Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Italian Cycling Crescendo

A crescendo is the perfect way to describe our Italy cycling trip. Each day was better than the day before, each ride more beautiful and epic than the previous one, until it exploded on the final day's climb up the Stelvio Pass. Although from the beginning of the trip, I never would have expected it to turn out so well.

I conveniently got sick 5 days before we flew to Munich, which kept me off the bike for 5 days. I cannot remember the last time I took that much time off. This made me extremely nervous. To put the icing on the cake, Raja got sick the day before we flew out. We were off to a roaring start.

We flew into Munich, arriving on Sunday, Sept 2nd. Hertz gave us a fantastic Mazda 6 wagon which can accommodate 2 adults, 2 bike cases, 2 suitcases, 1 small suitcase, and 2 backpacks, all with great ease. Other than its horrible turning radius and the fact that we got the smaller engine, Raja enjoys driving this car. It is our 2nd time to have one for Europe.

Somehow we made the 3 1/2 hr drive (with the help of an hour long nap at a rest stop) to our destination; the tiny picturesque town of Castelrotto, located in the Sud Tirol region of northern Italy. It is surrounded by the beautiful Dolomites and offers jaw dropping views every where you look. We scored a fantastic apartment with a killer view at the Residence Vroni.

There is nothing pleasant about an overseas flight, especially when you are sick or just getting over being sick. Raja was not doing so hot that first day. Even when you are well, you feel like death warmed over after such a long flight and NO sleep. In spite of his state, the beauty of the gorgeous afternoon gave him enough inspiration to at least drive up to the top of the Alpe di Siusi to enjoy the views before we called it a day, a loooooooooong day.

The next morning greeted us with a spectacular view of clear skies and mountains towering over the valley. Fortunate for me, my dear Raja mustered up the energy to build up my bike so that I could at least take it all in on 2 wheels. Our apt was at the base of a 5 mile climb leading up to the Alpe di Siusi area, a hiking mecca. The road closes to cars at 9am, which meant I only had to share the climb with the bus and a few authorized cars. This area is crawling with hikers and a good many cyclists that come up for the insane views. The only way up, other than by bus, foot, or bike is the gondola. My friends, Jeff and Melissa, would be in hikers heaven. I was wishing they were here.

I missed not having Raja with me, but still felt like a kid in a candy shop giddy with excitement. The views were so incredible that I forgot I was climbing.....which usually involves suffering. No suffering today. It felt so good to be out enveloped with crisp cool air and surrounded by unlimited views of mountains and flowers. No more 95 degree stifling Hotlanta air which I am afraid to breathe.
The camera never left my hand. So many beautiful shots, oh, and this one, oh, and look over there, oh, oh, oh!!!

At the top, I cycled along the narrow road exploring little paths and soaking it all in like a sponge. I felt a little guilty that Raja was not with me. From this vantage point, there are still countless opportunities to climb more. The little road I was on crisscrosses a zillion different hiking paths leading to the rocky peaks towering above. A few years ago, we did one of the hikes. It was insane. I am happy to be on my bike. I don't think my feet could have handled a hike today.

Here's a tiny video of the beautiful view on the road from Compatsch to Saltria:

Without Raja the garminator along to keep the stats, I had to rely on the signs. Content with 2 hrs and 2,000' of climbing, I resisted the temptation to get a strudel without my sherpa. We would get strudel tomorrow. The descent was just as spectacular as the climb. It was a day to remember. The trip had only just begun!

More pics!


James Bigler said...

I am so glad you guys had a good time. Your pictures are amazing, and the commentary is hilarious as usual. Thanks for posting.

Cam said...

Excellent use of the slideshow.

namrita o'dea said...

amazing! more pics!!!

so i take it you're back in the lovely state of Georgia??

Becky said...

Great photography! So artsy and creative... I think you have found your hidden talent.