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Tuesday, August 02, 2022

June 19th: Gomagoi to Hotel Franzenshohe

"You wouldn't want any CO2 cartridges, would you?" "Uh, no. We have a pump." "I guess you're mountain bikers?" "No. We're on a bike tour, but I always carry a pump." "We're getting on a plane and can't bring the cartridges with us." The couple who sat next to us at breakfast turned out to be from the United States. They had flown into Munich and rented a car, loaded their bikes on it and had done various day rides in the Dolomites and yesterday, Stelvio. They were impressed when they saw our bikes, and even more so when they realized we'd come all the way from Zurich without a car.

We loaded the panniers onto Xiaoqin's e-bike, moving the trunk bag with the ebike charger onto the triplet, since there was no longer any space on the rack for it, and then proceeded to ride up from Gomagoi. In short order we arrived at Trafoi, where we took a much needed break to refill water bottles and admire the Ortlers and Glaciers. Bowen had paired his bike computer with my heart rate monitor, and noticed that I'd pegged at around 155bpm. At altitude, I seemed to be unable to ride any harder, though at home and at sea level on my single I could regularly hit 170bpm. I'd make it a point to rest until my heart rate hit a much more reasonable 120bpm before we'd attempt to keep going.
As the day passed, one cyclist after another would pass us. Every other cyclist would either give us a thumbs up, or yell some form of encouragement, like "Allez!", "Bravissima!", "Courage" (in French), "Super" (in German), or shake their head in amazement. One guy passed me and said, "You're crazy and insane!" I concurred with him. I was living the reality that many fathers experienced: you go out with your two kids, and no matter how mediocre a job you're doing as a parent, everyone ooohs, and aahhs, and proclaim you to be super-Dad --- mommy doing something identical wouldn't even merit a comment. In the mean time, Xiaoqin was doing a pretty difficult job lugging 35 pounds of bags up the mountain on her e-bike, but because she was on an ebike she was getting none of the encouragement the kids and I had. Life simply isn't fair.

You couldn't fault the scenery you're riding through, and Charles J Sykes, in "50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School" had a frequently cited quote that goes like this:
“ Before you were born your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. “

I guess if nothing else, I was showing my kids that you didn't have to be boring just because you had kids.

Strava says it took us 2 hours and 15 minutes to move the 7.4 miles up the mountain, climbing 2851' in the mean time. Subjectively it felt like a 4 hour ride, and we arrived at Hotel Franzenshohe with me feeling like I had legs of rubber. There was some sort of cheerleading event/workshop going on at the hotel, and it was clearly too early to checkin, but because the workshop had just made a big mess in the hotel's conference room, we were cleared to park our bikes in it, eat lunch, go on a hike, and come back later when our rooms were ready.

The hiking trails behind the hotel left such a deep impression on Bowen and I that he'd specifically wanted to come back to Stelvio 4 years later. It was Xiaoqin's first time in the area, so we had to do the hike even though we only had cycling shoes. The place was as pretty as I remembered.
This time we went as far as we could on the Gletscherweg, turning around only when it was clear that our shoes weren't going to hold on to the trail. On the way back we found a waterfall, and even did a cross country jaunt to where Bowen and I visited higher up near the road.

By the time we were all done we were ready for ice cream and then we could move into the rooms and take our showers and do laundry. We asked about the swimming pool we used the last time but apparently they had only just opened it and the water was too cold. We ate our 4 course half pension dinner, but that night I was given a reminder of how I still wasn't fully acclimated to the altitude. At 2188m in elevation, the hotel was higher than lake tahoe, and near the 8500'' operational limit of my CPAP machine. As a result, the machine became noisier, and I also correspondingly slept less well. It was a fitful night. The big difference was that we were doing Stelvio near the start of the trip, while on the previous trip, it came quite a bit later. The difference was considerable.

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