If I’d guessed that I would end up sleeping on top of the Alps at one point, I would have never believed myself.
The sunrise in Linz is beautiful. Tucked into a mountain valley, we watch the sun fall over the farmyard prior to taking off from our feathery nest. We head west on the 100 toward San Candido, and in the process beginning a day that would end with nine passes surmounted. We cross into Italy, and on the Stata Stradale 52 (SS52), meet the first pass of the day – the Kreuzberg Pass. For the most part, a basic pass that is surmounted without event. Turning off onto Strada Provinciale 532 (SP532), we ride over the Passo San Antonio and, on Strada Regionale 48 (SR48), the Passo Tre Croci without stopping – nothing to stop for, as the signs are almost invisible and there are no souvenier huts to buy stickers at. Yes, we collect stickers for every pass we can get them for. The fun really starts further along SR48 with the Passo di Falzarego, where we photobomb a bunch of Swiss guys trying to take a group shot at the pass sign.
From Falzarego, we head west on the north side of the Marmolade Group, to better see the peaks. Stunning from the road, for sure. We have our first experience with Italian fuel stations, which are not open normal hours and require use of an automat. 252,3kms for a total of 500,1kms. Figuring that out is so exhausting that we have to sit down and eat lunch. We turn south on SR203, then onto SP641. Next up is Passo Fedaia, with a beautiful view of a Stausee (retention lake) high up in the middle of the group. From Fedaia, we briefly rejoin SR48 and enter the venerable Sella Group on SR242, and meet the first real traffic of the trip.
The Sella Group offers some of the most profound scenery of the entire trip. The terrain varies from gently rolling meadows to Martian landscapes. The first ascent is to Passo di Sella (Sellajoch), and is miserable with tourist busses. The traffic is very heavy and very unfun. When we halt at the top, we wait for a gap in busses before beginning the descent. We ride the rest of the Sella circuit clockwise, turning onto SS243 to ride through the Grödner Joch (Passo di Gardena), where we encounter a group of elderly tourists with an endless parade of questions, starting with “Why do your motorcycles have BMW stickers on them?”, “Are those real BMWs?”, “Did you ride those here all by yourselves?” and continuing on. After a few more, I inform the small crowd that all info on the bikes is available at their local BMW dealer.
We ride on to SP244 over the Passo Campolongo (nothing to stop for), and finish the day on SR48 on top of Passo Pordoi after a quick 33 tornante ascent that counts as one of the highlights of the trip due to the absence of traffic, the road character, and the unusually curious cows penned at the roadside. We hole up in the Hotel Savoia for 50€ a head including breakfast, garage, and a four-course dinner. We highly recommend this hotel. Excellent service, food, and accessibility.