After two years absence from good old Europe, Christa and I are back to refresh our memories of the twisties in Austria and Italy. Great weather and an unusual heat wave welcome us when we arrive at the Munich Airport. Daniel, my brother, picks us up, and immediately he starts babbling about the tour that we've planned in the Dolomites.
Three days later, on the scene, we can barely wait to strike out. But first, the bike-rental paperwork has to be in order - signed eight places, stacked in triplicate, and stapled just so. Some thirty minutes later Christa takes her position on a Honda Hornet 600 and I on a Honda CBR 600. Daniel is ready to roam on a shiny orange Laverda 750, and it seems to us this Italian beauty is already pulling him along, almost sensing the nearby border to its home.
Will she take the advantage? Definitely! Daniel is off like a shot on the narrow, steep road of Passo di Promolo while I wait for Christa at the entrance to the first unlit tunnel, one with a 180-degree turn inside. We realize living in the U.S. has smoothed us out, calmed our riding style, and we need a day or so to kick it up a notch in speed and readjust to the new, or what used to be our old riding attitudes in Europe. Finally rejoining Daniel on top, we're forced to listen to his unprintable quips about our riding.
Back in Austria now, the downhill part goes much faster and easier. The wide, long sweeper-loaded route matches the style we've practiced the past years. A short straight stretch in the Gailtal gives us time to breathe before jumping from patch to patch on the road over the Kreuzberg, an artistic amalgam of asphalt that will test the worth of any bike's chassis and shocks, and the soundness of any rider's spinal column. Pothole City. The rice burners do a great job, but still there's no chance of competing with Daniel's super bike.
Taking a break in a comfortable seat outdoors at the Iselsberger Hof, a popular meeting place for bikers, helps to iron out the kinks in our back muscles. When our old friend Sepp, the owner, and co-founder of the Moho-Group (Motorcycle Hotels in the Alps), discovered us on his patio, he did a double-take, surprised to see us, and said with a wink, "I'm so sorry I cannot offer you guys an all-American burger. But I'm sure you'll like today's special: Wiener Schnitzel with hash browns, cranberries and a garden salad." He laughed and hugged us each in turn.
As much as we would have liked to catch up, exchanging more wild tales of the road, and linger there simply enjoying the breathtaking view that Sepp's place offers of the Lienzer Dolomites, we had to leave soon after seeing him, with our target for the day still 80 miles away. Taking the Pustertaler Skyline Drive that sneaks along the Defreggen Mountains approximately 600 feet over the Drau Valley, we pass the mountain villages of Assling and Anras. Some slopes are so steep here that the farmers have to use climbing iron and scythe the hay by hand. Daniel starts acting more like a responsible tour guide, backs off the torrid pace, and gives me enough time to take pictures.
Down in the valley behind Sillian, we cross the border into Italy, and between Dobiacco and Lago Misurina there is absolutely no traffic - so we open the throttles and sweep through the valley. Monte Cristallo and the Tre Cime flank our wild ride up to the lake like a dark pair of ducal guards.