Heatwave? Delays in the tunnel? Long delays in the tunnel???
Surely not, or so we thought when we met at 0700 at STOP24 however, there were already reports of queuing traffic on the motorway so we made some very quick introductions and joined the queue – QUEUE, on a motorcycle!
After 2 hours of stop start (more stop than start), some pushing their bikes rather than burning out starter motors, we arrived at the kiosk to get our ticket to board only to be told of another 5 hours of delays.
Meanwhile … two of our group who had joined the trip at the last moment and had been given flexi passes for an earlier train … were in France and because of our delays, already soaking up the atmosphere and driving along the route to Reims.
Fortunately, our 5 hours turned into less than an hour and we boarded our carriage arriving in France only 3 hours later than our original planned arrival time however, we had ground to make up so attacked the motorway with our first stop being a service station for fuel and a snack and our afternoon coffee stop being in Guise which was originally our lunch stop!
Arriving in a hot Reims, we all got together for a late supper and made light of the delays over some beers and lovely French cuisine. The tunnel and heatwave had taken its toll and most went off to bed in our very hot and stuffy hotel although some, including your trusty guide, partook in some more drinks of an amber nature…
Day 2 and the 1st morning briefing – new to some and my Scottish accent made life hard for Jean who had travelled all the way from Austin, Texas for this trip. We did manage to leave in an orderly fashion although appeared to take multiple routes out of the city congregating again at our morning coffee stop to compare notes. Baden-Baden our destination is just over the border to Germany and at one end of the infamous B500, a road that is renowned for its twisty wood lined tarmac as it climbs through the Black Forest. It was therefore with excitement and anticipation that we retired for the night in our comfy beds after a lovely meal.
The reality of the B500 is unfortunately not as exciting as the myth! Lots of speed restrictions take the fun out of what was at one time a bit of a racetrack. There are still sweeping bends and fast drivers but the reputation of this road is now over rated. The route however towards Austria is not and we rode through lovely countryside, sweeping bends, lovely villages and towns as we worked our way to our home for the night in Oberammergau (Germany).
The backdrop of the mountains here is stunning and we were soon on the terrace of our hotel enjoying a refreshment prior to dinner.
Our trip the following day took us from Germany, through Austria and into Italy with our first big pass, the Timmelsjoch linking the latter two countries. Richard and Ann on their Goldwing had some trepidations about the sharp curves however both the bike and the riders sailed through the pass without any problems boosting their confidence for the passes in Switzerland that we all would be tackling later in the week.
The heat was still taking its toll on us all and in the valley after the pass we were seeing over 35 degrees centigrade which meant plenty of stops to keep ourselves hydrated. Some lovely smaller passes with less radical twisties eventually brought us to our stop for the night and after settling in, we enjoyed an evening where everyone was still talking of the days riding and the discussing the shorter route to Lake Garda the following day.
The machine with the lowest capacity on this trip was an older Honda CB500 driven by Peter and we thought that it was only firing on one cylinder in the morning but, after checking the plugs and reseating the plug caps a few times, the reliable Honda (originally assembled in Italy), burst back into full song and both bike and rider raced down the pass leaving both myself on my GS and David on his MultiStrada in its wake considering that he told us that he was going to take it easy!
A lovely ride to the lake with stunning scenery and lots of stops including an extended lunch stop at Riva del Garda at the north of the lake before riding the last 40km to our hotel for the next few days and a dip on the hotel pool to cool down.
After our relaxing break and having had a chance to recharge our batteries we left early on the Friday morning and headed in the general direction of Switzerland via the famous Stelvio pass. This is on many petrol heads’ “bucket list” and as you approach the mountains and see some of the road laid out in front of you, it is with trepidation that you make that first hairpin and race along to the next. Everyone made excellent progress and when we all met at the summit for a bite to eat, there was excited chatter and lots of back patting! We also all realised that the reputation of the pass is a lot worse than the reality!
Andy and Dave enjoyed the pass so much that they decided to go down the other side and back up again before going back on our route via the Umbrail pass into Switzerland. We tackled three more passes that afternoon before reaching our destination for the evening – Flims. A few of us managed to stay up late in the Arena bar playing bar football (I am sure we also had some beers although Andy, by that time had decided that he preferred Spritza’s). Andy also managed to win every game beating all comers with the prize being … a good night’s sleep!
The following day we were in some of the most stunning mountain scenery you could imagine with many choices of which passes to cover or to simply follow the Magellan route which was tried and tested. Keith, Dave and Nigel opted to cover six passes in a loose figure of eight and I saw them a couple of times during the day going in opposite directions to me as they completed the route ending up at our hotel in Obergoms. I also saw Andrey going back up the Furka pass as he had met the others and asked them for their waypoints so that he could also do the additional passes – Andrey was riding his Honda 600 which is also his daily commute to work which just shows that you don’t need a GS to complete these trips as long as your bike is reliable!
A fantastic day playing in the mountains was finished off by a lovely and very filling meal in our lovely hotel followed off by a good nights sleep.
We were leaving Switzerland the following day but had one last ride over the Grimsel before tackling the Panaromastrasse which is part of the Glaubenbielen Pass. What a lovely surprise that twisty, often single track road was – all due to a change in our lunch stop which caused a re-route on our satnavs and a chance encounter which I intend to repeat as it was so much fun to ride! Buses and cars hogging the road were a side attraction but the views and the surface were lovely!
Temperatures in the afternoon made the riding hard especially as we neared the Vosges so we were glad to reach our final pass which allowed us to get away into the mountains and climb to our stop, the Gazon Rouge which is a regular favourite of mine as well as for some others on the trip. We all sat on the terrace enjoying some refreshments and discussing the trip with Paul and Steven explaining to me how they managed to do what looked like risky overtaking safely as they were in contact with one another via their headsets and the one ahead told the following rider if the road was clear or not! Poor Tim, who often rode with them had to play catch up on his MV Augusta as he did not have the same advantage!
Belgium was to be our last night of the trip and our 6th country! En-route we stopped at Verdun with most taking the sombre tour and spending a few hours learning about the terrible events that happened here during WW1. Our hotel for the night is in Bouillon and is a quant old building in the heart of the town right by the river. Drinks on the terrace which is effectively the pavement followed by a lovely meal before we all turned in – we had seen temperatures hitting 36 degrees centigrade during the afternoon and some of our group had gotten themselves pretty dehydrated so an early night although it was hard to get to sleep due to the heat!
Our last day with some rushing off to get an early train and others taking their time and following the Magellan route to the tunnel. The ones that got there early managed to get earlier departures however, the later arrivals (who still arrived on time for their booked departure) were told that the earliest train was at 10.20pm – 4 hours delay! We will finish how we started!!!
A lovely 11 days which flew by. The company was great with everyone mixing together right from the start and riding pretty quickly. The banter in the evenings and at the stops was always light-hearted and fun and Andy’s impression of my Scottish accent was hilarious even though it sounded Irish rather than Scottish!
I look forward to seeing everyone again with Magellan on another adventure.