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July 2, 2004: Prato Isarco - Zürich

Make sure to read to Max's story about this day!

We woke up and it rained. We had breakfast (Nutella!) and it rained. I was hesitant about leaving in the rain, but I was, once again, quite easily convinced. As the (now) four of us were climbing Alpe di Siusi, I noticed, as Max had told me in advance, that the Dolomites look quite different from the Swiss Alps as I had seen them until then. Things were more rugged and the mountains were more, ehm, pointy.

Everything went fine until my knees started to become a problem roughly two-thirds of the way up. The last third was pretty much torture. I had to stop frequently to let my knees rest, and even decided to walk parts of the climb. My mood was sour.

During lunch on the summit (1950m), I decided to turn around, if only because continuing would mean trapping myself in a valley where only two more big climbs would get me to a train station. We said good-bye and I raced back down Alpe di Siusi, trying to stay ahead of the rain that was obviously going to come.

And rain came alright. Soon after I was safe inside the Bolzano train station, where we had met Bernie the day before, rain came pouring down.

Now came the long and arduous train ride back to Zürich. Cyclists are the pariahs of the Italian and Swiss railway systems. The original itinerary I was handed involved 9 steps, including 2 by bus. Once I arrived in Innsbruck I decided to ignore that itinerary and just get on trains I wasn't supposed to get on. A somewhat risky maneuver, but once your bike is inside a train, chances are that you're going to be left alone. Oh, and don't forget to smile.

Along every step of the way I met wonderful people, including two British couples, a german lady, and an Austrian young man of my own age who studied medicine and worked on building ski-lifts in the summer. I cheerfully chatted with everyone; I was at no point bored on my eight-or-so hour trip. I arrived in Zürich late in the evening, in the middle of a city-festival that is held only once every three years. The city was teeming with people---they all came out to welcome me back. My grandmother welcomed me with open arms and, overall, I was happy, proud, and very content, despite the abrupt ending. I can't wait to do this again.

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