Austria, Slovenia and Italy: Cappuccino Time

Austria, Slovenia and Italy: Cappuccino Time
Surrounded as they are by the Alps and enveloped by the cold, many Austrian bikers consider the long wait for the arrival of May and June to be a dangerous time. Why? Because the urges produced by their "motorcycle hormones" can drive them absolutely nuts. It is the same with us - my brother Daniel, Christa, my wife, and I. But every year as the weather warms, we complete preparations and our excitement builds for the next version of the good old Cappuccino Tour.

Our excursion begins early in the morning. We travel only the back roads and will cover over 415 kilometers (260 miles) when the day is done. You may be familiar with it in a way. It's a classic "iron butt" tour and not recommended for the faint of heart. Yuppies or softies need not apply.

Daniel, on his Yamaha 1200 XJR, and Christa, on her Yamaha Fazer 600, straddle comfortable bikes. But mine? It's a test bike this day and strictly heavy metal. Moto Guzzi Centauro 1100 is the name and the object of much desire. The sitting position is very unusual, however. Picture old riders like Mike Hailwood or Phil Read and you get the idea. Daniel laughs as I take my position and says, "Yes, you look like one of those blokes, and it seems to work with your old face."

"Very funny! Let's get started before the day is gone," I reply.

After a few kilometers we reach Predlitz, a tiny village, but for riders it's an important point of departure. Here you take a right onto street number 95, the Turrachgraben. Now a wild ride starts on a ribbon of great asphalt with very little traffic. Yeah, go ahead and let the tires smoke! But be careful: that kind of smoking can be hazardous to your health, too. We enjoy this road and for us it's like hitting a home run. Exhilarating. Christa's head is moving side to side and I'm convinced she is singing a song to match the intense rhythms emanating from her bike. Sixteen kilometers on (10 miles), the magic is over and the next challenge starts - a long downhill race over a steep 24° grade. What a feeling!

We then encounter the rolling hills and lakeside country of Carinthia. A nice ride, more on the easy side, which is good because it offers enough time to enjoy the beautiful landscape. Two hours of a wonderful ride have flown by when we reach the bottom of the Wurzenpass. This roadway, a special treat when riding the southern ramp, is also steep and very winding. At the top, we have reached the border of Slovenia where border guards inspect your papers. If the customs officer is in a bad mood, he checks your pipes because of Slovenia's strict law against loud exhausts. But luck is with us this day and I think perhaps we owe it all to the blue sky and the pleasant temperatures. A new race downward begins and after a while we pass Kranjska Gora, a typical Slovenian tourist attraction. On the sidewalks there you'll encounter hordes of holiday makers. The area, well-known as an outdoor mecca, is perfect for hiking, fishing, climbing and bicycle riding, not to mention the invigorating pastimes of kayaking and rafting.