One Last Euro Ride. (I think)
This trip starts with the selling of my Triumph. My first bike, a 2005 triumph Speedmaster, blue and black. She was a good bike, but it was time to let go.
I got up on Friday and rode her to Wiesbaden to sell to an Army dude. It was good to say goodbye to her with a proper ride. I took off, up over the Hunsruck by Hahn airport and out to Wiesbaden. I waited around for a few, BSing with folks about bikes, then we took care of the particulars and I took off. I was sad to see her go, she was a good bike. I didn't want to trouble the dude I sold her to and I didn't have any friends who were in the give me a ride mood, so I took the train back home. I hiked off the Army post, I talked with a german girl at the bus stop and I took the bus to the Hauptbahnhof. The train went through the middle Rhein Valley which is a beautiful train ride. After a switch in Koblenz I was on a train in the Mosel valley. The only better way to see each is on a bike!
The next day was trip day. I woke up and packed... Did a quick run for gas and I was off! The goal today was Garmisch Partnekirchen. When I left it was slightly overcast with the temperature was at about 70º. When I made it to the Mosel valley the weather stated looking dark and on my way up the hill toward the Hunsruck the weather turned for the worse. It started raining, so I stopped to put on my rain gear. Only a few minutes later I had to stop again and wipe the fog out of my visor. I rode for just over an hour when I stopped for cheep gas at Ramstein Air Base. It was at Ramstein when I realized that I was soaked from just an hour on the road. I decided to stick to the Autobahn to save time after I got gas, but the rain was really heavy going toward Manheim, so I called an audible and rode toward the B-10 through Pirmasens and Landau. Just past Pirmasens there was a detour for road work that sent me on the 427 through Dahn. This road would've been great on a dry day, but today in the rain and following the slowest drivers on earth, the road sucked. After a bit I was back on the Autobahn and I was through Karlsruhe.
I was wet, this much was certain. My hands, my feet and my legs were soaked. Until then the one piece of riding gear I could count on was my €20 rain pants and jacket because they never let me down. Today, the pants leaked like no body's business. I stopped just after Stuttgart and I wanted to quit. However I threw on a thermal top and I pressed on. Just before Ulm I stopped to get gas. I went in the bathroom of a rest area, stripped down and put on my running tights and wool socks. Then I got two plastic bags from the girls working the register and put them over my socks in my boots. I ditched my soaked gloves and switched over to my summer gloves with rain covers and I continued on. Past the rest area the rain cleared up and the sun came out for a bit. I cranked the bike up to 100mph and made for Füssen Germany. Once I got to Füssen the rain came back, but I only had a little bit of riding to go before I got to Garmisch. While Riding through the mountains toward Garmisch the cold was getting to me. My coordination was suffering and I wasn't to trusting of the bike in the rain. (the tires had spooked me a few times over the course of the day.)
I made it to my hotel, The Olympiahaus, about dark. The clerk at the reception asked if I was hungry because the kitchen was about to close in 10 minutes. I asked for a schnitzel and they had it waiting for me after I unloaded the bike and got changed. Great Place! It is also worth noting, that I stayed in the Olympic ski stadium from the 1936 games. My room was on the 2nd floor where the Chancellor of Germany at the time had watched the winter games from that very balcony.
Inside my right (Big) pannier after riding through the worst rain we have had all summer. (It has been the best summer ever in Germany.)
The balcony where the Chancellor watched the winter games in 1936. I slipped in here while the maids were cleaning and snapped a few pictures. This spot gave me an uneasy creepy feeling.
The plan for my day in Garmisch was to hike to the top of the Zugspitze, but when I woke up at 6:00am it was Raining Cats and Dogs! So I did what any good American would do, I went back to sleep. I woke up later on, I had a good breakfast and around noon the rain had let up enough for a hike. I set out from the Olympic Ski Stadium and hiked up the Partnach Gorge. The gorge was amazing, a cross between caves, tunnels and a water ride at an amusement park.
The Partnach Gorge
Me in the Gorge.
After the gorge I decided to hike to the Bockhütte, the first hütte on the trip to the Zugspitze. The lady at the gorge said the Bockütte was 2 to 2.5 hours from the gorge. Me being cocky about my hiking skills, I thought I could make it 1.5. It actually took me about 1:45, but I stopped to take a lot of pictures. The hike was awesome. Once I got to the Hütte, I stopped for pea soup with wurst and coffee. They were delicious!
I asked the girls working at the Bockhütte how they got supplies to the Hütte and they said "Motorrad" and sure enough, after a bit a few dudes showed up on bikes loaded down with supplies.
After the Hütte I kept on hiking toward the Zugspitze and I found the best toilet in the world. There was a small cabin in the woods and on a rocky point down the valley from the cabin was an outhouse with no door and the throne was situated so you could see down the valley while you do your morning business. I assure you, that was the greatest view you could ever have from a toilet.
The view from the toilet.
After a great hike I headed back. I had a great dinner of pork medallions with mushroom gravy and cheese spätzle. The food was amazing! After dinner I decided to hike to the top of the ski jumps to work off that Spätzle! Tomorrow I ride into Austria!
Innsbrück and on to Switzerland
I left Garmisch early, and decided to ride a huge U-turn on my way to Innsbruck. I set a course for Namlos Pass to the west and then back East to Innsbrück. It started raining on me near Namlos pass so I pulled over and suited up. The pass wasn't that spectacular, but the over-all ride was a good, especially on the back-side. At the bottom of the Namlos pass I rode up the Lechtal. Which was an awesome ride. At the top of the Lechtal, in the town of Warth, I turned toward the Flexenpass. The Flexenpass wasn't that big of a deal either, construction and tunnels, but now I know where that road goes after Alberg-pass.
After Flexenpass I rode down toward Bregenz and my goal to come back up the Silvretta High Alpine road. The Switchbacks on the Silvretta-Hochalpenstraßewere were nice but it was wet and cloudy on top. However, it was a good ride none the less.
When I got to the Silvretta turn off I smelled imbis food and it was about lunch time. I looked back over my left shoulder and I saw this place. I stopped for Currywurst! Got me through the rest of the day.
The Silvretta High Alpine road.
The top of the Silretta High Alpine Road.
I always wanted to get a picture of this castle perched above the Inn Valley.
Once off the high road, I found myself in Landeck where I filled up the tank. I had remembered a valley I had ridden up on a previous trip to Innsbruck and after a brief battle with my nemesis, the GPS, I found a route to this mysterious valley. Turns out that valley was the Kühtai. I rode up the Ortz valley a bit and then I started a switchback climb up the mountain to my left. The switchbacks were dry and it was fun sweeping back and forth on them. (I rode up leading a gang of bikes, but I lost them when I stopped in a panic to take pictures of the cows standing int the road.) Once I made it to the main valley things got really cool. There were cows everywhere! Standing in the road! I don't know how other people feel, but I thought it was cool! After the Kühltai I rode into Innsbruck and checked into my evening digs.
Cows on the Kühtai.
The top pf the Kühtai.
The Next day I knew I needed to address the issue of my riding gear failure. I went into a local motorrad shop and looked to remedy my leaking rain pants, soaked gloves and leaking boots. I found a pair of riding boots for €100. A new pair of rain pants and a decent spare set of gloves. (All of which preformed admirably) I tossed my old boots in the trash and headed out. I rode the Kühtai again because I wanted to take a picture of the cows in the road with my GOPRO camera.
More Cows and rain today on the Kühtai.
After a talk with my Austrian friend Simone last night, I had to promise not to ride the Flüelapass today, because it was on that pass that her father was killed in a motorcycle crash the year before. I promised her with a pinky swear and I plotted another course into Switzerland that gave me maximum passes for my buck.
The first new pass of the day was Reschenpass going into Italy. It was a nice, dry-ish climb up out of the Inn Valley. Nothing out of the ordinary, but it was a good ride. At the top I stopped at the Motorrad Cafe for a snack and Coffee. I talked with a couple of German Bikers who had ridden from a place not very far from where I live. I also met an Irish biker on the new BMW R1200GS. I talked to him about his BMW riding suit. I figure you get what you pay for and he said he has had his riding suit for 3 years and no water ever gets in.
Anyway, the next pass on my list was the Umbrailpass from the Valmüstair. I started up the pass twisting on the staircase switchbacks in the rain. The cool thing about Umbrailpass is a good portion of it isn't paved, which is great on the F800GS! The temperature dropped into the 40s just up to the pass and it only got colder the higher I went. I think it was 40º at the top. I stopped and took some pictures and waved at the top of Stelvio and then I turned toward Bormio. The way down Stelvio pass to Bormio was wild! Descending from the clouds into the sunny valley looked awesome. I almost dumped the bike when I pulled onto a small rocky ledge to take some pictures, but the pictures were worth it.
Riding up Umbrail pass in the mud and the rain.
The West side of Stelvio pass.
The precarious rocky edge where I stopped to get some pictures.
The West side of Stelvio going toward Bormio.
In Bormio I realized that I had forgotten how big of a S#!t Storm Italy is compared to the rest of Europe. Road signs mean nothing so I had to break out the GPS for the first time to navigate to Livigno. The Paso di Fascagno was pretty cool, perhaps the neatest part was entering the tax-free region with the false border control. Livigno looked like a nice town and part of me wanted to look for a place to hang out for the night. The other part of me wanted to get out of Italy, so I decided to press-on for the Dual-Pass crossing
The temperature in Livigno never got above 47º and the dual passes were cold! And Wet! Very wet. Forcoladi Livigno and Berninapass were both wet and cold! But the ride out of Livigno was very beautiful. The temperature was about 37º and on the backside of the Berninapass it was raining very hard. I was starting to worry about myself when I got down to St Moritz. I was cold and starting to feel a bit sloppy. I bypassed St Moritz for the next town down. I figured in Samaden I might get a better deal on a hotel. I met some bikers from the UAE at the train station in town. We had all pulled under a loading dock to get dry for a minute. These guys where all riding tricked out BMW, Victory and Yamaha bikes shipped from the UAE. One guy was wearing fingerless gloves and it was 45º in the valley! I joked with them about how I was finished for the day and then I went to find a hotel.
After striking out at the first hotel, the price was too high, I pulled into another hotel. The girl gave me the same quote and I was ready to leave but the girl said she could cut me a deal if I wanted. I talked with her and she came down 50 CHF on the room so I said it was a deal. So this is where I am at for the night. Today was pretty darn good
Always ready for a rr from the Alps. Awaiting more.
Another view of the ski jump; it looks a bit odd as you approach (especially if you don't know exactly where you are)
Looks like a great (albeit wet) ride so far. I experienced similar weather on the one Germany/Austria/Italy ride I did around the same time of year. Didn't dampen my enthusiasm for the area a bit, though. Looking forward to more...
St Moritz to Innerkirchen
The day started out great. A fancy Hotel, a great breakfast and good conversation. I loaded up the bike just after 10am and I was on the road at 11am. The weather was looking promising, sunny with just a few clouds.
Cows, I love cows.
The first way-point was Albulapass. This pass was just down the road from where I slept and I figured, "Why Not?" I rode out with my rubber ducky in tow. (The Hotel I stayed in had a rubber ducky in the shower, it doesn't have a rubber ducky anymore.) The approach to the Albulapass was the typical stair case switchbacks. Once I got to up the switchbacks into an alpine valley I caught up to the clouds. I paused just before the hard-core fog to take pictures of the high alpine valley and the cows. (I'm loving these cows.) Once I got on the Pass proper it was Foggy! Very Foggy! The backside of the pass was very scenic for the railroad that criss-crossed the road. I think I saw the same train 4 different times on the desent from the pass. The train would cross the road on a bridge, disappear in a tunnel and reemerge out of another tunnel just down the mountain to do it all again.
The top of Albulapass. Foggy!
The railroad trestles on the backside of Albulapass.
On my way down the pass I saw this place. It was a train car filled with Alpine products. Cheeses, meats and so on. I bought some alpine tea. The cool thing about this place is there was no one there to sell anything. It was a pay as you go honor system. Just write down what you take and drop the money in the box.
The ride down from there was through a nice scenic valley toward a place called Tiefencastel. I thought this meant Devil's Castle, if it does mean that, I did not see Satan's castle or I would have surely taken a picture. From Satan's Castle, I rode down toward Chur toward the Rhein Valley. At first I skirted the side roads through villages with ruined castles along the mountain, but after a bit I knew I needed to expedite my progress so I jumped on the Autobahn. I got turned around in Chur for a minute. Turns out I wasn't supposed to go there after all. (and I despise navigating with a GPS.) After a bit I was on the right path heading toward Andermatt!
After crossing a minor pass at Flims and the ski town of Laax I started the ride up the Rhein valley toward the Oberalapass. On my way up the Rhein valley I teamed up with a BMW rider from Italy and we rode the bulk of the valley together, but we got separated just before the pass. Most of this day I spent without my rain gear, but I decided to suit up before this pass. I had been rained on here and there over the course of the day, but nothing major. I was in some steady rain just before the pass and I figured I should add the extra layer to keep warm if anything. The temperature was in the 40s most of the day. Oberalapass was foggy and the real highlight was going down into Andermatt. Big-Snaky-Curves. But, alas there were no good spots to take pictures.
I stopped in Andermatt for my ritual coffee and snack and then I set out for Furkapass. Finally the weather was cooperating.! The initial climb was the staircase switchbacks which dropped me off into a huge open valley with the sun fighting through the clouds. I stopped and took some pictures and rode on. There were plenty of Cows in this valley too. All with their bells clanging around their neck in a nonstop rhythm. (I love those cows) As I remember there was a little fog at the top but then there was a spot to pull off and I could see the way down from the Firkapass and in the distance I could see the Grimselpass zigzagging up its mountain. I believe this high mountain valley may be the motorcycle Mecca.
Firkapass and the climb up to Grimsel.
Rubber Ducky, you're the one.
On down the mountain I was surprised to see a Glacier right by the road. Of course I pulled up and went to check it out! At the small rest stop you could pay 7 francs and walk into an Ice cave inside the Rhone Glacier. (I did that too.) It is also worth mentioning that the Firkapass was featured in the Bond Film "Goldfinger."
Inside the Glacier.
The Hotel from Goldfinger.
I spent at least an hour taking pictures and taking in the sights on the Firkapass. Finally, I got going on my way up the Grimselpass. Half way up the pass was OK for viewing pleasure, but just before the top I entered the clouds. It was foggy up there like pea soup! So I switched on the high-beam and eased along. On top of the pass there is a rusty sculpture of a motorcyclist and his woman. They are riding a rusted out bike and both of the characters are made of rusted spare parts. It looks like the rider is wearing a WWII helmet with bullet holes in it. The funny thing about this sculpture is that it is chained down. I thought that it would make a great trophy if someone was in the thieving mood.
The fog persisted most of the way down the pass. There were wet roads and an occasional glimpse of sun. I realized that I was pretty tired riding down from the Grimselpass. It was almost 7pm and noticed that I wasn't in tune with the road as much as I should be. At one point I rode below a dam with a large painting of weird womanly figures. I found myself fixating on them and not looking at the road and I had to correct because I was drifting toward the edge. I think the painting is of the Sirens of Grimselpass. Hahahahaha.
I pulled into Innerkirchen and decided to call it a night. I found a camping spot for 18 francs and I pitched my tent. Sleep was good, I don't have an air mattress on this trip, so I slept on my riding jacket and pants and I feel rested. I think I'm going to do these other passes here before I move on today. I would hate to say I missed out on some of these mountains
Great report! Looking forward to the next chapter!
I called an Audible at the Line of Scrimmage.
I woke up this morning, don't believe what I saw. 100 million bottles washed upon the shore... Wait, that's a Police song. I got up today and broke camp "Slow." I did a load of laundry, because I was in dire need of some clean sox and underwear. Other than that, I took my time packing up and leaving. I soaked up all the sun I could while loading up the bike.
I looked on the map from http://www.alpentourer.com/alpine_pa...tthard_region/ and there was another loop of passes that I could ride in the immediate area. I was in Innerkirchen and I realized that I could take Sustenpass, then St Gotthardpass and then Nufenenpass and I could make another big loop. Since I might not ever make it back this way I figured it would be a shame not to ride all those passes. I took off out of Innerkirchen and rode straight up the Sustenpass. The scenery was beautiful. Some switchbacks and some open valley riding through pine forrest. On the way up I passed a big yellow trike with a smaller bike trailing behind. When I stopped to take my first batch of pictures they caught up with me and we talked for a bit. Turns out, the folks on the trike were the parents and the girl on the motorcycle was their 16 year old daughter, riding a 125 on a "Big Mountain!" I think that's pretty awesome for a family vacation.
Riding up Sustenpass.
On my way up to the pass I was passed by a Swiss Army motorrad unit. I didn't know there was such a thing, but I saw it with my own eyes. I saw these dudes behind me in camouflage riding black BMWs. I let them ride by and sure enough they were a military unit. Later on, I stopped on the top of the pass to take pictures and buy a sticker. I'm trying to cover my panniers with stickers from all the places that I ride. I've also added patches to my mementos on this trip.
The top of Sustenpass.
Any way, I made it over the pass to Wassen and then I headed back toward Andermatt. On the way to Andermatt I linked up with 3 bikers. One on a Ducati, one on a Transalp and the other on a BMW R1200. There was quite a bit of twisting and turing on the way up to Andermatt and the road wasn't a bad ride. I lost the other riders when we got to Andermatt because I had to pull off and fill up.
I left out of Andermatt and headed up a to the next town and the St. Gotthard Pass. The initial climb out up the pass was twisty but then the pass turned into a big straight highway. I made it to the top and I was a bit disappointed. I stopped at the top for lunch and coffee. It was about that time that I was becoming very aware that I was really tired, but a break and some coffee got me going again. I noticed a cobblestone road going down off the pass on the Italian side and I had remembered something about an old pass road in the reading I did prior to the trip. I followed the cobblestones and I was rewarded handsomely. This was the old road still in its original state. Cobblestone switchbacks all the way down the mountain. All of a sudden Gotthard pass was one of my favorites. (And it was a long way down!)
Bikers a top Gotthardpass.
The entrance to the old road at the top of St Gotthard pass.
Here you can see the old and new roads for St Gotthard Pass.
Taking a pause for the cause before we tackle the Cobblestone!
The Twisty Cobblestones!
The next pass to get me back into Switzerland proper was Nufenenpass. The climb up this beast was awesome as well! Really twisty climb to the top and the view from the top was spectacular. I stopped up there for another coffee, a sicker and a pastry. You know, keeping it fancy. I rode down from the mountain snapping probably 100 GORPO pictures. (Those will be uploaded once I get home.)
The top of Nufenenpass.
I made it to Ulrichen and I decided to ride back up to Grimselpass to get to Interlaken. The road from Ulrichen to Gletsch is almost like a pass itself. Lots of twisting and turning and the frequent whiff of burning brakes from the vehicles coming down. There was one hairpin-left-hand-turn where I got blasted by a gust of wind and I had to correct to stay on the road and out from under a truck.
On the way to Gletsch I made a few stops looking for a steam train that is supposed to run through this valley, but I couldn't find it. I've always liked trains and perhaps this is a reason to come back?
The Ride back over Grimsel was like yesterday but better. Today I had dry roads and I could see! It is also worth noting that I did not put my rain gear on once today. I am in Interlaken now. We will see what tomorrow holds.
Riding down Grimselpass.
The Grimsel Sirens
Interlaken and on.
I stayed at a campground up on the hill in Interlaken a little too far off the beaten path for my tastes. Call me a softy, but I like to park the bike, pitch the tent and sit down for a hardy meal. I was a little too far out to hike, so I stripped down, put on some jeans and rode into town for provisions. I was also beyond too tired to be riding a bike. I picked up a Döner Kebab and something to drink from a small shop by the river and I returned to the camp. I sat on my panniers by my tent chowing down and then I relaxed. In the campground I met some English gentlemen who were on a rock climbing trip. I asked if they had climbed the Eiger North face, and they said they had climbed the Eiger, just not that route. I told them that climbing the Eiger is good enough for me.
The camp in Interlaken. The stuff in the sky is actually para-gliders.
Good morning from Interlaken.
The next morning I woke up early and broke camp. I got a cup of coffee off the campground staff and then I headed to see the Eiger and Jungfrau for myself. I rode up the valley toward Lauterbrunnen. Once there I started looking got a place to sit down and eat. I spotted a cool looking spot, I parked and went up to ask about food. There was a guy and a girl sitting out front and they told me that the food wasn’t that good there. Go figure. I asked them where I could see the Eiger from and they told me to take the cable car up the mountain and I could see it. I debated the cable car ride and decided against it. I rode up on the valley until I could ride no more and then I turned around and set a course for Grindelwald.
The cliffs above Lauterbrunnen.
Riding around Lauterbrunnen.
Lunch under the Eiger.
The ride through both of these valleys was amazing with massive cliffs and waterfalls. I made it up to Grindelwald and there was the Eiger. I rode around for a minute to find a place to eat and I settled on the pizza place over the train station in Grund. There in the parking lot I met a couple from Israel who said they came to Switzerland for the Air Conditioning. I ordered Raclette at the pizzeria and it was great! I also ordered chicken wings, because I thought the raclette was too small a portion. I was wrong.
So, I got to sit under the Eiger and eat lunch and that was pretty cool. Again, I debated riding the train up the mountain to see the infamous north wall, but I was running out of time so I rode down from the mountains, jumped on the Autobahn and started working my way home. On the way back into Germany the temperature got up to about 80º. Thats a long way form those 40º mountain crossings. I found myself burning up so I decided to stop and cool off with some ice-cream.
After one week on the bike I still wasn’t finished. There was still one more stop to make. I was scheduled to rendezvous with my coworkers at the Middle Mosel Wine Fest in Bernkastel Germany. While Bernkastel isn’t the biggest festival. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better festival in Europe. Last year my coworkers and I had camped there and it was a good old time. So this year it was up to me to reserve a spot for us all to meet again this year. I showed up early on Saturday morning and reserved us all a spot.
Bernkastel, the swans like to party.
What makes Bernkastel so awesome is the firework display on the last Saturday of the festival. Bernkastel is a small picturesque village on the Mosel river in Midwestern Germany. There is a small ruined castle on the hill over looking the village. During wine fest there is a mock battle between an attacking force on the river and defenders at the castle. This battle is played out with fireworks and thousands of people come out to watch. After the fireworks people go across the river to sample wines from vendors from the Mosel wine region. This year did not disappoint.
The journey complete
"I climbed the highest of the heights. Atop that mountain I watched the day turn into night. Oh I tell you I was a wretched sight, But I stood long and hard until the light. Rubbing needles in my eyes, eating dirt.
I stood up, and everything was all-right." Quote from the song 7 Jam, by the band Clutch.
On balance, the total trip was 8 days and 1,413 miles. I rolled solo, but I met lots of interesting people along the way. No matter what I have read or seen, I think the only true way to understand a place is to go put my boots on the ground and take a look around. I think I accomplished that on this trip.
Nothing was totally ideal on this trip, there was terrible and beautiful weather. I was really discouraged on the first day of the trip, but looking back that was the worst rain we have had all summer and any sensible person would not have ridden a motorcycle in it. But whoever said I was sensible??
It is funny about the ups and the downs. I think ups and downs are what make the trip great. I like to say that no story worth telling ever goes exactly as you plan. A good story needs to have some tragedy and a little danger to make it interesting. The weather definitely was a factor on this trip, that’s for sure. I think I’m better for tackling the alps in bad wether. It only cost me a pair of riding boots and my rain suit.
Back on the home turf, the Mosel valley.
My advise for anyone wanting to ride in the alps is this, “Bring three pairs of gloves!” Bring your summer gloves and two pairs of wet/cold gloves. Every trip I have been on all three pairs have come into play. I even carry waterproof glove covers as a last resort and those were crucial riding through Stuttgart on that first day. (The reason was I forgot my backup winter gloves, I bought a spare pair in Innsbrück.) It is one thing to be wet, it is another to be cold, but when you are wet and cold things get crappy fast.
But after taking everything into account, this last week was the best motorcycle trip I have ever been on, hands down.
Great pics, great script, just an awesome RR. Thanks for the ride.
That outhouse with a view reminded me of the one on top/near the top of Mt Whitney in Calif. I was impressed with that view also.
I hiked/backpacked the John Muir trail from Lone Pine to Devil's Post Pile in '02 to see all that valley I could , beautiful but not like your ride. Thanks !
Keep it coming:D
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