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Grand Alps Special Tour 2014 (SPT 14019)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 | Paul Kustermann | Europe

Greetings to everyone arriving for the Grand Alps Tour 2014 with Gerhard and Paul. This one's going to be different! Instead of following the route the way it's normally done, we will be doing it in reverse order. That means we will already have been where we would have been, had we done it as the others do it. A bit like "back to the future". Perhaps a good perspective when you consider, that where we're going has a lot of past to look forward to! We're the Gand Alps "SPECIAL" Tour. (28.06.2014)

Last Day of Riding took us from Galtür across Vorarlber and through some of the world's most spectacular ski-areas (St. Christoph, St. Anton, Lech, Warth) and to top the day we had another of those renowned Edelweiss Picnics at the top of Hahntenjoch. What a view! What a time! What a great group of people....

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Day 12 / Andermatt to Galtür was partially clowded out by rain. No one had the notion of pulling our their carmera, BUT we did get some video-footage of a few of the guys going up the Silvretta High Alpine Road:

Drews-Video1_TG+Gast (SPT14109) (Click on the LINK and check it out)

Drews-Video2_Kevin+Group (SPT14109) (here another one)

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Day 11 / Our Rest Day in Andermatt was really just that! The passes were all snowed in so we stayed under cover in the marvelous hotel we had (3 Könige) and did silly important things like playing cribbage, going to the sauna, nursing our colds and sniffels, sharing stories and having a laugh. Actually it was a well spent day, even if we did miss some riding.

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Andermatt. Crossroads of the Swiss Alps. Surrounding it a whole pallet of major passes: Furka, Grimsel, Susten, Göschenen, Gotthard, Nuffenen. Just our luck... the weather cam showed snow and snow and more snow. We got in just in time. Our rest-day turned out to be just that! Cribbage

Electric bikes is also a means of serious transportation.

Looking back from the way up to Furka Pass... a ribbon of road and a climb into the clowds.

Riding-Day 10 / Chamonix to Andermatt

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Window-shopping...

Reaching Chamonix rewarded us with a beatiful hotel, good food and a view of the tounge of the Mont-Blanc glacier in spite of clowds and grundgy weather...

Near Valloire we found a charming spot to warm our souls...

Not a lot of pictures today in our cameras because the weather just didn't permit it, but the ones in our minds will last forever! Reaching one of the French Alp's highest passes (Galibier) we waited at the light-controlled one-way tunnel that cuts just under the peak where visiblity was a meer 10 feet. One good reason for the welcomed short-cut. The other was there being  icicles hanging from the semifore and the road-markers seperating us from oblivion were dusted with show. Those of us who were lucky enough to have visors on our helmets were cursing the inability to keep them fogging up. Our windshields and ferrings were  collecting ice. The only warmth we had was our motor and the red light holding us at bay before we could cross the mountain and head down the next side into safety.

Riding-Day 9 / Briancon to Chamonix (2° below zero with snow-flurries)

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Col d'Izoard and a landscape that could easily serve as a film-set for "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly"

This drive-by Castle was a fascinating glimps back into the middle ages.

At Mont Dauphin in the little ancient walled city legal parking was rare, so we tried to hide our bikes behind some flower pot. The ones with the no paring sign. OOPS.  / Seemed to work. Nobody bugged us. No tickets. Fortified by a good French coffee and cheerful service at a local café, we amicabylly soaked in a bit of local culture.

Again, not too much time for pictures but this one says a lot. Taking a moment to let our one rider catch up, we all had to pay our homage actually to his skill. Nobody told him perhaps that the 1200-RT he was on was built for the street. He rode gravel with it like it was second nature -- albeit and justly so, a bit slower than the rest of us. What a guy!

Day 8 / Rest-Day in Briancon (actually we went riding...! Logo...)

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Another one of those legendary EDELWESS PICNICS...! Stellar location, brilliant preparation, hungry guests. What could go wrong?

Riding-Day 7 / Aosta to Briancon

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Riding-Day 6 / Lugano to Aosta

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Weather caught us up at the bottom of Splugen Pass so we put on our wet-suits and swam our way to the hotel at Lugano. The evening mood was forboding but the comfort of the hotel inviting. The morning after, everything was smiles again. Ed was back on his stogie... A good sign!

That's our Sweeper! The one who rides the back of the line to keep his eye on everybody and make sure all the pieces come along. It seems we're pressed him to the limit...

This is the Viamala (in English that means the bad way. An ancient route through the Rofla-Gorge which was notorious as a treacherous way to traverse the Splugen Pass. Pictures can't do it justice. Standing at the top peering down 1000 feet to the rushing waters below gives an eery sense of what power there is in water which has been carving its way for literally eons of time.

  

The  morning was bright and sunny.  In good spirits, the look-alike contest continued.

Riding Day 5 / Livigno to Lugano via Splügen Pass

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All said and done, it was a brilliant day of riding twisties. The evening held in store one of our most remote loggings -- Livigno

Could it be that this would be the competiton we were to expect on Stelvio...?

A refresshing break at this cozy little café in Glurns was a welcomed respite. This medieval town with a still intact wall surrounding it was our jump-off point for Stelvio -- the infamous 87 Switchback streatch of road that brings shivers to biker-spines (some from fear and some from excitement).

Riding-Day 4 / Bozen to Livigno via Gavia Pass

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The Guide-Look-Alike-Contest continues...

This should be explained. As we wandered through the town we discovered the bike of one of our colleagues... and it wasn't locked. So we played a little joke on him and parked it around the corner. The second picture is what he found as he came back and wondered! No worries... we didn't let him suffer too long.

In this colorful city full of charm, history, fashion, good food and surroundings than makes one think they've landed in an alpine paradise, we took advantage of the clowds and drizzel and visted a fascinating museum in the morning devoted entirely to the mumified remains of the infamous "Iceman" from  Ötztal (fondly nick-named the Ötzi!

This is Ötzi / The man from the ice

Here is a re-depiction of how he might have looked 5000 years ago as he was hiking across the passes between Merano and Sölden. Was he a hunter, a shepard, a warior or a shaman? For all of these there is some good reason to speculate. What remains a mystery is why he was killed by an arrow and who was his murderer?

This was a fascinating museum experience revelating and illuminating aspects of history, geology, anthropology, archeology, sociology, paleantology and even medical science. The continuing preservation of this unique specimine alone, considered to be one of the most significant "wet-mummis" in the world, is source of much science and research.

Afterwards we had time to chat and revel in stories of all our motorcycling adventures.

Rest-Day in Bozen / Southern Tirol & Northern Italy

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The day ends with a mystic shot of the back side of the Seller Group in the Dolomites made the difficult ride worth every bit of trouble.

A bit of goofing around despite the waning hour of the day kept our spirits high!

From Großglockner it was on to some first impressions of the Domites! Very dodgy weather but none-the-less, faces full of smiles!

"Edelweiss Point" with a stunning panorama of Austria's highest peaks and of course the master of them all, the Großglockner soaring to 3.800 meters. It's the beginning of July and there is snow up here. A stunning impression.

Riding Day 2 (Kaprun to Bozen via Cortina d' Ampezo)

Only getting started and already we're mastered a number of incidents, ranging from things you get at a chemist, to blistering rain, all the way to compltetely replacing two bikes that didn't meet up to the expectations of their riders.  Not to mention a little ding-up in the car-park before even leaving the first hotel and a bigger ding-up at the border to Italy which put a side-case totally out of whack. Nothing in that we couldn't handle -- especially wiht Uncle Al always on the spot with his magical set of tools. We were cruising today and here a few pictures to prove it.

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We finished the evening off with some good food and spirits... and out of the blue we got into some identity swapping. Who do the designer-glasses look better on....?

   

The Krimml Waterfall was one of the highlights of the day. Lots of rain along the way kept us from making fotos of the Sylvenstein Reservoir, the Achensee or the Zillertaler Höhenstrasse. But a moment of clarity allowed us this Magnificent view of one of the world's five longest waterfalls.

Riding Day 1 (Seefeld to Kaprun via Krimml Waterfall)

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Day 0 (The guests have arrived)

After transporting all the bike to our start-hotel in pouring rain we got everyone situated, briefed them and fed them very well. There were a lot of happy faces tonight leaving the restaurant, full of dreams and promisses surrounding the two weeks ahead. 3,500 kilometers of the best mountain roads Europe has to offer. Maybe the world for that matter! We'll see...

Here's a little highlight to look forward to. The "Devils Bridge" on the Gotthard Trail as dipicted a 19th century illustration. (Picture Source Wikipedia)

And While some were relaxing at the hotel, others were taking the "City Tour" of Innsbruck

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Add a comment Rate this post
Andrew Squires
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 12:31

Thanks everyone for a great trip. Paul thanks for the jokes good to get some new ones.Thanks Gerhard for the twists ! cheers Drew
Ed Ramsauer
Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 01:08

This was definitely a "Special" tour!!! The entire group, including the extra special tour guides, made the whole trip a special memory for me. Thank you Edelweiss Bike Travel, the guides, and the group of incredible riders for that.
I will be in contact with all the raw video and photos. Until then ride safe and have fun!
David Rice
Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 16:24

Paul and Gerhart are great guides and as can be seen in the blog, the whole group really gels and works well together. This is my third trip with Edelweiss and as usual I am having a great time. Each day brings different challenges and fun. I did not know the other participants before the trip began but the "hooligans" and the Aussies and the one lone Canadian are all fantastic guys and I am very glad to know and spend time with them. I look forward to the remaining days and my next Edelweiss trip(s)
Paul Kustermann
Monday, July 14, 2014 at 16:22

Thanks for your comment Dave. Was great for me too... and I hope to see you again.
Cheers. Paul
Dave T
Monday, July 7, 2014 at 22:48

Paul has been clowning around all week - he is a clown by profession.
Garhart and Paul have taken excellent care of us.
Thank you
Paul Kustermann
Monday, July 14, 2014 at 16:24

Thanks for your reply Dave....! Taking care of you was a pleasure. Do it anytime.
Keep riding and stay safe. Yours truly, Paul
Ed Ramsauer
Monday, July 7, 2014 at 00:27

What an incredible trip thus far. Many thanks to my wife, Dawnetta, for allowing me to go on this trip with five of my riding buddies. She is truly one of a kind.
This is my third Edelweiss Bike trip and by far the longest by double. The first two were MotoGP tours (also recommended), but to totally relax you need two weeks like this tour. Even with some rainy weather we have had an incredible time. The scenery, the roads, the food, OMG it is sensory overload in a great way. I will the rest day tomorrow to reset for the rest of the trip.
The guides on this tour really know how to take care of us "hooligans" . They have gone above and beyond to accommodate our request as best they can. It was a pleasant surprise to meet Paul, an American transplant that has been living in Europe for over 30 years. Other than being an incredible rider, he is a clown by trade working with and helping hospital patients with laughs. Gerhard on the other hand is probably the most humorous German I have ever met. He is an excellent rider and guide. It is a shame that this is his last tour as he will going on to do bigger things with the company. He will be missed on these tours.
It's time for bed now. I will add more later.
Paul Kustermann
Monday, July 14, 2014 at 16:23

Thanks for your comment Ed. Was great having you around and I am looking forward to getting some of that video-footage you shot. All the best...! Paul

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