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Old 09-12-2012, 12:53 PM   #1
kendenton OP
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Joined: Feb 2007
Oddometer: 105
Alps 2011: 4 Riders, 3 Countries, 2 Factories, 1 MotoGP Race

Alps 2011



Peter, Frank, Dave and Me

Introduction

I think it's fair to say that from the moment I first turned a wheel onto Passo Sella in 2009 I've been planning this return trip. That experience, shared with my friend Jim (trflyboy on STN) was, by an overwhelming margin, the most amazing time I've spent on two wheels. It took 2 years to make it happen, but on June 11th I was back on an airplane headed for Europe.

But let's back up a little.

First up was putting together a crew of riders to join us. Long story short, in the end there would be four us going. Myself, plus Dave (nearlyseventy), Peter (gasguage) and Frank (Skee). Unfortunately Jim was unable to join me this time around.

Next was figuring out where to go. I knew the Dolomites would be in the mix again - I think I could spend the rest of my riding days there and never be bored. Last trip we spent some time riding the passes in the Swiss Alps around the town of Andermatt, and while they were spectacular neither Jim nor I felt the need to go back and redo them. That left about half the trip open for new places.

Looking into bike rental options, our riding areas got narrowed down to a few obvious choices. We could fly to Zurich again and rent from Moto Mader, but that would pretty much mean repeating the 2009 trip almost exactly, which we didn't want to do. The other locations with major rental bike options were Milan and Munich. Bikes from Milan were pricier, and would mean our first time on the bikes would be escaping Milan surrounded by crazy spirited Italian drivers. That left Munich, which would work out fine. There were several rental outfits to choose from, prices were pretty good, and it's a city I've always wanted to visit (I come from German ancestry).

Using Munich as our base meant we had a few new riding areas to choose from to add to the Dolomites section - western Austria, the Black Forest area of Germany, a return to Stelvio and Gavia just to name a few. After an untold amount of e-mail exchanges and Skype sessions, a plan was made. We'd head out from Munich to the Berchtesgaden area of Bavaria, head over Grosglockner to the Dolomites, then Gavia and Stelvio on the way back to Munich.

We chose to rent from an outfit in Landshut, just north of Munich, called Moto Maier. They had good prices, offered a large selection of bikes, and Hermann was great to deal with over e-mail. Dave, Peter and I would be picking bikes up on Thursday the 16th since we had more vacation time to burn, and Frank would get his on Friday and meet us at our hotel.

This trip was going to cost a bit more than the last one, as airfare prices never came down this year for peak travel to Europe. I had started tracking prices in the fall of 2010, and they went from around $1,000 to $1,500 by Christmas and never came down. This was particularly troubling to me since at the end of the biking section of the trip my wife and son were flying out to meet me to spend an additional 2 weeks in Europe. In 2009 I paid $645 for my flight from PHL to ZRH, so I had budgeted around $2,400 for the three of us. Now I was looking at $4,500! I would have to do something about that.
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Old 09-12-2012, 12:55 PM   #2
kendenton OP
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6/11, Flight to Munich

(Not much motorcycle content for a few days, be patient)


The thought of spending over $4,000 on airfare for my family made me look into the world of frequent flier miles, something I've never really considered before. I'm by no means a frequent flier, so I didn't yet belong to any airline FF programs. I did a lot of research, and found that there were several very generous credit card offers out there that gave a lot of FF miles for signing up. My credit score is thankfully very good, so I applied for a couple of cards and starting accumulating the miles.

I was suprised at how easy it was to rack up the miles just for filling out a credit app (and taking just a small credit score hit for the app). It became something of an addiction a hobby, and before I knew it I had some very healthy FF accounts on several airlines. How healthy? Enough to fly business class (Envoy) to Europe for (practically) free and barely make a dent in the balance. I eventually booked a flight on US Airways in Envoy class, Philadelphia to Munich with a stopover in Frankfurt. The transatlantic flight would be on an Airbus A330, which offered a very nice bonus - US Airways used to offer a First Class section on that aircraft, with row 1 being fully lie-flat seats (regular Envoy/business have healthy reclines but still slope). US has since dropped First Class but they kept the lie-flat seats. They used to charge a premium above business class for those Row 1 seats, but starting this year they became available at no additional charge. I was excited to see seat 1G available when I booked my flight - score! I've never flown "in front of the curtain" before, and this gave me something else to look forward to on this trip.

Dave and Peter would be leaving on Tuesday evening for a Wednesday arrival in Munich, and Frank would be arriving on Friday. I had originally planned to leave Wednesday as well, but I decided I wanted to spend more than one day in Muncih so I moved my departure up to Saturday. That would give me about 3 1/2 days to explore Munich before picking up the rental bike.

I arrived at the airport about 4 hours before departure. One of the nice bonuses of flying transatlantic Envoy is access to the Envoy Lounge with free food and drinks, and I wanted to be able to enjoy that experience before my departure. The check-in agent offered to bump me to an earlier direct flight, still in Envoy, but I would lose my row 1 sleeper. I passed. The agent made sure I knew where the lounge was and sent me on my way. With barely anyone in security I was in the terminal about 10 minutes after stepping out of the car.

As my usual pre-flight time at the airport is spent elbowing my way to the bar at Chickie and Pete's, then hanging out with the huddled masses near the gate, it's safe to say I was blown away by the lounge.



The stairway to heaven (aka Envoy Lounge)





Envoy Lounge, about as crowded as it got




Beer selection



Enjoying a gin and tonic, with mozzarella and tomato salad.

I tipped the bartender $3 when I got my first free drink, which I thought pretty fair. Returning for my second drink, the guy in front of me tossed her a $20 - making me feel like a skinflint. Then she pointed out that drinks were complimentary, and he took back his $20 and walked away with his drink. I was back to feeling pretty good.

I ventured out just once to get some crab fries at Chickie & Pete's and after waiting 10 minutes got a bucket of cold soggy fries. Sigh.

Eventually it was time to head down to the gate for boarding, so I reluctantly said goodbye to my oasis of calm and headed downstairs into the maelstrom of the terminal. I was one of the first to board, and for the first time ever got to make a left after entering the plane. I made my way past the "regular" Envoy section, and another wall, and found my seat in the row 1 mini cabin. Oh man, I could get used to this.



The aisle seat was my home for the night. Don't hate me - it was free.



Dinner/breakfast menu

Immediately after taking my seat a flight attendant came over to take my drink order. My request for a Gin and Tonic confused her - she paused for a moment, then asked "that's gin with tonic water, yes?". "Yes".

I had no seatmate until just before the doors closed, so I was hopeful I would get to keep the empty seat for the flight (or maybe get to sit next to some late-arriving celeb). Eventually the seat was taken by the mother of a family of 6, all travelling in Envoy. She was a little bummed to be by herself "away from the Griswolds". My dreams of chatting up Angie Harmon were dashed.

I passed on dinner since a) I had eaten pretty well in the lounge, and b) nothing on the menu sounded good to my (unfortunately) finicky palate. I did enjoy the Passion Fruit Mousse desert though.



My Passion Fruit Mousse



Settling in for the flight. My son and I could have played soccer in the area between my seat and the bulkhead.

Watched some TV episodes and a couple movies ("Moon" was excellent) on the iPad, and tried in vain to get some sleep. I don't know what made me think I would be able to, I've never been successful before. There was a little turbulence a few hours into the flight, but nothing bad. I tossed and turned during the lights-out portion of the flight trying to will myself to sleep, but it wasn't meant to be. Soon enough morning was breaking outside and we prepared for our landing in Frankfurt.

kendenton screwed with this post 09-12-2012 at 01:03 PM
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Old 09-12-2012, 12:57 PM   #3
kendenton OP
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Joined: Feb 2007
Oddometer: 105
6/12, Arriving in Munich

(couple days until Motorcycling content)



Germany!

Got through Frankfurt passport control without being asked a single question. I had a few hours before my Lufthansa flight to Munich, so I made my way to one of Lufthansa's business-class lounges to kill some time.



Much more crowded than the Envoy Lounge



Mmm, free pretzels...

I was disappointed to see that my Droid 2 Global phone couldn't find any service. I bought an hour of wi-fi and used the iPad to do some research, and turns out I should have contacted Verizon before I left the country so they could enable the phone for use overseas. My bad for thinking a phone with "Global" in the name would just work.

The lounge was too hot to spend a lot of time in, so I wandered the terminal a bit and eventually made my way to the gate for my next flight. At this point the lack of sleep was starting to hit me, and I may have nodded off once or twice for a few minutes. Not good when you're by yourself in the airport.

On boarding the plane, I was disappointed not to see any real "business class" in the cabin. Turns out on Lufthansa's intra-country flights, business class is a normal economy seat with the middle seat in the row not used for seating. So same narrow seat, crappy legroom, etc. Just the benefit of having an open seat between me and the guy in the aisle (apparently it only takes one flight in business class to spoil you). Oh well, at least the flight is less than an hour.



Not what I envision when I think "Business Class"



Somewhere over Germany

Landed in Munich about 2:30pm (8:30am EST), and was delighted to see my bag already waiting for me. Followed signs for the S-Bahn trains, and came out of the terminal into a delightful covered outdoor plaza with a cafe and biergarten. This was a very nice "Welcome to Europe" moment, as I don't think anyone exiting an airport in the northeast US encounters anything other than chaos, taxis, highways, etc.



Yup, this is Munich




Plaza between terminals and where the trains are



Smokey Joe's cafe in the plaza. In the shade trees on the left is the Airbrau biergarten.

Taking the train to my hotel near Rosenheimerplatz didn't go so well. I knew the location of the hotel, I knew which stop to get off at, and I knew to take either the S1 or S8 from the airport. So far so good. Got on the S8, and paid attention to the route map and saw the stops were matching up, so I relaxed, confident that I had conquered my first "I dont' understand German but I'll figure it out" challenge. Eventually the train stopped at Ostbahnhof, the stop before mine, and we sat there for a bit. Some announcements (all in German) were made, and some folks got off and some stayed. I assumed we were waiting for another train to clear the tracks, or something similar. After a bit we got moving again, but we didn't make any stops for a long while. We were creaking along above ground, with central Munich nowhere in sight. Another 30 minutes go by, and the train stops in Pasing, which is way on the other side of Munich. I asked the conductor for Rosenheimerplatz, and all I got back was "bus".

Turns out the whole central S-Bahn corridor was closed that weekend, from just before my stop to the other side of the city. In Ostbahnhof I was maybe a couple blocks from the hotel, now I found myself with an hour-long city bus ride to add to my long train detour. The bus was SRO, packed with unruly kids and uncaring parents, hot as blazes, stopped every block, and I was exhausted. Just shy of four hours after landing I finally got to the hotel.



In line for the bus

The Holiday Inn City Center was excellent, and the room gods were smiling on me and I got the largest room in the hotel, a suite actually. No wi-fi, but a very comfortable bed and a great view of the city. I tried to grab a little sleep, but now I was too excited about being in the city. Spent $30 on a phone call to Verizon and got my Droid working again before heading out on foot to see Munich.



Living Room at the Holiday Inn



No windows in the bedroom, but a very comfortable bed



View from the room. The 3 towers on the left are near Marienplatz, the center of Munich

It was an easy walk to Marienplatz, and I spent the next few hours wandering around and taking in the sights of Marienplatz and the surrounding historic buildings and plazas. I also enjoyed a couple liters of beer, something I've really been looking forward to on this trip. I had kinda sorta planned on visiting all the biergartens in the city, or at least one from each brewery, but that was going to be a bigger challenge than I thought.



I will not take the easy food option



New Town Hall in Marienplatz. Even prettier in person.



My first german beer, a half-liter of Hacker-Pschorr Helles. Excellent.



I'm thinking this was some sort of bachelor party. These guys were loud and drinking a lot, but obviously having a good time. They would toast every pretty girl that walked by (of which there were plenty).



This was the guest of honor of the group above. Nice pants.



He played a mean Beethoven's 5th



Another guy out with his friends (note the signed shirts on him and gold-pants-guy)



Orlandostrasse, looking back towards the Hofbrauhaus. The "Gelateria Garda" on the right had fantastic gelato.



No visit to Munich is complete without a visit to the Hofbrauhaus



Pretty lively inside, but too hot and crowded for me



The biergarten in the back was much more my style



A tasty liter of Dunkel (dark) beer

By about 10pm I couldn't fend off sleep any longer. I made my way back to the hotel, set an alarm for 7am, and passed out.
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Old 09-12-2012, 12:57 PM   #4
kendenton OP
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Joined: Feb 2007
Oddometer: 105
6/13, Munich

(Motorcycling content tomorrow! I'm going to keep the narrative brief for the next few sections - I'll eventually post the longer versions on my website)


Not sure what happened to my 7am alarm, but I woke up at 11:30 instead. Barely enough time to shower and check out of the hotel. I had found a great deal on a hotel near the Hauptbahnhof (main train station), so I needed to move myself over there before exploring more of Munich.



My home for the next 3 nights (or so I thought), the 1st Hotel Creatif Elefant



Oh boy that's a tiny room. With no a/c.

Walked from the hotel down the main pedestrian strip (Neuhauser Strasse) to Marienplatz. Weather was perfect, I was well rested, it was shaping up to be a great day.



Inside the Frauenkirche, my first European cathedral. Yowza these things are big.



Pretty serious organ





The Antiquarium in the 500-year old Residenz, former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs (mostly the Wittelsbach family)



Cool perspective painting on the ceiling, only works if you stand in the exact center of the room



A recurring theme in Munich's buildings was "Here's what it looked like before 1945..."



Nice new brickwork, but not nearly as grand as it once was



The Emperor's Hall, at one time converted into private apartment for King Max I Joseph. Nice digs.



The baroque Ancestral Gallery



This view probably hasn't changed much in the last couple hundred years



Theatinerkirche near Odeansplatz



Statues outside Theatinerkirche



Inside Theatinerkirche



Delicious Augistiner Helles



I was disappointed to find that Munich isn't nearly the car mecca that Zurich is. After 2 days this was the first interesting car I found.



The first Ferrari of the trip



Hey, is that Sean Connery?



This guy was outside the Residenz, just about shouting about the history of the ruling family "if anyone knew the secrets of who killed so-and-so...". I first thought he was a nut like you'd find outside a momument in DC, but turns out he's a really enthusiastic leader of a Mike's Bikes Tour. I would have definitely enjoyed him as a tour guide.



His tour group. Next time around I think I'll give it a try.



Another shot of the Hofbrauhaus



Menu from Hard Rock Cafe opposite the Hofbrauhaus. 14.75 Euro was about $21.50 when I was there. That's a pricey burger. I passed.

About 10pm I made my way back to my one-small-step-above-hostel hotel room where I fully expected I would collapse and get a good night's sleep. Unfortunately the lack of a/c and tiny confines of the room conspired against me. The only way to get any air in the room was to open the window, which didn't help much but did let all the noise from the busy street in. I watched some TV, read, listened to music, counted sheep, every trick I could think of, but no use. By 6am I gave up trying to get any sleep and got ready to go out for the day.
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Old 09-12-2012, 01:00 PM   #5
kendenton OP
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06/14 - Part 1, BMW Welt and Museum

(I have no notes from the next 2 days, so going from memory here)

This turned out to be a very tough day, as I had gotten zero sleep the night before. Combine that with jet lag, and another sleepless night just 2 days ago, and I was lurching around like a zombie extra from "Shawn of the Dead" for portions of the day. There were lots of reasonably priced food vendors at the main train station, so I shuffled over there to get a croissant and a soda (Mezzo Mix, a Coca-Cola/Fanta concoction that my son and I love from EPCOT's "sodas of the world" pavilion). To get to the BMW Museum I would have to take a combination of trains, the S-Bahn and the U-Bahn. Fortunately the S-Bahn construction that derailed me on Sunday was all completed, so it was a painless 15 minutes or so of travel.



Various trains waiting at the Hauptbahnhof. Need to take the ICE one day...



The BMW Welt, with the Olympia Tower in the background



BMW Welt and Olympia Tower

The BMW Welt combines a showroom, exhibition center, customer delivery center, restaurants and meeting facilities into one giant "BMW Experience" facility. I wasn't really too interested in the Welt, but it opened an hour before the museum so I had to kill some time there. I also walked over to get a view of the nearby Olympic stadium area, but there wasn't much to see from my side of the bridge.



The interior of the Welt



The black wagon (like me, Europeans love wagons) is in the elevator that brings cars up to customers awaiting delivery



The Welt had a few motorcycles on display, including this tasty classic



as well as the latest K1600 GTL



Across the street from the Welt was the BMW Museum and BMW's headquarters



I always get a laugh out of these BMW C1 scooters



Photo shoot with BMW R1200RT and Moto Guzzi Norge GT



I think the Norge looks pretty good in white

There wasn't a factory tour available in English until later in the afternoon, so I had to make do with just touring the museum. Cost was 12 Euro and it was self-guided, go at your own pace. I spent about an hour going through it and felt it was pretty impressive. Focus was 80% autos, 20% motorcycles I'd guess.





First motorcycle engine, from 1923





One of the coolest features of the museum was the "wall of bikes". Several stories tall, it made for an impressive display of the history of BMW bikes. Unfortunately it was difficult to get a close look at some of the bikes. This photo was taken at the top level of the wall.



Looking down another section of the wall







IIRC, this was the only room devoted to bikes



Lots of engines on display











Artistic display of trunklid badges. The ///M5 would do nicely, thank you.



The bike room









Oh my. The BMW "Batmobile", the 3.0 litre CSL. Oh my.



You could listen to recordings of the different M motors



The first M car, the 1978 M1



A car I lusted after as a teenager, the 1983 M635CSi.



The Isetta



The Roadster room



Heading up to the BMW Art Cars exhibit



I don't know a lot about art, but I know what I like. ;-)


To get back to the train station I crossed the bridge and went through the Welt again. A lot more people in it now, and I noticed there were a bunch of folks gathered together in the middle, and several employees standing by the stairs. Not sure what was going on, I decided to hang around for a little while. I was glad I did, as it turned out to be one of the highlights of the day. After just a few minutes a rider on a BMW G450x rode out into the middle of the floor and started riding around. Then he headed for the stairs.















He did several circuits, up and down the stairs and roaring around the ground floor. What a hoot.
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Old 09-12-2012, 01:01 PM   #6
kendenton OP
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Oddometer: 105
06/14 - Part 2, Munich

(I have no notes from the next 2 days, so going from memory here)

By this time my lack of sleep was really putting a hurting on me. My brain was "foggy", I was feeling really cranky, I'm pretty sure I was muttering to myself, basically I was beginning to lose it. Things would get worse before they got better.

Took the U-Bahn/S-Bahn back to the Hauptbahnhof, and noticed that I was starving when I got off the train. I was in no mood to try some unknown food as my insides were quite "delicate" from the jet-lag and no sleep, so I broke down and got some chicken strips at Burger King. Unfortunately, they were completely nasty, didn't taste at all like I expected, and I could only get down 2 of them. This didn't help my mood any.

I had enjoyed The Residenz so much I decided to take a tram out to the Schloss Nymphenburg, the summer palace of the Bavarian ruling family. My all-day 9 euro train ticket was good on all trains, busses and trams in the central area of the city, so that was handy. The short (15 minute?) tram ride lets you off right on the edge of the grounds of the palace - unfortunately the palace is a good mile or so walk from that edge. Schloss Nymphenburg is very impressive from the outside as you approach, so my hopes were high for an equally impressive tour. I paid my 11.50 Euro for a combination ticket and headed into the palace. 10 minutes later I was back outside, having fully experienced all 8 rooms that were open for viewing. What a rip-off. I wandered the admittedly impressive grounds for a while, and toured the Museum of Carriages (the Marstallmuseum) which was surprisingly interesting.



Schloss Nymphenburg





One of the very few rooms you could tour





Pretty impressive backyard



The back of the main part of the palace



Man are these carriages ornate




Made the longs walk back to the tram station, got some ice cream and rode back to the main train station. The ice cream gave me a much-needed energy infusion, so I decided to keep on touring the city. I was very concerned with being able to sleep that night, so my plan was to basically exhaust myself to give my body no choice. I was also avoiding any caffeine or alcohol to make it even easier. I have to say it was hard to spend a day in Munich and not have any beer :-(

Next up was a trip out to the Theresienwiese, the fairgrounds used for Oktoberfest. Besides just wanting to see the area, I wanted to check out the Bavaria Statue, an 18.5 meter high and made of bronze. I took a longer-than-needed journey on the trains to get there after misreading the map, but eventually found my way there. Not sure what I was expecting, but the fairgrounds were basically just a huge empty swath of concrete. I could see the Bavaria statue in the distance, so I made my way across the deserted fairgrounds. The statue and surrounding hall of fame were pretty interesting, but I passed on the climb up the inside of the statue. I think the price was 5 euro, but I was feeling burned by the Nymphenburg experience and also wasn't sure I really had the energy to make the climb. Next time...



You have to imagine it packed with thousands of drunken revelers (and roller coasters!)



The Bavaria Statue





The "Hall of Fame"


A long walk back to the Hauptbahnhof led me past the Hacker-Pschorr biergarten. I really wanted to sample their beer, but instead just sampled their men's room. When I got to the train station I was really starving and wanted to eat something substantial. I discovered, not surprisingly I suppose, that a little food would clear the fog and set me straight for an hour or two. I didn't want to attempt any more German versions of American fast food, and just the thought of my usual standby of pizza made my stomach flip, so I took a chance and ordered some grilled sausages from a take-away in the train station. Those of you who know me, or have at least read my trip reports, know that I'm unfortunately a picky eater. I wish I wasn't, but after 45 years it's a very hard habit to break. I'm fine with hot dogs, but I've never really had many sausages so I was pretty wary. Lucky for me the sausages were absolutely delicious! It was just a few euro for 4 links of Nuremberg Sausage on a nice crispy roll. Feeling refreshed, and having plenty of time before attempting to sleep, I took the train back to Marienplatz.



"Spare Rips" made me laugh



My afternoon salvation, and the first new food of the trip, Nuremberg sausages





Folks watching the 5:00 glockenspiel show



The namesake of Marienplatz, the Marien statue



My favorite dessert as a kid was seven-layer cake. Living on Long Island, there were lots of bakeries that made them, but having moved away I haven't been able to find it anywhere. I was utterly delighted to see slices at the Riechart bakery, and with the first bite I was instantly 8 years old again.



New Town Hall looked fantastic after a quick rain shower passed by



The backside of The Residenz



This pavilion behind the Residenz dates back to 1615

I wanted to increase my chances of a good night's sleep, so I visited a drugstore and asked about a sleep aid. The woman came back with 2 choices, one herbal, and one she said "this one, how do you say, make habit?". I chose the herbal, not wanting to come back from a European vacation an accidental junkie. I couldn't put it off any longer, so I went back to my tiny hotel room around 9pm.

Tomorrow 2 of the other guys on this trip would be arriving, and the next day we were due to pick up the bikes and start riding. I was very concerned that my lack of sleep was going to screw up tomorrow's group day, and even more concerned that if this continued there would be no way I'd be riding a motorcycle over mountain passes. All this weighed on my mind as I lay in the even-hotter-tonight room and tried to sleep. And tried. And tried.

By midnight, after 3 hours of tossing and turning, I was pretty close to a full-blown panic attack. Sleep was nowhere to be found, the room was closing in on me, and I felt like I was really beginning to lose control. Lack of sleep can do some strange things to you. I called my wife who basically "talked me down", and she encouraged me to get out of there and go get a different hotel room. Happy to have a plan, I quickly went on the web and found a room at the Holiday Inn I stayed at earlier, packed up and dropped my key off at the front desk. I think I told him I was leaving for good, I can't really be sure. I wasn't thrilled about the 2 pre-paid nights I was losing, but money can be replaced. Spent about $30 on a taxi from the train station to the Holiday Inn, and mentioned repeatedly at the check-in counter that I needed a room with a working air conditioner. I'm pretty sure they thought I was a bit crazy, and truth be told I probably was.

By 1am I had the new room down to a pretty cold temperature, and was delighted to be able to pull a blanket over me. I set my alarm and requested a wake-up call, as well as texting one of the guys arriving tomorrow advising him of my whereabouts in case slept through all the alarms.
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Old 09-12-2012, 01:02 PM   #7
kendenton OP
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Joined: Feb 2007
Oddometer: 105
06/15, Dave and Peter Arrive

(I have no notes from today, so going from memory here)

(Tomorrow there will be some actual motorcycle riding!)


Sleep! Glorious sleep. I've had better nights, I kept waking up every hour or so, but I did actually manage to sleep. I can't tell you how good it felt to be out from under that pressure. I will never again take sleep for granted.

Unfortunately the Holiday Inn didn't have any rooms available that night, so I had to find another hotel room for my last night in Munich. Dave and Peter were booked at the NH Muenchen Deutscher Kaiser, right around the corner from my old sweat-box, so it made sense to move myself over there. Made a reservation online (at nearly 3x what the sweat-box cost) and took the short train ride over there. Once again I impressed upon the front desk my need for a room with working a/c, and was given a room on the 6th floor. I declined the offer "maybe you would like internet in your room?" for 25 euros and went upstairs. I had a minor moment when I couldn't get the a/c to blow cold air, and after a quick trip back downstairs I learned you have to set the dial on the sun, not on the snowflake, to get cold air. The sun, because it's sunny outside, so you might want cold air. Um, OK.



From the window near the elevator you can see my old hotel



The Hauptbahnhof is the large grey building in the center

Dave and Peter showed up in the lobby right on time. They both had had some concerns regarding their flights; Dave was flying Air Transat that only flew to Munich once per week and had limited options if there was a problem, and Peter was flying Air Canada whose customer service employees had just gone on strike. Fortunately there were no problems and Peter even managed to get an hour's sleep on the flight. The guys got checked in, cleaned up, and we set out for downtown.

I took them around to all the best sights I'd seen while I was here, and we had a good lunch at a cafe right in Marienplatz. Having had such success with my sausage experiment the day before, I ordered another variety this time, mit brezel. It was great to see friends again, and share laughs over a beer. I felt like the trip was really getting started now.



Dave in Munich



Peter setting up a photo. It was good to have a beer again, especially a Paulaner Weissbier.



My sauerkraut remained untouched, but I devoured the rest of it



How can you pass up a photo op like this?



Second Ferrari of the trip



Great music from this quartet

After taking in all the regular places, including another tour of The Residenz, we took the U-Bahn up to the Englischer Garden. This was on my to-do list for Munich, but didn't get a chance to visit yet. It's one of the largest urban public parks in the world, and features a fantastic (and huge at 7,000 seats) biergarten located at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower). This turned out to be a completely delightful place to hang out and have a beer, with lots of shaded benches and a variety of food options.



The Chinesischer Turn



Couldn't help but think of The Blues Brothers "Chicken wire?"





Interesting contraption for drinking and riding. Saw a couple variations arond the city.

After a while we walked south through the park towards the city in search of the surfers. Yes, surfers. Even though Munich does not boast any oceanfront, or big sandy beaches, it has a thriving surfer community. We basically followed the river and the sound of the surf and were soon rewarded to an almost surreal scene, folks in wetsuits surfing in the middle of the city just a few feet away from a busy street.



Great pictogram



Fascinating to watch this going on in the middle of the city



Waiting patiently for their turn









You could tell who was going to give a good show by how they jumped in. The new guys would put the board in the water and slowly stand up on it before gently drifting into the middle of the river. Hot dogs like this kid just jump in and land on the board with complete confidence.





Sometimes they wiped out in spectacular fashion



And sometimes they would just call it a run and fall in the water so the next surfer could jump in







I was disappointed to find this after Dave called me over to "check out this rack!"



Passed this gorgeous E-Type on our way back from the surfers



I wonder if they remake this every once in a while ("Johnny, what can you make of this?" "I can make a hat, a broach, a pterodactyl!")



We ended our day at the Hofbrauhaus

By the time we had finished our dinner and beers at the Hofbrauhaus it was around 9pm, and the guys couldn't keep their eyes open. Back to the hotel, and requested an early wake-up call to start the big day tomorrow. My room was about 17 degree celsius, and sleep came mercifully quickly.
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Old 09-12-2012, 02:49 PM   #8
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06/16 - Part 1, Landshut to Bad Reichenhall

Fortunately I had a second night of pretty good sleep, pretty impressive since I was very excited about picking up the bikes and beginning the motorcycling part of this vacation. The three of us met down at the lobby of the hotel, grabbed a quick breakfast to go in the train station, and boarded the train for the 40 minute ride to Landshut. The dealership was only a few blocks from the station in Landshut, but dragging our luggage through the town made it seem much farther. The dealership was kind of in a back alley, making it a little tricky to find, but once we walked into the courtyard we were delighted to see our bikes lined up and ready to go.



Our train to Landshut had nice private compartments. This was also the first train (or bus or tram) that someone checked our tickets.

One of the reasons for going with Moto Maier was the large variety of rental bikes available. I had gone the BMW route last time with a too-big-for-the-Alps R1200RT, so I was eager to try something different. My main criteria, other than the bike being "right-sized" for the twisty mountain roads, was that it be a bike that is not available in the US. Between dealer demos and events like Americade I've demo'd almost every bike that interests me, so this was an opportunity to sample some forbidden fruit.

I wound up choosing a Yamaha TDM900. I liked the idea of a twin with upright ergos (similar to my Multistrada), and the TDM fit the bill nicely. Dave normally rides a BMW R1150RT and was also eager to try something smaller, but even more interested in trying something with more power. The new Honda CBF1000F was his first choice. Peter's daily ride is a BMW K1200GT, which is pretty similar to the Yamaha FJR1300 he chose to rent. I think one of his concerns was knowing what the hard bags would hold - all of the rental bikes had triple hard cases, but only the Yamaha's were factory and thus a known quantity. Frank's Honda Varadero was also waiting outside, though he wasn't due to pick it up until tomorrow.

One of the things we went back and forth with pre-trip was figuring out GPS options and heated gear hook-ups. Herman had Zumo 660 units for rent at 60 euro for the week, but then how would I get all the routes and waypoints on it? If I bring my Streetpilot 2720 how woud I get it mounted and powered? Should we ask Herman to wire the bikes for the heated gear or do it ourselves? This was an easy choice for me, as I didn't want to rely on someone saying that would do it. I get burned by that on an Eagle Rider Harley rental once and it soured me on "oh yes, we can do that for you". My concern about my Garmin 2720 was magnified by the fact that it required power to run as there is no battery. If I couldn't get it wired up for some reason I'd be in trouble.

Another option presented itself when Jim offered to lend me his Zumo 550 for the trip. Since it can run on batteries (for a short time) that was a better option so I took him up on it. I upgraded it with the latest 2011 Europe maps, transferred all my routes and waypoints to it, and packed it (and the mounting kit) in my suitcase. While getting the TDM900 packed up, I was delighted to see that Jim's Zumo 550 snapped right into the 660 mount on the bike. Powered right up and was ready to go - woohoo! I threw my Gerbings battery lead in the sidecase to be installed later - didn't really want to start pulling the rental bike apart at the dealership.

I had packed a little lighter for this trip than the last one, and still found myself with tons of space in the hard luggage. I could have done it without the top case if needed, though I prefer using one.

For the 2009 trip Jim and I brought all our gear over - boots, pants, jacket, helmet, gloves, taking up most of a pretty big suitcase. For this trip we chose to rent our gear from Herman (except Frank that is, he is wisely dubious as to the availability of gear his size). The cost was 50 euro for the whole outfit which seemed like a reasonable price to not have to lug my own gear over there. Dave and Peter benefitted even more from this as they would be continuing their vacation after returning the bikes and would need to haul their gear to Rome and Paris.

Herman took us to the stockroom in the back of the dealership and went about getting gear that fit us. Jackets and pants were pretty easy, Dave got a nice Dainese textile jacket and Peter and I got Held textiles, but boots and helmets were a little trickier to find good-fitting items. After a few helmets that didn't work, Herman cracked open some boxes of brand-new Caberg flip-ups in our sizes (we had requested modulars) and we were set. I also got a brand-new pair of boots (which took a couple days to break in to be honest). Overall we were very impressed with Herman's operation.

Bikes loaded, gear on, bluetooth communicators linked, GPS programmed, paperwork signed, we were finally ready to roll. Herman snapped some shots of us, some with our camera, some with his, gave us cards with his private number, and we pulled out of the lot...and promptly got lost. Just a little bit lost, but still not an auspicious beginning. Within 2 blocks of the dealership the Zumo had us turning onto a bicycle path. Hmm, that won't do. Turned around and took another crack at it. Eventually we found our way out of the bustling town of Landshut and onto the open road.



The route for the day



Moto Maier's parking lot / bike delivery area





Packing up



Ready to roll (photo courtesy Peter)

Our goal for the day was pretty straightforward - take a mostly direct route from Landshut to the hotel in Bad Reichenhall about 90 miles away. The short ride should give us time to get a feel for the bikes, and when we got to the hotel we could make any adjustments/installations and maybe go for a loop in the surounding area.

I took an immediate liking to the TDM. Very comfortable riding position, more power than my Multi 620, and a nice engine sound to boot. We stuck to route 299, which would take us about 2/3 the way to the hotel, and after an hour or so stopped for lunch. There were only a few tables on the patio outside the restaurant, and we had to wait a bit to get one out of the sun. We placed an order as best we could to a waitress that only spoke German (more sausages for me, please), and started enjoying that "hey, I'm motorcycling in Europe!' feeling. It was only after lunch that we got into trouble. It was such a nice day, and we were all feeling good with the bikes, that a plan was hatched to take a more backroad way to the hotel. Problem was I had only programmed the direct route, and like an idiot did not have a paper map of the area. You should see what I brought for the other sections of the trip - laminated, annotated maps and route sheets, a Michelin map of Italy, the works. But of course nothing for Germany.



Lunch stop

Needless to say, our plan of "we'll just head in the general direction" didn't go well for long. We couldn't really find any interesting roads, and the estimated arrival time on the GPS just kept getting later and later. We decided to ditch our meandering plan and set a direct course for Bad Reichenhall. Unfortunately that didn't work out too well either. We ran into some construction that had the road the GPS insisting we take closed off. It's interesting the way the Germans mark that sort of thing - you come to a roundabout, and there will be the normal sign for what towns are down the next road, but one of them will be crossed off. We didn't decode that until going 4 or 5 miles down the road (man, we have this place to ourselves) and coming to the bridge that was out. No choice but to double back and try some other road. It was during this back-and-forth and rerouting that my frustration with the Zumo began. I don't know if it's just the way the Zumo works, or maybe it was the mapset, but the unit took forever to notice it was off-route and decide to recalculate. Recalculation was very speedy, but the delay before it got around to doing it was doing us in. Combine that with it's tendancy to announce turns at the very last minute, and it became very irritating. You'd ride along, it would change from "turn in 0.5km" to "make right now!", you'd miss the turn, and for the next 30 seconds (maybe more) you'd roll along waiting for it to notice you didn't make the turn. By which time you've passed the other 2 streets that could have gotten you back on track.

Eventually the Zumo's routing left us no choices other than "Take A94 East". A94, of course, meant the Autobahn. I hadn't really considered taking the Autobahn at this point on the trip, having only been riding a new bike in a new country for a couple hours. We stopped for a little roadside chat and I advised Dave and Peter about Autobahn ettiquite.

  • [li]Don't tailgate[/li]
    [li]Stay in the right unless making a pass[/li]
    [li]When checking your mirrors before moving into the left lane for a pass, look as far back as Berlin. If you see a car, don't move[/li]


With a combination of trepidation and excitement all of us merged onto the Autobahn for the first time and immediately saw the fabled sign on the right shoulder - the white circle with diagonal slashes, aka "No Speed Limit". Traffic was thankfully very light, and we mostly cruised about 80-90 in the right lane except to make a short pass of slower vehicles. Our Autobahn segment was short, maybe 5 or 8 miles, so we were just getting acclimated to it when it was time to exit. Just as I was thinking "OK, that was nothing too special" two Audis flew by us in the left lane, doing I would say at least 140mph. We were doing 60 or 70, getting ready to exit, and they passed us literally like we were standing still. Fun.



"End of Restriction" (web pic, not mine)

It wasn't too long before we got to another crossed-off town, another road closure, and this time the Zumo redeemed itself. A mile or so after detouring down a side road, it suggested we make a right onto this small road that led into the woods. OK, why not? As the road got smaller and smaller, my smile got bigger and bigger. By the time we were in the thick of the forest the road was no wider than one small car. What a hoot! I wish I had stopped to get a picture, but I was too "in the moment". The forest segment was (too) short, and opened up into some farm area before depositing us just on the other side of the road construction. Nice!

We had a short water break, as it was getting pretty hot. Peter's Caberg helmet was bothering him, so I swapped him my Shoei to see if it would help. We both liked our new helmets so much we kept them for the rest of the trip.
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Old 09-12-2012, 02:50 PM   #9
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06/16 - Part 2, Bad Reichenhall

(I apologize for the lack of "bikes on road" pictures so far. I assure you that will improve soon sup:)

The Hotel Almrousch in Bad Reichenhall was a great choice. It was located on a quiet side street (though you could hardly call Bad Reichenall a bustling metroplis), had some room for bike parking directly in front of the door, and had spacious rooms with balconies overlooking the mountains. Check-in was good for a few laughs, as the woman at the counter did her best to inject some English words into her conversation with us. At one point she tried enlisting Peter's help in translating her German to us - funny, since she had no reason to think he spoke German (which he doesn't). Passports were handed over, documents signed, and we were given keys to our rooms - keys on very heavy red tassle keychains. Obviously they did not expect you to take your keys with you when you left the hotel.



The Hotel Almrousch. I had the corner room on the top right.



Convenient bike parking. The sign behind the bikes (featuring the tassle keychain) was ripped off the wall during the overnight storm)



They even rolled out the red carpet for us



The view from my room as the storm rolls in

After getting settled in our plans for an evening ride were scuttled when a storm system moved in. We didn't know how long it was going to last, so decided instead to check out the town and get some dinner. None of us had packed normal raincoats, so we used what he had on hand. My fashionably black Tour Master rain jacket wasn't too conspicuous (which I suppose makes it a crappy bike rain jacket), but Peter's hi-viz Froggs Toggs certainly get some looks in town. The pedestrian zone was pretty empty as we walked into town. Once the rain started again we took refuge in a small Italian restaurant at the edge of the main piazza (or platz, I suppose, since we're still in Germany, but piazza sounds so much nicer). After dinner we continued walking down to St. Zeno Church, which dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries. We also passed some sections of remaining wall that dates back to the same timeframe, as Bad Reichenhall was once a walled city.

Dinners were delicious all around, and we topped it off with some great gelato from the window outside the restaurant. Tomorrow would be our first full day of riding and the last of the four musketeers would be joining us later in the day. We got back to the hotel just as the rain started up again, and this time it came down with a vengeance. The driving rain was accompanied by strong winds, so much so that a large sign was ripped off the side of the hotel. Hopefully tomorrow would bring better weather.



The main square was not exactly thriving



Excellent pizza



Peter and Dave



St. Zeno church, parts of which are around 800 years old



The southern edge of town. Notice the white concrete tram towers in the middle-right.



Turns out this is the world's oldest aerial tramway still in its original design



Close-up of the tram station at the top of the Reichenhaller.



Walking back to the hotel we still only encountered a few other people
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Old 09-12-2012, 02:51 PM   #10
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06/17 - Part 1, Berchtesgaden and the Eagle's Nest

The only "tourist attraction" I wanted to visit during our riding days was The Eagle's Nest in nearby Berchtesgaden, and we planned that for today. We spent some of the morning wiring the bikes for heated gear, and had a nice buffet breakfast in the hotel (included in the room cost). The weather was looking so-so when we headed out.



Quite a storm last night

There weren't a lot of road choices to get there, so we stuck with the direct route on 20 which actually turned out to be pretty nice. Most of it was just pleasant country road, but there was one section close to Hallthurm that provided the first serious curves of the trip. We had a little navigational trouble at the rounabout in Berchtesgaden (c'mon Zumo, recalculate!) but the town wasn't so big you could get lost in it. The Zumo also started showing screens for "Device not supported" and "USB Cable connected to wrong port" which didn't help with my navigation efforts. We hadn't decided whether to go with a guided tour or just wing it ourselves, so we walked on over to the tourist information building to get some more info. The extremely distracting young lady I spoke to (in a very low-cut dirndl) swayed us to not bother with the 60 euro per person guided tour and just ride there ourselves. She did give us a good road map of the area, and pointed out that the direct road to the Eagle's Nest was closed and we would have to take the longer detour over curvier roads. Oh darn :-)

A brief background on the Eagle's Nest, or Kehlsteinhaus, is probably in order. This small chalet-style building was built in 13 months using slave labor on a subpeak of the Hoher Goll known as the Kehlstein, and was intended as a 50th birthday present to Adolf Hitler. The Nazis used the area around Berchtesgaden and Obersalzburg as a sort of retreat, with many high-ranking officials having summer houses there. If you've ever watched a program about WWII, you've seen footage of Hitler at the Berghof, his summer home overlooking the mountains. Not surprisingly this area became a target for allied bombing toward the end of the war. Whatever buildings used by the Third Reich that weren't bombed were destroyed when the Allies occupied the area and over the following several years - nobody wanted the structures to become neo-Nazi shrines or tourist attractions. About the only remaining building is the Eagle's Nest, which was spared destruction at the local government's insistence. Interestingly, Hitler only visited the Eagle's Nest about 5 times.

I wanted to visit the Eagle's Nest because it would be my first big WWII historical site. I'm in no way a fan of Hitler and the Nazis, but the importance of the history and what happened in the region is undeniable.



First part of the day

The detour road up to the Eagle's Nest were for the most part a lot of fun, even if they were a little wet. To get to the Eagle's Nest you have to park at a tour center, then buy a ticket for the bus that will take you to the top of the private road. We paid for parking, and then in searching for a bathroom came went downhill and discovered the museum. Paying for our tickets, we were advised that there were no English signs in the museum, but we could pay more for a headset that would provide some narration. We passed on those, thinking we wouldn't be in the small museum for long. In hindsight, at least one of us should have sprung for the headset as the museum, while small, was packed with interesting displays that none of us could really decipher. It didn't take long for the cumulative effect of hundreds of Nazi exhibits to take hold and after 30 minutes or so I just wanted to sit down and look out a window at the mountains. Monumentally depressing. Before leaving the museum we toured the remains of some underground bunkers, and that was fascinating as well as being chilling.



Looking out a machine gun emplacement covering a stairway into the bunker.



"Have you looked down at your pants yet?"

We left the museum and got our bus tickets, which all have assigned times. After a quick snack our bus was ready to leave. The 20 minute bus ride up the mountain is on a curvy private road, which on a clear day boasts some magnificent vistas. On this day, however, once we got above a certain elevation all we were greeted with was white clouds/mist. You could just about see the edge of the roadway and then...nothing. Certainly not an ideal day to visit a mountain-top retreat for the sweeping views, but sometimes you just have to deal with what you have.

When you exit the bus at the end of the road, the journey is still not over. First order of business is choosing your departure time for the bus ride back down the mountain. They advised 2 hours for a good visit, but based on the visibility we figured an hour or so would be more than enough time. A pair of enormous doors open into 400-foot long tunnel, at the end of which is a brass elevator that takes you 407 feet up into the Eagle's Nest itself. If we thought the view on the bus ride was obscured, that was nothing compared to the visibility outside the Eagle's Nest. We did a short walk higher up the mountain, where we could literally hardly see our feet in front of us. We wandered around a bit, both inside and out, before grabbing a table in the circular great hall for some snacks.



The entrance to the tunnel



Doors to the tunnel



Probably just wide enough for a vehicle to whisk dignitaries through



And what am I supposed to be seeing?



Not ideal



The exhibit shows what the view SHOULD look like behind Peter and Dave





The sun terrace has some of the few historical photos on display



This photo, from the website Third Reich Ruins, shows Hitler on the sun terrace



The red Italian marble fireplace was a gift from Benito Mussolini



Mmm, fantatic seven layer cake. I could have eaten a whole cake.



Dave and Peter



Boy, can't wait to see that picture



Finally, out of the clouds



Too bad it's a private road, would be a lot of fun on a bike
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Old 09-12-2012, 02:53 PM   #11
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06/17 - Part 2, Frank Arrives and the Burgerbrau

The weather had improved dramatically, but our run back down was hampered by a Porsche Panamera who insisted on braking for every turn or bend in the road. No way did this driver deserve a Porsche (even an ugly bloated 4-door one). We still had a few hours to kill before meeting up with Frank back at the hotel, so we layed out a quick run around nearby roads. Our first gas stop of the trip was painless, though a little irregular in that you pumped first and went inside to pay. In the US that would never work.

We had a great run on 305, which started out as a fast country road with great views. After a few miles of scenery-watching cruising, the road tries to kill you with a 10-mph uphill hairpin that is not particularly well marked. Beginning at that hairpin the road completely changes character, with lots of hairpins and tight turns to enjoy. We passed the scene of a bike accident that tempered our enthusiasm a bit. There were a few emergency vehicles and personnel on the road, and a KTM RC8 in a ditch on the roadside that actually didn't look too bad. Just past that, however, was what I can only describe as "some kind of Kawasaki" that was completely destroyed. I hope it turned out OK for the rider, but from the looks of the bike I doubt it did.

We turned south near the town of Schneizlreuth, and passed into Austria for the first time (Welcome to Osterreich). We rode through some tunnels and the road got less and less interesting and more and more busy. I had intended to break off this road onto L251around Unken, but never saw an opportunity to turn. When we got near Lofer we stopped to discuss our options. We could either backtrack to Schneizlreuth and take 21 to Bad Reichenhall, or try to make a big loop to the west around St. Johann in Tirol. As tempting as the long route was, we figured it would be good to get back to the hotel and meet up with Frank, and perhaps do more riding as a quartet.

Heading back to the 305 intersection we passed the "Welcome to Germania" sign, and had a good run on 21, although with heavier traffic than ideal. Highlight of the return trip was a BMW 6-series passing us in the twisties. We were down a reasonably brisk 90kmh in a 60kmh zone, but this guy obviously had someplace to be, blind curves be damned.



Map of ride back from Eagle's Nest

Frank was a welcome sight as we rode down the street towards the hotel, shooting pictures of us as we arrived. We chatted for just a little while about his trip down, and asked whether he wanted to go ride or call it a day. Frank was having none of that, and voted that we get out and ride - impressive given that he had just arrived in Germany having flown overnight and picked up the bike straight from the airport. I put together a quick loop that would take us through Berchtesgaden again, and, for the first time, the four us rode out together.

I'm pretty sure we took 21 back down to 305, although it could have been the smaller 2021. We had a great-paced run on 305 accompanied by perfect late afternoon light. The four of us were doing well as a riding group, which wasn't too surprising as we've all ridden with each other at one time or another over the years. Konigsee (Lake Konig) was just past Berchtesgaden, so I steered up toward that thinking it would be a pretty vista for a quick stop. Turns out it's a big tourist destination, and we had to pay to park in a giant lot (missed the cheaper bike parking ticket machine though). The area was filled with kitschy shops selling postcards, lederhosen, etc, and the shops all led down the hill to the boat dock and the only tiny piece of the lake you could see without taking a boat ride, all of which were done for the day. We took some pictures, decided not to have dinner at what would certainly be an overpriced and underwhelming tourist trap cafe, and made a beeline back to Bad Reichenhall.



Map of pre-dinner ride




From Konigsee you can just see the Eagle's Nest above the clouds



The only part of the lake you could see



Konigsee is a tourist trap.



You can just make out the Eagle's Nest again in the clouds.

20 on the return trip was fun again. There was a quick "moment" when some camper van pulled out of a parking lot right in front of me, but I was able to zip around him in the oncoming lane. I was riding point at this time, so I was continually checking my mirrors to keep track of the guys. When we got to the really twisty part of 20 I watched Peter on the FJR have a "moment" as well. Turns out the FJR can't manage quite the lean angle his KGT can, and he started scraping big time on one of the hairpins. I had just checked my mirrors and saw him drifting wider and wider before reeling it back in. Thankfully there was no opposing traffic.

Got changed back at the hotel, and made our way on foot through the town to the Burgerbrau. We had initially tried to book rooms here early on, but rooms sold out while we were discussing it. There was an all-you-can-eat BBQ going on outside, but there were no available tables. We reluctantly found a table in the deserted inside dining room, but our hangdog faces must have made an impression on the guy seating us - a few minutes later he came to our table and motioned us to follow him outside. "Macht schnell!" he kept saying as we practically jogged along with him outside. He pointed us to a newly-empty table and we gratefully plopped ourselves down. The smell of the BBQ was tantalizing, and the atmosphere was enhanced by the small band playing outside. This was a night where it all came together - perfect weather, great food, good music, and most of all good company. We wasted no time filling (and refilling) our plates wth freshly-grilled pork, chicken, sausages, meatballs and various side dishes. While I am normally reluctant to try new foods, the combination of good beer and the grill had me grabbing a bit of everything.



OK, never seen that before



The grill and buffet at the Burgerbrau







My plate - the chicken and sausage were delicious, the pork so-so, and the meatballs (hiding behind the pork in this shot) fantastic. Phone on the table was for texting the family back home.



Dave's plate



Frank, Peter, me and Dave



Our entertainment for the evening





Nice bespoke glasses for the Burgerbrau



A great long dinner with friends



The walk back to the hotel



Hotel Almrausch after dark

Tomorrow would be our first full day of touring with the whole group, and we had a full day planned with a route hitting all the supposedly good roads in the area. Hermann's book was a little help, but most of the suggestions came from enthusiast websites.
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Old 09-12-2012, 04:24 PM   #12
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06/18, Austria Loop

I had laid out a route of a little over 200 miles for the day that included some roads that were specifically mentioned in Hermann's book and some that just looked good on Google maps. I was also using this great set of maps as a source of good road choices. Since we managed to hit some good roads yesterday I was hopeful that today would uncover some gems. The weather wasn't looking great, but you have to take what you get sometimes. We all decided to taunt the weather gods and not don our rain gear.



Frank is raring to go



Departing the Hotel Almrausch

After getting gas just south of town our first new road of the day was 305 going west from Schneizlruth. What the road lacked in twists and turns it made up for in scenery. When it wasn't passing through quaint little towns it offered sweeping views of the countryside. It would qualify as a decent connector road to get to something interesting, but I was hoping for more. At Reit im Winkl we turned south on 176 towards St. Johann in Tirol, which turned out to be quite a busy and, quite frankly, ugly town. Truck traffic had increased substantially in this area, and my love for Austria was waning.

I had planned a 50km loop from St. Johann in Tirol west to Worgl, then east to Kitzbuhel and back up to SJiT, but just a few miles in decided to scrap that whole section. While 178 may look good on a map, it was just a busy commercial road that we shouldn't be wasting our time on. I don't know what 170 would have been like, but I'm guessing more of the same. We backtracked through SJiT and picked up 164 to Saalfelden which took us over Griessenpass. Or at least that's what the map said, the pass was certainly not memorable in any way.

We stopped for a quick break (eat, drink, bathroom, warmer gear) near Saalfelden, and then had to stop a few miles later to put on rain gear as the gloomy day with on and off fizzing finally turned to proper rain. We continued on 164 over the Dientner Sattel, which at 1357 meters was our first real fun road of the day - which unfortunately wasn't saying much. Our enjoyment was kept in check by the steady rain and the car traffic. By this time we'd been on the road for nearly 4 hours and really hadn't come across really fun roads.




Lunch (well, pretzel anyway) stop



I was born in the Bronx. Austria is not the Bronx.



My bathroom had a nice view



And the rain gear goes on, making the day even better

We split off 164 onto 166 on the other side of Huttau, and at least shed some of the traffic. There were a couple roads in this area that I had high hopes for - one was Pass Gschutt, which sported a 17% incline, and the other was a road through Postalm. The Postalm was a toll road, and highlighted in Hermann's book.

Pass Gschutt didn't take us where we needed to go so we just did a run over it to Gosau and headed back. The very beginning of the road was quite fun with several hairpins, steep hills and some tight turns, but it quickly petered out into another "just kinda curvy" road. In the town of Gosau there was some kind of big community event going on, with many folks in traditional dress and people setting off fireworks. I'm thinking it was a wedding, but I'm not ruling out a funeral either. Whatever it was, it slowed down our return to the pass while all the partygoers drove from the fireworks site to a reception hall. We did a photo stop at the start of the good section of the pass, and several of the guys made runs up and back for the camera. Unfortunately the gloomy weather did not conspire to make for interesting photos.



Pretty scenery, but the road was just so-so



Frank's enjoying it



Waiting on the revelers



Crappy photo of Dave on Pass Gschutt



And a crappy photo of Frank on the same pass



The front of the TDM is certainly...interesting

We made it back to 162 and turned north to get to the Postalm road. We had some confusion finding the start of it, with the Zumo saying one thing and the road signs saying another. We stuck to the road signs and found ourselves heading higher and higher as the road got narrower and narrower. Within a couple kilometers we were on a glorified goat path with no other traffic in sight. We left behind a couple isolated farmhouses at the start of the road and then were "in the wild". Even with the subpar weather and its attendant visibility issues there were some terrific views deep into the valley below.



The veiew from the start of the Postalm road



Dave's quite pleased



Not to bad on the straight section, but when this bus just missed my parked bike on the hairpin I held my breath

After another few kilometers we came to a toll booth, and had to pay 4 euro each to continue. Given how "blah" the roads had been so far I was happy to fork over some cash for what promised to be a good road. Took the four of us a while to deal with cash, gloves, toll gate, etc. Once we were all on the other side of the gate, I started a routine that would serve us well for the rest of the trip: I told everyone to go "ride their own ride" and "wait for everyone at the top". I was glad we could stay together on the transit sections, but I wanted everyone to do the fun roads at their own pace.



Fortunately the BMW driver was patient





"Who's unimpressed with Austria so far?"

The Postalm was certainly the highlight of the day, and I bet it would be even better on a dry day. We pretty much had the road to ourselves which was an added bonus. A shorter ride than I had hoped led us to the broad open summit where we all met up again. Fortunately the road had much to offer past this point, and it began twisting and turning it's way down the eastern side.



I had to wait a minute for these guys to get off the road



The top of the pass



Dave's day was going to get worse before it got better



More cows at the top



The eastern descent of the Postalm wound its way through a narrow canyon. Dave's in the distance there.

It was at the photo stop above where we ran into a problem. When I packed up the camera and rode up to Dave, he motioned for me to stop. Turns out when he stopped to take in the view he noticed a great deal of steam/smoke coming from his bike, and a pool of liquid forming beneath it. Unfortunately none of us are really mechanically inclined, so we set our heads to scratching.



The investigation begins

Was it the radiator? Didn't look or smell like coolant, but what if the bike shop used water instead of coolant? Brake fluid? Some sort of overflow reservoir? We poked around a bit, and it didn't look like anything was actively leaking when the bike was started. I slotted in behind Dave and we rode for a short while to see what would happen. Not much, it turned out, until we stopped again. Dave stopped the bike, got off, and billows of steam starting coming from the radiator area. The bike wasn't riding strangely, there was no temperature gauge to check, the coolant level wasn't dropping so far as we could tell, and we were really not in a good place to do anything to the bike. We decided to ride the few kilometers to the Agip station the Zumo promised us was ahead.

The rain started coming down in buckets as we neared the gas station, and it was a relief to be under a roof for a bit while we figured out what was going on. With the aid of a very helpful local who lent us his phone (because none of us could figure out how to correctly dial a German number, the + sign was the culprit) we gave the dealer a call, and the best Herman could do was send a truck around on Monday. This being Saturday, that did not fill us with happiness. Worse yet, tomorrow was to be the ride over Grosglockner into Italy, and a bike with issues on a Sunday could be big trouble.

To make a long story short, it was rain water. Like I said, none of us are mechanics. When Dave rode the bike, splashed up rain water would collect on some fairing inner or some other hideyhole, and when he put the bike on the sidestand it would dump out over the radiator producing copious amounts of steam. Buncha geniuses we are.





A very helpful stranger

Once we had that sorted, we just needed to get back to the hotel. My route had included some more exploring east of Salzburg, but the rain hadn't relented and we were mentally beat from mucking with the bike and playing out various "what if" scenarios. A more or less direct course to Bad Reichenhall was plotted (avoiding the Autobahn though) and we pulled out into the deluge. We had some more GPS-induced problems on the way back, culminating in ending up in a back alley of a back alley in Bad Reichenhall. While Frank punched more buttons to find the correct route out, I took off up a tiny leaf-strewn path that looked promising. Fortunately it did end up at the main road so I didn't need to try to turn around or head back down the slippery path.

We parked the bikes, got changed, and headed into town for dinner. Some of us managed to score umbrellas from the hotel, others just used their raingear to stay dry. We ended up at the closest restaurant to the hotel, La Dolce Vita. While it had been a mostly disappointing day for me, with the exception of the Postalm road, this dinner helped end the day on a high note. Meals were excellent all around, beers were large and cold, and desserts were fantastic.



Yum




Route for today
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Old 09-13-2012, 11:26 AM   #13
kendenton OP
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Joined: Feb 2007
Oddometer: 105
06/19 - Part 1, Up the Grosglockner

I can't tell you how jazzed I was about today - after 2 long years I would once again be riding in the Dolomites, a place I consider heaven on earth for motorcyclists. We'd be staying for the next several days at the Hotel Mesdi, one of the high points of the last trip. Adding to my excitement was the prospect of introducing 3 friends to this area and acting as tour guide. To top it all off, we'd be leaving Austria by the best way possible, riding over the Grosglockner.

Once again the weather looked uncooperative in the morning, so we had a quick discussion about changing our plans. Perhaps we shouldn't bother with the Grosglockner in the rain and fog? That alternative was quickly dismissed and we donned our rain gear after a hearty breakfast and headed south.



I wasn't sure about sharing my shower with "Tricky Ricky"



My room at the Hotel Almrausch



Funky sliding glass door to the bathroom





Nice view from my room



Getting ready to roll

Frank had plotted today's course so he took point as we rode down 311 past Saalfelden and Zell am See to the town of Bruck where we gassed up. I made one quick photo stop to get a shot of the Austria sign but couldn't swing getting the Germany sign on the other side of the road. Most of the ride was pretty uneventful, but pleasant enough. That may be how I would sum up riding in Austria on this trip - "pleasant enough". There had been a few really fun stretches of pavement, but there was also an awful lot of dull connectors to get to them. Don't get me wrong, riding in Austria kicks ass compared to riding near my home in southern New Jersey, but knowing some of the other areas we could have been in it didn't impress. As I described earlier, I had basically swapped out riding the passes near Andermatt, Switzerland for riding this area of Austria, and in hindsight I'm not sure I made the right choice. It was good to see a new area, but nothing we rode in Austria comes anywhere near the phenomenal confluence of Furka, Grimsel, Nufen and St. Gotthard passes from the 2009 trip. I would have hated to miss Munich though, that's a town I really fell in love with.



The big day begins



Dave



Dave waiting on me to finish taking pictures (as usual)



The scenery is definitely getting more interesting



Not sure about the ergonomics on that thing



So, how do you get to the other side of that?



A welcome sign of things to come



Frank heads off to the start of the Grosglockner. You can see a sign for it on the far left. No idea what those other 2 round signs were (or used to be).



OK, that's very pretty



The TDM900

It took us just over 2 hours to reach the toll plaza for Grosglockner. The tarrif was pretty stiff at 19 euro (about $26.50 US at the time), but the reputation of the road seemed to warrant it for us. For your duckets you got a brochure, a sticker, a receipt, and most importantly, a "magic coin" to open the tollgate. Temperatures were dropping and rain was falling so I had my heated gear connected and cranked up. I took up post at the toll machine to help get everyone through (no sense eeryone fumbling with coins and gloves) and get some photos, and in a few minutes we were ascending the famed Grosglockner High Alpine Road.

Not that we could immediately tell what the big fuss was all about. As we started bending through the initial hairpins the fog got thicker and thicker until you could just barely see the road in front of you. We had again started the "meet at the top" riding model, but nobody was attacking the road so we were in loose formation for most of the beginning. After a photo stop at an all-too-brief clearing in the fog (where a group of dozens of classic Alfa Romeos were heading the opposite way from us) we continued the ride up into the white mist. By this time the rain had started mixing with something more solid, and the fog had gotten even denser. I know I was happy to have another bike in front of me so I could see his taillight. There were some sections in the beginning where I don't think we did much more than 15 or 20mph for miles at a time. I can honestly say the ride up Grosglockner was enjoyable only looking back on it (what's the saying? Adventure is adversity recounted at leisure). At the time it was a pretty miserable slog up a cold, wet road with zero visibility. I had to laugh as it got colder, wetter and foggier, but after a bit I just wanted to be done with it.



The $26.50 magic coin



Enter...if you dare!



Dave



Frank



Hey Mikey! I think he likes it!



Hairpins ahoy!



Up we go



Frank and Dave appear through the gloom



Frank



Dave



A brief break in the fog



As always in the Alps you share the road with cyclists

Surprisingly it got a little better as we neared the top. The fog was going in and out (and the in sections were just as bad as earlier), but the rain/snow/whatever had stopped. One of the features of the Grosglockner that we were looking forward to (or dreading, depending on who you were) was the ride up the cobblestone switchbacks to the Edelweisspitze, the highest point on the "High Alpine Road". Our hopes were quickly dashed (or fears averted) when we got to the entrance and saw the snowplows still clearing the road. Even if they weren't clearing the road, the wet/icy conditions on the cobblestones would be a recipe for disaster for sure. We warmed ourselves at the rifugio/gift shop, had some ice cream, warmed ourselves again, and took in the views during the brief breaks in the clouds.



I don't think we're going up that road anytime soon



Where we're headed next



"next on the catwalk is Peter, showing off the latest offering from Frogg Toggs, the hi-viz rainjacket..."



Plenty of other crazies out today



Road? What road?



Oh yes, much better now.



Dave's debating if a snowball to my face would get me to stop making him pose for pictures



Our warming refuge for a little while





The other side of the mountain





Here come the guys



Frank and Peter



Dave



I really liked Peter's Hi-Viz Frogg Toggs jacket



Maybe, like the tunnel in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" things will be magical on the other side
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Old 09-13-2012, 11:28 AM   #14
kendenton OP
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Joined: Feb 2007
Oddometer: 105
06/19 - Part 2, Down the Grosglockner

It was only after we passed through the tunnel that the weather started to improve. Seamingly with every additional mile the clouds got thinner, the air warmer, and it wasn't too long before a patch of blue sky miraculously appeared. Maybe we could salvage this day yet! Sure enough, 15 minutes later we were carving up hairpins on a beautiful summer day (albeit a chilly one) under a blue sky with puffy blue clouds. Suddenly all was right with the world and a new item was added to the "Top 10 Moments of the Trip" list. The Grosglockner instantly became one of our favorite roads. Vastly different than everything we had ridden on this trip so far, it was all suddenly perfect pavement, big mountain views, and fellow bikers sharing the moment.

The run down that side of the pass was over much too quickly. Actually, I thought it kept on going. I had left the guys behind to go get some more photos, and when I came to a traffic circle I went across to the other side to take the spur road up to the glacier. Not all of us were on the same page, and some confusion led to Peter exiting the circle onto the road that led to the exit of the pass. We waited roadside for a while, then sent search parties out when he didn't show up. Eventually he was found at the southern toll plaza, unfortunately on the other side of the tollgate. Lucky for him he had kept his receipt so he had no trouble getting back in. I had really enjoyed my fast run down the pass to the toll plaza, to which I had added some sort of artificial sense of urgency to find Peter. For the run back I think I pretended I needed to get the word back to Dave quickly so I enjoyed another very spirited run to the roundabout.

Since the weather was so perfect none of us wanted to leave Grosglockner. We all agreed that we should take the side trip to the glacier, even if it meant delaying out arrival in Arabba until near dinner time. This turned out to be a great decision, as the road up to the glacier was excellent, and the views absolutely outstanding. We hung out at the glacier for a bit, grabbed some snacks, and then enjoyed a perfect summer-day ride down to the toll plaza.



Could that actually be a tiny piece of blue sky?



While the road was nice and dry, the shoulders were dicey



What an amazing road



Peter enjoying a dry road for a change



The 22nd hairpin on Grosglockner



You can see more of the pass in the left



What a change from only an hour ago



Frank passing by



The Grosglockner High Alpine Road





My kind of traffic



I can't overemphasize how hot I think the Honda CB1300S is



What a great way to spend an afternoon



I think every other biker stopped at this turnout to enjoy the view



The road up to the glacier



Well, he is ATGATT and he's wearing Hi-Viz, so I guess he's kind of safe





The Pasterze Glacier is moving at the rate of 15 meters per year



That's a very big rock. Too bad we didn't have time to take the Glacier-bahn tram down to the bottom



Goofy group photo



That walkway was just hanging in space and I didn't like walking on it. Not one bit.



View on the ride back down from the glacier



Frank's got his head in the right place



Wow



Beautiful series of man-made waterfalls



It was fair to say we really enjoyed the Grosglockner



That's a really long gallery coming down from the glacier



The exit of the Grosglockner
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Old 09-17-2012, 01:05 PM   #15
kendenton OP
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Joined: Feb 2007
Oddometer: 105
06/19 - Part 3, A Return to the Dolomites

After regretfully leaving behind the best road of the trip so far we had a straight shot of around 20 miles on 107 to the town of Lienz so we put Dave out in front. For the majority of the transit sections either Frank or I would take point since we had the GPS units, but it was nice to be able to mix it up a bit. Besides, since Dave and I had our Scala Q2 headseats connected I could help him out with any route decisions if we came to any confusing junctions. This worked out just fine, even when we had to deal with another crossed-out road town that was on our intended route.



Our gas stop was well guarded



Tiny ski town



"Hey, is that...?"

For the most part we were on a fast B road (E66 in Austria, which turned into SS49 when we crossed the border into Italy) on our way to Valdaora, our jumping off point to the Dolomites. We were able to keep a good pace, but with our extended stay on the Grosglockner our ETA for the hotel was getting later and later. Once we crossed the border into Italy traffic started getting pretty, well, interesting, with Italian bikers doing what Italian bikers do - pass all over the place. I knew I was back in Italy when a rider on a Ducati 1098 (or 848, or 1198, etc) came at us around a curve, knee down, surrounded by pretty thick traffic. While I had gotten used to the "pass whenever" style of riding by the end of the last trip, after so long an absence it came as somewhat of a shock again to see riders lane-splitting in curves, passing in blind corners, etc. I can't say for sure, but I'm guessing the other guys eyes were popping out of their heads at some of the moves people were making. Of course it doesn't take too long over there to find yourself going over to the dark side...



Woo-hoo!



Technically the TDM900 was still in Austria



Dave

Frank's route had us leaving the main road at Valdaora and heading south on Furkelpass, or Passo Furcia. Even though it was getting late I was eager to try this pass out as it was a new one for me. I'm very glad we did, as it turned out to be a treat of a road. Very, very narrow in places, hairpins, views, perfect pavement, little traffic, all the things you hope for in a pass were present and accounted for.



Looking back down to the start of Passo Furcia



"I'm in Italy!"



You can just see one of the hairpins on the far right. Great little road.



My first Italian pass of the trip, and a new one to boot

After Passo Furcia we worked our way down SS244 through Corvara in Badia, and the guys got their first up-close look at the Dolomites at the start of Passo Campolongo. With a late-afternoon sun highlighting the mountains it was truly a magnificent sight, and I couldn't think of a better way to end a day that had started so uninspiringly. I can't begin to tell you how glad I was to be back in the Dolomites.

We dispatched Passo Campolongo pretty quickly, and while the guys were very impressed with it I knew Campolongo was really one of the area's minor treasures. The roads I would take them on tomorrow were going to blow them away.



Back in paradise



Dueling cameras



View from Passo Campolongo

We rolled into Arabba around 6:30, and as we got closer to the hotel I could feel myself starting to get downright giddy. You ever have that feeling when you're so excited you start talking too fast and can't keep still? That was me. Right up to the point where we pulled into the hotel lot and I dropped the bike. I think I was actually so elated that I forgot to put the sidestand down. First time I've had a bike on it's side in over 15 years, and it's a rental. On the plus side the bike was not in pristine condition when we picked them up, and the side cases (which took the brunt of the fall) were already sporting some battle scars. I was also in good company that day - Peter had dropped the FJR (which actually was pristine on delivery) earlier in the day on the Grosglockner, but out of sight of everyone, not right in front of all his buddies and the people enjoying drinks outside the hotel.

When I went inside to check in I was delighted to find that the manager/owner immediately recognized me and welcomed me by name - that was an unexpected surprise! We got ourselves checked in and met downstairs for dinner a little later. One of the big bonuses of the Hotel Mesdi (and most of the hotels in this area) is that your room price includes a full dinner as well as a substantial buffet breakfast. You have assigned tables that you return to every night, and we were seated at the very same table I had last time. I was even more pleased when our waitress came over to get our drink orders and she remembered me as well. She also asked about Jim who was with me last time while we ordered our first round of beers. Agnes was a delight last trip, and I was very happy to see that she was still here.

Dinner was excellent, as was the beer after a long day in the saddle. Back in my room, sleep came quickly.



Nice going



Our menu for the evening. It took a while to figure out the layout - salad, then ravioli, pasta or soup, then Cordon Bleu or pork chops or smoked ham, then creme caramel.



My plate of smoked ham. Tasty.



Texture was a little rubbery, but taste was phenomenal
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