To Solkan - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

June 18, 2022

To Solkan

This was arguably the toughest day I've ever had on a bike - both physically and mentally demanding. But let’s start at the beginning.

 Hiša Franko is actually a quite reasonable place to stay, less expensive than my room at Lake Bohinj, for example. And the cost includes an ample breakfast with homemade everything, from condiments to special mueslis, to breads, yogurt and cookies as well as locally produced meats, cheese and loads of fresh fruit. I left completely satisfied and excited about todays ride on the Soča River Cycling trail.

I started the day on nice bike trail on the other side of highway 102 that took me back to Kobarid. From there I retraced my route to Tolmin where I discovered my “lost route” from yesterday. There was a bit of construction that I had to navigate, but it led me back onto highway 102 and into Most Na Soči and the Soča River Cycle Route that would take me down the Soča Valley to Solkan/Nova Gorica. This section was a somewhat last minute addition to my route as I had planned to head east from Most Na Soči to Idrija and then south to the Vipava Valley. However, the online descriptions of the Soča River trail were too enticing, so I rerouted my stop in Idrija to follow my visit to the Vipava Valley.

Farewell to Hiša Franko - I won't forget you
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This nice bike trail to Kobarid was a welcome alternative to highway 102
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A fair amount of morning traffic on the bike trail included tractors as well as cyclists
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On the bike trail to Kobarid, with cyclists approaching in the distance
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A family of four
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Dad towing the little one behind - the children are never to young to start cycling
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Approaching Kobarid
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The Napoleon Bridge across the Soča River
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The water spigot I passed yesterday was getting a lot of action today. This family had hooked up a hose and had a carload of containers to fill with the spring-fed water
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Two cyclists heading to Kobarid
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Teal window in an orange wall
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Sprouting windows
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The construction zone on the Soča Cycle route south of Tolmin - my "lost route" from yesterday
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The ride down the lower Soča valley started with a short but very steep climb out of Most Na Soči, which was soon followed by a longer, but equally steep climb to the small hamlet of Drobočnik. The next few miles took me along a small paved road through woods and open fields to Gorenji Log, where the pavement ended and the adventure began. The gravel track started innocently enough, a fairly well-packed two-track on a gentle downward grade. However, the packed gravel was quickly replaced with loose dirt, dead leaves, and large rocks - a slippery surface for which my touring tires were not well suited. Even more unsettling was the precipitous drop down to the Vogršček stream – an average descent of -14.3% on the road, and incalculable steepness should I fall off the road and tumble down the gorge. Needless to say, I walked this section.

As I neared the Vogršček stream crossing, I stared with amazement at the road up, which appeared to ascend at a 30° angle. I stopped for a rest near the stream bed, gathering both my strength and my nerve. Even while walking, the descent had rattled me a bit, knowing I was in a remote location where I might easily have a mishap. I’d seen just two other touring pairs since Most Na Soči – one unsmiling couple near my age, loaded down with front and rear panniers and going in the opposite direction, and two fellows fixing a flat in Gorenji Log – I didn’t know which way they were headed. Not having any choice but to continue, I headed up - my only option.

I had no illusions about riding up the “30° incline” – what surprised me a bit was that I needed to take off my panniers in order to push Vivien George up the slippery, rocky slope. I first tried jettisoning only one pannier, but the second was tossed after about 20 feet of struggle. I must say that my cleats were worse than useless, often slipping on the rocks and putting some added stress on my not quite 100% right ankle. The ascent was not recorded as a climb on RWGPS, but the profile indicated a distance of about 700 feet averaging 11.5%, with a max of 18.2%. Lucky for me I got to walk down and do it all over again, this time hauling up both panniers.

Several thoughts occupied my mind during the time spent pushing my bike and hauling my panniers. I recalled the Grampies recent harrowing experience on their way to Sterzing; I remembered Jean-Marc Strydom mentioning a similar situation of needing to remove panniers when faced with a steep uphill during his latest tour through Spain; I thought of Dominick and Heike and wondered how they’d managed, with balding tires and a heavier load; I recalled the online promotional images of happy folks cycling on paved bike paths along the Soča River; and I had a coulda/woulda/shoulda moment of riding to Idrija instead of slogging my way on foot through a gorge high above the Soča River. But I persevered and made it back up to Vivien George, loaded on the panniers, and got on the bike.

Time for a rest and a look back while climbing up from Most Na Soči
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Ruins along the Soča River cycling trail, somewhere near Drobočnik
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The gravel track looks fairly manageable at first
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But the surface becomes looser and the drops steeper - both the pitch of the road and the slope down the mountainside. Not wanting to miss the turn up ahead, I got off and walked.
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Nearing the bottom, I stopped to stare in amazement at the road up from Vogršček stream
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Keith Adams"Road"??? "GOAT PATH" is more nearly the case.

Your tale reminded me of the experience Leo and Steph Woodland had on their ride in Albania: an "unmade road" so steep and rocky it took the two of them working together to wrestle their bikes up the slope.
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1 month ago
Looks to be about a 30° slope to me
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Steve Miller/GrampiesProbably felt even worse than it looks, and it looks awful. What a ride (walk) you had! Those gravel tracks with a drop off on one edge make us frantic.
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1 month ago
Patrick O'HaraYikes. Doesn't look like much fun at all. Nice work, though!
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterTo Patrick O'HaraThanks Patrick
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterTo Steve Miller/GrampiesThe drop-offs scare me too. Sometimes I think walking downhill in cleats while trying to control a loaded bike is more terrifying than riding
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1 month ago
The crossing at Vogršček stream, my hairpin in the woods
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Scott AndersonThis looks so awful. Glad you made it through safely.
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1 month ago
Dominik VogtWe know this area, too. Though section. It Tools so long to reach Canal. Bit finally we made it.
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterTo Dominik VogtI was thinking of you and Heike and glad to hear you made it through. Crazy trail!!

It was great to meet you both. Happy cycling
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1 month ago
Time for a rest
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After walking Vivien George to a fairly level spot on the top of the hill, I had to walk back down and ferry my dropped panniers up the rocky slope
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Scott AndersonGood presence of mind to remember to take a photo!
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1 month ago

I didn’t stay on the bike for very long. The road had spooked me and I didn’t feel confident handling the bike on the next downhill, or the one after that, choosing instead to walk down. But I knew I could not let this route get the better of me, I knew I had to get “back on the bike.”  And so I did, taking it slowly and carefully, down and up and down and up and down again, until I eventually reached Kanal and stopped for lunch at one of the many roadside eateries. The two guys with the flat tire rode through town while I was eating, but they didn’t see me and I wasn’t able to get their opinion of the route. I did speak with Nexka at the bike rental/souvenir shop across the way. She told me of plans to one day put in a bridge over the section crossing Vogršček stream, and that no one makes it through that section without unloading their gear. But her good news was that the rest of the route was wonderful, just like the online promos.

I almost, but not quite, wished I was down by the river dodging highway traffic
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Instead, I looked back on the road I'd traveled thus far, a cut in the tree line coursing through the gorge, high above the river
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A few farmsteads began to appear, accompanied by improvements in the road surface
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High meadow near Avče
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Seems a rather innocuous warning, considering what I'd just experienced. At least I was back on pavement.
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Approaching Kanal
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In Kanal
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The rest of the route was largely as promised in the promotional material, but was definitely more difficult than I’d imagined. It was all paved but although it closely followed both the river and the train line, there were enough short bursts with steep inclines to keep it from being a relaxing ride. I was pretty gassed by the time I pulled into my hotel in Solkan, a commercial center just north of Nova Gorica. I’d recovered some of my cycling mojo, but it might take a few days to fully recover from a day that was totally different than the one I had imagined. In the meantime, I'll remember my dinner at Hiša Franko (was it only yesterday!) and know that euphoric days on the bike are on the near horizon.

Crossing the Soča River at Kanal
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The Soča River
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This flimsy barrier was no match for Vivien George
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Finally, just like the Soča River Cycling Trail promos
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You've got to be kidding - off with the panniers a second time! This is a bike trail, not a train station.
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View over urban areas of Solkan, Nova Gorcia and Gorizia Italy
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Today's ride: 40 miles (64 km)
Total: 1,371 miles (2,206 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 11
Lucy MartinWell done! Sounds a bit harrowing but also the photos are gorgeous. Something to be said for danger in a glorious setting.
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesÝou and the Andersen's seem to have had a rough day today. Here's hoping you both have better trails tomorrow.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesThe Anderson’s day was nothing. We’re just whiners.
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1 month ago
Suzanne GibsonOh no, Susan, what a day! Sounds scary to be on trails like that and no one far and wide if you need help. I remember in the Czech Rep. there were also some so-called "bicycle trails", but what was meant was trails for experienced mountain bikers with no bags! Kudos for making it safely - although you had no choice but to plod on.
To add to your list of harrowing adventures I would like to add this page from Graham Finch's journal: https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/casablanca/asif-melloul/
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1 month ago
Rachael AndersonUnbelievable! I’m so impressed you made it but hopefully you won’t have anymore rides like that! Be safe!
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1 month ago
Rich FrasierCongratulations on persevering through a difficult day. The RWGPS elevation map looks pretty frightening. Hope you take some time for a well-earned rest!
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterTo Lucy MartinNo guts, no glory - but I am trying to be a little more cautious
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rich FrasierThanks Rich! There just aren't many flat places in Slovenia, so I'm trying for short distances
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rachael AndersonI hope so too!!
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterTo Suzanne GibsonThanks Suzanne. It is the fact that I am alone that is causing me to be more cautious - there's no one around to help me up from a fall in the nettles! Things weren't as dire as what Graham faced - thanks for the link to his post. Best to you and Janos
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1 month ago
Susan CarpenterTo Steve Miller/GrampiesThanks Steve
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1 month ago