We belong to Moto Guzzi Classics, a vintage Guzzi club centered around Vicenza, Italy. Each year we try to participate in the club's major tour. For 2006, this was a counter-clockwise tour of the island of Sardegna (Sardinia) off the west coast of Italy.
Each year I am fortunate to be provided with a Falcone from my friend Mario Silvestri. Mario has two and he invariably gives me the better one. He has owned this particular unit about six years and has put perhaps 500km on the clock. I have used it in Corsica, Calabria, Campania and now Sardinia. About 2000km for each trip. This year, Regina was able to join in. She's a bit leery about riding someone else's prized vintage machine. She hasn't yet tried the thrill of backwards braking and upside-down shifting. We were provided with a more modern V35/II from another club member, Alberto Carlotto. It was a perfect size for her and performed well against the more vintage Falcone and Astore.
We had 22 bikes in all on this tour. Most were either Sport or Turismo Falcone from the Vicenza region. However, we had one older GTV and two Falcone from Ostra in east-central Italy, one Astore from Germany, two Falcone from Switzerland and one Sport from England.
We flew from San Francisco on Wednesday, May 24 to arrive in Verona on Thursday at mid-day. Directly from the airport, I went to Mario's house to fetch my Falcone Sport. When we got to the home of Yvan and Donna Pfyffer in Schio, Regina's V35 was waiting there. After a short rest, we went off together for a brief ride of 20km to get our feet wet on the bikes and to find an ATM so we could start paying for this venture. Regina instantly loved her bike as it brought back memories of her first bike, a V50 Monza.
Friday, May 26
The majority of our group meets in Vicenza at the business of GianLorenzo Bono. Luggage is all loaded into his big van and we're off across Italy. We are a bit concerned about this initial ride segment. We fly from the US and our brain clocks are all askew. We sleep very little on Thursday night. Now we have to drive 325km across Italy to the ferry port at Livorno. I doubt we will sleep much on the 8 hour ferry and then we have to drive all day on Saturday on Sardinia. This is fatigue stress. Our ride across Italy goes flawlessly. However, Regina's V35 is now puking a relative lake of oil at each stop. Hard to determine if it is gear oil or engine oil. Over the next few days we determine that it is most probably gear oil puking from the ridiculous original vent on the top of the transmission. However, every time I check the level it remains full????? I suspect that someone leaned the bike to its sidestand and filled the gearbox to the level plug. Sitting square upright, it is now overfilled and will puke out the vent. I'm arranging to send a vent modification kit to Alberto so this can be corrected for the future.
Approaching Livorno, our departure point, we need to await a local rider to give us guidance to our evening meeting place. We stop along the freeway for a mobile phone call to arrange our meeting. Good thing we wear red suits!
Upon arrival to Livorno, we are hosted to dinner by the Fiat Topolino club. Eight additional members from eastern Italy arrive here separately to join us at the dinner. One arrives with a flat tire so there is a bit of a delay. Fantastic mixed seafood salad and pasta entree. Vast quantities of vino. One of the club members arrives with a vintage Bugatti on a trailer and fires it up for our amusement. What a wonderful song!
After dinner its off to the overnight ferry. Its a long delay on the staging queue for boarding, but loading is quite efficient. Rather than sleep rough on the floor or in the lounge, we have arrange for bunk rooms. We are assigned four to a room. About the size of your closet. No window. I can lie in my bunk and reach all three of the other bunks with one arm without moving my body. We have neglected to open the ceiling vent before getting to bed. We are four sealed into this little can. The temperature gradually rises as we take turns breathing in and out. Our sweaty riding gear is strewn about the floor. This becomes the most “sardine” like experience of my life. No sleep at all and now we have to ride all day on Sardinia. Fortunately, the crossing is quite calm.
Saturday, May 27
We arrive the Emerald Coast of northeast Sardinia. Glorious sunshine and an efficient disembarking.
First thing, get all gassed up. Everyone is in an organized line and our treasurer pays the bill.
We start off around the north coast to Palau. We have pre-arranged a day boat tour around the islands on the north shore. In all honesty, the most crystal clear seawater I have ever seen in my life.
The boat tour includes another wonderful seafood pasta luncheon, more wine, and our first taste of MIRTO, the wonderful after dinner drink served throughout Sardinia. We arrive in Castelsardo for our first hotel stay. The parking garage is an unused downstairs dining room. We have to negotiate up over and down several stairsteps covered with a rough wood ramp to get in. Regina handles it with ease.
Sunday, May 28
During our morning departure, we have a pretty close call with tragedy. Gordon and I are about mid-way in the line of machines with him leading me. There is a low stone wall on the right side of the road. Fifty meters before Gordon's arrival, a dog runs across the road right in front of him. Near miss and Gordon turns his head to the left to watch the dog complete his traverse across the road. While his head is looking left, a SECOND dog comes from behind the wall aimed right at Gordon's front wheel. Just inches away, this dog does an instant U-turn and heads back. Gordon never saw it but I had a full panoramic view!
One of our members is Angelo Penna of Pramaggiore. He runs a medium sized winery and pig farm. Angelo is always so generous to provide us with copious quantity of wine and fresh prosciutto for our daily picnic stops.
On this HOT day, we visit Neptune's Grotto. This requires walking down 700 steps in moto boots. The grotto at water level is quite cool and refreshing with the salt spray. But, alas, we now have to walk back UP those steps.
Upon arriving at our hotel in Bosa, Roberto Rossi reports a very odd, loud noise from his valve train. Very obvious. No instant diagnosis. The bike seems to be running fine, just making weird noises. After a cooling drink, we begin the teardown. Valve covers and rockers are out. Timing cover and cam are off. Everything looks normal. I push on one of the pushrods, and BOTH ends fall into the pushrod tube. Huh? The pushrods are longer than the tube. How can BOTH ends fall inward. Flashlight inspection shows the reason. This bike ran like this for the last 15km. Always amazed by the durability of the Falcone.
So, Roberto's bike is relegated to the van. A few phone calls and a pair of fresh pushrods will be delivered to our next overnight stop.
Monday May 29
Traveling south along the west coast of Sardinia, I am struck by the similarity of the scenery. I comment to the Italians that what I see is remarkably identical to the California coast. I comment that it seems my house is just 60km over those hills.
Regina's V35 has been having some intermittent ignition problems in the heat. Still has original points and that is always an issue on the smallblock Guzzi. It seems the condensers or the coils are overheating. Roberto wants to reset the ignition, but the bike is very hot. No problem. Just stop by a fountain and dowse the bike with a flood of water to cool it down. One hour later and this bike is again ticking like it should. Thanks Roberto.
We decide to take the 'old' coastal road to reach our next hotel in the coastal sand dunes. This is an incredibly rough dirt road. Really a rough jeep track for about 10km. The big surprise comes as we approach the end. We have to cross two fords! Running water perhaps 15” deep and 20 meters across. Algae slick stones below. Regina and I are on borrowed bikes and the tension level goes way up! Although a few stall in the water, Regina and I get through unscathed! During the evening, we are joined by our good friends Paul & Claire from England. Although he doesn't ride vintage Guzzi, Paul has been a friend of this club for many years. They have come by overnight ferry from France. But the ferry stops at northern Corsica. Paul and Claire have done two up on a KTM through all of Corsica and Sardinia in the same day to reach us!
Tuesday, May 30
Today is a loop tour and back to the same hotel We visit to the famous Nuraghe structures in Barumini. These stone nuraghe are protective, castle-like structures from the neolithic period. Sardinia is full of these ruins, but the ones are Barumini are among the best. There was lots of tribal warfare 4,000 years ago. These structures allowed for safe retreat during raids.
Returning from Barumini, we stop at a moderate sized town for an espresso fix. As we first entered the town, I had seen an ATM along the roadside. While everyone else relaxed for a drink, I went back on my own to get some cash. But, the town entry roadway was one-way. I have to make a few jogs to get around to the far end of this road so I can enter once again. After several jogs, I am totally disoriented. It takes a bit of circling, but I eventually did find the ATM and rejoined my companions at the cafe.
When we return to the hotel, Bono's Falcone has some serious grabbing issue with the front brake. Perhaps a broken spring. We strip off the front wheel for inspection, but the bike won't sit by itself on the center stand. I knew there was a reason that they invited me along!
Wednesday May 31
We've had a two night stay at this coastal strand hotel. Our van has remained parked for this time, so our picnic supplies have been stored in the hotel's refrigeration. Disaster! We're organizing for departure and the hotel can't find Penna's picnic prosciutto! This is a potential setback far worse than any mechanical failure. Eventually, after a long search, the prosciutto is discovered in a separate refrigerator unit. Whew, that was close!
Thursday, June 1
Today was visually stunning, but a nasty ride. It is fully overcast and delivering occasional rain. We choose this day to cross a 1000m pass. It is quite frigid up there and we are really under dressed. Feels soooo good as we descend the other side. We pull off the highway for a back road and I can't stop at the stop sign. My clutch cable has broken. Fortunately, nobody else stops at the stop sign anyway (it is Italy remember), so no crash ensues.
Everyone picks on me. I have used Mario's second Falcone on four major trips n Europe. Now they tell me that Mario has promised that if i can complete the fourth trip without damage to the moto then he will donate it to me. So goes fortune. Easy come, easy go.
We keep having continual problems starting our support van. The starter refuses to crank. Every time we turn it off, we have to push start. We find a mechanic familiar with this van. He has no starter for it, but he knows exactly what to do. He lays on the ground under the van and tells our driver to turn the key into the start position. Hideous great hammer, WHACK on the starter and it fires to life. So, for every future stop, we each take turns with the hammer start routine.
Friday, June 2
Today is another off and on weather day. Our route takes us directly through a huge, active marble quarry. Everything in Italy is made of stone. I wished we could have stopped here for some view of the quarry action, but it is a rotten weather day.
This is our final evening together at a hotel. Tomorrow night we will be on the ferry and then home on Sunday night. So, tonight before dinner are the traditional speeches, announcements of gratitude, roasting of behavioral errors, etc. When it comes my turn, I thank Mario once again for the wonderful Falcone and Alberto for the V35. I am especially grateful to Alberto. Regina would not have been too enthused about riding on the back of a vintage bike for the full tour. Or worse, riding in the van. Many motorcyclists I know have difficulty with spousal support of this passion. Regina not only supports me but she contends on her own as a rider. Wives seldom come on these club tours. There is little relaxation time and most aren't interested in the long, grinding rides. We made a special effort to lure them this year. There were six wives on this tour, Regina being the only woman pilot. “BRAVA Regina” was the acclaim by all. Alberto's gift of a suitable motorcycle was a great benefit for us. During my speech of gratitude I was even able to pass off a little joke in Italian. I commented about this V35 leaving a little puddle of oil at each stop. But then, each morning when I checked it was always nearly full. A miracle motorcycle. I likened it to the biblical story of Jesus with the loaves and fishes.
After the speeches, we're off to dinner across the street. Are we in for a surprise. Typically an Italian meal starts with an antipasto appetizer or two. Our waitress placed a platter of some squid between each four people at the table. Take a little sample. Then the platter changes to some mussels. Take a little sample. ... We ate FOURTEEN varieties of seafood appetizers and dinner hasn't started yet. Now we have to fit in three different pasta varieties and then an entire fish to each person. Oh, and you still have to leave some room for the after-dinner MIRTO. You may choose clear grappa, yellow lemoncello, or purple mirto. Maybe one of each??
We rolled across the street back to the hotel.
Saturday, June 3
We have saved the best meal for the last (remember, it has only been 15 hours since yesterday's feast). We ride away from the coast to visit a small agriturismo farm in the hills. These farms are licensed to cook and serve their local, home-grown foods in family style dining. The food is absolutely spectacular and authentically local. Various anti-pasti, three variations of pasta and gnocchi, roasted suckling piglets, cheese tort dessert, too much wine, and of course, more MIRTO. We started eating at 12:30 and didn't get up from the table until 4:00.
After this grand luncheon, there is a choice to be made. We really have nothing to do until the ferry at 9:00 pm. A few wish to go on a local loop ride to overlook a scenic valley. However, rain is threatening and nobody wants to sit on the ferry all night in wet clothes. Look, Regina has suited up! What a gal! Six of us go off for an hour tour in the nearby hills. We are treated to a spectacular valley vista and then a long, seemingly vertical descent to the valley floor on an old road with very severe switchbacks. It is all I can do to hold the brakes on this Falcone and also keep them from fading. The threatened rain never quite hits. When we return to the agriturismo, the remainder of our group has slept off the feast. Our retelling of the ride makes them jealous. And Regina's willingness to ride off in the threat of mountain rain has put many of them to shame. We now prepare to ride north to meet the evening ferry. Back to the sardine can for the overnight to the mainland.
Sunday, June 4
The crossing was calm and we slept a little this time. The return ride through the mountains around Pistoia was a bit daunting. It is now Sunday morning and every local sport bike is on the road. Man, can these kids ride! After passing Pistoia I have my only near-miss of the tour. I'm about 10th in line now. Peripheral vision picks up a dog at full gallop coming out of a yard at 90 degrees to my travel. The closing vectors make it front wheel for sure. I grab a handful of brake and brace for the impact. Unexpectedly, he reaches the centerline stripe and does an incredibly abrupt u-turn just inches before I strike. I swear I could smell him as I passed by.
The last major piece of our tour is on the boring autostrada. Um, boring until we try to deal with the tolls. When you enter the autostrada, you pull a timed ticket. When you leave, the toll both calculates your fee based on distance. These things are mostly automated with few support staff around. When we enter the autostrada at Bologna, the ticket machine breaks halfway through our group. The lone attendant has great difficulty solving this. He keeps opening and closing the machine with numerous phone calls to headquarters in between. It takes more than thirty minutes just to get on the stupid highway! Okay, now we get to our departure end. You guessed it. Halfway through the group, the money taking machine breaks. Another lone attendant, another series of phone calls and machine tampering. Another 45 minutes wasted just trying to pay to get off the road.
We return again to Bono's business, our original departure point. Families are waiting there to gather luggage. Tearful goodbyes. Long hugs and kisses to all. What a joy this club has become for us. Mario and I head off on our own for the last 40 kilometers back to his house. Sad for me to depart from this Falcone. I have now used it on four major tours totaling perhaps 8,000 kilometers. In all that time, only the clutch cable has failed.
Monday, June 5
We depart from Yvan and Donna's home in Schio and train to Treviso. Regina has close relatives still living nearby here on the ancestral family farm property. We have pre-arranged to stay here for the final night and then take us early in the morning to the Venice airport. The drive is only 30 minutes. But, we fly at 06:30 so we have to rise and leave very early. We try to visit the family on each of our Italy tours. We've been with them perhaps 8 times. This is our first visit with NO translator to accompany us. Our Italian language gets better and better with each tour and we are totally comfortable now with family communication. It was a bit daunting in the earlier years. They all talk at once. They are very loud. And they speak with each other in local dialect.
Tuesday, June 6
Home at last. Jetlag seems to be far worse this time than in previous trips. We awaken each morning at 4:00 am and we're crashing on the sofa at 8:00 pm for the rest of the week. It will take a long time to work off these new kilograms we have inherited.
On Sunday, we take our own blue Falcone on a two-up ride to San Francisco for the day. Already getting in practice for the June, 2007 club tour. This is all pre-scheduled for a week on the Isle of Man at the Centennial TT races and another week around Ireland. Hotels and ferry crossings have already been paid! Air tickets in hand.
Patrick & Regina Hayes