Eighteen Years In The Making

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by AdvNuma, Aug 13, 2013.

  1. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    Sorry for the delay in posting more details and photos about our trip. We had some fairly long days of walking around Nice, riding through the Mediterranean Alps and spending time with other riders on the tour. We were in many areas with poor cell reception and the WiFi wasn't particularly good in the hotels where we stayed. During periods of free time -- where decent cell reception or WiFi existed -- I spent my time keeping in touch with work via cell, text and emails to monitor the situation with Hurricane Florance. Our service territory got lucky and had minimum damage and associated outages. Our crews restored power for our customers quickly and then traveled to help other utilities who were hit worse than us.

    Marise and I flew home from Nice on Sunday, September 23rd arriving at our house around 5 PM and I was back in the office the next morning (Monday) at 7:15 AM. Over the coming days, I will post photos and tell you about the remainder of our trip.

    While in Nice, we ate most of our meals outdoors at cafes located around the border of the many piazzas in the city. The food was excellent and we tried a variety of French dishes that were new to us.

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    This waterfall (cascade) was high up on a mountain at the east end of Nice. We hiked up there, enjoyed the view overlooking the city and took a couple of the photos above from that vantage point.

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    Marise enjoying a walk with me around Nice.

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    Streets intersecting piazzas at interesting angles make for some unusually shaped buildings.

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    Numa
  2. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    On Saturday, September 15 we packed up and used the Uber app to summon a ride from our hotel in Nice to Saint Paul de Vence, the meet spot for our Edelweiss tour.

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    This BMW R1200RT would be our mount for the next seven days of riding.

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    Numa
  3. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    At the rider briefing, held in the evening just before a group dinner, our German tour guide Michael Gobel told us that he had led over 150 tours with Edelweiss and that the original concept of Edelweiss' extreme tours was his idea. He told us the extreme tours featured more riding, much more difficult roads than traditional tours, longer days in the saddle and less sight-seeing stops. Michael developed the routes for most of the "extreme" tours and he told us our tour -- the Mediterranean Alps Extreme -- was the most difficult of all of the "extreme" tours. According to Michael, the route featured many twisty, narrow mountain roads, over 550 hairpin turns and over 50,000 turns total. We would spend most of our riding time on mountain roads crossing passes and riding down in canyons. Brief highway runs would be used only to help us skirt a couple of large cities -- Nice and Genoa.

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    Marise and I were the only couple signed up for this tour -- all other riders were men riding solo -- and we found out all of them had completed one or more "extreme" tours before signing up for the Mediterranean Alps Extreme Tour. At this point we were beginning to wonder what we'd gotten ourselves into by signing up for this tour. We started getting to know our fellow riders -- eight men including our tour guide Michael -- over dinner. The tour bikes would feature three Ducati Multi Stradas, two BMW R1200RTs, the tour guide's BMW F850GS and the balance of the bikes were R1200GS BMWs.

    Marise and I talked it over after dinner and decided my riding experience on and off-road in the mountains should put us in good shape to complete the tour route. We went to bed Saturday night excited and a little apprehensive about the following day's ride.



    Numa
  4. IronButt70

    IronButt70 You don't have to be crazy to do this but it helps

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    They do grow up oh so fast. Lifetime memories. One photo along the way of our 4K mile 15 day trip through the Appalachians and beyond in June.

    https://advrider.com/f/threads/and-so-it-begins.1334754/#post-35732329
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  5. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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  6. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    At Sunday morning's 8:30 AM rider briefing, our tour guide covered the basics of the local signs, riding customs and safety and then described the day's route. At the end of the briefing he said he would need someone to ride sweep so he'd know when the group was back together when regrouping at intersections and through any congested sections we passed that might get the group strung out. Since I was the only one riding two-up, I agreed to ride at the back of the group in the sweep position. That would allow the solo riders in front of us the opportunity to ride at their own pace without me holding them up. I wanted to make sure I could ride at a pace where Marise would be comfortable so she'd enjoy the ride.

    Right after the briefing we mounted up and headed out for the ride to the mountaintop ski village of Valberg, France. Along the first day's route we rode through several large canyons including Verdon Gorge (3,000 feet deep and considered Europe's most beautiful canyon)...

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    ...and then through some smaller canyons on the way to Entrevaux.

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    After a coffee break in Entrevaux, we rode through Gorges de Daluis (the Red Canyon) featuring 17 tunnels while on the final stretch up to Valberg. The rock formation shown at the edge of the road below is known as "Tete de Femme" which translates to "woman's head".

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    This French sign indicates an upcoming hairpin turn. (The Italian equivalent is similar, but reads "tornanti".) We saw a lot of these signs in France and Italy while on this trip!

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    Numa
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  7. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    We were scheduled to spend two nights in Valberg, so Monday was an "optional" day. Our guide had an all-day loop route planned that would end up back in Valberg. You could chose to go on the planned route, hang out in Valberg to relax or plan your own route for the day. Marise wanted to take the day off of the bike on Monday because we'd be riding two days straight the next couple of days. (We were scheduled to stay two nights in Valberg, but only one night in our next planned hotel located in Vicoforte, Italy.) She told me she was fine hanging out alone in Valberg and it was fine if I wanted to head out for the ride with the group. I opted to stay with her. The rest of the group (except one other rider) headed out for the day's ride.

    Marise and I walked around Valberg checking out the town and had lunch together at an outdoor café. We stopped in a little store and I saw this motorcycle magazine along with many others published in French.

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    After lunch, Marise wanted to check her emails, take a little nap and shower before dinner. I decided to venture out alone on the motorcycle and head back into the Red Canyon so I could shoot some photos of the tunnels and scenery. The tunnels were very interesting to me because they separated the lanes of traffic with one direction going through the tunnel and the other direction going around the tunnel on open pavement. Just on the other side of the tunnel, the lanes rejoined each other only to separate again at the next tunnel.

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    That evening the whole tour group reunited and we had drinks and a very nice meal together.





    Numa
  8. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    Our daily routine with the Edelweiss tour group progressed pretty much as follows:

    • 7:30 AM meet the group for breakfast
    • 8:30 AM arrive for the morning riders meeting wearing your riding gear and with your bike fully packed
    • Kickstands up right after the riders meeting concludes
    • One or more break stops to enjoy the scenery and a coffee break before mid-day
    • Lunch sometime between 12 Noon and 1:30 PM
    • One or more break stops to enjoy the scenery and a coffee break between lunch and arriving at our evening hotel
    • Ride until 6 or 6:30 PM
    • Drinks upon arriving at the hotel
    • Get checked into the hotel and cleaned up for dinner
    • Meet for dinner at 7:30 PM
    • Drinks and conversation after dinner until you got tired and headed up to bed
    The evening conversations included a mixture of talking about motorcycles, riding, riding gear, world politics, family, careers, places around the world visited by members of the group and many other topics. Our group included two Germans, two Brits and six individuals from the United States. We had some very interesting conversations over beers and locally produced wines each evening!


    Numa
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  9. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    Our Tuesday route from Valberg, France to Vicoforte, Italy featured seven mountain passes including Col de Turini which has been used in multiple Tours de France races.

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    I found these cast concrete electric poles -- with steps built into the pole -- to be interesting.

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    Our hotel in Vicoforte was in a 300 year old building that had been a monastery.

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    Here is the view from our hotel room balcony.

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    The Santuario della Nativita di Maria.

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    It features the largest elliptical dome in the world. After the dome was built, the workers refused to remove the supporting scaffolding fearing the roof would collapse. The architect removed the scaffolding and the dome has been standing since 1590.

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    We were served dinner in this building adjacent to the church. Dinner included food cooked by nuns and locally produced wine.

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    I saw plenty of these three-wheeled Piaggio trucks while in Italy. You steer it with handle bars; not a steering wheel. I would love to bring one of these back to the States with me!

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    Numa
  10. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    Wednesday morning we packed the bike for the ride to Rapallo, Italy which is located on the shores of the Mediterranean. We again had nice mountain views along the way...

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    ...and narrow mountain roads that played into the strengths of R1200RT's handling while riding two-up.

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    Our route that day took us through a region loaded with hazelnut trees and our coffee break location featured a bakery...


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    ...where the owner used that local produce in his baking.

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    Nice outdoor seating in the piazza.

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    Marise spoke in Italian with the owner to arrange a group photo...

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    ...and then the owner, Guiseppe, wanted an individual photo with Marise.

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    One of the riders in our group had a slow speed tip-over on one of the hairpin turns during the ride on Wednesday. He apparently had his Ducati Multi Strada in a gear too high for the steep road and choked out the bike in mid-turn. Another rider in the group and I helped him pick his bike up and he continued on with just a broken front brake lever, broken hand guard and bruised ego. Michael made repairs to the Duc later when we took a break.

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    Numa
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  11. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    Our hotel in Rapallo was right down on the waterfront...

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    ...and had a nice covered spot for parking the motorcycles.

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    Parked across the street from the hotel was this sweet ride.

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    This castle turned museum building was adjacent to the hotel.

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    Numa
  12. B10Dave

    B10Dave Long timer

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    Young lad in the boat looks out numbered but he doesn't seem to mind. Great Pics Numa. Keep them coming.
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  13. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    Probably 90% or more of the riding on this tour was on narrow winding roads in the Alps. (We did have a few short runs on highway getting around Nice and Genoa.) Some of the roads were extremely narrow -- barely wider than a golf cart path -- and were still two-way streets. Many had no center lines and many had no paint markings at all. You might ride 40-50 kilometers on one of these roads winding up and down through the mountains without seeing any houses, seeing any other people or meeting any cars on the road. But you were constantly riding around blind turns, the road obscured by mountain walls, without knowing whether you were going to meet a Fiat, a truck or a tour bus.

    Here are some examples of the roads. (As is always the case, the photos don't do it justice. These roads were very narrow for miles at a time.)

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    But the views were incredible and I rode at a pace so as to keep Marise happy and safe and so she could enjoy the views. I was worried about holding up the rest of the group, but they told me I was within one or two minutes of them at each stop.

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    At one point along the tour we were descending a mountain on narrow roads and met a group of Rally cars from the Netherlands. They were as much in the center of the road and on our side of the road as the 30 or so Rally cars came by. I felt very fortunate everyone in our group got through them without any incidents.

    Marise and I had one close call on this tour. When the group left a mountain top viewing location overlooking Monaco, we headed up a mountain road and came up behind a Jeep. The Jeep driver moved to the right edge to let the rider in front of me by and then stayed at the edge. As I went to pass him, he moved back towards the left and pushed me to the center line just as we met a car coming the opposite direction. There was not much clearance on either side of my mirrors as we rode between the two cars, but I held my line straight and we made it through with a bit of puckering.

    Many of the hairpin turns were extremely tight. I was glad I had made a few runs up and down Green River Cove Road with my buddy Loren in the weeks before leaving for this tour. The turns were so tight cars and trucks would come into the opposing lane when they rounded the turns. Some trucks and buses could not make it around the turns without backing up and forward several times. We rode through hundreds of hairpin turns while ascending and descending the Alps.

    The narrow roads and possibility of meeting oncoming cars/trucks without sufficient space to get by was my only real concern on this tour. The riding was incredible, but required constant focus and attention to the road. The final two days of the tour featured some of the best and tightest roads and really served to substantiate the "Extreme" moniker in the tour's title.




    Numa
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  14. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    Thank you. Glad you're liking the photos! Stay tuned for more to come.



    Numa
  15. JMforPres

    JMforPres Long timer Supporter

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    Very cool narrow roads! I did not realize the roads were so narrow and winding.

    Jon
  16. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    I have been fortunate enough to have ridden mountain roads in many different places in the U.S. including — North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana. These roads in the Mediterranean Alps were the most challenging paved roads I have ever ridden.

    I don’t know how these roads compare with the ones up in Switzerland, but Michael had obviously sought out very rural, back country roads for this tour. What a blast to ride!




    Numa
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  17. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    Thursday was the second and final optional day of the tour. The group talked about taking a short ride to Cinque Terre, returning to Rapallo by mid-day and then renting a boat to go to Portofino by water. There was talk about beer and swimming off of the boat and not all of the guys had swimsuits. I figured Marise and I would cramp their style so we opted out. Instead we walked around Rapallo checking out the shops and made our way to a laundromat. The limited space in the saddlebags had caused us to pack very lightly and we needed to wash some clothes. Doing laundry in a laundromat with all instructions in Italian was a bit of an adventure in and of itself.

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    I guess they don't want you washing your dog, cat or horse in their machines.

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    After we had our laundry clean, folded and back in our room, we rode the R1200RT along the coast of the Mediterranean and down to Portofino.

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    We walked up to this mountaintop castle...

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    ...where we were entertained with some great views and scintillating conversation with a couple from Switzerland.

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    We rode back along the coast to Rapallo and met up with the group for another excellent meal...

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    ...where we heard about their escapades on the boat which apparently included at least one of the guys swimming in the buff. I think Marise and I made the right choice.





    Numa
  18. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    Our coffee/rest stops included some small mountain villages where we met and conversed with shopkeepers and locals. They were all interested to learn our group contained Germans, Brits and Americans and they asked where we had been riding and where we were headed.

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    The guys in our tour group were all very nice and it was fun getting to know them and hearing about their families and backgrounds. In the photo below, the guy in the light blue shirt -- seated at the table across from Marise and with a coffee cup on the table in front of him -- is Brit Tom Stone who led the Electronic Arts (EA) group that created the Harry Potter video games. After that, Tom left EA to start his own company, signed rights agreements with Lucas Films and Lego and created the Lego video games including Lego Star Wars. He has since sold his company to Warner Brothers and they hired him to come with the company. Seated behind Tom -- wearing sunglasses and a ball cap -- is American Jim Baker who is multi-time world champion team skydiver with the United States Parachute Team. Jim was with the team that assisted George Bush Senior when he went skydiving in his seventies.

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    Numa
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  19. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    Friday was the penultimate day of the motorcycle tour and featured some of the most challenging riding of the tour. We left Rapallo, took the highway around Genoa and then headed up into the mountains.

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    Our guide stopped beside the road as we approached this spot and told me this was the one place on the tour he would not recommend any rider, regardless of skill level, ride two-up. It was a short distance up to the top of the hill, but the road was steep, narrow, had tight turns and was very rough. Marise and I took a short break while the others rode to the top.

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    After a long day of tight, twisty riding in remote areas, we arrived at our hotel in Finale Ligure...

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    ...which was located on a hillside adjacent to a fort.

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    Dinner, drinks and people watching took place down the hill from the hotel in the piazza.

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    Finale Ligure is a very pretty town on the shore of the Mediterranean like Rapallo, but was probably only one third the size of Rapallo. It seemed to be less tourist-focused than Rapallo. We didn't get to spend much time there because it was a one-night stop, but we'd like to go back to Finale Ligure at some point in the future.




    Numa
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  20. AdvNuma

    AdvNuma Long Rider Supporter

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    On Saturday morning we loaded the saddlebags for the final day of the tour. After breakfast we headed up into the mountains for one final day of riding in remote areas with beautiful scenery each time we stopped for a break.

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    After crossing back into France, we stopped for a hilltop view of Monaco...

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    ...before making the final push through the mountains and into Saint Paul de Vence.

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    Numa
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