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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Of Chocolate and Chimpanzees

Thursday, August 28

And here I'd thought I had finished a big climb early yesterday evening. It was only a rise of 1,700 feet from Tiefencastle to Bergun, but, as noted in the last posting, it sure seemed like one mean climb. It just so happens, however, that Bergun is not at the top. On this route, that honor belongs to Albula Pass, getting over which will require another 3,100 of small ring riding. Not being able to come up with a plausible reason to do otherwise, I start up.

A Climb Worthy of a Trophy, it Seems

On the way to Albula
Early in the climb I see that, already for the third time on this tour, my wireless VDO computer has taken off on a trip of its own. The rate at which the scenery is passing by tells me I am climbing at my normal (read "slow" here) pace. The computer, however, has me climbing at a breathtaking 40 km/hr. When I stop and plant my feet firmly on the ground, the computer reports that it is still wandering around the countryside at a respectable 12 km/hr. Perhaps it has found a new dimension where the energy expended in climbing over Swiss mountain passes can be recovered and used for further exploration. If this is the case, I want to be let in on the secret. But I posit that it has simply gone crackerdog again. As frustrating as this is, I figured out earlier in the week that the altimeter function is not affected when this happens. And, since I was forewarned about this behavior, I had a backup wired computer to report distance traveled and ride time. But still...

You Can't be too Well-Equipped
The road, which is about 1 1/2 car widths wide, climbs up the narrow, steep-sided valley with a series of switchbacks. There are sections built above stone retaining walls and we cross a few stone bridges. There is no shortage of rock here and it seems, not surprisingly, to be the road-building material of choice.

The Road Up
Albula Pass is 14 km from Bergun, that with the 3,100 feet of eleveation change making the average grade about 7%. There are, of course, sections of lesser grade and some that are steeper. It does not seem a really difficult climb, yet I struggle a bit ~ perhaps lingering fatigue from yesterday? Anyway, I reach the top and find Bill and Bob at the obligatory top of the pass restaurant and gift shop. Bob tells me that I should have a sticker on my bike for the passes I climb. This is the first I've heard about this. He then gives me one that he had purchased for me. As much as anything, I appreciate it that he bought it before I actually got to the top. I suppose he thought I would actually make it. Anyway, "Thanks Bob. I don't care what Bill says, you're an alright guy!"

At the Top
We go over the pass and head down towards La Punt, this requiring negotiating a herd of cattle in the road near the restaurant. It is not unusual to get above the tree line on rides over the mountain passes, but we have yet to get above the cow line. The descent is a pretty steady 8% with a number of sharp switchbacks. For the second (and, it would work out, the last) time in the ride, my back starts to act up, so I stop twice to stretch. There is also a fair amount of traffic on the road, and I pulled off two more times to let large (as in as-wide-as-the-road) trucks go by. From La Punt, we head off to the southwest. Destination: St. Moritz.

Arriving in St. Moritz
I am, at best, underwhelmed by St. Moritz. Instead of a picturesque village with sun-darkened wooden buildings draped over high mountain landscape as I had imagined it, I see a good sized town with relatively uninteresting architecture. There are the big name designer boutiques, of course; I think about strolling into the Prada or Gucci shops in my tights and day-glow yellow jacket, but decide against it, not wanting to put a wrinkle in the local fashion business, so to speak. What a place. There is even a Prada Exclusive shop. Is that doubly redundant or what? Then there's BVLGARI. Spell check, please! I notice right away that there are no prices on the products displayed in the windows. Clearly an effort to not offend the target customers (a group I am clearly NOT a part of) by implying that they might actually care how much the items cost. And try finding something simple here...like a cup of hot chocolate. Chris and Paula report that they went to the Hanselmann Kaffeehaus for just this reason. They only had to pay $15 a cup. Yikes! You can buy a lot of Hershey's Kisses for $15! But you do get some extras for paying that much, like getting to enjoy your chocolate in a setting without the bother of customers in tights and day-glow jackets cluttering up the premises.

And then there was the chimpanzee. Right there in the main square. I wonder who it was that offered up the idea that nothing says "Stylish Swiss Mountain Town" better than a bigger-than-life, anatomically correct, carved wooden chimpanzee? Probably the same guy who figured out that you can charge much higher prices for products labeled BVLGARI than you could command if you used the clearly more pedestrian but correctly spelled Bulgari moniker.

Swiss Mountain Chimpanzee
None to soon we find the hauptbahnhof and board the next train back to Bergun, with me bidding auf Wiedersehen to St. Moritz for the first and, I suspect, last time.

* Notes, disclaimers, clarifications, and such
My back twitched once coming down Grimsel, but that did not amount to anything. Descending the south side of Albula, I was pretty uncomfortable. But, as noted, this was the last such incident.

Bill never said anything bad about Bob. Well, hardly ever.

I do know about the BVLGARI thing.

In addition to the monkey, there were a giant fiberglass yellow dog and other equally incongruous works of (art?) (decorating?) St. Moritz.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A sticker for each pass is no crackerdog idea! Too bad you "passed" on all the others.