Trans Europe Trip: Week 5 (Dole, France to Eschenz, Switzerland) 1

Bikes at Rheinfalls

Dole (May 2, 2015)

It was a rough morning in Beaune. The rain stopped for quick minute to allow us to pack up our damp camping gear and roll out. I was certainly not feeling excited at this point and Harry knew it. To my surprise, the camp restaurant was open for breakfast so we had our typical French breakfast of croissant, baguettes, orange juice, and coffee. That helped jump-start our day as we rode North towards the D20 highway. The official route would have taken us 2 days to get to our next town of Dole but we opted to take a different route along the D20 highway.

It was a great ride as we were going in and out of towns that was not part of the EuroVelo 6. Places like Argilly and Charrey-sur-Saone would have never been even in our radar but we were able to enjoy them with great riding conditions. The clouds were still overhead and we got tailwind pushing us to the East until we reach the town of Saint-Jean-de-Losne. We had our lunch there as we caught a glimpse of the La Saone river and ended up meeting up with the EuroVelo 6 route. The weather got warmer which made things a little more pleasant with the exception of bugs that kept on flying into our faces once we followed along the La Blaine river. The environment became lush with grass and almost felt like we were riding through a jungle.

We made it into the town of Dole which sits on top of a hill. I was hoping we didn’t get anywhere near the town for camping and luckily the campsite was located right outside of town near the canal. Both Harry and I was in a good mood when we got in. We laid our tent and gear out to dry out. About 2 hours later, it started to rain again. So once again, we sat in our tents at night while the skies opened up again. Another rainstorm followed us into town and released its fury on us.

Riding into Besancon

Riding into Besancon along the Le Doubs River.

Becanson (May 3, 2015)

If you ever slept in a tent during a rainstorm, the intensity changes as the night wore on. Each change would wake you up and you’ll end up not having a good night’s rest. I decided to take matters into my own hands and used ear plugs to block out the noise and had a great time sleeping while the storm continued to rain on us and blew the tarp off my bike.

Like the morning before, we were left with a damp mess when we finally left the camp site. We picked up a baguette Harry had ordered the night before and enjoyed part of it for breakfast right under a covered platform outside of the camp site. We finally rolled off around 9AM back on the EuroVelo 6.

We were basically drenched from beginning until right before we got into Besancon. It was so bad that my Gore jacket and pants was soaked. Many parts of the EuroVelo 6 route was submerged in water from the La Doub river so we had to take detours with other cars. There was one opportunity that I misjudged and started to ride across what I thought was a shallow puddle. Instead, the water was higher than expected and so when put my foot down to turn the bike around, both my feet (with wool socks) was submerged into the cold water.

Not a pleasant feeling.

I pretty much rode about 15 miles with wet feet. It wasn’t really that bad. I actually got to take the socks off when it got warmer in Besancon. The weather was better in Besancon and the town was so beautiful. I was in awe admiring the buildings and the promenade. We finally found a restaurant in the city center called “La Fontaine” which was opened for a meal. Both Harry and I enjoyed some beer and a ham filled meal. We finally finished up in an hour and I had to do one thing, call our Warm Showers host.

We finally found someone who was willing to host us. Actually, she doesn’t live in Besancon as she relocated elsewhere. Her family was willing to put us up for the night. I tried to get a hold of her family the night before but my cell phone ran out of minutes. On top of that, my email wasn’t working with the Warm Showers address. So it compounded the difficult effort in getting in touch with her folks. I finally borrowed the phone at the restaurant to make the call. Luckily they expected us.

As we were riding towards their home, a woman and gentleman rode up and asked if I was Jimmy. I replied, “Do you mean Johnny?” and she acknowledged me. It was our hosts for the night. They had come down to the river to look for us but we were probably in town when they were scouting for us. So when I made the call to their house, their daughter had probably called them to let them know that we were riding from the restaurant and so they caught up to us.

I was joking to Harry before that it would be funny if they actually met us in town and here it was! The 4 of us rode back up to their home and we settled in and showered there. They offered us a delicious dinner and we entertained them with our stories about America and they did the same about France and their city.

Big thanks to C.D. I know her folks didn’t want to be noted on the Internet so I’m respecting their privacy. Thank you for making our first France Warm Showers experience such a great success!

Baume-les-Dames (May 4, 2015)

Harry and I got up at our usual time right before 7am. None of our hosts were up as we both got ready to leave. We packed up our stuff and reloaded both our bikes which was sitting in their back yard. Right when we were about to take the last items, our hosts got up to send us off. We said our good byes and both Harry and I navigated our way back into the center of Besancon.

It got pretty crazy there as we were scrambling to find a place that does copying or printing. Apparently there were none to be found as it was a Monday and some stores don’t open on Mondays. Harry finally asked this woman about it and she tried to describe the direction to us but at the end, she asked us to follow her to her office and she can make the printing for us. It turns out she was a lawyer! Very unassuming at that as she didn’t dress like our typical lawyers in the States .After all that was done, we grabbed breakfast and started on 2 more tasks. Harry was going to get his documents sent at the post office while I go find a new SIM card as the previous one we had didn’t allow us to recharge it online.

I took this opportunity to explore this town and its many streets lined with boutique stores and for some reason a lot of places to buy eye glasses. I managed to find 3 stores dedicated to this but only 2 phone stores. I finally ended up purchasing an Orange SIM card. The recharging process was simple enough. We can buy the new code from any Tabac shop which can be found in almost all French towns. Good thing we only have 3 more days in France!

Canal surfing

Caught this on our way out of Besancon into Baume-les-Dames

When I went back to the postoffice where I last saw Harry, his bike was still locked up outside but he was nowhere to be found. There were 2 women taking pictures and talking about his bike when I pulled up to it. They revealed to me that they have been helping Harry with communication in the postoffice and Harry had told them about our trip. They were very interested in our trip as one of the woman confessed that she loved visiting Los Angeles. The last time she went, she got to go to Yosemite and a few of my favorite National Parks in Utah and Arizona. They told me more about Besancon and I gave them a card for my blog so they can read about our trip. They even stuck around for a few more minutes making sure Harry was all set. So sweet of them!

With SIM card, Harry needed to call his bank which put a hold on his ATM card. While he used our phone to call back to America, another lady approached us to see if we needed help. She revealed that she had a sister who lives in Santa Maria and enjoys visiting LA as well. I suppose this was the day where people confess their love for LA. She helped us sort through some phone issues as the complimentary minutes ran out while Harry was talking to customer service.. We had to refill the card once again with enough minutes for Harry to complete his call. We finally got that done and Harry finally called back the customer service and got everything straightened out. We then went grocery shopping and went to find lunch by this time. We finished lunch and finally started our journey for the day.

This was around 1PM where we stayed along the Le Doub river once again. The problem now was that there were several sections that was flooded and eventually closed due to the river flooding the route. We ended up taking several detours with the last being a long uphill climb back onto the D30 to D683. On the D683, we faced impressive rollers which had me switching to my granny gear for a rare moment. We were both beat when we got into the intersection leading down to Baume-les-Dames city center. We were both running out of water and exhausted.

We finally found camp which was back at the South side of Le Doub river. It was supposed to be short ride from Besancon to Baume-les-Dames but we ended up with close to 40 miles for the day. We’ve been riding 8 days straight mostly with the rain. This night wasn’t any different as rain fall still came down but not as consistently as before. I suppose that’s a good thing as we also enjoyed a warm but muggy day. I am tired of all my stuff being damp. It doesn’t smell all too good either. I heard the next few days the weather should be better but there’s a whole new set of storms coming in at the end of week. We can’t seem to get this weather bug out. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Basel, Switzerland (May 5, 2015 to May 6, 2015)

This morning was rough as the familiar sound of rain drops pattered on our tents once again. I still remember hearing Harry exclaiming, “You got to be sh*tting me!” right around 6:30. We were reluctant to move forward. We finally got up to go have breakfast at the community room in the campsite. Our quick meeting lead to the plan of going to the train station to see if there was a train that would take us from Baume-les-Dames to Basel, Switzerland. If it didn’t work out, we would have to stay in town for another night as we have been riding for 8 days straight without a break.

We slowly packed up our soggy gear and reluctantly pedaled our way back into town over the bridge we had crossed the day before. It was a slight uphill as we made it to the center of town before we confirmed the directions with the locals once again to the “Gare” (train station). We finally made it to the train station to ask about the possibility of taking the train into Basel. Luckily for us, there was one that would come by at 12:33PM and it was only 10:30 at the time. So we killed sometime at the nearest restaurant with some drinks before we finally went back to the train tracks around 12PM. Unfortunately for us, the train was delayed for another 45 minutes.

When we finally got on, we told the conductor if it was still possible to get to our next transfer point in Mulhouse from Belfort. The conductor didn’t think so but she would check for us. As it turned out, we would make it for the transfer in time. In fact, as soon as our train came into the station in Belfort, the conductor pointed us to the train on the other side which was leaving to Mulhouse. Talk about timing! Even better than that was when we got to Mulhouse and found the track that we should be standing. We noticed the time was 2:46PM and that was when the next train was coming. The train arrived right on time right when Harry exited the elevator. We quickly boarded the train without knowing it was heading to Basel. We had to confirm with some passengers before our nerves settled down.

Bikes everywhere

Bikes everywhere in Basel, Switzerland

We finally arrived in Basel at around 3PM. The words on the signs were different. The language was different as it sound very German. We immediately found an office of tourism at the train station who helped us find a hostel to stay. When all that was done, we found a hostel called, “Basel Backpack”. We were 2 of 8 people in one room. There were 2 other Chinese folks, another American from San Francisco, and 2 from South America. Talk about a mix group of folks.

Harry and I settled in with some laundry before we headed out for dinner. It was challenging as the restaurant was super expensive here. We found a bar / restaurant which had reasonable price. More people in Switzerland spoke English but for those who didn’t, it was more of challenge than France. My 5 years of French helped a tiny bit in France but is failing miserably in Switzerland.

You would think in a town that borders both France and Germany, they would know English!

The next morning, we slept in a bit and woke up closer to 8AM. The mission for the day was to get better rain gear for Harry. So we asked the guy at the front desk for some suggestions. He gave us the name and instructions on how to get to each store using Basel’s great tram system. With the transit map in my hands and a free “mobility ticket” we quickly got to each of our stores. Afterwards, we wanted to check out the city center of Basel and see where all the people hang out. We stopped by a book store and found the remaining EuroVelo 6 maps from Basel to Belgrade. Boy were they expensive! Actually everything is expensive. I laugh each time I see Harry react to the prices at restaurants. Cracks me up!

We thought that we may have been successful before we settled for an Italian lunch. After lunch,, we both hopped back on the tram that dropped us to our hostel a block away.

Very convenient.

We spent the afternoon catching up on other personal errands. I took the time to write and look at our budget. When it was about 5PM, Harry showed up with his laptop. He needed some help from me for something but found out his MacBook Air could not hold a charge and the indicator did not detect a battery at all. I found a local Apple store in Basel and we were off to our next mission to get Harry’s laptop working again.

Route signs

How far is Budapest?

We jumped on the tram to where the Apple store was supposed to be. We immediately were shocked at the location. It was like a Rodeo Drive where the entire street was filled with people and expensive name brand shops. It was no wonder Apple store was on this street.

The laptop was fixed on the spot. We then asked the sales person where we can get flaamkuchon. This was something Harry has been raving about since we made it to France. He needed to have this dish before we left so we were on a hunt. There’s a restaurant that serves it in Basel but the guy at the Apple store recommended that we go to Germany to find it. There’s even a tram that will take us there. With idea of possible visiting another country in 1 day, we hopped on tram #8 that took us north into the German town of Weil am Rhein.

When we got off, it was nothing but Mediterranean food. We went to a German bar and asked anybody who knew where to go. This one guy said there isn’t any in the German side and said our best bet was to go over to the France side 2km aways. It was a daunting ordeal to walk 2km just to have dinner. On our way towards that direction, we noticed that there was a shopping center called the Rhein Center which was your mega mall with all sorts of things for sale. We both went around the food court and other stores to see if any of them sold flaamkuchon. After about 30 minutes of asking and looking, we had to give up and walk over to the French side called Huningue. The walk wasn’t bad at this point. We were determined to find.


Hard-to-find flaamkuchon

After looking at the 2nd restaurant in town, we spotted one that offered “Natural” flaamkuchon. That’s the traditional one they make with cream, bacon, and onion. They had other topping options but I wanted to experience the true Alsace entree the way the French would enjoy. I have to say, it was pretty darn good. A bit salty as the cream and bacon are both salty. I finished by plate while Harry couldn’t stuff the last to that was on his plate. We both stumbled over to the German side to catch a train over at Switzerland.

Our ride back was great as I got to talk to a local who Harry and I was conversing with while we waited for the next tram. She told me tiny tidbits about Basel like their train color scheme (green for in the city trams and yellow are out in the country-side). She confessed that she loved NYC and enjoyed coming to Los Angeles. She was very sweet lady.

We actually went to find some glace (ice cream) near where our train dropped us off for a transfer. We got our ice cream which were terrible tasting and again, very expensive. We went back to take our tram back home and called it a night.

Kussaburg, Germany (May 7 2015)

The next morning, we both woke up early to start gathering all our stuff in the hostile. We finally got done with everything close to 8AM before we had some breakfast at the hostile before our attempt to ride 50 miles today. It’s always a weird proposition to head on out to the unknown with all your possessions strapped to a bike when you can just stay comfortable in bed.

The ride out of Basel was a little nerve racking even with how bike-friendly Basel is. We got lost a few times before we finally found the path that took us East along the Rhein River. We finally cross over to the German border at Grenzach-Wyhlen. The EuroVelo 6 signs were poorly indicated as our travel guide had also informed us. There was one bike arrow that helped guide us from town to town. So we followed that with some confirmation of bike friendly arrows to the next town, we navigated eastward.

The German side of things is much newer and the small towns have more updated buildings as compared to the French. People were not as nice as the French who would say, “Bonjour!” to you when you ride by. The Germans hardly acknowledge you. Not sure why but I always try to throw out a “Halo!” here and there.


Beautiful Laufenburg

The route lead us into small towns as well as larger tourist attracting town like Rheinfelden and Laufenburg. Each of those town centers are layed out with cobble stone bricks with various store fronts to lure the tourists. They would begin with an appealing arc entrance to entice you to come in for a peak. The colors are vibrant and bright so it’s certainly eye-catching. Many of the buildings have painted decoration on them which look like they recently updated them with touch-up paint.

We got to do some mountain biking as our path took us down some single tracks and gravel roads through-out the day. We had to ride with traffic a few times. We had impossibly tough hills to ride up and some fantastic down hills. We had almost everything thrown at us today and at the end, racked up about 50 miles to camp. I think many detours is why we are only 50 miles away in Kussaburg. This marks the first time we were camping in Germany.

At camp we met a couple who was from Holland. The wife was Dutch and the husband was from the UK. He stopped by to check out our bikes and was admiring my S&S couplers on Maria. He had ridden through Romania a few times (not to mention all over the world) so we asked questions about the route. He assured us that it was pretty straight forward to get there. He said once he past Hungary, he had stopped camping as the price was cheap to just go to hotel. Not sure that’s going to be our strategy but I suppose it’s good to know. They were heading into Serbia and maybe ride through Croatia.

Eschenz, Switzerland (April 8, 2015)

We woke up to very sunny conditions. It was a change to finally see sunlight illuminating our tents in the morning. It was another wet morning because of the dew. My rain fly was drenched as usual. We quickly packed up, had breakfast, and continued our ride along the Rhein River for the day. The trail has a pleasure to ride on as they are very well-marked with direction markers for various towns. The interesting thing about today, we were going to cross between Germany and Switzerland several times. On the Swiss side of things, the bike signs was in brown while thee German signs were white and green.

I lost track of how many times we crossed the country borders but that is easy to do as they really don’t make a big deal out of it. Just noticed the word “Zoll” every time that we do. We essentially followed directions that points to the next town or two over. That was how we knew we were on the right track.


The Rheinfalls

Remember I said there was some climbing yesterday? Well, that pales in comparison to the hills that was thrown at us today. The steepest of them all was coming out of the Rheinfalls. The sign read 15% grade at the top but Harry believes we were probably at 18% or more. I suppose the Garmin will tell us later. This day completely annihilate any other day’s elevation gain. Our ride into camp was on a huge hill as well. Nice view but completely wore us out.

Besides the up and down terrain, the bike riding here is fantastic. So many things to see and so many different conditions to ride through like dirt, rocks, gravel, mud, etc. We went up and down on these various conditions. Thankfully nothing flooded.

Swiss Alps

Our first glimpse of the Swiss Alps.

One of the places I was looking forward to seeing on this trip was the Rheinfalls. We got there at 12:30, primed for a lunch break. We spent about an hour there admiring the sheer power of the Rhein River crashing against these rocks. Took several photos and videos at the location. We then grabbed lunch at the local eatery and enjoyed the falls while we enjoyed our lunch of bratwurst and pomme frites (fries). We watched as boats bravely navigate near the falls to drop off people who want to climb up the middle of the fall to pose with the Switzerland flag and probably getting drenched.

Leaving the Rheinfalls took a few twist and turns before we found our way back on the EuroVelo 6. We were both just not feeling it this day. I believe it’s the fact that we didn’t eat enough as we had a ham and cheese sandwich the night before. Our original plan of making it over to Radolfzell wasn’t in our stars. Instead we agreed to find camping near the town of Stein am Rhein which is one of those beautiful German towns I talked about the day before. The only camping we found was across the river at the Switzerland side. So that was why we are in Eschenz. Instead of finding the camp site closer to the water, we ended up at the highest camp site we can find. Yes, we are asking for more punishment.

Stein am Rhein

Stein am Rhein. Typical German look to a town.square.

The site is super clean and super expensive like everything else in Switzerland. This will be the first and last time we will be staying at Switzerland for this trip so we don’t have to worry about burning through our budget as much.

About Johnny Lam

Johnny is an avid cyclist who enjoys bicycle touring as well as anything bicycle related. Johnny has traveled the entire Pacific Coast by bike from Vancouver to the border of California and Mexico. He's also toured through-out locations in Southern California. Johnny is also a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor (LCI) and also completed the Adventure Cycling Association's Leadership Training Course (LTC). He is an active member in Los Angeles bicycling community being involved in organizations like the Los Angeles County Bicycling Coalition (LACBC), C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange), and Bike San Gabriel Valley (Bike SGV) by taking part in ride marshaling, pedestrian & bike counts, and other volunteering opportunities.

One thought on “Trans Europe Trip: Week 5 (Dole, France to Eschenz, Switzerland)

  • buildyourtour

    Glad you’re enjoying your adventures. BTW In French, it’s known as tarte flambée, in Alsatian it’s flammekueche, in German flammkuchen….but maybe you wouldn’t have visited 3 countries for dinner ??!?!?!

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