Tour de France 2018

Monday July 16, 2018
Col d’Izoard

Tuesday July 17, 2018
bike up Colle del Nivolet

Wednesday July 18, 2018
Alpe d'Huez, France

bike up Colle del Nivolet, Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso, Italy 2612m / 8,664' from Locana, Italy 613m / 2,011' - 9th highest paved road in the Alps - 2028m vertical, 40km uphill

I left the bike in the back of the car overnight... I finally realized that there was about zero risk of bike theft in the middle of nowhere France.

I woke up around 4am and was on the road by 430, driving down roads I'd never seen in daylight, eventually driving over Col de Montgenèvre into Italy.  Col de Montgenèvre was used by the Roman army as the main route between Gaul and Rome, and is another possible route taken by Hannibal and his elephants.  Col de Montgenèvre was very busy with car and truck traffic, I would never ride such a road.

06:09 Europe time 15:09 California time

I stopped for a drink just inside the Italian border on the freeway.

06:29 Europe time 15:29 California time

Looking back to France to see the sun rise on the Alps

07:33 Europe time 16:33 California time

Finally approaching Locana, the start of my ride!
I found Locana but didn't find an obvious place to park, then realized I was low on both cash and gas, so I decided to find an ATM and gas station before starting my ride.
I  made these realizations way too late, there was nothing in Locana, so I started driving back OUT of the valley I'd just driven up.

08:50 Europe time 17:50 California time

The road is closed to cars every Sunday during the summer.

09:09 Europe time 18:09 California time

I found a gas station, and eventually they were able to tell me which town had the closest ATM - about 10km back down the valley...
I kept driving, found the ATM, returned for gas, returned to Locana, parked, put on sunscreen, and was finally ready to start riding shortly after 9am.
I'd wasted nearly an hour with my poor planning...
Oh well, I was here and I was going to start riding and the weather was supposed to be perfect!
I had very high expectations for this ride after reading Will's review here: "Let’s get the hyperbole out of the way: This may be the most beautiful high Alps paved climb I have ever cycled. Seriously."

Local crews had just finished replacing a water or sewer pipeline in the middle of the road, and they did a completely incompetant job repaving the road.
As I headed uphill the road was dangerous the pavement was so bumpy.

09:42 Europe time 18:42 California time

I bought a couple of cans of coke at a shop in Noasca, I wasn't sure how much more civilization I would find ahead

17:00 Europe time 02:00 California time

After 14km as promised I arrived at the entrance to the 3km long Ceresole tunnel.
(I took this picture later on the way back down)

10:24 Europe time 19:24 California time

Sign said the old road that avoids nearly all of the tunnel was closed ahead, so I went into the tunnel.
The tunnel was interesting, you could hear a car at least 1km away inside the tunnel.
I saw the opennings off to the left where the old road joined then split again from the tunnel's path.
If you choose to take the old road, you need to lift your bike over 1m high barriers at both spots to ride in the tunnel about 100m.

10:55 Europe time 19:55 California time

It seemed to take forever to see daylight again, riding 3km uphill is non-trivial, but I was rewarded with much better scenary than before the tunnel.

10:56 Europe time 19:56 California time

Ice climbing park

11:28 Europe time 20:28 California time

Ceresole Lake looking south / downhill.
In 2008 avalanches from Monte Cialme, out of frame to the left, came all the way into the lake right here, destroying 6 homes on the left side of the lake.

After the Ceresole Lake we started leaving the vacation homes behind and the scenery continued to improve.

11:29 Europe time 20:29 California time

PANO - scroll right

12:15 Europe time 21:15 California time

12:27 Europe time 21:27 California time

I stopped for a while to appreciate the scenery.
This place was magical and getting prettier by the minute.
I quickly realized this place was as amazing as Yosemite, Glacier, or Lauterbrunnen valley... simply stunning...

12:50 Europe time 21:50 California time

Looking up at some serious hairpins....

12:51 Europe time 21:51 California time
Looking up at some serious hairpins....
PANO - scroll right

13:19 Europe time 22:19 California time

I stopped at the top of those same hairpins to take a few pictures.
A crew of nearly a dozen was filming a group of three motorcycles as the motorcyclists did multiple takes riding up the hairpins.
I am not above photo theft, so I followed the crew to their spot and took pictures, panoramic pictures, video, and 360 pictures and video right alongside them.
They didn't appreciate the attention, especially since they were now partially the subjects of my pictures, and moved downhill away from me.
I felt only slightly bad for invading their space, then got back on the bike and headed uphill again.

13:23 Europe time 22:23 California time

13:31 Europe time 22:31 California time

Just around the bend from the spot where I'd taken pictures of the hairpins, the first dam came into view.

13:32 Europe time 22:32 California time

PANO - scroll right to see the hairpins next to the dam

13:41 Europe time 22:41 California time
Lago di Serrù

13:41 Europe time 22:41 California time

13:45 Europe time 22:45 California time
Lago di Serrù
The skies were partly cloudy, I took pictures now in case there was no sunlight or backlight on the way back down.

13:45 Europe time 22:45 California time

13:50 Europe time 22:50 California time
PANO - scroll right

13:52 Europe time 22:52 California time
Lago Agnel and more hairpins winding their way up the mountain
It was now nearly 2pm and I still wasn't on top... and once I got to the top I was still going to be 40km away from my car!
I refrained from taking pics on the way up those final hairpins and finally got to the top!

14:26 Europe time 23:26 California time

I was spent... 40km uphill and over 2000m vertical, it had been a long day!
I had a 1000 yard stare as I got to the top.
A group of middle aged Italian cyclists were at the top, one of them had something to prove.
I don't speak more than a few words of Italian, but I could tell he was making fun of me to his friends, indicating I had a 'where's my momma' look because I was so spent.
I threw a dagger or two into my 1000 yard stare but otherwise ignored his childish banter, and his friends had apparently heard his crap before and weren't amused either.

I'm over the top!
The paved road continues to the other end of Laghi del Nivolet below.
Rifugio Citta di Chivasso 2604m is on the lower right
Rifugio Savoia 2534m is out of sight next to the parking lot by the lake.

14:30 Europe time 23:30 California time

Laghi del Nivolet, looking north toward the Aosta valley
I needed to get to the lakes, but I didn't feel the need to ride to the very end of the pavement at the far end of the lake....
After years of talking about getting to see Aosta, I'm finally in the Aosta valley for the first time.
Unfortunately I wasn't spending long here, only a few minutes.
Mountain bikers can take the trail ahead all the way down to Aosta, but the pavement and my car are behind me.

14:30 Europe time 23:30 California time
Rifugio Savoia 2534m appeared to be closed for construction.

14:32 Europe time 23:32 California time
Colle de Nivolet from the north
Rifugio Citta di Chivasso 2604m is in the upper right

14:46 Europe time 23:46 California time

PANO - scroll right
Looking southwest to northwest
I took tons of pictures from this spot, even the pano doesn't begin to do this area justice.
If it was earlier in the day I would have stopped for lunch...
Since it was so late I just kept going.

14:47 Europe time 23:47 California time

14:49 Europe time 23:49 California time

Colle del Nivolet is 2612m according to the sign, 2641m according to wikipedia, or 2601m according to my gps

14:55 Europe time 23:55 California time

14:56 Europe time 23:56 California time

PANO - scroll right to see tourists feeding a fox that's in the middle of the road and the top of Colle del Nivolet
I took tons of pictures from this spot, even the pano doesn't begin to do this area justice.

14:50 Europe time 23:50 California time

I got out my cannon to use the 30x zoom to take pictures of tourists feeding a very tame fox.
The fox must be a near constant fixture here, the website for the refuge has a picture of a fox.

14:59 Europe time 23:59 California time

The fox retreated to the relative safety of the talus below the road.

15:09 Europe time 00:09 California time

Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso

15:11 Europe time 00:11 California time

PANO - scroll right
Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso was featured in the 2003 version of the movie The Italian Job.
I took tons of pictures from this spot, even the pano doesn't begin to do this area justice.
Lago di Serrù is the far lake, Lago Agnel is directly below.

14:42 Europe time 05:42 California time
Ray: Disney magic! Stateroom view
Ray: Sad to leave Spain, though
Ray: We had a terrific time

15:32 Europe time 06:32 California time
Dusty: Colle del Nivolet Gran Paradiso NP this place is on par with Glacier, Yosemite, Lauterbrunnen..
Dusty: just jaw dropping

15:42 Europe time 06:42 California time
Ray: Awesome landscape
Ray: Reminds me of Alaska!

15:50 Europe time 06:50 California time
Paul: Sweet mother bojesus in a hammock! I just looked up Disney Cruise Pricing, and I can say with confidence I will never set foot on one of those boats

15:59 Europe time 06:59 California time
Ray: It's overindulgence, indulged
Ray: And we have a balcony room

16:23 Europe time 07:23 California time
Kent: Very nice Ray
Kent:  Super climb Dusty!  You are lucking out with the weather! 

17:37 Europe time 08:37 California time
Ray: At sea
Ray: Very pleasant

15:12 Europe time 00:12 California time

15:12 Europe time 00:12 California time

15:12 Europe time 00:12 California time

Finally I ran out of excuses and started heading back down the mountain.

15:27 Europe time 00:27 California time

Looking down from Lago Agnel

15:28 Europe time 00:28 California time

Lago Angel from lake level

15:52 Europe time 00:52 California time

Looking up at the hairpins above Lago di Serrù one last time

15:58 Europe time 00:58 California time

Last glimpse uphill of true Paradiso....

16:01 Europe time 01:01 California time

Looking southeast, downhill back toward the car

16:14 Europe time 01:14 California time

16:14 Europe time 01:14 California time

16:26 Europe time 01:26 California time

Ceresole Lake looking south / downhill.

17:03 Europe time 02:03 California time

17:03 Europe time 02:03 California time

17:34 Europe time 02:34 California time

Back at the car!
I was really, really tired now, and I didn't have a place to sleep.
Booking.com wasn't finding anything resembling a hotel nearby.
It was hot here.
I could handle hanging out in the middle of nowhere tonight, but I needed air conditioning, and it didn't appear that was an option.

I finally decided to see if I could spend the night in Turin - I figured I'd try to park as soon as I got into town.
That was a very, very bad idea.

19:09 Europe time 04:09 California time

This is the gal who just rear ended me....

19:10 Europe time 04:10 California time
This is the gal who just rear ended me....following her so we can pull over and discuss...

19:54 Europe time 10:54 California time
Kent: Bon voyage!

20:08 Europe time 11:08 California time
Ray: Just got done with stage version of "Tangled," a movie that has the wonderful plot point that blondes are magical, brunettes, not so much.

20:09 Europe time 11:09 California time
Ray: Dance party before dinner...

22:36 Europe time 13:36 California time
Paul: Laughed my butt off at the Tangled synopsis Ray

22:36 Europe time 13:36 California time
Paul: Dusty, you spending the night in Turin or where?

22:54 Europe time 13:54 California time
Paul: Apparently there is a huge Egyptian Museum in Turin
Paul: Who knew?

22:55 Europe time 13:55 California time
Dusty: Things headed south for a while after i got back in the car
Dusty:  Couldn't come up w a good plan
Dusty:  Locana is sucky hot farm country, not mountains
Dusty:   I wandered towards Torino looking for inspiration, which resulted in 2 scary toll booth experiences but fortunately no $90 ticket
Dusty:  Got rear ended trying to merge onto the freeway from the traffic circle from hell
Dusty:  I followed her, she pulled over in a kilometer or 2 when there was an actual shoulder, insisted there was nothing wrong with either of our cars for a few minutes which was bs, she dinged my bumper...i got iphone photos of her and her car and license plate..
Dusty: then when i said the word police and went to my car to figure out wtf to do next, she got in her car and drove off...
Dusty: so now i get to test how well chase sapphire insurance really works.
Dusty: i feel like i should have a police statement but thats a joke, I even went to the police at at the toll booth, theres nobody there but 2 toll collectors...decided to get my ass back to the cool cool mountians, am in Sauze d'Oulx..Chalet Chez Nous wanted 89 euros on booking.com, walk up and call his cell on the door rate is 40 euros including breakfast...

22:58 Europe time 13:58 California time
Dusty: Yeah i tried to get excited about Torino which why I headed there but my god what a stupid thing to do
Dusty:  Taking a car anywhere near a city in Europe...

22:59 Europe time 13:59 California time
Kent: Nice dusty
Kent:  If it's small rental car place may not give a damn
Kent:  I've brought back a big door dinged car once and never heard a word
Kent:  Was San Diego though.

23:01 Europe time 14:01 California time
Dusty: The streets of this town are so narrow cobbled and steep it is crazy
Dusty:  Hotel dude promised me he'd lead me down an easy path after i told him that nobody in America could drive those streets
Dusty: I could in a 4wd jeep, but not a passanger vehicle.

23:01 Europe time 14:01 California time
Paul: Yeah, I would play stupid and they probably won't notice
Paul: Too bad to miss Turin, I looked it up and looks pretty cool- was never in my radar, but the town center and museums look nice
Paul: I get not wanting a car there- if I get a car I usually rent and return in the countryside and take trains into the cities from the outskirt rental places

23:03 Europe time 14:03 California time
Dusty: Oh they will care
Dusty:  They marked the wheels that were dinged, they marked more than us car companies would
Dusty:  Mexico seemed to care about every ding too..
Dusty: didn't have a problem there

23:06 Europe time 14:06 California time
Paul: Yeah
Paul: Don't let it bug you though
Paul: It's only some admin to deal with when you get back, or at worst some coins given up as an offering to the travel Gods

23:16 Europe time 14:16 California time
Dusty: Oh I'm over it, but it was just such a freaking long day..
Dusty: I clearly don't do well winging it sometimes..
Dusty: i always need to be able to find the best path forward, and I couldn't tonight..
Dusty: so happy to be able to lie down on a bed....

23:17 Europe time 14:17 California time
Dusty: Rental car company will charge my chase sapphire like a few thousand euros, and eventually Chase' insurance will wipe it off the visa bill, hopefully before i need to pay it...

23:17 Europe time 14:17 California time
Kent: You've done a lot on this trip already
Kent:  Maybe consider a rest day
Kent:  :)

23:22 Europe time 14:22 California time
Dusty: Tomorrow i drive to Alpe d'Huex and see the TDF on Thursday!  Yeah I really really need to slow down...

23:18 Europe time 14:18 California time
Paul: Maybe Chase will give you miles for the damage charges!

23:22 Europe time 14:22 California time
Dusty: I'll be happy if they go away magically like i hear they are supposed to....maybe the coolest feature on this card, Amex Platinum has nothing on this.

I got into town so late the only restaurant in town closed before I could try to order dinner.

Monday July 16, 2018
Col d’Izoard

Tuesday July 17, 2018
bike up Colle del Nivolet

Wednesday July 18, 2018
Alpe d'Huez, France