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Monday, December 8, 2008

Rocky Climbing

Wednesday, September 3
Grindelwald to Sumiswald

This turned out to be a unique day in the tour. You might not think it would be so, this being a CYCLING tour, but today was the only day of the ride that did not include at least one leg ridden on the train. It was a great route and another beautiful day.

The good thing about climbing up to your evening's destination is that you get to descend to start out on the day you leave. So it was as we left Grindelwald. Once again going in the opposite direction of the tour buses, we drop down the not-too-steep descent with little traffic to contend with. The navigation issues experienced two days ago in Interlaken are all in the past as we fairly efficiently get through the city and out on Seestrasse, the highway that skirts the north shore of Thuner See.

Along the Lake Road
In spite of the fact that they had a perfectly good lake to hold the road at an even level, we climb on the hills and soon get well above shoreline. This is OK though, as we are afforded wonderful views of the lake and the opposite shore. The road is winding, hugging the hillside on the right, with a few short tunnels adding to the cozy feel. There is not much traffic and we make really good time, passing through the towns of Neuhaus, Sundlauenen, Beatenbucht, Merligen, Usserdorf, Gunten and Laengenschachen before getting to the outskirts of Thun.

On the Way to Stefisburg
We follow the highway that runs just to the east of Thun up to Stefisburg. This is an urban area with lots of traffic and many opportunities to make a wrong turn, so we pull over a few times to check the map and GPS. We stop once at a multi-option intersection and ask a store clerk which one of the several roads leading in more or less the direction we want will eventually get us to Eggiwil, one of the landmark towns along the way. We are soon out of Stefisberg and into Unter Emberg, where we stop for lunch. There is a small store where we get cheese, fruit and something to drink, but they don't have the bread we want. The clerk directs us to a bakery around the corner where we get the small rolls that go well with the cheese and sit at the town fountain to eat.

Traffic doesn't taper off as much as expected as the ride continues out of Stefisberg, but conditions improve at the turn to the north at the appropriately named Kreuzweq. Here the road rolls - boom- over the high farmland, green grass - boom- kept clipped by the Swiss cows, -boom- the clingh, clangh of their bells backed up -boom- by the sound of the Swiss army on bass, apparently training on the -boom- finer points of firing off artillery pieces. As has been the case on many sections of the ride, the road takes us through a short section of dense woods, cool and dark enough to make the re-emergence into the light of the open road almost startling. Turning to the east at Jassbach, the road treats us to a long downhill run into Eggiswil.

Just Another Picture Post Card Town
Getting nearer to our destination, we cross the river to a highway that looks like it is going to be busy. Checking the maps, we decide to head up into the hills and wander around a bit. This is one of those hard-to-explain bits of a ride that can really make the day. We climb up on the slopes, again finding one of those single lane roads that serve the farmers in the area. The climb does have its steep sections, but overall isn't too difficult and it rewards us with another awe-inspiring view of the valley below. And, once again, we ride into a deep wood, this time on the descent. We come to another more heavily traveled road (well, it is two lanes, anyway) and decide to finish out the ride using the more direct route afforded. It isn't too long before we pull into the Sports Center in Sumiswald, a sort of super YMCA. Bill and I are first in and get beer and chips; as in "chips", not "pommes frits." To our disappointment, we find out later that we could have actually had french fries. Bummer.

Above the Main Road Near Sumiswald
It is not too long and Lorenz arrives, allowing us to get our keys. We take care of the bikes and go check out the room which is such that Bill is moved to remark, "Not bad for a minimum security facility." It is, in fact, basic. But it is also large and comfortable with a bath and lots of hot water. Can't ask for much else.

We have a basic meal, as befitting the surroundings, and during this meal we start the process of ending the trip. Only two more days and discussion at the table is leans a bit towards reminiscing. But the tour is not over yet, so the evening ends with some discussion of tomorrow's ride options. There is, however,a heavy dose of not-riding options as the weather does not look promising.

On the way back to the room, we are treated to quite the display of youthful energy as a group of climbers are practicing on the faux rock wall which rises from the basement level up to the fourth floor. One old couple ~ they must have been every bit of 35 ~ are taking turns climbing and spotting, negotiating their chosen paths with graceful efficiency. The two young ladies there each make several climbs on some of the more difficult sections. I deduce that there are various routes defined by the colors of the "rocks" bolted to the wall, each route with a different set of challenges. The routes cross each other and the climbers meticulously avoid all but their chosen color for the climb they are on. Must be some sort of a grand score keeping system that metes out penalties based on bad color choices. I wonder what kind of scores we bikers would get with our helmet/jersey/shorts/socks/shoes fashion statements?

And then there are the two young men. They climb the most difficult of routes with speed and agility that are quite amazing. At one point, one of them quite literally throws himself away from the wall to negotiate an overhang. Then he looks to see if the girls are watching. It is easy to see from where he gets some of his rock wall elan. And later, he hung from his feet like a bat in a rack at the bottom of the wall and knocked out about 10 upside down sit ups. Having just eaten, I decided I wouldn't join him. But I could have done it. Really.

The Faux Rock Wall
It was a great day, every minute of it spent on the bike. Tired from the ride and absolutely worn out from watching the rock climbing, I turn in with my iPod plugged in for a bit, then drift off...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You climb on a bike but didn't try the wall?