'Bent Miles, An Online Bike Touring Magazine
I Rode Alone:
I consulted with Gary, himself: He assured me that this story must have an element of truth. And, that it does.
Long before the Winter Break, I put out an all call to the three Wuerzburg Schools. I even made eyeball to eyeball coordination with some of the folks in my school. All total, I had eight solid commitments to do a short, 10 mile, Christmas ride. I know! You say, just 10 miles? But, you have to understand; its cold. Its wet. Its not just the right weather. Then there are all these other pressing things that just can't wait. The cat has to be let out. The dog just has to be walked; and, of course, there are all of these football games that just have to be watched. Anyone who is any kind of biker understands all this.
Then there is the breaking in of the seat after not having ridden it in years. Just which seat these wedgie riders are referring to breaking in, I'm not quite sure. (Theirs or the bikes) You see; I just kind of relax and settle down in my mesh hammock. Then there is what we call the graying of the DoDDS community. I'd say all of these are absolutely good reasons for not riding more than ten miles; wouldn't you? Sure they are.
Well, I got death threats from some folks about not wanting to receive all my messages that I was sending out. Well; maybe, not quite...death treats. But, anyway; I had to learn how to take folks names off of the all call just to preserve good will and order in the work place. So, out goes more messages reminding folks of the time and place and date of departure. One of my colleagues wouldn't be able to make the ride unless I scheduled it after the 28th. So, it was back to the drawing board, just for her.
Then on came the 17th of December 2004. This was the last work--ohhh I can't believe I actually wrote that four letter word--day before Christmas Break. I was still suffering from my chronic issue of Bronchitis. So, I laid up in bed 18--20 December trying to recuperate. Ok; I'm ready. Along comes the ride to Wuerzburg Christmas Market, then the write up. Then comes the ride to Rothenburg Christmas Market and its write-up. Then comes the trip from Aschaffenburg to Frankfurt and its write- up. And lets not forget the 40 miles from Schweinfurt to Schwarzach and its write-up. All of which you have read by now.
It occurred to me that I should make some phone calls; but, I just didn't have all the numbers to the folks who had made their loyal commitments. The morning of December 29, 2004 finally rolled around. Every one had opened all their gifts and the newness had worn off days ago. Christmas had come and went. Then I went; I put Tweety Bird into the Dakota, had a great breakfast of sausage, eggs, homemade biscuits, jam, coffee, and orange juice. You know; the Dolores special.
Then I dressed for the weather. I put on long legged biking pants topped off with a black pair of sweat pants. Now, Dolores had gone out and bought several pairs of black sweat pants so I wouldn't clash my normal gaudy pants with the several new fleece shirts and vest she had bought me. I topped that with the new jacket I had gotten just before break, and I was as warm as toast.
I left the house about an hour before the time I was supposed to meet our new group of committed bikers. I hoped that the small parking lot I had planned to use would hold all of the cars and vans that would be needing to park. Once I arrived on site, I eyed a second parking lot near a church that would definitely serve as overflow parking. Parking the Dakota, I unleashed the beast, Tweety Bird. We, Tweety and I, wheeled just up the street to in front of the only bakery located in Himmelstadt--Heaven Town--and just hung out together waiting on all of our wonderfully committed bikers.
Departure time was 1100 hours. So, from 10:40 till 11:15 would be plenty of time for all the committed souls to arrive, unload all their bikes, make adjustments and get on the trail. Tweety and I hung just across from the bakery next to the sidewalk for a while. Then after a couple of close calls, we moved upon the sidewalk and hung for a while. Then we moved onto the sidewalk catty cornered from the bakery and hung for a while. Then we coasted down and took a picture of the entrance to the former Christmas Market area.
Then we moved back on station at the sidewalk across from the front of the bakery. Then it was back to the catty cornered position to hang till 11:15. Then the true hard, harsh reality struck; no one was coming. We had been stood up. Not by just one or two folks to a movie. Not just a would be girlfriend to the show. But by eight, yes 8 committed hardcore bikers who without thought to the cold, rain, or long hard distance had made solid commitments to RIDE. The clarity was like the writing on the wall. "Lloyd, today, like all others; you ride alone." That hurt. Sob....
With sadden hart and stooped shoulders, this rider and writer knew that he had a higher commitment than them all. He had a commitment to his readers. He must make that lonesome journey. Yes, that ten mile stretch of cold, wet, and hostile bike trail must be traversed. So, it was with misty eyes and heavily laden heart that this rider rode; alone.
I noticed that every rider I met understood only as another real biker can. I could see the suffering on their faces. They and they alone realized that I, too, was a lone rider. Ok! Ok! So, I figured days before that if I didn't call these yard birds no one would show. Ok, so my eyes were not misty, and I didn't really give a rip that I was alone. Like himself said, who-- by the way-- called two days later claiming to have been sick, there has to be only an element of truth in a story. (Mac, do you think, himself, recognized that element when he saw it? The element of truth, that is?)
The ride was fairly uneventful, pleasant and rewarding. Some distance before arriving at the exit to Karlstadt, I encountered a sign indicating the trail was closed and that I should use the road. By now, you know me and Tweety and hills. The exit to the road was a very steep uphill gradient. Besides, there was no reason to leave the trail. I could see that the river had been up over the trail, likely the week before. If I encountered high water, I could always turn around and take the road. (And I wonder where my Grandson gets his free spirit?)
OOPs..just prior to reaching the exit into Karlstadt, I understood why someone had wanted bike traffic rerouted. A tractor was dead across the trail, and remnants of trees were laying all around the small park that marked the exit into Karlstadt. Looking ahead, I saw a man walking his dog; I then saw a lady pushing her baby carriage. Well, if a baby carriage could make it, so could I. Shifting down, I engaged the curb, then another curb, then a mud hole, another curb and I was through.
Shifting up, I sped past the man and dog and under the bridge. Swinging left, I was back to shifting down to engage the up ramp to cross the bridge into Karlstadt. More and more shifting down as I attacked the hill in earnest. Topping the hill, a lady moved to the left for me to pass. I told her that I would be stopping soon and to go ahead. After clicking a few pictures, it was back into the saddle and passing the lady going down hill. Arriving at the arched entrance to the old part of this medieval walled city, I parked the trike for more pictures. A young fellow with mom and sister, could not watch where he was going for looking at Tweety. She has that effect on folks.
Anticipating an entourage of eight soul mates, I had tucked away 35 euros for lunch. Weighing lunch against being able to survive over the holidays, I scrapped the intended guesthouse and soon was seated in a bakery ordering a pastry and hot chocolate. While waiting on my order, a German man engaged me into conversation about my trike. He agreed that Americans don't bike like Europeans, and I said that many Americans get a bike as a kid and from then on everyone thinks of them as toys instead of their originally intended purpose as a mode of transportation.
My pastry and drink came; I dined; alone. Sob....
All in all, I had a great conversation, was assured that he would send me a biking booklet about biking in the Spessarts. He emailed me that night and upon receiving my home address the booklet was in my box the next day. I traveled about 14 miles and enjoyed the trip. I'm good company. I like me a lot.
Below are some pictures I took. Enjoy.