Farewell chateaux.

Amboise in the setting sun. Golden light.

As we pedaled along a few days ago and did the math, we realized we’d been bike touring for 48 days. That’s our longest trip ever on bikes. As I write this, on a train from Tours to Dijon, it’s day 50. It’s certainly a lot of work, not the pedaling part although that can be tough at times, but the moving most nights. The unpacking (I call it the bag barf, where I simply turn my panniers upside down and let everything cascade to the floor.), the packing, and of course the travel planning done exclusively by Rich. Each day he checks terrain and weather and towns that look nice for a stay, one night or two, the feeding of two hungry cyclists – thank goodness for hotel breakfasts – whoops, watch out for Sunday, everything closes about noon, be ready for that!

Riding to the château of Chambord on a misty cool morning.

But everyday at one point or another, while looking at the river, or a chateau in the mist, or collapsed on a bench for a tea break, we look around and say to each other- wow, this is amazing and we are so lucky.

A perfect bench for a break.
Chambord in moody black and white. Yes, scaffolding. Imagine how difficult is to keep up the maintenance on a heap like this!

The things that we notice while traveling the speed we can pedal are so detailed. Wild boar in the forests on the way to Chateau Chambord. Hunters in orange vests ranged out alongside a forested patch near the river, hunting boar we assume. We stopped to watch, heard the hunting dogs baying, and saw a deer come running out of the forest across a field, followed by a hare who ran so fast and so far – completely spooked and relived that the men in orange were not after him. Gunshots rang out, we checked our brightly colored rain jackets were on for increased visibility, and pedaled away. Just another day on the bike tour, but one I hope we’ll always remember.

A morning ride though the vineyards.

At a Sunday stop at a bakery for sandwiches we chatted with a super nice British couple who’d been living in France for 30 years, he was a cyclist and wanted to chat about our American made bikes. As Rich described our route and we mentioned that we had taken some train hops he shook his head and his partner said, oh, he thinks trains are cheating when you’re bike touring. We don’t. We haven’t owned a car in 21 years, we’ve earned these train hops.

At the train station in Tours.
Waiting for the nice railroad worker to lead us across the tracks at Nevers, where there are no ramps and no elevators.
On our way to Dijon on a lovely new train.
From Dijon in an older train car. Down that corridor are actual separate compartments.

We’re headed back to our French “home base”, looking forward to some time not moving, cooking for ourselves and hiking in addition to biking. We’ll leave the bikes there, swap our our luggage and head by train to Paris, then to London, and then to Tenby, Wales.

Seeing the world one kilometer at a time, with plenty of breaks.

Loire Valley continues. Now with more head cold.

Morning in Châteauneuf-sur-Loire.

Bike touring with a cold reminds me of how professional riders will say “I just didn’t have the legs today.” to explain what happened on a disastrous stage of a tour. Well, that was me for a few days. I just didn’t have the legs.

Smiling bravely as we start off one morning.
Château Sully sur Loire.
Picnic at the Chateau. Note the little bottle of rosé.
Picnic assembled from the leftovers of our apartment cooked dinner the night before. And some grocery store additions.

The wild Loire River continues to delight us with its scenery, and we’re meeting more cycle tourists too, which is fun. While we were stopped at a picnic area a French guy pulled up, and excused himself from joining us at our table by explaining he wasn’t vaccinated, so we chatted from a distance. He was planning on going to the US ‘when this COVID stuff is over’ and ride from San Diego to Vancouver, Canada, and then across Canada to Montreal. When we said something about distance, that is a long ride, he responded with a most French shrug of his shoulders and a noise that sounded like ‘bwooeef’.

Chilly mornings and loads of stops to read about the wildlife.
Never say no to a bench. Who knows when you’ll find another one. Note the clumps of mistletoe in the tree behind Rich.
Another great cycle tourist, Daniel, who was waiting for his son whose Brompton folding bike had a tire problem.
The traditional fishing boats of the Loire are so beautiful.
More boats, we didn’t see any in use but quite a few anchored. Rich added for scale.

We spent two nights in Orleans to rest up. We both had head colds but I got hit harder then Rich. I spent most of our rest day in bed.

Never too tired or sick to resist posing as Jeanne d’Arc as we approach Orleans.
Evening light at the river in Orleans. The river is wide and chocolate brown, we could understand why New Orleans in the US reminded someone of Orleans.
Heading out, mostly recovered, to see more chateaus.
Across the river the happy cyclist goes on.

This area of the Loire is blessed with many chateaus. I promise pictures of some of them, but it’s not so easy to actually go inside and visit when bike touring. There is the problem of not only locking the bikes up, but securing the bags as well. So far we’ve been content with merely looking at and reading about the chateaus.

A slightly abandoned air about this one.

Happy pedaling!

Alsace wine trail during harvest.

The Route Des Vins.

This is the kind of riding Rich loves – rollers up and down, quiet roads with only occasional cars and busy but careful farm vehicles bringing the grapes in.

Through the vineyards on smooth pavement.

This is the kind of riding I love too, through wine county.

A lovely view and a bottle provided by the BnB. Heaven after a long ride up the hill to the BnB.

Harvesting here looks different from what we see in California. In Germany a machine rolls along actually shaking and pulling the bunches of grapes off the vines. Here, a machine rolls along cutting the lower leaves off and leaving the bunches of grapes hanging naked below the vines. Then, we saw teams of locals, mostly women, wearing aprons and wielding clippers, start into the vineyards.

The pre harvest machine.
Rich added for scale in front of the clipper machine.

The towns we rode through for the past two days were each more charming than the last, making for some slow riding as I stopped to take photos and read tourist info plaques. Blienschwiller, Itterschwiller, Mittelbergheim, Barr, Bernardswiller, and Molsheim where we had a wonderful long lunch and sheltered from the rain on day one.

A typical town with German and French influences.

This area was German and then French, making for some mixed up seeming names. One war memorial I stopped to read had Jean Michael Herzog among others, and of course the usual and heartbreaking lists of family names from both wars – a reminder of the sadness and horror that must have felt as if it were stalking families.

Rich waiting patiently as I gush over another charming town.
Marking the very first time we ever outlasted the locals at lunch. We quick Americans are usually fast lunchers, but it was raining and our check in time was 3:30.
Smiling in the rain, the amazing lunch and carafe of wine helped.

The historic Canal de la Bruche was our route out of Strasbourg and reminded us of the many UK narrow boat vlogs we watched during lockdown. Beautiful.

Watching a swan ply the canal.
Someone had helpfully spray painted a 17% on the hill to let me know how steep it was. And yes, those are waterproof socks I’m wearing with my sandals. Chic, no?
Riding out the rain and a rainbow ends in the vineyards. Perfect.
A rest break in Barr with this view.
The only downside to biking a fairly long day is my unwillingness to stop and taste. Vin Nouveau is a new fascination of ours.
Happy cycling couple.
A smaller town, only 7 wineries listed. Rich in the background enjoying our picnic lunch on day two.
Happy Alsace wine drinker. The long day of passing vineyard after vineyard and smelling the pressing going on in each town was finally rewarded at dinner in Colmar. The small green stemmed glasses are traditional.

We’re in Colmar now, here for two nights in this charming town, then on to more adventures. Our plans are changing as we ride and explore. Happy pedaling!

Down the Loire Valley by bike and train.

We left Colmar by train on a forecast rainy day and did a 3 train hop to Nevers during which it rained very satisfyingly hard. It made me very happy to hear that rain pelt the train windows while we were warm and dry inside.

Almost all of the French trains we’ve caught have been low floor boarding with good bike space.
Happy travel planner. One transfer was cross platform and the other had ramps to and from the platforms.

Train travel tip with bikes: always leave super early to ride to the train station, you never know what will suck up that extra time. So far we’ve had: crowded market day along the route, broken elevators requiring unloading and carrying bags and bikes up and down stairs, massive construction projects leading to circumnavigating the entire station, and uncooperative ticket machines (we usually book on line but the website was down.). So pad that trip with extra time. The worst that happens is that you’re early and get to hang out on the platform wondering which carriages will have the bike logo on the side – near where you’re standing or a trot down the platform?

Low floor boarding. A fan favorite.

We’ve found the local French trains, Ters or regional, reliably have a bike car at the front of the train, and usually at least one if not more further down. If you’re really not sure where the bike space will be, figure out which way the train is traveling and stand at the end of the platform where the train arrives. You’ll be able to see the marked bike cars and can always run down the platform if you need to.

Café Velo in Nevers, France. We stayed in one their lovely upstairs apartments.

Another good tip is to make sure you can take your panniers off quickly, not only to make the bike lighter to lift up stairs, but to be able to stack the bikes efficiently in the bike area. Also so that you can do a quick bag removal, toss the bags into the train and then lift your bike in all while panicking that the train will try to leave without you. The station at Nevers did not have ramps or elevators, us and three other cyclists did the unload bags, carry down carry up, wondering aloud what people with mobility issues would do. We found the answer to that question, which is hail a member of staff and they will help you cross the tracks at the end of the platform. Strictly prohibited for general use. Of course, we were also told that finding a member of staff can be difficult, but now we know.

A narrow street in Nevers.
The cathedral was bombed “accidentally” during WWII and rebuilt. The stained glass windows are from about 1948 and so modern.
The St. James scallop shell in the upper right corner caught my attention.
And then we ran into two pilgrims walking the Camino and took photos together. They had about 1,333 kms to go to Santiago Spain. They absolutely looked up to the challenge.

We rolled out of Nevers and started the Loire River Eurovelo Route 6, heading west.

Quite a bit of levee riding at times, but those smiles mean we had tailwinds.
Lunch in Pouilly Fumé, drinking… Pouilly Fumé.
This canal has the unromantic name of lateral canal to the Loire. We renamed it canal of green.
We hit rain and found shelter at a Loire nature center. We stayed for quite a while while the heavy rain passed through and ate everything in our food pannier. Made for a varied and interesting lunch.
Met a lovely young American cyclist also sheltering from the rain, Toby. It was his first bike tour and I’d say he’s hooked.
The Loire is a wild river. Loads of islands, sandbars, and very untamed banks. Amazing bird life.
My new favorite style of picnic table, built up against the parapet so you can take in the view.

One of the joys about not having to plan too far in advance, or being so busy sorting out places to stay, so that we don’t really know what’s coming up, is being surprised by something like the Pont Canal de Briare.

And what is it, exactly, this exciting canal?
Only water over water! Our old friend Lateral Canal crosses the Loire River in a 662 meter stretch of gorgeous steel and masonry. That’s almost half of a mile of aqueduct canal.
Green painted creatures guard the canal.
Across goes Rich. We were delighted that Eurovelo 6 travels on the canal towpath.
This canal deserves all the photos. It’s a marvel.
Riding into Gien. That’s the lovely Château de Gien behind an equally lovely Rich.
Happy cyclists enjoying a picnic table with a view of the wild Loire River.

We may push on to the Atlantic Ocean, or we may not. There are more Châteaus to see and more wild river to enjoy. Happy pedaling.

Across a river and back to France.

Lovely canal views.

We stayed two nights in Strasbourg and celebrated being back in France by having Sri Lankan food one night, and Syrian food the second night. One of the things we miss about SF is eating around the world in a single week, so when we’re in a larger city we take advantage and find some different restaurants.

Pink and orange reflected in the canal.
Adorable gargoyle on the famous cathedral.
A common sign turned into a love letter for Strasbourg.

Today we head out on the Eurovelo 5, to the Alsatian wine route. Goal is the Atlantic Ocean (with a train hop in there!) But let me repeat- wine route!

Happy cyclists.

Rain is expected today so the rain gear we’ve been carrying for five weeks may finally get an outing.

Happy pedaling!

What to eat along the way.

Week four of nearly daily cycling means quite a bit of eating and being sure we have plenty of water during the day. Breakfasts are mostly included at the hotels we stay at, so that’s one meal sorted each day.

A typical picnic lunch, but with an actual picnic table. Quite the timely find. Our hedgehog patterned tea towel/tablecloth/napkin, and the striped bag which has bamboo cutlery, a sharp knife, and a corkscrew are picnic necessities.

Our lunches are usually picnic style, with sandwiches purchased at a bakery in the morning. We feel qualified to critic sandwiches by county so far: Switzerland – too much mayo or salad cream or sauce! We resorted to scraping and squeezing excess goop off the sandwiches which were mostly purchased at supermarkets.

Sandwiches on board, ready for de-mayonnaising.

Switzerland doesn’t seem to have the quantity of bakeries we are enjoying in Germany. And, German ready made sandwiches are mostly mayo free. Butter on the bread holds up much better, and cucumber, lettuce, tomato and even a slice of hard boiled egg makes for a very nice lunch. Oh yes, and lovely seeded rolls! German sandwiches get the nod so far.

Apples have been a constant presence in my front bag.
We pick them here.
We pick them there.
The tall guy can pick them anywhere!
These little red ones with very white flesh are my favorite. The green ones with a touch of red are so tart!

Why so many apple trees along the roads? I’m not certain. We only pick from those that are obviously not part of an orchard which is someones living, and I’ve read a few different reasons for why so many apple trees dotting the landscape. Perhaps from 17th century laws requiring grooms to plant oak and apple trees before marrying, maybe the more common sense and practical notion that tree lined roads are lovely and apple trees do well. We also had a week of plums gleaned from trees in villages which were so overloaded they were dropping on the street.

Finding benches in the shade is a never ending quest. Should have removed my wet laundry from the back of my bike before taking this photo.

We have also learned the difficult and squabbling way that we have enough energy after a long day cycling to check in to a hotel, unpack (ie dump panniers upside on the floor), shower, and get drinks and dinner at ONE place. Not drinks at one place and move on to dinner at another – that doesn’t end well for hangry cyclists. Pick a place that meets both needs. Thankfully, Biergartens abound!

This pumpkin soup at a Biergarten in Beilngreis was fantastic.
Why yes, I am about to demolish this huge plate of food.

Stay well fed and carry plenty water, refill water when the opportunity presents itself, and happy pedaling!

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

It was not a long day biking to get here, but some good hill climbs, especially since the town sits on a ridge above the river. Let me amend that, the gorgeous town sits on a big ridge, far above the river.

Viewing the town and saying, oh yes, it is on a hill.
Rich riding through the tourists into town.
To our super cute hotel.

On the advice of Rick Steves, we went to view the alter carvings and paintings at St. Jakob’s church. St. Jakob is St. James, as in Camino de Santiago, or St. James’ Way.

St. James is the one with the scallop shell on his hat. Rich is the one with the mask on his face.
Statue outside the church. I’m not sure if this represents a pilgrim, or St. James himself.
His scallop shell and a finger shiny from being touched. (Yes, we did all the ‘pull my finger’ jokes.)
Camino markers outside the church. It is 2,102 kilometers or 1,300 miles to Santiago.

Rothenburg is one of three walled towns in Germany with an intact wall. And the town itself was spared from being too badly bombed during WWII by a quickly arranged surrender. The throngs of tourists attest to the charming nature of this town. The wall is amazing to walk, and our after dinner wall walk was thankfully quite free of thronging tourists.

Captivating views from the wall.
We were quite far along before I realized that Rich literally has his head in the rafters and has to bend down to see what shorter me sees.

We also took Rick Steves’ advice to skip the Schneeballen, the local pasty, but after a nice breakfast I did take some photos as we rolled out of town.

Breakfast with a view down into The Valley.
Closed up the morning we rolled out.
Couldn’t resist some photos.
Pasty dough deep fried is how it was described. I’m sure it’s delicious though.

The ride out of town to our next destination, Schwäbisch Hall, was 70k and three river valleys. But I didn’t think about the long day ahead as we rode over cobblestones to leave Rothenburg. Happy Pedaling.

Happy cyclist.
Ready to roll.
Stop for map check under the wall.

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.