Epic European Cycle

2015-05-30 : Rest day in Amboise
Our plan for today was: café au lait, Amboise Chateau Royal, check out of the hotel, put on my new tires, then cycle to Blois. I took the plan sideways at the last minute, though, and requested a rest day to give my right foot a day off. It has been a little sore for a few days but the last couple days it has gotten quite bad. I've had problems with it since I was 21 and had a ganglion removed from the top when I was about 28. There's some kind of structural weakness in there, though, and now and then I get pain and/or a return of the ganglion. The last couple days it's been swollen on the top (the site of the structural weakness) and I think it's best if I take a day off from cycling. Brent, ever patient, is right on board. Love that guy.
We're having a rest day today, mostly so I can rest my foot. It also doesn't hurt for Bob the Bubon (aka my saddle sore) to have a day off from being in the saddle. I took the opportunity to update DAMDetails for the remainder of our trip, given the Schengen Area issues. I changed the day titles on about 75 calendar days, and moved all of the no-longer-relevant research items to my "Planning and Prep" placeholder date (April 30th). Then I had a little weep about it all. Stripping all that out really made it hit home for me how much I've researched and dreamed about certain places and things that I'm not going to get to do now (at least not on this trip). I'm heartbroken.
Brent has restricted himself to paying admission to only one castle per country while we're on this trip (unless something completely awesome comes up, of course). Today we paid to go into Château d'Amboise, which is very impressive. One thing that surprised us was that the St. Hubert Chapel is the burial place of Leonardo da Vinci, who was close to King Francois 1st.
Today Brent suggested having our "dep lunch" (purchased at the Dépanneur, a French-Canadian word, not used in France except for Brent and me) with wine out on the bench overlooking the Loire. I googled it, and drinking in public is legal in France, so we did! Viva la France!
We've had to get used to the "standard" beer size here, which is 25cl (a glass). They seem so SMALL! Today we were asked if we wanted the 24cl or the 50cl, so I thought, hey, let's have an actual PINT like at home, so we ordered the 50cl, and they look freakishly enormous! Funny how quickly perspective can change.
From Brent: Before starting this trip I had the thought that my bike was getting pretty old and at the end, rather than going to the trouble of packing The Tank up for return shipment, I would just abandon it somewhere in Europe. But sometime in week 2 of riding it all seemed to become so natural once again. Like The Tank is part of me, growing out of my butt. So I'm now considering bringing The Tank home...if it's not too much hassle.
From Brent: Did I mention that I'm managing to stumble by in French? I had given myself 3 weeks to accomplish this and we're getting to 3 weeks of riding now. It seems that I can now 1) order and pay in a restaurant, 2) check in to a hatel or campground and 3) carry on basic chat about cycle routes. And when you're cycle touring that's about all you need.
Seven days of cycling in a row is too damned much. I'm a wreck today, and oh so glad I asked for a rest day.

2015-05-31 : Loire à Vélo / EuroVelo 6 to Blois
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle La Loire à Vélo from Amboise to Blois
$0.00 45.00 45.00
I checked the forecast before we left this morning and it looks like it's calling for some cooler temps for the next few days and a shower later today. We flew down the trail, rockin' the tailwind, all the way to Blois. About a half hour before we got to Blois, the rain started. It never got bad enough to be really miserable, but it was enough to make us check into the first hotel we saw in Blois. Just as we got there we ran into a girl from Minnesota who is just starting her tour and riding westward. She was planning to go to Ambois yet today - covering the 45km that we did today, but in a strong headwind and rain. YIKES!
At Chaumont-sur-Loire, we ended up having the cycle trail blocked by a flea marketey market. We walked through it - it was only a couple blocks long. When we got to the end, there was a velo route sign pointing us to turn right, toward Chateau de Chaumont. We dutifully followed the sign and started climbing an evil, evil hill. Partway up there was an elderly couple walking down the hill and we started chatting with them. We told them we were headed for Blois and they started vehemently protesting that we were going the wrong direction. I, just as vehemently, insisted that the sign had pointed us this way so there must be a velo route that dekes in and out a bit. Finally Brent pulled out the map and confirmed that we were NOT supposed to be headed toward Chateau de Chaumont - that is an alternate route (with an evil hill). After all of my arguing, it took a couple minutes for me to convince the people that they'd finally gotten through to me, and we were going to turn around and go back to the proper route. When we got back down to where the market was, there was a sign that the velo route continued along the same way beyond the market... the road to the Chateau was a complete red herring. Oops. We definitely toasted the old couple when we reached first beer!!

The great thing about it is that the whole conversation took place in French - they didn't speak a word of English. There was one time, though, that the old lady gestured up the hill and said something about "mort" so I asked her if she said the hill would kill me and she laughed and said yes.
May 31st. Today is the day that Karen and Ed are in Frankfurt. I'm disappointed that we didn't get to see them, but not disappointed to be spending extra time in France. Did I mention that I LOVE France? Man, do I love France! I can't believe it's the last day of our fist month of vacation. Only five more months to go. It's flying past, but when I look through our pictures I can't help thinking how much we've seen and experienced so far. Fantastic.
I definitely recommend touring with a flag... especially when you're a long way from home. This morning while Brent and I were enjoying our first cafe- au-lait, we watched a guy come by and take several photos of our bikes. We weren't sure what the attraction was, so when he finally wandered past us, we asked. He lives down the road, and likes to come to Ambois to see the tourists and he was drawn to our bikes because of the flags. He was very excited about how far we'd come to be there.
Pretty much all the clothing I brought along was chosen for utility. I'm extremely happy with just about everything I brought, but I was tired of the brown/multi-colored sweater before we even left. Honestly, I didn't expect to use it much, and when I did, I thought I'd be using it under my shell. I thought it would be warmer here and I wouldn't use a sweater, but I'm using it ALL THE TIME. It is loose, misshapen, and just plain hideous. I don't have another sweater that I would have brought instead, but maybe I would have tried to find something new so that I wasn't walking around in this frumpy hideousness ALL THE BLOODY TIME! Oh well. OK, whinge over.

2015-06-01 : Loire à Vélo / EuroVelo 6 to Beaugency
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle La Loire à Vélo from Blois to Beaugency
$0.00 38.00 83.00
A short day of riding today and we were in Beaugency. We found the campground easily, set up camp, enjoyed a set-up wine, and went into town to snoop around. Since it is Monday, nothing is open. So, we were out of things to do too early and... sat around and got drunk while we were waiting for restaurants to open. Ugh.
Several months ago, my friend Bridget told me about Immune 7 (an immune booster that you can buy at health food stores). I have a healthy skepticism for such things having lived through the Echinacea and Cold FX crazes knowing that they didn't work for me (and, subsequently learning that they don't actually work at all). Bridget also has a healthy skepticism for such things, but she was convinced that it works, so I agreed to give the stuff a try. Before we left on holidays, it had been a really long time since I'd had a cold or flu... about the same amount of time as it had been since I started faithfully taking Immune 7. I have continued taking it faithfully on this trip, and it really does seem to be working! I haven't been sick at all, even though traveling, camping, eating a strange diet, and so on, are my usual "get sick" triggers. Yay for Immune 7!
A good part of our ride today was heading in the direction of the Centrale Electrique de St-Laurent-des-Eaux. Its prominent feature, visible for kilometers, is two nuclear power plant cooling stacks. Brent gave me a tutorial on which direction we should flee if the sirens started going off.

2015-06-02 : Loire à Vélo / EuroVelo 6 to Orleans
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle La Loire à Vélo from Beaugency to Orléans
$0.00 33.00 116.00
Another easy day of cycling coupled with a fierce tailwind. WOO HOO!
We've booked train tickets to Strasbourg for tomorrow. The Orleans gare is very nice for velos - all the platforms are on one level and easily accessible - no elevators or nonsense to go through. We have to connect in Paris, switching not only trains, but also stations, which is a little tough/stressful. We'll see how that goes. In the gare they had device charging stations... hooked up to stationary bikes. There was a young woman cycling to charge her phone. Cool.
I was really taken with Place du Martroi in Orleans, even before I found out how popular and important it is. It has great movement of people and vehicles through it, including the trams. I love the flow of the tram line around the side of the Place. The Place has a lot of restaurants and brasseries lining it, a sculpture of Joan of Arc, a carousel (amazing how many carousels we've seen in France) and a fountain that kids play in. Brent was surprised to learn that Joan of Arc's battle was for Orlean... He'd thought it was someplace in the north along the English Channel.

2015-06-03 : Transit Orleans to Strasbourg
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle Paris and Strasbourg
$0.00 16.00 132.00
At the beginning of the trip, it made me nervous to think about rolling up in a town and not being able to find accommodation. For a week or two I made a point of trying to pre-arrange our next night's accommodation, using Air BnB, Booking.com, HostelWorld.com, and so on. Without fail, our pre-arranged accommodations ended up with some kind of a hassle... usually the pressure of making it to the place that was booked (sometimes I didn't feel like doing all the kms), or finding that the place I'd booked was hard to find or perched on a hilltop. A few times, we just played it by ear and found a campground or hotel that was right along the path. So much easier. After a couple of weeks I relaxed and we've been randomly finding our accommodation ever since. It's much better.
I am SO GLAD every day that I have my pStyle along. I've used it pretty much every day. In nasty public toilets, in squat toilets, by the side of the trail when there are nettles, by the side of the trail where there's insufficient privacy... I just pStyled my way all the way across France! It is absolutely essential gear.
One of the things that I took the longest in planning for this trip was electronic devices - what to bring and what to leave behind.

I decided to leave behind the Mighty iPhone because I'm not going to pay Rogers' exorbitant roaming fees, and I'm not going to unlock the iPhone to get a European service. I bought an old cellphone through Kijiji and inherited another old cellphone from my mom, thinking that one of them might work in Europe. They didn't - we ended up buying a cheapo cellphone in France with a pay-as-you-go sim card.

The other piece of electronics we're using is my Windows Surface. I wanted to make sure I could continue to take care of certain things while I'm away, for example, my corporate fiscal year end accounting, which will happen at the end of July. I decided to buy a tablet, and because I like the iPhone so much, I thought about getting an iPad, but I need Windows software for some of that FYE stuff, so I settled on a Surface. I have been able to use the Excel program to update my GL, which is one of the main things I needed it for each month. I used it for one big trip previously - the trip to the Caribbean last November with Brent and Ed.

Although I have been extremely pleased with the Surface so far, it doesn't have all the software I'd like on it - one deficiency is in photo editing software. I'm kind of particular about photo editing software. I haven't found a way to reduce the size of photos to a size acceptable to DAMDetails, so my work-around has been to post the photos on Facebook, then save down the reduced photos from Facebook (which does it for you automatically), then post those photos to DAMDetails. Every day I save the photos from both our cameras to my OneDrive so they are "safe" in the cloud. If we lose a camera, we've only lost one day's worth of photos.
Today we're taking the train from Orleans to Strasbourg, on the far east of France... almost Germany. From there we'll ride EuroVelo 15 (the Rhine Route) north for a couple hundred kilometers before heading east to Frankfurt.

We bought our train tickets yesterday. Brent stayed outside to watch our bikes while I went in to inquire about the tickets. The guy was willing, but not enthusiastic, to help me in English. I explained that we needed tickets to go from Orleans to Strasbourg, and that we have our velos with us.

Within a minute or so, he was showing me ticket opens... from Strasbourg to Orleans. I can't imagine in what universe I would want to buy a ticket to where I already was, so I'm pretty sure he was doing it deliberately to mess with me... make sure I was paying good attention - sort of a dumbass tourist tax.

I passed that test and got a ticket for Orleans to Strasbourg... one ticket. So, I had to explain again that my husband was coming with me... also with his velo... and we would need TWO tickets.

Somewhere in the whole process, he asked me if I had baggage for the bikes. I didn't really understand the question and I said we had paniers for the bikes... he just waved and said oh that's fine that's fine. After, when I showed the tickets to Brent, he thought that we had tickets on the bullet train, which doesn't allow bikes. I realized that when the guy asked me if I had baggage for the bikes, he meant, did I have bags to put the bikes IN. Back to the ticket agent we went and talked to someone else, who, upon reviewing our tickets assured us that they were ok for roll-on bikes. WHEW!

Another possible SNAFU was the station change in Paris. We had about an hour and ten minutes to make the station change, and my original ticketing guy said we could take the Metro. Brent and I remembered from being in Paris before that the Metro doesn't allow bikes, only the RER train line in Paris allows bikes. But, with over an hour to make the 4km from Station Austerlitz to Station Est, we figured we were ok, but a longer layover would be nice. Back to the ticket agents we went to ask if we could take an earlier train out of Orleans. The lady that we spoke to spoke no English (unlike the other guys we'd had before), but I managed to ask her, in French, if we were allowed to take the 11:35 train instead of the 12:47. I received a resounding "non!" Brent thinks she just didn't understand me and wanted to get rid of me. He has so little faith in my French. I'm sure she understood.

Brent and I both used Google Maps to research our route from one station to another, in our own ways, and made some notes.

This morning we hung out at Place du Martroi after checking out of our hotel, and before it was time for our train. When we got to the gare and our platform was announced, off we went. The problem was, there were no train cars with a velo icon on them. Brent helped a lady onto one car with her bike, and realized that there were bike hooks in some cars but they weren't marked on the outside of the train cars, like we were used to. We found a car with hooks but no bikes, and on we went. Getting the bikes onto a train car, and then onto a hook, is not bad as a two-person job. Brent goes in front and "receives" the bike to get it on/off the train, and I guide the back. To hoist them up, he does most of the lifting and guiding, and I do a little lifting, and the finer "guiding" of the wheel onto the ook. It helped that we'd been through the process of putting the bikes onto hooks before (traveling to Nantes). Knowing that it was actually POSSIBLE to get our bikes up on the hooks made it a LOT easier to get the bikes up onto the hooks this time.

We made it to Paris and got the bikes down just fine. Austerlitz is a nice ground-level gare as well, which made exiting much easier than when we have to use elevators to move the bikes. Using our notes and Brent's amazing sense of direction, we found our way to Gare Est in plenty of time. Paris is an amazing city to ride through. There was heavy traffic, I was unfamiliar with the streets and where we were trying to go. I was what I would call "highly stimulated" the whole ride, but amazingly, I was not scared... not even a little bit. I did, however, make Brent walk around a couple of the enormous busy roundabouts rather than try to ride through them.

There are four underground platforms at Gare Est, but fortunately for us, we didn't have to go to one of them. When our train was ready for boarding, we again had to figure out which train car to go in. We were assigned to car 1, but car 1 also had a "first class" sign on it (in one direction) that Brent interpreted as "certainly not our car". So, I asked a guy, who pointed me at car 1. I asked where the velos go and he said "to the right". Cool. OK. So, I poke my head in the car, and there is a row of seats that can be folded up to make room for velos. Stellar.

We fought the bikes into the small area for bikes and couldn't figure out why they even allow bikes on these cars - it's a terrible small area, and our car-mates had trouble pushing past our bikes, fat with all the luggage. We found a couple of "bike seat belts" and used one to secure the bikes in place. THEN I saw the bike parking instructions on the wall that indicate that the luggage is supposed to come OFF the bikes before they're parked. Oh. D'uh. We decided to leave them in place unless we were asked to dismantle them. At the time of this writing... we haven't been asked yet. But, we know for next time... if there is a next time.
We ended up talking to the guy sitting at our station on the train and he mentioned that Strasbourg was the first city to seriously pursue cycle friendliness. When we got to Strasbourg and got off the train, the first site that greeted us was... seriously a million freakin' bicycles. There are bicycles EVERYWHERE.
Unfortunately, the campground in Strasbourg is under construction until July. We got directions to the campground in Kehl, Germany, which is just across the river. Off to Kehl we go... and the site that greeted us was... seriously a million freakin' campers!!! There are campers EVERYWHERE! I said that if I was going to stay in a crowded campground, it might as well be crowded to the point of absurdity. And it is. It's Thrasher Cove, only without the surf and driftwood.

2015-06-04 : Rhine Route / EV 15 to Stollhofen
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle EV 15 / Rhine Route to Stollhofen
$0.00 55.00 187.00
After the complete breakfast wasteland that is France, I was excited to see eggs with bacon on the menu at the restaurant in our campground last night. I ordered it this morning, but had a bit of a communication kerfuffle when I tried to ask for the bacon to be crispy. The problem was that, in Germany, they don't do bacon and eggs like we're used to. They do bacon omelette thingies, and the bacon doesn't really have any fat to worry about. I ate the bacon omelette thingy, and it was good, but my hankerin' for regular old bacon and eggs remains unfulfilled.
We woke up in Kehl this morning with the idea that our first order of business was to get a book or map of EuroVelo 15, the Rhine Route. We had breakfast, and then headed to Kehl town center. Everything was supposed to open at 9:00. 9:00 came and went. We wondered if people were lackadaisical about opening times. 10:00 came and went. We decided that it must be some kind of national holiday in Germany. We seem to have really bad luck with national holidays in Europe.

We debated whether to spend the extra 20km round trip to go back to Strasbourg. Since Strasbourg is in France, we figured even if it was a holiday in Germany, everything would probably be open in Strasbourg. We decided against it - we knew where the EuroVelo 15 route was - it ran right beside our campground. How hard could it be to follow the signs 40km up the way, right?

As we were leaving Kehl, there was an Esso station open and Brent suggested picking up a highway map. I talked him out of it because highway maps don't include velo routes, so I thought it would be of questionable value. Oh, silly me. Remember - it is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it! There were little signs everywhere pointing this town this way, that town that way, but since we had no map, we had no idea which towns were in the right general direction for us to be heading! So many times I kicked myself for not having that highway map!
We rode a good part of the day on the dyke beside the Rhine. The Rhine area where we were today is not interesting at all. It is flat, boring, and has no points of interest. It was 35C today, and the ride was mostly on a slight incline, with a slight headwind, and on gravel. Yuck yuck yuck. Along the way there were occasional maps of small regions and we tried to piece together where we were in relation to the town I had pointed us towards. We had no idea, really, where we were along the route or how far it would be until we found food and shelter. At Greffern, there was a small restaurant called Das Boot (a floating restaurant on the Rhine). We stopped there for desperation lunch and to fill our water containers just in case we ended up having to random camp for the night. It was the best desperation lunch we ever had, actually... I had schnitzel with spetzle and beer. YUM! With our bellies and water jugs full, off we went in search of the night's accommodation. There was supposed to be a campground about 3km up the road. We spotted an enormous, crowded golf country club so Brent went and inquired about camping. He got directions to a campground - yay! We followed the directions, got lost a time or two, and ended up heading back almost all the way to where Das Boot is to get to the campground. And what a camp ground...
Remember yesterday when I said if I was going to stay in a crowded campground, it may as well be crowded to the point of absurdity? Well, I had no idea. Tonight we stayed at Freizeitcenter Oberrhein, which has an area, Brent estimated, of about 1km by 0.5km with campers piled one on top of the other as far as the eye can see. It was so large that we ended up going past the "1800s" stalls to get to our spot. It was so large that, seriously, they assigned a guy on a golf cart to escort us to our spot - we would have never found it otherwise. The campground has two small fake lakes, a dep, an outdoor pub, and a restaurant. It was packed so thick that Brent thought it looked like a refugee camp... I thought it looked like a shantytown.
When we got to our campsite, there was a sign that said it was 35C. No wonder it felt so bloody hot cycling all day! While we were in France, every day was between about 15C and 20C. Some days were on the chilly side, and there were only two days where I rode with short sleeves. WOW! This is something to get used to.
When we were in Kehl, I did not get any warm fuzzies from the Germans thereabouts. They were abrupt, stand-off-ish and disinterested. I became instantly "homesick" for the warmth, friendliness and helpfulness of the French. This is so different from what I expected from all the cultural stereotypes I've heard.

Once we left Kehl, things got better, at least in the campgrounds. In the campgrounds everyone is interested in chatting us up and inviting us to their camp sites for a beer and a chat. That's nice. On the trail, and in the towns, no one is really interested and we've gotten a lot of sneers. One time, in Kehl, when I wanted to ask someone why everything was still closed, I asked a server who was setting up his tables if he spoke English. He literally yelled "NO!!!" at me, which made Brent guffaw (which I thought was a perfect response to a ridiculous "NO!!!" in response to an innocent question).

2015-06-05 : Rhine Route / EV 15 to Rastatt
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle EV 15 / Rhine Route to Rastatt
$0.00 30.00 217.00
Today was our second day setting out without a proper map and information. We weren't sure where breakfast was going to come from because we'd eaten ourselves out of supplies. The campground had a small dep, but the lineup for coffee before it even opened at 8AM was frightening, so we decided to take our changes on finding something in Stollhofen. We rode in, but it looked like another summer bedroom community with no amenities. Suddenly, a café started to open so we went and sat at the outdoor tables... then the lady who was setting up the tables closed the doors and left. We were off down the road, thinking that we'd make do with our 8 cherry tomatoes, chocolate bar and two remaining inferior power bars until we could find something decent. There was a sign for a "Bäckerei", which looks suspiciously like "Bakery", so we decided to give that one last shot before leaving town. We detoured to the "Bäckerei", and lo... a wonderful Dep! A bakery, coffee shop and grocery shop all in one heavenly little place! Our day (and my attitude) were saved.
As we progressed up the Rhine today, stumbling around, we debated where to stop and try to find a book or map of the Rhine route. This whole "figuring it out" thing just wasn't working out. I was pointing us in the direction of Karlsruhe today, but because I didn't have accurate information, it was further than I anticipated. We had an opportunity to take a short detour into Rastatt, which we did, where we managed to find a map book of the section of the Rhine that we're riding. Hallelujah! We'd already ridden 30km, and there aren't really any good accommodation options for another 30km beyond Rastatt, so, with another 35C day, we decided to stop in Rastatt for the night. It is such a relief to have a map and information again! It is crazy how much of a difference it makes for decent planning and route finding, even with an extremely well-marked velo route.
Way #1 to tell that you're in Germany and not in France: Finding a store where Brent can replace his crocs. Yep, today he managed to find himself a replacement set of crocs which are even more hideous than the last pair of crocs!

2015-06-06 : Rhine Route / EV 15 to Leimersheim
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle EV 15 / Rhine Route to Leimersheim
$0.00 40.00 257.00
We left Rastatt with a good plan for reaching Leimersheim tonight. We made a note that there were a couple of highlighted "dekes" near Karlsruhe before we cross the bridge to the west side of the Rhine. When we got close, I said to Brent that we had to be careful not to accidentally take the side route into Karlsruhe itself - we're bypassing, not going all the way into the city. Ironically, when we got to Rheinhafen-Dampfkaftwerk, we missed a corner and accidentally started heading into Karlsruhe. Before getting too deep into town, we stopped to contemplate where we were and where we'd screwed up. We were standing outside a hotel, and after a few minutes, the nice hotelier came out and told us where to go. I mean, he told us where to go, not he "told us where to go". He mentioned that when we crossed the bridge over the small channel near the factory that there were steep stairs up and down, but the route was much more direct.
After getting directions back to where we had missed a turn, we returned to Rheinhafen-Dampfkaftwerk and found the bridge over the channel. Oh my... yes, indeed, there were steeps stairs up and down. If Brent hadn't done most of my work for me, I would have had to unpack all of my paniers and make three trips up, then three trips down, to get my bike and luggage up, and then down.
When we started riding the Rhine, Strasbourg, France, was on one side of the Rhine, and Kehl, Germany was on the other. We assumed that the Rhine formed a natural border, and that on one side, you were in France (in spite of the German town names), and on the other side, you were in Germany. A couple of people had even said that to us... if we wanted to speak French, we just had to cross the river.

We crossed to the west side of the Rhine today because that was the only defined route. We really wanted to stay in Germany, but this was a necessary detour. When we got to the other side... everything was still German. When we got further and further into the other side... everything was still German. Close inspection of one of our maps showed that the Rhine isn't actually the border in most places and Germany spills further west than we thought. We're still in Germany, and we're planning on staying on the west side of the river as much as possible now. There are just way more amenities over here.
Our plan for the day was to cycle as far as Leimersheim and then, tomorrow, cross on the ferry back to the east side. That was before we discovered that a lot of the west side of the Rhine is still Germany. Anyway, when we got to Worth am Rhein, we decided to take a side route instead of staying along the Rhein and enjoy going through some small towns on our way to Leimersheim. We'd be passing through Jockgrim, Rheinzabern and Neupotz. Jockgrim seemed to have some places to stay, but that was too soon to stop. Rheinzabern had nothing. Neupotz had what looked to be Pensions, but they were not open yet, and I wasn't into chasing someone down at their home to inquire. So, we continued on to Leimersheim. It's a really nice little town, but small. We found one guesthouse, but the proprietor advised that they were full and there was no other place in Leimersheim to stay. We'd have to return to Neupotz and look for a Pension. Since that meant backtracking (and I hate backtracking), we opted instead to head for the ferry. If we could still cross that night, we'd cross and then look for a place to random camp, otherwise we'd try to random camp near the ferry.

On the way to the ferry, we cycled on a pathway in between Leimersheim and the Rhein. We were beside a dike, and on the other side was a small forest. Unless someone deliberately climbed up the dike, they'd never see us camping in the small forest. It looked perfect, really. We just had to find a good spot to "hide". We decided that it was probably the best option we'd find for random camping, so we deked around the dike and started down the small "channel" between the dike and the forest, looking for the right spot. The lower ground was very wet (that should have provided a warning, but it didn't), so we went until we found a nice spot which was a little higher, and in a nice divot in the forest, for good hiding.

We decided we'd found the perfect random camping site and jumped off our bikes. At the same moment, all the mosquitoes in the world decided that they'd found the perfect meal and landed on us. By then I was pretty weary - physically and mentally - and I didn't want to go on, so we decided to tough it out. You have never seen two people set up camp so quickly. We set up the camp, then tossed most of our full paniers into the tent. Brent took one for the team and stayed outside to attach pegs and the fly, while I leaped into the tent to set up inside (including killing the mosquitoes which had followed us in). When the fly was done, Brent lept into the tent and we continued to set up and arrange our stuff (we don't usually have every single thing in the tent with us). It was stinkin' hot - it has been over 30C that day, and... uh-oh... the doors on the fly were closed. We'd opened the screens on the tent itself, but the fly was turning us into an oven. It was my turn to take one for the team. I decided I was going to put a "haz mat" suit on (my shell jacket, with hood up and cinched around my face, plus my rain pants), leap out of the tent (Brent would zip the door behind me), and open and secure the fly door on my side, then run around, open and secure the fly door on Brent's side, then leap back into the tent (with Brent unzipping and zipping the door behind me). With that operation taken care of, we were much more comfortable, but we were still faced with spending the evening hiding in the tent from the mosquitoes.

2015-06-07 : Rhine Route / EV 15 to Speyer
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle EV 15 / Rhine Route to Speyer
$0.00 50.00 307.00
We woke up early this morning and decided that we would break camp before people started coming by, and potentially discovering us in our campsite. Brent had devised a plan to avoid being completely eaten by mosquitoes - we would haul all of our stuff up the dike and load it there (after loading as much into the paniers within the tent as we could). Again I donned my "haz mat" suit to do this, and it worked pretty well. I said it had been the perfect random camping spot except for one thing... Brent said except for a hundred thousand little things. Brent was right.

We found our way down to the ferry, and lo... there were people camped at a small picnic area before the ferry, and more people random camped right at the ferry. D'oh! They probably had mosquitoes, but guaranteed not as many as us. That's when we discovered that the ferry doesn't start until 10AM on Sundays. It wasn't even 7:30AM yet. So, we had our "inferior breakfast" at the ferry (we had no proper groceries... it's been too hot to buy and carry real food... so breakfast was a power bar, some potato chips and a bit of chocolate) and contemplated what to do next. We decided since the west side of the Rhine is actually Germany here, there was no good reason to cross back, and we would cycle north on the west side of the river instead of crossing back. We'd aim for Speyer, which was about 40km up.

We set out by going back through Leimersheim, where we discovered, to our dismay, a lovely little campground on the outskirts of town where we hadn't been yesterday. D'OH!!
Due to our early start today, we made it to Speyer quite early. It's a nice city, with a very nice platz. We found the Tourist Info office and inquired about a Waschsalon (Laundromat) and a book store, and bought a map that shows areas north of Speyer (one of the maps we've been using ended at Speyer). Speyer doesn't have a Waschsalon... Germany has a surprising dearth of Laundromats - France had quite a lot of Laveries. I discovered that Mannheim has a Waschsalon, so we decided to make tomorrow a "short day" (we had planned on a rest day anyway) and we'd do a wash there.

Then we set out to find a place to stay. The first hotel we inquired at was full, but recommended their partner down the street. We had trouble finding the partner down the street, but we finally managed, and they had a million people lined up for something. I suggested to Brent that we return to the Info Center and use their internet to use Booking.com to book into something instead of randomly wandering around town. We returned to the Info Center, but they had closed at 2:00. Drat! I decided to try using their internet from outside their window anyway, and lo - it worked! I managed to book us a room, in the partner hotel as suggested. It's an amazing room that should be going for at least $100CAD/night, but we got it for well under that, and I'm assuming it's because it was a last-minute booking. YAY!

Yay for Info Center internet, and yay for Booking.com! I booked us a place in Mannheim for tomorrow as well... I think the time has come for us to force ourselves to book ahead... busy season is here.
We are encountering nice German after nice German after nice German. I think the crankiness around Kehl was just an anomaly. Alle ist gut now.
Gear talk: I am still wearing the "boob safe" every day. It is my bra with a couple of secret pockets in it. On one side I have Brent's credit card and my bank card (for our daily business, he uses his bank card and I use my credit card). On the other side I have my orthodontic appliance, which is essential gear for my life. I would die without it and I can't get a reasonable replacement. So I guard it well.
Since we got to Europe, we have been outside a LOT. In towns and cities a LOT, and in Places and Platzes a LOT. We have yet to encounter a busker. What's up with that?
We got a new cycle map today at the Speyer Tourist Info office. It shows a cycle route called the Welterbe-Radweg, which looked to go in the direction of Frankfurt, which the info desk lady confirmed. I thought, Eureka! Instead of having to go to Wiesbaden along the Rhine and then cut east, we could just take this other cycle route. Then, we looked into it further and it is a tour route of convents. I guess we'll give that a miss.
I made a happy discovery today. All along I've been planning on taking EV 15 north to Wiesbaden, then figuring out a way to get from Wiesbaden east to Frankfurt. Today I looked at cycling from Mainz instead of Wiesbaden and discovered that there's another major cycle route, the Main river cycle route, which connects Mainz to Frankfurt! I don't have to figure anything out or worry about navigating scary scary traffic! We can lop a day off of our itinerary by leaving EV 15 at Mainz, and use a popular cycle route to get to Frankfurt! Yay!
Medical issues updates - Bubon Bob and Garry the Ganglion:

Bubon Bob (see my Happy Hollows blog to find out who Bubon Bob is) has responded incredibly well to being treated with moleskin. A couple years ago I'd tried moleskin as a remedy and it seemed to work, but I wasn't entirely sure. The cycling season ended soon after I started doing it, and then I stopped working on-site all the time, so I never did go back to commuting to work. Anyway, I had brought some patches of moleskin along thinking that they might help if the saddle sore returned, and it did a week or so ago. Putting moleskin on it started to work immediately. Brent and I aren't sure what Bubon Bob actually is. Brent thought some kind of aneurism. I thought maybe an angry hair follicle. It's just a tender bump. No change in skin color or anything. But moleskin is keeping it at bay. I have started to think that it's a "pinch injury". I think that when I'm riding, some of my motions tend to cause my skin to get pinched, which is causing Bubon Bob. Putting moleskin on it prevents the skin from being pinched - the moleskin takes the brunt of the abuse instead. Regardless of why it's working, I'm thrilled that it is working. When Brent and I did the Jasper to Banff trip a few years ago, Bubon Bob forced me to stop riding early, and I was afraid the same thing was going to happen with this trip, but I've found a way to manage him and keep on riding! Yay!

Around the same time that Bubon Bob appeared, my old injury on my right foot started acting up as well. There was a lot of pain and swelling. After a couple of days, though, it had swelled up to it's "normal" ganglion size and stopped hurting. It is not getting better. It is not getting worse. The swelling is not going up or down. It does not hurt. It is just a bump on my foot, and hey... I've had that on and off, now, since I was 21. It doesn't seem that Garry the Ganglion is going to be an ongoing issue anymore than Bubon Bob will. Yay!

2015-06-08 : Rhine Route / EV 15 to Mannheim
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle EV 15 / Rhine Route to Mannheim
$0.00 33.00 340.00
Happiness is clean clothing. Brent and I have been amazed at the dearth of Laundromats in Germany. In France, every town with 1000 people or more had a Laverie. We have not been able to find a Waschsalon to date, and everyone gives us kind of a funny look when we ask. Finally, we found one in Manheim (on that internet thingie). So, we made a short day of riding today specifically to visit Wasch Freunde in Manheim. Oh, and what a Waschsalon it is. It is seriously the nicest Laundromat we've ever seen, between the two of us. Extremely clean, well set-up, and a nice spot, including free WiFi, for loitering while you're waiting. Brent and I have been tossing around the idea of staring a "Lavery and Loitery" in Vernon someday and this place would certainly be a starting template. Manheim has a Waschsalon because of all the post-secondary schools in the vicinity. Something to remember. And the staff is amazing. The most attentive Laundromat staff ever... it's like Germans have never seen a Laundromat before, and don't know that, if there is any staff around at all, they're supposed to treat the customers with cool indifference. We started our wash and went down the street for a beer, but when we came back to do our drying, we spent the whole time yakking with Nadia, the attendant on at the time. She is an art student and very engaged and passionate about everything, especially the anonymous art contest behind held in Munich. It was great to speak with her, and she wasn't just awesome with us - every customer who came in got the friendly Waschsalon treatment... so nice. Brent said that the other two staff members he'd encountered before Nadia were just as engaging and helpful with all the customers as well.
Immediately following the most amazing Waschsalon experience ever, we had the most mediocre Sushi experience ever. Brent always says that the closer you are to the origin of the cuisine, the better the cuisine will be. So, the closer you are to China, the better Chinese food you'll find. Well, clearly, Canada is a LOT closer to Japan than Germany is. Even the inferior sushi that Bridget and I had in Halifax was better than this. Seriously, the tuna maki was made with TINNED TUNA! Are you freakin' kidding me!!?? At least the seaweed salad and pickled ginger were good. They come out of a tin, too, but apparently better tins than the tuna came out of. We're now trying to drown the memory with the E1.87 bottle of wine we bought a couple of days ago.

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