PART ll

DAY 9 …………MOVING TO LANDECK VIA THE CRYSTAL FACTORY
We had breakfast, paid our bills and said goodbye to Petra, she was selling the hotel this year so this is the last time we will see her, and she has taken good care of us since 2005. We rode of in dry weather and cut through the back roads through the mountains, we intended to go on the old trunk road before the auto route was built, and had less than two hundred miles to go so an easy ride was anticipated.
We stacked up behind an old Austrian camper van labouring up the twisting road, he pulled over and waved us by as the CB cracked into life and a Scandinavian sounding voice said something, Barry asked if it was me speaking, I said it was probably the campervan, maybe he was wishing us luck. What actually happened was this…..Clive and Pat had been to Salzburg the day before, Now Pat was a great fan of “The Sound of Music” and enjoyed their visit, so much so that she was singing away to herself, she was singing songs from the film. Now then, unbeknown to her, hubbi Clive had clicked his CB switch and everyone with CB’s heard her as the campervan had moved over, I put two and two together and got five. Ooeer! So sorry Pat for mistaking your singing for an old Scandinavian campervan driver!!! Clive your rascal of a husband was to blame this time!!
On the way to Landeck we planned a lunch stop that would benefit Ian of all people. It had been billed during our preparations as “One for the ladies” It was a visit to the famous SWAROVSKI KRISTALLWELTEN. (Chrystal world) It’s the actual factory where the Chrystal is turned into works of art. Barry thought the girls might fancy a visit, but it actually interested Ian more because he loves the stuff and has a big collection at home. So this was to be a big tick on his list of “must do’s” Well done that man!
The morning was an easy ride through villages and a few towns, the rain visited us again, we pulled over at a garage to top up with fuel and don our wet suits again. We set of into the traffic, pulling onto the auto route for a short while. There was silence on the CB and nobody was answering me, I pulled abreast of Mark in front and pointed at my ear and shook my head tapping my mike at the same time. I think he got the message. I pulled over and quickly checked the CB channel, Julie had knocked it at the last garage, I flicked it back to channel 15 and set off after the distant group, I caught up in double quick time, Mark had relayed my problem to Barry and when I stopped he guessed what I was doing. We have ridden together so much these days that t this rate he will guess when I need a pee before I do! We soon came up to the next exit we needed to the glass factory over there on the right.
We curved round and round getting tighter and tighter on the new unpainted tarmac; these are the best and brilliant roads to hone your cornering skills! We leaned the wings over more and more, what remarkable bikes these monsters are! Mark and Chrissy had drifted purposely right across the lane as he went in a bit hot so taking a wide line. I was a few yards behind him and higher up the downward curve when I saw a big blue articulated truck with SWARVOSKI painted along the forty foot length of its trailer coming towards Mark! Just for a second only I could see what was going to happen and managed to utter just one short word then Mark saw him too and did a split S with soufflé, dipping hard onto the correct side of the road, it was a dangerous moment. God only knows what the truck driver thought; do they have the same word in Austrian? Did he even see him even? I never heard any air brakes but by now I was laughing my head off, I keyed my mike managing through my giggles to enquire after his highly entertaining manoeuvre. We parked up a minute later in the factory car park, I was still in fits of laughter, everybody looked on puzzled as he and I shared the moment, nobody else knew anything about it, Even Julie didn’t see it and Chrissy thought he was showing of a bit! He said to me after the tears of laughter and the cack in his pants dried up that he thought it was one way road and he was ever so surprised when he found himself staring at the swiftly closing chrome grill and headlights of the huge blue M.A.N truck! It made me chuckle for days after, even now it’s making me smile broadly as I re-live it. I just wish somebody else had witnessed it too. I’m glad to say once more, no accident and no injuries on this day just one forced change of underpants!

holls 1 859A horse…..with crystal trinkets

Most of the gang went for a look inside the visitor’s centre the rest of us had lunch and rested. Eventually they returned some had trinkets, for example Tom bought himself a pair of Chrystal earrings…don’t ask. Ian bought what he came for and spent a pretty penny too I’ll bet! It doesn’t really do anything for me so I’ll say no more.
We saddled up and pushed on towards our hotel on the Kaunertal road a few miles from the town of Landeck. It was a huge hotel that specialized in bikers in the summer and skiers in the winter, it was one of those well being hotels where they provide spas, massage and swimming for the less able folk, many in wheelchairs, it was such a huge place, the car and motorbike underground facility was second to none with garage equipment and a bike wash bay, bikers were well thought of, even down to the wash bowl and cloth at the main door to clean helmet visors! It is also the official BMW test centre for cars, we have in the past seen secret cars all masked in black tape with sensors stuck in various places, we are met by the happy Charley Kafel the hotel has been in his family for years, he is a nice bloke and always has a smile on his face, Mrs Kafel is as stunning as she is leggy. We have stayed here before so his welcome is really genuine, I also met him at the bike show at the NEC. After meeting Charly I always manage to sink a schnapps or two, even at the NEC last November! I’m sure he has it on tap. He is very bike orientated and commited, for example someone had parked their trailer in the garage, we mentioned it to Charley, the next minute it was removed and placed in the camping bay round the back. Try and get that kind of service back home! There are about six of these kinds of biker hotels in the mountains, they all work with each other, and sre to be keen bikers themselves. Just go on Google on your PC just type in www.motorrad-hotel.com and let yourselves be introduced to a whole new world!
Everyone could see we had gone up a gear in accommodation, the food here was very VERY nice if just a bit rich sometimes, well it was for me anyway. The bar was huge, spacious and had splendid staff who paced around supplying drinks at a nod of the head. After several nods of the head it was time to retire, our belly tanks nearly full for the night.

DAY 10….UP THE KAUNERTAL FOR AN AFTERNOON
Today we would ride The Kaunertal, and for the first time in bright blazing sunshine! But first we cleaned the bikes, the jet wash was used first to clean the worst of the muck from the wheels before lightly spraying the top side of the bikes, the car park outside filled up with drying bikes and proud men eagerly polishing their toys.

36

One for the ladies

Janet pulled the men from their bikes to arrange a “fat belly” photo shoot, judging by the photo there was just one who didn’t like the way he looked and sucked in his belly….Barry! The girls had to reciprocate of course which they did! The hotel guests began to appear and looked on thinking correctly that we were all mad!37
One for the lads.

It wasn’t a long day on the bikes so we didn’t leave until around ten thirty, heading up the way towards the toll booths at the start of the pass road. 46Coming up the mountain

After that it was an invigorating ride up to the dam and the halt before the “twisties” up the mountainside. The water at the dam was calm and green as usual, some photos were taken and once again Julie and I went up first to pick out a good spot to take photos of everyone as they came around. We led the way, within a mile I had half a dozen Germans hard at my heels, I smiled and increased the speed it was one of those passes with lots of open corners so one could plan the line up the corner and give it plenty with ease…its helps too that we have ridden this several times now. I found a good spot and pulled over, signalling early to give the guys plenty of time as to what I was doing. As they passed they did so with grins and a thumbs up, it’s nice to ride with strangers sometimes even though it’s only briefly. I can’t help but wonder what they thought as they chased us two old farts up the mountain on a “lumbering” Honda Goldwing!

47Purple Pussy chases Barry (The don’t catch him of course!)

We got set up, I framed a nice backdrop and waited, it wasn’t long before we heard Barry doing a “Norman Collier” on the CB, This told me he was within a mile, perhaps less in these lower hills. Julie saw them starting their ascent far far away just as the dam stopped and the road started to twist and turn skywards. Five minutes later Barry swept by followed closely by Mark an Chrissy, they were hanging onto Barry’s tail as he showed them the ideal line to take, Tom and Michelle came next, I saw him grinning through his “Darth Vadar” helmet. Ian and Adrianne loomed up next heaving their old banger effortlessly round, Adrienne’s long blonde locks swishing wildly, “looking good” I shouted. Ian wore his handsome smile as usual, and Adrianne waved. Brian and Janet arrived, Janet was clicking away with the camera at me the cheeky mare! Brian threw their 1500 into the corner. The two trikes have no problems on these corners; in fact they probably have totally different experiences than us two wheeled folk! Clive and Pat came last taking it easy because Pat doesn’t like heights, she is ever so brave and sits on the back taking in the wonderful alpine smells and sounds, she closes her eyes when enough is enough! The top of the KAUNERTAL is not a beautiful place to visit in the summer months, quite ugly grey ang gravel pitish! There is all kind of winter equipment and building materials doted, not cleared away into compounds just left by the side of the few buildings, for sure this is one of those places that probably looks better in winter, all around, slate grey is the colour, it’s the centre for the ski activity so that’s probably why snow vehicles, bob cats and building material is in evidence.
Last September Barry, the girls and I sat at this café and watched huge cement trucks struggle up and round boulders as they negotiated the temporary shale tracks carved out of the mountain side, they climbed to the very top to pour their cement into the foundations of the new cable car system that we now looked at as we sat at here nine months later, we especially noted in surprise that the drivers had their cab doors wedged open in case they had to leap out! It was quite mesmerising to watch. Then pick their way around boulders as big and try to keep on the shale tracks, it was so steep and loose underfoot I’m sure we would have seen one loose control if we sat there long enough.

50Standing on top of the world.

After lunch some of us took an expensive ride on the brand new cable cars to see the view from the very top. It was a fifteen minute ride in silence as the cars lifted couples to the very top of the world. We were rewarded with the most fantastic view ever ever EVER! At 3526 metres, (that’s about 10,578 feet) We stood on the snowy ridgeline and stared at wall to wall mountain tops as far as the eye could could see, we were looking at Austria Switzerland and Italy all at once, it was magnificent, clear and sunny. Tom, Barry and I stood in silence as if looking at our first naked girlfriend from our puberty years! A snowball came our way and we tramped about in one foot snow for half an hour taking it all in and taking “summit photographs”
We were blessed with clear blue skies for a while, the onset of darker clouds signalled our departure. I think I get a bit of an idea why climbers climb mountains now; it really is worth the effort. We went back down the way we came in single unhurried order, the hotel was about ten miles down the one road, so a solitary ride back was enjoyed, Barry and Mark encountered a few brown goats on the way down, the girls took photos until they hopped over the barrier and down the side. We came across familiar rolling road blocks in the shape of grey handsome looking young cows, I pulled up behind two of them, I followed slowly as they swayed and shimmied along the road swishing their tails to and fro, I dare not squeeze past them fearing their sharp long horns, instead I turned up the volume and let Led Zep hopefully clear the way, unfortunately they liked the old rock music and just carried on, heads nodding in unison to the howling sounds of ”Black Rod”! This went on until suddenly they broke into a canter then a gallop turning and leaping the low barrier and disappearing down the side. So the next time your over here and see those triangular signs advertising cows, take heed folks they could be just around the next bend and you might not see the warning signs…piles of cow dung! Once past them we soon progressed swiftly and reached the dam, the road turned back to normal again, long and level! We rode along the valley floor, along the last ten miles to the hotel, we parked up in the underground car park with Barry and Mark, others soon arrived back in one’s and two’s. Tea, coffee and cakes are served every afternoon around four o’clock in the bar, it’s a real treat because its free, everyone gathers in the bar grabbing a chair plonking kit in corners and tucking into the afternoon tea, “What kind of bloody bike club are we?” comes to mind again. Nearby three mature German bikers in leather and long hair have maps spread out chatting about their days ride, I looked around and saw the scene played out with couples, and small groups of older chaps on old BMW’s Then there our gang, laughing and hogging the cakes and tea! We sat outside drinking our tea staring back up the valley just managing to see the mountains in the distance, we had managed to outrun the rain for a change and saw some wondrous sights today!

52a John and Lynne joined at the hip!

DAY 11……CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG DAY.
Another day of two adventures today as the “old guard” took themselves off to Innsbruck by train whilst Barry and I escorted the “Newbies” across the wooded Fern Pass in hot sunshine, we pulled over at The Blue Lagoon for a coffee, the lake was a peaceful hue of blue green hence the name… probably. We had sprinted up the side of the mountain so now took a long glide down the other side heading towards the olde worlde town of Fussen; just on the edge was our destination, the magical white castle of SCHLOSS NEUSCHWANSTEIN (New White Stone Palace) Is a 19th century castle commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and home to his very close friend and composer, Richard Wagner, you’ll not be surprised after seeing the castle to note that the plans were drawn up by a former theatrical set designer! Work started in 1869, however just before it was completed the King was declared insane and shortly after his arrest he was found drowned in a shallow pool……along with the professor who declared him insane! Hmmmm…Apparently nobody was available from the then royal family for comment. Oh what a mad world we live in eh?
The colourful history just adds to the lure of the place, 50 million people have visited so far from all over the planet, this works out at 1.3 million per year, plus some Appy Wanderers! We left the new guys to explore and headed back to The Fern Pass, they would make their own way back later in the day. Barry, Tina. Julie and myself stopped off at an old ruined fortress castle of Ehrenberg, the origins of which go back to 1293. we saw it on the run in earlier, we climbed the hill to the top of the ruin, history tells of invasion and counter invasion from the 1500’s onwards from the likes of Duke Meinhard II of The Tyrol, and a gang of Swedes later on, plus the French lot and then the Spanish hordes. The trouble with Ehrenberg was that the hill just four hundred yards away was higher up and each invading group had a whale of a time just lobbing projectiles down into the fortress! In 1971 a fund was set up to begin to renovate the whole place, starting with the buildings below, so up at the catle ruin itself they were just starting to renovate it. In fact the first thing we saw when we finally got to the top was a bloody orange cement mixer, two jackets and two lunch boxes belonging to the two workmen, it brought a smile to our faces! The views were worth the long hike, you could see all down the valley and could quite understand the dominating vantage point as it straddled the only road into the then Kingdom……….except for that bloody bigger hill sitting four hundred yards over there and the advent of the siege cannon! We stayed a couple of hours just chilling out in the afternoon sun and admired the views.
We returned to our two bikes and had a great ride back up and down The Fern Pass, it’s a wonderful, smooth and wide road that allowed the use of more speed than usual for a spot of “pass bashing”. Both Goldwings flew as one; the mid afternoon traffic was nearly nonexistent! On the downward leg an Austrian local on his Suzuki GSX1100cc latched onto us and sat about thirty metres behind; I dropped into line astern and informed Barry of his presence. He sat there a few minutes looking at us with left hand on his hip. I have to admit that we got a bit mischievous at this point; it was too good to resist! I asked Barry to call if it was clear as he rounded the downhill into blind corner I duly timed it to overtake an articulated lorry on a diving blind bend! The jet jockey behind suddenly went from crouching tiger to flustered hen and sat bolt upright, “Donner Und Bltizen!” he probably said to himself I wish I could have seen his face! We did this for the next few miles, he couldn’t work out if we were completely bonkers or just plain suicidal, we four were chuckling at his dilemma, as we got to the bottom of the pass, it was here that the road began to straighten out. “It’s your turn to play with him Barry” I laughed as I waived him by. He zipped past me dropping his leg as a thank you. He squirted by Barry so quickly that his rear end snaked as the slick tyre spun up. Barry zoomed off after him as a corner approached the Austrian slowed, just around the corner was a village with restrictions, Ah So! this guy was a local and seemed quite sensible! This was probably his playground. The poor guy just could not shake us as we went through village after village, giving us time to catch up. At one point at pedestrian lights we pulled up to his back wheel side by side like a couple of highway cops! How he resisted the urge to look round I don’t know,he off he shot again rear wheel spinning up again and snaked off into the distance……until the next village! On this went for over twenty miles, he must have been beside himself, he must have heard ABBA blasting through the speakers and seen us both laughing our heads off in his mirror. We got to the roundabout at the auto route entrance slipway he was going back up the way he came, he looked up the road at first before seeing us actually on the same roundabout as himself; he stared and waved slightly before he sped off. It was a hilarious episode. GSX man would surely not mention this episode to any of his race bike pals for fear of losing his street “cred” We two on the other hand couldn’t wait to tell everyone that night.
The expedition by train to Innsbrook with the “old guard” was a more serene affair; they were messed around a bit by a local cycle race and nearly missed their train. I’m told by my Scottish spy that one of our ladies was taken short and had to answer a call of nature in a car park between the fence a and a fancy BMW car, Imagine the look on Herr Schmitt’s face when he not only saw a radiator leak from his brand new car but found before passing out that it tasted of fermenting liquor, he was last considering suing BMW when he leaves the clinic.

55Riding into Italy

DAY 12……..THE TIMMELSJOCH AND ANOTHER LITTLE SHOWER
A full day out on the bikes was enjoyed today by the whole group, we would explore some great landmarks in the Garmish-Parken Region, We got the boring bit out of the way first and completed the Auto route run, the highlight of this section was the ride over The Brenner Pass, we pulled over to discard some clothes as the temperatures rose, we topped our fuel tanks and set off again. We passed into Italy at a checkpoint manned by police officers dressed in reflective glasses, dark blue uniforms, high black shiny calf boots, huge flat topped hats and white webbing belts, with a pistol strapped to their hips. I remembered The Village People for some reason. We rode on past with a nod and a smile, not returned I have to say. Barry pointed out some buildings high to the left, I pointed out some concrete barriers just two yard to our left and some steel barriers two yards to our right! We exited the auto route presently and entered the most picturesque village then went round a few times before stopping for a few minutes to consult the map. Mistress Garmin had “advised” this turn which turned out to be one junction early, the auto route passed high above the village on spectacular bridging, we rectified the mistake and rejoined the auto route, I reason that we were on an adventure and had gone a different way, not got lost, because that’s exactly what you do on holiday right? We would not have seen such a pretty village or been able to inspect the bridge from this angle otherwise. At the next junction we exited and found our little road to head into the mountains after this hour or so passing down the valley.
The first pass of the day was Italian and called The Jaufenpass, and good practice for the mother of all passes tomorrow! The over banding was typical of the region…..Plentiful and very bloody wide! It was no good trying to avoid it. The secret is to go just that bit faster and skip through it, I know it sounds mad but it works perfectly, we have seen lots of bikes over the trips up here and not one had come to grief. You see you’re not on one long strip but crossing at an angle over dozens of the buggers! It was a wooded ride upwards and very pretty as you glanced away to the right, following this pass came the Via Passo Glovo, the trees grew less as we passed the tree line and the land turned rugged and sparse.

57A coffee and strudel break

We crested the top and ran steady amongst empty windy roads and darted in and out of a couple of tunnels, the snow sat around in high banks as it had done all the holiday on all the high passes. Sheep and cattle kept ones’ mind alert as they meandered around chewing the grass. We dropped down again before heading into a village and going straight back up again up the other side. We stopped at the base of the next climb and had lunch, sitting there looking up at the twisting road, it changed, first to a light grey line then a creamy white ribbon as it zig zagged upwards to disappear in the folds of the mountain, Folk were encouraged to go up on their own and stop at the top at the tea house for a breather. So off we went in dribs and drabs I ran with Barry for the first part before stopping to take in the vast views. I stood on the one foot stone parapet that was all that stood between life and oblivion and was that creamy ribbon we could see from the café way back down there. I watched the guys coming up, silent at first as the black dots turned into red, blue and black motorbikes, only on the last turn could one make out what types they were and could only hear them on the last hundred yards or so, I waved at Clive as he came by, Pat had her eyes closed again but sat smiling as he described the scenery in his gentle way. Through the pitch black tunnel we rode passing into a long gentle descent amongst lots of snow that sat banked up, it was usually well over ten feet high, I have so far resisted the urge to stick my finger in it as we zoom past it! The mountains on both sides along here were plain grey and full of slate or so they seemed, a scene of rough beauty if ever there was one. The top of The Timmelsjoch came into view and the toll booths. We posed by the flags for photographs, some mature English folk walked over to say hello and chat for a while. Everyone stuck their sticky pass badges somewhere on their bikes, all mine are in the top box, 59Hey look at me!

Mark bought yet another metal pin badge and emulated a veteran as he pinned it to his leather waist coat, he wondered why he was getting back ache as his weight increased. I joked that when he falls of the next time he would probably disappear in a shower of sparks with all the bleeding badges he had acquired now! Time was passing and we had miles of beautiful roads to go yet. We said our goodbyes to the old English folk and slipped down the mountainside again, we soon ran along the valley following the raging green river, we passed through several towns, I halted at some crossings to let some old folk cross, the last old boy gave me a right look followed by a right mouthful and waved his stick at me, I’m at a loss to explain his actions, maybe its “back door rider” syndrome again like with the Romanian village attack dogs on the 07 adventure? I caught up and repeated what happened, all I got in return was laughter on the CB! Barry thought we might take a detour to miss out the auto-route bit and take a “little road” that should bring us out not far from the hotel, then the rains came again.
We pulled over at a garage to don water proof gear again as it got really heavy and prolonged. A 360 at the next roundabout took us back to that little road and we began to climb upwards in pelting rain, Ian began to slow as his rear brakes began to fail again. He hadn’t done anything to fix them and consequently he slowed greatly creating a long gap between the main group and the last three bikes. Barry and Mistress Garmin were at it again and we did another 360 looking for a particular turn, we hauled around one by one still in the pouring rain, it was getting a bore now! As we got to a village Barry called out to turn left at the village, unfortunately Ian, Clive and I had just passed it. I saw it and called for Ian to turn around again, I directed him to the turn which we approached from a difficult upwards angle. I stopped to hold the traffic just a minute and to let Ian and Clive make the turn, so tight was the angle that they had to use both lanes, it was difficult but they did it. I on the other hand was in the wrong spot all together, I rode on and turned around further down the road, all the while I could hear Barry calling, I was too busy to reply, I’m not too sure he would have liked my answer at that moment in time to be honest! I eventually got on the right track up through a village, Barry kept calling to take the left turns up the hill, what a bloody awful pig of a road it was. There was no worry about getting lost we had map and mobile phone and was only one valley away so no worries were setting in, I was just fed up of the 360 turns, the heavy rain, and the bloody gap caused by the brakeless 1500. We rejoined the group as they sat at the top of the hillside. The rain abated as we crested the hilltop and rode on stopping briefly at a great viewing point, only it was a bit cloudy and the bleeding rain was catching up again, we pressed on down this side of the valley managing to keep ahead of the following rains. A wet end to a very exciting and exhilarating day!
The bar got some hammer from me after tea; I was in need of venting some steam after the last bit of the day’s adventure, much later I was laughing with the rest of the midnight barflies at our antics. Charley joined us from his night out in the mountains after a boy’s night out, he topped off my night with some banter and plied us with various Schnapps, I’m getting quite a taste for the stuff. By midnight I was looking forward to the next ride in the morning.
DAY 13…….. THE STELVIO IS CALLING
For me this will be the day of days on this adventure because it’s such a magnificent achievement and quite a technical pass to do especially on a Honda Goldwing. That’s not official it’s just my opinion OK? It just has to be done; we had planned to do it on the last day in order that everyone had lots of practice on lesser passes.
Once again a nice sunny day graced our company as we headed down into the valley and turned left towards Italy again, the lake at St Valentin meant we were on the correct road, the checkpoint came and went without any problems they just stood and observed, clearly we were not their target today. We passed dozens of farmers harvesting the long grass, they used a two wheeled shearer with a little motor on top that made short work of the grass, girls and young boys gathered the cut grass. It was a huge gentle valley that pushed a strong breeze into our faces, it made it hard to hear the words on the CB but hey what nice scenery and the turn was miles away! The miles were reeled in and Tina got her wish finally. To stop in the walled village of Prato alla Stelvio. It was a very Italian place with light brown high walled buildings that looked somewhat ancient and unlived in, we spread out and explored, Julie and I sat by the river and had a drink, others arrived in dribs and drabs we sat around chatting, we then had a stroll round the sleepy back roads of the village taking plenty of photos, we were just like Japanese tourists for God’s sake! A look at the clock meant it was time to go back to the bikes. Those who had arrived early back at the bikes had found some cherry trees and were busily stuffing themselves whilst waiting for everyone else. Clive and Pat decided to stay in the village giving The Stelvio a miss.
We rode through the village, passing slowly through the busy square I stopped to let some people cross when it happened again, this old dear scowled at me as she crossed and gave me a mouthful. I have no music on, I’m smiling at her and definitely NOT saluting, is it the colour of the bike or what?
Five miles or so further on and a last pep talk about the road ahead, and it was time for everyone to go explore again, we’d agreed to meet at the hotel halfway up, suddenly a couple of GoldWings came past. They were English, they smiled and waved, Barry knew them, he shouted “See you at the top” Everyone set off at their own pace, as back door man I would wait five minutes before setting off, Julie and I sat twiddling thumbs for what seemed like twenty minutes before moving off, not ten minutes later the bloody rains visited yet again! We passed Mark and Chrissy as they donned their jackets, within minutes he was on my tail and far too close for the difficult bends ahead, I asked him to fu…I mean go on ahead of us. Which he did rather too eagerly, a bit like a young oss at his first jumps I guess. Tom whipped his black beauty by me in fine style Michelle’s little hand waved as they passed, I’m sure he was glad he wasn’t on one of his prized scooters today, he’d probably end up carrying it! The first part of The Stelvio is full of steep angled corners with views obscured making it very hard for our girls to declare the road clear or not. The Stelvio zig zags are so tight and steeply cambered that you have to approach from the opposite side of the road in order to make the turn, going in slowly then gunning it going in the opposite direction upwards exiting on the correct side of the road, gunning it because the steep camber tries to pull you down into the storm gutter! it’s a really good idea for the girls to look up high over their shoulder and shout “clear” or “car” or “can’t see” If its “car” or “can’t see” then you need to stop or slow before attempting the turn, otherwise you simply won’t get round! On the wooded lower section it’s often “can’t see” as trees, supporting walls and bloody grass got in the way! By the time I got to the half way point everyone was there ok and ordering drinks whilst staring at the now familiar zig sagging thread of ribbon that disappeared over the distant snow covered top away in the distance. It looked quite daunting to me the first time I rode it in 2005 so I knew what the first timers where thinking as they gazed up.
After a few coffee’s it was time to complete the final leg, again folk set off in singles, we sat and watched as they roared away up the mountain side, we set of behind Mark and Chrissy, he had slowed going into the corners and was making better progress, both Chrissy and Julie were doing a great job….until Chrissy missed a bike coming down and Mark found himself head on with a vehicle, luckily it was just a motorbike he slowed right down and managed to cut right back inside, both bikes passed, the German and I exchanged glances and smiled. It’s easy to do and isn’t a great drama after all when it’s two bikes. The girls both spotted a Marmot dashing along the top of a supporting wall, these are a lot like beavers in size and shape and live in the Alps. We zip past a lorry as it groans its way up the pass – we wait for a short straight bit before doing squirting past him. The top is in sight with just one bend to negotiate, which we do especially easily after the last couple of dozen!

bike trip to austria 2009 290The view from the top of the STELVIO

At the top is a plethora of European bikers looking very pleased with themselves, I sat on the wall and just looked back down the valley at where we had come, no matter how many times I do this run it still makes me look back in awe, people were mooching about the few tatty shops all selling pretty much the same things, everything had STELVIO printed on it somewhere, it’s getting quite tatty these days and in need of a refurb, and the café that served up the lunch wants blowing off the face of the Earth, the food was bloody disgusting. “Lurch” the waiter had problems stringing his words together and ought to return to rehab; the next time I do this I will be taking a packed lunch….it’s not the money!

67OK, so try the STELVIO on this then!

Amongst the people milling about here was Englishman John Kent and a few of his friends on their wings he runs tours too and is an old friend of Barry’s. He was the guy we saw at the very bottom of the mountain. After everyone bought stickers and stuff we set off down the other side heading towards Switzerland.
It was a more serene affair going down this way. The Umbrail Pass was more serene compared to the previous accent up The Stelvio but still a ride that demanded skill and good brakes…..Something that Ian didn’t have, I mentally awarded poor Adrianne her second George Cross of the tour for bravery above and beyond! We turned off the tarmac part way down and rode across compacted gravel ,half way down this minor road we entered Switzerland, Ian slowed right down again and I stayed behind him just in case and called to Barry who by now was way ahead down the mountainside. Fortune was on Ian’s side as we made it to warm sticky tarmac; the rest of the group had waited for us as we closed with them a mile further on at a village.
The Offen Pass was our next point of interest, it wasn’t half as difficult as the previous ones, the road was wider and the corners were open, no walls or trees to obscure visibility. They were still tight and the inside of the corners fell away sharply as usual demanding good throttle and clutch co-ordination. The group wound itself upwards; the girls took pictures and sometimes waved to the others on the bends below then it happened.
From thirty yards away I saw Mark flatten the corner of the uphill right hander and slow down to a stop he put his right foot down but he had at least two foot of air between his foot and the ground, the wing just keeled over slowly like a shot Elephant, I was calling “Bike down “before it hit the ground, which it did, it rolled further over as it hit the gully of the storm drain, Chrissy was dumped on her arse in the dust. Ian filmed it as he rode by? I stopped the bike and ran up the last couple of yards, Tom saw it as he was just in front, he came running back down the road, Julie stood at our bike watching for traffic. Chrissy was struggling to move, One of the short flagpoles had gone through the loop on her jeans and pinned her to the floor, Mark was flapping about a bit and still plugged in, I thought he’d do a John Harvey! I unplugged him and sent him round to the other side of the bike, We had pulled Chrissy from her impalement and I looked her bum over carefully, it was fine, VERY fine! She stood with Julie, dusting her jeans down as Tom, Mark and I shoved the bike back up, I stabbed my foot under the back wheel as Tom now stood with his back to the bike holding it, I told Mark to bang it in gear quickly, his adrenalin was flowing hard as he bounced hard on the gear lever and broke it off! “Oh fuck, its broke off!” he shouted. “No, silly bollox I meant like this” and leaned forward to press the reverse button, we then got the side stand down and relaxed. Barry arrived from up the hill and checked over the bike, as we checked Mark over, both seemed OK, the bruises would appear in 24 hrs no doubt At least it had been a nil mile an hour get off, although on this occasion they tumbled a longer distance than normal. The bike seemed rideable in spite of Mark kicking off most of the poor bloody gear changer! Our next stop was just half a mile or so at the top of the pass, once there we looked underneath properly this time and find not a single mark, no oil drips, no anything, just some damage to the paintwork and the decapitated gear changer of course!
Both Mark and Chrissy had escaped the spill with bruising and dented pride, Mark says it all began to go wrong when he missed a gear on the corner. It is a big learning curve on these special Alpine roads, there is nowhere in the UK that one can get any practice on. Mark hadn’t ridden for a number of years and had only recently acquired his Goldwing, his personal learning curve was perhaps the steepest and for sure he has probably made the most progress in the skills department out of all of us. I hope he learns from his mistakes and manages keeps the faith.
The rains visit us again at the top of this pass; it was becoming a daily event now this week to see some heavy rain by late afternoon. We gathered ourselves and donned wet gear once again for the long downwards ride towards the Austrian border about an hour away. It was a gradual descent along this crumbling road, it jinked left and right as it hugged the mountains, we could see brighter weather ahead but we just turned and twisted around the mountains and this kept us under the grey hazy blanket that slowly drifted from right to left. The road works didn’t help either, last August it was just the same. The Italians don’t seem to have the same energy when repairing the roads as the Germans and Austrians do, the road became a river of water as we slowed yet again at the back due to you know who! The gap grew bigger and bigger as we tottered on at a slow pace, a Mercedes Benz cement mixer came close to my arse we were going so slow, I knew it was a Merc and that he was really close for a while because I could see the big badge in my mirror! The border came into view and the 1500’s topped up again at the garage for the short run home on the auto route. I awarded Adrienne another George Cross. I firmly refute Ian’s claim to be an advanced rider and if he mentions it again I’ll shove his shagged out brake disc where the sun doesn’t shine! Let me see that handsome smile now you bugger! We got back to the hotel having missed tea and cakes, Oh no! Dinner was snaffled early and seats grabbed in the bar, the days’ events were re-run over and over again, especially the tumble of the “Purple Pussy” What an exciting day we had, it was a long and enjoyable ride with an unfortunate incident but most of all we were all OK.
DAY 14….. TO DO NOT A LOT
This was a free day to do not a lot, some drifted down into the village, others went further to the town of Landeck, the rest of us explored the beauty spot we visited briefly a few days back before being chased along by heavy rain clouds.
Today started off in fine style as usual clear blue skies and warm rays of sunshine bathed us. Julie and I found the spot again high up the mountain side the views were the usual fantastic long spectacles that went on for miles and miles, we stayed an hour looking down in silence and wishing we lived with such views, but then if we did we would have nowhere to ride our bikes to would we?A view point somewhere high above the hotel
We took a different route down to the local village of Prutz and filled up the bike ready for the next day’s journey back up to our overnighter in Germany. We had one last blast back up the valley to the hotel, this time in plenty of time for tea and cakes, I picked a spot out of the way in a corner and began to convert the daily scribbles into notes in preparation for the last supper tomorrow. When I’d done this Barry joined me and we sat chatting about the holiday, both agreed it went very well in spite of the inconvenient wet periods, we both crossed fingers for a dry run in the morning. Dinner was had for the last time here. I was craving for some bacon sarnies, all this fine food was splendid but not really my cup of tea, in fact an old German lady said to me back in Berchtesgaden over breakfast that their bacon was so thin it was rubbish and that the English made far better bacon! How right she is.
DAY 15…….THE RIDE HOME PART 1
It was around nine when we left the hotel for the last time and headed for the auto route at the village down the valley, we slipped quickly up the slip road onto it in the early morning sunshine, the traffic was light and we were making good time, we headed up and over the Fern Pass, well, we would have done but the fekkin rains arrived again! We donned rain suits and headed of down the side with now customary huge gap between “HIM” (Captain Caos) and the group, me as usual sticking with him, keeping an eye from behind and reporting our progress to Barry. We finally got together about 6 miles up the road, this was to be the cross country bit to reach the auto route, once on it we just had to eat about two hundred miles. Our riding on the auto route by now was precise and perfect, we had ridden together so much in two weeks now that we felt very comfortable with ourselves, from the back it looked really polished, only broken now and again by the big black German 4×4’s. Only this time we moved around the lanes in near silence at time, the CB was quite redundant at times Just Barry calling out the occasional increase in speed and getting my update of the rear.
We saw huge bilious looking clouds all day dark blue and dark grey, in the distance they looked a shade purple, we managed to avoid most of it, in fact we discarded the wet gear at one petrol stop. We were close to our final exit when the weather turned really muggy and hot, the temperature turned 30 degrees, we came off a junction early due to road works and worked our way to the same halfway hotel as two weeks earlier.

Img_7606

One last viewpoint over Landeck

Itwas a shorter transit day and boy were we glad of it, it was getting really close and uncomfortable. The first thing we did upon arrival was to have a cool shower before gathering on the patio to replenish our body liquids, the winds began to blow as the impending storm got closer, here we go again we thought, another late afternoon bloody drenching at the end of the day! Only today it skirted around us and we relaxed.
The last supper was a night of joviality and was becoming a tradition with our novelty prize giving for great deeds. For example Mark got 1st prize for crashing. Our Scottish heathens Steve and Jane got a prize for finally becoming Englishified. Brian got one for a faultless two week of group riding. Tom got one for the huge transition he’s made from the scooter to the Honda Goldwing. Adrienne got a chest full of medal for being the bravest woman of the tour. Even I got something,I got some new yellow rubber gloves. I had brought some enormous heavy duty gloves that I pulled on every time the rain turned nasty (several times unfortunately) I could only pull them on if I pointed each arm skywards and pulled hard on the rubber gauntlet pulling it all the way up my arm pits, they may have been a tad too long I’ll grant you that but they kept me warm and dry…except for the sweaty arms! As is the tradition I gave this log its first and only airing in its raw, adult and uncut version, nobody was spared a good slagging off as I got into top gear and told lie after lie! Everyone took it as intended, laughing and pointed at victims as I went round the room with the hatchet, daring to say what people thought but dare not say. I can be so rude and outrageous I know but the laughter just seems to egg me on, folk had tears streaming down their faces. I’d like to sit down and listen to myself one day, I bet I’m funny.

bike trip to austria 2009 107Telling the adult version of the LOG

DAY 16……THE RIDE HOME PART II
Barry thought we ought to leave early for the 360 odd miles ride to the ferry at Rotterdam, he reasoned that we might get the heavy rains again, heavy traffic on Saturday especially around the likes of Frankfurt, and that we couldn’t afford to be late, the ferry won’t wait. I agreed completely because he’s perfectly correct of course; a lot could happen in 360 miles. As it happens not a single hitch tripped us up! We rode on fast flowing roads and made brilliant progress at good speeds. We were nearly riding like Germans! We arrived at Rotterdam in plenty of time, and found the terminal with unprecedented ease, in fact we were so early the check in booths were still shut when we landed. People got settled in groups and waited, a few of us hopped across to the pub and had refreshments, other bikes arrived and we began to compare adventures as bikers always do. I spoke with an English couple who had been exploring Norway, I keep hearing about bike riding in Norway it sounds quite tempting! This couple live just ten miles from us, I promise to drop by and get more information from them.
We were waived towards the ferry, by the Dutch traffic handlers; it was a stress free time on this newer ferry, lashing the bikes in grime free and well lit conditions was a pleasure. We were at the outdoor bar in no time at the stern, musing over the day, “Sods law” stayed away today as did the customary rains!
I always get sad about this period in time, it’s been a roller coaster of high dips for two weeks and now it was over. All the planning over the previous six months, the frequent meetings with Barry to sort out ideas and routes, all the chokkie biscuits and tea (thank you Tina) all done and dusted, I was tired too, very tired and quite glad to see the back of it all for a while at least. I’m afraid I’m not the best of company on the last night!

Next morning at the dockside in Hull we kiss and shake hands for the last time for now at least. it’s been really good to meet old and new friends, I say goodbye to Barry and hope never to hear him for at least 24 hours!!! …..T2 to T1, signing off!

Imga0073 Barry says, untilthenextimethen

tillthenextime……… The Scribe

PS

I would just like to thank Steve an Jane / Brian an Janet / Mark an Chrissy, for the extra photo’s. x