Europe 2009 - Summer was cancelled
This year's ride was a little different. Rather than renting a bike for many, many Euro, I shipped my old faithful GSX1100G across the pond to live for a few years. I got to Stefan Knopf's facility in Heidelberg on the 2nd of July and the first order of business was to dust off the bike, hook up the battery, feed it some fuel and see if it was gonna run.
To explain the last statement:
Just (2 weeks) before the ship date, I discovered that the bike had sat for so long that a hole had rusted through the tank and was slowly weeping fuel.
Not good - and not much time. I managed to get a proper fix to the hole, but this left the tank needing paint. For some reason - auto paint shops (around here, anyway) do NOT paint motorcycle tanks and the 'cycle guys were booked up. Finally found one and he got the tank back to me 2 (count'em) days before I had to haul the bike from Virginny to Orlando with the injunction that the paint had to cure for 90 days before I could put fuel in it. Since it would be 120 days before I saw the bike again - this was NOT a problem.
Choke on, ignition on, hit the button and VROOM - all of the proper noises came out of the mufflers. This looked promising.
Day 1, Friday July 3rd – Heidelberg, Germany to Marktschellenberg, Austria.
Today was primarily a shakedown day. I left Stefan's place and headed out. Less than 2 kms away, my fuel gauge headed for the cellar! All that I could think of was that something coupled with the repair job had just failed. A quick u-turn and I headed back to Stefan's. Got there, felt all around under the tank - hands were dry. Opened the fuel filler door, and it was at the same level. I remembered that the fuel sender seemed a bit fiddly when I put the tank back together - so no fuel gauge. I headed back out and at the first fillup, the bike was returning the same mileage that it always had. No fuel leaks! Yay!
Today's goal was the quaint little Austrian town of
and its neighbor
I'm collecting a series of these unique town names and hope to be able to compose complete sentences using town names. I need to have SOMETHING to do in retirement :D
I hit a bit of rain in the afternoon, and remembered why the pair of boots that I had brought were in the back of the closet - they were no longer waterproof. This could be a long two weeks.
I notice that the Tach is no longer reading and that I don't have turn signals - blown fuse and no spares.
I hit a Bancomat (ATM) for some working capital and it promptly sucked in my ATM card with a note that they were keeping it for security purposes. It's now Friday night and everything is closed. This is NOT cool.
I dug out the faithful Blackberry and called both of my credit card banks to advise them that I will be having a significant change in useage patterns, and feed one into the Bancomat. 2 minutes and €400 later, I'm on my way. Stop for the night just north of Bertchesgaden in a small Gasthaus for €22 for the night with breakfast.
This is the cheapest lodging that I will see for the next two weeks.
Day 2, Saturday July 4th – Marktschellenberg to Aviano, Italy.
I pick up a few fuses with my morning tank of gas, and everything is working again. I head south for Austria and Slovenia. Tach stops working again - new fuse is gone. Change of plans. I WAS going to swing through Slovenia, but with a mystery electrical problem, I head for Aviano AB in northern Italy where I'll have some resources available (retired military). I book into a local hotel and fire up the laptop to hit the Yahoo GSX1100G group. A plea for aid brings me scans of wiring diagrams and multiple suggestions.
Day 3, Sunday July 5th – Aviano – messing with bike.
No significant riding - just back and forth to the BX for parts, and fix-it materials. Fun day.
Day 4, Monday July 6th – Aviano – Loop to Bled, Slovenia, through Trieste.
While parts shopping, I discover that the Air Force has on-base transient quarters that I can stay in for significantly less money than the hotel. I move and am assigned "Family Quarters" (a micro efficiency apartment) as they don't have single rooms available. This comes with a washer and dryer. The dryer will come in VERY handy over the next two days.
Still not sure what's happening with the bike, but I decide to do a short loop through Slovenia to visit Lake Bled. Just after I pass through Tarvisio heading for the Slovenian border, a light rain starts to fall - more annoyance than anything else. The border guards don't wave me through, and one of them starts to go behind my bike to see where I'm from. Before he can look at the plate, I say "Stati Uniti". His eyes pop open a bit, and his buddy wakes up and wanders over. We have a great chat for about 5 minutes until the stack of cars behind me gets too big. I guess that I was the most excitement that they'd had in a month.
I make it to Bled after 20kms of Slovenia's finest dirt roads through a national park. In a steadily increasing rain. It's now raining steadily and there's no way that I'm going to try and take pictures of anything. I decide to loop back to Aviano through Trieste and am treated to Florida-class rain and thunderstorms until I finally get to the Italian border, where it all stops.
Back to the base, spread all of the paper that I have on my body into a single layer on the countertops and let it dry - money, passport - everything is wet.
On the bright side, The fuse gremlin seems to have gone away - one of the GSX guys recommended unplugging the horn. I tried it and it worked. Go figure :huh
Day 5, Tuesday July 7th – Aviano – Loop to Forcella di Lavardet.
One of the roads that I've wanted to ride is the Forcella Lavardet - and today would be a good day to ride it. Off we go for a fun day of motorcycle adventure.
About lunchtime, I spot this:
With a buildup like that, I HAD to stop, and was treated to typical Italian country fare
I continued on until I got to the road to the Forcella.
Which was closed.
And it was starting to rain.
So - with a decision to go back the way I came or to do a loop, I opted for the loop.
The bike now needs fuel.
The first station that I came to had a chain across the entrances (typical of Italy) - closed.
The second one had a sign that it was closed on Tuesday afternoons for its normal day off.
The third one was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday for a strike.
My trip odometer is registering more miles since the last fillup than I like to see. Did I mention that it was raining?
I finally find a station that is open and actually selling fuel. I top off the tank and head south.
Tomorrow, I head north.
yes, we are quite familiar with that Austrian town! :lol3
Euro riding looks good in any season :thumb
Day 6, Wednesday July 8th – Aviano to Arabba, Italy. Hook up with Alpine Roads gang.
For the past couple of years, AlpineRoads.com group has been meeting for a couple of days of riding, renewing old friendships, making new ones and general debauchery. The first one was in 2007 when one of the Finnish members mentioned that he was going to be in Livigno with a group of friends on such-and-such a date, and if anyone was in the area to drop in, say Hi and have a beer.
24 of us did so. I thought that I had the" trophy" for the Longest Distance Traveled sewn up until an Aussie showed up! Anyhoo - last year was in Barcelonnette, France - just before - and too close to - Bastille Day, and this year was in I Dolomiti - Arabba to be precise. An easy 100 mile ride and the weather was looking good (for a change).
Unfortunately, this year Karza, the Finn who has been the guiding force behind these meets, had a bit of an incident on the Stelvio pass where something slippery got between his front tire and the road with predictable results. One trashed (brand new) Hyabusa and one trashed (not quite so new) leg. He was taken to a local hospital for immediate care before being taken back to Finland. It put a bit of a damper on the festivities, to say the least.
Bridge over the river at the Lake Barcis inlet
Stopping for lunch in Cortina d'Ampezzo
WWI fortifications on Passo Valparola - this whole area was fought over bitterly by the Italians and Austrians.
Slow day for bikes, but the scenery is still great.
Castel Andraz - an 11th century castle that has been stabilized against further deterioration.
View from the Hotel Olympia
Day 7, Thursday July 9th – Arabba – riding the Dolomites with A-R.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen) - up from Lago Misurina there is a toll road that takes you to, as John Herman said, the best view of the Alps you can get with your wheels on the ground.
Coming down from Passo Giau under a threatening sky
Day 8, Friday July 10th - Arabba – riding the Dolomites with A-R.
Your Humble Correspondent - rigged for rain - a recurring theme.
The British/US contingent of the A-R crew preparing to have lunch.
Polenta con salcicca - yum
Decisions, decisions - but it seems that all roads lead to Arabba - hard to get lost
Day 9, Saturday July 11th - Arabba to Sils, Switzerland.
Said goodbye to the gang and headed west. Plans for today are to do the Stelvio and drop in on Karza, who still hasn't been evacuated back to Finland and must be going stir crazy in the Italian hospital.
Coming out of the Dolomites and looking north up the Adige valley with Bolzano in the distance
Just west of Bolzano heading for Paso Stelvio - I'm a sucker for castles
Made it up Stelvio's east ramp - note to self - the east ramp is for going down only for this bike in the future - and got to the top just in time for a snowstorm. and it was cold - felt to be about 5C. Or less. Had the mandatory wurst and a Coke, and headed down to find warmer weather.
Found the hospital...
It turned out to be a complex of about 8 large buildings stacked pretty much vertically on the hillside (although it doesn't look like it from this perspective).
Karza was in the white building in the center and was being prepped to return to Finland the next day. It seems that nobody in the hospital spoke English - or Finnish and he was going nuts. The good news was that the damage to his leg was all soft tissue damage, with no bone or nerve damage. It seems that he got his leg between the bike and the Armco during the crash.
Another castle - near Grosio
Ducked into Switzerland to find a place for the night. Now that Switzerland has joined the Schengen treaty, there are no border controls. Oddly enough, the Italians still man theirs with the facing buildings that formerly held the adjacent country's guards empty. A bit of a Twilight Zone feeling to it all.
Day 10, Sunday July 12th – Sils to Chieri, Italy.
View from hotel room
View from just past the clutter
Maloja Pass - that pass that isn't
I say that, as the Maloja is a pretty much "standard" pass road from the west, but the east side, rather than winding down the other side of the hill, is flat. Takes you past a couple of pretty lakes (see above), San Moritz and heads north. It's more of a road down a cliff than a true pass.
Still a nice ride, though.
The plan today is to get to Ghedi Air Base to do some laundry and maybe a cold Coke with ice in it.
Enroute, Ms. Garmin tells me to part ways with the lake at a town called Ballano and to head south on SP62, which turns out to be the local squid road - and MUCH better than poking along the lakeside through all of the small towns. This road drops me off in Brescia and from there, it's only a short hop to Ghedi.
I find the base, and it's an Italian base (with a USAF contingent on it). It appears that I can't come on base unless someone on base vouches for me. This sucks lightly. I am now in the flat hot part of Italy and half the day is gone.
OK - it's off to France. And rather than spend the day in 90 degree (F) weather going through town after town at 50kph, I opt for the Autostrada and bail for Torino. Ugly, but efficient. €13 in tolls and €15 in fuel later, and I'm there.
Day 11, Monday July 13th – Chieri to Barcelonnette, France.
Today, I take the slow roads - I'll be gaining altitude, and the weather will be nicer.
Climbing the Colle delle Morte - there's something very cool about being at eye level or above clouds
Passo Esischie - Yeah, I know - it's paved, but I'm on a street bike
Since I'm stopped and taking pictures...
Colle Agnello - yeah, the white stuff is what you think it is.
Nice ride today - nothing spectacular, but no nasty surprises either. I pull into Barcelonnette and find that the place is full. No room at the inn(s). I go out of town a bit and find a hotel for a merely outrageous price.
Day 12, Tuesday July 14th – Barcelonnette to Saint Gervais les Bains, France.
Lavender fields north of Die
I'm actually heading for Switzerland and Andermatt now - taking the scenic route. As I pass through Grenoble, I stop off at a group of bike shops to look for gloves.
They're all closed.
All the shops are closed, and Grenoble feels like a ghost town - I halfway expect to see tumbleweeds blowing across the road.
The plan is to head toward Chamonix and find a place for the night. I stop in St. Gervais des Bains at a likely hotel and settle in.
Just as it's getting dark, I hear what sounds like rifle fire - nope - fireworks.
SHIT! It's Bastille Day again. I've GOT to start remembering this stuff. It explains why all of the shops are closed, the streets empty and the prices sky high.
Day 13, Wednesday July 15th – Saint Gervais les Bains to Andermatt, Switzerland.
Approaching Chamonix, I considered taking the cable car up to the Aiguille di Midi. When I got there, I couldn't see the top, and reasoned that I wouldn't be able to see much of anything from the top except the tops of clouds - which all tend to look alike. So I continued on.
Entering Switzerland, the clouds just couldn't hold it any longer and proceeded to piss on me all the way up the Rhone Valley into Andermatt. Heaven forbid I should get dehydrated.
I pull into Andermatt and check into my usual - the Monopol - for 3 days, and hook into their WiFi network.
Oh joy! Nice tomorrow, rain on Friday and possible snow on Saturday with a HIGH of 8C.
Day 14, Thursday July 16th – Ride around Andermatt.
A new day dawns
Almost like it's trying to apologize - lovely day. I head north out of Andermatt and head over the Susten Pass
and into Grindelwald. The last time I was there, it seemed touristy and crowded. It appears that that part of my memory is working nicely. Not quite as bad as DC rush hour traffic, but close. Riding back towards Andermatt, I ride along the north shore of the Brienzersee - great relaxed ride with the Grimsel and Furka passes still to go and maybe a couple more in the afternoon.
Brienzersee, looking towards Brienz
Stopping at the top of the Grimsel Pass, I hear this NASTY metal on metal sound as I apply the front brake. I squeeze the lever gently again and am rewarded with the same sound. The hilly part of Switzerland is NOT the place that you want to be with no front brakes - trust me on this. I have to get down from the Grimsel and over the Furka to get back to the hotel - a nice gentle, slow ride using more rear brake that I can ever remember using.
On the Grimsel Pass - I have NO idea how he makes it through the tight hairpins.
And then I see this guy, who obviously has no problem making tight turns
I do make a stop on the Furka at the gift shop near the Glacier. This puppy is disappearing quickly. Photos from the turn of the century show it going all the way down into the valley. You can also catch a glimpse of how it looked in 1967 in the movie "Goldfinger".
Rhone Glacier today
and in 2003
The Rhone River valley
Back in the hotel, and I'm on the web researching parts. I hook up with Cooltours in Zurich who finds a place that has parts and a place that can install them. Now to tell the hotel that I need to leave a day early.
Wait, what's this? A note form the hotel apologizing profusely and telling me that I will have to leave a day early, as my room was already booked for Friday night. OK - so maybe some things are working out.
Day 15, Friday July 17th – Andermatt to Zurich, Switzerland.
Short day. About 30 kms from Andermat, I come to a Yamaha/Kawasaki shop - worth a try.
"Sorry, we don't work on Suzkis". I show them a cross-reference (from the web last night) that shows about 80% of the bikes that use my pads are Kawasakis.
"Bring it in and we'll have a look."
45 minutes and CHF 250 later I'm on my way with fresh brake pads and fluid.
Moto-Gisler, just south of Schattdorf.
It's now raining.
I've booked a room in Zurich through Hotels.com, so it's paid for. Might as well head there. I PM Cooltours and we set up a meet for breakfast.
Day 16, Saturday July 18th – Zurich to Adenau, Germany.
NOT happy with the hotel or the amount of info from Hotels.com. After paying for parking, breakfast and internet, my bill came to half again what it was originally. Why do the expensive hotels nickle and dime you for everything while the middle tier includes it in the base price? Annoying.
Hook up with Cooltours at the hotel and we go down to my bike in the hotel's garage. I plug in my GPS and it doesn't power up! WTF! The connector that plugs into the GPS has self destructed. Garmin makes a very dense connector fo their GPSMap 276c/378/478 series that falls apart if you look at it sideways. This is the 3rd connector that I've had come apart. I have taken to making power pigtails so that the actual connection/disconnection takes place remotely from the GPS so I never have to touch the damn connector.
They fall apart anyway.
Cooltours says he knows a place that sells Garmin - so off we go (in the rain) to what is essentially a Best Buy. They have Nuvis up the wazoo, but nothing like what I need. I need a soldering iron and a bit of solder and I can jury rig the connector until I can get back to the States and real parts. Cooltours then remembers that the store next door has major electronics tools.
We go there. They've got EVERTHING!
Except soldering irons.
More chat between Cooltours and a store clerk, and the clerk takes my cut-down and prepared connector and cable lead upstairs and returns with it in about 10 minutes. Soldered. No charge.
I thank him profusely, and buy a bag of zip ties. One always needs a bag of zip ties on a bike.
Off I go to Adenau and the Nurburgring. In the rain. It rains pretty much steadily until I get a bit south of Heidelberg. I'm sick of rain.
I started looking for a place to sleep, and the obvious biker (cheap) places were full. I would up in the Hotel Blaue Ecke in the center of Adenau, which turned out to be a LOT less expensive than I thought it was going to be (this is not to say that it was cheap). Superb hotel, location and staff. I WILL stay there again if I'm ever in the area.
Day 17, Sunday July 19th – Adenau – ride the Nordschliefe.
The "Burg" in Nurburgring
Notice the sky. Guess what?
Behind my VERY classy hotel - this whole area is seriously motorhead.
And something for my faithful steed
It rained off and on throughout the day. I watched from the comfort of my room or the bar. No sense in getting unnecessarily wet. The Nordschliefe was scheduled to open for Touristenfahrten at about 5 PM, with a long distance race going on in the earlier part of the day, although what constitutes a long distance race on a track with a 13 mile lap, I'm not sure.
Along about 4ish, I headed for the track - the rain having stopped. I would have taken pictures, but there just wasn't all that much to take pictures of, unless you count the snack bar and gift shops and a wad of cars and bikes waiting for the track to open.
I had already paid my €22 for a lap and joined the waiting throng. My aims were to (a) complete a lap, (b) not get run over and (c) stay out of the way of the fast guys (everybody but me). It was one heck of an experience and well worth the time and money.
Day 18, Monday July 20th – Adenau to Heidelberg.
Castle on the Rhine
Departed Adenau heading for Koblenz and the Rhine River. The day's plan was to take the river down (heading south, but upstream) to Wiesbaden where I had been stationed in the early 80s, and head to Stefan's facility in Heidelberg for a few nights.
Day 19, Tuesday July 21st – Heidelberg - ride around Neckar valley.
Stefan suggested that I take a ride up into the Odenwald and then down the Neckar river to Neckarsulm where there was a large motorcycle museum. This seemed like a plan, and the weather looked like it was going to cooperate.
The Odenwald - it was MUCH better in person.
The next bit was a stretch that was closed to motorcycles on weekends. Stefan said that there were too many accidents with motorcycles, and so they were banned during peak traffic times. Tuesday was not a peak traffic time, and I had a great ride on a lovely little asphalt roller coaster of a road. This ultimately led me back into main roads and traffic, but still with some nice sights.
A castle along the Neckar
Those are photovoltaic cells - must have set them back a pretty penny
The wurst is yet to come
At the Deutches Zweirad und NSU Museum - Neckarsulm
This is a model - unbelievable detail. About 15 inches long and the chain was made of individual links.
A Bomerland. Barber has one, and now I know that I wasn't hallucinating. One of the Alpine Roads guys came across 3 of them in Gletsch, between the Furka and Grimsel passes.
I've a soft spot in my heart for this (the yellow Duck). I had one in 1975. Paid about $1,200 for it. They're going for about $15,000 now. Sigh.
And, of course, what motorcycle collection would be complete without one of these?
More pics at: http://michaelj.smugmug.com/gallery/...81702796_WRJsx
Day 20, Wednesday July 22nd – Heidelberg – prep bike for storage.
Pretty much says it all. Add Stabil, go fill the tank, run it for a few miles to get it all through the system. Top off oil and air, wash it (or at least get the thickest layer of bugs off), disconnect the battery and put the GiVis into the long term storage area.
Day 21, Thursday, July 23rd – Fly home.
I lucked out a bit - Stefan was taking a Harley to the airport to fly it back to Canada for a customer, so I was able to hitch a ride. And yes, it was raining again.
Home sweet home at Stefan's:
Bike parked right outside my room - how handy is that?
Outdoor dining area - tent space to the right
"The Harley Room"
All in all, I would have spent over $3,000 on bike rental if I had gone my "normal" route. I saved enough on this ride to pay my freight to and from (the bike WILL have to come back unless it gets totalled), my insurance, a year's storage, my meals and most of my gas. Basically, I was just out hotel expenses (which I would have spent anyway). And the next ride is free! Sort of.
I'm kicking myself for not checking the brakes before I shipped it - checked/replaced just about everything else. I do have a set of rear pads on the list of things to bring over on the next trip, though.
The bike ran like a champ, and except for the mystery fuse bit, gave me no problems. I did feed it a can of Gumout over 3 tanks 'cause it was stumbling a bit - but it sat for 6 years. The fact that it ran at all is the amazing part.
I'm just sorry that I didn't do this years ago.
Again - thanks to Stefan Knopf for all of his aid and to the guys at Moto Gisler for going the extra mile (kilometer?)
I probably should have included this pic:
the prices on the menu don't look too bad. This is a bargain for Italy!
GiorgioXT may know the place, as it's not far from Tai di Cadore.
Great pictures and great post. I enjoyed riding with you in Arabba...thanks for riding at Harley speed for awhile. Are you back in the US now?
Very well done. Beautiful photos!
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