Day 23: No rain, no gain - Heidi Ho - CycleBlaze

July 1, 2012

Day 23: No rain, no gain

I should have known when, the moment the alarm went off and I was about ready to emerge from my tent, a monstrous thunderstorm rolled in. So I did the logical thing, hit snooze on my alarm and rolled over and slept for a bit longer.

Thirty minutes later the rain was gone, replaced by sunshine. The mountains are like that, I learned. You deal with it.

Still, unknown to me at the moment, the rain was building, just out of sight, beyond the valley where I was, and in the valley I was headed.

Of course I didn't know that at the time, and set off into dryness with hope.

My last view of the valley near Lautenbrunnen. Pretty, but the weather forecast was ominous.
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I pedaled through the Lautenbrunnen valley and, just before turning right towards Grindelwald, I ran into (figuratively of course) 3 bike tourists from the Czech Republic.

The three Czech riders
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After a short chat I headed UP, slowly, to Grindelwald, a moderately sized (for Switzerland) tourist town that is a busy ski resort in the winter, and it's most famous unknown fact could just be that the surrounding mountains were used as the basis for the view of Alderaan in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Now aren't you glad you read this journal?

Grindelwald from above
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It's a funny thing about the the Swiss bike routes. Usually they are signed perfectly, but every now and again you have a spot of confusion. And coming out of Grindelwald was one of those times. The sign pointed straight, right in the middle of two roads. I was impossible to tell which rode to take, so I went right.

Big mistake. The far right doesn't work politically or socially, and clearly, the same held true in this case...

Right turned out to be the walking path, paved but horrendously steep! And by the time I realized my mistake I had come too far to go back. And it was so steep the only way up, in the last kilometer or so, was to push my bike, the whole way. The weather also started getting worse. GRRRRRR!

Finally, I made it to the main road, the one that went left below, and was the correct road with easier grade at the bottom. Too late now.

I kept going, but by the time I got halfway up the pass time, the weather began to close in. As it started raining, and getting foggy, with low visibility, I took the cowards way out and hopped on the bus.

It was the right move. The last 7, or so kilometers, to the top were windy, foggy and STEEP! So glad I didn't let pride get in the way of taking the bus. Stupid pride, who needs it!?

I got off at the top, in a pea soup fog, donned my rain coat and started down the other side, into even more fog and rain. I was feeling pretty miserable, and sorry for myself, when I came upon a bridge and a family from Iraq trying to take pictures of themselves with a pretty waterfall as a backdrop.

"Do you want me to take your picture?" I asked.

They did, and were happy I came along.

"You are American!?" they said. And then asked me all kind of questions about my trip. It lifted my spirits some, and I left them feeling a little better.

The family from Iraq
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Down through the fog I continued, listening for cars on the hairpin turns... And, when the rain started coming down even harder, and I stopped to adjust my rain jacket, I came across the coolest surprise of the day!

An old saw mill for wood, powered by a water wheel and a man there to run it for wet, soggy, downtrodden cyclists, and other tourists.

SO COOL! The stream outside turns the wheel, which turns the gears, which is attached to the saw, which cuts the wood. Here, I can't explain it. This is what I'm talking about...

The water powered saw mill
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Saw mill again
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And here it is working. Both from the inside and the outside...


That was SO COOL! It lifted my spirits again and, though it didn't help with the rain situation, which started coming down in buckets. I stopped for coffee and waited. And waited. And, yes, waited.

Finally, it was clear I would simply be riding in the rain. So I rode...down the mountain to Innerkirtchen.

The fog in the forest...
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...and with the road on the right. What a crappy mess to ride in.
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I was so soggy and wet I decided to get a hotel, but most of the hotels were booked. The only one that wasn't was above a restaurant. When the owner showed me the small, dark, room, I decided that the room alone would make me depressed. I opted out and decided that rain was better than that depressing little room. And since Innerkirtchen has a little down campground...

I arrived at the campground completely soaked, but once again, fate stepped in and, sharing the campground with two groups of Germans (one couple and a group that included 5 young mountain bikers and their adult leaders), all of which were extremely nice, the day became a memorable one, and in a good way. Choosing the campground over the hotel was the right choice.

I hope I don't have a lot of days like this, as far as the weather goes, but when they end with good company, with people who invite me to share their dinner, and a beer, who can complain?

It's like I always say, you never know what will happen on a bike tour. Good things happen; bad things happen. You deal with it.

The teenage mountain bikers. Finding fun things to do in the rain. :-)
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These kind of fountains are common. All the water is drinkable and good, I think from mountain springs. They make life a lot easier, no stressing about where to find water.
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Today's ride: 63 km (39 miles)
Total: 1,890 km (1,174 miles)

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