Romantische Straße and the Mittelrhein

2017-05-28 : Exploring Alternatives
The forecast for Füssen (and the whole German Alps area in general) is looking pretty grim, so I spent some time today exploring alternatives. I found a couple of good routes that are accessible from the Rhine that we could do if we have to skip the Alps.

2017-05-29 : Airport Transport / Bike Rental
Like in 2015, Brent's brother, Doug, came out from Vancouver to visit and then take us to the airport. So, I canceled Plan B (Michel) and Plan C (Alamo rental truck). Yay for Doug!

2017-05-30 : Packing Day
Brent has been off work since Monday and spending his time earnestly getting ready to go, including putting the bikes in boxes. Yay for Brent!

2017-05-31 : Planning and Prep
Lots of "hurry up and wait" today. We're pretty much ready to go.

I've been doing "Operation Germany Brain". I normally wake up at 4AM anyway. On Monday I got up at 3AM. Tuesday was 2AM. Today was 1AM and tomorrow will be midnight. Backing my brain up to be more used to Germany time by the time we get there. Since I want to cycle 30km on Day 1 to camp at Rumpenheim, I want to give myself the best shot possible at not being jet-lagged.

2017-06-01 : Fly to Germany
"Operation Germany Brain" complete. Brent, Doug and I all actually got up at 11:30PM (Wednesday night). I've been getting up earlier and earlier all week to switch myself to Germany time before the trip. I'm not sure why Brent and Doug are up at this time... maybe they have "Sympathy Germany Brain".
We had a very smooth start to this trip. We were loading Doug's truck by 5AM and pulling away by 5:10. Pulled up to the Edmonton airport at 5:40, exactly two hours before our flight. There weren't too many people at the airport and we went through check-in quickly. The guys questioned us a couple of times to make sure we weren't carrying camping fuel (I'd mentioned that we're camping), which we weren't.

We then had to take our "moving" boxes and the bike boxes over to the super-sized (not really) x-ray machine. The U-Haul "Large" boxes are just under the maximum size for luggage on Air Canada, so they make for perfect boxes to take all of our gear. We had to pay a 2nd Bag Fee ($50/ea) and Bicycle Fee ($100/ea) each for the bikes, though. $150/ea one-way. Flying a bike is getting expensive! The U-Haul boxes went through the x-ray machine, but the bike boxes wouldn't have stood a chance. The x-ray machine they have now is just too small. I'm sure there was a bigger one when we went to Australia several years ago, and the bikes just went through. So, in 2015, that's what I was expecting was to put the bikes through the x-ray machines and I had stuffed old towels and all manner of other padding throughout the box. When the lady in 2015 had to open the box to inspect the bike, we had to take everything out and then re-assemble it all because of that stupid padding. So, this time we were prepared for that and didn't use all the ridiculous padding... just a few pieces of awesome cardboard and styrofoam that Brent had gotten. The lady this time opened the boxes, visually inspected the bikes, and used her "drug detection" wand to check for contraband. Then, she taped us back up with her fancy tape that says "Inspected" on it, and away we went.

Once we had dropped the U-Haul boxes and the bikes, off we went through security where Brent got "busted" for carrying powdered Gatorade in a used "Ensure" bottle. The lady asked him what it was and opened it up to have a look. Brent explained that when we'd toured in Europe before, we couldn't find anything like Gatorade ANYWHERE so, being the smart travelers that we are, we brought our own.

A very smooth departure, indeed. Yay!
Our original departure time from YEG was 11:30AM, which gave us a two-hour layover in Montreal before we continued on to Frankfurt. Over the intervening months, AC changed the itinerary several times until we were leaving YEG at 7:40AM... meaning a SIX-HOUR layover in Montreal. Ugh. What a waste of time... and one of the main reasons I'd chosen the original itinerary was so that we wouldn't have a frightfully early departure in the morning. My best-laid plans can always be thwarted by an airline.

2017-06-02 : To Rumpenheim
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle Frankfurt Airport to Rumpenheim
Today: 26km; Total: 26km $0.00 26.00 26.00
Brent and I didn't sleep worth a hoot on the flight from Montreal to Frankfurt. No particular reason - it just happened that way. And Laura didn't sleep worth a hoot on her flight, either. So, the three of us were the epitome of "dead head" today, with slower reaction times, slower thinking, silly mistakes... etc etc. We rode from the Frankfurt Flughafen and zigzagged our way through some green trails, following the rail line, to get to the Main Radweg. We made the 26 km to the campingplatz we were aiming for, and although we had lots of day left, and all felt like we could have gone further, we opted to stop and give our poor selves a break.

All that being said, I think the consensus is that assembling at the airport and doing a short ride on day 1 was worth it. It seems like the more attractive option compared to trying to haul the baggage to a staging place to assemble.
I bought both the Bikeline book/map and the Kompass map for the Main Radweg to bring on this trip. Before we even left home I'd grown to hate the Bikeline book. Normally they're pretty good, but for some reason, instead of assembling the pages west to east so that the right side of this page lined up with the left side of that page (so the pages would flow logically), they put the pages in east to west so it was a real brain puzzle to follow the map - it just didn't flow logically.

Before Laura arrived at Frankfurt, we met a couple from North Carolina who will be touring the Main for ten weeks. I offered them the Bikeline book (warned them about it being assembled "backwards"). I gave away the bad book before we even left the airport. Hah!

2017-06-03 : To Aschaffenburg
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle Rumpenheim to Aschaffenburg
Today: 46km; Total: 72km $0.00 46.00 72.00
Brent passed out without even having dinner last night and slept all the way through. Laura and I at least made it through dinner before passing out. That's when the thunderstorm hit and it was some impressive thunder to be sure. By 9PM or so it had played itself out so I re-opened our tent flaps to get some breeze through. And that's when the people showed up. Some folks up on the veranda having a good time, and some young folks scattered around the campingplatz having a good time. And that's when Ray Charles showed up. Someone came by with a vehicle blasting a remixed version of "Hit the Road Jack" that made me think "oh hell no, I'm trying to sleep here", and also "hmmmmm... I should get that version of that song for my collection". Interestingly, the vehicle moved on so the serene little campingplatz returned after just the one song. Yay for Ray!

I laid awake for a while, so I tried my usual trick to fall asleep... counting down from 100. Didn't work, so then I counted down from 100 in German. I had to think about every single number as I went, which, although it didn't help me get to sleep, it sure gave me some good experience with German numbers.
We all woke up this morning pretty refreshed and ready to go. The restaurant at the campingplatz offered two breakfast choices: "Kleine Frühstück" and "Grosse Frühstück". We all opted for the "Grosse Frühstück", and although it was a LOT of food, we had no trouble packing it all away (in our bellies).

The forecast for the day was not promising at all. There was a severe weather warning for thunderstorms and hail. It was originally supposed to come in several one-hour "packages": noon, 3PM, midnight, then a four-hour "package" from 3AM to 7AM. We decided to aim for Selegenstadt and see what was going on. Maybe we'd check into a hotel there and escape the storms. We got there before the noon storm... which ultimately didn't materialize at all... and had coffee and a look at the town. We then heard that they were calling for the weather to start at 3PM. So, we decided to aim for Aschaffenburg and see what was going on. As we rode, the clouds started threatening more and more, so we thought the 3PM was going to happen, but then, we started passing by the storm clouds and it seemed like we might just bypass it completely. Then, a new set started to develop as we were on approach to Aschaffenburg. About 4KM out of town, we encountered a local and his daughter who warned us strongly about the weather and recommended that we stop at Aschaffenburg. We told him that was actually our plan. He and his daughter "escorted" us all the way to Aschaffenburg and then stopped at the entrance to town to tell us about the Wilder Mann hotel, which is set up well for bicycles. Since it is a long weekend, we hoped against hope that they would have rooms for us... annnnnnd... they did. Yay! We got settled in, and the updated forecast said that the storm would start at 4PM, so we went walkabout looking for dinner, groceries and sights. We had amazing Thai dinner, bought some groceries (and a new sleeping bag for me), then randomly stumbled into Park Schöntal which contains the delightful ruin of a moated castle.

At the time of this writing (7PM), we're still waiting for the severe weather to show up. We've gotten about 20 raindrops on us so far, collectively. Hopefully we'll get the storm tonight... otherwise we could have ridden further and camped tonight (and saved a pocketful of Euros).
Last night I made a most unfortunate discovery. On our trip in 2015, I'd given away my lighter sleeping bag in Croatia. When I was just thinking about replacing it several months ago, our friend, Jo Marley, asked me if I knew anyone who needed a sleeping bag because she'd bought one, but it was too short for her. I gleefully took her up on the offer for myself.

Last night was my first time using it, and the unfortunate discovery was that the side zipper doesn't go down past about armpit location. I get really claustrophobic in mummy bags, and sometimes way too hot, so most of the time, I keep the bag completely unzipped so I can stick one foot out at will. Well, there's no sticking one foot out when the zipper only goes down to my arm pit because... well... I'm just not that good at yoga. So, I spent all night having to sit up every 30-60 minutes to alternate between being in the bag and getting too warm, and being out of the bag and getting too cold.

In Aschaffenburg this evening I bought a new ultra-light mummy bag with a zipper that definitely goes all the way to the bottom. It's so light that I can carry it AND the "Jo bag" and figure out on a night-by-night basis what is going to work best. Even though it is too hot here for the "Jo bag", I think once we get down closer to the Alps, I might be happy to have the extra warmth of the "Jo bag", and in the meantime, I can just use the "Jo bag" as extra sleeping pad.

2017-06-04 : To Bettingen - 90km Day
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle Aschaffenberg to Bettingen
Today: 90km; Total: 162km $0.00 90.00 162.00
In a million years I would have never committed myself to riding 90km in a day, fully loaded. I am so proud right now, and slightly drunk from the two Radlers with dinner. Brent always says one thing about cycle touring is that it makes you a cheap drunk. Yay for cycle touring! And yay for riding 90km!!
We cycled from Aschaffenburg to Bettingen today and the two “towns of interest along the way were Miltenberg and Wertheim. They were both awesome, but Miltenberg was particularly awesome. We started off in the drizzle at Aschaffenburg, but it stopped raining almost as soon as we started riding, so even though we had clouds, it didn’t really rain on us. We just enjoyed the cooler temperatures until mid-afternoon when the sun came back with a vengeance. If we do another long day like this tomorrow we can make it all the way to Wurzburg in four days instead of my allotted 5, which, as impressive as it would be, is rather unlikely. Brent and Laura could likely pull it off, but I’m not so sure about myself.

2017-06-05 : To Karlstadt via The Great Detour **PUBLIC HOLIDAY
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle Bettingen to Karlstadt
Today: 68km; Total: 230km $0.00 68.00 230.00
Today was an “anything can happen” kind of day… and not always the good kind of “anything”. Of the three of us, I was the most beat up from the 90km yesterday. We were all feeling it, but where Brent and Laura were feeling good to go today, I was less sure. We decided Karlstadt would be our goal (60km), but Gemunden (45km) also had a campingplatz, so if I was too “done” at that point to keep going, that’s where we’d stop.

We actually had a super early start, which we all love. We were on the road by 7:30 after having breakfast of our groceries and tearing down in the fog and humidity. We stopped for “second breakfast” at Marktheidenfeld and a nice local told us where to find the open bakery in town (it’s a holiday Monday, so not much open). I was starting to feel better, so we easily made the next bit of distance to our lunch stop destination, Lohr am Main.

Lohr was a wonderful little town but there wasn’t a warm meal to be found, so we satisfied ourselves with some tea and coffee. Just as we were about to head out, a lady stopped to talk to us. We had a nice long conversation with her and she told us about how, in the 80s, some historians decided that the story “Snow White” was set in Lohr. They decided that based on the local castle which was full of mirrors, and the local mines which required short employees. She was fantastic.

Leaving Lohr, we were all still feeling really good and we toodled along beside the Main at a leisurely pace, tucking in behind a couple of other cycle tourists for several kilometers. We were going to have our third break at Gemunden (which would also be my decision point for whether to stop for the night), but Laura was too hungry and asked to stop for something to eat. We saw a field of goats… lots of nannies and kids frolicking, so we decided to enjoy a bite to eat by the goats.

When we got back underway, we were on approach to Gemunden when the cycle trail ended and we had to ride on the road for a while. Closer to town, we noticed that the bridge across to town was demolished. Brent and Laura were discussing it like the nerdy engineer and construction worker that they are when suddenly we noticed a green bicycle sign detouring us up off the road and onto a gravel road traveling steeply up. We assumed it was a detour to get us off the highway, and with a bit of whingeing, we started to climb the gravel road. And climb. And climb. And climb and climb and climb. Finally when we’d climbed beyond what anyone would consider reasonable, we stopped for a chat and discussed our options. Our options being… keep climbing the gravel road or turn around and go back down the gravel road and ride on the highway that, presumably, we weren’t supposed to be on.

We consulted the map and decided that we were on the road up to the town of Massenbuch, which is on the top of a mountain. Coming down the other side, we would have a few options to connect back onto the Main Radweg, so we opted to keep climbing. Cruelest cycle detour ever. Leaving Massenbuch, the only road we could find out of town was taking us to Wiesenfeld, which was further out of our way than we really wanted to go, but at this point we didn’t have much choice and it had started to rain. We rode down to Wiesenfeld, which, thankfully, was a paved road down. Coming down took 3.5 seconds compared to the 45 minutes or so we spent climbing up (Laura says it was more like 5 million fucking hours). It was a 200m-ish climb on a gravel road that ranged from about 8% to 15% grade. Oof.

When we got to Wiesenfeld, we found a road sign again pointing us even further out of town, so we were pondering the map and discussing options. A couple of fit cyclists with their spandex-butts stopped to help us out and told us in that direction, we’d get to Karlstadt via the Main Radweg, but it would be longer. In this direction, we’d get to Karlstadt shorter, but it would be on a busy road. We thanked them and they headed on their way. We opted at first to go the Main Radweg way, but after a climb out of town on a busy road we couldn’t find a route that made sense so we turned around and went back to take the busy road to Karlstadt.

We took the busy highway up and out of Karlstadt. I was so done at that point I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to keep climbing the road. Finally we made it to the top (without being squished) and started the long downhill towards Karlstadt. Rather than take the busy highway all the way to Karlstadt, we turned toward Karlburg and took the quieter roads to reach Karlstadt. Now THAT was an awesome decision. Thank goodness for Brent because I was going to stay on the highway, but he suggested detouring through Karlburg.

On the whole “Great Detour” (Brent’s name for it), we didn’t see any other cyclists. We’d been seeing bike and bike and bike steadily all day… but not a soul on the detour. We’ve decided that it probably wasn’t really a detour at all, but rather a completely separate route. The other cyclists must have seen a different detour which we missed. Anything can happen!

We finally reached Karlstadt, and found the campingplatz immediately. It didn’t look very appealing from the bridge into town, but it was the best thing ever. The host was extremely friendly and helpful, finding us an amazing site with a little covered table. He brought us three chairs so we could sit, and even an extension cord so we could plug in to the power box. Our E6/ea for the night even includes admission to the swimming pool next door.

There was a lot of suffering today, but this will be one of the days that we’ll never forget. I’m super grateful that Laura is the “soldier on” type, otherwise this could have turned really bad.

A (hopefully) short and (hopefully) uneventful 30km to Wurzburg, and the start of the Romantische Str, tomorrow. Yay!
I’m so glad I figured out ahead of time when the national holidays are in Germany in June. Brent and I were caught unawares a few times in 2015 and were unable to find food or provisions in some very inconvenient times. This time we were completely ready for it and bought groceries ahead of time, which we successfully used to prevent any of us starving to death over the holiday Monday.

2017-06-06 : To Würzburg (a.k.a. our "rest day")
Category Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Kms To Date Total
Activity Cycle Karlstadt to Würzburg
Today: 32km; Total: 262km $0.00 32.00 262.00
We had a pleasant and uneventful ride to Würzburg today. We found the Altstadt very easily and enjoyed having a look around, especially in the Hugendubel (a large book store that carries a lot of fahrrad touring maps and books). I bought a book/map for Bodensee-Konigssee-Radweg just in case we decide we want to do some extra riding in the Alps once we get to Füssen.
We have had no luck at all finding WiFi for over a day now, but the Info Center in Würzburg was able to direct us to a Waschsalon, so we rode over there to do a load of laundry. The Waschsalon had a little internet station, so we paid a Euro for 20 minutes of internet to find out that the forecast is for a lot of rain on and off until tomorrow. With the remainder of our 20 minutes, we looked for a hotel, but they are crazy expensive. Brent had scooped an “Accommodation along the Romantische Str” brochure from the Info Center, so he used that to find us a good Pension right in Würzburg instead.

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