Monday, August 10, 2009

The Nufenen Pass ends in Airolo, TI

August 18, 2008 - Monday

I didn't know that. I didn't realize just how far south the Brünig and Grimsel region actually is, until Saturday evening when we hopped them, drove the Nufenen and ended up freezing at 2478 meters above sea level in All'Acqua.

But for clarity's sake, let me start at the beginning.

The weather forecast for the weekend was fairly drab, and I'd kind of hoped to spend most of it sketching. I knew I'd drive a bit; the Beastie can't be negelected. But I'd been itching to put some decent sketches in the lovely Glowy Mushroom book from Steen.

Nothing came of it, though. I knew Kevin would suggest something, and since it was lunch at his grandma's in Schenkon, and he'd already told her I'd be coming, I figured okay, but I couldn't stay late.

When I arrived in Birmensdorf, Kevin's mother's black Duke II, Kevin's blue Barossa quad, and Nico's white Triumph Speed Triple were all out standing on the parking lot. I was pleased to find Nico would be coming along. He never runs out of anecdotes, and I learn a lot about what all can go wrong or can be made to go wrong with a motorcycle.

After lunch the boys did some garden work; Kevin's mom buried the ashes of their Deutsche Dogge Elvis, who they'd recently had put down for cancer and cremated. She went home early. I was lazy and relaxed, played with the cat, got a sun tan and spent an hour soaking up summer and doing nothing - and actually felt good about it. I guess I should do that a few times a week. Forget the watch, forget the tests, even forget a book. Just go out into the woods for an hour with Retta and walk up the streams or something. It sounds like a good resolution, but I wonder if I'll be able to follow through on it this week, since Mom and Dad are gone on vacation and I'm in charge of the house.

Back to the subject: It was about 1600 hours and we were getting ready to go. Nico suddenly had the ingenious notion to go drive the Brünig "really quick" - after all, we were practically in Luzern, and from Luzern it's a cat's leap to the Brünig.

Well, not really, but I was up for it, mostly because I wanted to see how well Nico drove the passes. Kevin was more than iffy, especially since he had the quad. But he let himself be talked into it, and we set off.

None of us were geared decently for a tour. Nico and I were wearing jeans, tennis shoes and T-Shirts. I had on my leather jacket, he was wearing his textile coat. Kevin was wearing regular pants and his old KTM coat. But oh well. Off we went.

We drove the Brünig - it was the third time for me, and I'm liking that pass better and better. There wasn't much traffic on it this time, so it was extra fun. At the top, we waited for Kevin, and Nico talked him into driving the Grimsel too, after I said I was up for it. Nico hadn't done any decent driving for two and half months - his girlfriend is a real leech who doesn't like him not being with her - and he was itching to get some hours of biking in. Kevin wasn't so happy about it but he tagged along. And I was in the spirit too - there'd be no more artwork done tonight.

We roared down the Brünig, refueled in Meiringen, and raced up the Grimsel. Nico and I waited at the top of the Grimsel, and Nico gushed over the sound of the Beastie. He said it had a real growl to it, a very rich, deep tone. Needless to say, it made me proud.

On the other side of the mountain, the Grimsel runs into the Furka pass, which I don't much like. It's narrow, which wouldn't be so bad, except that it has a lot of hairpin curves in it that you continuously have to break for.

We didn't turn left this time, though. We followed the Furka into the valley and refueled. Nico said that Shell gas station was the last one before Airolo, and I thought, Airolo? Tessin? We're that far south?

We were getting there. Nico led the way up the Nufenen. I'd never driven it before, and after the Beast leapt the first few curves (because of rifts and waves in the blacktop) I slowed down and lost sight of the Speed Triple. Despite some bad road sections, though, the Nufenen was a great pass. Water ran along the road, there were cowpies to watchout for, cows could meander into the road at leisure - but the stretches between sharp curves were long and visible enough to prepare for all that. I reached the summit shortly after Nico, fingers cold, shoulders cramped and grinning like Christmas.

At 2478 meters, All'Acqua was freezing. There was snow along the roads, and a bit of a wind blowing. The restaurant wasn't open, so I held my hands against the frame of the Beastie to warm them up a bit. I was glad I'd opted to wear jeans instead of BDUs; the jeans kept the wind out. We didn't hang around too long up there. It was graying, and soon after Kevin arrived we headed on down the mountain, hoping the valley would be considerably warmer.

It wasn't. The other side of the Nufenen was fun to drive too, though I'll want to do it again in daylight. We followed Kevin down and took it easy, since it was cold and getting darker. We reached Airolo and parked the machines at a restuarant to discuss the situation. By now it was about 2030 hours.

We all agreed we needed to warm up, so we grabbed a table inside, ordered hot chocolate and pizza, and I gave a quick call home to let them know I was in Tessin and would be back in a couple hours.

I asked Nico about the KFX 400, the Kawasaki quad I'll probably be buying this winter. He owned one, before buying the KFX 700, and his critique of it as an all-rounder machine is excellent. My problem will be finding one for 6'500.- or less. Right now all the ones on sale are for 10 grand or more, and I don't want to spend as much on a quad as I did on my precious Beastie. I'm hoping that the winter will bring lower prices.

The KFX is a manual transmission ATV designed for 13-meter jumps and rough terrain, chain run and very hardy. I'll use it for my commutes in the winter (to preserve the Termignoni on the Beastie from salt corrosion, and to be able to plow through snowy passes like Ibergeregg). Basically I mean to use it as a workhorse, though if I know me the week after I buy it I'll be putting on new mirrors and blinkers and looking into a pneumatic suspension system Nico's been telling me about. But that's off in November - coming fast, but not to be worried about just yet.

We warmed our hands on the hot chocolate mugs, wolfed the pizza, and round about 2130 hours mounted our machines again, having decided to take the quickest way home, which was through the infamous Gotthard tunnel and nothing but autobahn to Sihlbrugg.

Kevin led to set the pace. We were riding the curve that leads to the Autobahn and saw a sea of lights below us. So that's what the perpetual traffic jam in front of the Gotthard looks like. (Luckily, it didn't affect us much because the feeder from Airolo leads pretty directly into the tunnel's mouth.)

The Gotthard is an old tunnel, the ugliest I've ever seen. It has just two lanes it, one running south and the other north. The walls are blackened by the innumerable crashes and fires that have occured under its low ceiling. It would make a lovely backdrop for something in the style of 28 Days Later.

But it did have a redeeming feature. It was warm. Nico and I enjoyed the echo of our engines off the walls, the bang of misfires, and basically the comfortable driving.

Once we were out of the tunnel it wasn't s fun any more, because it turned cold again. But we kept north, toward Zürich, cruising around 100 km/h since the quad can't do much more. I didn't mind. I dislike driving the autobahn at all, but speeds over 100 turn me into a horrible windblock. 100 is manageable, even though by time we reached Sihlbrugg, around 2330 hours, my shoulders hurt as if I'd pinched a nerve.

We halted on the side of road, said our goodbyes and see-you-tomorrow. Nico promised he'd finally show his Buell XB12 the light of day again. I'd been itching to hear his modified Termignoni ever since I found out about it.

I got to bed shortly after midnight and promptly conked out.

Sunday was the third Sunday of the month, so we had Pastor over. Around 1430 hours, though, I was back up in Birmensdorf. The boys had to mount Kevin's back wheel so he could use the Duke for the tour, but once that was accomplished we were on our way.

Nico passed me a few times and I finally heard how his exhaust sounds. It's been modified so that at 3800 rpm a valve opens and you hear nothing but loud, pure engine, like on a really old Harley. It's great. And the best part is, it's legal, because the engine noise is measured at 3300 rpm. I want.

We ended up driving the Ibergeregg pass, which is slowly but surely becoming my second home stretch after the Albis-Buchenegg. I've driven that pass more than any other non-Albis one, and I like it better every time. You need to watch out for the traffic, some tight curves, and bitumen on the road, but you can hop up it pretty fast if you get to know it. It's a pity it's not as long as the Furka.

We got back to my place around 2000 hours. Nico invited us to supper, but I bowed out, much as I'd have liked to go, because I knew it would get late and I'd cuss myself in the morning. He and Kevin discussed Dad's BMW and Florian's Husky - which finally runs again, yay! - and then left for Zürich. I'll see them both again on Wednesday - I hope - when we go to the Lüthi Day of the SAW AG.

This morning Mom, Dad and the kid left for a week of Hungary, and tomorrow I can pick up Joshua at 0830, wrk at Opa's in the afternoon and have class again in the evening. I dunno, I'm kinda looking forward to this week...

No comments:

Post a Comment