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Thread: First Euro tour

  1. #1

    First Euro tour

    This is my fourth ride report from the Old World. Chronologically, it is first. This formula worked for Lucas in Star Wars so I hope it works here as well.

    My partner for this ride is MOA member, Jim Breitegan. Former motocross champion, trials rider, enduro rider, Harley, Ducati, and BMW rider, he can do it all. My riding experience is quite shallow compared to him. I had a 360 Yamaha Enduro in the mid 70's a Yamaha 750 Seca in the mid 80's and nothing for the past 20 years.

    I've been reading the forum for about the past 6 months and it seems that once a month someone asks about guided tours verse self guided tours. This is the story of a self guided tour in it's purest form. I read no books, magazine articles, internet posts, or talked to anybody about this ride prior to leaving. My language skills are intermediate French, basic Spanish and both Jim and I are fluent in bad English.

    Jim rented an R1150R from Moto Mader near Zurich, his ride had 12km when he picked it up. Here he is with Jo checking out the bike. Jo spoke perfect English, we had trouble understanding........

    It was exciting to finally get underway. We took the small roads out of town and traveled about 10 minutes before hard rain forced us under this farmer's barn eaves to put on full rain gear.

    We took more small roads heading south for an hour or two and eventually headed into Italy. We took the lake road along the north shore of Lake Como and finally found a campground. Jim had been awake for 30 hours. This is a typical European campground. Permanently parked trailers and small patches of grass for tents. Campfires are not popular. Our neighbor wasn't home so I used his terrace to repack my side cases.

    We went down to pay the campground host and check out his camp store. He was a friendly guy and he told us he'd just lost a bet. He said he told his partner that we'd be back in 5 minutes to buy beer. It took us 10. He liked it when I told him that I voted for Ahnold twice for governator of CA. We started calling him "The General" and he liked that even more.

    Packing up the next day.

    Fiat tractor???? Must be Italy. Beautiful day on Lake Como.

    We rode north east towards St. Moritz, stopping in a small town for camp supplies.

    Eventually we came to the beginning of the alps that head back into Switzerland.

    Last edited by franze; 02-02-2008 at 06:47 AM. Reason: add photo/grammar police

  2. #2

    1st Euro tour

    We were poised to take the Paso di Majola. A long winding pass that leads up into St. Moritz, CH and then into Austria.

    View from the top.

    It was my first big pass. I felt great. I stood on the summit and surveyed the road below. My head swelled, my chest was inflating to maximum capacity, buttons from my shirt popped off and were propelled at a mighty velocity into the valley below......but, what's this?????? Two people on mountain bikes, fully loaded front and back panniers. Tents and sleeping bags on the rear rack. What?? They're about 10 years older than me!!! They're laughing and talking while riding up the pass??? They're not out of breath, AND, they're not stopping at the summit to rest???!!!!!! Well, let me tell you, that large collection of moist air in my chest left so rapidly I changed the weather patterns all the way to the Azores.

    More views from the top.

    We headed into Austria and took the auto route north towards Innsbruck. There were a lot of tunnels and finally we had enough and took a small road leading north towards Garmisch, Germany. We were on the side of the road looking for a campground icon on our map and a guy pulled over to help. He recommended we go to Uffing. The German campground was much different than the Italian, in fact, I don't know how those two countries ended up on the same side in WWII. In Italy, The General matter of factly pulled a number out of the air, took our cash, and put it in his pocket. In Germany, we had to hand in our passports, the lady at the office entered our arrival and departure dates on a computer, and we were given a pass code to leave through the gate.

    Those are the Bavarian alps in the background.

    The next day we went back in to Garmsich, saw this van parked near the big BMW shop.

    We took a stunning small toll road from Wallgau to Fall. As is the case, the proof of this is that I have no pictures of it. It seems that when we were on the nicest roads with the best scenes, we couldn't bring ourselves to stop to take pictures.
    We did get a shot of this area for perky hiking.

    Our goal was to get to Berchtesgaden, near Salzburg. This is where Hitler had his Bavarian chalet and the high ranking SS generals all had homes. The most evil plans were made there. The riding along the German Austrian border is fantastic. We got to the Eagles Nest but it was closed. It is now used as a restaurant and there is very little mention of it's previous tenant.

    Riding along the German/Austrian border, heading north.

    A typical stop. Gas, fresh bread, cheese, beer.

    The rain began and that night we got a hotel along the northern German/Austrian border. I called my wife for a weather update. She said it was raining everywhere except Spain. We went to a restaurant for dinner and decided that the next day we would put on full gear and "pay the man" riding across Germany in the rain and then head towards Spain.

    The next morning we woke up to dark and gloomy skies. We took this small road through a forest out of town.

    At the edge of the forest, we looked towards the direction we had talked about and planned. It didn't look fun. To the east, the skies were clear. We said " Screw it! Let's go to the Czech Republic!!" And just like that, we turned around and headed east. Here in lies the beauty of the self tour. Making decisions based on a whim. Here's the road back " to the light".

    Last edited by franze; 02-02-2008 at 06:51 AM. Reason: add photo

  3. #3

    First euro tour

    On our way to the Czech Republic a couple times Jim pulled up and said " we didn't have our coffee" I kept going and wondered " when the heck did he start drinking coffee??" Finally, after about the third mention of "no coffee" we pulled off and I brewed up a pot. For some reason, this really stands out as a special memory. Two old buddies, getting re-acquainted on motos in Europe on the way to the Czech Republic. Here's the coffee stop, near the CZ border

    We entered the Czech Republic at a small border crossing near Strazny. The only time the entire journey we had to show passports was in and out of CZ. We took route 167 to Kvilda and then169 towards Susice. The roads weren't that great but their were no cars and the scenery was rural. There was a big drop off in standard of living. The boot of communism leave a scuff that takes generations to remove.

    After our break in a beautiful small park in the middle of nowhere, we headed through a few small towns.

    The weather was catching up to us

    and we eventually turned towards the gloomy skies of Germany.

    Last edited by franze; 02-01-2008 at 11:32 AM. Reason: add photo

  4. #4

    First euro tour

    Here are some pictures of our ride through the walled city of Rothenburg. Believe it or not, we had a little trouble finding our way out!!

    check out the custom building attached to this standard air conditioner.

    The ride in the rain through Germany in the late afternoon and early evening led to one of the most humorous moments of the trip. We ended up in this small town and every hotel was booked. The lady told us there was another hotel on the other side of town but the route there was confusing due to construction. We listened carefully to her directions and then set off. She had called ahead to reserve our room. We arrived at the hotel without too many turn-arounds. It was dark but they did have a night bell. I rang the bell and a speaker near the bell replied something in German. I said, " we are here for a room with two beds'. The answer came back in English, "who sent you?" We said, " The woman from the hotel on the other side of town". The speaker replied, " but why are you here". We said, " because we need a room, she doesn't have any more". The speaker then said, " yes, but this is a mental hospital". I then, finally read the sign on the glass door. Somehow, we had ended up at the wrong place. Well, I'm sure that point could be debated by those who know me well, but, we apologized and went on looking for the hotel, which we eventually found near by. We were too exhausted to do anything ( except go find a store that sold beer) so we ate bread and cheese and downloaded some Faxes.

    We decided the next day to head for Bastogne, Belgium. This is where the famous Battle of the Bulge was in WWII. I had been there before and Jim's dad was a Marine in combat in the Pacific during the war and then in Europe post war in the army so he was keen on seeing the Ardennes forest. The next day was the worst for riding. Rain all day but somehow, when you're doing what you love with someone you like, it takes a lot more than non-stop torrential downpours to dampen your enthusiasm.

    Leaving the hotel, full gear.

    Rain day, pit stop.

    We traveled mostly on the autobahn because the weather was so horrible. I was leading and at one point, I didn't know if it was even possible to be riding in rain like this so I pulled over and yelled to through my shield " Hey, should we be riding on the highway in this rain " Jim's reply, " well, it's pretty bad" which to me means that it's REALLY bad. We got off the next exit and took smaller roads with lower speed limits. Just past Luxembourg it really got worse, when I didn't think that was possible. The only time I've seen rain like that is in the jungles in Costa Rica. We pulled into a coffee shop just has the hail started. Not too big, pea size, but enough to make the roads dangerous. We both got our fill of coffee waiting for the weather to improve.

    Drying out the map

    Arriving in Belgium

    Last edited by franze; 02-01-2008 at 11:52 AM. Reason: add photos

  5. #5

    First euro tour

    If you know the story of the Battle of the Bulge, you know that a poorly outfitted Amercian army was forced to head off a counter attack by the Germans in Bastogne, which is a strategic crossroads for moving armor. The entire time we were riding in the rain, we kept saying we were going to camp in the woods, in the rain, and really suffer like the GI's did during the xmas siege by the Germans. Well, we ran for the first hotel we saw when we pulled in to town. There is a reason those veterans are called the greatest generation. They were and are simply 'the best'. We stayed in a hotel that I had stayed at before and we even went to a restaurant to eat. The restaurant is called McAuliffe's in honor of the commanding general of the US Army during the Battle of the Bulge. The restaurant is currently run by a wonderful Hungarian family and I coaxed Jim into ordering something he wasn't familiar with. Hungarian Goulash. He wasn't disappointed.

    We felt so good after dinner we even went to a bar. Had fun with all the youngsters but eventually the smoke drove us out. Amazing how many and how much Europeans smoke!

    Jim had brought a book that tells you exactly where certain things happened during the war. I am particularly interested in the Band of Brothers story. I've watched the series about 4 times, read Ambrose's book, Winters book, and Websters book and I've visited all the places their tour took them. Jim's book had the exact location of where the unit was dug in during the Bulge. These pictures really tell the story. I'm the new replacement soldier, tired and worn out. Jim is the battle worn combat vet, confident and trusted.

    We left Bastogne around noon and rode south through France to get to my house near Nyon, Switzerland. We were going to spend the night at my house, and then take off for France in the morning. Here's the youngest reason I don't mind heading home after a ride. My four year old daughter, Vanessa.

    France is spectacular riding. We rode backroads towards Grenoble and then cut in to the mountains to check out the famous climb of the Tour de France, the Alp d'Huez

    going up

    coming down

    One of the highlights of the journey was when we were having difficulty figuring out how to get to Seyne.

    A little old French man and I struck up a conversation regarding a sign that we had come across. In the past, a road closed was called " Route Barree. But this one was different. He explained that the road sign we had turned around at meant that the traffic had to alternate in direction. Then he pointed to our map to a small road that wasn't even important enough to the map maker to color in ( my favorite type of road : ) and said we would like this road. He was right! Here I am coming around the corner on the unmarked road.

    We stopped in a food store in Briancon and ran into some Brits that told us a good place to camp was l'Argentiere. It is a popular spot with kayakers and more importantly, they said, the water was cold enough to keep your beer cold. So, off we went. We arrived late and nobody was at the front office. We found a place and made an all-star camp meal which included a gourmet salad dressing of Dijon and Heineken.

    We didn't bother to set up the tent and we were gone before anyone arrived at the front desk. We headed towards the Gorges de Verdun. This is the most incredibly colored fresh water I have ever seen. The Gorges is fantastic, the roads are great. There was a fair amount of traffic here because it's a famous camping and boating destination. The lake at the mouth of the gorge.

    The gorge

    As fate would have it, that night we returned to l'Argentierre and arrived after the front office was closed.

    Jim took excellent notes. Well, I guess they're excellent, I never saw them and am making this report from memory which isn't all that good..........

    We slept under the stars again, left early, no one at the front office. Yes, we had established a pattern! Free camping with cold beer! We took the Rue de Grande Alps. This is often part of the Tour. Check out the names painted on the road.

    We tried to get to the Val d'Isere but were turned around due to the snow.

    Stopped at this fixer upper for a break

    Sadly, it was time to start heading back towards my home in Switzerland. We took the long way there, back roads all the way to my door.

    My favorite motorcycle picture ever. Small unmarked road, no traffic, blue skies, loaded with camping gear, best friend as your wingman.

    Last edited by franze; 02-01-2008 at 08:47 PM. Reason: add photo

  6. #6

    First euro tour

    The next morning I took off the top case and followed Jim back to Moto Mader. We turned in the bike and went to the same hotel where our journey began 10 days earlier. The next morning, he caught a flight back to the New World. I went to Moto Mader and bought a used tank bag and took the long way home.

    Eventually arrived in Nyon, on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman to the locals) You can see Mt. Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe, over my head.

    Trip stats:

    Days on the road: 12

    Trip length: 5,272 km

    Shortest day of riding : 8 hours ( that was the first day, JB was up for over 30hrs when we pulled into our Lake Como campsite)

    Longest day of riding: 14 hours

    Meals eaten in restaurants: 2

    Countries visited: 8 Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Belgium, France

    Days we rode in full rain gear: 3

    Medical, mechanical, legal issues: 0
    Last edited by franze; 02-01-2008 at 11:41 AM. Reason: add photo

  7. #7
    riding the bike(s) grasslander's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Eastern Kansas
    Thanks Paul very nice report and great photos! Thanks for all your insights and experience sharing.
    Jim Doyle
    Expert M/C road racer and crew chief
    Owner G-Baby Racing endurance team
    2013 ASRA/AMA Team Challenge GTL National Champions

  8. #8
    Certifiable Old Fart beemerdons's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Chandler, AZ

    Paul, that is the best motorcycle travelogue I have ever seen. Thanks for the report!

    Wow, Pablo! A motorcycle travel report doesn't get any better than this. Gracias!
    Don Stanley; aka Chuy Medina "El Burrito Ballerina"
    BMWMOA #24810; #89

  9. #9
    BeemerBoy terham's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Exit 31, PA TPK
    Once again...great ride report and pix. I'm jealous of your backyard.
    R75/5 R100RS K100RS R1150RT
    My Smugmug

  10. #10
    Ambassador BeerTeam's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Fond Du Lac, WI

    Thumbs up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Best of the Web material

    Jim Klas
    BMW MOA Ambassador
    Enjoy the travel photos at:

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