It’s turned mid-March, what’s going on? As I started to write this, outside Dookes H.Q it’s snowing again. . . I should be out on two wheels in warm Spring sunshine!
Looking back on some old posts, I realised that back in September I had promised to catch up with photos of a couple of Epic rides that Harls and I enjoyed in the Dolomites and South Tyrol. At the time we stayed in a really super hotel, it had great food, was really comfortable, but suffered from very shaky WiFi which caused me a bunch of stress and took away the pleasure of sharing what we’d been up to on a daily basis. Then after we got home life stuff got in the way and things were a bit forgotten, so dear blogonaughts I apologise and will now, hopefully, begin to put that right.
When I was planning our trip to the Dolomites and Italian Alps I looked around for a useful base that would give me different options of routes to explore. Knowing what mountain weather can be like, I didn’t want to commit to just one area; experience taught me that the weather on one side of a pass can often be totally different to the other.
As I pondered suitable bases my eye kept being drawn to a likely looking area just to the North East of the city of Bolzano. It offered easy access to both mountain ranges as well as the city, should I wish to vary things a bit. It also had the added attraction of an interesting looking narrow gauge railway; more of that in a future post. I didn’t know anything about this area, the Ritten Plateau, but it certainly looked interesting.
As things turned out, it was one of the most inspired choices that I think I have ever made! The view was pretty good too!
I rode to Bolzano from Gaschurn in the Western end of Austria. The day before we had crossed Switzerland in monsoon imitating rain, the going was tough and tiring. Now we had ridden the Silvretta High Alpine road in falling snow and ground hard miles out over the Reschenpaß through more driving rain and heavy traffic.
Reschensee on the Reschenpass on a murky miserable day.
This was supposed to be fun I kept trying to remind myself!
A spirited race down the SS38 from Merano to Bolzano in brightening weather lifted things considerably and then we found the SP73 road to Ritten. . .
Now dear blogonaught, promise me this one thing. If ever you find yourself near Bolzano in Northern Italy, go find the SP73. It doesn’t matter what vehicle you are on/in, the SP73 will put a big smile on your face! There are thirty bends that vary from tight hairpins to lovely, no wonderful, power-on sweepers that are guaranteed to put a big smile on your face and you could swear have been stolen from all of the great race tracks of the world! Oh and the views are pretty good too as the road claws it’s way from the valley floor to the high Ritten plateau.
When planning our route I’d looked at the SP73 on the map and thought, “That look’s interesting.” With the day we had just endured, I must be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to the prospect, I was tired, my shoulders were aching, my eyes gritty from the road, I was dirty, pretty sure I was smelly and not really in the mood to battle hairpins!
Then I took a right onto the SP73.
The road starts by cutting through vineyards as it begins it’s ascent North. The first few bends are sweepers, each one a bit tighter than the last, then there is a squiggle of hairpins and everything becomes clear, this road was engineered to be seriously enjoyed!
SP73, it’s the one for me!
The surface was great, the barriers reassuringly solid, but not intimidating and the view ahead clear.
It’s funny how quickly I can change my mind!
After such a day of hard, hard, miles this was just what I needed. “Harls” seemed to growl approval too as she leaned into each successive bend, her shotgun pipes spitting contempt at the gradient as I kept her engine in the sweet-spot of maximum torque.
Oh how happy the two of us suddenly became!
Just look at this photo of the start of the road, I took it a couple of days later from a cable car, how can you not enjoy yourself on that road?
We arrived at the hotel absolutely knackered, which is a quaint old British phrase meaning worn-out, but as I staggered into the reception I had a big stupid grin on my face!
Next day dawned a bit brighter, but the weather forecast was “Changeable.”
Over breakfast I looked out over the Western edge of the Dolomites; I’d ridden just over a thousand miles to get here and I wasn’t about to let a bit of “Changeable” stop me on my mission!
I finished my rather splendid frühstück (breakfast) and hit the road; first up was the delightful SP73, could it get better? Oh yes it could!
The weather accurately lived up to the forecast. We are in high mountains after all and what we missed from time to time in panoramas, we gained by flying through swirling clouds and savouring fantastic glimpses of stunning limestone crags.
Our route cut right into the heart of the Dolomite mountain range; I work on the basis that if you don’t do the big ones, then frankly, you are not really trying! First we crossed Passo di Costalungo (1745m) then headed for Passo di Fedaia (2075m),
Giau (2230m), followed by the famous “Sella Ring” of Falzarego (2105m), Valparolo (2197m), Campolongo (1875m), Gardena (2121m), Sella (2240m) and Pordoi (2239m).
At the top of Passo di Giau is a delightful “Refugio,” a sort of cross between a bar, restaurant and hotel. This being the South Tyrol, I went native and enjoyed an “Apfelstrudel und Kaffee” for lunch and very good it was too. Just the thing to set me up for the hard work of the Sella Ring.
Not only was the food good, but inside, yes inside, the café was one of my all time favourite motorcycles, a Honda 500 Four, Young Dookes drooled over these bikes and I’d still love to have one today!
It’s a funny thing riding hairpins in the clouds, there’s no distracting views; it’s just you, the road and the motorbike. To be honest I’m not always a great lover of hairpins, I find that they disrupt my riding rhythm too much, but on this day they kept coming and I can honestly say that I was really enjoying myself. At the start of the South West climb to Passo di Giau, was a sign, “34 Tornante,” (34 Hairpins) each one was then numbered…after riding 22 I found myself screaming out, “No! There’s only another 12 left!”
Passo di Giau
What a contrast to last year trying to slog “Big Baby Blue” up Stelvio…
This was heavenly, in a totally indulgent two-wheeled petrol-head sort of way!
I was so glad that I brought “Harls” with me; I really wouldn’t have enjoyed it, or probably even attempted it on “Big Baby Blue.” The more I got into the swing of things, the better my beloved “Harls” responded. True, she’s a bit of a handful going downhill; the rear brake has a delightful habit of fading as it gets hot or wet, but fortunately her engine braking helps out a lot, then hey I’m sort of used to it and wouldn’t have her any other way.
“Harls” – the true star of the show!
We trundled back to the hotel having crossed off the ten highest paved passes in the Dolomites, that first beer before dinner tasted good and I think that we thoroughly earned it. . .
Not bad for an Old Geezer on a getting on a bit Harley Softail!
“I’ve decided what I’m gonna do,
I’m packing my bags for the Misty Mountains.”
Catch you soon.