My initial plans made way back in the spring were to take a long weekend off work and just do the Rhineland but somewhere along the way I thought as I’m over there anyway why not make a proper adventure of it. I worked out all the ferry times and costs for a circular route round the North Sea riding from the Treffen to Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Shetland Isles and Aberdeen. I would like to see the Norwegian ffiords and the Icelandic ferry from Bergen dropping me off on the Shetland Isles sounded interesting.
From there I could make my way home via Orkney and Scrabster or take a direct ferry to Aberdeen. I was all set to do it that way when the soaking of all soakings while on a camping weekend with some biker mates in the Lake district made me think again. August and September can be pretty late to be touring as far north as Scandinavia if you want to stay warm and dry.
Next favourite was to follow the mighty River Danube all the way across Europe to Romania and try to reach the Black Sea. A tall order to make it there and back in my two weeks holiday but achievable. I got real excited about visiting Transylvania the home of Dracula and riding the highest trunkroad in mainland Europe. The Trans-Fargasian Highway, open only in summer but I allowed some bad press about the country to put me off.
I was running out of places to go when I saw Dubrovnik on the bottom corner of my map of Europe. Last time I came across that name it was on the telly having lumps shot out of it during the wars between Bosnian Serbs, Christians, Moslems and anyone else around with an axe to grind.
Should be warm enough down there I thought. Slovenia and Croatia were in the proccess of joining the European Union and the clincher came when my insurers told me that I was covered for those countries at no extra cost. All my enquiries regarding travel to Croatia by road appeared to point me in the direction of Italy where I would catch a ferry across the Adriatic to my final destination in the Balkans. Couldn’t work that one out as there were plenty of roads showing on my maps so I decided to head on down to Croatia via Austria and Slovenia to find out why.
Sunday morning – my landlady was good enough to take a picture of me with my unexpected ‘Numb Bum’ award before I hit the road once more. The trophy was placed on a shelf behind the bar for safe-keeping until my return some day to collect it. It looked to be a tad fragile to survive a motorbike trip to the Balkans.
I was off and running. South on the autobahn to Pforzheim where I would switch to lesser roads through the Black Forest. I had ridden in an International trial in this area back in my trials riding days in the eighties and hoped to look up some old friends I’d stayed with on that occasion.
Somewhere in that spider’s web of junctions around Mannheim I took the wrong route and had turned east for Nurnberg without realising it. B*gg*r! Only thing for it was to take the next road south for Ulm and Austria missing out the Black Forest completely. I probably wouldn’t have found my old trials riding buddies anyway or the little village of Sulz after twenty years away.
I had pulled into a lay-by just south of Ulm later in the day to stretch my muscles and had the maps out getting my bearings when a dusky young motorist approached me. It turned out he worked in Bournemouth. He insisted I must visit the Boden-See, take the next exit and on no account was I to miss it! I did as instructed and followed the signs for Lindau and the Boden-See – along with half the German nation!
The last weekend in August must be a universal bank holiday! A boiling hot day with an air cooled motor in nose to tail traffic I was forced to filter to keep some cooling air flowing round that redhot motor! She kept going but I’ve known her run smoother! I filled her up with a better grade of fuel when I reached Lindau which seemed to help matters. A Mercedes saloon I had seen earlier towing a twin-axle trailer loaded with four or five road bikes had dropped a sumpfull of oil on a busy junction. There were bits of engine all over the road and that Merc certainly wasn’t going any further under it’s own steam that day.
I had looked at the road alongside the Boden-See but it was too busy. With the cool Austrian Alps inviting me to the south-east I was desperate to get into them. I just couldn’t find the road I wanted! Everything was gridlocked! I pulled onto a filling station forecourt for some respite and asked a ‘white van man’ where I could find my elusive gateway to the mountains. ‘Follow me’, says he and we were off across the main road, along some back streets like there was no tomorrow and out into the open countryside.
‘Turn left at the first lights’ was his next command and sure enough it was up-up and more up all the way into the Alps.
Cool, clear air, bend after bend, not much traffic but truly magic riding after my struggle to get out of Germany!
I spotted a Honda CBR600 sports bike parked by a filling station with nicely frazzled tyres and a Scotspeed of Dumfries logo on the numberplate so had a natter with the owner. It turned out it was owned by Neil, a young Glasgow lad working in the area and he encouraged me to buy a pass for the toll roads in Austria as it would mean a heavy fine if I was caught without one. I had no plans to ride the toll roads but after my problems route finding since arriving in Europe I bought one just in case. My German friends had advised me that a first-aid kit was mandatory in Austria too so I was well sorted. Sod’s law says – ‘if you’ve got it, you sure as hell won’t need it’! Better safe than sorry.
I was well into the mountains and had passed a few gasthauses with ‘Bikers Welcome’ signs hung out when, with over four hundred miles clocked up for the day I found a neat looking place in a riverside setting and quickly booked in. My bike had a garage all to herself and I was shown to a comfortable double room. I was too tired to ask ‘How Much’ and it was only in the morning that I found I was to pay for a double!
AAA. Part Four