Freitag, 16. Juli 2010

Freiburg-Cologne: Rheinradweg nonstop

My time in Freiburg came to another end and I had to go back home. The weekend of my return I had an invitation for a barbecue in Cologne. Sounded good to me. I thought it would be nice to take the bike instead of a train to get there. I got myself a map, read a bit about the route and decided to just follow the Rhine and ride the "Rheinradweg" which I had seen quite some times while looking out of the window sitting in a train. The weather forecast was good, hence nothing should stop me.
The last day in Freiburg work was only little, most preparation for the tour was done the days before already, most of my stuff packed into a huge box that was handed over to DHL to be delivered to Bielefeld. I had my usual bike bags filled with lots of stuff (mostly clothes) my bottles were filled, video camera's battery charged. I officially finished the course, said good bye to everyone and loaded my bike at about noon on Friday. The Barbecue was scheduled for Saturday afternon/evening. I left Freiburg at 13:00 and headed to the north. The first kilometers I followed routes I knew, I quickly noticed a steep wind from the north. But I felt good.
Then I hit the Rheinradweg and I noticed issues: That track is not intended for speedy cruising. Much of the way is not covered by asphalt, but loose gravel - or closer at the Rhine - with sands or mud. Also the route is not everywhere too well covered with signs. Several times I lost track and eventually stucked in dead ends that bluntly ended at the Rhine coast (IIRC in the Region around Ifitzheim and Rastatt, but I don't remember precisely). So, speed was lousy and I alreday lost a lot of time when I reached Karlsruhe at dusk after 22:00. I decided to do little cheating and took a train to Mannheim. At Mannheim main station I was about midnight or so. I had a meal at McDonald's and then I started off into the night. I was thinking to take a break to sleep somewhere, but once I passed Worms I followed a Bundesstraße (B9), the wind was little now, the asphalt good and the kilometers just went by. So I decided not to take a break but instead to go on. Then in the middle of nowhere I had to leave the big road (the notorious red circle sign with a bicycle and a pedestrian) and had to follow little streets across whine yards or apple fields. Surprisingly those streets were no dead ends. My Ixon IQ and my cheap helmet lamp did a good service and I didn't lost track. On earliest morning I reached Mainz. I was driving to the city center, looking for some food. Disappointingly McDonalds was closed. I asked a few party returners where to get food at this time (dunno exactly, something about 4 a.m.), but nobody had a hint for me. At the station I found a bakery that sold me two pretzels and a Coke.
It was quite strange, sitting there on a tram waiting stand with my fully loaded bike, tired, wearing my reflector vest and bike clothes, eating and drinking and all in all not looking particularly fresh. Around me mostly drunken party ppl waiting for their trams or busses to bring them home, smoking, drinking, chatting. I had the feeling that I didn't belonged into that scenery, felt like an alien...
Leaving Mainz with the early dawn I was awaiting the most beautiful part of the tour where the mountains come closer to the rhine and one castle follows the next. The early morning was just gorgeous. The sunrise beautiful and soon the sun was warming me again (the night was a bit fresh, but okay). A little fog over the meadows, a fox crouching beside the way, a crow with a big red cherry in its beak and the steady fellow: the Rhine. Overwhelming impressions!
The morning went on, I felt a bit tired, traffic and winds increased again. I passed Bingen. The Rheinradweg was now in an okay condition, often a bit narrow though. Most parts were covered with asphalt or paved. In some small town I bought my first breakfast (an expensive juice and some some bakery wares). Then I got pretty tired. At about 8 a.m. I was extremly tired. I had been up for 24 hrs now. I nearly fell asleep on the bike. But the road was not offering many good options to take a break. Evenually I discovered a bench. I put my bike aside, set up my alarm clock, used my jacked as pillow and tried to sleep.
I fell asleep quickly, but woke up half an hour later again. To my big surprise I felt really fresh and awake now. So I ended my break (my alarm clock schedule was allowing me 2 hrs) and rode on.
The way took me further to the Loreley - but she wasn't singing and I managed not to fall into the water but went on. I passed Spay. I hoped to get a better view to the mysterious chimneys in the forrest up on the hills right sided to the Rhine there which I saw from the train quite often already. But I didn't got much more information when I passed them.
The morning became later and the way got somehow crowded - it was a Saturday and the weather brilliant. As the Rheinradweg is very popular and often rather narrow this frequently lead to getting slowed down by other cyclists.
I reached Koblenz and went on to Andernach. There I ate two ices for early lunch, phoned with "my barbecue" and went on. The wind turned and I got wind from the back now. Many ppl crowded the coast enjoing the sun, setting up barbecue grills. And I rode a slalom track through many cyclists. For about 10km I kind of teamed up with a recumbent cyclist who was the only guy during the overall 450km that didn't rode slow.
I passed the Drachenfels and reached Bonn. It seemed to me that in Bonn there are nice places to live near the Rhine. But now I wasn't slowing down, but tried to reach the finish: I was hungry for a barbecue and a chilled drink. At Wesseling I left the Rhine after 420 km and turned left. I passed Meschenich and was wondering about urban development decisions of the 70ies. A few kilometers and I reached Weiden about 16:00 where I reached my finish.
I had a warm welcome by the hosts, took a little time to recover and shower and was wondering myself that I still was not tired. The barbecue was pretty nice, some surprise guests were visting, too. It lasted long and at about 2 or 3 a.m. I eventually went to bed after more than 42 hours with only half an hour of sleep and quite some kilometers.
All in all it was about 450km in 28 hours. Not high speed though, but okay given the luggage load, the wind, the insects before Karlsruhe, the often bad and/or crowded cycling path. It was a gorgeous ride! The dawn was particularly impressing - the fox and thecrow were pretty cool. The night was another great experience - both on the Bundesstraße and crossing the vine yards. The sceneries I traveled across were always beautiful and I sometimes wished to reduce the speed and just take myself the time to stay. But that wasn't the approach of this tour - that's approach was doing Freiburg-Cologne nonstop. And it was just great! But doing the same route in 4-5 days would also be nice. Too many great cities, too impressing landscapes, probably lots of great food that I only touched slightliest on my way. But that's the fate of a long distance ride. You're always kind of rushed, always on the run. You come across a lot of locations, but you never stay, you don't belong, you're the lonesome cowboy... But I don't complain, it is self chosen and it is great.

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