Day 5 – Sion to Visp – 56 km + 20 (see below)
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.
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!!!
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.
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.
This ride was:
sometimes a little scary
-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.
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!
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.
1 delicious celebratory dinner