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Musings about bikes and such

Trans-Alpine - London to Campania and Back - September 2007

I had lived in the UK for about a year and half when Sherry decided that she need to go home to Texas.  After a year in Chicago and 18 months in the UK without a bike.......something had to give!!! So with the girlfriend gone I bought a brand new BMW R1200GS (just like Charlie McGregor :-)) and moved from Basingstoke to London Proper.  Two things that I always wanted to do...and I mean ALWAYS from being like 2 years old!!!.....was SCUBA dive in the Aegean and ride through the ALPS.  The first was satisfied when Sherry and I visited Santorini (Thera), but that's a story for another day.  I had this trip planned from mid summer, little did I know that this would be my last hurrah while I was living n Europe.  I accepted a job in Canada on the day I returned.  Anyway, I decided to combine my lust for riding in the Alps with my lifelong facination with all things Roman and make Pompeii my end destination.  So...a route planned and I was off.

On the First day I did the typical early morning Channel crossing and blasted through France & Belgium into Germany where I made my first tourist stop in Cologne (Koln).    I didn't stop long...and those of you who have ridden with me can sympathize.....but I did check out the Cathedral.  I am fascinated by Gothic architecture, but it is always intriguing to see something different.  This thing is massive.

 I continued on to spend the night in Wurzberg.  I had a good meal and was up-n-atem early in the morning for my trip through Bavaria and into Austria.  On the way I made a protracted stop in Rothenburg.  This is nice German walled city and is often describe as the quintessential medieval walled town.  I snacked on Brezel (pretzel) and climbed the walls and such.  I have lots of pix, but for this post, here's the central market.

Continuing on, I passed by Schloss Neuschawnstein in the Bavarian Alps.  It was a hazy day but  you can easily see how this was the inspiration for Cinderella's castle.

I crossed into Austria and made my way to Innsbruck for the evening.  I only knew this town from hosting the winter Olympics when I was a kid, but MAN! what beautiful place.  I still haven't made it to Vienna, but since I was in Austria, I dined on Wiener Schnitzel and beer....it was good.  Here's a shot of the famous Golden Roof of the Ducal palace with the Alps in the background.

The next day gets interesting.

As I got into Alps to cross into Italy, my favorite riding finally began.  Here's a shot of the pass heading down into Italy.  HeeHeeHee...............................

Passing though Riva on my though Trento, I had my "incident".  While I don't claim to be blameless, my insurance company insists that I am.  I won't tell the entire story because...frankly..it is my best motorcycling story and really needs the Italian accents to make it work...many of you have heard it.  Suffice it to say that another motorcycle crashed into me and the rider suffered a severely fractured tibia from when it hit my Tourtech cylinder guards (ouch).  My BMW suffered minor damage, but I was able to continue on the remaining 2000 miles of the trip with no problems.

I continued on from there to Verona for the evening.  I  had a great meal...no idea what it was, but I find that I'm pretty good at letting the locals pick me something good :-) ...... Nice town

It was raining the next morning...the only rain on the trip...as I headed out through the fairly industrial North East coast to one of my minor, but necessary, goals...crossing the Rubicon.  It's funny, when my nephew graduated high school in 2005, I was working on my plans for my assignment in Europe and I remember during his graduation dinner telling the table that one the things I really wanted to do was to cross the Rubicon.  I got a few blank stares, but my 18 year old nephew came back with "the die is cast"....I knew he'd be alright :-)  So here it is...me and the mighty GS crossed the Rubicon...just like Caesar (well, maybe not :-))

Here's a close up of the road sign "via Rubicone".  It parallels the river.

I crossed through Umbria...beautiful country side.  I didn't stop in, but Assisi from a distance is impressive

I continued on to Perugia for the evening....wonderful walled city in the mountains. It was Porcini mushroom season....need I say more?  yum!   Here's a shot of one of the narrow medieval alley's

I was near the apogee (incorrect usage..but you get it) of my trip and settled into my hotel in Naples  the next day and dined on pizza Margherita as originally intended. 

I spent a couple of days in Naples.  All I can say is this place is nuts.  I rode my bike through the city and felt like I was driving in ShenZehn.  The only rule is that you are responsible for what is in front of you...not what for what is behind you. It is an experience....If you have driven in Naples..let's share experiences.......

I went on a day trip to Pompeii...WOW fucking WOW! I took about a million pictures and I won't bore you with them all, but I can't believe how much of real Roman life has been captured.  I could go back, that's for sure.  I also visited Herculaneum.  If you can only visit one, do Pompeii, but do NOT miss Herculaneum unless you have to.

I told you that I won't bore you with tons of pictures of ruins, but here is one of the city with Vesuvius in the background.  The clouds make it look ominous.

And I couldn't leave you without a shot of one of the castings that haunted me from when I was a kid and saw them in National Geographic

While in Naples, I couldn't pass up the museum which now houses most of the treasures unearthed in Pompeii and Herculaneum.  OK, I'll admit it....I have a thing for Roman Mosaics....I seek them out.  Here's one of the better known ones.

...and since this is going to be posted on ADVRider.....They have section of erotic art.....and yes....this is Pan having relations with a goat :-)

So, I had to start my way back.  From Naples to Rome, I took as much of the Via Appia (Appian Way) as possible.  I skirted Rome of course...been there, done that...too much traffic.   I ended up in Orvieto for the evening and had a so-so meal with a so-so wine....I have since come to appreciate Orvieto whites....so there.  There is a lovely Cathedral in the city center.

...and I stumbled across these bevel heads .... a foreshadowing of tomorrow?

I woke up early and headed to Bologna for my scheduled tour of the Ducati factory and museum.  The tour is free, but you have to book in advance and specify English or Italian.  I rode up on my BMW and asked the guard where to park.  He pointed to a long row of motorcycles.  I parked and noticed this:

I asked, but the guard assured me it was OK...Italians always seem to come off being cool with shit......  When I was leaving some workers were passing by and started giving me  hard time.....but obviously in jest...they are proud of their work, but are pretty laid back. It may have been cool with guard, but my German girls' fat ass sure stood out.

The only real grief I got was when I was in line waiting for the tour and started chatting with the other geeks.  One guy...a Canadian of all things!?! asked why I was there since I was on a BMW? I mean WTF???  I had just recently become a Ducati owner, but since when is ownership prerequisite for visiting one the most significant motorcycle manufacturers on the planet?  Anyway...on to the good stuff......here is my tour guide.

I have posted this picture in various places because it is my Ducati art shot.  Here is a close up on Hailwood's TT bike that I like.

Again....since this will be posted on ADVRider....here is my favorite bike in the museum....a Dakar competitor

...and I cannot leave out the 999's.........won a lot of races......without a displacement advantage!

The tour was over around 1300, so I blasted up to Florence to find a gold ring with a Roman coin in it.  The last time I was in Florence I became fascinated with these but didn't pull the trigger....lesson learned.  I assumed that I would find them in one of the other cities I was passing through, but never did, so I headed back to Florence and made a deal...very happy.  I then motored on to Pisa for the night.  Pisa really only has one square of interest, but WOW. talk about three impressive structures.  I won't bore you with pictures of the tower and cathedral we all know, but what I found fascinating was that there were dozens of tourists in the square ... all trying line up the perfect picture of their significant other trying to prop up the leaning tower.  I took several shots to try and capture this, but this is the best I got.  It was really funny in the flesh though.

Leaving Italy I cross the Saint Bernard Pass....just like Napoleon...though he was coming the other way......

I spent my last evening of the trip in Chamonix at the foot of Mont Blanc.  Here is shot from my room.  I ate Raclette...Yum.

I motored across France on their excellent motorways and crossed the channel to make it home to Richmond in the evening.  Two comments on this:

1. It was hard to adjust form the chaotic Italian driving to the more structured French style where you are expected to follow the rules.  I found that I had really adapted to the free flowing Italian style.

2.  Three cheers to the French motorway for charging motorcycles half price.  I never see that ion North America.