It was time to bid a fond farewell to Switzerland and $10.00 salads and make for the boot. As we meandered into the Italian section of Switzerland we happened upon a McDonalds and stopped for our cheapest meal yet. I had noted a distinct change in driving habits and patterns. Here, the drivers seemed a bit more aggressive, less patient. We hadn't seen anything yet. Off of the pass and not yet into Italy I got put into a situation that I had to stop for a roundabout unexpectedly. Not a panic stop mind you, I simply expected the cager to do one thing, he did another. ABS fault again. Same as before, so we rode with it. I did stop at the 2nd bmw dealer I found, unfortunately they were not a motorrad dealer. We pushed on into Italy where they did have guards at the border - who waved at us.
In Italy we rode through several small towns on back roads packed with drivers operating anything from scooters to delivery buses. They're ruthless. I saw folks get passed on both sides, had scooters whizzing past everywhere but the most impressive was their roundabout approaches. The scooteristi seem to think they can just jump onto the roundabout and straightline it underneath the vehicles actually using the pavement. Actually they'll try to pass you anywhere in a roundabout. As the day wore on it seemed like we would never get to where we were going. We stopped on the road side in Curno, just north of Bergamo . I offered Carol the deal - no Stelvio, no Venice, we grab the autostrada to Austria and don't look back. No dice. That was some challenging riding for sure. The 1st hotel I pulled into got vetoed for the supposed cost. The 2nd was the San Giorgio in Bergamo. I can't recommend this place for a few reasons. No a/c and they were obsessed with me moving my motorcycle to make room for a car - which never happened btw, the spot was empty when we left the same as when I finally did move it for the old man. We called the renter and found Tag moto thanks to some help from the 'net. The next day we landed at Tag Moto in Curno, maybe 200 meters behind that Bergamo sign. We passed right by and never saw it. Ironic.
There, we received great hospitality. In fact, Tag Moto treated us like royalty. Espresso & pastries to start. Next they gave us an internet terminal. Soon, Matteo the service advisor came out and told us the brake modulator was bad. After some discussion, he conveyed that this was a serious problem and we should not ride. Our Italian was worse than his English, so I pulled up www.freetranslation.com so we could communicate better. I called the renter and they indicated they would replace the bike later that night. Then the Tag Moto guys, Matteo, customersHumberto & David found us a local place w/ AC to wait out the bike - they stayed right to closing at 12:00 calling around to find us a place, saving all of Italy from Carol's "Parley inglis"? Those guys really stepped up.
update: We contacted Tag Moto after our trip and for Christmas, we sent Matteo, Humberto & David a Visa gift cart & Tag Moto gift certificates respectively. We wrote them all a thank you note, letting them know how much we appreciated their help, and wishing them a Merry Christmas. Also, we sent our contact, Barbara, a Visa gift card as well. It took us a while becuase we both only spoke each other's language passably, but she patiently helped me get the gifts for everyone and keep it a surprise.
As it turns out we landed at the NH Hotel Bergamo Airport. As it further turns out it's attached to some Orio (not oreo) shopping mall, the third largest in Europe. This, I did not plan for, or have a contingency for.
The replacement bike was late. Very late, they arrived about 9:00PM. We swapped bikes, w/ a 2007 r1200rt. I did a cursory going over, started it, shut it down and made sure stuff worked and the driver - Dennis - was on his way, wife, dog & bmw in tow. I fitted the Givi case & RKA bag supports to the bike, and satisfied we would be ok for travels, packed it in for the night. We had previously arranged for the NH hotel in Venice; a relative bargain, right on the grand canal, with A/C. We had even made arrangements for early arrival.
Things however did not go as planned. The bike had a half tank of gas on the gauge. We started off heading for Gardone as a side trip. We never made it. At approximately 0920 local time, the bike stopped running as we crested a hill. I tried pulling the clutch in to restart; nothing. I downshifted to nuetral and coasted, trying to eye a place to pull off, my initial thought being the gas guage was non functional - the whole gauge cluster was barely readable, I was just guessing. Fortunately at the bottom of the hill on the other side of the road was an Esso station - We pointed the bike there and coasted to the other side of the road, dismounting and pushing the behemoth the last 100m. Unfortunately the bike was not out of gas. I added 6-7 liters and attempted to restart. The gas gauge read just under half a tank now, it was previosly reading a 1/4 tank. No dice. We tried several times to start the bike but the results were the same as when it died. We called the renter, tried again to start it with them on the phone, eventually they called BMW roadside assistance - a misnomer if ever there was one - who dispatched a tow truck from Italy to somewhere in Italy, not to us. First they needed the town name. I told him we didn't know precisely, so then he said "Well then, we cannot help you". I gave him "North 36 degrees, 228 minutes, by East 10 degrees, 658 minutes" He repeated the cannot help you to which I said "Use google earth." Behold, they found our position. Confirmed by local street names matching on the GPS. About an hour later I called the renter indicating the tow truck was nowhere to be found. A few minutes went by and by this time the station owners had gotten us chairs, offered to try and revive the bike but the guy only knew cars. After this, the Italian tow truck proprieter called saying the driver was there at the church but couldn't see me. I said "What church, I never said anything about a church and there isn't one as far as the eye can see!"
So eventually the driver got there, speaking no English. I got the bike from it's parking spot and lined it up with the truck. Again, we tried to start it, and again it would not catch, or fire. Once up on the roll back he called his partner to have him tell us we were on our own for getting anywhere. We emptied the bike, and they left. BMW svc had a blocked number so no calling them. I called the renter to see if I could just recap the situation - Your 2nd bike strands me in the middle of nowhere, Italy, your roadside assistance guy come, pick up the motorcycle and leave us with nothing but or luggage on the side of the road - in Italy, on a Sunday, does that about sum it up? His word was "catastrophe", mine was unacceptable. I advised that this was the last straw go get your bike from wherever it was towed, we'll find our own way.
He asked me where that left us, and I said "It leaves us stranded, on the side of the road in a foreign country in the middle of nowhere with nothing but our clothes and luggage on a Sunday and nobody in sight, that's where it leaves us". I was so angry I couldn't even speak. I definitely didn't plan for this, nor did I have a viable contingency plan. While pondering my options I hit the spot 'need help' button. Unfortunately for us, the gas station had closed about an hour before. Pumps were left on self service. Eventually 2 guys rolled up in a small sport ute. I approached, they spoke no English though. I asked for a "taxi? motocycleta kaput!" They got that, but they didn't seem to think there were any taxis - so I thought - locally. I thanked them and went back to skulking. In a few moments they came over and motioned me to come to the truck, they had found a taxi, and called one for us! In a split second, we decided to call our previous hotel, NH, at the Bergamo Airport and once again call on Francesca's services to procure a vehicle. We autostrada'd back to NH / Orio/ Airport. By this time I was able to speak and thanked Francesca and our taxi driver profusely. About an hour later we had a Fiat Punto, pictured below and were on our way. Before lleaving, we had to find a way to hook up the GPS - the Zumo requires power for voice navigation. This took some backwoods engineering but - we took the Chatterbox speakers out of a helmet and hung them on the visors. We took the RKA / Powerlet adapter for the battery connect I took off the previous bike and got the ground from the lighter in the console, and took power from the fuse box. We mounted the RKA tankbag on the Punto dash We bagged lunch and headed for the Autostrada. Eventually we got to a roadside stand where we picked up some junk food and a sandwhich. It took a while to actually make Venice, but we finally made about 7:30 or so. Upon collecting our stuff from the car on the top of the Venice parking garage, the skies opened up again. Now normally, I wouldn't care, rain does not deter me, but this was a hail storm. We decided to wait for the hail to subside.