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Old 05-26-2007, 04:48 PM   #1
MichaelJ OP
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Joined: Jul 2003
Location: Sterling, Virginia, USA
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2006 Alps Trip Report - better late than never

Daily GPS track follows each day's entry.

11 July - Check in at Dulles for an Alitalia non-stop to Milano. Drag my duffel with all my riding gear to the bomb sniffer and watch as they completely unpack it. One of the TSA men notices me hanging around and approaches me to ask if I need anything - I tell him that if that bag doesn't make it on the plane, there's not much reason for me to do so either. We have a short chat about motorcycling, and I watch as my bag is repacked. Through security and a minor repeat as my carry-on gets a second glance (laptop, digital cameras, ipod, GPS, cabling & chargers for all. It's gotta look interesting on the xray. The flight is uneventful, but I don't get any of the sleep that I planned on getting. Will have to substitute adrenaline ;-)

12 July - Clear customs, hit a Bancomat (ATM) for some Euros, get a train ticket to Milano (Malpensa to Milano is sorta like Dulles to DC - it's out there a bit). Fire up my GPS and notice that I have no European maps on it. My 512MB card programmed with the Alps is safely home on my computer desk. All I have in the GPS is a 128MB card with Virginny and the Carolinas on it. Drag out my laptop, hook up the GPS and proceed to load a minimal mapset to the beast - enough for today - I'll sort it out when I stop for the night. Taxi from the train station to BiancoBlu, get there just as they're opening and my 1200GS is waiting for me. Time to take care of paperwork, suck entirely too much money from my Visa (rental fee, damage deposit), and sort a few final details on the bike. Mooch a wrench to mount the GPS, change into my riding gear and stash my duffel in the garage until I turn the bike back in. It's now eleven-ish and hot, but the gate opens and I'm off! It's only about 2 km from the shop to the Autostrada and soon I'm wicking the throttle up... What's this? Traffic has stopped! 10 km of 1st gear & neutral, lane splitting when I can (wish that I didn't have the side bags). An hour later I pass the event that’s causing all of the grief and it's off we go. It’s almost as if they knew I was from the DC area and wanted me to feel at home, so they provided a little traffic.

100km later, I pull off into the resort town of Descenzano del Garda. It's hot and it's time for the ceremonial First Gelato. I have a large lemon gelato while sitting on a bench looking over the lake. Wrap that up, and back to the Autostrada to do another 200km to Conegliano (due north of Venice) to visit with friends and find a place for my first night's stop. In the interim, I've had to feed the beast. €25.00 worth of fuel at €1.40/liter goes into the tank - that's at $1.30 per €1.00. Find myself wishing for $3/gallon gas

13 July - Slept VERY well. Grabbed a quick breakfast and go to Aviano AB to pick up a couple of US-European plug converters (about $.50 each at the BX) and some other goodies that I forgot (like ibuprofen). Off to Slovenia and points north. Pass into Slovenia via the Predil Pass

and head for the Vrsic pass and Austria. I need to spend more time in Slovenia - pretty country. Anyhoo - I pass into Austria via the Wurzen pass and have my only border crossing passport check of the trip. At this point, I'm heading for the Grossglockner and just riding through the countryside. I stop for the night in Dollach at a small hotel that I stayed at in 2004. Prices are up (no surprise there), but they give me a voucher for a free pass on the Grossglockner that's worth more than their price increase :-).

14 July - Off to the Grossglockner and the first serious altitude of the trip. After a side trip to the Franz Josefs Hohe to see the glacier (which is in retreat) I head to the Edelweissspitze and a "Biker Point". I never cease to be amazed at the extent the Europeans (with the exception of the French) cater to and actively solicit bikers.

is an example - a sign welcoming bikers, parking for motorcycles only and free lockers to stash your helmet/tankbag/whatever. Most hotels will charge to garage your car, but will provide the same to your bike free. In addition, a lot of them will have a bike wash point set up with hoses and rags provided. Wonderful.

Down off the Grossglockner and winding through the countryside heading for Berchtesgaden, Germany. A few miles from the German border in slow traffic (20-25kph) I do a quick mirror check. When I look front, traffic has stopped. Heavy brake input, a squeal from the front tire and I'm down. In pain. With the breath knocked out of me. While I'm noisily reinflating my lungs, people pick up the bike, and an ambulance (transporting someone else) stops. I convince the paramedics that I'm OK and sign a wavier saying that I was not following their advice (lawyers everywhere). Back on the bike (light cosmetic damage only) and I'm off to Berchtesgaden. I get there and realize that it's more than just a bump and head to the hospital. 6 x-rays later and I have 1.5 broken ribs, no shoulder damage and an ultrasound gives me a clean bill for soft tissue damage. Back to the front desk to settle the bill and thinking of blown budgets. The bill comes to €113 plus an additional 3% since I'm putting it on Visa (my Visa statement had the transaction at $147 after currency conversion). Try that in the States.

Suck down some ibuprofen and really don't feel like sightseeing right now. This is my first broken bone ever and I'm a bit overwhelmed. Head down the road back into Austria. To complement my mood, it's getting dark and starting to rain lightly. I see a sign for a Gasthaus with a "Bikers Welcome" sign and head on it. Check in for the night, stash my bike in the garage (with the owner's Harley) and head to bed.

15 July - Have a good breakfast and decide to spend another day here resting up a bit and feeling sorry for myself. Spend most of the day flat on my back. My Blackberry earns its keep - telephoning family, doing web searches for broken ribs and seeking wisdom from other riders who have suffered the same fate. Consider aborting the trip, but I'm 500km from Milano and have to get me and the bike back. I take turns thinking about this and feeling sorry for myself.

16 July - Decide to head back to Aviano AB to talk with an American doctor - no reflection on the German Doc, but there was a bit of a language problem, and I wanted clear understanding. So, after breakfast, I saddle up and head south. Get back to Aviano noonish and basically confirm that (a) I'm doing as much as I can and (b) there's no medical reason not to continue with the trip. Back to the BX for more ibuprofen (the little bottle that I bought on Thursday won't last long) and I head back north into the Alps and Cortina d'Ampezzo. This gives me a 400km day, and I'm quite comfortable while riding. Getting on and off the bike is *uncomfortable*. Going to bed isn't bad - just drop clothing on floor and lie down. Getting up and dressed makes up for it, however. For example: I couldn't bend over far enough to pull on my right boot. Luckily, I had a Gerber multi tool on my belt and the pliers extended my reach by just enough...

17 July - Head out of Cortina to the Timmelsjoch and into Austria via the Val Gardena. Cross over the Passo Falzarego and Valparola into Corvara and over the Passo Gardena heading for Merano. North out of Merano takes me to the Passo Rombo/Timmelsjoch road and it's over the top into Austria. Do a short loop in Austria and it's back into Italy via the Passo Resia where Italy, Austria and Switzerland come together. Down the road a bit and hang a right to go over the Stelvio. The Stelvio is the 2nd highest paved pass road in the Alps and there's what seems to be a small city up there. It's a must stop for bikers - sort of like being Catholic in Rome and not visiting the Vatican. Summer ski season is in full swing and between bikers (motor), bikers (non motor) and skiers it's a bit of a circus. Bought a t-shirt this year. Down from the Stelvio and it's getting late. Stamina is down quite a bit and I'm riding shorter days. Check into a hotel in Bormio for the night. I open the doors to the balcony and see that it's raining. Timing is everything.

18 July - It's too soon to duck into Switzerland, and there's really nothing much in this area that I want to ride again, so I decide to head back into the Dolomites and Cortina the long way and pick up a few lower passes that I've bypassed in previous years. Out of Bormio, I go over the Passo Gavia. I've been there before (got the sticker), but I don't remember it - was in cloud most of the way. From the Gavia, I head east towards Trento. Approaching Trento at about 95kph, I sneezed. No warning. Just Ah-CHOO! Thought I had been shot. The right side of my body from my shoulder to my waist went numb for almost 5 minutes. Memo to self - don't sneeze. Pulled into Pocol (near Cortina) and rolled up to a hotel that rescued me and my sons a few years back.

* It's 2003 - My sons and I were heading back from Austria to a rental apartment in Canazei that we had for a week. As we approached Cortina, it started to rain (and is DARK - 22:30 hours). Passing through Cortina, the rain gets worse and we have two major passes to traverse in the rain and dark - not a good thing to do. Did I mention that our rain gear was safe and dry at the rental property? Anyhoo, as we pass this hotel, the lobby light is on and the proprietor is outside talking to someone. A stroke of luck - most small hotels are family run and shut down the front desk around 21:00. I ask her if she has any rooms available and she does, she opens the garage for the bikes and says good night, we'll take care of the formalities in the morning. We go to bed warm and dry.

* It's 2006 - I pull up to the hotel and the proprietor is coming up from the garage - she looks at me and stops - the look on her face says she recognizes me, but not from where. I say "June of 2003, about midnight, in the rain, with my sons" and she remembers. I check into a very comfortable room for two nights. View from room:

19 July - Ride around Cortina for a bit - Lago di Misurina,

up the road to Dobbiaco and pick up a few obscure passes. As I'm riding back into Corvara, a sight by the road causes me to stop, do two u-turns, park the bike and dig out a camera:

Guess that 70's sitcoms never die.

20 July – Time to go west, old man. Heading for Andermatt, Switzerland. I take the Autostrada north into Austria over the Brenner Pass and head west to the eastern end of Austria near Feldkirch and drop down into Lichtenstein. Passing by the McDonalds, I succumb to the heat and stop in. a burger and a LARGE Coke with LOTS of ICE does the trick. Just about the only place in Europe where you can get a LARGE Coke with LOTS of ICE is McDonalds. I think that there's a law against having ice in your drink in Europe. Typically, if you ask for ice, you get 2 or 3 cubes. Ditto at McDonalds, but they WILL fill it up if you ask. They'll look at you strangely, but they'll do it. Continue on down to Andermatt past the source of the Rhine River and check into my usual hotel for three nights.

21 July - Ride over the Furka and Grimsel passes to Brienz for lunch. I try a side road to get into Grindlewald the back way, but halfway there the road closes to private motor vehicles, so I have to retrace my steps. I stopped at the intersection of the Grimsel/Susten/Interlaken roads in Innertkirchen as a hotel there has a webcam that updates every second -

Called my elder son to grab a screen shot of me and called the office to say hi-wish-you-were-here while I waved at them. That's me at lower left :-)

Continued over the Susten Pass and back into Andermatt.

22 July - Riding around Andermatt - over the Nufenen and St. Gottard passes. You never know what you're going to see. The first thing that caught my eye on the Nufenen was a late '40's Indian with Swiss tags in lovely condition.

I'm not sure what it is, but the Swiss have a thing for older American motor vehicles - especially '70's musclecars. There's also a U.S. Military H.O.G. detachment down from Germany for the weekend. Back in Andermatt, have a late lunch and hit the room - very short day today.

More Swiss motorized toys:

23 July - Off to France. Over the Furka and down the valley towards Martigny and France. Nothing special - just a long slog down a progressively industrialized valley. Passing through Raron, they're having a Flugtag at the local airport. This requires a stop to watch the action and check out some of the planes. Just down the road a few kilometers from Raron, I come upon a dragstrip holding drags (what else?) and pause long enough to watch a couple of American '70's musclecars go at it. Go figure. Continuing southward, I pass into France near Chamonix. With Mont Blanc in the background, it's easy to see why all the tourists. Passing on southward, I pick up five passes that I haven't hit before and stop briefly in Pussy before stopping for the night in St. Jean de Maurienne.

24 July - Here's what I came for - high French passes - Cols du Telegraphe, du Galibier, de l'Izoard, Agnel

(Whoops! I'm back in Italy). Much of this route was recently (last week) ridden by the Tour de France and its debris is still all over the place. French road crews are painting over the graffiti on the road surface, returning them to black. While I'm in Italy, I pick up a few more passes and have the joy of being in an active thunderstorm above the treeline on the Col du Sampeyere. Can you say "tallest object"? I'm in rain and the lightning activity is centered around an adjacent peak, but with no cover, my object is to get back down below the treeline ASAP. Finally break out of the rain and go to ground in Vinadio for the night.

25 July - Up and at 'em and back into France via the Passo Lombarde. Today I get high. La Col de la Bonnette - the highest paved road in the Alps at over 2,800 meters. It's just a short loop road that takes off from the pass and loops around a high point and then comes back to the pass road, but if you're in the neighborhood... I pick up a few more passes that are on the Tour route. While grabbing a snack on the Col du Vars, I watch as another very dark cloud approaches. Finishing my sandwich, I continue on down and see two valleys ahead. The one on my right is BLACK and the one on my left is bright and sunny. This time, I win. I stop for the night in Guillestre. This hotel has a DEEP bathtub (it's been showers so far) and I take the opportunity to fill it up and soak the ribs in hot water. While enjoying this, I hear thunder - the cloud finally caught up to me, but too late :-)

26 July - Continuing northwards, I duck back into Italy briefly and check out the Col du Finestre, which promises a bit of dirt roading. Climb up on a nice paved surface that turns to loose gravel near the top. Over the top on a good dirt surface and then down for 16km before I see pavement again. Fun. Any cleanliness remaining on the bike is now history. Over the Col du Mt. Cenis and back into France, the Col du l'Iseran (highest paved pass) and the Cormet de Roselend. Stop for the night in Praz-sur-Arly at a hotel called Les Quatre As (The 4 Aces).

27 July - I've decided that I've had enough of France and want to spend one more night in Andermatt. Leave town just as a hot air balloon is being inflated. Guess I can spend a bit more time in France, so I stop and watch the takeoff. No sign of the TSA rummaging through their carry-ons. Nothing much of any consequence today - just a slog back up the valley (getting progressively less industrialized) until I get back to Andermatt. Find a hotel (took 3 tries) and checked in for the night. Mucked around town a bit and did some shopping.

28 July - Back to Milano - over the Furka, down the valley and took a left at Brig to go over the Simplon Pass and back into Italy. This is a different path than I usually do, and won't do it again, as the Simplon is a commercial pass and has a lot of truck traffic and tunnels. From the Simplon, I went directly onto the Autostrada and headed for Milano with the object to get there before they closed for lunch. An ugly route, but efficient. Got back to BiancoBlu about 11:30, went over the damage to the bike (windshield, right front turn signal, right cylinder protector and right cam cover - small scratches to the right side bodywork and bag. - damage total still pending).

29 July - Malpensa to Dulles. Home again.

Thus endeth an 18 day test ride on an R1200GS. Much to my surprise, I prefer my VStrom to the GS (I was sure that it would be the other way around), not that the GS doesn't have some nice features. Pity that this one didn't have ABS.

I also found out (again to my surprise) that a bad underwear choice can hurt MUCH more than broken ribs :-(

P.S. - The Trip Computer is about 300km low, as I forgot to zero it on Day #1.

More pics at
Michael J. - IBA #3901
Ten years in the Alps (so far)
Alpine Trip Reports: 2006, 2007, 2009
Pictures, pictures and more pictures

MichaelJ screwed with this post 05-27-2007 at 04:22 AM
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Old 05-26-2007, 05:10 PM   #2
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Joined: Aug 2002
Location: Toronto, ON
Oddometer: 57,139
Truly I tell you, this is paradise on 2 wheels!! Thanks for posting these photographic treasures, even after all this time
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