One Down, Seven to Go!
Welcome to Germany; one country down and seven more to go. Our last stretch through France led us through the Alsacian region. Each day we rolled through the countryside; green hills, small towns, streams, a few lakes and just a little mountain range. Our first stop was the town of Vittel, the source of the bottled water. The ride was a little longer than intended due to road closures and construction. This was the first thing that reminded me of summer in Ontario. But the cyclists had no problem navigating their way through the detour. In fact, I have taken them off our prescribed routes on several occasions in the last stretch. The backroads are far safer, more enjoyable and scenic. Our second day led us to the trout filled Lac de la Moselette. Two years ago this was where I saw one of the strangest things ever, a French Elvis impersonator and whole crew of French red-necks line-dancing in tight jeans cowboy boots, and Harley Davidson shirts. The route there had some great hills and yet another construction detour. Near the end of the day we had our first real rainstorm while on the road. Some riders trudged on through it, but I found myself waiting out the storm with 10 clients in a pub just outside Remiremont. It started with just three of us but with our bikes outside everyone just kept stopping in. And while we were enjoying the local flavours I received a call from Jon in camp saying that he managed to get little cabins for everyone. It was the best rain storm ever. On the third day we had to traverse the Col de la Schlutt, a mountain pass at 1140m. From camp we ascended 700m over a 30km stretch with the last 15km being a very challenging climb. I got the riders pretty pumped up for it and much to my amazement my clients actually complained that the hill wasn’t big enough (wait til they see where we are going tomorrow!). Some of the cyclists even continued to climb another 200m of elevation to the summit proper. I’m a bit of a speed freak so the descent into the Munstster Valley after lunch really got the adrenalin pumping. I think the only I could have done to go faster would have been to stop smiling so much. I don’t see how a big ear to ear grin is very aerodynamic, but there’s no better feeling than overtaking motorized vehicles on your bike. Dave came with me and the two of us were hollering the whole way down. That evening we camped in Colmar beside the river D’Ill. When I first led this tour in 05 I tried to find a back-country link from Colmar to the German border and I was unsuccessful. But this year I’ve had a bit more time to scout ahead and not only did I find some picturesque little villages linked by untraveled blacktop, but I discovered Neuf Brisach.
It’s a historical city dating back to the 1600s built by one of the King Louis in honour of the sun. The city has a centre court with 8 branches extending out, the entire place is enclosed by ramparts and walls that are 15m thick and a moat surrounding the whole thing. From an aerial view the city would look like a rendition of the sun. Many of us spent time exploring the intricacies of this city and, of course, we had to have a coffee and pastry break. Leaving Neuf Brisach, we crossed the Rhine River into Germany. The backroads there are not well marked and even though we got a little turned around on the bike paths winding through the orchards we did manage to find a great vineyard. Some fresh berries and a glass of wine was fantastic way to conclude this last section. Now we are in Freiburg for a rest day. Everyone has been indulging on bratworst, schnitzels, spatzle and beer. Tomorrow we head out to Donaueshingen, the headwaters of the Danube river, but it’s a tough climb to get there, 800m of elevation over 9km of switchbacks.
I’m amazed at this group’s ability to function as a 30 person community. Everyone helps each other which creates a fun atmosphere for all of us, so I’m sure that this little mountain will just be another one of our great accomplishments of the tour.