The longest dirt road I have ever been on

Ginny interviews Lucas of Swiss Mobility.
Ginny interviews Lucas of Swiss Mobility.

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.

The interview continues on the bicycle route.
The interview continues on the bicycle route.
These guys can talk "signage" for hours. I have to admit, I'm getting to be a signage geek also.
These guys can talk “signage” for hours. I have to admit, I’m getting to be a signage geek also.
Bicycle advocates also like to see local business's taking advantage of the bike traffic.
Bicycle advocates also like to see local business’s taking advantage of the bike traffic.

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.

A fresco in
A fresco in Rheinfelden.

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.

The street in front of the Basil train station.
The street in front of the Basel rain station.
A cyclist needs to pay attention to the trolley tracks in Basil.
A cyclist needs to pay attention to the trolley tracks in Basel.
Basil spans the Rhine. this is a view from the east bank.
Basel spans the Rhine. This is a view from the east bank. Curiously, we saw many people floating down the Rhine with  the assistance of a flotation device.
We think this is the inexpensive method of viewing Basel from the Rhine.
We think this is the inexpensive method of viewing Basel from the Rhine. We saw dozens of swimmers/floaters drifting along.

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.

The first try to enter France failed.
The first try to enter France (proper) failed.

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.

The second attempt to enter France was a success.
The second attempt to enter France was a success.
This is the canal right next to the Rhine, on the French side.
This is the canal adjacent to the Rhine, on the French side. A cargo ship cruised beneath us as we crossed.
Flat and fertile France.
Flat and fertile 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.

A wedding in the church next to Nicole's house.
A wedding in the church next to Nicole’s house.
Dinner on the patio. The young woman is Nicole's house helper.
Dinner on the patio. The young woman is Nicole’s house helper, Wymie, from Hong Kong.
The "witch" tower next to Nicole's enclosed patio.
The “witch” tower next to Nicole’s enclosed patio with a stork nesting on the top.
The restored basement under Nicole,s patio. it was used as a shelter during  WWII.
The restored basement under Nicole’s patio. it was used as a shelter during WWII.
The original rampart wall extends along the south side of town. Homes incorporate the wall into their structure.
The original rampart wall extends along the south side of town. Homes incorporate the wall into their structure.
A  Rouffach restaurant capitalizes on the lore of the witch tower.
A Rouffach restaurant capitalizes on the lore of the witch tower.

So tonight I am sleeping in the apartment upstairs, with a window that looks out over the restaurant and the cobblestone plaza.

Looking out the window of our second floor apartment.
Looking out the window of our second floor apartment.
A Rouffac  stork on one of the churches.
A Rouffach stork on one of the churches.
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5 thoughts on “The longest dirt road I have ever been on”

  1. We asked someone about floating down the Rhine in Basel. Apparently, they give you a bight yellow inflatable pillow, you jump in, and float away. The river is wide and hopefully you are told to stay away from the barges. We would see people in their bathing suits walking back up the bike path along the river.

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