A grand day out

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - Lago di CapotostoYesterday we went for a picnic. I loaded up the sandwiches, Spanish omelette, water and squirrelled the nibbles and ground blankets away in military fashion, so that by 10am the Capo was fit to burst and ready to roll. We’d decided on a nice lakeside lunch at Lago di Campotosto with a side order detour to the top of the Campo Imperatore and a look at the observatory and cableway as well. The return would include a little light shopping excursion for Jan at Castelli and hopefully home in time to watch the sunset. All very nice.

As always the Capo performed flawlessly despite the humid 36c as we left. The miles rolled on and the GPS rhythmically counted up the altitude as we headed up the Gran Sasso. Here it was a far more civilised 24c with a nice breeze, smashing! On the way, Jan had plenty of opportunity to practice the royal wave as a steady precession of like-minded bikers passed the other way, no doubt heading for lunch at Santo Stefano or a fountain side coffee in Castel del Monte.Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - Gran Sasso observatory

We topped out at 2,150m as we parked up at the end of the line – the car park at the Observatory. Built in 1951 it now runs the CINEOS program (Campo Imperatore Near Earth Object Survey), started in 2001. Standing next to the observatory is one of the oldest ski hotels in Italy. Built in 1921, it was used to imprison Mussolini  and in 1943 saw him rescued by German commandos without firing a single shot.

We then headed the last 30  miles or so to Lago di Campotosto, a man made lake built in the 1930’s. It sits at about 1,300m above sea level and is used for hydro electric power generation. The road that runs around it is about 23 miles long, but you can cut that significantly if you use Ponte delle Stecche – The Bridge of Sticks. The road to the North is fine, but to the South, water frequently drains across the road carrying silt and sand with it. I could see clear evidence of bikers pushing their luck in bends and ending up with intimate knowledge of the unforgiving nature of crash barriers, trees and very big rocks!

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - panoramic of Lago di Campotosto

We finally found a nice little spot that suited us just dandy. Amid the periodic calling of frogs or toads down at the waterside and a cool breeze, we nibbled and munched our way through a king’s dinner. After a couple of hours rest we set off back down the way we’d come until we intercepted the SS80. Here we turned towards Teramo and hopefully a fuel station! We eventually stopped off at Montorio a Vomano for a refuel – bike and us as the temperature was back up to the mid 30’s again. Next, we swung South East back into the mountains and Castelli, home of ceramics.

While Jan scoured through the acres of shop shelving, looking for that just-right little something for the house, I caught up with events back at the training school in the UK, then sat and sipped water as the sun dropped behind the mountain and the forest took on a whole new darker and foreboding mood. Time to move on. Finally, with a big smile and a small package beautifully finished with a gold ribbon tucked safely in the top-box, Jan hopped on board and we set off home.

At about 7.30pm we rolled into the barn, cut the motor and sat for a moment exhausted as we contemplated emptying the bike, getting changed, washing all the stuff and putting it away ……. but that’s after the sea of expectant little faces, feathery and furry get fed!

All together we covered about 170 miles between 350m and 2,130m above sea level and with wholesome home produce, a frugal Caponord, Jan’s present and a couple of pit-stop coffee’s, we did the lot for less than €60! Bargain.

Who could forget ‘Little Tibet’

Over the past few weeks the old Capo has had its ECU (brain!) pummelled, all in the name of research. The release of  the freeware program – TuneECU, saw a flurry of activity as some of us tested its functionality against the long-serving TuneBoy package.  I can say without conviction, it works, it’s stable …. in fact it’s now my programming tool of choice for the Capo.

So on a lovely sunny and warm Friday, while Jan was away in Rome, I decided it was about time the Capo got a run to make sure everything was ok and it wasn’t short of a few marbles after all the brain surgery. I wasn’t sure how low the snow line was  on the Gran Sasso, but I guessed it was worth a look.

Duly suited’n booted I headed out toward Farindola, then detoured through Macchie and Vicenne on some very narrow and deserted mountain tracks. The heavy scent of damp woodland giving way to a wonderful aroma of burning logs as I skimmed past lonley building not yet abandoned to the mountain. Back at the main road I turned west, climbing through Rigopano and the eerily atmospheric woodlands, finally popping out at the top with a view of Campo Imperatore (Little Tibet) that never ceases to amaze. When I left home it had been a balmy 19ºC, now it was down to 3ºC …. the ‘Halvarssons’ suit kept me toasty and it was a good excuse to test the heated grips!

The roads coming up are sadly in a terrible state and made all the worse with lots of leaf mulch and a fair sprinkling of rocks and bits of tree. They are however thankfully quiet … I only saw one other vehicle on the way up, so you can take advantage of the whole road to pick the best bits. The roads on the West side though are another story, sweeping bends, fantastic surfaces and excellent visibility.

I stopped for a while, just enjoying the tranquillity before heading down to Castel del Monte, a quick refuel then onward to Villa Santa Lucia Degli Abruzzi, Offena, Brittoli and towards home before dark. If I said I saw half a dozen vehicles the whole way, I’d be exaggerating! In the end I’d really tried hard to stick to bobbling along in ‘tourist’ mode ….. I couldn’t resist it any longer ….. I just had to go back up the road, turn around and give those bends a damn good spanking! The Capo runs beautifully, pulling like a train and happily using the extra 1,000 RPM before the rev limiter kicks in. Only thing to sort out is a slightly nervous tickover,  a smidgin more fuel added on the ‘Idle trim’ should sort that out. Happy days!

Back in the barn, the Capo is contentedly ticking away to itself as it cools down, while I tweak the map in the ECU one last time. Then it’s lights out, night-night old girl ….. till tomorrow.