Church with bikes-sm.JPG (28630 bytes)Cycle World Spanish GP Euro-Tour 

"Riding the scenic route to the Spanish Grand Prix"

By Mark Jennings

There is a funny scene in the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation where Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his family have just arrived at the Grand Canyon. Clark has "self-cashed" a check at the local hotel and wants to get back on the road.  So he trots over to the most scenic spot on earth, does a quick perfunctory bow, and announces to his family that they’ve "seen" the Grand Canyon.  And with that, they pile into the Family Truckster and continue on to Wally World.

I have an admission:  I felt a little like Clark Griswold on my recent Cycle World Spanish GP Euro-Tour.  Now please don’t misunderstand—the scenery in Spain is breathtaking and there are plenty of neat places to stop and linger.  Come to think of it, I could have lingered for days, let alone hours, at any number of ancient castles, picturesque villages, historic museums, or romantic cafes.  And some day, perhaps when I’m here with my wife Susan, I'm sure I will.  But on this particular trip, she was back home in Seattle and I was in Spain.  In Spain on a wonderful motorcycle with new friends, superb weather, and miles of serpentine tarmac where the design engineers had misplaced their straightedges.  So I rode.  And rode some more.  And felt like a Yankee redneck for not stopping.  Oh well, you can’t win them all.

Tour map.gif (20646 bytes)Cycle World and Edelweiss Bike Travel have been collaborating on these GP Tours for six years and the smooth execution is evidence.   We start in Barcelona on a late-April Monday and meander southwest down the Mediterranean coast for five days before stopping in Seville, our base for the weekend Spanish GP race in Jerez.  The route generally follows the seacoast with frequent forays into the mountains.

Barcelona near hotel-sm.JPG (32229 bytes)A few days before departing, I link up with fellow Seattle-area-residents Peter Wylie (with four tours, a grizzled GP tour veteran) and his riding buddy Terry Afdem (a first-timer like I) and we travel together to Barcelona.   Looking like folks from nine time-zones away who have been confined to long aluminum tubes for the better part of 24-hours, we stagger into our hotel on a sunny Saturday afternoon, arriving a day early to give us Sunday to clear the jet lag fog, a highly recommended strategy.  For some strange reason (perhaps known only to our hotel clerks), Peter’s and Terry’s extra-day reservation has fallen through the cracks.  And coincidentally, I, with a room, suddenly become the all-time best friend to both Peter and Terry.  Funny how these things work.

My new "best friends," both Ducati drivers, have not seen a red Italian motorcycle for a couple days so we trundle off to the local dealer for a Ducati fix.   Unfortunately they are closed, but a few doors down we find a pleasant bar serving tall beers and large paellas (a delicious saffron pan-dish of rice, chicken, seafood, and vegetables that we enjoy several times during the tour) so all is not lost.  Our first meal in Spain portends of great eating to come..

Barcelona Waterfront Museum-sm.JPG (32320 bytes)The next day is spent playing tourist in Barcelona.  This city has a tour bus system where you pay once and can then wander around getting off and back on all day long.  Very handy.  Another GP-tourer, Todd Borchardt (aka, "Chico Loco," famous from his exploits in last year's Dutch Euro-Tour) joins us as we explore much of the city.  I come away with impressions of a big, bustling, and vibrant place that is both ancient and modern at the same time.  And not a strip mall in sight either.

Another observation:  Barcelona is absolutely infested with motorcycles and scooters.  And they are used to get from Point-A to Point-B, rather than just to see and be seen.  The Spanish ride their bikes hard and put them away wet.  Just walking down the street is a two-wheeled sensory assault of sight, sound, and smell—there are lots of two-strokers—with bikes buzzing around like gnats or stacked up like cordwood in every nook and cranny, which, by the way, is about the extent of available parking space.  Driving a Chevy Suburban in Barcelona makes as much sense as driving a Peterbilt to the 7-11.  If I lived in Barcelona, I’d buy a scooter, maybe a snazzy Honda Helix, in a heartbeat.  Or one of the nifty Yamahas that looked to me like miniature R1's.

Pete in Barcelona Tapa Bar-sm.JPG (19832 bytes)That evening, we convene for a tour group meeting and meet the CW editors and Edelweiss guides.   The head-cheese, CW Editor-In-Chief David Edwards is a fixture on the GP tours and, on this particular tour, we also enjoy the company of Executive Editor Brian Catterson and his wife Joanie.  Edelweiss is capably represented by Jürgen, a tall, dark, handsome fellow who looks like he could grow a good-looking beard in only slightly more time than it takes to shave mine, and Josef, the tour director who goes by the name Fuzzy, which, for some inexplicable reason, we all pronounce as "Foot-zie."  The rest of the group hales from scattered locations around the United States, twenty-odd souls in all.  In addition to Brian and Joanie, there are two other couples riding two-up while the rest are piloting solo machines.

During the meeting, David remarks that GP tours typically attract a more avid and experienced motorcyclist compared to other tours (probably due to the GP race at the end of the tour), and after chatting with the group for a few minutes, I agree.  I think of myself as a bit of a bike nut with eight machines in my garage, but nearly everyone I meet has as many or more.  (Edwards must have a Costco-size warehouse to keep all of his.)  Next year, maybe I’ll bring my wife on one of these gigs for the see-honey-there-are-people-more-motorcycle-nutty-than-I value alone.

Bikes in garage copy-sm.JPG (15608 bytes)And what about the motorcycles, you ask?  We stroll to the garage to admire row-upon-row of natty-looking BMW's which Edelweiss uses exclusively on the European tours.  I stumble around until finding my name on the windshield sticker of a very Teutonic-looking, black R1100GS Paris-Dakar-style twin.  Now, I’ll be honest—I own Japanese bikes and have never taken much of a shine to BMW twins during the few test rides I've wrangled over the years.  So I'll admit I am a bit predisposed to dislike this heavy dirt bike festooned with acres of expensive breakable plastic (which, at this time, makes as much sense to me as a screen door in a submarine).  In fact, the GS is not my first choice—I initially requested the new K1200RS consume-a-few-countries-before-breakfast autobahn weapon. But one wasn't available so I decided to go the opposite direction and ordered the GS. And at the end of the tour, I am glad I did as the GS ends up being THE perfect bike for the twisty and scrappy roads that we encounter.

Dinner Barcelona-sm.JPG (19049 bytes)After bike checkout, we head off to an Italian restaurant a few blocks away where David presents us with souvenir caps and T-shirts.  The food is superb and the wine flows freely; I guess we finally clear the place around 11-PM.  I am learning an interesting Spanish custom—eating late. I don’t recall ever dining before 8:30-PM and the last night in Seville we left the hotel to go to dinner at ten.   Strange at first, the custom grows on me, maybe because it leaves plenty of time to hang around the bar before dinner and talk about motorcycles.

Bikes on freeway roadside-sm.JPG (26554 bytes)Monday morning arrives way too early.  The first day of the tour is the longest, about 300-miles from Barcelona to just south of Valencia.   Leaving Barcelona during the height of morning traffic, I could just follow Jürgen who is leading this day, but this would be way too sensible.  (Later, David draws me aside and tells me the cardinal rule of foreign bike touring: Always follow the tour guide out of a major city.)  No sir, all full of vim and vinegar, I elect to follow Peter and Terry who break from the starting gate like stallions at the Kentucky Derby.  I keep up for 15-minutes before my sensory system flashes TILT and I drop back to watch them expertly lane-split the Spanish freeway traffic and disappear into the diesel fumes.

All of a sudden, I feel a little hung out to dry.  There I am, alone on an unfamiliar bike in a foreign country navigating a difficult route in heavy traffic.   But I gain comfort as a group forms up behind me.  And all of a sudden, I realize that I need to start navigating since I am in the front.  Simultaneously, out of the corner of my eye, I see an exit sign for N340, the secondary route we need to exit the city.   I swerve over to make the exit and somehow the group manages to follow, clipping a few medians in the process.  A few minutes later, we are finally clear of Barcelona.  One hurdle is cleared and I feel a surge of self-confidence.

Spanish roads are generally well-marked, but philosophically different in their approach to signage.  Like other European countries, they pass on appending directions to roads (for example, "I-80 East"), and rely instead on destinations to clue you on direction (for example, "N340 Valencia").  Good system, I suppose, if you know where all these destinations are, but I don't.  Furthermore, their choice of what destination to use would be described by a lawyer as "arbitrary and capricious."  For example, a Spanish-style sign leaving San Francisco, would probably say "I-80 Winnemuca" or something equally squirrelly.

So I am whizzing along and see a sign with some strange town on it and have no idea whether I want to go there.  A frantic scan of the map on the tank-bag ensues, but this is risky as the maps are very detailed and hard to read on the fly.  So a trip to the shoulder is often the only way to puzzle it out.  Once there, I invariably have to pull the map out and unfold it, sometimes in gale-force winds (more on this later), at which point I start cussing like a sailor.  Of course, it is all part of the fun, and as the trip progresses, I stop worrying so much about the route and just keep it pointed in the right general direction.

Toll booth-sm.JPG (23062 bytes)Midday, we have our first excitement.  Steve Wadsworth, a Bay Area computer programmer, is at the helm of a brand-spanking-new (six clicks on the odometer at daybreak) K1200RS sport-tourer, a very big, very fast, very red, and very heavy torpedo of a bike.  As he stops to sort through his Spanish money at a toll booth the bike begins a surprisingly graceful and slow list to starboard.  Steve attempts to right the bike, but the pavement in the toll area is soaked with oil and diesel and his boot is slipping.  Just as all that gorgeous red plastic is getting ready to kiss the pavement, the attendant deftly hops out of the booth and pulls Steve upright.  Let me tell you, that attendant is absolute tops in my book  I wanted to kiss him.  I wonder what would happen in similar circumstances in the States.

Broken K1200-sm.JPG (21463 bytes)Having said all that, maybe Steve should have went ahead and dropped it as that K12 ends up being the problem child of the tour.  Later that afternoon, we nickname her the Exxon Valdez as she springs a nasty fuel leak where the fuel pump mates to the bottom of the tank.  Trailing a steady stream of petrol that has us refueling two more times in 100-miles, we nurse her to the hotel that night.  The tour guides pronounce her unfixable without parts and expert help, so she rides the rest of the tour in the back of the Edelweiss van.  Serves her right.  Fortunately, Edelweiss has  a spare GS like mine for Steve; he is initially disappointed but, like me, warms to this friendly twin as the tour progresses..

Chico at El Saler-sm.JPG (30008 bytes)On day two we go from Valencia to Puerto Lumbreras.  Peter and Terry are feeling a little sorry for ditching their new "best friend" so they agree to slow down enough for a back-marker like me to to keep up.  Also joining our group is Steve on the backup GS.

I relax and stop paying so much attention to the speed limits.  And two-hours into the day, maybe I relax a little too much.  I am about to get stuck behind the nastiest, dirtiest, most foul-smelling diesel truck on the planet—if you’ve ever seen the movie Duel with Dennis Weaver, THAT was the truck—so I bend the rules a tiny bit and perform a...ahem..."aggressive" passing maneuver.  Right in front of an oncoming Spanish police cruiser.  As he passes a few feet away in the opposite direction, he flashes his lights at me, and like a condemned criminal awaiting sentencing, I watch my mirrors for the inevitable brake lights. But they never come.   Have a nice day!  I wonder, is this Spanish cop a brother to the guy in the toll  booth?

Edwards and Lunch-sm.JPG (21057 bytes)In fact, while I see plenty of police during the trip, they seem to take a casual and laissez-faire attitude toward any reasonable riding style.  Our group slows down going through towns and doesn't do anything outlandish; this seems sufficient to keep anyone from getting stopped.  I leave Spain with the distinct impression that Spanish police are more interested in safety and efficient transportation rather than raising revenue for local governments.  This is yet another reason it is so much fun to ride here.

Pete,Terry,Steve Overlook-sm.JPG (30801 bytes)Late that morning we get into the mountains and this is where I really start to enjoy the trip.   The roads, when you clear the cities and explore less-traveled routes, are simply marvelous for motorcycling:  winding, mostly well-surfaced, free of RV's, and delightfully remote.  The terrain is similar to southern California, but the roads are better. Day after day we stumble, seemingly by accident, onto long sections of roller-coaster roads with virtually no straights.  The best-of-the-best is a 25-mile thrill ride coming into Granada: continuous 40- to 80-mph sweepers, billiard-table smooth, expertly cambered, with a pretty lake as a backdrop to boot.  Another great road near Aguadulce is lined by trees for nearly its entire length—riding along, you feel like you are Mick Doohan racing through a cathedral.

My nominee for most interesting road is a number near Lorca that starts out normal width, but over the course of ten-or-so miles, narrows down to the point where I wonder if we have somehow turned into a golf course and are riding on cart paths.  Believe me, a sport-utility would have trouble fitting on this road by itself, yet the Spanish paint a white stripe down the middle to separate the Lilliputian traffic.  Perfect for motorcycles, it would have been a nail-biter in any car, even a small one.

While on this road, I come to one of those sparkling, crystal-clear revelations that I only get while motorcycling:  I realize that a motorcycle is nearly a perfect foreign-country touring vehicle, especially for the smaller countries in Europe.   It's narrowness allows it to go places that, at worst would be impossible, and at best extremely stressful in a car; on a motorcycle you can always do a quick turnaround, squeeze through traffic, or pull over into a cranny and consult the map. Back-country exploring can be enjoyed at a sporting pace while dispatching with slower traffic easily and safely.  And finally, like fish, motorcycles travel well in schools.  You get to enjoy the social aspects of riding in a group and the pleasure of others company.   But everybody who wants to gets to drive.  Perfection.

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Now this crystal-clear revelation might not have revealed itself if the weather had not been, well, crystal-clear.  Apparently the weather gods got their sacrifices in last year’s drippy Dutch GP Euro-Tour, because our weather is flawless.  One brief thunderstorm wets our boots coming home from the GP race on the last day, but that is about the extent of precipitation. Temperatures are pleasantly cool in the morning and warm (but not hot) in the afternoons.  If I had to fault the weather, it would be the consistently high afternoon winds near the seacoast that often require uncomfortable lean angles and constant course corrections.

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Briefing on 3rd day-sm.JPG (27663 bytes)Just after breakfast, the tour guides hold a briefing describing the day’s route and how to get to the hotel at the end of the day.  The third-day entails a poker run from Puerto Lumbreras to Aguadulce, only about 150-miles if you go the most direct route. Which we don't.  David joins up with us this day and we throw away the recommended route and just plan our own based on what looks the most interesting from the map. Today we decide to snake our way up into the Sierra de Los Filabres mountains that border the seacoast.

Group shot in church-sm.JPG (35346 bytes)Our first find is an incredible church perched up high on a rocky mountaintop near Los Cerricos.  As we roll up, I see an elderly gentleman come from the caretaker quarters to greet us.  The church is closed for some kind of renovation, but he kindly lets us in and gives us a guided tour.  Our limited Spanish doesn't allow much verbal communication but hand gestures and a few words are plenty for us to enjoy the visit immensely.  This place is a gem.

The rest of the morning we slice and dip our way over incredible roads to meet up with the Edelweiss van for a picnic lunch, one of two lunches included in the tour package. The site of the picnic is a dry wash near "Mini Hollywood" (I’m not kidding—look it up on the map) where many of the "Spaghetti Westerns" were filmed.  I half-expect Clint Eastwood to stroll out of the wash, places his six-shooter on my tank-bag, and order whiskey from chef Fuzzy.  We feast on grilled chicken, sausage, and shrimp salad while a nasty thunderstorm brews overhead.   Jürgen thinks it is some kind of omen to be in one of the driest spots in Europe during a thunderstorm, but it runs out of steam before yielding much rainfall.

Four riders at rail-sm.JPG (28084 bytes)As our group becomes acquainted we start collaborating on navigation, an interesting case-study in group decision making. Typical scene: Five bikes on the side of the road; those who fancy they have the slightest idea where we are walk between tank-bag maps, pointing in various directions as they present their Perry Mason case about where we should go next.  The rest, most often me included, remain seated on their bikes, arms crossed indifferently, awaiting the outcome of the navigation leadership meeting. (The non-participants pose is carefully crafted to be a blend of: (1) I don’t want ANYTHING to do with this decision; (2) those morons don’t have the slightest idea where we are; and (3) who cares where we are, let’s get going!)

Terry with R1100-sm.JPG (36240 bytes)We get really lost when someone is absolutely, positively sure where we are.  For example, let me recount the mother of all navigational screwups: the Aguadulce debacle.   After a long day strafing in the mountains, we descend to the seacoast looking for our hotel in Aguadulce.  We’re hot, tired, and want a beer.  The hotel is minutes away.  We see a sign to the town and enter a roundabout.  Around we go, but there is no further mention of Aguadulce.  Hmmm.  Then, in a fit of group, late-afternoon brain-fade, we collectively agree that we must be east of town, so we head west.  But Aguadulce never appears; in fact we are driving into the boonies.  So we pull over for another meeting.  Edwards, part of the disinterested group, wanders off, only to return a minute later.  He parades triumphantly past the group, waving us further westward like an Oregon Trail Conastoga wagon master. Believe me, it is a dramatic moment.

Map of Aguadulce-sm.JPG (47547 bytes)So we drive for another half-hour into a the teeth of a nasty 40-mph gale—it's unbelievably windy in these parts.  And as we drive—please try and picture this—we find ourselves in a surreal world of giant white plastic tarps that cover virtually all the ground and extend, quite literally, from horizon to horizon.  Ah Dave, Mr. Wagon Master, doesn’t this seem like a funny place to put a 4-star resort hotel?  David finally pulls over.

Once we get our heads screwed on straight, we figure out we are 40-miles west of Aguadulce rather than east like we thought.  (David makes some lame excuse about a person giving him bad directions, which, I might add, NONE of us every saw.)  In any event, we spend the better part of the next hour getting back to the original roundabout where we went astray.  And this time around (literally), David redeems himself by finding a hidden sign showing Aguadulce in the opposite direction.   All is forgiven and ten minutes later we are at the hotel, which is a strange glitzy place that looks and feels like it should be in Vegas.  Oh well, without the detour we wouldn’t have toured the white plastic tarps of Aguadulce, which we later learn are used to cover tomato plants.  They grow a lot of tomatoes near Aguadulce.

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Brian and Jodi Catterson-sm.JPG (39781 bytes)Our group grows by a few more brave souls on the fourth day as we head towards Granada and our next hotel near Malaga.  Brian and Joanie join up, looking Cary-Grantish in their matching gray and blue Aerostitch suits and color-coordinated R1100RT.  Also along is Bill Ermerins, cat-quick on a F650 single.  Since I had not played an integral role in the Aguadulce mess, I am nominated as leader.  I hum a few bars of the 70’s off-beat CB-hit Convoy as we leave the tomato tarps behind and head up into the high mountains to the north.

Of course, it doesn't take long for me to get lost on a cow-path of a road as it winds through the foothills near Castala.  Or better put, a "mule-path of a road" as we pass several.  I even start to slide around on the manure.  (I can see the Michelin ads now—"Outstanding traction on dry, wet, and manure-covered roads.")   Eventually I find the correct road and we enjoy a spectacular climb into the snow-capped mountain peaks.

castle-sm.JPG (23638 bytes)After coffee in Calahorra, where a Moorish castle looms over the town, we do a quick run down to Granada on the best-of-the-best road I mentioned earlier.  Over lunch, we discuss, semi-seriously, forming a co-op to buy a local farmhouse and keep a few sportbikes stashed in the barn—a motorcycle vacation timeshare if you will.  (If interested, please send me e-mail.)

Granada is the home of the Alhambra, one of the  wonders of the world and a "must see" stop for everyone  in the area.  Except for this group of CW Redneck Euro-Tourers.  We migrate through the busloads of tourists to get near the castle but it looks like parking is going to be tough.  So I watch at the back of the pack while David does his best Clark-Griswold-at-the-Grand-Canyon impression.  Terry, Brian and Joanie stop and walk around a bit while the rest of us motor on.

Leaving Granada, Peter, not having screwed up lately, is duly appointed as Leader.   He’d just gotten explicit directions from a honest-to-god native Spaniard at the last gas stop on how to get out of Granada and onto the freeway leading to the coast and our hotel.  All goes well for a few miles when suddenly, in a scene right out of the chase sequence in Bullitt, Peter slices to the right across four lanes of heavy traffic to just barely make an exit ramp.  I'm thinking, "Oh-my-god, I can’t do that!"  But not wanting to lose our Leader, we all migrate to the rightmost lanes.  Suddenly a gift from above appears:  a dirt trail off the freeway that intersects Peter’s road..  Thank you.  We motocross over to where Peter is.

And as we are just pulling up to him, Peter decides that the exit was a bad idea to begin with.  So he rockets off  the wrong way down a one-way street, and then rejoins the freeway we just left.  We manage to follow, and at the next stop, we pitch Peter to the back of the pack.  Of course, at the next meeting of the Navigational Council, Peter strikes the classic indifference pose.

Overlook above aleducia-sm.JPG (21688 bytes)After an hour of freeway, we return again to secondary roads and enjoy some of the finest scenery of the trip as we crest the mountains and head back to the coast and Malaga. We also enjoy the experience of negotiating two 360-degree loops where the road turns completely around and tunnels under itself.  I find the experience unsettling; your mind keeps saying that the turn can't continue another degree, but your body must keep following the turn around.  Had I entered some kind of bizarro-world where the road might go inverted or do something equally impossible?   A few miles later, our entire group is smoked on a long steep downhill by a 50cc scooter—riding two-up!   I begin to wonder; road loops, two-up scooters passing 1100cc BMW’s, what’s next?   Should I start counter-steering the other way?

At the beginning of the tour, Fuzzy related that when he started guiding tours, he tried to run the group with Austrian precision until someone politely told him that the clients had signed up for a vacation, not boot-camp. So things were always relaxed and informal. And what with the trouble we had finding our hotel in Malaga, maybe things were a little too informal.

You be the judge.  That morning, Fuzzy gives us directions to the Malaga hotel as follows:  "Follow the freeway signs to the hotel Parador del Golf.  When you get there, look right next door and you’ll see the Hotel Tryp.  This is where you are staying."   Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

It isn't.  That evening, doing our best Shriner-convention imitation, fifteen motorcycles mill around the Parador del Golf parking lot looking for the Hotel Tryp.   Now in survival school they tell you when lost not to hunt for your destination too long; instead, accept your predicament and bivouac where you are before it gets too dark and cold.  Let me tell you, I am looking for level places to camp!   Eventually, someone assumes the Leader role, and trundles off down the beach to finally find the hotel.  Which is two-miles down an unmarked road, then a right turn, then another mile through two roundabouts.  Fuzzy isn't the most popular guy at that moment.  But all is forgiven over wine that night.  In fact, the logistics of the tour are superb.  If you want to go on a superbly managed and very friendly motorcycle tour, Edelweiss is a great choice.

Our next day of riding is from Malaga to Seville, our home base for the 60-mile weekend day trips to the racetrack at Jerez (and Gibraltor if you are so inclined).  And for some reason, most of us decide to just follow the tour guide that day.  So Jürgen capably leads a large group back up into the mountains towards Ronda, the Spanish ancestral home of bullfighting.  I could talk about the great roads, but you’ve already heard it, so I won’t bother.

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At Ronda, we wander into the town and past the giant bullring where a huge crowd is forming for the afternoon fights.  Our group gets separated in city traffic, but friendly pedestrians point the way that our predecessors have gone, so we link up easily.   Nice people, these Spanish.

From Ronda, we enjoy a high-speed run on a beautiful primary road to our second picnic near Montecorto.  At this point, we begin to encounter large numbers of motorcycles, mostly sportbikes, heading to and from the racetrack at Jerez.  Feeling the effects of a long ride, Steve, David, and I decide to take a twisty but direct backroad route through Moron (pronounced mo-RON but we always get a chuckle when we mispronounce it) and on to Seville.  All three of us are on GS’s and we have a great formation ride that afternoon.

Approaching Seville, I call a meeting were we discuss our upcoming hotel-finding strategy; I'm sick of spending hours wandering around within spitting distance of where we are staying.  It pays off as we succinctly follow Jürgen’s briefing directions to the letter and find ourselves in the luxurious Seville Melia hotel by four-o’clock.  I take a nap and feel completely refreshed at dinner that evening.  Paella again.  Yum.  The next day, I decide to stroll Seville rather than attend qualifying at Jerez.  Seville is simply breathtaking.  Highly recommended.

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R1100GS at Seville-sm.JPG (34070 bytes)As I park the GS on the sidewalk in front of the hotel at Seville, I have to give it my grudging respect as a great motorcycle for this trip.  It’s not really a dirt bike.  It is better to think of it as a "any graded surface" motorcycle that does nearly everything very well, except for technical single-track.  Hard-core sportbiking is the area the GS surprises me the most.  With its wide powerband, long-travel Telelever suspension, comfortable seating position, and wide-leverage handlebars, the GS is the perfect tool for carving on narrow, winding, and less-than-perfectly surfaced roads.

The only street-riding area where the GS seems out of its element is high-speed freeways.  The bikini fairing is too small and far forward to provide much protection and the wide/high handlebars turn your body into a gigantic sail.  There simply isn’t any reasonable way to get out of the wind blast.  If I owned a GS, I’d probably look into narrower handlebars or a bigger fairing.

And there are a few other problems.  During this trip, I regularly cursed the engineer who designed the inscrutable BMW switchgear; in his next life may he be forced to spend a year fetching coffee in Honda’s ergonomics research lab.  The oil filler cap leaked.  And my bike developed an engine knock that grew fairly loud on the third day, then mysteriously vanished from wherever it came from.  Not confidence inspiring.   But there are legions of folks who have quite literally driven these things around the world, so the basic bike has the reliability reputation of an anvil.  An anvil with diabolical switchgear.

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The highlight of a GP Euro-Tour is, of course, a Grand Prix motorcycle race.  And this one is a hum-dinger. As my first-ever GP, it seems almost surreal to me, watching gods Doohan, Criville, and Biaggi fly past me 10-feet away (courtesy of press passes from Brian) at 150-mph while 150,000 crazy Spanish motorcycle nuts look on.  And in a script that couldn’t have been written better, Spaniard Criville pulls past favored Doohan at the two-thirds point in the flagship 500cc event. Of course, the place goes absolutely bonkers..

Leaving the GP is an adventure in the most hair-raising and aggressive lane-splitting I’ve ever seen.  Peter's foot is run over by a car (no injuries) as he paddles his way through the miles of vehicle flotsam exiting the track.  Another motorcycle, not in our group, is run over (crunch) by a car.  But once we clear the immediate track area we join a procession of bikers making their way back to Seville while crowds gather on every overpass to cheer our passing.  Now I have no idea why they are cheering a 45-year-old computer consultant from Seattle, but I liked it.

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As I liked the entire tour and our entire group of tourers.  At the farewell dinner, we enjoy good food and bask in the collective warmth of new friends and new shared experiences.  There is something about motorcycle touring that puts you a little more "out on the limb" than most vacations and everyone feels an endorphin-like-high when it collectively turns out safely and well.  We done good.  And maybe next time we’ll ride the roads AND linger at the sights.  It may take twice as long, but I’m sure as heck not counting the days.  I hope to see you there.

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