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Friday, July 30, 2010

Tour 2010 Conclusions

In many ways, this was the tour where everything went wrong. Between flight damage, lost gear, poor weather, tire blowouts, my CPAP machine failing, and nearly everyone falling ill, you could imagine that we would have had a miserable time. But that's not so. Even in the midst of his illness, Phil was saying to me, "I'm having a blast!" Several things contributed:
  1. Time. Everyone of us took at least 3 weeks of vacation on the trip. This gave us the opportunity to wait out bad weather. If we had anyone with only one week of vacation, he would have had a miserable time without experiencing any of the fantastic weather we later got.
  2. Flexibility. We made no reservations, except for Rosenlaui. That made it easy for us to pivot and change plans and abandon the Italian alps when whether and time did not permit this. There's nothing to add stress like the feeling of helplessness. Yet even when we were stuck in Innsbruck, we always felt like we were working to solve our problems.
  3. Repeat visits. This was my fourth time in the Alps. We knew how the train systems worked, we knew some hotel owners, and we had the leverage of Jobst's 40 years in the alps, the OCD guides, and past experiences. The level of predictability in Switzerland made it easy for us to plan around problems, and for Cynthia and Kekoa to break off to do their own tour.
  4. Culinary Flexibility. If you're a strict vegetarian or vegan this trip is not for you. Join a Backroads Tour. At Rosenlaui, Cynthia and I made a list of people we would want to keep away from Rosenlaui, just because they would not be able to put up with the food.

I was very happy, by the way that Cynthia and Kekoa did their own tour. I think if you're going to take a first bicycle tour, Switzerland's a fantastic place. People generally speak English, the train system can bail you out of any problems, bike paths are predictable, well signed, and easy to find, and of course nothing beats the scenery. Cynthia told me that they enjoyed bike touring far more than they thought they would. One unfortunate thing about the trip was that it cost far more than originally estimated because of the large number of train transfers. Knowing what I know now, I would have planned that better, or bought a half-tax card for Switzerland.

The natural beauty of the Alps is still outstanding. I'm currently reading a book about Hedonistic Adaptation, but for me at least, I find the Alps as stunningly beautiful as the first time I visited them. I used to wonder how Jobst could do the same tour for 40 years, but at this point I'm starting to come around to his thinking: I came back from this tour wondering why I ever bother touring anywhere else in the world. People look at my pictures and ask me if it really is that pretty. My response is: it's far prettier. Those pictures were but a pale reflection of what it's like to actually be there.

Before this trip, I told Cynthia: if this trip doesn't make you want to buy your own camera for the next time, I have failed. Her response to me last night: You didn't fail.

I'll plug my upcoming book now. If you've read this far and wondered how you could make your own trip, pre-order my book:


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