Epic European Cycle

2015-07-29 : Danube Cycle Trail - Donauworth
We had our first significant mechanical issue today. We were about 13km shy of Donauworth, in the middle of nowhere, in the drizzle, when Laura broke a spoke. We were formulating a plan which involved her pushing to town, and me keeping her company while Brent and Gabi continued to Donauworth. Our map indicated two bike rental shops in town, but no bike store or mechanic, so I expected the next few days to involve a lengthy solution in order to get back on the road.

Instead, Magic Miracle Gabi saved the day.

She raised her arms and appealed to the universe for transport, then blew a kiss. She said to me, "OK, the next one is ours". Not two minutes later, the next vehicle approached - a car pulling a small horse trailer. Gabi flagged it down and told them our tale of woe. Turned out the horse trailer was empty! Gabi and Laura got a lift into town while Brent and I rode the 13km. Horse trailer guy drove Laura and Gabi directly to the bike rental shop, where the bike guy replaced Laura's spoke, trued the wheel, and as a bonus, replaced the missing bolt from her kick stand. They were done and fixed up before Brent and I even arrived.

Seriously, I think today is a dream. Not only did Magic Miracle Gabi save the day when Laura's bike went mechanical in the middle of nowhere, but Brent has now spotted two coffee machines just sitting by the side of the road.

2015-07-30 : Danube Cycle Trail - Neuberg
A couple of days ago I told Brent that after Budapest, I don't want to do any more planning. He's ok with taking over, but it means there will be *ahem* less pre-planning for the last leg of our journey. We're pondering cycling in Poland, Croatia and Romania. Pondering hiking somewhere, and a long visit to Turkey. We'll just have to see what comes!
Today was going to be a notoriously hilly day, traveling through some foothills. Gabi opted for the train again, and the rest of us cycled. There were hills and gravel and gravel hills, so it was indeed challenging. We still made it to Neuberg early, though, and had some time to enjoy the town and some schnitzel and beer. Neuberg is a really really pretty place. Tomorrow is supposed to be a long day... 57km. Eek!
While we were hanging out at our Zeltplatz this evening, four tractors pulling trailers pulled in. They travel about 20km/hour. Very sadly, there wasn't enough room at the Campingplatz for all of them so they had to leave. We were so bummed. They were loud and stinky and completely awesome!

2015-07-31 : Danube Cycle Trail - Bad Gogging
This morning we discovered that the tractor campers were in the next field and Laura and I got to watch while they left. It was amazing. We got to watch the guys start their tractors, and we were particularly taken with the turn-start tractor where the guy took his steering wheel out and it became the crank to turn over the tractor. It wasn't working, though, so his buddy came by with a heater to heat up the engine so it would start.
Long day today. Good cycling, mostly, except for a gravel diversion that turned out to be quite a poor surface. The weather is turning hotter again, so I expect that Laura and I will begin wilting soon. We're staying at a Campingplatz that is partway between two towns, sort of in the boonies, so we bought groceries for dinner and breakfast. The Campingplatz has amazingly high-quality bathrooms and showers. I called the bathrooms "brand new Calgary business tower fancy" and Laura called the showers "palatial".

2015-08-01 : Danube Cycle Trail - Bad Abbach
Something we've noticed in Germany is that camping tends to take place right on top of other people. In several campsites recently, we've been first, or close to first, to arrive. When other folks start arriving, instead of going to empty/unused parts of the campsite, people will camp right on top of us. As other folks arrive, they all join in and camp on top of one another. Below is an example... see how the tents are all clumped together with a big unused area? That's not because a bunch of tenters have up and left. It's because as people arrive, they clump in as close as possible to other tents. Perplexing!
A cool aspect of today's ride was that we got to take the ferry from Weltenberg to Kelheim, which took us through the Danube Gorge. The riding option is to go up and over a steep ridge, on a busy highway, with no views. So, we opted for the ferry. It was fabulous!
We cut the cycling day short today to do some bicycle maintenance on Brent's bike. He's been having trouble with both wheels, and it reached a point of criticality today, so when we got off the ferry in Kelheim, we found a bike repair shop and got the maintenance done. Hopefully Brent's wheels won't be in any more danger of blowing apart on the trail!
We're staying in a Campingplatz outside of Bad Abbach tonight instead of Regensburg, which is what we were aiming for. We're short of our destination because of the bike maintenance. Two points of awesomeness for our Campingplatz... a nearby pizza place that delivers (yes, yes we did), and on-site laundry facilities!

2015-08-02 : Danube Cycle Trail - Regensburg
Second short ride day today to reach Regensburg (the rides of yesterday and today were originally supposed to be one day of riding). That pushes our rest day to tomorrow (Monday), which is great because we need to buy some bike stuff. We rode to Regensburg and stopped at the Campingplatz, which is on the near side of town. Gabi stayed at the Campingplatz while Brent, Laura and I went into Regensburg to have lunch, visit the Tourist Info office and have a look around. I was really excited about the wash station at the Campingplatz - I've been wanting to wash Dewey since before we left Germany in mid-June. After looking closer, though, you're not allowed to use it for bicycles. What the heck??!! So, instead, I used my nalgene and a rag to get the worst of the dust and dirt off of him. It's better than it was, but not great. I really wanted to use that spray washer! Boo, Campingplatz! Boo!
We have gotten into the habit of leaving the tent doors open because, so far in Europe (other than when we camped in the swamp), there's been almost no danger of mosquitoes or other undesirable bugs getting in. In fact, I have gotten almost no bug bites the whole time we've been here. It's quite amazing and wonderful to not have to worry about bugs and bugs and bugs and bugs. I'm a bug magnet, and my holidays (and outdoor activities) are pretty much always commandeered by bug bites and my desire to avoid being eaten alive. I won't know what to do with myself when I'm back someplace where I have to start worrying about that again.
Speaking of not worrying about things, we haven't had to worry seriously about our bikes being stolen. In some Campingplatzes we haven't even bothered locking them. When we're in a city and want to go walk-about, we'll often just lock them to each other and go. There are bikes and bikes and bikes around and no apparent danger or worry about theft that I can see. That will probably change as we move east, but for now, it's great to just relax and not worry about it.

2015-08-03 : Rest Day in Regensburg
Rest day in Regensburg, and I ain't movin'. I'm trying to find offline mapping applications for the Windows Surface. It seems that that's a definite deficiency. Disappointing.
Brent went out for a bit of shopping today and came back with some cleaning brushes (a bottle brush and a bike-washing brush), and also a small pair of scissors. As soon as I saw the scissors I knew I was going to cut my hair, so I demanded to Laura and Brent that we have a beer and cut my hair. I lopped off the curls that were accumulating on my neck, Laura cleaned it up, Brent shaved my neck fuzz, and I trimmed around my ears to come up with... pretty much exactly the cut I wanted to begin with. Yay!

2015-08-04 : Danube Cycle Trail - Straubing
I found out that France offers a long-stay visitor visa. I don't know how or why I missed that before, but now we're thinking that we might be able to get that visa and then go back to France for the remainder of our tour. That would be awesome because it looks like there is truly no decent bicycle infrastructure outside of the Schengen area... and France is AWESOME!

We'll fill out the form, provide the required backup docs, and hope for the best.
It was a hot hot, stinkin' hot day today. We cycled 55km to the Straubing Campingplatz and I am done. It's nice here - much better than the Regensburg Campingplatz, who should be ashamed of themselves for the price they charge for dirty bathrooms and WiFi that costs extra.

2015-08-05 : Danube Cycle Trail - NeSlbach
Another hot, hot, stinkin' hot day today and I am officially heat stroked. I started to feel bad right around lunch time in Deggendorf, but I/we thought it was just because I'd gotten too hungry. I was clearly heat stroked by about 3PM, when we took a rest break before Winzer. Brent and Laura cooled me down and we kept going to Winzer, where we found a grocery store and bought some provisions. Gabi took off ahead from there and went to our chosen Campingplatz at NeSlbach. Brent, Laura and I rode slowly to the Campingplatz where they made me take a shower (alas, no cold water... weird). Brent gave me a bit of a sponge bath and Laura made me wear a wet shirt on my head.

2015-08-06 : Danube Cycle Trail - Passau
Last night, Gabi left with a new friend she met during her swim on the Donau. She was going to return around 9AM today, but, because of the heat, Laura, Brent and I decided that we needed to make an earlier start and get as much riding as possible done before the day gets too hot. Gabi's not an early starter, so we've been leaving quite late each day. We can't do that anymore, though, if we are going to end up heat stroked as a result. Anyway, it worked out fine because we cycled to Passau and got here by 10:30 or 11:00 and Gabi followed later by train. She is staying at her niece's place tonight and we are at Zeltplatz on der Ilz. Tomorrow we catch a boat to Linz - we make 100km distance on our "rest day", and get to see some scenery. Yay!
It's the end of an era. That's right... my little folding spoon from Iceland broke today. It made it a little over three months. I was hoping to do the whole six-month trip with it, but alas, it is now done.
A highlight for today was the Cathedral of St. Stephan in Passau. Laura had read a description of it and decided that she had to see it. It is completely amazing! I'm so glad we got to go there, and that we had an early enough start today to actually get there and enjoy it.

2015-08-07 : Danube Cycle Trail - Linz
I've discovered on this trip that the books that I brought from home aren't the best resources. The English versions of the BikeLine book/maps for the Danube trail, for example, are not updated as frequently as the German versions. It's pretty important to have the latest versions so that you have the current Campingplatz info, current bike repair shop info, and so on. I'm leaning very heavily towards picking up books/maps for whatever area I'm currently in and just sucking it up if it's in the wrong language. Up-to-date information, apparently, is more important to me than information in my own language.
Brent and I have found train travel with the bikes possible, but.... unpleasant. Laura agrees. Today we rode the boat from Passau to Linz, and it was SO EASY to just roll the bikes onto the boat and leave them sitting there. I think, as much as possible, boat will be our preferred method of transportation with the bikes.
Since we are timing out on the number of days we can spend in Schengen, Brent has suggested that, after Budapest, we head to Croatia and apply for a France visa there instead of in Vienna or Budapest. That's a great idea, since it could take us a while to get an appointment to make our in-person application. Brent is so smart!
I've never been through a lock on a boat before. Today I went through three. It was really cool and interesting... the first time. Now... meh. I'll take a ride on a Zamboni.
First day in Austria today. No border crossing. No change in language. Hmmm.

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