I must have had a good week's riding, because I've been really tired since I've been back!
It was a pretty successful week, though. For anyone interested, here's what happened:
4th July - 07:20 on Le Shuttle for France. Straight onto the Autoroute and blast all the way to Grenoble. When the sun was shining, it was really warm. When the sun wasn't shining, it was pouring down. A day for hopping in and out of waterproofs! At times the rain was heavy enough to be quite scary, but it really reached its peak as we approached Grenoble. Seriously heavy rain, and if there had been somewhere safe to stop I would have done. Eventually splashed towards the hotel, which was a bugger to find!
5th July dawned grey and drizzly. By the time we left, it was just grey, and as we approached Alpe D'Huez I felt confident enough to remove waterproofs. Quick blast up and down Alpe d'Huez, and the holiday had really begun. The rest of the day - was fine and sunny, with the exception of the top of Galibier which was smothered by freezing clouds. Col de Vars, Col d'Izoard and the Bonnette. Saw the obligatory marmot on Bonnette; they're bigger than I expected - it would take some strength to prise one of those away from your throat.
Somehow got hopelessly lost heading for Sospel, caused partially by the GPS losing satellite signals in some deep gorges, but mainly by me forgetting to look at the GPS. Eventually made it there by 9:00-ish.
6th July was a non-pass day. A quick burst in the mountains to Cuneo in Italy, then main roads and autostrada to Milan, then up around Lake Como, St Moritz and Livigno. The pass from St Moritz was one of my favourite little bursts of the trip - can't remember the name, but think it's Passo Bernina? On the motorway between Turin and Milan, and once between Milan and Como, the bike gave the odd litle cough. I thought nothing of it at the time - I put it down to the heat - but that was the beginning of something slightly more serious.
7th July saw us ride over the Stelvio. At the top, which was too packed to even consider stopping at for long, my bike wouldn?t start straight away. After a few stabs it went, and this time I convinced myself that it was due to a combination of heat and altitude making fuel evaporate from the injection system. After the descent of the eastern side, which I didn't enjoy at all and nearly saw me collide with a camper van heading up, I stopped for fuel somewhere at the bottom. This time the bike REALLY wouldn't start. After 15 minutes or so, it went ok, and I headed for Merano. In Merano, I stopped for a drink and a fag. The bike started first time, so I decided the problems before were a result of a dodgy load of fuel. To be on the safe side, I headed for Iselsberg and the Iselsbergerhof on main roads, missing out the planned passes in the Dolomites. All was well for the rest of the day.
8th July - Sunday, obviously - saw us heading up Grossglockner. About halfway up, the bike began coughing again. With a real sinking feeling, I began to realise that it wasn?t a temporary problem, or one that was going to solve itself. Too scared to stop, I rode the pass without any photo stops, and when I eventually made it down towards Zell, it was really difficult. I couldn?t really enjoy the Grossglockner road, but I suppose that?s an excuse to go back and do it again! A friendly chap - coincidentally from another web board I use (www.ukgser.com
) - stopped to offer assistance, and left me a bottle of water, which was great on a very hot day.
I made it about 30 kms from there before the bike died completely just to the North of Mittersill. I had European breakdown cover, so made the inevitable call, feeling really hopeless. The truck arrived within an hour, and took me back to Kaprun. The bike was left outside the BMW dealer, I found a Gasthof 300 yds down the road, and settled in to a night on my own feeling thoroughly depressed. At that stage I didn't know if I wanted them to fix the bike, or get me a hire car and repatriate the bike later. Kaprun is a pretty town, but by now it was raining and I just wanted to be somewhere else. Calls and texts to Richard and Anthony let me know they had continued on the planned route - as agreed - but stopped short because of a fierce storm. My phone was running out of credit, I couldn't top it up so could only manage a brief conversation with my wife and son back in England to cheer myself up a bit.
9th July saw me outside the BMW dealers at 08:00. The extremely efficient mechanic assured me that whatever the problem was, he'd have me sorted by Tuesday morning - it would take until then to order any parts needed. I resigned myself to a day in Kaprun, found a shop selling English papers, and settled down for some peaceful reflection. A call at mid-day from the dealers told me my bike was repaired - a faulty fuel pump controller, a known problem on GS?s, but not something that could have been mended without a new part. I didn't feel quite so distraught at standing looking at the bike the previous day without much of an idea what to do.
Texts to the others told me they were heading up the Romantischestrasse (which, incidentally, I thought was fairly ordinary) for a place called Miltenberg, so I headed there via Innsbruck, then autobahns round Munchen as far as Augsburg. I got there around 8:00, which was fairly good going considering the rainstorms I encountered up until Augsburg. The road around Munchen was a bloody nightmare! It wasn?t until I got there that I felt really confident that the bike was actually fixed.
10th July saw us head for home, on nice rods as far as the Haute Fagne in Belgium, then motorways back to Calais. A fairly uneventful day with steady rain, except that by now Richard?s Ducati had a leaking clutch slave cylinder, which required topping up two or three times a day. You expect this from a Ducati, of course ? it?s called ?character.? Faced with a choice of motorway routes home, I decided based purely on where I could see most clouds. I plumped to go around Brussels and, once I had, the sun came out and I at least got to ride the final couple of hours in summer riding gear!
All in all, then, an interesting and unforgettable trip. It was great to meet some of the contributors to this wonderful forum, which I used extensively in planning our route. In hindsight, I think we were fairly ambitious with the mileages, but we rode some amazing roads and saw some remarkable scenery. And, as I said before, I have an excuse to go back and do the Dolomites and Grossglockner again! (Next time, I?ll be taking a spare fuel pump controller with me?)
Between us, Richard Anthony and I have a fair number of photos and some video footage. I'll put them on a hosting site soon, and let you all have the link.
Expert??? Don't know where that came from. Believe me, I'm no expert!