Playing cards were fastened to the frame of my bicycle with clothespins. I’d packed a lunch and tucked my Heidi book into my pants. As the cards hit the spokes, my bike made a satisfying roar down the street, and I felt certain that I would be in Switzerland by lunchtime. I had no idea that I would one day ride among the beautiful Edelweiss flowers for real.
As a child, I imagined that some friends and I would get choppers, blast out of our dusty, hot California location, and ride to Switzerland. We would eat cheese and chocolate, but no broccoli, and make friends with Heidi, Peter, and Grandpa. When we weren’t riding our motorcycles, we would play with the baby goats and catch snowflakes on our tongues. Maybe we’d get jobs fixing cuckoo clocks or washing bikes.
As a young man, I discovered that my home town wasn’t so bad, except all the really great women were taken. Maybe it was to find the right girl, or perhaps it was to pursue the dream of riding one of the most stunning mountain ranges in the world—but I finally went to live right on the edge of the Alps, working as a teacher on an American military base in Germany.
Luck was with me; I found the perfect girl while she was teaching on a different base. In the bright light of our marriage, the dream of riding a motorcycle in Switzerland faded. We moved to her home in cool, sweet Oregon to raise our family.
As the highland adventure sparkled dimly in long-forgotten imaginings, the kids grew up and left to seek their own lives. Sharon and I decided against fixing cuckoo clocks but determined we would return to Europe to ride the amazing Swiss Alps.
Picking up the Bike
Talk about visions! The BMW K 1600 GTL that we pick up in Munich takes our breath away. It’s an incredible two-up Alp-touring machine, but after opening the saddlebags, Sharon’s heart falls; it appears that there’s no room for gear. However, like most BMW bags, much of the packing space is in the lid. We are able to fit everything in except a football-sized lens that I seem to lug everywhere I go.
Never one for grab rails, Sharon puts her arms around me, and we take off to Switzerland. We decide that doing day rides from a central location is better than catching nearly every turn on a fully-loaded bike. Our first base is near jewel-hued lakes surrounded by knife-edged mountains and fabulous pass roads. Sharon has booked us for five days in Pontresina, near the famous town of St. Moritz. Home to the 1928 and 1948 Olympics, the gorgeous valley that holds these two resorts boasts 300 sunny days a year.