Italy, Lakes and Mountains – June 2019
I arrived on a lovely summer’s morning at STOP24 services in Folkestone near the Eurotunnel where I was soon joined by my support rider Mike (later renamed as my lieutenant by Brenda and Graham). One by one the rest of the group started to arrive, ready to begin their adventure.

Everyone was very excited as introductions were made. Our Italy WhatsApp group had been going for a while, so our group had already gotten to know each other and the jokes and jibes had been floating around for a few weeks, so it was a case of putting faces to names rather than meeting a whole group of new people.

Unfortunately, the day before, Rob, who had come across from Australia for the trip, had a mechanical fault on the BMW he purchased in the UK. This turned out to be more serious than he first thought which meant he could not join us on the crossing. The team back home sprung to action working on a solution that would enable him to join us, in the end this meant getting a rental bike sorted for him so he could carry on with the trip as planned.

We were therefore 11 bikes and 13 people (Graham and Brenda had taken the overnight ferry from Hull and would be meeting us in Reims) so off we went to the tunnel check-in where we waited for our departure call. Our train was called but as we rode off we once again got pulled over by customs and checked for explosives and/or drugs. Unfortunately this meant we missed our scheduled train but got allocated to the 0850 crossing instead. This was all taken in good spirits – these things happen from time to time! All part of the course to make things interesting. Luckily the run to Reims allows us some leeway and the slight time change wasn’t that much of an issue.

Finally onto the train and we’re off! After getting through the safety announcements it was time to go through the day’s ride, the Magellan way and some general housekeeping which made the 35 minute crossing fly by, as no sooner am I finished we were back on the bikes and in France!

Motorways on for the first couple of hours to make up a bit of time, but that’s a gentle introduction to riding on the right and French drivers! Soon we were in the picturesque French countryside and enjoying temperatures in the high 20’s.

A nostalgic visit to the racetrack at Gueux was next – where Formula 1 cars could be seen racing past the grandstand as late as 1966. After some time here we rode into the hustle and bustle of the big city to find our hotel. Everyone arrived safely and after quick showers we were off into the centre for a beer and a meal together.

Graham and Brenda had arrived only an hour or so earlier than the rest of us so our band was almost complete with the good news that Rob had picked up his hire bike and would be riding direct to Baden-Baden to join us the following evening.

A staggered start the next morning through the city before getting on the long straight roads of northern France. Field after field of barley, rapeseed, corn and lupins being the main crops we saw along with some fast jets and the odd TGV.

Lunch was taken in a small café in the shade listening to the school children laughing as they were thrown around on one of the fairground rides which filled the square where we had parked. Aly and Peter were testing the staff with their mix of languages and currencies, however the waiter took everything in good humour and we were soon off again in the lovely sunshine.

Unfortunately, our route into Germany was extremely busy due to roadworks on the Autoroute/Autobahn causing the traffic to join the ‘A’ roads which we were travelling on. When I pulled into the hotel that evening it was great to see Rob, already at home with some of the group. With that our Family was complete – 16 buddies and 13 bikes!
Stretching classes started at 0730 in the car park with a small group of five along with a Swiss couple who joined us from the balcony! Not a bad way to start the morning and a good turnout for our first day before we tackled the B500.

Mike left ahead of the group to find a lovely hairpin approximately 2km up the road and I sent everyone off individually keeping in touch with Mike so he could capture them banked over for a great photo op. We all made it round and regrouped at the top full of smiles after blasting along this lovely stretch of road!

Onward through lovely forested and windy roads until our coffee stop, then we hit road closure after road closure! Jeff still managed to get to the lunch stop well ahead of us. Carl, who was having a slight issue with his GPS managed to completely avoid any road closures after missing a turn, so when he arrived at the lunch stop he was surprised to hear of the problems the rest of us had!

After lunch the roads just got nicer and the views prettier, so when we regrouped for coffee and cakes the chat was all about how much fun the ride was. This was to get even better as we rode the last hour to our overnight stop in Oberau.

Unfortunately the restaurant in the hotel was closed but after walking through the village passing closed cafes and restaurants – due to this being between the busy winter ski season and the summer season, I stumbled across a local bar with a beer garden who served food until 9.00pm. After getting hold of everyone, we regrouped there and had a lovely evening with Graham keeping us in stitches with his dry humour and stories.

Unfortunately, the next morning Pauline wasn’t feeling very well meaning that she and her husband Glenn remained in Oberau for another night planning to catch us at Lake Garda the following day when she felt better.

For the rest of the group, we rode through some fantastic scenery and well-known ski resorts through the Austrian Tirol before climbing above the snow line and over the Timmelsjoch Pass.

This is a day where every bend opens up to a new stunning vista, where everywhere you look you are in awe of nature’s beauty. Riding up the pass on the Austrian side we saw the snow fields and most of us stopped a few times to take pictures where we could. When we got over the summit, the vista changed completely, and we were in a more rugged terrain which was snow free but had tight bends and steep drops! Most of us congregated for lunch in a wooden snack bar I have used many times at the top of the mountain before winding our way south to our hotel for the night.

It was here that the old question of ‘how many men does it take to change a light bulb’ was finally answered as myself, Graham and John (with Helen looking on and offering encouragement) took the best part of 90 minutes changing the dip beam bulb on John’s Honda VFR!

During the night we heard the thunder overhead and woke up to a very overcast and wet morning, this didn’t dampen our spirits though as everyone wearing full waterproofs was soon on their bikes and climbing back up the lovely pass behind the hotel, above the clouds but unfortunately not into the sunshine.

What followed was a damp days ride through some marvellous scenery. Beautiful wooded passes, sticky tarmac and fantastic views made all the more moody with the low cloud – what an amazing ride!!!

On arrival at Lake Garda the sun came out and once everyone had got there including Glenn and Pauline who had ridden directly from Obearu, I jumped in the pool to enjoy the beautiful weather! – what a change from the rain earlier!

Erminio was at his best and arranged welcome drinks along with a lovely dinner by the poolside just for us. After dinner, some went off for a wander while others had a few more drinks before retiring for bed.

On our rest day in Lake Garda, Jeff left the hotel at 0500 to ride around the lakes whilst Mike, Gregg and Ian had a longer lie in and left at 0600. Everyone enjoyed this fantastic ride and doing it first thing means that it is less busy and gives you the rest of the day to enjoy yourself.

Pete, Ally and Rob went off to hire a speed boat but ended up taking the ferry across the lake to Torri. While John, Helen, Graham, Brenda, Glenn and Pauline took the ferry trip to Riva.

The following day we tackled the Stelvio Pass in glorious sunshine – our lunch stop at the top was closed, however I knew of another 10km down the road which has fantastic views.

I’ve run this trip many times but this was the first time that I have sat in the sun on the hotel balcony at the Flüela Pass (elevation 2,383 m (7,818 ft)) as normally when we get there at 4:00pm, it’s freezing. I had caught up with Jeff going the opposite way from me on the Umbrail Pass after riding down the other side of the Stelvio without realising! So the two of us arrived together where Rob, Gregg, Ian, Tim and Mike were already finishing off hot chocolates in the sun. Pauline and Glenn soon joined us before we all rode off to the beautiful ski resort of Flims in the heart of the mountains and our home for the night.

The following day we split into a number of groups with some opting to join me in a blast round the high passes. Glenn and Pauline decided on a more leisurely day doing some sightseeing visiting both the Rhone Glacier grotto and the waterfall at Meringen. Carl opted to follow the route over the Oberalp, Furka and Grimsel passes to Meringen and Graham, Brenda, John and Helen opted for a relaxing ride to allow them to savour the beauty of the scenery that was all around us, so after climbing the Oberalp and Furka passes they rode down the small pass directly to the hotel where they had a leisurely lunch and a chance to relax.

On these trips you can only take a limited amount of clothes therefore you wash them whenever you can and hope that they are going to be dry the following morning. I was delighted to look out of my bedroom window and see Tim two floors below me sitting enjoying the peacefulness of the valley – that is until I noticed the washing line behind him and shouted down asking if he wouldn’t mind hanging up my wet items before throwing them down – thank you again Tim!

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