Saturday, May 5th
Breakfast is fine and varied, and most importantly accompanied by good coffee. We don’t share a sufficient number of words in any language with the waiter, so our communication consists of friendly nodding, smiling and saying Svizzera, Ollanda, caffè, Ducati and molto bene.
The weather forecast for today is not great. It predicts a last, yet mild, spell of winter in the Alps. Because we’d like to get home today, we’ll use the motorway for 240km (150mi) to get to the northern town of Bergamo, and decide there to ride to Switzerland over two high passes or continue on the motorway around Milano and through the Gotthard tunnel. The motorway plan has the benefit of giving us time to visit the Ducati factory store where they have some clothing and accessories. At first we’re alone, but half of Bologna’s inhabitants follow shortly. When Markus wants to pay, his wallet is missing and after some frantic searching, we find it outside next to his bike, with everything still in it.
When leaving Bologna I take one wrong exit and we have to ride an honorary lap around the Zona Industriale. The ride to Verona is uneventful with only a few rain drops. The reason is probably that Markus’ plastic rain overall is water repellent and it works, apparently. At a service station, I buy the most horrible sandwich I’ve ever seen, which I notice after opening the wrapper. Fortunately, Markus has bought way too many cookies, so we can help each other out here. I use my sandwich to ward off the many coach passengers that bother us here and almost run into our bikes on their way to the service station.
We leave the motorway behind us at Bergamo, and suck some data from the air to inform ourselves about rain and potential snowfall in the Alps. It seems to remain dry but cold, so we opt for the passes. The road along the eastern shore of Lago di Como leads us through two handfuls of long tunnels and is quite a blast to ride at “higher speeds”. This is all relative as we’re still overtaken occasional by hasty Italians.
Just before the town of Chiavenna we practise the national sport of solid-line overtaking. Markus has been riding behind me since his attempt to poison me with copious amounts of unfiltered combustion byproducts on Corsica’s west coast. Therefore, he is the last one to overtake and gets flagged down by an eagle-eyed carabiniero. This is a genuine one with an Alfa Romeo and he’s not looking for a new ping-pong partner.
I wait ahead by the roadside and see how Markus is taking the Italian scolding and he seems to be denying everything including the former prime minister’s bunga bunga parties, or at least pretending not to understand the officer. After receiving Markus’ documenti, the officer seems a bit desperate while muttering something about Svizzeri to his partner in the patrol car. Then he switches to a friendlier mode and asks about a Motoraduno. Markus doesn’t know what the carabiniero means, and before he can answer “No no no, il Mostro è il mio motoraddue. La mia 900 EsseEsse è il mio motoraduno!”, officer friendly waves him away with a sneering “Vai, vai!”. We learned later, that a Motoraduno is Italian slang for a motorcycle rally.
In a well-behaved manner we reach Chiavenna, where the temperature has got low enough for me to wear my heated gear. A pullover will (have to) do for Markus. I’m glad I’ve taken the effort to bring the gear along and that it’s pulling 7 amps out of the alternator as we ride towards the Maloja pass. It’s getting colder all the time and we both notice that our rear tires are getting twitchy when accelerating out of the hairpin turns. Markus is experiencing some carburettor icing on the Monster.
At the next gas stop (at 1800m; 6000ft), I can’t resist telling Markus that it’s quite comfortable in the warmth. His shivering answer is that he’ll need a hot coffee when we reach the far side of the Julier pass. We take it easy in the few turns from Silvaplana to the top of the Julier pass (2300m; 7500ft). We’re surprised to see that the road is completely dry and that the temperature starts rising rapidly almost immediately on the way down. By the time we reach Tiefencastel, Markus has thawed to his jolly self, as has his carburettor, and we continue without coffee.
Our last fill-up of the trip is near home in Glarnerland. We agree to have dinner at my home after Markus drops his luggage at his place. The big black clouds in westward direction are more than a bit worrying, though. We need to get home anyway so we ride off and soon are in a massive downpour. It’s raining harder than anything we’ve experienced during the last nine days. Markus needs to stop to save his phone from drowning as I’m speeding off into the distance. All turns out well and we spend the rest of a pleasant evening with good food and cheerful bike talk.