August 2004, Lisa and I had the wonderful opportunity to join fellow members of the Venturers MC on a two week tour of Europe on motorcycles. During our stay, we rode through and visited 10 countries. The countries we visited were England, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstien, Switzerland, Italy and The Netherlands. We spend two nights in London, two nights in France, 6 nights in Germany, and 5 nights in Austria. We were able to experience a very broad range of Europe. From ancient Roman ruins and European castles, to the beautiful country sides of the German Mosel Valley, to the exilarating Swiss, Italian, and Austrian Alps. Below are a few highlights and pictures from our trip.

Day 1
Saturday, July 31


Our good friend Rick drove us to Dulles airport Friday afternoon. Rick was born and spent a lot of his childhood in Germany and gave us several pointers about riding in Germany. Our flight departed at 7:00pm and was uneventful although I was unable to sleep on the flight as I had hoped. Note to self. Avoid flights on A340's in future. We arrived in Heathrow on Saturday at 7:30am. We grabbed a taxi to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express in Wembly. As we pulled in, we seen Harvey and Pam Wilson standing outside. Harvey was kind enough to give me a ride to the HGB Honda place to pick up my rental GoldWing. I picked up a 1998 gold colored GL1500 and began familiarizing myself with it. After we arrived back at the hotel, we took a quick shower and Harvey & Pam Wilson, Mike and Valari Johnson, and Lisa and I walked several blocks, caught a train to Baker Street then found the Sherlock Hohmes museum. We then took a open bus tour of London. It was a very good tour but I nodded off several times on the bus. At this point I was at about 30 hours since I last slept. We then meet up with the other Venturers at the Ace Cafe, a popular motorcyclist and car enthuasist hang-out where we had dinner and drinks and introduced ourselves to each other. We got back to the Holiday Inn and got some sleep. I was surprised to find the room was not air conditioned. Photos
Day 2
Sunday, August 1

England, France

Our group meet after breakfast for a briefing lead by Rob of Freedom Touring. He introduced himself and his staff and described todays ride. We began our ride through southern England.

We stopped on the way near Leeds Castle and rode over for a quick visit. Coming out of the rest stop, a bad habit just about bit me. I came to a stop sign, looked left, then did a rolling stop into the right lane. Next I heard was a horn and screeching tires. Opps! Left lane dummy!

We continued our ride towards the English channel where we then boarded the ferry for the 90 minute ride across the English Channel. We enjoyed coffee and lunch in the Club Lounge. After departing the ferry and crossing into France, we were greeted by our new friends Olivier and Alain, both French Venturers. We did a short ride to the Hotel De Lac in Dunkerque for the evening. Again, no air conditioning. We soon learned that this was the norm throughout Europe. We had dinner at the hotel, but were not very impressed. The french seem to like their meats barely cooked and most of what we tried did not appeal to us.
Day 3
Monday, August 2

France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany

For the long ride to our next stop near Trier in the Mosel Valley of Germany, we broke up into smaller groups to better manage the ride. Our group included Harvey & Pam Wilson, Mike & Valari Johnson, Cliff & Connie Schafer, Rick and Darlene Strickland and was lead by Ian Morgan. Ian is the British Venturer who worked so hard to help make this trip possible. We had a nice long visit to Givet were we enjoyed an outside cafe lunch and some sightseeing. We then took scenic routes to Bastone were we enjoyed an outdoor four course meal. Ian, with the help of his GPS managed to get us off the planned route a few times, however, all in the group seemed grateful as the roads he had us on were very scenic and exilarating. Because of our misdirection and long visits to Givet and Bastone, we got to the motel about 11:45. Many of the rest of our group were starting to worry and ribbed us about being so late. We simply had big smiles due to the awesome sunset and moonrise we seen on the ride. Thanks Ian. We would get lost with you anytime. FUGAWI patch coming!

Meanwhile, in another group, Pryo (pee-ohh), decided to see if diesel fuel would help keep the Bemmers from smoking so much and recruited Don Ronden to assist with his experiement.
Day 4
Tuesday, August 3


Lisa and I slept in and didn't get up until 10 minutes before the ride through the Mosel Valley that was being lead by our German Venturer, Falko. We woofed down some chow and got on our way. Our new German Venturer friends were absolutely wonderful guides and obviously very experienced riders. The Mosel Valley was simply breathtaking. Our guides found a very twisty mountain road for us to play on some. We then went to Falko's sisters cafe where we had some coffee and very good ice cream treats. A cake was brought to Greg Snyder for his big 50 birthday and we all wished him a happy birthday. The group split into two smaller groups. One going to a racetrack to run the bikes on in Nurnberg, and the other to visit a castle originally built around the year 1000. Lisa and I opted for the castle tour as we felt racing around a racetrack with cars and buses sounded more like riding on I-95 than fun. We headed back to the hotel and had a nice dinner with several of our new friends. Photos
Day 5
Wednesday, August 4


We started the day with a small breakfast at the hotel. Then Mike & Valeri Johnson and us went to the Super WalMart to get a few needed things. Yes, a Super Walmart in Germany. We couldn't believe it. We then drove to the modern part of Trier to get Mikes headset cord repaired. We were surprised to run into Ian, Roland, and John Jr. at the Honda/Yamaha shop. Ian apparently burnt up his rear brakes on the mountains and John had some work done to his Venture as well. After this we went into the old part of Trier and took a bus tour of the city. We learned that Trier was the oldest German city and had a very extensive past dating back to before the Roman Empire. We visited the Roman gate which was the northern most of four gates to an ancient Roman city. In fact, these gates are the oldest standing Roman ruins in Europe. We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping in Trier were we found some nice German dolls for our baby sitter's girls. During our walk through Trier I kept getting very strange looks, especially from the older folks. I couldn't figure out why. I then noticed they were looking at my T-Shirt. It was a West Coast Choppers shirt with the iron cross as their logo. I then realized that this symbol may have deeper meaning to these folks. As Ian later put it, that shirt made me the German equivilant to a red-neck. We rode back to the motel in light rain, changed shirt, then had a good dinner at the motel and few dark beers. Photos
Day 6
Thursday, August 5


Today was a day of transit from Trier to Ottobeuren. We had a choice of taking the quick route via autoban or a scenic route through the Black Forest region. We of course chose the scenic route lead by Rob of Freedom Touring. We drove about 360 miles today, mostly back twistie roads through many small villages and through the Black Forest. For lunch we stopped in a small village but nearly everything was closed. 2:00pm on a Thursday?? We did find a bakery that made pretty good ham and cheese sandwiches. German Venturer Frank helped us order by standing at the counter and translating for us. I got a bee sting near my left eye after lunch. He must have got in while I was riding and nailed me when I removed my sunglasses. Mike and Valari gave me some benadril just in case. Thanks guys! It swelled up slightly and hurt most of the day.

Enroute, we stopped in the Black Forest near Schonachbach at a shop that sold locally made cuckoo clocks and other wood carved items. We found and bought two locally made cuckoo clocks. One has dancing carved figurines, a band, and a lady pulling a bell rope. Cost a bit more than we planned to spend, but it will surely be a unforgetable memento of this great trip. Others bought clocks and very nice hand carved items as well. We arranged to have our clocks shipped back home.

For the first time we encountered heavy rain. I did not get my rain gear on in time and my leather jacket got soaked. We rode in the rain for probably 40 minutes then it cleared off.

The autoban crowd made it to the Hotel Hirsh around 6:00pm. We didn't get in until 10:30pm. Our guide called ahead and had the local Italian restaraunt stay open past hours. We had a excellent mixed grill plate cooked over an inside wood fire. We of course took more ribbing from the rest of the group for being so late getting in. Since we rode a lot today and the weather was threatening, we didn't get many photos today.

One thing I learned about this part of Europe... once you are off the autoban, just about everything is what we would call twisties at home. All the small towns are built on the mountain sides and the local roads wind through them. People here drive fast, but not aggressively and are good drivers. Nearly everywhere is a considered a passing lane except switch backs and really tight turns. Most of the driving would be considered reckless driving at home. I have learned why motorcycles are so popular here. Lane splitting. Although unnerving at first, it allows motorcyclists to pass between lanes and get where they want faster. Auto drivers except this as normal and give extra room when they see an oncoming motorcyclist lane splitting. In the states, drivers would probably try to squeeze the biker. Although my rented Gold Wing is performing fine, I look forward to riding my Midnight Venture when I get home.
Day 7
Friday, August 6


After yesterdays long and tiring day, most of us vowed to hang around the Hirsh Motel and rest, but when we got up several of us decided the weather was just too nice to let go to waste. So we drove about 80 miles south to a very large and impressive castle called Schloss Neuschwanstien. This is the famous castle that Disney used as a model for Cinderella's Castle. While we waited for our tour to begin, we had lunch. I had the German version of a meatloaf. It was much different than what we would call meatloaf in the USA, but very good. I was not that impressed with the German potato salad. I like the WV version of German potato salad much better. We then took the tour of the castle. After the tour we rode a horse drawn carriage back to the bottom. Today we rode with Mike and Valari Johnson, Don and Sylvia Roden, and Greg and Terri Synder. Greg and Terri could not wait for the tour however and left early. The rest of us took a slow paced ride back to the hotel and then had an enjoyable dinner.

I feel as if I am getting a summer cold. What started as some sneezing and congestion the past two days has moved to a chest cold and I feel very tired and a bit feverish. I'm hoping this passes quickly. Tomorrows ride is short at just over 100 miles to our Austrian motel. If I'm not feeling better, my plan is to lay down and rest most of tomorrow after checking in at the motel.

GPS Track
Day 8
Saturday, August 7

Germany, Austria

Woke up this morning and could barely talk. It got a little better after I had some coffee. In the morning, we did a little more sightseeing in Ottenbeuren. I searched for and found a pharmacy to get some meds. The group split into two smaller groups. Some folks rode to the Neuschwanstien castle that we seen yesterday. The rest of us headed for our next stop in Austria.

For lunch, we stopped at the popular Alps motorcycling hotel and had a BBQ lunch. We then made a short trip to our destination, the Mozart Hotel in Riede Austria where will spend the next 5 nights. The motel is awesome. Huge suite facing the Alps. As soon as we checked in I got a shower and layed down. Felt so bad I skipped dinner. I am hoping to regain my energy and maybe voice by tomorrow. I plan to ride regardless.
Day 9
Sunday, August 8


I woke up feeling a bit better. Voice still weak, but lots of energy and no coughing or sneezing. Everyone has been great offering me all kinds of their favorite cold meds. We had breakfast at our hotel. Everyone is trying to find ways to do laundry. Being half way through the trip, most of us had planned to do our laundry here, but this hotel doesn't offer that service. The original booked hotel did, but it was too small for our large group and we had to upgrade to this one. Being Sunday, hardly anything except gas stations are open. Looks like lots of hand washing socks in the sinks this evening. hehe

We rode to a permanent snow cap on the Alps. The ride up was twistie and scenic. Awesome can't describe it. The elevation at the end of the road was 9098 feet. I would guess the surrounding peaks where several hundred feet higher. Tempuratures felt like very late fall in the mid-atlantic states. At our motel, it is probably about 80 degrees. We could have taken a ski lift to the top of the peak where you can see several countries. No-one seemed interested.

Mike, Valeri, Harvey, Pam, Don and Slyvia, Lisa and I had lunch at the mountain top resturant. We didn't know the ride leader, Rob, had planned a lunch stop half way down the mountain. So we hung around to finish our lunch and sight see some more. On the way down, Lisa and I ended up ahead of the the others and stopped into the resturaunt where the first half of the group was having lunch and we had a cup of coffee. We thought the rest with us were going to stop as well, but seen them drive on by. So we headed back ourselves. The GPS proved itself to me as a valuable tool. I simply followed my track back. It is also nice seeing the elevations as we ride.

We called the boys and spoke for a bit. They sounded good. We were starting to miss them a lot and hearing they were doing good made us feel better. Cathy said the Gary had been asking if he could call us, so the timing was good. Talked to Greg and Terri Snyder in the parking garage. They just return from a solo trip over the Alps into Switzerland and Italy. We might try that ride tomorrow if another group ride doesn't sound better.

GPS Track
Day 10
Monday, August 9

Austria, Liechtenstien, Switzerland

Got up early for breakfast at 7:30. My voice is almost normal and I felt very good. Mike & Valari, Harvey & Pam, Cliff & Connie and Lisa & I did an all day ride. We started by catching the autoban west. Then we turned south into Liechtenstien where we stopped to get passports stamped and did some shopping. We stopped about half way through Liechtenstien and had lunch. The waitress asked me in her bit of english if we were all together and then asked if we wanted the Menu. I said yes thinking I was getting the menu of items available. But Menu in their language means 'Special of the day' so I actually order us all the special. It was good and I think most of us enjoyed it. :)

We then continued into Switzerland where we later stopped for ice cream and coffee. After that roads turned very nice with some really cool twisties and breathtaking scenery. Our highest elevation on the trip today was 7850 feet and the ground still had snow at the top. Mike lead us with Valari navigating. They did very well considering these roads are not marked anything like USA roads are. I had plotted a few turn waypoints in my GPS and with those and the route displays, I was able to help some. This was the final selling point for me that GPS is a must for bike trips! A more advanced unit is now on my wish list.

The rented wing is doing OK but noticed today on rough roads it bounces a lot more than I think it should and did cause me a few problems where the twisties were rough surface. Lisa took some very good pictures today, but I don't think she realizes how much the moving around makes it harder to drive. Fortunately she sits very still in the switchbacks. We returned back to the Mozart just in time to clean up for dinner. After dinner we discussed tomorrows ride and agreed to do a loop into Italy via a very twistie mountain pass. I am guessing that I will lead tomorrow and have waypoints plotted in the GPS. I estimate the loop will be about 160 to 180 miles and will take us most of the day. Even though we still have two more days of riding, many are already dreading having to leave. Last I heard rain may move in late tomorrow and stay through Wednesday. We want to be sure to get Italy in tomorrow as that will make a total of 9 European countries we will have ridden in. What a total rush this has been so far!!!

GPS Track
Day 11
Tuesday, August 10

Austria, Italy

We got up for a 7:30 breakfast. Today we did I ride that I selected that went into Italy. We started east on the autoban for just a short time, them took a mountain pass road into Italy. The road was awesome. We had coffee at a little town called Obergurgl then continued on. Since I was leading, I had the opportunity to push the twisties just a bit harder than I have so far. Enjoyed that, but wasn't going crazy by any means. We had hoped to get passports stamped but found the Austrian/Italy border wide open and the check point closed. Some did stop at a souvenier shop at the border.

We continued down the mountain. The twisties got very good. The cloud level was near the top and we rode into and through it making for some very dramatic views. It also made for some very chilly riding. The air was so fresh and cool. We then stopped in Merano and had a nice lunch and did a little souveneir shopping and sightseeing. Since it was getting late and the skies looked threatening and some were concerned about the length of the ride, we rode longer without break than normal to get back to the motel, but it worked out as we just beat the rain and got back in time to freshen up for dinner. The highest elevation we rode today was 8140 feet.

After dinner there was a show of authentic Austrian dancing. Different, and somewhat comical. Tommorrow we are planning on an easy day and may not even ride. On Thursday, we must ride all the way back to Trier for our first leg back home. Can't believe this is winding down all ready.. :(

GPS Track
Day 12
Wednesday, August 11


Decided to skip breakfast and slept in until 9:30. Lisa had breakfast then walked around the hotel grounds with Pam. Lisa and I later walked through Riede then came back to the motel. Around noon, we took the autoban to InnsBruck where we shopped, did some sightseeing and had coffee and ice cream. We found a doll for mom, and some little toys for the boys. I got lost coming out of InnsBruck, but using the GPS and some help from a toll booth guy, got back on track. The first 30km back it rained, but then it cleared off for the remaining 35km which dried us off fine. We had dinner then discussed who we would ride back with tomorrow. We are now packing stuff for the return trip. Photos

GPS Track
Day 13
Thursday, August 12

Austria, Germany

A long day of transit. We joined a group lead by Ian Morgan from Riede Austria back to Trier Germany. After the first few hours, Ian got ahead of us and the rest stopped for gas. They decided to go ahead and eat at Burger King assuming Ian just left us behind. I felt Ian wouldn't do that and was probably waiting down the road a bit, so I went to find him. Sure enough, he was about 5 miles down the road and had been waiting for 20 minutes. Since the rest had decided to go on their own, I joined Ian where we ran a spirited pace. We stopped in a very small village and had a very good lasagne lunch. We later stopped along the planned route and had coffee and ice cream at the same place we did on the trip down to Austria. While there, the rest of the group passed us. We then continued and took a slightly more scenic route to the motel.

On arrival, we learned the group had started a poll to see what time Ian would get in. Slyvia Roden won the poll and many were surprised to see us so early. We were behind the rest by just a short time. I enjoyed using the autoban as it was designed to be ridden.

Lisa and I rode to the Walmart to get a few things, then I stayed up and enjoyed a few too many dark beers with some of the group.

GPS Track
Day 14
Friday, August 13

Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, France

We joined a group lead by Ian for the trip from Trier Germany back to Calais France. The plan was to use a mixture of Autoban and country roads and visit The Netherlands on the way. This would bring our total countries visited to ten. We rode hard with few breaks in order to cover the distances needed. We stopped for lunch and some short sightseeing in Antewerp Belgium. The roads through Antewerp were challenging. They are cobblestone with a mossy grass growing between. Also, the streets are riddled with trolley tracks. This on top of the light rain we were riding in made for some very careful riding. As we were riding we constantly had to be aware of trolley car movements. One rider had his mirror missed by about 2 inches by a trolley car.

At one point, we merged onto a road from the left side. I merged between a van and a motorcycle. Since most of the group was ahead of me, I looked around the van, seen an opening, then cracked the GoldWing wide open and blasted by the van. The other motorcyclist also came around but was riding a bit too close to me for my comfort. So I waved him by. He didn't go. So I moved a bit right and waved him on again. Then I noticed the purty flashing blue lights. Opps! No passing zone. Got off with a warning. Whew!

We then rode into The Netherlands for a short period and headed back into Belgium. We hit a heavy traffic jam, but used lane splitting to get right through it. Amazing how the car drivers give motorcyclists room to do this. Most of the day we have been riding in off and on rain. We then rode into Brugge Belgium where we shopped, did some sightseeing and enjoyed a nice long dinner. While dining, the rain started very heavy. After dinner, we all got on the rain gear and headed back to Calias France.

Before we even left Brugge, the back four bikes got separated from the front three bikes lead by Ian. I was riding with the back four. Doug and TJ's bemmer was near empty with a fuel warning light. My bike was getting low showing just over an eight tank. All the gas stations we checked were closed and you could only pump gas if you had a European gas card of some sort. Since Doug was leading the back four, he decided to do a u-turn back to the last gas station where we had last been with Ian hoping he would come back for us to ride as a group. Doug did not want to chance looking for Ian with a fuel warning. After 40 minutes and no Ian, we decided to move on. It was dark and rainy and easy for riders to get separated. By the time Ian realized we were missing, he felt it would be futile to search for us as he could only guess what we would have done.

We asked a local boy for directions to the nearest open station. We set out to search but never found it using his directions. We later came across a closed station with a young lady using her gas card. We offered her cash in order to use her gas card to fill the really low bikes. She agreed and Doug, Dave and I each put in 5 Euros worth of gas. We now felt we had enough gas to try to find our way back to Calais. We studied the maps and decided it would be easy to get back once we found the E40. I took the lead and we used my GPS to help us navigate towards the E40 and finally found it. After a bit, we came to a service center on the E40 where everyone topped off with fuel and took a short rest break. The wind gusts on the E40 were like no other that I can recall riding in. Maybe just that big piece of tupperware I was riding, but I thought for sure we would be blown off the road. Shortly after leaving the gas station, my Goldwing died on the Autoban. I pulled over, restarted and tried again. After coming to speed, it died again. We did this three times. Now we are all starting to worry how we were going to deal with this. I figured the problem had to be related to the fuel stop as the bike was running fine before. Someone asked if I put in diesel, but after Pyro's little test with deisel fuel on day 3, I have been real careful which hose I grabbed and knew that wasn't possible. I recalled on the Venturers forum about sometimes loosening the gas cap could fix a vacuum problem. So I unlock the cover and seen that I had twisted the gas cap vent hose when I filled up. I straightened it and the bike ran fine. We continued on and finally made the Hotel Du lac in Calais about 1:45am where Ian had stayed up waiting for us.

GPS Track
Day 15
Saturday, August 14

France, England

We had a cup of coffee then headed toward the channel ferry. We boarded the ferry and met in the club lounge where we started to say our goodbyes. After exiting, we drove to meet again at a service center near Leeds Castle. At this point the group split into smaller groups depending on which bike rental place we were headed. Lisa & I joined Don & Slyvia Roden, Mike & Valari Johnson, and Pam Wilson as we all rented Hondas. We drove to the HGB Honda, deposited our bikes, then walked to a cafe for an outdoor lunch. We then caught the tube back to the London Hotel. Lisa & I hurried to get ready for the Romeo & Juliet play at 7:30. Tim & Sandy also had to rush to get ready. We took a bus, the tube, then a taxi and got there about 20 minutes late. The play was very interesting as I have never seen a Shakespeare play. Seeing it in an authentic recreation of the original Globe theater made it even more interesting. After the play, Joe & Susan and Tim & Sandy decided to get a late dinner. As it was already 10:30 and Lisa & I didn't get in until real late the previous evening, we decided to start on our way back to the motel. Joe helped directed us to the tube station. We did a bit of sightseeing on the way to the tube. Downtown London is beautiful at night. Photos

GPS Track
Day 16
Sunday, August 15

England, USA

We had breakfast at the motel and said some more goodbyes. It was like saying goodbye to life long friends even though many of us have only known each other for two weeks. I sincerely hope to be able to meet our new friends again in the future. We shared a cab with Mike Baska to Heathrow where we checked-in for our flight. Our flight was delayed an hour as there was increased additional security at the gate. They were frisking and checking all carry ons for most passengers which I have never seen. I noticed no other gates doing this. We are not sure if this was due to some specific threat or intelligence or what. Our good friend Rick picked us up at Dulles and drove us home. Photos