Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Friday, May 21, 2010

Leaving Heidelberg for Austria

A light mist is hanging in the air. Do I wear my rain suit? It is cold at 8 degrees C and the sky is overcast. The plan is not to use the Autobahn at all but get to the Austrian border near Salzburg using only the byways. I am good at reading maps, good at finding my way to the next town. I seem to have an instinct but I am not too proud to ask for directions when I feel I am lost. Speaking German helps, of course, but with so many dialects in Germany, I do not understand all that is said to me. I do not hear well, I wear ear plugs while riding. Over that I wear a full face helmet. Asking a Bavarian for directions, in a small town in Bavaria where everybody speaks in the Bavarian dialect is the same as not speaking German at all. Only when they point at a direction can I make out the correct way. The wind is picking up, it gets colder when riding.
Carol and I moved from small town to small town, always following the direction I had planned. The town names were long and we needed to start at Neckarsgemuend, then Mosbach, then Heilbronn, then Obersulm, Mainhardt, Gaildorf, Aalen, Elchingen, Neresheim, Ballmertzhofen, Schabingen and finally Dillingen where we needed to rest for the night. It is essential to write down the towns and their sequence on a piece of paper and follow this list. If you do not plan the route with the correct names you will get lost in Germany. There are no directional help signs like East or West over here. The roads are not necessarily numbered. It is best to know your next town and then move from one town to the next. Even that can be difficult since the signs often disappear or the names change to some smaller, lesser known destination. I have a GPS, old and with only a World Map as a base. My European GPS conked out on me, I had to rely on an old GPS but at least I can determine if I am going East or North, etc. The cloud cover is thick, no sign of the sun to find directions.
We stopped in Dillingen at a hotel that a gas station attendant recommended. The hotel Trumm ( worked out great for us. The breakfast was outstanding and the bikes were safe for the night. We were offered a garage for our bikes but opted to just throw the bike cover over each bike and park at the side of the hotel. Dillingen is a small town; crime did not seem to be an issue.
The next morning we were off again but the weather again was very cold. This time we put on our heated jackets. The warmth is wonderful. And to break our resolution, we took the Autobahn around Munich because to take the local roads thru Munich would have added an extra day to our trip. After finding the exit for Route 304 on the East Side of Munich, we exited again to take in the local flavor. Towns like Vaterstetten, Wasserburg, Traunreut and Freilassing flew by and we finally crossed the Austrian border in Salzburg. Again, do not take the Autobahn to cross into Austria, you will need an Austrian Vignette and why pay for something you will hardly use on a motorcycle?
Our intention was to stay in Salzburg but the city was big, busy and full of traffic, even on a Sunday. We rode thru Salzburg, the city Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in, and searched for road 158. The signage in Austria was not easy to follow. Either the signs were too small, or the colors (white and blue) blend in so much it is almost impossible to find your way. I felt wrong after some time and sure enough, I asked, had to turn around and finally found the exit out of Salzburg and we were on the right road, road 158, the road we needed to get started.
ADAC has motorcycle specific maps. Each map is marked with Motorcycle specific roads. The best twisties, the best rural, the best scenic routes are all laid out. We obtained such a map for the Steiermark, Kaernten, Friaul and Slowenien. These are the areas where we intended to ride. Our starting point was the town of Admont, near Liezen, Austria.
We found another hotel for the night in the town of Fuschl am See, East of Salzburg and the next day we started off following the map we received from ADAC. From Fuschl am See we took 158 East to Lietzen and it is still cold. No rain to speak of, just cold and windy. The wind or the gusts seemed to be trying to blow us off the bikes. Traffic was light but we needed to get used to the signage in Austria. In the country side the white and blue signs are ok, yet still difficult to see sometimes. Again it is best to write down the sequences of towns one needs to travel through. Terz, Frein, Muerzberg, Wegsteig, Sebergsattel, Seewiesen, Au etc. were on my little notepad.
I followed from one town to the next and the ride was pleasant. The roads ADAC picked here were not dramatic yet were gentle and a pleasure to ride. Yes, some twisties, some up and downs but nothing that will strain you. We rode all day, enjoying the country and delighting in the Alpine views all around us. The area for me was typically Germanic. Everything around us was neat, orderly and predictable.
Carol and I were glad we had our electric vests. I was wearing an undershirt, a long sleeved silk shirt, a shirt, a BMW wind stopper jacket, the electric jacket plugged in at full heat, the Gore Tex liner for my riding jacket and the riding jacket and I was just right. But I needed every layer that I had on. Carol was wearing merino wool long johns, the BMW wind stopper jacket, a fleece sweater; the electric jacket liner plugged in and dialed up to “toasty” and her Aerostich jacket. We both looked and felt like, the Michelin Man but were warm and comfortable. I tried riding without the rain pants but it was too cold. I needed the rain paints for wind protection even though it was not raining.
We were now off on our adventure in Austria, following the map ADAC gave us.

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