Epic European Cycle

2015-07-19 : Train to Donaueschingen with Laura
How ironic. Five weeks ago, Brent and I plotted out a very detailed route for collecting Laura at the Frankfurt Airport, including providing a lovely photograph (below) of our chosen meeting place. We got here today, and the meeting place has been constructed out of existence. D'oh! Hope Brent can find Laura at the arrival gate...
Laura saw my Facebook update about the death of the Welcome Center, so she knew about the death of our chosen meeting place, and Brent had no trouble finding her at the arrivals gate, so after the first little SNAFU, everything was easy. Laura and Brent assembled her bicycle (while I ran gopher errands), we used Metro to get to the train station downtown, Brent and I collected our bikes from the hotel, we had lunch, we rode the train to Ulm, then from Ulm to Donaueschingen, and using my dizzying navigational skills rode directly to our campground on time to check in and buy bonus yogurts and set-up beers. I'm impressed at how Laura held up through the day, considering it had started in Calgary at something like 1:30AM (MDT) on Saturday and didn't end until 10:00PM-ish (Germany time) on Sunday.
Our first few days of cycling will involve heading straight back to Ulm. We saw some stuff from the train that looked amazing, so we can't wait to get started! Bavaria is lumpy and very interesting with castles and ruins everywhere, and crops growing up steep hills.

2015-07-20 : Black Forest
We were more than surprised to find out that our stay at Riedsee campground included a ticket to use on any bus or train in the Black Forest. Laura really wanted to do a train tour through the Black Forest, but we did not book tickets ahead of time because we weren't sure we could make it happen. Good thing we didn't book and pay ahead - we got to go for free today! Yay!

2015-07-21 : Danube Cycle Trail - Tuttlingen
Today was "Day 1" of touring for Laura and Gabi. Last night Gabi came out to our campground for a quick hello, and then stayed at a hotel in town. This morning, we met her at the train station in Donaueschingen to begin our tour. She is touring with borrowed gear from her brother and sister-in-law. She's got a good mountain bike, and fairly old panniers, which don't completely fit the frame. It took a little effort for us to get the panniers rigged up to stay securely on, but then we were off. We started at the very beginning - the Donauequelle - the source of the Danube. Unfortunately, it is currently under construction, so not particularly scenic, and not at all accessible. We just looked down on it from the nearby church. The weather was glorious, if a little hot (mid-30s). We did an easy 37km to Tuttlingen where we found a simple Zeltplats for Brent, Laura and me, and then went into town to find accommodation for Gabi. After being sent thither-and-yon looking for an available room, and then paying more than she wanted to for a room, Gabi decided that she should buy some camping gear. She found great deals on a sleeping bag and tent, so tomorrow it should be easier for us to find accommodation, but it will be harder for her to pack all the gear along.
The place where we camped was very simple. It cost us €5 for the three of us to stay, and the cost is just for the use of the wash facilities. Just camping is completely free. When we got to Tuttlingen, we had the small tent area completely to ourselves - there was no one else around. Camping in Germany seems to be very much about activities and entertainment, so we thought, naively, that we may have the place to ourselves all night. After spending a few hours in town, and then returning, we discovered Tent City set up all around us, including some folks who set up their large tent practically right on top of us. Dang. I feel a bit ripped off for the €5. Turned out it was for a key which opened none of the doors except for the one that doesn't lock anyway. What was behind the door wasn't great. One toilet for the whole campsite, and a bunch of co-ed, open shower stalls (no curtains... no doors... ahem - equates roughly to "no shower for Rhonda). Damned hassle to stop in at Town Hall to return the key and get back our deposit on a key that we never needed in the first place, too!

2015-07-22 : Danube Cycle Trail - Hausen im Tal
We rode from Tuttlingen to Hausen im Tal today, which is a really cute little town with an AWESOME campingplatz. It was a scorcher, and very hilly, but we made it very early anyway and set up in the campingplatz with Gabi's new tent. Gabi's friend who lives nearby came out for a visit so we had dinner at the only restaurant in town, across the street from the campingplatz. Gabi seems really happy to be cycling through the area where she grew up. It's awesome.
Today I got to feed some apples to some sheep. It was awesome. Laura was riding along and saw the sheep, pointing them out to me. We had just come from a snack break where we'd had some apples and Laura was carrying the apple cores to dispose of later, so I took the cores and fed them to the sheep. Sadly, the whole sheep feeding extravaganza was over too soon, so Laura let me take her whole apple and feed THAT to the sheep! Yay! Sheep!

2015-07-23 : Danube Cycle Trail - Mengen
Our magically good luck with weather ran out today. We camped through the night with rain, woke up to rain, packed up in rain, and started riding in the rain. True to the forecast, it did clear up as the morning progressed, and when we reached Sigmaringen, it was already turning quite nice out. We had it in mind to go all the way to Heuneburg today, but we decided to cut the day short and stay in Mengen in a hotel instead. We needed some recoup time, and we'll have a rest day soon.

2015-07-24 : Danube Cycle Trail - Riedlingen
I feel great. I feel like I never stopped touring. When we went to Ireland and the UK, it was one big food-fest with very little physical activity to go along with it, and I packed a bunch of weight straight back on that I'd lost in our first weeks of touring. When we got on the bikes in the Isle of Wight, I felt like I was starting all over again - I felt bloated and weak. Boo. We're back in Germany, now, and today was Day 4 of cycling. It was a short day, but I feel like I never stopped touring. I'm able to go each day without issue, my butt hardly hurts, and the Ireland/UK weight is starting to fall back off. Yay!!
We had a short day today. Gabi got a suggestion from her friend to spend some time at the Open-air Museum Keltischer Furstensitz Heuneburg, so we did, and it was fantastic! So interesting to learn the history of these people who had a fairly advanced society in Germany 2500 years ago.
This evening we went from the Zeltplatz into Riedlingen for dinner. Gabi had gone for a swim in the river, and we stopped and picked her up on the way. When we got to Riedlingen, she asked a random local - 77-year-old Jugi - for directions to see something in the town. He came with us, on his Farhhad, and gave us a tour of the town, including the old city wall, and some cool old buildings. We had dinner and bought him a beer, and then, as it was getting dark, he toured us around just a couple more things and we returned to the Zeltplatz. It was quite an amazing and wonderful experience!

2015-07-25 : Danube Cycle Trail - Ersingen
Today was a hard day. We're all overdue for a rest day, but we've decided for a variety of reasons to push on to Ulm and have our rest day there. We had a lot more hills than we expected, including some really tough ones, plus some really powerful wind that was, thankfully, mostly a tail-wind. At 60km (including going out to find groceries and dinner), it's by far the longest day of our tour as a group, and close to the longest day I've done since we started. Gabi is doing amazing, considering she's not an experienced long-distance cyclist. I was certainly a lot more of a sissy getting going than she is. She and I are alternating between butting heads and working things out, and it's good for both of us. I think we're forming a good bond, and we're all figuring out how to function as a team. Poor unsuspecting Gabi, though... the night owl who accidentally came on vacation with three morning people. Oops.

2015-07-26 : Danube Cycle Trail - Ulm
We were all happy to have a flat, easy 20km to Ulm today and then discovered that Ulm is.... AWESOME (and not just because it's the birthplace of Albert Einstein)! I stopped first at the Tourist Info office and inquired about a place for the three of us to stay. The Tourist Info is right beside the incredible Ulm cathedral, which, at 161.6m, is the tallest church steeple in the world. The lady was extremely helpful and found us a place with a double room and two singles right across the platz from her office, on the far side of the cathedral. We were all prepared to have heart-attacks at the price tag, but the singles were €38/night and the double was €60/night. AMAZING! Laura, Brent and I spent some time walking around Ulm taking pictures of the great buildings, including lots of "Dr. Seuss" buildings for Brent's amusement. We then met up with Gabi for dinner and had an amazing German dinner at a restaurant recommended by our Pension hostess.

2015-07-27 : Rest Day in Ulm
Rest Day today. It's overdue - seriously. I think we've managed to talk Gabi out of walking up the cathedral tower, which we're concerned will burn out her legs and/or blow out her knees and then she won't be able to ride. Brent is out doing some bicycle maintenance. Laura is off somewhere being introverted. Gabi is out making calls about her cellphone issues and making some plans for the next part of her journey, and I'm out on the balcony planing the next part of our journey and posting some DAMDetails. I'm looking forward to getting back on the bike tomorrow. But that is tomorrow and today is rest day. YAY REST DAY!!
We've decided that trying to cycle the whole way to Budapest in the time we have is too aggressive. I knew it would be, but I had sketched out a plan, averaging about 55km/day, to get us there in the time we have. The plan is now revised and we'll ride the Vienna and then take a train to Budapest. We've read all the materials, and it sounds like the section between Vienna and Budapest is the least scenic of the sections anyway, so we're all happy.

2015-07-28 : Danube Cycle Trail - Dillingen
Gabi decided to take the train today and meet us in Gundelfingen. Brent, Laura and I set out early and rode an easy 50km to Gundelfingen. We had a nice lunch and first beer and then met Gabi at the Gundelfingen train station. The four of us then rode 12km to Dillingen since that was the nearest Campingplatz.

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