What I’m Seeing

The title covers what this is about……

02 – Bike Trip to The Dolomites and Slovenia 2005

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Sunday

The sound of an alarm clock ringing on a Sunday morning is a cruel unnatural thing. The bike was packed the day before and I’d been writing lists and checking things twice and three times to make sure I’d remembered everything.

I still leave the house missing a phone charger, a waterproof over suit and a puncture repair kit (which strangely proves to be a good thing). The best laid plans of mice and men eh?

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I’ve got ten days off work and an REM concert to be back home for on the 6th of July and one of our group has been allowed out to play as long as he’s only away for one weekend. So the Channel Tunnel is booked for a Monday morning and a return crossing nine day later.

The plan is to get to the Italian Dolomites avoiding autoroutes via France, Luxemburg, Germany and Switzerland, bag as many Alpine passes as possible and slip a ride around the Julian Alps in Slovenia in as well. These are good enough excuses for us to have booked the bikes on the overnight Auto Zug motor rail from Bolzano in Italy to Düsseldorf in Germany at the end of the trip.

But the real reason is we can’t be bothered to slog it back up through France to Calais again. After a thrash down the motorway from Nottingham to London

I meet up with some mates, Steptoe, John and Ian at the Ace Café in London. They offer to ride with me through London and point out a few landmarks before I head off on my own for a hotel in Folkestone.

Each Sunday the café has a theme and today its Scooter Sunday.

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One stands out though, a race spec Lamberetta.

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We sit and eat fried food, drink tea and generally take the piss out of the weekend warriors on their custom cruisers. What is this fixation they’ve got with fingerless gloves and sleeveless denim jackets?

We leave at midday and eventually end up at the pub in Eynsford where the South East GS mob meets every month.

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The locals in the beer garden seemed to a friendly bunch.

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I leave the London contingent late in the afternoon and head for Folkestone with fish and chips in mind. I find a sit-down chippie which appeared to be full of people who’ve been in the pub all day. I hide in the corner with my cod, chips and peas.

Folkestone doesn’t seem to have a lot going for it. A scruffy town with no real centre so I head for the Lighthouse hotel which is on the hill above the town and only ten minutes from the Channel Tunnel where I’m meeting the three other friends I’m riding with tomorrow morning.

I check in and find out that the bar shuts at 10pm on a Sunday. An early night with the view of the trailer park from my room beckons.

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Monday

I meet the three other friends I’m riding with at the Channel Tunnel.

There’s Mr Honda on his VFR, Mr Yamaha on his Fazer 1000 and Mr Aprilia on his RSV Mille. I also bump into another UKGSer, Clive on his 1200 on his way to France.

We line up to be boarded for the crossing.

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The first part of the trip is a fast couple of hours on the A26. We stop at a lay-by after an hour just to check everyone is ok and happy with the pace. Mr Aprilia says he’s aching and feels a little unwell, not good 60 miles into a 2000 mile trip.

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Mr Aprilia worked in Luxembourg for a year so he’s tasked to show us some of favourite biking roads. He comes up with some spectacular roads with sweeping bends through pine forests. I’m pleased to find out that my GS can keep up with him on his Italian crotch rocket.

I think he’s a little surprised too. The first nights hotel in Saarburg which is on the border of Luxembourg and Germany. It’s a picturesque old German town which has grown around the river and the water mills.

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We eat at a local micro brewery whose menu offers a large variety of pork dishes but little else. Pigs aren’t safe in this area. We sample the breweries beers and look at our maps.

Mr Aprilia throws up.

Tuesday

The plan for today is to get to Lake Konstanz on the Swiss German border. At the first fuel stop of the day Mr Aprilia throws up again. He decides that he’s not well enough to continue so he heads back to a friends house in Luxembourg.

So now we are three.

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It’s extremely hot and we’re all suffering in our riding gear. Our route to Lake Konstanz takes us back into France for a while and we make a lunch stop at a typical French café.

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The food is superb, Salad Nicoise for 6 Euro and lots of water and Cokes.

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We make Lake Konstanz by 7 pm and find ourselves a decent hotel in a square. The owner shows us a shed where we can put the bikes overnight. It’s also where the hotel bins are kept and due to the heat the smell is unbearable, we un-pack the bikes in record time.

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We sit down outside the hotel bar. Still in our riding gear and order a beer before hauling our kit up to he rooms.

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The bar eventually closes at midnight and we knock lumps out of the plaster dragging our bags up the stairs to the rooms.

Wednesday

We wake early and decide not to dine in our riding gear again as it gives us headaches in the morning.

I have a wander around Konstanz to try to clear my head. One of the buildings is covered in a large mural which is dated 1905.

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I also find a tobacconist that’s open early; I get myself some cigarettes but decide to pass on the ones displayed in the window.

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The Swiss border is 100 yards from the hotel and the border guard asks where we are going and if we would be using the Autoroutes. We tell him we’ll only be using small roads so won’t need to buy a 20 Euro sticker that allows us to use the Swiss motorways. He waves us through.

We have a few Alpine passes planed today and it’s not long before the views are improving and the temperature is dropping.

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The roads are stunning we don’t even bother to stop for lunch, most unusual for me. One of the longest passes was the Klausenpass between Glarus and Altdorf.

Going up.

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Going down.

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And down.

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I’m the only one with a GPS and as it was getting late I set it to get us to Lake Como where we plan to find a hotel for the night. This took us over the St Gotthard pass, apparently there’s a new road and an old one.

The GPS tells me to take a right and I lead them down the old one. It was surfaced in granite coble stones and as we descended it started to rain. Then we met up with a coach being pulled by four horses on one of the hairpins. It was something to do with advertising the Swiss post office, and had a support bus in front of it. Rain, horse shit and coble stones aren’t the best combination.

We pulled in at the bottom and find a bus shelter to stand in out of the rain for a smoke. I get a bollocking from Mr Honda and Mr Yamaha and the GPS is christened Darth Garmin for showing us the dark side.

I quite enjoyed the road.

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We are now very late for our planned destination and with no hotel room booked we press on for Lake Como. At a small place on the side of the lake we find a one star hotel. The grading turns out to be a little generous. It’s ten in the evening as we park the bikes next to the hotel so we decide to sit down for a beer before unpacking them.

We also order a round of brandy to warm us up and a couple of pizzas to go with the drinks. The owner’s wife serves us while we drip on the furniture, to say she was miserable is an understatement. We order more beer and brandy.

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In the early hours of the morning the owner shows us to the rooms, they seem clean enough if a little sparten.

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Thursday

The worlds a different place in the morning, the sun is shining and the bed bugs are biting. The previous occupant of my bed must have been a chain smoking incontinent judging by the stains and cigarette burns on the sheets.
I’ve got a view of the lake out of my room as long as I hang out of the window while swinging on the old rotten shutters.

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I make use of the shower cubicle in my room and wander out to look at the lake. It’s a beautiful morning.

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We have a breakfast of cappuccino and glazed croissants then pay the bill. For pizzas, brandy’s, beers, breakfast and the three rooms for the night the bill is 85 Euro.

We’ve got five passes planned for today before we reach Arabba in the Dolomites.

An hour into the riding we stop for fuel and I find I’ve a puncture. I consult Darth Garmin and apparently there’s a Moto Guzzi garage a hundred metres down the road.

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When we get there it’s closed as the mechanics gone for a coffee. I spot this oddity outside, not sure if they were sold in the UK but I’ve never seen one before.

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An old Italian guy turns up on an immaculate 50 year old Moto Guzzi. He takes a look at the tyre and pulls a nail out of it with his Leatherman tool. An old mechanic returns from his coffee break and the pair of them wave their arms around and talk very loudly as only old Italian men can.

We don’t understand a word. The mechanic goes inside and an even older mechanic appears with a cardboard box of patches and tyre plugs. He sets to work on my tyre.

At this point the only thing we’ve said is “pneumatico forato” to the vintage Guzzi man, which Mr Honda thinks means flat tyre in Italian.

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I try to explain that I’ve got 1500 miles to do and would prefer a new tyre, but this seems to fall on deaf ears. He opens the hole up and pushes what Mr Yamaha describes as monkey shit into the tyre (he’s worked in Malaysia so I believe him as he says he’s seen lots of monkey shit)

The tyre is pumped up and the old guy spits on the repair. He shows me there’s no bubbles’ appearing and apparently that’s my tyre mended. I ask how much he wants he asks for 5 euro.

I get a picture taken of the old boys so my wife will know who to come after if the tyre lets me down on a mountain hairpin bend. We get on our way again.

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One of the passes today is the Stelvio. We’re stopped at the bottom by a police motorcyclist and we wait while a cycle race comes down the pass. When the bikes have all passed he lets the traffic go one at a time.

We get to go first. I can’t believe it, a clear run all the way to the top.

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The final two passes of the day are in-between Bolzano and Arabba. We get treated to a good soaking of rain and arrive at the hotel we’d pre-booked at 9pm.

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The restaurant closes at nine so we’re rushed to a table still dripping wet. The rest of the diners are having their after dinner coffees and the room goes quiet as we squelch in.

We devoir three courses in half an hour and then move to the bar. This is getting to be a habit.

Friday

Today we’d planned a circuit as we were stopping two nights in Arabba. Mr Yamaha refused to get out of bed so me and Mr Honda ventured out into the rain.

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All the hotels in the area cater for bikers out of the ski season. Lots of them had signs up saying bikers welcome and also advertising covered parking for bikes.

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When we got back from our circuit of the Passo di Campolongo, Passo di Gardena, Passo di sella and the Passo Pordoi in the rain we found Mr Yamaha in the hotel swimming pool.

The Hotel was a three star but the Italian hotel inspector must have been having a bad day as it would warrant five stars in my book. The garage where they put the bikes was huge.

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This was parked near the door, number 233 of 300 made so the plaque said on the headstock.

An MV Agusta F4 Senna

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Saturday

We got away early and headed for Slovenia. I was on mountain pass overload and have no idea which ones we did. As Darth Garmin had no mapping for Slovenia Mr Honda took the lead for the first time.

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We stopped for lunch at a small place about half a mile from the border and when I got back to my bike it was on its side with a broken indicator.

A duck tape repair got it functioning again.

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The scenery in Slovenia was stunning and the roads were on the whole good. The signage left a bit to be desired. There was virtually no warning for approaching hairpin bends which made for some exiting braking manoeuvres.

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We made Lake Bled after a long hot day. We agreed that it had been the best for roads so far, mountain passes with technical hairpins, long sweeping bends through pine forests and valley roads following fast mountain rivers.

We’d even come across dark tunnels with hairpin bends in them, a new one for me.

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Sunday

We’d been so impressed with the Hotel Evaldo in Arabba we’d booked in for tonight. Mr Honda led again and we did more of Slovenia’s alpine roads.

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It was good to get back to proper road signage in Italy though…….

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Monday

Bolzano train station was where we needed to be for 4pm today. A route was plotted on Darth Garmin to take in as many passes as possible on our final day in the Dolomites.

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The weather was fine and we took it steady, I think we all sensed that if one of us ballsed a corner up now it would cause us all a lot of problems with our commitments at home.

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We reached Bolzano and found the loading yard for the train. There were bikes from Germany, Holland and France all waiting to be loaded when we got there. We got the bikes strapped on a truck and then had to walk half a mile to the platform with all our gear in 35 degree heat.

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Luckily we found a seat at the bar and we got ourselves a cold beer.

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The train left on time, as you’d expect with German railways and we found our cabin. The food on the train was excellent and the menu offered 5 different German beers.

We slept well.

Tuesday

The guard woke us an hour before we arrived in Düsseldorf with coffee. The unloading of the bikes took about an hour so we left a little later than expected. We’d got fixed time return tickets on the Channel Tunnel so we stuck to the autoroutes all the way to Calais.

I’d got 490 miles to do and we didn’t get going until 11am. We avoided Antwerp after being advised that the ring road around it had bad roadwork’s and opted to go via Brussels. We stopped for fuel and smokes but still got to the tunnel late.

I spotted this sign in a Belgium service area, which is self explanatory I think, although you don’t see many pregnant women riding mopeds in the UK

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The Tunnel official let us off the fee for missing our crossing when we blamed the traffic in Antwerp and we were directed straight onto the next crossing.

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The minute we got onto UK soil it started to rain, and it rained all the way from Folkestone to Nottingham. The trucks all seemed to want to pull out on me and I had to filter through 10 miles of traffic on the M25 and the M11. It felt great to be back.

Darth Garmin reports that we did 2194 miles and we rode for 49 hours averaging 45 mph.

My puncture repair is still holding out and I’ve just heard that Mr Aprilia got laid in Luxembourg and is now a lot better.

Hope you enjoyed my trip.

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Written by whatton

November 27, 2008 at 11:14 am

One Response

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  1. […] For the full trip report clicky clicky here […]


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