The weather looked forbidding as I left from Salzburg and began my climb up the alps, but the rain held out most of the day -just a light sprinkling here and there. A few hours into the ride, I had my first minor injury on the trip when Steel and I were attacked by a tunnel wall! Alright so the fault was mine actually. I misjudged the width of a sidewalk with some barriers, and hit a barrier, which in turn landed my shoulder and arm into the wall. Some scraping, bruising, and a little bit of blood, but more interestingly was the grey paint that is still affixed to my arm. The injury was more annoying than anything as it stung as both the wind and my pigtail brushed against it while cycling.
Otherwise, I had a great cycling day. I’m not sure what was in my “Wheeties” but I ended up riding 85+ miles (I never know for sure because the cycling paths are not the direct routes, rather they tend to wind around through the little towns along the main routes) and landed about dark at campground just past the town of Bad Hofgastein. I think it was adrenaline from my nerves, but THAT part of the ride was unbelievably easy. It was a nice ride, not the breathtaking scenery that I was anticipating, but still scenic. I think the railroad lines and utility lines running along the route deterred from the ambiance.
The rain set in just as I hit camp, but the nice host suggested I set up under a canopy that was up over a table area. This was particularly swell as my tent now has no waterproofing on the floor as it melted off when I washed it back in Germany in obviously too hot of water. I have yet to test it in a rain situation. Strangely, I was not particularly hungry after the ride, but a Radler beer sounded good. I tried the citron (lemon) flavor this time and awoke to a screaming headache…plus rain, and a sore shoulder. About not eating! Yikes!
I spent the day in coffee shops in quaint Bad Hofgastein and took a nice nap later in the day, and awoke to the company of Steve, the first US bicyclist that I have met since being in Europe. Steve is from Portland, but interestingly grew up on Nigeria. He has been doing some very cool cycling trips over the last 5 years, and began his current adventure in Ethiopia. He rode there and then flew into Athens, Greece to begin the European leg of his journey. Yet again, such amazingly good timing to meet Steve as he basically had just cycled through some Baltic countries I am considering visiting, but nervous about as I never met anyone who had done so. You see, my European Visa runs out in less than a month, so if there is any potential for me to continue cycling I must be out of EU countries -at least the ones that are part of the Schengen area, with the 3 month restriction. Thus, I am considering riding through to Bosnia and Albania for instance. Steve had really good experiences cycling through these countries and others, and suggested some good pointers like perhaps no wild camping as there are still bombs buried that are left over from the war! Ah yes…definitely need my legs to keep cycling. Ha!
We both held up the next day too as the weather again was questionable. It was nice hanging with a cool fellow American cyclist. We chatted on and on into the night, and it was hard to say goodbye, but I feel confident we’ll meet again. Heck…Portland’s not so far!
Okay…so the next part of the ride definitely kicked my butt! Only about 10 kilometers, but it was steep at parts. Why exactly did I pick up the largest paper-back book ever and a new thing of jam? I never walked Steel, but I took plenty of breathing (or shall we say “photography”) breaks. The road climbed up to the town of the beautiful town of Bad Gastein. A big gushing waterfall runs right through the middle of town, and old hotels and restaurants cling to the side of the mountains on both sides. A short distance further up was the town of Bockstein where the only option for cars, bikes, and people is to hop on a short train for $5 Euros that takes you though the very top of the mountain. I rather hated that a train was involved in any part of my alp crossing effort, but there really was no other option I was told – surely there was some cow pass.
Down the other side of the mountain provided the spectacular views that I was hoping for. I was glad I waited a day to ride as now the weather was at least partly sunny. Unbelievably I got turned around at the town of Obervellach (this really is difficult as there are only two ways to go…but I went the wrong way…even with the map. Oh My!). I rode an hour or so in the wrong direction and then circled back to Obervellach. I blame it on not having stopped for a coffee that day! Ha! After that, I was done! I wandered into a very nice adventure camp set near the river with a great cafe (with internet and a plug…and a place to again put my tent under a canopy) for $10 Euro. I had every intention of watching the World Cup finals but I laid down for a short nap at 8 p.m. and didn’t awake until morning. More rain, so I stayed put and wrote.
I was up and out early on the road towards Italy. I had made up my mind to take the shorter route to Italy (Alpe-adria Radweg) and not go to the Dolomites (Italian alps) given the time I have left. However, at the moment I needed to choose to veer off, I changed my mind again, and decided to go for it through more mountains along Velo Route 7. I am so so so glad I did this (so far at least). Yesterday’s cycling ranks as one of the loveliest of the entire trip. Besides the sun and puffy billowing clouds, the 50 mile or so route from Mollbrocke to Lientz (mostly sign posted as Rt. 1) was almost completely along designated cycling paths that roll graciously through forests, across fields, along rivers, and through sweet little towns –all the while with the Alps jetting up around. Pink, yellow, purple and white wildflowers blanketed the hillsides, and begged to be picked alongside the cycling route -which I did. Ever since, Inga tied flowers on to Steel back in Germany, I have made it tradition to tie new flowers to Steel each day we ride.
Ah ha…we must be close to Italy. I hear more Italian than German being spoken in Lientz!