It’s All Fun and Games Until Somebody Starts Crying

Posted by piphunt on September 13, 2010 in Adventures of Pip, Where in the World is Pip? |

“You’re riding your bike?! You mean, like, push bikes?”
“Em, yes, push bikes. I am actually going to pedal”
“Across Tirol? What are you, mad?”
“I hope not, I didn’t think it would be that difficult.”
If difficult is spending five weeks in different Tirolian hotel rooms with your mother, than yes, this trip was difficult. Luckily, my mother isn’t too difficult, and being crammed into tiny French hotel rooms and pedaling day after day aren’t a recipe for disaster in my family. Serious hunger, tiredness, and moodiness, maybe, but not a complete disaster. Not yet anyway.
It’s day 12, we’re half way through the trip and tensions are mounting. The night before, we arrived in Interlaken, exhausted, hungry, and disgruntled. There isn’t a single bed in town. It’s the Interlaken Marathon over the weekend and everything in the valley is booked. It just started raining. Not just a drizzle or a drop, but a full blown downpour.
“There is a room available in the next town over. It’s 4 kilometers,” suggests the gentleman at the Tourist Information Office.
“Fine we’ll take it,” my mother responds. “Put your jacket on. We’re riding just a little bit further”.
After a little detour (or getting lost) we make it to the Hotel Heimat in Wilderswil; totally over riding our bikes. But at least we have beds, some dinner, and a place to shower.
We spend the night pouring over maps, googling trains, buses, roads, and trying to figure out how to get out of this valley and into France. There aren’t a lot of options. Apparently the road ends near here. It was possible to ride 50 more kilometers but then it ends, at the base of a massive mountain, with a train tunnel leading through to Martigny. But from Martigny, the cycling doesn’t look too good either; busy roads and one massive pass into France, the Col du Forclaz. This pass even makes the likes of Andy Schleck shiver. It’s big, steep, and unforgiving.
But before we even made it to that steep “hill”, however, we had a shorter one to overcome.
We decided to ride as far as we could, then jump on a series of trains to Chamonix. A flat tire, wonky back brakes, and sore bodies don’t allow for fast progress. We didn’t even make it the four kilometers back to Interlacken before running into our first delay. Mum’s back brake pads needed changing. A quick fix, until closer inspection. We took it into a bike shop to have a pro take a look. One hour, a plate of rosti, speck, kase, and speigeli later, we find out it is safe to ride, but won’t last long; the spring needs replacing.
Jim’s knees hurt from hiking to the Kleine Schinegg the day before, my calfs are protesting from my impromptu run, and the road keeps on going up, and up and up.
The final straw? Suddenly the bike path dissolves into gravel. Wanderwage? Where is my cyclepath? It starts climbing, and climbing and climbing. Have you ever pushed a bike up a 15% pitch with panniers? I don’t recommend it. One summer a couple of years ago, Jim passed a man dragging a roller suitcase over West Maroon Pass. Was he lost? We’re not entirely sure, but I am sure that the same thought crossed the mind of each mountain biker when they descended past three tourists with weighed down panniers on road bikes. I could of at least used a pair of cross tires, although I probably still would of pushed my bike up the hill.
The icing on the cake? We finally arrived in Kandersteg, knackered, starving, and hours past beer o’clock. The sleepy town we anticipated was a full blown resort, with five star hotels, and lots of tourists. So many tourists, that every single bed in town was booked, again. Finally, after trying hotel after hotel, one concierge took pity on us, and called everywhere he could think of. The one place in town with rooms was 2 kilometers out of town, the Ponsion Crystal, or “McDoris” as it is locally nicknamed. Every cliche of horrific cheap European hotels came to mind when I walked in. The walls could of very well fallen down. But at least it was clean, there was a bed, and a train chugging by every half our, feet from my window. Even Zanax couldn’t ensure a good nights rest. Ugh.

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