Friday, August 29
Bergun to Steinegg
The day starts with a drop down from Bergun along the route of the long, late climb on Wednesday. It had to be one of the more enjoyable descents I've ever made. Steep enough to be challenging but not so much so that you couldn't enjoy the indescribable scenery. This is just about as much fun as it is possible to have on a bike. I think, "I am SO glad I decided to make this trip." The descent carries us around Frisur where we ride past a golf course. Somehow it just seems out of place here. After crossing the highway that runs from Tiefencastle to Davos, at Surava we meet Laurenz, taking the opportunity to shed and store in the car some of the clothing that was necessary during he cool descent.
Riding from Bergun to Surava brings us down almost 400 meters. Now, we start a climb of almost 600 meters as we head north towards the city of Chur. The challenge here wasn't so much the climb itself, but the view from the top. Somewhere past the high point at Parpan, I was able to look out and see Chur. Not so terribly far away. But a long way DOWN. Looking at the map later, I estimate that we had to drop 600 meters in about 7 or 8 kilometers, almost 5 miles with an average descent of around 8%.
On the way down to Chur
It was a tense downhill run, although a stop light at a construction area provided a chance to stop and regroup. Shortly after passing this point, I made a "rest" stop. Starting back downhill, I found I could not get my left foot clipped into the pedal. Luckily, there was a turnout on the right side of the road and I stopped, finding that dirt in my cleat was the problem. As I dealt with this issue, Laurenz came by in the car, stopping briefly to make sure I was OK. He was followed shortly thereafter by Bob, who pulled in just as I was ready to continue on with the descent. He took off and I followed. As we made our way down the road, I looked up and saw Bob's jersey. Written across the back, "Death Ride." Not needing that kind of encouragement, I passed him to find myself right behind our trailer that was following Laurenz down the hill. I pulled in behind and followed him all the way into Chur, finding this to be a really good way to descend. I could easily keep up with the car, so I could ride in the middle of the lane and not have to worry about traffic behind me. We meet Corinne in Chur and she suggests we swing around through the old town, a suggestion we accept. After walking our bikes through the cobblestoned neighborhood, we ride in to the Bahnhof where we catch a train to Maienfeld.
Bill is particularly excited as we get off the train in this town that declares itself to be Heidi's Heimat ("Heidi's hometown"). I never do really figure out the whole story, but we get pictures of him in front of the map of the area and later at a Heidi-themed gift shop.
Any friend of Heidi's...
Maienfeld is a nice town and we ride up (I do mean UP) from the train station to a quiet square, get lunch at a convenience store and sit on the steps just outside the Heidi Shop. I only ate lunch at a restaurant once, and today's meal was typical of the on-the-road arrangements that work much better. A large slice of Ementhal ("Swiss") cheese, a piece of bread, fruit, a chocolate drink and, today, wafer cookies.
Soon it is back on the road as we continue up, past vineyards planted behind rose festooned rock walls and into the forest on the hills above the valley.
VIneyards above Maienfeld
The road goes down quickly once we pass through an archway that is part of the military facility we ride through. At the bottom we come to the border with Liechtenstein where we stop and take a few pictures. Upon reaching Vaduz, we cross the Rhine using an old wooden bridge and ride north on a paved trail on top of the dike on the Swiss side of the river.
Bridge at Vaduz
In spite of a headwind, we make really good time on this what is likely the only flat stretch of riding in the country. The river is, however, not so picturesque here and I am glad when we get off and head west into the hills again. After wandering around the small town of Ruthi for a bit, we head out to the appropriately named - for this cow covered country - town of Moos (I am not making this up) then through a deep cut with a sign promising 10% grades ahead, a promise kept. The road tops out at Freienbach, then falls back to the level of the river at Oberriet. This would be a good thing except we need to get over the hills to the west to reach our destination and we are still going north, parallel to the Rhine. So, up we go again. As we approach Eichberg, there is a sign pointing to a lane running off to the left. It says Hard. "And this road isn't?" I think.
It's a narrow country road, that just keeps going up. I think it will never end. As is almost always the case, the route is scenic; however, as the afternoon progresses, I realize I'm spending more time looking down at the asphalt. At what would turn out to be about three quarters of the way to the top, Laurenz comes by in the car and pulls over. He gets out, looks at me, turns around, reaches into the car then comes over an offers me an energy bar. I guess it shows. He says, "I don't suppose you want to sag on in to Steinegg." I agree so he rides off with the admonition to stay hydrated.
There is a top, of course, in this case at the town of Eggerstanden. I know we are not too far from Steinegg and think this is going to be one heck of a descent. However, we are in Steinegg in a relative flash, not having to descend anywhere to the level of the river where we started the climb. A welcome end to long day.