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+ Week The European Chronicles


Why not?
Feb 8, 2022
Member Number
Tucson, AZ
Nach Deutschland!

Having retired at the start of 2019, it was time to take the plunge and ship a just acquired F800GT to Germany, thereby setting the stage for annual extended European wandering! She needed to be at the shipper in Gardena, CA on Friday, 15 February.


Easy peasy, right? Ride to Riverside on Thursday, a quick 460 miles, brave the LA traffic Friday morning for a not so quick 60 additional miles, sign the papers, a Lyft to LAX and a flight home. That was the plan.

What promised to be biblical rainfall, with an accompanying flash flood watch for Thursday suggested an alternate strategy, especially because one of my goals was to ship my riding gear along with the bike. Stuffing a wet Aerostich and helmet into a dry bag to be opened six months later seemed like a less than compelling idea. If it wasn't dry, my plan was to take the gear home with me, then schlep it to Germany in August. I could certainly live with that, but shipping would be better. All of my wife's gear could ship, staying dry in the panniers and her Aerostich in its own dry bag.

As of Tuesday evening, there looked to be a window, maybe. Wednesday was forecasted cloudy but mostly dry, with rain starting in the evening. Thursday was to be the epic rain, with Friday again cloudy. An extra night at the Thunderbird Lodge in Riverside was sounding better and better with each passing minute. At least that gave me a chance.

Here's what Wednesday and Thursday looked like in Riverside as of Tuesday evening:
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Friday was back to cloudy:
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Also cloudy Friday to Gardena:
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That's it then; Wednesday is Departure Day! It's not like the bike isn't mostly packed already...anyone who knows me knows it has been sitting in the garage like that for a week. A quick call to the Thunderbird to extend the reservation and the countdown begins.

Packed and ready for the 460 mile blast to Riverside.


It would be cloudy and cool most of the way. The last 40 miles or so the temps dropped into the mid-40s and it had clearly just rained. The road was dry, however, and I made it to the Thunderbird Lodge just in time!

Hunkered down under the eves awaiting the rain and, boy, would it rain.

Time for a quick stroll to the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner. Met this little guy along the way:


Downtown Riverside is going through some redevelopment; rehabbed houses, new lofts. Love the colors.

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They were calling it "an atmospheric river." That seems right; and it started dropping out of the sky in sheets. This was some of the hardest sustained rain I've ever seen, basically it rained hard all day long on Thursday. All Day. Radar tells the story.



Finally, finally, finally, it started to taper off, then ended early evening. Time to poke my head out of the room and explore Riverside a bit. There's an interesting historic part of town but a fair amount of flooding on the way.



Not a bad IPA


Friday was go time, rolled out of the hotel around 9 am, some, but not terrible, traffic, dry roads, low 50s. Aside from a GPS frolic and detour, an uneventful run to the shipper in Gardena. All my riding gear was dry, so I was able to pack that away and ship it with the bike. Disconnected the battery, signed the paperwork and strapped everything down.

Their warehouse is a sight to behold. Cars and bikes all staged for shipment, many drool worthy.




Very professional operation, it all went very smoothly. A quick Lyft to LAX, and I'm back home for dinner.

Next stop...Deutschland!

The ship: MSC CLEA, bound for Bremerhaven


Entering the Panama Canal...looks like there's a bit of traffic!

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17 April.. learned that the container with my bike was off loaded while the ship was docked at Italy's shift pad, and is now en route to Bremerhaven! The MSC CLEA is on its way back across the Atlantic.
August 2019...

I don't know how people do it, sleep on planes. Or any public transport, for that matter. I think I was traumatized many years ago when a guy across from me on an LIRR train fell asleep on his commute to work, drooled on his tie, woke up, shook his head, wiped it off and went on with his day. Something said, "I'm never doing that." Perhaps therapy would help.

Regardless, an uneventful trip, with decent legroom in United's "economy plus." Plus they give you wine. Not good wine, but wine. You suffer through.

Stefan, the motorcycle "B&B" proprietor, met me at the airport, along with another rider from Kuwait (more on that later). A reasonably quick drive to his compound through trees and farmland, and I'm reunited with (insert name to be given later, help me out here) my F800GT, all spiffed up and the battery connected. She starts right up...one challenge down...yippie!


I dump my bags and, of course, tend to the horse first; a quick oil change is in order, she's been sitting for 6 months. Roll her into Stefan's shop, 30 minutes later done, put her on the charger to top up the battery.


Let's do a quick tour of Stefan's...there are bikes everywhere. The facility is solar powered (a 30 Kwh system), rain water is harvested, and there are rooms adjacent to the indoor storage and also on a second floor. Quite the operation, not lux by any means, but everything you need is right there at your fingertips.




Did you notice the plethora of Gold Wings? Every one of them is from Kuwait...go figure.


An impressively eclectic group of license plates, and my personal favorite: TASMANIA


The kitchen, breakfast is served at 7.


The help...some are more industrious than others...


The gear explosion...happy to say, everything came thru intact, no issues whatsoever. We now have 2 sets of complete riding gear here, and can travel carry on only. That's true luxury!


Some gratuitous Italian content because, Forza Italia!


Ok, she's all shined up and ready to go. I, however, need some sleep to stave off the drooling...

My first two days are spent with an easy ride along the picturesque Neckar River to check out the bike and sign up for ADAC (I really, really want to call it AC/DC) roadside assistance. Breakdown anywhere and they get the bike, and you, back (to Stefan's my German "home"). For only 85 euro/year. And you get MAPS, specific Moto-touring maps with all the good stuff highlighted. Free.


The highlight were the two Technik Museums, one in Sinsheim the other in Speyer. Quite amazing.

They have a Concorde and the Russian SST on display.



ncredibly small and narrow inside but, then again, you're not on board all that long.




Elf's fast six-wheeler



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A German suicide U Boat


My wife's ride is here...


The Russian space shuttle


I've always thought this is one of the prettiest cars BMW ever made, the 3.0 CSi



The Munch...totally fugly, but you'll have the only one on your block.



A stop at the Hockenheimring on the way back.


And some great Italian food at the Goldene Rose, where the wait staff speaks mostly Italian! A wonderful Montepulciano


Enough of this sightseeing! Tomorrow begins the ride...Schwarzwald and into France!

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Der Schwarzwald and Lost in France

Der Schwarzwald

Time to ride! With every Rok Strap known to man holding down my wife's riding gear, Mia (that's her name is packed and ready to go.


The route was built from the ADAC moto map suggestions, as well as what looked "interesting" on MyDrive. A mix of sweepers and goat paths thru the forest, plus a brief stint on the Autobahn to start off, including some "unlimited" sections, because, Germany.

That turned out to be pretty interesting, actually. Although I'm not a big fan of highway miles on a bike, the Autobahn needs to be experienced. There are sections with speed limits, usually 120 or 130 kph (75 and 80 mph), and some sections where it drops down to 100 kph (62 mph), what everyone looks for is the "no limit" sign, the paddle with diagonal grey bars...this one:


On a bike in the States, you get pretty used to being the fastest vehicle on the road, and I'm no stranger to speed. While that may still be true on the twisty bits in Europe, on the Autobahn the big Mercs and Audis rule...and they all seem to be wagons, or estates as they're called here. When the no limit sign appears, everyone, and I mean everyone, puts their foot down...all the traffic picks up en masse (a French preview right there 😉).

During the first no limit stretch, I'm cruising along at a bit over 100 mph, with 160 kph indicated on the TomTom. Making sure all the straps are doing their job. I'm getting passed by virtually everyone; the only vehicles that stay behind me are the ubiquitous white delivery vans. If you slow to 90 mph (145 kph) they pass too. The Merc and Audi estates blow by in the left lane like you're standing still. I settle between 160 and 180 kph in deference to all the tied down luggage, and the highway is behind me in no time - very efficient.

Starting the fun stuff on the B500



They know it too


Goat paths thru the countryside:


Some interesting houses along the way...and I just love all the flower boxes.



Time for some lunch...on the deck, watching an endless stream of bikes go by.


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Heading higher...


In Europe, there's always a party at the top. Say hello to Mr. Morgan.



See that building on the right? Just beyond it is a launching site for parasailing; there were a bunch floating around in the sky.


There's also tons of solar on the rooftops of virtually any type of building, old or new. Stefan explained that there are substantial government incentives to install a system, and it actually throws off a profit once it is paid for. In addition to running his operation, he now makes money from it, took about 10 years, if I remember him correctly. Smart.


Mia seems to be enjoying being back in Der Fatherland, perhaps because she can get the special sauce she craves.

That's right, 100 octane at your friendly neighborhood Shell station. The rest seem to do with a measly 95 or 98.


How I wish US banks would adopt the far more intelligent "chip and PIN" technology. Because we are "chip and sign" you can't pay at the pump, you have to go into the store. So far in Germany, all the pumps will dispense first, you pay after, so that's not too bad. In France, however, that turned out not to be the case, you had to go in first to get the pump turned on, then go in again to pay. First world problems, to be sure.

The route:

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Lost in France

Today was a day to wander, get lost, see what happens. West of Colmar takes you almost immediately into the Alsace wine region.



And the roads that get you there...yum.



I will say, this is a pretty "lush" wine making area...green rolling hills in contrast to the arid brown you get in most wine appellations. Most likely what makes Alsace wine the unique varietal it is.

In reading about the region, I discovered Route des Cretes, the Route of the Ridges. When I started seeing signs for it, well it seemed like a good idea, no? 😏 According to Wikipedia:

The ridge forms part of the boundary between the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France. In 1871, Alsace was ceded to Germany under the Treaty of Frankfurt, and thus the ridge formed the boundary between France and Germany.
During the First World War, the French military decided to create a road to follow the ridge, thus allowing easier access to the valleys on both sides, enabling the faster movement of French troops.[1] The route was mostly just below the ridge to the west and was thus protected from German gunfire.

It did not disappoint.




Aaaaaaaaaannnnnnd, lunch.


Millennial photo


Gawd, they'll just let anybody into this place...I'd rather have Mia...

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Turn 2...a slightly decreasing radius left hander, be sure to set up on the right and late apex...


Now we're getting some serious Route des Cretes action.



The Party at the Top Dome



I've no idea the exact roads I took...what I should have done (hindsight always being 20/20) was turn on the TomTom tracking option. Duh. Generally, this area:

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For those unfamiliar with TomTom's MyDrive planning portal, it highlights all the scenic roads in green...very, very helpful. You can't go wrong on any of the green roads. The Spot track looked like this:

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I guess Stefan wasn't quite as busy when I was there (Sept '11).
2 of us got a rental from him, the other guy (was from Germany but lived in the US) had an RT stored there.
I rented from someone else my next trip, had some issues with Stefan's $/euro conversion.
Awaiting more photos (I took 100/day).

I guess Stefan wasn't quite as busy when I was there (Sept '11).
2 of us got a rental from him, the other guy (was from Germany but lived in the US) had an RT stored there.
I rented from someone else my next trip, had some issues with Stefan's $/euro conversion.
Awaiting more photos (I took 100/day).

You should see his place now! When I was there this past summer, he was building an addition that will double the size, along with a full basement with an elevator for bikes. Can't wait to see it finished this coming summer. He makes the whole shipping/storing/arriving/riding process very simple.
To Switzerland

I'm in the middle of our second big, booming thunderstorm. Flash, boom, flash, boom. Might as well recount the day, especially since I'm now on my second of these... 😉


Cast in jello, that's how plans are best viewed. True today; I had a circuitous back road route planned from Colmar, France to Leysin, Switzerland. It had sprinkled overnight, and the weather-guessers were calling for possible showers, but later in the day, so I'm thinking good, the morning will be fine. About 45 minutes into the ride, the sky starts to look ominous; simultaneously, I've got défaillance de la route.


See the gate behind me? Betty wants me to head down that path...um, no. I check the weather radar to the south, and "not good" is the summary. Head over to the autoroute to see if I can put it behind me.

Humming along at 130 kph, there's a toll sign ahead. Hmmm, didn't know there were tolls on the French autoroute. Here's a pure noob story: I pull over, fish out a 10 euro note, stuff it into my 'stich's right sleeve pocket, fish out a 20, and put it in the chest pocket, just in case. Ok, I'm moneyed up, roll up to the toll, get waived right through. WTF?

Duh, this was the Swiss border, and thanks to Stefan, I'd already purchased the required vignette and put it on Mia. It's the blue sticker on the upper left of the windscreen.


I was only planning on using it for the quick way back to Stefan's from Varenna, but glad I had it now.

Starts to rain in earnest, hard enough that I can feel the drops thru the Aerostich; there's thunder and a few bursts of lightning. Gore-tex has to be the best invention ever for motorcyclists, right up there with the wheel and fuel injection. I've got "tex" head to toe, so I'm good.

Thru a series of tunnels, and then, sunshine! Like it has never rained. Aren't mountains wonderful? Gas up, and thankfully we're back to "dispense first, pay later." Not bad for highway scenery, Lake Geneva:



At least the highway money is put to good use, the surface is glass smooth. You climb this road to Leysin

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And we're there, dry, in the sunshine.



Looking at


Mia even gets covered parking.

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What to do, what to do? I'm thinking go hit some of the local passes, woman at reception tells me they are expecting more thunderstorms later. Hmmm, looking at the time, don't think that will work, and I've had enough rain riding for today. How about a gondola ride to the top of the ski area, that should provide some good views. I head out, just a short walk from the hotel.




You can ride these fat tired scooters down...that could be fun.




Within minutes, the sky is looking pretty black, there's thunder and lightning...but this guy is just outside its range...for now...


Now that's CRAZY...

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The wind picks up and boom, torrential rain. Gondola shuts down, everyone seeks cover.




Lasts for almost 30 minutes, back at the bottom, it's like nothing ever happened.


Tennis camp in town...how do you get good at anything...start young and practice.


And today's Final Jeopardy Answer: What are Cheeks

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aRomatic steam
Rose and

Woke up to rain, and it only got worse after breakfast (which is really lunch, but I like it!). Today will be a spa day (steam rooms are awesome!) since I don't have to ride, and tomorrow looks sunny and dry. I'll make that a longer day after enjoying the hotel today.



It stayed like this the whole day...love being retired with a flexible schedule.

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Strolled around the town, "picturesque" does not do it justice.





The Rose, bread and cheese from the Coop, their grocery store. As I'm wandering around, I head to the "specialty" cheese section, you know, the one away from the pre-packaged offerings and usually where they keep the good stuff. Pick out something I'm unfamiliar with...you have to try, right?...called Saint Albray.


The Rose was good. The bread was great. The cheese, well, all I can say is that it must be like snails, mussels or javelin catching, an acquired taste. I looked it up, which is probably something I should have done in the store...and it is called the "stinky flower cheese" with "a combination of barnyard and ammonia smell." Exactly right. I wrapped it tight in the Co-op bag so as not to incur additional room cleaning charges. 😓

Now some motorcycle ruminations...what's the perfect travel bike? Mia, at 800cc, is the smallest displacement motorcycle I've owned since 1995. It is also the lightest "tourer" I've owned in a long time; at 470 lbs wet beating everything else by 60-100 lbs. And yet, she'll cruise easily at 140 kph all day long, and swing thru the twisties with aplomb. I think the manufacturers are missing a big opportunity here; every year bikes, like cars, get bigger and heavier. There is a significant advantage to low weight; the car manufacturers are trying to reduce weight to meet the gas mileage requirements. Bike manufacturers should be doing the same, not for gas mileage, but because there is simply no penalty to light weight, only benefits.

What do I want? (and I know at least a few people on this distribution have direct access to BMW and Ducati). A 450 lb wet, 100 hp, 65 ft/lb of torque, comfortable tourer. That's the sweet spot. The F800GT is close at 90 hp/470 lbs, but not quite there. Seems to me this is an easily do-able project. The belt drive on the F800GT is awesome, I want that on my unicorn bike...quiet, ZERO maintenance, just replace at 30k, a 30 minute job. I want comfortable "adv bike" style ergos, because that's what you need to tour. Lean angle abs is a must, but I don't care about traction control; I mean it's nice, but I'm touring, not racing. Also don't need (or even want, because those little numbers are hard to see) a digital dash, riding modes, or a quick shifter...really who cares? Nor keyless start, one of the more idiotic solutions to a non-existent problem I've ever seen, bike and car.

What I would like is an integrated nose-mounted camera, activated by a push for on/off left handlebar switch, and recording to a standard format onboard removable SD card. This is more important than any bluetooth, "I can answer my phone" (but why would you want to?) connectivity. I'd like to share video easily, and that would do it. Wouldn't you like to see some video in this blog? I would, but don't want the aggravation of GoPro style cameras. Don't care about sat nav integration, I'll add my own, thank you (that would be a TomTom).

I want easy to do oil and filter changes, with nothing, no bodywork, to be removed. Don't care about other maintenance items b/c that will likely go back to the dealer. I do want an owner resettable service reminder, because we're adults after all.

I want top shelf (Ohlins/Wilbers etc.) analog suspension, with adjustments easily made by hand; forks and shock. Preload, compression and rebound damping, all accessible, no tools required. Does not need to be electronic, just accessible.

And I want, I need, perfect throttle pick up...no jerkiness, with a flat, smooth torque curve, no dips. Very, very important, otherwise the bike will piss me off every single time I ride it.

Good, robust, but light, luggage. 3 hard bags and a tank bag. Able to be closed but not locked (I'm lookin' at you Ducati).

Full LED lighting, no maintenance, no worries. Cast wheels, 17 inch front/rear, standard sport touring sizes, no spokes, no tubes. Don't care about TPMS.

Adjustable ergonomics...bar, shift lever, brake pedal, clutch and brake levers, seat height. And a comfortable seat...maybe even sell the bike without a seat, allow the dealer to customize for the buyer. I've never owned a BMW where I have not changed the seat, the F800GT included, the Sargent seat rocks! Heated grips standard. With a button for activation. Why is it that a high end bicycle is custom fitted to you, but a motorcycle barely has any adjustable ergonomics?

Honestly, my unicorn is a parts bin bike for both Ducati and BMW. If you build it, they will come. Us aging boomers will line up at the door...and we're the ones with disposable income. Deliver my unicorn for 20k or less fully equipped and you've got my money.

Rant over...here's to drier days 😈. Stay left for the hotel...don't ask me how I know...

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