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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
ACT 1: The Long Way Down...

WDW2012 (We Did What!) - ‘Countdown’
For ten years now, since I first bought a Ducati, it’s been a dream of mine, just to ride one of Italy’s best, back to the place of its creation.

To combine that with the DesmoFeast that is World Ducati Week in 2012, when the chance came up, was simply too good to resist. ‘WebMeister’ Miles from the Scottish Ducati Club dropped the simplest of lines into a forum post to say that a ferry place had become available for the Newcastle to Amsterdam crossing and a series of jigsaw pieces, for me, fell nicely into place. At the beginning of the year, I bought a stable-mate for my neglected 944ss, in the shape of a 2002 ST4s. In typical Iconic fashion, I set about straight away trying to make my own modifications, especially around the riding position.

In preparation for Italy, quite a few more goodies were bought, a laminar lip screen (v. good), high rise bars (v. comfy), Pirelli angel tyres (undecided), Sargent seat (Great quality, but taking a lot of braking in), cheapo top box (v. handy) and ‘custom fit’ huge Givi panniers (v. damn hard to get ya leg over!). A fork rebuild, tyres fitted and service completed, meant that I’d only put 400miles on the bike since making all the Italy mods and thankfully, I didn’t pay too high a price for such little saddle time. Its been 20 years since I last toured in Europe, on a 1979 BMW R100Rs and even now I can still remember the exhilaration of open roads, warm tarmac and happy days, worrying of nothing but simply riding, that holiday was ran by a tour specialist. Our unofficial tour guide, Miles had done some superb planning of routes and hotels, with bookings of the same and the ferries for us all however, there were still many excited emails and posts before the off!


Sunday 17th June – ‘Hold your Fire’
Especially as the Olympic torch just happened to be coming though my area with attendant road closures and delays. The other four ‘WildDucs’, Miles (M1200s), Neil(S2r), Derek (ST4s) and Norrie (Panigale S), all met before the ferry sailed and got acquainted while sadly for me, I arrived at 4.20pm, with the ship due to sail at 5pm! On the plus side, my bike was ushered into the HGV area, so I had a big tie-down patch to myself. DFDS are obviously used to this and a deckhand gave me purpose made ratchet straps with end hooks that worked really well on my tourer. Along with putting the bike on its centre stand, in gear and with a bungee hook pulling the front brake on, my ST was to have a much better crossing than I was.
I tried to pack my really important things in my tank bag, with items to be worn that night or the next day, handy in a pannier liner bag to carry. It worked reasonably well but I took FAR too much with me and cant imagine that any bag was within its working weight limit, this has led to me mentally re-badging my bike as a Queen Elizabeth (QE4s). I had only just found our cabin, text’ed the group to let them know I was on-board and changed out of bike clothes when I felt the ferry shudder and leave the dock. Miles soon text me back that first rendezvous was in a nearby bar, it seemed the evening scene was being set early. Introductions made and drinks downed, we headed to the general restaurant for a light evening meal before a quick tour of the ship led us to another bar on the upper decks. Sadly, some loud guitar accompanied singing hampered our conversations so, since we knew the next day involved big mileages, a reasonably early night was had.
The last ferry crossing I made was with P&O, Hull to Zeebrugge and I couldn’t of faulted it. While our seas were very kind and calm to us all overnight, the same cant be said of the four bunk accommodation. I likened it to a hot, smelly and vibrating coffin. I thought the booze might have helped but I don’t think anything could have, perhaps its was simply our location in the ship making the vibrations seem worse but, the only sleep I got was after plugging headphones in and tuning out for a full album.






Monday 18th June – ‘Between the Wheels’

The addition of a £10 buffet breakfast was a smart move as it kept us good for a few hours and was tasty enough, eating on-board was better than I had been led to believe by family. All too soon it was time to return to vehicles and the drawbacks of the HGV deck were instantly apparent as the access doors were opened, the stench of various cargo's was awful, diesel fumes were much nicer! However, I was in the first batch of vehicles off the ship but an army of bikers occupying the port entrance meant I ended up parking in the first gas station to wait for the others to catch up. The diesel slicked roundabout and scooters along with cyclists zipping everywhere were a cause of concern to me but being alert is no bad thing when riding on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Having lived in mainland Europe, Miles was well versed in riding while navigating and took a natural lead, followed by the rest of us, with Norrie and myself, hiding at the back – lantern rouge style. Norrie was to prove an inspiration time after time, not only did he appear to breakfast on every touring day in his full leathers but even ate a healthy choice meal each morning: travel light, travel fast!

While the ever tightening exit slip roads around Amsterdam were good fun, and we all managed fine as experienced motorcyclists, I did find the initial first hours riding quite demanding, while we were negotiating cities. At the start I didn’t have my SatNav turned on as I thought I’d simply follow the group while getting used to the roads. This might have been fine if the right hand (slow lane) traffic was not so busy on the major roads. I had to carve up a lorry or miss the exit road at one point, when my view of the group was restricted; thankfully the driver wasn’t the least bit bothered and didn’t even sound a horn. The Netherlands were soon left behind but gas stations on the Autoroutes didn’t seem to be as regularly spaced as in the UK and this was a shame as Norrie’s Panigale was only quoted as having a tank range of ‘around’ 100miles, so vigilant mileage monitoring was needed.

When we left the UK, the temperature was a cool 10°C and damp. Our first food stop of the day was on a nice grassed picnic area in Königswinter, on the bank of the river Rhein and the heat was already turned up to 20°C and rising. After a drink and some snacks, it was time to run south-east instead of the due south that dominated the morning, Frankfurt came and went as the big jets roared overhead until just south of Wurzburg where we knee-scraped off the E41 and headed for our first overnight stop of the small town of Bad Mergentheim. The Hotel Deutschmeister is a clean & functional business users haunt and non the worse for that, the selection of high end Mercs and BMW’s in the car park being proof enough of popularity. A covered area was kept for our five Ducati’s, which was very much appreciated in helping keep them secure. I’ve never seen such a clean town in all my life, even though we arrived and rode through the active market place, full with stalls, not a scrap of waste was evident once the traders had left. We ate handsomely that evening at a nearby public house that the Scotsmen found served a very adequate local bier! Even the singularly German speaking hosts were not too much of an issue after we dissected the menu, word by word. My first taste of schnitzel was very good, along with the drinks that washed it down but, the establishment closed early for our needs, so we took our merriment to a small and very relaxed cocktail bar, nearby before retiring for the night.



 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Tuesday 19th June – ‘The Camera Eye’

I awoke at 6am to the sounds of recycling trucks but excited at the prospect of being in a strange land, I decided to dress & take a short walk before breakfast. Full wheelie bins and hundreds of carefully tied refuse sacks were all stacked neatly for collection. The only sign of discontent I managed to find was a broken Jack Daniels bottle in amongst streets full of monuments and historic buildings. Continental breakfast downed for continental travellers, we had a slight delay after poor Miles sliced his thumb doing running bike repairs but, plasters applied we hit the road again. I found it an interesting counter point as our Italian through-breds reverberated down high walled historic cobbled streets. A detour was decided upon to visit a nearby Ducati dealer in the same town; Alex’s bikeshop welcome for us couldn’t have been friendlier for an unscheduled arrival of five bikes. Free diagnostics, free bottled drinks and a great attitude from all of the staff, soon has us on our way again. Putting an alloy rear sprocket on a touring bike and then tensioning a chain before checking the tight spots is not a good idea when doing some big miles and high speed, the sprocket shedding metal being the result, with adjustment needed on the dealers forecourt, thanks for turning a blind eye

The sun shone its approval of our route south and a magical morning’s riding was enjoyed by quite a few bikers that were out on the ‘romantic road’ of the E43. At the first fuel stop of the day I decided to take a few photo’s while waiting for the group to get sorted, this led to the idea of placing my camera in the see-through map pouch of my tank bag for easy instant access. Two problems then cropped up, one of over coming a lifetime phobia of riding without gloves, overridden by both the heat and the need to capture as many photos as possible at every stop but, a later problem of foolishly thinking my fairing would shade my hands, which resulted in sunburnt backs of hands the next day – lesson learnt.



Neil requested that I carry his Kilt, that would be used for devious means later, on my bike to try and keep it in as good a condition as possible. This was easy to accommodate on the empty pillion perch and it was decided that this, along with my love of Single Scottish Malts, elevated me to the esteemed position of ‘Honorary Scotsman’, even if I didn’t actually know how to pronounce a fraction of the whisky names that I’d been sampling recently.

The first rest stop of the day south of Augsburg, in the delightful town of Weil proved another entertaining language problem until the English speaking daughter of the host turned up and helped us get yet another very welcome and filling meal. Some of the lakes we saw as we dipped ourselves in and out of the Germany / Austria boarders were stunning with waters of mesmerising green. The bend swinging finally started in earnest when we suddenly descended on billiard smooth roads to a welcome coffee stop just before the town of Ettal. At the Ettaler Mühle we were served under the shade of trees, at wrought iron tables by lovely buxom ladies wearing traditional dress.




After some good road fun that turned out to only be a private road where a toll had to be paid, we ended up on the most peculiar road that we later christened the G.O.A.T. track (Gnarliest Of All Time), the very start of which, where cows were wandering freely across the road should have been warning enough but then the ‘L133’ degraded in single narrow lane tarmac before disintegrating into broken black top, strewn with pot holes and severe damage. I struggled keeping up the pace on board the QE4s, while poor Norrie on the Panigale was apparently swearing inside his helmet, without even knowing his home made alloy GB rear hanger plate was being beaten to a pulp.


[The very best section of the G.O.A.T. track!]

Hotel Gasthof Hirschenwirt, Mittersill came up next, after roughly 300 miles for the day. The hotel was large & rooms quite functional however, having arrived late we had to ask for a recommendation for the evening meal, this wasn’t a problem and a nearby hotel/eatery coped admirably with the chasms of five bikers stomachs! Especially since it had its own micro-brewery at the rear. After taking a stroll around the immediate area, another bar was found for nightcaps and I believe it was here that I was introduced to the charms of ‘Jagermeister’. My instant impression was of a combination of cough mixture, aniseed and rocket fuel and after some extra ‘research’ in the UK, I don’t think I’m too wide of the mark. Since the rooms being booked here were two doubles and a single, I took the opportunity of claiming the single room and leaving the ‘flying Scotsmen’ to their own devices.

 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Wednesday 20th June – ‘Finding My Way’

The day started so optimistically. A hearty breakfast followed by a quite early start. The wooden Mittersill fire station next to the imposing mountains looking so quaint as we set off. Then another magical eerily-still early morning ride, only spoilt by queuing for a series of roadwork’s and traffic lights that each repair seemed to require. Finally the toll booth was reached for the start of the GrossGlockner pass, made famous in the UK by the Hairy Bikers for cooking at the ‘Bikers Nest’ at the very top of the Edelweiss Peak as part of 48Km of roads collectively known as, Bikers Heaven. I hoped the title wasn’t literal as I couldn’t resist giving my ST4s its head at last, even if both the bike and rider were probably grossly overweight! The road surface and layout are excellent but the hairpins and sometimes blind bends demanded maximum concentration. I did have a genuine reason for pressing on and overtaking the others as I wanted to try and get photo’s of them climbing the passes, which worked out pretty well. One unexpected issue was that my bike was at such an incline that once parked, I really struggled to get it back off the centre stand then, in my haste to catch the group again, I didn’t realise they had pulled into the parking point below the Bikers Nest and blasted past them. Thankfully, I noticed them by looking back at the next stopping point only a half mile or so further on at one of a myriad of magnificent viewing points. Apparently my Ducati sounded good when wound up between the rocks – cheers Neil! Next it was the quite tight switchback climb to the Nest on cobbled road as well but, it was so worth it. The backdrops of the awe-inspiring mountains are at times, too surreal as most photographs look like painted backdrops but, the ‘top-of-the-world’ feeling was very heady. Views admired, it was time to descend and continue into the numerous tunnels that awaited us.



I’d decided to go with a light reactive ‘hyper-optics’ tinted insert for my visor that was very good outside but couldn’t react quite fast enough when going into darkened tunnels, flipping the visor and ducking behind my screen proved effective when needed. I was surprised how warm the ride up had been with even the road surface being lukewarm to the touch however, on the way down the weather deteriorated slightly leaving the hairpins wet and slick with a big helping of respect required to negotiate safely. After a quick drink to steady the nerves and back down on dry roads, we all crossed the deserted Italian border crossing where very oddly the mileage on my trip counter clicked over to 888miles just after the checkpoint!

First problem of the day were the Italian petrol pumps on the smaller roads that we were riding, they were fully automated with frequently no attendants present at all. They would not accept any of our credit cards, only local fuel cards or cash that we were trying to hold onto instead of withdrawing more cash unnecessarily. We soon cottoned on to using a bigger bill Euro note and filling two bikes from one pump but it was an unwanted complication. Lunch simply had to be pizza from an authentic restaurant in a typically Italian plaza. The huge pizzas were delivered to the tables even before we had finished our first glasses of water and a helpful waiter seemed overjoyed to take a photo of us with Miles’ camera. The air temperature had been rising rapidly ever since entering Italy and was now at 30+ degrees according to one outside thermometer, any jacket and trouser liners had long since been abandoned and any vents, zips and even flies were open to try and cool down by any means, sorry, maybe that was too much information.

The day’s main plan was to shoot down towards the coast via the E55 and then west, on the E70 motorways with the possibility of a trip into Venice that had to be missed out due to the time the ride took. Sadly, even worse was about to happen in roughly the area between the two motorways. I think I ended up riding to the front of the group to indicate I needed fuel and when drifting rearwards, I settled into the middle of the group rather than at the back. From a series of interesting and cooling tunnels we pulled into a motorway service station only to discover poor Norrie was missing in action. After taking care of nature and peeling off sweaty bike gear, phone calls and texts were sent to Norrie with no reply. We hoped that this meant he was still riding but the flip side was he might still be in a tunnel and out of signal, or worse! I walked down the motorway slip road but could see no sign of Norrie or the Panigale, I even ran back to the filling area when a Ducati rider came in only to be told he had not seen any broken down bike. I think we all felt tortured in the energy draining heat while we waited. I bought a three litre bottle of Gatorade, drank half and threw the rest in my topbox for later, which was to prove a blessing. After waiting an extra 30 minutes or so and not being able to contact Norrie the decision was made to press on in the hope he was ok. I cant say I was enamoured with Italian motorways from what I’d seen so far, restricted views, marginal driving and toll booths at every major junction that I came across only made me long for the roads of Austria. As we set off, the traffic density seemed to be at its peak and the inevitable happened in that a car undertook and boxed me out (in the fast lane of a three lane road) and I lost sight of the other three Wild Ducs….

Not having my SatNav turned on, it was a slip road too far when I realised I’d missed the exit I needed around Padua and was headed for Vicenza. Then I felt my phone vibrate for a text message which I hoped was from Norrie, so I decided to exit the motorway, pay the dreaded toll and try and back track to see if I could find him. Wrong! On both accounts, text message was from the UK and going back down the motorway and trying to look to the opposite side was a stupid idea given how wide the central reserve was and the hectic traffic conditions. Needless to say, I didn’t see Norrie. My cup of tolerance for the motorways was now well and truly empty, so with a nearly full tank of gas I decided to try and get onto nicer roads and follow the coastal route down to our WDW base of Cattolica. The HTC phone I’d bought to use as a Satnav had been playing up ever since day 2 of the ride, the CoPilot software is amazing but the phone would randomly reboot for no reason at all, causing obvious navigation problems but, it guided me part way to the coast until it decayed into continuous rebooting. The poor phone was actually HOT to the touch, mounted above my handlebars, it was in the firing line of the heat being blown from the Ducati cooling fan and simply couldn’t cope. A cloud of dust around me was surprising but welcome, when I realised a truck had pulled up behind me at the side of the road and I was able to ask directions. The driver seemed to think I was crazy at first wanting to drive down the coast instead of the direct route and kept repeat the main city names I should follow to get to Cattolica. A good few minutes were wasted before he was able to tell me at last that the road was actually closed ahead and I needed to go back to the motorway……Goddamm it!

I had nearly got to the coast and Chioggia and had to turn back to Padua and the dreaded Tolls and Blacktop. An hour later and I was 80 miles away from my previous stop and I think the bike actually enjoyed being given its head once again. Darkness was falling as I stopped to refuel tank and rider and I sent a text out explaining I was ok to our group when a text came in during coffee, ‘No word from Norrie, starting to get worried’. I felt wretched thinking I might be riding away from Norrie, if he had been involved in an accident and needed help. Unbeknown to us, the major part of our ignorance was that Norrie’s mobile had NOT been enabled for international calls and texts as the warehouse that was tasked with doing so, had failed to do!!! Ambient temperature: 32+ degrees the sign said as I left the service station, the only way to keep cool, was to keep moving. In the right direction would have been nice! Yes, dear reader, its time for another pilot error, at a multiple motorway intersection, I got confused and took the wrong road, I knew instantly with the only saving grace being that I got to ride briefly through Borgo Panigale, Norrie would be impressed.

Annoyingly, this left me on the wrong side of Bologna but I managed to get my phone working again for a few minutes at a time by putting it in my tank bag map pouch and getting a route that took me into the heart of the city by way of thanks, I guess. Then, of course, at the worst possible time, the phone died completely, battery out, still no good, red hot. So I pulled into a gas station and contemplated the situation for a while, I figured my luck had finally changed when a police car pulled up, across the forecourt but, not quite yet, as in my haste to talk to them before leaving, I managed to knock my helmet on the floor, wincing at the resounding ‘crack’ as the back of the lid, struck concrete.

Not to worry, at least the nice policemen sent me in the wrong direction!

....... More
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Continued: ... Wednesday 20th June – ‘Finding My Way’

Hard to believe it wasn’t deliberate but I had a local on a super-scooter pull up alongside me at the next junction and offer to lead me, in the opposite direction, to the motorway. I never realised a Yamaha T-Max 500 was quite so fast, red lights were ignored, red-light districts came and went along with entire families begging in the streets and poor leaflet distributors and windscreen washers, standing in the middle of multi-lane roads, in the dark, trying to earn a few coins. I guess its no worse than any other city of the world but when on holiday, tired and stressed, it was hard not to be affected by such sights. T-Max man was now at 100mph, no not, kph, miles per hour and for the only time, I didn’t care about the huge width of my bike with outrigger panniers fitted, I did worry for a split second if this might end badly, in more than one way but was mightily relieved to see the correct road signs appearing and a friendly wave and pointed hand in the right direction. My faith in humanity and friendly, perhaps Clockwork Angels were restored...


[Team 'WildDuc - Neil / Norrie / Miles / 'Your Gentle Editor' / Derek ]

Thank god, I’d done a full coolant refresh and added water-wetter before the trip, Coolant temp: 110 degrees, rider temp, probably a bit higher and the speed on the E45 road down past Forli, a little higher again in mph. Maybe the heat had driven me a little stir-crazy but the H.I.D. headlight I’d also fitted before the off, was literally, brilliant. The cooling night air made the bike feel like a turbine and the traffic simply moved out of the way to let me through, road works became chicanes and all I needed was a Tron riding suit and the game would have been complete. I was so relieved to finally see the go-kart track at the Cattolica exit that I’d spied at home via Google street view, even the Batphone decided to play ball and led me straight to the Hotel Senior, where I believe I finally arrived at about 11.30pm. Unusually for me, I didn’t even want to talk to anyone, I was so drained that all I wanted to do was jump in a cold shower, which was exactly what I did. Then, thankfully, while getting changed I heard the characteristic sound of a Panigale thundering away outside. So while a cold beer was thrust into my hand on my return downstairs, I got poor Norrie a cold drink as he told us of his tale of woe. It seems the high speeds and temperatures had gotten the better of the tiny Panigale fuel reserve and the tank was down to bone dry, expiring just 5 miles before the service station where we waited. Worse still, the first police car simply ignored him and drove away when told of his plight! Norrie managed eventually to get sorted but only after he scared some staff into thinking he was about the expire himself after the exertions of pushing his bike, off the motorway, through the toll area to a gas station, in ridiculous heat while wearing a full set of Dainese leathers! He then discovered that his mobile was almost useless to him and couldn’t contact anyone nearby but at least the rest of his journey was relatively uneventful, as I recall Norrie didn’t get to the hotel until near midnight, both of us had been on the road for around 14 hours but with my continuous cockups, I covered a little more ground at around 500 miles.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
ACT 2: Misano Meltdown:

Thursday 21st June: ‘Red Tide’

Even though it was the first day of the main event, I felt in an odd reflective mood on the morning, even after sleeping like a log from the previous day’s adventure. So far we had blasted through the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Northern Italy in three days and while I was stunned at the sights we’d seen already, I knew it wasn’t even a single grain of sand on the beach compared to the history and culture we had passed by.

I guess I was living my own dream and didn’t want to wake.

A pleasant but simple breakfast in the hotel pulled us all around and the wise decision of getting a taxi bus to main event at Misano world circuit was made after the expected temp for the day was noted at 36 degrees! Sunblock and hydration, for me were the key personal points of the day. Medical issues were first for poor Miles at the circuit however, he’d sliced a nasty gash in his thumb during a maintenance session on day two. The clinica mobile soon sorted him out, even if it wasn’t personal attention from Dr. Costa.

The event used the whole of the circuit entrance and the entire pit and parking complex. Divided into a series of arenas, there was something for every type of Ducati fan, the international tent was a useful meeting point and was a fun, active place with its own centre stage and regular events. The ‘tech’ around the circuit was stunning in itself, wi-fi for a start and wireless camera feeds from each televised event beamed to any display area (most) with a display monitor, often in real-time. The Ducati shop in the main block had some great stock items and reductions with suitable queue lengths to go with them. Some of the guys made use of the Ducati bike service that could be booked, Ohlins and Pirelli were also available for advice and parts. Just the number of Ducati events beggared belief, custom bikes, classics, race & historic bikes. Bikini bike wash, art work / painting ( both bikes and humans!), free bike photography, race garage viewing and then all the various trade stands and Ducati partners that were present.
Even on the opening day Troy Bayliss, Carlos Checa and a host of riders could be seen in the race garages, add in the talks in the Ducati University and the various stunt shows and - OK, you get the idea, way too much to see!



Once I’d dragged Norrie away from trying to steal a £4000 race titanium exhaust system on display for his Panigale, we bumped into some of the club presidents at the circuit, it was a nice chance for me to personally thank Mary from the SDC for all her help in organising cards and WDW tickets. She was quite weighed down with Ducati ‘shopping’ at the time and admitted she might need help getting it all back home. I then spotted Antony from the DSC and a trend seemed to be set for talking to Americans for the rest of the day, there seemed to be quite a few who were all incorporating the event with a holiday of some sort, after such a long trip. The WDW pack we collected next gave details of the following days events, a WDW2012 Tee shirt, badge and petrol coupon to be used at the circuit all presented in a nice Ducati bag.

In one of my only smart moves of the whole tour, I decided to bring a drink system with me in the form of a CamelBak, a cross-over from my distant mountain biking days. Along with some powered electrolyte, I could carry a full 2L of water on my back and have instant access to a sip of drink, yes, I made a few more toilet runs than most but it kept me good, in the rising heat, supposedly hitting 40degrees during our stay in Italy.

Where else but in Italy, would an over excited Scotsman be able to talk his way around the roped off security cordon of Rossi’s elite guard to stand next to his MotoGP bike, all in the name of getting a photo of it! Well that’s just what a certain Norrie decided to do and we pulled it off a treat I must say.


[I think Norrie's smile is the only caption this photo needs!]

On the track, Ducati Riding Experience (DRE) events which included some 20 minute free track sessions and other paid sessions with a certain Mr. T. Bayliss were interspersed with real superbike race test sessions and apparently, Carlos Checa was also testing the new 1199 race bike. I was surprised at just how popular, even now, Troy Bayliss is with the Italians, while almost omnipresent, he was mobbed and adored wherever he went, seemingly to me, just as much as, if not more than, Rossi. After being fried in the sun on top of the main grandstand, we retired with a drink and a snack to the international tent once again to sit down and who was quietly sat on the next table to us but Paul Smart! He seemed happy in his own limelight to chat to anyone or give signatures without fuss. I did wonder at the many Paul Smart classic Ducati owners present who could have had their bike signed by the man that was an inspiration for their machine.



All too soon it was time to taxi back to the hotel to get ready for the evening festivities. I didn’t mind too much as it gave me some time to chat with the lady owner of the hotel Senior, Maura. I think it was Miles who said that Maura made the difference in an extra star rating for the hotel and he certainly got that right. Nothing was too much trouble to her, arranging taxis, translating in perfect English and organising anything that was required was all carried out with typical Italian flair. I did wonder if she ever slept at night, the design of TV, sunk into the floor of the hotel elevator, was just one of her many ideas. Maura was also a shrewd business woman and had secured an exclusive deal to sell a Cattolica perfume that was so good that myself and Norrie bought a bottle each for family at home.

Most of our group decided against a meal as the Ducati Beach party that evening at a nearby beach club, also came with food. We met up with a few other UK riders and all walked the mile or so along the very nice Cattolica beach front, hearing the sounds of tortured engines and thrashed tyres in the distance. Hundreds of riders had been organised to ride in from the nearby town of Riccione and the allotted parking area was already full of turbocharged testosterone and some oestrogen, it has to be said, as a haze of rubber smoke blanketed the area a few times in the evening. Considering the event was free for WDW multiday ticket holders, it was very well planned. Row upon row of tables at the sea’s edge served anchovies and bread, with a small glass of wine or water. I only had two possible reservations for the entire evening, one being that I didn’t fancy the strong fish and that all the dialog on the stage was in Italian with no translation of any type available. The food issue was easy to sort as some delicious ‘buritta’ was being sold on the same site that was tasty and a good price. A minimum of introductions on stage were followed by flame dancers and a very good rock n roll band made up from the factory workforce, kept the crowd entertained for most of the evening. I’m not sure if the fireworks in the distance towards Rimini were to celebrate the longest day but it seemed a good preamble to the Ducati illumination at the end of the show.



The heat of the day had taken its toll on me so I decided to leave a little early to indulge the petrol head in me and gaze at the some of the hundreds of bikes assembled nearby, on my way back to the hotel. I was going to be ‘good’ and go straight to bed but spied a lonely bottle of ‘The Macallen’ whisky and decided a tipple might be in order, the night manager must have taken pity on me as he poured ALL the remaining contents of the bottle into my glass! Who was I to argue? Sat on the armchairs at the hotel entrance next to the road packed with Ducati’s was good entertainment in itself. Before I’d downed half the glass, I’d seen, a desmosedici, various 1098’s, an 1199s tricolor, a fleet of 916’s and monsters, one in particular with a set of Audi car ring badges emblazoned on the framework, very up-to-date. I bade goodnight to the other weary guests who were also watching the display as a girl in just a bikini zipped past on a 749, must of been the anchovies!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Friday – 22nd June - ‘The Big Money’

After a light breakfast, the morning of WDW day two was much of a repeat of day one, but hotter again, even earlier. The number of bikes in the main area was larger than the previous day already and queues were staring to form at the more popular drink and food stands, where there was none the day before. The Ducati garage contest for custom bikes was a first port of call, all the bikes looked so good they could have been built in a factory and I couldn’t resist voting for the JHP built Pierobon race bike I’d seen as just a rolling chassis previously at Ducati Coventry..



The track action was continuous all day long and we made our way to the east grandstand as the seats would be in the shade to allow us to cool and enjoy some of the qualifying sessions for the 848 Challenge from the UK. Owner track sessions followed, which I thought had some fast riders in until Mr. Bayliss came out on the two-seater Ducati for some demonstration runs! I hope the pillion leathers had a removable lining. The ante was then upped again for more superbike test sessions, followed by some of the Audi supercars lapping the track at outrageous speeds. More drink and food needed, saw us decamping to the nearby display area where a Moto stunt team, including quad bikes were pulling impressive tricks on the varied ramps and courses. It was simply too hot to walk around for too long, even with the giant water mist blowing turbine in the main arena, so we ended up, in the area that turned out to be the surprise of WDW for me, the Ducati Art area just seemed to be artists displaying their work and temporary tattoos being sprayed on punters along with two glamorous models who didn’t mind being body sprayed topless at all. The reality was much more interesting (honestly), bikes and bike parts were actually being wheeled in and out to be custom sprayed by the very professional artists present. After only intending to stay under the shade for a quick drink we were still there over an hour later having seen numerous helmet creations, panels worked on and a lovely tricolour effect painted on the nose fairing of a red multistrada 1200. The action here was just as relentless as on the track but seeing the how well the artists worked with the owners gave me an idea for my own design but I was told to come back first thing next morning.



I think it was around this time we bumped into Ducati-addict ‘Tony V’ and a tentative plan was hatched to come and watch Tony ride his own bike around the circuit on one of the very first track sessions the next morning….. The only real let down of the day came next, being left in the baking sun at the circuit entrance for 30 minutes by the taxi firm that said we would be picked up in 5, they lost our business for the rest of the stay. Spirits were soon lifted by drinking a few more alcoholic spirits back at the hotel and swapping tales with other Ducatisti. My cash reserves were running very low, so when Norrie announced he’d had enough of restaurant dining for a while, it fitted our evening plan nicely of going some where more modest. An Irish friend of Norrie's, Graham who had rode his Bayliss special Hypermotard all the way over popped up again as we were leaving the hotel and announced not only was there a 24 hour bank nearby but a short way again to a nearby plaza was a McDonalds! Graham had eaten already but didn’t turn down the offer of a bier bought from the same super-clean McDonalds, whatever next. Well, a mobile disco, with light and sound mixing, built onto the back of a stripped Goldwing, appeared to be next, entertaining families in the plaza. A scaffold structure unfolded on the back of the bike, complete with generator and guitar hookup which the owner played with great skill, he even brought his own poodle dog with him, which seem very content to sit in the tank bag on the bike throughout the performance. Sadly, all this distraction did mean that we missed the 'Speed Show' that was the evening's scheduled entertainment, which was a shame as the video at the end of this text shows that it was a great event.

The evening was degenerating nicely when I finally bumped into a Facebook buddy, Stan, that I’d only met via the social network, I’d seen his beautiful 888 custom paintwork bike already in a hotel sidestreet nearby. Stan’s two cohorts seemed in grand spirits already so the logical course of action was to find a nearby pub and get acquainted. After a few drinks, I zipped out to try and get some cash, only wanting to make a single transaction, I choose to try and withdraw the same amount I had brought with me, 300 Euro’s. Turns out that the maximum I was legally allowed to withdraw was 250EUR, (I was told later) so in my semi-drunk state, I didn’t think to try and withdraw a smaller amount and wasted another two attempts drawing the same amount. At least I had a legit reason for throwing my remaining cash in ‘the pot’ and only having a few more drinks until our return to the hotel (where we were running a drinks tab on our room anyway!!!). Once again there was a constant stream of Ducati’s of every type, rolling right past our drunken den and I remember seeing 1am when I realised we were getting up ‘early’ to try and make it to the circuit. Norrie was having way too much fun matching his Irish friend drink for drink, so I made my weary excuses and headed to bed…

Saturday 23rd June: ‘To sleep perchance to dream’

Well, there was plenty of both in reality, even after the roar of L-twins died down in the early hours. Sadly, a little too much dreaming as I slept right though my alarm and we both missed Tony’s dream ride at Misano circuit. Norrie joined me for breakfast but was very much worse for wear and decided not to join me as I’d hatched a plan to ride to circuit and save some time. First, a small detour was needed. The madam of the hotel, informed me of the nearest good cycling shop and after gassing up the QE4s, I was soon buying a very good and surprisingly cheap pair of gel cycling shorts to wear under my Halvarsson trousers. The recent Sargent seat I bought, while being stunning quality was really a pain in the butt, literally, mostly due to insufficient saddle time but I thought wearing padded cycle short might help and later on, it certainly did.

More rules broken and a slow ride to the circuit in shirt and shorts, simply as even at that time of morning I would not of been able to function in bike clothing in that heat. I did wear my boots, which were changed for trainers at the circuit. Misano by that time was simply an ocean of motorbikes, the main area and the next two parks were full to capacity, thankfully I knew a shortcut and slipped through to near the pit area for the 848 challenge bikes. Nearby to my first stop of the day, the Arai service stand. I was worried my aged Arai might be unusable after its fall at Bologna but the technician assured me it was still in good condition for its age, (better than me then). It was my first visit to an Arai service and I was so impressed, the visor mechanism was tested and adjusted and the chin strip that I’d had to tape into place, removed and replaced properly so it looked as good as it possibly could – all for free. Thank you Arai. Next was a spring clean inside the helmet, courtesy of the nice Wurth ladies in the main pit complex who did a helmet refresh and a very professional job too. After this was my main mission of the morning at the Ducati Art stand and I had a plan to have some sort of winged design painted on the back of my helmet. The artist looking after me that day just happened to of been born in the UK, so communication was easy. PC tablets were brought into play but I wasn’t sure I liked the stock designs I was shown, then, while looking through the artists own sketch another idea came to me that seemed perfect to me as a ‘north-east’ lad, for so many reasons. The Angel of The North is one conversion point that bought myself and my fiancée together and it seemed fitting that we while we were the furthest apart in distance we had ever been that an image could be the very symbol of our unity. The artist had not actually painted ‘The Angel’ before but together we came up with a pretty good variation of Gormley’s Gateshead giant. The cost for having this done was very reasonable but the downside was that it would be a few hours before my helmet would be ready.

It wasn’t as though there was nothing to do, shortly after, Rossi and Hayden were both on track drawing huge crowds, a stunt team had fun trying to see how many tyres they could destroy on the start/finish straight and while taking some bike photo’s, who should pull up on his scooter but birthday boy Mr. Giancarlo Falappa! Maybe it was the sun, but I actually felt quite emotional to shake the hand of a man who is still, such a hero to so many. A rest stop was now well and truly needed so after buying a huge steak sandwich, I sought the welcome shade of the east grandstand once more, arriving just to see the end of another 848 race session. There in the block next to me, I spied a familiar figure and thought I’d try my feeble Italian language on him, which failed but got a laugh anyway. I’d be surprised if Gordon P isn’t known to every Ducati owner in southern England as he seems to take part in any and every motoring event going, he, with his brother were great fun to chat with and pass the time of day but I realised how gutted I was to explain that today was our last day in Italy and that tomorrow, we would be missing the premium days racing and events to start the return back to England. I could almost hear the clock ticking away my remaining minutes at Misano World Circuit. Having said my farewells, a walk around the trade stands and displays I’d not had chance to visit before, left my feet aching but my head elated at having been a part of such an amazing spectacle. Thankfully my helmet was finished and ready to be collected by the time I’d managed to get back to my bike and ride over to the artwork tent. While its just a rendition of the Angel, I was still really pleased to have been involved in a piece of artwork that I can look at, and even wear, whenever I choose to.

The spectacles were not over for the afternoon either, as I spotted ‘Wild-Duc’ Neil sporting his Kilt, with yet more ladies apparently wanting not only a photo but to ask the eternal question … ‘What have you got worth hiding away’! Everyone had returned to the circuit for the final day, the newest member of our group, who was joining us for the ride home, ‘David B’ even had a leaking Ohlins fork overhauled by the technicians after borrowing tools at the 848 pits. A final highlight of the day was riding to the photo tent to have a proud image captured of me, my bike and helmet creation, all under the Italian sun, perfect!


[Another present from Ducati - Photo Emailed via WDW]

As I rode away from the circuit along the Daijiro Kato road, the thought came unbidden that I might never get to return here and that every remaining moment should be savoured, so it seemed appropriate to slip my big old Duc’s clutch and indulge in some very unladylike acceleration that my QE4s is well capable of. Back at the hotel, our host seemed concerned we had not eaten at her establishment at all, which we decided to put right on our last evening, the buffet was simple, delicious and so inexpensive that I wished we had eaten there earlier. With no time for delay, it was announced that a public transport bus stopped right opposite our hotel going to the all star stage event at the beach front of Riccione. The novelty of bus travel didn’t last long as the number of bodies crammed into it rose ever higher.

It was dark by the time we reached the impressive Piazzale Roma, already packed to capacity with expectant Ducatisti while some of the Glitteristi had been introduced already by the time our little group arrived. The road in front of the star’s hotel had even been roped off to allow the creation of a runway, direct from the hotel lobby, through the crowds to the main stage. Some winners of public competitions were presented with their prizes, including the keys to a brand new carbon Diavel, just for buying a WDW ticket. Once again almost all announcements were in Italian language but the crowd seem to appreciate the sentiments expressed by cheers at appropriate points. We inadvertently choose a good location next to the VIP guest restaurant running parallel to the walkway, drinks and toilets were nearby and when the all-star band started playing our ears were not too badly damaged. The music was really good as I’m sure YouTube will let you dear readers appreciate, I’m not so sure the hotel guests opposite will have appreciated the enthusiastic swearing of the lead vocalist at various times, in a call-to-arms to join in with the singing but, it was funny. All too soon the event was winding down and large numbers of the crowd started drifting away, we ended up running to catch a capacity bus, fearing another might not be along for some time and then laughing at the decision as the bus actually got stopped by local police to allow two bikes to perform full blown ‘doughnuts’ in the middle of the road!

A short while later and back at the hotel, the realisation dawned of our last night in Italy and a few more drinks were downed in appreciation of being able to partake in such an occasion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
ACT 3: Good to be home ???

Sunday 24th June: ‘A man can lose himself, in a country like this …’ The mood at breakfast next morning was surprisingly upbeat, considering the hangovers, everyone seemed to be looking forward to riding the bikes properly again instead of simply looking at thousands of others… and we had a welcome addition to our group in Mr. Burnie, riding a very sweet sounding multistrada 1100, the flying-five were due to become; a strung out six! The quickest roads were, once again, the very roads that had brought Norrie & myself to Catollica under darkness, in the heat of the day however, Bologna and Verona were passed with only two fuel stops to carry out. Just north of Trento however, we bade a farewell to the E45 (and Toll) to take on smaller roads towards our overnight stop in Austria. The well paved route allowed us to make good progress and an hour later in the small town of Sarnonico, our leader, Miles made the inspired observation of a large group of motorcycles, assembling in a sports complex. As it was 2pm already, stomachs were next in line to be refuelled and it turned out a motorgiro was in progress with astonishing cheap and tasty food on offer for any ‘hairy bikers’. I’m still not quite sure why the period costume was called for but one of the more mature ladies, certainly took a shine to Norrie!




With no obvious petrol stations in sight we pressed on for another 25 miles until a name-and-shame episode in the small district of Lana. Not a person, but the unattended petrol station on the SS238 is to be shamed. Refuelling stops had become a routine by now; tip-toe off bike, put said QE4s on centre stand (more fuel in tank), unclip tank bag, unlock gas cap and leave key in lock. But…..these are the dreaded Italian automated pumps that not only ignore UK cards of any type but then will devour a 20 Euro note and REFUSE to dispense fuel! I was surprised at just how livid I became, no attendant anywhere in sight and then a local at least tried to assist but, possibly made things worse by suggesting that if I’d taken too long to start filling then the pump would simply cut out and NOT refund any cash! As I only had 50 Euro notes left I had to borrow another 20 Euro note off Norrie or I might well still be sat on the shop doorstep, waiting for the owner to arrive to a few choice northern slurs.

The heat and long hours in the sun were getting to us all and since no drinks were available at the previous ‘auto-ripoff’, five miles further along we stopped at the picturesque Hotel Alpenhof. The bier was very tempting but being weary, we decided soft drinks all around was a much better idea and we each put at least two large iced glasses away. Sadly, Norrie’s generosity was about to prove a downfall as I intercepted him going to the bar, offering to pay. So, since I owed Norrie from the gas station, it seemed the least I could do was pay for the drinks. This must of interrupted Norrie-san’s inner harmony and rhythm, resulting in a misplaced wallet that we didn’t realise wouldn’t be seen, possibly ever again….

The Italian gods must have been unhappy with us leaving their domain as heading for the Timmelsjoch pass we exited one of a series of tunnels to be lashed upon with a rain of great vengeance, sorry, a little over over-statement, it was heavy but at least it was relatively warm (at that point) and at the shaded entrance to another tunnel we could don waterproofs without getting water in them at the very onset. Under cloud cover the scenery and roads were still amazing, even if the multitude of hairpin bends did become challenging and then arduous as the rain refused to let up until we were almost at the summit. A little later at the toll station was the point at which Norrie’s missing wallet was discovered as he didn’t have any other cash on him! We paid his tab and after some searching I discovered I’d kept the receipt from the last drink stop, where we suspected the wallet might have gone AWOL. Some friendly German bikers came to our assistance with translation for the toll both attendant who rang around for us but, to no avail, after a few photo shoots we decided it was futile to backtrack and decided to press onwards and downwards….

I’m still not quite sure how myself and Norrie managed to get separated from the group so close to the end of the ride, perhaps through one of the long ‘stir-crazy’ inducing tunnels, or the occasional bouts of rain but there suddenly, like a fire red beacon beside the road was Derek, who set off again on our arrival to guide us along. Except, at the next turn, bless him, he took the wrong turning, either due to another malfunctioning SatNav or because we were so close to our destination and in reality needed the very next turn along. The other ‘wild-Ducs’ had only just parked up so, what time we lost exploring, we made up for in our headlong flight to the guesthouse.

Our overnight stop in the Pension Köhler guesthouse had an instant good vibe. The staff, especially the lady co-owner, Simone, simply could not do enough to help. A dry room in the basement for dripping waterproofs, a meal prepared for us to eat (at short notice) outside in the delightful gardens and covered eating area and drinks brought to the table, was service well beyond the call of duty. Once back inside, I asked what the local after dinner drink would be and of course, a complimentary round of schnapps appeared, which tasted just as good after the third, or was it the fourth round?



In between, Norrie and myself had some serious tasks to complete,. Another missing wallet call still revealed a blank so it was time to bite the bullet and cancel credit and bank cards which took the best part of an hour on the phone but Simone would not hear of taking a penny for the calls and Internet usage. I did sneak a look at the Ducati website to see that 65,000 visitors had been to the Misano circuit and broken the attendance record once again, I actually dread to think how long the queues must have been on the Sunday!

It might have been the time spent at the computer or perhaps being tense riding the bike in the rain with it so heavily laden but my lower back was starting to give some warning spasms, which concerned me given the mileages we needed to put in, yet. Thankfully, there was a heat treatment lounge in the basement, so I made good use of it. A small glass booth, housed a unit that channelled some type of infrared heat into the spine of the client and I’m afraid the room and ambiance were so relaxing that I did fall asleep, good job the heat was timed. After a quick shower, all I could do was fall into bed for the deepest sleep I can remember in a long time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Monday 25th June: 'La Villa Strangiato' or “The wrong Rüdesheim”

I was surprised I’d had the presence of mind to set an alarm to wake us up but, I did grin upon hearing the rain gently falling on our roof window and pretending to be seasoned traveller by thinking to myself, ‘its raining, it must be Austria today’. Breakfast was simple and traditional and just right for the schnapps-addled on a morning. After packing bags and some flying maintenance including the now endlessly amusing two-man-crab-walking event of oiling the rear chains on bikes without centre stands, it was time to bid our fair host, farewell. Even that proved ‘entertaining’, Simone asked us to say how much alcohol we thought we had to drink, as she wasn’t counting! I think it fair to say that we were all astounded at how inexpensive the bill came to.

Dried out waterproofs on once again we set off on a 400mile trip for the day, aiming roughly for Frankfurt, only to have trouble appear a mere 10 miles further down the road, I could see the giant train of motorbikes, rumbling along in the distance but didn’t see them as a threat until a left turn junction came up and I got isolated by them. Almost every one, gestured in some way, even through the gloom but my wheel-spin on take off warned me that conditions were deteriorating again and care was needed. Thankfully, Norrie had seen this and stopped for me but at a motorway that went in two different directions and we didn’t know yet, which one the other Wild Ducs were on! Both our large scale maps of Europe were essentially useless in these circumstances but we studied them in the easing rain while I tried a hard reset on my disgraced phone cum SatNav. We both remembered the town of Bregenz and Lake Constance being mentioned, when my SatNav came back to life and with all the hotel towns being plotted in already, it pointed us past the same two points, so, with a wing and prayer, we set off, myself in the lead, with Norrie’s demonic Panigale LED headlights, very, very close behind.

The tantalising glimpses of scenery were lost upon us as the borders of Switzerland and then Liechtenstein came and went in sheets of rain, with only the density for variation. Our first two fuel stops were just that, fuel, coffee, toilet and back on the road again but a guiding text came in from Miles, confirming we were taking the correct route. I should of figured the SatNav was still playing games when it took us into the centre of Bregenz instead of using the main road tunnel around it. Perhaps there was a reason I’m not supposed to understand that made a cyclist ride across a wet pedestrian crossing without seeing the car that was directly in front of me. The car braked HARD and I could hear tyres on the limit of their traction as I was hitting my own brakes. Maybe I am meant to know that I can match an ABS system but only by having the rear of my bike come around at an angle to the car or else I would of nudged a rear bumper before coming to a final stop.

Having had its fun the SatNav skirted us to the very edge of Lake Constance which might be beautiful when not enveloped in a grey mist that did its best try and fog up the visors of passing motorcyclists. That took us nicely through the boarder into Germany and then for a reason that WAS to become clear to me later, the SatNav decided to take us away from the E43 autoroute that seemed the logical choice and onto some tiny, narrow, but brilliantly surfaced roads that wound its way between farms and tiny communities. It was not until a lunch / fuel stop was called in the hamlet of ‘Vogt’, that an interrogation of the infernal NaffNav showed that while setting it into motorcycle mode, the equally naff operator had also chosen ‘scenic route mode’ whose ultimate purpose I dare not guess at. We asked the petrol station operator where we could eat and a phone call later a local gent appeared who could speak English and was as pleased as punch to tell us that he worked for a few years in Scotland and missed the place sorely. Sadly, all the places he wanted to recommend for us to eat at were not open yet but a local entrepreneur had a stall at the rear of the petrol station on the grounds of the local D.I.Y. store, next door. Very good it was too, his own variation of spiced sausage, with sweet cake and coffee was just right when we could feel the pressure of our situation on us. Scenic route mode ‘OFF’ made little difference as there was only one route forward (and back) to the E43 that we had left! But it was SOOO worth it, the next 10 miles back to the autoroute were like a race track with the odd farm, house or church thrown in for decoration, darting between trees on flat and wide open roads with faultless sight lines for me, was easily the best part of the day.

Big cities were always easily identified by the big planes flying around them and Stugartt came and went by in the same fashion, waterproofs were finally removed at the next fuel stop but just after we started off again, the CrapNav decided to die after being good for the last 100 miles. Nothing to do but wait, let it cool and try yet again. On the move once more, Hockenheim and its circuit was a slight distraction but with another hour of riding in front of us, I was getting weary and starting to wonder if Norrie-san wasn’t actually some little known Scottish superman. I jumped with surprise when the SatNav announced it was time to leave the motorway for minor roads and we had less than 10 miles to travel. My pace picked up in anticipation and the road signs for Rüdesheim, our 'destination', began to appear. Those alarm bells were driven by atomic engines this time upon reaching the nucleus of a hamlet with no hotels of any type being visible. Just as we stopped and shut down our own engines a friendly voice from behind shouted, “hello! You are in the wrong Rüdesheim”. Astounded by this observation and at seeing Norrie leap off his bike as though stung, our guardian German gent went on to tell us that he ‘knew’ we needed the ‘other’ Rüdesheim , which is situated on the other side of the river Rhein! He was spot-on when we explained our confusion and that we were looking for the Parkhotel which was indeed on the other side of the river in Rüdesheim am Rhein. I could feel there was a ‘but’ coming and it was a cracker…but, he didn’t know how much longer the ferries would run for and the alternative was a 50Km detour to the nearest bridge: Game on. His directions were so good, that we thanked him heartily and didn’t even bother with the FaffNav but shot off like veal being invited to a schnitzel party to try and make the ferry before the last crossing for the evening.

Even seeing the ferry return to its jetty on our approach, didn’t console me until I had the tickets in my hand to make sure we were getting to the other side. Norrie and myself hugged with relief, in the best traveller tradition and enjoyed being transported for a change instead of doing the driving. I could see the hotel in the near distance as I could now recall the outline from the image on its website while a small warning of unrest came on our arrival, when we were told for the first time on the whole holiday, that we would have to pay to park our bikes in the hotel garage….. While the entrance seemed very inviting, the lobby, lounge and bar areas were all jammed together in floor space no bigger than 30 foot square. Our priorities were to get unpacked showered and changed and to find out if our comrades were ok, Norrie had just filled the room with steam after discovering there was no extraction fan in the bathroom when I heard the sound of Ducati’s rumbling the distance. I think the poor maid nearly collapsed when I vaulted through the open window, over the gravel terrace separator and hung over the terrace dining area railings to signal to team Wild-Duc riding by the hotel front. Once I’d seen the guys turn in correctly, I took my turn in the steam bath and got dressed to make our way downstairs hoping to smooth the way for the other guys with the staff, which only sped things up marginally, sadly.

Our impression of the hotel, (after speaking to some very well travelled mature ladies on yet another, apparently monthly coach trip) was about to decay even further to something like a mix of Bates Motel meets the Adams family. I did wonder why the room windows were triple glazed, this is because of the kilometre long goods trains that run every 20 to 30 minutes, 24 hours a day some 30 odd meters away from the hotel, ear plugs anyone? Then, to improve the mood our fellow travellers, excepting the newest Ducatisti, had gained the impression that we had eaten already and hurried through the lobby leaving two very hungry bikers wondering what had happened. One of the elderly ladies again seemed to take quite a shine to Norrie and I was almost ill from laughing when I heard another say to me, ‘your friend is fixed up there’!!! Thank goodness Mr. Burnie dragged us away in search of cash and food but we were only successful in the latter, finding probably the only Italian restaurant in the area but it was good.

The night watchman sportingly poured us some local bier in consolation as yet another train thundered by, we drowned our light-hearted sorrows with the few remaining coach travellers, keeping a stiff-upper-lip in the ‘lounge’. The trains did indeed run all night long with stunning Teutonic precision.





Tuesday 26th June: ‘Caravan’

The day dawned crisp and clear for our last day in mainland Europe. An uninspiring breakfast was enough to get us ready for the road but this and the cost of the rooms also wound Norrie up into a sufficient frenzy to lodge a formal complaint with manager, I have a feeling they might have some experience of that already. We were given some excellent advice by two elderly gents getting ready for their day of cycling, that of, staying alongside the Rhein instead of heading straight for the motorway. I can’t ever remember seeing so much history and architecture, so densely crowded together before, castles, churches, monasteries, spires reaching into the skies and verdant hillsides made for compulsive viewing, which isn’t too good to take in on a bike. Still, we shadowed the waterway for another 30 miles or so and I certainly wished it could have been more but we had a 4pm appointment with a big ferry and couldn’t be late. The DumbNav was actually behaving itself when a little later it showed me that on our return we came to within 3 miles of our very first snack stop in Königswinter, only nine days earlier. Time and Rhein of course, wait for no Duc and two fuel stops and a lunch break later saw us arriving at the ferry port once again with enough time in hand for a nice drink before boarding, except one very Wild Duc went missing just before this, the mysterious Mr. Burnie apparently had his own plans prior to the ferry crossing? A final laugh on terra firma was asking the cafe at the port if they had ‘any’ tea, only for them to produce a huge box full of every mainline tea blend one could think of.



Documents shown & after a short wait on the quayside we were all ushered together on the ferry to lash bikes down and find rooms once again, which instilled a little dread in me for later. As the ferry slipped away from the port, it stuck hard that our adventure was over and even the anticipation of returning home couldn’t immediately replace the melancholy that I felt. Things were slightly put into proportion by chatting outside to an Australian lady who had taken the same length of time as our journey but she had travelled from Australia, being unwilling to pay a ridiculous excess to fly into London due to price hikes for the Olympics, making an adventure holiday out of it, instead. Getting around the ship was much easier this time, having been onboard 10 days previously as we settled into the same routine of drinks, light meal and a few more drinks, with good banter thrown into the mix. I’ve always found travelling with experienced riders to be entertaining in some way or other, maybe its just the life-skills learned along the way or in my case, trying to sail on calm waters, as we were thankfully managing to do once again for our return crossing. The Jagermeister was summoned once again, for medicinal purposes, obviously and then shortly after, half of our numbers bid their evening farewells, leaving Neil, Miles and myself in the lounge to pass the time. Poor Neil had the furthest UK distance to ride on our return in what looked like, good old rain to greet us but, this didn’t stop him providing a wonderful Whisky tasting session that I cant believe, I nearly resisted! All three Malts were superb and made better still under Neil’s tutelage.
It can only of been the drams that got me to sleep like a baby that night, as I knew nothing else until sunrise.

During breakfast, I was able to make out the shoreline of my home town of Hartlepool but couldn’t quite identify the coastline of my new home a few miles further north. The grey skies overhead didn’t seem appealing but at least the jetty was dry as we rode ashore and into the long queue waiting for the English institution of UK Customs. Two booths were open initially but one was vacated and our waiting time doubled; good to be home!

After bidding farewell to our fellow travellers, Norrie and me rode to a nearby retail park to exchange details and don waterproofs as the heavy rain that was forecast had begun, our little clan had dispersed much faster than the weather that in the following days in the north east would flood roads and cause disruptions…..

Almost like we were never away.

Epilogue: ‘Hope’

Two months down the line now and Italy seems a distant memory, the joy of riding on unknown roads, no longer fresh but still bringing a warm afterglow. So many fractals of time still occur to me occasionally about the trip, children running barefoot from school on roasting hot pavement, laughing, even though laden with backpacks. Over taking a private Armoured Tank in Austria being driven through a small town and sadly, seeing a car turned on its side on an Alpine road, thankfully, the occupants seemingly uninjured.

Thank You for coming this far with me, gentle reader; I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to even match the extent and emotion of this journey but, who knows, maybe, if I can still get my leg over a bike at 73 years old, I’ll go and buy the latest lightcycle and try to re-emulate Norrie’s achievement.

No apologies for Canadian band, Rush, references during the text, I’m besotted with the latest album, so much so that some final quotes seem appropriate to sign off with:

All the journeys,
Of this great adventure.
It didn't always feel that way.
I wouldn't trade them,
Because I made them.
The best I could,
and that's enough to say….”

"I wish that I could live it all again"

And finally (Exit Stage Left style....) a Ducati video to give a sense of occasion :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I wrote this for the Scottish Ducati Club mentioned in the text, a little while back and hope it might be enjoyed/of use here too...

Apologies for the photo's some forums resize them nice, other dont and it might well be my fault for creating them large in the first place.

I hope it all gives you a laugh at the very least!

Cheers - Frank
 
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