Chris' 1994  R100GS/PD ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650

Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride


June 24th , 1999

French Hospitality and Italian Paradoxes

It was windy as all hell as we came out of the Pyrenees and drove along the southern coast of France.   It had been a long day of riding up and over mountains, on twisty roads, and I was hoping that the coast of France would be a peaceful, calm and beautiful place to stop for the night.  Well, it was beautiful with many vineyards, but, the coast from the border of Spain to about where St. Tropez starts was not as attractive as I had hoped.  It looked very marshy and I saw no sand beaches.  And that wind!!  Suffice it to say that we did not sleep well in our tent that first night in France.

The next day we got up with the sun and immediately broke camp to head for the hills above St. Tropez to visit our new friends, Christian and Joelle and their two daughters.  We first met Christian on the internet Chrisian and Margoafter he sent us an email message about our journey.  We found a nice little campground nestled in the woods and surrounded by vineyards.  I was so thankful to be out of the wind near the coast that I almost did not notice the blanket of black ants that had descended on our tent that night.  Ants have been the only problem camping so far on this trip, but they drive me absolutely bonkers.  Anyway, we managed to solve this little problem by moving our tent to a new location.  The proprietor of the campground was also kind enough to buy some bug killing solution and put a ring of it on the grass around our tent.  Ah, finally some peace and rest.

The next day we met our friend Christian and his oldest daughter, Margot (9 years old).  Christian was riding his BMW  R100S that he was in the process of restoring.  He took us on a fabulous ride into the It almost looks unrealmountains and to the Grand Canyon du Verdon, which we had heard so much about from other riders.   It is true that it resembles the Grand Canyon in the States and we had a great time riding the twisties and seeing the small towns that dot the mountainside.  We were also entertained for some time by the bungee jumping off an extremely tall bridge.   As much as I keep saying that I want to bungee jump, I'm not sure I have the nerve to actually do it after watching them.  Yikes!

 

10 liter jugs, filled for $2 per literThe next morning, Christian's neighbor, Ursula (a transplanted German) took us to see her favorite vineyard and to refill her containers of wine.  After watching in awe as her big wine containers were filled directly from big oak barrels and wandering around the showroom, the kind worker gave us a bottle of red wine with his compliments.  I really like this region of France!!!  Chris and I then decided to kill some time during the middle of the day by going to St. Maxim (just down the road from St. Tropez and almost as glitzy) and walk along the beach.  It was truly beautiful and is just what you would expect to see on the French Riviera.

Look Ma, I'm in the French Riviera!

Later that afternoon, we met up with Christian and he took us to a special vineyard of one of his clients, a very wealthy guy who likes horses and making wine.  We never met the owner, but we did meet the head wine-maker and his girlfriend who both gave us a special lesson in making and tasting wines.  We sampled the red, rosť and white wines, saw the machines that press the grapes and bottle the wine, and toured the cellar which was truly spectacular.

In the evening, Christian's wife Joelle made us a wonderful meal, complete with wine from the vineyard where she works and a selection of cheeses for dessert.  Yummmmmm!  I didn't want to leave, but we needed to get back on the road the next day to head towards Germany.  We had to get to Germany for our weekend training at BMW's Enduro Park.

On June 22 we left Christian's home and headed east along the coast towards Italy.  We wanted to get to Lake Como to spend the night.  We had been to Lake Como twice before and have wonderful memories of it.  Along the way we passed through Monaco which is a very beautiful and extravagant looking little principality.  We didn't stop to gamble but enjoyed the view of Monte Carlo from a rest area off the motorway high up on the hillside.

Not bad, eh?

The drive into Italy was breathtaking as the mountains seem to fall down right into the sea and little quaint towns line the mountain sides.  We must have passed through 20 or so very long tunnels and before we knew it we were in the countryside of Italy.  As luck went against us that night, Chris' back tire finally gave out because of a 2 inch tear and we could not repair it.  So as we inspected the tire on the side of the Autostrada just outside of Milan, an SOS vehicle pulled up and offered Hanging out after these SOS guys called a local towing serviceto help us.  We thought "Wow, this is pretty cool!"  They called the towing company for us and stayed with us until it came.  We were told by the guys in the tow truck that it was too late to get a new tire and we would have to leave the bike in their garage until the morning.  Thank goodness we have 2 bikes!  We took what we needed off Chris' bike and mounted mine to hunt out a cheap hotel to stay for the night.

Well, bad luck followed us and we could not find a hotel for under $90!  The next morning, Chris went on my bike to go to get another tire for his bike and also get a new back tire for my bike since my tread was low anyway.  After this task was accomplished with relative ease in both effort and money, he returned to the towing garage to put his new back tire on.  When he finished and got the bill from the women in the office of the garage, he nearly hit the roof!  They charged us   $165 to take the bike 4 miles in the back of a van.  Chris argued the cost with them for about an hour before finally giving in because we needed to get back on the road.  Here's a lesson to anyone having car trouble on the Autostrada in Italy:   Don't let the SOS vehicle call a towing company for you!  Ask them to take you to the nearest phone to make arrangements yourself.

We headed out of town quickly and wanted to make up as much distance as possible.  We passed through a beautiful town called Lecco on the south-east side of Lake Como and took some great photos.  Because of the morning's delay, we spent the night in a little pensione in a town called Bormio.  Bormio is the last big town before you drive up and over the Dolomites and the famous Passo del Stelvio.

Lecco

Thursday morning we got on the road early as we wanted to beat the (car) traffic over the mountain pass.  Chris and I had driven over Passo del Stelvio 2 years ago, riding 2-up on a motorcycle we had rented in Heidelberg, Germany.   Now we wanted to do it on our own bikes!  The road to the pass has 39 switchbacks on one side and 47 on the other.  We took some great photos on the ride up, at the top (where people were still skiing!) and on the way down.  It is truly a motorcyclists dream road.  It is thrilling but also pretty dangerous.   Thankfully we did it without any mishaps!

After riding through the Dolomites we passed into Austria, very briefly, and then into Germany.  This region where the Alps meet the Dolomites with it's quaint Italian and Bavarian towns will always be one of my absolute favorites!

- Erin     


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