The Alps and Pyrenees Back to Back

In September I had my last two Edelweiss tours; I’d taken up a short, special 4-day tour with Japanese customers before I’d be heading to the familiar Pyrenees Extreme tour.
As a note: I did not take any of the riding photos during the Japanese tours, they are courtesy of Fujita-san, one of our guests.

This tour I worked together with Oli, a very experienced tourguide who’d been with the company for ages. It turned out to be a very enjoyable experience, despite both of us not speaking any Japanese.

I’d seen some parts of the route before during the 2016 Training Tour, I’d end up riding a motorcycle 3 out of the 4 riding days. The only part I was in the van, was from Seefeld to Livigno.

My first day riding turned out to be a tough one: in early September, we woke up to one of the rare summer snow days in Livigno. It ended up being a very tough call: we had to get to the next hotel in Bolzano, but there was no way of knowing the conditions on every pass. We tried once and had to turn back after a kilometer due to snow on the road and slippery conditions. An hour and a half later things had cleared up a bit, but the day still involved a lot of rain and cutting out certain passes due to weather conditions. We got to Bolzano thoroughly soaked.

The rest day ride was much better, at times only a bit grey. The last day back to Mieming turned snowy and frosty again. Near the top of the Pennes pass we had to turn around due to heavy snowfall, retracing about 50km and opting to do the rest of the day on the motorway.

I’d often thought I was lucky with the weather on Edelweiss tours, but it can’t always be like that I guess.

Right after finishing in the Alps, I flew over to Barcelona to start riding that other famous European mountain chain, the Pyrenees. This would be my third tour there, and I was expecting the weather to be just as good as the last two times, in other words very hot. I even bought a new pair of sports-underwear in preparation for the anticipated sweaty conditions.

The first day turned out to be the complete opposite of what I’d hoped for. Just my luck. It rained pretty much from an hour after departure, right up until when we arrived at the monastery of Avellanes. It actually stopped raining right when we pulled into the parking.

The rest of the tour did turn out fine in terms of weather. There were some more wet moments, some very cold ones even, but thankfully me and the rest of the guests had had our share of bad weather on the first day. The tour itself turned out more relaxed than that first one I did in June, thanks to knowing the roads a bit more and being able to anticipate for certain tricky situations. The guests were all pretty easy-going as well. There was this one crazy little incident though…

 

 

John had been taking a selfie at this mountain vista, setting his helmet on a big fencepost next to him. Right at that moment, a huge freak windgust started blowing, knocking his helmet off and sending it rolling towards the abyss behind us. It stopped rolling ons ome bushes right at the edge. Obviously he needed his helmet for the last 2 hours riding of the day, so we tried to think of a way to get it. I remember the words “this is beyond the call of duty…” going through my mind. In the end John, another brave guest and me together with a piece of strapping managed to retrieve it, and the day was saved.

The little episode definitely counts as the craziest thing that has happened on my tours so far!

Some of the very long days this tour inevitably has were still pretty tough, but everything went smoothly after that. It always fun to hear how customers from the US experience these roads, for some of them they’ve never seen anything like it yet. The “Tail of the Dragon” road gets brought up often, but all of them agree that is nothing compared to the non-stop twsity roads of the Pyrenees. To further illustrate the point: motorcycle tires on this tour wear to the limit quicker on the outside than on the inside! I’d never seen that happen before.

When we eventually went back to Spain after a night in Argeles-sur-Mer, the weather turned hot and sweltering for the last day, making for a nice change with my last tour and our first day. I’d forgotten all about those miserable snow-under Alps passes by then.

And with that, my last tour of 2017 came to a great ending. I had another few days transporting the motorcycles back to Austria and then only a week or so before a hefty month of my other (software training) job in some very different parts of Europe.

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