Spending the night in the hostel perched in the middle of a ski slope where there are no roads to get to the place presents an interesting experience. Our wives met us in Andermatt and asked, “Where is the hostel?” “You can’t miss it. It’s up there! I’m not exactly sure how we get there, but I know from the map we can sort-of get there from this direction.” Off the guys rode on their bikes and the ladies followed in their car.
We came to the bottom of a ski lift and saw the hostel part way up the hill. We spun our bikes up the hill, then pushed them the last few yards to the back porch. It was a beautiful view. As I surveyed the splendor, there I spotted a lovely sight: Three nymphs dragging their bounty across the ski slope. I called out, “Hey Ladies! There is another spot where you can park and you won’t have to drag your suitcases so far!” I’m pretty sure it was a look of ecstasy upon their faces.
Once we settled into the hostel, we met the man who owns the place. He is a pilot with a debonair kind of cool. You couldn’t miss him in a crowd. His hostel is a work in process. It is a ski chalet with a free spirit. Scattered about are Mt. bikes and skis. Cubbies crammed with mittens, boots and hats. A hardwood floor and a cozy wood burner stove. Lap pinewood walls with open steps to the second floor. Nothing was quite finished, but then it was finished enough. The bathroom was unisex, and Becky discovered that first. She was coming out of the bathroom, when she couldn’t miss the fact that there was a man in the mirror coming out of the shower with a towel around his waist. “Hello.” Not to be too surprised, Becky nonplus replied, “Oh, hi!”
Becky swept me aside and said, “Ted, the bathrooms are unisex.” “And?…..”
It was getting close to dinner, and I figured Becky already made acquaintance with our housemate, so we invited him to join us; found out he was a teacher on a hiking adventure. We had a lovely evening as the 8 of us filled the Italian restaurant in the heart of Switzerland. The pilot told us, “You can’t miss it.”
The next morning came early, because Becky and the other two couples had a flight that they just couldn’t miss. They were flying out of Zurich. Caleb and I continued to saw logs; although, my sleep was very troubled. I was very anxious about Dave.
When morning came for Caleb and me, there was a very distinct chill in the air. I was fidgety to get on the road. Both Caleb and I were not in any mood to have breakfast in town. We just wanted to go. It was all very anti-climatic. Our riding partners had left; our wives (Caleb’s mom) had left, and a dark cloud hung over us with worry about Dave. It just seemed lonely to hang around. I suggested to Caleb that we head out of town and catch breakfast at the bottom of the mountain. “That’s a good idea, dad. I’m not too thrilled to hang around either.”
The chill had let up, but the angst of the morning didn’t. Within the first two miles, Caleb and I came upon a serious construction zone on the only road out of town down the mountain. Even though it was 8:00 in the morning, the traffic was piled deep. As we came to stop awaiting our turn to go through a tunnel, I spotted a side road. It was actually a famous tourist attraction. The Devil’s Bridge. “Caleb, C’mon! We’ll go over this way.” We jumped our bikes over the curb and made our way onto Devil’s Bridge. Tucked within the steep granite walls of the mountains is an intertwined staircase of bridges and tunnels. These engineering marvels pale in comparison to the stairstep cascade of water that swoops beneath them. Legend has it that a deal was made with the devil to build the bridge, because it is such a harrowing piece of topography. The people of Uri promised the devil the very first soul to cross the bridge. The people decided to outsmart the devil and sent a dog across first. This infuriated the devil, so he picked up a large rock to destroy the bridge, but an old woman encountered him and drew a cross upon the rock. The devil was so frightened by this he dropped the rock and ran. All I know is this is a place you can’t miss.
Caleb and I soaked in the wonder of this engineering marvel, then we marveled at how we were going to get the rest of the way down the mountain. Before us was the massive construction project. From our vantage point, we had two options. We could carry our bikes down a long wooden temporary staircase to a section of road or bike through the construction staging area and stage ourselves for the front of the line to wind our way down the mountain. We chose option 2, and that was the smartest move we made. We were out in front of the traffic and soon the road split into a highway and a back road. We remembered to take the Blue Road, and it washed all our blues away that we may have been feeling earlier in the morning. What a rush going down the hill. No cars at all. Just absolute beauty tucked between the towering granite walls with the river rushing below us.
We yippeed and hollered all the way down the mountain. The sun came out strong and we landed in the birthplace of Switzerland… Altdorf. It was here William Tell challenged the encroaching Habsburg rule that was seeking to snatch the canton of Uri to be part of the realm. A tyrannical leader named Gessler set up an egotistical test for all the townsfolk. They were to bow to his hat that was perched on the top of a pole. Tell refused and subsequently was forced to use his bow to shoot an apple perched upon the top of his son’s head. With precision, he did so. The second arrow he had prepped was etched for Gessler’s head. After fleeing and setting an ambush upon Gessler, Tell sank the second arrow into its target and the Swiss Confederacy was born.
The descent down gave Caleb and me a rebirth of focus for the ride. We stopped for brunch, and then rode our bikes through one of the coolest bike paths ever. It certainly can’t be missed. The trail is carved right out of the mountain side. The mountains drop straight down into Lake Luscerne. The turquoise water dramatically highlights the shimmering granite cliffs of the mountains capped with snow. The scenery was absolutely distracting, which was perfectly fine. We were on a bike path with no one else on it. We were swerving and singing and stunned.
Once we dropped to water level, we were in a very snazzy doddle town of Ingenbohl. All along the beachfront, we rode. Out into the countryside and saw this:
Switzerland is beautiful. At the end of the ride, Caleb discovered how beautiful it really can be. The summer magic of boy meeting girl happened in Gersau. We stopped at a very special family youth hostel for the night. We put on our bathing suits and headed for the lake. We swam and hung out on the diving dock; talked about Dave and got a bit of sun. After we swam to shore, there she was. The lady of the lake. She did her pilates on the diving dock. Where she came from, I’m not sure, but Caleb tried as hard as possible to be cool and coy. After awhile, she swam over to talk to us. Caleb was smitten. We talked and met for dinner with her mom in the dining hall. After dinner, I feigned the need to check emails. Caleb and his Swiss miss played ping-pong until dark. It was his opportunity not to be missed.
Overall, it was a good day. Sure, the pale of Dave’s condition hung over me. With a 6 hour time difference, it was tough to stay abreast of the developments. The last text before bed didn’t sound too promising for Dave’s recovery. We had to make a decision. I didn’t want to spoil Caleb’s evening. It could wait until morning.