July 3rd to July 14th
~250 km, 1600 m elevation - biked with the whole family
Follows: Norway part VI: Rallarvegen
See also: Our European Bike tour - people and gear
We flew from Bergen to Zurich, and my bicycle never appeared in the luggage area. This had us pretty worried as it was the only bicycle we'd have trouble replacing, especially mid-trip, and it wasn't clear to us even we could manage to transport all our stuff and kids without a cargo bike. Still, if they were going to loose a bicycle, this was a good time for it - we had a day of slack and were staying with friends Joanna and Walter. It was nice to feel like we were at home for a change after so long on the road, and have an excuse to hang out for a day and relax. Fortunately my bicycle was later delivered to their house... it looked like the box had been dropped down the stairs and skewered with a forklift, but fortunately there was no damage to the bicycle or any missing parts.
From Zurich we took the train to St. Moritz, which was a bit of a fiasco with a quick changeover that had Line and I briefly separated but fortunately ended up in the same car before the train left the station. The cargo bike barely fit on, and only did so since it's collapsable to a normal wheelbase.
In St. Moritz we hung out for a few days and saw the sights while we waited for Line's old friend Lene and her brother Peter to join us. We spend our first night at Camp Silvaplana, that luckily had some great communal areas where we could hide from the evening rain. Over the next couple of days we biked around the lakes, played in playgrounds, and climbed some of the local mountains - being more careful now for the time as it actually gets dark at night. I climbed Piz Surlej early in the morning, and after biking to our second campground, Morteratsch, in the beautiful Bernina Valley Line went up to the toe of the glacier at Ova da Monteratsch. The next day we both climbed Munt Pers - I got a head start and went via the climbing route "Senda Dal Diavel", and Line took the bike with the kids up the hill to the lifts and joined me at the top. I was able to complete it in 1h 40m from the base station, even though in the wild the climb probably would have taken me all day - the excellent route marks kept things to fourth class with no routefinding, and although I didn't use the chains it was nice to know they were there should I need to turn back and downclimb. Sure different than alpine climbing back home. Then I took the kids back to the valley while Line biked over to and climbed Piz Campasc.
Back in the valley we met up with our old friends Lisa and Jul, who had moved back to Innsbruck and would be joining us with their kids and some additional friends. We had a big BBQ dinner beside the river, and Line arrived just in time to eat. While hanging around chatting after dinner Line suddenly jumped up and yelled "Where's N?!?!". At first I thought she was joking, but I could tell from the fear in her eyes that she thought N was in the river. In reality, N was attached to Line's breast happily suckling away.
The next days were great, we basically followed the Inn river via a marked bike route all the way to Innsbruck. Everything was well signed, and for the most part on separated bike routes or sideroads. It wasn't all downhill, but it was often downhill. Although there were a few tough climbs up the sides of the valley, these always seem to lead to these beautiful and cute little villages. Since we let F bike whenever she felt like it - which was by this time pretty often - we often fell behind the other families. Interestingly, they seemed like they were always worried whether or not they could keep up to us - despite us continuously being the last ones to arrive in camp. Lene and Peter had similar worries, which often resulted in us not biking together as often as we might have liked. We even had a couple instances where Line and I got separated, usually because she was running ahead/behind to hit a grocery store or reach a campground before closing, but sometimes just because I wanted to get ahead a bit on the uphills so F could ride more by herself while Line caught up. In the most extreme case Line actually missed the entry back onto the bike route between towns and passed us on the highway; when Line never caught up, F and I went back looking for her - all the way to the junction where we'd split. Fortunately we were able to borrow a cell phone from some people sitting at a cafe and managed to get ahold of Line.
Despite not getting much bike time together, it was really nice to hang out with our old friends in camp and see our kids playing together, and I'm very glad they were all able to join us. F didn't mind that their kids all spoke German. She just spoke Danish to them, I guess since that sounds more like German than English, and is used to being around kids that don't speak the same language anyway. F was the oldest kid, and the only one with her own bicycle.
The one "gap" in the bike route was right on the border between Austria and Switzerland. On that stretch the only road (the highway) goes through a narrow slot canyon and there is no way around it. We knew it was coming, and Lisa had arranged with the bus company to take us - 10 touring bikes, 1 kids bike, and 4 chariots - for the few kilometres before the good cycling started up again. We had our doubts. The backup plan was that Line would take the kids on the bus, preferably with at least the chariot, and I would just ride the cargo bike with all the stuff and bicycles as required. When the driver initially showed up he said no, but Lisa complained that the bus company said they'd do it, and we had reservations. Out of nowhere a bike trailer appeared and we collapsed the chariots and stowed them in a big pile in the wheelchair area. My bike didn't fit on the trailer, owing to the small wheels, but I was able to stand it upright inside the bus. It was close, but we all fit on the bus.
On the Austrian side of the border the view became less dramatic and it often felt more urban, but the biking also got easier. We took a day off in Prutz. We spend the day playing at the different playgrounds along the Fendels Bergbahn. They really do make excellent playgrounds in the Alps. You can always find a playground to stop at, and they are always awesome. F and Line decided to take a mountain cart down to the mid-station. After a day of hard play in the mountain we all went for a swim at Badeseen Ried.
We all biked into Innsbruck together. It was a very special experience to finish this leg of our trip with our friends. They would have not gone on this bike trip without us, so it was great to feel their enthusiasm biking into Innsbruck. We celebrated with a picture in the heart of town, and ice cream and beer of course. After saying our goodbyes we headed to Lisa's place to store our bikes and most of our gear. Lisa's parents had very generously offered us a room in their house just South of Innsbruck. We took the bus up there, and were greeted with a lovely home-cooked meal. We spend a day in Innsbruck with Lisa, Julian and their daughters. We went for a small hike, had a traditional mountain hut lunch, and lounged in Julian's parents backyard and pool. At the end of the day we headed back to Lisa's parents house where Line's mom and her partner had arrived - ready to join us for the last part of our journey.
I also truly mangled my rear-derailleur on this leg of the trip. Somehow, despite it hanging almost all the way to the ground, it managed to survive all of Norway... but on one section that was under construction my tire sank into some loose rocks and all 400 lbs of bicycle, kids, and gear was stopped by my derailleur hitting a rock. With Peter's help I managed to bend and adjust it more-or-less back into shape such that I could still access a few gears (including the lowest), and finished the trip like that.
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