May 28th: Switzerland!
Well today was pretty much indescribable. We woke up at an awesome campsite in the hills of southern Germany pretty close to the Swiss border. We were super excited to get into the alps that we knew were only a few miles away. We still hadn't seen any mountains but the hills were getting bigger and the forest was changing. After an awesome breakfast we saddled up and headed south.
Breakfast in Southern Germany
The plan was to make it to Interlaken as we had heard great things about it. Other than that though we honestly didn't have any idea what to expect out of Switzerland. Well it completely blew all of my expectations out of the water. The mountains were incredible, the towns unique, the roads pristine, the cows were happy, the sun was shining, and I couldn't stop laughing the entire day because it was all overwhelmingly awesome. Before we made it into the real heart of the alps we stopped off at a few motorcycle stores to try and grab a new chain for James. Two motorcycle stores and an eventful u-turn/motorcycle drop later we had the chain and were ready to take on Switzerland. We all were really excited when the massive mountains started popping up on the horizon, and all day we couldn't believe how prominent they were.
Cruising through the countryside
Just before we made it to Interlaken there was a mountain pass that we got pretty excited for. It was breathtaking, and I don't think I could have been happier. Dropping back down into Interlaken was equally mind blowing. The town sits in between two aqua blue lakes with some of the biggest mountains in the alps rising over it. We were excited to see the Eiger in person as it has such a reputation. We stopped off for a quick dip in the lake and made friends with a swan before heading to lake Geneva to try and find a place to camp for the night.
Michael's new friend in Interlaken
The ride there was awesome backcountry roads that were really smooth and winding through the valleys. Every few kilometers there would be a small town to pass through which was also cool to see. We went on all the back roads because there are a ton of toll roads in Switzerland, and we did not want to pay to ride through it. This turned out to be a great decision because we went through some of the most beautiful countryside I've ever seen. Off all the countries I've been to Switzerland has been the most beautiful and pristine of them all. By the time we made it to lake Geneva we were pretty tired and were a little skeptical of finding a place to camp because of how urban it looked to be. Michael found a road on Google maps that looked pretty windy and went a ways up a mountain. We decided to try out luck at finding something off that road. It was a super windy and narrow road with what appeared to be 1 way bridges every few hundred meters. We took a look at one of the bridges to see if it was manageable for a QUICKjump. It appeared to be so. We eventually found a little dirt road off the side and ripped up it. I was loaded down pretty heavy with myself, Sarah and all of our gear so I was sliding out up the steep dirt path. I ended up stopping just short of the top and toppled over as my brakes locked up and couldn't handle all the weight. It was my first topple of the trip, but I feel that I gave it my best. Turns out we found an awesome campsite part of the way up a mountain and looking out over lake Geneva, and the little towns surrounding it. Not to mention a few more mountains popping out of the lake. We cooked up an awesome dinner of German spatzle from Aldi, and some weird cheese sausage we found on sale. It was a great end to an incredible day, and I am falling asleep with a big smile on my face.
May 29th: Lake Geneva to Chamonix
We awoke above the town of St Gingolph in a beautiful forest and a great view of lake Geneva. After an early start and wrestling the bikes down the steep and rocky road we were on our way to Annecy, France where the QUICKjump awaited us. The road transitioned from mountainous to rolling hills and the temperature began to rise. We arrived early in Annecy and set up camp in a McDonalds (as usual) to get wifi and connect with Lawrence who we had the QUICKjump shipped to. The cheap espresso's and clean bathrooms were much needed and I took some time to do a wipe-down to get some of the dust off. Upon connecting with Lawrence, we headed down to a cafe on the shore of Lake Annecy. We were treated to a nice refreshing beer while catching Lawrence up on our plans for the QUICKjump. We also get some excellent advice for camping and our time in Chamonix. After some pictures we parted ways with Lawrence and headed for the hills. I had the pleasure of having our new companion, the QUICKjump, strapped on my passenger seat and after a bit of trial and error and some getting used to I could hardly tell it was there.
Ceremonial passing of the QUICKjump at lake Annecy
As we headed to the mountains the temperature once again began to drop to a refreshing temperature. Giant rocky wall began popping out of the hills and every turn revealed a more dramatic landscape. We stopped at a bakery for some food then headed to a market to get food for dinner. Continuing on towards Chamonix, giant crags began to reveal themselves. Mt. Blanc in particular was extremely prominent as it was massive (15800 ft tall) and covered in snow. Finding a balance between focusing on the narrow and very windy roads and taking in the breathe taking scenery was becoming increasingly difficult. As the sun began to drop we headed up a road that wound up a very steep hillside dotted with traditional Alps looking houses that eventually dropped us at a ski resort.
The road continued past the ski resort and we were soon on a dirt road that looked more like a hiking trail than a road. The road become much bumpier and steeper and after a particularly steep section the first accident occurred. I let my focus drift from the road to the scenery and drove directly into a rutted out mud puddle which resulted in my rear tire washing out leaving my bike stuck halfway in the puddle. As gas started pouring out of my sideways tank I pushed and pulled and did my best to get the bike upright all while yelling for help. Eventually Graham was able to come to my aid and we got the muddy, but otherwise fine, bike upright. We were continuing on when the second accident of the night occurred. I was following Michael when he went through a small trench with a bit more speed than his top box could handle and off it popped. We examined the damage and found that the rear OEM mounting plate had broken at each of the screw locations, completely separating the top box from the bike. The Givi box held strong and even protected a bottle of wine inside of it. Up ahead the road opened up onto a meadow with a spectacular view of Mt. Blanc and was the perfect camping spot so we scooted ahead and carried the disconnected top box to the meadow where we would camp for the night.
As we set up camp Michael went off and explored a ski lift that was across the meadow and it wasn't long before we were convinced that we had to at least try to QUICKjump off of the tower. Part way through enjoying dinner it began to rain and everyone scattered to set up hammocks and waterproof the bikes and gear. Upon finishing we returned to finish eating the dinner and drink some more wine. The rain while a bit of a hassle at first, felt great and made a soothing sound on the hammock as I fell asleep.
May 30th: First QJ
My alarm went off at 5 am. I stuck my hand out of the hammock to check if it was still raining, nothing. I didn't have an excuse to go back to bed. Instead of forcing myself to crawl out of the hammock, I turned my alarm off and rolled over with all intention of going back to sleep. I couldn't. The thought of the opportunity woke me up, I unzipped my bug net and rolled out of the hammock. Once I was out from under my rain tarp the reason for waking up at 5 blasted me in the face. Mount Blanc was right in front of me with the sun rising just beyond it. The ski lift we'd scoped looked just as beautiful and perfect for a QUICKjump as the day before. I boiled water for instant coffee and after a cup each of some sour and strong coffee we set off to rig up our first, of hopefully many, QUICKjump XL's (QJXL).
James dangling from the ski lift
Immediately after climbing the ski lift we noticed smoke coming from one of the nearest huts. Our nervous excitement quickly turned into adrenaline as we didn't know the legality of what we were doing. The tower was 35 feet tall and minimum QJXL install height is 54 feet. The drop analysis James and I have done for the QJXL showed that our landing would be fast, but we would be okay.
The short install height, the unknown legality of the situation and the beautiful backdrop made for an exciting and unforgettable QUICKjumo experience. It was, hands down, the most exhilarating QJXL I have ever done.
Looking a little too excited about the jump
The whole occurrence only took us 20 minutes (set up, jumping and tear down) and we immediately hiked back to our camp to cook up a rewarding egg and tomato breakfast.
From our campsite, we ventured into Chamonix to find a hardware store to fix my top case mount. I spent 35 euro on joist brackets, nuts and bolts. I wasn't confident in the materials I was buying but I still needed to try. After materials were bought, we ran a couple more errands and eventually found a side road from Chamonix that lead to a ski resort. We followed it, and after some highly exhilarating off road riding, we found ourselves in the middle of a ski run with another gorgeous view of the alps.
Mountain Man James working to "get a fire going"
I could not believe our luck, two nights in a row we had the best views of mountains I have ever seen. We had our motorcycles to thank for that. All three of them, Hans, Seabie and Jolene had taken us to places that few cars or motorcycles ever could. Other than some minor faults (broken top case mount for example), they have not complained. My affection for Hans continues to grow daily, but that night my admiration was at an all time high.
Hans, Jolene, and Seabie (left to right) looking majestic after a hard day
I tried to fix the top case mount, but after spending 45 minutes punching 5 holes in a steel joist with a flat head and hatchet I gave up. At that rate it would take me ~5 hours with no guarantee it would work. I decided to try and find a replacement part instead of continuing to try and build my own.
May 31st: Via Ferrata and QUICKjump Chamonix
We woke up this morning to a wonderful view of Mont Blanc from the tent. Michael and James were in the few trees that were around in there hammocks. Me and Sarah were up first, and there was not a single cloud in the sky. We had a nice relaxed morning cooking breakfast and making some espresso in the mocha pot for the first time on the trip.
Not a bad view to wake up to
After we packed up we rode back down the road to the via Ferrata above passy. The parking lot looked pretty crowded but we wanted to give it a go anyway. We hiked up to the start of the route, and there as a small line waiting to get on. This line continued the whole route, and a 2 hour via Ferrata turned into a 3 hour via Ferrata. The amount of people there made it a little less thrilling, but the views were still incredible and we had a good time regardless.
Via Feratta above Passy
The via Ferrata took us longer than we expected, and by the end we were all pretty hungry. We had to return Sarah's harness in Chamonix so we rode back that way to grab lunch as well. We had briefly seen a bridge the day before that might work for a quick jump so we looked for the turn off on the way back. It looked pretty manageable and we planned to check it out after lunch. We were burned, hot and hungry so we decided to get a cone with 10 scoops of ice cream and split it. It was pretty awesome and definitely delicious. After an hour or so taking advantage of the wifi at McDonald's we headed back towards passy to check out the bridge we had seen before. We turned down the wrong road and got cutoff by a landslide that went straight across the road. We circled back and found a different way to the bridge on the other side of the river. It was a perfect spot with a beautiful mountain and pristine water beneath. We set up the QUICKjump pretty quickly, and within 30 minutes we were all jumping off the bridge. The fall was a little farther than we expected so the first jump was pretty exhilarating. We got all the angles with the go pros and camera and then we packed it all up.
As we were getting the bikes ready to go we discussed the possibility of keeping the QUICKjump until Turkey, and then shipping it off to Bangkok from there. We decided that carrying it that far won’t be as much of a hassle as we originally thought so we went for it. Now we will have the possibility of setting it up on anything we find along the way, and we aren't really tied to Ankara in Turkey. This will save us quite a bit of time as we now don't have to spend a day picking it up, finding a spot, setting it up, and then taking it back again. We were all pretty stoked on our decision. Setting up the QUICKjump ate up the rest of our sunlight, and we had to find a camp spot in the dark. We ended up crashing in a small patch of trees near the hydro plant. We were all exhausted from a long day and passed out pretty quick.
6/1: Chamonix to Cervenia
We awoke early to avoid too many weird looks and inquiries about the somewhat questionable camping spot next to the hydroelectric plant we had found. We cruised back into Chamonix to visit our favorite McDonalds where we were becoming regulars. Before setting up shop at McDonalds to get some photos loaded and blogging done, we visited a small Cafe called "Bucks" for a breakfast of a baguette with jam, a croissant, orange juice and an espresso. After getting caught up we grabbed a bite to eat at McDonalds and got on the road towards Italy. The beautiful roads made the drive go fast and we quickly made it back into Switzerland where we got gas and made a few calls about ordering motorcycle parts. We then headed towards Italy over the St. Bernard pass. We had been warned that the pass was closed and we would have to take the tunnel for a toll but when we arrived at the tunnel we decided to ignore the closed signs and head as far up the pass as we could. We wound our way up above tree-line and were soon riding next to large walls of snow. At the top of the pass we found a almost deserted hotel and a very snowy section of road. From the hotel you could see the other side of the snowy section as well as the Italian side of the pass. The snowy section was in the process of being dug out and there were some very solid tracks leading about halfway over the 200 meter snowy section. After a long debate we decided that attempting the ride over the snow would end badly for us there was a soft section of snow where we almost certainly would have gotten stuck. Turning back we took the tunnel for a hefty 17 euro and were soon in Italy.
Top of st. Bernard Pass
We road down into the Aosta valley before turning and riding towards Breuil-Cervinia and the Matterhorn. Once again we found ourselves winding up a beautiful mountain road into some misty mountains. Just below Breuil -Cervinia we began exploring the back roads for a place to make camp. While turning around on a bumpy road that ended at a golf course the headset blew up with a string of curse words as Graham and Sarah toppled over. A bit bruised but ok, we continued on to another dirt road that lead to a seemingly deserted bar where we found a nice hidden grassy hill. We set up hammocks and made some dinner while looking for glimpses of the Matterhorn and other dramatic mountains through the fog. The cold weather made bed extra appealing and it wasn't long before we were crawling into bed to read. Reading was becoming difficult as we usually were not in bed until 11 and usually exhausted so only a page or two was read before I was struggling to keep my eyes open.
"Pinky's out" enjoying the first Italian Capacino in Breuil-Cervinia