Or Fat Man on a Motorcycle – a personal view by Geoff Clough!
I started out for Austria with more quarter girth than ever before. I succeeded in adding a further 10 pounds in weight during the trip thus reaching my pre diet maximum after hospitalisation in 2012. (memo to self: you need to start the diet again! Heh Ho!)
The heavens were not smiling on my departure. A grey, grizzly morning with persistent drizzle awaited me as I mounted my RC1200RT. I set off to meet newish members Dave and Carole but less than 5 miles from home the road was flooded. I watched in horror as an oncoming car went through in the centre of the road setting up an impressive bow wave. I went through also in the centre, raising both feet in the air but even at a very slow speed, the bow wave managed to enter my trousers and boots!
Dave, Carole and I met at a Murco filling station on the A34. The Murco site was fenced off, but there was still enough room to pull off the dual carriageway, exchange greetings and then set off again. The run down to Clacket Lane was not too busy, apart from one queue caused by a dustbin lorry. Traffic on the M25 for once was moving well so we met the others with time for a break. Twelve of us met up at either Clacket Lane services on the M25 or at the Tunnel on Thursday 13 June. After a hectic queue in the car park (as there were many sports cars heading for Le Mans) we arrived at our first stopover in Reims. I was leading the cavalry charge by this time and misread my satnav (I should have read my copy of the Top Tips guide more carefully!) and lead the group around in a loop of eastern Reims before finally finding the hotel.
The following day we departed in smaller groups aiming for Baden Baden and the exquisite B500 before arriving at the highly recommended Hotel Waldblick in the Black Forest for our second overnight stop. After a suitable number of beverages, an excellent meal, and a good night’s sleep, we were fully refreshed and raring to get to Austria.
On the Saturday we left the Black Forest and instead of leading, I elected to be tail end. On the outskirts on Friedrichshafen however, I became detached from the group. I carried on into Friedrichshafen looking hopefully for my missing colleagues when I spied the Three Amigos riding along in the opposite direction! A quick 180 and I was in pursuit. No sign either of the Three Amigos or the way out of Friedrichshafen! After a false turn or two, I stopped and requested help. Armed with local knowledge I finally made it to the motorway service station at the Austrian Border to buy my vignette and be reunited with my colleagues.
Safely reunited with the group we set off through the tunnel beneath Bregenz and over the L200 aiming for the Flexen and Arlberg passes. Once again, the group was safely led by Dave Shanks with me as tail end. The group split into two and became a bit spread out. In Warth, the main road went left. After a few miles with no sight of bikes in front of us, the last three bikes were travelling NE or N. I overtook the two bikes in front and called a halt. After viewing the map, I realised that we had missed the Flexen pass and the best route now was back a couple of miles then over the Hahntenn-Joch pass to Imst. A wonderful road, but not a good introduction to hairpins for pillions. It had started to rain a bit on our descent but we missed the worst of it. We did arrive safely, ahead of Dave and his two travelling companions.
The party became 22 when those independent members joined us at the Hotel Weisseespitz (aka Charlie’s) near Landeck in Austria. We enjoyed the delights of Charlies accommodation and refreshment and as far as possible ensured that we arrived back each day in time for afternoon tea which was included in the half board tariff. Good food, excellent company and a BMW Motorrad test fleet in the underground bike park. What more could you want?
Our first day, Sunday, was taken at a leisurely pace. We walked up to the next village for a coffee. We were a bit surprised to see a soldier blocking the road. A couple of loud bangs echoed round the valley and we wondered if there had been an avalanche or some other major catastrophe. When we approached the centre of the village, we were met with a procession all dressed in Alpine uniforms. Half the men were armed with rifles the rest held musical instruments. They halted outside the church. We had just sat down to drink our coffee (or Coca Cola) when the rifles were discharged in a sharp volley. A good test of the ticker for some or us and cause of a spillage of coke. Eventually the band formed up opposite the café and the riflemen lined up along the road. We decided to beat a hasty retreat before any more hearing damage was inflicted. [We discovered that the maroon like noise was from a canon which was wheeled up alongside the riflemen.] A similar experience occurred on the day we rode over the Silvretta.
The week passed all too quickly with a delightful mixture of riding passes, coffee and strudel, beers, more beers and late afternoon thunderstorms. The weather started to change on Friday and was a bit damp on our way home on Saturday, but was otherwise fine, dry and hot. The roads in Austria are tailor made for biking. Mostly they are well metalled with a high grip surface. Always a joy to ride.
We carried on usually splitting into smaller groups and enjoyed the following passes:
- Timmelsjoch with a superb motorcycle museum and café
- The Hahntenn-Joch (in reverse this time)
- Fernpass with a café/viewpoint over the dramatic scenery
- Arlberg with summit café
- Silvretta Hochalpenstrasse – a marvellous lake and cafe at the summit, but lots of roadworks on the way down
- Kaunertaler Gletscher-panoramastrasse (the bottom [or top!] of our valley leading up to the glacier and cable car to the summit on the Austrian/Italian border.
- Stelvio – well some of us did this (not me as I had enough of it last time!)
A great time was had by all as far as I could see.
The journey home was a reverse of the way out for me, stopping again at Hotel Waldblick in the Black Forest, and at Reims before the boring stint via the Chunnel, M20, M25 etc.
I was surprised to note on my return up the A34 that the former Murco station was now Shell. What a transformation!