Can you tell from my super-toothy grin that I was pretty excited to be at the top of the Col de L’Iseran? After seeing pictures of that dang sign on the web for years, it was incredible to be able to stand there soaking in the view with my own eyes.
We *may* have stuck one of our trip stickers on that sign. And a ZLA oval I had in my bag, just because.
When Kenny and I decided to call it a night on Friday, we were still on the Little St. Bernard pass. As we started our descent from the top of the pass we pulled in to a hotel that our friend Ed mentioned he was going to try to stay at.
We were hoping to see Ed’s copper V-Strom parked out front. Instead, we found 2 dozen other bikes. All those bikes were surely a good sign about the place, right?
Though their route initially put them in front of us, somehow we’d gotten ahead of Ed and Drea. When we landed in Milan (the four of us on the same flight) we split up – Kenny and I went to Stresa, Italy to fall asleep next to the lake and Ed and Drea set off for Zermatt, Switzerland to take a peek at the Matterhorn.
Our plan was to do our own thing on Thursday and Friday and then all come together on Saturday morning. The last part of the puzzle would be meeting Pimmie in Susa, Italy. Pim, coming down from the Netherlands, was the final member of our group to rendezvous with for a week of riding.
We Love Motorcycles
The Belvedere Hotel really catered to the motorcyclist. In their lounge they had motorcycle magazines and postcards, maps of good riding in the area. They had covered motorcycle parking and even made tools and cleaning supplies available in the entryway!
Motorcycle culture is quite different in Europe.
Being right on a corner of the pass, you got to see bikes whizzing by all the time.
One of the most interesting things we saw right from our room was several groups of French Gendarmerie motorcycle police strafing the corner. There must’ve been 10 groups of four FJR pilots whizzing along, each in perfect unison. They looked like fighter planes carving through the turn. It was pretty awesome:
Calling it a Day
After jettisoning our riding gear and having a shower, Kenny and I went down to the dining room.
We sat there in the warm light sipping beers feeling that “travel high” that you sometimes get when you realize just how fortunate you are to be floating in the world. There is a period at the beginning of a trip when you feel like you have all the time in the world and you are free. We were there.
Torn between the desire to stay up and shovel more delicious home-cooked regional dishes into our faces and the still nagging jet lag, we retired early to bed. We were fat, happy and excited to regroup with our friends in the morning.
What. Was. THAT?!
Sometime in the middle of the night I was awakened by an unfamiliar sound. I went from dead asleep to sitting up bolt straight in bed, heart thumping in my chest. What the…?!
Through our open window came the peculiar, discordant tones of… howling. When you’re dwelling in that hazy space between sleep and wakefulness, that is a sound that is quite unsettling. That’s the state where anything that your imagination conjures up is reasonable and it’s usually f’n scary.
There is was again!
In the dark of our room, I turned and looked out the window but saw nothing. Everything beyond the reach lone streetside lamp below was obscured by the envelope of pitch black darkness. Perhaps it was best that I didn’t see what was obviously a werewolf out there.
I turned and looked at Kenny who was also up now and said “Did you hear that?!”
I firmly believe that one of the less tapped into portions of our brains allows a spouse to actually hear eye rolling and the inner monologue of their partner. I have harnessed this ability.
“Yes,” he said.
Translation:“No, dummy. I’m sitting up in the middle of the night staring out into the blackness, at the very same moment you are, for no reason whatsoever.”
Because my brave protector’s inner monologue had time for sarcasm, I decided it was safe to go back to sleep.
The Belvedere turned out to be a great place to stop for the night. I would absolutely stay there again. It’s rooms were on the petite side but the beds were comfortable, the rooms were clean, the food was good and the atmosphere was lovely. And… they have werewolves. But for some reason they don’t mention that on the website.
Just before Kenny and I started our ascent up into the mountains on the Col du Petit St. Bernard, the wind picked up began to thrash the trees about. We were going to get wet.
This Alpine trip would be the first long term test in variable conditions of my astronaut suit – the ladies Klim Altitude jacket and pants. While Kenny hopped off of his bike and began to don his raingear, I sat smugly patting myself on the back that I didn’t have to do anything… except wait for him to put his raingear on.
My suit? It’s actually waterproof. *sniffle::wipes tear* GORETEX is so beautiful.
The two of us futzed around at the top of the Petit St. Bernard, watching cows on the hillside, bought some stickers and a postcard and debated how much further we’d travel for the day. With dinnertime lurking on the horizon, we decided to stop in the next town and find a place to stay for the night. Somehow we’d skipped eating lunch and neither of us drank enough during the day. It was time to pack it in.
When I was a kid, we were… “financially challenged.” Growing up that way can leave a residue that clouds your thinking even if you’ve managed to claw your way out of that circumstance. As the years have passed through hard work, luck, chance – my life has changed dramatically. Even so, I still occasionally find myself nagged by thoughts that some things are only for other people and not for me.
When I first started reading motorcycle magazines and seeing advertisements for tours in Europe through companies like Edelweiss – the idea that I could ever find myself riding those roads was out of the question. That was my truth only because I didn’t have the vision or the belief that I could do anything that I really wanted to. I didn’t yet know that I am a force to be reckoned with when there is something in my sights that I want.
Though we’d been in France before (not on motorcycles) when Kenny and I crossed the French border on the Col du Petit St. Bernard, I couldn’t resist stopping for a photo of the sign.
France. On a motorcycle. Can you imagine? It was one of those unattainable places back in the day.
Desire is an incredible motivator. I mean true desire, not just namby-pamby, non-committal “wishing.” I believe it makes you work for something in sub-conscious ways. I hope that I am moved by it for the rest of my days.