Auto Ads by Adsense

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

July 2nd: Train transfer Feldkirch to Zurich

 In the morning, we woke up and packed, walked down to the bikes and had the receptionist release us into the train station parking underground. I had pre-scouted the train station thoroughly the day before, and knew that there was a triplet friendly entrance directly from the next level up in the parking lot, which we proceeded to use. The elevator to the platform was too small to fit the triplet, but the staircase had built in ramps on the side so you could roll luggage or the triplet up the stairs, provided you removed the panniers first.

After that, I took apart the bike, putting all the loose pieces into ziplock bags and wrapping the cables around the water bottle cages. I also removed the GoPro mount from the e-bike, the water bottle cage from the ebike, and Xiaoqin's phone mount, packing them away so that they wouldn't get lost.

Savitha had agreed to meet us at the train station in Zurich. It felt so strange to ride the train, taking 2 hours to do what it took us a day and a half to ride on the bike. But soon we were in Zurich. I asked the kids if they wanted to ride back to the hotel, but once they realized they could visit Sprungli again for desert they declined.

We returned Xiaoqin's e-bike at the train station, since Savitha could help carry the panniers. I then proceeded to reassemble the triplet and mount the panniers onto the triplet and ride back to the hotel. I took me 2 hours to disassemble the bike and place it back into 3 cases under the United Airlines weight limit, but even after all that it was still an hour before I was allowed to checkin, so I hopped onto the tram to downtown and met up with the rest. I did find the wallet sent back to me from Lukas, and Bowen's hiking pants, so all the packages made it. I'd tried in vain to confirm with the hotel, but apparently their policy is to never reply to messages! I would discover later that during the diassembly process I somehow managed to lose my VAR tire lever, my arm warmers, and gloves. I guess the heat and the stress of the prceeding days had taken their toll!

We all had day tickets so for the first time I tried the boat transport under the bridges of Zurich and it was a lot of fun but by then we were done. Xiaoqin was worn out from buying new shoes, and Boen showed me proudly the new socks he had persuaded mommy to buy since his old socks were worn out. We made it back to Novotel only to discover a long line to checkin --- one of the staff members had called in sick from COVID and their colleagues were swamped.

When we finally checked in, we walked to dinner. We had an early morning train to catch, so I prepaid our lodging, and repacked our luggage so that all our hiking gear and everything we needed for Rosenlaui would be with us. Bowen's conditioned seemed to have improved --- he didn't need to use the toilet more than once that evening. Small mercies are a big deal, but I prepared for the next day by stuffing Bowen's hiking pants with toilet paper.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

July 1st: Feldkirch

 It poured down rain in the morning, and Xiaoqin said Bowen had had a tough night, and protested against riding to Sargans. Bowen didn't want to ride either, despite my positing to him that today, we could have breakfast in Austria, lunch in Liechtenstein, and dinner in Switzerland. Xiaoqin further insisted that I take Bowen to a doctor.

I cancelled the reservation at Sargans and went to the receptionist to see if we could extend our stay. I did a Google search and found 2 pediatricians within walking distance. The receptionist called the first one when it opened at 8am, but they weren't taking any appointments. She called the second and this time, got us an appointment at 9:30am. I bought a light breakfast at the supermarket in the train station, and we ate breakfast while Bowen used the toilet.

I then bought a direct train ticket to Zurich for the next day from Feldkirch. It was a bit more expensive than a Sargans train ticket would have been, but the real penalty was that it wasn't going to be a roll-on/roll-off experience. The hotel extended our stay for a good price, thanks to the sympathetic receptionist, and at 9:00am we walked to the pediatrician.

She diagnosed Bowen's problem as a virus of some sort, and gave us a prescription for some anti-nausea medication so he could keep the diarrhea medication down. Despite that medication, after lunch (taken at the Asian booth downstairs at the train station), Bowen threw up again. Clearly the diarrhea medication was just as bad as the virus (if it was a virus).

With Bowen on and off the toilet all day, there was naught to do but stay in the room and hide from the rain. I got my kids listening to Spitz and various other Japanese music. When the rain stopped, we walked around town for ice cream but returned to the train station for dinner. It was a bummer of day, but if you're going to get sick, get sick at the end of the tour. That way you won't have lost too many days and wouldn't have to do cascades of reservation cancellations!

Monday, August 29, 2022

Review: Valerian & Laureline Book 1 & 2

 Valerian & Laureline Vol 1 and 2 are part of Kindle Unlimited, so I checked them out to see whether the amount of hype attribute to them is justified.  First of all, compared to other comics from the same era like Tintin or Flash Gordon, the art is fantastic: detailed and pretty, full of imagination and color.

The story and universe unfortunately, are rather blah. There's a galactic empire, and Valerian is a pretty awful character, making no plans and frequently falling into one trap after another as a way to move the plot along. That's not so very different from Tintin, but I guess when you encountered Tintin as a kid you're much more forgiving than when you encounter similar material as an adult.

It's easy reading and fun entertainment, but I'm not sure it deserves to be ranked up there with the classics. And of course, modern writers like Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore have long surpassed the best of these old works.

Friday, August 26, 2022

June 30th: Galtur to Feldkirch

 The morning came, and Bowen had been to the toilet twice last night. "I'm still too weak to ride over the pass," he declared. There was nothing to do but to put him, Boen, and Xiaoqin onto the bus, load up the panniers on the triplet, and ride that darn thing over the Silvretta by myself, since there was no way I was going to take the triplet again after painstakingly putting it back together.

The ride over the pass was glorious, starting in the fog with low clouds but then with the clouds lifting and dissipating over the mountains granting beautiful views. I was so sorry Bowen felt bad, but I wasn't strong enough to lift Boen by myself over the bike, and Boen was of course still in the mode of "Whatever Bowen has, I have to have," so if Bowen had a bus ride, he had to have one as well!
With that much load it would take well over an hour to get to the top of the pass, though because the bus took a detour to the Kopsee, at one point I caught up to the bus because it had to stop at the toll gate where a bicycle would just happily roll through! At the pass, I saw Boen and Xiaoqin waiting for me, but Bowen was on the toilet again, vindicating his judgement that he shouldn't have been riding over the pass. I proctor'd Bowen on the toilet, and after I was done Boen wanted to show me the telescope he'd found as well as the picture frame, where we got a picture.

After that, we piled everyone on the bike and rolled down the mountain. Well, Silvretta was far steeper than any of the other descents we'd had. I'd originally thought we'd stop every 4 hairpins, but it was so steep that we stopped every 2 hairpins instead!
The climb up Silvretta from the Montafon side looked challenging, and it was already warm enough that after 6 hairpins we were shedding our jackets.

Somehow, on one of those hairpins, Xiaoqin passed us without noticing, and she kept going all the way down the mountain without realizing that we were behind her. We couldn't descend any faster, so we only caught up to her when she had already traversed the scary tunnel past the toll station in Partenen. I'd always crossed the tunnel myself, not noticing the bike path signs on prior trips. We finally saw her past the tunnel, and waved her over onto the bike path, which took us into Gaschurn, where we stopped by the bike path as always for lunch, ice cream, and soft drinks. The forecast still called for rain tomorrow, so I wanted us to get as far down the valley as possible. Unfortunately, it was still hot, so I had to find a hotel with AC. My first choice was booked up while we were debating, but Night Inn Feldkirch was right next to the train station and had AC, so I booked it. I looked for lodging in Sargans as well, and booked it since it had free cancellation.
After this it was time to take the longest descending bike path that I'd ever encountered all the way down to just before Feldkirch. I'd done this descent many times, and it never fails to draw a giggle from me. Bowen and Boen both expressed joy and wonder as we rolled along at 15kph, sometimes hitting 30kph whenever we felt like pedaling. I shot a few pictures going backwards, and you can see from his expression that Bowen was in agony. Not for nothing did he win the approbation, "The toughest 7 year old I'd ever met" from Mike Sojka.

At Vandans I felt a jerk from the back of the bike, and Boen complained that he was sleepy. We pulled over to a shaded bench and he took a nap while I took Bowen to the nearby tennis club to use the bathfroom. After that it was a short ride to Bludenz where we smelled the chocolate smells in the air, since Bludenz had a big chocolate factory.
Past Bludenz, a headwind blew through, making it slow going, but we were still mostly able to maintain 15kph. At the outskirts of Feldkirch we had to climb up and then we were in Feldkirch. It took much more time than expected to find the hotel, as the train station was outside the pedestrian zone, and it had zero signage or pointers to it! But we eventually found it, and the receptionist had me descend into the train station's parking lot to access the bike parking!

Once settled in, Bowen used the toilet once again, and then we walked down to the pharmacy to see if there was anything they could do for him. They sold us some diahrear medication, and I bought some kids Tylenol for good measure. We went to the local Indian restaurant, but Bowen threw up on the way home after eating several somosas. He was not having a good day! Boen managed to get some ice cream, however.

The hotel AC was put to good use, we took showers, and I did laundry anyway just in case, and we went to sleep. I hoped Bowen would do better.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Review: Ring Doorbell, Camera and Security Lights

 For our new home, I decided on the Ring ecosystem, since we already had Amazon Echos as well as my inherent distrust in long term support for any Google product. (Not to mention, my opinion of Google product managers is that they don't seem to use any of their own products the way I would)

For the door bell, I went with the wired Ring Video Doorbell. Usually, Amazon product managers are very good about user install experience, but this one was exceptionally bad, especially if you didn't install it yourself. The pairing requires a PIN that can only be found after you take apart the doorbell. Taking it apart requires a special tool. Good thing I found that tool and was able to install it.

For security cameras, I went with the luxury model with two way talk, sirens, etc.  These are wired so they kinda wouldn't work well if any robbers had a ladder and could climb up to unplug the device. On the other hand, the most important security item is the Ring Security Yard sign.  The installation of those are much better than for the doorbell. The pin is right on the camera and the pairing works really well. Note that all these devices require that you have wifi signal throughout the entire coverage zone.

Unlike modern appliances, the ring devices come with both a website and an app. This is huge. The motion detection also works well, detecting pedestrians walking past your house. There are also alerts you can set. If you want full time coverage you can pay $100/year  for recording all devices, or $30/year for each camera. To get full time monitoring you also need to buy a ring alarm system.

All in all, the plans are way cheaper than Google's and unlike Google products don't run the risk of cancellation. I'm happy with it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

June 29th: Train/Bus transfer from Innsbruck to Galtur, Hiking on the Kopsee

 Bowen had a mild fever, and woke up feeling weak. "I can't possibly ride today," he said. Mike Sojka, the first time after he met Bowen, called him "The toughest 7 year old I'd ever met." At 10, Bowen wasn't any less tough than he was at 7, so when he says he can't ride I had to take him seriously. Gone was any plan to ride from Landeck to Galtur. I looked up the details and it looked like there was a bus that could take you to Galtur from the Landeck train station and it would take bikes "at the driver's discretion." Since we wouldn't ride, we'd just take the bus to the highest place before the Silvretta, so I booked Hotel Vaya at Galtur, which I picked mostly because it was visible from the bus stop without having any need to navigate.

We got to the train station in plenty of time after breakfast, and this time it still wasn't a roll on roll off, but instead there was a baggage car, with the conductor willing and ready to help! Unfortunately in the confusion, while lifting the ebike, Xiaoqin tried to help and got my elbow in her face instead! Fortunately there was no lasting damage but she would need to rest the rest of the day. I fortunately could keep the bike in mostly tandem configuration.

Unfortunately, when we got to the bus it was clear there was no way to load the bike without taking it fully apart, so I took it apart and we loaded it into the wheelchair section of the bus. The bus driver did help, and then he told me that I'd have to hang on to the ebike the entire ride to Galtur!
I held that awkward position for the entire 70 minute ride, which left me quite saw in my warms the rest of the day. The bus ride gave me views of various towns along the way, one of which I'd never visited before because the town proper was high up along a side road, which explains why I was never tempted to stay at any of those places.

Upon arrival, I sent the wife and kids on to checkin to the hotel while I with the help of a curious hiker, managed to put the triplet back together and to my surprise two day of train plus bus travel hadn't damaged it any. After that, I parked the bikes in the hotel's garage, and went to the room to wash off my extremely dirty and marked up hands. The hotel had a full size kitchen in our suite, so I put on the backpack and walked down to the supermarket where I discovered that they had Weisswurst! I bought lunch with salad, weisswurst, and instant noodles, which the kids developed a taste for after Bolzano.

After lunch, Xiaoqin wanted to rest, but I wanted to take the bus somewhere for a hike, since the hotel granted free bus passes, and Bowen said he now felt better. The hotel suggested Kopsee, which I had never been to before, and which both Google  and Komoot suggested as a possible alternative to the Silvretta. I'd never been to Kopsee before, despite 3 previous visits to the area, because it simply was a gratituous climb if you were headed over the Silvretta, so it sounded like a great idea.

The bus ride to Kopsee was beautiful, and I steadily got more and more excited as we approached the trailhead. Once off the bus, we had two choices: walk back to the hotel (90 minutes), or walk around the lake (also 90 minutes)  I finally tricked the kids into doing the Kopsee loop by pointing at the sign that said: "Kopsee - 20 minutes."
Even though it was overcast you could see that the weather was clearing up. The forecast had called for rain, but we had completely lucked out with the weather. Even the hotel staff had commented on it. "It was raining the entire day yesterday," they said to me.
We walked down to the lake and the kids played a bit before we headed over to examine the dam. I got a clear look at trail descending down into Montafon, and it was definitely a gravel trail that wasn't a good alternative to Silvretta for a triplet, though I'd have been game on it with my single bike and 32mm tires,

We crossed over the dam onto the other side, at which point it was too late for the kids to protest --- it was now as easy to complete the loop as it was to go back. But they day was getting nicer to the point where we were removing our jackets.

I noticed a strange flower with an awful smell. The kids each took a sniff and then Bowen suggested using Google lens to identify it.
It turned out to be a veratrum album, a flower so toxic that even its scene was toxic! We didn't take any more sniffs, needless to say!

The hike got prettier and prettier with wild flowers and even a meadow near a ski lift, indicating that the area was a ski resort in winter. I tried once again to convince the kids that a 90 minute walk wasn't that far, but this time they were wise to my tricks and would have none of it, opting to play in the playground while waiting for the bus. Boen finally mastered the art of swinging without assist, and got me to take a photo.

That evening, we were given our own dining room for dinner. I was nonplused about this until I realized that the staff had heard for themselves how loud Bowen and Boen was, and wished to isolate us from the other guests so we wouldn't disturb their dining! After dinner we took a walk in the neighborhood and even that walk was pretty! "I could come back here for a few days just for the hiking," I told Xiaoqin when we were done.
We went to be hoping that Bowen would feel better the next day, and that he wouldn't have to go to the toilet too many times during the night. He certainly looked better!

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

June 28th: Train transfer to Innsbruck

 We rode the 2 miles to the train station, and then took apart the triplet in order to get it onto the correct platform. When the train arrived, it was a mad scrambled to get everything in, since unlike the newer trains this wasn't a roll on roll off train, but was instead a double step up with a narrow turn to get the bikes on. While getting all the bikes on and off I got chain and grease marks all over myself and Xiaoqin. I would joke to Xiaoqin that these were the lover's kisses from my mistress, and she would punch me.

We arrived in Innsbruck and walked the 10 minutes to the hotel after traversing the maze of elevators (at least there were elevators!) to get out of the main train station. We parked our bikes at the hotel, and left our luggage with them while deciding what to do. The kids wanted to go the the archaeology museum, and after taknig the bus there we discovered it wasn't a museum, but just a display at the local university. I remembered that in 2010 we visited Castle Amblas, which had a lot of armor and other impressive stuff, so I suggested we go there. It would turn out to be a major mistake.

The actual museum was fine, and the kids enjoyed looking at all the armor. Xiaoqin enjoyed the display and took her time using the audio guide which discussed all the details. What went wrong was that despite my warning to eat well at breakfast, Bowen and Boen didn't do so, and we ended up having lunch at the museum cafetaria. Boen was lucky but Bowen ordered the Spaghetti Bolognese. I did too, but while all I did was feel slightly nauseated and had one instance of diarrhea, Bowen got a full dose of either food poisoning or food-borne virus and that would haunt him for the rest of his time in Europe. He even threw up some of that spaghetti then and there!

On reflection, the reason why of all my trips to Europe, I'd never once gotten food poisoning before, was because when you're traveling by bicycle, you don't usually frequent the places tourists go to, like museum cafetarias. If you eat at a restaurant or even a hotel that locals would eat at, any instance of food poisoning would result in the restaurant or hotel being shut down. (In many villages, the hotel also doubles as the place to dine out) But for a place like Castle Ambras, any food poisoning might have consequences only a day or two later, when the tourist is in another town, and in any case a tourist wouldn't even know who to call or complain about bad food!

After Amblas, we went back to our hotel and checked in for real, and then I booked train tickets to Landeck for the next day. I held off booking a hotel because I didn't know how far we might get up the mountain. It started raining, so I went out and bought fruit for snacks, and we ended up walking around in the rain after we got bored with staying indoors. Dinner was at a highly rated Korean place, but I learned from then on that the highly rated Asian places are highly rated because they're unusual for Austria, not because they're actually any good compared to what we got in California.

We went to bed with all the curtains drawn, reasonably confident that the next day's weather would be nice. I was hopeful we could do some cycling.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Review: Spenco Men's Fusion 2 Sandal

 I had a really bad case of athlete's foot, with bleeding and all the really nasty stuff. I finally saw a doctor and he immediately prescribed a athlete's foot creme to get rid of the fungus infection. He also recommended Spenco Men's Fusion 2 Sandals to reduce strain on my feet after I told him that I went barefoot all the time.

I usually hate wearing shoes in the house. The fact is, shoes take away tactile feeling on my feet, and of course if you're cleaning the house bare feet immediately let you know where the kids have spilled sugary stuff on the floor. But doctor's orders and all that. After several weeks of wearing this, my feet got much better, and to my surprise, I liked them so much that I don't want to go barefoot in the house anymore, so I guess the hard floor really was tough on my feet.

You can pay for these with FSA money if you get your doctor to write a prescription. I recommend them!

Friday, August 19, 2022

June 27th: Brunico to Sterzing

 The night before, I looked up hotels in Sterzing, and one particular one caught my eye, called Steindl's Boutique Hotel. The website said that if you called them they'd give you a discount, so I called them. The receptionist said, "I'll see if we have room." " says you have room." Without skipping a beat, he immediately quoted me a price that was 20 Euros lower than the price and we were set. No credit cards, no obligation to show.

Xiaoqin didn't like the fact that the train from Brunico to Sterzing required a train change, even though I told her it was no big deal. She tried to convince the kids to take the train as well, but they were having none of it! I'd never ridden to Sterzing before, though I'd taken the train there from Toblach in 2007, so I was curious to see the route. We rode for all of 10 minutes before we found a zipline playground, which demanded a stop of course!

After that, the bike path, which was mostly paved, would descend all the way down to Mulbach, after which it would split --- one would lead to Brixen and then Bolzano, while the other would head up towards Sterzing. All the descending had me nervous, because it meant that the climb to Sterzing would come in the afternoon heat.
In Aicha after the split, I caught a flat in the rear tire. Upon checking the flat, it turned out to be a thorn. I pulled out the thorn from the tire, and then got out one of the two spare tubes and inserted it into the tire and pumped it up while simultaneously patching the punctured tube. We were all getting hungry, but Google Maps said Aicha had no grocery stores or restaurant. The next store was in Fortezza, so we kept riding to Fortezza, where we ended up eating lunch on what looked like a public school, kids and all, after which we kept riding.

It didn't take long, however, before there was a loud hissing sound and we had another flat! Fortunately, there was a freeway underpass in front of us so at least we could get out of direct sunlight. I inspected this flat, and it turned out that a patch had failed. I guess that something that would hold up just fine on a single just cannot possibly stand up to high pressure on the triplet. I put in my last spare, pumped it up but not to the tire pressure I had pumped up the other one before, proceeded to patch the patched tube, and we kept riding.
Now the heat was on, with the sun bearing down hard on us, such that any shade was a relief. The climbing also increased in intensity, though the bike path made it more palatable by grant us relatively traffic free roads, and frequently hugged the shade rather than being beside the freeway.  Finally, in Futures we hit a 10+% grade in the full sun and in our cooked state just couldn't do anything except get off and walk. It was the steepest grade of the day and fresh we could have just made it but in our condition and reduced morale after 2 flat tires we just gave up. Fortunately, there was a shaded bench right after that section and we took a long break, drinking nearly all of our water.
From our oasis of shade we could feel that whenever the breeze blew it actually wasn't too bad, but the cyclists coming down at speed made us feel worse, since to gain that much speed meant more climbing. We finally saw a tandem couple zooming by at speed, and decided that we simply had to keep going. Well, after that we finally found a water fountain, and a small rise later descended down into the Isarco river for the nearly flat, final run into Sterzing which we did at an easy pace, having burned all our matches earlier in the day.
Steindl's Boutique Hotel was at the far end of Sterzing, so that gave us the opportunity to ride through the picturesque town, drawing attention much as we always did. The town wasn't too crowded, and the grade was gentle, and as we got to the hotel there was much relief. It felt like the day had gotten cooler as well!

We checked in, dumped the bags, and Xiaoqin wanted to take the kids swimming. That was a good idea, but I also needed to replace our tubes with better ones. Fortunately, there was an e-bike rental shop right next door, so I had them walk on ahead to buy ice cream while I asked if they had tubes. Indeed, they had Continental Touring tubes of the correct specification, so I bought two at absurd European prices. I caught up to the others for some much needed ice cream and we proceeded to walk to the other side of town to the swimming pool.

The pool was crowded so we avoided the indoor section in favor of the outdoor section. It felt really good to swim. The kids enjoyed the Jacuzzi as well, and after we were all ready for dinner we walked back in town and ate at a restaurant before going back to the hotel and doing the shower and laundry thing.

Xiaoqin insisted on taking the train to Innsbruck, and I  opened up my OBB app and bought train tickets for Innsbruck. With bikes, you have to make bike reservations, so you can't just take any train going in that direction. I noted the time and we also made a reservation in Innsbruck. I decided that while I was going to take the part anyway, we'd also take the train to Landeck the day after, to save a day of flat riding along the Inn river. The plan was to ride up the Silvretta and then make Feldkirch the next day before weather turned bad. Ideally we'd want to make Sargans to access the Swiss train system.

We went to bed early, setting an alarm so we wouldn't miss the train the next day.


Thursday, August 18, 2022

Review: Sea of Tranquility

 Sea of Tranquility is Emily St John Mandel's pandemic novel. Mixing a time travel story, a pandemic, lunar colonies, and the themes of being a writer and a parent, the story kinda meanders all over the place but never actually does anything provocative or particularly imaginative with the subject material. For instance, the lunar colonies don't seem any different from a New York City neighborhood, which seems kinda strange, since everything from breathable air to potable water must be a constant struggle. It's very clear that St. John Mandel is non technical and not very interested in the actual nuts and bolts of a moon colony.

The time travel story is at least somewhat competently handled, with the time traveler going back and forth and looping back upon his own story eventually. But even then, the character isn't very good at his job.

The book is short, so at least if you don't like it you're not going to waste days on it. But to be honest the book seems like a non science fiction writer's failed attempt to write science fiction. The pandemic parts also seem particularly insular, again, very focused on a relatively privileged view of a city bound person. As you and I both know at this point, such privileged people abscond from the city at the earliest opportunity. Again, the transplantation of the author's experience into a novel might make for ome relevance, but I didn't find it particularly insightful.

The book's short enough that I didn't bounce off it, but I think I will avoid the author's work in the future.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

June 26th: Cortina d'Ampezzo to Brunico

 We woke up in the morning, had breakfast, loaded up the bike, and walked up to where the bike path begin, and who would pull up but Lukas! But he forgot my wallet! He promised he'd mail it to my hotel in Zurich. He would eventually do so, but not without spending all the cash in the wallet for a DHL overnight delivery.

The bike path out of Cortina starts out being paved, but soon turned into a dirt road, on a retired railroad grade. The nice thing about the railroad grade is that there's relatively little climbing, but the unfortunate part was that it was relentless. The views of the Dolomites was pretty impressive though!

The route went through no less than 3 tunnels, and it was clearly a much easier route than Tre Croci would have been.

When we got to the Cimabanche pass, Xiaoqin was quite mad at me as she didn't enjoy the dirt road. In retrospect, we should have gone over Tre Croci. While the Cimabanche pass was praised by websites, the websites that praised it weren't enthusiastic cyclists, and the bus to Misurina didn't run very often, nor could I find a taxi that would take us.

Following the bike path, we found the view of Tre Cime Di Lavaredo, a hiking destination very similar to the hike that Lukas had taken us on. It would have been a nice hike from Misurina, but we were now committed to riding to Toblach at the very least.

We ended up having lunch at Ristorant al Lago on the Toblachersee, crowded but with good views of the lake. There, I found an apartment in downtown Brunico, a place that was worth staying at because of the Messner Mountain Museum Arturo had showed me last time. I figured Bowen and Boen might enjoy it.
The ride to Brunico was lovely, easy descents, wide open vistas, and quiet bike paths separated from traffic most of the time. The views were very similar to Austria, this part of Italy having been part of Austria once upon a time.

I noted that we passed through Niederolang, where Arturo and I stayed during the 2016 Tour of the Alps. Upon reaching Bruneck, we found the apartment but nobody came to give us the key, with the owner giving me excuse after excuse when I called him about his kid being at the hospital. When I finally reached out to's support staff, I finally got a call on WhatsApp from his daughter, who explained to me that the apartment wasn't clean. I told them that we just needed a place to park our bikes and leave our luggage while they cleaned the apartment. So her brother came out to take us to the parking garage, where I left the luggage.

The kids and Xiaoqin went to get ice cream, and then I walked the kids up the hill to the Messner Mountain Museum. Xiaoqin declined to walk up the steep grade, a decision that turned out to be fortuitous because we weren't 15 minutes into the museum when the apartment owners called and declared that the apartment was now clean, and practically demanded that we show up right away to claim the key. Since Xiaoqin was 2 blocks away from them, it all worked out.

Unfortunately, the kids didn't like the Messner Mountain Museum at all, but they explored every nook and cranny of it before declaring their dislike for the place. After that, we went back to the apartment, took showers, and got cleaned up. It being a Sunday, the town was pretty dead, the only restaurants being run by immigrants, but a pizza place nearby was open. We had some pretty good pizza and shopped for breakfast the next morning while the supermarket was open.
Xiaoqin declared that she didn't have a good day at all, and said she wanted to take the train the next day. We went to bed thankful that while it was warm, the apartment itself was relatively cool and despite having no AC we could sleep quite well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

June 25th: Arraba to Cortina d'Ampezzo

 Bowen and Boen and I hit the breakfast room just as it opened, and even then there was already a ton of stuff that had already been raided. But the restaurant was huge so there was still plenty of food. Xiaoqin came by a few minutes later and remarked on how different the culture was just one valley over!

We packed everything and got the bikes loaded. There was already a bunch of cyclists in the parking lot, and but nobody was in a hurry to move. Those who were riding the bike day were unloaded, and and 4 hours to do the ride was plenty of time if you were a decent cyclist. Prior to the trip I'd contemplated doing the entire loop, but then the next day we'd have to ride to Cortina with nasty traffic, so I decided that discretion was the better part of valor.

The day started with a descent down to the intersection with Falzerago pass from Caprile. It was comforting to see the Italian police already having cordoned off the roads to car drivers. After the descent, we climbed a little bit before the kids, driven by hedonistic adaptation, decided to stop and wait for mommy so mommy could act as their sherpa, carrying their luggage up the mountain.

An Italian bike day is something to thoroughly enjoy. Cyclists are allowed to use the entire width of the road, both lanes, and the number of cyclists is incredible. Tunnels and galleries that would be normally scary are just a pleasant escape from the sun. The climb up Falzerago was easy, but even then, every 3rd cyclist over-taking us would offer encouragement in whatever language they had. Once again, the triplet got tons of attention and the kids had lots of encouragement, but Xiaoqin, being on an ebike didn't get anywhere near the approbation.
Lukas had encouraged us to ride the extra km up to Valpora to enjoy the view of the Mamolada glacier, but I wanted to use the extra time to descent to Cortina. As a point of fact, by the time we got to the intersection with the Cortina highway, nobody wanted to do the extra kilometer.
The descent was traffic free as expected, and without too many turns or corners, so the triplet could take the descent at full speed and not slow down at all! It was exhilarating, and we only stopped at intersections to make sure that Xiaoqin didn't take a wrong turn.
One of the most exciting things about the descent is that right after you pop through the tunnel there's a glorious panoramic view of Cortina d'Ampezzo right below you, and on a slow traffic day you could pull over to the benches and sit and enjoy the view. Even the kids were impressed by the view.

Unfortunately, after that, the traffic got busy, and we descended with a ton of traffic. Once in town, we circled around and eventually found the Hotel Bellevue. There was an ultra running race in town for the weekend, which made all the hotels exceedingly expensive. I'd picked the hotel on the basis of the food reviews on TripAdvisor, but we would discover that the half pension definitely didn't live up to the reviews, though the breakfast was excellent.

We left the bike at the hotel, and then walked out to eat lunch, which was punctuated from cheers or whistles whenever an ultra runner finished the course. I asked Xiaoqin if she was impressed by the bike day, but she wasn't. She thought that the bike paths were good enough as far as car free was concerned.

The cable car that Arturo and I took way back in 2014 (the Faloria) was closed, but the other cable car in town (Tofana) was open, and I hadn't tried it before, so we tried it. We were going to go all the way to the top, but the woman selling tickets discouraged us, as we were so late that we wouldn't have any time to look around at the top before we came down, so we took the cable car only to the first stop.

Of all the cable cars we'd taken on the trip, the Tofana was the least interesting. At the top there was a wine shop, but neither Xiaoqin nor I drank. There was a playground which had interesting views ,but no interesting hikes, lakes or much else!

On the other hand, it was warm enough down in the valley that we didn't feel like taking the cable car ride down too quickly either, so we just lazed around the area until around 5pm, whereupon we took the cable car back down and walked back to the hotel. I googled around and apparently there was no need to climb Tre Croci --- there was a bike path all the way to Dobbacio from Cortina, something I'd never tried before. I figured it was worth a try, and there might be a bus or taxi to Misurina from the intersection with the Dobbacio bike path.

Dinner wasn't very impressive, and was in fact disappointing, but our suite was spacious (and we had paid through the nose for it), though the hotel had nothing by the way of a swimming pool for us to spend any time otherwise. We hung out everything to dry, and went to bed early.