The dog days of summer have slowed life to a crawl, with seemingly endless triple-digit temperatures scorching everything in sight. As I ride home after dark, even the sliver of moon hanging low in the early evening sky is on fire. Battling traffic, impatiently waiting for lights while inhaling hot fumes, I start daydreaming about my upcoming trip to cool Alpine passes, clear mountain lakes, roads twisting through pine forests, and stays in small, family-run hotels that serve fantastic cuisine a short walk from a comfortable room.
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Flying into Munich on a cool, damp day in late August, I join fourteen fellow Alpine sojourners on the bus to collect our rental BMWs, the bikes that will carry us through the technically challenging roads of the Alps over the next nine days. An eclectic mix of races, religions, nationalities, ages, and political beliefs, we arrived as a group of strangers destined to share the experience of a lifetime, an experience that would see a close group of friends sadly saying goodbye nine days later. Talkers, listeners, joke tellers, wise men, and caring ladies, we come from all walks of life and are linked by a common thread, our love of motorcycles, the thrill of discovery, and the fun of meeting new and interesting people.
For most in our group it's the first motorcycle trip in Europe, so later that first evening we discuss some of the idiosyncrasies of riding in Europe. The group is largely comprised of veteran riders, ranging from a motorcycle policeman to a safety instructor, with a solid number of high-mileage riders in between. Ably led by the amazing Peter Lintschinger, an Austrian motorcycle policeman who knows the Alps like the back of his hand, we couldn't have designated a better guide by committee. Brimming with personality, possessed with tireless enthusiasm and an intimate knowledge of his country and surrounding areas, Peter is the right guy to take the helm and keep things lively. There's never a dull moment with him around.
Departing from Bad Tolz under skies swollen with rain clouds, I can see that the first day of riding across Germany into Austria might test the mettle of our group. But as a heavy rain begins, Peter detours off our route and decides we'd better spend a couple of hours on a walking tour in Salzburg instead. Wandering through the city that claims Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for its chosen son, we marvel at the exquisite intricacies of Baroque architecture and the incredible number of beautifully restored churches.