Passo Dello Stelvio
As I looked down into the valley I couldn’t help but smile. Miles upon miles of tarmac lay stretching, twisting, tuning, falling, rising and cascading. There were tunnels, switchbacks, rivers, waterfalls, rock strewn slopes, green fields and snow caps on the distant mountain peaks. Everything was at my fingertips.
You’re not ready for the views that great you at the top of the pass.
Over 1,000 miles had been covered for me to stand at the exact spot that I wanted to be at. The Stelvio Pass, once voted the greatest driving road in the world, the unbroken ribbon of motoring heaven was sprawled across the Alps in front of me.
There isn’t much that prepares you for the pass, the human like shouts from echoing of engines bouncing through the valley, telling me to join in, antagonising me to test my concentration and how close I can push the limits of the roads edged with large drops.
I said I was ready but, for once getting behind the wheel I wasn’t actually sure what ready was. I drove off the top off the pass and plunged into the chorus of engines to see how good I really was at driving.
Hairpin upon hairpin. Layered perfectly within the Alps.
On the first few hairpins and narrow straights I was nervous, sticking to 20mph and riding the brake pedal for an uncomfortable amount of time. It’s not what I expected, I was terrible. Then when I had been round my tenth switchback I got the hang of it and I was able to feel for what my car could really do.
I wasn’t just relying on what I saw, I could now feel the road through the steering wheel, I was listening to the engine changing its pitch and suddenly I was more in tune with my machine and what driving is ultimately about.
The tunnels provide the perfect acoustic for getting you exhaust to sing.
Fourth gear became third, and then third became second, 2,000rpm quickly rose to 4,000 and 20mph was only reserved for the corners. The grin that was painted on my face would have made the Cheshire cat looks relatively upset.
The shouts of engines are now a symphony as each car and motorbike hits each note in turn as they rise and fall along the pass as if a composer has written a masterpiece. The deep bass of a car going through a tunnel is joined by the high-pitched soprano of a motorbike testing their nerves to see what speed they can reach.
For a brief moment in my entire life as a motorist and car owner everyone on the road was not only friends but, closer to family. Everyone enjoyed watching your car zip by; thank yous were exchange as I waved the faster cars through so we could both enjoy the same reason for being there. Thumbs up and pointing as people who owned the same car as me knew the joy I was having behind the wheel.
The Mazda MX-5 showed it’s true colours and completed the pass with ease.
They say ‘Go Big or go Home’ and after driving a big road trip of more than 2,000 miles, I finally reached my home with one question, “How on earth am I going to top that road trip?” Only time will tell but, keep your eyes on the new section of this blog as more articles on road trips appear.