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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Prologue: June 26-June 29, 2014

Hina Naseer, Arturo Crespo and I planned the Tour of the Alps to start well after the official start of summer in order to get better weather. To that end, Hina and I flew separately to Zurich on July 26th, arriving on the 27th. Arturo had gotten a cheap business class ticket to Amsterdam and planned to train from there to Sarnen on the 29th.

At the Zurich airport, I discovered that my luggage, along with the everyone else who had flown from San Francisco via Air Canada, had been left behind in Toronto at the transfer point. While an annoyance, I'd anticipated this in my trip planning, and so had not expected the tour to start until the 29th. I stayed with Shauna Eggers and Steve Moran, who joined me in 2012 on the BVI trip. Also staying there was Amy Platt, who was on sabbatical and traveling quite a bit.

From Tour of the Alps 2014
Amy happy volunteered to walk me around Zurich so I didn't fall asleep and then succumb to jet-lag. I went for a swim at the local pool, took Steve and Shauna out to dinner. The result was what I thought was the easiest jet-lag I recovery I ever had. I slept a full 7 hours, interrupted only by getting up to go to the bathroom halfway through the night. I even tested the HDM Z1, which I hadn't had a chance to do at home, and found it to be more than acceptable.

The 28th, however, was stressful, because I was waiting for the baggage to show up. What I should have done was to just go to the airport first thing in the morning to search for my baggage and pick it up. Instead, I stupidly believed the airport employee and waited for deliver. By 2, I was a bundle of nerves and after helping Hina with her bike, and headed off to the airport. However, at the train station, I checked the website and found that my bike had been picked up by the baggage service. I fatefully made the decision to turn back.

Unfortunately, despite promises of the baggage service, my bike never showed up. I had a disastrous sleep experience that night. Booth Hina and Arturo had their bikes, so Arturo decided to join us in Zurich  instead of Sarnen, which was looking very unlikely, and meet us in Zurich.

On the 29th, I woke up early, called the airport baggage service, and asked if there was any way they could deliver the bike by 10am. They said that it was impossible, but I could go pick up the bike myself. I went to the airport, grabbed the bike, and came back, which took about an hour and a half. At 9:30, I hurriedly reassmbled my bike, repacked my saddlebag, and headed off to the train station with Hina and Arturo, with a pack lunch graciously prepared by Shauna at the last minute.

At the train station, we bought train tickets, with me producing my passport to buy a half-tax card. When traveling with bicycles, the half-tax card gets paid off very quickly because the bicycle counts as another person for short trips, and costs 12CHF on long trips. I'd originally intended to avoid trains as much as possible, but starting with a Zurich to Meiringen trip effectively meant that just another couple of train journeys would pay it off. Since Arturo also had a half-tax card, having one myself would eliminate any hesitation on using trains to make the tour better. This would turn out to be a good decision later on in the trip.

We arrived in Meiringen at 1:00pm, and immediately rode off to the Lammi restaurant for a great meal to start the trip with.

From Tour of the Alps 2014
Arturo was skeptical that a restaurant could be as great, but when the soup arrived he took a sip and all skepticism vanished. I told him that there was a chance we could eat here again later in the trip on the return, as the return of the 2007 tour ended with a trip over Sustens pass.

We then visited the Aare Schlutz, something I'd ridden past several times in the past but never got around to visiting. Since it was rainy, the schlutz had lots of water, making conditions to visit it ideal.

By the time we were done with the schlutz, it was nearly 4:30, so we decided to ride up to Rosenlaui. I'd ridden up there several times and hence was familiar with the route. But fully loaded and unprepared for the climb, both Hina and Arturo had a harder time. Even worse, Arturo kept running into the post bus that owned the road and every time he had an encounter he would be forced to stop. His schedule had prevented him from extensively training in preparation for the trip, so he had not learned how to start on a hill. Each stop then forced him to walk to the next flat spot in order to start riding again.

From Tour of the Alps 2014
All was forgotten, however, once we reached Rosenlaui, where Amy was joining us for two nights. Lovely Rosenlaui is now the default starting point for many of my trips in Europe: we book the rooms at Rosenlaui before buying tickets based on availability at Rosenlaui. The descriptions at the hotel's website don't do the location justice, and most unadventurous types are turned away by the lack of en-suite bathrooms. Christine and Andreas turn away large tour groups and tourist buses. This suits me just fine: as a result, the place is devoid of all the usual tourist groups, and the food is superlative. You still need a reservation far in advance in order to secure a room, but nearly everyone is a serious hiker, as the hikes in the region are rugged and difficult, with no infrastructure other than the post bus. The net result is that Rosenlaui is one of the few places in Switzerland where you can hike for hours without seeing another person.

I slept well that night, having had exercise, great food, and other worries eliminated not just through the events of the day, but also because Rosenlaui has no cell signal and hence protects you from distractions.

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