Cycling Sion to Zermatt – 112 km, 1100 m Ascent

Day 5 – Sion to Visp – 56 km + 20 (see below)

The lights changed color and as the music played along.
The lights changed color  as the music played along.

Our evening in Sion was spent lying in the grass between two very old castles (evidence of life here goes back about 7000 years) experiencing a digital light show choreographed to commissioned music. It was just the kind of rest and relaxation we needed to keep us energized for the final push of our trip.

The route from Sion to Visp  meanders along the Rhone River – a fast moving, powerful, grey colored river fed from the many glaciers surrounding the valley. The steep cliffs of the valley continued to surprise me with the quantity of vineyards and ripe grapes blanketing the hills. In my ignorance, I know I’ve drunk a Rhone wine but never realized most of the Rhone is in Switzerland.

Alex thought we should cycle up to this church.
Alex thought we should cycle up to this church.

At one point Alex saw an old church located at the top of mountain. The only access was up a narrow, cobblestone path.

“Who’s in?” he asked.
Neither of us wanting to miss an outstanding view promptly made u-turns and said, “We are!”

I knew immediately the hill was steeper than I could manage with my loaded bicycle, so I bailed off and walked about two-thirds of the way.

Alex and Emily, however, had started “hill climbing competitions” early on our trip and this “challenge” fed their desire to prove their hill-climbing finesse. They were long finished and resting in the cool shade by the time I met them at the church.

I think I was polite enough NOT to ask who won..

Just kidding. I asked. Go, Emily!!!

View from the church on the hill.
View from the church on hill near Visp.

We arrived at our destination, The Visperhof Hotel, a great place  in the center of town. We showered and met at the local cafe for a beer. When I mentioned to Alex that I would be exactly 18 km short of making my goal of 15,000km in Zermatt, Switzerland at the base of the famous Matterhorn, he said, “You should go for a short ride, right now. You’re so close. It’s an amazing goal. You’ll be sad if you don’t.”

I listened and agreed.. I picked my comfy, showered self up off the cosy bar couch, walked to my room, found some not-too-sweaty clothes and hopped back on my bike. I headed east and uphill into a head-wind towards Brig.

About 4 kilometers out of town, the bike lane ended and the traffic picked up. The road was not “biker friendly”, and I was contemplating turning back towards town and riding up and down streets until I reached my needed 18 kilometers. But just at the moment of my decision, two middle-aged, grey-haired mountain biker men rode by. They seemed to know the roads and their pace was reasonable so I jumped right in behind them to cycle in their draft for as long as they would take me, or notice I was there and may be lead for awhile.

The great thing about middle-age men cycling into a head wind is that I don’t think they ever heard me or saw that I was  enjoying a “free ride” at their expense, so to speak.
I followed the montain bikers when they turned off the main highway, but when they entered a bar to meet some other cyclists, I kept riding. My odometer read 10 kilometers so turning back to Visp would give me a few spare kilometers for meeting my goal.

The view of the bridge in Brig where I turned around. The extra 20 km was worth it.
The view of the bridge in Brig where I turned around. The extra 20 km was worth it.

I found the cycling path on the south side of the Rhone and enjoyed speeds of 39 km/h from the hard tail wind. I made it back to the bar at our hotel before Alex and Emily had even paid the tab! My extra 20 kilometers would mean I would make my 15, 000 goal the next day at the Zermatt near the “top of the world.”

Day 6 – Visp to Zermatt – 36 kilometers mostly uphill.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
One of the side roads heading uphill towards Zermatt.

This ride was:

scenic
awe-inspiring
hilly
magnificent
sometimes a little scary
windy
fun
bitter-sweet

This cute statue welcomes visitors to a small church at a top of a very steep hill.
This cute statue welcomes visitors to a small church at a top of a very steep hill.
One of the first glaciers we saw but not yet the Matterhorn.
One of the first glaciers we saw but not yet the Matterhorn.
The town of St. Nikolas purports to have the largest St. Nikolas in the world.
The town of St. Nikolas purports to have the largest St. Nikolas in the world.
If you don't want to cycle to Zermatt, it's easy to put your bike on this train.
If you don’t want to cycle to Zermatt, it’s easy to put your bike on this train.

-wasn’t ready to stop touring,
-wanted to take lots of pictures,
-was digging deep to find enough strength in my legs to keep climbing,
-needed time to digest the magnitude of both the mountains and the year’s adventure,
-felt hyper-sensitive and anxious about wanting to end the tour safe and accident-free.

Emily and Alex cycling up one of the many steep sets of switchbacks.
Emily and Alex cycling up one of the many steep sets of switchbacks.

The best part of watching my odometer reach 36 km, the number required to make the total trip equal 15,000 total kilometers, was having Alex and Emily there to help me celebrate the finish!

The Matterhorn - not a bad backdrop for the end of an amazing journey.
The Matterhorn – not a bad backdrop for the end of an amazing journey.
I took a brief hike to get closer to this beautiful glacier.
I took a brief hike to get closer to this beautiful glacier.

But, the trip would not have been possible without Eric’s “crazy” idea to retire and cycle and his faith and confidence that it would be an amazing experience. And, the trip would not been nearly as fun had we not met so many wonderful, kind, helpful and encouraging people along the way.

This restaurant was a 45 minute hike up the mountain. It would be fun to ski down to it in the winter.
This restaurant was a 45 minute hike up the mountain. It would be fun to ski down to it in the winter.
On the hike back to Zermatt.
On the hike back to Zermatt.

15,000 kilometers
11 months
10 countries
7 languages

countless memories

1 delicious celebratory dinner

Alex was the "cook" for tonight's celebration.
Alex was the “cook” for tonight’s celebration.

Thank you!