Today we were off on the road again to the Dolomites. We were starting to notice certain patterns as we bounced back and forth this way between Austria and Italy. Austria had better showers and well-sealing windows; Italy had better food. The roads were better in Austria, but filled with healthy-looking cyclists only in Italy. Every town in Austria no matter how small had its straight-steepled church,
whereas the places the Italians worshipped in were more varied.
Both sides of the border shared a passion for espresso coffee, but the quality thereof varied independently of which side you were on.
Today we threw a third country into the mix, though only passing through it for now: Switzerland. Judging from what we saw on the side of the road, the Swiss are a fairly cheerless lot. Whereas in Austria and Italy both, every small town threw up nice-looking cafes and restaurants on the side of the road to tempt motorcyclists, drivers, and cyclists alike, in Switzerland there was nothing of the sort even in the larger towns. Not much business of any kind actually, just blank buildings. The speed limits on the highway sections were low, and you got the feeling they were enforced. The only signs of leisure activity we could detect were white-water paddlers, loading and unloading kayaks and rafts at seemingly every other parking area along the road. It is hard to think of the Alps without thinking of Switzerland, but maybe there was a reason our own trip was spending only one night in the country, and that just passing through on the way to France.
At any rate, the day started out and promised to be almost entirely rainy. In the rain, the tables were turned between cars and motorcyclists on the Alpine roads. On the tighter curves cars suddenly have the advantage, but it doesn’t quite make up for the ability of motorcycles to accelerate out of them, or the enthusiasm that all riders here have for speed. But that’s true in a light to moderate rain. If it really starts coming down then the cars start to pass the motorcyclists. Eventually the latter will just pull over if things get really out of hand, as with the hailstorm a couple of days before.
There had been plans for much pass riding on the way to Livigno, including the famous “Stelvio”, a high pass between Austria and Italy. But the rain dampened most of our group’s appetites for these, and we ended up taking mainly tunnels instead. We took a number that were several kilometers long, including a remarkable one from Switzerland to Italy that was just a few meters wide and permitted traffic one way at a time. Unfortunately we did have to fork over twelve euros apiece for the privilege of using that one.