Ben and Nick's European Vacation

Nick and Ben cycle from Sweden to Switzerland and beyond. Check out our cycling trip to Patagonia.

Ben Heumann
Nick Cowan

Friday, July 15, 2005

FRANCE: Day 14

Original Post:

We are in France. Got lost in Germany, ended up on the Mosel River very beautiful, theen cycling ad hoc since trying to avoid qny lqrge hhills. yesterrdqy was fete national, so we took a break from the heat and laid around like everyone else in France (but still did 120+ km). Aiming for Switzerlqnd ttoday, depending on heat, 35+ qnd hills. Thats all I cqn tqke of this french k,eyboaerd which ,qkes no sense.

Cycling Notes:

Day 9: Gong Show (Koln to Koblentz, Germany) 126km
When the going gets easy….Today was a day where nothing could go right. The plan was to cycle south along the Rhein to Koblentz, on the east bank to Bonn, then on the west bank to Koblentz. Not 5km out of Koln, I get a flat tire (front) due to the immense amount of broken glass that covers all ground surfaces in Koln because it’s legal to drink in public. Good idea, but plastic bottles should really be required. After 25km, we stop at a bike shop because I need another spare tube and Nick needs to fix his rear brakes, which at this point don’t work, and a new rear tire. After much poking and prodding, Nick’s brakes are deemed hopefully, and need to be completely replaced. Although we were at a “bike shop”, the owner was a very nice, but not so knowledgeable middle aged women. She gave us apple juice while we worked on our bikes, but sold Nick the wrong brake pads and me the wrong size inner tube (which comes to haunt me later on). So we put on Nick’s new tire and give up on the brakes because, really, who needs back brakes? 100m down the road, Nick gets a flat, probably from my crappy job of replacing his tire. It is now noon and we’ve only cycled 25km in 5 hours.
In Bonn, we switched sides of the river and discovered that once again, pedestrians are idiots. There were many pedestrians on the bike path, making Nick and I doubt our understanding of the road signs. As we approached a particular couple blocking the whole path, we decide to off road it instead of ringing my bell and waiting for them to move. Nick executed this manuvre with perfection while I, well, let’s just say I’m lucky I didn’t break anything. I wiped out with great form, leaving a streak of dirt in the grass where my body slid across. In the end, I only bruised a couple of ribs.
After lunch, cycling seem to go well, the path was straight forward, we had a great tailwind, and there were beautiful sights to be seen, if we ignored the industrial ports along the river. In Lutz, we lost the bike path amongst one of these industrial ports, but using our superior navigational skills, we managed to find the river and bike path again in Koblentz. At this point, I would like to state that we did not verify our position using maps or the guide book here. This is key. After dinner below the fortress and statue of Wilhelm IV, we cycled 15km to a nice wooded place to camp on the banks of the River.

Ben on the Rhein.

Nick and the Millennium Falcon cruising in hyperspace

Industrial Delights on the Rhein.

Nick and our 8th cooling tower so far.

Day 10: The Gong Show Returns (Koblentz to Trarbach; Trier to Saarburg) 110km, 30km
Perhaps the best day of cycling on the whole trip. Early start, beautiful sun, nice bike path, fantastic scenery: meandering river with steep terraced slopes covered in grapes. One problem, we were on the wrong river. There were a number of hints that something had gone wrong. Hint 1: “There are not any bridges along this stretch of the Rhein” stated out guide book. By lunch, we had passed a dozen. Hint 2: The stretch of the Rhein we were supposed to be cycling was relatively straight, but this river was sinuous. Hint 3: None of the towns we passed were in the guidebook. Hint 4: We didn’t pass any of the towns in the guidebook. Hint 5: Significantly fewer old cycle tourists on the path than the day before. Hint 6: We were cycling west/southwest and not south.
Yet despite all of these hints, we didn’t figure out that we were not on the Rhein until we had cycled 100km to Bremm and were handed a guide to Bremm on the Mosel. Yes, we were on the Mosel River (or La Moselle en Francais). How did we miss all of the hints that we were on the wrong river. Well, quite frankly, because we didn’t care. It was a beautiful day and we were cycling in a beautiful river in Europe.
We cycled to Trarbach, where the German Weather Gods blessed us with rain. We took this opportunity to examine our plans and discovered that although we had already cycled 110km, we had only made 50km as the crow flies. We then calculated it would take us two more days to reach France on our current path, and proceeded to catch a train to Trier. At Trier, we cycled to the confluence of the Mosel and Saar Rivers, and decided not to go the Luxemberg, but rather back towards Switzerland by following the Saar to France. We found a nice campground, with hot showers in Saarburg, a quaint town with really steep cobblestone roads that are fun to cycle on.

Stopping for a break along the Rhein….errr, Mosel River.

Ben cycling like its 1744.

Bicycle cam captures Nick cycling towards cool building.

Nick and a cool castle.

Ben cycling along the Mosel River.

Ben cycling along the Mosel River again.

Vineyards and the Mosel Valley.

Village along the Mosel with terrace vineyards.

Nick and Ben take a train – so take that German Weather Gods!

Day 11: Where’s The Bike Path? (Saarburg, Germany to Francaltroff, France) 120km
We followed the Saar to Saarbrucken, where we left the river portion of our adventure for France.As we crossed the border into France, we noticed three things: 1) the French do use a lot of English words compared to the Quebecois, 2) serious industrial yuck (see pictures) and 3) where’s the bike path. The country that hosts the world most famous and prestigious cycling race in the world lacks bike paths. In St. Avoid, we stopped at the tourist information and asked for a map of bike paths in France; we were given a map of the Rhein. It was also scorching hot out, probably 35 degrees C. We made our way south on small rural roads (the motorists were decent, used to road bikes). We stopped in Nowhere rural France at a bar looking for food and drink. In this Quebecois like bar (orange bar, purple captain’s chair stools at the bar, all other seat covered in leopard skin cloth), we got drinks. 20km later, we found a campground with cold showers, and a hole in the floor to take a dump in.

Nick and French Cooling Towers.

Ben and French Industrial Delights.

French Pastoral Landscape.

Day 12: La Fete National (Francaltroff to Destord, France) 120km

We cycled 80km before noon, in hopes of taking a siesta in the afternoon heat (38 degrees). We arrived in Bacaraat, France to find everything closed, except a few restaurants. We inquired as to the state of things and were told that it was La Fete National (France’s National Holiday). This would explain all the fireworks the night before. As saying goes, “When in Rome..”, and we did like everyone else, and relaxed in the park all afternoon, airing out our things, reading, napping, and playing go. At 6, we set off again, on a road closed for construction (we read closed to cars), and stopped at 9 to camp in a peaceful woodlot. Dinner was pizza from a small family restaurant with a wood oven. If all of France was as entrepreneurial as this family (they had a line out the door), well, France wouldn’t be French.

Bacaraat Hotel de Ville.

Church in Bacaraat.

Cemetary at highest point in Bacaraat

“So, is the road like, closed?”

Nick cycling on the road anyway.

Day 13: Avoiding the Hills (Destord to L’Isle sur le Doubs, France) 136km
While waiting for our pizza the night before, I noticed how high the mountains were to the east (1200m). While nick was up for going over the highest pass, I wasn’t so keen on the idea given the heat and my general fatigue. Thus, we spent the day trying to avoid the hills, cycling south-southwest. Around 10 we cycled along La Moselle, once again. By 2, a situation had occurred. We had a choice to make, climb the mountains or climb the hills for we had cycled into a dead-end valley. So up we went over the hills, a 400m, 4km climb. At the top: ice cream and a view of our accomplishment. After our ice cream a 10km long 300m downhill to the town of Lure, then south as far as I could take it, camping along side cattle with bells near L’Isle sur le Doubs.

View from atop our first mountain pass

Is that legal?