'Bent Miles, An Online Bike Touring Magazine
Let me start with a little Bill Gates bashing. Again, this fellow is one of the few folks who can get others to buy an unfinished product and have them use their time to fix it after they pay for it. As for as processing pictures and working with older programs, his latest platform, Vista, is a piece of garbage. On the last couple of rides, I've taken over 250 pictures on each ride and a full 1/4 of them were screwed up by vista. How do I know that it is vista? Well, I have two very nice Sony cameras. When I download them in my older computer with xp they come our exquisite. When I download them to vista, well, you have seen some of the results. Yesterday, I was loosing just too many pictures I wanted for posting on 'Bent Miles. So, I downloaded my favorite photo resizer, free, "FastStone" to my older computer and took mostly non corrupted photos and resized them and downloaded them to a flash drive. Then, presto, just like magic, I had all good pictures. So, Bill, FIXIT!!!!! I heard that. You say he doesn't even know 'Bent Miles exists? Well, just show him. Tell everyone you know to visit us. Get our hits up so high folks will notice. Then maybe good old Bill will grace us with his visit.
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October 2008 Issue Volume 7 Issue 1
Ride from Eslarn to Neustadt on Sunday August 10, 2008
While in Wuerzburg, I became concerned that I was going to run out of places to ride. But, I'm sure that was not the case. However, I was running out of local flats in which to pedal my lazy butt. Then came this move. While, the flats may be sparse, trails with hills are not. One of the first things I did upon moving to Schwarzenbach was to go looking for a local bike shop.
While there are none in our little village, there are two, yes, two, in the next little town on highway 299, Pressath. On different occasions, I've solicited the services of each. One proprietor told me of a two day bike ride for the family. However, we had an illness in the family, and I had to miss that one. When I asked the other proprietor about local rides, he had no information. Going back to the first proprietor with tire purchases, I noticed a map for a local rails to trails ride. Upon speaking to him, he gave me the address to order the free map, and I was on my way, planning a new trip.
While shopping my wife saw some bike bags and convinced me to buy them for my new bike. They were lighter than my older bags, but, they also had far less room. Friday found me taking off my box and mounting my bags. I was not able to just quick release my box. I had to take the platform mount off as well. Looking at the weather and considering that I had not even started packing Friday night, I about decided to postpone the ride.
Saturday morning, Dolores encouraged me to do my ride. We had already, some days before, reconnoitered how to find the trail in Stornstein. Taking my bags into the house, I placed them on the bed and started selecting three days of clothes and packing them into separate one gallon Ziploc storage bags. Having socks, under shorts, shirts, and biking pants in separated plastic bags, I found a zipper plastic bag from where Dolores had bought a quilt and placed each individual plastic bag into it. That gave me double protection. Make sure you roll each bag tight to get all the air out. Then zip it and it will remain flat and compact. The plan was for me to start in Neustadt and ride to Eslarn. I would spend the night in Eslarn and return the next day to Neustadt where Dolores would pick me up.
After being on the reconnoiter road for a while, I decided I'd make it a one-way, hence, a one day trip. My navigator and I decided to drive near the border and reconnoiter the bike trail entrance. After a few stops and querying some locals, we arrived at the "Bockl-Radweg" start or end, depending on which way one chooses to ride. However, if you decide to ride only one way, I'd suggest making Eslarn your start point, since the elevation drops about a hundred feet in that direction. The inverse of this would, as you might surmise, be an equal rise in elevation.
Of course, it would be a shame if one arrived to within a few km of the Chez Republic border and not at least view the crossing. Since there were no border guards, we decided to drive over for a few miles and see the countryside. I have to tell you that while it was beautiful, much of the charm came from the fact that it was in a different era. Some of its allure was in the fact that it reminded me of my home state back in the forties and fifties. The roads were of the early 1900 Arkansas vintage. The main road going across was the best we encountered, and it reminded me of a well paved access road running along the side of interstate 30 back home.
Sunday August 10, 2008
So it was that I got up at about 0700 Sunday morning to the smell of coffee and bacon emanating from the downstairs kitchen, from where Dolores was calling me to a breakfast of English muffin, beacon, and egg sandwich. After a few setbacks due to a malfunctioning GPS system, stores, and my total lack of sense of direction, we arrived in Eslarn sometime before 1000 hours. A few questions to the locals directed us to my disembarkation point by about 1000 hours.
It is usually at this point that I go through my preparation ritual so as not to forget anything or at least to keep the forgetfulness at a minimum. So it was that I offloaded the "Tour Easy", checked and loaded my box, filled my water bottles, strapped two extras to my luggage rack and did a communications check with Dolores' cell. All being in, seemingly, good order, I was set for the ride. Since it was just one way which would cut my ride time in half, I'd not be staying overnight and did not need the three days of clothes. Hence, I had exchanged my new bags for my tried and trusted day box. A few pictures and a kiss to my wife and grandson, and I was off just before 1015.
All of you know that Michael's and my favorite rides take place near rivers where the chance for flat terrain is more likely. Well Michael, you will be pleased you were not on this trip. The first mile was a stretched out and seemingly never-ending hill. Now, I have learned a thing or two about my new bike on the few trips and three or four hundred miles I've ridden it. I've learned that in order to go up on my front ring, I must have my gear marker in the lower range on my right shifter which reflects the chain position on my rear cog. So, it was that my shifters received an excellent workout on this ride.
Going through the forest, I came to a sign indicating the trail went right. This took me out along the autobahn, and I came sliding to a stop at an intersection that was not at all clear on which way the trail ran. I say that it was not at all clear because I could not remember putting my map into my day box. "Dang, I must have left it in the truck," I surmised, as I thought back about the last time I had seen it. "Well, in the absence of any other direction, always go straight," I reasoned.
I noticed a couple who appeared to have just unpacked their "Bike Friday's", fold-ups, from their auto and were meeting me as I crossed the intersection. I greeted them; I thought about questioning them; then I decided they may not be from the local area. I pedaled on. The further I pedaled, the more I doubted my decision to proceed straight. I was on a gravel road pedaling through a beautiful forest and it was a gorgeous day. But, the gnawing feeling of going the wrong way would not allow me to enjoy my good fortune.
Just up ahead, I could see a couple pushing a baby carriage. "I need to get to them before they dropped down off the brow of the hill that I would have to pump back up," I thought, as I increased the power to my pedals and shifted up. "Have to be careful and not get too fast on this gravel. If I fall a break something, on me or the bike, it is a long way home", I remember thinking. When I asked the fellow if I was on the Bockl-Radweg, he indicated I was. I thanked him and sped on. Another group was four or five across the trail. I rang my bell, and they swung around, moving to each side of the trail simultaneously. I greeted them and shifted up. The hill had rolled me out onto a paved road. Not one sign was in place to direct me in either direction. I parked my bike and rummaged through my day box on the outside chance I had packed the map. No map. Looking back up the hill, I waited till the last group of "Nordic" walkers drew near. They indicated I should go right and make the loop rather than riding back up the hill. Then I was to swing left across the autobahn toward Waidhaus instead of going straight as I had previously.
Don't let the title of the rails to trails, term fool you. Much of the Bockl-Radweg, while billed as a rails to trails ride, is not even near the old railroad line. If you elect to do this ride, which do recommend, be aware of the town of Waidhaus. While I witnessed others going through the place without any problems whatsoever, I missed my turn and then came upon the trail, thinking I had not left it, and was in the process of going in a complete circle when I realized what was going on. You look at the pictures I post and think, wow there are a lot of signs, and they are very clear and B-I-G... How could anyone miss them? Well, do I need to remind you of my badge of miss-orienteering I was awarded in ROTC summer camp in collage? I should hope not. NOW! Let it rest.
Initially, when you are on the actual old railroad, the surface is hardpan and small gravel. It does not get paved until somewhere near mile 22 or so. Now, these are my miles 22; remember; yours will likely be different because you don't have my recondo badge of miss-orienteering. You will likely come upon the sealed paved route somewhat quicker than I did.
Each time I met other bikers coming downhill while I was going up, I would think, "Well, you may be coming down now, but I've seen the elevation chart. There are many more down hills my way than yours." Coming down one of those hills, I was being hawk eyed. I was scanning all directions for signs. I was coming downhill; there was a bus stop to my right. I had seen a sign there and was sure it had indicated I should turn right. However, there was a couple standing near a parked car talking. The car blocked my view of the sign. Looking to my left, I saw another sign that confirmed I could go left. I thought maybe I could go either. So, it was a lean to the right and a shift as I approached must have been named, "Hill Horrible".
I pumped; and, I pumped. I shifted down; I shifted down, down. I dropped off my top sprocket then off my middle. I was huffing. But, since Nolan had read to me about eating chicken noodle soup with peppers, onion, and garlic, I was not wheezing. "My gosh", I remember thinking, "This is remarkable." Only two days before and half that effort would have left me wheezing and hitting on my inhalant. On this trip, I had not hit it once.
I met a car. "Why in the world would he be up here?" I thought. Then rounding a corner, the road forked; however, each fork was not much more than some ruts in the ground. There was no sign to indicate which rutted route to follow. Dang, could I have misread the sign? You can imagine what I said out loud. However, this is a family magazine; so, I'll not repeat it. Turning around, I swore I'd not climb this hill again even if it meant ridding on the danged autobahn. Just as I was headed down, I met mountain biker coming up. He spoke no English, so I tried to tell him in my limited German that the paved route turned into ruts just up ahead.
I soon understood that he knew the route very well, and I could go back down the hill and ride a paved route but it would be longer. Or, I could follow him down the dirt trail and come out on the same route with some distance spared. So, it was behind my new found friend, Manfred and down the hill on the other side. Some distance down the trailed turned to pavement running through a small farm. We slowed to allow two boys playing on scooters to clear. Then we released our brakes and down we sailed to the main road at the bottom. Then there it was, another uphill. He explained that I would come to a trail off to the left and a sign indicating the route. Then he continued on. I had gotten winded just looking at the hill. So, I parked the bike and took a healthy swig of water and some pictures.
Then I started pedaling, shifting down, down, down, then on the bottom front ring I ran under low limbs of some apple trees and almost fell trying to dodge them. Looking ahead, I saw some yellow; Manfred was waiting around the curve. I pumped. I grunted; I flagellated. (That is a polite way of saying I farted.) When I reached him he explained the lay of the land. We pedaled on. Coming to the turn, he got off and again explained how the route went. Then along came visitors on a motorcycle. Once again, Manfred donned his instructor's hat and told them the directions they needed. He then told me he would cross with me to the hill on the other side. Neither of us attempted to mount our bikes. Up the hill we pushed, he instructing me straight while he went right. Since he was going to Weiden, I had to assume he had other business to attend. Bidding him farewell, I started shifting up. Looking to my right, I spotted a trailer that was being used as a portable restroom. I didn't need it right then, so it was more shifting while I gained speed.
Steadily climbing, slowly but climbing, I wobbled past a family resting at a rest place on my right. Wobbling underneath an archway, I caught a glimpse of something read in my side view. I wobbled to my right just as a lady sped by. I remember noting that she had no bags and likely just got on the bike path. By this time I had pedaled several up hills and had had nothing to eat since about 0700. I was tired and hungry. I didn't bother, I'd catch her later. This hill couldn't last forever; and, the backside had to be down.
Topping the hill and rounding a curve, I saw red. There she was; now my time. With my trigger finger, I pulled and speed shifted up; then I pedaled and rapidly fired to high. I was still on my middle front ring. I thumbed back on my right so I could shift up to my top front on my left. I pedaled, then rapid fired to high as I said, "On de links side." She pulled to the right. I let off the pedals and coasted around and in front of her. As I pulled out of site of her, I kept hearing sounds from my front wheel. When I had mounted it, I didn't get it as tight as I would have liked because the tighter I turned my quick release, the more resistance the wheel had and would not turn freely.
So it was that I was bent over my front wheel when she zipped by. I surveyed the brake pads. I knew them to be damaged but not badly. So, I surmised it must be them making the noise. I felt the rim. It was not hot, and the tire was no hotter than one would expect after turning on pavement so fast and long. Well, it was time for a snack. Digging into my box I pulled out a granola bar. Opening my water bottle I washed the bar down with carbonated water. Then while opening a chocolate bar, three blocks of chocolate broke off and feel to the ground. I took a small bite of what remained and replaced the rest into the box. Then it was back into the saddle. Coming into the town of Vohenstrauss, I was about halfway and out of signs. I backed up and looked again. Still no signs. So, when in doubt, go straight.
And, straight took me down a narrow path with fence and overgrowth on each side and definitely not my idea of a main thoroughfare. However, this unlikely avenue spewed me out onto a great sealed paved bike path rambling through a countryside of grain fields. Now, I was over halfway.
I was tired. I had not slept well the night before in anticipation of this ride and now I was feeling the lack of food and sleep. I needed somewhere to lie down for a few moments. Noting something red in my side view, I pulled to the right and tried to steady my wobbling until the two ladies could pass. "Dang, must be tired". Two ladies, obviously as out of shape as I, had passed; they were now just muddling along in front of me. I was getting winded. I'd stay behind them and let them block the wind for me till I got up enough gumption to pass. Riding on their rear fenders, it was not long before I just could not take it any longer. They had been expecting me to pass for a while. When they heard me shifting, one fell behind the other and they both greeted me as I passed.
Now, I had put myself into a position that required that I keep hitting the pedals hard to keep from loosing face. Up I geared. I started breathing through my mouth. But, my lungs were holding well.
.Just a short distance, I saw a young lady stopped. Her daughter had continued ahead. The lady was looking back, then toward her daughter as if torn between two thoughts. I then saw that she was looking at her husband and small son. The father appeared to be waiting for the boy to balance his bike and get on the trail. I coasted to a stop at the table. I was not about to let someone beat me to it. After the man and boy pulled away, I took off my hat and placed it on the table along with my camera. I then retrieved my water from its cradle and took a good stiff swig. "My Lord; I'm tired. I'm going to get a power nap for about ten or fifteen minutes", I thought.
My back had been hurting since that morning, so I laid on my side, but I could not get my head comfortable. I rolled over on the bench to my stomach. I dozed. I'd wake at the sound of voices and the singing of bike tires. Peeping out of my right eye under the table I could see the ladies as they passed. I dozed, others passed. Someone stopped. I opened my eyes long enough to make sure they had not taken my bike. I dozed. When I got up, about twenty minutes had passed. A fellow fell back from his family to talk to me about my bike. I told him it was Freedom, Calif. and he could view "Easy Racer" site from a link on mine. He told me that he had a son in Calif.. Then after a few moments, he was off in pursuit of his family. A young boy was not going to allow such a nice rest spot be passed by his parents. He dismounted and seated himself, as if to say, "You've been here long enough; now it is ours." I took a picture of mom and dad, then I saw yellow out of the corner of my eye. Manfred pulled up and asked how I was. I told him the my wife had called and said I had better get to Neustadt so she could eat. I told him his legs must be like stone. He beamed and was off. I snapped a shot of his back and was in cold pursuit. I was not about to try to keep up with that madman.
The last five or so miles was totally downhill. I was absolutely elated. I could have ridden most of it without turning a pedal. I saw a flicker of yellow in my side view. Looking closer, I recognized that flicker to be Manfred. I swapped some more gears; I bared down on the pedals. Looking back, I had pulled away from him. He must be behind the last curve. I swapped more gears and bared down on the pedals even harder. When I could no longer see yellow even in long straight stretches, I eased off and pedaled comfortably. Dolores called and told me she was not going to be at the crystal store she had told me of. But, she would, instead, be at the one on main street. I told her I was coming through what appeared to be the backside of Neustadt and would see her in a few moments.
As I neared the imbess, I pulled out my camera. I wanted to be sure to get some pictures of the end of the trail. Just as I snapped my last shot, and was putting my camera away in preparation for another downhill ride to my truck, I felt a hand on my shoulder; turning, I saw yellow. It was Manfred. We once again exchanged greetings. I gave him my URL and told him I'd have his picture posted within three months. We said goodbye and I met Dolores and Nolan at the truck where I snapped more pictures and loaded the bike.
The ride was officially finished at 1545. It started at about 1015. That makes for 5.5 hours and 41.3 miles. This averages out to an average speed of about 7 mph counting up hills and stops.
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