Trip Notes - Switzerland - June 2002
We went to Switzerland for the month of June. We rented a Ducati ST-4s like the one we have at home (except for the Bat Barf Gray color). I brought all the gear used on our bike here which includes pannier bag liners, Motobags for under the seat (with all our tools in it), and a Sargent tank bag system. The bike was delivered from Milano right to where we stay near Lugano, so no hassle about traipsing through Milano trying to find an obscure location. Eligio Arturi, the owner of Mototouring, delivered the bike himself on time as agreed to (www.mototouring.com). The bike had been dropped by the previous renter and the panels were pretty scarred up. Urs and I made several visits to the local hardware store and came up with various auto paint patch colors which were mixed together to approximate the original bike color and we patched it up. The bike was delivered with a fresh servicing by Ducati Milano including valve adjustments and brand new Dunlap 207 tires.
Weather moved in and it poured rain. It was fortunate we had rented a car for back up to the motorcycle. Several days were spent in and around Lugano shopping and packing for our upcoming motorcycle tour. This was a ‘rain check’ trip since our previous planned excursion was a victim of the Sept 11th terrorist attacks.
We did a tour with Moto-Charlie (www.moto-charlie.com). Charlie Newdorf resides in Auburn, New Hampshire and organizes a couple of trips per year in Europe. In September of 2000 we had also toured with him. We met Charlie up in Damuls, Austria and rode with him plus a couple from Florida, Bob and Margie Barnesky . When we arrived in Switzerland it was raining cats and dogs which was combined with nasty, cold weather. The trip up to Damuls was accompanied with moderate rainy periods. We went via St. Bernard Pass where we got off the Autostrada and went over the top on the old route. We rode up past Chur to Feldkirch and then up the hill to Damuls. The first day of the tour took us over Furka Joch to Ranweil and then to Feldkirch. We paralleled the Autobahn south to Sargens, then north west along the high road by Lake Walensee (where we had lunch). We continued north west to Siebnen where we went south over the Sattelegg and Ibergeregg and on into Schwyz. Then on to Klontaler See in Glarus, Switzerland via Pragel Pass.
It rained impossibly hard the first day but I stayed dry with the Aerostich Darien protective outfit I wear. In addition to this I wore Gortex outer mitts and hiking gaiters that helped keep water out of my boots. The bike came with a taller windshield than standard, which gave excellent protection from the elements. On the way up Pragel Pass the Florida couple dropped their bike on a slow uphill corner and broke a foot peg off. This necessitated us finding a BMW shop the next day for replacement. With the help of Arianne, the owner of the Hotel Rhodannenberg we stayed at on Klontaler See, we tracked one down in Schmerikon. There the weather made an amazing transformation to sticky hot with blue skies. Ursula, who never passes up an opportunity to shop, found a perforated BMW protective jacket to replace the extra heavy Harley leather jacket she was using. After trying to figure out how to haul the extra clothing I suggested we mail the heavy stuff back to Ciona, where her place is. This cost us all of about $8.00 from Andermatt including the shipping box. As we went over Klausen Pass we stopped for the view and we noticed the bike next to us with a very low tire. It was a large Pan American Honda (the same as a ST 1100 here) being ridden by a guy about my age. I whipped out my tire repair supplies and gave him a shot of CO2 which got him to wards Altdorf, the next big town. We ran into him later and said he had to replace the tire which only had gone about 400 kilometers prior to the puncture.
We stayed two nights in Andermatt at the Hotel Koenige & Post. While there we rode over Sustenpass, Grimselpass, Furkapass in the morning, then Charlie and I did Furkapass, Nuefenenpass, and St. Gottardo in the afternoon. The next day we headed out of Andermatt up Oberalp Pass, which has great sweeping turns, to Reichenau, then south over the Abulapass, which is a bumpy route, to Zuoz to the Hotel Engiadina which is just north of San Moritz. The next day we went through St. Moritz down to Chiavenna and north over the Splugen Pass up to Thusis where we headed east to Tiefencastel and south over the Julier Pass after which we came back to the hotel. After lunch Charlie and I did Abulapass, and Fluelapass after getting lost passing through Davos and Klosters instead of turning after Dorf like we should have. While lost we went past some large fallen rocks on the roadway. After we turned around and headed back I observed a car with only three wheels on it. I also noticed we were skating across a large slick of oil. Yes, it had hit the rocks going the other way. We were real lucky the oil spill did not take us down.
The next day Charlie had to replace his rear tire which had worn too thin to proceed safely. He located one in St. Moritz and had it installed. Urs and I went on ahead with the plan that the rest of the group would meet us at the top of Stelvio Pass. We did Stelvio in 7 ˝ minutes on the front side. We were really smoking and probably scared the hell out of the cruiser types. We waited at the top for a couple of hours while enjoying the massive group of fellow motorcyclists and the great wurst grilled on an outside stand. We gave up and continued down the other side to Merano and north to our fancy five star Hotel Castel in North Tirol. We stayed here two nights.
We went into the Dolomites by traveling north from the Hotel Castel over the Jaufenpass to Vipiteno and then south east to Bressanone before heading east over the Wurtz Joch which we followed east out to the main road at S. Martino. From there we went south to Covara, south over the Passo di Campolongo to Arraba. We headed west over Passo Pordoi and north over Passo di Sella. From there we took the valley road west through Ortisei to Pont Gardena and then on to a tricking foothill route Charlie invented back to the Hotel Castel. We were caught in a drenching downpour just when we thought we were to escape the weather.
The next morning we said our goodbyes as the rest of the group were heading back to Germany and we were going south to Maranello. We had decided to stay a couple of days at Lake Garda first. We headed south towards Bolzano on the Autostrada and I noticed an alarming change in the character of the bike at about 180 kilometers per hour. Something was not right, but I couldn’t put a finger on it. As it turned out one of our stretchy protective pannier covers had come off of the right pannier bag and wrapped around the wheel and jammed into the rear brake rotor and brake caliper. What a mess, plus the rear brake went on holiday for a couple of days until we picked all the goop out via various pliers and any other tools we could work around that area. We went to Garda via Passo Laveze and Passo Manghen to Riva then down the west side of Lake Garda to Tremosine where we climbed up the hill to the Hotel LeBalze. We got lost. A kid on a scooter said to follow him. We got to the entrance road and Urs wanted to tip this nice lad. This was a mistake, as she leaned over to do this. So, on the last turn of the day on a downhill slant, I couldn’t get my foot on the ground. Over we went, slowly. This is very embarrassing to do, but most of the damage was to my ego, and the rest was on the already damaged side of the motorcycle. It was hot here (as in about 100 degrees).
The next day we went south to Gargnano and then up into the hills to Lago di Valvestino. We took a little side trip up to Magasa and found a great patch of wild strawberries. From there we headed to Lago d’Idro and went around the west side of the lake and turned up the hill on a goat path at Anfo. Hours later after many hair raising switchbacks we found an oasis for lunch. After the best salad ever ate we asked the owner’s advice as to how to proceed. They assured us all was OK for our two wheeled transportation. As it turned out they were wrong. The first clue we were in trouble was when we reached a tunnel in front of which were a contingent of BMW bikers. The reason for their consternation was a large berm of rocks that had slid off in front of the entrance. I walked through the mess into the tunnel and concluded all was alright to proceed. This we did, but after doing the berm jump and coming out the far side of the tunnel it became readily apparent there was no further pavement. Here we were on a cliff with at least a 3,000 foot freefall on the outside of the pathway and we were on a go-fast street bike. It was touchy feely for the next several miles with my passenger asking every inch of the way whether she should get off the bike. This tends to make the captain nervous. After we got through to real pavement again the first thing I saw was a fellow Ducatist coming up from the route we were planning to take shaking his head in a ‘No’ fashion. Stubborn as we were, we ignored him. Bad move for us. We got to the end of the pass and found the road closed. We had to go almost all the way to Bergamo and then work our way back east to Lake Garda. It was rush hour and the trucks were huge. Then it was all the way north up the western shore of Lake Garda to our hotel which was exhausting.
The next morning we asked which way we could get to Maranello the easiest and were told to go north to Riva and catch the Autostrada. This, it became obvious, was easier said then done. We wandered around half the countryside before finding an on ramp. Once on the Autostrada things went either quickly, or at a dead stop, depending upon which construction project was going on where. I followed my instincts and ignored Urs’s suggestions which brought us to the hotel in Sassoulo fairly directly after winding around Modena. We showered up and were off to the Ferrari factory for our prearranged tour. They always give thumbs up when you arrive on a Ducati. The downside was it was hot (106 degrees). We wore helmets, but for the first time left our safety gear behind. The tour was interesting and we met all sorts of people who shared their stories about their cars. After the tour we went across the street to get a beverage at the Ristorante Cavallino, which has a famous history from its location. When we went back to pick up the Ducati from the factory courtyard there was a work shift change going on, so we intermingled with the troops trying to exit. Our route back to the hotel in Sassuolo did not go smoothly. We ended up on a one way street in a bus only lane. Thinking this was not the best, I turned down a side street seeking escape. High on the building next to this turn was a one way sign I did not see (the wrong way). I drive right into a car coming the other way. Before contact was made I dumped the bike off to the side. This probably wouldn’t have been a big deal except we didn’t have any safety gear on except for our helmets. Ouch! The people were very nice, but we crawled back to the hotel very shaken. We were to meet two great young lads for dinner in Parma that we first met in Corsica last year. I had to give them a call and tell them we couldn’t make our original meeting plans. They were so great that they came and picked us up and we went off to dinner in their car much closer to our home for the night. The next day after we saw how far we would have been required to go to get to Parma and back we were very glad we didn’t attempt it the night before.
We motored on home to Ciona with a few stops to replenish liquids, as it was so hot. Upon our return to Switzerland we ventured forth for a trip to Varese where I picked up a new Shoei Z-One helmet. My previous helmet definitely showed the effects of my nose dive onto the pavement in Maranello. We also made a shopping run to Bellagio so Urs could find some things for her mother. We made a return trip to Varese where I was able to get the duty I had paid on the new helmet returned to me after having the receipt stamped by the Italian border guards. This knocked about $100 off of the price.
We made a second run up to Andermatt and stayed at the Hotel zur Sonne, our favorite spot up there. When we came into town we had lunch and dropped the pannier bags off at the hotel and ventured forth for a loop trip across Susten Pass, Grimsel Pass, and Furka Pass, then back to the hotel. We ran into thick clouds near the summits which took all the fun out of it for me. We came back and had a great dinner at the hotel of beef fondue and rested our weary bones and listened to the rain pour down. The next morning it was spectacularly clear. We decided to repeat the Susten – Grimsel portion of our trip so we could take pictures, then continue on to Brig and on up over Simplon Pass towards Domodosola. We then traversed across the pretty Centovalle to Locarno on the shores of Lake Maggiore and on back home through Lugano to Ciona.
The motorcycle performed flawlessly, even though the operators were not as perfect. We were sad to see it picked up, but it was time to return home. We came back by driving to Milano and flying to Rome. A limousine picked us up and took us into the center of town where we stayed at a hotel called Inn at the Spanish Steps. There was a huge musical production being put on, and filmed, on the steps, so we got free entertainment. We went out to a fine restaurant, Valentino’s, for dinner on a rooftop. We met two different couples that we had a good time chatting with as they spoke English. The trip back to the airport plus the two separate legs of the trip home were very long and compounded by having to get out tickets changed at every airport. We were the most surprised of all when our bazillion pounds of luggage showed up. It was a great trip overall with most enjoyable people and a million turns.