TO EUROPE 2002 / ANOTHER FULL MOON AND BICYCLING ALONG THE RHINE RIVER
Thirty-three years ago Jane’s doctor in Wisconsin told her that she had to quit her job at Household Finance
Company as a computer operator and office girl, start biking and play tennis because of circulation problems she
had in her legs.
Well, she took her last check from work and went to the bicycle shop to get a bike…I went with and we both came
home with bicycles.
Two years ago Jane almost died from a near heart attack. Luckily I got her to the hospital; a ten-minute ride from our
home in Merida , Yucatan , Mexico . She was extremely lucky to have had a doctor that not only saved her life then
but also was able to correct her life style and diet so that she was able to quit all of her medications including her
powerful asthma drugs.
Jane lost forty plus pounds and I lost forty-five pounds. We both felt tremendously better and little by little Jane
increased her exercise and activities. Here is proof of our success:
Jane and I were at Tulum on the Caribbean coast of Mexico swinging in our hammocks and visiting our kids Guero,
Lupita and Grisel for the first full moon of the year.
In February we were back again for the full moon and another visit plus a jungle bike ride that took us along the
coast south to Punta Piedras and across Ascension Bay through the National forest reserve of Sian Ka’an, a five
day adventure trip.
The March full moon found us at our number one resort pick and that was at our lovely and very private home in
Merida , Yucatan , Mexico .
Only two things stuck out in my mind of our trip over. One was in Mexico City as we watched KLM unload their
arrivals. Last to leave the aircraft was a belligerent Dutchman. He was built like a big ox and the four Mexican
policemen escorting him definitely knew their business. One policeman had the Dutchman with one hand by the seat
of his pants…belt and all and kept the big Dutchman walking on his tiptoes. The other three policemen merely
walked along side with their big nightsticks swinging. A short time later we saw the Dutchman return with just one
policeman. The Dutchman that was head and shoulders taller than the Mexican policeman was now meeker and
very passive. You just don’t mess around with the Mexican police. They don’t read you your rights…you don’t have
any, as this Dutchman obviously must have quickly learned.
As we disembarked in Amsterdam , the police with a sniffing dog greeted us. Jane and I had to chuckle at this little
permissive country of Holland was checking for incoming drugs. People from all over Europe flock to Holland for the
unrestricted high-times at government sponsored and sanctioned “cafes”, where a special menu of drugs are up for
sale and to be consumed on the premises. Holland is permissive on drugs, prostitution and thieving but doesn’t
allow shopping on Sunday…yes comical indeed!
Our room was clean, neat, and above all quiet though we thought grossly over priced. We came back for a night on
our return trip as choices are limited and in spite of the price this place is a bargain compared to the others close to
the airport that have shuttle service.
The breakfast buffet started at five AM and we were there at six. At seven we were boarding the shuttle for a return
to the airport where we would catch the train to our next destination of Deventer . Deventer is an old Hanseatic
trading town on the Ijssel river where we would switch over to a local bus for the last of our trip to Borculo where our
camper was stored. When we got off the bus we had a half-mile walk ahead of us. As we arrived Hans Beerten, the
owner of the camper storage facility, was at the gate to greet us like long lost friends even though he is the richest
man in town and the largest landowner in the area.
Hans Beerten and his wife, owners of B&B Caravantechiek, Borculo, Hans plays the bagpipes
We always send a fax and when we arrive, the battery is charged and the van washed so we can roll away. The
weather was still better than most summer time weather in that part of the world as we pulled into our camping spot
at Haarlo, a town about six miles distant.
At one PM we were all set up and plugged into the electric, our gas connected and turned on, plus our coffee
brewed. We had our lunch at our out door dinette to enjoy the tranquility and superb weather. This was an
abnormally nice stretch of weather for this part of the world and we could easily see that the trees hadn’t gotten any
more than their thin spring buds. The crops were just in the process of being planted and the cattle were still in the
winter barns. We have been to this end of the world enough to know that this type of weather doesn’t last and
especially in Holland where rain and clouds are the standard.
We always send an e-mail to Henk, the friendly owner of the camping place, and he makes sure that we have a
“prima” spot. So here we were looking across this little pond to the surrounding woods and far away from any motor
sounds of the world.
Camped by the pond in Haarlo. Our VW is in the center of the photograph.
Friday, April 26th we were still suffering from jet-lag. Jane and I didn’t roll out of bed until 9:30 AM . The night had
been unbelievably quiet. We had been up several times to admire the beautiful full moon that shined across our little
private pond, shared only with the croaking frogs.
That morning a strong windstorm sprang up and the temperature plummeted. The typical Holland weather was with
us and it would be a week before we saw any moderation but we needed to acclimate to the temperatures and also
to biking in heavy winds so now we had our chance. We biked six kilometers to the adjoining town of Eibergen to
shop at the market and feast on some fresh fried codfish at our old friend Hans’s seafood store. It was terrific and
worth the trip as we think all year about this wonderful treat. Next we went to the DeBoers supermarket to stock up
on fresh produce and other grocery items. We must sample the “gratis” coffee, cheese samples and pastries as we
shop. In the parking lot was a display of high speed Internet and everyone was encouraged to give it a try so we did.
As luck would have it our home server in Mexico was down and we couldn't access our e-mails anyway…this is a
fairly common occurrence.
In an attempt to build up our tolerance to the cold, wind and rain, plus adjust to the stress of longer bike trips, each
of the following days we ranged further and further from our base camp in Haarlo. First we went to Borculo on the
27th. This Saturday morning we were up at 8:30 and rested. We had our usual European breakfast of Muesli from
Germany , and sprinkled it with wheat germ covered with natural no-sugar yogurt. One thing that has changed in our
diet is that we no longer consume our usual natural fruit flavored syrup, which is incredibly delicious and the
blueberry and raspberry flavors just about irresistible. Instead we have a tea made from “ Jamaica ” or hibiscus
flowers. Jane’s heart doctor put us on to it because of its benefits of lowering cholesterol. It is also loaded with
vitamins, especially vitamin “C”. While we are consuming our “grueling” breakfast we brew up a couple of thermoses
of cowboy coffee to carry along as we bike. We use a French roast of coffee that is ground fine as powder, “Arab
style”. With the flavor locked in this brew gets to bounce and brew on our bicycles until we need it. At ten AM and
four PM wherever we are you can count on one thing and that is that we will be enjoying our cowboy coffee. Jane
has me programmed to her Swedish coffee breaks and I must admit that after all of these years it has become an
With the wind screaming out of the northwest and off the North Atlantic Jane and I set off for Borculo, the town where
we store our camper van some eight kilometers west of our camping spot. In low gear, we have extra large rear
sprockets; we huffed and puffed our way along the bike path.
(I remember crossing this same bike path four years earlier on an October 20th morning when the world was white
with a blanket of heavy frost. That morning it was 20 degrees Fahrenheit and I had made a special holder the night
before that held six tea light candles that was to be installed in our engine to heat it enough for a start with its S.A.E.
#50 motor oil on that frosty morning. That morning was so extra beautiful because we knew that in two days we
would be back in the tropics to spend the upcoming winter at home.)
Sunday the 29th we were still acclimating to the time and temperature changes. We woke up to 50 degrees
Fahrenheit and a cold rain driven by a nasty wind that came roaring in noisy bursts that could be heard from far off.
When the tremendous roar was upon us everything trembled and shook…then it would diminish to do a repeat
performance a few minutes later.
This was the perfect day to set off and test our new German bike outfits. We biked into a very strong head wind
driving an ice rain that would slam a blast of wind into us so hard that it actually stopped us dead. This tested our
new bike clothes that resemble snowmobile outfits except that they have countless zipper openings and flaps at
many places with snaps and Velcro that allowed us to control our body temperature and still stay perfectly warm and
dry. As our body heat rose we were happy and surprised that we could selectively vent the excess heat for perfect
comfort. Though our faces were red from windburn we were quickly acclimating to the cool fresh air; a big switch
from our home and its 90 to 100 degree Fahrenheit tropical temperatures of just a few days earlier. This made me
think of what my father-in-law Ed Pearson used to say to Jane and I, “you are just Florida cream puffs!” My reply to
Ed was, “ no Ed we are Mexican cream puffs!”
Our fact finding tour was a success and as we sat in the Old Spanish Fort grounds at Groenlo’s city center to
partake of our Brie, rye crisp and red wine lunch the gray skies turned black and down came an icy torrent of rain.
At first we thought that all was lost but to our surprise we were perfectly comfortable and dry. Our German bicycle
“space suits”, were providing us an unbelievable sanctuary from the harsh frigid elements.
Our way home was with a 30 MPH tail wind that had us flying along effortlessly. The only discovery was that our
hands and feet were completely frozen stiff from the icy wet rain. We will have solved that problem before we make
our departure for our trip up the Rhine River to Boden See high up in the Alp Mountains .
The government was setting our departure date. April 30th is the birthday of Queen Beatrix of Netherlands …the
richest women in the world with a German husband. The net result is that everything in Holland will be closed that
day. Then the next day the Germans have May 1st, “May-Day” as their day to shut down the country. So Thursday
the 2nd of May will be our departure date.
We discovered we still had to find a way to keep our hands and feet warm and dry as they were frozen to numbness
with the gloves and footgear we had. The solution to these problems isn’t quite so easy, when light weight and
mobility are absolute requisites. Well we found the solution at the Lidl grocery store in Vreden , Germany the next
Tuesday, April 30th Jane and I set off to explore a new bike route to Vreden , Germany . A surly and persistent
southwest wind would be almost on our beam both going and returning, but we did get to sample its full furry several
times. As always we had to make a few alterations and corrections to our bike maps. As we were crossing the border
into Germany at a backwoods place that took us through the woods along a path that narrowed down to a single
lane only passable by bike meandering through a farmyard into the heavy dark woods. Surprise! There we were on
course at the border. These crossings are all open to the free flow of the public and no designation is made now
that the EU countries have joined together. From our many years of travel in this part of the country we instinctively
knew the subtle differences as the electric service in Germany is above ground. The homes, cars and farms are
also larger in Germany than in the Netherlands . The bike path signs have a totally different style also except that
now there are a multitude of cross border bike routes that are designated by universal signs, like the “ EMS ”,
Emslandroute, or the “KAST”, Kastelenroute.
It is not uncommon to find as many as twenty-four different bike routes listed on one bike map. These maps are
color coded to correspond with the bike signs. The bike maps are also color coded for the quality of bike path from
“gut” to “schlecht” and even “verboten”. In English, that is from good to bad and forbidden. Our inventory of bike
maps is huge and we keep looking for more. An example of one set that we use a lot is a set called, “Radtouren in
Deutschland by BVA”. The set is in two parts, one for the north and the other for the south of the country, each with
fifteen maps. The scale is 1:150,000 and this is just barely adequate to get you around and we use these maps
mostly for layout and planning. For good biking 1: 50,000 scale maps are much preferred as they have a wealth of
information. The problem with these is that it is impossible to go biking with a complete set as your stack of maps
would outweigh all of your other gear. We even possess a set of maps that designates all of the Lidl grocery stores
and that has turned out to be one of our better purchases and made cross-country biking a real pleasure.
We have approached this unique little German town of Vreden from at least a half dozen different directions over
the years, but this way turned out to be the most pleasant. We were in heavy woods and away from traffic almost
the entire way, plus some covered picnic tables were strategically placed along the route so our coffee breaks could
be enjoyed in out of the icy rain that was blasting us the entire trip.
One of the big appeals of Vreden to us is the shopping. With several top quality stores that feature full selections of
traditional German foods, which we happen to love, and also they have twice weekly specials that are priced to
move the merchandise and again with the top German quality. At the Lidl store Jane got the exact bike boots she
needed and I wound up with plastic bags over my wool knee socks and I am still searching for my size foot guards.
We were home from our 50-kilometer bike ride by 3:30 PM and thankful for our electric heater. It had been 41
degrees Fahrenheit when we got up in the morning and didn’t change much all day long. That PM we roasted
hazelnuts and packed for our trip.
Wednesday, May 1st is the workers day in Mexico and most of Europe and we were surprised to see the bright
sunny sky. We were very busy doing our last minute packing for our long upcoming bike trip, which would start the
At Eibergen, the next town, we went to the library to check the Internet, our e-mail and tumbling stocks. Over the
years we have gotten to know the librarians Martin and Marcelo. These are the only two Dutchmen that we have
ever heard criticize their government and system. They are very objective and open-minded, which we find
refreshing. We do find that they are silent on those subjects when there is an audience of locals.
Martin and Marcel, Librarians Eibergen Library
As we were in the library the sky blackened and the rain began to pound down. We made the six-kilometer ride
home into a hard ice rain driven by a fierce head wind. Hot bouillon and dry wool knee socks felt good. Believe it or
not we had been looking forward to the cold weather as a welcome change to our many months in the tropics each
year. Well, now we had it and it was time to settle in for homemade soup and feel the warmth of our electric heater.
No matter how cold it gets we always sleep with the door and windows open. We have a super thick comforter and
our sleeping loft is double insulated so even though we may, “dormir abrigado”, or sleep snuggled and the
temperature downstairs near freezing, we are toasty warm without the heater on.
We tune in the radio to listen to the BBC or “British Broadcasting Station”, which has become like an old friend over
the years. It is amazing the different slant that the Europeans get on the news than the Americans do. This year the
anti-Americanism is the most we have encountered in our many times to visit Europe . Listening to the news we too
can sympathize with some of their sentiments.
Our bikes have evolved over the last thirty-five years of cycling. In the last three years we have focused on long
range cross-country touring and have developed a number of bike innovations. These are front luggage carriers
that straddle the load low on the front axle to extra heavy duty Mexican spokes that will take the pounding of
cobblestones and not let us down. The 27x1&3/8 knobby rear tires and extra large rear sprockets get us through
questionable terrain and up unexpected grades.
Thursday, May 2nd, We were up at 7AM as drizzle turned to a heavy rain. We continued with our plans to close up
and go. We drained the water tank, shut off the gas, folded up the electric, defrosted the refrigerator, took down the
canopies and put away the outdoor dining furniture. We loaded the bikes and departed by 9AM as the rain let up.
As we were rolling with our heavy loads we were surprised at how well the bikes glided along and handled. Two
years earlier we made a bike trip to Berlin and Poland from Holland and return with an equal amount of load. This
time we had that experience behind us and we now had our load strategically placed for balance, bike performance
and also ease of removal. The last item is very important as each day we had to load and unload when we stopped
for the night.
Our first stop was at Groenlo for a coffee break. This was our third time here this week, so we were very
familiar with the town. Groenlo is best known as the home of the Grolsch brewing company. The brewery in housed
in a series of nondescript, drab, and industrial looking structures that give the impression of a beer factory and not a
brewery. The end product is near perfection so the building doesn’t make the beer especially in the case of Grolsch.
The beer is found at many up-scale beer distributors in the US and the bottles are distinctive with their crockery
stoppers that are held down by a flip top wire bale. The town of Groenlo can trace its history back to the Spanish
occupation in the 1500s by the large fort and moat in the city center.
We pulled off our bike outfits at a little park that was typical of city parks found through out Holland and are
landscaped to perfection and resemble formal gardens of wealthy estates. We were surprised at the large plumes of
steam that billowed from our warm bodies in that cold air but it would take some time for our body temperature to
cool and all of the trapped moisture in our bike suits to evaporate. The timing was just right and as we finished our
coffee we were at a comfortable temperature and the bike suits dry, cool and ready to put on. It felt good to have the
hot coffee in us and our bike outfits were actually quite cold and it was twenty minutes of riding before we were back
to a comfortable temperature and we needed to unzip a few vent flaps.
By one PM we had already been down side roads, paved bike paths, city streets, over cobblestones, along busy
highways and through picture book pristine old country farmlands and using maps and our compass we arrived at
the “Grens” or German border. The narrow neatly graveled bike path that took us out of the woods at the border
was little used especially at this time of year. Jane spotted a lovely covered lunch spot. It was immaculately clean
and neatly raked with the care that was the sign that we were far from any tourist or big city traffic. There was a
stone border marker stone with the date of 1766 neatly carved in. We pondered the history of this place over those
many years at this spot with only a trail to it from the woods as we had our lunch. The quiet and cleanliness of the
spot are rare things in this day and time and Jane and I have made big efforts to seek these places out. We have
read and reread the “Lonely Planet Travel books”, and were very happy and satisfied that none of our favorite spots
That PM at 4 we were at the town of Hamminkeln and happy to find that the third hotel we checked was open for
business. We were just about to give up and travel on when I spotted a young man seated at the reception desk.
The place was locked but I tapped on the window and he responded by summoning the manager that soon showed
up at the door and was happy for the business. We didn’t have many more kilometers left in us at that time so we
were happy to get in, shower and stretch out. 56 Euros with breakfast and a lunch, to carry with us was a fare price.
We tend to take what ever we can get when we are tired after a strenuous day on the bikes. Over the course of our
Europe travels all of the prices seem to average out even though Switzerland has some real sticker shock hotel
prices. We have found out that over all of our Europe travels that Germany has the very best quality and the most
value. We have been in conservative and extravagant places from the north of Europe to the south and from east to
west over the years with a strong and a weak dollar. As we started this trip the Euro was 86cents to the dollar and
that made Germany cheaper than Mexico .
A good supper, a hot shower and a sound snooze got us ready to face another day on the road. The large
breakfast buffet and hi-octane coffee lifted our spirits to face the down pouring rain we would soon be biking in.
Friday, May 3rd we were up at seven and on our bikes rolling into the “Ruhrgebiet” or Ruhr valley, the site of the
greatest concentration of industrial power in the world. It was cold, dark and bleak as we entered the most intensely
developed industrial region in the world that is traversed by a network of railway lines and inland waterways with
direct access to the Rhine River and the Atlantic Ocean .
The first city was Wesel , pronounced by the Germans, “WEE-sal”. The city was continuous, in and out of heavy
industry and apartment complexes. Most of which were pre-WWII era and mostly occupied by middle-eastern and
Mediterranean types. The long dresses and head covers of the women are unmistakable. The little family owned
neighborhood grocery stores with crates of produce stacked in front is another sign. Jane and I love to shop in
these places. The friendly service and quality are complemented by the selection of our favorite foods.
At Wesel we were now following the Rhine River . The year before we had biked in from Holland to Emmerich and
Rees. These two cities are situated just down stream on the Rhine from Wesel . Over the years we have biked along
almost every inch of the Rhine River in Holland and the middle Rhine in Germany , which is the “castle district”.
This is a good place to explain the name “ Rhine ”, which is an English spelling.
As this river flows from its origin high up in the Swiss Alps at Lake Konstanz a.k.a. Bodensee a.k.a. Lake Constance
, (the English spelling), the name changes several times as it flows through different countries. For example in
France it is known as Le Rhin, Alt Rhein, Alsace d’Alsace and Grand Canal . In Germany just “Rhein” and in Holland
it becomes the Lek, Waal , Oude Rijn and at the sea, Maas . If this all has you confused consider this; in Germany
there is a city of Rheine , pronounced, “rye-ner” and through this city flows the Ems River .
Heading south we made good time following highway number 8 on our way to Duisburg ,our next major city. We
followed the river but couldn’t see it for all of the industrial complexes that were continuous. The pace of
manufacturing and production was very apparent. The railroad rails were shiny from heavy use and the side canals
we crossed packed with cargo vessels on the move, the only ones not moving were busy loading and unloading.
Duisburg , was a huge city with a modern downtown center and that is where we found out that bicycle traffic was not
something the place wanted to promote as we were completely without bike signs or designated bike paths. We also
encountered construction detours and had to resort to our compass and do our best to make good a general
southwest heading. As we were on the south side of town and leaving, it became apparent that we were much
further east of our intended course and tried to compensate.
We stopped in a nice park that we had located on our map and planned a strategy for the next leg of our trip. The
cold dark and damp day was taking its toll on our endurance and desire to move on from this point.
As we got under way we thought it prudent to ask for some directions from some local people we met walking in the
park. I was suspicious of their instructions by the uncertainty of their reply and should have trusted my instincts. Well
as it turned out we did a lot of biking that was completely fruitless as it was taking us way off our intended track. I
even started to distrust my compass, a sign of fatigue and becoming fuddled.
We cut our losses and got more instructions and this time we were able to make it to a major highway where we
spotted a hotel. Jane and I both had agreed that the first hotel we encountered we would take.
At the small town of Mülheim a.d.Ruhr-Selbeck was located the hotel, “Zur Kastanie”.
Our biking through the “Ruhrgebiet”, industrial area was very fascinating as the history of much of Germany ’s war
efforts were made here, from Krupp’s big cannons to all of the steel that made their vehicles from tanks to
submarines. Well the area still is a tremendous industrial place. It is the heart of European production that is tied
together with a network of locks and canals. The railroads do the lighter lifting.
Pollution is definitely one of the byproducts of this colossal production and Jane and I sucked in our share. We both
had runny noses, stuffed up heads and chest congestion. We were very comfortable in our new bike outfits, warm
and dry, but we would require more rest and vitamin “C”.
Saturday, May 4th we had a delightful breakfast at the “ Zur Kastanie Hotel” and it was extravagant to say the least
but Jane and I both agreed that we were paying plenty for the privilege. The Black Forest ham or “Schwartzwald
Schinken”, is one of our all time favorites and we consider it to be even better than the famous Serrano ham of
Spain . Our ham and cheese sandwiches on hard “Kaiser” rolls that day bordered on the side of gluttony. We were
encouraged to pack a carryout lunch from the buffet, which helped take the sting out of the steep room price.
As we began rolling that morning we were greeted with a light rain and mist coupled with 10 degrees centigrade or
50 degrees Fahrenheit that would be with us all that daylong and it was bleak with no sun at all. We have found over
the years that we always pack far too much sunscreen when traveling in Europe .
We felt like space walkers in our new biking outfits. We were warm, dry and cozy in that cold and heavy drizzle. On a
compass course south along highway #9 we were rolling through the rolling hills and we were very happy for our
persistent tailwind that pushed us up several steep hills.
We rolled into “ Ratingen ”, a typical German city with a city center of walking streets paved with cobblestones and
an ancient ornately decorated church at its center. As cold and bleak as it was we were surprised to see the streets
full of shoppers and an open-air street market doing a bustling business. The town is built on rolling hills and we
must have entered from the high side as we got a free gliding ride all the way through. We spotted an “Aldi” store
and Jane went in to make sure we would have at least a two day supply of emergency rations because the next day
was Sunday and all of the stores in Germany are closed. She got three liters of French table wine just in case we
were somehow stranded. Our corkscrew has no rust.
At coffee time that morning we were following the mighty Rhine River through downtown Dusseldorf . This impressive
city was almost totally destroyed by the end of WWII. It has been rebuilt into a modern city with only a hand full of
sky-scrappers but, mile after mile of huge apartment complexes fill this auspicious sized city. The Rhine River is a
prominent part of the landscape as the river snakes around and makes leaving town via a bridge over the Rhine
imperative unless you go east.
I told Jane that my name for the place wasn't“ Dusseldorf ” but “Drizzel-dorf” because of the persistent down pouring
As we passed the excursion boat docks downtown we stopped to inquire of boat trips towards the Bodensee or Lake
Constance and we were told that this year that the trips wouldn't be starting until the first of June. Our tour books all
said starting in April…so we would be adjusting our plans. We also tried to purchase passage on the freight boats
that ply the river. The response we received was lukewarm so we didn’t have any hope of finding a ride, we would
bike each and every centimeter of the way to that big lake high up in the Swiss Alps. In the end we knew that the
accomplishment of that feat would have everlasting rewards and terrific memories we could share the rest of our
The man at the office of the Koln-Dusseldorf excursion boat company was extremely helpful and pleasant. He gave
us all of the maps, timetables and other brochures he had and even marked our route out of town. That gesture
turned out to be a huge favor because of the many bridges that cross the river there was only one in the direction
we were going that permitted bicycle traffic. The town was laid out in the Middle Ages and none of the streets ran
north-south or east-west and to top it all off not two parallel streets could be found on the map. With our marked
map and trust in my compass we set out to cross this huge city. Several times we would retrace our path to start
over again because of one-way streets and other obstructions like construction detours. After leaving the “Alt Stadt”
or old downtown city center we got into more bicycle friendly country with designated bike paths.
By noon we were on the west bank of the Rhine River for the first time on this trip and were definitely rolling south in
the direction of Dormagen.
We pulled off the bicycle path and found a nice quiet park bench to have our late lunch at. It had been a long day,
not in miles or time but in hard biking conditions that made us feel like it would be a good time to start looking for a
hotel. So that our bodies didn’t suffer from the complications of the cold wet weather coupled with the aggravation
caused by the high percent of air contamination we didn’t need excessive fatigue thrown into this equation. We had
not been seated for many minutes when a nice young lady came by to strike up a conversation with us. She was
inquisitive as to our origin and absolutely amazed when she found out that we were American. We don’t think about
it much but we never find “Gringos” out doing anything physical and especially in Europe . The Europeans are doing
less and less these days but are mostly a hundred times more physically fit for endurance than the Americans.
Well, it turned out that where we were having our lunch was almost directly in front of this ladies’ house. After
exchanging several travel stories we told the lady that we were looking for a hotel room for the night and she gave
us directions to the nearest hotel and said that she would be happy to call ahead to make reservations for us if we
wished. We are almost always amazed at the warm and friendly treatment we receive while touring in Germany …it is
The hotel (Hotel Ragusa) turned out to be an up-scale establishment and was very nice, but we thought we would
get soaked on the price by the Bosnian manager, but he was very congenial and in the end gave us some kind of
discount that brought the price down to 70 Euros. We were at least able to thank him in his native language as
several years earlier we spent two weeks aboard a freighter with an all Bosnian/Croatian crew from the town of Split .
They were excellent cooks and very friendly people.
Sunday, May 5th, we were up at 7AM for the breakfast buffet. It was a very hardy feed and we needed it to face
another cold rainy day. With some strong coffee to get our motors revved up we went out to face the drizzle. At 9AM
we had our bikes out of the bike storage place, loaded and we were rolling along. When we get rolling along our
spirits definitely pick up. Before long the drizzle turned to heavy rain and we were heading into the big city of
Cologne , known to the Germans as “Köln”. As usual in extra large German cities when you get close to the city
center the bike friendly atmosphere dries up; Berlin being an exception. Sure enough we found ourselves biking
down sidewalks, dodging scaffolding and building materials and then out on the street dodging trolley cars and
trying not to get killed in the trolley rail groves that run off at all sorts of angles to our course.
Our compass course was definitely getting us to the end of town we wanted to get to. Just as we thought that we
were getting though to the part of the city where we would be converging with the elusive Rhine River our bike way
evaporated into thin air. We were out in extra heavy traffic forced into going 180 degrees away from the route we
wanted and needed. Just as I thought that things couldn’t get worse they did. As we were crossing a very busy
intersection my front bike rack died of metal fatigue and took a dive into my spokes before flying off the bike. Jane
retrieved it from the speeding traffic and across the street was a covered parking area under a highway overpass
where I was able to make an emergency repair, by drilling a one half inch hole in the aluminum angle bar with the
knife from my Leatherman tool. I have found that tool completely indispensable in our excursions.
When the repair was complete we gathered our wits, evaluated the situation and ferreted out a route in the direction
we needed to head to rendezvous with the Rhine.
We were presently surprised to find that we were only a couple of hundred meters from the promenade of the Rhine.
We found a route down to the river level and started along the bank of the river looking desperately for a covered
spot to have our morning coffee break, which was far past due. It was 11AM by the time that we found a suitable
spot under a bridge overpass that had a place to sit down out of the persistent rain. We must have a serious
dependency on our coffee as I definitely notice withdrawal symptoms when our coffee break is late. Well, the hot
coffee helped to warm our cold hands. It was so cold that morning that our bottled water we carry on our bikes that is
the temperature of the outdoors was definitely too cold to drink fast. Our tropical Mexican friends just can’t fathom
such a condition.
As we sat drinking our hot coffee and watching the heavy commercial shipping traffic on the Rhine a German guy
came by that really wanted to talk. All in German, he related his stories. First he asked if we were from Holland, then
England and three times he asked if we were really from America. Well he just had to tell of his trips to Alaska,
Montana, and Washington state. Next he told of all the problems they had under Adolph Hitler. He was born in 1940
the same year I was. You could tell he really loved America and wanted to tell us so.
After coffee we rolled through the rain south and out of the city into huge forests that were transited by lovely paved
bicycle paths along the Rhine. It was bitter cold but we were definitely dressed for it. At 12:30 we began seriously
looking for a covered lunch spot. We found a lovely bench under the overhang of a medieval stacked stone
structure that was still in use. A half-liter of French red wine and our packed ham and cheese sandwiches on hard
Kaiser rolls made the atmosphere of the Rhine River.
Our pathway along the river was surprisingly busy in spite of the cold damp weather. We have seen summer
afternoons along the river with the crowds packing all of the facilities beyond capacity and absolutely no place to sit
except on the ground. Two years earlier Jane and I drove down here to do a feasibility study for this trip and then we
decided we really wanted to do the trip but that the only way it would be any fun would be to be completely off
season. So, here we are with empty hotels and lots of free park benches. We love it. This is our quiet and private
At 3 PM we pulled off the river route and into a small town named, “Widdig” just north of Bonn. We asked directions
and were told to go straight for two blocks. We did and came to the Hotel Rheinterrassen. There was a big wedding
party going on and we had to wait just to get in the door. I wound up holding the door for several ladies and it turned
out that one was the manager, which I discovered when I finally got to the reception desk. I was told that the price
was 70 Euros with breakfast. The lady manager asked if we wanted river view or parking lot view. I replied, “What is
the difference in price?” When she said it was the same, the choice was easy so we wound up with the most
spectacular room we have ever had in all of our travels. Our third floor room was situated so that the plate glass
picture windows that made up two of our outside walls overlooked the river. The room was strategically placed so as
we sat at our dining table with a panoramic view of the river and riverboats appeared to be coming and going from
beneath our room. Even the Rhine River bike path came and went from beneath our observation deck. Jane said
that she was getting a sore neck from trying to take it all in. We felt privileged to have lucked into such a spectacular
Our trip had been fine and we knew that the Rhine only got more spectacular from this point south and we eagerly
looked forward to the upcoming days.
Monday, May 6th we were up at 6:30 AM. The weather was clear, the shipping on the river was very active and
the water was high and running fast due to all of the rain.
After a generous sized breakfast we packed our bikes and we were rolling by 8:15. We were heading south toward
Bonn along a nice bike trail but half a kilometer along our way we encountered four inches of water covering our
bike path. Going slow we proceeded for several blocks in four to six inches of water and thought that we hadn’t
considered biking in the river only along side of it.
Bonn had an excellent bike path and by 10:30 that morning we were on the south side of town enjoying our coffee
break sitting in the sun.
Next we were surprised to find the river high over our path and we would need to detour this time. With no detour
signs we set out with our compass course and the assistance of some locals that were very helpful. We were along
the highway and as luck would have it we found a “Lidl” store where we were able to replenish our over the road
provisions of wine, produce, cheese and other goodies. By lunchtime we were back on our bike trail that was here
high above the level of the Rhine.
The weather was warm as we had our lunch but it soon cooled off again that afternoon.
We encountered a very pushy biker. This was no kid; this old guy rode his bike between Jane and I and almost ran
us off the road then slowed down and wouldn’t let us pass. We finally got ahead of him just as we entered a steep
spiral down grade where I lost control of my bike when one of my oversized front packs hit the high curb and flipped
my bike. Jane almost creamed me but locked up her brakes to stop. There was no bike damage so it was up and on.
This was my only spill of the trip and nothing got broken though I had a sore wrist for several days.
The hotel owners were very interesting and had visited the US, Canada and even to Mexico at Tijuana. We told
them please not to judge Mexico by that crummy border town.
They had an interesting collection of flags from all of the countries that their clients had come from and the
collection was a large one. Also they showed the watermarks on the wall that had been left by the Rhine River over
the years. One mark was six feet or almost two meters up the wall from a 1954 flood, and their hotel was one block
up the hill from the river. This year the water had reached the front steps.
Tuesday, May 7th, it had been two weeks since we had left home in Merida. We were up at 7:30 and had a very
nice breakfast with the owners and exchanged lots of travel stories with them.
Jane was weak from a hard night with lots of congestion and not sure she had the strength to go on, but by 9:30 we
were on our bikes and gone. At the next town we stopped to shop at the “Lidl” store. We bought wine, cheese and
etc. We were soon on the bike path to “Koblenz”. It was quite nice along the river route except that we had to turn
back at one point to follow the highway due to the high water of the river. We were soon back to the bike route and
again found that we were in for another detour because of the high water.
Jane was shot and had to rest so we began to look for a hotel. The first hotel we spotted at noon was full…so they
Koblenz has no bike route signs and we had a hard time finding our way through the industrial zone on the north
side of the city. We wound up riding the streets on a compass course but we were lucky and came out at the spot
where the Mosel River entered the Rhine. As we went up and over the bridge the view was spectacular and the
weather was finally cooperating with us, it was a beautiful sun shiny day.
The confluence of the Rhine and Mosel has an interesting history and dates back to the Roman occupation. The
elegant buildings and bridges make it a real tourist trap. We had our lunch and tried to take as much in as possible
watching the tourists along the promenade and the multitude of stately tour boats all competing for the few pre-
season tourists. All of the tour boats had their own ticket office filled with tourist trinkets, one after the other all
vending much the same products from post cards to extravagant hand painted figurines and a myriad of "artsy-
craftsy" German style closet stuffing stuff.
Koblenz,the place where the Rhine and Mosel Rivers meet. Statue is of William I
Across the river and high up on the opposite bank sat a majestic old castle that helped tell the story of the area
history. Through this town and all along the wide, tree enshrouded promenade larger than life bronze monuments
that would dwarf any from the normal show of decadence anywhere else on the continent are found. These artfully
crafted sculptures made this place into a not to be forgotten memory. But then every thing in “Deutschland’ is,
bigger, taller and faster than elsewhere. You needn’t ask…it just is! This was the type of day to be here with hardly
any tourists and glorious weather.
This PM we took a leisurely lunch break to soak up the sun, the first in a week.
The owners of the hotel we stayed at the night before made a couple of observations about America we just had to
agree with. One was that German style and quality of bread was not to be found there and the other observation
was that Americans were almost all over weight with huge rolls of fat and only would move via motor vehicle…how
true. However we did manage to witness some extra stout Germans, “the super race”.
We sauntered along slowly that PM and I tried several hotels and they were all closed. Finally at “Rhens”, we
spotted a sign pointing up the hill to a hotel, so we tried it. The hill was so steep we had to use all of our strength just
to push our bikes up to the street level entrance. Hotel Rheinterrasse was just fine and we had a lovely panoramic
view of the river from the plate glass windows that covered the entire east wall of our room. The wine country
vineyards stretching continuously along the river definitely added to the Rhine River atmosphere. For fifty Euros we
only had a radio, so we listened to “Armed Forces Radio”, from the US military base near by and loved it. The view
must have been what we were supposed to look at for the price.
Two years earlier we had biked this portion of the river. It is definitely the most spectacular section of the Rhine.
Castles, vineyards and huge steep hills all the way along this narrow portion of the river make it a photo opportunity
spot. The narrow river accelerates the river water to over ten knots at one point and that is too much for most boats
and some get tugboat assistance.
The river water was raging. With its high level the power of the flowing Rhine is impressively apparent. When you
see the huge heavy laden river boats with their multi-thousands of horsepower diesel engines straining to the limits
as they scream to twist their propeller shafts beyond all limits relentlessly day and night pushing a wall of water that
cascades down from the snow capped Alps. The rushing torrents almost stall the forward thrust of the mighty
machines, but on they press. Up, up to the lake at the top of Europe, Bodensee or “Lake Constance”. The down
bound vessels fly effortlessly along as if idling, but their speed makes them menacing because to stop or even alter
course would take forethought and effort. The vessels can only get as far as Basel in Switzerland from the lower
The next day as we sat at waters edge, coffee cups in hand philosophically contemplating what we were beholding
Jane and I both came to the same conclusion. If these mighty torrents of water were harnessed all of the river freight
could ride free on electric powered rail and the excess clean power would be there to satisfy mans boundless
appetite for power. In spite of the gluttonous quantities of petroleum that these freight boats with mega horse-
powered machines devour grinding upstream we were very impressed at their conspicuously clean exhaust. The
Germans have a compunction for tuning everything to perfection.
The wonderful weather picked up Jane’s health but she still needed a lot of rest so we got an early quit and a good
Wednesday, May 8th we were up at 7 AM, had a nice breakfast and a slow ride. The weather was pleasant and the
air was fresh, which helped Jane. She was weak from her asthma problems and had started her medication which
was the first time in two years. Many of the hotels we stayed at had lots of dust and even some smell of sewer gas all
of which aggravated her condition.
We shopped that morning at the “Lidl” store to lay in provisions plus stopping to do a brake job on Jane’s bike. Her
front carrier rack needed to be rebuilt and so I was able to make a provisional repair. This called for a redesign and
new equipment for next year. We always seem to have some upgrades even after all of these years of cross-country
At lunchtime we stopped in the center of one of the most frequented tourist stops along the Rhine, at the town of
Looking across the Rhine to St. Goarshausen
Two years earlier we spent a week directly across the river at the town of Saint Goarshausen and explored the
banks of the river on both sides; north and south and all of the towns along the way and knew that we would be
back. This lovely place is lined with castle after castle all ancient, distinctive and majestic.
We went along slowly and were looking for the first hotel we could find. At the next town of Ober-Wesel we asked on
the street for a hotel and were directed to a hotel that was more like a furnished apartment house. They had a room
which we took and we were surprised to find that it was all decorated with antiques and had just about every amenity
you would find in a well-equipped private home. We were so impressed that we decided to book several days but
they were all booked up. The lady that owned the hotel called all of the hotels and rooming houses in the area for us
to see if anyplace else was available…nothing.
We took a walk around the neighborhood and we were surprised that the homes were incorporated into ancient city
walls that must have dated back in time to the Romans. All was meticulously kept to the finest detail and if some
calamity doens't befall this town I am sure that these houses will stand another thousand or more years.
Bicycling along the Rhine
Thursday, May 9th Jane was still sick but the weather was definitely very pleasant and the air clean though cool in
the early morning. She was still using her asthma medicine as we slowly headed south along the most beautiful
stretch of the river to our next town of Bingen.
Jane biking along the Rhine towards Bingen (photo from our trip in 2000)
Bingen was not much of a town for visitors though the surrounding scenery was still spectacular. Here the river
makes an abrupt turn to the east on its way to Mainz. Along the way we found a small shelter to get out of the
noonday sun and have our lunch. This was our warmest day yet and I believe it was exactly what Jane needed along
with lots of rest. As we poked our way along in the warm sunny weather with most of our clothes stripped off we
entered the small town of Heidenfahrt and I spotted a sign for a “schlafen zimmer” or “sleeping room” so we stopped
and asked though it was early in the afternoon. Yes one room left was the reply and we took it. With the windows
wide open to enjoy the salubrious weather we took an afternoon “siesta” that was followed by an early dinner and an
equally early snooze…we both needed it!
Friday, May 10th, after a quiet night and a sound snooze we awoke to find the day dark and gray with a very light
drizzle coming down. The breakfast was adequate and ample and resembled a boarding house atmosphere.
Everything was laid our but everyone had their assigned spot and the coffee was self-serve. We were surprised
when the owner informed us that the price was double what he had quoted the day before. The price of thirty Euros
seemed reasonable but sixty was steep for this type of accommodation. We desperately needed the rest and the
hotel was directly on the bike trail so it was fine.
We were on our bikes by 8:30 and rolling in a light drizzle. The area was very beautiful with big forests and nice
scenery of the river and the hills on the north side. The trail was poorly marked and a compass course was
necessary. Much of the way we were up on dikes that gave us a panoramic view as we passed stands of gigantic
aspen trees three feet thick on the stump.
Here the river valley widens out and the river again turns in a southerly direction and the wine producing vineyards
spread out to the horizon. We were leaving the narrow middle Rhine section with all of the castles and entering a
river basin that was so wide that the hills on either side were so far off that the impression was that there was no
valley at all.
In the big bend in the river as it turned in an easterly direction is located the city of Mainz. While we were stopped
consulting our maps and compass course four Germans came by on bicycles. These men were middle-aged and
moving fast. We were impressed by the man that was leading the pack as he had an air horn; the type used on sail
boats to open bridges. He used it in traffic and as we followed them through Mainz we became very impressed with
just how effective the horn was in traffic. It definitely stopped traffic and before anyone could figure out where the
horn sound was coming from they were on their way. We liked it a lot. We made a record transit of this huge city by
following these high-speed old guys. The ride was exhilarating and by the time we parted our ways with the four
Germans it was coffee break time for us and cigarettes for them. We were situated on the Rhine River promenade
across from the confluence of the river “Main” on the south side of Mainz.
There were lots of bikers on the trail now because of the four-day holiday and many workers were on strike. The city
had 80,000 habitants and was the last large city we would pass through for some time as we had decided to take an
alternate route that was known as the “Wein Strauße” or wine road.
This day we had a variety of bike conditions from dirt trail, gravel, paved, cobblestoned, main streets, side streets,
industrial areas, rural, forests, main highway, heavy traffic and even quaint towns. We started looking for a room at
noon after shopping at a “Lidl” store in Nierstein, the next town south of Mainz. We tried eight different places to find
a vacancy. At 3:30 we found a nice place called “Bed and Bike”. This was also a winery “Weingut”, and the owner,
Karl Breth insisted on giving us a tour and tasting session. These were world-class wines and we have never tasted
better Rhine wine. We shared stories as we are also wine makers. Karl was feeling sad because his lovely winery
was now too small an operation to sustain a family and all of his children had to look for other types of work. This
was the end of an era and we definitely felt the loss as it was a way of life that had been a family operation for many
generations. Dear readers, check it out, here is the web-site: www.weingut-breth.de/
We were ready for a siesta so we cleaned up and laid back to listen to Armed Forces Radio and had our PM coffee.
We were sick to hear of all the money spent to support 35,000 troops and their dependants stationed in Germany
especially since they have been there for fifty-seven years with no sign of ever leaving. The same numbers of
troops are stationed in Korea for all of these years. We could easily see why the Germans were enjoying a standard
of living second to none with free social medicine and an average yearly retirement check of $100,000 per person.
Almost every town has a free public sports center with swimming pools and things like bicycle paths in, out and
around every part of the country to mention a few things the Americans can’t or won’t afford. Of course they aren’t
buying any aircraft carriers either.
Our lovely room had a problem that Jane quickly discovered. It was sewer gas. This was bad for both Jane and I, but
especially lethal for her with her asthma. By keeping the bathroom door closed and the windows open we enjoyed
the room in good health and had a really sound and needed rest. Before we started our trip we both agreed that we
would take one day each week to layover for just rest and recuperation from our strenuous schedule. Well, so far we
hadn’t gotten a room for two nights in spite of the fact that we were definitely off-season.
Saturday, May 11 after a very sound snooze we were up to a lovely breakfast with fresh baked home made bread.
At 8:30 we were on our bikes and rolling on a cool but lovely day. We had studied the maps thoroughly and come to
the conclusion that our best route down this extremely wide portion of the Rhine valley would be to avoid the large
cities and seek out the least traveled roads.
Well our maps only depict the steepest grades and there didn't seem to be too many but we were surprised to find
that even with our extra low gearing that I had installed this year especially for this trip we were unable to make some
of the grades. On one stretch of walk up only grade of more than 500 meters we met a man that stopped us to
inquire where we thought we were going. He said we must have been going the wrong way until we showed him our
map and the course we had planned. When he saw the route we had picked he assured us that we had definitely
picked the very best way along the “Wine Route”. We were very happy with our route even though it turned out to
be a gear grinding and brake burning experience.
By 3:30 that afternoon we were weak as rags and completely ready to sleep in the ditch if necessary. Not all of our
hills were down and several were so steep that there were no bicycle gears that would have permitted riding up
them; in fact it was close to impossible to push our loaded rigs up. We checked for accommodations and asked at
eight different places and they were all full.
Finally we stopped at a winery and said that we were “kaput” and couldn’t go any further and could they please help
us find a room. Even though they were very busy with many clients they went out of their way to help. The manager
got on the phone and checked the accommodations in the vicinity. After a number of attempts he had success. Next
he told us to follow him, as the hotel was very difficult to find. Off we went. The manager in his little German sports
car and Jane and I behind on our bicycles to the next town and after turning down many side streets we arrived. The
five kilometer trip took us to a spectacular spot that had a commanding view of the entire Rhine river valley that
stretched off to the distant mountains 45 kilometers away and the large riverside cities stood out to show the river
way. The cities of Worms, Mannhiem, Offenbach and Aschaffenburg stood out in the far off distance and were
clearly visible in the late afternoon as we witnessed an approaching thunder storm that was eminently moving in our
direction. No sooner did we check in to this lovely room with its commanding view of the lovely valley than torrents of
icy rain came pouring down. The rain was great as long as we were not out in it getting soaked.
The new hotel was elegant and cost 67 Euros. Considering that there was no radio or TV the price was plenty but
we didn’t have an extra inch in us and were very happy for the serenity and the breakfast that was world class.
The day had proved to be one to test our endurance and there would be many more like it with even steeper grades.
That night Jane cooked up a vegetable and noodle dinner that was fit for a king and we washed it down with our
usual liter of French red wine. My corkscrew is shiny from daily use, but that is just a sign of good living
Sunday, May 12th we were surprised that our hotel was completely full and with well healed clients that dressed like
they could easily afford the accommodations.
We were the only bikers at the hotel. We got started a little late by 9:30 on this dark and fresh morning. We were
surprised that for the first fifteen kilometers we didn’t have to even pump our bikes on a very spirited ride, as we
were on a continuous down grade, our kind of biking!
As we rolled through a small town we stopped to ask a local man the best route as the road ahead made a fork. One
way was up a very intimidating steep grade and the other rambled off mostly level. Of course we were hoping that
the man would tell us our route was the level one, but as it turned out we would be going to grind our gears once
Well, the man turned out to speak excellent English and wanted to tell us some of his history and how much he liked
the US. It turned out that he had spent five years of his life after WWII in a prisoner of war camp under the Russians
in Estonia. He had been born in “Silesia”, a country that no longer exists and was surprised that we were familiar with
it. It was so strange that here was a man with so much wisdom that he could see the craziness of the ethnic and
religious wars in the Middle East yet in his youth he followed Hitler off to war along with thousands of others. It is
many times very interesting to have these kinds of encounters with strangers as they are a large part of what makes
traveling so very interesting to us.
The route we chose that day was not even listed on the bike map as a route so we were very successful at avoiding
tourists as we crossed this picture perfect wine country. We rolled through the quaintest of villages, all immaculate
and kept but with one noticeable trait that we saw over and over again. These picture perfect homes mostly had
their garages pilled high and crammed to overflowing with things occasionally there would even be a buried car in
the mess. We know a Muller family in Florida with a garage that would fit right in the scene.
The large cities were the worst to navigate. This is not a trip for a novice navigator because to transit the large cities
requires compass, good maps together with good logic and frequent questions to locals…most times the information
is good and accurate. We did find that in past trips to old East Germany that the locals were not familiar with
compass directions and didn't know how to read a map.
In the afternoon as we were looking for a hotel in the town of Landau. Some locals sent us to the hotel Krone where
we had a bad experience. The people at the reception must not have liked our looks or just didn’t want any bicycle
people stopping in. First they told us that their 145 room hotel was full and it was not and next they sent us to a hotel
that was far off our intended route that was priced in the stratosphere.
In the next town of Herxheim, as we were asking directions, some people set us straight and sent us to a local hotel
that was fantastic. Hotel Zur Trube was a “Gasthof und Pension”. Our room had its own private balcony and was
lavishly appointed for one fourth the price. It also happened to have CNN on the TV and a huge memorable
Monday, May 13th Jane and I had been so tired the night before that we hadn’t really gotten a good look at the
town we were in. Our room was beautiful and as nice and adequate as we could have found anywhere and the
breakfast was served in a private dining room though the main business of the establishment was as a restaurant
and bar. Our waiter was also the manager and took special attention to our every need. We were awakened to the
sound of church bells that were somehow very pleasant and calming. As we went out on to the street we were
treated to a special treat. The town was a Middle Ages town that was comprised of waddle and dab buildings, or
“half timbered” as some people call them.
As we rolled away that morning we were aware that we were now out of the wine country and entering the area of
heavy forests of extreme beauty.
As we were rolling along I discovered that my front wheel needed realignment and after that tune up I noticed a huge
improvement in my bicycle. As we were several miles away from our hotel at the time I also noticed that I had
forgotten my lock and chain but it was just too far back to even consider a return to retrieve it so on we went.
We knew that we needed to turn south to transverse a large forest but we didn’t see any signs to lead us that way
so we turned at the first street that looked like the right one.
As we rolled along we found an “Aldi “ store that is similar to the “Lidl’s” and stocked up on our usual necessary
We came to a detour and discovered that we had been dumped directly onto a very busy Trans-Europe highway.
There was no escape for us and we didn’t even have the option of riding on the shoulder. We went as fast as we
could with the huge trucks backed up behind us for a distance of about three kilometers. We were finally able to get
off and a French truck driver pulled over and told Jane quite politely that this was a very busy highway and that it
was very dangerous for bicycles. We both nodded in agreement and tried riding along a little forest trail that was
more or less in the direction we wanted to go. After several kilometers of this lovely forest trail we encountered two
women jogging and asked directions. One of the women told us to follow the trail for several kilometers more then
take the third right hand turn to the west and watch for signs. We took her advice and low and behold she proved to
be right. We had a wonderful ride through the forest that morning and stopped at ten for coffee. This was a very
primitive place and we were able to find a downed tree upon which to use as a seat. No park benches in this nature
reserve and not even any people. This is what we enjoy the most about finding our own route. We are many times
rewarded with spectacular spots like this one and especially when we are not expecting it. We did find the signs that
pointed our way but they were very small and inconspicuous. The whole morning was made spectacular by this
lovely ride in the wilderness that eventually led us out into a neat little town that seemed forgotten by the last
As we went through an industrial area we crossed a bridge and found ourselves in France. The bike route signs
were scarce and we attempted to use our compass and maps to lead us along. Finally in desperation we stopped a
mailman to ask directions and didn’t elicit any response until I came up with a “ bon jour”. That brought a smile to his
face and we began to converse with mostly sign language and some limited French words. He soon was attempting
to use some English and we had a good time and left him smiling as we departed with an “au revoir”.
We made our way down to the Rhine and the trail was superb. We were making excellent time as we sped along the
smoothly paved and direct bike road atop a levy. We looked for and found a neat lunch spot just a few meters off
the bike road directly on the riverbank. The scenery was lovely with tall aspen and willows. We had a pleasant lunch
on a sunshiny day with the river roaring past on its way to the sea.
This is an interesting place on the Rhine as the French have done some real plumbing changes to the river to make
it passable for commercial boat traffic. The river twists and turns, but the navigable channel has been cut directly
along in a mostly straight line using a series of dikes, levies, and locks that let the river flow along at it’s own pace.
At the same time providing a mostly calm waterway for the boat traffic.
As the afternoon found us again looking for accommodations we met a Frenchman on a strange bike that was a
type becoming popular that allows the rider to almost lay in the prone position while peddling. He told us to follow
him and return to the German side of the river if we wanted any chances of accommodations in the area. We
followed him though he was evidently well rested and ready to sprint along. We were led across a busy highway
where we had to dart through busy traffic then along a long high bridge where we rode the walkway, getting off
several times to hop some curbs. We just couldn’t keep up with our heavy packs and the fact that we had had many
hours of riding behind us this day already.
As tired as we were we loved the beautiful scenery and enjoyed seeing the many swans and especially getting an
up-close look at their nests full of the springs new chicks. Evidently they have become accustom to all of the bicycle
traffic as they paid little attention to us.
After several attempts to find a hotel Jane finally asked a man that gave us directions to a nearby hotel. At 4:30m
that afternoon we arrived at the Hotel Brome in the small town of Lichtenau, Germany. It was a tavern with rooms
upstairs. The price was 26 Euros, which was very cheap, but it didn't include breakfast. We took it as we were bone-
weary tired and not in any condition to be choosy after our 60 plus kilometer day. The room was very clean and
basic in a typical German way. I went out and bought a new lock for the bike to replace the one I had forgotten that
morning. We found a very nice grocery store with a lovely deli and bakery adjacent to our hotel. We splurged on
pizza and French red wine even though we were back on the “right bank of the Rhine, the German side or the side
with all of the beer.
Thursday, May 14th As our hotel didn’t provide a breakfast, Jane brewed up some coffee on our camp stove and we
went to the bakery at our front door and purchased some hot and fresh German hard Kaiser rolls which we
smothered with butter (definitely not health food) for our breakfast.
We have heard it said that the reason that the Germans are so productive and such hard workers is because of the
dark hard bread they eat. By contrast the French have their soft bleached white bread and they tend to be much
more laid back and definitely go at a lot slower pace except on the highway.
By 9AM we were rolling along on our loaded bikes with our wool knee socks back on, as it had turned cooler. We
encountered a strong and cool head wind and by 10 AM when we stopped for our morning coffee we buttoned up. It
wasn’t quite cool enough for our jackets when riding but when we stopped our body temperature quickly began to
The scenery was spectacular all day long as we passed through part of the “Schwartz Wald” or Black Forest. Here
the river is once again close to the steep banks and the valley narrows. Five years earlier we biked this area when
we passed through with our camper as we traveled to Spain and Portugal. The landscape was familiar and we even
remembered some of the routes from our previous trip. We had lots of time to study the distant hills of the Black
Forest as we roamed the fields in search of black berries five years before.
A strange thing happened as we slowed to make a steep graveled grade. Some men came running out from a
workman’s mobile trailer yelling at us in broken English. It turned out that they had been sitting in the hotel bar the
night before when I was checking into the hotel. They overheard my conversation with the bartender and they were
amazed that we were really Americans that we were bicycling the entire length of the Rhine River. This was
something that few people ever attempt and especially Americans that are not seen even walking around in Europe.
As we entered the town of Ottenheim that afternoon Jane spotted a Penny grocery store and went in to replenish
our provisions. This is something very important for this kind of trip as we can only carry a limited inventory of extra
provisions. Well Jane came out with a surprise of pickled garlic in olive oil that happened to be one of our
weaknesses. We demolished the entire jar that night with dinner…self-indulgence gave way to gluttony!
Next we spotted a Bed and Bike Hotel and as luck would have it there was one vacancy so we took it
The day was a wonderful one and we wound up using our compass and lots of scrutiny to navigate through the
several detours that were not on our new maps.
I couldn’t help but think of Jane’s little brother Joel when he said “is it really worth the bother”. Well, yes it really is
and we have packed several years worth of adventures into a couple of weeks…it seems like five years since we left
home in Merida.
Wednesday, May 15th, we had a nice breakfast and received extra food for the trail. The home made German
bread was irresistibly good and the lady that owned the hotel made reservations for us at our next stop at Breisach,
The day was marvelous and we had spectacular summer time weather, as nice as we had seen yet in Europe this
season. Our ride this day would be fifty plus kilometers along the Rhine River with France one bank and Germany
on the other. The wildlife and forests along the way made it one of the nicest stretches of the river we had seen.
One extra treat was the hundreds of swans that we saw that for some reason had absolutely no fear of people. We
watched mothers with their chicks in their nests just a few feet from our bike trail. I had never seen their nests up so
close and both Jane and I had to stop several times just to observe them.
We arrived in Breisach and followed our map and the instructions given but the “Gasthaus Schillinger” proved very
hard to locate. We persisted and to our surprise our quarters were huge. We had a full kitchen, two bedrooms,
dining room, living room and TV room. With a price tag of 56 Euros we just had to stay two nights, especially in this
lively old Middle Ages town where we encountered such friendly people
Breisach, Germany and the Rhine River viewed from the French side of the river.
May 16th was to be a rest day but we couldn’t resist a side trip over to France. At this point of the Rhine River the
German side was definitely the very best and we didn’t see anything on the French side that made us want to go on.
The French side was not at all bicycle friendly and had no bike routes what so ever so we spent the remainder of
the morning back in Breisach, a lovely town even if they catered almost exclusively to tourists.
That morning as Jane went into the “Lidl” store to do some shopping and I tuning up our bikes. I always like to
inspect the shifter adjustments, brakes and tires. Well, I was amazed to find that my front tire was “kaput”. I didn’t
have enough confidence in it to make it to the next town so we headed downtown to the bike shop for a new tire. At
fourteen Euros I had sticker shock because I buy the same tire in Mexico for the equivalent of three Euros. Well, I
had to have it and so out the door I went with my new purchase. In actuality I was very happy to have it as there
would be no going on without it, the old one was totally gone.
It was good to be doing this bicycle repair in our apartment instead of out on the road in the rain some day when I
was too tired to go on. I discovered that my bicycle pump didn’t work either. First I thought that I had damaged my
tube reinstalling the tire. I was able to make a special gasket for the bike pump and had it all together in time for
lunch. Jane had bought us pizza and we had it with our red wine. We next went to the library to use the Internet and
check our e-mails. We were home for coffee and to watch CNN and wash our clothes.
Originally we had said that each week of our trip that we would take at least one day to lay back and rest, regroup
and just charge our bodily batteries. Well we missed the rest day in our first week of travel simply because we couldn’
t find any accommodations that were available for two days at a time. Now we had it and it really helped. Jane’s
respiratory problems were much better, but we were day by day wearing down.
Friday the 17th of May, we arose to a spectacular spring day and went down to an early big breakfast.
As we departed that morning we were both surprised at just how very heavy our loaded bikes were. We had ridden
around the area the day before unburdened by our packs, now we were fully loaded.
We quickly got back to our regular cadence as we circled the downtown historic area on our way to the river route
bike trail. This had to be the very best morning of our entire bicycle trip because of the once in a season pristine
conditions and the fact that we seemed to have the entire world to ourselves. We biked with gigantic trees on both
sides of the placid river and the entire morning we were the only bikers. This was something special to us, to be in
such a lovely place with the best of bluebird weather and have the entire place to our selves…memorable indeed.
Now there were high hills on both sides of the river and the wild life was made very special by the fact that we again
encounter many swans up close.
The thing that made this portion of the river so placid was that here was the “Alsace Canal”, parallel to the river. The
canal takes all of the commercial boat traffic and was located on the other side of the river, which we could not see
from our bike trail. The purpose of the canal was to slow the water flow so that the boats would not have to buck the
incredibly fast current. Here is how it works: In sections of the canal water above locks is stored or backed up, thus
making it placid. The boats merely have to lock up or down now and then to transit the waterway. It is a good system
and makes it possible to use this portion of the river year round in spite of river conditions.
As we pedaled along we were impressed with just how much clearer and cleaner the river water was here as it
widened out and cascaded over rocks.
By noon the temperature had gone from warm to hot so we looked for some shade to have our lunch. Now we had
competition for park benches but persistence paid off and we had a lovely spot. Much of this area is a nature
reserve so it is a big draw to outdoorsmen.
All of the people we had asked about the upcoming stretch of the river advised us to stop before we got to the Swiss
town of Weil. We later found that to be very good advise.
We checked our map and left the bike trail at a place called “Kirchen/Eimeldge”. This was indeed interesting country
with its steep hills and narrow country lanes marked with strange markings we were not accustomed to. As we stood
pondering our map and studying our compass we met some fellow bikers with the same problem except that they
had biked this area before and knew what the road signs designated. Thus we were all able to get to our
destination, which was a little hillside town. It was hot and we were ready to quit.
We were on our bikes by 8:30 after adjustment of our brakes and gearshifts. Those two items were imperative in
these hills and for the larger ones that lay ahead. We had super low gears that I had just installed this year…what a
difference they made, especially with our heavy loads. Later on we met people that biked in Switzerland and they
had low gears that were twice as low as our gear ratios.
We went through town and down the hills to the river and resumed our bike trail there. The first part of the morning
was fabulous biking with the scenic river rapids flowing along side. As we entered the town of Weil we saw why we
were not advised to look for rooms there. It was a big industrial city and not at all bicycle friendly. The metropolitan
area takes in the Swiss town of Basel and the German town of Riehen, which gave it tremendously large traffic
problems and some gigantic apartment complexes filled with immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
We spotted an “Aldi” store but it was so busy we gave up and headed down the block to the “Lidl” store. We wanted
to make sure that our staple provisions were adequate because all stores would be closed the next day, Sunday.
We had an excellent map of the town but it neglected to show all of the one-way streets and didn’t indicate any
bicycle routes. Even though we had this nice map we wound up totally mixed up as to where we were. The one thing
that the map neglected to show was that the German- Swiss border zigzagged across town and who knows how
many times that morning we crossed over and back.
The direction we made good that morning was fine but we hadn't followed the curve of the river as we had originally
In a large park we were pondering our map when we asked some people for help. They couldn't speak a word of
English, German or French We discovered that they were all from Albania. Ever since the break up of Yugoslavia
and the Soviet Union the number of refugees throughout Europe has become a colossal problem. The year before
when we were in the city of Detroit in the USA all of the employees in the hotel we stayed at were from Albania.
We scrutinized the landmarks and our compass and concluded that there was only one place in the entire city we
could be by counting bridges and the direction of a small river that flowed through the park. We had a fix of our
location and now we had to find someone that could recommend which route we should take to make good our
We were happy to make our exit of this place because it was not one of the highlights of the trip. The route that was
recommended got us to the outskirts of town in a few minutes. It was just about direct and even though we had to
contend with heavy traffic, we rolled along.
I think our biggest surprise of all upon leaving town was the fact that we had to go through German customs to enter
Germany. We didn't even know that a large part of that morning we had been bicycling in Switzerland.
We were back to the river’s edge and discovered that this was as far as any commercial boat shipping from
downstream could go. There were commercial boats that went up stream a little further from here but they all
We sat back at the German customs booth and had our morning coffee and scrutinized our map for the best route
to pursue along the river.
We found a lovely little path that was charming to say the least and it was very quiet going as we were away from the
road traffic and on a narrow path directly adjacent to the river. It was just too good to be true. Well, after nearly an
hour of this we found out that we were going to have to literally carry our bikes up and down stairs and over narrow
catwalks for nearly a half a kilometer. We had the option of retracing our path but thought it best to press on ahead.
This proved to be a job for “Superman”. We had to carry one bike at a time in relays the entire distance. We both
were “kaput” and had to sprawl out in the prone position to regain our composure before going on. Jane was
experiencing heart pain from the strain so rest was not an option it was imperative. Well it was lunchtime so we had it
We were following the highway the rest of the afternoon. The area has an over abundance of tourists and the locals
seem to have a bad attitude toward them. We found that in the towns in this stretch that the bikes would be routed
off the main street to make a detour of the downtown. The detour would consist of tremendously steep grades and
that you would do several kilometers of detour to avoid a couple of blocks of city traffic. After our second small town
that pulled this trick on us we finally learned.
As the sky darkened, and rain threatened we began to look earnestly for a hotel and found one in a small town
named Bad Säckingen. On a side street, the little hotel beckoned us as we were really ready to quit. There was no
radio or TV but we had lots of reading and writing to do plus the price was 40 Euros with breakfast.
The day had been a hard one of 50 plus kilometers. The first half was very nice and the second half, frustrating. We
didn’t have any sore muscles or rear ends thank to my personally designed bike seat that is designed not to wreck
your sex life.
Sunday May 19th it had rained very hard all night and the weather cooled off considerably. We were the only
tenants in the little hotel that night but we had our prepared breakfast laid out for us in a small banquet hall. The
breakfast was OK but lacked the touch we had come to expect in German hotels.
We had a 60 plus kilometer day of biking ahead of us and we were thankful that the weather was cool and overcast
as we set out into this fabulously beautiful countryside. We encountered many steep grades that got us to stop and
rest several times. At lunch we found a spot adjacent to a huge hydroelectric plant that was producing copious
quantities of electric thanks to the persistent rains that had poured down on Europe this springtime. The noise of
water roaring through the hydro plant made it necessary for us to raise our voices while we sat in this wooded
In this area it was impossible to tell what country you were in as the border changes direction continuously.
The beautiful towns of Laufenburg, Germany and Switzerland. The Rhine River is the border between the two.
With steep hills and mountains the rivers course was erratic at best. It was impossible to follow the river closely and
we made several diversions to converge with it through this scenic country that didn’t have a single flat river valley.
The grazing cattle, all with cow bells made their way around these steep slopes with ease but Jane and I were
huffing and puffing up 12 % plus grades when we weren’t burning our brakes off on some sizzling down hill slope.
At three PM that afternoon we had enough for the day and the first hotel we encountered in Switzerland at the town
of Rafz got our business in spite of their 115 Euro per night charge. Well, they actually wanted 170 Swiss Franks
and that is what was billed on our credit card. You never know what you actually paid until you receive your credit
card statement and actually see what the exchange rate was. The hotel “Zum Goldenen Kruez” had been built in
1642 and was in continuous service ever since.
Hotel Zum Goldenen Kreuz, Rafz, Switzerland
Monday the 20th of May was cold and bright as we set off on our bikes to face the steep inclines that lay ahead.
This day would be 73 kilometers and we made some super high-speed downhill runs that stretched on and on. With
many 12 % grades to climb we did like the faster downhill stretches until that afternoon when we encountered
hordes of bikers that had the nasty habit of loitering and blocking the bottom of these steep slopes. They were
seemingly unaware that other bikers might be descending at high speed with their brakes strained to the limits and
smoking. We had several anxious moments, ringing our bike bells and screaming. Although we didn’t witness any
accidents we knew that there just had to be some dillies.
At the city of Schaffhausen which is located in a big bend in the Rhine River and built on the almost vertical slopes
of the surrounding hills we found ourselves once again navigating by compass and local land marks. We
approached from high up on the crest of one of the surrounding hills and could see our river far off and down below.
We knew we would have to get down and so at a traffic circle took what looked like our best alternative. We were on
our way like a toboggan going down steep mountains. There was no gawking at the scenery on this wild ride as we
burnt our brakes to a crisp and hoped they wouldn't let us down. When we finally reached the bottom of this one-
way roller coaster ride both Jane and I agreed that our next order of business would be to find a pleasant place to
park our bikes and have a leisurely coffee break.. Well that is exactly what we did. As we sat and looked back we
were taken in by the beauty of this fascinating city on the river that was not easy to reach by bicycle.
Even though the going wasn’t easy on bicycles here there were as many or more bicyclers than we would normally
see in Holland.
The scenery and very old towns made this part of the world worth the trip. We had been through here by motor
vehicle before but had not seen what we were now seeing by bicycle. We were thankful that we still had what it took
to do this trip because we were now getting a completely different perspective than we had ever had.
From here on we were never alone on the trail but the beauty of the forests and quaint towns were such a lure that
we couldn’t blame all of the others for being here.
At noon on May 20th, 2002 we finally reached our destination and we sat at a lovely little park by the crystal clear
waters of the Rhine at the quaint little town of Stein a. Rhein. The sun was bright and the wind was briskly cold as it
swept down off the snow capped Alp Mountains.
We looked out in awe across the open waters and both felt a real sense of accomplishment at making this incredible
trip that took us through four countries and across a stack of maps several inches high. It would be hard to put this
all in prospective at one time but the sensation we both shared was that we had somehow crammed about five years
worth of experiences into about three weeks. We were not to our turn around point yet but we had at least reached
the shore of the lake at the top of Europe. This was very inspiring and led us to dream of other trips we wanted to
make in the coming years.
We biked through the wood hills to reach the town of Stein am Rhein where we had lunch in the
waterfront park…beyond the hills is Germany
After lunch in this very neat little park that was 100% utilized we continued on around the shoreline of this huge bay
that was a part of the Bodensee or Lake Constance. The trail was continuously up and down with grades that
exceeded 12% and these were not short runs and taxed our endurance almost to the limit. We old timers have
learned to pace ourselves as we made it; gear grinding in our lowest gears and next free wheeling at high speed
and burning our brakes. The most remarkable thing about this part of the country wasn’t the outstanding beauty but
the thousands of people that crowded every facility beyond all limits. This was by far the most crowded place we
have ever visited. We still cannot figure out how that many people can crowd a place so much. There were
thousands of bikes on the trails; the roads were full of cars and motorcycles too. The beautiful scenery was great
but the competition for available facilities quickly became apparent when we had checked at several hotels and not
a single free room was to be found. The locals quite obviously were annoyed by this invasion of tourists and were
surly at best. They didn’t wanted to even be bothered with questions let alone respond to them.
Another thing that was apparent was that every bit of buildable land anywhere near the water was spoken for and
developed. The water was crammed with sailboats and even a few high-speed motorboats darting around in spite of
the gasoline price being over five dollars per gallon.
This was off-season(although a four-day holiday) and we were surely glad we hadn’t come any later in the season
when the kids were out of school. We thought over our options for a room for the night and thought that we should
go to the next town of Radolfzell. If nothing were available there we would have to board a train for some place that
might have accommodations as we didn’t have any more kilometers of travel in us at that time.
We headed directly to the “Bahnhof” or railway station and there across the street was a hotel and we thought it was
worth a try. The sign on the door of the Hotel Seerose said open at five o’clock or 1700. Well, I buzzed the bell and
was just about to leave when a lady responded. Yes, she had a room and I could come right in. I went in and the first
thing she did was to thrust a cold class of draft beer into my hand and said drink. She spoke no English but guessed
right off that I was an American, probably by my broken German. I took the room and went to tell Jane to unload our
stuff. The lady who was also the owner then insisted on giving Jane the same treatment she had given me. When
Jane had trouble finishing her beer and she handed it to me, and the owner would have none of that. It was Jane’s
beer and she must drink it herself.
We had traveled more than 73 kilometers that day through some very taxing terrain so we were ready to quit. 78
Euros seemed steep for the room until we considered the night before in Switzerland the tab was 115 Euros. Also
the competition for facilities was keen and in the morning at breakfast we were not surprised to find that the place
had been totally sold out.
Tuesday the 21st of May. This was going to be a very long day filled with plenty of surprises.
Our first surprise came when we went down for breakfast. As we entered the breakfast area we got a whiff of
cigarette smoke that almost sent us into retreat, then we discovered that the morning breakfast servers were rip-
roaring drunk. Some how the breakfast was put out quite nicely and there was plenty of it. We found a place as far
away from the chain smoking as we could and got fed. We both agreed that the morning crew couldn’t have possibly
had anything to do with the building of the business.
We were rolling early and spotted an “Aldi” grocery store where we would replenish our staple provisions. Though
we were very early the place was jam-packed. Jane got the bare essentials and had to wait in line for a long time to
Rolling again we soon discovered that a route that we had planned on taking and that was clearly marked on our
map didn’t exist.
So we were on our compass heading and did a lot of map reading. As we were pondering our map some fellow
bikers came along to assist. They were very nice and extra helpful. As soon as they found out our intended
destination one of the bikers told us to follow him and we were off at a high rate of speed. He surely had local
knowledge as we slipped around side streets and over overpasses and quickly found ourselves on the eastside of
town in the open countryside following a peaceful little path that led us around “Markel Finger Wankel Bay”. It was
lovely low lands filled with aquatic life. Now we were ahead of a large group of bikers that had been leaving town at
the point where we were stopped and confused earlier.
Allensbach, Germany In the yard of the church below, we stopped for morning coffee on May 21, 2002
Heading southeast we encountered more steep grades on the way to the next town of Allensbach where we stopped
for morning coffee. The old town had a neatly kept boat harbor surrounded by an immaculately kept park. The train
station and city center were packed between the waterfront and the steep hills. We were amazed by the scenery and
thought it would be a nice place to visit if it were not for the mobs of people that were inescapable at every turn of
the road. We had a hard time imagining this place at the height of the tourist season though we were here and
enjoyed it immensely we didn’t feel like it would be the place we would want to return to.
Upon leaving this picturesque little town we were up along the busy highway. Traffic was crammed to a stand still
and we were making better time on our bikes than the motor vehicles. The scenery was still beautiful. High hills,
alpine forests and flower filled meadows.
Soon we were in the city of Konstanz. The traffic was terrible and proceeded to get worse and worse. Poor bike
signs to the city center didn’t help. We needed to cross the river and the bridge we crossed was perilously
dangerous. A spiral bike ramp took us up over ten meters in the air then we biked a kilometer to the opposite side
and found the same type of spiral to descend by. Jane walked her bike down and I wished that I had as it was the
ultimate in brake burners with no stopping until the bottom. Even without our heavy loads this would have been
At the bottom we followed the Rhine River to kilometer 0. We met an old lady that just had to inform us of all there
was to see and gave us a treasure trove of historical information as she pointed out the various historical
landmarks. This spot has been a very important place historically as far back as history is recorded. This old lady
also gave us a list of things that we must see and do while in the area, somehow we got the feeling that she would
have loved to tag along with us.
We proceeded to the waterfront park at the harbor and had to hunt for a place to sit. The area is peopled to the limit
as far as facilities go but we found a park bench. We sat and had our picnic lunch right while watching a multitude of
things. The blue sky and cold crisp air breezing down from the distant snow-capped Alp mountains and swans
swimming in the crystal clear waters gave us a feeling that we had completed another bike trip of a life time.
We had never seen another place quite like this one. Here high up at the top of Europe we were looking out across
a body of water that stretched far off over the horizon as large commuter ferry boats busily plied in and out of this
little harbor. On the break wall at the harbor entrance was a statue of a woman with arms up stretched. The most
peculiar thing was that this stone sculpture was not only that it was about ten meters tall but also that it was slowly
The harbor at Konstanz and the revolving statue “Imperia”
We were told that no bicycles were permitted in the city center so we thought we would just walk them through. Not
so, bicycles were not permitted to enter under any circumstances. We looked up and down the crowded walk street
and figured that none of the shops that we could see from the entrance had anything that would entice us to even
take a look so we just went to the bathroom and gave them our toilet business. Next we headed to the train depot to
inquire of some town that we could make it to that afternoon with our bicycles. I had to wait in line for a long time to
get to the ticket clerk. Well, he was most helpful and it turned out that he put us onto one of the nicest experiences
we had on our entire trip.
Our criteria was to head north to some town that would have adequate hotel accommodations and that we could
then continue on to northwest Germany from the next day. We were sold tickets on a local train that went up through
the most picturesque part of this end of the world called the Black Forest or “Schwarzwald”. For some reason we got
a half price or two for one ticket, which made it even better.
We were on our way after a bad experience on a belt driven bicycle transporter that had to be the very worst
German engineering ever, and really didn’t work. I should say that it worked against us. This belt system had a
conveyer running alongside the stairs and started when loaded. The trouble was that the bicycle tires would not stay
on the damn thing. One wheel on then the other wheel would come off. One end of the bike pulled, the other
stopped. In the end I just had to drag our heavy loads up and down as this hideous contraption was working against
us all of the way. We couldn’t believe such mechanical crap would be found in Germany. When we finally got to the
platforms we were surprised to find that our bicycle loading train cars were like converted cattle cars. The doors
were huge and so was the lift we encountered. Four feet straight up, Jane on one end pushing and I was on the
other pulling. It was definitely a two-person operation. Once aboard our bikes just stacked in the corner with no tie
downs. This was a cheap local train with no extras, not like the bullet trains that go streaking from one side of the
country to the other at speeds well over one hundred miles per hour. They have fancy bike racks all numbered and
assigned, but you do pay dearly for these luxuries.
We were tired from our early start and long bike ride but the weather was perfect and we were in for a sightseeing
experience of a lifetime. The slow local train wound up and up as we enjoyed the sensational views of almost
perpendicular mountains, incredibly deep canyons and the odiferous aroma of the alpine forest reminiscent of
Norway. Many times the entire train would be in view from our window as it turned and twisted through the
switchbacks and curves as we went up, up and away and entered tunnel after tunnel. We counted tunnels but lost
track after forty. If you ever have an inkling for a spectacular train trip of a life time try this one. We were amazed at
our good fortune to have had this fabulous adventure as part of our Rhine River trip.
Offenburg on the north side of the Black Forest has an abnormally large selection of hotels and we were lucky to be
ahead of the season and had boundless selections but we were just too tired to shop.
A local guided us directly to a lovely three star hotel on a quiet side street. We unloaded our bikes and set out on
foot to sightsee and shop. At a bakery we bought a generous quantity of pizza and being physically spent headed to
our room to watch CNN and quaff down a nice bottle of French wine with our pizza.
The warm and sunny day had been a long and surprising one. As when we woke up in the morning we had been
headed east by bicycle to the Bodensee and by that evening we had gone north by train.
May 22nd: this Wednesday morning the weather was absolutely beautiful. Our hotel in Offenburg gave a five-star
breakfast and the manager himself was there to oversee and assist in the serving. The attention to detail was
superb and the manager did everything he could to anticipate our every wish. We were very pleased.
The night before Jane and I had poured over our maps and had come to the conclusion that the town of Munster,
due east of our destination in Holland by about one hundred kilometers would be a good choice for our destination
by train that day. We biked to the train station that was about two blocks away to check on departure times and also
find out about loading our bicycles. There was a train leaving in less than an hour so we made the purchase of the
tickets and hurried back to the hotel to load our provisions. We returned to the train station where we were assured
that some one would be on hand to assist with loading our bikes.
This train was not a bullet train but it was a high-speed train that only stopped at major stations. An assistant came
along with us to unlock passage ramps so we could roll our bikes without any stairs to our train platform. He also
guided us to our train embarking spot as there is precious little time to load your bike when these high-speed trains
roll in to the station. Our bikes went in the last car of a very long train and were hung in pre-designated numbered
spots on hooks. The compartments each had seats for eight persons and we were lucky enough to share our
compartment with a fellow biker. This older German fellow with silver hair was headed to northern Germany to take
in a seminar and do some biking. It turns out that he was a nuclear physicist that taught at a university in Zurich,
Switzerland. We had a fascinating time with him and not only shared many bicycle stories but got into some profound
philosophical discussions. We passed the time quite pleasurably.
This trip was a real surprise to us, as it would take us through the cities of the middle Rhine that we had just bicycled
through and loved so much. We were to go north on the East Bank on the train and we had just bicycled on the
West Bank as we headed south.
Leaving Offenburg we sped along north to Bühl, Baden-Baden, Rastatt, Karlsruhe, Wäghausel and Schwetzingen
before reaching the banks of the Rhine at Ludwigshafen. Then we passed the many curves of the Rhine at several
places while passing Mannheim, Worms, Bürstadt, Grensheim and Gross Gerau before diverting and heading for
the central station at Frankfurt a. Main. From Frankfurt (on the river Main) we doubled back southwest following the
Main River to rendezvous with the Rhine at Mainz where we saw many familiar sights we remembered from our bike
trip through. Now heading west on the north side of the river where the steep vineyard filled hills come all the way
down to the river we headed for another familiar spot, the city of Bingen where we again change direction and enter
the very prettiest stretch of the Rhine River Valley known as the Middle Rhine.
In this stretch of river the banks rise sharply up from the river and are covered with vineyards that utilize every
cultivatable piece of land for the production of wine grapes for their famous Rhine wine.
Also notable in this stretch of river is the number of castles that majestically decorate the landscape. There are so
many that their significance soon fades away. We have bicycled this stretch of the Rhine extensively but still love to
take in the sight of the picturesque towns and villages. This ride was a real plus for our trip and sure gave us a thrill
as we visually observed the route we had just made by bicycle along the other side of the river. Lorch, Bacharach,
Ober-Wesel, Saint Goar, Saint Goarshausen, Boppard, Rhens, Lahnstein and on into Koblenz. The Middle Rhine is
one of the most visited parts of Germany as it ties in with the “Black Forest” area.
Our next cities were heavily populated, going from Bonn, Koln and to Dusseldorf, that the only way to know what city
you were in was to read the name from the signs in the train depot when we would stop. We were in the “Ruhrgebeit”
industrial area now and though Germany had lots of fine forests along the way north to our destination of Munster,
heavy industry predominated.
Here is a good place to mention a book that is a must read if you are at all interested in history, and especially that
of Germany and its influence on the world. The “Ruhrgebeit” and especially Essen are the center of this incredible
and true nine- hundred plus page book, which I have read two times. “The Arms of Krupp 1578-1968” by William
Manchester (This is the best factual, historical book that I have read). After you read the book you may want to do
as we have and come to mingle with the natives of this fascinating part of the world that has had such a monumental
impact on history.
Our train pulled into the Munster station at 3:30 PM. We said our goodbyes to our fellow travelers that we had spent
the last six hours with. The nuclear scientist and a young well traveled women that was almost as cynical as we all
were added to our spirited and many times humorous conversation. It was a fine and very memorable day well spent.
As luck would have it, Jane and I had just purchased several bicycle map sets and one of them covered Munster
and the surrounding area. These maps with a scale of 1/50,000 depict every road, trail, building and shelter. They
really take the guesswork out of our travels that mostly take us down the backroads with many diversions along
narrow paths. So we set off on our bicycles just to stretch our legs. Our physical activity level was such at this point
in our trip that we felt the need to ride just to regain what six hours of train travel had taken out of us. We still had
one thermos of hot coffee so we decided to set off in the direction of home in Holland.
As we bicycled through Munster we were surprised at the number of fellow bicyclers and the excellent bicycle routes.
We hadn’t gone one city block when a representative from the German Bicycling club stopped us to see if he could
be of any assistance and he conversed in perfect English. He gave us some helpful pointers and was totally amazed
at the bike trip we had just completed.
Munster is a beautiful city that is lavishly landscaped. We followed the Ao See, which was just a lake that started in
the city center and headed in our direction through a big park where we stopped for our PM coffee break. The
weather was cooling and the sky clouding but we thought we would have luck finding accommodations so we were
on our way out of town through the many hills that surrounded this area.
We didn’t know that we were in for a thirty kilometer ride this PM when we started. Well by 6 PM with a light drizzle
beginning to fall we decided to take the first hotel we could find. In the little town of Havixbech we saw two hotels and
decided that the one across from the “Lidl” grocery store would be the best choice. Hotel Beumer was a three-star
establishment and the owner was kind enough not to stick us with his most expensive room. For 72 Euros and with a
breakfast buffet that was tops the price was fine. After shopping across the street at the “Lidl” grocery store and deli
for our favorite French red wine and dinner delights we were ready to shower and quit for the day…we were “kaput”.
23rd of May, Thursday, we set off early after a huge breakfast buffet and a sound snooze. My comment on our
calendar was that we were getting skinnier, we were burning many more calories with our intense exercise than we
were accustomed to but we felt in top condition. We were putting away copious quantities of food, but our diet was
low in animal fat and sugar. Jane’s diet of no salt, preservatives, sugar and very low in animal fat proved to be the
answer. As for quantity we were approaching the glutton stage. Our hunger was powerful but we didn’t snack.
The day ahead would be a long one; it started cool and overcast. We were in an area of moderate sized hills and
many productive farms.
By noon we had been lost three times. Our first time was thanks to a woman that gave us instructions from our hotel
and seemed completely convinced that she was doing us a favor. Well, we soon found that our course was 180
degrees out from our intended direction and thanks to our previous navigation skills and compass we were soon
able to correct this mistake. Going the wrong way is bad business on a long day but in these hills it had the feeling
of a serious setback.
At a town named Coesfeld we were lost for the third time, wrong advise, no bike signs and the fact that bicycles are
not permitted on all highways did it. It isn’t enough to just follow road signs and our compass headings. In the rain
we met a women from Stuttgart heading to northern Germany by herself. She could tell that we were foreigners and
confused, so she stopped to share information with us. Her map was better than ours, but proved no more useful.
She confessed that in many German cities bicycle routes were not marked at all and she would just go to the city
center using the church steeples as a guide to get her position, as the tall churches were excellent landmarks. That
is where she was headed, being lost herself.
We were real surprised to have Mexican connections. She was married to a Mexican, had three children and had
lived in Mexico City. We exchanged e-mail addresses and have corresponded since.
With the compass and lots of questions of the locals we were on our way. We had a problem of getting to the next
major city without going on the highway that didn’t permit bicycles. Our back road route was just wonderful but it was
very difficult to follow as we were now using a map that had a scale of: 1/300,000. These maps show almost all
roads but neglect the names of the side roads.
We didn’t get lunch this day until 1:30 in the afternoon. The rain finally quit and we found a quiet spot in the
countryside by a little lake. It felt like a picnic because of the solitude and tranquility away from all sounds of traffic.
After lunch we were charged up and went along at a fast clip on a smooth bikeway. At 3:30 that afternoon we
entered the city of Vreden. Now we were in familiar territory and didn’t need our map any longer as we frequently
came here to do our shopping over the course of several years. No, we didn’t need the map to get home from here
and as an old friend used to say, “our noses were in the stable”.
We filled our packs to maximum capacity with groceries purchased at the local “Lidl” and “K&K” grocery stores and
we were at one of our favorite coffee stop place by 4 PM that afternoon. We took a fifteen-minute snooze and rolled
At 5:30 PM we rolled into our place at Haarlo in Holland, thus completing our 1000 plus kilometer bicycle
trip and our train trip crossing four countries in 21 days and nine hours…not to be forgotten!
Place names have many different spellings throughout Europe
Map of Europe, the red area represents the map below of our bicycle trip.
The April full moon was enjoyed in Holland …”The Netherlands “, with
our little camper parked pond side in the woods near the German
border. Quiet at night except for the frogs croaking and lots of fresh
cool air. It was tulip time in Holland and the cherry blossoms were in
blazingly pink profusion. The Dutch word for cherries is, “kersen”, so,
kersen it was!
This year Jane and I had worked hard at unburdening ourselves of
many petty complications that in the past had not added to our
standard of living. Simplification made our departure better and easier
than in years gone by. We have flown on Iceland Air from New York,
Northwest Air from Detroit, KLM from Houston and New York, City Bird
from Miami, Martin Air from Cancun and even ship from Savannah to
name a few.
We had no checked luggage so
we just headed directly to the
curbside spot where the big red
and black Ibis Hotel shuttle-bus
stopped. We were content to
spend most of that afternoon
and evening just charging our
bodily batteries but the lovely
warm and sunny afternoon did
lure us out into the courtyard
filled with tulips in full bloom.
We found the entry door that was locked and pressed the
doorbell. Just as we were preparing to leave the door was
answered and we asked for a room. Yes, they had one
and it would be 95 Euros with breakfast. We felt that was a
steep price with no cable TV even though it was touted to
be three stars. We wanted to be in out of the weather and
didn’t even bargain with the lady manager. We had gone
past a reasonable quitting time and our attitude was not as
good as it might have been had we not had our problem
with a long bike ride that was not getting us where we
wanted to go. The cold damp weather had taken its toll on
both of us especially when it was coupled with the air
pollution in the area. Even the hotel rooms were hard on
our health as they were heated this season and dry and
dusty. We both were beginning to have some head
congestion and some coughing. Jane always tells me that
everything averages out. It turns out that she is right
because by the end of the trip we both agreed that it was
outstanding and spectacular. To quote an old friend, Dave
Smith, “attitude is everything”
We tried three hotels and all were closed, finally at
“Andernach on the Rhine”, there were many hotels
to chose from and we found a room at the “Fuch” or
in English, “Fox” hotel. This was a “Garni” hotel that
is usually a mom and pop operation and moderately
priced. We had hot showers and a snooze as Jane
was having some health problems, which were
possibly started with the pollution of the
“Ruhrgebeit” industrial area and aggravated by the
cold damp weather we encountered our first five
days. Jane started her medicine to reduce mucus
and stave off any complications that might bring on
asthma problems. She had a very hard night and
began her asthma medicine with her inhaler. We
would need to slow our pace until she got over her
Our hotel the night of May 14. The owner
made delicious rye bread!
At 46 Euros with breakfast it was a super deal
and we were really tired from a long day with a
strong head wind.
We figured that it takes four times as much
energy to cover the same distance with a hard
head wind. My legs were tired for the first time
in many years of bicycling.
hotels before finding one that was open. We took it(Zum
Alten Salzfass) but had to look at several rooms to find
one suitable. We wanted lots of fresh air and found it on
one suitable. We wanted lots of fresh air and found it on
the lovely beer garden.
the second floor where we had a lovely balcony that
overlooked the beer garden and courtyard. As soon as
we had settled in we both agreed that this very hot day
called for a tall glass of dark draft beer, which we had in
the lovely beer garden.
“Alpirsbacher Klosterbräu” was a “dunkel”, or dark beer
resembling a porter or bock. The place was ancient and
that added to the almost Bavarian atmosphere. My
comment on the calendar that day was, “Fabulous!”
Saturday, May 18th we were up at seven and had a
huge breakfast which was great but, with lots of
competition for the fresh baked Kaiser rolls.