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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.


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