20 July, 1998
I am back home from my two week bicycle tour across the backbone of the Alps. There were 9 of us participating in this grueling 585 mile Cyclevents tour, including some familiar faces from the . We scaled numerous steep grades (some as bad as 20%+) on our bicycles as we rode through Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein & Germany.
I arranged for internet access through and hoped to find a telephone at regular intervals for my usual photo journal, but admonished everybody not necessarily to expect to see anything:
As usual--IF YOU DON'T HEAR FROM ME FOR SOME TIME--DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT. I may have had trouble locating a phone line, or may have been struggling too much with the steep hills, or may have just been having too much fun to get my journal uploaded.
As it turned out, I failed completely in any effort to maintain the website from Europe. This was by far the toughest two weeks of bicycling I ever experienced. I had my hands full just cycling across the Alps. I did fail in all my efforts to connect to the Internet. At Geneva, I purchased a phone adaptor to allow me to connect my FCC RJ-11 line to an Uerbergangstecker T+T 83 socket, thinking that would allow me to connect to phone lines across Switzerland. At our first two campgrounds (Aigle and Zweisimmen), there was no ready phone access, so I opted to wait until we had a day off in Grindelwald. I rented a hotel room with a phone. All looked rosy. I plugged the adapter into the wall socket. It fit fine, but nothing happened. The line tester showed no light--red or green, so no electrical connection was being made. I was informed that there are multiple forms of socket in Switzerland.
As we climbed through the Alps, I realized that I was too engrossed in the Alps to maintain the website, even if a connection was available. After long days in the saddle, I had to cope with setting up my tent, eating dinner, taking care of laundry, sightseeing, searching out dessert and beer, and socializing with my riding companions. On self-contained bicycle trips, like Lake Huron, I had the luxury of determining my own pace and budgeting whatever time I needed to the Web effort. On more remote organized tours, like the Alaska Highway, there was little to do in the evening and I could maintain the website. This was a short trip through some of the most interesting country on earth. I just couldn't sit in my tent or in some laundry room computing. I spent enough time in that mode just downloading pictures from my Olympus D500L digital camera.
Furthermore, I never did have ready access to a phone line. Most of th ecampgrounds had pay phones, but none of them had data ports. The language barrier (French & German) precluded easy arrangements for telephone access through the campground managers. The phones in the rural Alps were predominately pulse as opposed to tone phones and I experienced horrible difficulty just accessing AT&T for calls home. I usually had to say the phone number and calling card number aloud, rather than entering it through the keypad. At one point it took me 5 tries to get through to my wife. That would not have worked very well with the computer. Each country has a different AT&T access number and I spent a day or two each time we crossed a border trying to determine the AT&T access number for that country. Some of the phones used the AT&T calling card itself for simplified access, but I had loaned mine to my daughter, who is studying at the University of Alberta (I'll bet AT&T wondered a bit about calls originating from Switzerland and Alberta at the same time). If you are traveling in Europe, be sure to bring your AT&T card and the little International booklet which lists the access numbers, with you.
So, now that I am home, I am uploading the pictures and my usual commentary. I've finished editing the digital pictures and will upload them right away. I plan to take the 350 film pictures in to be developed this week and will scan them soon. I have not yet completed my journal. That may take a week or so because I have picked up some sort of virus or food poisoning and am sick as a dog right now.
I enjoyed this trip despite its physical challenges and I plan to takemore Cyclevents trips in the future. Norway and New Zealand seem particularly interesting. On sagged trips like this, I plan to switch to a performance bicycle rather than my touring bike and not to carry a handlebar bag or rack trunk. Carrying as much as I have been on my bike (2 cameras, etc.) slows me down too much in comparison with my fellow riders.