In the Shadow of St. Moritz - July 25- 31

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Europe » Switzerland
July 25th 2015
Published: July 6th 2017
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Geo: 46.6329, 8.59482

We left Lauterbrunnen under cloudy skies and headed southeast, passing again through one of the longest tunnels (nearly 5 miles long) towards Meiringen. Our first stop was at the Reichenbach Waterfalls (where Sherlock Holmes fell to his death). We opted not to take the tram to the top, instead took a few photos of the lower falls. From there we started our climb up to Innertkirchen. Our motorcycle guidebook suggested a detour 18 km up a narrow dead-end valley road. After paying a 4 Chf toll, we continued through a high meadow to the Engstlen See, where there's a hotel, camping, and a wonderful cheese factory (which we visited and stocked up). On the way down the narrow road, Guenther was run off the pavement by a speeding driver. A retaining wall kept him and Deb from going wheels up (fortunately, no injuries incurred), but the bike suffered some damage to the Tupperware. After eventually winding up through the clouds and lots of tunnels, we crossed the Susten Pass and started our decent down to Wassen, where we were careful to avoid the tunnel that goes all the way to Italy. We arrived at our wonderful 2nd-floor apartment on one of the main cobblestone streets in the quaint village of Andermatt - the perfect central point for trips to the best Swiss Alps passes. In spite of heavy clouds and some dense fog in the passes, we had no rain all day.

Sunday we took a great ride, looping around and over three different passes: St. Gotthard Pass, Nufenen Pass (the peaks of the Berner Oberland in the distance), and the Furka Pass (with great views of the Rhone Glacier). We encountered heavy bicycle traffic for a race over two of the passes. The congestion compounded by tons of motorcycles making the most of the twisting hairpins, and your usual tour buses. We stopped for lunch at Belvedere, near the Furka, above the amazing serpentine road that climbs up from the valley. We passed close to the Grimsel Pass, with plans to do it later in the week. A great first day of riding the amazing passes around Andermatt.

On the 27th, Debbie & Gun went to Luzerne to find some new boots, so Janet and Dave rode another of the great rides detailed in the Alps book. We retraced the route up to Furka Pass, this time with virtually no traffic, and a bright sunny day. Then it was up the switchbacks at Gletch, into the clouds that enveloped Grimsel Pass, so thick that we couldn't see the bike parked across the street from the coffee shop. We continued the loop, back down to Guttannen, stopping for a hike up to a footbridge suspended above the river canyon. Then, on to Innertkirchen, and a return ride over Susten Pass, this time with no clouds and great visibility. Everyone arrived back at the apartment within minutes of each other to share the events of another great day.

The next day we had the nicest weather yet in Andermatt, so we did six passes, retracing some of our previous excursions but enjoying the sunshine. From town, we shot up the mountain to the Oberal Pass, then a sweet run down the valley and a climb to the Lukmanier Pass, with its austere landscape. After cresting the summit, we rode through thick forests of pines, down to the Valley di Blenio, where the Italian influence could be seen in all the little villages we passed. Turning north again, we traveled up through Airolo again, for a repeat climb to the St. Gotthard Pass (or San Gottardo as most of the signs read), where we stopped for a picnic lunch at an amazing point that overlooked the valley. With lots of sunlight left and great weather, we decided to retrace our earlier route over Nufenenpass, up to Grimsel Pass, and back down to the road leading over the Furka Pass and back to Andermatt. A beautiful six pass day!!!

Wednesday the 29th we spent resting up and hanging out, as rain showers were forecast for the afternoon. Deb and Gun visited the Talmuseum (just a few doors down from us), a patrician mansion of the Ursern valley, built in 1786, which depicts local life in the 17th/18th century. We're posting a group of local shots as our "postcard from Andermatt." Andermatt dates back to about 1397 and sits at an elevation of 1,450 meters. For many centuries, Andermatt was the crossroads of the Alps. Draw a straight line from Milan (to the south) and Zurich (to the north) and Andermatt is right in the middle - with France to the west and Austria to the east. Thanks to one of the longest tunnels in the world, traffic now goes through the mountain instead of through Andermatt. The village of Andermatt is for Alpinists and motorcyclists - where crowds don't go, but motorcycles do!

Clouds and the overcast weather didn't keep us from taking a leisurely ride north along the Reuss River from Andermatt up to Altdorf, along the Vierwaldstatter See (Lucerne Lake) to Schwyz for a stop at the BMW dealer to stock up on oil (we are burning up a lot on these steep climbs). From there we headed east, on a narrow twisting road into the clouds, over the Iberberegg Pass, which didn't offer much to see. Ultimately, we arrived at the Sihlsee, and across the tranquil lake on a bridge that took us to Einsiedeln, and from there, south on a pleasant country road back to Schwyz. On the return loop, we stopped in Altdorf for lunch and to explore the village with its cobblestone streets. Heading for home, we opted for the fastest route back on the Autobahn, traveling through several tunnels, and arrived back in Andermatt before any showers began.For our last day of riding in the area, we took advantage of the sunshine and clear skies to travel north again to Altdorf and headed east to Burglen for a brief stop for pictures at the William Tell Museum (closed). From there we began a steady climb through a beautiful valley up to Klausen Pass, where we stopped along with the numerous motorcycles and cows, to enjoy the view and a cup of coffee. Descending into the Urner Boden valley, we wound our way down through a series of wonderful sweepers, surrounding by cloud shrouded majestic peaks, through the delightful villages of Linthal and Schwanden. After a leg stretch in the charming town of Glarus, we made our way up a wonderful little road to Filzbach, high above a spectacular lake called the Walensee. Picking up sandwiches at a local market in Weesen, we stop at a lakeside park to enjoy the splendid scene of the lake and surrounding mountains. We forced ourselves to leave this wonderful setting, on a country road back to Glarus, then west up a wonderful mountain road to the Klontaler See, a turquoise lake that conjures images of Lake Louise in Canada. From there we continued to climb an even narrower road up to the Pragel Pass, where we had to give goats the right of way. The road got even narrower as we descended back down towards Schwyz, and we tried to stay behind cars on the miles of blind corners to clear the way for us as much as possible. Overall, it was one of the best riding days so far in Switzerland.

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