First alpine air
07 September 2011 | St Leonardo, Italy
This morning, we left our crowded tourist town on the shore of the Bodensee in Germany and turned east onto the "Deutscher Alpinestrasse," a post-war tourist development driving route. It's pretty, with charming pastoral villages and closer views of the Bavarian Alps. It is also incredibly slow, I feel like I am one one of those tourist sightseeing trains, stupid slow, following trucks, RV's, tractors, minivans, every manner of slow transport, all going the same dismal speed. It crosses my mind that maybe this was a mistake, to have fun driving in Europe in the summer. At lunch in Fuessen, we decide the hell with the Alpinestrasse, let's make the fastest route to the real mountains, in southern Austria and northern Italy, and turn south. The first goal is Passo del Rombo, a skinny squiggly line on the map at the Austrian - Italian border. Still, there are trucks and slow cars. Where are they all going? Creeping over this high alpine pass? They mostly drop off in the villages along the way, and eventually we reach a toll booth for this road, $20 each way. We roar out of the toll booth, open road ahead, stunning views all around, and see a string of exotic cars roaring towards us, a very good sign. Yes, this road is incredible, super tight hairpin turns, cows, goats, and rocks on the road here and there, oncoming motorcycles on the very brink of laying down in front of us, I scrape the air dam on downhill hairpins and switch off the traction control to power slide a bit through the turns, this is a driver's life! I do believe, this road and car today was one of my best driving experiences ever. Photo from the summit above.
Tonight we are in St. Leonardo just off of the pass, a Tyrollean village in Italy but still speaking German and with German food. We'll finish the toll road tomorrow and start working on the 40 or so more passes in Italy, Austria, and France I have mapped out. It's a Tour de Passo.
More on the car: it has an automatic transmission, and I love it! This is no Chevy Powerslide 2-speed or even the decent Tiptronic common in German cars, but a PDK, or Porsche double clutch, which is a slick dual transmission box where one side is driving (1, 3, 5, or 7) while the other side (2, 4, or 6) is setting up for the next gear. True clutches switch between the two, no torque converter. It shifts faster than a human can, has paddle shifters on the steering wheel, and 3 selectable driving modes for when I choose to let the transmission controller make all the shifting decisions. And being from Porsche, those decisions are usually done just right. I do manually upshift now and then in order to keep the revs down during this break-in period, which is almost over. While I have forever been a fan of clutch-and-stick manual transmissions, I selected this PDK so that I can keep both hands on the wheel at all times and concentrate on the steering, throttle and braking, and let the computer manage the shifting. It allows me to drive much smoother and faster.
That's it for today...