June 6, 2015


Sign posted on the door to the Veloraum, Hotel Hirschen Ramsen, Switzerland.Our tour begins in the town of Ramsen, where we're staying at a “velohotel.”

What is a velohotel, you ask?

It's a hotel that understands what cyclists need, and accommodates us. Typically that means a safe place to stash our bikes, maybe with a floor pump and some basic tools. Here, we have a bonus: A backyard with a clothesline, outfitted with clips. Post-ride laundry will dry in no time!

Some cyclists of note have preceded us at the Hotel Hirschen Ramsen. Team Leopard Trek stayed here in June, 2011 during the Tour de Suisse—including two pros I regard highly, Jens Voigt and Swiss champion Fabian Cancellara. A framed, hand-written thank you letter hangs in a hallway, and I recognized all the names, primarily from watching Le Tour de France.

Front of the Hotel Hirschen Ramsen, Switzerland.
First order of business today was to reassemble my bicycle. With time to explore the town on foot, I learned that the church dates back to 1796, but the congregation was established in the 13th century. The graves in the churchyard were carpeted with flowers and so well tended that one neglected plot made me feel sad; I couldn't walk away without pulling the weeds.

Next order of business: a test ride. In my street clothes, I blended right in with the locals. I didn't plan to to venture far, especially in the heat (88F degrees). Once I was on the bike, of course, I didn't want to stop.

Clouds forming beyond the hills and fields of grain near Ramsen, Switzerland.
The German border was just a couple of blocks away, but I headed out through the fields and skirted through some woodland, nearly to the banks of the Rhine. Exploring the unmarked local roads without a map, I was careful to note landmarks along the way. The tower of the town's church would guide the way home.

Self-portrait with bike route signs near the Rhine, near Ramsen, Switzerland.
I turned back to darkening skies; the wind picked up just as I rolled into town, but the storms passed us by.

Sunset glow on the church's bell tower, Ramsen, Switzerland.

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