Day 2 - Trier, Germanyland to Kitzbuhel, Austria
This is the second long day of not a lot as it was another 400 mile blast of pretty much all motorways to get to the Alps but from tomorrow the trip starts proper - no more motorways for at least five days, hallelujah.
After 923 miles of riding on the scooter in two days, the effects so far are surprisingly little. I can still bend my back as well as a decrepit overweight mid-40s chap can, and my bum seems to be coping OK with having been stuck on the same seat in the same position for the best part of 21 hours. Adjusting the seat back alters the pressure points and makes it nice and comfy again. The scooter is coping brilliantly so far.
I must be getting old as the autobahn used to hold a fascination for me as the last bastion of unrestricted speed but these days it's all just a bit too frantic. (It reminds me of a few weeks after Damon Hill retired as a Formula 1 driver - he was being interviewed by Clive James and was asked how he knew it was time to retire and he answered, 'it was at the first race, the lights went out and everyone charged off from the line and I just thought 'what's the rush?'). The speed differential between lorries doing around 60mph and then cars coming up at 130mph+ seems less exciting these days and more a tad nuts, but it's probably just me rapidly approaching old age. Part of the issue on the autobahn is making sure you are not going too slow and needing to match the speed of the traffic so on the scooter I just sat there at about 85 to 90mph and that seemed to do the trick nicely - not too fast to be catching trucks too quickly, but not too slow to be getting in the way. At that speed the Burgman was barely breaking a sweat so cruised along with still some extra poke to overtake trucks quickly when needed.
The stereotype that Germans do like a rule is definitely true on the motorways. The autobahn is a free for all between junctions but as you approach exits or tighter sections the speed limits come in at 130kph (about 80), 100 (about 65) or 80 (about something less than 65). The Germans will come hurtling along at speeds faster than seems possible, but when they get to the speed limit signs they don't just lift off and coast a bit as we do at home, they slam on the breaks and drop immediately to spot-on the indicated limit. And talking of the 'hurtling along' bit, how do they do that? I get the more powerful cars really going for it, but how do they get the slower ones to still do it? While happily trundling along at about 90mph I got passed by a Hyundai Santa Fe like I was only doing 30. I have a Santa Fe and it has never gone that fast in its life and could only dream of such glories. If I dropped it off the top of Snowdon it couldn't go that fast! And that was shortly followed by a Toyota Aygo looking like a particle fired out of the Large Hadron Collider - how do Germans get them to go so fast?
I want to be sarcastic about Germany and the Germans but I can't as they are all thoroughly lovely. The ride through Germany may have been all autobahn but the countryside is marvelious and the people are universally great. On the many many stops for petrol, the people in the petrol stations always chatted and said things like 'have a good journey' and so on. Although they do seem to sell some more 'specialised' stuff in their loos!
The weather has been on/off sunny and then wet, and as I approached the Alps I stopped to get the Vignette tax thing you need for Austria (something around a fiver so not expensive and places selling them are well signed as you get near the border). It was dry and warm at the garage selling them and in the distance was a row of Alps looking all sunny and inviting apart from one valley which was completely blanketed in thick heavy cloud and clearly suffering one hell of a storm. I thought it looked rather dramatic and lovely. I revised my opinion about 20 minutes later when it became clear that this self same valley was the route I was taking into Austria. Lovely!
Kitzbuhel in my mind is forever associated with 1980s era Ski Sunday which was always featuring something called a Klammer hurtling down some slopes which sounded impossibly existed to a lad in Wigan. In reality I have been here twice now and it may well be the wettest place on earth! I still like it though - a charming place and a good place for an overnight stop.
Tomorrow is a route called the High Alpine Road up passed the Grosglockner glacier and right up into the mountains so fingers crossed the weather breaks for at least some short spells while up there. And hopefully many more photo opportunities than so far.