Friday, September 4, 2009

Bikers' paradise

May 4, 2009 - Monday

I'm going to try to cram nine days of my favorite sort of vacation into a blog post, so brace yourselves for a bit of convoluted recounting.
Friday, April 24, was the departure date. I went to bed the night before a bit late and slept poorly, being excited. I was up before my hi-fi went off at 0500 hours, getting ready and packing the last necessities into the big blue hiking backpack I'd borrowed from Florian. Half the 15 kilos were made up by bike stuff: octane booster, tools, first-aid kit, ductape, rain gear, flat tire spray, rags for cleaning and tie-downs... For myself, I brought toiletries and a few clothes; I'd be spending msot of my time in my leathers so I didn't need much.
It was sunny that morning, but cold. I plugged one ear with a headphone borrowed from Florian and headed for the highway. I'd be meeting the others at the highway rest stop before the Gotthard tunnel, an hour away.
I was glad for the music; it was chilly on the highway and I was wearing one layer under my leathers. I reached Erstfeld, refueled my Beastie and set it and the backpack down on the motorcycle parking lot. While waiting for the others I got myself a hot chocolate, and just as I was paying for it Roger bade me good morning.
The rest had arrived together; Remo on his Triumph Sprint ST, Fabian on his Speed Triple, Roger on his Rocket III - yes, United is extremely partial to Triumph - and Bruno on his KTM Prestige 640. Originally Remo was going to come with a sozia, but she wasn't there, so it was me and four guys between 40 and 52. I didn't mind one bit, actually.
I warmed up over my hot chocolate while the rest ate breakfast. Half an hour later, we were on the road.
The first day tooko us to Savona on the Mediterranean Sea, where we boarded a huge ship of the Corsica Ferries and moved into our cabins. We'd overnight on board and reach Corsica the next morning.
On Day 2 we drove the length of Corsica down the west coast. It's a beautiful island; green, rolling, open roads and drivers that are kind enough to pull aside for you when you want to pass. Also, you are warned in advance of flash boxes in the towns. It took very little to get me quite partial to the Corsicans.
With a bit of stress we reached Bonifacio on the southern tip in time to board the Moby Ferry to Bastia, Sardinia. The trip over took an hour; I spent it up on deck, watching the sea gulls.
Once in Sardinia, we drove to our hotel for the night. It was a rather overpriced affair; next time we go we're taking another one. But it was comfortable and we slept well before heading on to our main stop the next day.
We spent four nights at the Sandalia Hotel in Nuoro, and comfortable three-star affair pretty much in the center of the island. On Monday it rained almost all day; the guys spent it chatting, smoking (Roger doesn't smoke, the others do, more or less) and drinking Ramazottis. I stuck with them through the morning, but when after lunch I discovered that the gray sky was actually not dripping, I said I'd see them in a couple hours and took the Beastie out for a couple hours, exploring the roads on the outskirts of the city.
Tuesday and Wednesday we got in hours and hours of great driving. Sardinia's landscape isn't quite as green as Corsica's, but the car drivers are just as friendly and considerate, there are no speed limits or flash boxes, and the curves are endless. The one thing to take into consideration is that every few kilometers you have a different pavement on the road; some hold the tires like gecko paws, others are more like marbles. But it was wonderful, and I can't wait to go back.
On Thursday we already had to leave Nuoro and head back to the ship. It drizzled that morning, so we took a fairly direct route. Our Moby ferry to Bonifacio hit some pretty rough water and we got tossed around and sprayed the whole way. I didn't mind the tossing but I was a bit worried about the Beastie down in the belly of the ship. Turned out there was no reason for uneasiness, as all the bikes were in the same position upon arrival as they had been when we left them.
In Corsica we overnighted at a lovely little hotel situated in a ravine a kilometer outside the city of Corte. Dinner that night was a delicious and rather pricey affair at a restaurant specialising in Corsican food. I had a large, juicy filet with Corsican cheese that makes me hungry just thinking about it. The food we ate for the most of the trip was good, and usually priced appropriately, but I tended to stick to seafood menus because pizza and pasta are really things I can eat at home. So it was nice to sink my teeth into a big hunk of red meat after a week.
Friday morning we left that hotel and traveled on to the docks in Bastia, where we boarded our ferry back to Italy. Bruno left us there, taking another ferry directly across the water since he was going to visit his parents on the way home.
Our last overnight on the trip was in a hotel in Savona, which made a mistake resulting in the three guys crammed into one room. I retained my usual privacy. Our last evening together we had a fine dinner at a seaside restaurant, and then meandered the length of the main street, enjoying the warm night, watching new bikes roar by, criticizing the noobish style of the drivers, and spending several minutes around a Speed Triple whose tires were untouched for more than an inch on both edges. Fabian had us in stitches sympathizing with its lack of proper use.
That's a very rudimentary summary of a delightful vacation. There are so many snapshots and incidental memories from it that I've filed away in my mind and pull up . I didn't take any pictures, but I hope we get to see Remo's soon.
Aside from the daily hours of driving - at the moment I can't think of anything that beats the feeling of getting up in the morning and know the sole purpose and accomplishment of the day is going to be another 400 klicks on the tacho and a close inspection of the tire edges in the evening - I thoroughly enjoyed the company of the guys. At their ages they have so many stories to tell and anecdotes to share; it was a great way to wrap up every day, over supper, listening to them reminisce the day's happenings and incidents from thirty years ago.
I didn't say a whole lot - I never do around them. Fabian asked me why I was so darn quiet, but when I replied that I was listening and learning from their experiences, he seemed quite pleased. At the end of the trip he asked if I was now thoroughly sick and tired of the company of men, but I just grinned and shook my head. I'm so looking forward to the next drive to Sardinia; Roger mentioned trying for a repeat in September.
I'm so up for that.

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