The first order of business this morning was to get to the Museum of Archaeology. We were in line when the doors opened, but hit the first snap when my camera was sent to luggage locker jail. We looked over the exhibits related to the discovery, recovery, and interpretation of Oetzi, the copper-age man found in a glacier. Then we got to view the man himself, sitting in his temperature and humidity controlled chamber. Interesting, and worthwhile if you are in town.
After I retrieved the camera we exited the museum and made a dash to the hotel to checkout. Then, with the Bolzano bike map in hand, we attempted to make our way to the Adige river bike trail towards Merano. The first part was easy, a trek on nice paths westward along the south end of town. The city map shows two bike paths heading north along the Adige; one east side between the river and the railroad tracks, and another on the west side between the river and the autostrada. But neither is there! The trail we are on sits high above the landscape so we had a good vantage point, but the northbound trails were nowhere in sight! We made a few loops back and forth, looking all around, and found nothing. So we turned back to town, went a couple of miles north on city streets, then headed west again to the river. The map shows that the east side trail ends before Merano, so we wanted to find the trail on the west side. Again we find nothing. Then, as we sat just east of the river contemplating what to do, a couple of bikes zip into the tow company yard in front of us. Ah-hah! The start of the trail is on the north side of this parking lot! The trail is paved and quite nice, and we made good time ... for a while.
At the crossroads at the town of Vilpian the trail changes to packed gravel and there is a sign that appears to prohibit entry. We were contemplating this when an older couple approached and started talking to us in German. We got them to switch to English and they assured us that the trail continues and that it is the way used by bicyclists heading north. We took them at their word and continued. The further north we went, the worse the trail got, gravel becoming every larger and looser stones. We decided that at the next crossroads, just past Postal according to the map, we would exit and go to the road west of the river to continue towards Merano. When we got to the crossroads there was a surprise; the trail ascends up onto the crossroad, but the roadway is cut off on either end, replaced by a new (but inaccessible from the trail) road. On the east side the drop-off from the old road is about 15 feet to a field. The path does not continue north from this point on the east side of the river. On the west side, the roadbed ends about 10 feet above the on-ramp to the autostrada. There is a trail going north, but not south, on the west side of the Adige, so we headed out on that. Within a mile the trail ends in large piles of dirt that have been dumped there. So we turned back to the crossroad, went back to the east side of the river, and headed about a half kilometer south to just opposite the train station at Postal. We removed the bags from the bikes and I portaged everything, bikes first, over to the train station. There we re-assembled the bikes and rode off onto the new crossroad to the town of Lana. Eventually we made it to Merano, none the worse for wear, and looked for food. Nothing obvious along the road, so when we saw a bar at the train station we stopped for stale sandwiches and some soda.
Past Merano the road, SS38, climbs for a way out of the Adige river valley to the Val Venosta. It was quite warm, and traffic was a bit heavy for such a narrow road. Once we crested and started riding southeast on SS38 we picked up a tail wind and were making good time ... until the tunnels. Two long tunnels, one 2.2 km the other a bit shorter, un-nerved Sarah (apparently the Val Venosta bike path, just south of the road, avoids the tunnels ... good information for next time). As we were getting over the claustrophobia a new problem appeared: thunderstorms. With lightning strikes getting nearer and still 20+ kilometers to Prato we made the decision to look for lodging. We headed south of the road, following a sign to an Albergo, and found the Val Venosta bike path. The Albergo is just off the path, and after a hurried conversation in a combination of English, Italian (minor), but mostly German, with the innkeeper we are sent back about a kilometer to the Hotel Winkler in the town of Castelbello. We get a room, and the bikes parked in the underground garage, just as the skies open up.
The Hotel Winkler is a great place to stop, even if one were not forced to do so by the weather. The family run place is newly remodeled, very clean and modern, rooms are large with a sitting area (complete with sofa), and the half-board plan is quite economical (48€ per person). The included dinner was large, and very tasty. Highly recommended if you are in the neighborhood.