In Novi Ligure, we encounter our old adversary, the Italian automated gas pump. After losing 20€ to a mistaken pump grab, a kind Italian lady offers to buy our credit slip. Then, she makes the same mistake. Oh, Italy….
From NoviLigure, we get back on the Autostrada and head further south, eventually picking up the A10 west. We ride through the Italian soap and spice region and everything smells amazing. We stay on the highway until we exit for Monte Carlo, Monaco, which we visit prior to returning to Menton, France, the base point for the Route des Grand Alps. It is a heady ride, we stop at the Monte Carlo beach for a snack and try to find our way up to the palace. Monaco costs us time, but is fun, and crosses another country off the list, no matter how small it is. At this point, I come to the conclusion that my Garmin unit is not broken, but missing maps. Somehow, the set of maps called “Alps” by Garmin and NavTec does not include the Alps Maritimes. Crap.
We ride back to Menton on the D6007 coastal road, a road I know well from visiting my cousin who has lived in Menton for many years. It is fun to take the turns on a bike instead of fighting them in the car. We stop again in Menton for a proper meal. These old FIAT Pandas pop up everywhere. The Panda was the last car built with flat glass panes instead of modern curved ones and was resold under many nameplates, including SEAT Marabella. I pull out the big map of the Alps, a Freytag 1:500K tablecloth and begin marking up the overview maps I printed using www.gpsvisualizer.com. I have seven segment printed, so I sort out what is missing and mark the appropriate ones with cities, passes, and road numbers.
From Menton, we start the climb of the Route des Grand Alps following the Route de Sospel. Sospel is a little hippy artsy town north of Menton and always makes me smile with the people one sees there. We continue on the D2566 north to Col de Turini.
Turini!! Highest point on the Rallye de Monte Carlo! Every bit as cool as it sounds, and slightly terrifying in the process. The road is poorly maintained and narrow, our first taste of what riding in France will largely be like. Far from the commercial passes of the north, the passes in France are more of afterthoughts. Think along the lines of Hey! We built a road over a mountain! How cool is that! Oh, look, those Swiss guys call the top of it a pass! Let’s do that, too! But we have nothing to carry over it except cows, so um, let’s not worry about maintenance. Those silly automated carriages are never going to be used here! All over France, we see what amounts to road ruin.
On the way up, we ride through a short tunnel that marks the Col de Castillon. To the left is Col de Braus, but is is getting late and we are unsure if there will be a hostel on the pass or not. There is, the Hotel les Trois Vallees, host of the aforementioned rallye and about one hundred other French driving events. The inside of the hotel is papered with rallye placards and photos of cars and drivers. It is a total rush to be there. Dinner is a welcome piece of salmon with rice and veggies. The room looks southeast, with a small balcony perfect for airing out boots and such. We are not the only riders there, a group of diverse bikes has shown up from Germany, seems like one of everything.