Tom, Ginny, and myself are camping at the nicest campground we have ever stayed at. Yeah, it was 50 euros for the three of us, and we have to sleep on the ground, but I just finished a wonderful plate of spaghetti in the restaurant, on the patio, with a view of a snow covered mountain, with birds singing away (I know the noisy buggers are going to wake me up at oh-dark-thirty), the showers reminded me of a high-class health club, we didn’t even bother with the indoor swimming pool . . . I guess I’m trying to say that these Europeans know how to camp. Oh, Brualio is my favorite amoro, an alpine-bitter made in nearby Bormio.
None of us knew what we were headed for this morning. We have always struggled a little getting out of, into and through cities, but, in general, the signage for the bike routes is spectacular. We followed a branch of the Adige River the entire way, all 56 miles. Unlike the day before, this river was flowing fast with large swells surging over the rocks. Occasionally the river would turn to rapids and that was when we knew the climbing would start.
We were all surprised at the 14% grade that hit us somewhere during a two-mile uphill that put me down into my lowest gear. And the sun was shining heavily on us. We discovered a picnic table with fresh water and enjoyed our lunch before tackling the last 6 switchbacks.
However, most of the route was a gentle grade (except for that last mile on gravel that Ginny especially enjoyed) and the mountains watched as we sweated. Hundreds of cyclists passed us going in the other direction; skinny tire, fat tire, one saddlebag or four, families, clubs, you name it. Someday, perhaps I will get to enjoy the other direction also.
I would switch on my Garmin in the cities and (Volker would be proud) I even managed to get us to the closest grocery store in Merano. But with 12 kilometers to go, the darn thing wanted to put us onto roads. Tom has a great sense of direction and we remained on the bike path. It took us right to the campground.
Tomorrow is a short day, only 25 kilometers. But it is up, and up, and up. The Stelvio del Passo dello Stelvio begins just a few meters from the driveway. There are so many twists, turns, and switchbacks, that I describe it as “intestines on the road”.
Hopefully we have reservations at the top. In any case we will descend into Switzerland on the way to Saint Moritz.
We are going to miss Italy. The people are great, the food, the cafés, the scenery. I’m guessing we are in for more of the same.