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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Going Postal

Tuesday, September 2
Grosse Scheidegg

The mountains are still standing large as I go out and get ready for the morning ride. Bill says it is one of his favorite climbs, the ride on the Post Bus road up to Grosse Scheidegg. The hotel is already up on the slopes so it is climbing from the first push on the pedals. This information about the hotel location might just be a bit redundant in that you already know we are up in a mountain town where all buildings are either on the slopes or on the steep slopes.

The first part of the ride takes us through the outskirts of town, winding through neighborhoods of wooden houses. It is not so long when the road reaches an inn and expands into a parking lot. It is here that the Post Bus road starts. The road is intended only for the bright yellow buses of the Swiss Post and is accordingly exactly the same width as the wheel track of the buses ~ I don't know which came first. Anyway, while in theory buses are the only vehicles allowed on the road, we will encounter a few cars and trucks as there are people living and working here on the mountainside.

It seems as if the road has become steeper in proportion to the change in width. And I am feeling tired already, possibly the accumulated fatigue of the last week, as yesterday's riding, what there was of it, was not particularly taxing. Whatever, it was a very difficult climb right from the start. My first vehicle encounter was with a car going up and it was able to go by without my having to get off the bike. Not long after this, I heard the tootling of a Post bus rolling up from the road behind me. It was kind of a "Dukes of Hazard" anthem, only a little out of character here in the heights above Grindelwald. "How did they come up with THAT?," I wondered. I pulled over to let the bus go by, but looking back, I could see none. Sound travels well. So for the first time, I get back into the pedals and try get going from a dead standstill on this steep road. It is not easy. RIght about the time I get to a particularly steep section, the bus appears in my mirror so it is off the bike and wait as it goes by. I get going again, again with some difficulty, and reach a sharp and very steep switchback just as the second bus comes up; I did not know they traveled in pairs! There is a sheer rock wall on the right with about two feet of gravel between it and the road and I squeeze myself and the bike in as close as I can as the bus inches by and disappears around the curve. This time it is really hard getting back into the pedals. In fact, my right foot slips off as I try to get the crank turning and I rake the back of my calf on the chain ring - I look like I have been attacked by an angry wolverine. I am tired, tense, sweating and now bleeding. This bicycle touring is just great!

On the Way up to Grosse Scheidegg
It doesn't really get any better. At one point a really sturdy looking truck comes trundling up behind me and I pull off once again, muttering out loud my complaint regarding the upcoming attempt to once again get the bike moving. It is at times like this that I am glad there is no tape recorder on my computer :-) As the truck goes by, I am amazed at its cargo. We are sharing a road carved into a bizillion tons of stone and this guy is hauling ROCKS. Big rocks. There aren't enough scattered around on the slopes? Carrying coals to Newcastle makes more sense.

As I swing around at the last switchback (poetic license invoked; what I was doing at this point bore no resemblance to fluidity of swinging), I can look up and see the pathway to the lookout point, complete with the white-cross-on-bright-red Swiss flag. A young lady is standing there, as straight as the flagpole, her arms outstretched and her eyes raised to the heavens, which are a a bit closer now, I might add. I think, "She must be as glad to be here as I am." Bill later points out that he has been observing her and her photographer companion for some time ~ they are on a photo shoot.

At the Top. Finally.

Looking back Down on the Climb
The first thing I tell Bill is that I do not intend to ride down that blasted hill. He agrees and we retire to the restaurant to wait for the post bus. When it arrives, I ask the driver about using the SwissPass and am informed it isn't valid for this route; the fare down for each person with bike is 27 francs, about $25. This little twist, plus the fact that I'm feeling a little better after two coffees and about an hour of rest, changes my mind about riding so we take off on the bike after all. Just below the first switchback, we encounter Bob, walking his bike up towards the summit. As we stop and chat, I see a couple riding up. They are on mountain bikes, dad pumping away as he climbs, pulling his young son in one of those drag behind, two wheeled carts. PULLING A CART!!!! Sheesh. Being truly impressed by this, I applaud as he rides by.

The ride down is actually quite pleasant although I again find it challenging to get clipped into the pedals on this steep road, albeit a challenge of a different sort. Back at the hotel we clean up, put away the bikes and prepare for the rest of the day. That story will be in the next post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A forest ranger ranked wolverines as vicious animal #1. Awesome photos - great composition!