From Chamonix, all looks good. The sun is visible, and the morning begins with a good breakfast and we are off to Martigny.
We cross the Col des Montets, a low pass typical of France. Then it is on to the Col de la Forclaz, a wider, more open pass that is higher up. We are enjoying a bit of sun and the weather is good. We cross into Italy and pick up the 203.
Martigny is a beautiful sight – the terraces of vines remind me of a mix between the Wine Road of Italy and the Rhein valley near the Lorelei.
As we pick up the 21, I miss the turn for the Col de Champex, and we continue on to the Grosser Sankt Bernhard. My riding partner is very unhappy and makes it known, but does not want to return to the pass, something I would like to do. The Grosser Sankt Bernhard, or Col de Grand Sankt Bernard in French, is not a difficult or particularly technical pass like its smaller brother, but it is far cloudier. The clouds at the top are so dense that we are unsure which direction we came in from. It is the oldest known pass in the Alps and separates Mount Blanc from Monte Rosa. A hostel of some sort is documented back to 1049. We stop for a hot drink, I visit the cloister built in 1563 built to honor Saint Bernard of Menthon as a travelers’ hostel. The descent is foggy and rainy into Aosta. In Saint-Rhémy-En-Bosses, we pick up the 27 and ride into Aosta. In fact, then entire Aosta valley is cloudy and rainy and redefines the pilots’ term “low ceiling”.
From Aosta, we rejoin SS26 and ride the Kleiner Sankt Bernhard in the opposite direction. I fall in the early hairpins, distracted by some personal thoughts. Thankfully, the bike is only cosmetically (although expensively) damaged, and I ride to the top to collect myself, my thoughts, and my ADAC card.
The ADAC is the German version of AAA. I joined when I lived in Germany, and keep my membership current mostly because the monthly magazine is so good. It is a window into the German driving psyche and motor culture. Today, a call nets me the address and phone number of a nearby Honda shop who will gladly check the bike for me. I also check BMW for a nearby dealer – the closest is a shop in Sion, Switzerland. The Honda shop will have to do for now. I call ahead to announce myself, and the person at the shop speaks just enough moto-english to get the job done. He will be there until 19.00, too. I have five hours to get there, it will only take about one. We descend the pass and I continue on the D1090 while my parther heads north on the D902.
In Aime, I find Alpes Moto Cycles, and inside, a gentleman who charges me 15€ to give the fork a sharp poke and check that things are sufficiently true to continue. I’ve packed a much smaller tool set than normal, and have a T40, a T50, and a T55, but not the T45 required to loosen the fork and insure it is not stressed. Not really needed, thankfully. He sends me on my way with instructions to get my head back in the game and to ride my own ride. Oh, and check with BMW, because after all, he is only a Honda/Yamaha/Kawi shop, and this is a German bike. I want to kiss him. I turn back to fuel up and find the D902 and the Cormet de Roselend.
Just before the pass, the D902 becomes the D925. The road runs past the Lac du Roselend and over the Col de Mèraillet and continues north. After Mèraillet comes Col de Saisies, a big surprise. I turn onto the D218 and begin the ascent. Saisies is a festival of curves. It features every imaginable type of turn, from long sweepers to tight switchbacks that do not let up. It is challenging and fun, and I enjoy it immensely in spite of the day’s earlier events. At the top is the typical carnival atmosphere of an Alpen ski resort town, although at this time of the year, completely empty. The gentle northern ramp brings me to Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe and the D1212, which I take east.
Before Combloux, I turn right onto the D909, and then rejoin the D902 in Saint-Gervais-le-Bains. I pick up the D1205 in Le Lac and head to Martigny as the day is closing. As the sun is just starting to set, I cross Col de Montets and Col de la Forclaz again and ride into Martigny to see thousands of little streetlights twinkling. It is a beautiful sight, and while I am tired and need to find a hotel quickly, it is quite inspiring and I am glad I have come as far as I have and get to see it. The aromas from the vinyards are strong as I descend into the city. Once in town, I take out my trusty iPhone and pull up booking.com – the Motel des Sports is not cheap, but also not expensive. They offer me garage space for the bike and WiFi in the restaurant, too. I phone home to decompress a bit, then sleep well.
BMW will open at 8.00 in the morning, and I plan to be there right on time.