3rd Quarter 2015 Louisiana MSTA Newsletter Page 1

Turn One

Very little MSTA Club news to write about. Many of our group avoid the heat and humidity of the summer months. There have been a few meet ups for breakfast but no group rides. I did attend the Bulls Shoals Rally in Theodosia, MO a great annual event put on by Ed and Linda Young. However I have attended this event and written about it several times and will not do so again this year, especially since I was the lone attendee from Louisiana. However in late August and early September, Stacie and I toured the Maritime Alps of France and Italy with Edelweiss Bike Tours. I have included a story with lots of pictures below. We also feature the return of our old pal, Lea Nangle and her Switchbacks column as well as North Louisiana member Tim Smith's essay on the future of Motorcycling. Hope you enjoy these offerings.

Bob And Stacie's Mediterranean Alps Tour

By Ninja Bob

Stacie and I did our first trip to Europe and our first Edelweiss bike tour in august 2013. We did their Best of Europe Tour which was 4 days in Bavaria, Germany, 2 in Alsace, France and a day each in the Swiss and Austrian Alps. It was the trip of our lives to that point and we vowed to go back soon. In January 2015 I began studying Edelweiss' tour offerings. Stacie wanted to see Italy and I was interested in one of the Ducati tours that included a MotoGP race either in Mugello or Misano but these race dates did not fit our schedule. The new Mediterranean Alps Extreme tour fit our schedule and was (relatively) economical. Carrying our own luggage and the absence of a support van meant a savings of approximately 1,500 per head. The itinerary also included the French and Italian Riviera! We were pumped and jumped in, both glossing over the tour grading: “TOUGH”. The Best of Europe Tour had been graded merely “MODERATE” yet the roads were often quite challenging. The first leg of the first day of this "extreme" tour would reveal our folly...

Departure: Tuesday, August 25
Stacie and I rarely fly so an International flight with 2 change-overs is pretty stressful for us. We were lucky to get an itinerary with just enough layover time in Atlanta and New York to have plenty of time to make our connections but not too long to waiting for departures. Our Boeing 767 departed JFK at around 10 PM on Tuesday August 25 and arrived in Nice, France at 11:00 am Wednesday. We tried our best to sleep but didn't really get more than a fitful hour or two. We had wisely planned to arrive a day early in order to catch up on sleep.

Arrival: Wednesday, August 26
After landing in Nice and collecting out bags we got some coffee at a little outdoor cafe just outside the airport. The first of many double expressos during the tour perked me up. We then then took a 15 minute taxi ride to La Colle Sur Loup and our headquarter hotel, L'Abbaye, built within the walls of an old fort and abbey more than a thousand years old. We checked in and took a walk around the neighborhood and had lunch at a neighborhood cafe. Throughout the trip we would struggle with ordering food due to the French and Italian menus and a language barrier with most of the waiters and waitresses. Some of the menus had English translations obviously written using a computer translation that was not much help. This little local cafe didn't even have menus, just a chalkboard. Somehow we managed to order some excellent lunch by choosing the only items we recognized, an omelet for Stacie and spinach quiche for me. On the way back to the hotel we located a market and bought some beer and wine. Here I discovered Pelforth Brune, a large-production, molasses-dark, blue-collar French beer, brewed since 1937 in the town of Lille, near the Belgian border. It was terrific and very cheap! For some reason, perhaps because it is considered mundane in Europe, it has never been imported to the US. What a shame! Back at the hotel we sat out by the pool and had a couple of beers soaking in the amazing atmosphere within the ancient walls.

Dinner that night was in the swank, open air restaurant Le 541, in the abbey courtyard. Adrian, our waiter offered us the wine list but we asked if we could have a beer. “Of course you can have a beer” Heineken or Kronenbourg 1664, brewed in Strasbourg. 1664 proved to be pretty good and would be our beverage of choice while in France (when I wasn't finding Bourbon). My meal was the first of three totally different fish dishes labeled “John Dory” which we would have during the tour. Answers to our questions about John Dory did not really illuminate but Stacie went ahead and ordered. This “John Dory” consisted of large chunks of brilliantly white, mild tasting fish in a clear stew with artichokes. Stacie was not wild about it but I enjoyed it thoroughly. My fish proved to be a whole baked fish similar to a trout. I never like messing with bones but this dish was delicious and well worth the trouble.

Following dinner we had a couple after dinner drinks and then crashed in our low slung bed under a large painting that said in huge letters: “Tonight I LOVE YOU, tomorrow, I don't know. " We were in France...

Day 1, August 27
We slept past the 11:00 am. hotel breakfast but they fed us anyway. A continental breakfast was served in a second floor open air patio with a view of the surrounding hills. The entire hotel was decorated with modern paintings and sculpture, which seemed pretty strange within the centuries old walls. But a great atmosphere and the best croissant I ever ate. Plus various pastries, cheese, fruit, yoghurt and fresh squeezed orange juice.

We had until 5:00 pm free before the Edelweiss “motorcycle handover”, tour briefing and greeting dinner so we set out for some sight seeing. Two miles up the road from La Colle Sur Loup was the walled medieval city of St. Paul. We set out on foot as we are both used to long walks. However we failed to consider that it was mostly uphill. And steep! By the time we arrived we were hot, tired and thirsty and sat down at a charming outdoor cafe and ordered a beer. The waiter got a bit snooty when we did not order food... Refreshed we walked into the ancient town which was perched on the top of a hill and had cobblestone streets too narrow for a car. It was a big tourist attraction with all types of stores, cafes and galleries on either side on ground level and residences on the second floor. It was Stacie's birthday and I suggested she shop. She found a beautiful earring and necklace set in one of the jewelry stores.

We decided to take the public bus back to the hotel which proved to be quite an adventure. With some difficulty we finally found the right bus stop and got on the right bus. You can ride the bus from Nice to Vence some 20 miles inland for 1 Euro 50. The trick is knowing where to get off. I had my hand held GPS and knew we were close to the hotel, so figured we better get off. The bus stopped but as I rose and was telling Stacie “let's get off here” the bus lurched forward. We alter learned what the tiny red buttons on the bulkheads were for. AS the but drove on I heard a fellow bus rider say to his companion in English: “this is not good”. I recognized the two from the restaurant the night before. I asked if they were with the Edelweiss tour and introduced myself and Stacie. They were Don and son Dave from Wisconsin. Like us they had arrived a day early and had spent the day in St. Paul. They confirmed my fear, we had missed our stop and were heading back to Nice. We decided to get off and wait for the next bus going the other way rather than ride all the way to Nice. By that time we were in Cagnes-Sur- Mer more than half way to Nice! We had to wait a long time for a returning bus and ended up being late for the bike handover. At least we were in time for the briefing and dinner.

At the briefing we were asked by Michael our head tour guide to introduce ourselves to the group and say a little bit about ourselves. I was surprised that all but Don and Dave were previous Edelweiss tourers, several with multiple tours. The two California couples were in their 60's and 70's and would prove to be outstanding riders. James and Daisy were on their twelfth tour! There was a younger couple from Colorado and the rest were from Canada, a group of 3 riding buddies from Calgary. Jeff and Blair in their 30's, and Ivan, a Bulgarian in his 50's plus John from Aurora, a classic bike collector and veteran vintage road racer (BSA 500) in his 70s. Lead tour guide Michael presented James and Daisy with custom printed sweatshirts commemorating their first ten Edelweiss tours. We would soon make friends with all of these folks and I they proved to be a great bunch and with just one or two exception, outstanding riders. Phil, from Modesto who rides a BMW at home helped me out with several tips on working the bewildering array of electronic gadgetry of the 2015 R1200RT.

Our group enjoyed getting to know each other under the stars in the courtyard over a typical French meal. The first course was gazpacho. Not only was it cold it had a scoop of sorbet floating in the middle. It got mixed reviews but the main course was a tasty and beautifully presented fish dish. Washed down with several bottles of wine. Dessert was a Creme Brulee different from anything we have had in the States and delicious.


Day 2, Friday August 28
The daily routine for travel days on the tour was breakfast at 7:00 or 7:30 in the hotel, get the bikes loaded and ready by 8:30, attend the riders meeting geared up and ready to ride. During the meeting the guides would detail the day's itinerary and route and most riders would use his master map to highlight the route on their own detailed road map provided by Edelweiss. I had previously programmed the routes into my Garmin Nuvi 500 using the tour guide booklet also provided. This was a tedious task. Although I had both Garmin and OSM maps of Europe several of the “col” and “gorge” waypoints did not show up on either one, I had to resort to Google maps to find the location. These passes and canyons were hiking and cycling hotspots and easy to find on Google but were not in the City Nav database. My efforts proved fruitful and my Nuvi routes were about 90% accurate.

The actual riding tour was 7 days with two days optional or between approximately 900 and 1200 miles . (I ended up with 1100 on the odometer) The basis scheme was to ride up and down between the Mediterranean coast and the Maritime Alps working west to east from southern France to Northern Italy and then back. Michael our head tour guide told us he estimated about 60,000 curves on the tour and he considered the 318 curves in 11 miles of the dragon to be a joke. Indeed about 300 miles of the route was on par with the dragon but even more was much twistier! Most of the little roads connected the seaside towns with small farming villages nestled on the mountainsides and were often only one lane and even when two lanes were only about two thirds the width of typical US roads. Of the 1100 miles I rode on the tour, no less than 900 were in 1st, 2nd or third gear. Each day would include morning and afternoon coffee stops, a lunch stop at a restaurant carefully selected for great cuisine and/or great local atmosphere or breathtaking views. The riding was often quite intense but the frequent rests kept us from getting exhausted.

Unlike the Edelweiss Classic tour where the two guides would take turns leading the group or driving the luggage van, on this tour the group was split up and one would depart ten minutes ahead of the other. Our first riding day was a beautiful day for a ride. Immediately out of town we rode the Loup River Canyon and the first of the 60,000 curves on the 7 day tour. Within the first 20 miles we hit the first tight uphill switchbacks and I frankly was not ready. Switchbacks have always been my weak point as a rider, and with adjusting to a different motorcycle I was struggling to stay in my lane on those very narrow roads! I just had doubts that I could turn that big machine any tighter without falling down. My struggles did not go unnoticed and Pablo, our young, Spanish guide gave me some pointers and suggested I follow him and observe his lines. This was a big help and by the end of the day my switchback handling and my overall riding on those narrow roads was much improved.

But my difficulties were soon overshadowed by a serious crash by one of our tour members. One of the Canadians had gone off the road and down a 30 foot embankment suffering a concussion and broken ribs. His BMW RT was totaled! He was helicoptered to the nearest hospital where he would remain for 3 days as a precaution due to having briefly lost consciousness. We would not see him again until our last day. Our tour guides managed to handle the accident with minimal impact on the rest of the group and we were back in stride after about a two hour delay.

Our highlights of the day and perhaps the two best two roads of the trip were the Grand Canyon Du Verdun followed by the awesome curves between the bright red rock walls of the Gorges de Daluis. My pictures don't do justice.

Our final destination for the day was the town of Valberg, a ski resort town and popular among both cyclists and motorcyclists in the summer. Our hotel was a basic no frills ski lodge but with a great restaurant and bar with friendly and attentive young barmaids! And right outside was a pleasant terrace where we relaxed during our stay with many cold beers. Our group was sharing the hotel with a larger group of German cyclists also on an Alps tour as well as a Swiss couple touring on their Ducatis, a red Superbike and a yellow Monster with only duffle bags lashed to the rear for luggage. True SPORT tourers!

We had a great group meal that night at the hotel. A salad that could have been a meal in itself, followed by delicious shish kabobs and desert. After dinner it was more beers on the terrace and chatting about the days ride.


Day 3, August 29
Saturday was a so called rest day. We were not traveling to a new destination so the options were to sight see in town on our own or ride one of two loops led by the guides. Stacie opted to sleep in so I opted to take the shorter loop and then some do some sightseeing with her. We rode the Daluis canyon road again and stopped in the medieval town of Entreveaux which was another walled medieval city. Entreveaux is also the home of a private vintage motorcycle museum with about 75 machines some dating back to the early 1900s. There we saw many motorcycles we had never heard of, mostly European. We spent a full hour checking out the bikes and chatting with the owner/collector.

Back in Valberg I found Stacie and we I walked all around the small town checking out a few bars and trying some more French beers. We had a lunch of Ham Po Boys at an outdoor cafe. We call them that because they were on French bread. Of course they are not called Po Boys in France, just sandwiches or in this case “sandwich au jambon”. I was picking up a little French. To ask for your bill it is “l'addition, sil vous plait”. Being Americans in a hurry we were not used to the typical French two hour lunches and we always had to ask for our bill.

Since it was a rest day, the evening meal was not provided by Edelweiss but the group decided to eat together at a restaurant in town recommended by Michael. Most of us enjoyed the French version of Pizza. It had a very thin crust with a wide variety of available toppings and a French cheese.


Day 4 August 30
On Sunday we would head west then south back towards Nice then north again to ride the Col de Turini, famous for the Rally of Monaco. Many of the roads for today and the rest of the the tour were even tighter than the first two days. We would typically follow sweeping ridge roads with incredible vistas between towns then take “goat paths” down the mountainsides and then back up again. Michael our head guide and mastermind behind the Edelweiss "Extreme" tour series was basically just leading us on the twistiest paths he could find. We stopped for lunch at a little resort town on the top of a mountain and ate at an outdoor cafe. Throughout the trip the weather was just about perfect for outdoor lunches with temps in the 70's and low humidity. Stacie and I both had a delicious ham and goat cheese salad.

After lunch we rode up the Col de Tende and then rode through a long tunnel into Italy. The tunnel was a single lane and there was an automated light system with a 25 minute wait. Our timing was good however and our wait was only 10 minutes. All the motorcycles and scooters filtered to the head of the line and avoid the slow traffic!.

The roads in Italy are not as well maintained as in France. Apparently instead of repairing potholes and frost heaves the Italians just put up signs pointing them out: a blue circle with a white arrow.

Our destination for the night was Vicoforte and the Santuario Regina Montis Regalis, a monastery known for having the largest elliptical cupola in the world. It started as a small medieval sanctuary consisting of a modest shrine containing a fifteenth-century fresco of the virgin and child. Around 1590 a hunting party passed by and a huntsman accidentally shot the image of the Virgin. According to legend, the image began to bleed. The penitent hunter began to collect the large sum of money which would be needed to repair the damage. Donations from other wealth supporters followed and the site was enlarged to its present size. Over the years the sanctuary has become a favorite of religious pilgrims.

Our hotel was directly across the plaza from the monastery. There were chairs and tables under an awning in front of the hotel and we parked the bikes and relaxed with a cold beer or two before checking in. The Portici Hotel is in the center of an historic 17th century building the Colonnade Palace. A group dinner was arranged in the monastery. At 7:00 pm we walked across the plaza and into the ancient building, We were seated at two large round tables in a beautifully decorated room where we were served a meal by two nuns, fresh pasta, salad and carafes of red wine. After the meal we toured more of the monastery and as we walked back to the hotel after dark a pilgrimage was going on with hundreds of pilgrims walking in procession carrying lighted candles. It was quite a sight.

The hotel had a nice bar and we made friends with the friendly bartender. The Italian bartenders were much friendlier than the French!


Day 5 August 31
Monday was our longest riding day, 190 miles. We would loop up and down the hills among vineyards and olive and hazelnut plantations on some crazy tight and remote roads, some in pretty bad shape, passing through several tiny villages and finally ending the day on the Italian Riviera. Most roads were on sunny, open hillsides, others were in forested areas with little sunlight filtering through. On this day we rode mile after mile of single lane road. Traffic was sparse but not totally absent and a several times I was startled by a Fiat or Lancia appearing from around a blind curve. Once I had to take abrupt evasive action to avoid a head on and then had to brake hard to avoid a trip down a steep embankment.

We stopped for coffee in Cortemilia, a city of 2500 with the Bormida River running through the middle. We continued east through Piedmont. Just east of Cimaferle I dropped the RT. Pablo our guide had made a quick U-turn ahead of me. I did not want to attempt a U-turn two up on the narrow road and I stopped and attempted to turn the bike around in the middle of the road. But the slope was to much and I couldn't hold it up. I tumbled off, Stacie hopped off, landing on her feet. The ultimate passenger she is always alert to what's happening with the bike. Laying in the road I reached over and hit the kill button and then got to my feet and went to the bike. As I was feeling for some solid handholds to lift on I was amazed to see the bike rise up. Stacie was on top of the situation and apparently her adrenaline was flowing! There was just a scuff mark on one saddle bag and the BMW started right up and we were back on the road.

After riding through a sparsely populated area designated Parco Naturale Capanne Di Macarolo we were soon back in the more populous coastal area again and passed many small towns. We stopped for lunch in one at a friendly roadside cafe and had a delicious meal of ravioli and spaghetti. Somehow your basic Italian dishes just taste better when enjoyed in the beautiful Italian countryside! After lunch we got on the A-12, (Autostrada-Italian Interstate) which included some long tunnels and toll roads. This brought us to Rapallo, and the Hotel Italia E Lido, on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, our home for the next two nights and probably our favorite stay of the trip.

The hotel is right on the shore with a view of the harbor and at the end of a long promenade that stretches along the beach. The hotel faces an old castle and Italian national monument. The castle was built in the second half of the sixteenth century to protect Rapallo from attacks by pirates. Between the hotel and the castle is a small beach for hotel guests which was full of swimmers and sun bathers during the day.

The hotel had a small bar in the lobby with a friendly bartender doing double duty as the desk clerk but except for wine the selection was limited. The other hotel bars had all been able to supply Bourbon. After a chat with the bar tender I ended up trying some Grappa. Uniquely Italian, it is made from the by products of wine making and from what I could learn the only liquor distilled in Italy. It was 80 proof and not too bad, similar to Gin and better than Vodka, in my opinion. But next door to the hotel was a FANTASTIC bar. More on that later.

Our group dinner was on the hotel restaurant terrace overlooking the sea and harbor. I can't remember any details but Stacie says it was pasta with tuna. After dinner we checked out the bar next to the hotel, Bar Inoteca il Castello. It was not busy and we sat at the bar and made friends with the young bartender and her brother who was waiting tables. Both spoke good English. They were both born and raised in Rapallo but now lived in Genoa where apartments are more affordable. The bartender suggested a suitable Italian beer similar to Stacie's favorite “Miller Lite” and for me a robust Belgian dopple bock at 9% abv that was outstanding. Each round was accompanied by various delectable munchies on the house. After a couple more rounds we said good night and were warmly invited to come back tomorrow night. And we would.


Day 6 September 1
Tuesday was another “rest day”. Stacie did not want to ride and the group ride was a a circuitous 180 mile trip via mostly goat trails to Parco Nazionale Delle Cinque Terre which was only 30 miles up the coast. Cinque Terre is a group of 5 tiny coastal fishing villages which is one of the areas most popular tourist attractions. The problem was that it was accessible only by walking paths or train. Some of the group planned to take the train to avoid having to walk around Cinque Terre with helmets and riding gear. I decided to ride out alone in the morning taking a direct route which included the popular motorcycling road SS1, take a quick look and some pictures then head back to Rapallo, collect Stacie and then take the train back for a longer visit to Cinque Terre.

I built a custom route with Mapsource and loaded it in the Nuvi. All went well as I enjoyed a delightful morning ride along the coast until I got to the town of Chiavari, another popular tourist spot dating back to the 7th century. Here my GPS route wanted me to continue on a road with large signs proclaiming “area pedonale.” I tried to navigate around but the whole downtown seemed to be a designated pedestrian area. I made a couple of circles before I found my way out. Figuring I'd encounter more of the same if I continued along the coast I turned inland and soon found myself on a goat trail also known as Strada Provinciale 88 in a wooded area. I decided to proceed but after a mile or so of 10 mph plodding I found the road blocked by a mowing machine. I turned around and went back to SP26 and followed it west for several miles. It was my type of road: some tight twists but mostly medium fast sweepers. I stopped after a while to get my bearings and saw I was heading into the middle of nowhere in the general direction of Milan. Checking my phone I saw a text from Stacie asking if I'd be back for lunch and replied “yes”. I backtracked and turned east on SP225 until I came to SP58 which had a sign that said Rapallo 13 km. Only 13 km but it was another goat trail and took me 40 minutes.

Stacie and I were both hungry when I got back so we decided to have lunch at the Miramar Hotel, on the promenade across the beach from our hotel. It was a pretty fancy place but the menu was in Italian. Most of the restaurants in Italy offered the traditional 4 course meal with antipasto, primo, secondo and dolce and the menus were organized accordingly. It was confusing at first but we soon learned that you could almost always order anything in any order you chose. Struggling to decipher the secondo menu I translated “filet of fish of the day”. Stacie ordered Pesto Raviolli. I was quite surprised when our waiter brought a beautiful broiled whole fish to the table. Before I could say anything he proceeded to deftly remove the beautiful flaky white flesh from the bones with what was obviously a well practiced hand. There was a delicious sauce of stewed olives and tomatoes and crisp potatoes au gratin, a terrific lunch.

After lunch we went looking for the train station to take the train to Cinque Terre. From the desk clerk we got "go to the square and take a left". We found a small building and stood in line only to learn it was the bus station. More hard to understand directions and we found the train station. Again waited in line only to be told the train does not go to Cinque Terre. Thoroughly frustrated, we gave up! Later we came to understand what the man had actually said was the train doesn't go to Cinque Terre ANY MORE TODAY.

So we walked out on the docks in the harbor checking out the yachts and then strolled along the promenade,had some beers and a gelato and listened to a young street musician playing some wicked rock guitar. I even bought a electronic trinket from a street vendor that Stacie fancied (after haggling him down to half the asking price). It was a delightful afternoon and missing out on Cinque Terre is just a good excuse to go back to the Italian Riviera one day!

By now the sun had set and it was time to think about dinner. Being a rest day we were on our own and had decided to eat by ourselves. Remembering our invitation to return to the Bar Inoteca il Castello and that we had noticed them serving some good looking food we decided to have a drink and check out their menu. To our surprise the menu at this “bar” was as extensive as those in any of the restaurants we had been too. We told our bartender friend we'd like to order and she said if we could wait until 7 pm she would seat us downstairs in the waterfront dining area.

The dining area was an narrow open terrace just inches above the bay with a fabulous view. There were only about 8 tables and we were lucky to get one. I ordered a seafood platter (the English translation was “joint sea”???) and Stacie got a salad and a ham and cheese flatbread sandwich. Plus lots of antipasto on the house! A great meal in a fantastic setting, truly memorable!


Day 7 September 2
Wednesday's route was a 150 mile westward meander across the mountainsides overlooking the Mediterranean, again over many narrow winding roads eventually descending back to the sea. Quoting from the guidebook:” We continue along the coast direction France, with some challenging side trips to the remote mountain regions of the Ligurian Apennin and Ligurian Alps. Some of these back country roads are very narrow and extremely twisty”.

Our morning coffee stop was at the monastery of the Madonna di Guardia built in the 16th century at the summit of Mount Figogna. Then more extreme twisties before a lunch stop at a remote rural spot in the Parco Naturale. Stacie ate stewed rabbit and I had a cheese plate and meat roll. After lunch more twisties and then some nice sweepers and a photo stop at the summit of a mountain with incredible views.

Then back down to the Coast and our hotel in Finale Ligure, a smaller, less touristy version of Rapallo that dates back to Roman times. Here our hotel was also next to an ancient castle and perched on a hill above the beach. The hotel did not have a restaurant but the town is famous for its seafood and there were many restaurants along the beach. The group walked down the steep bath to the beach and then to a neat open air restaurant that our guide Michael had scouted. Here we could order anything on the menu within a budget of 25 Euros per person. I enjoyed an amazing fried seafood platter for my primo and a delicious sausage pizza for my secondo. The seafood included a huge prawn, huges slices of calamari, fried anchovies and long, ribbon like fish fried to a delicate crispness. I have no idea what kind of fish it was put it was delicious! Stacie ordered a salad and what she thought was a safe bet, pepperoni pizza. Instead it was a pizza covered with roasted red pepper slices. She loved it however.


Day 8 September 4
Thursday was our final riding day. Our 180 mile route would take us over several more passes over the Ligurian Alps back to France, a photo stop in hills of Monaco above Monte Carlo and back to La Colle Sur Loup. We rode more "goat trails" and actually had to stop on one to let a goat herd pass. The goat herder gave us a big smile and a wave. The foliage was close over our heads on the narrow track in many places and we could reach up and pick figs, blueberries and blackberries.

We stopped for some coffee in Zucarrello, a small town founded in the 14th century. Then it was twisty SP582 to Garessio where we followed the Tanaro River on SS28 and then SP17 with some crazy switchbacks. We stopped for lunch in Molini di Triora perched on top of a mountain and ate at a restaurant with an open air view of the valley below on one side and the alps on the other. The views were fantastic and the food was great too. We both had Spaghetti Bolognese (with meat sauce). Excellent!

Our final highlight of the tour was a picture stop in the hills above Monaco. We descended to the coast via Strada Provinciale 64 and Strade Statale 20 then went west on Autostrade 8 to the Monaco Exit. We rode to an outcropping on a hill high above Monte Carlo and parked the bikes. Walking a ways up to the rock ledges we had incredible views of the famous opulent municipality.

Our final coffee break was back up the mountainside at Pielle, another medieval Village where we rode down narrow cobblestone main street to a central plaza and coffee shop. Then one more long series of twisties and switchbacks before we got back on the A8 for the final leg back to La Colle Sur Loup and Hotel L'abbaye. The hardest part of the trip was unloading the bike and trying to remember how we got all our clothes and riding gear to fit in our suitcases! That done, we relaxed with the gang and some beers and talked about the fantastic journey we had just completed. We were happy to see Blair who had managed to do some sight-seeing after 3 days in hospital and would join us for dinner. He was was in amazingly good spirits. At our farewell dinner Michael and Pablo commended us on our riding and congratulated us for surviving mostly unscathed (with the exception of Blair). Dinner was delicious roast duck breast as main course, and several bottles of excellent French wine were passed around the table.

Many of the gang were continuing their vacations in various parts of Europe, Paris, Greece, etc while others, like ourselves, were flying back to North America. Our flight was not until 1:00 pm, so we enjoyed talking with some of the group for a while after dinner .


Going Home
After breakfast and saying goodbye to the group and our tour guides we checked out and asked the desk clerk to call for a taxi. A Black Mercedes van arrived right on schedule and we arrived at the airport in Nice in plenty of time. Advance check-in was not available at Cote D'Azure but the Delta Kiosk worked flawlessly and with boarding passes in hand we checked our bags and looked for a spot for some lunch. We found the French version of the typical airport type fast food counter and had a snack of escargot aux raisons and coffee. Actually just a cinnamon roll, the French call it “escargot” simply due to the spiral shape. It was tasty!

The long flight back to JFK was bearable mostly due to the free drinks (Woodford Reserve for me) that are included with the Delta “Economy Comfort” package (which also includes 4 inches extra leg room) and the good selection of Classic Rock on the 767's entertainment console: Dylan, Janis and Tom Petty. Other than the usual 20 minute runway wait at JFK the rest of our flights went smoothly. JFK has some self operated customs processing kiosks I had not seen before and we rechecked our bags without hassle and had time for a meal in an over priced bar in the terminal. We arrived back in Baton Rouge at 10:30 pm, collected our bags and drove home incredibly tired but totally satisfied.

It was a fabulous vacation definitely on par with "Best Of Europe" in 2013. Don't ask me which Edelweiss tour was better. I think Stacie and I agree we just can't pick a favorite but they definitely both rank in our lifetime top two! So Far...

Switchbacks ~~~ (again) by Lea Nangle

___LeaNangle7 (2K)Can it be it was eight years ago when I first went for a ride with the MSTA boys? Actually they were the HSTA boys at the time, but that’s another story. I was, at first, very critical of the gadget boys and their toys, and I may have ridiculed their excuse for a motorcycle rally, ( very little beer, no black leather, and NO T*TS!) How boring? What do you mean “we just like to ride”? Some of those disturbed fellows rode up to two thousand miles just to get there. Are you effing kidding me? And after they got to the rally….they spent everyday RIDING!!! That is just messed up. People at bike rallies drink, smoke, have burnout competitions, wet-t-shirts contests, drink, get tattoos, and drink. What is the purpose of this gathering? To ride? That’s it?

Then they invited me to ride.

OMG. They don’t just ride….they ride. They ride like they like to ride. They ride like they know how to ride. They know how to ride because they ride …a lot. They ride a lot because they know how to ride. Does that make sense? Today I am back, I heard the best of the best were going to be in town, and I couldn't’t resist tagging along and going for another ride. I was not disappointed. But…

Where did all these adventure bikes come from? Do we really need those? It reminds me of all those 4x4 trucks owned by drivers that never experience as much mud as their wives do during a spa treatment. Remember, you can only have a visor on your helmet if you have a adventure bike, otherwise it just looks all wrong. It could be that all that industrial piping and aluminum scaffolding on the bikes give way more opportunity to bolt on some clever clutching -mount for your smart phone, tablet, laptop, and some new electronic device that can detect the slightest variation in barometric pressure, government air surveillance, receive ultra low frequency radio from Scandinavia, film with more resolution than the Keppler satellite, monitor tectonic plate movement, and give the time and temperature on 7 continents and 6 oceans. Pretty sure we have alien spacecraft, stashed in caves in Nevada, that don’t have devices as sophisticated as your average GS pilot. And with all this latest technology…. You bolt on bags that look like they were forged in a steel mill in Dusseldorf, or a blacksmith shop in Virginia. (Even the aliens got a handle on aero dynamincs – never seen a square UFO. ) Kinda like that visor, how much air does that catch? And that big square camera mounted on your helmet that gives you hours of footage, ALL of which looks exactly the same, whether you ride in Florida or Montana - Half of the helmet, yellow line on the road, trees whirring past….thrilling. ( unless you crash, then it’s really cool!)

13 inches of suspension travel is not really necessary, is it? ( maybe if you ride in Peru, or Louisiana) I have theory about the evolution into adventure bikes and it mostly consists of anecdotal evidence about riders, depending solely on GPS, repeatedly becoming hopelessly lost on unpaved roads in counties where banjo music could be the last pleasant sound you hear. What happened to sport bikes, soft-luggage and a map? I’ve seen pictures, and that is how this group started out. Leave it to an outsider to be the only one to get nostalgic.

STAR 2015 was fun. It was great to see all the guys ( and 6 girls) again. Maybe one day I will actually join this party and make that seven. Until then, thanks for the inspiration to ride.


Ride to Live?

The annual convergence of the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association occurred in NW Arkansas, and after a 6 year hiatus, I returned to the Club and attended the STAR ( annual rendezvous). The riding was great and meeting was as expected, if not for one slightly noticeable shift of attitude. The shift in attitude, not mine, but rather that of the organization.

I felt the tremor shaking the foundation of the group hierarchy, if not the membership altogether. Since I have been away for a bit, I don’t know if it is as sudden as it seems to me, but the shift in attitude, though subtle, hit me like an earthquake. The MSTA is now concerned about membership numbers, and more specifically, about the aging demographics of the group.

About seven years ago, when my profile with the organization was more defined, as a state director( at the time) , I had a platform from which to shout. So I shouted. I shouted about how the organization was doing nothing to attract new young riders, and it was not using the accomplished and extensive riding experience of it’s membership to improve the image of motorcycling. I shouted that THIS group was uniquely positioned to illustrate to new riders the true joy and excitement of motorcycling. I have had the privilege to bring a few new riders into the sport touring life and every single rider that has ever ridden with this group has expressed amazement that they never knew riding could be this much fun. To quote myself “ if the government, or our Moms, find out how much fun this is, they will put a stop to it” . Seven years ago, the overwhelming response to my shouting was a cricket –chirping silence. Nothing. At first I was astounded and confused as to why no one seemed concerned that the group was not growing, but only growing older. Finally, a friend confided that he truly believed that maybe the group didn’t want to attract new younger riders. They just wanted to continue to get together and ride.

I thought about that, and frankly, I couldn’t find much wrong with that attitude. I understood it. They just want to ride, enjoy it while it lasts, and ride off into the sunset. However, this doesn’t do anything to perpetuate the organization.

This was not the reason I was away from STARs for 6 years, that had more to do with the local economy. I still loved to ride…I just couldn’t make the trips. So as I sat in Springdale and heard the plea of the membership director, and as he dissected the demographics, and made the subtle point that the membership will/is slowly dying out. I was struck with irony.

At 56, I am still three years under the median age for the membership ( one of the youngsters) so maybe I still represent the future. As Alan (Brown) and I sat eating breakfast at the more- than- adequate Holiday Inn in Springdale, other members were discussing GPS mapping configuration mumbo-jumbo, stock futures, or the Cubs or Rangers, we contemplated the future of motorcycling in general. We pondered on the reasons why such a vital, thrilling pastime, hobby, devotion, obsession or what- ever -you -want -to –call- it, could be disappearing. Is it disappearing?

Look at the age of the riders, be it MSTA, Harley-Davison riders, BMW riders, touring couples on Gold Wings, or those uninspiring “trikes” , you name it…. They were mostly born in the 40s or 50s or 60s . They are the Baby-Boomers, they grew up when motorcycling was growing up. The 50s brought the rebels, James Dean and Marlon Brando, then the invasion of the British racing bikes. The 60’s brought the Japanese invasion lead by Honda, and followed by Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki. The people riding today grew up when motorcycling was vibrant, alive and exciting, and many of them never got to ride, but always wanted to. In century 21, many of the boomers can now afford to ride and reach out to regain a bit of that lost youth, Whether that means pulling on black leather and dew rag on the weekends and getting “Live to Ride” tattooed on the deltoid, or zipping up the “aerostitch” and plugging in the GPS coordinates, XM radio. Go Pro video, radar detector, heated grips and seat, auto- mood sensing windscreen tinting, and automatic dog-polisher. These near-retirement boomers are the heart and soul and bankroll of motorcycling today. But we are all getting older.

Kids born in the 80s and 90s don’t have the same passion and history, they want to ride four-wheelers and play computer games, and the generations behind them are the Iphone/Ipad generation where most of the thrills are virtual.

Who will be riding motorcycles in another 20 years? Which group of today’s riders will influence a new generation. Will it be those who “live to ride”? many of which never really “learned” to ride, but rather became financially “able” to ride. Or this tiny group of people who know a secret about riding that we seem to be desperately trying to keep to ourselves. I think there is a future to motorcycling, but what it looks like is a big unknown.
See ya. I think I’ll go for a ride now.

Tim (formerly Fastimmy) Smith


Official MSTA events in October include the Texas Hill Country Ride. In addition there are the non-sanctioned, "Just For Fun" events Byway Boogie in Clarksville, AR October 17-19 and Middlesboro, Kentucky on the weekend of October 9th – 11th..

My thanks to Tim and Lea for their inciteful contributions! Hope you enjoyed this issue!.
Keep riding & smiling

Bob Chappuis, Editor