This time, the adventure is starting even before I’ve left! During my final tuneup, I noticed a dent in my rim. The trusty folks at lucky duck bike shop suggested I should probably get my wheel rebuilt with a new rim. Unfortunately, they got the wrong rim shipped to them. They should have the correct rim by now, but hearing “what’s the latest cutoff time to make your flight” is a bit nerve-racking. Now I’m four hours away from when I need to be at the airport, with no rear wheel on my bike! But, old wheel or new, I’m getting on that plane!
It’s Monday morning and we’re almost ready to get rolling. Saturday Greg and I got to Brussels right on schedule, but our bikes missed their train and had to come on a later one. Yesterday we met up with Greg’s cousin Joe and his wife Tammy, who live in Brussels. They took us out for breakfast and showed us around town for a while before we had to catch the first of a series of trains to Germany. On one exciting train transfer Greg got yelled at in German for almost touching another cyclist’s (presumably expensive) bike.Koblenz is beautiful, and we had a great night at a campsite on the Mosel River.We found a cute cafe that does a vegan cheese-and-deli-slices breakfast, and then we’re heading out along the Rhine for the rest of the day. Los geht’s!
I was a little trepidatious about my plan to forego the bike box and just put my bike on the plane in a large plastic bag – because my bike is so large, it’s hard to find a box but enough\n for it, plus it usually takes at least an hour to disassemble/reassemble it. With the bag method, I could just ride my bike to the airport, pop off the pedals and handlebars, and I was good to go!
Thankfully, the bike arrived unscathed. The only issue was that I had removed my rear derailleur in order to protect it, and somehow knotted up my chain while putting it back on. This resulted in me sitting on a train with bike grease up to my elbows trying to figure out how my cable ended up routed through my chain. But I made the connection with Erin without issues, even though my flight was an hour late, and the train from the airport was twenty minutes late.
Our first few days of riding have been fairly relaxed, especially because Greg is still pretty jet lagged. This stretch of the Rhine really is amazing, winding through a valley where you can’t go a kilometer without at least one hilltop castle within view.
We veered off occasionally to go look at some tiny old towns:
Other things that have happened:
- Greg’s tube mysteriously exploded and got sucked into his cassette, but he fixed it in like ten minutes
- We toured a weird castle with 1500 hunting trophies (mostly horns; they covered every wall)
- A half litre of Hefeweizen sometimes costs less than a bottle of mineral water
- German campgrounds are really nice and very clean
- There are baby geese and storks and red squirrels with cute tufted ears and they are the best
We’re outside of Mannheim right now, still debating whether or not to adjust our route to go to Strasbourg. Guess we’ll see where we end up tomorrow!
Hey folks! Bonjour de France! We had another great day of riding along the river, almost entirely on smooth bike paths on levees. Some things I’ve learned:
- All the little bakeries in Germany will make you a tasty cheese and tomato sandwich on a buttered roll for about €2.
- German campgrounds have the nicest bathrooms and showers
- Cheese is super cheap here – I bought a tray of cheese cubes for €1.20 and probably ate too many while riding
- Apfelschorle (apple juice and sparkling water) is a great idea
- The border between France and Germany is basically invisible – there wasn’t even a sign for us to take pictures under
Tomorrow we’ll be riding along the French side of the Rhine before popping back into Germany at Strasbourg.
Strasbourg was a much bigger city than I had thought, and we had to get a hotel because the nearby campsites were totally full. Still, the cathedral was pretty impressive!
The next day was much nicer: we rode about 20 miles across the border and then got a cheap train day pass to get to Freiburg in the early afternoon. We found a very nice campground just a few minutes away from the city center, and dropped our stuff there before heading back into town. As it happened, it was the day of the Freiburg Pride parade AND the day Germany was playing Sweden in the World Cup, so there were huge crowds everywhere, some wearing rainbow capes and others with black-red-gold face paint.
Freiburg is a really cool town, with a stream running everywhere through the old city, cobblestone streets and alleys, and a huge cathedral. It’s also in a valley in the middle of the Black Forest, so when you look up you see thick forested hills everywhere off in the distance.
We ended up in a beer garden to watch the people watching the game, projected on a big screen, and everyone went insane when Germany got a winning goal in the last minute of overtime.
Today we had our first tough day of climbing, as we went into the Schwarzwald. It was a super steep climb for miles, so we didn’t get very far – but we found a great campground on Lake Titisee, with its own little restaurant and even paddleboats to rent. Tomorrow is another hard riding day, and then it’s back to flat cycle paths along the Rhine.
What a great couple of days we’ve had!
We left the Titisee and, after a steep climb, had an amazing ride down the mountains through the black forest – almost entirely on bike paths! We stopped in Todtnau for lunch, and noticed they had a luge ride down the side of a mountain slope – we weren’t gonna pass that up.
We met back up with the Rhine and kept skipping back and forth between Germany and Switzerland. We stayed at a beautiful guest house overlooking the river, with our own private deck. 70 Euro, including breakfast!
Erin needed a rest day, so we used the Swiss rail system like a warp whistle from Super Mario Bros. 3 to bounce ahead to the next level, which in our case turned out to be Konstanz on the Bodensee (and not a land of water, pipes, or giant turtles). On the way we got to see the biggest waterfall in Europe, the mighty Rheinfalls.
We had a pleasant ride along the Bodensee – I thought it would be like Tahoe, but was a bit more like Erie. Then, we veered south and followed the Rhine into the Alps! We briefly passed into Austria, and camped in Lichtenstein, bringing the number of countries we’ve ridden through on this trip to seven!
Today had been absolutely stunning as we’ve made our way along smooth bike paths with towering mountains on either side – the Alps are steep! Tomorrow, I’ll going to try to make it over our first pass – it’ll be about 5000 feet of climbing from we are camping, so we’ll see how it goes!