Monday, June 6th, 2022

Distance ridden 183 kilometres

I got up early and went for my usual perambulation. I walked down to the lake again and then back, but this time in the reverse direction to the previous evening. The storm which had necessitated our evacuation from the terrace of the Locanda must actually have been quite severe because innumerable small branches and other wind-blown detritus littered the track. The sun was just rising though, illuminating the peaks to the west.

I walked back to the Locanda up the road, noting how much further forward all the vegetable patches were that far south I spied one of the sinister and not really very visible, Italian speed cameras. In truth, they do put up warning signs, but the devices themselves are very hard to spot when you are driving !

We had a light, but nonetheless very pleasing breakfast – I do love warm rolls and then I paid, without having a heart-attack, our bill. The cost of our lovely little room only represented about a quarter of the total ….

The previous evening, when we had arrived in the courtyard behind the Locanda, I had noticed that my right boot was a little bit oily. Closer examination had revealed that so was the lower right leg of my biking jeans and, somewhat disturbingly, a lot of the front right-hand side of the Harley. It was not gallons of oil, but it was quite extensive. I had cleaned it up as far as I could, but had been unable to determine the source. Before we left, I checked the oil level, which seemed more or less up to the line – and was relieved to note (as a former owner of several “British” bikes) that there was no ominous pool of oil under the chassis. Obviously though, this was something that would need to be watched.

According to our plans, we had a beautiful day’s riding ahead of us through the Julian Alps and the Dolomites. Thanks to the right navigation settings (Shortest/No Motorways), we were led to a gently winding road that climbed into the hills where the views were spectacular to say the least. I later told Lucie that, for me, this was probably the most beautiful part of the trip.

Like most places, Italy is divided into districts. As we climbed, we came to the Trentino district. It is a big skiing area in Winter, but I have seen tv adverting that encourages people to visit in the Summer as well. I had always thought it looked good on the television, but in reality it borders on the spectacular. It is a wealthy area and the very second that we passed the sign indicating we were in Trentino, the road surface changed to beautiful, brand new asphalt without a ridge or bump anywhere. The whole thing was super maintained (this was Italy, remember) with clear signage of what was ahead and although one or two corners were a bit tight for a loaded Harley, that was the fault of the bike, not of the road. Being able to view the scenery without needing to fret about pot holes or gravel on the driving line made it an exhilarating ride indeed. Well done and thank you, to the Trentino Highway authority !

It is our practice to stop regularly to stretch our legs and to give Lucie a caffeine boost (and a nicotine one as well !) and, at the first stop in a small village cafe, we noticed that the oil was certainly not leaking any less. A fine mist was all over the front right hand side and, of course, my biking trousers. This was a trifle worrying, but also a bit disappointing. The Harley is more or less new, still (because the Covid pandemic limited our activities) under 40,000 km and we never abuse it. In fact our practice, during longer trips as I have mentioned, is not to exceed 100 kph at any point, not even on motorways. This slightly pedestrian progress means that the screen neatly deflects almost all the wind and allows us to converse easily via the “Nag-O-Matic 500i” (my word for our intercom).

We came to the towns called Moena and Vigo di Fassa where Lucie got quite excited because she had previously been there on two skiing holidays. During her two Winter stays, she had always had the feeling that she was in the true Italian mountains but when we stopped at a roadside cafe and bar, somewhere soon after leaving Moena, it was completely Austrian in every respect.

The oil problem was still very much on our minds. So, while I calculated in my head the maximum possible number of different vehicle registration plates the Italian two-letter, three number, two letter format allows (456,519,024 – but I am sure you already knew that), Lucie rang our friend and Harley mechanic, Kuba, in Prague for some advice. He told us that as long as we kept the engine oil at the correct level, we probably had nothing to really worry about and could make it home without damaging the engine. The key thing was to keep the oil pressure warning light from coming on. A quick check of the level revealed the oil HAD now dropped a bit, but of course the engine was warm. We resolved, however to buy oil at the nearest petrol station, check the level regularly and top up each morning. Off we went again.

A lot of the petrol stations in the less populated areas of the mountains are automatic. You put in your card, or a bank note, get the petrol and leave. There are no people and no garage shops. Oil ? You must be joking !

On we went, the next two stations were the same but I was not too worried. As Kuba had said – if the light is off, it is fine, if it is on, it is a problem. Finally, as we pulled up the long hill out of Bolzano, we spotted a “proper” service area in the distance. Of course, it was at that very second that a warning light lit up. NOT, luckily, the red oil light, but the yellow “check-engine” one !

This was a very long way from being reassuring, but at least it was not the red light. We pulled into the garage, filled the tank and bought a litre of 20/50 oil. The bike was warm and we had just climbed a steep hill, but the amount required to restore the level was a bit concerning. Although it must be said that, after touching the hot exhaust pipe with my finger, some of it did go on me ! Normally, this would have been annoying, but it did not bother me much – my right shoe and trousers were already soaked by what had sprayed out along the way.

We meditated a bit on where the leak might be, there was nothing obvious. Lucie, who has even less mechanical ability than I do, was fixed upon the idea that it could be coming from the “radiator” (the oil-cooler in the new Harleys). In her communist era, Czechoslovak, childhood, the radiators were always THE biggest problem in Škoda cars and somewhere in that brain of hers lies the equation, “mechanical problem = radiator“. The oil-cooler though, mounted in front of the engine, was probably the least oily part. No point of egress could be detected anywhere. We had a coffee and moved on.

We finally arrived in Partschins, where we were to stay. It presented a lovely aspect as we approached, nestled as it was in a long valley. It is a fruit growing area and apple trees were everywhere.

We were still a bit worried about the oil, but we already had a ready-made plan. According to all the longer range forecasts, the following day it would rain heavily and the shorter term forecast more or less confirmed this. We decided that, rather than risk something terminal occurring beside a wet motorway in the pouring rain, that we would spend the next day resting and set off again the day after that.

Partshins was one of those places with a one-way traffic system seemingly designed to confuse and discourage the unwary. The route in seemed crazy and there was a strange number of twists and turns, but in the end the SatNav did its stuff and we found our residence. We were staying at the Garni Rika guest house (Peter-Mitterhofer-Straße, 48, 39020 Partschins, Autonome Provinz Bozen – Südtirol, Italy). This was a large home, very much in the Austrian style.

The landlady was slightly scatty, but very pleasant and welcoming. She scored big points with Lucie by giving us a kettle for our room so she could keep up her caffeine level. She also confirmed we could stay the extra day and allowed me to park the Harley under the cover of the terrace. Finally, when hearing that we wanted to go up the mountain on the nearby Texel cable-car, she gave us two cards that would get us a discounted price.

It was still early afternoon, so we unpacked, briefly enjoyed the lovely views from our little terrace and then set out.

The Texel cable-car proved to be less than a 5-minute walk away and led to the top of a mountain called Giggleberg. The road to the cable car led around the local cemetery, where we met a whole crowd of mourners in traditional Tyrolean costumes – leather shorts (which Czech call “drawbridges”) and greenish felt caps with brush-like attachments. Although it was obviously a funeral, there was a merry atmosphere and it was more like a party. Lucie and I were still slapping our thighs when we arrived at at the cable car booking office.

Lucie produced the discount cards and some confusion erupted. There was a lot of (attempted) discussions in German and, in the end, we got return tickets for 18 EUR. It was only later, when she had her glasses on, that Lucie found out that, instead of the discount cards, she had been waving the tickets from our previous cable-car ride (the Vogl, in Slovenia) under the ticket-seller’s nose. No wonder he had looked at us a bit strangely !

While we waited, outside in the sun, we spotted a lizard running here and there. Whilst we were trying to photograph it, it encountered another lizard of, presumably, the opposite sex. I say this because they appeared to go at it, somewhat briefly, right there on the steps before vanishing into the rockery, probably for a smoke !

We ascended what seemed like a very long way in the cable-car. Our guest house was just visible as a tiny white dot, far below us.

It was nice weather, pleasantly warm, but not the heat we had experienced in Ljubljana. From the top of the Giggleberg hill we had amazing views of the mountains on all sides.

There was a pub, at the top, where we had a drink. The ambience inside and outside was as purely Austrian in every aspect as it could possibly be. In fact, everything was VERY Austrian in Partschins. Everything was clean, everything was arranged with Germanic orderliness, geraniums hung from the balconies, it was very picturesque and everything worked. Both German and Italian are spoken there, but it is only the car registration numbers and the position on the map that lets you know you are actually in Italy.

After the Vogl experience, we had chosen to buy return tickets and used the cable-car again for the way down. All that remained then was for us to choose one of the two nearest restaurants for dinner. Both were actually in our street, but nearer to the centre of town.

Rather strangely, considering the apparent round-the-clock spraying of the apple trees with insecticide, there was an area set aside for conservation.

At Lucie’s request, we went to the (apparently) slightly less classy of the pair, the Café Restaurant Garberstub (Via Peter Mitterhofer, 7, 39020 Parcines BZ, Italy) which was very Austrian.

Lucie chose a triple combination of Tyrolean dumplings, which she assured me was a good choice.

It was “asparagus season” so I chose a rump steak with a good portion of fresh asparagus

washed down by a local Forst beer. We had driven through Forst on our way up to Partschins.

For dessert, Lucie had ice-cream with expresso (what big eyes you have !)

and I chose the local version of apple strudel which was more “cakey” than a pastry, but good nonetheless.

It was a hearty meal and very delicious.

We went home, admiring on the way a very fragrant creeper on a fence and, I suppose it goes without saying, that I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.