I started documenting our travels about 10 years ago, when we first began taking long trips by motorcycle. Our earliest stories were shared with our family and friends to update them on where we were. It was only when I started posting our subsequent ride reports on the Internet that we received a flood of correspondence from people all over the world inviting us to visit them. We are still amazed and humbled at how many generous people there are out there who have offered to share their homes, garages and a hot meal with a couple of scraggly hobos like us!
On this trip, we feel very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to meet some of these people, who have since become good friends. Unfortunately, because I am quite lazy and this blog lags far behind where we currently are, we receive many invitations only after we have already long passed through the area.
Bettina & Stefano caught us on our way back north
Bettina & Stefano sent us an invitation to visit them in Switzerland over a month ago while we were traveling through Italy. Fortunately, we were doubling back north to visit Neda's sister in Milan, so it didn't matter too much that the blog was behind.
My European geography sucks. I was originally going to e-mail them back saying that Switzerland was a bit too far off our path. Good thing I checked Google Maps... Lugano, where they live, is only an hour away from Milan, on the other side of the border. I don't feel too bad though, I'm sure many non-Canadians have no idea which provinces neighbour Nova Scotia.
Then again, I'm sure many Canadian's don't know either... :(
Bettina welcomes us into her home in Switzerland
The only things I knew about Switzerland were Swiss watches, army knives, chocolate, cheese and Martina Hingis (hubba hubba). Oh and Swiss bank accounts. Actually, I seem to know quite a fair bit about Switzerland. I also heard that it was a very rich part of the world. Northern Italy is pretty well-off compared to the rest of the country, but the minute we crossed the border, I saw a Ferrari 355 at a gas station. Less than five minutes later, a brand new California T whizzes pass us. Holywhut! I had no idea these were even on sale yet!
Also mountains all around us! The Swiss must have hired a really good negotiator when they were drawing up the borders because all the Italians got was land as flat as lasagna!
We were enticed to come to Switzerland by the promise of home-cooked meals!
Bettina prepared a great dinner for us that evening. Both her and Stefano used to work in the wine industry, so they brought out some fine vintages to help welcome us to their place. I thought back to all of the pictures that we posted in Italy of the cheap €1 bottles of red wine we were guzzling and my cheeks flushed with embarrassment. Or maybe it was all the good wine I was drinking that night!
The conversation flowed as much as the wine did. Our hosts are both avid motorcycle travelers as well and their last trip to the Isle of Man TT this summer was of great interest to us because we were thinking of doing the same thing as well! We exchanged travel stories and there was a lot of head nodding and amens going around the table. We were birds of the same feather, flocking together.
It felt really good to be able to speak English again, like I could feel myself slipping back into comfortable clothes - first time in Europe, really. Poor Bettina and Stefano, I think I talked their ears off. I'm not even sure what I was talking about towards the end of the night, English words were just spilling out of my mouth like a dam bursting.
Neda makes a nice pumpkin soup for us the next day!
Bettina and Stefano are treating us so well! We asked them to take us for a little ride around the area. Stefano started pulling out the maps of the Alps which is their default route, but we didn't really feel like going for too long of a ride so we asked them take us around the lake for the afternoon. We saw a little bit of it when we came in and it looked quite pretty.
Bettina and Stefano both ride GSes as well!
Little jaunt around Lago Maggiore
Don't have to ride too far to get some great scenery
Neda is happy because gas is so much cheaper here than in Italy!
Being so close to the border, Lugano experiences a lot of road congestion from the traffic coming and going from both countries. Swiss residents head into Italy for cheap shopping, and Italian workers commute in to Switzerland daily because that's where all the jobs are, and the gas is cheaper here.
Just like in Latin America, we were instructed to ditch our panniers so we can lanesplit if the traffic got bad. Sweet!
Both Bettina and Stefano took turns leading us around the area
Follow da leada, leada, leada, follow da leada
Making our way around Lago Maggiore
Ticino is the southern-most canton in Switzerland and is where Lugano is located. I keep calling it Tocino, but either Bettina or Stefano don't notice or they're just being polite. But Neda corrects me later on: Tocino means "bacon" in Spanish. OMG, so embarrassing... "You know, I really like Bacon. It's very beautiful. So, how cold does Bacon get in the wintertime?"
Hanging out at Laveno, waiting for the ferry
We crossed the border fairly early in the ride and it seemed to me like were actually doing more riding in Italy than Switzerland. "Hey, come on up to Switzerland so we can show you around the neighbouring country where you just came from!" ;)
We actually got engaged in Switzerland - at Lake Lucerne back in 2002.
This picture kind of reminded me of that.
Waiting for the ferry
Honk if you love GeeSes!
Bettina shops at the same place I do for motorcycle gear...
Bikes all ready for a quick ride across the lake
Turned out to be a great day for a ride!
Awww... we *LOVE* this picture of us! Thanks Bettina & Stefano!
Our Swiss Motorcycle Gang! Don't mess with us or we'll put holes in your cheese and slash your interest rates!
I used to lead a lot of group rides in the past, and I forgot what it felt like to just follow someone, trusting that they knew where they were going and to just sit back and enjoy the scenery and the curves ahead of my front wheel. And what scenery it was: beautiful lakeside-towns, mountains in the background, clear skies and the sun blessing our excursion on these twisty Swiss (Swissty?) roads.
Bettina takes us away from the lake to explore the hills a little bit
In this picture, I know we're still in Italy because Conad...
Conad is one of Italy's most popular convenience store/grocery chains. Because this trip is more about daily life in the places that we're visiting, we equate Conad with Italy, just like Mexico = Pemex, OXXO and Telcel. Also Conad sounds like Gonad.
I didn't come up with that, it was actually Neda who pointed it out. Everytime we'd pass a Conad, I'd wait for the intercom to come online so I could hear my wife giggle into my ear, "Gonad...! heh heh heh!" and then the intercom would turn off. Every single time.
My childish sense of humour is finally rubbing off on her.
Heading back to Switzerland after an awesome ride!
It was such a great afternoon of riding and spending time with our new friends, and also getting to see a bit of the area around Ticino. We were making our way back, and on one of the hills I was accelerating and shifted up into fourth gear. I gave it some gas and... nothing. The engine revved loudly, but the bike didn't accelerate. I kept the revs up and slowly the motorcycle sped up to what the throttle was asking of it.
That's not supposed to happen...
I downshifted back into third. Acceleration seemed okay when the revs were up. Then I upshifted to fourth again and gave it some gas. Revs went up and again, that delay in acceleration as if my throttle was connected to a vehicle in front of me towing my motorcycle with a long elastic band.