Today was a work day for Ginny and Tom. They interviewed Lucas from Swiss Mobility first thing in the morning. Lucas is the guy responsible for getting all 26 cantons (states) in Switzerland to sign all their routes and to do so in a constant manner. Swiss Mobility has road and mountain bike routes, hiking trails, and canoe paths. The signage is spectacular. We could go “rogue” (off the map or plan, as Tom says) and not have a problem.
Lucas cycled with us for 20 miles, leading us across the Rhine (from Bad Sackingen, Germany, back into Switzerland) while Ginny continued interviewing him the entire time. Lucas had loads of useful information and he kept my attention also, even though I am just the photographer.
There is something joyous about cycling into the center of an old European town, going slowly over the cobblestones, marveling at the buildings, and maneuvering carefully around the pedestrians. Rheinfelden, Switzerland was such a town and Lucas guided us through to the train station where we rolled our bikes onto the train car and travelled to Basel. Lucas would part company with us there and we would feel our way north out of town, back into Germany, and eventually (hopefully) France.
We had one more outrageously expensive meal in Switzerland before Tom lead us into Germany and north along the east side of the Rhine. Lucas had told us that the German side was closer to the river and prettier. Once we got away from the hustle and bustle of Basel, the trail hugged the river as promised and was the smoothest, longest, dirt road I have ever cycled on.
Tom has a great sense of direction and can look at a map and get a good handle on the route. Except we didn’t have a decent map for the German side. Tom was sure we would eventually come to a bridge. After several miles we came to a hydro-dam and we cycled across the top of it onto an island between the Rhine and one of its shipping canals. After a few minutes we decided to go back because the road got poor and we didn’t want to bike to the end to find out there was no bridge.
One more try and we were finally on the Rhine River route. We had a headwind and Tom was pulling. I was feeling good and decided that I would give him a break and jumped in front. Barely a minute later the dirt road dipped and curved gently down into a shallow gully and I locked up my rear brake when I saw the stream at the bottom. I was going slow enough to tell that the stream bed was evenly-laid cobble stone and that the right hand side was shallower and smoother. Before I could ford the water Tom flew by on the left certain that his mountain biking skills would come in handy. The rougher left side cobblestones were covered in slippery moss and his trailer began to bounce. Tom made it across but the trailer jack-knifed and threw his bike sideways and down. In true mountain biker form, he did not try to break his fall with his arm (and thus break his arm or wrist) but took the full force along his shoulder and back. He is OK but he is sore. Ginny watched in horror and yelled “Are you alright?” and I yelled back “Yes, I’m fine.” I wish I had taken a photo of Tom on the ground.
We continued on the dirt road for at least two hours covering about 25 miles into the wind on the smooth but unpaved surface. Ginny hung on for dear life on the back and was getting pretty dusty. We finally came to a bridge but it was a limited access highway and there was no way for us to get on it and over the Rhine. I felt like Patton in WWII looking for a bridge that was still intact. Finally, near Neuenborg, we found a bridge and made it into France.
We felt our way north and west and navigated by town name to our Warm Shower host in Rouffach, Nicole Kuentz. Nicole has a home that is centuries old, in the old center, next to the church. The back wall of her yard is the original rampart built in the 1400’s. Next to her patio is the watch tower that used to be a prison and was once used to hold women accused of being witches. There is a stork nesting on top of the tower.
Our Warm Shower hosts have been gracious and interesting and Nicole was no exception. We were served a meal and we drank the local white wine, Alsace Muscat, and when we finished that one, an Alsace Reisling.
So tonight I am sleeping in the apartment upstairs, with a window that looks out over the restaurant and the cobblestone plaza.