Tag: BMW

Killing Time Around Vicosoprano, Switzerland

Killing Time Around Vicosoprano, Switzerland

A low, silvery fog nestled in to the valley while we slept. It was hard to tell if it was raining or not when I looked out over the balcony of our room.  I crossed my fingers tightly that the ground was dry and trotted downstairs for breakfast saying good morning to the animals in the hall along the way.

Ummm.. okay? Hotel Taxidermied animals

Pimmie wasn’t looking so hot. Two days prior, his ride down from the Netherlands was long. Follow that up with not getting a good night sleep in Bormio. Riding an intensive day of passes and not enough to eat or drink all day brought things to a head. It was obvious that he needed some more rest, so we sent him back to bed for a little while.

With Pimmie trying to catch a few more winks, Kenny and I went to poke around in the little towns below. We stopped in the villages of Castasegna, Stampa and Bondo to have a look around.

Rock Tunnel near Vicosoprano Switzerland

it’s just – it’s just there it’s a little different.

There was an obvious visual difference between the houses and buildings scattered around the countryside when compared to those here at home. As I rode along I mulled over just what those differences really were. It seemed like the homes and their decoration used materials from their immediate surroundings. Simple, elegant solutions to making railings, roofs, fences were all plucked from the wood, stone and earth right in their own backyards. Everything seemed to be in tune with the land.

One of my favorite things about traveling is that everything is new to your eyes. Even the most mundane acts undertaken by people going about their every day lives offer you as the traveler something interesting to look at. We parked along a wall in Castasegna and watched a woman working in her garden. In that moment, as she toiled in the dirt and moved amongst her flowers – it all seemed very beautiful to me.

Watching everyday life in Castasegna Switzerland Palazzo Castelmur Switzerland Swiss Houses in Castasegna
tunnel near vicosoprano Tight squeeze between a car and a bus Hi Kenny!

Many times throughout the trip when we were in populated areas I stopped and asked myself if we were allowed to ride or park there. Often towns and villages were paved with stones that to my eyes look like driveways or pedestrian paths, much less like roads.

Riding through a small Swiss town

Though I may not have seen a red do not enter sign there were some cases I just wasn’t sure.  Over time, I started adopting the idea that apparently there were no driving rules and you can stick your motorcycle anywhere you like.

Cable car into the fog vicosoprano
That little speck is the car going up, up, up...

When we arrived back at the hotel, we sat for a few minutes watching a cable car make it’s way up into the fog. From our vantage point it looked like the tiny little car was going straight up into nothingness. When I contemplated that idea for a few minutes it kind of freaked me out. Some people volunteer to go quietly into the abyss, while others cling to the terra firma.

Soon Pimmie had come down stairs, looking like he was feeling quite a bit better. We paid our tab, said goodbye to the animals in the hallway and set off riding for the day. The roads were dry and we had passes to see. This day was going to be a humdinger…

*The cable car goes up to the Albigna Dam/Resevoir/Hut

A Sunday Ride Through the Swiss and Italian Alps

A Sunday Ride Through the Swiss and Italian Alps

On Sunday, we started our day with a bang, leaving our Bormio hotel and heading straight up and over the Stelvio pass. Winding our way along it’s delicious serpentine hairpins, I wondered if my day was figuratively all down hill from there. As we motored on, I quickly found out that it had just begun.

The passes that we covered on Sunday were:  Stelvio pass, Ofen pass, Flüela pass, Julier pass, Moloja pass

From the northern foot of the Stelvio pass we went on to the Swiss border and headed towards the Ofen pass. This pass was generally fast and loose with good tarmac. It had more sweepers and few (if any) hairpins. The biggest difference with this pass was that the roadway ran through a forest, whereas the other passes moved up and over the treeline. It reminded me of riding in California.

Say hi to Pimmie everyone! Heading toward Ofen pass Ofen Pass in Switzerland Heading towards Vicosoprano Switzerland
Julier pass Switzerland On the Julier pass Switzerland Bikes parked in Switzerland

The sheer number of motorcycles and maxi-scooters that were out riding this loop on a sunny Sunday afternoon was just staggering. There were bikes everywhere! Some observations:

  • It was nice to see nearly everyone was dressed in full gear.
  • Most bikes were toting some type of storage luggage on them.
  • Naked bikes and the big BMW GS’s were the most popular bikes on the roads.
  • We saw very few fully faired sportbikes in the mountains.
  • I saw a few other women riders but not nearly as many as I expected to.
  • The majority of road surfaces were very good!

It seemed too that the competence and skill level of the majority of riders we encountered was really quite excellent.  But, I suppose if you spend your life riding those roads, you just have to get good at it. The roads aren’t forgiving.

Don’t Wait Up!

My two traveling companions, Kenny and Pimmie are quite a bit more speedy than I am. I’m not slow but I am just unwilling to take what I see as unnecessary risks anymore. I’ve come to realize that my ability to enjoy a ride isn’t always directly proportional to how fast I’m moving.  My riding throughout this trip would definitely be classified as “conservative.” There were times when I felt a little bit like an anchor as I watched them fade out of my view. Though neither one said anything negative about it, I did wonder if they were fed up with my dawdling.

Until we got into a comfortable rhythm of riding together, I could see them checking mirrors for me, pulling off and waiting, wondering what the heck was taking me so long to turn up. I tried to be clear that they needed to stop babysitting me and to just wait for me at the next turn off.  I’m not a new rider or someone who has no skill, for crying out loud. I contended that there were plenty of people around if I should find myself in trouble or in need of help.

Shortly after my speech, on the Flüela pass I saw Pimmie had actually doubled back to look for me. I will admit it bothered me to think that he would have spent any time worried about my riding. The irony was of course that not 3 minutes before I came literally inches from busting my ass pulling onto a pea gravel shoulder to take some photos. The front tire just washed out sideways while I was slowing to a stop. I managed to catch it at the last second. Of course, I kept that to myself until now ;o)

I absolutely loved the stark landscape of the Flüela pass.

Fluela pass in Switzerland
The Flüela Pass - Switzerland

Julier Pass Switzerland
The Julier Pass - Switzerland

Sportbike-shmortbike. Run What Ya Brung!

The last pass that we took for the day was the Maloja pass, which is about 30 miles south of St. Mortiz, Switzerland. It is a tall, terraced, hairpin turn pass. The view from the top looking down over the roadway was amazing but unfortunately there was no room to stop for a photo. When we reached the bottom of the pass, I found a spot to pull over and was hoping I could get a view from the bottom up.

Group of BMWs heading up the Maloja Pass

As I sat on the side of the road a group of guys on GSs came motoring towards me on their way up. Zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom they rounded the bend by me with the last guy sending sparks up as he dragged his sidebags through the hairpin. I laughed in spite of myself. It was just so freakin’ awesome to see this train of bikes rail through the turn. I’m so goofy, I clapped. The last guy smiled as he righted himself and rode away.

GS dragging sidebags through hairpin maloja pass

The three of us pulled into a small guesthouse hotel at the foot of the pass in the town of Vicosoprano for the night. Though we didn’t turn a lot of miles in the grandest sense, they were quality miles.  None of us drank enough throughout the day and it had started to show. We were all tired and unfortunately, Pimmie wasn’t feeling very well.

We sat on our balcony and listened to sound of the church bells ringing in the town below. Nestled in amongst the trees, the only sound other sound we heard was occasional high rpms approaching the corner until the sun went down.

Our hotel in Vicosoprano Switzerland

The view from our hotel in Vicosoprano Switzerland Our balcony Vicosoprano cable car going into the clouds Vicsoprano Switzerland

This was one of the most amazing days of riding of my entire life.

Visiting Italy: Motorcycling from Lake Como to Bormio

Visiting Italy: Motorcycling from Lake Como to Bormio

We awoke long before the revelers of the night before and departed Como heading towards the town of Bellagio. The picturesque town sits at the tip of Lake Como’s peninsula. From there you can catch ferry boats to different points on the lake. Since we were heading northwest to Bormio, we hopped the ferry to Verenna.

Bikes on Bellagio to Verenna Ferry

The view from the ferry Bellagio to Verenna Heading to Bellagio Italy Bellagio Italy from the Verenna Ferry

During this leg of our travels, we would be exposed to many things for the first time. It was the first time we saw the little white signs with the word “tornante” on them. That’s Italian for a hairpin turn. In my travels here on the Northeast coast, the hairpin turn is like seeing a bear in the wild. Sure, they are out there somewhere but you only see them once in a blue moon.

Your Papers, Please

We also experience our first of many border crossings going from Italy to Switzerland. In my mind I suppose I had built the process up to be something a little more complex than just having a man in uniform wave at me and send me through. I guess I figured there would be some passport stamping or something.

Crossing the border from Italy to Switzerland

When I pulled up to the first guard booth and stopped, I looked at the guard he gave a lazy wave. I wasn’t sure if he was saying “hi” or sending me through. So in my amazingly awkward and jerky way, I was like “uhhh, am I okay to go?” I couldn’t hear him very well but I think he said “yah.” Seriously, who wants to assume you’re okay to cross a border if you really aren’t? So, I questioned him again by asking “ok?” and gesturing the universal symbol for moving forward. He gave me an exasperated “ok” and then pointedly said “go!” Fine, fine, I’ll go then. Sheesh! I know he must have thought I was a moron. And well, he just might be right. But that’s part of my charm.

Near the Berninapass heading to Livigno Italy

When we made our way towards St. Moritz and on to Livigno, the mountains began to show us their amazing grandeur. We cut along the roadway that was carved through the rock, gradually rising above the treeline. It is in these moments that you feel so tiny in the world. The beauty that nature presents to you can be so incredibly humbling.

Heading to Livigno Italy Heading towards Livigno Italy Heading towards Livigno

Leaving Livigno heading towards Bormio

We were scheduled to meet Pimmie in the town of Bormio. He was riding down from the Netherlands to spend the week riding with us. It had been over a year since we last saw him, so Kenny and I were both bubbling with excitement.

Heading into Bormio Italy Riding in Bormio Italy Pimmie arrived in Bormio after riding all night

Now we were three.

Kenny and I arrived first at the hotel with enough time to shower and clean ourselves up from the days ride. About an hour later, Pims turned up safely. It was so great to see him again. It felt like no time at all had passed.

Albergo San Lorenzo in Bormio Italy

We spent the rest of the night getting caught up, laughing, relaxing and planning for the following day’s ride. There was a lot to be excited about. From this point on, we would be flying by the seat of our pants; going wherever the sky looked sunniest and the roads were winding.

Motorcycle at Bormio Hotel Hotel Stelvio Bormio Italy Piazza in Bormio Italy

We chose to meet in the town of Bormio because it was the foot of one of the most legendary mountain passes and one of my bucket list items – Stelvio. That’s where we were headed the very next morning…

Fly and Ride: Renting Motorcycles Away From Home

Fly and Ride: Renting Motorcycles Away From Home

Given the obvious hardship of riding our motorcycles from Long Island to Italy, doing a “Fly and Ride” was our only option. In order to take our Alpine trip Kenny and I needed to rent motorcycles.

What Did We Look for in a Rental?

  • Unlimited Mileage
    This was a big one. Miles accumulate quickly and therefore so can the cost.
  • Luggage
    Are side cases, a top box, a tank bag available or standard on the rental? This helps you determine if you need to bring some of your own luggage. The less stuff you need to pack and bring on the airplane, the better.
  • Miles per Gallon/Kilometers per Liter
    What kind of fuel efficiency do the bikes offered get? Fuel in Europe, which is bought by the liter, is considerably more expensive than in the US. You might end up spending the equivalent of $6 – $7 per gallon. Watching your wallet drain with the gas gauge is no fun. Unless money is no object, try to pick something fairly fuel efficient.
  • Insurance
    Be clear on the insurance offered or what you would be required to pay should an unfortunate accident occur.

What Did We Rent?

We came away with a pair of BMW F 650 GSs; a 2009 & a 2010.

They offered plenty of usable power on the motorways and climbing through the mountains. They were fully outfitted with Touratech tank bags, 46 liter Givi top cases, Givi side cases and Garmin ZUMO GPS power cables. The bike had a low seat height, wide bars and my favorite part… sipped gas.

2010 BMW F650 GS on Grimselpass in Switzerland

The GS had plenty of zippy power and did everything it was asked to do with no complaints. In the past, I’d heard chatter that the prior generation 650GS single felt like it would kind of peter out especially on the highway. I’m happy to report that this 798cc twin showed no signs of that.

In hindsight I preferred it hands down over the BMW R1150Rs we’d rented in California in 2008.

Kenny on the BMW F 650 GS

How Do You Find a Motorcycle Rental Outfit?

To find a rental outfit, we used the same locator we used when looking for a rental in California; AdMo Tours. With a network of rental stations all over the world, we knew they’d have something for us.

Due Ruote BMW Rent-A-Dream Motorcycle Rental Milan Italy

The company AdMo hooked us up with was Rent-a-Dream, based out of Milan. We had such a great experience with their service I would confidently recommend them. Diego, the gent in charge was a pleasure. You could absolutely tell how much he himself loves riding motorcycles. He is fluent in English and is a wealth of information should you need suggestions for area riding or tours.

Renting motorcycles can open up many opportunities to ride in places you could never otherwise ride to. If you do your homework and choose wisely new adventures await!

Do you have any tips for potential motorcycle renters? Comment Below!

Long Island: Where the Buffalo Roam

Long Island: Where the Buffalo Roam

Long Island is home to some unusual residents. In the town of Riverhead, sits the North Quarter Buffalo Farm. Though the island seems like an unlikely place for them to thrive, the herd is said to be about 300 strong. Each time we are out that way I love to stop by and watch them from the road. A few of them seemed as interested in us as we were in them.

BMW R1150GS Suzuki DRZ 400 Motorcycles

Two black buffaloes are born on North Fork farm

Long Island Buffalo Farm Long Island Buffalo Farm Riverhead Long Island Buffalo Farm