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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