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Old 04-01-2015, 10:17 PM   #1
PukaWai OP
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The road to Coupe iCar Ė Adventures in Europe

So what’s a “Coupe iCar” you ask? Some kind of new vehicle with an exorbitant price tag from Apple that runs on proprietary gasoline?


No, it’s actually an annual free flight festival near Grenoble, France. My motorcycle travels usually have some nominal destination that I head towards, making the route up as I go. Since this trip’s destination was Istanbul (which is nowhere near Grenoble), Coupe Icare seemed an appropriate title for this ride report.


I’m quite impressed by people that somehow find the time to do Ride Reports as they are happening. I don’t think I could ever do that. I hate writing , and if I do force myself to write something, it seems to take forever. At any rate, here it is: my first Ride Report! I’ll be uploading pieces and pictures over the next few days…


This story starts over two years ago, when after reading yet another awesome ride report on this site and saying “Someday……..”, I decided that someday was never going to come and changed it to NOW: I was going to tour around Europe on my motorcycle…. Somehow. There are of course all sorts of impediments to overcome, topping the list was this thing called W**k. In this unenlightened country where the normal vacation is a meager 2 weeks, taking off for several months wasn’t going to happen unless I just quit my job. But, the job earns money needed for such travels, so I came up with a different idea: split the trip up into several 4-6 week pieces over a period of 3 years, and then explore the bounds of brinksmanship in getting those weeks off each year. Brilliant!
So, in March of 2012 I bought a second BMW R1150GS from another inmate, farkled it to my liking, and then eventually put it on a boat headed towards Europe. Two months later it was there and I began my first ride, crossing France from Annecy to Arcachon and then following the Pyrenees with a nominal destination of Barcelona. But, this story is not about that trip, nor 2013’s trip around the British Isles, both of which I was much too lazy to write about.


Fast-forward to August 2014, I load up my other 1150GS and head to San Diego where I leave the bike at a friend’s place and embark on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany. My cousin Harry lives about an hour from there and I always enjoy visiting him for a few days before hitting the road. And, of course, that is also where my motorcycle has been patiently waiting for me since last year…
Harry insists that Bavaria is so much nicer than Hesse (the region containing Frankfurt). His town is about 8 miles west of the boundary with Hesse…. But, we had good times, some nice scenery, good food, and Bavarians certainly know how to make good beer, so who am I to argue?




As mentioned earlier, this years’ nominal destination was Istanbul, Turkey. Along the way is Eastern Europe, an area I know very little about, countries I’ve never heard of, others I have heard of because not too long ago people were killing each other there and were thus deemed newsworthy. I probably couldn’t assemble a jigsaw puzzle of a map of eastern Europe. A perfect destination to experience and banish my ignorance! There were however a couple of things I wanted to do in France, one of which was the Horizons Unlimited meet. I had been to this event last year, the first HU meet ever in France, and had a great time despite only about 15 people showing up and dismal weather. This year promised a much bigger and more varied turnout and nice weather too. Unfortunately, the date of this happened to be in the middle of my 5 weeks, and many miles west of Eastern Europe. So, I changed my plans, to first head Southeast for a while, then blaze across Italy on the Autostrada to France, and then blaze across Italy again to catch a ferry to Greece. After a few days’ of lethargy at Harry’s, approaching bad weather spurred me on South to my first destination: Munich.




Not to worry, the pictures and the tale gets better the further along it gets...
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Old 04-02-2015, 05:10 AM   #2
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Thanks for the intro and taking us a long

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Old 04-02-2015, 06:46 AM   #3
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Sounds like a great trip! Looking forward to the next installment! And thanks for letting us catch a lift with you!
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Old 04-02-2015, 08:06 PM   #4
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I grew up in L.A., so Iím not much of a fan of big cities and generally avoid them on my travels, but Munich is the home of BMW, and they have a museum there that I thought might be worth the hassle of a big city to see.



There was quite an array of displays of cars, motorcycles, engines, even a section devoted to Rolls Royce (that BMW now owns), but the whole place just seemed a bit too Ė antiseptic Ė for a museum dedicated to machinery.



A worthwhile stop nonetheless, and I also took advantage of a program they had there where you could rent just about any of their current cars by the hour for a reasonable cost, my choice was their new electro-scooter.



My expectations were rather low, but I was pleasantly surprised with how the thing zipped along and topped out at around 130 kph (80 mph). The 15 thousand Euro price tag and the fact that I killed half the battery on a 1 hour ride makes it rather impractical though.



Leaving Munich behind, it was time to get off the Autobahn. Freeways/Autobahn/Autoroute/Autostrada etc. are very handy if you need to cover some distance in a hurry, but they donít make for enjoyable motorcycle riding, so I avoid them whenever possible and look for small, little used roads on my map that look interesting and that usually works out quite well. Following some of these I wind up in the small town of Seekirchen, Austria where I stock up on food: the following day I will be crossing over to the mysterious eastern Europe, and who knows if I will find anything edible there?



I follow more small roads in a generally southern direction til the sun starts getting low in the sky and look for a campground. I find a nice one with a beautiful view in short order and pull in. Most camping in Europe (as in the USA) is done by people that drag a big crate behind their car, or they drive the crate itself. Hummpf! I still enjoy traditional camping in a tent, and I find one other like-minded individual there, a man and his enthusiastic son from far eastern Germany on their homeward leg of a road trip to Sicily that were great company.





The following morning I study my map and pick out some great looking roads and attempt to force my GPS route to follow them which is difficult as all GPSs will always try to take you down roads that suck. The ride went through beautiful countryside towards the Alps, which I could see up ahead. But then I suddenly find myself at a toll booth: 24 Euros for a motorcycle? Seriously? Not wanting to backtrack, I paid it and continued on.



Turns out this is the Grossglockner Hochalpstrasse, probably the most famous alpine pass road in Europe. It is a great road, but then almost all alpine pass roads are great, and almost all of them are free. Live and learn!





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Old 04-03-2015, 02:40 PM   #5
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Grossglockner on a nice summer day is like a motorbike racetrack The entry price is quite steep and it seems more and more mountain passes are charging admission.

This is what it looked like on the day I rode it..



Thanks for the detailed report and pics

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Old 04-04-2015, 08:50 PM   #6
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Grossglockner on a nice summer day is like a motorbike racetrack The entry price is quite steep and it seems more and more mountain passes are charging admission.

This is what it looked like on the day I rode it..
I'm OK with just a leisurely ride soaking in the scenery over roads like this, and leave the racing to the crowd in your picture! The day I was there it was cloudy and you couldn't even see the summit of Grossglockner -all socked in. Still beautiful though.
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Old 04-04-2015, 09:09 PM   #7
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Somewhere on the far side of the pass I crossed over into Slovenia. It is now a full member of the EU, so there was no border. It is a small but very beautiful country, much like the Austrian Alps or Switzerland, just with a lot of unpronounceable names on the street signs. Aside from just riding through the mountains, there were a couple of thing I wanted to see in Slovenia, and one was to see one of the many limestone caves that are there. I chose the äkocjan Cave, hopefully a little less mobbed by tourists than the more famous and larger Postojna Cave.

Like many such sites, you have to go on a tour with a guide. There were about 50 people there divided into two groups, about a dozen in the German/Italian tour, the rest in the English/Slowenian tour. Since Iím fairly fluent in German and hate mobs, I of course joined the smaller group. German with a heavy slavic accent is quite interesting! Iíve seen many other limestone caves, and while the formations inside could not match what youíd find in Calsbad Caverns, this was more than made up for by the fact that thereís a full size underground river rushing through this cave that have carved out some immense chambers. Truly awesome!


As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoy tent camping in Europe, but occasionally I will seek other kinds of lodging when the mood suits me, like when Iím occupied all day and donít want to look for a campground late at night, or Iím in a big city where camping isnít very prevalent, or Iíve had enough of tenting in foul weather. Iíd rather spend my money on good food than some place where (hopefully) the only thing Iíll be seeing is the inside of my eyelids. I like what in France is called a Gite díetape, or Wanderherberge in German Ė Similar to a hostel but generally much more tranquil as they caters to long distance hikers as opposed to teenagers that have escaped the supervision of their parents for a while. Hostels are rater hit and miss Ė some Iíve enjoyed immensely, while others were more of an ordeal. Expecting to spend at least half a day at the cave, I had booked a place in a nearby hostel that turned out to be the nicest one Iíve ever stayed at. The place was immaculately clean and in good condition in a very small town in the countryside, and run by a charming young lady, Jana, who had created the whole enterprise by herself.


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Old 04-07-2015, 10:07 PM   #8
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The next morning I continued on South and soon came to my first real border crossing: Croatia. It had only been about a year since this country had joined the EU, and they are still using their own currency (Kuna) so I guess thatís why the is still a border. The border official just took my passport, looked at me, then the bike, then his video monitor for the license plate and smiled. After handing me back the stamped passport he asked me if Iím travelling alone, and I just nod. Then he says ďThat is sadĒ. Caught me rather off guard, and was a quick reminder that I was going places where things and attitudes were bit different. Anyways, after catching my balance again, I said ďWhen my only choices are to travel alone, or not to travel at all, Iíll choose traveling alone every time. He laughed and bid me a good journey.



The landscape changed dramatically from the lush mountains of Slovenia to a very dry Mediterranean scene. It struck me as a cross between Cote díAzur with its compact villages and the desolate expanse of desert in Baja, with the Adriatic sitting in for the Sea of Cortez.


I continued on the road that winds along the coast all day, thoroughly enjoying the curves, when an orange light in the cockpit caught my eye. Oh shit, GAS! Forgot all about Baja rule #1: when you see a gas station, buy gas. I hadnít seen a village in over an hour and was a bit worried. But, soon I came upon an isolated little market and asked where the next gas is, only 25 kilometers further. I really like kilometers Ė you can do a lot more of them on a tank of gas! I found a nice little campground right on the water and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset. As I was watching the last light fade behind the barren islands just offshore in very balmy weather, I could see why the Germans come down here in droves escaping the drizzly flatlands.


As enjoyable a vacation spot this was for just lazing about and doing nothing, I wanted to ride and decided to head inland and to the North again instead of going all the way to Dubrovnik near the southern tip of the country. It seemed like things would be the same all the way down there, and I wanted to see what the interior was like.


Some great riding as the road gradually rose into mountains, but it was very empty, long distances between tiny settlements, kind of like riding through eastern Oregon or Wyoming. Suddenly I came upon another border. I didnít expect this, so wasnít quite sure where I was. The border official just looked up with this ďDonít bother meĒ look and waved me on through and I then come upon a sign: Welcome to Bosnia. Maybe itís time to look at a map. Sure enough, the border is a rather tortuous line that cuts across my road, and then cuts back a little ways further.



I rode on to see what this was like on this side of the border, yet everything was the same as where I had just come from. I rode through a sizeable town and thought ďThis could be anywhere in western EuropeĒ even though not very long ago everybody was trying kill each other around here.

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Old 04-08-2015, 02:43 PM   #9
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Nice so far!
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Old 04-08-2015, 04:38 PM   #10
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Not to worry, the pictures and the tale gets better the further along it gets...
Very nice, it already looks good! Subscribed
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Old 04-08-2015, 10:30 PM   #11
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I continued north, back into Croatia.

There was a national park, Plitvička, near the Bosnian border that I had heard about and wanted to check out. It is in a mountainous karst region and is known for a number of lakes that cascade into each other, sort of a Seven Sacred Pools of Maui on steroids.



The problem with anything that is ďknownĒ on Europe is that it is usually mobbed with people, and this was no exception. Even finding a place to park my bike was a chore in this unbelievable throng of humanity, and I was almost ready to just turn around and leave. There is a trail that winds up the mountain past the various lakes, and to get to the trailhead you take a boat across the first lake. After shuffling along in the mob for a little bit, I spied another trail going off somewhere that was practically empty, and of course, thatís where I headed.



Turns out it was a loop trail, so I encountered the mob going the other way about an hour later, but otherwise I really enjoyed seeing this stunningly beautiful site.




It was now time to head across Italy, and I was not looking forward to it, as Iím not very fond of northern Italy. True, the alpine region is gorgeous and should be annexed by Switzerland, but the rest is the flat plain surrounding Milan, and industrial wasteland that seems to stretch on forever. Soon after crossing the border at Trieste the Autostrada turned into a giant parking lot, reminiscent of the 405 in So. Cal. Occasionally a biker would come along that was filtering between cars or riding along the shoulder and I would follow til the bulk of my GS was just too big to squeeze through, and I was a bit leery of doing that solo. In all, I spent 12 hours riding, 80 euro on gas, and 85 euro on tolls that day, but it was great to have it behind me and be camping in the shadow of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe that night.

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Old 04-08-2015, 11:41 PM   #12
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I loved my time in Europe. Mainly western and Southern, but still beautiful, Keep the RR coming.

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Old 04-10-2015, 08:58 AM   #13
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The next day I was eager to hit the road and find my friend Sylvain, whom Iíd met while he was vacationing in Hawaii for a couple months last year. Sylvain is a pilot extraordinaire that files just about anything, and lives somewhere near Lac du Bourget, although the address I had didnít work in my GPS. Fortunately I had some lat/lon coordinates, and relied on the GPS to route me there. Have I mentioned how much I hate the routing software in GPSs? After cursing the GPS most of the day, I finally found his place Ė a cozy little house on top of a mountain overlooking the lake with the river Rhone winding away off in the distance.



Wow! Add to that a paragliding launch 100 meters down the road, and a mini helicopter in the sun room that he just rolls outside and takes off. I was quite impressed. The next day he was off to ďworkĒ giving tandem paraglider rides to anybody interested Ė and there are plenty of interested people. Unlike the US, where paragliding is usually viewed as an ďextremeĒ sport, in Europe itís just another outdoor activity, like motorcycling, hiking, or golf. Well, maybe not golf.



I have been flying for almost 25 years, so Sylvain lent me one of his gliders and I got to enjoy a few hours in the air over gorgeous countryside. Absolutely awesome!








The winds turned unfavorable for flying the next morning, so we went riding. The nominal destination was some back-to-school shopping for Sylvainís daughter, but mostly for the fun of riding, he on his bad-boy Harley and me on the fat GS with the daughter on the pillion (the Harleyís pillion was , well, a fender). We went through some larger towns, like Aix les Bains that were rather congested.



I got a lesson in riding a motorcycle in France: just ride down the center of the road and the traffic parts like the red sea! I mean EVERYBODY just scoots over a bit to let you pass and thinks nothing of it, while you stick out your leg out occasionally as a gesture of thanks! France is a very civilized country. Kicking back at a cafť, watching the sunset over the lake, and enjoying some great French food rounded out a very enjoyable and relaxing day. Cťst trŤs genial!
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Old 04-12-2015, 09:39 AM   #14
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Since the HU meet was in a few days, I then headed in that general direction leaving myself 3 days to get there even though it wasnít all that far away. Why? Because France is motorcycle touring heaven! Hundreds and hundreds of neat little villages all connected by small narrow roads with very little traffic on them. And campgrounds everywhere Ė I never made a reservation, just started looking for one in the late afternoon, and soon found one. They all have hot showers, real toilets, frequently have free WifI, and all for 6-12 Euros. I spent the night at one of these, woke up with a smile on my face, baguette et fromage for breakfast, thinking ďThis is the lifeĒ.







I ride about a kilometer down the road, but thought my throttle was feeling a little wierd. I slow down, then give it some gas. The engine responds like it should but makes a hell of a racket. Gone was the smile, my mind racing through a hundred thoughts in a second: WTF. What the hell is broken? Damn. Iím way out here in the middle of nowhere (a somewhere being a place where they have motorcycle shops). This is gonna cost a bloody fortune! How am I even going to find someone who can fix this? Iím gonna be sick!
Well, after a bit, rational thoughts reemerged. One step at a time. First, get off the road. I was on a downslope, so I just rolled a ways, and pulled into a driveway to a couple of houses in the countryside. Next, try some stuff to see if I can narrow down the problem. Engine sounds fine, but the bike wonít go. Rear wheel doesnít wobble Ė not the dreaded final drive, so itís either clutch or tranny, but BMW trannies are pretty bulletproof, while the clutches on this bike are known to have issues. While Iím doing this a lady drives out the driveway, stops and asks if it is broken. Unhappily, I say yes. She asks what Iím going to do, I answer that I donít really know yet, Iím just a traveler and donít know where I can find a motorcycle shop, or get parts, or anything. So she says, hold on, makes a couple of calls, talks with the neighbor pruning his hedges next door and reports that there is a garage in the next town down the road, and while they only do cars, the owners are motorcycle enthusiasts and could probably steer me in the right direction. She says she was on her way somewhere, but the neighbor will help me get down there. He puts down the pruning shears, puts my big duffle bag in his car, and pushes me on the bike a bit til it keeps rolling down the slope, and the follows in his car with flashing lights so I donít get run over. Itís only another kilometer or two and I roll into the village and see the garage.





By now Iím feeling like Iím in some sort of out-of-control dream thatís hurtling to who knows what end.
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Old 04-12-2015, 06:41 PM   #15
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Thank you for bringing us along on your trip, hope your problem with the bike isnít to bad. Love the beautiful scenery and the information of the trip!
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