Day 11 – Eltville to Spay
This was our last cycling day! It was also the furthest distance in terms of cycling mileage but 31 of the 44 miles were familiar to us – I’d cycled that way three times before, James twice, so it felt like it wasn’t so far.
The breakfast at hotel Alta Villa was perhaps a little sparser than we might have expected for the price – there was no cereal, just orange juice and tea, yoghurt, two rolls each and a croissant, salami, ham, cheese, preserves etc.
As we went upstairs for our final pack it was raining and the nice lady in the hotel suggested it would be raining all day. Rather a disappointment.
So we set off at 9:30am through Eltville towards the Rhein with our waterproofs on and with persistent drizzle wetting the roads.
The route today was one that I had devised myself with the help of OpenStreetmaps (the Main routes had all been downloaded from the official tourist website). This was partly because the route I’d gone with Pippa from Eltville to Rüdesheim had been confusing and a lot of it was on the road and not very scenic, whereas the OSM route was right along the Rhein and looked nice.
I suppose I should have thought a little harder about why the nice riverside route wasn’t the official one. We found out soon enough – it was unsurfaced. This meant initially just a loose gravel surface but after we’d gone a couple of miles and passed a bail-out point at Hattenheim it turned into rather squishy mud. James had found the previous surface fine with his bike, although I was getting rather mucky from the surface flicking up from my tyres, but he found it difficult going through the mud and my trike was sliding around all over the place; I also occasionally completely lost traction and had to put my foot down to push myself along. The tyres were caked in mud and it was going all up my arms and on my face. Not good.
So I decided we were going to go on the main road, leaving this alternative route behind. Unfortunately I didn’t have the ‘official’ radweg route on my Garmin so we just had to make our own one up, which meant cycling into the town of Oestrich. We had to cross a very busy road, the B42 (B roads in Germany are equivalent of our A roads, their A roads are Autobahnen – motorways) in order to get into Oestrich which took some time. Then as soon as we were cycling in Oestrich there was a diversion from the route we wanted to take which sent us up a very steep, cobbled road. The rain started really coming down now so we stopped under a bike shelter to check the Garmin and take stock.
Within about three minutes the rain had eased and we set off again, cycling into Winkel and discovering occasional signs for the Rhein Radweg so it seemed we were on it again. However, they petered out and I’m not sure at what point we diverged.
We passed this unusual house, built around a tower.
Our route continued alongside a busy road into Geisenheim where there was yet another diversion (fortunately not too awkward) and then we headed down towards the river a bit, cycling on a quiet road alongside the B42 with all its ‘no cycling’ signs.
This quiet road continued for a fair while and then we found ourselves going through a supermarket car park – which I remembered doing with Pippa two years ago; this meant this was probably the correct route but it felt a bit random!
In Geisenheim we then had to climb a fairly steep section before coasting down the other side for several miles, parallel to the river but about a quarter of a mile away, before our path headed back towards the water as we entered Rüdesheim am Rhein, our destination for the ferry crossing to Bingen.
I took a short detour to a bike shop (I’d hoped to buy a new water bottle as a memento of this tour as my one’s cap had gone a bit odd, but there wasn’t anything suitable) and then we finally rejoined the original route I had drawn for our Garmins, which was gravel initially and then became tarmac, hurrah. All the faffing around had taken ages today and our average speed to Rüdesheim was just 7.4mph, which is largely because I had to go so slowly through the mud. If we’d had mountain bikes that route would have been fine, but we didn’t and it wasn’t. My recommendation to others doing this route is that you cross the Rhein before Rüdesheim, maybe at Mainz, and go along the other side (I assume there’s a decent route on the left bank).
Fortunately the rain had eased off completely by the time we reached Rüdesheim ferry and we had a very easy crossing which was free of charge (although there was a price listed of 2,30 Euros for cyclists).
The other side of the river from Rüdesheim is Bingen, home to Hildegard of Bingen the nun from the 14th century (I think) who wrote music that our church choir still sings today.
This blog is entitled From Bayreuth to Bingen as I felt the two musical bookends (Wagner and Hildegard) gave it more of a shape. However, we were cycling another 30 miles past Bingen to reach Spay.
As soon as we were off the ferry some passing cyclists hailed us – are you English? They clearly were – she was on a Thorn, he a Raleigh steel framed bike, and they had camping kit. The man had a beard and his shorts bore the CTC Portsmouth logo so he was clearly a proper British cyclist.
They chatted to us for a bit. They had come up the Rhein from Basle and were staying in campsites. They had left Mainz this morning (he pronounced it Mayne-z, not Mine-z) and were planning on stopping at a campsite at Trechtinghausen, just a few miles on from Bingen, assuming it was still open – he bemoaned the fact that lots of campsites were just for motorhomes or caravans now, no longer for tents. I looked on my Garmin and said that if the one at Trechtinghausen wasn’t available there was a campsite at Bacharach a few miles further on. The man asked if my trike were made in Cornwall (which it was), as it turns out someone in their CTC group bought one. He said “we all had a go” and I said “I assume everyone wanted one after that.” He said someone else had bought one but he clearly wasn’t interested – I think a trike isn’t the right sort of steed for a CTC chap like him. I did drop into the conversation that my trike has done 24,000 miles in three years, including several German tours, but he wasn’t impressed.
They set off and we followed them for a bit until they took a wrong turn and we took the correct route. We cycled along the good quality track past Bingen station and then past various allotments.
A couple walking their dog grabbed the dog (a boxer) and the chap said to me, “why are you riding that?” “Because I am lazy,” I replied, at which point he asked “are you Belgian or Dutch?” I pointed at my flag and his wife said “English!” They explained what is now becoming a common theme – my German sounds like that of a Dutchwoman, although apparently when I said the word ‘Wörter’ later in our conversation it was clear that I was English as I have the usual English inability to say the ö sound.
The chap then told me he spent six years trying to learn English and then gave up as it was too hard. His biggest issue is that we only have one word for ‘you’, whereas German has two (‘du’ which is informal and ‘Sie’ which is formal). He said he couldn’t imagine how, if I met President Obama, I could call him ‘you’, the same word as I use with my husband. I pointed out that English has lots of other polite filler words which do the same job but he said it was just too weird to him. He told us he used to be a barge driver and so had been through the Loreley section a thousand or more times. I would have liked to talk to him longer about this but they had to go. Yet another friendly German couple!
We were getting hungry now so stopped for a biscuit.
We then cycled on for a few miles through Trechtinghausen (which did have a campsite!), Niederheimbach and Rheindiebach, where we saw this bit of graffiti – ‘Lebe Vegan’ means ‘Live vegan’.
We soon arrived at Bacharach where we stopped for some cake and a cup of tea.
We pressed on after that, going through Oberwesel
before arriving at Sankt Goar which looks out onto Loreley, where we stopped for an ice cream and watched the barges skidding round the corner where it’s narrow and fast-flowing.
As we set off the sun had come out and it was so warm I ended up taking off another layer so I just had my cycling vest top, having worn a short-sleeved jersey, long-sleeved windproof and rain jacket over the top off that when we started out this morning!
It was a very bumpy concrete path directly beside the main road from Sankt Goar onwards to Hirzenach and it felt narrow when we had to pass other people. At one point I saw a bike and trailer coming towards me and pulled in to a convenient wider spot – the couple on the bikes said “Thank you” in Aussie accents so they were travelling far!
We continued on the bumpy path through Bad Salzig before arriving at Boppard which is a very nice town. At this point the path goes through a parking area and there were several coachloads of Japanese tourists who seemed to like my bike. We were soon through Boppard, however, and knew we only had four and a half miles to go.
The path out of Boppard towards Spay, where the river does a big meander, was freshly surfaced since last year and was really fast. We zoomed along, averaging around 14mph and I was riding at 20mph at one point, which with heavy panniers and tired legs was rather good going. We had a tailwind which helped.
We stopped to take a photo of the sign for Spay
When we started again my knees were complaining – I think the sudden stop from working hard wasn’t the best plan! However we were soon rolling into the car park of the Alter Posthof and being reunited with my car which had had a nine day holiday in Spay.
I took several photos of my mud-encrusted bike
before using the socks that encased my flagpole to clean off the bike, brushing off all the dried mud (it came off very easily).
The bikes were both then stowed in the car and we collected our spare clothes – what a treat to wear something different tomorrow!
We’re off out to get some petrol shortly in preparation for tomorrow’s drive home. We’ve got a reasonably leisurely journey to get to the tunnel for 4pm and then it’ll be back to normal life in England again. And I shall be having a no-cake phase to attempt to undo all the extra lardiness I have gained on this tour.
Statistics for today:
Moving time: 4 hours 46 minutes
Moving average: 9.1 mph
Maximum speed: 19.84 mph
Calories burned: 1293
Maximum heart rate: 145
Average heart rate: 101