2015-06 ALPS


This will be a somewhat scattered report as I wrote different parts at different times. It is lengthy, and as usual it is written more for my future reference and amusement than anything. I will start with more of a summary of this that and everything, my impressions of some things, then I will give a list of where we went and where we stayed and other details, and some of my ton of pictures. The rest of the pics and movies can be found here:

THE REST OF MY PICS and Videos

PHOTOS and Videos on my DropBox site - some may prefer it this way

PHOTOS - on Drop Box

CAR Photos - on Drop Box

VIDEOS - on Drop Box

PHOTOS and Videos on my DropBox site - REDUCED in number, for quicker viewing

PHOTOS - Reduced quantity -

VIDEOS - Reduced quantity -



INTRO

Irene and I have been wanting to go on a motorcycle tour of the Alps for a long time. We kept putting it off for no good reason. I had a book called Riding The Alps that I won in a raffle many years ago. While rummaging around in a pile, I took it out with the intention of reading it. Irene saw it and got interested. We stopped putting it off.

Planning can be difficult, but STARTING planning is the truly difficult hurdle. Once we started, there was no going back. Just picking a date was a task. When were we both available? When was the best time? How Long? We settled on two weeks. August was out as it is very crowded then. Same with mid July on. The fall was not going to work as we have other commitments then. Before mid June is risky as the many of the passes can still be blocked by snow. We settled on the last two weeks of June.

Once we got past the hurdle of starting planning, we spent a ton of time planning. By that I mean Irene spent a ton of time planning, I just helped when she had questions that the book could not answer. I also arranged for a bike rental, flights, and other big ticket items. We considered taking an organized tour, but we really wanted a lot of flexibility, plus the $5,000 or more additional cost for a shorter trip was not something we were willing to spend at the moment.

We ended up following our plan quite well. We picked up the bike and rode to Andermatt, Switzerland spending 3 nights. Then to Interlaken, Switzerland for a night, a night France near Mont Blonc, another near Lake Maggiore Italy, then to near St. Moritz Switzerland. Three nights in the Italian alps in Arabbas followed by two nights in Rutte Austria near Crazy King Ludwigs castle (Disney used this for inspiration for their castle), a night in the country of Leichtenstein just because it was a fairly logical stopping point on the way to a night in Zurich, then fly home.

We rode quite a few hours each day. It is difficult to put on a lot of miles with the twisty roads we were on, plus stopping to take photos. For the most part we stayed off of highways. We put a total of 1,830 miles on the bike. Our highest mile day was 203 (of the ones I recorded, I missed two) the shortest day was 42 miles. Our daily average was 141 miles.

Before we left we set up Irene's phone for international calling just in case of emergency. Not exactly cheap at $40, but a necessary precaution. Fortunately the only time we actually needed it was when we got off the train to call the bike rental place to get picked up.



BMW R1200RT

The bike I rented was a 2015 BMW R1200RT. With 1,123 miles on the odometer. This is a sport touring bike, with an opposed twin engine. This really is a great bike for riding the Alps two up. It is comfortable enough with large enough luggage capacity for two people. It performed well. The tractor like engine was ideal for the switchbacks. Big enough for relative comfort, small enough to have fun. There are things I would change about the bike, but that is true for all bikes. You will find more info about the rental company later in this report. Just to summarize, Moto Mader was professional and good to deal with, although they need to learn how to cater to English speakers a bit better.

The rental limits you to 3,000 km for this length trip before they start charging additional for mileage. We put 2,944 km (1,829 miles) on the bike. I should have ridden an additional 56 km just for the heck of it.

Before I left, we put the GPS into English mode. The bike was still in German. It took me a couple of days before I spent the time to figure out how to change the bike menu to English. There are a lot of features programmed into the bike that I just could not figure out in German. Once I could read the menu, life was much better.

The bike averaged 49 Miles per Gallon for the trip. Gas was running around $6.75/gallon so I estimate we spent about $275 on gas.

The bike on a wet Stelvio Pass, Italy. It was still snowing a bit at this point.



PLANNING

I really do not like to plan. I like to just get a bunch of info on an area, then go there and wander around. Irene does not like this kind of trip. She can live with some flexibility, but gets a little anxious if there are no plans. So..... she took over most of the planning. We ended up getting hotels for the first week or so, and the last night.

Irene actually likes to plan, although it can be a little overwhelming for her at first when there is a blank canvas. We both have our strengths and weaknesses, which mesh fairly well such that things tend to work out extremely well. I don't know if either one of us, by ourselves, could plan such a successful trip without a lot of stress, but together it works out.

So, as of a week before we leave, we have a week's worth of hotels, a BMW R1200RT reserved, maps, our passports, and a weather forecast of rain every day for the next ten days. Such are the joys of travel.

I had looked at various tour groups, as it is nice to not have to plan, yet still have a nice organized trip. There are a few, such as Beaches, Edelweiss, and others, that do a great job. Everyone that goes on them loves them. They allow you to go your own way every day, or you can follow a leader. There are only two problems for me. One is flexibility. You pretty much have to follow their schedule. The other is cost. Edelweiss has a 10 day (8 day riding) trip which would be $9,500 for a similar trip with the same bike. That is for both of us, without flights, lunch, gas, etc, etc, etc. These are actually a pretty good deal, as they cater to you quite well, provide a bike & chase vehicle, provide a replacement bike if something happens to you and stay in great places with great food and all that. Still, that is about twice as much as it should cost us for those things on our 14 day trip. I would actually really like to do one of these, but I just could not justify the cost or inflexibility. If we decide that we just cannot do our current plan, or that the weather is just too bad and we need to head elsewhere, we can do that. We might lose the price of a few hotels, but I can eat that in exchange for an overall better trip. One of the worst things about our trip is we don't have a large group of people to socialize with. But then again, one of the best things about our trip is we don't have to socialize with a large group of people. Socializing with others is a double edged sword. In addition, traveling as a couple, we are more likely to meet local people, always a plus.



PACKING

We have traveled a lot by motorcycle together, but it has always been with big bikes with lots of luggage capacity and in the US, where laundry facilities are plenty. And we always have too much. This time, with a smaller bike and some some train/air travel, we were both determined to live well within the confines of our limited luggage capacity. This meant we each had one small bag for our cloths. These would fit in the side luggage. We also had our riding gear including helmets, which we would be wearing at all times on the bike, so this did not have to get stowed on the bike. Then we had other riding gear, such as gloves, warm/heated jackets, tablet computer and other gear plus trinkets that would be purchased along the way. This went into the trunk of the bike. This actually worked out well.

Each of our cloths bags (which included shoes for non-riding) weighed about 13 pounds. All the rest of our gear weighed in at 38 pounds, so our total wight for all luggage was 64 pounds for two people, most of it being worn any time on the bike. We washed cloths as we went. This worked out well. For the flight etc, Irene used her cloths bag as carry-on. I used a duffel for the two helmets as carry-on. We checked a large duffel bag with our other riding gear and my cloths. Having just one checked bag made life a lot easier when moving it around. I could carry all of our gear when necessary, and our carry-on luggage was easy to deal with.

What I discovered, I did not need as much warm weather riding gear as it was never all that cold for very long. I could have left my heated jacket at home and just brought a thin sweater. Similar with my warmer gloves. I also need to get off-bike shoes that pack better than sneaks.

For electronics, Irene had her phone, I had my tablet. The tablet was good enough to help with planning and essential tasks such as getting hotels and backing up photos. Irene's phone would have sufficed for much of it, but a tablet was better. I did miss having a real laptop with a real keyboard though. It would not be worth the extra space and weight though.



HOTELS

Europe, and Switzerland especially is not cheap. We would be riding through, and staying in ski towns. Those are not known for their low cost. So, yes, the hotels were expensive, but using TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com we (mostly Irene) found some of the best value hotels I have ever stayed in …. at least considering the location. I had to learn a new mode of thinking however. Looking at the maps, a lot of these places we were going to stay in looked like crappy backwater towns. They were decidedly not. They were expensive ski towns catering to people who could afford expensive ski towns. Hotels were not crappy and run down. They were, for the most part, nice. All were clean. Some better than others.

BEDS – As a general rule, beds were similar to our twin beds. Maybe slightly longer, and slightly narrower. For a couple, they push two of them together. The fancier places would join the two mattresses with one tight fitting sheet to imitate one mattress. Even those came with two feather comforters, one for each person. The comforters were in a cover to keep them clean. There was no top sheet. This meant that if the room was warm, you would have to sleep at least partly outside the comforter with nothing covering you. I really don't know why they don't have top sheets, they would add significantly to the comfort level. Only in the US do we pay for a mattress AND a box spring. Kinda silly. Here they put the mattress on a bed and you are done. I found most of the beds to be very comfortable, and although I would prefer a single big mattress, having two separate ones means you are less likely to wake each other up if you get up during the night.

A typical bed for two people.



FOOD

For the most part we only ate breakfast and dinner with maybe a snack or two during the day. Most of our meals were at the hotels we stayed at. Most of the towns we stayed in did not have a lot of options for restaurants other than those in hotels. They were often the best places anyway, and most of our hotels had very good meals.

Breakfasts usually were included in the price. These were generally buffets, with some options for ordering boiled or fried eggs or something. There was generally a good variety of meats, pastries, fruits and such, and a choice of coffees were generally included.

Coffee was good. Irene usually got a Latte Machiato (basically a Latte). I got Black Coffee, which I took to calling Navy Coffee. It was strong, and tasted like it had sat on the stove for a long time. This is the coffee I grew up on. You could get cafe Americano, which is like the crap we normally get here, or espresso or whatever you want.

Dinners were a bit more high end than we would normally eat at home, and rather expensive at most places. The quality was very good though, and often had a buffet for salads, desserts, and some starters. The place in Arabbas Italy had the best choices and it was tough not to stuff myself. One thing I had read was to NOT get the beef in Switzerland. It is said that cows are for milk, and male cows are for veal. The few times we got beef, it was pretty bad. Well, it was OK I guess, but you are paying a huge price for mediocre at best meat. The pork, lamb, rabbit, venison, seafood, and other choices were outstanding, so beef was off the menu.

The beer was nothing special. It was good, the price was reasonable, but there were generally only a few choices, such as a Pilsner and a Wheat Beer.

Maybe this Worcestershire Sauce is from Massachusetts?

There were Ben and Jerry's signs everywhere. Even a shop or two dedicated to it, with flavors we don't often see in the US.


These were in vending machines on the street in a bunch of places. I do not know if they are an inebriant or not.

I had to look up Bombastic to be sure I knew the correct meaning. Still does not make sense, but maybe if you drank a bunch of these it would.



The ROADS / DRIVING

The scenery was phenomenal. Rugged mountain peaks many covered with snow, green forests, wildflowers, immaculately manicured farms and gardens. Really, this was an incredible place to ride.

The roads were something else. They were twisty with tons of switchbacks/hairpin turns. The traffic was light for the most part. The tarmac was in good condition. There were plenty of pullouts for taking photos. The speed limits were plenty high. Most of these switchbacked roads were 50 or 60 MPH. I did not speed much at all.

Driving was easy. The other drivers were generally very good, and respected motorcycles. passing, even in curves was expected. Signs were pretty good, although it took a long time for me to learn the signd and actually see them. We tend to be conditioned to see the road signs we are familiar with, so I ended up going in a number of places where bikes are not allowed. In cities, bikes filter to the front. If there is traffic, bikes pass. Frankly, if we drove like this in the US we would be arrested for reckless endangerment or some such thing. I really enjoyed it, although it took some work to overcome my reluctance to drive like the locals. All these years of driving in the US creates habits that are hard to break even if it is to our advantage.

Gas was expensive at $6.50/gallon and up but it was plentiful. At one point the low fuel light came on while we were at the top of a remote mountain pass. In any place like this in the US, it would be time to panic. Here, I was only about ten miles from gas. It is everywhere. I can really see why, when discussions come up with Europeans about fuel capacity on bikes, that the Europeans to not understand our obsession with large fuel tanks. Gas stations are more plentiful in so called remote areas in the Alps than they are in densely populated areas in the US. In the US I have been in places where "open" gas stations were 100 miles away unless I really deviated from my prefered route. Even here in New England, if a low fuel light comes on you have to seriously consider where the next fuel will be. I have often had to backtrack or deviate from my plan just to get gas. I could not see this happening anywhere that I rode on this trip.

Stelvio Pass. A pretty typical road, although there were many even better.


They have deer here too.

VIDEO OF THE ROADS -

This is a video of a pretty normal road. Most roads were crazier and had much faster traffic, but I kept forgetting to have Irene take video, or, when I remembered it was raining.

MOTO MADER - BIKE RENTAL

At the time that I was researching different options for renting a bike and where best to fly into and all, I found that I could get direct flights into Zurich for a reasonable price. All other options were less desirable at the time. What I did not do a good job with was looking at whether continuing on to Milan and renting there would have saved enough to justify the additional flight. I still do not know but will research the next time I am thinking about taking a trip there.

As for who to rent from, I had a few suggestions in Milan, and a few in the Zurich area. The two I enquired at were Moto Mader - www.moto-mader.ch - which were also mentioned in the "Motorcycle Journeys Through the Alps and Beyond" by John Hermann. The other one that seemed good was AdMo - www.rental-motorcycle.com or www.admo-tours.com - which as far as I can determine do not actually own any bikes. When you contact them, they act as a middleman between you and a bunch of different motorcycle rental places all over the world. They also use Moto Mader. Moto Mader got back to me first with a quote, and the prices were pretty much the same. I actually had to call AdMo to get the information that I wanted, as their initial response did not have as much information as I would have liked. I was able to speak with a very knowledgeable guy in California, who really helped me out.

In the end, I chose Moto Mader, as I think that was where I would have ended up getting the bike from had I gone through AdMo. The only difference is I assumed more of the money would actually get to Moto Mader, and AdMo worked in English. AdMo definitely did not. I had already accepted Moto Maders quote anyway, so I decided to go through with it. All the reports I read said that they were very Professional.

Before I go further, I have to say that actually dealing with them in person, they were very professional. I really liked them and highly recommend Moto Mader. The bike I got was in perfect shape, there was no real problems at all. The man I communicated with the most, both before the trip and a the dealership was Roman Studder. Very professional, helpful and his English, although not perfect, was good enough to conduct business. In person at least. E-Mail communication was less than stellar. Had they not come with such high recommendations I might have backed out of the deal after the first few e-mails. I eventually got the information I needed and put down a deposit. What they really need to do is set up a package, in English and whatever other languages are popular that covers some of the basic questions that most ask, and that describes how to get there, what will be provided, what is expected etc. Since these things will be the same, other than a few details that can be filled in, it should be easy. It would go a long way to making someone who was not aware of Moto Mader's reputation more comfortable with shelling out this kind of money. It would not take much.

What follows are some of the e-mail correspondence I had with Moto Mader, re-ordered slightly to help with flow. This does not include all the e-mail ones, only the funny ones. The ones that were written well are not here. Roman's grasp of English is better than these e-mails represent, so I suspect he used a translation program thinking it would be clearer. They seldom are.


This was the initial contact. Made some sense, no problem here. This was with a quote for me to pick up the bike on Sunday. I wanted to know if they had airport transportation or if there was another suggested route.

the transport from Zürich from Aarau to the train, who you to arrive give you me phone and i coming you to pick so.


Bob asks: Can you suggest the best way to get from the airport to your shop? The answer was understandable.

what Airport to land you? From Basel, Zürich ? To get to railroad station to Aarau. Woh to arrive to be give you for my Phone i come you to pick so to Aarau.

the Plan is am appendix


Bob assumes this means the plans are attached. They were, just a simple train schedule, which is fine. Bob is just thinking, this company must deal with a LOT of english only customers. You would think they would have a few boilerplate pages to send out along with any responses. That must be Bob's American Capitalistic Mindset talking.


Bob translates their web page and discovers they are not open on Sunday. Not open on Monday either. Would not be able to pick the bike up until Tuesday. Bob finds out this is pretty standard. Bob also wonders why he was given a quote for a Sunday Pickup. Here is the response.

No Sunday is close, off Tuesday have we open.

Bob already has Plane Tickets arriving on Saturday, so Saturday pickup it is. It might be tight though, as they close fairly early.


Bob can figure out the following pretty well.

I send you the Calculation for the Rentel, the Bike is Reservation for you.

give you me answer who the Calculation ok for you?


Bob reserves the bike. This pretty much makes sense.

i have the bike reserve for you

the deposit is 1000.-CHF send you for me, the rentelpric pain for place


Then bob gets a bit confused. Now we are making assumptions about what is being asked. The papers that are sent with this have no english at all. I really don't know what the papers are asking, but they look like an official quote with maybe a wire transfer form.:

No problem i send you the Calculation for pain

the deposit pain the place


Since there was no English instructions as to how to give the deposit, and it looked like they wanted me to e-mail my credit card number, maybe, I decided to call.

The first time I called would have been prime time for customer pickup. They were VERY busy, and when I spoke with someone and tried to explain what I wanted, they thought I was trying to make a reservation or to get picked up at the train station. I did get someone who spoke English well enough, but they were not able to help me directly so I decided to call back at a slower time.

The next call did not start out well. I eventually got someone on the line that spoke English well enough. I was able to successfully leave my deposit and was feeling better about the company.

What I think happened on my calls is I was transfered to Roman's phone, but someone else picked up. This kind of mix up happened when we arrived. I called Roman, and whoever it was that answered said I would be picked up in 15 minutes. When the Moto Mader van arrived, a man got out and I asked "are you Roman?" The man said yes, and we got in. That was the last word we got out of this Roman. It was not Roman, and this guy spoke no English. Again, not an issue, but we had thought he was Roman. Then, when I returned the bike, I asked where Roman was, and they pointed me at some guy at a desk that was definitely not the Roman we had talked to. I asked "are you Roman too?". He answered yes. Again, no English. Fortunately the real Roman was hidden behind a cabinet and came out to great me and everything went very well again.

None of this is exactly a problem. I don't expect all businesses everywhere to learn English. I do, however, expect a place that deals with a lot of English only customers to have a website or at least one page that is also in English, and at least one or two customer service people that speak English well enough to do business. I have been in a few places that one would not expect English speaking, and found that it was not a problem. Mexico, Central America, South America, Thailand, Turkey, Albania and others. No problem. Not everyone spoke English in those places, but there was at least one person in any business that I had to deal with that did. But Moto Mader in Switzerland? No. Well, actually yes, but it did not seem that way at first but things got better after the conversations above. First impressions are important, but how well things work in the end are more important. I definitely would and probably will use Moto Mader again and would recommend them to others. hr>

Sometimes the language was pretty clear. This way to the bathrooms. Either that, or a weird dance.



ROUTE MAPS

Our route, showing a big chunk of Europe

Our route a lot closer in.

This compares the area we rode to the New Hampshire area at the same scale. The Europe map shows a little bit more north/south than we rode, but is accurate from east to west.

Europe Overlaid on the US

This is an interactive map that allows you to move the US around on Europe to get a feel for the size comparisons. Our trip consisted of an area a little bigger than Switzerland, shown in green with the capital Bern listed, so Maine covers more area. CLICK on picture to see the interactive map.




DAY by DAY

These are varyious details about each day. Generally I start with a quick review of the hotel that we ended the day with, then describe the days events. Since these reports I write are mostly for my future reference, they may not be as entertaining as they could be but I try.



13JUN15 Sat - Andermatt, Switzerland

Alpenhotel Schlüssel - 3 nights - The hotel was nice, nothing special, but clean, quiet and a great location. Breakfast was more than adequate. The owner/manager? was friendly, in a Swiss sorta way. The view of the local mountains was nice, but the weather was usually cloudy when we were there. Definitely centrally located to all the best passes.


The main pass that we wanted was closed, so had to go through the tunnel. Ended up going too far and having to backtrack. The temp in the tunnel was over 100 'F at one point

We were in Switzerland at 11:30 am, out of security by noon. Got on the train to Aarau by 12:45. We were picked up at train station at 1:55 pm. Roman, my main contact and the rest of the Moto Mader group were very professional, good place to rent from.

While we were prepping the bike with Roman, I set the GPS for Andermatt. Then it was getting flaky so they took the bike to the shop to fix it. I did not realize, but they swapped GPS's. The GPS still wanted to go the way we did, although we had a second way we were thinking of. One wrong turn and it decided to go the second way. I did not realize, but it was set to avoid almost everything (tolls, highways, dirt roads, u-turns, plus an entire area that we were supposed to ride through) so it added a bunch of weird turns. Added some time, then I got it lost 8^). We got a bit turned around in Luzerne. Then at one point, it wanted to go the wrong way. It turns out it was NOT programmed for Andermatt. We fixed the end point, but I did not correct all settings until the next day so we ignored it's advice for the rest of the day. The route we were supposed to take was closed due to a landslide. We had to take a very long tunnel. GPSs don't work very well in Tunnels, so we ended up missing an exit IN the tunnel, and going a bunch out of our way.

We got to Andermatt by 7:15 PM, should have gotten there at least an hour earlier. The weather was pretty good until close to Andermatt, where it was raining.

The flight on Swiss Air really sucked, I was able to get a bit of sleep, Irene was not. We had eye covers for sleeping which helped me a lot. The seats are VERY cramped. I suppose all affordable flights are like this, but it still sucks. The flight was an Airus A330-300 (333) - the Economy seats are so small they are so close that it is impossible to really be comfortable. There are business and first class available, but they would have been $7,000 an $18,000 more for the two of us respectively. Basically - you are screwed on this plane.



14JUN15 Sun - Andermatt, Swiss

We rode the following passes: Oberalp, Nufenen, Grimsell twice, Susten, Furka. We road from Andermatt to Disentis/Muster to Biasca, to Airola to Ulrichen to Innertkirchen to Susten Pass and turned back to Ulrichen and back to Andermatt. Great riding. Takes some getting used to, riding like they do here.

The day started out wet, rainy, but still an OK ride. Just after we had almost decided to call it a day and go back, the weather turned good.








We Found the Taliban's Hideout


The View from our Hotel Room



15JUN15 Mon - Andermatt, Swiss

The .50 Franc coin is slightly smaller than the .10 Franc coin, just to add to the confusion.

My credit card was charged over $100 for gas PLUS what I should have been charged. This had me a bit panicky. It turns out that it is normal for them to tack on a pre-authorization for $100 francs, then take it off later. I had to call my Credit card company to find out.

Andermatt is a quiet town, especially now, early in the season, early in the week, with rain in the forecast. There are some good restaurants, but not a lot else. This suited us fine.

There was hard rain in the morning. The sun came out shortly after we left the hotel. It was a pretty good day, although it started raining again by the time we got back.

We rode out to Zermatt to see the Matterhorn. There were too many clouds to see it. We did not realize it but, not only were NO vehicles allowed in town, but we were not even supposed to ride up the road to Zermatt without a permit. Our first indication was all the three wheeled vehicles waiving at us, well, that and NO other vehicles. We got away OK once enough people waived at us and told us to leave before the police caught us. Then we left the no vehicles area, we pulled into a parking garage. There did not seem to be a way to pay. We walked out and asked at a snack stand. That is when we learned that we were not supposed to drive up the rather narrow road unless we had a permit, we were supposed to take the train. The police never bothered us, but I am pretty good at playing the dumb American. OK, it is not really an act.


The view out our hotel was not quite as scenic first thing this morning.


The switchbacks were fantastic


A lot of the construction equipment is designed for narrow roads and hilly terrain. This guy had wheels and legs that worked independently. It could work almost anywhere.



There were cranes working on buildings everywhere. This is a small one. The crazy thing is they had a very narrow footprint, and I could not figure out why they did not just fall over in a heavy wind.


And lots of snowblowers, fortunately idle.



6/16 Tue - Interlaken, Swiss

Hotel Alphorn - Interlaken Switzerland - 1 night - The Hotel was OK, VERY small room but adequate. Clean and a friendly, helpful staff. It took a while to find the window shade as it was outside the window and the arm to open it was hidden, we did not sleep well, partly because of the lack of window shades, and partly the heat as there was no AC and leaving the window open allowed noise and light in. Until I found the shade after midnight. With that we could cut out the light and most of the noise and still have airflow.


The day had some rain, but mostly OK. The ride was over some nice passes and was a lot of fun. The ride is much better now with the GPS not sending us everywhere but where we want to go. We went over Furka to Grimsal pass to get to Interlaken.

We walked around Interlaken some, had a good dinner and back at the hotel by 8:30. This is a typical tourist town, nice enough but not really what we look for. There were busloads of tourists here, mostly Asian, crowding any tourist site. The Swiss and Germans do not like all the Asian tourists that are there right now. Big bus loads converge on the tourist spots pretty much taking over. Supposedly they like to buy watches and jewlery, but not spend on much else. A few of the Swiss talked to us about this. I remember in years past people having the same complaints about the Germans in buses clogging up the tourist spots. And other years other groups. It seems to me that every few years a different group or nationality starts traveling this way, and the tour companies really cater to them and advertise heavily. If you take ANY group of people, stuff a bunch of them in buses, and bring them all to the same spots at the same times, they will be annoying. Maybe next year it will be the Americans. Although we can be pretty annoying without having to be in huge groups.


The Fancy Hotel in town. We did not stay there.


People were taking flights on these Paragliders everywhere. Here they were landing on the town green.



6/17 Wed - Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France

Le Faucigny - Hotel de Charme – A very nice little place - They gave us a family room, which had a loft with extra beds. Irene really liked it. Our first impression of the town was less than perfect. There was a lot of traffic and one way streets leading into town, and we had a tough time finding the Hotel. Our GPS was having a hard time with the streets that were closed to traffic, and all the tourists walking around really made the town seem like a shithole. It was actually not bad at all, but a tourist town, that shut down fairly early. We had originally thought it was going to be a small town. It was not but it was OK. We had a nice meal and went to bed.


We got up early, and took the train to Jungfraujoch. This is billed as the "Top of Europe", a very high cog rail to the top of a mountain. The weather cleared nicely, and was absolutely beautiful. It was also 200 CHF each ($215). But worth it. We were able to get up there before the crowds.

The route we took from Interlaken to here included a dead end route to Lenk and a detour through Gestaad. Some nice roads and scenery.


A town on the train trip up the mountain.


Stunning Views.


Irene was looking for men in Lederhosen, we did not see any of those, but we did see this St. Bernard.


Photos just do not do this place justice.



Us at ONE of the tops of Europe


There were ice tunnels in the Glacier.


SCRAT - the squirrel from Ice age FINALLY got his nut.



A glacier outside of Chamonix






6/18 - Thu Lago Maggiore (Stresa), Italy

Hotel Royal – A nice enough place, not a bad location, pretty good price. This was the place with a lake with islands etc. that you could visit. The hotel room was a decent size, with a small balcony that was in the sun in the afternoon. The A/C either was not working, or it could not keep up. It was pretty warm in there but not bad overnight.


In the morning we took the Tram to the "Real" Top of Europe to see Mont Blanc.

From Chamonix we took the Mont Blanc tunnel (very long and hot). In italy, I had planned on taking non-highway/toll roads, but got on the wrong road due to the GPS not working in the tunnels. We ended up getting the Italian Underground tour, Tunnel after tunnel after tunnel. On the way, we took a detour to Breuil-Cervinia, Italy to see if we could see the Matterhorn from the other side. We were VERY close, and could see the bottom 2/3's well, but not the top as it was in the clouds, clouds that were just there at the mountain. We tried to stay off the toll roads, and ended up going through Biella. The final drive into Stresa was hot and kinda sucky, but some parts of the ride were nice, and some hot and slow.

Stressa is a tourist town, but it looks like it is geared more for Italians. Not many people in town, pretty quiet. A nice walk along the lake.

When we where having dinner, a little girl gave Irene a bunch of flowers that were stolen from the gardens outside.


NOT the place we stayed in Stressa



6/18 Thu - Chamonix-Mont-Blanc tram to the top of the world

This area is known as the "Real" top of Europe, as opposed to the other "Top of Europe" we saw yesterday. We had a perfect day to take the Tram to the top to see Mont Blanc. It was a great day to go up and about the time we were going to leave it started clouding up, which added to the dramatic photos. It was a good price as well.


Hikers at the top of the world.





Mont Blanc





As the Clouds moved in.


The "REAL" top of Europe


On the way down there were a bunch of small kids that were really enjoying the trip, see the video in the photos/videos page


VIDEO - 2015-06-18-alps-Mont-Blonc-DOWN-02.MP4



6/18 Thu - Matterhorn, from the Italian Side.





6/19 Fri – Pontracini

Hotel Schweizerhof Pontresina - A very nice location, much better than St. Moritz, Nice hotel. There was a lot of construction going on in town, there was a crane right outside our room, but it was not a nuisance. The room was very large with a ton of storage, a bath, a shower and two sinks. An expensive town in an expensive country, but the room was a good deal.


To get to Pontracina we road along the lake, then took mostly 13, staying off main highways. Hot but a nice ride for the most part. We had driven through St. Moritz, and thought it sucked. A real tourist trap. It might be one of those places that grows on you, but it was not something that captured us on a drive through.

Not a lot of choices for dinner, and all VERY expensive. Had a good dinner at a different Hotel.


These are the kinds of places I make Irene stay in. Construction Crane view and all



OK, even with the crane the view was great.


Really great View.



6/20 Sat - Arabba, Italy

Hotel Evaldo - A VERY nice place with excellent food for a good price. We got a room with a nice bed, small deck overlooking the town with a view of the mountains. The room also had a second room/area with a couch and table. Lots of storage, a nice table, nice chairs for sitting, a very good place. The restaurant offered an excellent breakfast and coffee, and you could get eggs fried or other made to order food if you want. Dinner was exceptional, and lots of food and desserts. Not too bad of a price either, considering ~$32 each. It turns out that the place we stayed is one where Beaches Motorcycle Tours stays, there was going to be an American tour group later in the week. Beaches only stays in the best places, so I think we did well.


To get here we rode through Tirano to the Stelvio pass, then over to Arabba. We had some rain and snow over Stelvio pass. It was a nice road, but not really any better than a bunch of others in the area, it is well know though, kinda like the Tail of the Dragon in the US: A lot of Hype and traffic, but still worth a visit. You can get photos of yourself on the road too from fotostelvio.com

Lots of vintage race cars on the Stelvio Pass, along with LOTS of bikes and bicycles, and just about everything else.

After Stelvio pass we saw a house with all kinds of weird decorations, and bones etc. We stopped to take a photo, and a guy comes out requesting $1 each if we want photos, but we could then walk around. We went for it and found it a worthwhile stop. Good pics and the guy was crazy, worth talking to for entertainment purposes.

Arabba does not have a lot going on, a few stores, a bunch of ski hotels, but very nice in an Ideal location. Lots of passes and great roads.



Stelvio Pass, Italy - Yes, it IS snowing.







Stelvio Pass. A pretty typical road, although there were many even better.





Crazy Man's Place


I checked for Human bones before we stopped.






6/21 Sun - Arabba, Italy

Some of the passes were closed part of the day due to Bicycle races/rides so our options were limited. We went out to Cortina, then most of the way back and took a road to Canazei. There we waited for the bike race to be over. When it was over, we and a billion other vehicles went over the wet pass back to Arabba. Nice ride, but the wet afternoon and all the vehicles put a damper on the fun.


Most of the passes had a place for coffee and looked like this. Lots of bikes. The roads were not generally crowded though.





The view off our deck at the Hotel.



6/22 Mon - Arabba, Italy

I went out riding alone for a little while today. I rode out to Canazei, then up and around. It was good to ride an empty bike with dry roads, but more fun with a passenger. I had stopped for coffee in Canazei. I somehow lost my wallet. I searched all over, every pocket, every nook and crany of the bike. I eventually found it, it was in a pocket stuffed behind my camera. Sometimes I think I have too many pockets.



6/23 Tue - Ruette, Austria

Hotel Maximilian - Very nice hotel and staff/owners. The food was excellent as well. The room was big enough, but the toilet was a bit cramped mainly due to a poorly placed heated towel rack. This has been owned and operated by the same family for many years. We met a number of the family, as they had gathered at the hotel to see each other.


We had a pretty good ride to Ruette. There was some slow going because of heavy equipment including one very smelly truck. Got to Ruette early We did go through Innsbruck - what a shit hole. OK, we call anything that could be called a city a shit hole.

We went up to the local Castle and suspension bridge. It is the longest suspension bridge in the world, and very high. Irene wanted to walk it. She made it almost all the way, but was getting pretty nervous at the end as the wind picked up, so I convinced her to turn back, as getting to the end and chickening out would be bad since there was no other way down other than coming back across the bridge. Afterward we watched a lot of people go across to just about the same point and turn around.

The castle was nothing special, just some ruins, but the view was nice. There was a museum there as well with some armor you could try on. hr>




The BRIDGE








Irene was glad to be back to more or less firm ground.


This was kinda what Irene was like on the bridge.



6/24 Wed - Ruette, Austria

We got up early and went to the Neuschwanstein Castle, which is a Crazy King Ludwig castle. There are actually two here, one of which is what Disney based his magic kingdom castle on, the other was an older one.

From here we went to Linderhof Palace, which is another Ludwig historic site. Much better tour and the grounds were amazing but we missed the "Grotto", an underground man made lake. The roads to here were wonderful.


There were a LOT of tourists here.


The older Castle



The Newer Castle - Neuschwanstein




Linderhof Palace






6/25 Thu – Malbun, Liechtenstein

Familien & Sporthotel TURNA Malbun -Not a very good hotel. Not much in town, the food was good but the hotel had lots of echo's and not very quiet. Weird decor. There were bunk beds in one area of the room, a partition that did not really partition, a huge bathroom with nothing much in it that still was somehow cramped.


We took a slightly round about way to get here. Some nice roads etc.

Liechtenstein is the sixth smallest country in the world, with a population of about 37,000 and about 15 miles long, and about a third that wide, it is pretty small. There is really nothing much here in Malbun for a short stay tourist. There are a few hotels, only a couple of restaurants that are not part of those hotels, and a ski lift that you can take to see the town and the surrounding countryside. Still, a pretty relaxing stay.


A water turbine wheel, also called a Pelton Wheel. A friend has one of these helping to power his house. Of course, his is only about a foot in diameter.


Liechtenstein - Yes, there really is such a place.


Vaduz Castle - The Home of the Prince Of Liechtenstein - Overlooks Vaduz, teh capital.


The view from the top of the mountain in Malbun.


There are LOTS of mountain flowers in the Alps.


The only Edelweiss we saw were in flower pots. These were at least at the top of a mountain.


On the way to Liechtenstein we went through a town that had a large car show going on. Cars were parked everywhere and driving around. Some very old and rare cars too. There are a LOT of pics of these cars in my photos page. Over 100.

Auburn was a car made in Indiana and quite rare. This is the only one I have seen on the road, and it had a set of vintage Indiana plates too


This may be the most rare car there. An Indra, an Italian car with a Chevy V8 engine. There were only around 150 of these made.



6/26 Fri – Zurich, Switzerland

Sheraton Zurich Hotel – A crappy business hotel in a crappy location, although it was near the tram and railroads, so would be convenient if you wanted to get somewhere, but nothing within walking distance. It was "business fancy" but still not worth it. The problem is Zurich is such an expensive city, we needed something with easy train and highway access. Zurich is just another crappy city. Had dinner at hotel, crappiest meal yet. Did I mention we don't like cities. Really, any cities.

We rode to Zurich, where I dropped Irene off at the hotel then took the bike back to the dealer. This was our last day, so we made sure we took some nice roads. The whole trip I had wanted to get one good video of the ride on some of the twisty roads. Every time I thought of it, we either ended up on boring roads, or it started to rain. Finally, today, I was determined. We did get a good video, although it is far from the twistiest of roads, it was still pretty good at showing what it was like to ride there, and what the scenery looked like from the bike. VIDEO OF THE ROADS -

This is a video of a pretty normal road. Most roads were crazier and had much faster traffic, but I kept forgetting to have Irene take video, or, when I remembered it was raining.

So many great views.



We finally got to see the Matterhorn. Unfortunately it was on a poster in the airport.



6/27 Sat – HOME

We got up late, found a cafe for breakfast, eventually made it to the airport. We could have eaten at the hotel buffet for $32 EACH !!!!!

We took the train to the main terminal so that Irene could shop for trinkets, then to the airport early. It was a good thing too, as it took more time that I expected to get to the terminal. Irene did some shopping there too. I was so adamant during the trip that she not burden the bike (or me) with lots of souvenirs that she had a lot of shopping pressure built up.

The flight back sucked. The seats are so small, it really sucked. Hot, just plain miserable. Or is that plane miserable. The beers were free though, which I did not know until the end but that was a good thing.

We got back home about 10pm, and straight to bed.

SUMMARY

Would I do this again? Absolutely. I would not change much. Maybe give ourselves one night of rest before picking up the bike. That had been the plan but that fell through. Maybe finding a nice location for our last night after dropping off the bike. I would look at other places for picking up the bike, maybe Milan, Italy, or Germany. I would still probably end up in Zurich, as that seems to be the best flights for us. Although I think this trip went extremely well, and we got to see everything we wanted to see and then some (other than the top of the Matterhorn), I think a better way to do this would be to pick two, three or four places and stay at those for multiple days, doing day trips to various passes and tourist destinations. We had done this at Andermatt and Arabbas and it worked out well. It would have been hard to see all the places we had wanted to, but I think it would have been a more relaxed trip. Still, it was pretty relaxed the way we did it, there was just more checking in and out of hotels that I think would be best. I can't really say which areas I liked the best. All parts of the Alps that we saw were great. I did not care for the few cities we went through, but we did not spend much time in those. There were a few routes that were not as nice, such as the Italian Underground Tour after Chamonix, but that could have been avoided easily enough if I had gotten off the highway right after the Mont Blanc Tunnel, although that might have gotten us to Stressa a little too late if we had stayed completely off the highway.

The miles we did daily were easy, and allowed late starts and early ends for the most part. More daily miles or more tourist stops would have been easily added, but this was an excellent pace for us.

Next up for a motorcycle ride might be the Pyrenees, or maybe more into the Austrian Alps. I would kinda like to do an organized tour, but the amount of additional money is a bit of a deterrent.