Covid Escape

Shelter in Place – or at least in Switzerland

August 15-16, 2020
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Day 1 ** Day 2

The year 2020 was one for the books, as everyone in the world knows. Dan and I were fortunate that we managed to get an awesome holiday in this year before everything fell to pieces. But those three weeks in Africa would have to sustain use for while.

We went into “lock down” in mid-March, which in Switzerland was pretty much “stay home unless you need to go out”. While we could wander the town and the surroundings, we generally stayed close to home.

Until now.

Dan had a mountain outing planned with work for three days so I thought that this would be a great time for an overnight motorcycle ride. But where to go? I waited until the last minute, checking the weather maps and the current pandemic restrictions. The whole continent was burning up, so I made my choice based on two things: the Alps are cooler and I would stay within the safety of my own country. Friday afternoon I reserved a room in a hotel in the mountains and was excited to began my mini-adventure.

Saturday morning

I packed up the bike with minimal items. I didn’t plan to do much more than ride, relax at my mountain hotel, and ride home. My first planned stop was for lunch in Lausanne but before then I had no particular route. I burned down the motorway until about Bern and then jumped on to some smaller roads.

The empty roads of Saturday morning

The views near Payerne

I was on some smaller roads and wasn’t really sure where I was. It turned out I was near the historic town of Avenches. And Avenches turned out to be a pretty cool little place. What had caught my eye was the old Roman amphitheatre, built about 2,000 years ago. I was intrigued enough to park the bike and do a quick walk around.

Monument to the first flight in Switzerland of an aircraft built and flown by a Swiss citizen

A full exploration of Avenches would have to wait for another day. I had a date for lunch!

While I avoided the motorway to Lausanne, I can’t say that the side roads I were on were much more interesting. They were a lot slower, too.

Finally Lausanne!

And my lunch date with Five Guys

I’m a fan of Five Guys in the US and when I learned that there are two restaurants here in Switzerland (Lausanne & Geneva), I tucked that information into the back of my mind. I don’t get to this area of Switzerland very often, let alone conveniently close to lunch time, so I made it a deliberate point to stop.

I expected high prices, but I was still shocked that my usual meal was twice what it would cost in the US. It was good, yes. But was it worth it? Eh, I doubt I’ll expend any effort to come again.

After lunch I made the mistake of not retreating to the motorway and instead figured that I would enjoy the shoreline of Lac Leman. This was a bad idea, as it also seemed to be the same idea that everyone else had. Traffic through the towns along the way was terrible!

Pre-traffic open roads

The vineyards of Switzerland

A quick stop for gas along the way

Castles of Sion

I was on my way to Simplon Pass. The route there was fast and easy and the weather was the nicest I’ve ever experienced at this pass.

Gaining elevation

Napoleon Bonaparte broke ground for this hotel in 1813

The Eagle at Simplon Pass (World War II monument)

The Old Hospice, built in 1650

Heading down the other side

From mule-track to modern road; the Gondoschlucht (gorge) doesn’t give much room to work with

Belle Italia!

Mysterious openings in the rock walls!

One of many abandoned buildings along this stretch

The town of Re Val Vigezzo, home of the Sanctuary of Our Lady Blood

And then the fun started. I’ve been on this stretch of road before and it was well worth experiencing again. I mean, just look at this:

Which looks like this from the ground:

Not much room in the corners

Back in Switzerland <3

Many people were enjoying the riverbanks today (it was about 32°C)

After thoroughly enjoying this little stretch of road I came out above the city of Locarno. From here I knew that it would be mostly a hot droning north to my destination. My bum was already sore and I was ready to be done for the day.

And drone I did. Through a complex route of roundabouts and left turns, I finally reached the motorway for the almost-final leg of my day’s ride. An exit at Biasca took me onto some side roads and another stop for gas. I hadn’t actually filled up at my previous stop, as the fuel price was much too high for my liking. But now I topped off the tank and got back on the bike.

Fuel stop

I almost stopped to order Dan an Iron Man suit

There was one more pass to cross over today, Lukmanier Pass. It isn’t much of a pass: not very high (less than 2,000 meters) and not very dramatic, but I really like the landscape on the southern side. The “top” of the pass isn’t much to look at, but people had left their cars there while they enjoyed the region

Descending in the fading light

Awesome geology along the valley

My destination (far left on the photo)

Not a bad way to end the day’s ride

Cuntera Hotel (white, center building)

The owners of the hotel were very pleasant and my room was just down the hall. I was actually very happy with my room: good size, my own balcony and a great view.

I had a very light dinner (I was still full from my lunch stop!), and while I had a headache (due to the heat and probably dehydration) I took a little wander around the “village”. There really wasn’t much to see, but I saw what I could!

Beyond the chapel was a wanderweg (hiking trail) and they did a nice job of spanning one of those chasms

View from half way across the bridge

Self service local goodies

It was early, but I ended up retiring to my room early. My headache was still thumping and the big empty bed was too inviting to resist.

Day 2

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