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Friday, September 30, 2016

2016 Tour of the Alps: Bschlabs to Trubbach

We were stumped. One plan we had was to descend the Arlberg pass on the East side, loop around Landeck and ride up Silvretta. But the construction equipment made it quite clear: the road was closed. We were going to have to head West, whether we wanted to or not.

The morning breakfast and descent from Bschlabs was fast and fun, and I'd forgotten that it was a pretty steep grade. (Any kind of grade on the tandem is steep, of course, but we felt it on the singles on the descent)
The weather looked perfect, and we were happy to ride in the Lech river valley. Looking around, it was pretty obvious that Bschlabs was a great place to stop for the night, as the next nearest town was either far away, or would have required back-tracking today.
At first, we eschewed the bike path, figuring that we'd make better time on the road. But after a while the bike path got too tempting, and despite the light traffic on the road we found better scenery on the bike path. Riding along the Lech valley, we eventually hit Steeg, which was the place where the serious climbing started.
The climb was on a wide road with extra-wide lanes for passing, and what traffic there was didn't bother us at all. We could see a retro-grade up ahead, however, and so started wondering whether we were going to have a much tougher climb than expected. At the Warth intersection, we made a left towards Flexenpass and Lech. Whie there was another pass up ahead, it looked like there were quite a number of galleries which wouldn't have been fun.

From Warth, the climb to Lech was beautiful, with a single lane highway surrounded by flowers. The climb was also relatively gentle. Lech itself, however, was a zoo: hikers everywhere, North Face outlets, in town buses. "This is what Zermatt looks like, only more crowded with Asian tourists!" said Arturo. "Wait, and you want me to visit Zermatt because?" "Because of the hiking. Once you get away from the town on a cable car it's much prettier.

Past Lech, the climb sucked, with one long gallery after another. I could see why Jobst never climbed Hahntennejoch --- not only did the south facing slope suck due to the afternoon heat, once over Hahntennejoch there are no good alternative climbs out of the Lech valley. While an escape into Germany was feasible and easy, you would be riding out of the Alps far too early at that point.
Past the final gallery, the climb became gentler and more open. At the top, we saw a very small sign indicating Flexenpass and a note about it being the European watershed, dividing the drainage into the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, and the Baltic Sea from the Mediterranean Sea, the Adriatic Sea, and the Black Sea. There were doubtless many other passes that were part of the watershed, but this was the only one that I'd actually seen the marking on.

When we got to the Arlberg pass intersection, however, the construction and road closed signs stumped us. "Well, I guess we go for distance today and set ourselves up for Klausen the next day!" But several hundred meters below, we found another intersection to the Arlberg pass. While scratching our heads, a lady cyclist came by and told us that this was the old road, which also led to the Arlberg pass after some climbing. It would cost us a bit more climbing, but it would give us the option of riding the Silvretta sometime today.

Well, it was already getting pretty late, and with more bad weather in the forecast, we decided that the chances of getting stuck on Silvretta with no way down were pretty high. So down towards Bludenz it was. This was the point at which I'd encountered the rudest driver I'd even seen in the Austrian Alps --- an 18-wheeler with Swiss plates passed me with barely 3 inches to spare on the way down the Arlberg. I kept an iron grip on my bars and stopped pedaling, doing all I could to stabilize the bike. In the end, I stayed up right and on pavement, but the experience left me with more than a few additional gray hairs.

We had a picnic lunch near Klosterle with food bought from a supermarket, and then zipped down quickly to Bludenz. "This is my first time passing through Bludenz without staying there!" I remarked. At Feldkirch, we bought ice cream and then rode into Liechtenstein the short way, trying to minimize time spent along the Rhein river bike path, which we already knew was long and boring.

Finally, in Trubbach we found a hotel with reasonable reviews that wasn't super expensive and stayed there. When we arrived at the hotel after making the booking, however, it looked closed. We called the owner and she showed up, explaining that she'd tried to figure out how to set up the calendar but could not for set it up so that she could indicate on which days she was closed. The place looked much better on the inside than on the outside, though some other guests staying at the hotel had made a mess. But somehow, our laundry detergent zip-loc bag refilled itself while in the hotel!

We ate a small dinner at the only restaurant open in town. Looking out at the weather, there seemed no way that a thunderstorm would come by and ruin our plans for climbing Klausen the next day, but if that happened I had a backup plan in my jersey pocket --- we could ride to the Bodensee and then ride into the Black Forest if the Alps sucked. The low lands typically have better weather, and even if they don't, getting rained on at 500m of elevation won't kill you, whereas the same weather at 2000m could give you hypothermia.

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