Saturday, May 22, 2010

Summer's spring

We're practically in June and we had to wait this long for a decent spring day.
The flowers are in bloom, the fields are luscious, the trees full, and the roads covered in motorcycles. It was about time.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Corsica Sardinia 2010

I'm in love.

I'm in love with the 20 extra Nm that accompany the 10 extra horsepower pumped from an engine 200 ccm larger. I'm in love with the eight-caliper brakes. And once again I'm bummed that the Company decided to go and kill Buell. The XB12SX is the crowning of all Buell's achievements, in my eyes. The Rotax engine needn't exist; the 12SX is the best.
When I picked up the replacement for the Beast on Tuesday evening, I was pretty mopey. I wanted to take my Beastie to Corsica, not some nondescript XB on loan. The levers didn't cooperate like my Pazzos and it had a regular ol' Remus exhaust underneath.
Well, Wednesday morning brought me through my interview with the police and left me convinced I was in no wise what they were looking for. But I didn't have time to think about it as I got home as fast as I could, peeled out of my slate blue suit while pulling on my leathers. Mom corralled me long enough to force some scrambled eggs and chicken down my throat while she braided my hair. Then I heaved the monstrous 80-pound rucksack onto my back, latched the straps and took off toward Erstfeld to meet the other United Bikers.
Susanne joined me on the autobahn after Altdorf, and we rolled in together to find the rest just arrived.
Damian on his BMW GS1200, his girlfriend Sue as baggage. Fabian with his girlfriend Silke on his Triumph Thunderbird. Bruno on his Ducati Hypermotard with his son Luca on Luca's KTM 640. Roger on his fat Triumph Rocket III. They were all there.
We refueled and got drinks before heading south. Luca, who's only had his license since the beginning of the year, managed to drop his KTM while refueling, but the bike being what it is, nothing broke.
Damian led, like GS drivers generally do. I appropriated the shotgun position. I drive best right behind the leader, and I kept that position for most of the vacation, except when I passed Damian to fly through particularly appealing curves.
We boarded the ferry in Savona that night. While we waited to be let on, I commenced the feeling of vacation with a Bailey's. Susanne took a Pietra, a Corsican beer made with chesnuts. Roger tried it, criticized it and ordered a bottle.

Corsica was wonderful. We had a hotel in Propriano. Susanne and I shared a room; everybody bunked double except Roger who got a single room. The weather was great: warm, sunny, dry. In the evening after a motorcycle tour that took all day we'd go out for drinks, dinner, and then more drinks. After dinner the couples would go back the hotel, leaving Bruno, Luca, Susanne, Roger and me to talk shop and whatever else. The first evening we had a nasty grappa; after that we stuck to a cute bar on the waterfront that served a very good Mirto and an even better red wine.

I believe it was Saturday when Susanne and I were up in our room after the tour, relaxing with books, when my cell phone went off. The caller ID announced Craig Jones - definitely the last person I expected to call.
We didn't chat long; he said he'd just finished practicing with the Z1000 and was heading home. He'd dumped Harley Davidson after they killed Buell; he wants to keep driving the Buells but for an interim he's signed on with Kawasaki.
He has a show in Normandy this weekend and said it'd be cool if I could come, but it's an eight-hour drive and I'm so swamped I really can't make it. We did agree to try to meet up in Milan this November instead.

The day we had to leave Corsica was rainy, so we drove direct and got to the ferry in Bonifazio early. Susanne, Bruno and I went to visit the fortress above the port before leaving the island. In Sardinia then we drove fairly directly to our hotel in Cala Genone on the eastern coast, just down the hillside from the famous SS 125.
In Sardinia the weather constantly threatened rain, but we were still able to do a tour every day, 250-300 km.

Roger went back to his diet of eating almost nothing but pizza prosciutto, and our little "core group," changed from last year since Fabian let himself be wrapped around a German waitress's finger, savored the evenings over Ramazotti and Averna. Really, there's nothing better. Get up late at 0630, eat a little breakfast, pull on helmet and gloves and fire up the engine - the Remus sounded better with every passing day - and chase curves for hours, stop somewhere to eat lunch, get back on the bike and just drive until five or six in the evening. Have a beer outside and discuss the driving, then split up to shower, change into fresh clothes and meet for dinner. I lived off seafood, just like last year. Dinners would be accompanied by red wine and finished with a grappa or averna, and then when the couples got out of the way we'd go the bar across from the hotel and have another shot or two. All within bounds; nobody got stone drunk or woke up with a hangover. Yeah, that's my paradise.

Until Wednesday. That day we split into two groups, Susanne and I being averse to driving the straight sections of the SS 125 south. Damian was up to lead a separate tour and Roger would of course go with the girls, so we headed off on four bikes.
We hung around the Nuoro area because the sky threatened rain in all directions. We ate at the pizzeria in Nuoro we'd visited last year and then started out to drive the SS 389, my absolute favorite road in Sardinia.

Damian and I took the lead. Roger had said over lunch that he was "on the rims," not really with it, so he stayed behind Susanne. Well, I chased Damian through the curves, checking back ever three to five twists to make sure I still saw the others. We passed three busses - I hate those things! - and sped on, until I noticed that Susanne was nowhere in sight. I slowed, slowed some more, and stopped. After waiting half a minute Damian drove past me. I turned too and followed. I found them stuck between the second and third busses, driving along.
It made no sense to me, but I turned again and took off, leading the way until I reached a crossroads where there was space to stop and park all the bikes.
There Damian informed me that Roger had driven out of a curve.
The Rocket's radiator was leaking; Roger couldn't set it on its stand. The tank has a dent in it, the passenger footpeg is twisted, the blinker bent and the cowling scraped. There was a mass of dirt and grass in the gearshift assembly.
Roger himself complained of pains in his ribs and shoulder; he'd landed on the same side that got mutilated in his snowboard accident last December. This time he didn't puncture a lung, but he did tear up his elbow, something we only noticed when we brought the Rocket to a back-alley fix-all shop to get the radiator sealed again.
Roger played the tough guy and didn't say much until we got back to the hotel. There, we sat down our bottles of beer and he started to show signs of pain. I'd bandaged his elbow provisionally at the shop, but I told him we should put honey on it so afterwards, when I'd showered and changed he came up and I put a proper bandage on the dent, as well as smearing some gel stuff on a big bruise. Walti had gotten the gel for me last year on the Dolomite tour where my brake hand turned so sore; I figured if it was good for that it'd be good for bruised muscles.
I was sure he'd take it easy the next day before having to drive to Golfo Arancia to head home on Friday, but he did nothing of the sort. He kept driving, and though he moved carefully off the bike he was just as fast as ever on it.

On Friday, Fabian and Silke took the direct route to the port while the rest of us followed curves and discovered roads that would have been glorious if we'd been driving without luggage. Even so, I went ahead and raced through a couple sets, determined to get the most out of what was left of vacation.
In Arancia, Susanne, Bruno and I went shopping while we waited for the ferry to come in. Bruno bought cups and a bottle of Ramazotti for drinks on the ferry (instead of paying their ridiculous prices) and I bought a bottle of Mirto and another bottle of Ramazotti, intending them for my liquor cabinet on the Schwägalp. Well, the first bottle of Ramazotti disappeared pretty darn quickly so we emptied mine 7/8 of the way too. I've got a bit left in as a reminder of the good times, and Roger said he'd bring up a replacement when I have my chalet housewarming.

Now the vacation's over and I'm pretty sad about it, but what can you do. My next trip will be to Baumholder to visit Tony, then a weekend in the Dolomites with Walti, and in August the Alpengrollen with dozens of other Buells. There are things to look forward to, but for the next week or two I'm mostly going to be looking back and wishing the good times didn't fly so fast.