Monday, July 13, 2015

Wife Rides Injured Husband Over Mountain on Rented BMW F800R Motorcycle

"It's one of the musts in European Motorcycling. In Europe there are two places a biker must visit at least once: The Alps and Corsica." from CIMT webpage

                                       Having ridden the Alps twice we were off to Corsica

The day before taking off on our long planned vacation we found the source of the noise from the rear of Barbara's car which we needed for the three hour drive to the airport in Montreal. Dad also needed his air conditioner replaced and our lawn needed mowing.  The rear brakes looked good from the outside but the inner pads were gone. I bought pads but the pins in the calipers were rusted solid and snapped off and one of the holding bolts head stripped. Thanks to Autozone's generous hours Barbara was able to pick up new calipers and a bolt on her way back from her hair appointment in Manchester. I spent two hours grinding, sawing and drilling out the broken bolt. Once the parts were home it took a good bit of the night to put them on. Finished bleeding them with Barbara's help in the morning. I finished packing in a less than optimal mental  state, sure I wouldn't get everything but tried to remember the essential electronics, Barbara organized and carried all of the required documents. 

We had a rainy three hour ride to airport in the twelve year old car that still needed front brakes. 
I was bugged by the fact that I hadn't managed to get a haircut in the last minute excitement and amazingly Barbara found  Walmart near the airport with a shop that was open. The store was incredibly busy but the hair place only had an older women getting her hair dyed red and a young effeminate man having a panic over his hair style. Seems like the perfect place for a conventional haircut. The young man who cut my hair took about three times the amount of time as I am used to but it seemed like a good job. Gave him a nice tip but always do. 

As we had done a trip before on the budget Air Canada Rouge before we didn't have much trouble with the check in procedures. 

The flight itself was ok but we both planned on sleeping which is pretty much impossible due to  the size and position of the seats. 

Rome Airport, Fiumicino - Leonardo da Vinci

Getting off in Rome was without incident although the infrastructure is a mess and we searched to find our reserved ride amongst the dozens of signs with passenger names handwritten on them we were told to look for with no luck. 

Turns out our Consorzio Airport Shuttle had a little bus and Barbara found the driver and office down the hall. They had a hard time fitting our large cases on the bus and I keep wanting to explain that it was mostly riding gear not excessive clothing but there was a language barrier. 

The  location of the Hotel Adriano in Rome was just as described right near the center of some desirable sites.

 We got there very early and I was surprised that they let us check right into the room. I was a little worried that the shuttle didn't acknowledge the change I had made requesting a return trip to the airport early the next day for our flight to the island of Sardinia so we asked the hotel front desk to help us confirm.

I'd say it's really nice for adults and maybe older kids.

Once that was done we got to see way more of Rome than expected.

The next day we had to miss the buffet breakfast for our early flight. The shuttle was even early and caught us still packing. The driver wasn't even sure what airport he was taking us to and was for sure going to drop us at the wrong terminal.

It was pretty confusing to find the location to check in as the airline employees didn't seem to be working at the time we were supposed to check in but after being pointed back and forth between terminals we finally got on the Meridiana flight to Olbia which was pretty much one of those up and down flights with a glass of juice in between.

I didn't understand that the tourism info desk was also handling the motorcycle rentals for Central Italy Motorcycle Tours and the bikes were right in the airport parking lot.
Doesn't fit like hers but no complaints.

We actually got completely packed and mounted before we realized that the BMW F700GS that we intended to have a low seat had a much higher comfort seat and Barbara couldn't reach the ground. I tried switching seats between the same model I was renting and lowering the adjustments but it didn't help enough. Since we could see that there were no other bikes there and the office was on the mainland I expected we would have to change all of our plans but found that they had a lower F800R in the terminal for display which although not anything she would have chosen was barely manageable.

Ironically we had the opposite bikes in France last year and I found the F800R to be uncomfortable which is why I picked the GS this time. They switched her over to that and we proceeded basically as planned to the ferry for Corsica. Turns out there is more than one Santa Teresa location and ferry in the area and I learned that I was going to have to trust Garmin if we were going to get anywhere.

For the hour and half plus ride the topography of northern Sardinia seemed much like dry parts of the U.S. Southwest and we got our first taste of riding in the heat wave that was to stick with us. 

We had a short wait to board the Moby Lines ferry and they guided the motorcycles on first and tied them down for us. The deck was open to the blazing sun but we stayed out to enjoy the view.

As we came into the harbor of Bonifacio the cliffs and the fortified city that hung over the rocks were amazing. On the way back we actually ate lunch on one of the farthest outcroppings in that city.

Since we were later than expected we made a straight run up the fast and busy not so scenic route to our first lodging on the Island of Corsica at Les Bungalows de Figha. 
The parking for motorcycles was atrocious but everything else was wonderful. We had a rustic little cabin with a kitchenette a view of the sea and the pool and AC.

We had to struggle to get our bikes out and in for supper as nothing was quite close enough for walking. 

Here is where tomato, cheese, oregano, bread and salad became a common staples of our vegetarian diet. Nicely served on a patio near the water.

The owner brought us coffee, juice and croissants for breakfast on the porch of our bungalow.

We managed to get a nice ride in on the second day on the island that included the Col de Bavella

Great little lunch stop

then got back to the Bungalows too cool off which seemed perfect for those who wanted to make their own meals and enjoy the pool an private little pebble beach and also for us although we didn't like making the owner do the extra work to provide us breakfast.

The next day it was north to Saint-Florent. This time I tried to include some more interesting riding in our route. 
Fuel Stop


Our first stop was at the biggest tourist attraction I have ever seen without a public restroom the Citadelle Corte.

Sandwich Shop
Petite Train

Tourist shops

No Bathroom!

After seriously considering the bushes but finding none with any privacy we geared up and stopped at the first gas station and found this was the type of facilities offered. Haven't seen that since the Middle East more than twenty years ago.

After riding on some quick but enjoyable heavily traveled roads Garmin and I accidentally put us on a spectacularly scenic but rough and remote narrow route called the D5 that I had just read about on a bicyclist report.

It was pretty hot so the cow napping in the road barely looked up when we rode by.

I wish I could load this with better quality but if only for this few seconds of riding the trip was worth it.

A realistic concern Barbara has in these conditions is getting help if things go bad but there was just enough traffic to reassure that someone would be by and it was the road less traveled...

The Hotel Tettola in Saint-Florent was nice as well but again a little too far to get into the center and places to eat without gearing up and riding the bikes.

The heat remained and we had to decrease our riding and activities and increase our time cooling off. So far both places had pools and a beach which Barbara took full advantage of.

The next day after a fine continental breakfast,

we took a fantastic ride up the west coast of Cape Corse on the D80 from Patromonio to Minervio. 

It was surely the most spectacular coastal road we have ever ridden. 

5 minute video clip 

We stopped in the village of Nonza on the way back and climbed up the tower over looking the beach.

Unfortunately the tower itself was being used a a jewelry shop and there was no viewing area. There was a view from the base over the dark sand beach with mostly religious writing on it. We didn't find out until later that its dark color came from asbestos pollution from a former processing plant we drove bay.

We got back to the room and cooled off and decided to head over the relatively short scenic D81 to the popular port of Bastia for dinner.

Unfortunately that turned out to involve too much urban navigation and we turned around and headed back hoping to find somewhere on the way back. 

We found the scenic little town of Cardo a few km off route with signs indicating restaurants and services.After walking around for awhile it appeared the only restaurant was dedicated to a function that night and there were no stores. We were pretty hot tired and hungry but we geared back up and started the ride back. 

One small place on the mountainside in the town of Barbaggio looked promising and we decided to stop.

The entrance was steep and sharp and after making it in one direction and missing the turn in the other I managed to crash trying to turn into the opposite facing road. I am not sure what happened. I went down fast but was going slow. Later I saw a loose rock that I might have rolled on. In any case I ended up on the downward slope with the bike over me.

 I hesitated to announce my condition to Barbara over the intercom as I didn't want to startle her mid turn. As I impacted the ground I heard and felt my shoulder pop and when I tried to move it became obvious that I wasn't  going to be able to right the bike. I called her but before she got there two men had lifted the bike. I didn't move much because of the shoulder pain.  Some ladies also stopped to help and treated  for shock as well as a motorcyclist that checked over the bike and moved it to safe parking.Very quickly local fire and rescue arrived. They checked blood pressure and pulse and started arranging for an ambulance.

The bike damage wasn't too bad. Mostly a dented case and a cracked windscreen.

After takings medic I was hopeful that my shoulder was just out of socket and I could get myself out of the situation. I told them that I did not want to take the ambulance back to Bastia. In the meantime a young man who came to help translate had a seizure and they said a doctor was coming for him and he would assess my shoulder. I tried to tell them to focus on the young man since I wasn't anywhere near critical. When the doctor did look at my shoulder he told me it looked to be broken and I needed an X-ray.

I would need to get back to the hotel in the opposite direction after and Barbara needed to know what was going on so she had to follow the ambulance to the hospital. The X-ray process was quick by emergency room standards and the young doctor decided after a consult using her iPhone to send the specialist a picture of the X-ray that I wouldn't need surgery and put on a Velcro strap support and gave a prescription for what turned out to be Tylenol and an anti inflammatory. 

At that point Barbara was pretty focused on my care  and was ready to carry most of 200lb me on the back of the bike that was already a challenge for her back through hairpin turns over mountain passes in the dark to the hotel to start the journey home. It was far from easy but she made it and after we accessed our situation the next day she took me back to the bike and so I could attempt to ride it back. She had considered riding them back one at a time but with the height issue and the distance it didn't seem possible. I thought I might be able to find someone via the internet but I remembered watching a racer compete with the same injury and saying on the bike it really wasn't an issue. She took me back to the bike the next day and I found that I could ride with little additional discomfort. 

Instead of heading straight down to the ferry I decided to spend the night on the west coast, an idea that was not universally popular. I found an available room in the port of Ajaccio when we stopped for lunch at a place with internet.

This stop did not work out as well as I had hoped and though we did see some more amazing coastline on the way.

The location was too far from the tourist center and the restaurant onsite was not so vegetarian friendly.

It did have a secure parking garage which in light of the neighborhood was probably a good thing.

Due to transport reservations we couldn't really speed things along but as it turns out I might not be as able to endure the same conditions as a twenty-something athlete.

 Luckily the next stop in Bonifacio worked out much better. We were able to tour the ancient fortified city.

The room Barbara had found was right in the tourist center  of the harbor with plenty of places to eat, shops to visit and things to see.

The motorcycle parking was public but free and they provided a grocery cart for us to carry our gear with.

I think this was my favorite stop of the trip.

We thought we had a choice between the early morning  ferry and noon and since the ride was not too long from the port in Sardinia to our motorcycle drop off and hotel we thought we would not rush and brave the heat for the final ride. Well there was a ferry in between those times but it was operated by another line that we didn't know about and the heat of the day was certainly just that.

The thermometer on the bike reported a temperature of 39.5C which is over 103F. We didn't stop until close and then only to fill up the bikes for returning.

We managed to get into the Jazz Hotel in Olbia and unload the take the bikes back to their designated spot in the airport lot. It was less than a mile but we were so hot and tired that we took a cab to get our bags and gear back to the room. This is a large business hotel that works at keeping its ratings high. For us it worked out ok mostly due to the convent location although not having a shuttle and taxi fare of 15 euro to the terminal 1/2 mile away wasn't great. After several attempts to get our AC working they had to move us to another room. That one had a TV that wasn't receiving the English channels and after they failed to fix that we found a router that had been switched off and got it working.

We had the breakfast buffet and processed the bike returns in the morning. This time we walked although the footpath ended before we got there.

I tried to negotiate the damage charges but the actual company owns the bikes were not yet on site and we needed to proceed with our travels.
In the end CIMT was more than fair and I would highly recommend them to anyone who needs a rental near one of their offices.

We took the short walk over to the car rental shop and got the vehicle in Barbara's name. I called earlier to try and get it switched from manual transmission but no automatics were available and shifting didn't  seem like it would be good for my injury.

We went back to get our bags and sat in the lobby to make our next room reservations for after the Moby Lines ferry to Livorno. Been a few years since we have had a manual shift car and a couple of stalls were in order.

Then the thrill of piloting and parking up a few decks of 750 vehicle 2200 person capacity ferry after about 5 km of driving.

The Moby Wonder is quite a ferry.  We didn't get a sleeping cabin  as it was a day trip and I don't recall if one was even available.

Some of the best and most reasonable vegetarian options we have had so far right on board. A few screaming kids but it's a pretty reasonable trip for families if they have need or desire to travel to or from Sardinia.

It was remarkable how quickly they managed to get all of the people and vehicles off the vessel. Finding cars was a bit of a challenge for some but Barbara had been to the car before they secured the hold a couple of times so we had no trouble.

Once off in Livorno the Garmin took us right to the hotel  which was in a location that looked liked it would be business like during the day but was sketchy at night.

Once checked in we took the car to the parking which was, no kidding, a storage locker for your car with your own key inside a locked garage.

We were used small rooms but this is the first time we had basically two cots for beds. After fighting with the AC for awhile we got the room cooled down and even found a way to have the tiny TV play an MTV movie in English. It was very clean and the free breakfast was fine especially considering the reasonable price.

After checking out before getting our vehicle out we did a short walk around the block and stumbled onto an authentic street market where we bought some delicious fruit, some cheap sunglasses and such.

Barbara extracted the car and I returned the key. We knew that Pisa wasn't far but we weren't sure how difficult it would be to approach with a car but gave it a try. It turned out the parking was available quite close to the sight since many were there by other transportation. Some folks were hawking knock off Prada amongst other stuff near the lot.

We took a few tourist shots but weren't really up for the wait to hike up he tower

This was said to be a Vespa that Audrey Hepburn rode before we were born.

Seemed pretty hot for these horses and they were running out of shade.

We headed over mostly Autostrada towards Florence.  We made a stop at the Florence American Cemetery where members of my adopted maternal grandfather's unit are buried amongst 4402 of the greatest generation. It seems important to remember the enormity and significance of this part of history.

We were a little early so we detoured towards some points of interest that were on the map and marked with signs but they weren't really kept up for visitors. still the views were nice. The tight roads they were on seemed even more challenging in a car than on a motorcycle.
Convento Dell Incontro

Then on to our farm holiday at

 The GPS was spot on with the location but the road was quite a challenge for the little rental car and when we overshot the drive at least we didn't need a tractor pull like a later vehicle .

The little apartment made out of a barn was adorable
As were the children of the two German couples we were sharing the place and suppers with. They were there for much longer since they get 5-6 weeks paid vacation a year.They were very gracious to use their English skills to converse with and translate for us. They had met there and all had become good friends.  The man on the left was a Neurologist and is entire education was free. We must bring the USA education system up to the accessibility afforded  Europeans. 

 Dinner was a five course affair for which they made a special effort to make sure us vegetarians had enough to eat.

Breakfast was simple bread, homemade Jam and cereal. We were the only ones having that prepared for us again.

Barbara got to spend time with the kids and the animals.

and play in the fancy pool (previous guests)
Took a little side trip and saw some more stuff.

Then we were off to make our way back to the airport in Rome.

On the way back we thought a stop at one of the fortified hilltop villages would be nice so I found  that Montepulcianio wasn't too far off track and we made our way there. Apparently it was convenient for many English speaking tourists.

Parking was tricky. 

One of then sights was dominated by a private event  but we found the tower to climb 

 and had a nice little lunch served by quite an old fella and felt like we made the most of our last full day

What was supposed to an expedient ride on the A1 back to Rome to check in at the hotel near the airport turned into another adventure. The largest traffic jam we have ever been in. Eventually most of us got out of our cars and many stood in the shade of large trucks to avoid running the car engines, we were in the process of trying to run down our gas tank as we were told to return it as empty as possible. I think the incident was a possible bio hazard release and not a major pile up as we had feared.

Road crews were handing out water before dismantling the median barrier to allow vehicles to reverse direction to the next exit. There we met a pretty intense battle of Italian drivers trying to funnel into two toll lanes out of three lines in two directions.  Once off we selected a highway entrance a good distance towards our destination and Garmin did the rest. Except of course the part of steering the car through a bunch more hairpin curves but by that point Barbara was getting pretty good at handling the little Fiat Panda. It added the better part of two hours to our trip but luckily we did not have a scheduled deadline until the next day.

Once back we checked into the Hilton Garden Inn Rome Airport. I can say it had great beds and bedding and I never heard any noise but its the most generic and overpriced place I can recall on any of our last trips.

The  restaurant is like eating in a noisy high school cafeteria and I don't know how they got bargain rolls from Cosco into a country the serves fresh baked bread three times a day.   I am a little bitter because we didn't see the 10 euro breakfast offer at checkin so they really though we should pay 36 euro for breakfast. So hungry to the airport we went and the half of me that was functioning spilled free coffee all over my clothes and the rental car because I was determined to try to get some value out of our stay.

The return of the Hertz car rental was straightforward once we found the rental station on the 5th floor of a parking garage. It would be hard to drive and find all the little signs leading to it. The Air Canada checkin was fine but it we had to be shuttled all over the place and walk on the tarmac rather than use the dock. The flight was the best as far as comfort and service so far on Air Rouge. We cleared through customs pretty quickly compared to last time when I think more flights were coming in and we don't seem to cause any concern at the borders when driving through.

This is where I have to say that the trip was a total disaster in the making except the strength and resiliency of my wife got us through and we even had some good times after my incident. If the shoe were on the other foot I don't know if I could have done as well but I would certainly try.

Will we do it again? You bet we will.  We may take different precautions based on this experience but our adventures are far from over.

One that note I want to share that I have seen a lot of opportunity for adventures that I never knew about or considered when I was younger. There is a 200km hiking trail on Corsica that is said to take about two weeks to do which must be an incredible experience.
"The GR20 in Corsica is arguably Europe’s finest mountain trek. Its spectacular scenery, breathtaking colours and free roaming wildlife are only accessible to the ones that are prepared to do some serious walking and look for a challenge."

If a person has a little time and can muster up a bit of money and courage and maybe a friend or two a European adventure at any level is in my opinion very much worth it.

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