The longest day

We woke up to another wonderful day. Birds singing in the sunshine while the temperature was already 22 degrees early in the morning. We packed up and had a good breakfast. While packing we started chatting to a couple of Brits who were about to set off as well. They came here for 6 nights and were going around the passes from a single base rather than going along the whole road. We set off to the “Col de l’Iséran” which is the highest motorable pass in Europe with its height of 2770 meters. Attila told us right away that he’ll need fuel but we passed by every petrol station regardless heading for the mountains in a good pace. as we stopped at the Barrage de Tignes he caught up with the pace setters and started to scream with them. reportedly he can only do another 2 miles before running out of fuel. Ocsi’s argument on the other hand was that he thought there will be further stations along the road. everyone got involved – even the likes of me – despite the fact that we just wanted to sort things out between them. 

The group split in two. As I was also low on fuel I used the GPS to locate a pump which was in Tignes, a mere 3.6 km off the main road. Csabi, John and Attila joined in while Ocsi and Zsolt headed back to Bourg-Saint-Maurice to fuel up. During / after refuelling tension eased a bit. We had a coffee and packed up some water while Csabi called the others and agreed on a meeting at the dam. As I was still feeling offended as a result of the unjustified insults I decided to continue alone.
The road down from Tignes is also magnificent. 

 

The view on the lac du Chevril is amazing. I often stopped to take pictures on my way to Val d’Isere. Once there I struggled a bit with the GPS as the road coming out is one way in the opposite direction but there is a detour which is difficult to miss once you follow the signs. I stopped at the top of the main street for a coffee and I collected the necessary stickers to show off I’ve been here and off I went to the Col de L’Iséran. The view was astonishing and the weather was just great. I took some pics and bought some stickers and a t-shirt before moving on. I switched on the helmet cam to make sure I don’t miss a single bit of this lovely scenery.
At the bottom of the road lies Bonneval-sur-Arc. It is a surprisingly beautiful little village. The majority of the buildings and the church are covered in slate and were built more than two centuries ago. Small roads and alleys wind through the settlement. A small break, the compulsory stickers and I was on my way again.   

 

I continues along road D1006 following long, nice bends that ran along rivers and the odd middle-age castles before continuing on road 70 to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne where I turned in the direction of Col du Galibier. The road was twisty but wonderful and both me and the machine liked it. In Valloire I stopped again as I wanted to have some lunch. There is a tavern on the top of the mountain with a huge parking lot. So I parked my bike and settled in the shade with the maps in my hand. 

I took a panini, a lemonade and a coffee while waiting for the others who followed in my trails not far behind be. As it turned out they were delayed as they followed the GPS that turned them around before entering Val d’Isere so they went back to the dam before realising there must me another way… But they made it at the end. We had lunch and discussed the rest of today’s journey. We set off in the direction of Briancon. We continued through the town on road 902 which was again wonderful. Not long after that Ocsi’s speed started to drop dramatically which was rather strange and it quickly became obvious he has a flat tire. Great. It is the 14th of July. National holiday in France. Everything is closed and we are in the middle of nowhere in the Alps. We stopped but as we didn’t see any wholes we just inflated the tire and moved on. He could just make 2 kilometers before running flat again. We stopped but the side of the road near and abandoned building next to a river in a ravine. Although we now had spare tubes they didn’t bring along any tools for tire repairs. 

To our luck there were a couple of guys working by the side of the road so I went to ask them for directions to the nearest garage. They enlightened me that I will not find anything within a 15 km radius and even those will not open before tomorrow. But they offered their help. They told me to get the wheel off, wait for them to finish their work and then follow them up to the village where they have the necessary tools. We did so (again poor Csabi). We put the wheel on their ATW and four of us followed them to the village on the top of the mountain leaving Attila and John with the remaining bikes. From the valley we couldn’t even see there is a village here. The road up was a tiny gravel path which must be a real pain in winter. We arrived in Montbardon. By the time we got there they already prepared the tools and a compressor. Csabi changed the tubes and we cleaned in the cold mountain spring running in the middle of the village. We thanked them for their help (€20) and headed back to mount the wheel.
It didn’t take a lot of thinking to realise: if we want to make it to Antibes tonight  – where we had rooms booked – we have to skip the remaining passes even if it is a tough decision. We headed for road 94 though the lake Serre Poncon. A bridge runs though the middle of the lake and the scenery was awesome as the sun set behind the water. We followed on highway A51 for a short 40 km ride then turned on road 85. In order to shorten the distance we took some smaller but twisty roads (D4085, D6085) to Antibes where we arrived at 2.00 am. The road was a bit tough. We road in darkness and even encountered reindeers and foxes running in front of us but we just pushed on. Everyone was exhausted and only wanted somewhere to crash. John suffered a panic streak. He wouldn’t go above 60 km/h in the dark. His helmet shield was lightly smoked which didn’t help a clear vision during the night and that made things worse. although Csabi proposed to exchange helmets to help him but he swore that Csabi’s helmet has a dark cross-line that obscure the field of vision. None of us saw it however… 
On the other hand Ocsi was in a hurry so he constantly went in front which is not an issue in normal circumstances but neither did he know the way nor did he have a GPS to show the way. There was miscommunication even when we were pushing our horns like mad to signal him a turn… but he waved back as he thought we were trying to bring his attention to the two girls walking beside the road. He even put his thumbs up and went on straight…
We still made it at the end to everyone’s comfort. 
In Antibes we had to find a friend (Andre) who organised our hotel but the GPS would not find the address. We got help over the phone. By the time we arrived to his place it has been 17 hours we spent on the bikes. Everyone was exhausted. At this point we would have happily slept on the street. Even at this time of day (or night) it was 25 degrees. 
Andre prepared “dinner” for us and even had cold beer. Once we finished every bit of the food he took us to the hotel. 
It was a usual Formule 1 hotel where we had 2 three-bed rooms with simple but practical furnishing but there was little space for all our stuff in there. We took our luggage, had our showers and went to bed…at 04.15 am! Nice dreams…

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