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Old 10-18-2008, 11:50 AM   #1
Old Git Ray OP
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6 Day trip to the Alps from London

I posted a trip on my XT660Z Tenere that I did last week on the UK based XT660 forum.
I did not realise that it cannot be viewed by non xt660 members so I will re post it here.....


God made most of the world in the first 5 days, on the 6th day, having learned from his efforts and errors he made the Alps.
A long time later he gave us the XTZ to go and visit them on.
What an incredibly beautiful place.

6 days
2234 miles (3594km), last day - 835 miles (1343km) in 24 1/2 hours.
176.8 litres of fuel
1 extremely sore butt.
1 small crash
8 new friends
1 dead TomTom
311 photos (Don't worry , I am not showing them all)
0 new snow (but lots of ice)
1 very important old fashined lesson learned
1 rider very impressed with his bike

Please do not add up the mileages as I got lost on numerous occasions for reasons stated below.

Prior to my trip I had really given SWAMBO the hump by pouring over this computer for hours on end plotting my route and programming my TomTom using Google Maps. This later becomes ironic.


Day 1 – Tuesday 07 Oct 08

SWAMBO is off to Portugal today for a chill out with some of our skiing companion girly friends so I drop her off at Stansted Airport and dash back to dress up for my trip.
As luck would have it (not), it had started to rain very heavily so I decided to put my winter commuting suit on instead of my normal riding gear.

Bike ready to roll at 7am and its pouring with rain. Bliss.

At about Canterbury on the A2 my TomTom started to flash and do funny things. I was a bit confused as it has been on the bike for most trips since my Tenere was purchased in July. The human interface on the screen would not let me select any options. It had apparently vibrated itself to bits. (Someone else complained of this on this forum and I said that the vibration was not a problem – Doh!)
Marvellous I thought. During my planning stage I had not bothered to look at any maps at all and I did not have a clue as to where any of the places I wanted to visit actually were. This is the lesson that I learned. DO NOT PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET. (do not put absolute faith in technology).

A quick dash to the Sea France ferry and a long hard look at some oversized maps tried to figure where to go.
A long haul on the French motorways and stops to buy more detailed maps.
A stop for some grub at one of the French “Aires” by which time the weather had improved. They do seem to look after the public better than we do in the UK. These are usually very pleasant little lay-by’s with toilets and picnic tables. This is possibly due to the Tolls. I paid 20 Euros for this leg of the trip.

Fat boy getting fatter somewhere near Troyes.

After this I pressed on and after a total of about 423miles (680km) it was at about 10pm and very dark so I stopped in a small town called Langres and found the French version of the Bates’ Motel. At least I was able to park the bike around the back.
Mileage for the day was the most I have ever done in 1 day (so far)


Day 2 – Wednesday 08 Oct 08

It rained overnight and my sheepskin seat was soaking but I did not care as my suit was 100% waterproof. I set off from Bates’ Motel and headed cross country in the general direction of the Alps having recovered some of my map reading skills and remembered some of the places I wanted to go. The weather was improving.
(Note to self – use the motorways rather than cross country in future – it’s a lot quicker even if longer).
The first thing I wanted to see was the Aletschgletscher. One of 2 very large glaciers in Switzerland. (8° 4.629'E, 46° 26.586'N if you want to look at Google Earth).
To get there I decided to go the long way round via the Gimsel Passhohe, from North to South. This is a pass so remote and high that Google Maps will not let you navigate over it. (its at 8° 20.257'E, 46° 33.764'N) and here are some pics of it.

Lake near the start of the trip up.

This made me laugh. It looks like the Swiss are still waiting for the Russians to invade (they are tank traps)

47 On the way up. This is why they now dig tunnels - original route off to the right.

49 Nearly at the top, this wimpy biker turned around here

51 Another dam further up

55 I just love the snow

54 Believe it or not it was not that cold.

58 Fat boy doing what he does best

59 Going down the other side was fun.

60 And, Oh look, a glacier.

62 A taste of what was to come…Weeeeeeee

65 Back down in the valley, Damp proofing before plastic !

Moved on to a place called Lax, that I remembered because I was in LAX (Los Angeles) airport a couple of weeks ago. From here I knew there was a track up to Kuhboden ( a ski resort) and the a further track to my glacier.

67 The track up to the ski resort.

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Old 10-18-2008, 11:52 AM   #2
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Day 2 continued

71 My first sight of the small glacier on the way up (looks like down – I know).

74 Tunnel to the big glacier.

76 After the tunnel the track became a foot path that was basically made from rocks (like they do in the Lake District) and this pic was taken at a place that I was able to stop.

77 Having been stuck on rocks and had to self rescue a couple of times I realised that I had bitten off more that I could chew with the fully laden bike so I decided to turn around. Easier said than done. Before I left I promised SWAMBO that I would be careful (ish) and to be fair, it is difficult to drive back down with a broken wrist or ankle and no-one knew I was up there. I managed to find a bit where I could drive into the snow bank and performed a 15ish point turn. It was very scary.

79 I then walked to the big glacier and this is it. The camera does not do the enormity of it any justice.

86 This was in an alcove half way along the tunnel.

90 On the way back down (yes I know it looks up). Its amazing what you can do in 10 seconds.

94 About a ¼ way down I found a good camping spot at about 6000 feet. I like to camp surreptitiously. An old habit from my army days and I think it adds security in people not knowing you are there.

01 Overnight temperature about 2deg C

Mileage for the day was about 270 (430km) but this did not include the tracks.
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Old 10-18-2008, 11:53 AM   #3
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Day 3 – Thursday 09 Oct 08

02 After a coldish night I awoke to see a bit of a ground frost and this view. This is why I suffer the cold.

07 Cold fat old git in a gimp hat.

13 Warming up a bit now and time to figure where to go next.

14 Bliss. Fun and views together.

15 I saw this on the way up and managed to sneak the Ten past it. He he he.

17 Heading West toward France I saw this and weakened.

19 And this was almost directly opposite it. I think its an underpowered Unimog derived dirt bike.

22 The temperature in the valley – Martigny - was very hot (for a fat boy in a winter suit).

The Swiss have an annoying habit of being happy to take Euros but only give Francs in change. This would not be a problem if I was not on my way to France with a pocket full of useless Franc coins.

28 The transition into France is another Col called Col Forclaz. On the other side was this view toward Chamonix

29 And …another glacier.

Prior to Chamonix, in a village called Argentierre I popped into a restaurant only to find they were not serving food so I had a small beer and a coffee. Whilst I was in there I overheard a Scottish guy talking to another guy about trail riding. Needless to say I had to listen. After a short while I could contain myself no longer and asked him where the trails were. He said “all around, why are you looking to do some”. I of course said yes and he, Sam Coward, that is, said I’ll tell you what, come to my house, get rid of the luggage and I’ll take my bike out and show you some trails. So we did, we drove through Chamonix and through to his house in Saint Gervais les Bains. We dumped my bags, he got on his XL250 and off we went. He took me all over the trails of the ski resort nearby. Fantastic fun for about 2 hours. He was impressed with the Tenere’s performance off road despite the road tyres.

34 And here he is with bikes and Mont Blanc as the back drop.

38 The both of us with me using the tried and tested 10 second dash and pose method of photography.

When we got back to his house his wife, Teresa, was home and did a very good job of promoting the fat boy cause.
Teresa was cooking with mushrooms that she had collected earlier and very sadly I was able to identify the type (a version of the Chanterelle) and we had a long conversation about collecting and eating mushrooms which is a sad dark side to my identity. Sam was gobsmacked that his wife had finally met someone else on the planet with an interest in mushrooms. (When SWAMBO reads this she is really gonna take the mickey out of me.) They were fantastic people and live in an idyllic setting and a laid back way of life that I envied. Sam took me all over his house which is a work in progress of converting a traditional timber framed/clad mountain house into a modern house on the inside without altering the external appearance.
Unfortunately I forgot to take any more photos of him, his wife, kids and house.
Their house is a bit like the one previously posted but without the dodgy damp proof course.
I left there after dark hoping to find somewhere to camp further south but gave up at Albertville and “booked” into a hotel for the night. The work ‘booked’ is odd as in reality it was one of those non receptionist places. You get into the fist part of the foyer and there is a machine that you press buttons etc depending upon requirements and then pay for it with a credit card and it prints a unique number that you use to access the rest of the hotel and your room. Weird. The accommodation was simple but adequate which suited me fine. It was 39E with a basic breakfast.

Mileage for the day was 134 (215km) not including the trail riding.
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Old 10-18-2008, 11:54 AM   #4
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Day 4 – Friday 10 Oct 08

Ate the simple breakfast and walked out. Couldn’t see the point of checking out as I hadn’t actually checked in.
Jumped on the Ten and set off Southeast towards the Cols.
Drove about 2 hours and promptly turned off the main road into the wrong village, Saint Jean du Maurienne, instead if Saint Michel du Maurienne, and subsequently up the wrong mountain. Fortunately I have a 6th sense about getting things wrong (I am very good at realising when I have done something wrong which is good because it happens a lot) and add to that the fact that the sun was from the wrong direction so I went back and wasted only about 30 mins, but hey, the riding was good.
I eventually found the correct road, D902, towards Col du Galibier.
What an awesome road. Started out, left right left etc, straightened out then left right left – you get the picture. Eventually ending up at Galibier.

41 43 45 Some of the views

46 The top – almost.

52 Large old person makes it to the top without zimmer or parachute but has to rest as a result.

62 Just the other side is a café/shop where I met a Fin (person – not fish tail) on a red BMW (far right). Bad picture but he, Jan, is above my tail bag in the picture.

Jan, who is about 50 years old, is on a 4 week tour of the Alps and Med to escape the depression of the awful Finnish weather. He has 53,000km on the bike and regularly clocks up 30,000km a year but only in the summer due the harsh winters in Finland. A very knowledgeable man on bikes and a damn nice chap too.
Once past the Col I turned left onto the D1091 and on to Briancon, then East to La Vachette where I headed North for Col de 'l Echelle.

71 72 73 Before getting there I stopped for grub (again) and took some piccys

The effects of the altitude on my grub is interesting. Taken at 6° 38.446'E, 45° 0.956'N.

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Old 10-18-2008, 11:55 AM   #5
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Day 4 continued

76 Off to the Col. Most boring one so far despite being gorgeous.
I then dropped down the other side (East) into Italy and then on to Bardoneccia.

Bardoneccia is a small town that supports a ski resort. The skiing is done on a mountain called Mont Jefferau to the East of the town. I had previously planned (programmed into TomTom) a route up the mountain and over the other side. The problem I now had was locating the exit point from the town up the mountain. The actual trail is well used but unfortunately on this occasion, not by me.

79 I thought this was the trail – wrong (again). On this occasion the sign is not a prohibition but a well intentioned warning.

This trail went almost straight up the mountain and was so steep that I could not turn around and had to keep going. It started out looking reasonable but soon turned nasty with loose boulders all over the steep track. It was the direct route that the Unimogs take between lift stations. Despite being loaded the Ten performed very well and I only stalled it once, fortunately it was pointing up at the time. I really had screwed up and I was crapping myself – again I was alone and being stupid.
Fortunately I got to the lift station and went to look at the piste map to figure out where I was and promptly dropped the bike due to being knackered and a poor footing. I forgot to take a piccy but….

36 Piste rash.
How many people can say their bikes have Piste damage ? Fortunately not much.

Other than 2 dents in the pannier there was no further damage. Not bad despite being laid completely on the side of the pannier.
I then had the problem of where to go next. I found a down trail having decided to abandon the mountain. After a few minutes I found a substantial trail and thought “hey, I found the right trail”, - wrong again. I followed this vehicle track to the right for about a mile them it stopped suddenly at some culvert works and I was presented with this..

80 This was a single track on a steep slope.

My mind again was saying “should I”, “shouldn’t I”. I could see knobbly tracks along it but they were likely from unladen dirt bikes so it obviously went somewhere. The devil won and I set off in fear. After about 500m the track returned to a normal two wheel trail and I was able to relax a bit.

26 Then suddenly the track opened up onto a flat area with old military fortifications on it.

33 I thought this funny. It states (in German), Pig German, Austrian and Swiss Motorcyclists, go to your home.
I suppose that means I can stay then.

35 So I did. I set up camp on a flat bit.

82 Mine isn’t the first XT here either.

37 I checked out the damage to the panniers. The bike was completely on its side and all the weight supported by this bent in (right) pannier. Sorted with a big foot.

44 My un-programmed second GPS tells me the height and that it is likely to get really cold.

I am a bit sad (OK - a lot sad) when it comes to gadgets. SWAMBO bought me a Garmin Vista to replace the one I lost in the Amazon some years ago (long but good story) but it had no useful road planning features. Some years later she bought me the TomTom but that is useless for trail planning so I had to take both – that’s my excuse anyway.
49 52 A couple of pictures of the sunset.

Bed at 8pm, nothing else to do.
Effective mileage for day 128 (205km)
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Old 10-18-2008, 11:56 AM   #6
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Day 5 – Saturday 11 Oct 08

I got up really early today, having gone to bed early and being woken by the cold.

62 Ten looks very cold at 6am.

64 Tent doesn’t look much warmer

66 Temperature gauge confirms the actual temperature.

68 This was the ice from the outer skin of the tent

70 Ready to go and awaiting some light to see with.

72 Time to go

76 But look at that sunrise

80 I set off down the other side of the mountain as there is a good trail and eventually find a trail back up to the top of the mountain – bring it on, my luck is changing.

82 Milestone (OK km stone) suggests 21.5 km back to base level.

83 Found this large pile of rocks stacked in an orderly fashion.

84 The top – bliss, and still only 8:30am

85 spooky.

89 2804m = approx 9200 feet.

90 More 10 second dash and pose.

91 Yippee…..another 23km of this.

92 Very dark, very wet, very slippery tunnel.

93 From further back this looked blocked off and I had visions of doing the whole mountain again the other way, fortunately not, whew..

95 Met this lovely Italian couple about to go up into the tunnel and up the mountain on the Yamaha Grizzly. They paid about 12,000E for it. Mad as march hares but lovely.

Once at the base I set of for the next Col, Col du Vars. I get there via Oulx, back into France, Briancon and Guillestre. When I get to Guillestre my belly says stop and eat so being the obedient kind of chap that I am, I naturally oblige. Whilst I am waiting for my food I look at the map and consider my options. Whilst folding and unfolding incessantly I see the name Monaco. I’ve never been there. OK lets go. Monaco it is then.

After grub I set off again and as I approach the village of Vars I pass a group of French bikers eating at a good view point and decide to turn around and take a picture. As I pull up they call me over to eat (again!) with them. I politely refuse explaining that I am full. We talk for a bout 10 minutes and look at maps and I generally try to appear intelligent. I then give my regards explaining that Monaco is a long way and I have to go. I take a quick picky.

98 French good guys.

I then set off, go through Vars and on to Col du Vars (about 10km from the French bikers) and decide to take another photo from the col. I find this simple task extremely difficult as my camera is still sat on the table with the French guys 10km back the way. (Told you I get a lot of things wrong didn’t I.)

Back on the bike and hot foot back down the mountain. Halfway back I see the bikers coming toward me and flag me down. They collected my camera and left their phone number in case I missed them. I gratefully accepted my camera back and in a grovelling and embarrassed manner bowed profusely to the honest French bikers.

We all then set off again over Col du Vars. They set off like scalded cats. The guy in front was on an Aprillia Pegaso with his wife on the back. (Yes, same engine as my Ten). I kept up with him but only just but I was scaring the pants off myself so eventually, I mentally justified stopping for another photo (as you get older you find more excuses for your inabilities). My God those guys could ride and none were youngsters either.

99 My excuse for not being able to keep up with the French.

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Old 10-18-2008, 11:57 AM   #7
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Day 5 continued.

02 This is them. Top guys and gals. Another 10 second dash.

01 And this is one taken by them of the silly slow old git and his trusty steed.

We laugh a lot and after about 10 minutes we all set off together. Very soon I watch them disappear into the distance and am alone again and battling my way through thousands of 180deg bends towards Nice. Maybe I should change my forum name to ‘Slow Old Git Ray’.

After a few hours of shifting my bum on the seat I pass a couple of cars and a biker in the other direction (seems to be the only way I can pass anybody,) they are all flashing their headlights at me and I figure this is international language for ‘Old Bill Ahead, slow down’, sure enough, round the next bend was a very large Gendarme waving for me to stop. I was fairly happy as I had slowed down so was not expecting too much drama. Wrong again. “English”, “yes sir”, “driving licence”. I get out my Police warrant card wallet with all my credit cards and licence inside and I am thinking, “I have forgotten to bring my insurance and log book with me – this could get difficult”. Fortunately he is stood right beside me and watching me dig into the wallet for my licence and when opened my police badge is on full view. I retrieve my licence and he inspects it. So far so good. “Papers” he says pointing at the Ten. Oops. “Er I do not have them”, “but in France you must have them”, I then put on a pathetic look and say “Oh dear I have left them at home, I am very sorry”, There is then a long pause whilst I think about a nice new pair of cuff links and a free ride to the nearest town and he says “OK. Because you are a Policeman I will let you go”. Fantastic, this is the first time in 20 years that my shiny little badge has actually been of some benefit (other than the obvious). I thank him profusely and we nod to each other as I ride off knowing that he has just let me off a world of pain.

I arrive at Nice and turn left towards Monaco and Monte Carlo. I think the whole place is Monaco and the centre is called Monte Carlo but as one is so small and the other fills it I think they are pretty much the same thing.

10 I park my trusty steed next to some old Italian banger of a car and increase its value just by the Yamaha’s presence.

12 I cast my eye out to the humble fishing village in the bay and pity the poor people in it.

13 Again I move my bike to make an old gambling joint look a bit better.

(Monte Carlo Casino)

I decide after a short while that I cannot help these poor people, bar making their town better looking with my bike and then fill up in an underground petrol station and set off East and back toward France (in fact France is every direction except the sea). Before leaving Monte Carlo I stop to get SWAMBO a fridge magnet and also pick up an oval nationality sticker ‘MC’ which now looks dead cool on the back of my dented pannier.

14 As I exit the shop I see this and think “I need a set of crash bars like that”. I took a photo and some guy came running out of a shop thinking I was some sort of warden about to lift his bike. It turns out that this is a standard learners bike and this is what they give then to pass the direct access type test. Cool.

I then set off for France again and arrive there after 30 seconds. By this time the sun has set and darkness was looming.

I then follow the coast for a short while and just before Italy turn north towards Sospel. Its now dark and I ride through Sospel and on to Col de Tende. This is a venue I should have visited in the daylight as all I saw was the next wall round the bend many times over. By now it was about 9pm and I was tired and sore so I booked into a small hotel just the Italian side of the Col and had a couple of beers and went to bed. I did not book breakfast as I wanted to leave early.
Mileage for the day 218 (350km).
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Old 10-18-2008, 11:58 AM   #8
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Day 6 – Sunday 12 Oct 08

Got up early for a quick start homeward. I intended to get about halfway through France and camp or book in to B&B depending upon how I felt whilst fitting in a few more Cols and scenery.

16 Initially I set off North to Borg San Dalmazzo and the turned west and over Col de la Larche arriving there and back into France at 8:30am. I was still quite cold but warming up fast.

17 On the way down the French side of the mountain.

A short while later I entered a long tunnel but could see in the distance that it was blocked by something but could not see what.

18 I proceeded with caution and was presented with this cuddly chaos.

19 Then it was a take over bid but a cute one.

25 26 Col du Lautaret

31 North of Col du Galibier

32 Looking down on St Michel du Maurienne and the first motorway home.

It was now after 12:30 and the pretty stuff (relatively speaking) was now over and it was time to hit the trail, big style.
I hit the motorways with a vengeance. I kept the speed to about 76mph on the speedo which is really about 70 mph and kept it there.
The little devil on my shoulder said “do you really want to pay for another chap hotel”, “nah came the reply – bums holding up well, lets see if we can do it in one hit”, so I did. I paid about 37E in tolls for the motorways

At about 11pm I pulled into a service station to fill up and was about 150miles from Calais. A guy named Nick (I think) pulled in on a very dirty 1150 GS with, also with a sheep fleece on his seat. I laughed and we started to chat. He was on his way back to Nottingham from a 5 week trip to Morroco. We were both doing well with the mileage, he had set off that morning from the French Spanish border.

35 Nick and his 1150GS.

I eventually got to the port of Calais at 12:30am and having previously thrown my ferry ticket out with other rubbish had to sheepishly wait while the receptionist retrieved my details and confirmed that I had in fact prepaid for the ferry.

That sorted, the next ferry was due to leave at 3am. Lovely – not.
I queued up with the other cars/vans and there was a bunch of blokes that were taking their cars back from a custom car competition in Holland. There were some cool looking cars.

37 A Honda Civic

41 A Citroen Saxo (I think) This one is on the cover of "MAX POWER" mag this month.

44 A Mitsubishi Evo

46 A Honda S2000 (I think)

I then took my fleece off the seat and used it as a pillow and laid down next to the Ten and went to sleep on the tarmac. Old habits again. I was woken by the boy racers driving off and jumped on the bike loaded it on the ferry, went upstairs and promptly went to sleep on the floor again.
The boat was late getting in to Dover (even allowing for the time difference). 100 more miles to go and I arrived home at 6:30am (7:30 CET) having been travelling for 24 ½ hours and covered a road distance of 835miles (1243km). I walked into my house to be greeted by my eldest daughter and ended up ironing her trousers for work – back to reality.

To sum up the trip:
The bike performed fantastically and it has installed a lot of confidence in me. I was astounded by the way it coped with the ski slope when fully laden. It cruised very nicely at 76mph (speedo) at 4500 rpm where it has a sweet spot and the vibrations are very low. However, when needed the throttle will still get you out of sticky situations.
Prior to the trip I ordered a 14 tooth front sprocket and although it would have dropped the motorway speed a bit, it would have made the trails a lot easier as first gear is too high. It did not arrive – my good luck again!

The trip was absolutely stunning if not hard work. I have a very sore butt and only used the fleece for the trip down and back. It makes the seat too high for normal use but it seriously saved my butt. It was hurting before I set out for home and actually eased up during the trip.
I will do it again but this time SWAMBO will be on the back and the tent will be left at home.

I covered 2234 miles on 176.8 litres of fuel and that equates to over 57 mpg.
All that remains is to wash the bike but I have to say it looks better dirty.

(P.S. SWAMBO = She Who Always Must Be Obeyed.)
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Old 10-18-2008, 02:01 PM   #9
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Outstanding trip! Getting ADV wood from the pics and can hear my bike banging the garage door to get out. Had no idea you could do so much off road there as well as the tenting,or are these routes that common? Thanks for the post!
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Old 10-18-2008, 02:06 PM   #10
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Just brilliant

You have got some bottle to do such a long trip, and in so many remote areas on your own. I am a very old biker (72 years) and to just sit here and read about your wonderful adventure was just great. Thanks for a very enjoyable hours reading. Just got me a KTM LC 4 for the road after over 40 years without a road bike, but even 40 years ago I wouldn't have contemplated such a journey on my own.
Best regards.........Johnny W.

Arch screwed with this post 10-18-2008 at 04:42 PM Reason: Removed massive quote.
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Old 10-18-2008, 04:43 PM   #11
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Great ride report, OGR!
Gonna move it to our Ride Report forum...
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Old 10-18-2008, 05:53 PM   #12
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Monte Carlo Casino? Wow.

Amazing adventure. Camping at 0 deg celcius.
Originally posted by burgerking So?
Holland is about the most expensive country in Europe when it comes to bikes and fuel..Stop whining and go riding It's just money and you only live once...
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Old 10-18-2008, 05:59 PM   #13
4-4-09, 12-6-09, 1-13-10
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Very nice
thanks for posting
"Lest we forget"
They gave the ultimate sacrifice because they answered the call without question
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E.O.W. 12-06-09
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Old 10-18-2008, 10:23 PM   #14
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What an enjoyable report. I hope to be in Germany and Switzerland next year, but I think I will need to change some plans and visit some of the areas you rode.
Shit happens - pick it up, start, ride
Mark950 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-18-2008, 11:47 PM   #15
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: May 2008
Oddometer: 152
great ride and report - thanks for sharing!
the weather was fantastic and the most nicest thing/for me/ - absence of summer crowds! empty roads! priceless!
F800GS ABS 2009
easyman05 is offline   Reply With Quote


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