Day 5 - Eichendorf (Bavaria) to Bregenz (Austria)

Through Bavaria and the Tyrol - 364 miles

Yesterday, Bavaria was groomed and beautiful -- today, Tyrol is just extravagantly groomed and beautiful, given the decorated poles and the exquisitely painted houses (yes, the window frames are individually painted all around). It makes you think the whole area is frozen in time, in this mythical age where everybody is strong, good-looking and self-sufficient, a mixture of Bedford (and its wives), Lake Wobegon (and its above-average children) and Pleasantville (albeit in colour).

I am looking for a road to Austria *through* the mountains, but while climbing the Bavarian Alps I get completely lost in what is apparently an Austrian cul-de-sac that only has a road to Germany. They could have at least put a gas station to take advantage of Austria's cheap gas prices, but no .

Since I climbed all the way up to this area, I might as well get a cool photo of the bike by the river. I should have known better. I take the bike down to the river and take lots of photographs. But when I get back on the bike, I realize I'm in deep doo-doo . Under the thin layer of rocks there is just sand. And I'm on a 620-lb bike with slick tyres. Oh boy. At first I can't even get the bike moving. But I manage nonetheless, with a little bit of digging, puffing and lifting. Unfortunately, there is a 15% slope to get back to the road. I unload all the gear I can detach from the bike and I start the arduous task of getting out of this mess. It's not pretty. I manage to move a foot and get stuck again. Since I'm in the middle of nowhere, there is nobody to help.

The lifting and digging strategy doesn't work too well because the path way isn't very wide and I almost go tumbling down the river a couple of times. Fortunately I manage to keep the bike straight up in spite of its weight.

After about 30 minutes of panting, pushing, lifting and moving rocks, I realize I'm not going to get out of this mess without some decisive action. I'm going to have to get some speed on flat ground and "fly over" the rocks on the slope using my kinetic energy. There just will never be enough traction for the bike to climb its way up from a stationary position. I slowly walk the bike back far away, find the flattest spot and proceed to walk the path I'll be taking. I move pebbles around in order to create a solid, flat path. But I know I'm going to have to go over 20 mph to get enough kinetic energy. I also know that if the bike goes sideways that there is no braking and no lifting that is going to prevent it from tumbling down. I have to admit that I'm sweating profusely and I am swearing I will never do something so stupid ever again.

Well long story short I'm a lucky bastard because in spite of my lack of skills and poor judgement I manage to give the bike enough speed to roll over the pebbles, I manage to keep it straight enough to avoid the river and manage to keep enough traction up the hill to make it to the paved area . The really dumb thing is that I managed to get my R1100R stuck in similar circumstances in Nova Scotia barely a year earlier. Now I understand why people buy these GSs with knobby tyres.

The good thing about this episode is that I learned the limits of the bike the hard way and I was ever more cautious when getting off the pavement, for example in Corsica the week after. On a bike without a reverse, and too heavy to push backwards, making a three-point turn requires a careful analysis of the topography, because you don't want to get stuck on a bike with the fingers on the brake on a downward slope facing a ravine. Maybe that's where having a passenger comes handy.

I camp next to the Lake of Constance. I bump into very nice motorcyclists from Northern Germany. We carried our conversation in French, English, German and Romanian, switching from one language to the other between sentences, translating them to one other in real-time (say, if I said something in French, one would translate in Romanian to the others, who would reply in German, which I would translate into English to see if I understood well).