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August 2008 Issue Volume 6 Issue 11
August 2, 2008 Schwarzenbach to Grafenwoehr Reconnaissance:
Have you ever considered how life is like a biking trip? Sometimes you are on really familiar terrain and it takes very little consideration while making decisions. You know left will take you to point A while right will take you to point B. Then there are times when you aren't quite sure. You've been this way before; but, the directions are hazy to your memory; or, maybe you have just read or been told about the route. Then, there are those times when you have never been that way and the only clue you have to which way to go is your inborn since of direction. That is life. We all make decisions based on prior knowledge. And, the merit of those decisions often reflect just how accurate or good that prior knowledge was. But, most of us also have an inborn since of correctness, what we should and should not do. If we listen to that since of correctness, we will seldom make immoral decisions. However, the "What should I do" questions when it comes to non moral issues are not always that clear.
While I do have a good since of moral correctness--not that I always follow it; for, who is without sin?--I am one of the world's worst at the physical since of direction. So it goes with my bike rides. There is always that inevitable fork in the road, or that intersection that requires a decision. Of course, if I know the way, those forks and intersections are just so much information my brain processes without stress or strain. However, who wants to ride the same route all the time? So, it is that much of my biking experience has been and continues to be filled with those, "not quite sure", forks in the trail. This reconnaissance was no different. Just consider what the term itself suggests.
About the only thing that gets better as I get older is my forgetter. According to my computer, today is August 3, 2008. My pictures' properties suggest they were clicked yesterday. So, with that much time between the trip and writing it down, I don't take any responsibility for correctness and intend to take lucrative prerogatives of authorship. Around 1730 on the above date, I departed the house in search of, still, another route to post and maybe to my place of work. I had intended to make this trip that morning but it was raining. (Whatever happened to that dedicated rider/writer who used to don his rain or snow gear and go regardless of the elements? You ask?) Don't know, I'll keep a look out for him.
We had friends scheduled to arrive at 1430; so, just a short trip could be worked in between the abatement of the the rain and their arrival. They arrived about 1500 and departed by about 1600 or 1630. By 1730, the scout was out reconnoitering the route between Schwarzenbach and Grafenwoehr. The evening was mostly sunny and quite warm.
The evening before, I had barely talked the Nolster into a short ride. We went through the fields to Pechof and took the road straight instead of our usual right turn out of the village. Nolan had noticed a sign, "Hutten 4 km". It was late evening, and I just could not seem to persuade him that Pa Pa was right and he was wrong about taking such a trip that close to dark without a workable light. This sign, that he saw and I've yet to find, had piqued my curiosity. I knew that Hutten was very close to a route to Graf that I had already ridden. So it was that 1730 found me searching out this weg.
The path originally started off on gravel and progressively got worse. The week before when the Nolster and I departed the house on a short trip to Graf., my Easy Racer acted weird. Getting off and feeling of the rear tire, I thought it to be a bit low. As usual, Nolan had already tried to outdistance me. I found a shade and dug out my pump. He came back and watched as Pa Pa made the rear tire tight. Several rocks later found us on pavement with me almost loosing control. Another inspection reveled the tire to be low again. Between Nolan complaining and me looking at the hill in front of us and not knowing just when the tire would exercise its prerogative and try to throw me again, we called Granny. She was on her way home and agreed to swap the car for the truck and come get our tired butts.
I went to my bike mechanic who had once before told me the rims on my Easy Racer were too narrow to take the same tires I run on my trike. In over four thousand miles I've had only one flat on my trike, and that was my fault for running it across a bed of rocks while under inflated. I asked him if he could not put Big Apples on my bike, what tire could he put on. He agreed that he could put a Continental on and I'd have no further problems with flats. I asked him what the weather was projected for the rest of the week. If it were to be sunny I wanted to ride. He said it was to be beautiful. I said fix it and order the tire. I agreed to bring the bike back and have the tire put on when it arrived Friday. Need I say the weather was beautiful only part of the time. The rest was rainy.
Anyway, I knew that now I had the best tire I could get for the rear of my bike. Looking at some of the trail, I was glad I had him to install it. I longed for my trike. I knew it would take a beating and still get to end of any ride without bike problems. I'll never take any credit from my trike. I'll tell you right now without any doubt, if you are in the market for a trike, you can't go wrong with Greenspeed. When I load it down with fifty pounds of tent, bed roll, water, clothes, and tools, I'm confident it will make the trip maintenance free. However, if you are looking for speed, I can climb hills on the Easy Racer sometimes faster than I'd pedal on the level with my trike.
The trail between Pechof and Hutten was unfamiliar and it was rough. Other routes are much better. However, the purpose of the ride was because the trail was there. The ease of pedaling and the changing of the rapid-fire Shimano shifters told me that Easy Racers do not cut corners. They deliver, like my friend Ralph says, quality. I was in bicycle haven. Below I've included pictures that did not come out right just to show you what you have to look forward to with Bill Gate's junk, Vista.
Looking at the street signs, I was able to tell which small towns they ran between because the name of the destination village would be somewhere in the street name. Arriving at an intersection of the bike trial and a simi-major road, I pulled up behind a lady on a bike. Not hearing my feeble request for directions, she pulled away and crossed the intersection. I was thirsty. I had hung my head lamp on my water bottle and failed to notice it dropping to the ground when I retrieved the bottle for a drink. A car pulled up behind me and a young lady said, hello. I half turned to my left and repeated the greeting only to find out it was not a greeting but intended to direct my attention to my head lamp on the ground. She got out and handed it to me. I thanked her and the car pulled away. Which way to go? A man pulled up on his bike, stopped, greeted me and pedaled across the street. Noting a sign indicating Hutten straight ahead, I followed suit. As he followed the curve to the left, my ranger instincts directed me straight ahead.
Midway into the village, another lady, pushing a baby carriage, confirmed directions for me. Soon, I was faced with a large sign directing me left past a dismount point that precluded motorized vehicles from using the path. Maneuvering the long frame of the Easy Racer through the impasse, I was soon in sight of the intersection at which I had stopped on a previous trip while reconnoitering a route to Graf.. On that day, I had been approaching from what was now my right.
At this time, my old tired and worn body was still holding its own. Then I saw them, male and female on mountain bikes. I started dropping gears and adding some umph to my pedaling. They were coming from my left and made the left onto the Graf trail. We were on a bit of an incline. I had been this route once before and thought I remembered it fairly well. I went up onto my top ring in front and fell back on my right shifter. I could tell I was closing the gap. I dropped another gear and hit the pedals harder. I was going to show them that while mountain biking might be king in this area, the throne was not without threat. My chest tightened. I kicked harder. I knew I could catch them.
As I continued to exert myself, my chest got tighter and tighter. I developed a neck and headache. I knew I had not had enough coffee that day. But, I also, knew the lack of caffeine was not all that was hurting me. I remembered when I used to smoke, how my lungs would get tight when I'd do my mile and two mile run in the army. At 18 and 20 I'd never exercise and always nearly maxed my physical training tests. But the two mile run was always what kept me from the max score. Now, over thirty years after stopping smoking, I was once again having lung problems. I'd try to cough; noting would come up. "Dam this asthmatic bronchitis," I thought, as I shifted my position and pedaled harder.
I tried to regulate my breathing. While I was not taking it in and letting it out in gasps, I was having to take it through my mouth. I took my inhalant from my shirt pocket. I took a deep hit. Almost immediately, my lungs felt some relief. I shifted and laid on the pressure. My knees burned a little; but, my legs were not hurting. My headache got worse. I stopped gaining on the couple ahead. But, I could see through gaps in the trail they were not running off and leaving me. I was keeping pace. I dipped down and around a curve; I had gotten up to 22 miles an hour and now I was dipping to 18. I poured on some more power. Blue responded like a real steed. I shifted; I went back up to 19...then 20. "God! if I could just breath without it hurting so much. If this danged cough would just go away. Maybe I can ride often at higher energy rates and build my lungs back to where they were before I got out of the army", I thought.
I gasped. I saw a woman, she was black, so likely American, come from her yard to the trail after her child. I noticed a cigarette between her fingers. My Lord! I should stop and let her hear my breathing", I thought, as I passed and said hello. Soon I was passing gate three. It was just over 8 miles. The couple that had been in front of me had dropped off sometime before. "I'll stop at the ESSO station that I stopped at before and get a cold coke", I thought, as it came into sight. Then, with disappointment, I realized I had left my hip pack at home.
Now, the decision was how to get home and avoid traffic. I swung right just before the ESSO station, knowing that route would take me along a road with high and fast auto traffic. I had slowed my pace, and it was like stopping for a rest. My breathing was no longer labored. I noticed a crowd up ahead on my right. I was getting that old familiar stare. I could remember when the ladies looked at me like that. Then at fifty, I'd take my little baby, Nolan, out on the streets of Naples and tell him I'd give him an extra ration of milk if he'd get the Italian ladies to notice us. Now? Well, its my bike. What did you think they were looking at? A group of folks were waiting for a bus to pick them up from the local theme park that has recently opened for the vacation period. They smiled and commented to each other. I smiled and nodded, shifted, and turned from the street to the sidewalk/bike trail.
Coming to the end of the trail, I stopped in the shade for a drink. Another crowd of folks was migrating toward the bus stop. They marveled at the bike. I acted like I didn't notice. But, I did notice a sign indicating a bike trail in their direction. I pedaled through and around them and picked up the trail at the top of the rise. Here, to the right of the trail, I saw a fellow standing as if waiting on someone. I spotted a biker meeting me. Motioning for the biker to stop, I asked if the trail ran to my town. The two of them conversed, and it turned out that it went just about where I figured it did; close to my town. I thanked them and was on my way. "What a nice paved trail," I thought, as I started shifting and settling into my pace. But, that pleasant thought was short lived when the pavement abruptly turned to gravel and hardpan.
Then, I came to that proverbial fork in the road. A sign indicated the bike trail was to the right. However, my ranger instincts told me straight was the most direct route. So, straight it was. Then came the gnawing doubt. "I could turn around now. No, just a little further. See what is up ahead. You do this every time; don't you? You keep going knowing you should turn around", I thought. As if that were not enough, up came another fork. My ranger instincts tell me to go right. The trail is sandy clay and starts to shift towards the ditch, as I make the right. My bike floated on the sand. I shifted my weight. Shifting gears, I added more power. The back tire bites; the bike responds. I start to climb from near the ditch toward the center of the trail and up the hill. I gained speed. I shifted higher to get more speed. I expected much more resistance than I met. Wow! what power, and speed.
What is it with me and speed? I know better than get a motor cycle. I met my wife in the hospital as a result of a motorcycle accident in Hawaii. Two kids later and now my grandson, I'm still paying. Then I thought about the time I was doing 110 miles per hour and a Chrysler started around me. At 120 miles per hour a gust of wind hit; the Dakota shuddered; I stuttered, S-h-i-t! and let the Chrysler go. So, the ugly head of ADHD still surfaces on occasions. We ADD folks have no business with motorcycles. Horses, bikes, and grudgingly, cars, are our limits.
Then what was it I saw at the top of the rise? Was that pavement? Yes, it was; I had come out on the very paved road for which I was aiming. Anticipating the sharper rise near the highway, I shifted down. I could hear a car coming from my right. I determined its distance by sound and laid on more power till I crossed to the other side where I hugged the shoulder till an American tagged SUV passed me. Now, it was a couple hundred yards down the paved highway till I would turn right and ride through the construction where large trucks moved gravel and sand from one place to the other during the workweek. However, this day being Saturday, all equipment was dead still.
Realizing that two wheels and gravel are a catastrophe waiting to happen, I reduced my speed to about 8 mph while ascending to the graveled flats. After crossing the flats, I entered upon weathered and hole pocked pavement; I started shifting up and applying force to the pedals. I was soon crossing the bridge into Pechof and started gearing down for the sharp hill I had to negotiate as I entered the village.
Exiting Pechof, I took the trail past the cornfield and swung right past some apartments into Schwarzenbach. While rounding a curve, my phone rang. I knew it was Dolores worried I was in need of help. I rounded another curve and pushed harder going up hill. It stopped ringing and started again. I ignored it. I thought I'd save her minutes on her cell. I shifted. It stopped ringing. I arrived home and was in the garage when it rang again at 1705. I answered and told her I was in the garage. She seemed relieved and hung up. The ride was 14 miles and took about 1.5 hours. I averaged about 9 miles per hour counting any stops I made. I figure my day box and contents weigh about 25 or 30 pounds.
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