Day 6 – “There is always an alternative”

When the police stopped us yesterday and told us not to ride on the forbidden roads, they told us “there is always an alternative”.

Today we spent a lot of time looking for alternatives. The official route took us down a forbidden road. The alternative bike route weaved back and forth across the highway, and frequently reached dead ends. Joe, who’s been quietly tending the needs of Andy H till now, totally rocked the situation. “Straight ahead, across the orchard” he yelled, and we all bombed between the neat rows of apple trees. When the path stopped at a river, quick as a flash Joe said: “Right, here’s what we are going to do. We are going to carry our bikes up those steps, walk across the motorway bridge, and go down the steps on the other side”. The plan worked perfectly.

The weather has changed dramatically. Hard to believe two days ago we were dunking in fountains to cool off in stifling heat. Today we donned all our warm cycling gear and were still cold. The roadside thermometers said 13 degrees, two days ago it was 31. It rained most of the day.

The descent down to Lake Constance was fast and fun then we cruised along the north bank looking across to the mountains to the south. It was like a September day on Lake Windermere; beautiful but occasionally a little bit trashy and very wet. We reached morning stop in a very elegant square where Germans looked askance at the van. Richard charmed them and chose a parking spot out of sight of the disturbed locals.

The ride to lunch was a long plod, as the weather deteriorated. The Tim Frank group stopped early and made their own arrangements. Lunch wasn’t the lazy, restful break of earlier days, it was a snatched baguette and then move on before getting cold. Bike riding became a bit like a job today. Even a short day with hardly any climbing left us weary.

We seemed to slip into Switzerland without noticing, and then, just a few hundred metres further on, arrived at the huge customs post of Liechtenstein. Andy B and I paused and looked at the border guards but they didn’t seem interested in us so we rolled on.

The hostel is run seemingly single-handedly by a young woman with a very direct manner! We were given our marching orders in no uncertain terms and we all settled into mostly 6-person dorms. Quick massed showers and then serve-yourself dinner dealt with quickly and efficiently.

As we look out of the hostel windows we are surrounded by mountains shrouded in cloud. Tomorrow’s forecast is for light snow at the pass, and low temperatures. There’s still doubt about whether a Stelvio ascent is feasible. There would be great disappointment if we had to call it off. We have all been looking forward to this for almost a year. There’s a heavy, expectant atmosphere as we anticipate the day ahead. Early night!

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