I got Harley loaded and we were on the road by nine, heading up towards Col Du Lautaret was the first time I had ridden up here in the early part of the day and I was surprised how different it looked with the sun at a new angle. The glacier stood out particularly well.
Our first target was Col de la Croix de Fer, The Pass of the Iron Cross, 2067m, another legend amongst Tour de France climbs. From Lautaret we rolled down the valley to Bourg d’Oisins, where by 10:00hrs the temperature was already 24 degrees Celcius! The climb was nowhere near as spectacular as many of the others that we have enjoyed over the last few days. True the scenery is still pretty impressive, but in a greener, more gentle way as the road traverses the high alp. OK listen up people, a small geography lesson…yes I know, it’s a passion of mine. Now many folk think that the name The Alps refers to the mountains, that’s not true at all. The “Alp” is the name give to the high pastures that hang above the valleys and cling to the slopes of the mountains. Normally these pastures are only usable in the summer and the traditional way of farming in the past was for the farmer to move his animals and family to high chalets or huts on the alp for the summer months. Things have changed a fair bit nowadays, tractors and quad bikes have made commuting to the high pastures much easier so few make the summer move any more, which is a bit of a shame, but plus ça change! Now, back to the biking!
Near the summit we were privileged to see a group of vultures, wheeling on a thermal at the head of the Col. There are few of these mighty big birds left in the French Alps, modern regulations require farmers to remove dead stock promptly, so in some places ornithologist groups make it their mission to proved food for these impressive creatures. Judging by the number of cars and vans parked up and people tooled up with telescopes, binoculars and long lens cameras I guessed that was just such an organised event. Sorry I haven’t got a photo for you, but the birds were a bit too far for my pocket camera to capture. The summit was pretty busy, it’s very popular for families as it is quite safe for children, no steep drops and there are a number of shallow lakes. The views are however quite magnificent!
….and of course, La Croix de Fer itself!
The road then headed downhill to the north and the Arc valley, where we would turn left on the Autoroute towards Chambery and our overnight stop in Macon on the banks of the River Saône.
As a last hurrah, it was brilliant…I scraped Harley’s low bits a few times on the delightful hairpins so much was I enjoying myself!
“Living after midnight, rockin’ till the dawn!”