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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Grand Descent

Friday, September 5
Sumiswald to Madiswil

Brzzzt! Brzzzt! Brzzzt! The little cell phone Laurenz has provided goes off insistently at about 5:00 a.m. Looking at the small screen, I see that there is a message. A text message. It is in German, but not too hard to read. It suggests I respond to the call, then punch in a few random numbers. You know, things like my age, the length, in centimeters, of the Gothard tunnel, the number of days since my last haircut*. Stuff like that. Doing this, I am told, will result in my receiving a special message, prepared JUST FOR ME! In addition to this intriguing invitation, there is the suggestion that I forward the message to 14 people within the next 42 minutes. Oh. And failure to follow these instructions will result in five years of bad luck. The clock starts ticking on that one as I erase the message and crawl back under the covers for a few more minutes of rest before rising for the last ride of the tour.

* Poetic license invoked: these aren't really the numbers I was supposed to type in, but I forget what was actually suggested in the message.

This is going to be a big day for Bill, one he has been talking about for years, actually. A chance to return to Affoltern and the cheese factory. In a country where good cheese is a source of great pride, you might guess this would be the top of the top in cheeses. And you might be right. But that's not the attraction. Actually, we are going there to visit the men's room. I am NOT making this up. This is a BIG DEAL for Bill. It seems as if there is some sort of robotic toilet seat cleaning device in use there. Bill has seen it before. Apparently he was so impressed he has just spent three weeks on a bicycle in Switzerland for the chance to see it again. Me? I can't wait, of course.

Our little group collects at the back of the building to load suitcases into the trailer and prepare the bikes for the ride. It is, as has often been the case, cool and the iridescent yellow-green favored by cyclists is in evidence in the morning's clothing choices. Ruppert, Bob, Bill and I head off to the east in search of a route across the multiple hill-valley combinations that radiate like fingers around the base of Mount Napf. It is foggy as we follow the road along to Wassen where we turn off and start climbing the first of the hills. Just after the turn, my chain comes off and gets caught between the ring and frame. Getting this straightened out takes a few minutes and, since I'm stopped, I decide to remove the tights. The fog has cleared and the morning is getting more pleasant by the minute.

Preparing for the Ride out of Sumiswald

I try to make up ground during the climb, but do not catch up until the next descent. This up-down process will be repeated at least two more times before we get to Willisau where we plan to turn to the north than back to the west to go through Hutwil on the way to Affoltern. The top of the next rise finds us out in open farmland. We stop at an intersection but the road running off to the left has all the earmarks of being solely for access to the next farm over so we decide quickly to forge ahead.

The road does not descend too rapidly at first and takes us through another of the small, dense woods that we have found scattered across the countryside. Following the group, I brake off and on, not wanting to have to pass on the narrow roads. Emerging from the wood, we come to another of the uncountable Kodak Moment stops. A few cows across the road in the dark green grass. Grass that cascades down the slopes to the town below. The sun is out. The sky is blue. We are on a white road with what appears to be a nice long descent ahead. Oh my goodness.

In the Hills Above Eriswil
Bill suggests that, since I am the quickest descender in the group, I go on first. The road sweeps us down into Eriswill and we then head back up once again. Near the top of the rise we stop for a navigation discussion. It is not absolutely clear where we are, but maps, GPS's, a road sign pointing towards Luthern and a little dead reckoning help us orient ourselves, this leading us to turn left where we climb a bit more then head down. At the bottom of this descent we expect the road to "T" into a north-south road, where we will need to turn south to pick up the road to Willisau.

It is a grand descent as the road sweeps down, winding back and forth through a series of switchbacks. Knowing that the hard won altitude gain of the last climb is being given up and will have to be earned again does not take away even one bit of the enjoyment of this part of the ride. Nearing the bottom, the road offers up one final switchback. As the road straightens again, I can look down see that it drops to the level of the valley floor then takes a right turn. There is a farm just past the turn and a little farther on, the intersection at which we will be turning.

There are no cars on the road, no tractors, no cows nor are there any people around down near the farmhouse. The road is clear. I brake a little coming down to the turn. Once through, I let my momentum carry me along as I look up at the intersection a hundred yards or so past a small bridge on the far side of the. FWUMP!!!!


Anonymous said...

Is the FWUMP a Kodak moment too? Inquiring minds want to know.

Jack said...

Well... the "FWUMP" gave rise to about 100 x-rays in the last three months. So I'd have to say that qualifies it as an official Kodak Moment.