Friday 19.8.2016 347km Total:6167km
Now that I'm back in the mountains every route is the scenic route.
Already as I'm heading out of la Verra and up to Coll d'Ordino it is stunningly beautiful and if this is a taste of the riding I'll do to today I'm going towards paradise.
I make my way through Envalira pass and back into France and due north.
On my way through Col de Pailhères I stop by a lake as calm as the surface of a mirror and can't help but think that I wasted my time in the lowlands.
That's obviously stupid because I wouldn't have wanted to be without those experiences either but the riding up here is just sublime.
And just when you think it can't possibly get any better as I'm getting on top of a ridge there is for some strange reason a feeding station for free range horses.
So there I am on my bike in the French Pyrenees at 1980 meters above sea level and completely surrounded by horses.
If it wasn't for the fact that the station understandably was a bit of a tourist trap it would have been completely surreal.
A trap I was caught in I might add, there was just no way I wasn't going to dismount and snap some pictures of this spectacle.
Of all the completely spectacular views I've had on this trip I do think this was the best.
Even though no picture can do it justice I still assemble my tripod and head up a small slope to set it up.
Selfiesticks can sod off, with the tripod set up on the top of a small hill and with the timer having a max setting of 10 seconds I really hope some of the pictures turn out ok because they almost gave me a coronary.
Competing in the elite division of selfies is not entirely without sacrifices.
I'm very reluctant to move on from this place but eventually I need to head out.
I have one more scenic route before I go back onto the A9 to Montpellier and that is the Gorges de l’Aude.
A so called Balcony road through a gorge chiselled out of the mountain.
One part in particular, Gorges de St. Georges was single lane with traffic lights and so cool I was cheering in my helmet... at least I was the first time I went through.
I couldn't help myself, I just had to turn back and ride through it again.
Shortly thereafter in Axat I head east on the A9 and starts eating away the miles.
It was a boring choice but I'm staying at the same place as I was on the way down, Villa Belagio.
It wasn't that it was a great hotel really but the price was right, I knew they had a nice garage and there was another feature I really liked:
There was a steel blind outside the window which not only made the room completely dark, it also blocked out a lot of the sounds which all in all is worth its weight in gold when your sleep rhythm is shot to hell like mine.
There where no restaurants around but there was a giant shopping mall so I went there to stock up, for dinner I had gluten free crackers, some kind of herb chicken and beer. In bead.
I definitely wouldn't eat crackers in my own bed but there has to be some perks to staying in a hotel.
Now I really had to wash my t-shirts even though there wasn't anything to hasten the drying.
There wasn't a plug in the sink either but I solved that problem by sculpting a soap with my hands into a plug.
It worked out pretty well and there at least was an abundance of hangers to I hung them to dry on the bars of the AC fan.
I'm a bit doubtful about the result but after having been on me under the jacket in 40°C heat they can't possibly smell any worse than they did before.
Coll d'Ordino, the village in the valley is Canillo
Saturday 20.8.2016 383km Total:6550km
The day starts of gray and overcast and soon transitions into rain.
I know it's childish and very un-credible as a biker but sustained raining just gets to me.
I'll ride on regardless but all the joy of it is out the window... and that the best case scenario.
Add to that the motorway pileup from hell and hot-tempered Frenchmen who completely lacks the ability to line up at a standstill and you get the perfect storm.
The ear plugs where chafing so much I rode without them so I think it was probably because of the wind noise but I can't completely rule out that it was my outbursts in that traffic that was the cause of my hearing not returning to its normal level for several days after.
At a standstill you can often ride in between traffic (called filtering or lane splitting) which is one of the great advantages to travelling on a motorcycle (and in case you don't ride, this is completely legal in most European countries).
But here the traffic was never completely at a standstill, it was like motor-vehicles with parkinson's disease. One minute practically still, then 50, then 20 asf.
And then out of nowhere it opened up and where up to 130km/h again (which was the limit) only to get down to a crawl again.
Without any obvious cause or explanation at all, no lanes shut down, no accidents, no nothing.
After zig-zagging through traffic in all four lanes, riding in between vehicles in speed way past my comfort zone (I usually don't filter in speed higher than first gear) I realize that this isn't going to work in the long run.
Either I conform to the traffic which is painfully slow without any sign of it getting better or I'll continue this kamikaze style riding which is an accident just waiting to happen.
The scenic routes that went out the window with the rain are now back in the game, even if the it's doubtful if the weather will make the view enjoyable the chances of me surviving the day are considerably higher.
And I really don't see that the overall speed on the smaller road network could possibly be any slower than this.
I exit the motorway and it immediately seems like I've made the right decision.
Not only is the much lesser traffic a joy to behold, it would seem that the rain is starting to lessen as well.
If not completely it's at least now down to just a light drizzle.
And what the lighter traffic and better weather does to bring my adrenaline-level down from status:axemurderer Sarah McLachlan does the rest.
I might be a metalhead but I'm not the least ashamed to say that Afterglow is a god damn masterpiece of an album.
I would have known had I spipped it but I'm really glad I stuck to my original route.
The description on dangerous roads of Combe Laval which leads to Col de la Machine: Frequently recognized as the most magnificent road in the French Alps gives you a good idea about what to expect.
When it's impossible to even depict, describing in text is obviously impossible but to ride through what might as well be an enchanted forest, in parts covered by a crown of leaves across the whole road leading up to a gorge where the mist is to thick is looks like cotton wool, no it simply defies all description.
It felt like a was riding above the clouds looking down, it was purely magical.
Probably scared off by the weather (although it has now stopped raining entirely) I had the road almost to myself which obviously greatly added to the experience.
I do try to learn something from my mistakes and last years terror-ride on the Old Eastern Railway outside Sarajevo have made me a bit more cautious when it comes to creative routing.
Route de Presles was at least on paper the stupidest route I was going to take this year.
A so called balcony road with no side barrier, single lane only and regular landslides.
Sound completely idiotic doesn't it? I'd be damned if I'll put myself through that... until you read on:
Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice. It’s one of the most spectacular balcony roads in the country.
Who can resist that kind of desciption. Surely not me.
Luckily have no real disposition towards vertigo but perhaps I wasn't all bad that the scenery was covered in fog and mist.
The lack of traffic was very lucky because the description of the road contritions was pretty accurate, on the worst part there wouldn't have been a chance in hell to pass another car, even meeting another bike with as wide an ass as mine would have been tough.
Fortunately though I didn't meet a single soul.
Considering how spectacular this was with the present conditions this must be a completely divine experience in clear weather, definitely a bucket-list ride.
Not even the few drops of rain on my way down from the misty mountains can take anything away from that experience, but I couldn't let the mind wander to much since the serpentine road down through the fog was some of the worst conditions I've ever ridden in (at least in what was supposed to be daylight) and the side barriers where still non existent.
But the rest of the way to the hotel in Grenoble was uneventful.
After the normal check in routine I got a tip from the receptionist about an Italian restaurant so that's where I went.
Grilled swordfish washed down with a Peroni beer was definitely not a bad way to end a good day.
I wasn't stupid enough to stop and take pictures on the Route de Presles so edited some footage from the action cam instead.
Sunday 21.8.2016 392km Totalt6942km
That the choice fell on Basel for the next stay was pretty coincidental.
There was a total lack of scenic detours along the way and Bern was wildly expensive to stay with nothing to really justify the cost so I choose a strategic place pretty close to both Mulhouse, that I plan to go to tomorrow and obviously also Lörrach for the trainride back home.
The weather was grand and a motorway in Switzerland still beats a spruce-lined road back home any day of the week.
I stopped at a roadside restaurant and had the dish of they day now that I'm clear of the bread-with-bread culture.
I didn't really notice it on the way down since I relied on my readymeals but my god, the price level in this country is out of this world.
The dish of the day cost me 24 Euros!
Now I'm not as surprised that I had to seek accommodation even in the outskirts of Basel to get the price down to a reasonable level.
A few days ago I didn't even know that this is where I'd stay so I hadn't read up and had no preconceptions about this place at all, and that is usually when thing turn out for the best.
The cathedral was an amazing building an even though the interior was closed for renovation there was a beautiful inner courtyard to stroll around in.
The town hall and square was pretty spectacular as well and just walking around the cobbled streets of old town was an experience I would gladly paid an entry fee for.
They have obviously cared greatly for their heritage in this town because they've kept a lot of the old city gates from when the town was encircled by a wall and the grandest of them, Spalentor was well worth the walk.
I eat dinner in a taverna at a horrendous cost. The price level in this country is like a punch in the face.
I've been lucky on my trips thus far and have with few exceptions not really been taken advantage of but Switzerland is probably the closest I've come to being mugged without actually being mugged.
By now I had ventured pretty far from the hotel and walking more than 5kms on a full stomach back to the hotel wasn't very appealing, a taxi felt like the reasonable choice.
But like the pearly gates of heaven I spot and Irish pub in the distance. Liquid dessert it is!
I probably cost as much as a cab ride but with a lovely Guinness and a silky smooth Tullamore in my belly the walk back was at least a lot more entertaining.
Get away with your pills, it'll cure all ills, be ye Pagan, Christian or Jew. As we take a sip of the rare old mountain dew.