The Finish Line is Near

I’m sitting in an Italian restaurant in Pfaffenhausen. I just had a salad and a beer – I may order another. I’ve had an unfortunate incident. My front brakes have stopped working. Actually, the wheel and the disk of the wheel were rubbing, causing friction, so I pulled over – in the rain, mind you – and tried to fix it. I thought the wheel just needed tightening or correcting, but what happened was I seemed to actually make the situation worse. The rubbing has gone away, so I guess that’s a good thing, but now I’m completely without a front brake. So I sit here, in a warm, dry fancy restaurant, charging my phone, Googling bike shops in the area, and trying not to worry too much about my “wet dog” appearance in a restaurant filled with nicely dressed, Sunday diners.

I had another accident yesterday. It’s quite possible this is what has caused my problems today. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson about shooting video on my phone while riding, but I guess I haven’t. I was riding on a scenic downhill stretch, going fairly slow and videotaping the various turns – rolling hills and greenery all around. On the final turn, I lost it. I couldn’t cut the corner and instead, I ran smack dab into the pole of a road sign. It was like slow motion. I saw the pole coming. It was right there. All I had to do was turn left. But I couldn’t. I think I was extra tired and my body just didn’t want to respond. So, BAM, I hit the pole and tumbled to the ground. It was quite unsettling, but I wasn’t hurt, save for a small scrape on my left knee. It did shake me, though, and I felt stupid for allowing it to happen. Again. Moments later, Ruth, a kind woman on an eBike pulled over and saw my scrape. She hadn’t seen the accident but saw that I was hurting a little. She dug some bandages and gauze from her pannier bag and deftly took care of my wound. She was a sweetheart. She even gave me a cookie from her bag before we parted ways.

So, I’m grounded today, sort of. My bike is functional, but it’s pretty disconcerting only having a back brake. I just can’t stop nearly as quickly as I could before, and when the brakes are wet, like they have been much of today, they function even worse. I’m making my way to Schwabmünchen today and to the home of Helmut and Rita, friends of my friend Dan and folks I met when Dan, Dack and I traveled around Germany and Austria together last summer. It’s Sunday, so all the bike shops are closed. It also seems like many of the shops are closed tomorrow, too, including a shop Helmut uses. I texted him and he’ll take a look at it when I arrive, but I figure there’s a very good chance it’s going to need the attention of a professional. I’ve found some shops along my route to Munich tomorrow that are open Mondays, so we’ll see if one of them is willing to look at my bike on short notice. Otherwise I’ll limp into Munich and hopefully get everything resolved there. I’ve largely avoided any major bike issues up until this point, and I suppose it was inevitable that something like this was going to happen at some point. I feel lucky it happened now as opposed to earlier on my trip. I think if this had happened the first week it would have been very frustrating and a bit demoralizing. But at this stage, with just three and half days left, I figure I can crawl to the finish line if I have to. We shall see how this all turns out.

I’m on my second beer and feeling a little tipsy. It’s a good feeling. I’m warm, dry and tipsy. If only I had a bike that worked! Last night I stayed at a very fancy hotel in the village of Autenried. I left Stuttgart yesterday morning not knowing where I’d be staying that night. It was a peaceful, beautiful ride yesterday, and after being in busy, busy Stuttgart, surrounded by mobs of football fans, I was very happy to be back in the saddle of my bike. As the sun was shining, I just wanted to enjoy the ride, figuring I’d determine my destination later in the afternoon. So I found this place on during a pizza and beer stop around 4:00. I think I got a good deal because it was a short notice thing, but damn was this the fanciest, nicest place I’ve stayed at during my trip. It was called the Autenrieder Brauereigasthof and not only was it a hotel and restaurant, but also a large, working brewery. I was in heaven. There was a Bavarian band playing when I arrived. (Obviously personally welcoming me.) And, the kicker, the absolute cherry on top, was they had a sauna. A freaking sauna! And not just a dumpy, crummy little sauna, but a whole spa-like area. Two saunas, a steam room, bucket shower, a warm room, showers, everything. It fucking rocked! I enjoyed every last minute of it!!!

The cycling in this area has been just stellar. Super beautiful. From Heidelberg to Stuttgart, and then yesterday too, has been vineyards and rolling hills. Beautiful, beautiful scenery. But, also, tons of hills. Yesterday’s ride out of Stuttgart, as beautiful as it was, started with a major climb, a climb that lasted about 35 minutes altogether. Up and up and then up some more. It was a challenge. And right out of the chute. With no time to warm up. When I finally reached the summit I had a quick chat with a woman walking her dog. I was exhausted and I needed a break. She informed me that everyone in this area has eBikes. People don’t do what I just did. Okay, then. Next time, an eBike. The climbs are rewarding, and I’ve been doing okay, but it also feels like I’m really pushing my body. Maybe a little too hard, not sure. But the climbs have gotten more difficult by the day. My body, in some ways, has gotten stronger. But I can also feel it kind of giving out, like it really needs some rest.

I knew I would learn a lot on this ride, about myself and about my capabilities as a cyclist. The pace of this ride is pretty nuts, and I’m not sure I’ll ever do another one quite like this again. That’s not to say it hasn’t been an awesome experience. Of course it totally has. It’s just that I think I’ve had too few rest days, and even when I’ve had rest days I’ve been consumed with participating in the Euro 2024 fun in the big cities. And I’ve pushed the miles a little too much I think, especially on days when there’s been significant elevation gain. If I were to do something like this again, I’d definitely have more rest days and I’d try to average around 40 miles a day rather than 50-60 like I’ve done many days. The other thing about pushing 50+ miles per day is that it doesn’t give me the time I’d like to have to be able to sleep in the morning, get to my destination at a decent time in the afternoon and be able to have time to pause throughout the day to enjoy the surroundings. It’s been a journey, and like I said, I knew I’d learn a lot. I’ve loved (nearly) every minute of it and really don’t have any regrets in terms of my plan and how I organized things. Just lessons learned for future rides! Which I hope to take either later this summer or in the spring, or maybe both. We shall see.

Scene change. I’m in Schwabmünchen, at the home of Helmut and Rita. It’s Monday morning and I arrived here yesterday around 5:00. It’s been great to see them again, and they’ve been super gracious and kind. We had a really nice pasta dinner together last night. Right now Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” is playing from the radio in the kitchen as Helmut is preparing coffee and I’m in the living room writing.

Helmut took a look at my bike after I arrived, and it seems things might be worse than I first thought. Both disks, front and back, are bent and both are causing some resistance when I ride. Oh joy. He tried bending the front one a little, and it seemed to help, but he said both need to be looked at by a professional. And that doesn’t include the front brake, which, of course, also needs fixing. I spent some time last night emailing several bike shops along my route today and also in Munich. We’ll see if I’m lucky and one of them is able, not to just look at my bike, but fix it relatively quickly so I can complete the last several days of my ride. I’m lucky I’m where I am. If worse comes to worst, I’ll hunker down in Munich for as long as it takes to repair my bike and then do my last two days to Mittenwald whenever it’s ready. That’s certainly not a huge hardship, as I have a place to stay indefinitely in Munich, and I suppose it really doesn’t matter exactly when I finish. I guess I’ll get those rest days I’ve been craving!

In brief, my time in Stuttgart was pretty cool, but also disappointing as Germany lost their match to Spain and have now been eliminated from the tournament. I spent most of Friday in the city, marching in the afternoon with tens of thousands of other German fans through Stuttgart’s streets then later went to the fan zone in the city center. I made the mistake of waiting a little too long to go to the fan zone and ended up in a packed mob of people, standing for about an hour to get through security. Not fun. I was super happy to finally get in, but by the end of the evening the mood was pretty down as the home team lost.

Ok, as “Walking in Memphis” now plays from Helmut’s radio, I’ll sign off. I don’t know what the day will bring today, but the weather’s good and so if I have to crawl to Munich, I guess I will. Crossing my fingers that one of the bike shops gets back to me and I can get some answers about my poor bike. She and I are feeling about the same at this point. She needs some TLC, and I guess I really do, too. Cheers.

5 thoughts on “The Finish Line is Near

  1. Karla Harriman

    All your path pics look so inviting and the creek shot is beautiful … did you stop to wet your head with the water ?
    All the music selections sound fun and I’ll Google and listen to them myself
    Have you considered getting a new used bike for the last few days if you can’t get it fixed or it cost too much ?
    I’m glad you are hanging with friends and have a place to stay for a few days if needed ..,
    Sending good thoughts the bike will be repaired soon and you will be back in the saddle soon 🚴 cheers 🍻 and enjoy the beers and some relaxation time

  2. Dan Murray

    Im super glad you got to see Helmut and Rita, they are awesome hosts! Hope the bike gets repaired, those issues are frustrating, but your brakes are sort of vital! Stay safe, thinking of you.

  3. Laura Guadalupe Carreon Jimenez

    Espero que esa bici quede lista para terminar esta aventura, has tenido mucha suerte, y se que encontrarás gente buena que te ayude, porque así ha sido en todo tu camino. Yo podría resumir esta aventura como un camino lleno de ángeles, que acuden a tu auxilio, y creo que es bien merecido.
    Es tiempo de voltear atrás y agradecer, momento para hacer el gran recuento final por cada una de esas conexiones que han abonado a ir concluyendo esta historia. La lista ya va infinita.
    La cotidianeidad, repetir el mismo camino y las mismas acciones diarias, nos hacen perdernos de estos momentos de apoyo de héroes anónimos que van pasando por nuestras vidas. Con cuantos te has cruzado desde que comenzaste el viaje, recuerdo los primeros, la pareja que te ayudo a buscar como llegar a tu destino cuando los trenes estaban detenidos, hasta esta persona que te ayudo con el raspón de la rodilla.
    Que bendecida historia, muchas gracias por compartirla, porque nos permite ver lo que a veces dejamos de ver, por vivir la prisa del día a día. Que esa bici quede lista pronto, y si no, la conviertes en monociclo, pero sigues tu camino, porque ya en este momento solo hay una opción y es llegar a la meta.
    Cuídate mucho


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