Balkans Motorcycle Tour - Day 2
From: Pont a Mousson, France To: Walenstad, Switzerland Distance: Approx. 300 miles
We woke up on the morning to our first continental breakfast and rain, lots of rain...biblical rain.
We crossed the bridge and out of town onto a slow moving motorway in the hope that we could ride out of the weather. However, after a couple of hours of riding gingerly through the spray we were all soaked, cold and generally not enjoying the experience, so we pulled into the nearest town (Saint-Dié-des-Vosges) to wait for a break in the weather.
Arriving in Saint-Die-des-Vosges feeling somewhat like drowned rats we parked up under the 'no parking' signs and walked to the town centre to find some morning coffee, warmth and cheer. Our short break turned into a leisurely morning spent chatting and getting wired on espresso. The girls even found time to go shopping for jumpers, scarfs and even raided a hairdressers for latex gloves to keep their hands dry when we moved on.
When the rain started to ease we pressed on to Basle where we followed the sat nav off the motorway to a couple of ghost petrol stations. By now AJ's Street Triple (the bike with the least range) was running on fumes so we thought better of chasing down sat nav stations and got on the motorway where we stood a better chance of finding a real petrol station. Eventually, we pulled into a petrol station at a hire car garage near Basle airport. It had a single pump with the most expensive petrol of the trip so far. It took about 40 minutes to fill up all the bikes, but at least we were now past the rain and ready to roll.
We came off the motorway a little too early and had to work our way through Basle, limping from one set of traffic lights to the next. From there it was all urban riding until Olten where we parked up by the river near its famed medieval covered bridge. The light was beginning to fade and the clouds looked ominous so we rushed lunch at the Bahnhoff.
Given the fading light, the group split into two for the last stretch of riding to Walenstad, Switzerland. One team took a direct route and headed off at a more leisurely pace. The other took a winding route and upped the pace to make up time. As luck would have it the two groups crossed paths at a junction and as the weather was holding, a couple of team members swapped onto the winding roads group to avoid the motorways and vignette charges.
The windy roads team picked up the pace and had great fun on the empty Swiss roads as we started to work our way into a slightly more mountainous landscape. Surprisingly the weather began to clear and we stopped for a smoke, chat and some photos of our first impressive vista.
The fun and twisty roads became more mountainous as the light faded and we finished the day riding in dark and wet mountain roads with fog lights blazing until we descended to the lake at Walenstad.
We arrived at Hotel Schiffart about 15 minutes after the other group. The hotel was your basic alpine lodge type affair, but the staff were great, showing us where to dry our kit and plying us with food and drink late into the evening.