Since the purchase of my 1998 HD Fatboy it has been a dream of mine to tour as much of the world from the saddle of a motorcycle as possible. Back in May of 2001 I had the opportunity to travel through four countries in Europe for seven days on a rented HD Road King. Monique (my girlfriend at the time) and I planned to take a couple of weeks off to go to Europe to ride and visit my long time friend Blaine Holt who was stationed in Belgium at the time. The planning began on the web researching rental companies in Europe that had Harley Davidson motorcycles. I found a company called Muller and Jussel AG located in Uster Switzerland they had Harleys and reasonable rental rates. The next step was to figure out our timeline and choose flights and arrange hotels for the over night stops. I can’t say enough about how good of a tool the internet is for travel planning. We were able to reserve the bike, purchase airfare reserve all of our hotel rooms and see what many of them looked like, and investigate sight seeing activities all with the click of a mouse button.

We arrived in Zurich, Switzerland after a long flight from San Francisco with a stop over in Paris to change planes. Being compressed in the economy class section of the Air France 747 was a most uncomfortable experience not to mention the survival of the fittest feeding frenzy that would happen when sandwiches were put out in the galley! It was a long day. Jet lag made it difficult if not next too impossible to get a good nights’ sleep before picking up the bike. The next morning found us decked out in leathers on the train to Uster where the Road King was waiting. The bike was practically new the odometer read 180km (112 miles). The people at Muller and Jussel AG were friendly and very helpful. It was around noon after a final check of the bike and the proper stowage of our gear we headed out. Riding East from the Zurich area was simply incredible with the foothills and the Alps in the distance. After a couple of hours we decided to get some food. We stopped at Gasthof Lowen in Vaduz the capitol city of Liechtenstein where we had an excellent lunch. From Vaduz we rode on to Innsbruck Austria our first over night stop. Innsbruck, Austria is a beautiful city nestled up against the snow-capped Alps. That night there happened to be a football (soccer) championship game happening and the town was alive and vibrant with hundreds of football fans crowding the pubs and restaurants. It made for a very exciting evening.

The following morning we headed out Southbound towards Italy the scenery was so incredible and the roads were as smooth as Rico Suave's favorite pick up line. The route took us through the Dolomites in North East Italy passing by many quaint villages that looked like they had been abandoned. Turns out that it was between ski season and summer vacation season so the small town business owners closed the shutters locked up and left for greener pastures. The fuel gauge was nearing empty and the sun was setting nerves were fraying as we passed kilometers full of ghost towns. As we descended the East slope of the mountains we came upon a small place called Fiera di Primero. The small orange sign with a black silhouette of a motorcycle above the door meant we were welcome at the only open hotel in the village. That night we had wonderful traditional Italian dinner comprised of home made lasagna mounds of fresh spinach and all you can eat salad bar not to mention a fantastic dessert. I believe we insulted the waitress because we did not eat all of our spinach – I thought I left my mom in the states.

We began the day’s journey to Venice. The weather was not so agreeable a half an hour after starting out we had to don our rain gear. It was a very wet ride all the way to the island city. A tip; when visiting Venice in a vehicle and using the parking garage ignore the men posing as parking attendants they are trying to scam tourists. Once you park they approach you and try to sell you a ferry ride and tour package for highly inflated prices. After a brief ferry ride from the parking garage we arrived at the hotel San Gallo removed our sopping wet clothes and took a nap. We spent two nights there just spitting distance from the Piazza San Marco. The weather cleared the next day and we spent all day wondering the alleys and canals of the islands. I found that some of the best coffee, food and gelato is on the West side of the main island. There are fewer tourists out that way. From Venice we rode West through many of the larger Northern towns. Prior to passing through Verona Monique got to have her first Euro hole in the floor toilet experience at the West Point discobar. It was getting late in the day and fatigue was setting in so we made an unplanned overnight stop in Bardalino on the bank of Lago di Garda. It was a beautiful place and made for a fantastic ride along the shore the next day. On the North end of the lake is Cascata Verona waterfall. The falls come down from a dammed reservoir high above the lake shore where the constant force of the water has carved a serpentine cave through the rocks.

The last overnight stop on the motorcycle portion of the trip was in Milan. Making our way in to the heart of the city was fraught with peril. Having 70 lbs. of gear and a passenger on a 700 lb. motorcycle makes managing Italian traffic something akin to an Olympic sporting event. After spending 15 minutes slinking through the traffic circle from hell we made our arrival unscathed at the hotel. Prior to the trip I had found the hotel Raffaello via the internet and made reservations. It turned out that the Raffaello was a four star hotel that catered mainly to business travelers. The look on the desk managers face as we walked in clad in black leather chaps and jackets was worth 20 million Lira that is about $100 US I think. “Yes, we have reservations” I said, while showing my California drivers license, and “My name is Raphael.” We did not have much time for sight seeing but did manage to see Castillo Sforzesco, the Duomo, and the Galleria. From Milan the road North back to Zurich took us through the St Gotthard pass tunnel bypassing the mountain pass, which was closed due to snow. The last two nights of the first week were spent at the Hotel Central over looking the Limmat river in Zurich.

In the morning we made the 25 minute ride South from Zurich to Uster and dropped off the bike before the 1pm deadline. We had logged 1519Km (942 miles) in the seven days and had traveled through four countries and some of the most breath taking scenery I’ve ever experienced. It was hard to leave Zurich and the bike behind but the next part of the adventure lie before us. The next stop was Paris. What would it be like I wondered. Are the stories of rude Parisians just the dribble of American tourist legend? To my chagrin they were not! Arriving in Paris we had a very adventure filled cab ride to the hotel. The Hotel Mac Mahon was one block from the Arc de Triumph. We spent the next two and a half days roaming around the city. Taking in all the major sights from the Louvre to the Eiffel tower was a tiring task indeed. We were unfortunately not impressed with the way we were treated by the Parisians - not very friendly people. So needless to say we were glad to be getting on the train to Belgium. Brussels is where my friend Blaine and his family lived at the time. He was a Major in the USAF and was working with NATO. They had a nice three-story house with a backyard for the kids in the small village of Turvuren about a half hours drive from Brussels.

We spent the remaining four days of our trip in Brussels with the Holts. One day we took the train to the medieval city of Brugges on the coast of Belgium. It was a wonderful day of exploring within the walls of the 500 year old city known for its’ beer brewing monasteries and fine lace tapestry. Our vacation time was winding down the time to fly home came swiftly. On the morning of our departure my friend joked at the breakfast table that we couldn’t leave due to the flight being canceled. It was a cold dreary morning as Monique and I parted ways with the Holt family after arriving at the airport. On the way to the ticket counter I did not see our flight to Paris on the status board. It wasn’t until visiting the Air France information counter that I was told that the flight had indeed been canceled. It turned out that they discontinued the flight months ago. I was miffed that we were not informed after having purchased the tickets prior to this debacle. After all we ended getting first class tickets on the first TGV to Paris where we met our flight home to the good old USA. While once again fighting claustrophobia in economy class I couldn’t help but laugh about the strange coincidence that morning.

 more pics below

Motorcycle Rental Company, Uster, Switz.

BMW safety scooters - so cool!

     Landek, Austria     

Innsbruck, Austria                    

Passo Giovo, Italy                   

Dolomites,  Italy                       

Venice, Italy         

Near Milano, Italy        

Hotel Rafaello, Milano, Italy 

St Gothard, Italy                  

Back in Switzerland               

Ending Kilometorage 1,699

Route Map

Dirty Bike