The Beer run...loooong !!


Mapping the next ride...
Staff member
Some quick-snack joint/ servo along the Autobahn, pointing towards the mountains of Southern Germany….The little 50cc Honda (ST50/ Dax) was GLOWING…and so was I.

Glowing with fear of those overtaking trucks that is, spending most of my day in the emergency/ repair lane at a top-speed of 70kmh…. when lucky… and things were pointing downhill with the wind in my back.
Even cars gave the little Honda major wobbles as they zipped past at 3-times my speed and more…the heavy backpack was digging into my shoulders and I had only 250km down out of my 450km target for the day. Day 2 at that…
Getting into the hills and mountains also meant that the going would be even slower.
About another 5 hrs. at least…but I’d be off the ‘bahn’ soon and onto country roads.

The main entertainment was the constant dodging of chunky rubber-bits, broken glass and the occasional car-battery littering the emergency lane, great slalom-fun on one of those all-too-few downhill runs, head-down, arse-up with the backpack-hump weaving violently up top, trying to tear me off the tiny bike.

The meager high school-student finances had stretched to a second hand thermos filled with petrol, strapped to the bottom triple clamp, as an “emergency ration”, to make it off the ‘bahn’ and into the next tiny village, should I run dry.
Somehow the rubber O-ring that I bought as “ guaranteed-petrol-proof “at an auto-store turned out not so resistant, perhaps the plastic-cap of the thermos was slowly melting away…there was a constant whiff of petrol-fumes from the front-end.

The long summer-days of 1971.... and the little Honda gave me the first decent smell of freedom.

Another pull-over and check by the “track-marshals” (cops), pulling me over for going too slow…the usual “ whadda ya doing on the bahn ?” answered by the show of rego-papers, proving the little Honda as “top-speed 65kmh” and therefore bahn-legal, if only by 5kmh.

A Dutch and Danish truck, racing the clock and each other on a downhill stretch had given me a mighty draft, but also major turbulences, creating a near-50meter ‘skid-and-bounce’ along the Armco…the boys were in a hurry to pick-up produce in Italy and Spain. One of the few times the speedo-needle slipped off the dial…

Mountains in the distance grew closer; their forever-snow-clad-tops gleaming like beacons. The smells of earth and freshly slashed paddocks…the origin of “making hay while the sun shines”…the picturesque little villages with their onion-domed churches…the ‘fragrance’ of cow-shit spread on the fields…the heavy backpack cramping neck and shoulders into a solid brick.
One of the 3 press-studs holding the bubble-visor had come loose, slopping around in its fixing-hole of the el-cheapo Nolan open-face “icecream-bucket”, adding to the noise of the tiny 4-stroke screaming its guts out…

Time for another break, fuel-up and a quick call home which was overdue by a few hours…
Mum and Dad hadn’t been too happy about my trip south, but both of them working and with 6-weeks of school holidays on the cards, they’d booked me into a 3-week "mountain-camp" in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the 1936 Olympic town at the foot of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, about 900km from home.

The town sits in a virtual bowl, surrounded by peaks... 4 major, but narrow valleys for access, winding roads paralleled by creeks and rivers.
Grown naturally, its vibrant tourist-trade is fairly hidden, the old Bavarian houses of whitewashed stonewalls topped by dark timbers and deeply overhanging roofs, timber-verandahs of massive, carved timber beams overflowing with avalanches of geraniums. Pretty!

The hostel was up some narrow side-valley, a noisy, white-foaming small river rushing past the front door. Built against the steep hillside, it’s a triple-story out front, single-story at the back. A short walk past the local guesthouse/ pub/ local watering hole to one of the famous bakeries and further into town…or via another narrow footpath to the base-station of the chair lift.

Catching up with the rest of the group that’d come via coach that afternoon called for a party at the beer-garden of the pub…stein-lifting and Bavarian-style finger-pulling across tables to establish the ranking order of this year’s group.

Under-aged drinking? Where? Who? The publican didn’t give a hoot, nor anyone else…
Glorious summer days blurred into each other, climbing, hiking, swimming, watching the local Ice hockey-team at training…an old 5-chamber (3 of them leaking) air-mattress providing great fun while drifting 10km downstream in the icy local river, bouncing between boulders…the walk home finally getting rid of the blue skin colour,.. the freshly acquired battle scars and bruises took somewhat longer.

Hikes along the bare ridges above the tree-line, watching dairy cows graze their summer-paddocks, turning into one of the numerous hay-sheds for some drinks, those places mostly another source of income for the local farmer who’d added a wobbly timber deck and some benches for the tourists to spent a few dollars in drinks and hot soups.
Fantastic views across fog-filled valleys, only the mountain peaks sticking out above the cotton-wool blanket, bathed in bright sunlight from deep-blue skies.

Doing kitchen-duty one night (and scamming some of the next-days-deserts) I was last at the beer garden, the publican taking me aside…

“Listen…seen you on that little bike a few times…my nephew broke his arm this morning and I’m waiting for the early beer-delivery ….would you take some crates of beer, drinks and other stuff up the mountain tomorrow morning?
You know the place…past that knoll from the chair-lift top-station, round trip takes about an hour and a half…”

“huh?? Wooot…carry the stuff up there?”

“Naw, got that old NSU in the lean-to next to the chook-shed, we’ll pack her up and off you go….drinks are on me and if the tucker’s a bit skinny for you at the hostel, my wife’ll look after you, just let her know….make it 5.30 then , orrite?

A lstein of the foamy stuff and a skinny white arm holding a plate with a giant-sized hotdog sealed the deal !! Easy choice for a 16 year old…

Awake at 4am, sobered up and fidgety, I let last night pass by once more, slowly realizing that there’s no road from this side of the mountain, only walking tracks.
Sure, I know them well, but there’s no way you could get a bike up those tracks, ….and decidedly NOT with a load of beer, lemonade (all in glass-bottles and timber-crates) and what-ever-else.

There’s a wet puddle of petrol near the chook-pen when I show up 20 mins early.
A nasty looking, ancient NSU250 stands closeby, tank cap still open after the hand-filling out of an old, former heating-oil tank.
Filthy, rusty…horribly banged up…. the rear rubber-Denfeld seat is missing and replaced with homemade carry-frames held by struts, chains and rope.
2 crates of beer are already strapped in place…as, magically, a plate of bacon and eggs with fresh bread rolls appears, passed across the counter by the same, skinny white arm as the hotdog the night before.
As I sweep the crumbs into a heap for a last mouthful, the publican comes in, huffing and sweating, with a friendly: “Mornin’, she’s ready for you “

We walk around the bike…no number plate. “Don’t need one where you’re going…”
Ahhh, shit ! I knew it…
He wants me to go up the ….Hell NOOO !!!
2 crates of beer, 2 crates of lemonade, all of it in liter-bottles stacked and strapped to the bike with leather belts, and a loose backpack jammed with tins and packets of all sorts, sitting on a rickety table next to the bike.
I won’t make it out the garden-gate !!?

“They know you’re coming up, if you’re not there by 6.30, they’ll come down the trail looking for you…”
I don’t fuggen believe it, this will end in tears 50 meters into the game!

I get onto that single, heart-shaped rubber-seat and turn the plastic-blobbed key in that old, cobwebbed bakelite-headlight.
Jesus, did she just blink at me? There was SOMETHING !!
She roars into life on the 2.kick, the air instantly filled with a thick, chewy blue haze.

The first of the 4 gears is a bit crunchy, then we’re off….veeeeery slowly wobbling towards the gate, both feet just above the ground, skimming along…
She handles like, like…nothing I’ve ever ridden in my short motorcycling life!!
Instead of going right towards town, it’s left up the narrow road, across that roaring, foaming river, onto dirt. Off the choke and into 2nd…we’re rolling now.
The first tentative pull on the brakes, the rear pushrod style operated drum gets snagged on one of the rack-welds…and doesn’t wanna let go completely.

Bewdy, that’ll make for some excitement later on….
I ram my heel underneath and it comes loose.
There’s the sign to the walking track, pointing up the hill on the left.
This is the easy part, the community having decided to make it a bit easier on the tourists and put some resources into a 3ft wide formed path, covered with compacted gravel.
The 2-stroke twin pulls nicely, what a bike compared to my tiny 50, yeeha !!
Light-headed, I wind it on and we start climbing.
Buildings disappear below, blue skies are coming closer, scattered trees give some depth to the picture. As the whole of Garmisch-Partenkirchen becomes visible, the firm gravel vanishes, the path shrinks to 2ft of firm clay.
Those drainage-channels formed by thin timber poles laid diagonally across the track are a real pain, the glass bottles clink away frantically on the back, each time the clutch gets a hammering, dragging on the repeated uphill starts.
The views are breathtaking…..but the early euphoria ends at the sight of the kink in the track where it narrows again, the mountainside steepens drastically, and the track shrinks narrower once more.

I’m in way over my head, this is NUTS !
If I could turn the bike around, I’d go back right now!!
I KNOW that trying would have the whole applecart crash down the mountain…. and possibly end up in the pub’s beer garden waaaayyy below.
The right-hand bottom crate grazes the steep bank on the right, then we’re in a tiny side valley with a bit more space….and a 6ft wide creek-crossing over wet, smooth fist-sized rocks, and some dark mud up the other side.
No way I can get off the bike and wade through it first to find the best track through…this is a one-shot affair.
Trickles of sweat become rivers running down my arms and chest.

Inching the over laden bike into the creek, feet down, elbows out…the whole affair bounces, slips and slides, bucks and weaves… the glass-bottles clink viciously, a hairs-width from destruction, I’m shitting myself.
Sweat pouring everywhere, fear overcomes caution and the right hand cracks the throttle….the big, ugly front wheel with it’s well-worn stubbly reminder of what started life as a knobby hops wildly before it gets light and jumps through the slippery mud onto firm ground on the other side…too stunned to react I just hang on as the rear follows suit and gently bumps its way through as well.

Another few hundred meters and the ground levels out, there’s a flat patch big enough to stop and get off.
Legs shaking badly inside the soaked jeans I get off, gingerly balancing the old girl which seems to give me another twinkle (that’s bullshit, bikes don’t do that, or…?). I’m drenched with fear and effort, rolling a smoke takes 5 minutes….and endless papers, as they seem to just vanish in those sweaty hands.
Sitting down, it’s time to take stock and make decisions.
Either unload the bike, ride it down, then make several trips to carry the crates back down to the pub, one by one…or…. unload the bike, ride it up to the hut, then do several trips to carry the crates up, one by one…. or…keep going.
It’s just after 6, I’ve got a half-hour until they start looking for me.
I crack one of the lemonade bottles…perhaps a bit less weight on the back will help?

Then I curse myself, again, for getting sucked into it… for a bloody hotdog and a beer. The soggy helmet-liner feels awful, a cold, wet sponge squirting it’s contents over the top of my head….stuff it, we'll give it a shot..
The mental picture of going arse-over-tit down the steep slopes with a beaten-up black NSU playing tag-team with the various crates of glass bottles chasing me ain't pretty.

Another twinkle (eh???) as the key turns, one kick is enough this time, we’re off again. The track climbs gradually and winds it’s way out of the flank onto the front of the mountain, the views are stunning. The whole town is at my feet now, the mountains opposite still draped in dark shadows, the Zugspitze gleaming away, white ice and snow piercing the blue sky.
The first cable-car run is on, testing supports and cables after last night, the tiny red carriages with their aluminium struts shimmering against the dark background of the valley.
Some small wobbles, some skips over small rocks, the going’s not too bad.
10 past 6…the last of the trees drop away as the track takes another bend and steepens badly.
That’s the part I’m dreading. It’s steep, it’s rocky, the track down to a foot’s width…standing there at the bottom, clutch pulled in, the stroker ring-dinging away at idle, both feet on clumps of soft grass bordering the track…

I pedal back a bit for a run-up and time to balance the whole shebang while standing on the pegs.
We’re off !!! The clutch bites and she hangs on the gas as the front wheel gets light, helping to skip over the first rock, backing off for a fraction to make the back roll rather than bounce, the bottles are going spastic in the rear…back on the gas, body way over the front.… fighting for every inch, slipping and bucking our way uphill in a huge cloud of 2-smoke.

The ugly, old girl climbs ...and climbs….and climbs up that narrow brown track into the sky.
She fights and claws, spins and bites, then seems to go for a deeeeep lungful for the second half to the top.

It all ends at a small flat patch already partially occupied by a wooden bench, courtesy of the local tourist board. 6.20
Another look…6.20 . Ten minutes that felt like.....HOURS.

The engine ticks from the heat, I slump on the bench….

Checking the load while finishing the already opened bottle of lemonade I’m stumped to find that not a single bottle has broken!!
Another minute passes, time to get going.
Again she fires into life right away, the track now widening, we’re on the flat stretch along the ridge now. Far away, some figures move slowly towards us…the publicans' brother and his wife have started their ‘search-and-rescue’…
Standing on the pegs, my left hand comes up for a wave…theirs too, signal received. Once more the track widens to a narrow dirt-road, I stop the bike, get off and sit down.
That’s it for me; he can ride across to the hut.

Never saying NO to food, the 2. breakfast of the day is just as hearty and filling as the first… the views across town into the nearby mountains from the timber deck of the hut is exhilarating.
I help to unload the bike…noticing a pile of crates with empty bottles alongside the wall of the place.
They don’t really…they wouldn’t….
They DO.
Voicing a weak protest, there is no way I'm going to get out of that one now.
Ahhh, shiiiat !!!

7.15 and I'm back at the bench at the top of the steep section.
Looking at the packed bike, then at the path disappearing down...this is a ball-shriveller!
I re-pack the top crate to give more space to lean back....and we ease over the edge and “into the groove’.

Once hooked in, it's just “ hanging on for dear life”… grass, slope, mountains in the distance, rocks… all blurring into a noisy cacophony of bouncing bottles, squealing brakes, the rear skidding continuously, a wild ride just waiting to run out of control any instant…eyes wiiiiide open, seeing nothing! Mouth wiiiide open…not a whimper!
Knuckles white and pointy, crimping the bars.

Again we make it in one piece!

The rest is a piece of cake, 2 bottles destroyed at the creek-crossing as the front-end wants to go walkabouts, the smoking front-drum relieved at some “cooling”.
7.50…the run is over.

With ‘goods-delivered’ at both ends, I push the NSU back into its place under the lean-to next to the chook-pen.
A skinny, white arm appears from the kitchen-door “... thanks for helping out”.
Looking back across the beer-garden, I KNOW I saw another twinkle from around the headlight of that battered, old bike.

We did the run every morning for the next 10 days. I spent 20 Marks pocket-money on fresh plugs and other small stuff …scrounged enough old rags, detergent and petrol to clean her up, clean and lube the chain, too.
File away the excess-weld of the rack, freeing up the rear brake lever.

I dropped her in the creek, I dropped her on the steep bit…twice…we slid down the steep, grassy slope with 6 crates of empties…and there were streaks of silent tears dripping out from under that rattly bubble-visor on the way home, slaloming the tiny Honda around the rubber-bits on the “bahn’s” emergency lane.
She DID twinkle at me!!
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