Riding a bike along the banks of a river has a profound effect on the rider. The river softly massages away one’s knotty moods, while the bike carries you along at a pace neither fast nor slow…it goes at the exact speed you need to be propelled, so as to see most of the beauty, and avoid most of the ugliness.
You can slow down instantly to watch the black shine of a ravens back as it flaps off your path, or speed up past a sewage processing plant, or swerve and call out to a swan.
The bicycle is the most perfect machine ever invented.
Not only is it virtually harmless to our Earth, it also cures diseases of the body, mind and soul. Better than yoga, better than pills, better even than a glass of wine.
I was happy to roll back to the river, after my little sojourn in Freiburg. Cities are nice for a bit, then all that swarming ant-like behaviour and bad air gets too much.
I muddled along enjoying the various landscapes, thinking if there were no hills then it must be going down to the river. You would imagine that to work if you were lost in a jungle, wouldn’t you?
Yes, I did reach the river at the end of the day, but only after some rather quiet tracks. Surprisingly there was a little ferry motoring across between Germany and France. It was not my intention to cross at this point, but I thought ‘what the heck’, the road had brought me all the way here through fields of maize and wheat, and dark woods, why not!?
Good thing it did, because on the French side, there was an info office where a pleasant lady behind the desk said: ” Everything is full, there are no accommodations around here”, but she saw my expression and so flipped through a brochure, and called ahead and booked me a room for the night. Maybe, because she was putting crosses on the map, my side up, that her cross was put in another town altogether. So after a lot of pedalling to reach the town with the cross on it, and doing a twirl around an industrial zone, my eagerness was baffled.
It is asparagus season here.
I had to resort to google maps to find my hotel, just when I was enjoying the crinkle and flutter of a printed map.
The pretty town of Erstein.
WhallaaaH! The hotel of Erstein. Dinner was delicious, aromatic herbs and Dijon mustards……I was in France!
Except they had no wifi, so this blog was not published when it should have been.
No sign of the famous Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte so far. Maybe the world famous Black Forest Gateau will make an appearance at my next destination, which would be Freiburg, although I doubted I would make it that far in one day.
The journey was not without highs and lows, although the terrain was flat. Steel works, water works, chemical works…
After a good breakfast, I was back to pedalling along thinking abut all the wonderful people I love.
I went up to Basel to see a bit of Switzerland again before diving into the depths of Germany. It looks immaculate and rich. With particular attention to signage. The things one can and cannot do, especially on bikes, are clearly advertised.
Being a bit fuzzy myself, those bright red signs made me happy to traverse the city. The final sign, at the entrance to a roundabout pointed to Freiburg 77 kms. After circling a few times I stopped to ask a policeman which road to take, he said he didn’t know anything about Freiburg.
My chosen road took me to Huningue, which sounded good enough. However, I should have crossed over the river there because I ended up passing through many vacant chic French villages, and then Niffer and Blodelsheim and Fessenheim. None of which had people in them.
At a greenly painted hotel I came across the first rude woman of my trip. She rolled her eyes dramatically when I asked her if she could be so kind as to charge my battery a little bit. I said I would pay. She plugged it in with a dramatic gesture.
There were some very long and lonely stretches here, and I have to admit to performing my first bush-pee. It was not difficult to be seen squatting amongst the sugar beet dressed in luminescent pink.
Lunch consisted of stolen goods from B&B Jasmin. My bike served as a picnic table. Nutella, egg, apple, and a slice of horse food (sour bread). Washed down with a gulp of water.
The photography of the day is dismal due to my speedy urgency to reach Freiburg, which is way off my track. Also, the pictures are not edited because my lightroom has gone on the blink.
The final hours on the bike were divided between a boy on a push scooter colliding with my pannier and then apologising…golly that was a close call. Riding through a large hole which sent my phone flying. I noticed about 2 kms down the road so raced back and found it lying in the middle of the path. A wasp up my sleeve, which stung me repeatedly while I was on the phone trying to book my accommodation.
Do you know that kind of fatigue where pain is just a secondary sensation?
Negotiating the cycling traffic of a higgledy piggledy old university city at 18:00 was a new experience for me. No rules apply. There must surely be a million bikes here!
When choosing appropriate accommodation on the budget list, remember to enquire whether there is a lock up area for your beloved bicycle. Gasthaus Löwen does not, although it’s a very charming old place to eat.
I removed everything possible from the bike, including my whale bell, flower, carriers, lights etc, and pushed her in amongst all the other bikes parked on the street.
The person in charge of the rooms was not available to let me in, so I sat down at the restaurant table with flat hair and smelly clothes. A polite man who retired to Lago Maggiore sat near me. He knew all the Alpine bike tracks. He also said my bike will definitely be stolen, whether chained or not.
According to the restaurant staff, there was a secure bike parking at the train station. So I hastily dragged my bike off for another kilometre, and asked the eyelash girl at the info desk in the station. She said “no, there was no parking for bicycles”. I rode around the corner and there was a large round bike parking station. A young lady helped me figure out the in’s and out’s of the ticketing system, all written very accurately in German.
These photos were taken on my way to pick up my bike in the morning. I was overjoyed to see it, poor thing, all covered in dust. On the way there I had stopped in a shop and bought her a little present of some stickers to brighten her up. (A bicycle is female…biciclettA)
My room looks fine in the picture, but you cannot hear the large extractor fan outside the window which drew up all the cooking fumes from the kitchen. In the morning I looked for another place to stay, which was much more expensive, except the staff wouldn’t allow me in before 15:00. A slightly off-day sitting in the dining hall with my panniers at my feet. I might mention that university students are not into serving shabby old foreign cyclists.
All I managed to do this afternoon, other than sleep, was wash my clothes at a laundromat, with the help of a very-very thin man dressed entirely in black.
As Jane says, no matter how fast you ride, laundry always catches up with you!
I dropped down from the mountain ice, with the river misting at my side. From Stuben to Bludenz to Nenzing to Feldkirch. My wheels spun fast between the trees, until the land began to plain, and the white stream expanded into a calm turquoise lens.
The tunnel panic wasn’t so bad this time, being Sunday morning, the traffic minimal.
There was an Austrian Oompah band playing in a carnival tent, and around the corner stood this beautiful black horse. I took this shot from the hip.
I’m officially over the hill. There will be no more mountains ranges until I reach Oslo. Quite sad.
Noticed the change in architecture and the cooking smells wafting from the houses.
The Rhine River deserves a mention…Rhenus, Rein, Rhein, le Rhin, Reno, Rijn…. I will be following it for the next 1000 kms, so we’ll get to the whole history and geography of it later.
When the road flattened out, I felt it was finally time to admit I was going to Oslo, so I wrote ROM – OSLO on my front carrier label. This had a magic effect on the people around me. Paolo was the first to approach me to talk about the journey, and from then on everyone has been much more friendly and inquiring. They all say….”going solo” with astonishment.
By now the number of HELLO’S that have been said per day, must be nearing a million. A smile works wonders with passing cyclists, and they generally smile back. I sail along from smile to smile.
103 kms later, in Rorschach, Switzerland, I flopped into a bunk bed in this youth hostel. Felt rather like an old codger, but was very pleased to have the room to myself. It had a fabulous view over the lake and a basin in it where I washed my textiles.
The plugs and the money are different in Switzerland. All my electronic equipment could not be charged. So I went out looking for food, which was a lot of trouble for my legs. Some nice ladies fed me some green asparagus spears with very yellow hollandaise sauce, and a little beer. – €26.00.
The world cup soccer – Switzerland versus Brazil game was on. Shame, they were all so enthusiastic, boys shouting from cars covered in red and white cross flags speeding past. As I left the restaurant the rain came pouring down and I had a soggy barefoot walk all the way back to the hostel. My sandals are very slippery on the inside when wet.
The first thing I look for in a hotel room, is how many plugs there are. The hostel room had one that didn’t work. My ebike battery was critically low on power after 103 km even if it was mostly downhill. Here is a sketch to show you exactly how many electronics I carry with me in my panniers.
Jumped on the bike in the morning, and had 30 kms on the display…of course I could pedal without power, but it’s like going from riding a black stallion to riding a cow.
A cyclist told me yesterday that the weather would be bad today. I have heard that so many times, and it turns out perfectly fine.
Friends come in all shapes and sizes. This little sparrow had coffee and a biscuit with me.
Just tell me how many bike paths do these people have!?! So many choices! I am taking the Eurovelo 15, which runs next to the Rhine, via Basel.
There wasn’t the exact, perfect looking restaurant in Kontanz area, so I took a chance and went on with only 5 kms of power left on my ebike. Suddenly I was out in the countryside with fields as far as the eye could see, but at least it was flat in case my black stallion turned into a cow.
With just 1 km to go, a hotel appeared like a genie from a bottle, and I fizzled into the bike parking space.
The menu was: “Salad, Il Risotto al pomodoro with fried feta…and a banana-berry smoothy. After lunch I asked the waiter if they had a room free, and in a flash I was booked into the hotel, and my cables were all plugged into the walls of my room.
“All roads lead to Rome” – to be more precise… the Via Appia Antica will lead us into Rome and the Via Francigena will lead us straight out again. Very, very far out this time.
I am preparing to ride my bike from our home town, Marino Laziale, which is situated on the slops of a volcano at the southern edge of the eternal city of Rome, and head north to Oslo, capital of Norway.
Departure date is planned for May 26th, early morning, when the moon will be at her fullest. Which I hope will have some beneficial effects.
Below is a very nice image, thanks to Copernicus (Sentinel 3) where you can see a cloudless Europe…just point at mid-Italy, and go north!
There is a secret feature on my bike……a battery!
It’s an e-bike you see …. a very smart CUBE bicycle. It arrived in a giant box with an operating manual almost as heavy as the bike itself: “General Operating Instructions Pedelec”.
Some say I’m cheating. And I admit there is a paradox involved.
I am doing this because I can only do it with the help of a battery – but sneer if they must. Little pushes from my battery will certainly help to keep the grinding-grit out of my nonna knees.
The 80 page Bicycle User Manual is also a long read. Then there are the instructions for my onboard computer, and I need to download the smart phone map-apps, and setup a tablet to write this blog. This ‘over the hill’ grandmother is quite boggled by tech.. TBH.
(TBH means ‘to be honest’, for you other ‘over-the-hillers’.)
Simon will accompany me for the first week of the adventure, but then he has to get back to work, leaving me to figure things out as I go! Going solo is quite a scary challenge I must admit, I am a bit of a Simon follower when exploring unknown realms. Usually Simon takes care of the responsible stuff, and I dawdle behind with my camera, and paint box.
Mostly I have generous encouragement from Simon, my family and friends. But my parents have, in their wisdom given me stern warning of the dangers. So it’s a toss-up between lounging on my couch, or lunging around in the traffic seated precariously on a metal instrument, most probably lost. Certainly not overly safe, but I will do my utmost to avoid a dramatic end.
When one reaches what is commonly known as ‘a midlife crisis’, it is obvious a red sports car is not the way to go anymore, what with the environmental hazards it provokes. The new and revolutionary way to travel is by e-bike, going gracefully green is key to surviving difficult accusations from the grandchildren. Such as: why did you muck up our planet ? and: What did you do to stop global warming?
Midlife crisis is not the real reason I’m going on this trip… really. In case you thought it was. Actually there are other reasons, those being… I like riding my bike and going places. Something to do with my nomadic roots I suppose.
Alone on my bike in the forest, I might meet animals, or feel how the birds fly and know the slow opening of the yellow flowers in the morning.
Picture of my bike in Marino. (Snazzy seat cover and bell – gifts from Megan.)
“May the force be with you”
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