Last week I received an e-mail from long time friend and bicycling buddy that he would be in Germany flying in from WV, USA and planned on coming to visit me and Crystal for a couple of days.
This gallery contains 14 photos.
Over the holiday weekend my wife had an opportunity to attend a conference in Nice, so I joined her. Nice is an absolutely gorgeous French city. It is even better on the off season when it is a little cooler and fewer tourists. The weather was fantastic with highs in the mid 60’s each day. […]
Last week was pretty tough to get out and about. It basically rained during the day and stopped only at night. The one time I did get out, I got drenched. The weather reminds me a lot of where I grew up, Portland, OR. The gear that I own basically for bicycling is targeted for living in the Oberpfalz of Bavaria where I lived for the last six years, with its three weather options: bitter cold, bitter cold and wet, and warm. Warm for me in Bavaria was 45-50 F weather that feels hot because of acclimation to the bitter cold.
I have been working and ordering new gear that is lighter weight and water resistant, so I can get out and about. I have greatly appreciated the recommendations from “All Seasons Cyclist” in targeting my gear search. When the gear arrives via APO (US Army Post Office), life in the drizzling rain on bicycle I think will get better.
The rain did break on Sunday, so I was able to get out and about. Early Sunday when I was out riding/exploring I found a cute town called Wijnandsrade, Google Translate gives me the idea that it means wine country. On the south end of town is a castle Kasteel Wijnandsrade. The castle is pretty cool. On the grounds is a cafe Chateau Gilbert. I was out too early in the morning to check out the cafe.
On Wednesday, I rode back to Kasteel Wijnandsrade and Chateau Gilbert for more recon. The castle grounds are gorgeous with a castle, moat, several gate house, bronze statues, and ducks. It is quite a find. I have a feeling it will be a nice afternoon destination for Crystal and I to pedal to.
The castle appears to be a family agricultural products business selling locally produced wines, jams, and spices. The cafe appears to use the local products in the menu and it has outdoor seating. There was an older lady working the cafe/store. She didn’t speak a drop of English. (Note to self: I have got to learn Dutch). So I wasn’t able to communicate well. She resorted to speaking French to me. Not sure why, but I smiled and ordered a coffee from her. When it came, the coffee was great! more than espresso by volume but less than a cafe americano. In previous travels to France from past experience I would call it a cafe creme. Yum!
For me this place is great. It is a triple: bicycle destination, indoor/outdoor cafe with great coffee and on a castle grounds.
On Sunday I had both my GoPros on my Bike so I was able to get some good footage of the the castle and on Wednesday I brought my Canon EOS 60D to take pictures.
This is the video I cobbled together. It is a little choppy because of the cobblestones (stabilization did a little of mitigation through iMovie:
It has been about a week since I completed the ride. Recently I have been immersed in transitioning details to our new residence in the Netherlands. Internet access has been dodgy at best, so maintaining this blog and other net based communications have been difficult.
I have started to feel like I have mostly recovered from the ride. I am back out jogging in the mornings.
Here are the things I learned:
Google Maps is both hero and villain in my trek. I utilized google maps to plot out my ride as a series of towns that I should check point through instead of printing off maps. This was intended to coincide with the way Germany uses direction markers to indicate which towns you are heading toward as opposed to following street names. It mostly worked. Google Maps failed to synchronize well with the conditions on the ground. Example one of the towns I should have gone through was Bischofsheim as indicated on Google Maps, however the traffic signs noted it as Frankfurt-BF (or something like that). Until I figure out the discrepancy, I did a lot of turning around. It happened a lot on the ride between Seligenstadt to Montabaur.
iPhone Google Maps doesn’t differentiate between paved, gravel and mud roads. When I would get to a point that I was not sure which direction to go as the German traffic signs indicate several possible routes, I would consult iPhone Google Maps. More than once I ended up on sand, gravel or mud as I pedaled. I was truly grateful I did not have a flat tire.
Topography. I need to do a better job of researching the topography. I know in hind sight that most of the hills (small mountains) I climbed were probably avoidable. There were only two points where I think I could not avoid huge climbs – Out of the Rhein and over the Spessarts. Climbing the Spessarts was an issue of limited time to follow the Main river valley from Wuerzburg to Seligenstadt would have added an additional day that I did not have. The climb out of the Rhine to get into the Eifel and then to the NL additionally was unavoidable, but not as significant as the Spessarts.
Gear. I am not sure if I brought too much gear or not enough. I think using BoB (my bike trailer) was the right thing to do. I was much more stable without a lot of gear heaped on my back rack.
Lodging. The lodging met the need except in Montabaur. I stayed at a castle there that doubled as a huge conference/symposium/campus where business and universities would meet for retreats. It was quite nice.
I used booking.com and my criteria was availability and customer rating/review. The other places I stayed ended up being on the edges of town so it was not easy to get into town and explore a bit. I think I will try TripAdvisor next time. They spam my Facebook account enough to deserve a chance.
The Ride itself was great. I am glad I did it. In fact as look back on it, I find it a bit unbelievable that I did.
If I did it again or something along those lines, I think I would have broken the daily distances down to about 50-60 miles. At 60 miles I would have only added one day and at 50 miles it would have added two maybe three.
The advantages of shorter distances would have allowed a little more exploration of the towns I visited, more time to take pictures, take impromptu stops, and take a more leisurely pace. In all truth, I usually had the first forty miles of each day done by 1300.
That is about all I have to say about the trip. Would I do it again? Probably not. Not because it was too long or anything like that, but if I was to plan another 400 mile trip, I would explore somewhere else. Along those lines I am thinking England or France for the next big tour. Anyone up for joining me? You can put some of your gear in BoB.
I finished the final 35 miles to arrive in The Netherlands.
Here are the quick statistics:
Total Travel Distance 35 Miles
Total Travel Time 3.25 Hours
Total Pedal Time 4 Hours
Killer Uphills 0
Killer Downhills 1*
* Hill was so good that I missed my turn and had about a mile corrective detour.
I am physically fatigued, however the biggest issues are my stiff fingers from holding the handle bars. Typing this is extremely problematic. I am glad there is automatic spell check. I guess I will have to change out glove brands.
It was nice to to see my wife once I got to the Hotel.
Overall, I am glad I did it. I had been wanting to do something big for a while. And I was not sure what I was waiting on, so I just went and completed the ride.
Not sure what is next for trips: I am thinking something by foot in October. Any Suggestions?
For the immediate future:
1. Move into new house tomorrow
2. Unpack when our belongings arrive (mid August?)
3. Write up my lessons learned on the tour and come up with next steps.
I completed the last long leg of my tour. It took me from Montabaur to Dueren. I made some modifications to my route that added distance but killed hills and time. Out of Montabaur, I went south to the Rhine instead of west through the hills to the Rhine. I think it was a wise decision.
I rode along the Rhine for about 30 Miles and along a Rhine tributary (not sure the name) for another 10 miles. From there I headed NW to Dueren through the Eifel. Here are the stats:
Total Distance 85 Miles
Total Travel Time 11 Hours
Total Pedal Time 9 Hours
Killer Uphill 1 (Out of the Rhine into the Eifel)
Killer Down Hill 1 (to the Rhine – Best guess about 4 Miles)
I had mechanical difficulty throughout the day. First off, my rear wheel was totally deflated at one point. I pumped it back up no problems. Will likely toss the tube when I am at home.
My chain became bone dry and I had no oil. My travelling tool kit was packed at our old house (long angry story) so I was running a quick PX purchase of tools. I finally found a bike shop in Sinzig, right before my climb out of the Rhine valley Bought some oil and put it on the chain. What a huge difference. While I was doing that the owner of the shop started asking about my route. He suggested that I reroute through Cologne as it would be faster and no hills. It would have been an addition 10-15 miles of biking. Fortunately I did not take his advice the “killer hill” out of the Rhine valley was nothing more than the hills around the Oberpfalz where I used to live.
The last mechanical difficulty came with BoB. The axil holding BoB on my bike came loose. At first I was not able to tighten the quickrelease so BoB and the rear wheel would stay in the bike frame. I had to do an extended roadside repair. Fortunately I was able to tighten the Axil up, but I am going to have to monitor it. Probably will just purchase a new one.
The ride itself was gorgeous. Along the Rhine I got pedal through vineyards and cross the river by ferry. It went fast so was only able to get a shot of me and my bike and a church (below).
The ride through the Eifel was mostly farmland and rolling hills. There were fresh fruits and vegetable available in every little town. I am sucker for those things and wanted to stop several times, but could not figure out how to keep them until I got to the NL. Maybe today.
The other Picture is of the castle I stayed in at Montabaur (Day 3).
Day Five is my last day only about 30 miles with a border crossing. That is good I am fatigued and my fingers and hands are tired from holding the handle bars so tight while climbing through the hills. I think my high school typing teacher would be upset as I have basically thrown out the home row as I am typing this Blog.
Now to ride
I finished day three. It was a mentally and physically challenging day. Mentally, I kept getting lost in the hills between Bad Homburg and Limburg. My best guess is that I added about 15 miles to my journey. This is where the physical challenge was. If Day 2 was my mountain stage over the Spessart, Day 3 was the hill challenges. It was steep ups and downs with little to no flats from Bad Homburg (the 1/2 way point) to Montabaur. Here are the basic stats:
Total Distance 85 Miles
Total Travel Time 13 Hours
Total Pedal Time 9 Hours
Killer Deal Breaking Hills 20 (But I lost count)
Total Water Drank 8 Liters
I am learning a lot more about the German bicycle routes. I have come to the conclusion to not take them unless I absolutely know where they are going. In some cases the path is little better than packed sand, others have so much debris that getting a flat or losing a spoke is a real possibility, and finally the paths don’t take the direct route they usually add several km/miles to the ride and not usually with benefit along the scenic, cultural or historical.
Day four looks to bring some flats along rivers (hopefully). Possibly a couple of WWII sites.
I completed day two yesterday and was exhausted. Here is the breakdown on the stats still have problems with mapmyride uploading to Facebook.
Total Distance 80 Miles
Total Travel Time 12 Hours
Total Pedal Time 9 Hours
Total number of Thunderstorms 2
Major Hill Climbs 1
Deal Breaking Hills 5*
The ride itself was tough tough. Straight out I got poured on outside of Dettelbach. I was to far away to get back to Dettelbach and there was no cover, so I had to ride to the next town Bibergau, where I stood under a barn until the rain passed.
I met up with Otter for coffee at the Uni Cafe. It was good talking with him. I don’t think I would have made in Germany for the first years without his friendship.
I then headed toward Marktheidenfeld. A very pretty city where I had lunch. I did not stay long.
My route took me out of the river valley at Marktheidenfeld over the Spessarts. The spessarts are the huge hills that divide Wuerzburg from Aschaffenberg. While I have not measured the route yet, based on observation of the road signs I had about 10 miles of continuous unforgiving hateful hills to climb.
I usually don’t complain about hills, because there is always a payoff, but not this time. I crested the pass and I met the second thunderstorm, where I had to dive under a tree for cover. I did not even know I have crested, it was so wet, steamy, foggy…. Once the storm passed about 15 minutes, the roads are wet, so I have to take SLOW down the Spessarts. I was chapped. I got to Rohrbrunn slowly. Rohrbrunn is where the rest stops are on A3 between Wuerzburg and Aschaffenberg. At that point the roads were dry and it was a quick ride into Aschaffenberg.
I had never been to Aschaffenberg. Wow what a pretty city. If I did not have to meet the time constraints to get to Seligenstadt. I would have stayed longer.
After Aschaffenberg, It was smooth riding (except the designated bike path) along the Main river all of the way into Seligenstadt.
I learned not rely on Google Maps so much. To get to Seligenstadt, I had to cross the river. Google indicated that the bridge was serval miles beyond my route. Fortunately there was a pedestrian/bike bridge that I crossed, however I wish that I had waited as there was an old style ferry that crossed right at the city. The pictures would have been great. Oh well.
Day 3 starts soon.
* This number represents when Crystal would have me find another route
I am currently trying to stay out of the way of our packers as they pack out the house. I started to help but the packers said if I helped it would take an extra day as I would just slow them down.
Instead I focused on getting my bike in order (brakes, tires….). Our current landlord came by to check the bike as well. I got his seal of approval or what I think he said to me in German/Oberpfalzer.
I thought that since I was going to spend the better part of two days pedaling through Franconia, I would fly the Franconia Flag that my good friend Otter gave me.
My gear is all packed, so all I have to do on Friday is put my gear on the trailer and go.