Thursday - 4.8.2016 - Day:305km - Total:1591km
Today I'm hopping on a mountain route called the Grand Alpine Route or Route des Grandes Alpes, a route that links Thonon Les Bains by Lake Geneva to Menton at the Mediterranean.
All this via a total 16 more or less spectacular mountain passes.
I somehow didn't think that was enough so I redid the route somewhat to include Col de l'Iseran, with its 2764 meters it is the highest paved mountain pass in the alps and I'm really glad I did because of all the truly spectacular views I had today, l'Iseran was the most spectacular of them all.
The Grand Alpine is approximately 650kms in total and even with my somewhat optimistic planning I realized that would be completely impossible in one day.
The choice fell on Briancon as to spend the night.
I had a feeling the mountain miles would take its time when I got to the alps and I had prepared with readymeals to make lunch more effective and also not be dependent on restaurant availability (which where a lot more frequent than I thought they would be) but still the miles go slowly.
Arman the sailor stated that the average speed through the alps would be around 45km/h without the numbers to back it up I think he might have been pretty dead on.
And as I'm riding in to the hotel parking lot with the daylight slowly dying I'm also starting to think that his opinion about my daily mileage was tight too.
But nothing truly lost since I had only planned this a rest stopp and that's what it turned out to be.
I do have the time to stock up on some provisions in a shopping mall and as I get to the register I'm confronted with the question what does a banana weigh?
I was so stumped by this that I sort of swayed in my mind between it being a purely hypothetical question to some kind of weird existential dilemma questioning why someone would go to the trouble of hauling a banana to the alps.
Turns out customers are supposed to weigh their own fruit in the fruit & veg department before going to register.
I resist going to the golden arch for the second night in a row and instead opt for some sort of steakhouse which seems to be some kind French response to Jensens Böfhus.
At least it would be a good response if the question was how you remove great service, great food and great produce.
I am aware that any self-respecting cook deems a piece of meat "well done" as pretty much ruined but this one went one step beyond and decided to interpret "well done" as "kill it with fire".
But by now there isn't anything not X-Rated he could have done to that steak that would have kept me from eating it.
And with my cooking skills it's pretty much how it would have ended up in my hands anyway.
With a cremated steak and some french fries in my belly I head back to the hotel.
Col de l'iseran alt. 2764m. The town in the distance is Val-d'Isère
Col du Galibier alt. 2645m
Friday 5.8.2016 298km - Total:1889km
I head off to do the rest of The great alpine road.
Today I'm actually feeling the altitude and I'm feeling out of breath already at the first stop at Refuge Napoléon even though I'm not doing anything more physically demanding than just enjoying the view.
But on the other hand, Briançon that I just left behind me is the highest located town in France with its 1326m asl.
And despite the name Napoleon never actually had any refuge here, the building was put up in his honour 34 years after his death.
The views are just as spectacular as yesterday and also much like yesterday it is the high point of the day is the actual highest point of the day. Cime de la Bonette (2860m) is breathtakingly beautiful.
I really am lucky with the weather because cloud or fog would really detract from the view but the sun is shining from a clear blue sky.
The temperature span during the day is pretty wild, at the lowest I had +8°C and at down by the Mediterranean the mercury went up to +32°C.
What pleases the eye and what pleases the spirit isn't necessarily the same so even though Bonette was like riding through an exquisite painting the most enjoyable ride was without a shadow of a doubt Col de Turini which perhaps shouldn't be that big of a surprise since it's a special stage in the Monte Carlo rally.
It is the perfect mix of switchbacks and long sweeping bends.
But how on earth they thought of doing this at the pitch black of night I can't comprehend, that's just insane.
Apparently it's called the Night of the long knives because of the long light beams cast by all the aux lights of the rally cars which is hardly surprising, for me to do this at night I'd want my own nuclear reactor for all the aux lights I'd have on the bike.
The reason I'm making a detour into Italy to stay in Sanremo is because it was the most bang for the buck hotel wise in this area but had I taken the time is money factor into account I would have chosen differently, Sanremo city centre was in total grid lock and the last 10kms took about an hour in absolutely scorching sun.
But the hotel was a sight to behold and the menu of the day in the restaurant was just to mouth watering to pass up.
- Starter: Baconsmoked duck with apples, salad and walnuts
- 1st: Green noodles with shellfish
- Main: Wild salmon with sautéed zucchini
- Dessert: Melon parfait
Any and all consequences with regards to my food allergies and IBS will be totally worth it unless I soil myself sleeping because that meal was certainly something I'll remember for a long time.
Down Here in the slope I had my lunch.
I really can't say if the fact that I've never had a readymeal that I didn't like is because they really are very good or if it's because I usually only eat them in spectacular surroundings.
Col de la Bonette. Sometimes referred to as the highest paved road in Europe.
But that's cheating because the altitude 2802m isn't the road that goes across the pass.
The pass goes across a road at 2715m which means it gets knocked down by Col de l'Iseran-passet at 2770m.
Regardless of which I went across both roads so I can claim the bragging rights no matter how you determine the altitude.
At the foot of Col Saint-Martin
Saturday 6.8.2016 506km Total:2398km
This is with just a couple of exceptions just a moving day to get to Barcelona.
Up until now I haven't really done anything except ride, eat and sleep and even though I was to stressed out to stay I really felt I had to at least ride through Monaco.
So a drive-by through Monte Carlo it is. Even before I've actually entered the town proper I've already lost track of how many supercars I've seen and if that alone didn't confirm my prejudices about this place they where well and truly solidified when I rode by the rows of luxury yachts in the marina.
I'm almost surprised no one stood at the city limits charging an entrance fee to this spectacle because I had been happy to spend a lot more time here taking it all in.
Instead I hit the throttle and continue towards the two scenic routes of the day, Route de Gentelly and Route Napoleon.
The historical importance of the Route Napoleon is that he marched here in 1815 (feels, like just yesterday) between Elba and Grenoble with the intention of overthrowing king Luis the 18:th.
I have to admit I was to busy enjoying the breathtaking scenery to really feel the tide of history.
The rest of the day it pure transport on the motorway.
If you're intent on riding 500kms in a day you unfortunately can't spend all day riding the scenic route and with roads that have a 130kph speed limit the miles disappear quickly although the frequent ticketing and payment on the toll road really detracts from the otherwise very efficient means of transport.
At this point it also seems that there's a flat rate tariff on the tolls so I'm paying as much as the cars, it certainly wasn't cheap.
At one point the gate didn't even open until a semi rolled up in the next lane, if your vehicle is so light its very existence isn't even registered I really think you'd at least be viable for a discounted price.
Speaking about existential problems I'm really starting to question my route as this point, I'll really need to have a rethink when I get to Montpellier.
Tomorrow I need to do similar mileage and this is just to hard to keep at for two more weeks, I really do want to get something more out of my vacation time than just riding, eating and sleeping.
The way I've been going so far feels more like some kind of sport than a vacation and if I'm to follow my intended route I'll just have more of the same.
Arriving in Montpellier I get something to eat and then start to redo the route.
Riding along the coast on b-roads all the way down to Gibraltar like I had intended I've now finally realised is completely unrealistic, at least in the amount of time I have at my disposal.
It feels like a kind of defeat but very reluctantly I have to admit to myself that Arman the sailor was right.