Bring Me Sunshine….

When I used to ride a bike for sport, I used to have trouble with wind. No, not that sort, the sort that blows the wrong way when you really, really don’t need it. Nowadays, I seem to be having problems with rain.

Yes, I know (because so many people tell me) that going on a 2,500 mile jaunt around the Alps in a completely open top sports car is asking for trouble. The “trouble” I was warned of included sunburn and dehydration. Right now, I’d give anything for them! We’re about halfway through the trip, and the 450 miles we’ve covered in the last two days on the road have mostly been in quite abominable rain.

We had a day off while staying high in the hills above the Italian Lakes. It was warm and sunny all day. Yesterday, we were woken at 7am by thunder, and set off just after a deluge. Our route was mostly on remote mountain roads in the superb area south from the Brenta Dolomites. Central to it was the Passo Crocedomini which included about 25 miles of single track road with hardly any passing places. Happily, save for (or because of) steady rain, we had it to ourselves just about. Near Lago d’Idro and on as far as Trento, driving the Grinnall was rather like driving a motorised canoe. We were clearly just following the tail of some very severe rain indeed.

I run a web site about the Great Dolomite Road, which runs from Bolzano to Cortina d’Ampezzo. You can read all about this fascinating route here. Over the years, I have spent many hours on The Road, as I refer to it, but I had never driven it entirely from end to end in one go, until yesterday. I’d always regarded it as too much fun to be rushed like that. I still do, but some re-planning of our trip left me free of the remainder of the party for 36 hours, and able to revise part of the route to Calalzo, south of Cortina, so doing an end-to-end on The Road became a reality.

The clincher was having the chance to video the whole route from the car, which I did, in sections. It had basically stopped raining for much of the time, the roads were wet, and the cloud down pretty low. Stay tuned for those video clips being YouTubed when I get home, and linked to the web site. They came out quite well.

We had a dry night, but just as we were loading the Grinnall for today’s relatively short 180 miler to Kaprun, near the Grossglockner in Austria, the rain began. Half an hour later, it was raining with real menace. When the Grinnall is moving, it’s amazing how dry one stays inside it. A waterproof jacket and trousers are useful, and headgear that will cope with the wet, of course. It’s when you slow down or stop that you suffer worst. Saturday traffic on the Italian/Austrian border meant we did a lot of tediously slow driving. All the while, the weather was getting worse. Much worse. We basically opted to keep going, and battled on through near-flooded main roads.

Our route was over the Felbertauernstrasse, which has a (we thought) useful toll tunnel. We hadn’t counted on major roadworks leading to the tunnel, nor on the queues these caused. It is as well that the floor-pan of the Grinnall incorporates two drain holes, though I think that at times, as much standing water on the roads got in through these as drained out. Then came a combination of mountain roads, traffic, thick fog, pouring rain, and steamed up goggles. And, of course, nowhere to shelter. It was very scary, but the GPS was counting down the miles. Water had begun to seep in through the neck of my jacket, and when we stopped briefly under the awning of a closed petrol station, I realised I was shivering. The temperature had fallen to 5 degrees C. On an August Saturday afternoon.

But you know the rest. We made it. There will be more rain, but we’re promised a “not bad” day soon.


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