• Tag Archives Alsace
  • A Death ladder, Ballons & castles Part 2

    Next morning I was up early and took a walk outside to take some pictures, with no noise and no traffic, it was great to just enjoy the peace and tranquility of the view and watch the rising sun creeping down the valley illuminating the trees and fields bringing warmth to the day.

    We decided to skip breakfast and save ourselves €24, so were away at an uncharacteristically early 08.50. Small winding roads over the woods of the Col du Linge meant a slowish pace, especially as each time we rounded a right hander it led into blinding sunshine and a lack of vision!

    I’d planned to head for Ingersheim after reaching Turckheim, but the Zumo didn’t warn me to turn left in time, so faced with a U turn or nipping into Turckheim for breakfast we decided to stop. This proved a good decision as we entered through an archway into Place Turenne and its interesting mix of coloured buildings, complete with Cigonne (stork) nesting on top of the archway we had just passed through.

    Cigonne on nest

    Bike parked outside coffee shop


    Quaint facade of the Salon de The


    As we sat and drank our tea and ate a croissant, I had the chance to reflect on how sometimes things you think of come to pass as reality. As we had entered Turckheim, my mind had somehow wandered onto the question of what I’d do if the GPS stopped working? Clearly I’d have to revert to map reading, especially given I hadn’t written down today’s route. No big deal, I’d always used maps, and still do even with the GPS, but then guess what happened? Of course, when the GPS was removed from the cradle it refused to reboot! Time to drink a coffee and manually  replan the route again, gotta love technology!

    Once the route was consigned to writing, we set of for Ingersheim and on to Sigolsheim, where we joined the Route du Vin towards Ribeauville through field after field of vineyards. High on the hill in the distance we could see our destination, the 12th century castle of

    Haut Koenigsberg

    From Ribeauville we continued to St Hippolype where we commenced a climb through the woods to the 757m summit of the castle.


    The view out from the castle was equally impressive

    This was to be our furthest point North, and now we started our return heading West via Ste Marie aux Mines before turning South and the Col des Bagnelles to Le Bonhomme, West again towards Fraize, South to Le Valtin, and West via the Gorge de Schmalik to Xonrupt Longmer, Geradmer, La Bresse, Cornimont and Le Thillot.

    Beautiful views everywhere!

    Lots of small walled off pastures in these fields

    The road after Le Thillot changed into fast open sweepers where the GT was much more at home, the section from Servance to Turnuay being especially good! At Lure we rejoined the major roads towards the usually difficult to circumnavigate city of Vesoul, and onto Besancon where a refuel proved necessary.

    Next destination was Salin les Bains where we encountered a town centre with a road surface in the process of being laid, and the start of a recaltricent engine. By now the temperature was 27.5 degrees C and it seems the GT has not yet been cured of its dislike for heat, as first it stalled at the traffic lights at the roadworks in the town centre, then tried to stall each time the throttle was eased off as I gingerly tried to ride over the uneven gravel surface. Despite much overrevving the revs dropped every time and kept stalling as I struggled to keep a loaded bike plus pillion upright.  Unsure we were even on the right road I took a side turning signposted towards another town I knew the name of, but as it soon became clear it was a minor and poorly surfaced road I pulled over to recheck the map, and yet another stall.

    As we were both pretty hot by now, we took the opportunity to shed a layer of clothing, and for me to try and chill as the bikes dangerous stalling antics were driving me mad!

    The castle at Salin- les- Bains.

    Retracing our way back into town saw yet more repeats of the stalls, revving it furiously garnered some strange looks and by the time we stopped at a garage back on the other side of town my mood and blood pressure were sky high. If you’ve seen the John Cleese sketch where he whips his car with a stick, this was now me, fuming and swearing profusely I was livid and the cooling ice cream I’d stopped to buy at the petrol station wasn’t forthcoming either as they had no fridge!

    10 minutes without riding seemed to help the bikes manners, and asking local bikers the direction to Champagnole revealed that the correct route was back the way we had just come, ie back through the town centre and through the crappy road surface again! If we had just kept going last time, we wouldn’t have had half the trouble! This time the revs tried to drop but I could hold it and so we continued on to Champagnole safely, consigning to dust and a spec in the mirrors, a couple of Harleys who had had the audacity to creep past me at the traffic lights in Salin-les Bains.

    Champagnole to St Laurent en Grandvaux, Les Rousses and down the Col de la Faucille, roads I know well, but I had to stop for these pictures as Mt Blanc was in full display on the other side of the lake and was drawing a big crowd of fellow admirers at the parking spot.


    Home at 18.30 after a day comprising 436kms, a technical breakdown (GPS) and a dangerous half hour with a bike which despite a software update last year to solve the stalling issue, clearly still isn’t fixed! Neverthless we’d had a good ride, spent valuable time together, and with 813kms under the belt on this trip we’ll be looking to make  another one soon.

  • A “Death ladder”, ballons and castles

    The weather has been kind in 2011, and with 4000kms ridden in under 4 months, including a track day, the miles have been racking up quickly, but there is a problem! Most of my rides thus far have been without my better half, her choice I have to note, but to correct this anomoly and restore myself into the good books of my loved one, I decided to take her away for a couple of days. The Gorges d’Ardeche looked a promising destination, but as we had recently decided to go there with friends next month, we needed another option. It wasn’t difficult, we both love Alsace, and having ridden the wine route there last year, decided that we should go back and this time explore another of the regions routes, one which features castles.

    The day started well with a departure just after 09.30, and the Swiss autoroute took us to Neuchatel in around an hour, and onto La Chaux de Fonds where we stopped for a drink before continuing down through the woods and crossing the border into France at Biaufond.

    Here is the view back down through the woods to Biaufond

    Ascending to La Cheminee, we passed a signpost which I’d been meaning to stop and photograph every time I passed. Intriguingly named Les Echelles de la Mort (Death ladder), it showed the direction to a viewing point, so with time to spare we decided to take the option and go and see what it was all about.

    The road was very narrow and descended back down the valley with signs indicting it was obligatory to sound your horn to advise other road users of your prescence round the blind bends. At the end of the road and in the foot of the valley we were disappointed to find just a power station with a sign showing the direction t the “Death ladder” , but a 20 minute walk away! There was however a visitor centre (hut) with lots of info on the surrounding countryside and wildlife, and a sign explaining the story behind the death ladder story, and the ladder itself.

    Seems that the wicked Frenchies used to smuggle contraband sugar coffee and tobacco down the ladder into Switzerland to avoid the customs post based in La Cheminee above.

    Inside the visitor hut this sign and the actual ladder.



    Despite our disappointment at there being no real view, the valley bottom was very picturesque.

    Sue enjoying the view.


    With only one way back up to rejoin the main road, we climbed gently with me sounding my 136db Stebel horn at every bend, but despite my warning tones, was shocked to be nearly mown down by a tractor and trailer combo barrelling round one of the bends on my side of the road, clearly oblivious to the warning given by the very loud horn. He didn’t slow down or even acknowledge our existence, goodness knows what would have happened had we been in the camper van that the other tourists in the valley were driving!

    Glad to be back on the main road we had this great view back down into the valley.

    On to Maiche and then cross country to Pont de Roide, before joining a very short section of motorway to Belfort with its impressive fortifications. Here the “real” ride started and we headed straight away to the good stuff, the “Grand Ballon” at the head of the Col du Ballon at 1171m. Here is our usual coffee stop point where we always seem to get caught out by how much cooler it is up here, especially when compared to the 24 degrees C we had been enjoying a little lower down.

    Some hot chocolate, a croque monsieur (toasted ham and cheese sandwich) and a plate of chips soon warmed us up before we set off again heading for Saint-Maurice-sur-Moselle, and a stop for pictures of this amazing house.

    Next over the Col du Bussang at a mere 871m,  then to Goldenberg Altenbach and over the Col du Haag at 1233m to Le Markstein.


    Next the Col du Herrenberg and on to a great section to Le Hohneck with great views down to the Lac de Blanciemer.

    Le Hohneck to the top of the Col de la Schlucht (1139m) with its lousy upper tar snaked upper surface, before descending via Soultzeren to Munster and heading for Turckheim. By now it was around 17.30 and at Hohrodberg we came across a great looking hotel with views over the valley back down to Munster.

    After 5 hours 37 in the saddle we’d only covered 377.7kms, but as with any rides involving lots of ascents and descents, the numbers mean nothing, and bear no relation to the level of pleasure involved in those miles!

    The hotel proved to be a good find. Our room was clean with quaint paintings on the wall.

    We sat on the balcony and relaxed taking in the view of the valley below and the bikes passing below us on the well surfaced 90 degree bend the hotel was situated on.

    Keying proposed routes for tomorrow’s ride into the Zumo, soon showed that we’d need an extra day to go everywhere I’d planned, and it took quite a while to review and sort out a route which allowed a good days riding, but one which would allow us to return home before midnight!

    The restaurant was as good as the room and had an excellent view out over the valley, even though we couldn’t have a window seat. After a good meal with a local gold medal wine, sleep beckoned, and we retired for the evening looking forward to tomorrows ride.