All the comforts of home away from home.

To ride or get a massage: That was the question.
Just past 6:00 a.m. the alarm sounded reveille. Out the window beyond a vast Alpine meadow and fragrant pine forest, dark clouds hovered, spitting precipitation. With a little foggy vacillation, the answer was clear: After spending the previous day tip-toeing a BMW R1150R though the rain, I slept in, got a massage and relaxed, while my tour mates braved the deluge.

It was my second day in this storybook European riding haven, and all I wanted to do was hide beneath the sheets. I justified this decision by telling myself wet weather doesn't afford many photo opportunities or grippy apexes to strafe. Besides, riding at the group's snail-like rain-pace two days in a row would have driven me out of my mind.

At least I had a choice. On most bike tours, it's rise and ride, rain or shine. Sleeping in for the day leaves you in some far-away land to fend for yourself while the rest play "follow the leader" to the next destination. Not on this tour.

Edelweiss' Alps Touring Center, located 30 minutes west of Innsbruck, Austria, is a new concept in organized motorcycle travel launched last year. Instead of riding point to point and bedding down in a new location every night, Alps Touring Center patrons wake up each morning at a cozy, intimate and familiarinn. After a hearty breakfast and morning briefing, tourers traverse day-loops around Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland before returning to the hotel for dinner and entertainment.

That's right: no daily packing, unpacking or schlepping of suitcases. Riders and their passengers can choose to cruise with the group, or kick back and relax at the resort.

"Water, water everywhere," Roy Cox remembers, one of 19 Americans Edelweiss attracted to the early summer tour I joined. "I won't forget the image of us wet bikers trudging through the hotel lobby after our Monday ride, dripping water everywhere," he said. "Mr. Holz and Mrs. Leiten still managed a smile, but some of the guests sure had funny looks on their faces!" Thankfully, after two days of rain, the sun peeked out and rainbows lured riders off the massage table and onto the tarmac.

The "Mr. Holz" and "Mrs. Leiten" Cox speaks of are actually Maria and Herbert Wilhelm, proprietors of our "home" for the week, Hotel Holzleiten. As evidenced by the motorcycle traffic streaming past at all hours, the small village of Holzleiten sits square in prime Alps country off one of the area's best roads.

he Wilhelm's 28-room hotel overflows with amenities and down-home Tyrolian hospitality. Guest rooms are typical of small European inns--clean and sparse, yet well-appointed. There's also a traditional dining room, quaint reading area, covered patio with view seating and a well-stocked bar.

Holzleiten is more than just a roadside crash pad. It's part sportsman's paradise and part new-age pamper palace. Without leaving the property, active motorcyclists can take advantage of a small gym, tennis court, swimming pool and stable of mountain bikes. Construction of a nine-hole golf course is underway nearby. A go in the whirlpool and sauna, followed by a massage after a long day in the saddle, did wonders for weary weekend warriors.

Not in the mood to ride? Then take part in Tirol Vital, a personalized mind- and body-rejuvenation program. The regimen's activities include water gymnastics, pulse-controlled hiking and, of course, meditation. Spa services range from the garden-variety manicure and pedicure to such scary-sounding remedies as "blood circulation treatments" and "lymphatic drainage."

While many enjoyed the sauna, whirlpool and massage, nobody in our group went for the latter procedures. We met each morning for breakfast in the main dining room, where the toughest choices of the day were made. I had to decide whether to have a croissant or French bread with my eggs. Hmmm, cream cheese or jam? It was tough to figure out if I would eat a healthy bowl of cereal and yogurt or delve back into the vast array of ham and cheeses. Yes, in typical European fashion, Holzleiten's breakfast spread was overwhelming.

After a cup of hot chocolate or cappuccino, we assembled for our daily group meeting. During these informal get-togethers--moderated by the tour guides--we learned about the day's highlights, zeroed in on the lunch stop, marked our maps and split up into groups. There were two routes for each day, one longer or more-demanding (or both) than the other. Most of us rode with a tour guide, some ventured out on their own, and others either stayed at the hotel or headed off for a day of sightseeing or shopping by rental car.

Before dark--one by one, or en masse--riders returned to Holzleiten for some R&R; and an afternoon drink; others used the sporting and spa amenities to decompress before supper. "After a long day of riding, it was great to saunter on down to the dining room, eat a great meal, have some wine and listen to war stories from that day's ride," Joe Vasconselos says, who had previously taken a point-to-point Edelweiss trip to Mexico.

Due to the centralized location for lodging and meals, the short, five-day Alps Touring Center trips are a great way to experience Europe for the first time or combine a motorcycling adventure with another kind of Continental vacation. It's only $1440 to ride a BMW F650 two-up and share a room; another $1000 to live like a king riding a BMW K1200LT and enjoy a private suite.

The Alps Touring Center was such a success in its initial year that Hotel Holzleiten will host 11 Edelweiss groups in 2002. It has also spawned new touring centers in France and the United States. Showing great confidence in the concept, Edelweiss booked seven trips to the French Riviera Touring Center from March until June. Just minutes away from Nice International Airport, this 30-room hotel is nestled in a lush park on the outskirts of the walled, medieval town of Vence, high above the coast in the Sea Alps. The Arizona Touring Center, located at a midsized resort in Tucson, brings the Edelweiss experience close to home with familiar American hospitality and conveniences. Eight tours are scheduled for February, March, April, October and November, just when things are freezing or thawing out in northern climates.

No matter where you go: To ride or get a massage, the choice is yours.

The magic of an Alpine rainbow was the only bright spot one soggy day.
Majestic Hohenschwangau, near Fuessen, Germany, overlooks Neuschwanstein Castle.
We were treated to a special Tyrolian barbecue on Holzleiten's enclosed patio. Egged on by an accordian-wielding musician in traditional lederhosen, we sang, danced and yodeled well into the night after many steins of beer.
Motorcycle parking isn't a problem at the Alps Touring Center.
Bikes on this trip covered BMW's entire 2001 lineup--from mighty K1200LT tourers to nimble F650s. A selection of mountain bikes is available at the hotel to take advantage of the area's vast network of trails.
Booming brass bands with musicians of all ages strut around the festive streets of Innsbruck's old town.
Predating the Austrian empire, 800-year-old Innsbruck features such Hapsburg-era gems as the Goldene Dachl (Golden Roof), which is composed of 2600 gilded tiles. On this day, the old town hosted a classic car show.
Eccentric King Ludwig II took seven years to build Neuschwanstein Castle, which is set in the Bavarian Alps, even though he lived in it only three months.
Hotel Holzleiten features comfortable-yet-spartan guest rooms.
Our Edelweiss group ate breakfast and dinner together in a private, scenic dining room.
We barely caught the opening this twisting, turning road that climbs to 8200 feet.
The Alps are covered in snow for much of the year, as this late-June image of Timmelsjock Pass attests.
One of the Alps' "Great Passes," Timmelsjoch, climbs into the snowline. In June, the road's treacherous peak featured lots of running water and tremendous views of the surrounding mountains.
Gently reminding motorcyclists from around the globe to keep a handle on it, this sign cautions riders to give their guardian angels a chance.
Edelweiss tour participants can ride together, as seen here in Switzerland's Flueelapass, or go it alone. Staying close to the local tour guides ensures a rich cultural experience.