August 7, 2001
We arrived in Lugano after the terribly long journey from Seattle via Dallas, TX. The most amazing thing was to find our bags made the trip. Urs rented a car and we carted our amazing amount of luggage to Falcieu, her apartment and found everything was well. We stopped at the local Ducati shop to see if anything that looked good was available, but the main man was off for his holiday. He did have a nice ST-4 Ducati(his own)that may be ‘in play’. As our promised rental bike (a 2001 ST-4) was destroyed 3 days prior to our trip, we were interested.
August 8, 2001
We drove to Milano after a false start. We got part way there when Urs discovered she didn’t have her passport. Uh, oh!, back we went. We had some ‘light’ directions on how to find BIANCOBLU from Renato Baffico that got us close to their new location. They are our motorcycle rental outfit. Urs negotiated with a local gal on the sidewalk for directions that were most helpful. We were within a block of the place, but for us it could have been in another country. Renato was at his best all-time behavior(feeling guilty about not being able to supply our originally rented bike, no doubt). He lined up all the choices (all mostly BMWs) which included ‘Rossi’, our ST-4 Ducati that we used last year on our Switzerland trip. She is long in the tooth, but damn well a Ducati. After much scratching of my chin I said to Renato, we’ll take that old dog, but at a proper rental price. He notched off another 15% from the arranged price on the 2001 ST-4 which crashed before we got here. That bike had a total life of three days, start to finish. I never bothered to ask if the rider survived, as I was pissed. Our trip had begun planning with negotiations for a new bike to use from BIANCOBLU for a two month period way back in 2000. Renato had purposely ordered the purchase of the bike around our specifications request. He was as disappointed as we were. Can you believe a three day life for a beautiful Ferrari of a Ducati? As we organized at the pick up point in Milano, Urs decided she needed a coffee fix, so we went down the street to resolve that. When we returned we found another couple that had arrived from the Phoenix area. They had stacks of luggage, but no idea of where they were to go. They did not have a clue! Renato had his map book out, but we had our knowledge of last year’s trip that became very handy. Renato, dial up our ‘Trip Notes’ from 2000 at www.weathergod.com/switzerland This became a real help for these folks, as they had no idea of what might work. We printed it out right there for sort of a basic book on what works and where to stay. Meanwhile, it started to rain. As I looked back leaving the parking area fully clothed in my bullet proof Aerostich waterproof Darien outfit I saw the couple from Phoenix with one light weight rain shell top for the driver and nothing else(well, they had helmets). The trip back to Lugano was swift. Rossi runs right and smooth at 160 – 190 KMs per hour on the Autostrata, even in the downpour. She has new Metzler MEZ4 tires on her, and with the rain present, I took it real conservatively down the road. Other than new camshaft belts and a change of oil(plus installation of a rear hard tail bag), she is the same beat up bike we left behind at the end of September 2000. I hope this thing will work OK for the next two months. We found a great new restaurant on the way home and stopped to make reservations. Some young folks took it upon themselves to bring an old ruin of a building back to life located part way up the 26 switch backs to Ursula’s apartment. The Grotto Morchino is a family style place where you eat side by side at long tables. The menu ran towards stuff that got tossed on an outdoor BBQ. It was great fun and everybody gave us a lot of comments for showing up on the Ducati.
August 9, 2001
Today it rained, as in Hard Rain. We had fiddled around setting up the computer yesterday, but now it became a priority. What a pain in the posterior it is to configure these things, but it works. We went down to downtown Lugano for shopping and lunch. I grabbed a couple of great wurst, and Urs chose a more proper pizza while sitting on the edge of the Plaza Reforma(which allowed me the opportunity to ogle the various high heeled locals that cruised past). Tomorrow, we pack for the ‘big trip’ of ten days on Corsica. This means negotiating for room on the bike for luggage. Why, I don’t know, is it that all tools to support the bike become part of my stuff? The thunder and lightning was spectacular at night.
August 10, 2001
The clouds gave way to sunshine. A trip to town was in order and we brought the camera hoping for some shots of the spectacular ‘clickity clacks’ who roam this classy city. Shopping at the map store finally brought forth a map of Corsica which was badly needed. We camped for a while on the Plaza Reforma in a sidewalk café and watched the action going past. This is better than going to a movie. Then it was back to the apartment to pack the motorcycle for the journey tomorrow to Pisa, which will be our jumping off spot for Corsica. I can’t believe the stuff we have managed to pile on the bike. This year the bike has a rear hard bag up behind the seat. They hold an amazing amount of stuff. We put almost a full backpack in there. The tank bag has been extended to its full height and jammed to the brim, and the pannier bag liners are so full that it is a real chore to close the doors. There will be more weight than a postal bus!
August 11, 2001
Left Lugano for Pisa. As we approached the gasoline station on the south end of Lugano, my light bulb came on. I forgot my combat riding pants. Damn! It was an hour round trip if I was to return to the apartment for them, so I said nuts to this. I felt naked without them, but we continued on. It took us five hours to make it to Pisa. We were pretty tired puppies when we rolled into Pisa and we landed in a piazza next to the museum of opera. The restaurant owner allowed us to move the motorcycle through a pedestrian only area where we could park it next to our table for security reasons. While we were having a bite to eat a child went totally berserk like only a child can do. A group from what may have been New Zealand occupied the table next to us. One of the men spoke up in a humorous way stating, “Cut the little bastard’s head off.” We rolled with laughter. After some spiffy directions we found the Ariston Hotel where we were to stay. It had a magnificent view of the old leaning tower, but was a little short of creature comforts. No air conditioning, no elevator and no ice. The owner was a biker and welcomed us with good friendship. His name is DI CIAMPOLINI MAURIZIO. He had a new 1,300 cc Yamaha of air cooled design and had just returned from a trip around Corsica. The maps came out and he showed us his route around the island. He was helpful in his suggestion to get to the ferry at least one hour prior to departure.
August 12, 2001
We got up at 5:00 AM and got to the Livorno ferry terminal in plenty of time for our 8:30 departure, but it was a total zoo. It was a good thing we had the extra time to sort out where to go and whether they would accept the Internet reservations. The number on the Email was the ticket, so we were accepted. We grabbed a couple of deck chairs for ourselves, which was a good move as there were not enough to go around. The day was gorgeous and we fried ourselves in the sun. It was really hot upon arrival in Bastia. With nice directions given by an ST-2 Ducati owner the route to St. Florent(D-81)was easily accessed. From there we went to south to Murato(D-82). At this point we became terribly lost after passing through Bignoro. We tried every possible road before stumbling onto the one that connected us to Corte(N-193). We got into Corte at 5:00 PM and while sitting on the street lost again our friend that we had met on the Internet, Pierre-Paul Andriani, found us as he was driving by. Not too many Ducati motorcycles in Corte, so he figured out who we were. He steered us to our hotel, the Dominique Colonna which is located at Vallee de la Restonica, 20250 Corte. This is up the Gorges De La Restonica valley SW of Corte a couple of kilometers and is situated on the river. Our room opened up onto a nice patio next to the lawn across which we could access the river directly. This was to be our home for the entire stay while on Corsica. After returning from long motorcycle days that river was very attractive to jump into!
August 13, 2001
On Monday we rode north out of Corte on D-18 which must have constructed by the Corte Chamber of Commerce to entice motorcyclists to come stay there. This connected us to D-84 which we took westerly over Col de Vergio to D-78 where we turned and followed itover Col de Sevi to Sagone on the coast. We looped north to Porto on D-21 stopping at Cargese for a great pizza lunch. The views from the road after leaving Cargese were stunning. This is very rugged terrain. How the original roads got constructed was a mystery to me. A wrong turn might put you off a thousand foot cliff. From Porto we finished our loop returning east on D-84 back over Col de Vergio past a ski area and back to home and a dip in the river.
August 14, 2001
Big day, as in huge. Ventured south to make a huge loop from Corte to Zona, then east to the coast and back home. The route sequence was N-193, D-69, D-420, D-268, N- 198, D-344, D-69, N-193. We left Corte south through Vergio and on to Ghison on D-69. The road grew extremely narrow and ahead of us loomed a huge tour bus. Getting past this bus was on a wish and a prayer. Ever time we would come to a new town the road would disappear and we would have to consider/reconsider and study our maps. It is very easy to make a wrong move that would have hours long consequences. We had a nice lunch outside a hotel in Zona after which we became totally lost again. It took three tries to find the proper route to Col de Bravella. The proper turn hooked around almost backwards with terrible signing. What a gorgeous spot that is for views. It is very much similar to the Dolomites with large steep rock mountains rising strongly to the sky. The road fell apart going down east towards Solenzare. Huge crowds of people lined the rivers trying to get respite from the heat. The traffic jams were like rush hour on the Evergreen Point bridge in Seattle, except slower and narrower. We beat it back north along the east coast then turned inland toward Corte to Ghisona completing our loop, then back to Corte. This was a 260 km day for Rossi.
August 15, 2001
This day was filled with a long trip from Corte north to the very tip of the island, then back along the west coast through St. Florent to a fast road back to Corte. The route was N-193, N-197, D-81B, D-84, D-18. This took us north to Ponte Leccia, then west and north along the fast road towards Calvi. Had a hot race with a silver Peugeot. Every time he got close, I would wick it up a bit. You could see the frustration in his eyes as it was a personal point of honor for him to try to pass me. Tsk. Things came to a screeching halt in the town of L’Ile Rousse. From there through Calvi the traffic was a nightmare. It was a good thing we had removed the hard pannier bags as we needed every inch of narrowness to weave past the stalled cars and diesel belching trucks.We used every trick in the book by driving down the middle, over the sidewalks, using the oncoming lane, etc. After getting past this mess our decision was to continue south to Porto and back to Corte over Col de Vergio. This resulted in a 266 km day, which was way too long. After we exited Calvi on D-81B through Bocca Serie we found an oasis where we stopped for a much needed cold beer, etc. Down the road a short way we found a nice little hotel located in the shade with an elevated porch for lunch. The road from Calvi south to Porto became very rough with patches placed on top of patches. The result was a slow rough ride. As we came down a long hill and into the shade of a corner there were a bunch of travelers stopped and they signaled us by pointing to a beautiful spring. Everyone was filling his or her water jugs. The heat was oppressive and we were riding in our protective gear, which intensified the loss of water from our systems. We stopped and first consumed the cold water from the water bottles we had frozen the night before, and then replaced the water from the spring. The views were nice, but not as spectacular as the day prior. We were tired by the time we reached Porto and got just a little lost. A nice young man took us under his wing with directions to find D-84 for our route home. Here we ran into piles of pigs. There were pigs in water running beside the road, pigs wandering through the woods, little pigs, big pigs, lots of pigs, all wild. We saw a cow that had just minutes before given birth to a calf. She was just starting to clean up the new born. As we continued east up the pass an aggressive driver in a Peugeot 503 passed us. As he obviously knew the road very well, we tagged along behind him. He thought we were racing him and obviously our staying with him was offensive to his honor. So we toyed with him in the traffic causing his sense of judgment to go astray. We watched him darn near annihilate himself and his woman passenger in an almost head on accident that they just barely escaped creating. We could have passed him in the heavy traffic by using lane splitting, which is allowed here, but chose to let him clear the way. We had started from Corte at 10:30 AM and arrived back at 6:10 PM after stopping for fuel. Our fuel costs ran about $10.00 USD per day on the island. Our fuel consumption ran about 20 km to the liter even while crawling around the sharp second gear corners. It was back to the Hotel Dominique Colona for a quick dip in the river, a nice shower, and dinner on the outside patio at the restaurant overlooking their huge swimming pool. Rachel, who was Pierre- Paul Adriani’s ex girl friend, served us each night.
August 17, 2001
This Friday we invented a route that took us north and east. The roads were N-193, D-71, N-198, N-200. This was a slow, easy day of 178 km. The Ducati took us north to Ponte Leccia where we turned east up into the hills to Morosaglia, La Porta, Piedicroce to San Givliano. Here we stopped for a beer and an orange juice at a string of tables served by a waitress with the absolute tightest stretch white lycra jeans I have ever gazed at. The road from there dropped to the coastal highway and we shot south on it to Aleria for lunch. Aleria has some serious age to it, as it was founded in 462 BC. One thing that stood out on our trip today was the dead. They are stacked up and down the hillsides in crypts that because of the age of the region are very numerous. One old wreck of a church we stopped at was built in 1485. Homes are located in such steep locations that any garden or lawn would be impossible. The rain from the roofs has washed away the hillsides below the buildings leaving many doorways unusable. Our fuel consumption dipped to 17.8 km/liter on this trip. Anytime one sees a bridge in the high country it means second gear for certain. The roads meander along the hillside until reaching the creek bed. Then, the bridge is built straight across creating two right angle turns for vehicles. The areas that bend around the cliff sides were always suspect for sand, or gravel, to be on the road. We hit two of these that were in the shade causing the rear of the bike to slip out momentarily scaring the beJesus out of us. Another bad location was in the many round bouts where grease, or oil, drops from the vehicles. We slid on one of those big time, too. On a motorcycle the driver’s reactions must be almost intuitive to catch the slides immediately or disaster might occur. On this day I don’t think I ever got out of second gear while in the hills. The ST-4 Ducati was overkill for these types of roads. On our route back to Corte we were stopped by the police because of a forest fire. The fire fighting equipment filled the roadway. There was a constant string of airplanes dropping fire retardant on the blaze. In talking with the natives about the large number of fires we were told many of them were purposely set by sheepherders to enhance their grazing.
August 18, 2001
This was the lightest day of all. We went up the Restonica Valley southwest from our hotel. This is a very alpine setting where the road dead ends and the hiking begins. There are many small lakes and hiking paths here. The traffic is horrible and the road extremely narrow(filled with huge tour busses). From the top of the valley we descended back to the hotel without turning the engine on. This made for a peaceful ride with just the whir of the drive chain to listen to. Our route today took us over D-623, D-39, D-41, D-441, and D-39. We did all of 88 km total. After returning to the hotel we traveled east to Bosio. This is a hill country residential area east of Corte known for cliff side homes. We went up through Sermano, Bostonico, Aliz, Mazzola and Sant Andrea di Bosio. On the way back to Corte we discovered a brand new fire burning up the hill alongside the road. We stopped at the first place we thought might have a telephone to report it. It turned out to be a much fancier home then the face presented toward the highway. We didn’t have any luck getting an answer to our calls of hello, but as we were leaving a car full of what may have been their help staff drove up. They said the new fire had already been reported. In fact, we passed the fire engine heading towards it as we went to Corte. We had lunch under umbrellas in downtown Corte and called it a day. I think we had a little road fatigue. After dinner we came back to the hotel lobby and two couples there struck up a conversation with us. One turned out to have a BMW bike back home in Chestire, near Liverpool, so I ragged on him about how slow they were compared to the Ducati and his friend sitting next to him just roared with laughter over this. He is a high school teacher and his wife is a radiologist. They were very interested in the Seattle area but said the difficulties of trying to immigrate were too much to deal with.
August 19, 2001
This Sunday we made the trek from Corte all the way to Bonafacio which is 150 km each way. We stuck to the main roads N-200 to Aleria and N-198 to the south end of Corsica. Except for construction on the road to Aleria, it was a clean high speed run. We put 301 km on the bike and used 14.97 liters of fuel. Speeds ranged between 120 – 140 km/hour. It took us two hours to go down with stops included. What a zoo Bonafacio is! This must be the world’s most intensive tourist trap. The city is extremely picturesque because of the walls surrounding the main part of it and the large marina below. We sat outside under a canopy and relaxed with a couple of Cappuccino coffees and watched the action. Whereas back in Lugano all the action for people watching is of the professional workers, here it was typical tourists in mismatched shorts and shirts wearing Tevas and dragging howling children behind. The place was absolutely jammed. It appeared that there were only two roads that were vehicle accessed. As the main office area of town was out on the point to the west of the old walled city, commuting to and from work has to be a nightmare. We dropped anchor at the edge of town and walked. The hike up to the walled city was quite arduous in the hot sun with our motorcycle boots on. The streets within the walled city are very narrow. One could see that hygiene in the olden times probably consisted of tossing the slops out of the upper windows onto the street. It wasn’t much better today. One had to be on alert for dog poop, etc. Ursula found a shoe boutique where she bought some fancy clickity clacks. While she was doing this I was having a spirited discussion with some lads over a motorcycle parked outside the shop. I do not speak French and they did not speak English, so this was quite fun. Once we got to the fact we were on a Ducati they capitulated as to who had the better bike. On the way back to Corte we stopped for a beer in Aleria. A perfect English speaking German fellow from Dueseldorf who had eyed up our operation came over and struck up a conversation. He wanted to know all about our trip and was blown away with our program. You could see the envy in his eyes.
August 20, 2001
We hit the bricks reasonably early to make certain we had plenty of time to make our 12:30 PM ferry departure. The bags we packed the night before were attached to the bike and Rossi again became a large Greyhound bus. It took two of us to launch her off the center stand. We took N-193 north all the way to Corte to the ferry departure area. This part was simple. Finding the correct ferry departure slip left a whole lot to be desired. We were shouting at one another and pointing in different directions both interpreting any information picked up entirely opposite. Eventually we ended up in the right place, but the wrong ferry was there as we were too early. While we were diddling around and our ferry did show up I became aware that all the other bikes had special stickers on their windshields. Hmmm. Off I went to inquire and yes indeed I had to get those stickers. So, it was back to the ticket office and a long waiting line, but I got them. After watching all our frantic shenanigans a nice fellow, Michel Lassus, sort of took us under his wing. He was riding a BMW and is an area manager for an oil company and lives in southwest France. He and his wife were touring for a number of weeks. While we were waiting to get on the most beautiful motorcycle in the world rolled up. It was a MV Agusta. The detailing on this piece of art was magnificent. Every possible thing was carbon fiber. All the fairing panels were held on by recessed Duez fittings. The thing had four tailpipes tucked under the round pillion. This bike was pure sex. The owner opined that he has seen 300 km per hour on it on the autostrada. I believe it. I touched it. Probably left a fingerprint. Hee,hee. All the pillion passengers had to walk on the ferry and the rest of us wrestled the bikes into the hold. They require the side stands to be used and then strap the bikes to the inner wall of the ship. With all the weight on Rossi I was concerned about the poor stand giving way. The lounge of the ferry was set up like a passenger area on a commercial airline. In this case we were to fly ON the water as the speed of this craft was 68 km per hour. Let me tell you this baby screams when up to speed. She carries 535 passengers and 150 + - cars. I would sure not wish to hit the wake this thing puts out. Michel bought me a beer when we got all settled in and waited for us after we reached Nice to point us in the correct direction for the Radisson Hotel we were to stay in. We got all kinds of attention when we rolled up to the front door with the Ducati. It cost us 100 ff to park the bike in their garage. We reached Pierre-Paul Andriani and he said he would come by after 9:00 PM to pick us up for dinner. Ursual had promised him a dinner for all his help arranging for our stay at the Hotel Dominique Colonna in Corte. So P-P shows up with Samuel Coll who was a most interesting guy. He has invented a submersible craft that operates like a Manta Ray. We headed down to the liveliest spot in Nice, which were block after block of outdoor cafes. Sam was forever grateful when we chose his favorite wine, a wonderful French deep red, to go with dinner. It was fun to do the town with these two young folks. On the other hand, it was a really late night. We didn’t get any sleep, which makes for a tough next day.
August 21, 2001
Morning came all too soon. There was a free pass for breakfast that didn’t look all that good after the long last night’s fun. We ate out on the main floor patio somewhat and the coffee was awful. As opposed to the wonderful breakfasts we had in Corte playing with the soft-boiled egg cooker, plus all the great bread, we were staring at major hotel fare. Yuck. We paid the ransom to bail Rossi out of jail and had the intense interest of the bellman as we loaded up our poor beast with the luggage. He apparently has a big scooter and could not imagine all the stuff we were traveling with. This WILL change before our next adventure. Off we went along the boulevard toward Monaco. The first major problem was we didn’t know how to get there. The second was we were wilting under the oppressive heat in our full moto gear. We stopped for a while behind a truck in a no parking zone and retrieved our maps while I was going through a woozy spell. After much discussion over the ability of the moto driver we decided it was best to just get on the freeway and motor toward home (Lugano). This eventually became a good choice. The route went easterly on A-8 toward Genova. The way was filled with tunnels, which are very disconcerting on a motorcycle. We would blast out of a tunnel into the light, then get blasted by a side stream of air coming from the Mediterranean Sea. The bike would try to change lanes. We made a wrong turn north onto A-26 which led us to A-26d before we recognized what was up. A Lamborghini that had to have been traveling in excess of 250 km per hour passed us. At the time we were doing 140 km. The road warriors all were trying to catch the Lambo trying to keep it in sight. I made an adjustment in our travel speed to accommodate the real world. Now, our cruising speed became 160 km per hour. Even at that speed the rear view mirror was used very often. These cars, turbo Porches, Mercedes, etc. would arrive very quickly, as they were driving at full speed. We stopped several times for fresh orange juice and refueled twice. Once, coming into Milano we were stymied after a tollbooth as to the proper direction to go. The heat was overwhelming as we stewed about which way to go and ended up backing the bike down the shoulder to study an overhead sign. There in the small print was the clue we needed (A-9). The Italians make their road signing so difficult to follow that when confused it is best to immediately stop to make a full map analysis. We arrived back at Ciona by 5:30 PM tired and happy that the trip had been uneventful.