Another 07.00 start, and it seems Mark has finally managed to beat his usual habit of arriving up to 10 minutes late, as this is the second successive really early start that he’s been on time for!
Motorway to Annecy, and the start of one of today’s many “events”, where Mark shows he’s not awake and nearly overshoots the turn off, convinced for some reason that the next junction ahead at Aix Les Bains is the correct one, and not the one I want to turn off at now. My flashing lights and frantic horn sounding attract his attention just in time to stop him disappearing off the wrong way! We manage to circumnavigate Annecy quickly as it’s so early, and then head off for Bourg St Maurice via Albertville and Moutiers. Mark’s been lagging behind for the past hour or so, and as the road splits left at Moutiers for Bourg St Maurice my sixth sense tells me he’s going to take the wrong fork , and guess what?, that’s exactly what he did. I pulled in at a garage up the road, and soon after the phone rang. “I’ve taken the wrong turn, how do I get back?” The only way back is to retrace his steps, and so 10 minutes later he hoved into view, explained how a lorry blocked his view of the sign ( seemed he missed the overhead sign too!) and we were off again.
I figured putting him in front was the safest bet to make sure he didn’t get lost, but even then he was riding so slowly that lorries were driving really close behind, frustrated at my (Marks) lack of pace. At Bourg St Maurice we stopped for a coffee to kickstart the system, and as the temperatures started to rise, we looked forward to the next stage of the ride, the Petit St Bernard pass, rising out of Bourg St Maurice.
It’s been literally years since I last rode here, and I remember it well, as this is one of a few places in Europe that I’ve got a bend completely wrong and ended up on the wrong side of the road, luckily on this occasion arriving in a layby, much to the surprise of the people in the camper van taking a break there! The road surface is variable, changing from uneven and marked tarmac with overbanding, to well surfaced and “normal”. The views as we gain height are great, I also recall years ago stopping on this pass and realising that I had lost my passport. Phoning friends for help, and being amazed, when by retracing my steps, it was located at a petrol station I had filled up at that morning. Stopping for pictures as we climb, we’re enjoying the lack of traffic, and the greenness of the area, and the “famous” bend is passed safely this time.
At the top of this pass you cross over into Italy. Near here I stopped on the central reservation to take more pictures.
Mark had gone ahead, and was starting to wonder where I was. I answered the inevitable phone call, told him I was on my way, but as I fumbled to put my phone back in my jacket pocket, I managed to knock the camera out of the tank bag, and watched it fall to the road. Unable to stop the fall I watched in horror as a car then proceeded to run it over. Nooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!! I shouted, as a second car just missed running it over too. Onlookers wondered what the hell was happening, but as soon as I picked it up I could see the cracked screen, and when I saw the circular lens now resembled a rugby ball, I knew the camera was now just an ex piece of technical excellence.
I rode on dejected and annoyed,
When I caught up with Mark, I told him, “you owe me a camera!” Explaining why, he told me to get over it and buy another, but it’s been a great camera, takes great shots, has illustrated all my ride reports, and it felt like a part of me was somehow missing. Anyway, for this reason, the rest of the shots in the report were taken by Mark.
Installed as the new team photographer, our pace slowed for a few kms while Mark took some pics.
Once over the pass we aimed for Aosta which was 55kms away. Unfortunately as we’ve been finding recently, whilst roads aren’t badly surfaced, they are often single lane and limited to 50 or 70km per hour.
Interesting building en route to Aosta
After what seemed too long on these restricted roads we arrived at Aosta and the bike shop, Moto America where we took a bite to eat in their new cafe.
From Aosta you climb out of the city and up the Grand St Bernard. Over the past year or so they’ve been resurfacing and putting in crash barriers. After some road works near the bottom, the road is now much improved, and whilst I decided to blitz up, Mark, taking his photographic role seriously, stopped several times for more pics.
We stopped at the top, admired the Ferrari parked below, then returned down the pass and into Martigny, where the usual boring motorway return awaited us.
Total trip 463kms, great weather, good roads, nice passes, and more memories. It’s tough riding over here in summer!