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Thread: No tour return to the Alps

  1. #1
    Kein Nasebohrer RBEmerson's Avatar
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    No tour return to the Alps

    After dragging everyone through all my natter about renting, planning, and I don't know what all else, it's time to inflict the start of a ride report here. The original material appeared on Sport-touring.net. This is a shameless copy of my material there. Let the fun begin!

    - - - -
    I'm going back to the Alps in July. The plane tickets are booked, the rooms are booked, the bike is booked, and the routes are laid out. There is no tour company involved in this trip.

    The dates: leave 29 June, return 17 July (house is alarmed, police respond quickly even to false alarms, backup friend has a concealed carry permit).

    The plane part is simple: Lufthansa - Philadelphia-Frankfurt-Philadelphia. BTDT doin' it again. We like Lufthansa's cabin service, we don't like their seat pitch or having to pay a IMHO through the nose price for civilized seating. Four-wheel transportation by Hertz.

    Rooms are more complex. We have family (in-laws to me) west of Frankfurt. That's the "hotel" prior to and after The Trip. The trip is actually two trips: 1) Wife and brother and sister and 2) me, me, and nobody but me. Group 1 won't be riding and they want to see something of Lake Garda. Group 2 rides and isn't big on Italian lakes unless they're in high mountain passes. Our paths will cross (Scharnitz AT, near Bozen/Bolzano IT, and Lofer AT). More later. As much as possible, with one exception, the idea is to find good value-for-money accommodations that aren't "vacation fun factories".

    The bike is a BMW K1600GT, rented from Bike & Travel Services in Munich.

    The overall route is a counter-clockwise loop with stops in Andermatt CH (AKA Switzerland), Prutz AT, Collalbo IT, Lofer AT. The basic intent is "bagging passes".

    Expanded comments follow. (in other posts)

    - - - - -

    Place names: I'll be in German-speaking Switzerland, no big surprises there. Austria is counted as German-speaking. Things get strange in Italy. The northernmost part is called Alto Adige but is also known as Süd Tirol or Southern Tyrol. That's heavily (60%) German-speaking. (Please refer to my history lesson in last summer's RR about my tour with Edelweiss, or see Wikipedia, or don't.) Parts of the Dolomites are in another state: Veneto, where Italian dominates. Sorta.

    To keep everybody confused, I'll use, where possible, German/Italian names. For example: Bozen/Bolzano. Look up whatever name you want. Or don't.

    Abbreviations and conversions: CH = Switzerland (Cantons Helvetia) , AT = Austria, DEU = Germany ChF = Swiss (Ch) Franc - Switzerland isn't part of the EU
    km/h=kilometer/hour 1 mph = 1.6 km/h, 1 km/h = 0.6 mph - 60 mph = 100 km/h. Figuring, over larger distances, distance in km is roughly one and a half times a distance in miles and distance in miles is roughly half a distance in km will get you by.

    No degrees centigrade, promise.

    At the moment 1€ = $1.05 and 1 ChF = $0.99. Who knows where all of this will be four months from now. :headscratch:

    One last addition: I keep referring to the Edelweiss tour. Here's a link to it: Film at 11! The photos have disappeared (might be my doing, might be the Russians)
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  2. #2
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    The accommodations part of the trip is fairly simple, but, of course, the devil is in the details.

    The bike will be picked up in Munich, so we'll drive there from the Wiesbaden area, put up for the night in what seems to be a decent place if you're passing through an area. The price for four for a night isn't too bad. On 2 July. On 10 July, it's 60€ more.

    Scharnitz AT is just over the DEU/AT border from Mittenwald, a terminally cute tourist town, but still one worth seeing for the frescoes on the house, the usual wood carvings, and, if you're in the market, very good violins. Well, they carve the pieces, don't they?
    We'll be close enough to do the tourist thing for and after dinner.
    Andermatt CH accommodations are a small pension (almost B&B) with breakfast included. It's out of the heart of Andermatt, on the road going east from Furkapass. Thumbsup

    Prutz AT accommodations aren't my first pick, but it still works for me. It's Hotel Post (well, la de da) in the heart of the (smallish) town.

    The next stop was a place where I had lunch on the Edelweiss tour - Ansitz Kematen. The nearest town is Collalo and that's roughly northeast of Bozen/Bolzano, a small city.

    The Ansitz (roughly "place on a hill") is definitely pointed towards the chici-mici (schiky micky - a German depreciating term for the chicque): hotel, restaurant, and chapel for weddings. But I had a thoroughly good time there and need to go back for a "was it really as good as I thought" visit. Sharing a night there with Chris was/is high on my list. B-i-l & s-i-l can cope as they see fit.

    Ansitz Kematen is on the edge of the Dolomites.




    The main building, a very converted barn, has fascinating details. Why one cross beam ends in a hand holding a rake escapes me. I expect to have the answer before we leave...


    Lofer is on the route because we need a place to reconnect before returning the bike. The rental is a week rental with the return time matching the departure time. The last night out needs to be fairly close to Munich. Lofer fits that bill. And we'll be staying where Roland (b-i-l) stays for his winter ski trips. The emails we've received sound like we're almost old, long lost friends. Cool!

    The big challenge with accommodations is finding available rooms that are comfortable, in a "user friendly" location, and aren't expensive for a double and two singles (Chris and me, b-i-l, s-i-l) or a double and single (Chris and s-i-l, b-i-l) and my single somewhere else. Many Europeans book next year's trip anywhere forward from a year before, leaving folks who're just getting their act together to scramble for rooms.

    Chris is the "travel agent". She's used Trivago, which usually leads to Bookings.com, backed with TripAdvisor (and other) reviews. In some cases we've emailed to see if maybe a place we like has what amounts to walk-in rooms. Nope. The good news is there still some options, but they're going like snow in July.
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    "Why a K1600GT?!???" I've heard that more than once. Oh my yes I have...

    See my RR about Edelweiss and the Alps. I liked the '15 "wethead" R1200RT's handling and ride, I hated the gear box (clunky, balky, just a PITA). The motor got all miserable below 3000, was very nice and torquey above that (hoisted the front tire more than once - none by intention). But it was buzzy and/or rumbly at any speed above an idle. About the only time it became acceptable was on a stretch of autobahn. (OTOH, I've had an '09 RT loaner I could have been talked into buying - go figure). So, no RT for me!

    A strong contingent pressed the idea of a GS or dual sport bike. I get the reasoning. I've had BMW 650 and 800 loaners (oddly, the 800 single cylinder was smoother than the RT boxer). I have zero time on a 1200GS, but I do see why it's a reasonable choice. But... I'm not up for what amounts to a naked bike. Didn't like it with the 650 and 800, and that was in dry, warm conditions. Cold rain? NFW. Next question.

    I looked, albeit not too hard, for a Concours, FJR, ST1300, or whatever is competitive in the Triumph line. No luck. Which brought me to the K1600GT. I ride a K1200RS - four cylinders, six cylinders? What's a pair of cylinders among friends? The K1600GT is heavy. There's a reason why the new B model has a backup gear on the starter motor. But once out of the garage or parking lot, this bike gets light in a hurry. It has some usable protection from stuff (air, rain, rocks, etc.) flying at me.

    I've logged something like 500 miles on K1600 loaners. I think I have some sense of how the bike behaves, and I've tried it back to back with the RT. The K1600 handles, IMHO, better than the RT, who isn't all that bad in hairpins.

    Of course, I could hit the first set of serious "kehren" (German word for hairpins that literally "return" on themselves) and have my head handed to me. There simply is nothing like them anywhere near where I ride. The roads over some of the Blue Mountains ridges have some u-turns than demand respect, but the radius is nothing like "the real deal".
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    Routing... All of this assumes that the weather isn't screwing me over. What follows are screen shots from Base Camp. Base Camp's zoom is ridiculously granular. Meh... life happens.

    Here's the over itinerary from Munich and back. Total distance 2115 km (1314 mi)


    Day 1: Munich to Scharnitz AT - 170km (100 mi).

    The overall route is through southern Bavaria. Along the way I'll pass through Gräfelfing, a Munich suburb. The school I attended had a partnership with the Gymnasium (roughly "high school"). My father administered the partnership and visited the school in 1957. I went with him and sat in on a class. I wonder what it looks like now?

    I tweaked the route pass Ammersee (Lake Ammer), which the River Ammer feeds. The next stop is the WiesKirche, a small but magnificent example of Bavarian Baroque churches. The name translates as "meadow church" and that's part of what makes this church special; it sits alone, almost in the middle of a meadow. There's something about that which lit my lights when I saw it five years ago.

    The next point of interest is Oberammergau or "Upper Ammer Valley" near the head of the River Ammer Oberammergau is the site of the once every 10 years "Passion Play" staged by the residents in gratitude for being spared by the plague. The deal with God was an annual performance in gratitude but the agreement seems to have been renegotiated. The performances are a Big Deal NTL.

    From there the route passes through Garmisch-Partenkirchen (BMW's BMW Days are the following weekend - snap, missed that) and Mittenwald before ending just across the Austrian border.
    Last edited by RBEmerson; 07-01-2017 at 12:50 PM. Reason: Corrected total distance in miles)
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    Day 2: Scharnitz to Andermatt - 345 km (210 mi)

    Much of this route is about making miles on the Austrian and Swiss autobahn (toll stickers manditory). At the start, though, I back up into Germany to get to the head of the Leutasch Valley. I saw some of this last summer, and I'd like to see more. This is mostly flat-land cruising.

    After that, I'll head west, rolling St. Anton am Arlberg, a now posh ski resort which was our introduction to what little European skiing we've done. At the time, we were there between major holidays. It was literally ski down, ride up, wash, rinse, repeat on glorious slopes under bright blue skies. Now (sigh...) the glitterati have moved in. NTL, I'll drive down "Main St." to see if I recognize any part of it.

    After that, more autobahn, not bothering with Arlbergpass - too much traffic for any enjoyment. The border in Feldkirch is really with Lichtenstein, but the Swiss run the border - passport, bitte.
    After running through lovely downtown Lichtenstein (actually there are towns and even a couple of cities), the next next big thing is the southern shore of the Zürichersee or Lake Zurich, good sized lake with some good-sized sail boats on it. Woohoo.

    After that, it's time for some real-deal passes: Satteleggpass and Ibergereggpass (the guessing is "egg" is a corruption of "eck" or corner). While neither is that high, and at least the Satteleggpass road is through trees, it has some hairpins and, from what I saw in videos, some good vistas at top. Ibergereggpass is shrouded in mystery (no videos).

    After that comes Schwyz (as in Switzerland), and the FourwaldstÄttersee. This is where Switzerland's story begins. The lake (see = lake - pronounced say) is actually an arm of Luzernersee or Lake Lucerne. The name translates as "Four forest cantons (states)". These are the original cantons that are the kernel around which the country formed : Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, and Lucerne (a city).

    From there it's almost straight to Andermatt, passing Teufelsbrücke (Devils Bridge). I'll let Google tell the story:
    Quote Originally Posted by Google
    According to the legend, it was so hard to build a bridge here that a desperate Swiss herdsman wished the devil would make a bridge. The devil appeared and offered to build the bridge on the condition that the soul of the first to cross would be given to him. After the bridge was built, the villagers outsmarted the devil by sending a goat across the bridge. Angered by the trick, the devil picked up a large stone in order to smash the bridge to pieces. On his way to the bridge the devil met an old woman wearing a cross, which scared the devil causing him to drop the stone and flee.
    Sounds good, anyway.

    My route passes through the town and west to Hospental, a small town on the Furkapass road, and Pension Egg (that word again...).
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    Day 3: Andermatt Loop - 220 km (130 mi)

    Pass hunting!

    Tremolo ("shaker"!), the cobblestone-paved old route up to St. Gotthard Pass. Unless it's raining(!!), I'm told, reliably, it's a bumpy ride, but the traction is better than one might think. I hope so! After that, Naufenenpass, Furkapass, Andermatt, Teufelsbrücke (going north this time), Sustenpass, Grimselpass, and Furkapass (again - ho hum), then home to Pension Egg.

    Most of these passes can be seen in Alexander Thiessen's videos on YouTube. Check them out.
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    Day 4: Andermatt to Prutz - 280 km (170 mi)

    On the way out of Andermatt I pick up yet another pass, Oberalppass. Otherwise this route repeats about half of the route to Andermatt from Scharnitz, although I used Kurviger.de to find a somewhat curvy route where possible. The big change is back in Austria, at a city called Bludenz. Instead of following the autobahn past St. Anton am Arlberg, the route splits of to the southeast and the Silvretta Hochstrasse (Silvretta High Road). But back to "Stanton"'s name. The "am Arlberg" part means the St. Anton (or Anthony) on the Arlberg Alps (am = an dem or on the (dem being a bit of grammatic confusion, on the article "der" or masculine "the", for foreigners). There are two other St. Antons in the same area: St. Anton am Vorarlbeg (on the Arlberg foothils) and im Montafon (in Montafon, a town and small region). St. Anton's name does appear elsewhere, too (surprise!).

    Silvretta Hochstrasse is the bowed bit of road with the funny bump at the turn north. This is a truely high road, much of it above tree line (above here trees can't grow). Talk about wild country... Along the way are dams and reservoirs. Austria gets almost all of its electricity from hydroelectric plants. Rain and snow fall into reservoirs in the mountains, gravity send the water downhill, where turbines take advantage of that, and the light in my room goes on when I flip the switch. Austria has a nuclear plant which has basically been scraped as a bad idea. Why mess with it when there are all those lakes? There's a quick little detour to check out one of many Alpine glaciers. Or what's left of them. They're literally melting away, and it's not because the Austrians use a lot of ice in their drinks...

    The road comes out at Landeck, passed two days earlier, rushing west to Andermatt. This time I'll turn south for the town of Prutz, and Hotel Post. It's in the middle of town, a bit too posh for my taste, but when all the bookings for the smaller places are gone, ya takes what ya can gets...
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    Day 5 - The Prutz Loop - 320 km (19n mi)

    Pass hunting, but for the biggest game: Stilfser Joch/Passo Dello Stelvio. I completely psyched myself about this one, and I'm at all happy with the ride up. This is one I mean to sort out. The last time around, we did a couple of tune-up passes the day before (Jaufenpass and Timmelsjoch), but I didn't get what I needed to do to get it right. If I don't have my s*** in one sock this time...
    Credit: Foto-Stelvio
    Better than a poke in the eye, I guess.

    (Small rant time: there's a right way and a wrong way to do the kehren - the "returns on itself" hairpins. Most videos show the rider diving into the turn and trying to take the racer's line, clipping the apex of the turn. It does not work. The road simply isn't wide enough, even when taking up the entire road, which is a bad idea. For right turns, get out to the center line, delay the entry slightly past where the turn starts, and then turn in tighter the road turns. At the end you'll stay in your lane, you'll have the option to widen the turn to avoid the bicycle on the right shoulder, and you'll have a look into the turn as you change direction. Going left is much easier - go to the right (out)side of the road, delay the turn again, and then ride around the curve like you're on rails. A touch of throttle coming out of either turn will make it sooooo fine. Watch the videos. Riders cross the road, almost kiss walls, and almost get nailed by cars, bikes, buses, campers, and bicycles - ugly! OK, all better now)

    After getting to the circus at the top of the pass, it's time to head back down.


    The road down the western flank goes to Bormio (AFAIK no common German name). There's a turn towards the Engadin region of Switzerland. While it's considered a part of German-speaking Switzerland, over 30,000 residents speak Romansh, a language tied closer to Latin. It's somewhat its own place within Switzerland, down to having a very friendly tax situation. Anyway, the entrance is marked by Umbrailpass/Passo Umbrail. That's followed by Santa Maria Val Müstair and then Ofen or Fuorn Pass (two names, same pass). The loop continues west to Albulapass and then turns north towards Davos (home of the World Economic Forum - wowsers). We've skied there with Swiss friends. It has its good points, but the bad part is you have to take a bus to get from one part of the area to another, skiing from here to there just doesn't work. BTDT - yawn.

    Turning back east, there's the last pass for the day, Flüelapass. Time to beat feet back to Prutz.
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    Day 6 - Prutz to Klobenstein/Collalbo - 335 km (200 miles)

    This will be on a Saturday at the top of tourist season (the real rush comes in August). So it goes...

    The first stop is the long side road to Kauentalergletcher or the Kauern Valley Glacier. Moving east to the Ötztal valley (home of Ötzi, the stone age hunter found by hikers on the Ötztalergletcher or Ötztal glacier), the next side road is to the glacier. At 2830 m, (9197 ft) t's the highest paved road in Austria and the third highest paved road in Europe. Stilfser Joch, by comparison, is about 100 m (~300 ft) lower.

    The road continues through the valley and comes to the toll booth for the Timmelsjoch/Passo del Rombo. This is one of the tune-up passes mentioned earlier. The road leads to St. Leonhard in Passeier in tedesco/San Leonardo In Passiria. This is the home of Andreas "Sandwirt" Hofer, who fought for Austrian independence from the Bavarian forces, part of Napoleon's army. He lost both the fight and his life. A wirt is an innkeeper and his father kept the Sandhof Inn, which passed to Andreas, who was nicknamed the "innkeeper". I've had lunch at the Sandhof (same place - it's still there), and hope to this time.

    Heading east, the route comes to Jaufenpass/Passo Giovo and on towards the south end of Brennerpass. IMHO Brennerpass is about the armpit of passes. It's a notch in the Alps where all the traffic coming from the north and going towards Milan, etc. passes through and vice versa. There's an autobahn (autostrada) A22 as wells the usual road, a trans-shipment yard where trucks are loaded onto or off of railroad cars, the usual trucker bars and a titty bar, along with a huge outlet mall on an island between the north and southbound road lanes. Picturesque it's not.

    I laid the route to stay just south of there, turning south at Sterzing/Vipiteno. This town goes back to Roman times, as a stop on a road to Augsburg. After Sterzing, it's time to down a twisty road south to Klobenstein/ Collalbo and Ansitz Kematen. And Chris & Co.
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    Day 7 - Klobenstein/Collalbo to Lofer - 315 km (190 mi):


    This, I'm fairly certain. will be a challenging ride. The distance is somewhat deceptive.

    First, this is a bit of a fortuitous route. The original plan had been to treat the trips to the glaciers as a loop, out and back, from Prutz. Instead, it became a, in relative terms, direct ride to Ansitz Kematen. This change accommodated Chris' contingent, gives us a chance to meet up (always good!), and to share a stay at what I hope will be something of a romantic stop (awwwww...).

    When I started to lay out the route to Lofer, I found that it was easy to shift the initial route to include part of the Dolomites, go through Cortina D'Ampezzo (chici-micki ski resort), and ultimately the Grossglockner Panoramastrasse. After the trip was shortened to a week, I dropped the Dolomite and Grossglockner from my plans. Opening the "glacier loop" to a trip from Prutz to Ansitz Kematen put at least some time in the Dolomites and Grossglockner back in the plans. Yea! Thumbsup

    The Dolomites seem to have a reputation of "you've seen the rest, now see the best". Certainly the mountains are, from pictures, distinctively different than further west. This is a feature of the geology of the Alps. Simply put, the Alps represent the "wrinkles" of the tectonic plate carrying Italy colliding with the plate carrying Europe. The strike is oblique; the Alps at the western end are significantly older than the eastern end. The Dolomites are the "new" end of the wrinkles. That's the good news. The bad news is, from the videos I've seen, the area is close to mobbed once summer starts. Early July is at the front of the season, but I'm not sure about what I'll find.

    Leaving the main Dolomite region, I'll get to try the Pustertaler Höhenstrasse (on the west to east stretch from Dobbiaco IT to Lienz AT - look for the three blue flags at the east end). It's supposed to be a great place to look south towards the Dolomites. And then comes Grossglockner...

    This is another "name" feature, much like "Stelvio!". It's something of a demanding road, but the scenery is supposed to be breathtaking. I guess I get to confirm that. I hope.

    The route then passes through Zell am See, a well known resort area on... wait for it... here it comes... almost here... and... Zellersee (The Zell Lake). Lofer's just north of there. As I said earlier, it's a place Roland (b-i-l) knows well. That makes it "old home day" at least.
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    Day 8 - Lofer to Munich -215 km (130 mi):

    Sigh... party over. BTS gets their bike back. However, not content to just hop on the autobahn and beat feet back to the barn, I've ...um... sweetened the route up a bit.

    Using Kurviger.de' routing, I've found some twisty bits west to the German border. From there, it's autobahn time to Munich. But I found an interesting detour through Schwabing, the "bohemian" (artsy-fartsy) part of the city. I've heard about it but never been there. I mean to check that box.

    And that's the show. We'll spend a day or two in Munich. Margit (s-i-l) hasn't been there. Chris and I went there for our honeymoon (awwww...) and about five years ago for our [/mumble]th anniversary. It should be fun to see it with someone else's perspective.
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    So... 2115 km (1270 mi) in eight days. A bunch of passes, alpine roads, and sightseeing... it's going to be a busy week. Most routes have some bail-out points if time gets short. In some cases, though, the mountains get in the way, making for looping "detours". If the weather turns against me... I'll have to play that as it comes. Having fixed reservations limits my options. Meh... life happens.

    I picked the K1600 because I really don't want to feel as though I'm pointing myself into a fire hose, as I would on a naked bike, having to run down an autobahn. Being able to shift the throttle to rain mode will be welcome, of course.

    Gear... Last summer I wore my winter gear, anticipating bitter cold in the passes, and early spring conditions in the valleys. Silly me. This time I'll wear my summer mesh gear. With, of course, the wind and insulated layers. And the rain gear can add wind protection beyond what the liners give.



    It should be an interesting few days...
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  13. #13
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    Looks like a great trip. Just hope you haven't bitten off more than you can chew with the daily route distances. That's a LOT of miles per day in Alps!

    Duane
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    '12 K1600GT

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    Your point is well taken. I'm not a "b***s to the wall" rider and, particularly is Switzerland, I look at speed limits as something other than a suggestion. Being blitzed twice in a year (no 8x10 glossies to date - whew!) tends to reinforce that. OTOH, I generally have less down time, on the road, than I encountered last July, on the Edelweiss tour. (I looked up the running time & stopped time recorded daily by the GPS - it's amazing how long timeouts lasted) The distances then aren't too far off this year's plans. The longest days include a lot of autobahn time - lots of km's in not so so much time. But your point is worth remembering.
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  15. #15
    Biker gunnert's Avatar
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    Bottom line is I'm envious! It'll be a great trip. I took my own Garmin (bought the Alps maps). I did only a small stretch on the autobahn, Garmisch-Munich on the last day. Average speed over 13 days of riding was 34 mph. Should also add wife took 3400 photos during the trip. Two weeks is the minimum I would do on a trip like this. Really want to go back again. Hard to find the time and $; it ain't cheap! Look forward to the photos.

    Duane
    NoVA
    '12 K1600GT

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