Category Archives: RTW 2009

drama on the stelvio!



drama on the stelvio!, originally uploaded by Big Al!.

Dave dropped his bike at the top of the stelvio. He’s fine, but the bike won’t go into gear. Tried various things at the side of the road at 7000 feet, no joy, so then a freewheel ride back down to bormio, where we now await the return of bobo at bobomoto. Called dave lambeth, if reckons maybe a bent gear selector shaft, so we could be stuck here now for days. And it was all going so well!

delay



delay, originally uploaded by Big Al!.

Somehow i convinced myself we were ahead of schedule last night, but now i realise that we were in fact only just on schedule. So as we sit here with dave’s bike broken (again), now getting behind schedule, i’m realising that we will need to cut some corners off the route and go a more direct way to make up some time. Our mileage targets are too ambitious, and it’s hard work doing so much time on the bike every day. So were going to cut the corner into the balkans, aiming directly for the top corner of croatia. It will cost more using the motorways, but we have to stay on schedule for the visas. Still a long way to go, but as long as this bloke can fix dave’s bike, we have a good chance.

Slovenia



Slovenia, originally uploaded by Big Al!.

Looks a bit like france. And someone seems to have left a williams formula one team truck in a lay-by. It was wierd crossing from france in to italy and seeing all the road signs suddenly change to a totally different language, but it’s even wierder seeing then change to unpronunceable gibberish…

Croatia



Croatia, originally uploaded by Big Al!.

Another croatia photo. Continuing the story, next day we head down the autostrada taking the fast way to the balkans. The usual insane italian drivers tailgating each other at 100+ and a long boring ride. Expensive too with all the tolls. Eventually we make it to the border with Slovenia and roll through with barely any reason to slow down. Suddenly everything changes. The scenery is much more like france, there are loads of bikers, and as in france, they all wave. After the total lack of friendship between bikers in italy, it’s a welcome relief, as is the lack of manic traffic and maniac drivers. I feel my spirits lift as we settle back into cruise mode, sweeping through the curves getting cheery waves from the dozens of other touring bikers we see. It’s a shame to have cut the corner and missed out the parts of the country we had planned to visit, but we have to stay on schedule and need an easier time. It’s over all too quickly and we’re through the border to Croatia with a brief passport check. So long European Union, so long cheap mobile phone use.

Croatia



Croatia, originally uploaded by Big Al!.

Photo shows somewhere in the north of croatia. Actually writing this in a hotel room in Albania, but have a lot to catch up on. The last few days have been incredible. A few days ago, not sure when (i’m not even sure what day it is now!) we were in northern italy riding up the Stelvio pass when Dave dropped his bike. I rushed back to make sure he was ok, as a car driver helped pick up the bike. Making sure dave was alright, we set off again only for Dave to come on the radio saying something was wrong. No gears. We are 8000 feet up a mountain with snow around us and a steep road beneath us, with a broken bike and nowhere to fix it. We rolled down to a safer spot and tried to see what might be wrong. I tightened the gear lever and then we adjusted the clutch. No joy. Only one thing for it, a freewheel ride down the mountain to see if the bike shop we saw advertised, opposite the last petrol station we used, could be of use. Fortunately it was downhill all the way and dave did well to roll it there, but the bike shop looked deserted, abandoned even. Nothing more than a shed and a couple of old bicycles. I went off to look around for other options while dave stayed with the bikes. I spoke (in german) with a waitress in a coffee shop who said the bike shop would be open again at 2. So we waited. Meanwhile i called dave lambeth who suggested a bent gear selector shaft, which would have been a major problem. When the person we thought was bobo turned up, he tried the bike, found that the gears didn’t work and said, "problem". Yeah. We know. It didn’t give us much confidence. Shortly, the boss turned up, and inspired quite a bit more confidence. Soon he revealed the underground workshop we hadn’t noticed, and then revealed the missing countershaft nut we also hadn’t noticed. That would be the problem then! Some time later, a new nut was welded on over the stripped thread, and off we went, back for a second bite of the stelvio. What a road! Incredible views, classic sports cars tearing the place up, hotels perched over sheer drops, and mile after mile of breath-taking hairpin bends. Picked up the obligatory sticker at the top, and off we went. Down was even more incredible than up! But by now we had lost a lot of time and were also realising how tiring and slow it is on these twisty mountain roads, so we decided to try to catch up some time by modifying our route and cutting the corner of slovenia. Using our now proven method of camp site discovery, we picked a suitable looking lake to head for, and some hours later we were there and indeed had no problem finding a decent camping spot by the lake, this time with the bonus of a pizza parlour, for the best pizza i’ve ever had, at the end of another very long day.

Croatia



Croatia, originally uploaded by Big Al!.

Another Croatia photo, and now the pictures match the story. After half an hour transiting Slovenia, we head onto the coast road in north eastern Croatia, along the dalmation coast. It’s amazing how often on this trip i’ve thought "this is the best road i’ve ever ridden!", and now here is really the best road in the world ever, and i still think so 3 days later. Stunning views and curves that just flow smoothly from one to the next, so that the bike is almost never upright. It’s really amazing how well these bikes handle, especially with all the kit on. It’s a brilliant time, even my back which has been really bad is not bothering me, and it’s an effortless cruise interrupted only by the countless scenic vantage points for a photo stop. The end of the day gets a bit longer than planned as we struggle to find somewhere to stay and eventually end up in a holiday apartment via isn’t much cop and i have the added disappointment of discovering that the new laptop i managed to by in italy earlier in the day, to replace the one that broke in the first few days of the trip, doesn’t actually work. I think they’ve given me the wrong charger, and it’s gutting to go from feeling really pleased about being lucky enough to find a new laptop to being cheesed off about it not working. Without it i will be without mapping for the gps for the rest of the trip. Not good.