Italians call it simply The Big Stone (sasso means literally stone) and when you show up at this National Park on your BMW you are in Colorado/Italy all of a sudden.
I have to confess the R1200 ST is my kind of motorcycle and I'm really enjoying riding it. It's powerful but not crazy with a decent gearbox and ABS brakes of which I am still not too fond. I just don't like feeling the brake pedal push up against my foot when the bike decides it's time. The riding position isn't too low, the bike feels light and easy to throw through the corners and the engine though powerful vibrates enough to let you know it's alive and still requires some swift gear changes to get the best out of the torque curve. All in all enormous fun and confidence building unlike the 170 Hp four cylinder monsters I've rented in the past.
The Gran Sasso tour was a blast, and we were at 5,000 feet on one of the hottest days of the year. which was all to the good though the sun was fierce and we got home looking like seasoned sailors.
The Gran Sasso is a gigantic peak, 10,000 feet tall in the Apennine mountains in Abruzzi. It's most recent claim to fame is the severe earthquake damage caused to the city of L'Aquila (The Eagle) and which has left the center of the city in ruins. As a result traffic winding through the suburbs was horrendous even on a Monday.
But beyond city limits the traffic melted away and you could count the number of cars on the road through the park on two hands. Some of the park roads were in not too bad shape some of them were awful with potholes cow pats and some sort of corrugated surface that attempted to crush my testicles on the fuel tank and rearrange my internal organs as I rode. Some of the road across the Piano Imperatore (The Emperor's Plain) was fantastic and straight and allowed speeds to 85 mph which created a nice cool breeze.
My wife rode with Giovanni on his R1200RT which is the touring model and thus more comfortable for the pillion, while I rode solo on the sport
"She never complains does she?" Giovanni said of his passenger, this from a man married to a high maintenance Italian Princess. He rides hard and fast and carrying a passenger evened the odds a bit for me who knew neither my motorcycle very well nor our roads at all and thus struggled to keep ahead of the dynamic duo.
On the main highway our top speed was 180kph/110mph but on the smaller roads passing is the trick to keeping up speed and through it all, passing on humps, across double lines between passed and oncoming cars she kept on grinning. She was not grinning when we reached Albergo Imperatore at the top of the park.
The ugly red lump of a hotel was closed, the bar was closed, the TOILETS were closed, the lady selling beer and sandwiches looked glum and said she was sorry. The parking lot was full of cars and there wasn't even a bench to sit on. The place looked like a dump.
This set Giovanni off on a rant about Italian inefficiency, the gruesome nature of every single person he's ever met from the Abruzzo region, their inability to help themselves and what the fuck, he needed to pee too, damnit. We tried to make a plan away from the wreck of the hotel.
We retreated down to the Piano Imperatore (the Emperor's Plain) where I nearly ran over a shepherd's. White dog lightly disguised as a rock.
The views were tremendous
But we needed a bathroom. Urgently. And then lunch, less urgently. We found a bizarre do it yourself barbecue joint at a cross roads.
Mercifully they had a clean toilet with paper and a basin but where we would have had to buy raw meat...
Then stick it on a grill set on fire by men with very loud hissing propane blow torches.
The guy above put his meat on the grill and the guy below heated the charcoal. Weird so we passed on the notion of having lunch at this place.
But none of it was as weird as seeing this fashion disaster:
And those were not my feet.
More to come as the ride continues in Part Two.
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