Showing posts with label UralingEurope. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UralingEurope. Show all posts

Monday, July 13, 2015

The European Trip, Notes and Lessons Learned.

Almost 2600 km ridden, most of them (2232) on the 2014 URAL Retro.

Rode through five countries of the European Union:  Austria, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Slovenia.

The Retro averaged about 40 mpg, the Ranger/GearUP, perhaps 29 mpg.


Get your international driver's license from your local AAA office.

You only need the Road Tax Vignette for Switzerland if you use their Autobahns.  Link to which roads require a vignette: LINK

Next time in Austria, pay the fee for the Vignette (less than 10 Euros), some of the state roads going through cities can eat up time because of getting lost while trying to navigate them!  Cross the big cities using the autobahn, then promptly get off after transiting the big city limits.  Both Salzburg and Linz were two cities where having the vignette would have been a good thing.

Does rental vehicle provider provide the green insurance card?  Ural of Austria did do this for me, a nice service on their part.  Note: they are a dealership/distributor first, not a full-time rental outfit.  Spend the money and get the comprehensive damage insurance, we got a dent in our rental car's tailgate (we think someone backed into it while having a bike on a carrier).

Get travel insurance for medical coverage, trip interruption, etc.  We used our local AAA office for this and flight/car rental booking.


To power your electronics, one usually relies on a cigarette lighter outlet. The rig I was rented had a new tub, so am guessing they'd not put the stock Powerlet outlet back into it?  Or perhaps European Retro models don't have it.  This of course, meant I couldn't charge my phone/GPS while riding.  Or you could carry a connector which clamps onto the rental vehicle's battery posts with a cigarette lighter outlet on the other end.

Roaming data sim vice country specific sim?  I think the next time I go on a multi-country ride, I'll research a cellphone sim that can roam for data at reasonable prices, buying country-specific ones works but turned out to be a hassle.  If you go with country-specific, buy them from their own stores, not stores which service multiple providers.  Know which package you want, don't let the sales guy pick it for you.

Get a Real GPS mounted on bike and visible with blue tooth!  Blue tooth on helmet too!  Maybe if I'd had a handlebar mount for my iPhone6, but I don't know if I could have viewed the screen easily; add that to the fact that taking one's eyes off the road is not a great idea.....

A handlebar-mounted compass would have been nice.  Here in Colorado, one looks for the mountains to determine West, in Europe, this proved a bit more difficult especially in the Alps where there's mountains everywhere!  Learn how to tell direction by seeing where your shadow is showing up.  In the middle of a pouring rain, the shadow method will be "sub-optimal".


Ride your own ride.  The tailgating driver behind you will soon pass you, whether the road markings permit it or not.  The white "sprinter" cargo vans were the worse, followed closely by AUDIs.

Riding in Italy can be "interesting".  More so than in Austria or Germany. Be hyperalert and expect cars/trucks/scooters to dart out from a side street and into the "safe following distance" you're maintaining in relation to the vehicle ahead of you.

Mountain pass roads can be really narrow, be careful and expect fast moving traffic to come whipping around a blind curve.

Get real maps, and use them!  Saves a lot of stops.  GPS is great but I think for the "big picture" route research, you can't beat real maps.  Detailed maps....the ones I got were not really detailed and proved pretty useless except in determining the general direction of an autobahn/autostrada.

It will take more than double the amount of time predicted by google maps to cover the distance between two destinations, probably triple if mountain pass roads are involved.  200 km/day turned out to be a long day on the URAL.

Packing cold weather gear ensured I would be riding in a major heat wave.  Carry water, more than a water bottle, to soak down your shirt in hot weather!  You can buy water each time you stop of course, but it's more expensive than gas!


Always have some tens for automated gas stations.  In Italy, the automated stations only seem to accept credit cards issued by Italian Banks.  Be prepared, have some tens, usually around 20 Euros would fill up the tank on the URAL Retro.  Larger denomination bills are accepted but No change given.  SonjaM tells me you can also try asking other riders to use their cards, giving them money as reimbursement.

The Swiss may return change in Swiss Francs, they do take Euros.  Don't forget to get rid of the Swiss coins before leaving Switzerland, the money exchanges I tried later, didn't take coins.

Sure, pre-booking the night before saves some hassle upon arrival at new overnight destination but if you pre-book and can't make it to that destination, you're going to lose money.  This is also where a real GPS would aid immensely.


If you're feeling adventurous, try a room at the Gasthof that offer them, they're cheaper than what you can find via

I didn't try AirBnB rooms.

A "single" room will be small, barely room to swing a cat but they proved good enough for my needs and all came with bath/shower in room.  


When flying out of Frankfurt, Germany: No sense getting to airport before 6am, though you can check bag in, you can't go thru the gate's boarding pass control and passport control till 630AM.

Buy the German chocolate at duty free store after border control checkpoint, it's cheaper by a lot....bought 2 x 7Euro each outside, the duty free had 3 x 7Euro total! 

If you book a hotel near the Frankfurt airport, you should call the hotel to ensure you know which terminal gate their shuttle will go to for pickup. Unlike the airports here in the States, Frankfurt's airport had multiple spots.

Try for direct flights from overseas back to your home town. Customs and rechecking the bag in is a big PITA, not to mention going through security once more.

Route taken via Rental Car.  

Pictures taken: 4288+
Pictures used: 601 or 14% of total taken.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

The European Trip, Day 32 - Last Day of Uraling in Europe

Today was my last day of riding the rental URAL sidecar rig.  I was on the Ranger/GearUP which behaved a bit differently from the Retro I'd been riding for the last 8 days or so.

It was also an older carbureted model, the Ranger, and it had a modified factory windshield attached which made it a bit wiggly when the winds hit it right.  It was quite windy today too, which made things interesting in handling the new-to-me rig until I adapted to it.

Today's last day of riding would involve castles and the Donau river, which turns out is the German name for the Danube river!

First stop was the Burg Clam near the town of Klam, Austria.  Weird name eh?  Made it to the castle just fine, it was quite small compared to say Festung Hohensalzburg, the big castle which made Salzburg famous but it was still scenic.

Burg Clam

It functions these days mostly as an event location, for instance, there was a stage already in place near the castle, preparing for a concert called Live at 25, or something like that.

Next up, a few kilometers away in the town of Grein, was another castle/palace...situated right across a street which bordered the Danube Riber.  Greinburg an der Donau.

Next stop was riding along the Danube River, seeing what I could see.  A very scenic area, little towns with houses dotting the lush green hillsides.  You could see barges being pushed up the river by tugs, horses and cows grazing and folks riding the bicycle path seemingly without a care in the world.

As I rode along, I spotted an imposing twin spired church in the distance, high on a hill.  

It was the Church of Maria Taferl.  Rain was starting to come down as I pulled into a nearby parking lot so I went first into the church to both look around and shelter from the rain.

I bet you thought there'd be no more church interior shots right?

A view from the church, of the Danube River

Next, I wandered over towards the small town of Saint Georgen, which had been mentioned to me in an email recommending routes, by Hari; the owner of the URAL dealership.

Saint Georgen

Weather was rolling in and I really didn't want another thorough soaking like yesterday so I started heading back towards Marchtrenk.

Didn't quite make it to Perq before the rain caught up with me so I pulled over to don my rain liner and stow the camera into the sidecar's trunk out of the weather.

I then kept riding, in a light rain, that only lasted a few more minutes or I managed to ride west out of it.  Either way, no big soaking today.

Made it back to the hotel a little after 4:30PM or so and logged into work.  Saw an email from Hari and we coordinated my returning the rig to him this everning, and he brought me back to the hotel in the BMW URV used yesterday.

Good rental experience with Ural of Austria!  I updated yesterday's posting about what they found wrong with the Retro rig I'd ridden before.  They found nothing, the darn engine just turned right over and ran when they thumbed the starter this morning.  Sigh.  They think "something" got wet in the "toad-strangler" rain storm I rode through yesterday, and the water had evaporated overnight.

So that finishes my European Riding section of the European trip.  My thanks to my loving wife Martha, whose idea it was for me to do this.  I board the train tomorrow for Frankfurt's airport where I've booked a room nearby.  I fly on Saturday back to the good old US of A!

Sign from town of St. Georgen

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The European Trip, Day 31 - Rig Issues

Today, I left Tarvisio earlier than planned as the breakfast room was swamped with a busload of tourists and I wasn't in the move to mingle with the cattle.

I headed north out of Tarvisio, end destination being the town of Hallein, Austria so that I might explore the mountains around the Eagle's Nest tomorrow.

Those plans are now changed.

Enroute there, a pretty major rainstorm caught me just south of Mautendorf on the B99 highway going towards Salzburg.  It rained pretty hard and I was soaked even with my rain liner in place.  Still, the weather looked good once the storm clouds moved on and I spotted this nice little castle in Mautendorf so that's where I headed to dry out a bit.


Just as I was pulling into a parking area, the rental rig died.  I thumbed the starter button and nothing, not even a click.  I checked to make sure the BRS or Big Red Switch hadn't been accidentally turned off, nope.


I got off the rig, pushed it into a nearby parking spot and started troubleshooting in the on again, off again rain (much lighter rain though)

Some diagnosis later, I looked at the relays and found the middle one with a loose blue wire just hanging there.  After some experimentation (there were two empty spots in the relay), I got the starter to work again!

Trouble is, now the fuel pump wasn't working.  Didn't seem to be getting power.  I tried all the remaining wires on the relays, no luck.  She's dead, Jim.

So I called up Hari, the Ural distributor/dealer I had rented the rig from.  This took a bit of effort as I didn't have a sim card for Austria, but managed to locate a wifi access point that wasn't locked so I could make a VOIP call.

Hari said he'd sent one of his guys with a trailer to bring me and rig in.  The dealership was 250km away, glad this didn't happen in Switzerland!

I think Mario, the guy Hari sent, showed up around 2:30-3PM  About three hours after I called, pretty good don't you think?

Above is Mario, who works for Hari, prepping the
trailer for the rig

One hell of a tow vehicle eh?  It's the company car
that's used for trailering rigs!

For the record, the number of Kilometers I racked up
since I picked up the rig on 01JUL15

It took till almost 5PM for Mario and I to get back to Marchtrenk, Austria with the rig in tow.  It rained lightly most of the way there too.  Mario is a sport motorcycle rider, with racing skills and training, so conversation flowed easily the whole ride back to Marchtrenk.  I learned a few things about life in Austria from Mario:

- You are charged a tax rate, based on the horsepower of your car's engine.  Mario's Audi has 190 HP so he gets to pay around 200 Euros per month for the privilege of driving a big engine.  Sounds unfair doesn't it?

- In Germany, your type of car drives your insurance rate.  If its a model/brand that has more accidents, then you get charged a higher rate.  Kind of makes sense in a way.

- If you import an American car with a big engine, lots of HP, the additional taxes involved can likely double the original cost of the car.

Hari was waiting for us and he and Mario unloaded the rig from the trailer.  Michaela, his daughter, hooked me up with a couple of nights stay at a local Gasthof in Marchtrenk where they like to have lunch.  The rate they got me was way better than had been getting me at that point.

As I still have one more day left of rig rental, Hari let me take this GearUp, though here they call it a Ranger for tomorrow's riding.  I'm to check in with him at around 8am for some nice routes to try out tomorrow.

The rig is older than the Retro I had been riding, but seems to run fine.  I rode it from Hari's place to the Gasthof with no issues.  The rig has been to the Nordkap (polar circle monument) Hari said and he seemed confident of the rig so I am as well.

Cost to me?  The non-refundable room fee for the booking I'd made for the room in Hallein.  So, all in all, not too bad.

I'll ride tomorrow, return the rig in the evening, and then catch the train Friday morning back to Frankfurt airport.

9JUL15 Update:  Hari's mechanic Gunther walked up to the Retro this morning, and damn if it didn't just start right up!  He turned it off/on several times, took it for a test drive, no issues.

So, cause unknown as to why the fuel pump wasn't turning on with the ignition switch turned on.  The were thinking perhaps the starter switch got wet but I told them I could crank the engine, it just wouldn't catch.  Sigh.  Hari did ask me if I use the BRS, Big Red Switch, to stop the engine....I told him that's how I was taught at the Basic Rider Course.  He said no one does it that way in Europe, the BRS is for emergency use only.  Must look into this.

Anyhow, the Retro I had earlier is deemed fine.  Something on it, dried out overnight, the thinking goes, and it's now fine.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The European Trip, Day 30 - To Tarvisio via Slovenia

Another hot day of riding, though it was cool enough in the morning hours as I left Cortina d'Ampezzo and headed mostly eastward towards my destination of Tarvisio, Italy.

Morning view from my hotel balcony, not too shabby.

Heading north out of Cortina on SS51, I soon reached the lakeside town of Misura which provided some nice picture opportunities:

Misurina, Italia

After Misurina, I continued on SS51 till it junctioned with SS48 back towards Cortina.  I couldn't resist backtracking a bit to capture a pass that I'd seen mentioned on the Cortina map the hotel issued me last night: Tre Croci or the Tree Crosses.  I managed to not find the actual Three Crosses though of course I managed to find the mountain itself.

Continuing eastward on SS48 towards Auronzo, there were these nice looking mountains as one crossed over the Rudavol Bridge:

Somewhere along the way to the Cadore Valley area, I spotted this vehicle as I was motoring along and had to stop for a picture:

The snow vehicle above was parked in a parking lot of a local 
ristorante I believe.  Sorry, I didn't record the name of it.

The view from the above vehicle's parking lot

Continuing to motor along, I was able to bag another pass:

It connects Lorenzago di Cadore in Veneto and Forni di sopra in Friuli

As you can probably surmise from the above, now I was riding in the Veneto region of Italy, heading towards Udine.

view from the eastern side of Passo della Mauria

View from Forni di Sopria

Rode through the towns of Ampezzo, Tolmezzo and Amaro until I came to the small town of Resiutta where the GPS indicated there was a road to Zaga, in neighboring Slovenia.

The road became a twisty uphill climb till I reached this point:

Just up from the above stop, I saw what looked like a biker friendly restaurant with a whole bunch of motorcycles and riders relaxing there.  I took it as a good sign.  Little did I know.

The trail soon became a one lane paved shelf road descending from the summit above.  So narrow, with steel guard rails robbing even more space but there to prevent you from plummeting several hundred feet down into the valley below.

It was a nerve-wracking 13 km of this narrow "road", fortunately, didn't meet up with a vehicle coming up this road.  If one had, one of us would have had to back up to a pullover spot (not too many of those) in order to let the other one through!

Finally, off that "road", I got to the border with Slovenia where SR646 becomes Road 401 on the Slovenian side:

Cruising along now on the Slovenian side, the small town of Zaga came and went.  Not much to report there, the houses weren't as colorful as the Italian houses but it didn't look vastly different, not a surprise in other words.

I did manage a wrong turn after Zaga, at the junction of 401 and 203 and ended up past the town of Srpenica.  

I would end up going through the passage between
those mountains ahead.

Backtracking, I got headed towards Bovec, Strmec and eventually the border with Italy at Predel.

Military Museum, I think.

Heading towards the Italian Border

Town of Log Pod Mangarton, Slovenia

At the border area, there were two old forts:

Looking back towards Slovenia

Traffic is constricted into this narrow funnel over-watched
by the above fortress

From the Italian side, looking back towards Slovenia
and the fortress

Then, some distance further into Italy, a smaller fortification, abandoned and unsecured:

What you see from the road

From one of the firing ports

A good coverage of the road from this vantage point

Interior hallways connecting the various compartments
of the fortress

Looking out the main entrance way

I didn't tarry, it felt a bit spooky inside this abandoned fort.  Continuing on, we soon came to the last picture of the day, a cool mountain near the town of Cave del Pedril.

Near Cave de Pedril, Udine Province

I got to Tarvisio a little bit after 3PM, found the hotel and got cleaned up and ready to work by 4PM.

Tomorrow, back into Austria, will be overnighting in Hallein with the idea of exploring the Berchtesgaden Alps area the next day.