An early start as the only direct train from Mestre to Longarone is at 8:07AM! I was at the train station by 6:00 to get the bicycle supplements (3.50€ each). A quick breakfast and a checkout by 7:40, plenty of time since the station is just across the street. The biggest issue with bikes and trains, we find, is dealing with the platforms. It is a given that your train never leaves from the nearest platform, and that moving between platforms is never at grade. One must deal with the dreaded sotto passagio, the under passage, a tunnel with stair access. With a fully loaded bike this entails removing the bags then carrying bags on one shoulder and bike on the other shoulder down the stairs, through the tunnel, then up another set of stairs hoping all along that they do not change platforms on you. Once the train pulled into the station it was a mad dash to the rear car and loading of the bikes. This train had hooks in the rear utility section for the bikes and the conductor helped, so it took only a minute or so to get everything on and settled.
The train ride from Mestre to Longarone was quite pleasant. The train was only about 1/3 full so plenty of room to spread out. The route headed north through Treviso, Vittoria Veneto, and Ponte Nelle Alpi before Longarone. The area north of Vittoria Veneto, between Lago Morto and Lago di Santa Croce, is beautiful but the autostrada looks daunting with very high flyovers. The conductor warned us just before Longarone so we were prepared. At the station he helped us unload and made sure we had everything before he allowed the train to continue, a pattern of caring that seemed almost universal among the conductors we encountered.
In Longarone we faced our first riding issue; they were re-surfacing the road in front of the train station! This meant we needed to cross a construction area of scraped pavement, dodge two-way traffic in the single lane that remained open, all on a slight uphill grade. We succeed at that but I had an issue with heel clearance; oops, I had installed the panniers on the wrong sides, more of my left-right confusion. A quick fix in the parking lot of a bike shop and we were once again on the road. The trip up the Val di Zoldo, from Longarone to Forcella Staulanza, is about 22 miles of uphill grade; not too steep but definitely an uphill trip. At the beginning there was a threat of drizzle, but it soon clears off to blue skies with a bit of a haze. The views of Monte Pelmo and Monte Civetta were awesome, even with the moisture laden air. Sarah was not feeling 100% and was soon dragging with the constant climbing. In Forno di Zoldo we do a brief stop for gelato, to refill the water bottles, and re-energize before continuing the climb.
We made it to the top of Forcella Staulanza, from the south, at the same time as a pair of slavic riders from the north. We took turns getting pictures taken under the sign at the top of the pass then headed across the road to a bar/restaurant for a quick sandwich and some water. It was then time to head downhill. The descent was nice, but I fear too short for Sarah's liking at that time, as we soon turn left and start an uphill trek towards Colle di Santa Lucia. We crested on the Colle, had another brief descent, and then encountered more uphill grade, albeit gentle. Sarah was running out of gas by the time we reached SS48 (strada statale delle dolomiti) and I did not have the heart to even joke about turning right and going up Passo di Falzarego. We turned left towards Arabba, our semi-planned endpoint for the day, but Sarah voted to stop at the first available inn. A couple of kilometers later we encountered the Albergo Excelsior on the outskirts of Pieve di Livinallongo and obtained lodging for the night. The innkeeper, a woman, hints at what is in store as she speaks little Italian, speaking mostly German, something we found to be the norm in this part of Italy.
The room at the Excelsior was great. Large, very modern, with a balcony looking southeast into towards Monte Civetta. We cleaned up and go down for dinner from the restricted menu. Few choices, but we hit most as we refuel. Sarah's favorite was the strudel, complete with pine-nuts.