Thursday, 15 April 2010

Day 8 - Matrei to Ettlingen

Today was another 630km marathon. I set off from Matrei after a nice light breakfast with Olivia to chat to.  Despite the beer last night, she was up being conversational and friendly.  She got me some coffee and made sure I had everything I wanted.  The bread was made by her mother, and was very fresh.It was clear after all our talking that this was not a good place to be young.  It must be very frustrating living here.  After breakfast, I managed contribute to last night's beer and eggs and settled up.  Then I stowed everything on to the bike and wished my hosts all the best, promising to back with the family next time we are passing this way.  I had a lot of road to cover and was keen to get on.  After five or ten minutes riding through Matrei, I got to the main road and felt the power of the bike as it surged up the hills and made overtakes simple.

Lienz was slow again, going through endless road junctions with badly-phased lights.  Once I got through Lienz, the road was more fun, with nice bends and plenty of opportunities for easy overtakes.  The traffic became heavier and slower, and the route to the motorway was already familiar to me, but it was easier to see the other views in this direction, that I was craning my neck to see on the way down.  I was headed for Kufstein, and thinking that this was a bad road to choose.  Next time, I must avoid this.  It went through a lovely valley, with town after town, but as a result, the speed limits were urban, and the traffic was difficult.  but once I made the motorway, it was easier, and after crossing the border into Germany I was once more able to open up the bike for the unrestricted stretches of the autobahn.  There were many places were I could cruise along safely at speeds well over 100 mph, occasionally nudging 130.

I passed by Hotel Amroesel in Flintsbach am Inn, and remembered what a nice relaxing time I'd had there, walking up the hill and meeting the bouldering boy.  Then the traffic slowed to a halt and I filtered slowly between the lorries on the right and the cars on the left, perfectly segregated.  Some cars were across the lanes in their queuing, but the soon moved out the way when they saw me.  The motorway ahead was completely closed, for no apparent reason, and we were sent into the rural hinterland with no hint as to which direction, so I just followed a big truck, assuming he would be looking for the best route to the next junction.  He was.  After crossing the Inn, the route passsed through many villages, such as Nussdorf, and through a really attractive town with lots of old architecture on a hill, Neubeuern.  Soon after that, we joined the A8 to Munich, which is what I was headed for all along, and the detour was over, thankfully (overtakes were not possible with such slow roads and heacy traffic).  So, occasional bursts of speed again, interspersed with crawling at 80 kph through the extensive road works that seem to go on for ever.

I was getting really cold by now, and stopped near Munich to get warm and have a coffee.  I was amazed to find seven text messages that had come in while I was riding.  Andy, whom I was meeting in Karlsruhe with Frank, was not able to get here after all because all flights were cancelled due to volcanic ash in the air!  Apparently, something in Iceland is spewing ash into the air and it is dangerous to fly through it.  The irony was immense, since the meeting between the three of us was why I was making this journey in the first place.  Ah well, I was having a good break from work, and there was still a ton of stuff that Frank and I can discuss.  Plus, we can get Andy on Skype to join in.  Having warmed up in the shop at the services, I went back to my bike to get some of the food left over from last night, and nodded at another biker, on a Hayabusa, who had just rolled up.  With his cigarette smoke drifting my way, he came and joined me on the bench, and we exchanged travel stories and so on.  He had jsut set off and was on his way to somewhere 500 km north of here to see his girlfriend.  He drives this road (A8) 2-3 times a week for his job, a truck driver.  Then it turned out that his main job was a policemen, working in the despatch room, handling emergency calls.  He's been diving in Rovinj, not far from Motovun, and planned to go to Scapa Flow in Orkney, where I once went for a holiday, so was had plenty to talk about.  he had one more cigarette, then went on his way, and I had another espresso and went on my way, blasting along the unrestricted sections of autobahn whenever the opportunity arose.

As I got closer to Karlsruhe, I was nearly worried about being late to meet Frank, but I texted him to tell him that I would not be there until at least 17:30, so that I could add one and a half hours to my journey by taking a detour to have another play on Schwarzwoldhochstrasse, the B500 from Freudenstadt to Baden-Baden.  This time it was much clearer and although there were stretches with snow lying either side of the road, the temperature was well above zero, and the views across the Rhine Valley that I glimpsed were stunning.  There were stretches where I had to take it easy because of mud on the road, but most of the 24 miles of high speed bends and gradients were even more awesome than last time, with the weather being better.  Look at that bend in the picture, right at the beginning of the run.  Long, clear and fast.  They're mostly like that.  Later that evening, Frank told me that on some summer weekends, the route gets very popular with bikers, many of whom kill themselves on the bends.  To avoid too many casualties, the road is simply closed on saturdays and Sundays.  That would have been frustrating for anyone who drove a long way to see it.

I made the hotel in Ettlingen, a suburb of Karlsruhe bank on time at 17:15.  As I was checking in, Frank turned up too.  I parked the bike in their underground carpark, sorted myself out, and then walked to his house with him, less than a kilometre away.  Xenia had prepared us a wonderful dinner, and the house was more like mansion!  They had designed it themselves and it was a really spacious, attractive house with masses of space and loads of rooms.  The view across the Rhine valley was pretty special.  After dinner, Frank and I went to a pub in Ettlingen, Vogel, where they brewed their own beer.  Good stuff, too!  This had been an excellent end to a day that started of OK, but just kept getting better!

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