I didn't get started quite as early as I planned - is it me or is there a pattern emerging here!? I got chatting to a Swiss lady before I left the campsite, another cycle tourist, doing a stretch of the Rhine with her son. She has built her own trailer but wanted to know more about the B.O.B (that's my make of trailer if I haven't already mentioned. Then I head to central Strasbourg for a German map and phrasebook, so I can enter the Country feeling a little more prepared than I did for France.
There's a bridge for cyclists/walkers over the Rhine which is a cool way to cross the boarder, the weather is nice so I snap some shots of my exit from France. I pass over the river Kinzeg(I think) on a foot bridge and see what I assume to be a Terrapin - how cool!! So out comes the camera again.
I stop at Oberickh to get some food and camping info from the Tourist Office. Germany has a vast network of cyclepaths, nearly all of which are well sign posted and well maintained. I you were considering popping your cycle touring cherry, Germany is well worth your consideration. I make my way East to Oppenau, stop for a water break and study my map for a route through the Black Forest. Following some signs (that I now realise are off road routes) I climb steeply for 20 mins or so, by which point I am pissing sweat. The path get smaller smaller and eventually it dawns on me that I've cocked up. I have to break my rule on pushing too in order to turn the bike around - que monumental sulk...
It turns out that it's a difficult rule to break, allow me to explain. The bike I've built is designed for carrying heavy loads for long distances, a job which it's incredibly effecient at doing. The limiting factor in terms of gradients I can climb is grip, at which point I have to get off and push. But when I do I'm made aware of just how much load I'm carrying. Pushing the bike about 20 feet up a slippy path wiped me out. If I'm fortunate enough to get as far as the Himalayas, I'll be riding them all, pushing is just not possible.
But I digress...
So sulk done with I get my self on the right road, and leave Oppenau. I'm only 300 yards down the road when a cyclist stops me. My German at this point is still Kack, but I figure he asks me if I know where I'm going. Confidant that I do infact know this I say "Yes good fellow, for I am heading for Zuflucht!" He tells me that this is the most challenging cycle climb in Germany. "Ahh..." is all I can think to reply. Im told it climbs to 900 meters for the next 9km. It has featured twice in the German equivalent of the tour de France, and is considered to be a Grade/Class 1 climb. This means nothing to me. Though perhaps one of my lycra clad readers back home can enlighten me, nay us! As to the meaning of this??? He tells me he can do it in 45 minutes. "Riiiigght, I'd be best to allow two hours or so then!". He flashes a look over my gear and for the briefest of moments his expression betrays a "yea, and the rest pal". None the less I'm sold on the idea, on a good day it's possible to see all the way to Strasbourg, and it is indeed a good day!
I waste no further time and buckle down to the job at hand. I keep reminding myself to drink, and stop when I need to. But that's for wimps right!? : ) It's going well, I'm about 2km down, my breathing is steady as I grind away in my lowest gear. Thunder explodes above my head making me jump, and the rain begins to fall. "Come on then!! Let's have you!" Mother Nature hears my taunt and rain hits my body with surprising force. Small waves are running down the road under my wheels. At one hour I take a break in a sort of mountain shetler and eat my tea, it's nice to have a break from the rain. I consider stopping there for the night, I would be a cool place to sleep. It's a wooden shack with a flat dry floor and only forest for miles. Sadly it's only 5.30, and it would be really good to do this climb in one go, so I head out to face my foe and set the wheels spinning. Standing on the pedals I'm doing 3kph, I tell myself it's better than 2kph or 1, obvious I know but bizarrely I was comforted. The bike handles pretty shit at these speeds and I veer towards the barrierless drop so many times I lose count. 30 minutes pass and I come to a bend, there are several benches on the verge - I figure this would be where the views are if I wasn't surrounded by clouds. There's an un-manned fruit stall so I dig in to Blue Berries, Cherries, Plums and Apples, not wishing to bring about any bad karma I do of course leave a suitable dontation. With renued energy thanks to the influx of vitamins I crack on. Alomst unbelievably the ground gradually flattens out and I see a signpost for the next town. I roar a "COME ON!!!" to the clouds and rain and a few "Yeehaa"s for good measure! I'm so happy that I made it, and bang on the two hour mark.
The 10km downhill goes pretty quickly, and the rain picks up once more. 41kph, the cold is seeping in and I'm drenched head to toe. I use the rain peak of my jacket to keep the rain off my face. 51kph the rain begins to sting and the wind bites my exposed hands and face. 55kph I can't really see and so duck my head behind the bars. The gradiant eases and I'm freewheeling at 30k's, it's almost pleasant at this speed. Involuntarily I laugh out loud, unable to remember the last time I felt so "alive".
In a strange way I'm glad it was a monster hill(allegedly the worst) I'm glad it rained, I'm glad it was cold and I'm glad I didn't geet the view from the top. The accumulation of factors required I dig abit deeper in order to continue, the satisfaction from this is all the reward I need.
Campsite in the Black Forest by a tiny brook. Shower feels great, as does sleep.
I'd hoped to get more done in this session. I may come back to Regenburg tomorrow for more updates as I'll be leaving Germany in the next few days and have some cathing up to do. Right now I'm going to head down river and disappear into a bush for the night.
Until we meet again friends....
Just a note: I'm aware this blog is now be read by a few writers, both amature and professional, and by plenty of folks simply more achademically inclined than myself, and other who may simppply have an opinion on the matter....
If anyone has any tips/ CC regards the blog it would be much appreciated. The comments everyone leave are great for me to read, but if it can be improved/tweaked then all the better!! Or perhaps there are aspects of my journey you want to now more about, and aspects you don't care for so much. Anyway, get in touch!!