblochon cheese, gherkins, minced steak, more cheese, and pickled onions and stuff. Yum.

It was about 35-36C sat outside the hotel, a beautiful day. I was just about starting to get over my near miss.

A few km more and we crossed into Switzerland. They have border guards – all a bit of a joke – cos they took no interest and carried on playing poker.

Fuel is cheaper in CH, not by much mind, so we filled up just across the border.

On up the Col de la Forclez, 1628m, not too challenging this, but coming down was. The downhill is long steep straights, with hairpins. I didn’t like it at all, always on the brakes, but I never find downhill bends that easy. But the views over the town of Martigny are stunning. The town is in the floor of the wide valley of the River Rhone, from 1500m it looks neat and planned. I was glad to get to the bottom - stiflingly hot again - but close up the town is disappointing. Out again, onto a fast main road, turned right up a small road for Lac Champex and Col du Grand St Bernard.

Here’s Lac Champex. Pretty.





Anyone notice anything about my bike??? Look closer.



The road up was one of the steepest we did, I’d say a 25% gradient all the way, with the tightest hairpins we had yet done – ridiculously tight, adverse camber, crap surface


Well I’d nearly got to the top, when on the penultimate bend I went wide, it was steeper and tighter than I thought too. I had too little power to drive the bike out of the bend, and as soon as I got round there was David and Carole right in front of me, I had nowhere to go… unstable from the lack of power, the front then found a convenient pothole, stalled, and I couldn’t hold it on a 40 degree adverse camber – and over she went


I bust the mirror where the stalk joins the mount. Two Swiss bikers came round the corner and helped me pick up the bike, no mean feat on a 40 degree slope, the bike had leaked fuel and the road was really slippy making it difficult to pick up the bike, so I covered that up with a bit of soil from the roadside. I could see this dark pool getting bigger and bigger, leaking onto a very hot engine, I was terrified that my bike was going to become a pile of cinders.

I felt such a dork Word somehow got to the others who by now were paddling in the lake, when I arrived they didn’t laugh, bless ‘em. Only one way to deal with this – hop straight back on, but learn the lesson – on tight hairpins, leave at least 100m clear!

After I’d recovered, we set off for the Grand St Bernard. Fantastic road down to Osieres, turn right for the Col, a few missed the turn but they caught up later on. Stunning fast road through the val d’Entremont, few road works, then Bourg St Pierre, lovely Alpine village with traditional Alps houses, they have built the village round one of the sharpest hairpins known to man, with a pedestrian crossing right on it. Into the paravalanche – concrete tunnels to stop the snow falling onto the road – turn off for the Col, not through the tunnel – we waited here for the lostees to catch up.




Looking back to the exit from the concrete thing



Another dam going up - the Alps are really one huge hydroelectric project!

Up to the Col, it started getting cold and desolate, lots of snow around. Tight at the top, and oh my, at 1975m (8114 feet) what a spectacular view.







We stopped for an ice cream, and Tony on the KTM finally caught up:



The buildings are in Italy:



Remember, this was early July. Just look at all that ice on the lake:




The descent from the Col is where they filmed the car chase in The Italian Job. But no such antics now, there is great tarmac at the top but the surface on the Italian side is atrocious. Gravel, potholes, some roughly filled with loose concrete, general ****, cow poo, diesel from leaky fuel bowsers for the road works, adverse cambers, the lot. It really was shocking, and in places the surface was so bad that the front was hopping around. Not nice. Through the pretty village of St Rhemy, this is Italy despite the French sounding names, and onto the fabbo S27 road into Aosta. Great surface, just pulls you along, fast open bends, need to keep an eye out for the Carabinieri along here as they know it’s a biker favourite. Funny, after the near miss I was all at sea, but after I dropped it I had no problems – and caned it

Great views across the valley, but the town of Aosta is a dump.

Out of Aosta, school run traffic and my leg on fire again.

We passed a stunning castle, don’t know what it’s called, but it was straight out of a fairy story. Took a left up the Colle San Carlo. What a fantastic road!!!: cool: Newly resurfaced, it’s a second Monza. It was sheer joy going up, nice open hairpins, nothing like the tight buggers on that hill in Switzerland, so you can go damn fast Just too perfect!!! Over the top, down into the pretty town of La Thuile – again still in Italy. Time for a pic, here’s Liz at the bottom of the drop down the Col:



Starting to get tired…

Heading back to France, over the Colle del Piccolo San Bernardo / Col du Petit St Bernard. Nice run up despite the roadworks, great hairpins – hey I need to come back here – and utterly desolate at the top, it felt eerie. I was so curious, I came back the next day. We blasted across the border back into France. The road down into Bourg St Maurice is a bit miserable to La Rosiere, but by now we were all tired and the weather was closing in, into La Rosiere (1850m), phew nearly home, great road down – I think there are 18 hairpins and you can see round all of them – I will never forget the sight of six bikes going down the flowing sweeping bends on that hill, led by David and Carole on their BMW, Ian on his BMW, Chris on his Versys, Marv on the Rocket, Tony on his KTM, then me. Watching them was a sheer joy, we kept the same speed and distance all the way. I love being a biker

And so back to Bourg. We all felt shattered but still went up the Indo-Chinese resto where they all discovered that I like prawns:



Just a few shots from the resto to end the day:






And there is one more but if I post it I’ll get banned!!!! Dare I????

What a fantastic day:cool : I’m so glad I came, I wouldn’t have missed all this for the world. I don't want to go back to boring old England!!!!! By now the group had become very close, and the convo was easy like we’d known each other for years, not just a few days. Could it get any better???? Read on and find out.

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Old 21-07-10, 11:33 PM   #9
Bluefish
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Default Re: Uncle Ed's Alpine Ramblings - beware, image intensive

excellant pics and write up ed, more, more...
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Old 21-07-10, 11:39 PM   #10
Ed
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Default Re: Uncle Ed's Alpine Ramblings - beware, image intensive

Thursday


The morning after the night before…



Late start after such a full day Wednesday… started off with Col getting out the gaffa tape, we fixed up the bust mirror using an allen key as a splice




Nothing formal arranged so I decided I had to investigate the eerie Col Petit St Bernard. Lovely hairpins up to La Rosiere, fantastic views over the Isere valley:



Stopped for lunch there






And then on to the Col. It’s 2188m.



At the top there are remains of standing stones, probably Iron Age (500BC – ish), some bright spark put the road through the circle There was also a Roman temple to Jupiter, long since gone. It was the Roman crossing point of the Alps on the road from Rome to Lyon. There’s an old hospital there, originally founded by St Bernard in the 11th century – the blurb doesn’t say what it was for – the present one dates from 1897, used for TB I guess. Would you like to be a patient here, in this barren and inhospitable terrain? This was July, just think of December in the days before central heating:



And there is a statue of St Bernard, strangely in France but pointing to Italy. Why?? I couldn’t find an answer. More recently, there are WW2 tank traps – a great f*ck off ditch and huge concrete blocks that go up the mountains in a futile attempt to stop Panzers




The ditch was full of snow




The present generation’s contribution to this fascinating history is a pastiche St Bernard dog on wheels to promote the tacky gift shop. Appalling.



There is now a closed frontier building, closed for many years.




Looking into Italy





It feels so spooky, like there might have been a massacre there. I was fascinated by the place, why does it feel so cold, so desolate, so ghostly? If anyone knows, please sing out.


Well I could find out no more so I rode on across the border into Italy. This dramatic scenery is just on the Italian side:



Great example of a glaciated corrie:



A mini glacier is forming on the road!!!



But I was really in search of a pic of Mont Blanc without the cloud that had covered it since we arrived. On to La Thuile, here’a an aerial pic




Nope, still in cloud dammit, so I rode on to Courmeyeur, still in Italy despite the French sounding name. It’s the last town before the tunnel, plastic designer place, not keen, so didn’t stop.

Nice road next to a river, more of a raging torrent really, and suddenly warning signs in Italian about 8 hairpin bends above the village of Pre St Didier. Well they were terrific, really tight but you can look down to see if there’s anything coming before taking them wide. The first two were the worst, more about them in a minute. I could see Mont Blanc but still cloud. Hot damn! On to Courmeyeur, on the way (boring road this time) the cloud more or less lifted and I got the best shot I could. I was expecting that famous soaring white pinnacle, but it looks very different from the Italian side:





I like municipal gardening, y’know flowers in traffic islands, the Italians are very good at it:



And back into La Thuile, where I had a look around. Interesting. This is inside the town post office:



Where they have the town’s old fire engine on display:



And a river ran through it:



Few other pics of the town. This next one is of a war memorial to Italians who died in German concentration camps in WW1. I was puzzled, I don’t know enough of the history to understand it.






As you can see it was very hot.

I haven’t seen one of these in many years:



Back through Pre St Didier and those hairpins, going round the last but one I decided to stop the bike and take a few pics. I wanted to see how everyone else goes round them, especially bikes. I didn’t have to wait long. Here’s a random selection of pics of people (mainly) running wide. Now you might say that they could see that nothing was coming, well maybe so, but really not impressive. The bend:




Truck approaches on the wrong side of the road



And ends up on the wrong side of the road







Stunning mountain scenery all around Pre Mont Blanc is just cut off on the left:



And so back across the Col and back to Bourg. This is Bourg from about 1800m, BSM is 100m down in the valley



I got a bit carried away, it was all so giant. Les Arcs is in the hanging valley on the right of this pic:



The road down:



Expected a quiet ride back to Bourg, I decided to stop off on one of the hairpins on the La Rosiere road just so you can see how sharp they are. I was setting up the shot when I heard an IL4 screaming up the road You can see my bike in this shot, it was parked up some way down the road, so bad boy Luke on the Gixxer thou must have seen it, then saw me on the corner and played to the camera. Watch the sequence.






Followed by Marv






Uh-huh, a screaming IL4 again. Luke had turned round and come back







And turned round again next to my bike







I would guess his speed through that corner that second time at around 70 mph.

Home. Another barbeque on the fire pit





Some random French guy wandered over, no idea who he was, but vey happy with his St Emilion



Food at last, I was bloody starving. And, knackered, but oh so so happy.





Nathan, Simon, Paul and Col. Tony sitting:



The lovely Lizzie



Nathan’s wife Tracey had come for the weekend, Nathan went to Geneva to fetch her from the airport. I didn’t envy him the ride back from Geneva in the dark but he took the motorway rather than come over the tops.



Did it get better? Oh yes, it just got betterer and betterer. And so ended another day that I really didn’t want to end.



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