One week ago Klaus bought a new trike. Today we set off for a cycle tour with this trike (and mine).
Klaus had yesterday off work and he spent some of the time doing a bit of trike maintenance, such as fitting a holder for his Garmin GPS, fitting bar tape onto his handlebars to replace the rather grotty foam ones and also fitted two new mirrors. Malcolm the Sprint X was ready to roll.
When I got home from work yesterday we put both trikes in the car – choosing a rather unsuitable time to do it, as we had a massive rainstorm. But we both wanted to get the job done so we managed to load the bikes only getting a little wet in the process.
To load two ICE Sprints in an Opel Insignia is not actually too difficult as it‘s such a large car. We put the back seats down and then pushed Alfie folded up to behind the front seats, then turned him round so his nose was pointing at one back window and his tail the other, and then we could put Malcolm in behind him in the boot proper. We stuffed the luggage in the back seat footwells.
We had been watching the weather forecast for a few days as it wasn‘t ideal – the warm May weather was turning cooler and rainier. But we were putting ourselves under no pressure, if the weather is awful one day we won‘t do any riding. Simple.
Saturday morning dawned rather grey and rainy-looking. We said goodbye to Poppy and set off at about 9:15 on the two hour drive to Gerolstein in the Eifel hills range.
We went through some mega rain storms on the journey to Gerolstein which meant we were slower on the motorway in places than normal. But we arrived safely at the hotel at 11:30am so very early, but I had pre-warned them that we would be delivering the trikes.
The receptionist was very helpful and friendly and showed us where we could park the trikes, in their covered parking area. It‘s not a locked parking area but we were not worried about this – Klaus had a lock for the trikes and they aren‘t as interesting to try out as Velomobiles.
We unloaded the car and rebuilt the trikes, fitting their mudguards as well due to the rainy forecast.
We then took our luggage to the hotel room (Klaus also took Malcolm’s seat with him) and then it was time to me to head off.
I was driving to Cochem to park the car at a possible finish point of our tour. Cochem is easy to access by train so if we don‘t end up there we can easily pick up the car via train. We had also found a very good value parking area – 15 € for a month. I headed off there.
My journey was along a lot of winding roads around the volcanic Eifel region. There were some good views and some sunshine and blue skies as well as more mega rain. I was briefly on the A1 motorway and saw a nasty-looking accident on the other carriageway. This was in a very heavy rainshower and we all slowed down some more after seeing that!
I arrived in Cochem at 12.48 and the bus was due to leave at 13:13. It was one bus every two hours so I didn‘t want to miss it. But first, the parking.
Strangely the parking signs had a different amount to the 15€ for a month. They said 5€ per day, but a maximum rate for 20 days of 20€ if you had a Cochem (COC) number plate. Which we did not. So for the 5 days I estimated was a sensible amount for our tour, we would need 25€.
The problem was… I had 2 x 10€ notes and 2 x 50€. And the machine did not give change. I didn‘t want to pay 50€ for a 25€ parking charge, so decided to walk to the bus stop to buy my bus ticket and so get change of a 50€ note.
The walk to the bus stop turned out to be longer than I thought as there wasn‘t a cut-through towards the railway station so I had to walk three sides of a rectangle instead of the short side. I arrived at 13:03 and saw a bus waiting at the stop – without any destination written on the front and with the driver eating his lunch.
The bus had a sign on the front door saying you couldn‘t go in that way and couldn‘t buy tickets from the bus driver. OK, so where do I buy the tickets? There was no machine near the bus stop and I went into the railway station and only saw a Deutsche Bahn ticket machine. I had investigated the Deutsche Bahn tickets on the Internet and it displayed the bus route (number 500) but doesn‘t give a price or the possibility to buy the tickets. I had found the price online, 10.80€, but there was no option on that website to buy a ticket.
So I went to the bus door and did an „Entschuldigen Sie“ to the driver, who opened the door for me. I asked where could I buy a ticket for the bus to Gerolstein. He said „not from me“. I said I was aware of this, but where was a ticket machine. He said he had no idea where I can buy them from, but I could just get on the bus if I wanted.
I said I needed to go and pay for my parking and I would see if I could find a ticket machine too. He said he would leave at 13:13.
I went into the café next to the railway station and ordered a bottle of water, simply to break up my 50€ note. I didn‘t actually want to drink anything as it looked as though I had no chance of the loo and had a 90 minute bus journey ahead of me! But now I had some change for the parking ticket machine.
So I went back to where the car was parked and put in my 25€.
So we had to either finish our tour by Thursday lunchtime or at least go past Cochem and buy a couple of days more if we were going to extend it. 5€ a day is a fair price though.
So now I needed to get back to the bus and buy a ticket somehow. Time was marching on, so I semi-jogged back from the car park to the railway station/bus stop. I am no runner/jogger!
I got back to the bus at 13:12. No time to play with the Deutsche Bahn ticket machine in the hall, instead I got on the bus to see if there was a ticket machine inside it (like there often are in trams). No.
So I then asked the people on the bus „where can I buy a ticket?“ They all shrugged their shoulders.
The driver heard this and said „I can‘t sell you one because of Corona“ (which I knew). But then he said „Take a seat.“
I said I would try to download the App and then buy a ticket.
There was a sign right in front of me with the logo of the ticket company:
This VRT is the Trier public transport company. And they had an App!
So I started downloading it (signal wasn‘t great) and we set off about 30 seconds after I had sat down, first driving along the Mosel. It was good to see it – my last Mosel tour had been 10 years ago.
The App eventually downloaded. It seemed I could only buy tickets for bus journeys in the future (not ones I had already started) but I assumed the ticket would be valid for all journeys. So I found it, bus number 100.
„Price not available“. No chance to buy a ticket. Great.
I was unable to buy a ticket from the driver, from a machine on the bus, from the app, and from the non-existent ticket machine at the bus stop. So I gave up. I would be a Schwarzfahrer. I have a suitable colour face mask for this highway robbery.
I did wonder how many other passengers actually had a valid ticket as no-one seemed to know how to buy one. There were 5-6 other passengers on board and we were all wearing face masks. One guy had one he had made out of a cut up face flannel with a bit of string.
The journey was very scenic, climbing steeply up the valley side of Cochem with some great views down to the Mosel. Then it was up and down around the volcanic Eifel region, through towns and villages. The bus driver was very skilled and it was a comfortable journey.
At one point we met the 500 bus coming the other way down a very narrow bit of road and the two buses stopped and the drivers had a five minute chat. All very friendly. These busses were also towing a trailer with a rack to hold up to 10 bikes – there were no bikes on either bus. The cycle tourist season is not going well due to Corona.
We were soon nearing Gerolstein and the rain cleared away to leave blue skies and sunshine. We passed a huge volcano caldera (Maar) and I think there are several others in this region. I think the volcanoes of the Eifel are technically only dormant, not extinct, so we could be in for a surprise on this tour!
I arrived back at the station in Gerolstein, got off the bus and then walked to the hotel. When I got there Klaus wasn‘t there, he had walked to meet me at the bus stop and somehow we had missed each other. I was very pleased to see him as I needed to go up to the room for the loo and he had the key!
After I had had a few minutes to chill out we went out for a very late lunch in Gerolstein which was a bowl of soup for me, a salad for Klaus, and then a crepe as a dessert (Klaus had a chocolate cake).
This was a very late lunch, nearly 4pm, but we still wanted an evening meal a few hours later so walked to a Pizzeria. We had a book with vouchers for 10% off the meal but of course we forgot to take the voucher with us!
And when in Gerolstein…
We walked around Gerolstein a little, including visiting the fountain outside our hotel.
And just around the corner was the river Kyll, which we will follow down the valley to Trier. It‘s not very wide or deep here!
We also saw a huge storage area with bottles of Gerolsteiner Water.
A great German word on this signpost!
And a German false friend. „Shooting“ with your whole family isn‘t generally considered a good thing in English!
Our Hotel Garni am Brunnenplatz is very nice, I can definitely recommend it. The room is pleasant, the staff very friendly and helpful, and we also have breakfast in our room rate too.
Tomorrow we will set off on the Kylltal Radweg. This heads to Trier and is 70km long, with 10km then along the Mosel to Trier. This is a manageable distance in a day on a trike but if the weather is bad we may have a shorter day stage. Trier is a nice place to visit, I have stayed there a couple of times before, and phoned this afternoon to book a hotel near Porta Nigra. We don‘t want to just whizz along, we want to stop and see the scenery – one of the great benefits of the trike over the Velomobile – but we have plenty of time so that should be no problem.
We were both pretty tired by 9pm, not just the driving but also the excitement of starting a tour and also we have both had a fairly tough few months at work. It is good to have a break!