Day 8 – Saturday 5th September – Mainz to Spay
Distance: 53.41 miles; time: 5 hours 02 minutes; calories: 3226
Well Mainz hasn’t really hit the spot. No doubt it’s a nice enough place, but when you’re in a tiny room with no loo above a cuban bar with singing till 4am, it doesn’t help with a good night’s sleep. Both Pippa and I woke up several times in the night, apparently, so we were glad to get back on the road after our breakfasts of bananas and M&Ms. We rolled out of Mainz at 7:30am, having wiped the dried sand off our bikes first.
The route around the back of Mainz was fairly difficult to follow as it dipped on and off various roads. The routefinding wasn’t helped by the fact that in several places people were setting up stands for events so there was scaffolding all over the path. Presumably some kind of weekend festival – almost certainly wine, being as we are in the Rheingau wine region. The paths were rough and we had more of the dreaded sandy stuff again, although fortunately in the dry it’s not so bad. Our GPS courses were also a bit variable at this point – I had downloaded two Rhine routes from the internet but they weren’t the official routes (which I couldn’t find) and they proved to be a guide only over the next two days.
We arrived in Eltville feeling a bit fed up with our overall speed and the route. A sign for Frühstück (breakfast!) caught our eye and we stopped, thinking we could top up our rather random breakfasts several hours earlier. Outside the cafe was an HP Velotechnic Skorpion recumbent trike, which was a bit of a surprise. We went into the cafe, ordered our bread and egg and tea, and settled back to enjoy a break.
We realised the chap at the next table was wearing cycling shoes so I asked him if it were his recumbent trike. It was, and I said that I had a Trice outside (I noticed that I pronounced ‘Trice’ in the German manner which sounded a bit odd!) which he went and looked at, and we had a long old chat about recumbents in general. He’s not actually too keen on his Skorpion, he says it’s very heavy (25kg unladen) and it cost a fortune (5,000€, it has a Rohloff hub). He says it’s also not good on hills. We chatted for ages, then he gave us some advice on our route along to Mainz, he admired Pippa’s bike and off we went, having spent much longer than we originally planned.
I was keeping an eye out for the singer Andreas Scholl, who lives in the next village to Eltville, but didn’t spot him as we trundled our way along the cobbles back to the Rhine Radweg. We quickly found ourselves at a closed bit of cycle path with diversion signs through an underpass under a motorway. The signs ran out pretty quickly but we used our common sense to follow local roads to Rüdesheim, avoiding getting swept onto the motorway at a couple of points. At least on asphalted roads we could increase our speed.
In Geisenheim we were cycling along the ever-narrowing pavement which had previously been a shared cycle path when a chap shouted to me to get in the road, “pavements are for pedestrians!” Not normally in Germany, you tend to get shouted at by car drivers to get on the pavement, but we did as requested and got onto the road.
At Rüdesheim we took the ferry across the Rhine to Bingen for 2,50€. We got a good view of the Niederwald Monument and its cablecar (I went up there last October). We disembarked in Bingen and found that the cycle path was much better here, with better signage and usually a better surface.
We were both keen to make up some of the time we had lost over the beginning of the journey; despite setting out at 7:30 rather than our more typical 9:30 we hadn’t achieved very many more miles than normal by 11am. So we pedalled hard and zoomed along beside the Rhine.
At one point we were overtaken by two fit chaps in lycra. We conferred briefly and agreed to try to catch them up, so off we went, pedalling hard… and had to stop after about two miles to take off our waterproof jackets as we were overheating. We’d nearly caught the chaps too!
The route alongside the Rhine was very pretty with a different castle around each corner, sometimes three to four in view at once. We were going at a very good speed, a rolling average of probably 15 miles an hour, but had stopped for a brief photo opportunity (of a monument to Marshall Blücher who was important in the Battle of Waterloo, with a nice castle in view behind it) when a huge bunch of cycle-tourists on mountain bikes came past us. Pippa and I both agreed that we couldn’t let mountain-bikers stay ahead so we set off in hot pursuit. Pippa, down on the drops, got past them fairly quickly; it was harder work for me, but I made it in due course, although two of them then sat on my back wheel and tried to re-take me, one saying “Schneller! Schneller!” to me. So I went schneller and left ’em behind. I rounded a corner to see Pippa standing beside her bike looking forlornly at it. Puncture. Three miles from our lunch spot in St Goar!
So out came the tools and she began the fun job of wrestling her narrow, sporty, kevlar tyres off the rim. She got the tyre off eventually, we found the puncture, checked the tyre in the corresponding place for any glass or stones (couldn’t find anything), she put a new tube in and then started replacing the tyre. Which was difficult. Very difficult. After 15 minutes she finally got the tyre on after significant wielding of tyre levers and Anglo-Saxon.
Out came her brand new pump which is a mini track pump and really rather neat. But for some reason the tyre wouldn’t inflate. We both had a bad feeling that all the tyre lever wielding might have pinched the tube, and so it proved when she took the tyre off again – two little holes in the inner tube. She was down to her last tube so I repaired the other two whilst she fitted the second replacement tube. This time the end of the tyre lever snapped off and disappeared inside the tyre so she had to take it off again to remove the little plastic widget, which fortunately came out. When the tyre was back on (easier this time, now she’d got the hang of it), it pumped up well and both my tube repairs were holding well, if not looking too elegant (the patches were a bit big really but they were the smallest in the kit). Throughout this time loads of cyclists had passed us but none stopped to help – obviously we looked too competent.
Right, off we went again, Pippa a bit gingerly till she was sure the tyre was OK, but it was all fine. Three miles later we stopped in St Goar looking across at Loreley. The sun was shining, lovely!
I had some Zwiebelsuppe which I love, and Pippa had a rather fine salad.
Argh! Rain! Lots of it!
We moved inside as a huge black cloud came over and threw rain all over the region. Please, no more rain! Both Pippa and I were fed up with rain, having had two rainy days previously – we neither of us wanted to cycle in more of it, especially as I now had a cold. So we waited it out, relieved to see blue skies further up the valley and that the raincloud was blowing away from us.
Once the rain stopped we got cracking, desperate to get to our evening destination before more wet stuff. Pippa changed down a cog a bit too enthusiastically and her chain dropped off. Never mind, she got it back on easily enough, off we went.
We had fifteen miles to our destination, the little village of Spay where we had pre-booked a hotel, and we had the bit between our teeth now. We went through Boppard at which point I had a brief celebration – my previous cycle tour had ended at Boppard so I had now joined up my Mosel and Main River tours through the Rhine. A sense of achievement for me!
As we were leaving Boppard we rounded a corner and there was a sudden steep hill (this happens quite a bit on the cycle paths). I saw it coming, changed down gear in time and made it up, rounding the corner at the top. I heard a shriek from Pippa which I assumed was the traditional shriek we both emitted when seeing a hill (we don’t like hills!) She took a long time to arrive round the corner, however, and when she did get there she was laughing. Apparently she’d changed down to the granny ring a bit quickly, the chain had come off, she’d kept pedalling and then had a clipless moment and fallen over on the bike still clipped in. She picked herself up uninjured and walked up the hill. I am most disappointed I didn’t get to see/photograph this event!
The final stretch from Boppard to Spay was a really fast path with more castles and some lovely views, this really was an excellently scenic part of the route. We arrived in Spay and found our hotel which looked very attractive. They gave us a key to the Fahrradgarage (bike garage) and we opened it to discover a huge double garage with about eight bikes in it (for hire from the hotel) and a whole series of tools and other bike stuff. So we cleaned the sand off the bikes using my tissues (I’ve bought zillions of ’em for my cold), then used some bike cleaner on the bikes, I put some silicone grease on my suspension elastomer, Pippa used the track pump to put her tyres up from 40psi to 90psi, and she even tried out the German cyclist’s favourite bike accessory – a sheepskin saddle cover.
The hotel rooms were excellent and we went straight downstairs before showers for some Apfelstrudel mit Eis and a cup of tea. Just wonderful! We then had our shower/washing clothes thing, then went down for dinner. We both chose Spargelcremesuppe (as we’re in Germany) and then I had a fab pork with Pommes meal and Pippa had Pfifferlinge mit Semmerknödel. Yummy! The proprietress of the hotel came and talked to us and was extremely friendly – she gave me a cup of tea to take up to my room because of my cold, and included a second cup of Sri Lankan tea for colds. Germans tend to have lots of different tea varieties which supposedly help with various ailments – no doubt there’s a tea for people with a sore left thumb. Anyway, I drank most of the Sri Lankan tea (which was very hot – spicy hot) and then went to sleep in the very comfortable room. Definitely the best hotel yet!