Highs and (only a few) Lows

I’d say over the past week I’ve felt more exhausted off the bike than on it. It’s been a good exhausted, but an exhausted just the same. There’s been little down time, and as is evident in this blog, little writing time. There’s been a lot of time spent organizing the remaining days of my trip, securing accommodations, watching football and, best of all, hanging out with a lot of cool people. There was Audi at her Warm Showers home in Geisenheim along the Rhine Sunday Night. There were Juliana and Simon, friends from my time at MSF as we enjoyed time together Monday evening hanging out and watching a little soccer at the lively Main River Frankfurt fan zone. There was Katja, who generously offered up her guest room to me in Frankfurt on very short notice. Our breakfast conversation Tuesday morning was great. There was “The Gang” at the Wirtshaus zum Weissen Lamm pub in Hirschberg Tuesday night. This was Geary and his friends, who were so jovial, so welcoming and so genuinely curious about my ride. They made me feel “at-home” in this, their local watering hole. Geary later texted me and wrote, “Once in about 10 years someone brings international flair in our good old, rotten Lamm-pub! Was great to meet you!” So very cool. Then finally, yesterday, here in Lauffen, a village north of Stuttgart along the Neckar River, there were Katie and Aaron for afternoon coffee and cake. Katie, who lives in Stuttgart, works for To Write Love on Her Arms, the organization for which I’m raising money on this ride, and she and Aaron were so kind as to take the train up and meet me. It’s been great. Conversations. Laughs. Connections.

But…I’m tired. Again, it’s a good tired, but I’m tired. And, ironically, it’s not from all the pedaling, but rather from everything else. I gave up a rest day in Frankfurt that I had planned for Tuesday and instead got back on my bike. This was due to the fact that upon further examination of my upcoming route I noticed I had a 120 kilometer day coming up with over 1,000 meters of elevation gain. Hell no. I’d done a ride like that earlier in my trip and it nearly broke me. I didn’t want to do another. So, instead of rest – which I definitely could use – I opted for the better, smarter plan of riding for three days between Frankfurt and Stuttgart rather than for two. More days on the bike, yes, but manageable days and days in which I can actually have some down time prior to or after my daily ride. And… I have a rest day coming up tomorrow. Yippee! I’ll be in a village outside of Stuttgart and I can rest! We’ll see how much actual “rest” I really get. Germany is playing Spain, in Stuttgart tomorrow night, so, I’m sure I will not be able to contain myself from getting fully immersed in the festivities. Oh well. It will at least be a rest day from the bike.

When I don’t write every day or two, it’s always difficult catching up. There’s too much to write about, too many events that have happened. So, I’ll try my best here to touch on the highlights – or lowlights as they were.

Even though I’ve already written a bit about my ride from Saturday, I’ll add a few details here considering it was one of my favorites – on, and off, my bike. It was an absolutely beautiful day along the Rhine, sun shining and stunning views from a really great path by the river. I left Cologne that morning, spent the night that night in Andernach, and just loved every minute in-between. This part of the Rhine is beautiful and lively. People strolling and riding on the paths, tons of boat traffic in the form of barges, huge cargo ships and cruise liners (mostly Viking), and small towns sprinkled throughout. I enjoyed a morning cappuccino at the “Joy Cafe” and a couple of different stops for beers at chill places by the river, my favorite being one in which I could kick back in the sun on a big lounge chair to enjoy not one, but two weissbiers. It was just too good of a moment not to linger. Then, in a moment right out of Chevy Chase’s “European Vacation” I arrived in Andernach to the music of a local band playing Frankie Yankovic’s “Too Fat Polka” in one of Andernach’s narrow, winding streets. You can’t make this stuff up. Finally, that night, there was football. Germany was playing Denmark, in the first match of the knockout round. An important match because, lose and you go home. I started the night at a very cool biergarten along the river, packed with local fans, then I ended the night – due to rain – at the bar of my hotel. I had met Matthias, the owner of the bar, earlier in the evening, as he offers guests a “welcome” drink after their arrival. A super cool guy and a super cool place. The biergarten made for a stunning location for the game, but Matthias’ bar was an even better place to watch, as it was filled with locals and friends of Mattias and his wife. The kölschs flowed easily and the mood was high as Germany defeated the hated Danes, 2-0.

Too Fat Polka

Now, of course, the highs wouldn’t be as high if it weren’t for the lows. The sun wouldn’t be such a welcome sight if it weren’t for the rain. The downhills wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying if it weren’t for the climbs. The solitary, quiet moments wouldn’t feel so peaceful if it weren’t for all the conversation. So, yes, of course I’ve had my share of low moments along the way. The rain and cold at the beginning of my trip. The periods of loneliness or homesickness that have popped up from time to time. The long days where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it, and the climbs that seemed just too steep.

Tuesday was one of those low days. Not just a few low moments, but really just a crappy, downer of a day. This was due to the very dark, overcast skies, the constant blustery winds, but mostly it was due to the bike route. It sucked. I left Frankfurt in the morning, and felt as though I never really left the city all day. I went through neighboring Darmstadt an hour later, then after that it was an endless string of small cities, heavy traffic, stop lights, busy intersections, industrial scenery, and a general lack of any kind of flow to my cycling. It was easily the worst route of my trip so far, and hopefully, knock on wood, the worst of the entire trip. I hadn’t really done my due diligence to inspect the route the day before. Often I’ll leave it up to Komoot, my navigation app to do the planning for me. Experience has taught me that Komoot usually does an excellent job of putting me on the best, most scenic, traffic-free route. But not this time. My route, I think, was chosen because it was basically the shortest distance between two points and also the flattest route Komoot could offer me. But flat and short came with cities and traffic. Bleh. Give me a longer route in nature with hills and twists and turns any day of the week!

In addition to all that, I have Booking.com and Vladimir Putin to thank for my further disappointment and sour mood on this day. Booking.com because I had to eat the cost of a non-refundable, non-changeable hotel reservation I’d made earlier for Heidelberg (remember, I changed my itinerary on these days), and Putin because of his autocratic agenda and his war in Ukraine. I’d reserved a hotel for this night that advertised having a sauna. Yes, a sauna! This would be my first of the trip! At the end of a crappy day, at least I’d have a sauna! But, upon my arrival, I was given the bad news. Germany’s involvement in the war and their attempt to break free from a dependence on Russian natural gas has caused energy prices here to soar. The sauna was closed. It was too expensive for the hotel to keep it operational. Fuuuuuuuuuckkkkkkkkk! Damn you Vladimir Putin!

Now, there was a silver lining to this bummer of a day. That was my time with Geary and his friends at the pub of Gert in Hirschberg that night. I had an amazing schnitzel dinner with local red wine while watching The Netherlands beat Romania on the bar’s big screen, and then after dinner Geary introduced himself and the conversation flowed. Geary was super interested in my ride and kept shouting across the pub at various locals telling them about it. I felt a little embarrassed, but also quite honored that Geary thought what I was doing was so cool. He showed off my business card around the pub, called a biking friend on the phone to invite him to come in, and shared his story with me of being adopted but later in life learning that he was the product of a relationship between a U.S. serviceman and a local German woman. I was given a small glass of local pear schnapps after dinner and two of Geary’s friends bought me a glass of aquavit after that. It was a rousing night. Sure, I didn’t have my sauna, and sure, I had to pay the cost of a hotel room in Heidelberg I wouldn’t be using, and sure, my day up ‘till that point was the worst so far of my trip, but the Wirtshaus zum Weissen Lamm at its local crew did its absolute best to make up for all of that! (By the way, Geary donated to my Go Fund Me campaign, making up for the cost of half of my hotel room. Dang. Life.)

I’ll finish with a brief retelling of yesterday’s ride. On the heels of my gloomy, sour mood Tuesday ride out of Frankfurt, yesterday was one of my best of the trip. Maybe that’s because I was so happy to be back in nature after being immersed in urbanity the day before, but more likely it was simply because the scenery was some of the most spectacular I’ve seen on my ride. This is wine country. Rolling hills, vineyards everywhere, farm fields in the Neckar River valley. Just gorgeous. I did say “hilly” and hilly it was. There were two occasions where the climb was so steep I had to get off and push my bike. But… that made for ultra-satisfying climbs, crazy beautiful views across the valley, and the best downhills I’ve had so far. I don’t think a day has gone by yet (even Tuesday) where I haven’t let out a few “whoop whoops” at the top of my lungs on a particularly gleeful stretch of trail, but yesterday was the whoop whoop day record. I couldn’t get enough of letting out my shouts of joy many, many times during my ride.

So, I just finished my big German breakfast at the Hotel Elefanten in Lauffen, talking with Mike who’s the 4th generation owner of this cool place, and shortly I’ll be off to Schorndorf, a small village close to Stuttgart. I have more climbing to do today, but only a little over 50 km, so a lighter day for sure. There’s a bit of rain in the forecast, but also sunshine predicted. My stomach’s full of coffee, bread, cheese and meat, and I’m ready to go. Another great day of riding in Deutschland awaits. Let’s do this thing!

3 thoughts on “Highs and (only a few) Lows

  1. Karla Harriman

    Awesome Chris … I love all the connections and conversations you are making along your ride … How fun !!! Nice to see people smiling and enjoying time together in your pics …
    I totally get your desire for alone time in the countryside after being in the city and busy with people … you are enjoying the best of both worlds … keep pedaling your doing great and I look forward to your upcoming adventures 🥰

  2. Laura Guadalupe Carreon Jiménez

    Las altas colinas creo son como las malas pasadas que te va poniendo la vida enfrente, que al final, son las historias que luego nos hacen conectar con nuevas personas, no te ha sucedido? Esas anécdotas, que parecen un episodio de “Hell’s Kitchen” donde las cosas van de mal en peor, son las que después te hacen reír con personas que vivieron experiencias parecidas y te das cuenta que no era nada personal entre la vida y tú, sino simplemente así es.
    Esta historia me gusta porque es un relato de la felicidad que te otorga alcanzar tus metas, esas colinas que te dejan casi sin respiro, al llegar al punto más alto, y admirar como se ve el paisaje desde ahí, te hace repetirte valió la pena, pero lo mejor es, el camino cuesta abajo, el viento que pega en la cara, el sentir que con una pedaleada basta para seguir avanzando, cuando antes , hasta de la bici te bajaste por un momento, es la mejor de las satisfacciones.
    Ahora ya la meta se ve más cercana, es momento de bajar la guardia un poco, y disfrutar cada bocanada de aire, ya el impulso te hará llegar al objetivo, solo asegúrate de no dejar pasar ningún momento de conectar con las grandes personalidades que van apareciendo en tu camino. Si se puede, y pronto será si se pudo.
    p.d. mejor que un sauna son las aguas de las playas de México.

  3. Helen sanborn

    It looks like you’re bucked list is a little hard but look at all the friends you are making on the way. You should be very proud of what you are doing just stay strong and safe. Happy 4 of July


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