Saturday, July 1, 2006

Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

Growing up, I had always been intrigued by the concept of motorcycles but had been implicitly programmed to think they were dangerous and not something “someone like me” would actually do. No one I knew had a bike. I had never even really been up close to one. But a year after a somewhat prolonged divorce and for the first time since that relationship had started back in college, I was in a position to really re-evaluate myself as an individual and the idea of getting a bike for scooting around San Francisco popped into my head. I could think of no reason not to do it. You can read about the process of getting trained and buying a bike on my Learning to Ride a Motorcycle post.

Nine months after saying “why not” to a bike and with a life still somewhat “in flux,” I found myself Googling motorcycle rentals in Europe and thinking “why not?” Searches quickly led me to Beach’s whose tours sounded amazing, but in addition to being expensive, I thought would be a mostly people with a lot more experience than me and I didn't want to expose my motorcycling naiveté. Of course, the more I learn about motorcycling and the people who do it the more I realize that everyone's willing to help and the best thing you can probably do is ride with people more experienced than you. I probably shouldn’t even disclose my rationale since it would be just as valid to mention that the very popular tours were also completely booked. I dialed the 800 number and tentatively asked them about rentals expecting a response of “Sure, we rent bikes to riders with as little as ten years of experience. How many more than ten years have you been riding?” Instead I heard, “Sure, what dates?” followed by “Yes, we have bikes available. Should I put you in the calendar?” Figuring I would subtly ask at a later date (“for a friend”) what experience was required, I heard myself reading off my credit card number.

Fifteen minutes after that I had booked a roundtrip ticket from San Francisco to Munich using miles I had racked up in the late 90’s doing an absurd weekly commute to and from a tech job in Cincinnati for a few months. For some reason I still don't understand, the consultancy I was working for preferred to bill the client $2000 per flight (not to mention a rental car, apartment, and per-diem) for us to sit in an office in Cincinnati accessing servers back in San Francisco. Hey, it was the mid-90's.

With the goal of hitting as many two star passes from “Motorcycling in the Alps” as possible, I used the itinerary from the Beach’s site as a template and was surprised that I could plan down to the turn using Google Maps (I'm an American remember. I doesn't even occur to me that the rest of the world has Google Maps). I set about planning a two week solo loop through the Alps.

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