Saturday, November 5, 2011

Travels through Rupert and Shaftsbury, Vermont

November in Vermont is a study in shades of grey. The maple, birch, beech, elm and ash trees stand bare without their leaves, which now carpet the forest in a deep, dense mat. As we ride along, the mountains loom through the branches of the trees. The mountains themselves are only green in the patches of pine trees that remain green even when dusted with snow.

Today is rare for November in Vermont - the temperature is in the mid-50's and the skies are clear. Even the sky this time of year loses some of its brilliant color, and instead shows patterns of grey and light blue.

We started our trip today on familiar roads:  Dorset West Road to Route 315 into Rupert and Salem, then NY Route 22 into Hoosick. We turned back into Vermont and onto Airport Road in Shaftsbury. Shaftsbury is a warren of dirt roads, some 2 lanes wide and populated by houses at regular intervals. Other roads are more suitable to 4-wheel drive vehicles - or adventure motorcyles like ours. Mike thought Trumbull Mountain Road went straight through to East Road; I thought it probably did in the early 1800's, but now was unused except for hiking. The dirt road gradually narrowed and became filled with ruts, we passed a horse farm and then rode past meadows and forest without houses, until we finally turned around in a gravel driveway at what looked like the top of the mountain, afraid the road would disappear altogether. Later that night we looked at the map, and I was right - Trumbull Mountain Road is no longer a road suitable even for an adventure bikes.

We turned right onto Peter Montgomery Road, and stepped back in time. There were no houses, no cars, no signs of people. The dirt road was perfect for the motorcycle, but narrow even for a small car.
This is one of my favorite types of motorcycle riding, because Mike slows down to navigate the twisty dirt road, I can glimpse old stone walls, the remnants of stone basements, and unused logging trails through the bare branches of the trees, and the only sound is the wind. Some people might become frightened - am I lost? How do I get back onto a 2-lane, paved road? What happens if we break down? Mike grew up in Vermont, and likes to remind me that all of the roads end up someplace. His philosophy is that you keep going, and eventually you'll come to a familiar road, or at least a road with a sign. We're only 20 miles or so from home, but it's easy to imagine we're the only people for miles and miles.

Eventually we come to an intersection, and once again Mike turns right, remaining convinced that we'll end up on East Road. East Road is one of the original roads in Bennington County, connecting Bennington to Shaftsbury and Arlington in the days when people traveled by foot or horse. This time Mike was right:  5 minutes later we came to East Road, turned left, and headed toward Arlington and home.

Tourists may prefer traveling in Vermont in the height of fall foliage season, when the sugar maple trees show off bright orange, deep red, and sunny yellow leaves. A sunny fall day blasts the senses with color while late fall/early winter days like today are muted, quiet, and almost brooding knowing that the deep cold of winter is waiting to make its entrance. Just the kind of day to explore little known roads on the bike.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall color and thoughts of Nate

Another sunny, warm day makes it 3 in a row! Even better, the leaves are changing color almost before our eyes. Saturday I commented on the muted colors of the leaves. Yesterday we rode through higher elevations in the southern Green Mountains where many trees were completely bare of leaves.

Today - red! yellow! orange!

A day like today brings a smile to my face. Three days in a row, and all is right with the world.

Sunshine and bright blue skies.
Time to spend with Mike - work can wait another couple of days!
Curvy, hilly roads bordered with brightly colored forests and the views of mountains.
Changing seasons which remind me that every day is precious and meant to be savored.
We traveled on some of our son Nate's favorite roads today. He loves these quiet paved roads because of the hills and the lack of traffic - perfect both for riding his BMW or traveling by longboard. Nate's in Colorado and hasn't been home this summer, but today we imagine he's with us, enjoying flying along the back roads near home that we know so well.

Riding a motorcycle can be a quiet, solitary event. As Mike's pillion rider, it's an experience shared with a point toward a hawk circling on the updrafts or a quick hug to share the moment. My mind often wanders while we're out on the BMW, and this afternoon I was smiling thinking how much Nate loves Vermont.

Nate, this one's for you.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ride into Massachusetts

Another sunny, warm day and the Patriots play the Jets at 4pm - let's go for a ride! You can ride along witih us!

We headed out on some of our favorite back roads, winding our way through Arlington and Shaftsbury to Bennington. There's always something new to see, even when we're on roads we've driven, bicycled, run, and ridden the BMW on hundreds of times.

Houses and cars are few and far between on these roads, which makes for fun riding. Once in Bennington, we took Route 9 west toward Woodford, where we joined a line of cars and motorcycles winding our way over the Green Mountains on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

When we turned south onto Route 100, we left the tourists behind and once again had the road to ourselves. We love to see the Searsburg wind farm and today pulled over to the side of the road so we could get a better look.

Turning east, we ended up in North Adams, MA. Over the past few years this small city has reinvented itself from a GE mill town into more of an arts community, anchored by MASS MoCA contemporary arts center. It was a perfect time to stop for lunch and spend a few minutes looking around town.

Vermont Route 7 heading north rolls through beautiful countryside, which in early October means pumpkins and apples!

Dry leaves falling from the trees danced across the road in front of us, we spotted flocks of geese heading south, and searched the hillsides for spots of the bright red and yellow Fall leaves. We live in Manchester which promotes itself as the #1 Fall Foliage town in Vermont. After our rides this weekend, I have to agree!

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Last weekend Mike and I attempted a bike ride, but due to heavy fog, heavy rain, and zero visibility we gave up after about 15 minutes. It was cold, wet and we couldn't see anything, so why ride?

The forecast today was for sun and warm temperatures, a perfect day for a ride on the BMW. Our destination was the Harpoon Brewery Oktoberfest celebration in Windsor, VT but of course we took the long, scenic route.

View heading up 11/30 toward Bromley Ski Area

Usually this time of year the sugar maple trees are brilliant with their Fall colors of red, orange and yellow but this year the colors are soft and muted. Everyone has their opinion about the lack of color - too much rain, too hot this summer, global warming - the list goes on and on. We were expecting vibrant color and had to settle for bright blue skies and sunshine - not a bad trade-off! Watch video of today's ride.
We followed winding roads through Londonderry, Chester, and Rockingham before we stopped for gas and a snack in Springfield. Each town has its own character, and we found a surprise in Chester:

Almost one month ago we were sitting in the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, enjoying the crowds, festive atmosphere, food, band, and of course the beer. Today we found ourselves in a time-warp as we wandered around the Harpoon Oktoberfest complete with crowds, tents, band, food (even Mike's favorite potato pancakes with applesauce), and beer.

I even heard people speaking German! We sat on the sunny hillside listening to the band, and sang along with the familiar "ein Prosit, ein Prosit" toast. One unfamiliar spectacle was the feats of strength performed by guys in kilts. I'm not sure what this has to do with Oktoberfest, but it was fun to watch them carry 250 pound beer kegs.

Never ones to hurry home, or to waste a warm and sunny day, we took our time riding home, passing through Ascutney and Weathersfield. This area was hit hard by Tropical Storm Irene the end of August, and many bridges are still under repair. When we came to the 'road closed' sign on Route 103, Mike decided to see just how 'closed' it was.

The side of the road closest to the Black River obviously had been at least partially washed away in many spots. We finally had to turn around when faced with a barrier blocking the entire road at a major bridge, but found a side road that led directly into Cavendish only 1/2 mile back. We were in Europe when the storm hit, and can only imagine the amount of water that caused all of this destruction.

Our way home led through the beautiful village of Weston, home of the famous Vermont Country Store and numerous beautiful old homes, plus throngs of people this Columbus Day weekend out to enjoy the sights.

Even though Fall tends to be a busy time for tourists in Vermont, the only real traffic we encountered was heading into the Harpoon Oktoberfest and riding through Weston. We primarily had the winding roads to ourselves, which along with the sun, blue skies, mountains and forests added up into a perfect day.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

First Fall ride back home

After wandering around Europe for 3 weeks on a motorcycle and bicycle it felt a bit odd to be back at home on our own BMW, traveling familiar Vermont roads. No hairpin turns, tour busses to contend with on narrow twisty roads, cows in the middle of the road, or a group of friends to ride with. Today it was just Mike and I, spending a day together on our BMW.

Burlington, VT waterfront

The day started off foggy and misty, but the sun broke through by the time we reached Burlington. We headed straight to the waterfront, and spent a few minutes watching the boats and streams of people taking advantage of a sunny, warm Fall day.

After lunch with friends and a walk along the bike path we pointed the bike toward home. Heading south, we rode through the Champlain Valley with the Green Mountains to the East and the Adirondacks across Lake Champlain to the West.

Close to Burlington there was a line of traffic heading in both directions as far as we could see, but the further south we traveled, the less company we had on the road - which is exactly the way we like it. Early Fall is a beautiful time of year in Vermont, with fields still lush and green waiting to be harvested yet some of the early leaves are beginning to change color and people decorate their homes and businesses with pumpkins.

Dorset Union Store

There's something comforting about riding familiar roads. I've driven these roads countless times in a car, yet this was the first time on the BMW. On the bike, I notice the barnyard smells, catch glimpses of hawks soaring on updrafts, wave greetings to other motorcycles on the road, and fall into the rhythm of winding our way through the valley. At times like this, Mike does the 'motorcycle happy dance', similiar to a skier carving "S" turns through the powder.

I can't think of a better way to spend the day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reliving the trip - one week later

After we completed the RoadRUNNER 5 Country Tour, we headed to Amsterdam for a week on a bicycle/barge trip in the Netherlands. Peddling a bicycle for 7 days through the flat Dutch countryside is a whole lot different than riding on the back of a powerful BMW motorcycle through the towering Alps and Dolomites. You can read more about that trip here:

Eric and Catherine from the motorcycle trip were also in the Netherlands on a different bicycle/barge tour, so we made plans to meet in Amsterdam at the end of our trips to catch up on our adventures. We picked up right where we left off in Germany:  sharing stories, laughing, and talking about the next motorcycle trip we hope to make.

An evening in Amsterdam wouldn't be complete without going to a cafe and sampling the local beer, and this is where our final evening in Europe became truly amazing. It was crowded at our first stop, so we shared a table with a young couple. They turned out to be American expats living in Amsterdam for the past 3 years, very willing to share information about the city and their life. As they left, they told us about their favorite bar, a tiny spot just down the street, but off the typical tourist path.

Cafe de Dokter was founded in 1798 by a surgeon from the local hospital, hence the name. The 7th generation of the Beems family continues to operate it to this day. de Dokter claims to be the smallest bar in Amsterdam, and at 194 square feet, I have to believe them. We squeezed into a small table in the corner next to the back of the bar, and the fun - and magic - started. Henny suggested his favorite local beers for us to try. A woman born in Suriname but now living in Amsterdam told us about her sisters in Canada. An Amsterdam native who spoke perfect English told us stories about his travels and why he loves his city. Everyone in the bar started singing along to old Frank Sinatra tunes, surprising us that they knew the lyrics better than we.

Henny inside de Dokter

The old buildings in Amsterdam are notorious for their steep and narrow staircases, but the circular steel staircase at de Dokter has to be the scariest. It's the only way up to the bathroom on the 2nd floor, which means that we also had to come down that staircase with steps barely wide enough for half of my size 6 1/2 feet. Henny, the owner, gave us a postcard of his business and wrote out our bill on a prescription pad.

As we navigated the narrow, rainy, cobblestone streets back to our hotels, all 4 of us talked about the highlights of the motorcycle trip and the friendly, welcoming people we met this evening. Lasting friendships were definitely created, and we're looking forward to more unexpected and magical adventures in the future.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

the end of the road

lunch at Lake Misurina, Italy on 9-3-11

Since we returned to Lenggriss in the middle of the afternoon, I used this opportunity to go for a run on the wonderful paths around this beautiful Bavarian town. I shared a gravel path along the Isar River with folks on bicycles, young mothers pushing baby carriages, and elderly women out for a stroll. All of us notice how active Europeans are, since every day we saw people hiking in the mountains, riding bicycles up the mountain passes, and walking along the paths that seem to exist everywhere.
By the time I returned from the run and showered, members of the tour group started to filter into the restaurant in our hotel, ready for a last night of German beer and reliving the trip with friends. Peter downloaded video from his helmet camera, giving us the opportunity to see the trip from his viewpoint. Jon shared hilarious video of some of us dancing at the Fest in Arabba, Italy on Saturday night. Mike showed several clips of my video today, getting cheers from the group as we watched Martin, Barb and Jay, and Ben and Michelle pass busses and trucks on the mountain roads. Collectively we’ve taken well over 2000 pictures and hours of video, and plan to post everything to the Web so we can all share in the memories. Stay tuned for our video posted to this blog, since Mike will put that together once we get back home.

Nockalmstrasse, Austria
At dinner we shared stories of the trip, congratulations on refining driving skills, cheers for the pillion riders for our contributions to the tour, thanks to the tour guides for their knowledge and planning, and of course email addresses so we can stay in touch. I heard talk of some of the group signing up for the ROADRunner Magazine tour in Peru next year, tentative plans for a group trip in Alaska, and offers of places to stay and friends to ride with all over North America.

Mangartstrasse, Slovenia

I stayed up later than usual because I couldn’t bear to miss out on any of the stories or the fun. It’s difficult to bring the last night of the trip to an end. We rode through amazing scenery on fabulous roads in Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland. We sampled local foods, experienced a community festival, pushed our limits on challenging routes, waved at the locals as we passed through their beautiful towns, enjoyed rest breaks on tops of mountains and in cobblestoned squares centuries old, learned about Munich and Salzburg on informative walking tours, and made new and lasting friends.

leaving Salzburg, Austria
I’ve never ridden with more than 2 other people at one time, and during this trip learned to enjoy being part of a chain of motorcycles. We looked out for each other, shared gear, offered tie-down cords and stow-away bags when needed, pointed out the best views, and told stories about the ride. Along the way we became friends in a way that can only happen when you’re together every day for 12 days sharing a common passion and new experiences. Everyone came for the riding, and left appreciating the entire experience. The trip may be over, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop smiling reliving the memories.
Florian and Sarah:  Hochtennjoch, Austria

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Down from the mountains into the valleys

Our last morning in Serfaus, and the last time we packed up the bikes dawned cool and cloudy. Mike observed that if Monday when we summited several exhilarating passes culminating in Stelvio, the highest paved road in the Alps, was like Christmas Day (one surprise and exciting moment after another) that today was like the last day of summer vacation before school starts. It's our last day on the bikes, and the mood is a bit somber knowing our trip is almost finished.

But first we have mountain passes to climb! We twisted our way down from Serfaus and rode through gorgeous green valleys. Then we started to climb again, stopping at Kaunergrat for breathtaking pictures of the valley we just passed through.

view into the valley

We went through the Hochtennjoch pass, enjoying views of snow-capped mountains. By now we know what to expect:  we start climbing in the middle of forests, with pine trees close by both sides of the narrow, winding road. As we climb higher, distant peaked mountains come into view and we're able to look down into the valley below. Finally we ride above the treeline right into the heart of the mountain peaks we've been glimpsing. All along the route we twist through sweeping turns, narrow switchbacks, and often through dark tunnels. Even though we've done this countless times over the past few days, every ride is a bit different, and always fun.


switchback on Hochtennjoch

Once back down in the valleys, we passed by two large, beautiful lakes:  Plansee where we stopped for a morning coffee break, and Walchsee where we stopped for lunch. The lakes are so clear we could see the bottom, and the scenery is breathtaking with the mountains in the background. Several of us wished we had time to go for a swim, even though the water had to be bone-chillingly cold.


After lunch we wound our way through the valleys, leaving the mountain peaks and switchbacks behind us. The open, wider roads gave Mike the opportunity to ride faster, and both of us enjoyed speeding along from town to town. Mike also amused himself by popping wheelies whenever possible. As long as he gave me some warning so I could wrap my arms around his waist and hold on tight, wheelies are great fun and always make me laugh out loud. When I don't hold on, my back is slammed against the tail bag which definitely is NOT fun. School has started in Austria, so we made sure to pop a wheelie whenever we passed a group of school kids, which always elicited excited waves and shouts.

We pulled into Lengriess, where we first picked up the bikes, in the mid-afternoon. It's difficult to believe our 12-day trip is coming to an end, but we have a final group dinner this evening to look forward to. Watch today's video here: The bikes may be returned to Martin BMW, but there is still fun to be had tonight!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

sunshine in the Swiss Alps

view from my hotel balcony
We were greeted this morning with very welcome sunshine after all the rain yesterday. Everyone was in great spirits as we set off toward the first of 4 mountain passes in Switzerland – our 5th and final country during this trip.
As we rode through the valleys toward the Swiss town of Susch, I was really glad that I put the warm liner in my motorcycle jacket; plus I also had on a Smart Wool base layer topped with a light fleece shirt since the temperature steadily dropped to a low of 40 degrees.  Factor in the windchill generated from sitting on the back of a motorcycle, and it was cold! When we reached the top of the Fluelapass between Susch and Davos in the Swiss Alps, the temperature was 52 degrees and just right for a hot chocolate in the Hotel Fluela Hospiz, a family-run inn built in 1869 at 7,837’ above sea level. The small stone hotel is off the grid, getting their power from either a diesel generator or water. This was our first stop in Switzerland, and where we learned how expensive everything is. Our cup of hot chocolate cost $5.25 in US dollars!

Mike at the top of the Fluelapass

Hotel Fluela Hospiz

Zooming up and down the hairpin turns on the mountain passes is becoming almost second nature for our group, and everyone is feeling more confident in their driving skills after yesterday’s steep roads in the rain. The Swiss mountain roads are wider than the ones in Italy, and while there was a fair amount of truck traffic on the roads today, Mike only had to pass one tour bus. He was excited to pass a logging truck on the way up our second pass, the Julierpass.  It’s definitely a thrill to be on the back of a motorcycle speeding up a mountain, passing a logging truck! See more on today's video here:
Julierpass hairpin turns
The top of the Julierpass was busy with lots of motorcycle riders from several  different countries. The small grill served only the basics for lunch, including their special “Mc Julierburger” which Ron couldn’t pass up.
We rode through St. Moritz, a famous Swiss ski and spa resort city and on to our third pass, the Ofenpass in the Swiss National Park. All of today’s passes rise above the treeline in a gravel, rock-strewn landscape that reminds us of the moon. Many of the mountains are dotted with ski areas, which makes me wonder how difficult it is to drive up these roads in the winter!

top of Julierpass

Once back down in the valley we crossed into Italy and stopped in the 700 year-old walled city of Glurns for an afternoon break, which of course meant trying out the local ice cream. The market square in the center of town was packed with both tourists and locals trying to navigate the narrow, cobblestone streets and sidewalks.

center of Glurns

We finished our ride today winding our way through the valleys, passing small towns, farmers working in the fields, and the ever-present cows in the meadows. Even though we rode 195 miles today, we finished a bit earlier than usual, which meant we had time to sit outside our hotel and enjoy the late afternoon sunshine and warmth. A perfect day!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Switchbacks! Hairpin turns! Tunnels! oh my!!

At the end of our 10 hour, 310 km day today, Ted said “if I were a kid, this would be just like Christimas!”. We experienced a little bit of everything today, including the narrowest roads we’ve been on, 14 switchbacks in a row up the highest elevation we’ve attempted, pouring rain, warm sunshine, fields of apples as far as you can see, conversations with motorcycle riders from Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands; and sweeping turns through lush green valleys. Wow!

Check out today's video here:

It was raining when we started at 8:30am, but everyone was in high spirits, because today we were attempting Stelvio, a 9,045' mountain pass that is the highest paved mountain road in the eastern Alps. We started off through the valleys around Merano, Italy, which are planted with millions of apple trees, supplying apples to all of Europe.

Our first pass of the day, the Passo Tonale, greeted us with a steady rain. A stop at the top for hot chocolate gave us a chance to warm up and put on more raingear in preparation for the trip back down the mountain pass.

We passed in and out of rain, mist and clouds on our way to the Passo Gavia, a twisting, steep, extremely narrow road that led right along the side of the mountain through switchback after switchback. It’s a good thing we traveled this road on a Monday where there was little traffic, because in order to pass an oncoming car, we had to inch our way to the very edge of the road, stop, and wait for the car to slowly crawl past us. By the time we reached the top, everyone breathed a sigh of relief for successfully mastering the technically challenging and often scary (for both drivers and passengers!) road.

The trip down wasn’t as steep, or else we were becoming used to riding up and down mountain passes. By the time we reached the valley for lunch, the sun broke out of the clouds. We laughed and told stories about the ride up Passo Gavia over a delicious Italian lunch of salad and pasta. For me, riding on the bike is a solitary experience since Mike and I can't talk. We often communicate with hand gestures, or a tap on the leg. But on this difficult road, Mike needed to concentrate and I kept my thoughts and observations to myself. At lunch, everyone wanted to share their stories of the trip, tell jokes, laugh and enjoy the shared experience of riding in a group. We had a blast!

Sunshine meant we would definitely tackle Stelvio today. We had heard from Peter and Florian, our tour leaders, about this difficult mountain pass. We’d also spoken with several motorcycle riders we  met at rest stops the past two days, and all of them warned of Stelvio’s technical turns as well as the incredible views. This was the mountain pass we’d been waiting for, and when we saw the sign that announced "14 tornanti", or hairpin turns, ahead, we knew we were in for some real fun. Not only could I watch the riders ahead of me as they wound their way up the mountain above the treeline, but I could also look back down the mountain and see what we had just ridden as more bikes swept up behind us. Mike kept his eyes on the road, waiting for the video and pictures later that night to finally see all of the majestic scenery.

this is what we rode UP!

We were ecstatic and relieved to make it to the top of the mountain, and even rode up a short, steep path to a look-out known as Tibet for even more incredible views.
view from 'Tibet'
After a short break, we headed down the mountain, traversing more hairpin turns until we zoomed into the valley.
the route down Stelvio

We had about 45 miles to go to our hotel in Serfaus, Austria, a resort village in the Tyrol at 4600', which meant we drove up even more switchback turns. We relieved the thrills of the day and shared stories about bikes and travels over dinner, going to bed early to get ready for another day tomorrow - into Switzerland!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A day in the gorgeous South Tyrol

We spent the entire day today in Italy, or more correctly in the South Tyrol . It seemed like everyone decided to spend a beautiful Sunday morning in the mountains. We passed motorcycle groups, a long line of antique Fiat Topolino cars, tour busses, and people hiking up the mountains. This area is filled with ski areas, from small local places to large, extravagant resorts. Most had gondolas operating today to ferry people up and down the mountain. Don't miss today's video:
The views continued to be incredible, and I even spied the largest glacier in the Dolomites:  the Marmolada (Queen of the Dolomites) at 10,964’ elevation.

Now that everyone is more comfortable handling the hairpin turns on the mountain passes, we typically start as a group at the bottom of the pass, then ride at our own pace to the top where we meet up to talk about the adventure before heading off, again at our own pace, to another meeting point on the valley floor below. At the top of one this morning’s passes, we saw several cars brightly decorated, and one with “” painted on the sides in large letters. 4 men wearing orange jumpsuits jumped out of the car, and we couldn’t resist talking with them. They’re from the UK, part of a large group who purchases cars for no more than 300 each, decorates them with a theme, and sets off on a European trip. They’re on their way to France, having lots of fun and hoping the cars hold together.
We stopped for a morning coffee break at the top of Corvara Grödnerjoch, where a local farm family makes their summer home. Their original wooden house is at least 300 years old, with a larger, new home built within the past 3 years. They serve beverages and lunch on the porch, surrounded by mountains in every direction. This sure beats a traditional coffee shop for atmosphere and taste!
300 year old farmhouse

barn at Corvara Grödnerjoch

This was our last day in the Dolomites, and the Jaufenpass took us into a beautiful green valley in the Alps. We zipped along the wine road to Meran, enjoying the opportunity to ride a bit faster, but also missing the thrill of the twisty, narrow mountain roads. The valley is lined with vineyards for the local wine, and also seemingly millions of apple trees.
on the way to Meran
The only downside was the rain that started on the top of the last pass, and continued throughout the afternoon. I glimpsed beautiful homes and tree-lined streets in Meran through my rain-spattered helmet, but stayed dry with my Frogg Togg waterproof clothing. Jay and Barb actually know the women who started this company; motorcycling is a small world!
Our day ended in Kastelbell Tschars, our last night in the SüdTirol in Italy. Everyone here speaks German, even though they’re Italian citizens. Tirol was once an autonomous region of Austria, but after WWI was divided, with the southern section going to Italy. The people in this region consider themselves Tiroleans, not Italians, and proudly maintain their culture and language. I never would have experienced all of this on a typical trip to Europe – another benefit of riding pillion on a motorcycle!