June 7, 2015

Rheinfall / Blumberg

The church tower is right outside my hotel window and fortunately, the bell is silent at night. This morning, the ringing roused the roosters. No matter, we'd be getting an early start anyway. I've traveled with most of the folks in our group before, but there are a few faces new to me—including a couple who ride at my (slower) pace.

Biking through farmland near Ramsen, Switzerland.
Accommodations for cyclists are not an afterthought, here; they are by design. If there is a bicycle lane on the roadway, you might find it only on the uphill side (which makes sense).

Separated bike path parallels the road, Switzerland
Separated, paved bike paths commonly parallel busier roads. The border between Switzerland and Germany is very irregular in this area, and often imperceptible on a bike. The rolling farmland reminded me of rural places in the Bay Area—except that, here, the hills are oh-so-green.

Rheinfall, Switzerland.
The first attraction on today's loop was the fast-moving waters of the Rheinfall. Splashing, misting, tumbling over rocks—water, cool, beautiful water. That did not remind me of the parched Bay Area, with our extended drought.

Steam engine, Weizen, GermanyOur intermediate destination was the town of Weizen in Germany, where we would hop on a steam train (bicycles and all) for a scenic little trip. We followed a dirt trail alongside the tracks at the edge of the woodland to the station. The tracks appeared unused until we reached Weizen, where some incongruous corporate office buildings popped up seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

All aboard! We lifted our bikes into a separate car and found our places on the wooden seats. The train criss-crossed the valley, heading circuitously uphill to the town of Blumberg. We passed through an area where a tornado (?!) had leveled whole sections of the forest three weeks ago.

Approaching a bridge on the steam train from Weizen to Blumberg, GermanyFor this year's tour, our leader had shared the daily route plans in advance. Garmin aficionados had loaded them into their devices, and I had worked out a similar solution for my smartphone. A subscription to Ride with GPS allowed me to pre-load the routes and save them on the phone, along with all the underlying map details—perfect not only to minimize the use of cellular data, but to ensure I'd have it all even if my phone had no signal.

That's how I knew our leader had not shared a plan for returning to our hotel in Ramsen. But I also knew that somehow, it would work out. The faster cyclists relied on their Garmin devices to plot a route. The slow pokes stayed with the leader (and, took turns making sure no one was dropped). For much of the return, we followed the river Biber; as we approached Ramsen, I recognized some of the territory I'd explored on my test ride.

Green fields, trees, and a distant mountain on the return to Ramsen, Switzerland
Country roads here are often unmarked; when there is a sign, it typically points to the next town (and maybe includes the distance). The roads can also be quite narrow, and it's not surprising to meet the occasional farmer on a tractor. At one point, I assumed we were on a bike trail when ... along came a bus (!) in the opposite direction.

We biked 51 miles, climbing more than 1,800 feet along our route. Having been off the bike for essentially the past two months, I have a lot of catching up to do. [Literally.]

No comments:

Post a Comment