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August 2006 Volume 4 Issue 12
Bad Konigshofen to Gemunden, Germany:
On July 21, 2006, following a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toasted white roll halves, we departed for my Bad Konigshofen to Gemunden bike tour at 10:50 hours. The morning was nice and sunshiny with a promise of some heat to come. We had some difficulty in finding the route to Bad Kissingen. The correct turns and route seemed to continually allude us. Had we went the route we knew, we would have been there in 45 minutes or an hour. However, trying to find, and part time guessing the bicycle route cost us much valuable time
Stopping at a store to get some sandwich bread and meats, I was able to get directions to Bad Kissingen. Once we got our bearings, Bad Neustadt and Bad Konigshafen were not difficult to find. Then, of course, we had to find the bike trail where I was to load, my tent, sleeping matt, and bike bags, totaling about fifty pounds counting the five 1.5 liter bottles of water I had packed.
My intentions were to start off in Bad Koningshafen and ride about half way and camp somewhere near Bad Kissengen. This would give me 55 km or 34 miles for my first day. This is usually a reasonable distance for me on a fully loaded trip if there are not too many hills. I'd just look around and find an out-of-the-way spot and pop up my tent for the night. Those were my plans. Not too in-depth?
By the time we found where I was going to put into the trail, it was a little before 1400. By the time I had "Tweety" packed and on the trail it was 1415, and the morning had kept its promise. It was a scorcher.
I figured I could average about eight miles per hour; but soon realized that with the fifty pounds of luggage, it would be more like six miles per hour. All along the route, I gave into the sensation to laugh and thank God for the greatness of His creation. The route was pavement, smooth and easy. However, it was a bit more hilly than I would expect along a river. But, after over 4000 miles on these bike trails over here, hills along a river route are no longer surprising.
I stopped to enjoy some shade and snap a few pictures. A couple of kids passed, I suppose in route for the next town or farm up the way. They, like I used to at that age, did not appear to be impacted by the heat. I took a swig of water; "My goodness, it's hot!" I thought, as I replaced my bottle.
Then it was back into the saddle and out into the sun taking pictures of the wild flowers that lined the side of the path along the way. Since my first operation, I truly do attempt to not hold my bladder any longer than possible and so hence the reason for my stop near a beautiful pond with an island in the middle.
Making a left after entering the outskirts of a small town, the scenery soon became something to be appreciated by a country boy raised in Arkansas and now a transplanted Texan. The terrain along the partially shaded path soon gave way to treeless, wheat and corn fields.
Somewhere just before Wulfershousen, I spotted a lady on a bike with her map out and talking to an older gentleman. She appeared to be on a bike trip and he appeared to be a local trying to put the make on her. I shot a couple of pictures of a religious sitting, along with candles, asked and was told that I was going in the correct direction.
Unlike Jesus, in one of the settings above, the heat was unforgiving. Couple that with the hills, and my strength started to lag. Around 1630, I rolled to a stop under the very limited shade of a small apple tree. I retrieved an apple from my food sack and consumed it with the rest of the water from the bottle in my rack. Retrieving a fresh one from my bags, I drank about a quarter of the fresh bottle. The water from my bags was just slightly cooler than the one mounted on my trike. I was starting to resent the heat and the hills.
Then it was on with slow, but sure, progress up hill. A fellow running empty on a recumbent bike whizzed past with the raise of his hand as well as a verbal greeting. The grade was getting steeper and steeper; and it was not down hill. The empty recumbent had long since disappeared beyond the hill and curves that still begrudgingly gave themselves up to me. Pedal turn after pedal turn, sweat drop after sweat drop, the hill and curves succumbed to my tenacity.
I heard voices above. Shading my eyes from the everlasting burning of the sun, I could see three men--none of which resembled the son of God-- seeking shade on a scaffolding beneath an over spanning bridge of the autobahn. Down another gear, I was now in granny. The slowness could have been surpassed by a child walking. But, soon I had conquered, yet, another hill. Still, that sun was taking its toll on my strength and my attitude. Another couple of hours found me guzzling water at a roadside pick nick table. This would have been a good place to erect my tent, except that it was too early, and the authorities may have had other ideas had I tried.
Coming into a small town, I heard music being played behind a wall. Then, came the open gate. With no signs indicating otherwise, this was an open invitation. I entered. It was a place to which I'm very accustomed. Can't think for the life of me why I didn't spend the night. Oh! Like I said before, it was because it was too early in the day. Yeah! That was the reason.
Along about 1800 or 1830 came the aggravating town of Salz. Following all the signs, I was soon spilled out onto a main highway. Fancy painted cars driven by young farm boys sped past me one after the other. I saw a sign and a road to the right. But, it was not a biking sign. Slowly, I pedaled on. Up ahead, I saw another farmer's road off to the right. But there were no biking signs to be seen. At the juncture of the farmer's road and highway was a combine cutting wheat. A couple of cars were also parked in the field. None of the three knew of the biking trail. However, one did tell me which general direction I needed to go and it was, obviously, not the direction in which I had been headed.
A bit flustered, I took the farmer's road. After pedaling for about 10 minutes, I waved down a farmer in his four-wheeler. He told me I needed to turn around and take another road. When it became obvious I was still not on the correct road, another fellow told me another road. Now, this was getting just a bit ridiculous, and I was getting a real attitude.
I was also getting hungry. I pulled over to the entrance of a field and relieved my bladder. Then digging thorough my food sack, I pulled out a tin of tuna mixed with rice and beans, along with more water and a piece of multi grain German bread. I was so disgusted with the folks in this town for their lack of proper signs that I did something I never do. I left my tin for them to pick up. A fellow on a moped pulling a trailer of lumber or something came around the curve headed toward me. I motioned for him to stop. He seemed to hesitate then changed his mind and kept going. Was I mad? Do you really think so? After a few more bites, a man in a car stopped and told me to go back the way I had come and turn left and follow another farmer's road along the railroad tracks. Around I go. I take the aforementioned left and where does my road go? The one along the railroad petered out into an over grown path. A more pronounced road presented itself to my left. I took, what appeared to be, the most traveled road. Soon it gave way to nothing more than where a combine had recently traveled cutting wheat. This made the overgrown trail along the railroad seem like an interstate.
Oh did I have a few choice words, of which I choose not to share on the web. This is a family oriented site, you know. I started dropping gears until I reached good-ol' number 72. Then it was pedaling through stubble and weeds. I was afraid I was going to stress where they had cut my bladder. I got even madder. I swore that I'd get to a road at the end of that field if I had to pick up the trike and bags and carry them. After all, I do bench 280lbs. Then came the thought of hurting myself, causing internal bleeding and being out in the middle of no where. Boy, did I hate this town.
As it turned out, the field was adjacent to a paved road. I just had to navigate a small upgrade and once again I was on pavement. "I would get on the danged highway and ride it. At least it had signs to the next towns and their distances", I mulled, as I pedaled through what appeared to be the parking area/ causeway of some kind of trucking business. Speaking to someone else revealed that I must once again--you got it--turn around and go under the bridge.
As I went back the direction I had come, I saw two bridges. OH! This is just, you know what, great. (Family site you know.) So, I headed for the bridge to my left. It was closer, and if I went right, I'd have to come back up hill if I were wrong. You guessed it. When I got to were I could better ascertain the bridges setup, there was no way to access it. So, it was back around and to the to the other bridge. Well, at least it was a bit down hill.
Going under the bridge, I found those ever allusive signs for which I had been looking for almost two hours. "Boy, I'll never get to BK before dark now", I thought, as I started gearing up. Soon, the bike path spilled me out onto a secondary highway. It was getting late, and I had to find a place to put my tent before all the light was gone. Once up a hill, it was now my turn to coast down. However, I noticed that with additional speed came additional instability. I attributed that to the load. However, I knew that in the past my heavy loads had never presented such a problem. I thought, "Tomorrow, I'll have to see if I can better balance out my load."
Slowing down, I pulled out my route list. Also, out came my pen. Stopping, I let a car pass before I retrieved my pen. A trail up ahead and off to my left looked like a good place to camp. Checking it out, I was not comfortable with it. Dolores called. I told her where I was and that I was going to make camp soon.
A bit further, I found a road off to my right. It had one heck of a hill to climb if I were not satisfied with its location; and it looked like a mosquito haven. So, on downhill I coasted. Off to my right, I saw a place I had noted when we were in the truck. It was a flat meadow right along the riverbank. It looked like a good flat spot for my tent. However, once down the embankment and onto the meadow, it became clear the grass was way too high, and it screamed, MOSQUITO INFESTATION! Riding all the way to the wood line, I knew the mosquitoes would fly away with my tent and leave me seething and scratching under the stars if I tried to camp there.
So, it was back up the embankment and out onto the highway with cars passing me as I geared down to engage a monster of a hill just ahead. Dolores called again. I told her I was going into the next town and find a room for the night. It was getting closer and closer to darkness. I'd have to engage the lights soon. The next town reveled no place in which to lay my weary head. I pedaled on. It was getting darker.
Coming into another little town, I vowed I was going to sleep there tonight. I saw several of those "put-together-yourself" little garden houses that so frequently lend themselves for rent to bikers and vacationers. But, none had signs for rent. Up ahead, on my left, I saw a man come out of his house. I figured I'd ask about a hotel. I watched as he walked into a neighboring garage. Pulling up to the open door, I waited till they greeted me. The visitor said there was nothing in the town. The homeowner, said there were two places two towns up the road.
I heard the visitor reference a huge hill and laugh at the thought of me pumping up it. I guess some folks are just ignorant. He didn't have a clue about old number 72; and I didn't bother to enlighten him. The homeowner gave me the name of the two guest houses in Steinach and recommended the one I would come to last. If it were full, I was to go back to the first. After getting directions, I thanked him and pulled out once more in search of a place in which to lay my abused and weary body.
Arriving in the next little town, I made the left after crossing the bridge, as instructed. Some distance later, the road went to the right. Another went to the left. I asked a little girl which way to Steinach. She indicated to the right. An older gentleman on a porch said that was the route for the cars, and the one to the left would be better for bikes.
After getting to the outskirts of the town and not seeing a sign for Steinach, I hollered at a teen I saw back the way I had just ridden. Then I noticed his father sitting on bench in the yard. They told me to just keep going the direction I was going. Arriving in the next town and it not being Steinach, I questioned a lady and she said I could go the main road around to the left. I asked if the farmer's road I was on would go there, and she said it would. Not wanting to be on even secondary highways in the daylight, I certainly had "grave" reservations about traveling them after dark, which was quickly approaching.
Another 15 or 20 minutes put me to the intersection the farmer's road and a secondary highway. I looked to the right; it was uphill; surprised? I looked to the left; it was downhill. If my since of direction was correct, this was the main highway that I had left earlier, and Steinach was to my right. After all, it was uphill; was it not? It was obvious that I was going to have to engage the lights before getting onto the highway. But, which way do I go?
Hearing a motorcycle to my left, I tried to wave him down to ask directions. He didn't even slow down. The same response was rendered by a passing car. Not wanting to engage my generator up a hill such as I had facing me, I put on my head light that Dolores had bought me. It had three settings, bright, dim, and blinking. I put it on blinking. Then I twisted the small light on my flag to engage it.
Turn after turn of the pedals I knew was taking me closer and closer to the top of the hill. But, was it taking me closer to Steinach? I turned my ears to super sensitive. Car after car slowed as it met these strange blinking lights. My headlamp has two bulbs. I could hear car after car slow as they approached that strange reflective thing with the small light--the flag that Dolores made me out of a road guard vest.
Finally, after about thirty minutes of uphill pedaling, I reached the top where there was a sign reveling the same town I had just left. So much for my time as an ROTC ranger. To my left, I saw the dome light of an automobile go out. I turned in that direction. There was no one in any of the parked cars. However, there were two young ladies, sitting on the ground talking and drinking. They indicated that Steinach was back the direction I had come. Well, at least it was a long downhill ride.
All the way down the hill, I hoped the motorcycle rider and the driver of car that I had attempted to stop would have a bad weekend. I didn't wish them hurt or harm, just a bad weekend. Maybe they'd spill their beer. Or maybe they would drop their cigarette just before taking the last puff, and checking their package, would reveille it had been their last. What do you find at the bottom of a downhill ride? That is right, the start of an uphill one. Seeing the sign "Steinach", I once again looked at my watch. It was getting close to 2230 and the fellow had told me they would be open till 2300 or midnight. It was getting close. I purposed that I'd stop at the first guesthouse if it were open.
Pedaling to the top, I glided down and saw the first guesthouse to my right. It looked closed for the night. Stopping, I wondered why the fellow had recommended the second. Then I figured it out. He had been drinking when he was telling me directions. The second one must be a party place, just the place I didn't want to be.
But even a party place beat the mosquitoes I had just seen. Coming to a curve in the road, I heard the place before I could see it. Turning left, I inquired of a man staggering to his car where the guesthouse was. He pointed to the place from whence all the laughter and hollering was emanating. I thought how glad I was that I would not be on the road after this fellow staggered to his car.
Barely able go get off my trike, I hobble to the steps only to meet a waitress coming out to wait the tables. I was told there was no room at the inn. She said to try the other place. When, I arrived there was no bell to ring at the front door and the lights were all off. I went back and ordered two huge fanta and cokes. She asked if I wanted her to call the guest house. I said yes.
Dolores called and I told her there was no room. She suggested she come and get me. I told her to wait till I found out something. The waitress returned and told me the housemaster was waiting for me. The buzzer was on the back door. A young man met me and told me to unload and take my trike around front where he provided an inside storage area in which to park it. Where do you think my room was? That is right. It was in the oven. It had to be the oven. It was up three flights of stairs, and the skylight had not been open all day. There was no fan. Did I tell you it was hot? It was the attic.
The one good thing was the young fellow toted my bags up for me. By the time I got a shower and into bed, it was 2315. The first bed I tried had a burned out lamp on the stand next to it. So, instead of plugging and unplugging, I just took the other bed. I sweated; I tossed; I turned. I laid there. I dozed off about 1230. At about 1230ish, I heard a noise like shorting wires and flickering lights. In my daze, the first thing I thought of was that the lamp had shorted and was catching the room on fire. When I looked it wasn't so. Then I thought it must be lights installed around the skylight shorting. After a few seconds, I realized it was coming through the skylight. Looking out, I realized that some drunken idiot was burning fireworks. This happened twice. Then all fell quite, and hot. After much sweating and tossing, I fell asleep.
I awoke at 0430 and could not go back to sleep. I spent from 0500 to 0530 catching up on yesterday's log so I could remember things to share with you. At 0600, I heard church bells. I went to my skylight and was met with the aroma of cooking pork. Ohhh, was that emanating from downstairs? Having spent over 4000 miles on European bike trails and having slept in dozens of B&B's and various guesthouses, I know the fare, and it is not freshly cooked anything. But, one could dream; could one not? While my mind was telling me it was for someone's personal use, my stomach was hoping it was for me. Which one do you think won out?
I had been told by the young fellow the night before that I could have breakfast anytime I wanted it. That any time was right now, I thought as I descended the stairs. I met a little elderly lady at the bottom of the steps. I requested breakfast. Then I paid for my room. I requested a receipt. When it was not forthcoming after several minutes, I asked a younger woman. She did not understand me. The older lady returned, and I reminded her about the receipt. She explained to the younger lady and the receipt was given.
Breakfast was several pieces of processed luncheon meats, butter, white bread, coffee, and orange juice. I selected the least fat meat and made a couple of sandwiches. With the third roll, I cut in half and spread one of the small packets of jam. The second packet soon followed suit on the second half of the roll. After breakfast, I carried my bags downstairs. The tent and camping supplies were still stored just inside the door where I had left them the night before. Retrieving my trike from storage, I brought it around back and loaded everything onto good and faithful "Tweety". I was on the road by 0710 hours.
Just down the street, I asked a fellow directions to the bike trail and confirmed them with two ladies walking along said trail. The morning was neither old or hot. It was just comfortable. This early in the morning, that meant it was going to be another hot one. Stopping to check my load, I also checked my tires. They seemed to be a bit low. I opt for a rather large and heavy foot pump rather than the small, light, and mostly don't work ones. I pumped each tire evenly, according to the built in gauge on the pump. After a few fast downhill experiences, it became clear that the load had never been the problem with downhill swerving of the day before. It had been under pressured tires.
Feeling vitalized in the coolness of the morning, I thought, "NOW, this is the time to ride." A song in my heart, I dare not let such harsh sounds get as far as my mouth, I felt next to God.
Now, where were those archways above last night when I needed a place to camp. Had I not spent so much time in Salz trying to find my way, I would likely have gotten here before dark and would have saved myself 25.00 Euro. Upon entering this archway, I spotted a tower of some nature across the field from me. Arriving at the tower, I realized that it was an old mill. The owner had taken some of the working parts out and had them laying around for display. But, what really caught my attention was the bridge. I'm a bridge lover and this one held a special allure for me in that it was old, a footbridge, and out in the middle of nowhere. It also held something else for me. Someone, not considering bike trailers or trikes, had tacked a trimming strip onto the bottom part of the railing where it met with the bridge floor. Both of my tires rubbed as I crossed. Had the trim been thicker, I would have had to carry the trike across.
"My goodness, it seems that Bad Kissingen is just an illusion. Am I ever going to get to this place?", I thought as I saw sign after sign indicating its direction and distance. Pedal turn after pedal turn, sign after sign indicated to my mind that I was drawing closer and closer. But, in my heart, it felt like I'd never arrive. I came to a sign that indicated BK was in two different directions. One took me along an obvious bike path. The other looked like it was taking me along a highway. Bike path it was. It was uphill, a big hill. I downshifted; I pedaled; a then it was into granny; I pedaled. After about ten minutes of pedaling, it struck me. I was going away from the river. This was just what I wanted to avoid.
Turning around and costing down hill, I met a lady who told me that BK was, "That Way." Pedaling in the direction she had told me, I realized that I had already arrived in BK, but there had been no signs indicating such on the bike trail. Along bike paths over here there is often very little from which to judge the size of a town. Often you can't even see its name.
So, at last I had arrived in the town in which I had served on a court-martial board that convicted a soldier of double rape. That had been many years ago, in a different life. Now, I was seeing a part of the city that most soldiers don't see. I certainly never did when I was stationed in Schweinfurt those many years ago. If it was not in a maneuver area, we likely did not see it.
Asking for directions to Hammelberg, I was directed to cross over the bridge. Proceeding in that direction, and taking picture after picture of the town on the way, I came upon an older gentleman just unlocking his bike. I asked to confirm my directions. He said to go over the bridge and turn left. Arriving at the bridge, I maneuvered myself to where I could cross on the left side. I'm sorry I didn't think to take a picture of it. The bikeway was elevated several inches, and it was wide enough for two trikes to meet with plenty of room to spare. It was also long; very, very long. While trying to dodge broken glass, a large semi blared by and blew off my cap. With heat and sun like I had been encountering on this trip, one need not be caught on the bike trail without head covering. So, stopping, I ran back and retrieved it.
I turned left at the end of the bridge. A lady sitting on a bench having a cup of coffee and a cigarette, told me I needed to go back the direction whence I had come. I turned around. Once getting back to the main bike trail, instead of turning right back across the bridge, I turned left looking for any other trail that might be to the left of the main bikeway. Found it! But, I didn't recognize the names of the towns. A young man and his wife told me I could go that way. None of the towns were on my printout. It was obviously not the route according to my list. They told me that I could go across the bridge and turn right. When I passed McDonald's, I should start looking for the trail.
So, it was; back across the bridge. Through the partially see-through railings, I could see what may have been a bike trail. I just could not find a way down to it. Just past McDonalds, I spotted the bike trail with signs to all of the towns on my printout. Presto! Seeing a lady removing her bike from the garage, I once again tried to confirm my directions. She indicated that was a very bad and hilly route. She said I should go back across the bridge and take the immediate left. So, for a third time, it was back across the bridge. Need I tell you that there were no directions, whatsoever, indicating a route going under the bridge?
There was no way I was going back across that danged bridge. I took the second left and, from that point on, wished that I had went back across the bridge. This route started as pavement, uphill. Mile after grueling, hot, sweaty, mile UPHILL! I was getting hungry again. I stopped and had a tin of rice and something with tuna. I was so mad that I, once again broke my own rule. I left them something to pick up.
I met a lady running. She spoke English but couldn't tell me anything about a bike trail. Seeing an old man getting off a tractor. I thought I'd ask him about Hammelberg. At first, I thought that he would have the gate closed and back on his tractor and be gone before I could get to him. However, even with the distance between us, he moved so slowly in his bent condition, that I had plenty of time to get to him before he even got the gate closed.
Confirming that Hammelberg was in the direction in which I was traveling, I continued; UPHILL! Going past a youth hostile on my right, I ran out of pavement, but not hill. I dropped a gear to compensate for the lack of pavement. "Good gosh! It is hot", I thought, as I stopped for a breath and a drink of water. There had been a young lady leaning out one of the upstairs windows and bathing suits hanging all over the place. To my left was a small group of kids working with an adult in some summer fun game.
It was grinding time again. I pedaled, and I pedaled, uphill, uphill... Soon I saw some kids coming down the hill toward me. As I continued, I saw more, and more, and then some more. Finally, I arrived at the top. I saw more coming up the hill. Down I flew. There was not a wobble one. It is amazing what properly inflated tires will do for a fully loaded trike. Once again; what is it you meet at the bottom of a downhill ride? That's right, more kids and an uphill grind. The road split. The right fork was to a restaurant, where the kids had likely been. The curve to the left was going my direction.
Once again, the sun, heat, and hills were zapping my strength and giving me an attitude. As I got closer and closer to Hammelberg the more I thought about a smaller town just before Hammelberg so that Dolores would not have a hard time finding me. Also, I was just flat ready to get under the air-conditioning of the Dakota and partaking of a full swig on anything cold and wet without alcohol.
Calling Dolores and discussing it with her, we agreed that she and Nolan would pick me up on the main street of the small town of Langendorf. This was five km from Hammelberg, and I was already there. She was already in Hammelberg. I waited near the town well from 1430 till I saw the Dakota at 1500. Of course, the first thing Nolan wanted to do was pump the pump of the well. The end of the day arrived at about 1830 when we were once again home near Wuerzburg, Germany. That was my last trip of the summer. The next week, I went back for my second operation. They took more flesh and found no more cancer in my bladder. I have decided to not do the chemo. We will monitor it through blood and urine samples as well as pre-designated scopings. Should a reemergence occur, we can consider options at that point. At the time of this writing, there are only two weeks of summer left. I don't know if I'll be well enough for another ride before I have to return to work.
Archie L. Tucker
Archie L. Tucker
publisher 'Bent Miles
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