Tuesday, Bolzano and Passo Sella
I set out from the hotel around 9am. My planned route was to ride all twisty back roads and make my way to Cortina d’ Ampezzo.
I took back roads out of Merano. When I say back roads, I mean roads not much wider than foot paths between steep terraced hills of vineyards and espaliated apples. The region is highly agricultural. The morning air is cool and crisp.
I left the hotel and wandered around a bit, trying to figure out which purple line on the GPS screen I was supposed to be following. My route starts and finishes in the same place, and I began the ride by following the purple line in the wrong direction. I got turned around, and left Merano through the hills above the town.
The road narrowed to 1½ lanes, and it was very interesting. The surrounding hills are beautiful in the morning light. There was almost no traffic. I was following a route I had put together before I left home. I wandered through the farms and tiny villages. About an hour out from the hotel, I came to a road barricade. The road on my route was closed for construction. I back-tracked to the last village I passed, and pulled into a parking lot.
I took my helmet off to reconnoiter and find a way around the closed road. The hills are a maze of small, paved, one-lane paths. I looked at the GPS unit, but couldn’t find a road that got me to where I needed to go. There didn’t seem to be any that got me off the mountain in my desired direction. My next way-point was Bolzano, where I planned to get lunch and gas.
Across the small parking lot was an orange bus. I think it was a school bus. The driver was sitting in the driver’s seat looking through the open door at me. I must have seemed a curious sight, franticaly pecking at the gadget in my hand, on a motorcycle with cameras hanging off it. I looked at the driver, who was watching me, and decided to give in and ask for directions. He didn’t understand much English, and spoke none. What he was speaking sounded like German, but not really. It was probably some local dialect. He watched me poking at the GPS and, with some very bad Italian, I managed to let him know I was trying to get to Bolzano. He described to me how I needed to go down the hill a bit, and turn left onto a small road. (Smaller? Really?) After going across a small wooden bridge, I would follow the road to the right. That would get me to a village named Avigna. Now Avigna was something I could see on the GPS unit, and from there I could get to Bolzano.
Without fail, when I’m lost on a motorcycle in the middle of nowhere, my fuel seems to shrink to near-critical, and I start to get hungry. I thanked the bus driver and departed and, with a bit of trepidation, turned left onto a small, narrow road. It turned out there were several small wooden bridges to cross, but his directions were solid. Within the hour I was in the hustle of downtown Bolzano.
I took a short break, and left Bolzano on a road perched on a hillside that parallels the main highway leading to Brenner Pass.
My route would take me north on this side of the valley, and then drop down and across the main highway, and then continue east into the hills again.
I continued on my route and followed the winding roads, village-to-village, until I started ascending the Dolomites.
The traffic started to get a little heavier, so I decided it would be a sight-seeing ride for a while.
The Dolomites are high, and very steep.
While on one road carved into the side of a cliff, I came around a curve to see a small helicopter windmilling, and an emergency crew attending to someone in a stretcher.
A cop was directing traffic around the scene. There were several bicyclists standing in the area looking distraught. Although I can’t be sure, I think a car came around a blind curve and pasted a bicyclist to the side of the rock wall. (Sign of the Cross and move on.)
I was sitting at the top of Passo Sella around 2 pm.
If I tried to make my full planned route, I wouldn’t arrive back in Merano until well after sundown. I had to take a short-cut and delete the end of the loop of the planned route.
There was heavy traffic in the ski villages but, when in Italy, you ride like an Italian. Lane splitting is the usual order of things here. If you’re on a bike, you simply weave around the traffic where you find room. When you see fifty yards of open space you gun it, then when you get to another jam, you grab a handful of brakes, and squeeze by. It can get sort of intense for someone who isn’t used to it, but the locals seem to do it without batting an eye.
After getting past Vigo di Fassa, my route was on a very nice, twisty hill road I followed to the highway, where I slabbed the last 20 minutes to Merano.
I still want to get east to Cortina d’ Ampezzo, so I will plan a route in that direction for another day.
Click on the picture below to go to the Garmin tracks player page.