Category Archives: Main/Rhein 2009

Main/Rhein 2009 – Harwich to Great Bromley

Day 11 – Tuesday 8 September – Harwich to Great Bromley.

Distance: 20.4 miles;

The alarm call on the boat at 5:30am seemed a bit early but we were both feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep on a calm ferry crossing. We were at our bikes at 6:30am and, although being last off the ferry, made good progress down the A120 in the morning gloom of England. It was odd to be on the left hand side of the road but as these routes are familiar to me I quickly got back into the swing of it.

We turned off the A120 to do the rather scenic route along the Stour River through Wrabness and Bradfield, Mistley and Manningtree, finding the hills a bit of a surprise (having had none in Germany) but enjoying the fresh air. I’d miscalculated both the disembarkation time from the ferry and the distance from Harwich ferry port to Manningtree so we got to the station forty minutes before our chaps arrived. When James arrived he was on his mountain bike, not the trike, which was a bit of a shame as Pippa had hoped to have a go of his Trice (mine’s boom was a bit long for her).

After the usual Manningtree Station half-breakfast James and I said goodbye to Pippa and Jurek and set off for home.

We’ve spent today washing, cleaning my trike, downloading photos of the tour and relaxing. Tomorrow it’s back to work for me…

A great tour overall with nearly 450 miles of lovely scenery, interesting towns and villages, good food and very punctual trains. Roll on the next trip!

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Rhein/Main 2009 – Bonn to Köln, Rotterdam to Hoek van Holland

Day 10 – Monday 7 September – Bonn to Köln, Rotterdam to Hoek van Holland.

Distance: 45 miles; time: 4 hours 12 minutes;  Calories: 2859

After a good breakfast we checked out at 8:15 and retrieved our bikes from the Keller.

We set off on an easy path with lots of dog walkers and few cyclists. However amongst the cyclists we saw on our short, 35km hop from Bonn to Köln was a delta trike (unknown brand but looking a bit old and rickety) and a Trice T.

As we approached Köln through some woodland we saw that the path ahead was closed due to tree felling with lots of tape across it. There was no diversion marked but it looked as if there was a parallel cycle path across a field so we walked the bikes across the field (there was some kind of footpath so this wasn’t too bad) and then joined the other path which curved back to our correct path very quickly. There was a diversion sign at this end of the path.

Our average speed from Bonn to Köln was 11.5 so this was excellent for us, despite the occasionally bumpy path with tree roots pushing up the surface and making it bumpy.

From about six miles from the centre of Köln we could see the Kölner Dom (Cathedral) on the skyline, an impressive sight and a useful aid to navigation. Considering the trouble I’d had last time on my solo tour getting from Köln to Bonn, where I got lost loads of times, this was a really easy route, even if Pippa had a dodgy experience with a dog which was a bit annoying for her.

We got to the main station in Köln about half an hour before the train was due to go (the earlier of the two that we hoped to catch, giving us plenty of spare time). However we used up all of that half hour in buying the tickets (took twenty minutes as Deutsche Bahn ticket offices are like UK Post Offices, but at least I got the complete tickets for us and bikes to Hoek van Holland at 54€ each) and then Pippa’s loo stop where she discovered she had to pay and had to return for some money. We got up to the platform for the train to Mönchengladbach with five minutes to spare, not enough time to buy food or a cake for James (I had hoped to bring him home a German cake).

The train to Mönchengladbach was much less busy than at the weekend. It was an easy step across the platform to the train from Mönchengladbach to Venlo (where the conductor removed the metal pole to assist my trike to get on) and on that train we talked with two German ladies who were very pleasant, asking us about our holiday. Various rough-looking lads got on with their mucky mountain bikes which filled up the bike carriage area but they all got off at the stop before the Dutch border which is apparently (according to these ladies) a place where German youths can buy marijuana etc. This was, in fact, the stop where the police sniffer dog had nosed around the young lad who got on the train there on our outward journey, so now we know why.

At Venlo we had twenty minutes to buy sandwiches, a cup of tea, a doughnut, crisps etc, and settled happily onto the Dutch train and ate. This is a two hour journey but we filled our time with iPods etc and it went fairly quickly.

During that journey we decided that as we were making such good time we would cycle from Rotterdam to Hoek van Holland, rather than taking the train. Although we’d bought the tickets all the way through, we would get to Hoek van Holland rather early and I remember there not being much to do there. So we exited Rotterdam Station and set off on the rather scary cycle paths. Scary? Yep, they are. Loads of cyclists on variable bicycles, no hand signals, mopeds sharing the paths, the paths littered with glass in places, the paths a bit narrow for a trike to comfortably pass a person whose bike is laden with luggage. We also found the traffic signals took AGES. We were relieved to get out of Rotterdam onto wider, longer, smoother roads.

I got lost a few times doing this ride last time and we got lost in similar places this time, fortunately having a GPS route to help us (although it didn’t exactly match the signage that the Dutch cycle routes offered). We did, however, arrive at the pancake place I enjoyed last time – to discover it was shut! Argh.

We carried on and got lost in the town/village of Maasluis which was very pretty and which had a pancake place so we stopped to eat there. I had Poffertjes which are like little fluffy pancakes drenched in icing sugar, lovely; Pippa had pancake with mushrooms and bacon and cheese.

The route from Maasluis wasn’t obvious and we had to do a bit of trailblazing but eventually found ourselves on the lovely, long, straight paths across polders towards Hoek van Holland whose cranes and ships were just visible in the distance. On this part of the ride we saw three herons, one of which flew over my head with a fish in its mouth. Lovely!

We arrived in Hoek van Holland at 6pm and bought some food supplies in Lidl, faffing around for a while. We arrived at the ferry check-in at 6:45 at which point it opened and so we were one of the first onto the boat. The bikes were stored in a side room up a ramp (that was exciting cycling!) and there were five bikes in there, including what appeared to be a home-made recumbent bicycle owned by a Dutch chap.

We enjoyed our first shower without washing clothes of the whole trip, then met for some drink and food before having an early night. We would be waking up in England!

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Main/Rhein 2009 – Spay to Bonn

Day 9 – Sunday 6th September – Spay to Bonn

Distance: 51.91 miles; time: 5 hours 06 minutes; calories: 3183

Best breakfast yet! We certainly like the Flair Hotel Alte Posthof in Spay, definitely one to choose if you’re ever in that part of the world!

We had allowed ourselves a bit of a lie-in and leisurely breakfast as we only had fifty miles to go today. We left at 9:15 with reasonable skies although quite a chill in the air. We both put on our armwarmers and kept them on all day.

We approached Koblenz through the woodland path in which I remember getting lost last time, with me cycling under various barriers which clearly aren’t designed to keep recumbent tricyclists out, and then hit Koblenz itself, which could be renamed Cobble-enz. They have cobbled all the pedestrian/cycling areas which keeps the speed down of cyclist but really got on Pippa’s nerves. The cycle route to Deutsches Eck (where the Mosel/Moselle flows into the Rhine) was closed off for building work so we had to lift the bikes up eight steps to get there by an alternative, cobbly route. We took the obligatory photograph in front of the huge statue of some German Kaiser, then headed for the bridge over the Mosel. I had to stop as the cobbles had shaken my mirrors loose and I had to renew the gaffer tape which has held them in position very well so far.

After the crossed the Mosel and carried on up the Rhine the path was variable. It was usually asphalt or inset bricks but tree roots had lifted it in places so it could be pretty bumpy. Being a Sunday lots of Germans were out and about so there was more traffic than normal, much of it slow and pootling.

We stopped for a cup of tea after twenty miles in Weißenturm; I was reminded of the strangeness of some German toilets which contain a little shelf so you can study your previous day’s food intake. They seem to be phasing them out but you still find them in odd old-fashioned places like our tea stop!

We continued on. I realised that I had today seen my first unscooped poops – the previous seven days of German cycling have seen loads of dogs but never any dog mess. Clearly the Rhine north of Koblenz is downmarket!

We passed a rather sweet Beagle which peered at me in a nonplussed fashion. I could see it staring at me in my mirrors as I moved away, about 200 metres. As which point I heard Pippa’s shout and saw the dog had started to run after me. It was on a very long lead and was racing along, so I stopped the trike and stood up to say hello to it (and catch it for the owner), but as soon as I stood up I clearly became uninteresting and it turned back of its own accord. I wanted to give it a pat!

The route wended around a bit under a road on stilts and at this point I caught up with two racing whippets on racer bikes (you usually see tourers in Germany, these were some of the first drop bar bikes we’d seen). I thought these two were women but Pippa assures me they were young boys. Anyway, I caught up with them and one saw me and I heard him/her say something to the companion. I saw Pippa had come up behind me so I waved her past to race them, I knew she’d want to! Off she sped, passing them, down on the drops, and they kicked back to try to pass her again, which they did eventually manage (she had two panniers on her bike, of course). I was doing my best to keep up but couldn’t get my trike above 20mph, I think it’s the weight of the panniers and all the food I’ve been eating. Pippa managed to do 26mph in her racing mode!

We stopped in Bad Breisig, one of my favourite little towns, for lunch in a pizzeria as drops of rain were beginning to fall. Oh no, rain! The cloud looked fairly small and in fact went away pretty quickly and we were left with mostly clear skies, although it still wasn’t that warm.

Our speed increased over the last 15 miles as we were ready to reach our destination and the cycle path was much better.

Seen on the ride today:
3 tandems
1 recumbent trike (delta, not tadpole)
1 recumbent bike
1 red squirrel (saw two yesterday)
A recumbent tricycle tandem by Hase. How on EARTH do they get that round some of the cycle path obstructions?Huh?

We arrived at our hotel in Bonn which looked rather seedy. Uh oh. But the receptionist was super-friendly, helped us carry our bikes down into the Keller which was the secure Fahrradgarage, she then chatted to us about local beer, restaurants and told us where to find the internet cafe. The rooms were actually very nice and we both had excellent hot showers and our last experience of washing our clothes in the shower, hurrah!

We plan to leave tomorrow probably by 8:30am to give us a leisurely ride to Köln (Cologne) where we will get the train to Mönchengladbach, then another train to Venlo, then a Dutch train to Rotterdam. We’ll cycle from Rotterdam to Hoek van Holland where our overnight ferry awaits us. Tuesday morning will see us enjoying a Manningtree Station Breakfast with our menfolk before Pippa gets the train back to London…

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Main/Rhein 2009 – Mainz to Spay

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!

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Main/Rhein 2009 – Aschaffenburg to Mainz

Day 7 – Friday 4th September – Aschaffenburg to Mainz

Distance: 59.45 miles; time: 5 hours 54 minutes; calories: 3509

Pippa and I had decided that, as today was a long distance and the weather would get worse during the day, that we would get up early, eat breakfast and go. So we met up in the breakfast room at 7am and tucked into bacon sarnies. The first breakfast with bacon! There was also scrambled egg which was nice, but the cereal selection seemed a bit odd for Germany – no müsli, just kiddie-type chocolate ball cereals. We had some anyway.

When we went to check out the receptionist chappie was very chatty and talked to me a for a while about his niece in Oxford. When the bill came it was for 50€ rather than the expected 55€ so that was a result.

We rescued our bikes from the other hotel’s storeroom and set off into a cold wind, but at least there was no rain so far. It was good to be on the road at 8am and we saw a different set of people – loads of dog walkers, few touring cyclists, a few commuting cyclists. We also noticed an unfamiliar species of goose, loads of ’em, but they all seemed to segregate themselves – the wildfowl I mean. You’d have 100 metres of regular ducks, 50 metres of swans, 100 metres of seagulls (where is the nearest sea?) and then 100 metres of these other geese. They didn’t seem to mix.

At one point we went over the Main on a bridge entirely for cyclists – it was a rather attractive bridge too. It had a statue to St Kilian, whoever he is, in the middle; we keep seeing St Kilian on boats and other places so he must be a local saint. I shall wikipedia him in due course!

The landscape seemed to change today from the previous orchards (apples and pears) and sweetcorn to vines and industrial stuff. The hills that had been either side of the river also seemed to have flattened out as we pootled our way towards our first cake stop at Mülheim, just past Hanau. We found a little local bakery and bought a pastry each (I had a wonderful Himbeer Schnitte, Pippa had something akin to an apple turnover) and two cups of tea for 2,55€. Bargain again! The baker spent ages chatting to us, he was clearly a keen cyclist and wanted to share lots of good local routes with me (he kept waving maps at me). I pointed out we were going directly to Mainz, so he chatted generally about German cycle routes instead after that. He said they had a toilet at the bakery for cyclists – we thought he was joking but no, he guided us one at a time to the loo and it had a Main Radweg sticker on the door. We went right through the bakery to get there (it was in an outhouse out the back) and it was clear that they make all their bread and cakes daily – I assumed they came in from the German equivalent of Brake Bros. It was a very interesting insight into a proper baker’s in Germany.

When it was time to leave the baker asked to take a photo of us and he had a good look at Pippa’s “Sportfahrrad”. He said Germans only use tyres that thin when they are racing. No racing here, we can barely average 11mph over the day!

We continued on our way enjoying the blue sky although it wasn’t very warm. We went through Offenbach which had a rather bumpy cycle track. It joined up with the Frankfurt cycle path straight along the Main which had a lot of dishy men jogging or cycling, so that was a result.

We found at one point a statue base with “ich” inscribed upon it and instructions that we are supposed to pose on it to show our individuality. So Pippa took a photo of me standing up there, then we took one of her holding her bike, then we decided to haul my trike up onto the plinth and took a photo of me with it. Well, why not!

We continued on out of Frankfurt through a rather industrial bit and the path then wended its way around and under lots of motorways as we were very near Frankfurt airport.

We were getting pretty hungry at this point as it was 1:00pm and we had done 43 miles so we stopped at a greek restaurant in Kelsterbach and enjoyed a break with some hearty food. As we were sitting on the terrace it started to rain – oh no, more rain. It got heavier and heavier and didn’t inspire us to get back on the road. But we had 15 miles to Mainz and we wanted to get there and settle in to our hotel so we decided to set off. Pippa decided to remove the outer layer of her shorts (they have a liner) to keep that from getting wet; she decided to do it just as we were going out of the door that the Greek waiter and his friend were holding open for us. She stopped and said, “oh, my trousers” so I explained to them “she’s just taking her trousers off.” They seemed rather nonplussed.

Fortunately the rain wasn’t too heavy – yet. But the path we were on wasn’t asphalted, instead it had a loose sandy covering, and as the rain soaked in it began to flick up onto our bikes and us. Soon enough we had mucky sand all over our hands, legs, gears, the tyres were digging in so we had to use a lot of effort to make progress, Pippa’s brakes were all gummed up… and then we arrived at another bridge. Now we had passed a sign about six miles back that warned us that the route we were taking meant we would have to lift bikes up steps but I sort of ignored it. Now the steps had arrived they were a pain. We took the panniers off both bikes, Pippa carried hers up to the bridge and then came and helped me with mine. We then pushed both bikes all the way across the bridge, which was a LONG way as it covered a particularly wide bit of the Main that also had a lock and a weir. As we were pushing our bikes we were overtaken, on the bridge, by a most handsome and fit-looking chappie in lycra pushing his mountain bike, a more suitable bike for the path no doubt. We tried to keep up with him but he was clearly more skilled at wheeling a bike across a bridge and so by the time we got to the other side, and would have liked a helpful chap to carry our bikes, he was nowhere to be seen.

Over the other side of the bridge there was yet more sandy track, this time on a levee between two low fields. It was very weird cycling along there without changing gear (didn’t want sand in the cogs) or braking (Pippa’s didn’t work well full of sand) but trying to keep a decent speed up as the sandiness was slowing us down, plus planes from Frankfurt were flying just over our heads. We were glad when we got onto a decent track after about two miles of this.

The rain was absolutely pouring down now and we made sure we cycled through every puddle we could see to try to clean the sand off the bikes. My rear suspension arms were caked in it and it was all around my suspension elastomer. At least my brakes worked OK. It was fun cycling through puddles but obviously also rather childish!

We were counting down the miles to Mainz and to the end of the Main River where it flows into the Rhine. As we rounded the bottom corner of Mainz and saw the Rhine in all its wide glory, the rain was like stair-rods, the roads were rivers with weird bubbles all over the place, we were soaked despite our waterproofs, and our hands were really cold. Oh how we cheered each other up with talk of the fantastic shower in the hotel just over the bridge.

The hotel was a quaint, old building stuck in the middle of a load of modern Hilton concrete monstrosities. The bicycle storage place was inside so we had to tip my trike on its side to get it in the door. There was no-one at reception but there were some keys  hanging on hooks on the reception door, one of which said “Henn kock” and had two room keys so I assumed that was mine. We carried our dripping panniers (dripping water and sand) up the stairs as the water and sand cascaded off our waterproofs, shoes, bare legs (Pippa still hadn’t replaced her trousers). We did the usual random assigning of keys to the rooms and after a brief moment of panic when Pippa couldn’t find her room (it was upstairs somewhere), we parted, agreeing to meet again in an hour and twenty minutes’ time, to hit the town of Mainz.

I found my room up a very narrow twisty staircase and walked in. What a cute little garret room, just room for a bed and a wardrobe and a bedside table. Er. Where is the toilet? Where is the shower? WHERE IS THE EN-SUITE?

I went out onto the landing and opened one of the two other doors (the other door was a room); a storage cupboard with hoover and stuff. Ah.

I went downstairs, walked along the corridor and saw a toilet and next door to that, a shower. Ah.

Pippa then appeared from the floor above, “I haven’t got an en-suite…” she wailed. We both wailed. Especially as we then saw the sign that said “Breakfast 6€ per person”. This was a cheap hotel at 39€ but I thought that was just because it would be quirky or on a busy main road, I didn’t realise we didn’t have an en-suite or breakfast!

Oh well, we would make the best of it – we were both desperate for a shower! So I went back to my garret, picked up both panniers and brought them down into the shower, returning to the garret for the towels I had forgotten. I stepped into the shower fully clothed as usual but this time also with my cycling sandals on as they were very sandy sandals. The wringing out of clothing was awkward in such a small space, plus getting dressed again and attempting to keep bare feet from the sand deposited on the shower floor by my panniers, but I managed it and emerged feeling human again. As Pippa pointed out, we’ve made sure that these hotels have space for our bikes – we ought not to forget to ask if they have en-suites too!

After chilling out for a while Pippa and I ventured out to find an internet cafe. We know there won’t be one tomorrow in Spay (a teeny tiny village just downstream from Boppard) so we would make the most of the opportunity to check our train times, etc. It was starting to rain as we stepped out of the hotel (having stopped whilst we were in the hotel having our showers) and neither of us had our waterproof coats (which were dripping wet) so we just walked briskly and told each other it would stop raining soon enough.

I asked a passer-by, a young chap, if he knew where there was an internet cafe. He said it was complicated to explain but he would show us, and then proceeded to lead us half a mile through the centre of Mainz.  He was talking about the weather (clearly someone has told him this is what you talk about with English people) and admitted to knowing a bit of English but not much. He left us after indicating the road down which the internet cafe lived – what a very nice and friendly chappie!

So here I am at the cafe, maniacally checking that the hotels for the next two days have en-suites (it appears so!) and working out the final train times for our return trip on Monday.

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Main/Rhein 2009 – Wertheim to Aschaffenburg

Day 6 – Thursday 3rd September – Wertheim to Aschaffenburg

Distance: 49.18 miles; time: 4 hours 41 minutes; calories: 3000ish

This morning before breakfast I spent time on the phone ringing around for accommodation in Aschaffenburg tonight, eventually finding space in the Hotel Mainperle at 55 Euro per night. I also booked tomorrow night’s accommodation in Mainz – better safe than sorry! That does commit us to a sixty mile day tomorrow, after fifty today, but we’re feeling strong and when we’re cake-fuelled these distances are easy.

After another excellent breakfast we checked out, rescued our bikes from the underground garage and had a chat with two cyclists who said that women with muscly arms (like us, as we keep pushing our bikes around) are called Powerfrauen. Nice.

As we set off on our way it started to rain. It rained some more. We crossed the Main river and it rained more. And more. And more.

After five miles we were both soaked and decided that we needed to put our waterproofs on. The rain trickling down my neck was yuck! So we found a secluded area and stripped off our tops to put fresh ones on, then our waterproofs. Pippa took her outer shorts off (cycling in just the shorts liner). Not that there was anyone around to see – we only saw about 25 cyclists in the first 22 miles. They clearly don’t like the rain.

Despite the rain and the fact that the path was occasionally loose cinder rather than the normal asphalt, we made progress, albeit more slowly than normal. I had my hood up to try to keep the driving rain off my face, Pippa had to stop to adjust her mudguard again. But after 15 miles the sun started to come out and our clothing started to dry, although the strong wind was cold so we didn’t take off our waterproof jackets. We spent all morning trying to avoid running over slugs. I think I managed it, but Pippa squished one!

Lunch stop was to be Miltenburg and after mistaking a suburb for the place, we found the proper Miltenburg, although the cycle path was buried under a huge market. I bought some Gebrannte Mandeln and Crepe, yum! We then had lunch of Spätzle and Gulasch, warming and hearty. Pippa had a beer, me a tea, all to help warm us up.

As we set off along the Main again Pippa spotted an Internet Cafe so I made use of it to write some of this up, then we trotted forth. The day got warmer so eventually we removed the waterproofs and enjoyed a bit of sunshine, although it was never particularly hot.

Our plan was to have tea and cake at 35 miles but at that point found ourselves on a surprisingly un-cake-and-cafe section of the path; it took another four miles until we found a bakery in the village of Großwallstadt. Pippa had a cherry strudel torte thingie and I a Nußecke, with a cup of tea each, for 2,55€. Bargain! After we’d refuelled I had to fiddle with my mudguard which kept coming adrift, using Pippa’s leatherman and multitool so making some decent use of tools.

The final push to Aschaffenburg was in rather strong winds. We found our pre-booked hotel which was outside the main pedestrian area in a rather typical German city, not the quaint places we are used to (although perhaps we haven’t found the proper bit of the town). The Receptionist was super-helpful and chatty and we put our bikes in a locked garage belonging to their sister hotel, Hotel Fischer. Then after showering etc we ventured out for Internet and food. We have now booked our return ferry tickets for Monday 7th September. We’ll go to Mainz tomorrow, where the Main flows into the Rhine, and then on Saturday we will cycle to Boppard (50 miles) and on Sunday to Bonn (51 miles). On Monday morning we’ll cycle to Köln and from there get the train back to Hoek van Holland and our overnight ferry crossing.

The tour is going really well, we’re finding the cycling great fun, and even the drenching we got this morning hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm. We’re both looking forward to riding our bikes without a heavy load of panniers, however!

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Main/Rhein 2009 – Würzburg to Wertheim

Day 5 – Wednesday 2nd September – Würzburg to Wertheim

Distance: 63.66 miles; time: 5 hours 31 minutes; calories: 4162

After a rather fab 9.5 hour sleep (the advantage of a big cycle ride the day before) we had the best breakfast yet. Yum!

Pippa and I planned to meet at the reception desk as we checked out. I happened to get there first and after I’d handed in my key I just passed the time of the day with the receptionist, asking her the weather forecast (very favourable for cycling) and then commenting that it was now low season for hotels. No it wasn’t, she said, September is their busiest month. I said that I didn’t have accommodation booked for Wertheim that evening and she suggested strongly that I sorted something out ASAP. She then proceeded to google accommodation for me and to phone up to enquire if there were spaces. The first couple of places were fully booked, then she found a place with two single rooms but they pointed out, as we were about to book, that they were 3km from Wertheim up a mountainside (well, 200 metres elevation). We decided that would be pretty hard work after a 60 mile cycle ride so kept looking. In the end the receptionist found us what sounded like a nice hotel in Wertheim for 55 Euro per night and booked it for us.

The receptionist obviously enjoyed chatting with us and came down to the garage to help us with our bike extraction. She was telling me about some bad experiences in Manchester when people had said “Heil Hitler” to her, but that in America they didn’t realise she was German so were nice to her. Hopefully I made up for the nasty mancunians.

So off we set along the road, passing a unicyclist and lots of people with kiddie trailers on their bikes. The weather was about perfect for cycling, warm and sunny but with some cloud cover to prevent us getting too hot. It was probably about 22 degrees out there so just right.

We drafted a peloton of Swiss pensioners at one point to have a bit of a break, then went round them and set off along the long, straight paths.

We stopped at Karlstadt for some Waldbeertorte and Tea and I also decided to top up the credit on my German phone as we decided we need to prebook our accommodation in future. There was great consternation by the supermarket checkout girl when I asked for the top-up as they clearly don’t do them very often. In the end it worked, but took the manager to come down and help her.

The next section, to Lohr, we did at a much faster average speed. We had lunch outside the bakery in Lohr which was a bit waspy (Pippa isn’t keen on ’em) so she was taking a walk down a side road when the Hase Pino tandem went past.

We continued on at a good pace, probably an average of 15mph, as the weather was just perfect for cycling and the wind not too strong.

We stopped at Marktheidfeld for drink and ice cream. I had a banana split and Pippa asked for a lemon sorbet; they didn’t have sorbet but persuaded her to try a Prosecco-becher which is fizzy prosecco with fresh fruit and a ball of lemon ice. Quite boozy, I think.

After this stop I decided it was time to paddle in the Main so did so in my cycling sandals. Pippa kept well away from the water but got a photo of me and trike almost falling in.

The final push to Wertheim found the day cooling off and becoming cloudier. We found our hotel, a very nice one, which included a gated underground garage for the bikes. After our showers we went in search of an internet cafe along the quaint and narrow streets of this old glass-blowing town. The one internet cafe had unfortunately closed down so we instead had a very slow meal and an early night.

We have now crossed into Badem-Württemburg so hopefully I will understand the accent a little better!

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Main/Rhein 2009 – Schweinfurt to Würzburg

Day 4 – Tuesday 1 September –  Schweinfurt to Würzburg.

Distance: 60.76 miles; time: 06 hours 00 minutes;  3836 calories.

Pippa and I met for a hearty breakfast this morning at 8am, having planned to set off at 9am. This is because we were doing 100km today to reach Würzburg, a rather lovely town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (or part of it is, anyway). As you can’t really do a very fast average speed on the Radwege, 10mph being something to aim at, that meant six hours of cycling excluding stops, and we wanted to get to our destination by 5:30 at the latest, really, to start the hotel search.

From our hotel in Schweinfurt we headed roughly south to find the Main Radweg – two German passers-by helped us when they heard us sounding confused. It was easy to find the Radweg, as it happened, and we were soon heading off westwards again.

Today’s path has been fantastic quality – smooth asphalt that seems to have a light rolling resistence. The signage is generally excellent again and there were long stretches of path that were dead straight, going alongside vineyards whose fines had huge bunches of grapes hanging below ’em. Very picturesque.

In our first 20 mile stretch there was a rather unexpected obstacle as we rounded a corner – a large truck was parked across the Radweg. There was just enough room to squeeze a normal bike around the passenger side, but the driver’s side was in a bunch of nettles on the verge. I don’t have a normal bike… so we took the panniers off and carried them past the obstacle, Pippa squeezed herself and her bike past, then handed me a stick and I used it to beat the nettles away as I cycled slowly past on the other side. My wheels crunched over brambles and general vegetation and it was quite a job to thwack down the nettles but I made it eventually.

What was amusing about this was that Pippa and I had been drafted by a German chap on a bike who had remarked (in English) “Great fun” to me as I passed doing a minor bit of off-road having missed the cycle path earlier. As he kept behind us we both wondered if his “great fun” wasn’t a comment on my trike but on him as a travelling partner, although he had that unwise German facial hair thing going which so many of them do. Why? He also didn’t have Ortlieb or Vaude panniers so can’t be a proper German. Anyway, when we arrived at the obstacle of the truck I thought at least he might be useful and help me lift the trike round but he just sailed past. Huh! He travelled a couple of miles drafting Pippa and didn’t help us ladies – a poor specimen indeed.

About half a mile later we came to a ferry to cross the Main (Mr non-Ortlieb was there so leaving us to our mercies hadn’t got him any advantage in time; we studiously ignored him after his lack of gentlemanly behaviour). The ferry was at the other side of the Main so we ate a banana each and got a nice German to photograph us together whilst we were waiting.

After the Ferry we stopped a few times for photographs (including a jet aeroplane outside a small museum) and eventually found ourselves mostly alone on the Radweg. We were going quite fast and eventually caught up a bunch of cyclists. Then from a side path we were joined by a chap who was rather reminiscent of Aperitif. We cycled behind him for a while, enjoying the view, and then decided we wanted to go faster and passed him. Well, he was on a mountain bike…

We stopped at Volkach and found Zur Schwane, a restaurant that had been recommended to us by Andy in Sigmaringen. However it wasn’t yet open for food so we went down the road to an ice cream cafe and had Spaghetti Ice Cream Banana Split. Yum!

We were rather amused by a particular bike; it was a shopper with a wicker basket, in pink, and we realised it was a Bianchi. I managed to surreptitiously photograph it. It could unilaterally turn Bianchis uncool, I think.

We set off from Volkach with the plan to lunch in Kitzingen, after 15 miles, and then to do the final 25 miles to Würzburg in one go.

Somehow we ended up on the other side of the Main river to the GPS routes, following the signage for the alternative Main Radweg. It was a perfectly decent route but a bit weird to have both our Garmins bleating “Off Course”. The day was really really hot by now, our water in our bottles was warm and we were really looking forward to lunch.

When we got to Kitzingen we bought some drinks (wonderful!) and a sandwich at a bakery with outside seating. We didn’t feel like eating too much due to the heat. We sat there for half an hour watching cyclists come and go but only had one suitable recipient for our secret cyclist code word.

We set off from Kitzingen having filled up our water bottles, knowing we had 25 miles to go. The temperature was probably approaching 30 and we both felt sweaty and a bit red in the face. We immediately had to negotiate our way through a diversion to the cycle path as it was being re-asphalted so that involved a bit of head-scratching and peering up and down roads to see the signs, but we were soon back on the correct path.

We arrived at Ochsenfurt where we are supposed to cross the Main to go down the other side. Our Garmins showed a nice bridge… but when we arrived the bridge had fallen into the water! There were hand-written signs to a ferry so we followed those and found it – not one of the usual ferries but a small tour boat that appears to have been pressed into ferry service.

I had to put the Trice on last as it had to poke into the captain’s steering area. He didn’t seem to mind at all, was happily telling Pippa and I that the boat was called Queen Mary Fünf, and another passenger took photos of Pippa and I and the Captain who happily turned round and smiled at the camera rather than watching where he was going on a narrow river with a fast current. You wouldn’t get that in England!

The Captain told us that the bridge was the third oldest stone bridge in Bavaria and that it fell down three years ago. So our Garmin routes were a bit old!

We continued on after our second ferry of the day (each was 50 cents per person) and we noticed, as 5pm came and went, that there were a lot more younger cyclists on the paths. Presumably they have finished work and are out for their evening constitutionals. There were also lots of people swimming in the river and sunbathing,etc.

At last we arrived in Würzburg, seeing the very impressive Residenz building that towers over the river. We went to Tourist Info to find a hotel. Again, they were all pretty pricey, but I managed to negotiate one down from 60 Euro each to 55, and it turned out to be pretty decent and very near the town centre.

After showers that we had been looking forward to for hours, and anointing of some pink bits where the sun got us a bit strongly, we ventured out for Internet Cafe and then food.

As we’re both so tired we think we may alter our plan for tomorrow (which was to cycle to Wertheim, another 100kmo or 60 miles), as it’s meant to be even hotter. We think perhaps to just do 50 miles and make up the extra on another day. We’ll see how we feel in the morning.

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Main/Rhein 2009 – Bamberg to Schweinfurt

Day 3 – Monday 31 August- Bamberg to Schweinfurt.

Distance: 38.25 miles; time: 03:47:00;

Had a wonderful shower this morning, it really sets you up for the day. The clothes I washed last night were still damp so I used my other set of shorts and sleeveless jersey – my Dad had emailed me a weather forecast which said it would be warm and sunny.

Pippa and I met for a healthy breakfast, asked the hotel receptionist to allow us an extra half hour before checking out so we could digest our food, then we set off. The hotel receptionist took a photograph of the intrepid cyclists at the start of our expedition. This was after I’d done some trike fettling – reattaching the mirrors I had removed for the last four of the trains, then sorting out my seat as it was a bit wonky (a common problem). When all was done, off we went in Bamberg’s traffic to find the river Main.

We found the Main/Donau (Danube) canal and set off. The signage was good and our GPS routes were also accurate.

As far as routes go, we had two different ones. I had googled for a Main Radweg route, found one that looked good and that was what Pippa was using. Subsequent to me finding that one I’d located the official German tourist board one and I was using that. We thought it useful to have two different routes in case we got lost or they different (I remember my Mosel Radweg official route was often wrong). As it happens, both of these routes have been very good, but there are occasional variations – usually one of us has the route that matches the signposts.

The signage is also generally good, although the Main River Radweg logo isn’t as clear as the Mosel one. But the Main Radweg has just won an award and we can see why, it’s an excellent overall route with brilliant surfaces and almost complete signage. But I get ahead of myself…

After a mile we realised Pippa’s rear mudguard was rubbing. We stopped by the side of the road and her brand new leatherman tool did the trick. We felt very proud of ourselves, having both fixed our steeds this morning.

The landscape around this part of the Main was flattish with lots of arable land growing sweetcorn (we harvested ours at home a month ago) and cabbage, carrots etc. Houses tended to have impressive vegetable and flower gardens and we also saw several houses whose roofs were covered in solar panels. The Germans went green long before the Brits began to think about it.

We stopped in Haßfurt for lunch. I had one of those weird conversational things with the waitress as I couldn’t understand her explanation of why I couldn’t have a filled roll. When I asked her to explain further she just used the same incomprehensible words (well, the words may have been comprehensible if they had been delivered in a non-Bavarian accent!) There was a German chappie sitting at the table near us who was rolling his eyes but I note he didn’t try to clarify things. In the end I gave up and ordered a Fitness Salad, the same as Pippa. It was salad with chicken and rather nice.

On the way out of Haßfurt we misread our Garmins and didn’t see the road signs so had a 100 metre detour on the wrong road, but we soon worked it out and turned back. That was about the only major navigation issue today – I think having two of us with two pairs of eyes looking for the signs is much much easier than just one.

We carried on through a flat landscape which was also fairly industrial in places. Pippa and I did the obligatory bike swap for a couple of miles – I managed to change gear on hers quite effectively, she enjoyed zooming down hill on mine (very small hills, of course). When we swapped back I dried my clothing from yesterday on the panniers which probably looked a bit silly.

We saw a rider on a recumbent bicycle today but he broke the recumbent code by not stopping to talk to me – unfriendly chap. He said “Hallo” but that’s not enough for recumbenteers! We also saw our first dishy man on a bike (we’re looking out for them); there is a surprising dearth of them, mainly because the other cyclists are mostly pensioners on shoppers. But we keep looking. We have a secret code word we shout to each other when we spot a dishy man… and are hoping to use it a bit more in future.

We arrived at Schweinfurt at 4pm. I found an accommodation guide in the town hall and we chose Central Hotel which is Bett & Bike accredited. I went in to check they had rooms (they did) with the receptionist who was a rather singular woman with a definite hairdo. She wasn’t all that friendly really which was a contrast with the very nice lady in Bamberg.

We spent ages locking up our bikes as there weren’t many locking points, then the lady made us move them as she thought they were in the way of the cars (only for VERY bad drivers). So they ended up just locked to each other, but the hotel lady assured us that they lock the doors at night.

So we went to our rooms, which were a sight to behold. Welcome to the 70s – browns, greens, velour, orange bedding. My bathroom was fetchingly done out with brown tiles and an orange suite, the loo seat being moulded to backside shape (it was actually a very good fit, which was fairly perturbing). Still, the single bed was comfortable and that’s all that really matters – plus quirky can be fun.

We both had our showers and washed our clothes, this time I did Pippa’s towel trick (wrapping the stuff in a towel and wringing it again) which is very effective. The damp clothes from yesterday I had aired on my trike were dry by now, fortunately.

We went in search of an internet cafe. The hotel lady had told us where to find one but we couldn’t locate it and a local shopkeeper told us it had closed. We wandered around asking people and a helpful young lady eventually directed us to one. We couldn’t find it again so went into a local bar (very smoky, full of Turkish chaps smoking) to ask if they knew where it was. Turned out that was the cafe, the computers in the corner rather gave it away! So I wrote up Day 2 (the trains) but the keyboard was so bad I didn’t do today. Pippa tried some of the local beer, Roth, and said it was wonderful.

We ate at an Italian restaurant in the main square which was very nice indeed. I had a huge lasagne, Pippa ate most of her calzone. No room for dessert!

Then back to the hotel for an early night (10pm) as we’re both tired from all the cycling. I’m relieved to be feeling almost back to normal today

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Main/Rhein 2009 – Hoek van Holland to Bamberg by train

Day 2 – Sunday 30 August – Hoek van Holland to Bamberg.

Distance: 3.10 miles; time: 53:02;

Was woken at 5:45UK time to give us an hour’s warning for disembarkation of the ferry. Pippa and I rescued our bikes, although a woman in a car gave me evil looks as I moved my trike around, even though I didn’t touch her car. We cycled up the middle of the row of cars for a bit until we found some nicer people to chat to whilst we waited for disembarkation.

We cycled the 300 metres to the railway station at Hoek van Holland where there was a train waiting.

TRAIN 1 – Hoek van Holland to Rotterdam Centraal.
As I wheeled my trike towards the Sprinter train, the conductor said, “that won’t fit on there!” I replied, “it did last time!” so he said, “OK” and let me put it on. Phew. The half hour journey was fine.

TRAIN 2 – Rotterdam Centraal to Venlo.
Rotterdam has enormous lifts so it was easy for both Pippa and I to move our bikes to the correct platform. It was easy to get the trike on this train and so Pippa and I sat near the bikes and read our books for this journey of almost two hours.

From Rotterdam to Venlo on the train

TRAIN 3 – Venlo to Mönchengladbach
Some very helpful staff at Venlo told us we had 15 minutes until the train so we got ourselves a cup of tea and sandwich. They escorted us across the track (so we didn’t have to take the stairs) and even helped us get the trike on the train. It was the same Deutsche Bahn train as last time, so the conductor (or in this case the chap from Venlo station) have to undo a metal grab-rail between the doors so I can get the trike on OK. Once the trike is on there is plenty of room.

After one stop a young lad and young woman got on with bikes and sat opposite us as we were eating our sandwiches. As the train moved off an ordinary-looking chap came over to them and asked them for ID, showing them some of his own. They both showed him their Ausweises, then he looked through their bags and searched the young chap. Most odd! Then the man went away.

A minute later we noticed an alsatian dog, that had been at the other end of the carriage, was walking up to our end with his owner. The owner let him off the lead and he bounded over to the young lad, sniffing and wagging his tail. The penny dropped that he was a drugs dog. Evidently he didn’t find anything and the handler put the dog back on the lead and began to demonstrate the dog’s trick of rolling over on command. They all got off at the next stop. None of them had seemed at all interested in us.

When we arrived at Mönchengladbach after about 45 minutes the conductor didn’t appear to remove the pole from the train. Pippa got off and went looking, I looked forlorn and a chap who had been on the carriage helped me lift the bike out on its side (bashing the mirror of course!). I ended up a bit oily but that’s what one expects.

Pippa

TRAIN 4 – Mönchengladbach to Koblenz
The train to Koblenz was across the platform so this was a very easy transfer. As we got onto it the bicycle space was filled with a wheelchair. The chap saw me coming and got off the train – I didn’t realise I looked that scary! The helpful chap who had assisted me to get the trike off the previous train was on this one and he spent a fair while staring at our bikes and at us, asking us occasional questions. It was a bit odd being peered at all the time! He got off after an hour. We also saw some Japanese people photographing themselves standing in front of both bikes. Odd!

This was a long journey (nearly three hours) but was along the Rhine for a fair way so we got to see some of where we will be cycling back along.

TRAIN 5 – Koblenz to Mainz
Koblenz was our long lunch stop, although initially we got excited about an earlier train that we hadn’t got on our lists… until we discovered it doesn’t run at weekends. So we had a nice pizza outside the station, although there were some rather persistent wasps.

We got back to the station in plenty of time for our next train to Frankfurt – especially as I had to carry my trike up a flight of stairs to get to the platform. As we went to the bicycle area of the train we saw some peopletaking their bikes off; they explained that there had been a problem on the track and that the train didn’t go all the way to Frankfurt but stopped on the way and there were rail replacement buses. Argh! I asked the driver and he confirmed that (it seems there was a suicide on the track) and that bikes aren’t allowed on replacement buses. Argh!

We found the other cyclists again who suggested we took a train to Mainz (an hour and a half journey time) and from there to Frankfurt -that was what they were doing. This was another 50 minute wait and on another platform so once again I carried my trike down and then up stairs again. I chatted with the other cyclists,they were very friendly – and then the guy gave us a large bottle of mineral water as he said they didn’t need it and we had a long journey ahead. Very nice of him!

When the train arrived it was of course packed with people and cyclists. The conductor said my bike was too wide so I quickly disassembled it and laid it on its side so it fit in the space. Further along the route the conductor turned other cyclists away who tried to get on the train so we were lucky. When I went to reassemble the trike just before Mainz there were several interested onlookers, one of whom said “is it a tandem?”

TRAIN 6 – S-Bahn from Mainz to Frankfurt
I didn’t fancy the 45 minute S-Bahn journey but it was the easiest train to get on and off, level with the platform and with a large bike area. More and more people got on, however, so it was choc-a-block by the time we reached Frankfurt. We had only 9 minutes for our connection to a different part of the station but fortunately the lift worked and it wasa quick walk. We had time to buy some drink and food before jumping on the next train.

TRAIN 7 – Frankfurt to Würzburg
This train had a HUGE bike area. Pippa and I settled down in comfy seats overlooking the carriage and were a bit abashed to discover a couple having a particularly fond farewell. We buried our noses in our books and ignored them in the best British fashion. The chap got off the train before it left an theladymoved into the seating area of the carriage, so we were alone until a chap got on with a bike just before the train moved off. He got into a conversation with me asking if I were married and where we came from. Then we ended up in a long political discussion as it turned out he was Iranian and thought George W Bush was brilliant. He was very insistent that Iran was making an atom bomb and that Obama was too Muslim to mind. Fortunately he got off after half an hour.

On this train it seemed to get dark very quickly as we pootled alongside the Main, the route we would shortly be cycling. I phoned the Hotel to say we were delayed and would arrive between 11pm and Midnight which they said was fine.

TRAIN 8 – Würzburg to Bamberg
This train had very narrow doors and Pippa and I had to do some trike wiggling to get it on. I then sat on it for this final journey of an hour -we had by now been travelling for fourteen hours and were REALLY looking forward to getting to our destination. A random man came to talk to us about where we were cycling, although I could barely understand his Bavarian accent, but he gave us a map of Bavarian Cycling Routes from a bag of touristy stuff he seemed to randomly have.

We arrived at Bamberg at 22:40,cycled to the hotel, locked the bikes up and found our rooms which were very nice indeed. Showered and washed the clothes, pegged them up on the line and then fell into bed exhausted!

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