How to get off the tourist track.

Step 1. Bike tour. You end up staying places that are not A list, ones with no big attractions but lovely people and normal settings where you might be only tourists, and folks in the bakery will be interested in what the heck these two Americans with not great German language skills are doing here.

I should have started my series of amusing fountains in town squares earlier, but here we go.

Step 2. TrustedHousesitters.com Check it out. You meet wonderful people and pets and spend time living a bit like a local.

The goose herder?

You get to go for walks on well signed local trails to beer gardens.

Squirrel trail? Sign me up!
That lower right sign is the beer tour route.
My own little bottle of wine with lunch.
Rich and a yummy Keller beer, at yet another beer garden. They are the perfect pandemic place to go and we seek them out.
Our sweet little charge, thank you to her for being the best little cat and to her human companions for choosing us to keep her company.
She loves to drink out of a proper glass. I love to watch. Cat tongues are fascinating.

Two days off the bikes and we head off today to Bad Windsheim, a pretty short ride, where there is both a thermal bath, one of Rich’s favorite things, and an open air history museum- one of my favorite things.

Happy pedaling!

From a few days ago, fall is in the air and beware- you may see socks being worn with these sandals very soon.

Riding to Regensburg.

The ride was worth it. A lovely warm evening in town.

The ride to Regensburg was an initial steep climb out of the Beilngries area to the continental divide area of the two drainages, the Altmuhl into the Danube, versus the Aisch ultimately into the Rhine. Oh, divide. That sounds flat. Nope. Rollers up and down all day. With sweeping views. And a shifting headwind.

When there is a headwind, this is my view. Tucked in behind the wall of Rich, drafting happily.

We met another cycle tourist at our afternoon tea break and rode the rest of the way into Regensburg with him. Hi Tobias, so great to meet you!

I fill my Kleen Kanteen with hot tea at breakfast and by early afternoon it’s perfect drinking temperature. Something sweet and caffeine gets us through the afternoon.
Rich was happy to have someone not only keep up, but challenge him on the hills. They waited for me.
Oh yes, we did spot a few cats.

Since we’ve been bumbling a bit on this trip, no firm itinerary, we don’t read up a lot on our destinations. In this case that resulted in a lovely surprise- Regensburg is amazing! And we arrived on a lovely warm afternoon, the first day of school for most kids, and a population determined to enjoy the lovely summer weather. Fall is in the air, I know because I got smacked in the face with a fall leaf on a decent yesterday, so there is a felling of enjoy this weather while you can! We’re here for two nights so we get time to really embrace the city.

The Danube splits into canals, making two or three distinct islands.
The canals mean swimming out of the strong currents of the main river. And slack lining.
We had our first river swim of the trip.
And our first dog rescue attempt. Sienna, a four year old lab, was pretty sure Rich needed help.
Sunset with a happy selfie.

Next stop is a 3 night cat sitting gig through TrustedHousesitters. We’re very excited to get to spend some down time taking care of a kitty. Happy pedaling!

A town you’ve likely seen, but may not realize. Nördlingen, Germany.

It’s our second visit to Nördlingen, the first was six years ago on our broken collarbone trip (me, 3 days into a 3 week trip), on that trip we were taking trains and had left our bikes in München. This time we biked to this walled town which is situated in a much larger crater left by a meteorite millions of years ago. The wall is a huge draw for us. It’s a very unique and cozy attraction. We spent two nights here this time.

The wall walk combines some of my favorite things, car free walks, garden peeping, and house peeping.
Really a unique experience to walk the intact wall. One spot had repairs being done, but the rest was walkable.
There are houses whose back walls are the town wall, or which are built through the wall.
Ah, the glamorous side of bike touring. Resting in the shade of a town WC. It was a long hot day riding to Nördlingen.

Between the wall and its history, and a local train museum, we had plenty to do on our rest day.

We saw this museum across the train platform the last time we were here but didn’t have time to check it out.
Rich added for scale, Rich is six foot five. That is a huge piece of machinery.
So many historic train locomotives and cars are just sitting on the rails, reminding us of the history of train travel. And the human capacity for innovation.
Some are simply falling into decay.
But many are lovingly housed and maintained. This is the roundhouse.
Yes there was wine, my first Silvaner of the trip.
And our first brats. This little place was set up during the Saturday market and had a line when we saw it, we quickly got in line. About 2 minutes after we got our lunch they sold out and closed up.

So where have you likely seen this charming town? In the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1971, the Wonkavator flies above the town in the final scene as it crashes out of the factory roof – remember?

If you saw the movie you likely remember a shot like this from the glass elevator.

Our trip so far, with town names!

1) Habére-Poche, France. Where we are so lucky to have wonderful friends.

Sitting on my butt on a ski lift going up the hill.

2) Évian-les-Bains, France. Where we shockingly saw people buying bottled water, and had to eat take out pizza on our balcony since our CA COVID QRs didn’t work and you needed them even to eat outdoors at a restaurant.

Balcony, enjoying the view.

3) Montreaux, Switzerland, 2 nights. Where our fancy hotel (it was our Anniversary) had fire alarms going off our second night. I felt like Bill Murray in a Wes Anderson film standing on the street at 2am in my fluffy hotel bathrobe. (Sadly no photos…)

View along the promenade.
Umbrellas on the terrace at night.

4) Sallion, Switzerland. In the wine area of the Rhône valley. We kept looking around thinking we were in Italy because it’s a dry valley.

A confluence of the glacier chalky Rhône and a clear side stream.
Vineyards for more white wine for me!
Old town of Sallion on a hill.

5) Eischoll, Switzerland. Which we had to take a train and cable car to since we could not find a hotel in Sion – totally booked – but which ended up being a joy up in the mountains with a long long decent the next day.

Well deserved cold white wine after a long day, and what a view!
Our first Bisse sighting. Historic irrigation canals are a draw of the area around Sion.
We were captivated by the historic buildings in Switzerland, they were protected early on and add such a fascinating dimension to the towns. This is an old mill.

6) Brigerbad, Switzerland. Where we visited the Thermalquellen Bridgerbad – outdoor pools still filled with vacationing Swiss and French, and 2 lone Americans who enjoyed themselves very much (again, no photos allowed.)

Dinner at our hotel restaurant, impossible to get a bad glass of wine in Switzerland.

7) Zermatt, Switzerland. 2 nights. Yay, a lovely train ride up to the largely car free town with a view of the Matterhorn always near, clouds willing.

Mid hike lunch on a mountainside terrace.
The ride out of town was interesting, showed how much infrastructure is required to support this “car free” town.
All sorts of domestic animals on our ride down, including this big guy who had just walked slowly through irrigation sprinklers and came over to slobber and shake on me.

8) Feisch, Switzerland. Where we started debating whether or not to ride over the Furkapass. We decided on a train boost after the next town, but had a lovely gondola ride up the mountain.

Up we go! Love the gondola views.
Happy Hour at a restaurant at the top of the gondola.

9) Obergoms, Switzerland. Where, after riding up its valley for days we got to peep at the source of the Rhône river! (Almost, not quite the glacier but it’s pretty tiny here, that mighty river.) And we got our train hop to the top of Oberalppass. And rode down. Feeling a bit sheepish seeing all the cyclists coming UP the pass, but it was great fun that downhill.

Look how small the Rhône river is!
Happy train riders.
Rich descending. So many switchbacks.
Pause for view appreciation.

10) Disentis, Switzerland. Another town, another gondola. You generally get a free or discounted pass to the gondola – we just made it on the last ride up and had to be sure not to miss the last ride down.

Our own personal gondola ride. Room to play.
Another Swiss alpine view from the gondola.
A good dinner on the terrace of the youth hostel.

11) Ilanz, Switzerland. 2 nights. Where we swam in a stainless steel swimming pool, took a day trip to Chur and decided to head to Germany.

Train boost! This was a Sunday so we think the big bike cars were added to the train to handle the weekend numbers.
Briefly in Austria, that little yellow dot is Rich., forgetting to stop for the obligatory border photo.

12) Wangen im Allgäu, Germany. Our first stop in Germany after a crowded ride along and away from Bodensee holiday bike traffic.

Met some lovely German cycle tourists headed the other way. We bonded over our non e-bike status and exchanged emails.
A good way to practice German? Gossip mags and wine.
Age is not important. Unless you are a cheese. Words to live by.

13) Memmingen, Germany. On the ride here we continued to be amazed by the number of solar panels on rooftops and had to seek shade for our picnic lunch.

So much solar! So impressive.
Roadside shrines and monuments generally have trees. A fairly good place to stop if we can’t find a shady bench.

14) Landsberg am Lech, Germany. First proper Biergärten, odd fun fact: Johnny Cash was stationed here during WW2. He was a Staff Sargent and a crack Morse code operator.

Enjoying beer and wine on the Lech River.
Riding out of town down the Lech.

15) Augsburg, Germany. 2 nights. Wandered the old town enjoying the canals, and got Rich’s bike fixed! No easy feat with bike shop repair demand and an older touring bike chainring failure.

Loads of farmland riding in this part of Germany. On the upside the corn can block the wind, on the downside- little corn gnats if you rode too close to the corn.
Will Singer to the rescue. He was super nice and let us leave the bags and bikes until he could find time to fix the bike. He had it done by noon.
Really, lots of farmland.
Good tram system in Augsburg.

And on to our next destination. Happy Pedaling.

Cycling while cat spotting.

Ready for cat pics? Germany has been a cat bonanza. Usually I confine my cat posts to Instagram, but the last two days cycling in Germany have been so cat rich I can’t resist sharing.

This cat in old town Memmingen was very fond of Rich.
This farm cat in Kißlegg was very interested in a cuddle.

First we had a six cat day, which we considered a lot, and then today we had a fifteen cat day while riding almost 70k to Landsberg am Lech.

Calico cat warming up in the sun.
This cat was enjoying the last rays of sun outside old town Wangen im Allgäu. Up for pets? Yes.

Many of the cats spotted were in fields hunting or sleeping, not close enough for decent photos or interaction.

“There’s one.” I think this was #12.

It makes the miles/kilometers pass. Happy pedaling.

Cat mechanic.

Tschüss Switzerland!

Rich enjoying a sun break on a shaded decent down the Rhine Valley

This morning we’re waiting for a train to Austria, then we ride into Germany along the Bodensee, also known as Lake Constance.

We really enjoyed our time in Switzerland. We even got our vaccine QR codes (Rich will write more on this.).

Cowbells! Not just for tracking cows and delighting tourists.
These Valais sheep!
The start of the Rhine River.
Many trips to the Coop market to get picnic lunch supplies. we have a one sit down meal a day rule. It’s easier and faster for us to picnic for lunch and then relaxing to go out for dinner.
All the beautiful Swiss Brown cows. And the yummy cheese they help produce.
Met some other cycle tourists. These 2 great guys were headed up a pass we were riding down.
So for now, farewell Switzerland ❤️
Fun bike graffiti in Chur.
But before getting on the train I spent some of our change in the vending machine. Masks and chocolate, what else in these times?

A little forgotten history, and a push to include women in museums.

We’re in Zermatt, Switzerland, which is famous for skiing, being car free, and the Matterhorn. OK, that car free part might only be relevant to some for its fame, but it was a big reason why we came here.

Golden hour selfie with the Matterhorn being imposing in the background.

Who reads in room magazines at their hotel? Me! Zermatt Magazine has a super interesting article about the first woman to go up, and summit the Matterhorn – get ready, it’s earlier than you might think. And, like much of women’s history, kind of sort of ignored a bit.

This plaque was placed on the Zermatter Walk of Climb in …. 2019. A bit late, thinks me.
This plaque outside the Zermatt museum is a bit misleading, An Italian woman came close to summiting in 1867.

Per the excellent hotel magazine article (I’m a big fan of airline magazines too.), an 18 year old Italian woman, Félicité Carrel was the first woman to attempt to summit but had to turn back 100 meters from the summit as the wind came up, caught her wide skirts, and almost blew her off the mountain. Take a moment and imagine that, climbing in skirts- big skirts.

This American climber got there a bit late, the British climber Walker heard she was on her way to Zermatt and quickly got her team in place to try for, and reach, the summit.

Did I care about mountain climbing women before reading this article? No. Had I even thought about when women started mountaineering in the Alps? No again. But I made a point of going to find the plaques on the street and visiting the Zermatt museum because of the article.

The museum is trying to address the fact that women have been left out of so much cataloging of history. These orange signs were a new addition, reminding visitors that there were women and they were not included in the official accounts.

There’s Lucy Walker, on the right – the one in the dress. Bad photo, sorry.
These orange placards alerted you to a bit of missing history.

Oh yes, the excellent article by Thomas Rieder also points out that that the woman from Liverpool, Ms Lucy Walker, summited the Matterhorn only six years after the first ascent by Edward Whymper and team. Read that and think about Mt. Everest which took 22 years for a woman, Junko Tabei from Japan, to follow the first summit of Hillary/Norgay in 1953.

The American climber Brevoort, photo from Wikipedia.

I get overwhelmed just looking at that mountain and imagining climbing it. But I am so grateful to this excellent opportunity to add meaning to our visit here. Hotel room magazines for the win. Museums for the win, and adding women back into history as a goal.

The mountain has more meaning for me now. It’s not just a beautiful background.

Off we roll!

It’s not often I’m ahead of Rich on a climb (we had just taken a break and I requested he stay back for a photo.).

And we’re off on our touring bikes at last. After watching so many bike touring vlogs during the pandemic we’ve been itching to ride. We spent our first night at Evian-les-Bains, after a moderate climb to col de Moises followed by a long long long downhill to Lac Léman.

I’m very glad we came down, the climb from the lake up to col de Cou looked brutal. Rich looks like he was wishing to go up. The man loves climbing.
Crossing the Rhone river on our way to Montreaux.

The ride from Evian-les-Bains was lovely in parts, and needing improvements in parts. A few stretches you would not recommend for a novice cyclist, although the French drivers are very good around bikes.

On a recently built stretch of the route, a trail next to an unused rail line.

Our second stop is Montreaux- we’re spending two nights here, yes, it’s a rest day already. And it’s our 24th wedding anniversary. This a perfect lovely romantic place to spend two nights. We’ve walked the promenade, we took a train up into the hills behind town and walked down to find the most atmospheric restaurant ever for lunch.

On the train winding up the mountain.
Masks: a new addition to train station vending machines.
And walking down.

A lot of good travel advice starts with “walk away from the tourist areas…” We did, and had a great but steep walk back down towards town.

Perfect walking weather, cloudy and mild.

The route took us by perhaps the cutest, most atmospheric restaurant ever. It was lunch time. We were hungry.

Nestled into a little nook. No view of the lake but so cozy.
The tables were lined up along a public water fountain.
With constantly running taps.

As we sat waiting for lunch we wondered if the water was potable? We’ve seen a number of taps in villages and mountain trails labeled as non potable, but this one had no label. Well, potable or not, still one of the cutest restaurants ever, we agreed.

It didn’t take long for the first local to stop by to fill a bottle.
And another local. Must be potable – or good for plants?
And then our waiter, behind Rich in the green shirt, filled a carafe for our table. Question answered -potable and tasty.

Next on our agenda today is a swim in the lake and then tomorrow we’re off up the Rhone Valley, EuroVelo Route 17. There will be wineries.

Lunch time on Mont Forchant

We continued to relax and recoup in the beautiful Vallée Verte by setting out and exploring by foot from our home base, soaking in the endless connected footpaths, trails, and rural roads of France. Our goal yesterday was Mont Forchant, a 1500m peak at the head of the valley known for steep approaches and rewarding views.

Headed up valley

We could have driven to a trailhead and and made an easy two hour peak bag, but what fun is that? So we walked about 10 miles up into the wooded paths with over 2,000 feet of climbing! By walking, we got to stroll through two small villages and lots of rural pleasantness.

Roads plenty quiet to walk
The final push to the summit

So we were hopeful of promised views on Mont Blanc in the distance, but alas, the clouds were still thick on this typical summer day. But it at least cleared enough to see down the valley, and the the clouds made for cooler hiking.

Gazpacho and sándwiches on Mont Forchant

And this being France in August, there was plenty of company at the summit, all enjoying their leisurely picnic lunches. We relished the background buzz of French around us, as it seems this was a locals only place today, along with two very happy Americans.

Walking our way out of jet lag.

We arrived in France to the best welcome any traveler can have: friends meeting you at the airport. With all of our bags and two boxed bikes in tow we arrived to a lovely meal, wonderful friends to catch up with, and finally sleep. Thank you so much Erik and Hannah.

Waiting for the bikes at oversized baggage in Geneva airport.

We have been following our own tried and true jet lag recovery strategy; no naps, power through on local time, and most importantly, get out in the sunshine and exercise. It helps reset your internal clock.

At the Pointe de la Jonction in Geneva, where two rivers of different color meet and mix, the Rhone and the Arve.
Rich and the Rhone.

We went to Geneva so Rich could visit a dentist (all is well), and a friend of a friend took us on a fantastic walk – thank you Jenny! How wonderful it is to have a local show you around. She skipped the tourist spots and took us down the river. We eventually had a lovely lunch with her and her husband, another Richard, also a tall cyclist. Hearing him talk about cycling made Rich wish he had his road bike here.

Our little stroll to the bakery.

The next day a stroll to a local bakery turned into a longer walk and lunch out. It feels so refreshing to be walking and seeing new things. We certainly love San Francisco and it is a unique and wonderful city, but after pandemic lockdown and shelter in place it’s great to be somewhere new.

A lavoir. These public wash basins were built from the 17th to early 20th century.
Farms and cows and fantastic cheeses.

Since we walked further than planned we stopped for lunch out. our first meal out in France. We were shocked and delighted that the vaccine QR code issued by the State of California worked for the French QR code reader. You must be vaccinated to eat at restaurants. We had our vaccine cards ready but happily didn’t need them. What joy when systems work!

Cow bells hanging from the eaves.