The Ride This year's ride was a little different. Rather than renting a bike for many, many Euro, I shipped my old faithful GSX1100G across the pond to live for a few years. I got to Stefan Knopf's facility in Heidelberg on the 2nd of July and the first order of business was to dust off the bike, hook up the battery, feed it some fuel and see if it was gonna run. To explain the last statement: Just (2 weeks) before the ship date, I discovered that the bike had sat for so long that a hole had rusted through the tank and was slowly weeping fuel. Not good - and not much time. I managed to get a proper fix to the hole, but this left the tank needing paint. For some reason - auto paint shops (around here, anyway) do NOT paint motorcycle tanks and the 'cycle guys were booked up. Finally found one and he got the tank back to me 2 (count'em) days before I had to haul the bike from Virginny to Orlando with the injunction that the paint had to cure for 90 days before I could put fuel in it. Since it would be 120 days before I saw the bike again - this was NOT a problem. Choke on, ignition on, hit the button and VROOM - all of the proper noises came out of the mufflers. This looked promising. Day 1, Friday July 3rd Heidelberg, Germany to Marktschellenberg, Austria. Today was primarily a shakedown day. I left Stefan's place and headed out. Less than 2 kms away, my fuel gauge headed for the cellar! All that I could think of was that something coupled with the repair job had just failed. A quick u-turn and I headed back to Stefan's. Got there, felt all around under the tank - hands were dry. Opened the fuel filler door, and it was at the same level. I remembered that the fuel sender seemed a bit fiddly when I put the tank back together - so no fuel gauge. I headed back out and at the first fillup, the bike was returning the same mileage that it always had. No fuel leaks! Yay! Today's goal was the quaint little Austrian town of and its neighbor I'm collecting a series of these unique town names and hope to be able to compose complete sentences using town names. I need to have SOMETHING to do in retirement I hit a bit of rain in the afternoon, and remembered why the pair of boots that I had brought were in the back of the closet - they were no longer waterproof. This could be a long two weeks. I notice that the Tach is no longer reading and that I don't have turn signals - blown fuse and no spares. I hit a Bancomat (ATM) for some working capital and it promptly sucked in my ATM card with a note that they were keeping it for security purposes. It's now Friday night and everything is closed. This is NOT cool. I dug out the faithful Blackberry and called both of my credit card banks to advise them that I will be having a significant change in useage patterns, and feed one into the Bancomat. 2 minutes and 400 later, I'm on my way. Stop for the night just north of Bertchesgaden in a small Gasthaus for 22 for the night with breakfast. This is the cheapest lodging that I will see for the next two weeks. Day 2, Saturday July 4th Marktschellenberg to Aviano, Italy. I pick up a few fuses with my morning tank of gas, and everything is working again. I head south for Austria and Slovenia. Tach stops working again - new fuse is gone. Change of plans. I WAS going to swing through Slovenia, but with a mystery electrical problem, I head for Aviano AB in northern Italy where I'll have some resources available (retired military). I book into a local hotel and fire up the laptop to hit the Yahoo GSX1100G group. A plea for aid brings me scans of wiring diagrams and multiple suggestions. Day 3, Sunday July 5th Aviano messing with bike. No significant riding - just back and forth to the BX for parts, and fix-it materials. Fun day. Day 4, Monday July 6th Aviano Loop to Bled, Slovenia, through Trieste. While parts shopping, I discover that the Air Force has on-base transient quarters that I can stay in for significantly less money than the hotel. I move and am assigned "Family Quarters" (a micro efficiency apartment) as they don't have single rooms available. This comes with a washer and dryer. The dryer will come in VERY handy over the next two days. Still not sure what's happening with the bike, but I decide to do a short loop through Slovenia to visit Lake Bled. Just after I pass through Tarvisio heading for the Slovenian border, a light rain starts to fall - more annoyance than anything else. The border guards don't wave me through, and one of them starts to go behind my bike to see where I'm from. Before he can look at the plate, I say "Stati Uniti". His eyes pop open a bit, and his buddy wakes up and wanders over. We have a great chat for about 5 minutes until the stack of cars behind me gets too big. I guess that I was the most excitement that they'd had in a month. I make it to Bled after 20kms of Slovenia's finest dirt roads through a national park. In a steadily increasing rain. It's now raining steadily and there's no way that I'm going to try and take pictures of anything. I decide to loop back to Aviano through Trieste and am treated to Florida-class rain and thunderstorms until I finally get to the Italian border, where it all stops. Back to the base, spread all of the paper that I have on my body into a single layer on the countertops and let it dry - money, passport - everything is wet. On the bright side, The fuse gremlin seems to have gone away - one of the GSX guys recommended unplugging the horn. I tried it and it worked. Go figure :huh Day 5, Tuesday July 7th Aviano Loop to Forcella di Lavardet. One of the roads that I've wanted to ride is the Forcella Lavardet - and today would be a good day to ride it. Off we go for a fun day of motorcycle adventure. About lunchtime, I spot this: With a buildup like that, I HAD to stop, and was treated to typical Italian country fare I continued on until I got to the road to the Forcella. Which was closed. And it was starting to rain. Again. So - with a decision to go back the way I came or to do a loop, I opted for the loop. The bike now needs fuel. The first station that I came to had a chain across the entrances (typical of Italy) - closed. The second one had a sign that it was closed on Tuesday afternoons for its normal day off. The third one was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday for a strike. My trip odometer is registering more miles since the last fillup than I like to see. Did I mention that it was raining? I finally find a station that is open and actually selling fuel. I top off the tank and head south. Tomorrow, I head north.