Day 8 Bolzano, Italy to Milan via Passo Stelvio

Monday  Dateicon  05.08.2013  Tigericon  380km Total:1501km

The lady in the loudspeakers wakes us up at 6AM and right after the train staff delivers a light breakfast.
The train arrives a bit late in Bolzano right after 8AM (who the hell needs two hours to get ready when you're on a train?).

When we've gotten our bikes off the train we immediately set course for the mythical Stelvio Pass which has so much notoriety that the domestic manufacturer Moto Guzzi named one of their models after it.
The roads and views are just getting more and more spectacular the closer we're getting and we stop and get an early lunch at Hotel Post along the way.

Considering the fee on Grossglockner we both thought it pretty obvious that this would be a toll road, that fact that it isn't was pretty obvious after going through the first dozen hairpins without passing a toll both.
It was of course nice not needing to pay to ride here but the fact that is was free was pretty obvious noting by the traffic density and the state of the road so I wasn't all positive and the RVs I learned to hate in Norway was unfortunately plentiful.

There really was only two kinds of riders, the ones riding very slow (like me) and the ones practicing for the Pikes Peak Hillclimb, a lot of the time I just wanted to close my eyes so I didn't have to see the horrific accident that seemed completely inevitable with some of the overtaking done by our biking brethren.

Going into one of the first hairpins the RV I was trailing behind sought it best to stop right in the middle of the corner which is obviously a pretty easy thing to do if you have four wheels or more.
But on two wheels in a steep hill climb and leaning in a corner it's a matter of horsepower vs gravity.
Loose one and the other wins which is what happens when you have to grab a handful of front brake mid corner.
I fought the law of gravity and the law won.

So there I was lying flat out in the middle of a hairpin on Stelvio but the only thing that had suffered any mentionable damage was my ego.
With the bike actually sloping down, picking it up wasn't going to be easy but fortunately a few lads in an Alfa rose to the challenge when I with hand signals pointed first at the bike, then at them and then made a lifting motion.
The only damage to the bike was a few scrapes on the crash bar and a dent in the pannier.
It's nice knowing that all the crap I've put on the bike isn't just for show so I guess I owe a bit of gratitude towards SW Motech for making gear that actually does the job.

That episode obviously affected my view on the pass overall because in my view it's just the sort of tourist trap I though Trollstigen in Norway was supposed to be.
Stelvio was completely riddled with incompetent drivers, the road standard was pretty poor and at the top there was a whole village with trinkets and souvenirs (I'll admit it, I bought a t-shirt and some stickers so I'm not exactly helping).
It didn't really live up to my high set expectations, after all Jeremy Clarkson at one point called it the best road... in the world.

I had set a route from Bolzano to Milano in Basecamp before we left to try and get as many fun roads as possible during the day as this day would be a pure transport stage anyway and just by pure luck I'd gotten the Mortirolo pass in the route.
It was the highlight of the day and it's judging by it's prise what Stelvio should have been.
Without a doubt one of the most enjoyable rides of my life with a perfect mix of hairpins, long sweeping curves and straightaways in an amazing forest.
Or as Doro would have said: Fantastich!

We went over another pass before heading out onto the Autostrada towards Milano and again we're being punished for lack of preparation because after just 10kms we get to a tool both.
A barrier, a terminal that only "speaks" Italian and no staff in sight.

After trying our best to no avail all of a sudden the barrier rises (I still don't know why) and we make the rash decision to ride through.
Rash because just 30kms later there's another toll where (we know now that) we needed a receipt from the previous one.

This terminal also just wanted to speak Italian so I pushed a button called help and eventually a female voice came through the speaker... in Italian.
Her English was limited to the phrases "Where you from?" and "Take the ticket!", the last phrase was repeated with a gradual increase in volume as if she though a ticket would magically appear if she just managed to hit the right decibel.
Eventually the barrier rose so she either grew tired of the stupid Swede who couldn't create a ticket from thin air or they withdrew a fortune from the Visa-card I put in the machine five times, I guess time will show.
By now some staff has shown up, alas we're saved!
But no... no speaka english.
He still got the Bear through with his Visa-card so we could ride on to Best Western St George in Milano.

We park up on the sidewalk at the hotel and check in, sweaty bikers after a pretty rough day who probably looked like we've been to hell and back was probably not a common occurrence at this establishment but after the initial chock the portiere was more helpful.

We asked about the secure parking that was the main reason that we choose this hotel.
Parking motorbikes in a garage was a completely unheard of phenomenon for this guy so he actually called the garage to make sure it was all right (which of course it was).
He apologized that the pickup-service was just for cars (I wouldn't have let anyone ride my bike anyway and I'm sure the Bear has the same opinion).
But that meant we had to ride to the garage and walk back 1.5kms in full gear in 34°C, I was sweating so bad I almost passed out.

At the garage he tells us that it is illegal for us to lock the bikes, we weren't even allowed to engage the steering lock which felt really uneasy because I don't think I would have gotten a single krona from my insurance company if they knew the bike was unlocked but he assured us that even people who rode Harley Davidsons left them unlocked.
That HD-riders have more money than sense wasn't a debate I was willing to have with the person who would be responsible for my most prised possession for two days so we accepted the circumstances and headed back to the hotel.

It was so warm for the better part of the day that at the end I was almost slipping on the handlebars because I was sweating so bad.
The shower at the hotel felt like one of the most needed in my life.
Afterwards we hit the town in hunt of supper and end up at a place called Mama Rosa.
What we didn't realize when we entered was that this was a pretty posh place with white tablecloths and linen napkins.
A glass of rosé whine appeared from nowhere along with starters we hadn't ordered, more bread than a whole bakery and more staff than guests but the prices where surprisingly acceptable considering that the available options at this time of night where few and far between.

I ate veal á la Milano with tomatoes and a beer.
I know I am supposed to drink whine in Italy but I couldn't bring myself to it just yet.
Both the food and the beer was excellent but considering we hadn't eaten since lunch and it was now about 10PM I guess just some warm food and a cold beer would be heaven on earth.

It had been a very long day so after supper we went straight back to the hotel.


A train full of toys.

Forza Stelvio!

This guy obviously had more balls than common sense.

Mortirolo pass, sublime riding.