"We stopped to take photos where the two roads met since the views of the Alps were too beautiful to just speed past."
by Justin de Benedictis-Kessner, Pactimo Brand Ambassador
After two lower-mileage days of climbing, we woke up this morning ready to attack our third planned "short" day of climbing: 70 miles from Mauterndorf to Salzburg with a large climb within the first 10 miles.
We headed out the door of our small hotel as the town bells echoed between buildings in the empty streets of Mauterndorf around 6:45 (despite our best efforts to leave promptly at 6:30). Passing the castle we ate dinner at last night, we exclaimed again how great our meal there had been.
The first 6 miles of flat road on route B99 were quiet and slightly chilly. After two weeks of biking under the beating afternoon sun every day, we welcomed the overcast skies. This was even more true when we hit the large climb of the day. We knew it would be tough but we also knew it would be over soon and we would have the rest of the day mostly downhill.
As we started the climb, I was reminded that my rear derailleur wasn't functioning well yesterday. In particular, it hadn't let me stay in my lowest gear in the back cassette - my so-called "granny gear." This was annoying on yesterday's enormous climb, and I was hoping to fix it before today's. But despite my efforts (and Dave's help) before we hit the hill this morning, it still wouldn't work. With the other guys already started up the hill ahead of me, I gritted my teeth and decided to just do the hill in the not-quite-lowest gear.
We spread out a good deal as we all were taking the hill at our own pace. Since few cars were on this road so early in the morning, there wasn't much to distract us as we climbed except the muted clang of cow bells in the narrow valley paralleling the road and the fog shifting on the peaks above us, which provided some change in scenery.
Eventually, we reached the top of the pass at the small ski resort town of Overtauern (at mile 10 of the day). Each direction we turned was another craggy peak, most of them dotted with ski lifts ready to carry skiers in a couple of short months. We briefly stopped to take in the views - but only until some of us started shivering in the brisk wind.
We donned our arm warmers and hopped back in the saddle for what we knew would be a quick descent, and at the end of which we hoped we'd be able to get a hot breakfast. The views as we descended rivaled those from the top of the pass, though I was barely able to take my hands off the handlebars to snap a photo.
At the bottom of the main part of this descent (around mile 20), we reached the town of Radstadt. We slowly biked around through what seemed to be a ghost town: few people were in the streets, and none of the businesses appeared open. Finally, Patrick spotted a cafe/bar that looked like it would serve us breakfast. Inside were a few men drinking beer (nothing like a 9 am lager on a Sunday?) so we locked up the bikes outside and went in to fill our growling stomachs.
After a satisfying meal with plenty of hot beverages, we headed back outside to the bikes. We jumped back on highway B99 heading west through the valley paralleling the large autobahn A10. The road kept descending through a narrow canyon that offered us a peek at snow-capped Alps in the gap between the canyon walls whenever we made a new turn. The slope was a perfect downward grade that allowed us to relax without pedaling too much, yet not need to constantly brake for safety.
After a short next fifteen miles, we reached the intersection with highway B159, on which we headed north. We stopped to take photos where the two roads met since the views of the Alps were too beautiful to just speed past.
As we continued biking on B159, we passed hilltop castles and a number of other friendly cyclists out for their Sunday rides.
Finally, a landscape opened up into hilly, rather than mountainous, terrain. Farms (and the scent of farms) now greeted us every mile or two, and the smooth flat pavement rolled by while we kept our wheels spinning pretty fast. After a quick consultation among the group as we continued riding, we decided that with only 20 miles to go to our destination of Salzburg we would not stop and just plan to eat lunch there. We enjoyed the last few miles into town with the idea of lunch captivating our hungry brains and motivating our tired legs.
Once in Salzburg, we stopped by Mozart's birthplace quickly and made a beeline for lunch. We found a cafe that was open on Sundays - which many other places seemed not to be - and relaxed with a lunchtime beer, noodles, Wienerschnitzel, and other traditional Austrian fare.
From there we headed to our hotel, where we quickly showered and got dressed in our town clothes (i.e. our one change of non-bike clothes). We jumped in a cab to the old city where we embarked on a walking tour led by Don (via an internet guide). First up was the Schloss Mirabell and associated gardens where Julie Andrews teaches the Von Trapp children the song "Do Re Mi' in The Sound of Music.
We wandered around to other more minor sights from the musical until reaching the modern art museum, where we all had a drink on their rooftop terrace. Patrick and Dave decided to stay at the museum and tour around while Don and I headed back out into the city to see the last few stops from The Sound of Music tour.
Don and I found a number of places that were all familiar and some that we barely remembered from the movie. Guess it's time to rewatch the classic after this Salzburg visit!
Our highlight of this walking tour may have been unwittingly sneaking into the very active theater where a production was currently in preparation, but which also served as the setting for the final musical scene of The Sound of Music before the family escaped from stage and fled Austria. We caught a photo of the stage and then let ourselves out the side door. "Beg forgiveness rather than ask permission" is a lifestyle choice, and in this case, we had no need of either one!
The four of us joined back together again to tour the Festung Hohensalzburg, a castle at the top of a large hill in the middle of town. After walking around and enjoying the panoramic views from the top, we rode the funicular back down to the city to satisfy our hunger for dinner.
We found a hidden gem of a restaurant in a Thai place near our hotel called Samui Thai Küche that happened to be open. The sole proprietor insisted that we did not need the seven dishes we tried to order and talked us down to five with the promise that she would always make us more if we were still hungry. One by one, steaming dishes of Thai food were produced out of here kitchen and one by one the four of us devoured them. As we reached the fifth dish we realized she had been totally correct: we were stuffed.
Our mouths slightly afire from the spicy food, we thanked the proprietor for her hospitality and headed on our way to the gas station across the street (the only store still open on a Sunday evening) to pick up supplies for breakfast. We then turned back to our hotel with the tunes of Julie Andrews still ringing in our heads, and are headed to sleep with hopes of an early start tomorrow.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
ABOUT JUSTIN DE BENEDICTIS-KESSNER
Justin is a professor at Boston University and has lived in Boston for the last 8 years. He met the others when he was a PhD student at MIT. He was introduced to recreational bicycling at a young age by his father in Berkely, CA, where he grew up. In high school, he started rowing, which he continued as an athlete at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and then as a coach for the men's lightweight rowing at MIT while in grad school. Justin completed his first century ride on his bike in 2012 and rode across the U.S. in 2014 from Seattle to Boston with Don and Dave. Justin is also a Pactimo Brand Ambassador Alumni.