Tuesday 31st August
A new friend joined us today for today’s ride from Klagenfurt in Austria, through Slovenia and onto Udine in North-east Italy. Totally embraced by all in the group, our new friend or “Mr Sunshine” as we grew to know him allowed our riders extra comfort on every bend, corner and switchback that was proving troublesome during the two day’s prior.
In the wet, a rider’s slowing and stopping distances increase, sometimes dramatically. A motorcycle tire has a fairly small contact patch, which means there is only a small portion of tire in contact with the road surface at any one time. Because of this small contact patch a motorcycle tire can lose traction easier on a wet surface. so you can appreciate the warmth with which “Mr Sunshine” was actually embraced!
Pat Cunningham & Karen Moore at the Austria - Slovenia border
Back to the day itself and one of those experiences that will live long in the memory of road riding challenges. Today meant two border crossings, firstly from Austria into Slovenia and secondly from Slovenia into Italy. 30km out of Klagenurt and we reached the border and from there it was onto Lake Bled and the outskirts of the Triglavski National Park for lunch.
The stunning Lake Bled in Slovenia
The challenge though was Kranjska Gora in Slovenia and the Vrsic Pass. Ever since this route was confirmed with Edelweiss Bike Travel in September last year, the Kranjska Gora became an obsession of sorts. Think Nicolas Cage’s character Memphis Raines in Gone in 60 seconds and his obsession with the Mustang Shelby he named Eleanor or Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail in The Last Crusade. The Kransjka Gora and the Vrsic Pass lived up to all expectations and was taken on by each and every rider.
Michael Murphy powers through switchback number 26 at the Kranjska Gora
The Vrsic Pass is the highest in Slovenia at 4848ft, as well as the highest in the Eastern Julian Alps. It connects Upper Carniola with the Trenta Valley, rising from Kranjska Gora in a series fo 48 hairpin bends (some of which are cobblestoned and have a 14% gradient!) and traversing the high mountains on the Slovenia-Italian-Austrian border before descending into the Soca valley. The upper elevations of the road are rendered impassable by heavy snowfall during much of the winter so for our riders to complete theis section of the route, together and safely was a superb achievement. This in itself made all the preparation and riding prior to the trip a “vindicated nessessity” if you like
Navigating the Vrsic Pass was easy. Finding the rest of the group was the hard bit!
I cannot put into words the experience that the day in Slovenia had on the group, knowing we were the furthest we would be from home (2048km from Kranjska Gora to Dublin) and the funds raised were going to have a direct benefit to all the children at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin. The funny part of the afternoon was that everyone was still saying ‘Danke Schon’ & Bitte’ in Slovenia and Italy even though we had long left Germany & Austria behind! ‘Gratsie’ & ‘Per Fevore’ were soon added to the vocabulary!
And so another 200+ km were travelled on a special day for everyone. Entering Italy from Slovenia though, we were quickly initiated into the Italian driving habits as a white Ford Fiesta seemed intent on railroading each rider one by one into the neighbouring countryside. Passionate yes but more affectionate words were used by the group but let’s say “è completamente pazzo” for now.
Our overnight for tonight was the Hotel Astoria in Udine just off the main piazza. Udine, situated 135km north-east of Venice, is the historical capital of Friuli and is well known for its town hall, built in the Venetian-Gothic style opposite a clock tower resembling that of the Piazza San Marco in Venice. See, who says you cannot like something interesting in a blog? :)