What a Send Off!!
I’m off on my travels again…. to northern Italy by way of the European HOG Rally in Lugano Switzerland. I’m not riding alone this time though as my pal, Lynn, is riding with me on her Rocker C…. she’ll learn….
Am leaving on Sunday… early…. but went over to the workshop to put the finishing touches to the ‘bones’ and next thing you know the place is on fire!!!
Nothing to do with me I hasten to add. ￼ Our workshop is behind this row of shops although its not directly behind the cafe… thankfully no one was home but sadly they are now homeless and Sofia, (a bloke so not sure of the spelling), has lost his Cafe business for the moment due to water damage and the electricity being disconnected.
Here’s a couple of pics of the x-bones for those who have not seen her yet… ￼￼
Wait til you see her loaded up….. so watch this space.
Day 1 – And We’re Off!!
Went a bit mad with the clippers so definitely looking military for this trip!! ￼
As you can see, I have been my usual restrained self in the packing dept. NOT… you just never know what you will need.. warm clothes for the cold and thin clothes for the heat; shoes (boots, crocs and sandals) etc etc., but at least it isn’t piled high like Spain (not yet anyway).
Supposed to meet Lynn at Mottingham HD at 7 but am late of course… especially as no one told me they are working on the blackwall tunnel South Bound and its closed… damn… and even though I now have a brand new super duper GPS it still couldn’t find the Rotherhithe tunnel, so no change there then; am already getting lost!!
Finally met up and bombed it down to Folkestone. Got off the bike, looked down and see that my new leather jeans have unravelled from the bottom up where I forgot to sew the seams after cutting a couple of inches off… only me folks!! ￼
What to do?? I spend the next hour unpacking and grabbing a pair of jeans, finding the loo so that I can change out of the flapping leathers.. oh no have got the wrong jeans, these are 3/4 length… jesus, I don’t believe it… ah! brainwave, I’ll buy a stapler and so I did….. ￼
…..Result!!!!! A Pogs Bodge Job special.
Got an earlyish train 10.06 and straight to the petrol station to fill up before making our way to the first stopover at Trier in Germany. ￼
As you can see, Lynn is a far more conservative packer than me… bah!!
The temperature is in the high 80’s so dispense with the jacket asap… fabby. We have decided to try to avoid the motorways and of course all toll roads, so I set up my GPS to find the fastest route but avoid motorways and toll roads….
erm what’s this dirt track we’re on??
After an hour we see a sign for Calais and realise we are riding in a circle…. shit!!
Thankfully, L has brought a map book so we go back to basics and decide to go on the motorways otherwise we are never going to get there. After 250 miles of hand numbing riding through France and Belgium we eventually enter Germany (no upper speed limit… whahoooo) and turn off for Trier through some fabulous countryside and twisting roads, just the absolute best part of the day.
Arrive at the hotel around 8.30ish (7.30 UK time), grab a quick shower and have a fantastic meal in the hotel restaurant. We are both absolutely exhausted and the heat is tremendous even at night, sweltering night ahead with no air conditioning or even a fan…. help!
Day 2 – Guess Where We Went?
Well…. after the obligatory shopping at the nearest HD outlet (Konz), where I must say, one was quite restrained – just a tee… oh and a horn cover (well, it was half price… you just can’t odds it can you??). Oh I also got a keyring too just to be absolutely accurate. The shop is fab and the staff really friendly and welcoming… the first thing the shop assistant did was offer us a complimentary drink… ice cold coke in a glass bottle no less… magic!!
We then decide to head up to Koblenz at the start of the Mosel valley… on the way we spot a sign for the Nurburgring… well we just have to take a look… as you do. The roads around here are just fantastic… hair pin bends, fabby scenary, wonderful. Apart from the ominous black clouds and the high winds buffeting the bike, don’t ya just lurve them solid wheels!!! and then….
Oh oh… major downpour….
Seriously soggy girl with even soggier girl taking the photo.
We damply arrive at the Nurburgring and go into the visitor centre only to be told that this is the new track, the original is 2kms up the road, but…. between 5pm and 7pm the old ring is open to tourists to ride, just €22 per LAP, (that’s €1 per kilometre) so off we go.
The place is full of serious looking young men (mostly, but the odd woman too… yes Spin, I know I’m odd) in racing gear and some fantastic motors…. Ferrari, Porche, Lotus… you name it, it’s here; accompanied by the sound of cars (and a couple of bikes) zooming past at unbelievable speeds.
A petrol heads’ wet dream.
Unfortunately, you need to have proof of insurance cover to ride your own bike on the ring, so that is a dead duck as I have forgotten to bring mine… oops! Oh well, nevermind, maybe next time.
Next we head over to Cochem, a very picturesque town on the Mosel river, (we decide not to bother with Koblenz). Again, a fab ride through beautiful scenary and fantastic twisty roads into a typical german town.
A quick stop off for humungus ice cream sundaes with loads of strawberries… yummmy… and then its back onto the twisty back roads returning to the hotel in Trier… until….
Slowing down at a junction we both have to brake hard when a car suddenly appears from nowhere. Lynn hits some melted tarmac, loses the back end, goes over and slides into the rear tyre on my bike… Oh my god!! The guy in the car leaps out and picks the bike up… thankfully Lynn is not hurt, just a couple of bruises. However, the front fender is totally f*&@^d but that is all the major damage, just a couple of scratches on her screen and exhaust so really v v lucky.
The main thing is she’s fine but what was really amazing was that every car that came along either stopped and asked if we were ok or people actually got out and came over to see if they could help… how great is that?
After that we decided to go onto the A1 motorway and get back to the hotel as quickly as possible…. a bit of a damper on an otherwise interesting day.
Off to Baden-Baden tomorrow and hopefully overnight in Strasbourg.
Day 3 – A Bad…en
Up early to pack up the enormous bags, breakfast and get rolling.
When we were in the ice-cream parlour yesterday we took the opportunity to study the map and mentioned we might visit Baden-Baden today. A woman on the next table, who had already introduced herself and the old man as being hoggies from Chester, swivelled round and stated… “you must visit Baden-Baden it’s absolutely stunning” or words to that effect… so that sealed it, we can’t possibly miss B-B.
So this morning I thought before we go, I’d better get a shot of that fender….
niiiiice… you should have seen it before we straightened it… the front half was sticking up at a 45 degree angle…. ever helpful, last night I checked the part manual (I’ve got it on dvd) for the partno, so that we can find out the cost of a replacement at the next dealers.
Manage to get going by 8.30, warm but still cool enough for the jacket. Again have set the GPS to fastest route but avoid motorways and toll roads, which seems to be working well until suddenly we are routed onto the A1… unbelievable… again!! After about 40 miles we finally get off the motorway and into the countryside again and some great roads with sweeping bends, hamlets and deep forest often rising steeply either side of the road, occasionally topped by a typical german castle.
We stop for some lunch and discover we are travelling along the franco-german border; a slightly schizophrenic experience as we’re not sure whether to attempt our bad german or terrrible french!! With a great stroke of luck the proprietor speaks flawless english, which means I get a very good lunch (no jambon y queso for me this time).
We spent quite a long time both at lunch and an earlier mid morning coffee stop, this means we arrive in B-B at about 3pm, very hot (the bikes are scalding) and I’m almost out of fuel…. beautiful B-B is probably there somewhere but we didn’t see it… what looked to be a medium sized town on the map turns out to be a major city with the obligatory terrible traffic, bad drivers and incomprehensible road system. We agree to top up and get the hell outta here!!
Hold up… we haven’t been shopping yet! Where is the nearest HD? Fab, there is one at Strasbourg so on we go to our next stop-over point, Strasbourg or Strasburg depending which side of the Rhine you happen to be.
We arrive at the HD dealers at about 5pm and find they are open til 7 so plenty of time to shop. For those of you keeping score I got the tee and a couple of decals…. good grrl. Bit of a cool atmosphere, no free cokes this time, but all seems fine until Lynn asks for a price on the fender… I hope you are sitting down…. €800… for a skinny front fender, they’re having a laugh!! Get it from the states I say, even with shipping its going to be less than a quarter of that.. they must have looked at the wrong partno, that’s all I can think. So no new fender unfortunately.
We leave there just in time for the evening rush hour…. it seems the french don’t like filtering because no matter how hard I rev the engine they just don’t want to get out of the way so we detour into the centre of town and immediately get lost of course. Finally arrive at the hotel… its a Premiere Classe, (posh Formula 1 ish), the rooms are clean and tidy and more importantly dirt cheap; €39 a night for an en-suite.. what more can you ask?
After a freshen up we troop off to find something to eat and end up at a Strasbourgian MaccyDs called Q… yep you guessed it, Q for Qrap… ugh!!!
So now back in my room, sweltering in the heat, (must be time for my 3rd shower), when suddenly there are a series of loud bangs outside, like world war 3… methinks perhaps the jerries have invaded to reclaim Strasburg for the vaderland… get dressed to have a quick butchers… fireworks… mmm 13th July, France….. ah, must be Bastille Day so I check it out on google and yes it is…
We are staying here tomorrow, having a rest day so will be cleaning the bike and doing me smalls and probably try to find the nearest tram into the town centre. I’ve been here a few times before so have promised to show Lynn the sights… Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights etc.
Nite nite all…
Day 4 – Tram…p, Tram…p, Tram…p!
A day off???
Got up earlyish this morning and took the bikes for a wash…. nice clean girl… then for a short ride into Strasbourg centrum for brekkie. Mmmmm strangely quiet, hardly anyone on the roads.
Anyway, when we arrived yesterday we asked about the nearest tram stop to the hotel and were told it was just a few minutes away, but we couldn’t find it, (whaddya mean typical??).
Decided to buy a map so we could orientate ourselves and find our way around Strasbourg without having to take the bikes. Found a little cafe and had lovely coffee and croissants, delish. Gets the map out and next thing some smarmy bloke from the next table is slithering over asking ‘do yew need zum elp?’… course I’m not best pleased but grin and bear it…. until…. ‘what otel wherz you stay?’.. no he’s got to go… ‘It’s ok mate, we can manage thanks very much’ and luckily he takes zee ‘int.. whew!
The map shows the tram stops so we can see now where we need to go. Bikes back to the hotel and change into something cooler… yep it’s absolutely boiling again; you are probably thinking moany old cow but really it is almost unbearable, the constant dripping sweat (yuck indeed).
BTW, Lynn had a call from home to say they checked with Warrs HD and a new fender, unpainted is £600… what a joke!! Ebay is the only answer I think.
Now the map looks like a short trek but as usual it all goes wrong…. walked for ages, (drip drip drip), then finally found it. The trams here are fantastic… air conditioned, spacious and empty!! We have to make a couple of changes but it’s all absolutely painless.
We get off at the European Parliament building…. impressive innit…..
We then walked up the side of the canal to the European Court of Human Rights where I’d had enough and Lynn went off to have a look at the Council of Europe building, (I, of course, have seen it all before – large it, large it).
The whole day was very quiet, we hardly saw anyone and everything was shut so can only assume it was a holiday… maybe to do with Bastille Day.
Then thought we would get a bus back to the centre but after waiting for half an hour I decided I’d really had enough and wanted to get back to the hotel asap, I was beginning to feel a bit unwell, what with the heat and all the bloody walking.
Finally got back, had a shower a nurofen and slept for about an hour until some noisy buggers on harleys arrived and woke me up…. next thing is a great big thunderstorm, for about 5 mins… I went and stood in it, luvverly…
We are going to decide the next leg in the morning but have already chatted about avoiding Switzerland at the moment so will probably go via France to northern Italy stopping tomorrow night in France before we arrive at the hotel we’ve booked at Lake Como… keep reading.
Got to rearrange the bloody bags again now…. goodnight.
Day 5 – Vogueing in the Vosges
Up with a lark and packed the bike up ready to set off straight after brekkie. The weather looks very ominous so better put all the rain covers on the bags, but hold off on the wet gear as hate wearing it until absolutely necessary ie peeing it down! ￼
While I’m packing up the bike one of the blokes who arrived last night comes over… “bin wyp yum set bu rayed agem”- eh! “bin wup yum set bu rayed agem”… ahhh he’s from the midlands so translate this as “I wiped your seat but it rained again”…. awww bless. Then one of his mates comes over and says “yum got a lot of luggage yum have”, ‘yes’ say I.. end of conversation! Go in for brekkie and the boys from the black country leave to much revving and noise, fine at a respectable time, but, I think it was thoughtless and arrogant at 7.30am when other people are still sleeping; it only gives harley riders a bad name. We get going around 8am, first stop petrol and to check Lunns tyres then we head off for somewhere in the Geneva area.. we have decided to go via France, stay overnight near Geneva, or wherever we feel like stopping, and then straight through Switzerland into Northern Italy and our hotel on Lake Como, (cheaper than staying in Switzerland). The weather is overcast but still warm, chilly enough for a jacket though. We soon enter into the Vosges region of France and it is very beautiful… lots of twisty roads. I can’t get over the number of very heavy lorries using this scenic route, must be to avoid the toll roads, but it’s a pain when we get stuck behind them as most of the road is single white line so have to wait for the short sections of dual carriageway to overtake, (I do cheat sometimes, but shhh don’t tell anyone). ￼￼
We turn off the road for a pee and come across a little truck stop… alla high beach, except this is cheap and does real grub.. a lovely HUGE hot steak hache with onions in a baguette – yummy and only €3; with probably the worst coffee I have tasted on this trip yet! The toilette is unisex and someone has kindly added some art to the walls to give one something to look at whilst doing ones business.. ￼
Obviously someone with an existentialist bent, but I think it’s a very strange snorkeling concept!
We both agree that we need some retail therapy so head towards Besancon HD where, as usual, I get the tee and… wait for it….. nothing ha! ￼￼
After this we decide to head for St Genis de Pouilly just outside of Geneva, but after another couple of hours on the bike I’m really exhausted and am getting a bit wobbly in the hairpins so we agree to stop asap and end up finding rooms in an Etap hotel in Lons-Le-Saunier, which is very comfortable. There is a restaurant across the road which opens at 7.30 and we have the most gorgeous meal both taste and presentation wise but quite expensive but what the hell, let’s push the boat out. ￼￼
Once back in the hotel I spend over an hour trying to get online but I’m not able to connect to the wi-fi for some reason and the hotel is not staffed after 9pm, so have to leave it and publish the blog in Italy tomorrow night. Ciao
Day 6 – Mind that STEP!!!!
Another early start as we have a looooong ride ahead. We had quite a few discussions regarding which route to take… via Geneva and the Mont Blanc tunnel or over the top of Lac Léman via Lausanne and Montreux; in the end we agree to go the scenic route and not take the longer course through the tunnel (Lynn has been through it before and I’m sure I will get the opportunity another time). ￼
Soon we are heading upwards into the mountains and on into Switzerland. We stop for petrol just before the Swiss border as I’m sure it will be expensive there but how wrong can you be?? €1.20 per litre as opposed to €1.35 in France! ￼
The scenary is beautiful and the roads exciting… well until we reach Lausanne as the GPS routes us through the centre… traffic, traffic, traffic…. we travel along the lake shore to Montreux, (funny…. I don’t see any smoke or Frank Zappa mothers), but even though the GPS wants to go through town, I manage to avoid it so not too much traffic as we head for Martigny where we stop for lunch.
We find a café in a little village just outside of Martigny… we ask for the menu but oops no one speaks English while we are waiting I decide it’s time to call Glo… help! After this a waitress comes and we ask her for the menu again.. she does not seem to understand so Lynn just asks for a salad, while I wait for the menu to arrive. About 10 mins later she comes back with 2 salads and some bread.. oh well it’s better than nothing and actually quite delicious if rather small.
We are contemplating trying to order something else from one of the chalk board menus outside, (I see the word Cheval and assume this means horse, to which we both shudder), when suddenly she comes back with two large plates of steak and chips… wow! Ahhhh menu… the set menu…. oh well it turned out ok, but for a moment there I suspect we got the nag not the cow.
We pay the bill and the waitress exclaims ‘Desert’ which is included in the price so we end up with a delicious creme brulee…. fantastic!!
We head out of Martigny on the road to Sion and Brig where we will make a decision regarding the route for the last leg into Lugano and on to our hotel in Italy.
This road is the ride of my life… absolutely stunning scenery and the most fantastic roads ever. I try to avoid stopping for photos every mile or so as we will never get there but honestly it is just amazing… ￼ ￼ ￼ ￼ ￼
To be honest the pics just don’t do it justice… a real wow factor experience… and the roads… well you can click HERE to view a short film taken on my phone showing what a fantastic route this is…… (seem to have lost the film, but hopefully it will turn up then I can upload it)
Found it…. it starts upside down… sorry
Once we arrive at Brig we decided to take the shortest route south to Domodosolla and then across to Locarno and down to Lugano and Como…. boy what a difference a border makes.. the roads in Italy are a lot narrower and the drivers…. they come round the bends at 60mph on the wrong side of the road and expect you to move over!!! Eventually we arrive in Griante the part of lake Como where we are staying… ￼
…can’t find the hotel of course, the GPS routes us to where the hotel should be but it’s not there on the lake shore so I lead us up into the back streets to try and find it…. I take a right turn and am now on a very narrow cobbled ‘path’.. the GPS is showing it and I can see that it leads down to the lake side road so I carry on down this steep path when suddenly I realise it turns into a series of very high steep steps… OMG too late… before i can stop the front wheel drops down the first step which is about 6 inches high. I manage to stop the bike but now I’m stuck… can’t go forward, can’t go back, can’t get off as the side stand won’t go down, can’t hold the bike up by myself but I do manage to get her into first gear so she won’t roll forward. Just then I remember Lynn is following me and a quick look in the mirror confirms she is just about to come down the cobbled path….STOP! I shout and signal and luckily she does; although she is on the cobbled path and it will be tricky to get her out, at least she has not gone down the step… what are we going to do. I manage to get off with Lynn holding the bike but how the hell are we going to get the bike back up the step??? I say we are going to have to find a couple of blokes to help us as the bones is way too heavy for us to manage, although we do try it is just impossible. Just then an elderly italian couple approach up the steps who seem to be flabbergasted that we are in this position, but without further ado Mr Italiano (who it transpires is called Guiseppe) immediately takes control of the front of the bike while Lynn sits in the seat pushing with her legs and steering and I pull from the back. Mrs Guiseppe (we never did know her name) also pushed from the front from time to time in a show of support for the old man until a little white haired lady with her small dog appears, who is obviously a friend of Mr and Mrs G, and both she and Mrs G start jabbering away in italian, obviously supervising the entire operation.
Absolutely torturous but we are successful.. Guiseppe is a small wiry man but obviously extremely strong and with our team work, (despite Lynns’ attempts to direct Guiseppe to a chorus of me at the back shouting ‘he does’t speak english!!!), we manage to get my bike up the step and the steep incline, turn the rocker and bones around so that we can ride them both out…. whew! what a relief.
Oh shit, I forget to take a photo… damn!!
I called the hotel and found out that it’s about 1 km further along the road.
What a day…. yep a real day to remember I can tell you.
Day 7 – Thunder in the Mountains
A late start today as absolutely exhausted from the ride yesterday.
We manage to find a slightly less twisty road to Lugano and it takes about 40 minutes to travel the 13 miles from our hotel to the centre of Lugano mostly due to the narrow road, especially through the towns and villages as cars are not able to pass each other easily so the traffic builds up.
Once we arrive there are plenty of bikes parked all over the place, but where’s the rally??
We manage to get parked up and then walk down to where we can see lots of orange…. yep this is it. We spend some time traipsing around looking for the HOG tent to collect our rally pack, which we eventually find. The tee is a bit boring but am well impressed with the patches and pins, (one for the HOG rally and one for Swiss Harley Days as this is a joint rally).
Spend the rest of the day looking around the market stalls and sweating… I got a couple of tees, a tool roll (yes… I know I’ve already got one thanks Spin) and a small square bag for my disc lock; not too overboard – well for me anyway.
Took a few snaps of some interesting and unusual bikes…
￼ ￼ ￼ ￼ ￼ …. and some are just plain ugly! ￼
Once we’d had enough we make our way back to the hotel… on the way there is a nasty noise coming from the back of my bike, (where have we seen this before?). Lynn thinks my disc is warped but I feel sure it is just loose; I’ll have a look when I get back.
I’ve got a lovely room which has its own patio and overlooks the lake… a beautiful view… ￼
At about 9pm I decide to go for a ride round the lake, but first to tighten up that rear disc…. nope its not loose so must be warped, I’ll have to try and get a replacement on monday…. damn!
I get about 4 miles along the road when suddenly there is the most horrendous thunderstorm with forked lightening just in front of me… time to turn round and try and beat the storm back to the hotel… yep you guessed it… failed miserably; I arrive back at the hotel absolutely drenched. I managed to get a few snaps of the lightening and a film of the storm but I’ll need to edit that before I can add it as its way too long. ￼ ￼ ￼
The storm lasts for about an hour, but the rain continues so I hope it will be over before morning.
Day 8 – Round the Lake
Went to the rally site again this morning to see a man about a helmet paint job. Had to wait until 2pm to pick the helmet up so did some shopping, (as you do), and had lunch while Lynn went to watch the live bands.
Took the opportunity to take some more photos…
Call me biased but, Springer anyone?
,,,and… an overdose of testosterone here methinks…
Another very hot day, so once I got the helmet back we rode to the hotel to drop off the shopping and then decided to ride round lake Como. Now Lake Como is enormous and it’s shaped like a headless body with its legs open so we were planning a long ride but when we got to Como town, (at the bottom of the left leg, the road was blocked and as it was soooo hot on the bikes we decided to just make our way back to the hotel.
Views of Lake Lugano on route back to Como
And some views of Lake Como…
By the look of the huge villas along the route this is obviously the holiday home site of choice for the Milanese glitterati… unfortunately was not able to get any photies because the road is either too fast or too narrow with very few stopping places, but safe to say a few quid has been spent by some very wealthy people!!
So a fairly uneventful day (except for the helmet, but you’ll have to wait and see that).
Plan to go to Breganz tomorrow via St Moritz, Lichtenstein and into Austria… its turning into quite a euro tour.
Day 9 – Top O’ the World Ma
Don’t know why but I was up at 4.30 this morning… only to discover no clean knickers… oops better wash some and hope they dry in time. Speaking of washing, we went and washed the bikes last night so I decide to go down and give her a once over with the chrome polish and was treated to a beautiful sunrise over Lake Como.
Also took the opportunity to get a snap of the hotel…
While cleaning the front caliper I notice that one of pads is very low… almost down to the metal, (must be all those mountain roads) so guess I had better pick up some new pads… mmmm where to get em as the caliper is not harley. I checked it on the internet and EBC make replacements so reckon best bet is to try a jap bike dealer.
Knickers and socks still wet… well will have to wear one and tie the rest to the pack to dry in the wind… so what, I don’t care, I need dry underwear!!
Once we are all packed and the bill is paid we make our way to Como town to find a dealership…. they are all shut!! So tried HD Como… but someone has pinched it as when we arrived at the address there were only residential properties there…. strange!
We carry on a bit further but decide this is stupid as we are going in the wrong direction; south instead of north. The front brake is working ok so I feel sure we will come across a dealership on our travels and we turn around and start to head north up to Breganz in Austria.
The plan was to go via St Moritz but given the brake situation we go via another route which actually takes us along some of the most breath taking scenery and convoluted mountain roads – so much for saving the pads!
It really does feel like the top of the world. This is just biking at it’s very best for me…. I love the mountains.
This route is called the Splugen Pass from Northern Italy into Switzerland.
When we enter Switzerland it is like a chocolate box world… everything you would expect of a quintessential Swiss alpine village…
and the knicks are drying nicely thanks….
Once we descend we cross over into the tiny state of Lichtenstein… don’t blink… it is really like toy town and I absolutely love it…
As I stop to take this picture… Lynn, who is beside herself with laughter, informs me that some of my knickers and socks have come off and sailed past her just as we were crossing the border… so Switzerland has my knicks and Lichtenstein a treasured pair of HD socks… sob sob!
All too soon we cross over into Austria and I spot a Honda dealership so we pull in… I go into the building and have walked straight into the workshop, there does not seem to be a sales shop. The mechanic asks if he can help so with a mixture of english and sign language I explain that I am looking for brake pads and go to give him the part numbers for the EBC pads, which he ignores and starts walking outside asking which bike they are for. I trot after him trying to explain that the caliper is not standard so the make of bike is immaterial, but he takes one look and says ‘no harley’ and looks at me with a face that says ‘why have you come here?’ Again I try to explain that I am looking for EBC pads but to no avail as he just keeps saying ‘no harley’ and ‘we no have here’. In the end I admit defeat and we get back on the road to find a HD and see if they can help. The nearest HD is at Feldkirch, but when we get there it has obviously gone to the same place as Como…. there is a big hole where the dealership should be according to the HD satnav…. I give in and will have to try another dealer tomorrow.
Eventually we arrive in Breganz only to find that hotels are full and very expensive so we decide to keep moving and go onto the motorway to see if we can find a cheap motel. Almost immediately, we cross over into Germany but after about 20 miles cannot find any motels so come off and find a beautiful little family run Gasthof, so at least will have a comfy bed for the night.
Tomorrow the plan is to head for Frankfurt to visit the HD Factory there… but, we might not get there until Wednesday as we just have to visit some HD dealerships on the way for some retail therapy and, of course, I still have to find some new brake pads and fit them… deep joy.
Day 10 – Now THAT’S what I call service…
Over breakfast we agree the plan of action today… the ultimate aim is Frankfurt but probably won’t get there until tomorrow so we will ride to Augsburg HD first and then on to Wurzburg HD where we will look for a place to stay, (with internet connection and preferably wi-fi).
On the way I keep an eye out for bike dealers to try and pick up some pads.. not much chance in this neck of the woods; it’s mostly farm land and twee little villages and towns, but oh so clean, neat and tidy, not so much as a hair out of place and funny onion churches.
Eventually we arrive at Augsburg HD… oh it’s shut… no it’s not, it just looks shut; fab!
In we go and I attempt in very poor German to ask the young shop assistant for the brake pads, to which she disappears and soon another woman appears who speaks perfect english, (what a relief). I explain what I need and hand her the piece of paper with the EBC part numbers, to which she says she will speak to the mechanic.. after a couple of minutes she returns and asks me to take the bike around the back to the mechanic while explaining that they do not have the pads but he will have a look and advise what I should do; ok will do.
She then offers us a drink – tea, coffee, cold drink? So I get another coke in a glass bottle, (the Germans are so classy). Next thing she says she will ring around and see if another dealer can help me out and off she goes.. meantime I indulge in some retail therapy. They’ve got socks.. yippee I can replace the ones now living in Lichtenstein and, obviously, I select a suitable tee… ahem!
About 10 mins later she comes over with one of my pads to show me how worn it is, (apparently they are both the same), so they do need changing quite urgently. Unfortunately she has not been successful in the search for pads yet, but she is going to google EBC and find out where we can get the pads from. I’m well impressed, after all it’s not as if they will be fitting them or anything; so I pick up a tube of cleaning cream….
Another 10 mins and she comes over to say that she has found EBC Germany but the bad news is that they are in Bremen! However, she can get the pads for me for tomorrow, is this any good? I explain that we are on our way home and expect to be in Frankfurt tomorrow… Ok she says, let me think; and off she goes again, back on the phone… I pick up a Harley mouse mat… and check out the custom quad..
A few minutes later she is back and announces that Frankfurt HD are going to call EBC and get the pads delivered to them so that I can collect them in the morning, the only downside is that I will have to pay the courier which will be €35 plus about €28 for the pads… how can I say no after all she has done? She goes off to wait for a final call from Frankfurt to ensure all is arranged… I almost pick up a new disc, hold up.. it’s €180.. put it back!!
A few minutes later and all is arranged, I am to collect the pads from Frankfurt HD tomorrow at 10am and do I want another drink before I go on my way?
That has to be the best service I have ever had from a HD dealer; absolutely fantastic, and it only cost me some polish and a mouse mat!!!
Lynn and I decide we need to get as near to Frankfurt as possible in order to be there for 10am so bin Wurzburg HD and re-set the GPS for Frankfurt. After criss-crossing the countryside for ages, and coming across more teutonic orderliness…
I decide to lead us on to the autobahn, otherwise we will never get anywhere and I am fed up with the convoluted progess, (not good for the wee bit of brake pad left either).
After about 90 miles we turn off to get petrol and manage to find another Gasthof in Uettingen, (about 60 miles from Frankfurt HD), that actually has wi-fi, hence am able to publish the blog… at last.
So, tomorrow it’s Frankfurt and then on to Bastogne in the Ardennes, Luxembourg for a look at the main area involved in the Battle of the Bulge during WW2.
Day 11 – When is a factory not a Factory?
Another blistering day… it’s 8am and already feeling the heat.
By the time we breakfast and pack up it is gone 9am so a late start this morning… we make our way to the autobahn to go to the HD Factory in Frankfurt, I wonder if they will let us see the engine production? Well, we planned to make our way to the autobahn but the GPS had other ideas. After a lot of swearing and re-calculating, (throw in a couple of u-turns too), we give up and follow the GPS route, which eventually takes us on to the autobahn by a more circuitous route… go figure!!
Whilst we were looking for the autobahn a kamikazi bee or wasp commits hari-kari on my forehead at 55 mph…. ouch that hurt, in fact it is so painful I have to stop and put some sting lotion on, (I take a couple of ibruprofen too for good measure – been using it for most of the trip to help with the pain in my hands and feet anyway).
It hurts so much I force Lynn to take the lead and really enjoy not having the stress of leading for a while.
Once we get to Frankfurt am Main it’s Frankfurt am Building Site more like! Miles of road works and traffic in the incredible heat… bugger this, so I take us up the tram tracks then realise the GPS is routing us back on ourselves so rather than sit in the traffic we do a u-turn hoping that the GPS will re-route via clearer roads. No such luck and in fact we end up back where we started, only hotter and later… sigh!
At last we arrive at the HD Factory…. erm what factory.. oh duh! its just the name of the dealership, but it’s bloody massive….
they’ve even got a small collection of old harleys.
I pick up the brake pads and find that the charge for the courier is €25 not €35 so that’s a bit of a result; guess I’d better spend it then!
This dealership is not as friendly as the two other German shops at Konz and Augsburg we’ve visited…. we thought it was a bit up its own bottom to be honest, for example, the dealer pin is €7 and a chapter pin is €8!!! needs to get over itself if you ask me.
They did have some nice bikes for sale tho’
So after spending quite some time here, (and money), we get back on the road heading for Bastogne in Luxembourg or Belgium, (seems it might be in both). I’m going to change the pads tomorrow morning,
We do a bit of autobahn for a while then take the more leisurely route.
We stop for lunch and realise it is 2.30 already so looks like we won’t make Bastogne today… oh well, we agree to at least get out of Germany so we can find a cheaper hotel!
A couple of hours later and we are still in Germany, (I’m sure someone has moved Belgium), and now it’s beginning to rain. By the time we find a Gasthof for the night it is peeing it down, so we are grateful for the rooms.. and they are cheap too only €25 each…. fantastic, but no internet unfortunately so hopefully will publish this page tomorrow.
Here is the view from my room…
Those are clouds, not smoke btw.
We are going on to Bastogne in the morning and then perhaps to Charleroi for the last stopover before Calais on Friday……. I hope it doesn’t rain.
Day 12 – Bouncy Belgium
Had a really late start this morning as I took the time to change the break pads. Looked at the information on the back of the pack and EBC recommend changing the pads when there is no less than 2mm of meat left on them…. so I am a bit peeved when I remove the old pads to see they have about 6mm left; didn’t need changing yet… hurumph!! Well, since I’ve already taken the old ones out, I put the new ones in and the old ones can stay in the tool roll as spares.
It’s a lot cooler, (good), but overcast and looks like it might rain, (bad). I put the covers on the bags but as I hate the wet gear I don’t bother and I’ve got the leathers on today anyway.
We eventually get away and after about 5 miles it starts raining… typical…. oh well it’s only light, it’ll stop in a minute. 10 minutes later and we stop for me to put on my wet gear…. grrrrr I hate this. Of course the rain stops about 15 minutes later, but I keep the gear on – I can’t bear the thought of taking it off and then having to put it on again.
Eventually we arrive in Luxembourg and drive some of the way through the Ardennes forest.
We escape Germany at last….
… oh! hello Luxembourg
Some action shots….
…. modelling the delightful wet gear too…
Before long we enter Belgium and immediately the road surface deteriorates… it’s appalling, even worse than London! Even the fast road is so bumpy I bounced all the way for 30 miles; very uncomfortable.
We eventually arrive at Bastogne, (definitely in Belgium not Luxembourg) and have lunch. A pretty little town with a big history.. the last major battle of WW2 was fought here – the Battle of the Bulge where Hitler made a last ditch attempt to keep the allies out of Germany. No time to have a proper look as must get on to Charleroi, our last stop before home tomorrow.
On the way we pass this building and just have to turn back for a piccie…. woah what’s that all about??
Yet again we misjudge the size of the place from the map… another city and the roads are just horrendous plus the usual roadworks!! We manage to find an Ibis but they want €75 each for one night… thanks but no thanks. I find an Etap out at the airport so we route the GPS to there, but they have closed and dug up half the roads; we end up going in circles, (for a change), until eventually we get out of the centre. Then we start bumping into groups of blokes dressed in funny clothes and uniforms marching along playing music! I’d forgotten about the tradition of marching bands that is popular in this part of Europe. I manage to snap some piccies of what looks to be a british army band made up of a mixture of regiments.
… but the marching is terrible so perhaps they are just pretending.
At last we reach the hotel and it has rooms available, just €49 so not too bad.
So last day tomorrow and will finish off with a visit to a HD dealer at Mons before making our way to Calais and the train home.
The wasp sting is still really painful and very swollen… look
poor me… sob sob.
Day 13 – End of the Road
Due to me burying my phone in the bed during the night, I don’t hear my alarm so get up very late… poor Lynn thinks I’ve died in the night!
We manage to make it to Mons HD just as its starting to pee it down. Mons HD is not just shut, it looks abandoned… I think they must be refurbing the shop as I can see a few bits and pieces in glass cases, but there’s no one about. Luckily there are a couple of Harley gazebos outside that we pull under and put our wet gear on in the dry – deep joy.
As soon as we are ready we make our way, on the motorway, to Calais. After a while we approach Lille and I check out if Lille HD is on our way.. guess what, it is! A quick detour and we soon arrive at Lille HD.. it’s massive and has lots of tut to look at, but unfortunately we don’t have the time as we need to be in Calais for 1.45 to get our train. I do manage to pick up a couple of bits and pieces tho… (grin).
We make the train just in time and before you know it, it’s all over.
Lynn and I say our goodbyes at Folkestone, (expect she is sick of the sight of me and can’t wait to get away). I decide to take the slow route home.. enough motorway for one day thanks.
A fantastic journey, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and can’t wait to do it again… funds permitting!!
End of Trip Stats
England x 2 (Lynn reckons this doesn’t count but so what)
France x 3
Belgium x 2
Germany x 3
Switzerland x 4
Italy x 4
Lichtenstein x 1
Austria x 1
Luxembourg x 1
I wanted to squeeze in Holland so we would have a round 10 countries, but 9 ain’t too dusty in 2 weeks!!
Miles travelled – 2400ish (forgot to zero the trip meter)
Fuel cost £ – lost in the software crash
Accommodation £ – as above
Food £ – as above
Shopping – myob (mind your own business)
Best Ride – Italy to Switzerland, Splugen Pass
Worst Ride – Belgium; Bastogne to Charleroi (avoid Charleroi and Frankfurt like the plague).
Best HD Dealership – Augsburg closely followed by Konz
Worst HD Dealership – Frankfurt Factory (only because they were up themselves)
Best Hotel – Hotel Villa Linda, Griante, Lake Como, Italy
Worst Hotel – they were all ok really
Favourite Country: Switzerland and northern Italy
Least Favourite Country: Austria
Things I Would Do Again:
Ride in Switzerland or any mountains… anytime
Visit Augsberg and Konz HDs
Take a few extra days to allow for stop overs
Things I Would NOT Do Again:
Book hotels without air conditioning
Ride in any big city (must remember to check the map properly)
Take so much luggage
Things to Remember for Next Time:
Take paper maps
Make sure the broadband dongle works!!
Don’t take so much crap
Allow a few extra days
Ride shorter days
Take spares (brake pads, etc.)
When planning to take tees to wear and throw; actually take tees you want to throw away, (I brought most of them back this time!!).
So… where next?? The next European HOG week is May 2011 in Croatia…. do they have any mountains there????