'Bent Miles, An Online Bike Touring Magazine
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September 2008 Issue Volume 6 Issue 12
August 6, 2008
Many of you have written and asked: "Which do you enjoy the most; riding or writing?" I suppose if I could no longer ride, I'd still find something about which to write. If I could no longer write, I'd likely still ride; but, I doubt that either would ever be complete without the other.
As is often the case during our summer breaks, August 5, 2008 found our family sitting around the house. Nolan and his friend had not yet found their way to the pool, and Dolores asked what I wanted to do. When I said I was thinking about a bike ride, she asked where. I responded that I had not yet finished my ride to Pottenstein. It was then that she suggested the boys ride with me. I was a bit disappointed when neither showed interest. Then, of course, reality struck, and I knew it was for the best they did not choose to take such a ride. Having driven it several times, that is where I got the idea to ride it, I knew there were plenty of hills to go around, but had no idea about the actual bike route. The map showed it being a separate route from the highway; but I knew better than to believe the map. You know how maps and I are. I have a Recondo badge for miss-orienteering.
So it was, Dolores and the boys put me out at Kirchenthumbach, where she had picked me up on my previous aborted ride to Pottenstein. Click on past issues left column above and select June, July 2008 to read. After unloading the "Tour Easy", it was a matter of remounting the front tire, loading a full bottle of water into my day box, and tying one onto the luggage rack in front of the day box, topping off my awesome water bottles that are mounted on my handlebars, and then checking all equipment before I let her go. She had left the house without her cell and would have to return home in order for us to have constant contact. If something were missing or not working properly, and not noticed before her departure, I'd have to wait till she got home before I'd be able to reach her. She would then have to make the entire trip back. After insuring all was in order, the family and friend departed, leaving me all alone...sob..sob.....
Seeing a lady swapping baby seats from one car to the other, I asked for directions to the bike trail to Pegnitz, the largest city between there and Pottenstein. This was about 1230. Of course the direction was in the same way as I'd come and uphill. Seeing a service station at the top of the hill, I once again inquired about directions, and got the same report. A few hundred feet further, I stopped at a supermarket and received the same directions. I know this sounds redundant and retarded, but, it is much better to get directions correct the first time round when you are biking. On a bike, you can't just put the pedal to the metal and climb that hill where you took the wrong turn.
Even after all the redundancy, I was still concerned they had put me onto the wrong road. I stopped at the designated turn. The road looked too trafficked to be a bike trail. I had a gnawing feeling there was a bike trail close by that I was missing. Then I reasoned they often use paved secondary roads as a part of the biking routes in Germany. So, to the left, and did I mention uphill, it was.
With all the pumping and huffing, I started wheezing and coughing. Cars were passing me somewhat faster than I considered safe. Pulling to the right, I took a hit on my dope and once again assessed the situation. I just could not get comfortable with the road and its relationship with the map, not to mention the traffic. Continuing on, soon it was back to the right of the road. This hill was kicking my butt; I took a drink and consulted my map. More traffic passed. Returning my map to the bag, I started pedaling. For this ride, I had chosen not to use the sport nipples on my water bottles because the carbonated water I like to drink causes it to rise and pop to the open position. However, I had kept the dust cover for the nipple mounted on the bottle neck and water was collecting in it, whereupon it was welling over and spilling onto my bare leg. My first response was to stop and tighten the stopper. But, then it felt good; so, I let it drip.
This hill seamed to be in the stretch mode. It just got steeper and longer. I saw a sign to Gurlas. "Good its on my map. I must be on the right road," I reasoned. I pedaled on, huff, huff, up, up. Then came another sign. "That should be Hoflas," I thought. "NO! Dang it! That is not the right town. Hoflas, should be next!" Pulling to the right, I consulted my map. Yep! They had put me on the wrong road. Sure, it goes to the same place, but too many cars.
According to the map, I could go off here, at Tagmanns, and the route would have much less automotive traffic. After making the exit, it was picture taking time again. While Tagmanns was a small village, it was filled with old German charm. From entrance to exit was about five minutes if you didn't allow for the times I stopped at intersections trying to insure I was taking the correct route.
The street through Tagmanns spilled me out onto a secondary road. If I turned right, it would put me back onto the road I had just left. If I turned left...well...there was no sign telling me where it would take me. I turned around and went back into the little village. Search as I might, I could not find another acceptable route or signs. So it was this way or the highway. I started swapping gears. There was no hills in sight; woods lined the road on each side. "Wow, what a day for a daydream; and, I'm a daydreaming boy", I sighed. Remember the song??
Well, all good things do come to an end. Soon, I was once again engaged in the challenge of subduing, yet, another hill. Then there it was, a sign to Hoflas. "Yes...yes...I'm on the right road", I thought, with a bit of exuberance. I remember getting a renewed sense of energy and thinking, "Knowing you are on the correct route does seem to make the pedals turn a bit easier." Now, I was in search for the small village of
Coming off the hill and nearing the bottom of my decent, I spotted a fellow walking from a building, to his large truck and trailer across the street to my side about midway up the next hill. He turned and seemed to be carrying on a conversation with another man. He then crossed and got into his truck. I thought, "Don't you pull out in front of me; or pull out and hit me." He backed the trailer further into the grain field where it was parked. I thought he would sit there till I passed. He pulled out; he still had time to get ahead of me and clear the hill so I would not have to stop or slow down. Then the ass did it. He stopped right in the middle of the road to carry on a conversation. I started swapping gears. Heading around him on the right, I looked into his side view mirror. He showed no sign of pulling out. I passed. This was another burger of a hill. I dropped some more gears. Half way up, I could hear Mr. Ass coming up behind me. I went down another gear; he passed. Then, the fellow with whom he had been talking passed.
I strained on the pedals till both were out of site; I'd not allow either of them see me halt. Once they were out of sight, I stopped in a cleared area to the left of the narrow road near a bike sign indicating left and downhill was to the city of Auerbach. I rested, coughed, wheezed, and took a drink. I then consulted the ranger's best friend, my map. Wouldn't you know it? Not down hill; oh no; I had to be going to another town, uphill. I was looking for Neuzirkendorf. After resting a few more minutes, it was back up the hill. But, this time, I was pushing once again. Just before remounting, I once again viewed the map. The next recognizable feature on my map was a church in Neuzirkendorf. I'd stop when I got to it and take another reading.
I saw the church before seeing the village sign. I started dropping gears and pulled to a stop. Retrieving my map from its bag, I oriented it with the church to my right. According to the map, I should cross the intersecting road and bear to my right onto a biking trail. Putting the map away and moving forward to the main intersecting street, I could see that trail turned to grassy ruts within just a few hundred yards. I turned left past the fire station and started for the climb out of town. It just didn't feel right. Consulting my map once again, I realized that while the route would take me where I wanted to go, it was a longer way.
"No, I won't go a way that I'm not sure of or don't want to go just because I CAN get there that way. I'm going the best route according to the map," I angrily reasoned. So, it was back to the church, back to consulting my map. "I'll ride out of town and see what the sign says," I thought. The sign indicated the next town to be Thurndorf. That was the correct direction. "But, there must be a left turn between here and there," I rationalized.
I can remember thinking, "Well, at least this way is downhill; then the gnawing feeling struck once again. What if, I had to turn around? Then it would be up this hill and the one I had just avoided. The hill started gradually, then became steeper and steeper. The brim of my new flop-hat bent up and backward. I looked down at my speedometer. I was going 36 miles an hour when I saw the sign to my left. I squeezed my brakes and prepared to make the turn left. Now, I could read it: Troschenreuth. I took the turn. It was still downhill. I sped on. Once again, my next marker was a church along the road. I'd take another reading there. And, my anticipation was not long lived. I spotted the church just after seeing large stainless steel milk containers that a farmer had set out to the left of the road for an expected milk truck to pump out.
Stopping in front of the church, I once again viewed my map and looked for signs. There was only a small dorf in the direction behind the church, and it was not on the map. So, straight it must be. I was still on a descent. I heard voices. Looking around, I saw no one. Hearing them again, I realized they were being carried on the headwind that I had been combating since the start of my trip. They were coming from a tractor trying to drag a log from the field on the right of the road. At that point it was just sitting still.
Returning the map to its nesting place, I adjusted my pedals, eased off the brakes, and started down the hill. Picking up speed, I started shifting up. Then the tractor moved. It headed toward the road from my right. I judged its progress; then, I saw that the lady on the ground and the man on the tractor saw me coming. The tractor halted. I increased my speed. Then I saw something huge laying across the road reaching from one side to the other. Was it trench? It could have been dug by the tractor dragging something across the road. It could be a chain. Or, maybe it was a hose or cable. At 30 miles per hour, either could make for a bad day. I braked; I stretched my neck to see over the windshield. It turned out to be residue from where they had drug another log across earlier. I released my brake, but was unable to snap a closer shot of the tractor. I was in speed mode.
As all of you know, I'm used to riding the rivers where I would run into some hills occasionally. However, this trip was one hill after the other. They seemed to be stretched out of proportion. Time and again, I'd have to dismount prior to getting to the top. Nevertheless , the downhill sides were exuberantly fast and thrilling. I was torn between good sense of applying my brakes and reckless abandonment. At my age and fitness, one can't afford the reckless abandonment. So it was that 36 mph was my top speed.
Arriving in Pegnitz, I was once again faced with a ranger's dilemma, an intersection. Do I go left or right?
Right was downhill; my ranger instincts screamed, downhill...downhill... Or maybe, it was my legs and lungs screaming. Anyway, to the right and down the hill it was. Seeing a fast food chicken trailer just a few feet down and to my right, I stopped for instructions. The proprietor had no clue how to get to Pottenstein. As it would happen, a young fellow on a bike stopped, and I asked him. He had me follow him back up the hill where there was a city map. He begin to explain directions. When he suggested I get on highway 470 and that it was not too large of a road, I knew to consider his directions with copious reservations.
However, he and I did establish that it was Nurnberger strasse on which I was to get while in town. Coming to the bottom of the hill, I passed an open office building. I stopped and went back and parked my bike. At first, I thought it was a travel agency, but established it was a tanning salon and no one seemed available for question and answer time. Walking back outside, I stopped a lady who gave me very good directions to the short way to Nurnberger strasse. She directed me through a small city park where I saw three ladies sitting on a bench. Yes, I had made a wrong turn and they soon set me straight, and I found myself scratching my head after crossing over to the far side of NBS..
I started to approach a man for directions when I heard another man calling from a parking lot asking if I needed help. Following his directions to the point I thought I was to turn, I was assured by another man, yes, I was going the correct way. Getting to the city limits, I saw three signs telling me towns between Pegnitz and Pottenstein. One was 2 km, one 7, and my destination was 11 km.. I called Dolores, and she agreed that she would leave right then to meet me in Pottenstein. By this time, it was approaching 1530; and seeing, a monster of a hill in front of me, I decided to look for a place to eat lunch and rest a spell.
Pumping was becoming more and more of an ordeal. Some cars passed. Entering into a right curve, I spotted my break area. There was no bench. But, there was plenty of shade, and I needed a rest and some nourishment before tackling that hill. Lunch consisted of a beerwurst sandwich on wholegrain German bread, water, and a pear. I ate only half of the sandwich, saving the rest and the chips and banana for later. Soon a fellow biker, on a hybrid bike without luggage, came churning by. He was going at a good clip, and was getting likely more sun than he would later desire, in biking shorts, with no shirt or hat.
After a short rest, it was back onto the pavement, but not back into the saddle. I had absolutely no intention of riding up that hill. (Mike, we could have had a great conversation at this point.) I decided to use my lowest gear, my push gear. And push, I did. Car after car passed me. Once I rounded the curve, I could see the hill stretching out even further. I pushed some more. My right shoulder started to hurt. The spring in the frame designed to add suspension, started to vibrate side to side making it harder to balance and push with one hand. When I used two hands, I'd brush up against the side of the seat. When I put my hand on the back, to help balance and push, it put my back into a twist. I even considered how I might add a push bar to the top middle of the frame. I pushed; more cars passed; then...there it was. The top. Now, my time to enjoy a lazy ride.
Coming off the hill at 32 miles per hour, I had to brake going into Willenberg. Slowing to about 14 miles per hour, I started snapping pictures. For being on two wheels, I think they came out fairly good. Then it was on to Willenreuth. I passed the sign so fast I failed to click a picture. However, I was able to snap a photo of the departure sign showing Guesmanns just a few km down the road. But, the road was still going downhill. So, on we flew with the brim of the flop-hat pasted to the crown. I was still going too fast to snap a picture when I saw the city sign of Guesmanns, so I braked. Then came another uphill grind. Once again it was a seemingly endless pushing of the bike. It seemed to weigh fifty lbs., and probably with the day box and its contents it was close. But, there was one consolation. This was the last uphill. The rest was downhill all the way into Pottenstein.
Once on the downhill slope, there was a generous application of the brakes as I approached 30 miles per hour. I slowed when meeting a couple pushing their bikes uphill. When questioned, the man seemed to have the directions memorized. I made out that I would have to crossover somewhere onto a bike trail. Thanking him, I let off the brakes. Around a curve and up ahead was a large yellow sign with a bike and a right turn arrow indicating a real bike trail off to the right. I had to actually stop and get off to make the turn. Then it was downhill where I soon spotted the crossover. Looking both ways, I zipped across the highway and started gearing up as I descended. Soon the bike trail widened to where bikes could easily ride three abreast.
Then I heard the beeping of the Dakota and waved as Dolores and Nolan passed. Approaching the caves, I spotted a sign that indicated the bike trail into Pottenstein. Cutting through the parking lot, I entered the bike trail. The phone rang; Dolores told me they were waiting at the lake. The remainder of the ride was downhill and slow to avoid pedestrians and to snap more pictures for your viewing pleasure. The ride was 19.5 miles. Starting at 1230 and ending at 1630 it took four hours, for an average speed of 5 miles per hour. There was a lot more pushing on this trip than reflected in the write-up and there were times when I would have rather been doing something else. However, the challenging rides are often the most memorable.
Mike and Ralph, you were missed. However, I doubt you missed the hills the way I missed your company. Where is my next ride, you ask? Well, I just today received a free map from the tourism department in a local area. There is a "rails to trails" route that runs 50 k. The circular route is 154k. So, no telling what that one is like. Oh yes, you can preview the route below.
The fifty kilometer route starts in Stornstein and ends in Eslarn near the Czech border. The trail is in former East Germany. The 154 kilometer route starts in Stornstein to Eslarn but continues in a circle for another 104 k back to its start. By the time you read this issue, I hope to have completed the ride.
At the time this article was published, I had completed several more rides. Stay tuned to 'Bent Miles for more exciting reports and pictures. The next write-up will be of the above trip. My ride along the Bockl--Radweg from former East Germany to Neustadt. It was a good ride. Our truck recon took us into CZECH REPUBLIC. So, you will see a few pictures of that area as well. You will enjoy the report in an upcoming issue. Please keep returning for our updates and new rides. I met a rider the other day who made a comment about getting his bikes delivered so they could make rides before it got too cold. I told him there was no such thing in Germany. Too cold is for other folks. I've never winterized my trike to put it away till next biking season. However, I do understand there are days that you just don't want to get out into the elements and being on three wheels allows for rides that may otherwise be considered too dangerous. But, to put my ride away for the whole winter is just inconceivable to me.
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Biking in der Oberpfalz