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So Many People and the Best Road in the World

We reluctantly left Piran and headed towards Trieste, Italy, passing through its busy downtown and getting our first taste of Italian roads and drivers. After driving in Kazakhstan with its aggressive drivers and the mythical third lane, we found driving here to be a walk in the park. Road rules were observed; people stayed in their lanes and were cognizant that there were motorbikes amongst them. The Donkeys struggled to keep up with the fast highway speeds but fortunately, we stuck to the byways and were treated with winding lush, wooded roads dotted with picturesque villages.

We made our way to the Hotel Villa Franceschi, a converted 16th-century villa just outside of Venice proper in the town of Mira. We felt like royalty just pulling into the driveway. The rooms were like museum pieces filled with antiques, and the grounds were expansive and green with sculpture gardens and a small working farm where they grew all the vegetables they served in the restaurant. They even had a pair of full-sized bocce courts. I was in heaven.


Eva and I took a little walking tour of the Villa’s grounds while Mike rested. We ventured into the town of Mira and then reconvened for a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant with Nick and Mike.


Nick however didn't have time to rest before dinner because the girls needed a new set of front shoes and three sets of tires were waiting behind the desk for us when we arrived.

This hotel was also the favorite of George Clooney whenever he was in Italy. We tried to find out what room he stayed in but the hotel staff was tight-lipped.

We had an early cab ride into Venice for some touring in the morning so we all called the night early.

Having never been and always wanting to go to Venice, I was filled with excitement. That excitement was soon tempered when we got out of the cab and worked our way into the throngs of tourists that crowded every corner of the city. We thought Dubrovnik was crowded but it didn't hold a candle to this. Even with all the people though Venice was still a magical city and a photographer's delight. Nick's camera never left his eye the whole day there.

We decided to forgo the traditional gondola ride and took a water cab tour through the main canal to cover as much ground as we could because we were only going to be in the city for one day.

We took in a wonderful art show in one of the many galleries and walked until our feet were sore. After a nice dinner and cocktails at a canal-side restaurant, we took one of the packed large water buses back to the parking lot and our waiting rides back to the Villa. All in all, Venice was a wonderful city - however probably best toured in the off-season.

We bid farewell to Eva in the morning and headed north through the Italian Alps to the town of Tirano nestled in the foothills of the Alps. The hostel was nice and built into the rock walls of the mountain slope. The rooftop garden offered panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and downtown.

We were desperately hungry after a full day of riding through a rainstorm in the mountains, and we found a small restaurant that would take us in with no reservation. The warm host sat us at a table facing where they made the pizzas, and we spent the whole dinner joking around with the pizza chefs while they put on quite the pizza-tossing show. The whole place had a family vibe and we walked out full and with big smiles on our faces.

The next day we mounted up and headed towards Lucerne, Switzerland. We rode through gorgeous sections of mountains and lakes and stopped at a random scenic overlook to rest.  As we got off our bikes an older happy-go-lucky gentleman and his bored-looking wife approached and asked where we were from. We gave them the customary "from China" because that's where we had started the trip.


This was always a conversation starter, and the fellow dove right in with a bunch of the usual questions and we reeled off our well-rehearsed answers. His wife looked as if she were going to fall asleep on her feet.


After chatting a bit, we asked him why he was there and why all the other people were staring off in the direction of the small-town way down in the valley. He told us an aeronautics show featuring early post-WWII French fighter jets was getting ready to start and that we might want to stick around and watch. Which we did for a bit.

He also asked us if we were going to be traveling through the Klausen Pass. We told him that we hadn't heard of that pass and were planning on taking another route to Lucerne. He said by all means we needed to detour and ride the pass because for this weekend only they were stopping car traffic and opening it up to motorcycle travel only.


We asked him where it was, and he told us to take the road through the valley and that the turn-off was a few kilometers past the town on the right. We thanked him and took off down the winding road to the valley floor, the whole time buzzed overhead by French fighter jets performing aeronautics tricks. It was an amazing and fortunate sight to behold. One that we would have passed right on by if we hadn't run into the happy-go-lucky old guy and his bored wife.

As for the Klausen Pass, I'm going to go out on a limb here because we live next door to the Mecca of motorcycling, Mulholland Drive, and Angeles Crest Highway. But we all agreed this road was the best motorcycling road we'd ever been on. Sweepers, tight switchbacks, and S-curve chicanes all on smooth-as-silk asphalt that looked like it was swept daily. And no cars, in fact not many motorcycles either. It was riding perfection.

Our hotel in Lucerne was a short walk to the shore of Lake Lucerne and a lovely stroll to the city center where we met up with Mike and family friends of his and had a wonderful dinner looking out on the picturesque Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) and the Old Town. Switzerland is an immaculate country and has its shit wound tight. Maybe a little too tight or perhaps we were just missing the grit and grime of some of the hardscrabble countries in Central Asia. We had a feeling that the adventure part of the trip might be coming to an end as we trekked further into highly civilized Europe. Soon we would find out how wrong that feeling was.

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