Hello Everyone.

It’s been another splendid day for riding motorbikes. Lots of sunshine, a bit of a chill in the air…but best of all, no rain! With all the trials by weather that we have been subjected to, it was the sort of day to savour and do something special and that’s exactly what we did.

Continued apologies for the lack of photographs, hotel WiFi is still being a pain, so I’ll keep this report reasonably brief and save the photos for a longer post in the not to distant future.

Because of the weather issues I’ve rearranged our schedule a bit and dropped some of the lesser Dolomite Passes, actually that’s just an excuse to come back here again….please Mrs Dookes! There were however three passes that I really wanted to bag (that’s slang for riding over them), initially they had been scheduled for our entry to Italy, but yep the weather stuffed that idea. The trouble is that they are all so high that even in the height of summer and precipitation can fall as snow. Over the last week all of them have seen quite a bit of the white stuff and only yesterday snow chains were required on two of them! As you can imagine, there was still a fair bit around today making things look quite superb.

Oh yes, I nearly forget to tell you which passes I’m rambling on about, I’ll give you the German names for them, as we are in the South Tirol after all, in order that we rode them:

Penserjoch 2215m/7267ft
Jaufenpass 2099m/6887ft
Timmelsjoch 2474m/8127ft

I set out with a blank canvas, sure I knew where I wanted to go, but I hadn’t planned a return route. That was good really, because I enjoyed the outward ride so much over the first two that once we had done the Timmelsjoch High Alpine road, I turned around and came back the way we went out! 😎

I’ve got to say that although the Timmelsjoch is supposed to be one of the classic alpine routes, it didn’t do much for me; I much preferred the other two. A case of the bridesmaids out doing the bride!

Yes, I promise I’ll write much more in future about all three routes with, if I say so myself, some really nice photos as well; please stick around for that.

In the meantime, keep the rubber down and the shiny side up!

Catch you soon.


Wet Stuff

Last night when I telephoned Mrs Dookes, back at H.Q., I commented that the Vosges Mountains reminded me of my beloved Welsh mountains…bad move.

Looking out of the bedroom window, it’s wet.

This morning they took on the mantle even better, low cloud and rain, lots of rain. This was a real shame, as I had been looking forward to seeing more of this intriguing corner of France, oh well I suppose I’ll have to come back again some day, as I saw sod all today!

Climbing to Col de Schlucht, in the mist.

From the hotel we climbed through gossamer cloaked pine forest to the summit at Col de Schlucht, 1139m/3737feet above sea level. A mere pimple in mainland Europe terms, but impressive by UK standards; Yr Wyddfa, Snowdon in English, is the highest mountain in Wales (and higher than any upstart English peak!) at 1085m. Hey I’ve ridden higher than Yr Wyddfa today, diolch yn fawr!

Nearing the Rhein and the border into Germany, the rain relented for a while.

It’s funny but for some reason, the River Rhein strikes some sort of resonance with me. Perhaps it’s because we are both perpetual travellers, or maybe because I remember drifting off to sleep in the Night Lorelei express as we passed through the Rhein gorge with the whistle of the steam loco up front echoing off the rocky cutting walls…

Anyway, we paused at Île de Rhine (French spelling) and I caught a couple of smaller boats rising in the lock. You can just make out one of the larger bulkers waiting it’s turn upstream. The Rhein waterway is a busy place, lots of freighters ply these waters as well as passenger and pleasure vessels.

We then slipped quietly into Germany; well as quiet as you can be when sitting on a Harley with shotgun pipes!

Up ahead was the Schwarzwald, The Black Forest. I have begun to think of the place as “The Wet Forest” as every time I’ve ever been there previously it has rained, so today why change the habit of a lifetime? Yep, it rained, mostly!

The Black Forest, between the rain.

Ok, hands up, for about 15 miles it didn’t actually rain, much, and as a result Harls and I enjoyed our best part of the day. Lovely twisty stuff, with a fair bit of grip…if you ignore the resinous pine needles, fir cones and falling leaves. Actually it was fun, lovely Harley-Snarly fun, then it started raining again and we rolled into Switzerland….where it always rains!

I’m still making up my mind about Switzerland. They certainly can build railways, tunnels and bridges, but when it comes to roads they haven’t got a clue what to surface them with! We hit the Autobahn, it rained, then rained some more, then poured down, then it pretended to be a European version of a hurricane, then it opened the tap some more! I hope you get the idea; it was wet, very, very, very, WET! So wet, that the road surface was obscured by a mist of bouncing rain and vehicle spray; I knew it was bad when even the Swiss were slowing down. But the road…..oh Lordy, because those Swiss drivers in their big Mercs, BMW’s and Audi’s like a smooth road, I think that they surface it in marble…whatever it is, it doesn’t have any grip!

Harls had a new set of Michelin tyres before we set off and I must say I’m more than impressed with the way that they have behaved. True, we had a couple of “moments.” One was on the Autobahn when the front end went very light as we slightly aquaplaned, it was only for a millisecond, but it felt like a mile passed by; the other was passing through a town when we went over a manhole cover that I had failed to spot and the back end kicked out…actually that was quite fun! So well done Michelin, those new tyres are great!

We floated through little Lichtenstein, it’s the first time I’ve ever passed through a country without putting my foot down on the ground and then reached Austria, where we are tonight, Gaschurn to be precise.

Still raining in Austria!

I like Austria, the petrol is cheap, the roads have grip, the beer is good and the flammekueche, delightfully tasty! In reality flammekueche really hails from Alsace, but it’s been adopted all over Southern Germany and Austria; I think that the Austrians do it particularly well. It’s sort of like a pizza, but with a thinner crisper base, topped with crème fraîche, thinly sliced onions and thin strips of bacon. It goes very well with a cold beer.

Best of all, although the Austrian’s speak German they really are a friendly bunch!

So there you have it, a day of 246 miles, which around 220 were spent impersonating a submarine.

On the plus side, all of my riding gear performed faultlessly; apart from round my neck not one bit of the Dookes form got wet or cold and neither did anything in my luggage. I guess it just shows that if you get the right kit then it pays you back.

Not looking for sponsorship, but hey that would be great and with the usual disclaimer…

Thank you to :

Richa, for the rain suit.
Gerbings for the heated gloves and jacket.
Sidi, boots.
Schuberth, helmet.
Harley Davidson, FXRG leather trousers and jacket.
GIVI, luggage.
Highway Hawk panniers
Trespass and Mountain Warehouse, base layers.

I’ve had happier, less tiring days on a motorbike, but you know I’ve not had many more satisfying looking back at the end of the day; I guess it’s that sense of survival!

I mustn’t forget to mention the star of the piece, my beloved Harls; as usual, she, like me, just got on with it, but she did it with a lot more class than me!

That’s it gang, I’m off to have “noch ein Beer!”

“I can live without the rain
That’s falling on my head.”

Catch you soon.


Badges of Honour

I’ve just finished preparing “Baby Blue” for our latest trip, which is just as well because in less than twelve hours we will be sailing to France.

As usual I’ll be taking the Plymouth – Roscoff service, which is run by Brittany Ferries. At eight hours it’s not the quickest crossing of the English Channel, but it is one of the longest and as the port of Plymouth is only 25 miles from Dookes H.Q. it makes sense to use it; an overnight crossing with a cabin and comfy bed makes it a no-brainer!

One of the last preparation things I had to do was to remove last year’s Swiss Autoroute Vignette from Baby’s screen. I must admit that I was a little sad as each of the stickers represented a bunch of great experiences, but hey it just makes room for new ones!

“What’s a Vignette Dookes?” I hear some of you saying.

Well. . .

Many Autoroutes/Motorways in Continental Europe are toll roads, you have to stop every so often to either grab a ticket or pay the toll charge. This can be a pain in the rear on a bike; you have to remove gloves, find the ticket, find cash or your cash card and then pay the toll. Yes, sure in some places you can obtain an electronic pre-pay tag, but mostly it’s not worth the hassle setting the things up if you are only passing through and are not resident. In Switzerland and Austria they have a different approach, you have to purchase a “Vignette” and stick it onto your windscreen before you venture onto an Autoroute.

Vignettes: Yellow - Swiss. Blue - Austria

Vignettes: Yellow – Swiss. Blue – Austria. Grossglockner speaks for itself!

Austria are pretty good to occasional users/visitors as not only are annual Vignettes available, but also short-term ones too which are ideal for people just either passing through or on holiday.

In Switzerland there is no choice, only 12 month Vignettes are sold at 40 Swiss Francs a pop – that’s about £29 at current exchange rates. Typically for the Swiss the sticker has to be displayed in very precise way on the vehicle and woe betide you if you don’t get it right or fail to display a sticker, big on the spot fines apply!

On the face of it the Vignette seems a bit pricey, but compared to French or Spanish tolls it’s actually not bad value and the joy of not having to stop every time you enter or exit the Autoroute is also well worth it!

I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying that we are heading to Switzerland, at least that’s the plan at the moment, once we get off the ferry!image
“Like a bat out of hell, I’ll be gone when the morning comes.”

Catch you soon, on the road.