Day 3: Guillestre

Ended up staying in a cheap motel in Bourg en Bresse after the tyre swap last night. There’s pretty much nothing to recommend the Forest Hotel – it was last refurbished in the 60s, the restaurant isn’t open at the weekends, and I discovered – after reception had closed – that my bed smelled ever so slightly of vomit. Maybe that’s why the restaurant was now shut.

Looking down on alpine resort

Despite my paranoia demons the tyres were still up and I set off on wet roads with an aim to making up some distance, having originally planned to stay in Chamonix that night and then hit the twisties into the hills for a full day. The latter part of that plan still stood, but now there’s an extra 100 miles or so to make up before I’d hit my original route south.

Tub in a field outside a town named Chilly

The bike was running sweet and handling much better having shed its cumbersome rubber baggage. The new tyres felt good too, but there’s a lot of noise and vibration from the front around 20mph, almost exactly like a ‘proper’ enduro bike.

Bike in fog. That is all.

I started out easy with a couple of miles of autoroute to let them settle in before peeling off and taking smaller roads into the hills just after Annecy, picking up some serious altitude on the way to Lac de Roselend and Bourg Saint-Maurice.

Picture postcard alpine lake

Now firmly on the Route des Grandes Alpes, the ski-town names continued to roll by; Tignes and Val D’Isere were next and barely recognisable without snow. Col D’Iseran, Col du Telegra and Col du Galibier were passed, as was every motorhome in the world, making a meal of overtaking the hordes of cyclists who also enjoy these roads at the weekend. Watching them struggle up the Cols was impressive indeed (the cyclists – not the motorhomes, though one did give me a run for my money). I was getting out of breath just looking at the scenery, most of which was familiar from previous trips.

Walkin on the moon

One I hadn’t done before was the Col D’Izoard, and it turned out to be the prettiest of the day thanks to the smaller, pine-flanked roads and total lack of traffic.

Wot no snow?

Walker heading into the clouds

Mountain road like mouse guts

First corners since the motorway

After a while the day began to take its toll, and instead of pausing to take pictures I just wanted to crack on and get to the hotel for a rest. It was around then that the GPS packed up, and if this post has thus far been more of a factual account rather than anything worth reading it’s because I’m utterly, utterly pissed off with the Garmin’s timing. Why did the little electronic bastard have to pick today to give up whatever life support system was responsible for making the screen work? For those of you who don’t ride bikes, know this: we don’t put up with the rain, the heat, the baggage constraints and the occasional myopic twat in his Punto just to get from A to B. We do it because it puts a smile on our faces and joy in our hearts – ask the dog sticking his head out of the window on a motorway. For similar reasons you don’t shell out hundreds of hard-earned on the limited choice of bike-friendly GPS units because you want the quickest way from where you are to where you plan to end up. No, you plan a route that suits your riding style and takes you past places you want to see, so that you can enjoy the experience instead of having to pause to unfold, study, and re-fold a foreign map the size of a bed sheet every 20 minutes in 34 degrees heat / gale force winds / the dead of night / pissing rain.

I’ve been planning this trip on and off for over 2 years to the point that I know where I want to be at a particular time of day in order to get the shots I want, and although I still have the plans on the laptop I’m unable to do anything with them. Still. Be positive. At least my French is improving with every person I ask for directions to the hotel, I just wish it were good enough to allow me to phone round and make enquiries as to getting a replacement sat-nav. A spot of Googling back at the hotel confirmed that this is a known issue with Garmin Zumo units, and that the life expectancy is unofficially around 3 years. I’d had mine for probably 5 now and was likely on the right side of the average, but the timing still sucks.

The good folks over at ADVRider have found a way to fix this model of GPS for around $25 (using parts from China, natch) and the usual suspects at UKGSer were helpful too, so I left the problem there and went for one of the ropiest steaks I’ve had in my life. At least tonight the bed doesn’t smell of chunder. Yet.