Provence is full of protected, natural areas.
Now the route is famous for its narrow, picturesque roads, which wind through pretty towns that must look much the same as they did in 1815. Some villages maintain a charming medieval character. Each village seems to have several cheese factories, a fabulous bakery, and fascinating stone buildings that love to be photographed. Napoleon would have noticed that many of these tiny villages cling to amazingly steep mountain slopes. A biker notices that the pavement quality is high and the canyons and passes offer spectacular, scenic motorcycling.
The highest paved pass in all of Europe, Col de Bonette, twists upwards from these stone villages, past deciduous forests, and beyond the timberline. The highway is above 9,000 feet in some places. Other bikers I met told me the pavement is kept in such good shape because the Tour de France uses it. I like taking this ride on the Harley.
Everything closes down during the middle of the day, so get gas early or late and plan to
The high, cold mountain passes in this part of France made me very happy to have the heated grips on the Ultra. I also loved the factory pipes. We burned through at least 2,000 kilometers of steep, downhill engine braking and not one backfire. The engine has a strong, rich note that says: this a big Harley, but it's not so loud as to be annoying on a long trip.
Harley had promised to provide us with a 2010 Ultra for this trip, but one was not available immediately on our arrival. They outfitted us with an earlier model for a few days: one with a 96ci engine. Looking back, I wonder if this was some kind of plan to make us appreciate the added torque and feel of the Ultra Limited's 103 engine. If so, it worked. We loved the eager, competent pull of the big engine as our fully loaded Ultra took us everywhere we asked it to go.
Above the tree line, only shrubs, grasses and moss grow.
The Ultra got a new frame in 2009. This new frame allows the bike to hold a line in a fast sweeper or tight turn like it's on a rail. No noodling corrections as the bike completes a turn. My only quibble with this bike is that I really needed a backrest. I don't look for Harley to make this standard equipment any time soon. The bike drew a crowd whenever we parked it. With Harley selling more and more bikes in Europe, I wonder how long it will be before these bikes are commonplace?
Pulling away from a small crowd in the ancient town of Barcelonnette, Sharon looked down at the TomTom. The GPS indicated The Grand Canyon was on our route. Never having heard of this geological feature outside of southwestern United States, we didn't know what to expect. After spending three days exploring the canyon, we've added to our list of Must Visit places in Europe. Don't make the mistake of comparing this canyon to our grand canyon. This place is much more compact, yet it's wild and beautiful. It's over 2,000 feet deep and 13 miles long. It looks like the amazingly steep canyon walls were cut from solid rock by the green waters of the Verdon River. This place is so untamed, that it was believed to be impenetrable and not even explored until the 20th century.
We stop to admire the view on the way to the Col de Bonette.
Thanks to some brilliant French road engineers, you can take a motorcycle right down to the canyon floor and around the north and south rims. Like many of the European Alp roads, the scenery is compelling; a biker must choose between looking at the intense beauty of the land or paying attention to the road. Many people claim that it's possible to see the entire canyon in a day, but we took three just to soak in the scenery as well as enjoy the road.
Leaving the Grand Canyon, we started the trip down to the sea. In this part of Provence, it's called the Cote d Azur. We stopped to explore more beautiful roads and villages. As we approached the sea, the lazy, untroubled rural roads gave way to bustling narrow arteries taking traffic to and from the postcard-perfect blue Mediterranean Sea.
The northern part of Provence charms a biker with pretty, working farms, old tile-roofed h
When you start to get close to the Grand Canyon Verdon, the curves start to tighten up.