Monthly Archives: October 2015

Hoogs Ride – Day 11

The last day of riding.

We got up early (for Hoogs) to eat breakfast and to give Robert a send-off (and then there were three). The skies were pretty clear and we decided we could ride partway to Rome on smaller, fun roads.  It is surprising that there are isolated, small towns built into mountainsides within fifty miles of Rome. It was cool,  7 degrees,  but a great way to end the ride.

Eventually, we had to get on the super – slab into Rome.  Unfortunately, Josef’s Garmin routed us off of the ring highway into the city traffic.  One more dose of buses and scooters conspiring to take us out.

We made it to the shop ahead of our 10:30 deadline,  shocking, checked in, paid up,  changed, said goodbye to Josef (and then there were two) and caught an Uber cab to our hotel around 1:00.

This left Josh and me with a half day to play tourist in Rome. We checked in and bought hop on/hop off bus passes for the main sights. Similar to Carol and my four hour Rome blitz, we saw the Colliseum, Forum, Vatican City and a few other landmarks,  finishing up by 5:30. No Pope sighting, but lots of antiquities.

The Colliseum

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A panorama of St. Peter’s Square.

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Sunset over the city.

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We finished the day with a stroll around the streets to check the nightlife and a gelato.

This is for Ben… Vespa’s all lined up, and pink.

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That’s about it.  Tomorrow morning I day goodbye to Josh (and then there is one), catch a train from the Termini next to the hotel to the airport, fight to Detroit and then the last leg home.  I’m ready to be done.  I might do a recap when I get home on the trip as a whole and my thoughts for the next adventure on two wheels.  Stay tuned.

Hoogs Ride – Day 10

It wouldn’t be a Hoogs adventure without some drama. 

At dinner last night, the winds had picked up and there were thunder claps as we headed back to the hotel around 11:00. I didn’t hear any storm sounds overnight. 

At breakfast, Josh and I headed to the rooftop terrace to check on the weather. What we saw was a raging river and a town under water.

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You can see the water almost up to the deck on the railroad bridge.

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Apparently there were biblical rains during the night. Our plan for the day was to ride to Campobasso and then the mountain roads to a town near Rome so that we could get to the rental office by 10:30 to drop off the bikes.

We had to find a routing out of town that got us across the swollen river and on our way.  The Italian equivalent of the civil defense was all over the city, directing traffic. We got across the river fine but then ran into mud and debris covered roads from overnight flooding.  It got worse. 

I came around a corner and found Josef’s bike horizontal in a huge mud puddle.

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We had to wade into shin deep sludge to get him upright and then steady the bike while be spun it around to extract it from the mire.  Of course it spit goo all over us. The truck driver coming the other way in the picture told us the road ahead was worse.  All the farm fields had washed across the roads.

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We limped back to the last small town where Josef begged the gas station guy for a bucket to wash off his bike.  The power was out in the town and everyone was cleaning up the mess from the disaster. The water had washed down this street so hard and fast that it had pulled out the cobble stones.  There was a pile the size of a Volkswagen in the gas station parking lot.

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After the bike cleanup, the townspeople gathered around to help us remap. Our only option was to backtrack to Benevento, and it was starting to rain again.

On the outskirts of Benevento,  The authorities had the highway blocked.  They told us the AutoStrada (and all the other roads) to Campobasso was closed and wouldn’t open for two days due to mudslides. The whole region is a disaster area.

We would have to ride towards Naples (ugh) to find an open highway north. The rain was now coming down hard with standing water on the highway to complement the mudslides closing lanes.  Not a good riding environment.  I rode as cautiously as I could to avoid hydroplaning and had a death grip on the bars because of the low visibility and slippery conditions. After about an hour, we cleared most of the rain and took a breather in our old friend Cassino while we re- plotted our course.  We decided to make our way to Avezzano, close enough to Rome and there would be some nice mountain roads to keep the day from being a complete disaster. 

The riding was indeed very nice and we got to Avezzano before dark, yay. A beer in the lounge and Napolitano style pizza for dinner. Tomorrow, up early to see Robert off as he heads towards home, riding 1100 kms back to Germany.  He will likely encounter rain and snow. Then,  we’ll be bolting for our bike drop on the west side of Rome.

Hoogs Ride – Day 9

Breakfast in the rooftop cafe at the hotel. The skies to the north were dark and threatening, to the south clear.  Thankfully, we were heading south along the Amalfi coast, a part of the trip I was especially looking forward to. We could see from our breakfast perch that the traffic didn’t seem so bad.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures on my phone of the coast.  You’ll have to trust me that it is every bit as spectacular as the photos you’ve seen.  We rode the singular roadway the connects the towns along the coastline. The view was great, the riding even better.  Sure,  there are non-stop tour buses coming around corners into your lane and a mix of Audi’s going fast and Fiat’s going slow but it was great.

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We stopped for lunch in a little town short of Amalfi.

This is a “smooth” representation of the Napoli roads

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All good things come to an end and we left the coastline, heading for a town with ruins,  Paestum. The city has a long history from Greeks to Lucans and was abandoned/forgotten for centuries. This is one of two temples.

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It was warm (28) and sunny so we elected not to walk the grounds.

Our coast riding fine, we headed for the mountains. Our destination was Benevento. We arrived before sunset, yay, had dinner in town and called it a night.

Storms are moving in, we’ll probably be leaving in the rain tomorrow, but it looks like it will clear up as we make our way north.  Let’s hope so.

Hoogs Ride – Day 8

The day started out overcast with rain threatening. We were following the Garmin “curvy roads” routing which took us through many small villages and narrow roads.  It was kinda sad to see many of the towns are in serious disrepair.  There are few young people and there are abandoned concrete structures along the roadway.  In town you see old men (and by old, I mean much older than me) sitting on the sidewalk outside of cafes watching the traffic go by. No young people, no children.

One of the nice things about two – wheeled adventures is that your sense of smell adds to the experience, immersing you in the environment.  Coming into one of villages I could smell mold, soon after I smelled sulfur.  It appeared that this area was once a mineral springs resort area, taking advantage of the natural heat from Vesuvius. Most of the buildings were shells. Again, kinda sad.

As we came into one of the larger towns it started to rain steadily.  We liked fire refuge at a cafe only to discover out was closed.  Across the street was a nightclub/restaurant named Blue Fever. Unfortunately, it only served desserts during the day.  Josef used his charm with the servers, Ramona and Maria, and convinced them to contact another shop to bring lunch to us.  What showed up was a platter of sandwiches, pizza, bread, cheese and more that could easily feed ten.  Apparently, we were the only patrons on town. We ate on the dance floor with music videos playing on a big screen. Rather surreal and over the top. By the time we finished, the rain had stopped and we continued towards Naples. Naples is a huge metropolis with stifling traffic and roads constructed with manhole cover sized slabs of dark stone. They were anything but level and there were no lane markings whatsoever, resulting in a free – for – all. Our adventure style bikes were bouncing all over as we tried to stay upright, avoid the swarming scooters and random pedestrians. This made Rome look tame, and it went on forever.

Finally, we caught site of signage for Pompei, our next destination.  I recognized the entrance, as we rode past it, another U- turn. We spent about two hours wandering the grounds with me trying to recall the details from our visit a few years ago.

What happens to dogs that bark too much in Pompeii.

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That’s Vesuvius in the background. Imagine it without the top blown off.

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Our final destination was the Amalfi coast.  We were a little anxious because our German friends had told stories of terrible traffic and we didn’t have a lot of time to get to our hotel in Sorrento. It was dusk as we approached the coast roadway. It is indeed spectacular.

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Sorrento had its own brand of traffic insanity.  Scooters buzz on and over the center line, passing between buses and playing chicken with oncoming traffic. I can’t begin to describe the mayhem.  Trying to keep the four of us together for the few kilometers turned out to be impossible. Guess who got left for dead? I went the wrong way down a one way street, got chewed out (deservedly) by a traffic cop, got bad directions from a shop owner,  got worse help from another traffic cop and found the hotel by a combination of dead reckoning and dumb luck. The Hotel Regina is on the cliff overlooking the water.

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Close by is an outlook identified by this sign, nice.

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Tomorrow, we’ll follow the coast south and then turn inland to make our way back to Rome Friday.

Hoogs Ride – Day 7

And then there were four…

We suited up and rode with Art back to the rental office. It was probably 5 miles but still took us an hour as we stopped at the Pantheon to drop his bags at his hotel fire the night.  Art’s wife flew in this morning, violating the Hoogs no spouses allowed cardinal rule.

We lingered around the Pantheon, pretending not to understand Italian when the Polizia rousted us. Only commercial vehicles and horse carriages can drive right up to the plaza… and Hoogs.

Check in, lunch, watch the shop next door detail cars for an hour and sitting around 1:00. Zzz zzz.

A solid half hour to get out of Rome.  Thank goodness.  Once you get to the countryside it gets interesting and starts going up in elevation.  Entertaining for us was that the Italian prostitutes sit or stand at isolated portions of the roads on the outskirts of town.  Not sure where the acts are performed.

Our leaders took us up the side of the mountains to 1700 meters.  At that elevation the leaves were changing and the views were spectacular.  A wonderful transition from the congestion of Rome.

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The roads were marginally maintained, the only thing up there was a ski ghost town, hunters and free range cattle, adding cowpies to the objects to avoid.

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The temperature dropped to 9.5 degrees compared to about 22 in Rome. It was a fun, twisting ride down the other side. Then a not so fun cruise down to Cassino for the night.

Tomorrow,  Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast, depending upon the traffic, weather and our start time.

Hoogs Ride – Day 6

And then there were five.

Today we parted ways with Hans as he needed to catch an afternoon flight out of Rome. Hans headed straight there on his Ducati as we headed to Assisi, a religious Mecca for Art. Plus, it is Sunday and Art was looking for a religious existence.

The weather was improving, the roads drying out, though the skies were threatening. We spent considerable time wandering the streets, sightseeing and finding n alfresco lunch spot in a plaza.

The views from the bottom and the top.

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Of course, with all our dilly-dallying, we ran out of time and needed to head straight to Rome in order to get to the rental house and retrieve Art’s luggage.

Of course, being Sunday, the employee  for the rental company was not there. Plan B… head to the hotel and come back in the morning.

The hotel is close to the Pantheon and we had to navigate the Rome traffic into the center of the city.  If I hadn’t ridden in Manila, I would have been terrified.  We had a quick beer  at the rooftop bar and headed, by taxi, to dinner. This was the scariest part of the day, buzzing through narrow streets, dodging pedestrians and scooters at crazy speeds. Well, not so much dodging as intimidating. The dinner was at a restaurant the hotel concierge said was not a “tourist” place. We were the only English speaking guests so, she was probably correct.

Afterwards,  We walked 3.5km back to our hotel past nightclubs and plazas that were also non-tourist oriented. By the time we returned it was almost 1:00 am. Another short night.

The view from the hotel rooftop. The Colliseum was barely in view.

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Tomorrow,  we’ll drop Art at the rental place and head forward southern Italy, new regions to explore. And… It is supposed to be sunny.

Hoogs Ride – Day 5

Ugh! We woke up to a steady drizzle and strong breeze.  We shared our disdain for the weather with a table of bicyclists on a guide-led tour of the region.  At least they had the option to not ride and take the support van to the next hotel.  Though, I’m sure I’d be one of the ones suiting up.

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We made an altered plan to ride a shorter route, get to the hotel and dry out.  Sounded good. I’m not crazy about riding in the rain, not because of the wet but because of the compromised traction.

Things were going okay until I entered a slow turn in a town and my front wheel instantly went out, leaving me on my side, sliding with my foot pinned under the bike. It was a short, scary slide.  When I came to a stop, a passerby came quickly to help lift the bike off my ankle. 

I assessed things from  head to toe.  Miraculously,  there didn’t seem to be anything broken, but I could tell my ankle was going to be sore.  Thank goodness I had inserted my hip pads, wear good quality protective gear and brought my new riding boots which have sold ankle protection.  Otherwise,  I’d be writing this from a hospital.

We tried to reconstruct what happened because the lean angle and speed should not have caused the slide.  The only thing we could see was a small pothole/patch that must have upset the front wheel causing the loss of traction.

Anyway,  me and the bike are fine. I have a little swelling and purple coloring but no pain or range of motion issues. I’ll be extra cautious in the rain

The day wasn’t done and we had more riding into Moltepolciano (I’m pretty sure I butchered that spelling), an picturesque village that included riding up and down steep, wet, narrow, cobblestone, pedestrian streets. I was a little shaky. The view from our lunch spot was nice, it was a small hotel/restaurant Hans had visited before

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We made it to our hotel and had a nice dinner. Top choices include spiced lard or mulllet roe.

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It looks like the weather will moderate tomorrow as we head to Assisi and then to Rome where we’ll bid farewell to Hans and Art.

Hoogs Ride – Day 4

I missed posting a few days, you should only be moderately concerned.

I finally woke up in Portifino around 8:00. I had poked my head out the window at 7:00 but it was still dark and I was tired.  Our hotel was right on the waterfront and scenic.
This is what passes for a beach in Portifino

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The waterfront. Very scenic.

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The ride started out along the seafront in the picture background, spectacular,  and then turned upwards, also spectacular.  The mountains rise up to about 615 meters and the roads became quite twisty, great motorcycling. The plan was to ride 300 km today,  which is plenty with curvy roads.  We moved into the Chianti Region and ride through vineyards and olive groves. The vineyards looked like the features were picked and the vines pruned.  As we rode past villages,  you could smell yeast, the winemaking process had begun.

We stopped in Giao to find a room for the night. It seemed like everything was booked.
While our tour guides searched the internet Josh,  Art and I explored.  We found a giant Gallo Rooster, the symbol of the Chianti Region.

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The hotel they found was in Radda. It was a very nice resort and had a line of KTM off-road motorcycles lined up out front… perfect. We arrived in the dark.  I lucked into a suite with two rooms and a terrace.

My view from the terrace, with the bikes lined up

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We had dinner in the hotel restaurant accompanied with… wait for it… Chianti Classico wine. A great day.

HOOGS Ride – Day 3

Thursday, the riding begins.

Breakfast at 8:00, taxi to the motorcycle rental office, forms to sign, gear to transfer clothes to don… departure at 12:30. I hope this isn’t a trend.
The Hoogs component is six this trip, Art, Josef, Robert, Josh, Hans and me.  Everyone but me city the gray motorcycle jacket memo.  Three have the exact same BMW jacket. I’m happy with my blue Aerostich suit.

Our destination today was the Mediterranean coast.  Due to our late start,  our first 80 Km was on the Autostrada, the Italian equivalent to the Autobahn. 80 to 90 mph, not my idea of touring but we had to make time. 

A short stop for mid – afternoon lunch and onto smaller roads for the ride into Portifino, a very small, quaint village on the sea. We liked the feel so much we stayed to have a snack at a cafe on the waterfront.  I left my phone at my bike, so no pictures, though I have several on my real camera. We back – tracked to a Best Western on the bay for the night. I know, Best Western.  But,  It is actually pretty nice and relatively cheap compared to Portifino.

A nice dinner in town with local wine and dishes to round out the first day of riding.

Tomorrow, we head inland and will enter into the Tuscany wine making region. Maybe some wine tasting in our future, stay tuned.

Hoogs Tour – Day 2

Milan!

The overnight flight was relatively painless. Two meals, or what passes for that on airlines.  Two movies, almost.  I was in the final minutes of The Avengers – Rise of Ultron when we landed. I’ll never know if they won…

Customs was a breeze, no declarations. Two trains and a little wandering to find the hotel, whew. Checked in by noon. What to do?  Milan is hosting a huge Expo and the airline gave me two free tickets worth 39€ each.  However,  The hotel clerk said it was crazy crowded and you could wait 5 hours to get into some pavilions, yikes.

I went with plan B, a walking tour of the city. Duomo Cathedral was a fifteen minute walk away.  That gave me a chance to experience the cityscape up close. A city with a rich and long history. An observation… Italians like their cigarettes.  It is strange being around smokers on the streets, in stores, at sidewalk cafes, even though the packaging of their cigarette cartoons is a little frank.

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They also like their scooters.  Don’t step off a curb here without looking both ways.

The cathedral is one of the world’s best and largest examples of Gothic architecture.  I did the museum tour and the walking (climbing) tour of the cathedral terrace. This gets you up close with the spires and rooftop with spectacular views of the city.

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I had my first Italian gelato. Yum.

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Another mile or so of exploring around town and back to my room to catch some zzzz’s. The others arrive late and I’ll probably catch them at breakfast. Then,  I get to try my hand at riding a motorcycle in the Milan traffic.  Nothing could be as scary as Manila. Wish me luck.