Pilot story by Marjorie Woodfin

Photos courtesy of Ralph and Linda Martin

It took three years for Ralph and Linda Martin's son, Jason, to talk them into visiting him and his wife at his duty station in Germany. Actually, it took the promise of a ride through the German countryside on a Harley.

This is a Harley family.

When Jason, a U.S. Army technical sergeant, signed up for an another three years of duty at his post in Spangdahlem, near Bitburg, he made an offer his father couldn't refuse. Jason, who has his Harley Davidson Heritage Soft Tail with him in Germany said, andquot;Dad, come over and we'll rent a Harley for you and mom and we'll ride all over southern Germany.andquot;

Ralph Martin said, andquot;That was incentive enough,andquot; and last August the two couples started their motorcycle odyssey over the back roads of southern Germany and the Austrian Alps.

Their first stop was a gosthaus in Oberkirch where they received an unexpected welcome. As soon as they drove up on their big bikes, the owner rushed out and insisted they come into the office to look at a poster of her on her Harley, and they were treated as visiting royalty during their stay.

Their second night was spent in Au, in the Austrian Alps. They spent three hours in light rain descending as they left the alps, and stopping to take photos of the spectacular views.

andquot;We were fortunate,andquot; Ralph said. andquot;It rains a lot, but we only had rain the day we arrived, and in those few hours in the Alps.andquot;

The third night, spent in Ansbach, provided an opportunity for Linda to renew friendships from junior high school days when her father, also in the military, was stationed in that part of Germany.

They spent time with the family of a woman who had been the baby sitter for Linda's younger brother and sister, and she was able to visit the home her family lived in during her father's duty in Germany.

It gave them an opportunity to learn more about life in the country. They were told that income tax in Germany is about 50 percent. There is a 17 percent sales tax. Gasoline is $6.40 per gallon.

They were surprised to learn from the woman's brother, who is a medical technician, that health care workers are poorly paid. When they asked him if he was married, he laughed and said in heavily accented English, andquot;No women, no cry.andquot;

They were also surprised to see so much graffiti in the cities and along the bridges. They enjoyed seeing buildings in Rothenburg dating from 900 A.D., and an apothecary shop with a sign signifying the business opened in 1378.

Their experience with pizza was a surprise as well. Their first taste was at a restaurant run by Italians. The pizza was terrible, they said, just dough and a little tomato sauce.

They took another chance, however, and tried the pizza at a German restaurant where the meal was fantastic, and the owner told them he went to the United States to learn how to make pizza.

At one stop, where it is against the law for motorcycle gangs to wear emblems, they were a bit nervous as they noticed police watching them as they got off their Harleys wearing jackets adorned with Harley Davidson emblems.

Their Triberg gosthaus was in the Black Forest, where they found cuckoo clocks, one a giant-sized clock, a glass factory, a waterfall and a gathering storm.

They had an opportunity, when back at Jason's home, to view a construction site, and were fascinated with the German building process. The house was being built with a variety of different types of cement blocks and was to be heated by warmed oil piped from a large exterior tank through the house.

They visited the vineyards of Piesport, where the grapes are grown on steep hillsides, and Linda said, andquot;Piesport sure is steep.andquot;

After five days and 1,000 miles they returned to Jason and Amanda's apartment for a little more family visiting, and then headed home.

It took three years for Jason to convince his folks to make the trip, but said they are delighted that he didn't give up. It was a wonderful adventure, touring the beautiful countryside with family on their favorite form of transportation.