Lunch at Walensee

October 22, 2016

Basel has “the Rhine Fog”. This is a phenomenon where the temperature and moisture from the Rhine fills the lowlands along it with a thick, cold fog. This is often a detriment to my Motivation when I´m at home because I look out the window and see nothing but rooftops poking out of a grey mist. But I know that I just travel a couple of kilometers from the Rhine the fog will melt away and I will be bathed in glorious sunshine. Therefore, when the weather forecast on Saturday was for sunshine across the eastern half of the country, I jumped at the chance to go for a ride. I had wanted to go for a nice fall ride for months now, even though fall hadn’t even begun until just a few weeks ago. Dan declined to join me, so it would just be me and the bike. Let´s ride!

I bundled up well and left the garage at 9 o´clock. The bike´s thermometer read 4C (39F) and the sun was a pale disc behind the fog. Ah, I would soon be out of Basel and the sun would come out and warm everything up!

Heading out

I was wrong.

For the next hour I traveled east towards Zurich and then southeast in a thick fog. The bike let me know that it was usually 3.5C, but at one point it was as cold as 2.5C (36F). I was thankful for my heated jacket and heated grips, but still wish I had worn a balaclava. Wind at this temperature and for this length of time was biting!

And then the sun came out. I could see the mountains and fresh snow on the peaks. I had programmed my GPS for the town of Amden on the hills above the Walensee. There was some sort of farm festival going on and I thought it would be a nice diversion. As I moved from the motorway to the smaller side roads the wind chill dropped and the views became even more enjoyable.

The town of Weesen sat on the shores of the Walensee and I stopped to check it out. I parked the bike near a ferry dock and took out the good camera (Panasonic Lumix) to capture the view. The camera´s display flashed an angry red icon at me. The battery low. I groaned in disappointment. I had wanted to capture as much of the scenery as possible on this ride, but now I would have to resort to my smaller Canon for the pictures. The Lumix still allowed me to take some photos, which I did. The fountain in the small harbor sprayed high above the water and the mountains on the other side of the lake were slowly losing their cloud cover. It was time to climb higher.

Weesen on the hillside

The shore of Walensee

Amden sat midway up the mountain above Walensee and the road to get there twisted appropriately along way. An amazingly-well engineered avalanche tunnel hung on the side of the mountain and I pulled out the Canon to shoot it. The Canon was unresponsive. It took me a few more attempts with the Canon to realize that it was just too cold. The almost-freezing temperatures had rendered the battery too weak to properly open the lens. I was, essentially, camera-less.

Avalanche tunnel ahead

Inside the tunnel

Looking back

View out the other side

There were no signs for the farm fair that I could see. A cluster of buildings on the upper side of the village was suspicious-looking, in the fact that a few people were walking purposely towards it, but what I could see did not pique my own interest. It was lunch time and that was interesting to me!

Clouds hover below me over the lake

Sunshine on the hills

Hotel Sonne (?) looked nice and they had a deck that overlooked Walensee far below us. I took a seat near the window, pulled my cameras out to warm them up and ordered a pizza. As I ate, the sun burned away even more clouds and the mountains on the far side were revealed, showing me tiny villages perched among the fields and trees. Was a fabulous day!

Lunch view

The far side of the lake is clearing up

The road to Amden was a dead end. I could not get over the mountain and instead had to retrace my route down to Weesen. I chose to follow the southern side of Walensee in my continued easterly journey , but on the side roads and not the main road. This meant that I was going to be riding through the tiny villages I had observed during lunch – but it also meant that I was on the shaded (and cold) north side of the mountain. Whereas Amden was enjoying 10C, the temperature dropped to 7.5C through the forests and frost covered the leaves. I was cautious here, not only for the cold surface, but also for the wet leaves that would occasionally cover the outer corners. I let the infrequent car pass me and enjoyed the view. Once in a while I tricked the Canon into taking a picture.

Leaving Amden behind

A better view of the avalanche tunnel

Down in the valley

Going back up!

Fence to keep debris off the road

Looking across the lake to Amden

The eastern end of the lake

Fall colors

As the far end of Walensee the land opens up into a wide, three-pronged valley. A couple of castles (“Schloss”, really) stood out among the colorful hillsides. I stopped to check out one of them, Schloss Sargans, but as I was unwilling to spend the money and time to enter the museum, I just wandered around the outer ramparts.

Schloss Sargans

A 33 year old plaque celebrating a 500 year anniversary

View from the ramparts

Climbing along the roadside

The plan was to now head north for a few minutes but then swing west over a mountain road, leading me back to Zurichsee and then home. Just for kicks – and because I could – I crossed over into Lichtenstein and meandered up the main road into Vaduz. There really isn´t anything to tell you that you’ve crossed a border, except for the sudden proliferation of “FL” license plates on the vehicles. I stopped for another photo of the King´s residence, but nothing really caught my eye. Besides, I kept waiting for my Lumix to tell me that my photo-taking abilities were over. I was surprised that I was able to eke out as many as I had!

Burg Gutenberg (Lichtenstein)

Schloss Vaduz

I fueled up back in Switzerland (gas prices were the same in both countries, so I figured that I would stick with Swiss shops and payments. And now I was on track for home, via a delightful looking squiggly line on my GPS.

The sun was out, the mountains were clear, the trees were in color…there wasn’t anything bad about today. I told myself to just enjoy the ride and not think about the great photo opportunities I was missing. I still pulled out the Canon once in a while, but it was mostly an exercise in futility. I did make a note to come back some time in the summer, on a warmer day and with more time – and full batteries. Still, there is something magical about fall colors that just can´t be matched.

The view from Alt St. Johann

Looks like a fun slide on the other side of the valley

Looking back towards Wildhaus-Alt St Johann

The mountain road spit me out on the northeast corner of Zürichsee and I decided to fight the GPS, which wanted me to go along the southern shore and instead stick to the north. I’ve never been along the northern side of the lake and now seemed to be a good time to try it. The GPS didn’t like my decision and kept trying to get me to turn around and head south. Eventually it gave up and drew a purple line along the north shore, although it cut south mid-way at a bridge that crosses the middle of the lake. Good enough, I guess. I didn’t want to get home too late, so I followed the GPS.

I should have listened to the GPS in the first place. The northern shore was not interesting. It wasn’t bad (at first), and would have been a nice diversion it if hadn’t been for the town of Rapperswil. This is where the GPS angled south on the bridge, and where traffic stopped. I could see the traffic light two blocks away, and the line of cars between me and it. The light would turn green, four seconds later the light would turn red, and eventually the line of cars would creep forward. It would remain red for a long time as I watched the cross traffic zip passed. I watched the light cycle through four times in this way, each cycle annoying me more and more.

At one point a sport bike pulled up next to me. He had passed the line of cars behind me, and I could tell that he would soon pass the line of cars ahead of me. I had been studying the GPS and saw that another major road ran parallel to where I was. Surely the traffic wasn’t as bad there? The next green cycle got me close enough to an intersection to turn right and check it out for myself. Yes, the traffic really was just as bad. I took a cue from the sport bike and passed the line of cars, arriving at the signal just as it turned green. I darted ahead of the line and was on my way, through more traffic-clogged city streets. Eventually we all crawled onto the bridge across the lake. The slow speed meant that I had the time to admire the thick vegetation and boardwalks built up in this area. It looked to be a very interesting area, for those who lived nearby. It had been a great day, but by now, I just wanted to get on the motorway and get home.

It was a lot wormer on the return and I took advantage of the easy throttle to make the trip home a little faster. I was home around five o’clock – happy I had gone out, but also happy to be home.

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