Tuttlingen (May 9, 2015)
Guess what? We got rain… Again! Both of us was pretty tired of it and was not in a good mood as a result. The rain was consistent but not plentiful but it brought about wind that thrashed our tents through the night and kept us awake even though we both had our earplugs in. Thankfully, the rain stopped well before we began breaking down our tent.
We went to the cafe in the campgrounds to use up our last Swiss francs on 2 cups of coffee before we left the country for good and spend our time with Germany. What can you say about Switzerland? It was beautiful but damn was it expensive!
We enjoyed the nice descent down the hill that we climbed up in agony the day before. We got back into Stein am Rhein in a matter of minutes and was enjoying our second breakfast of pastry and coffee. This was absolutely necessary as the day went on.
The goal was to get to Tuttlingen from where we were. According to the guide-book, it said we had about 54KM to go. That’s only about a 32 mile day, right?
The first goal was to get into Radolfzell which was the town located Northwest of the great Lake Constance. We had to endure several climbs and descent before we got to the town. We had a little bit of a push from the winds to get there so that was nice.
At Radolfzell, there was 2 options to get up to Tuttlingen: the official EuroVelo 6 route had a bunch of hills and the alternative route had fewer. So naturally we picked the alternative route thinking that it would be a better experience.
We ended up battling head winds for a good 5 miles or so and then find navigating the busy streets of Singen before we finally found a calm bike path to follow. By this time, we both didn’t know what to follow so when we looked at the signs, the closest town to where we were going was called ?ALP? We actually overshot the path we were suppose to be on and was following another route up. We finally made a few detours to find ourselves back on the EuroVelo 6 at ?Edingten?.
We thought our lives would be better after that since the EuroVelo 6 has been sensible with their riding conditions.
That was when the climbing actually began. From the moment we turned left onto the path, all the way before we got into Tuttlingen was an uphill battle where we gained close to 2500 feet of climbing in a few hours. Needless to say, we were both miserable but was distracted by the beautiful forest that we got to ride in. At the end of it all, we had really beautiful views over and over but the climbing became utterly unbearable. We thought we were at a clear when we saw a giant tower at the top of a hill. We did get a break where we enjoyed a few moments of downhill speed but the last hill of the day was practically in a “V” shape where it sent you flying into it and then quickly took that all away and made you climb up a 12% grade. Not fun at all. In the end, we crested this last hill and was sent down an exhilarating 15% grade hill going about 40+ MPH (I know because I checked my Garmin).
We were coasted down to Tuttlingen and asked a few people where the campsite was. We crossed over our first glance of the Donau river over a covered bridge to a park. We followed the camping sign to the local camping location only to find that it was closed for the season. There was an open grass area for us to camp so we just set up camp. This would be another wild camping opportunity where we didn’t pay for camping and was limited in facilities. We did have a bathroom to use with no showers. Not the best situation for camping after such a tough day, but we’ll take it.
Beuron (May 10, 2015)
At the primitive camping spot at Tuttlingen, another bicycle tourist rolled in and camped with us for the night. His name was Yessen and was planning to ride around the world for a whole year. He was coming from Brussels and was making his way to the Black Sea like we are and then eventually going into Turkey, Iran, and many of the Middle Eastern countries. He was well dressed with a nice typical European upright bike. Attached were 4 Ortlieb panniers and on the back of the rack, he had a huge duffel bag with an orange rain cover.
He said he was just hauling only 33 kilograms but I find it hard to believe as he was pulling out heavy objects and clothes that didn’t look light-weight at all. He must have had 2 pairs of jeans and a heavy jacket. On top of that, he was complaining about how his left knee was hurting and his sore butt. We found out that this would be his first bike touring trip. We ended up seeing him on the road later in the morning after our breakfast and when we got to our campground for the day.
Today marks the first day that we follow the Donau aka Danube. The river isn’t so grand or wide for that matter in this side of the country but I’m thinking that we will see more as we follow it across the rest of Europe. For now, our route stays right next to it on bike paths.
We found ourselves up and down hills again today as we navigated 22 miles to Beuron. The difference was that we entered probably the most beautiful part of the trip so far through Fridingen an der Donau. We are given the opportunity to ride alongside stunning cliffs lined with a dense forest. The mixed terrain of gravel and paved is incredible. We even get to ride through lush meadows while we keep the river within our sight. Simply put, this is the best riding I’ve ever done in my life in terms of views and variety of riding conditions.
We decided to take a short day to first enjoy our beautiful environment and to recover from the treacherous ride the day before. The campsite we picked was not far from the route and our lunch stop. So we decided to call it a day and have our things dry out for a change. We even did some laundry and spoke to a few of the folks who are staying here. Even though the miles was not high, we needed the rest to make things more comfortable for the rest of the trip.
On a side note, I met a gentleman named Walter there. He came in a Citreon RV with his German shepherd (I am assuming) and was very jovial and willing to talk to me as I was composing this entry. We ended up chatting about my trip and practicing French. We exchanged contact information and hope to keep in touch for the future. Walter reminded me that if he did not approach me, we would have never had this exchange. I suppose that is true and is a great reminder to put myself out there rather than just keep to myself like I always do. Thanks Walter!
Riedlingen (May 11, 2015)
The morning was another dew-filled one. Our rainfly was wet on both the inside and outside. There were drops of water coming down on me while I was trying to pack up. We quickly packed up and left to find breakfast across the railroad at a small bakery cafe place. The morning was actually colder than it has been in a while so we were layered up for the ride.
The ride out was once again fabulous. We had a few tough hills to climb but nothing too steep. We had mixed gravel and paved road with some of the roads muddied by the recent storms. There was one section of the road that was flooded with water. We slowly rolled through without any issues. All in all a great day of riding.
Our first mission was to get to the town of Sigmaringen where there was supposedly a beautiful castle for us to check out. It was about 20KM away. We got there about 10:30 to enjoy a bit of refreshment and an apple struddel. Man, this was such a rich and delicious treat. It is basically crepe wrapped around apples, raisins, and pastry. It is then drenched in vanilla syrup with a side of whip cream. Yum!
After our snack, we proceeded to the castle which was located on a steep walk up a hill. Our guide-book noted some armory that was hanging outside for you to see. We saw those but was not really impressed. It just wasn’t that great to warrant anytime inside. We quickly bolted out of there and back on the EuroVelo 6 towards our lunch stop on Mengen.
More incredible gravel riding lead the way into the town of Mengen where we enjoyed our large lunch outside as we watched streams of German cars parade up and down the road as well as people on bikes. Mengen is a sleepy little town with several different store fronts. We made it to our first supermarket in Germany, Lidl. We picked up some provisions for future meals and snacks and continued on our way into our home for the night in Riedlingen.
Riedlingen actually has 2 camping spots. The first one was just south outside of town. The road that lead to it wasn’t very appealing as we were hoping to have a more modern camping feel to it. Instead, it all looked rather primitive. I needed to find a place for Wi-Fi access as I haven’t gotten in touch with my family for 3 days. More on that later.
We decided to go to the other camping platz and found ourselves in this closed off grass field filled with all sorts of bugs. There was a bathroom and a shower but nothing else. They even have a vending machine with a few beers for 1.20 Euros. We didn’t take advantage of it. The camping price was cheap at 5 Euros each. I left Harry to go find free Wi-Fi. I rode my bike all over the area of Riedlingen and even found myself a McDonald’s. I thought I was in good shape only to discover that McDonald’s does not offer free Wi-Fi! I’m not sure if that is the case for all McDonald’s in all of Germany. I’ll have to check and confirm that later.
I couldn’t even find a library that may have free Wi-Fi. I was completely out of luck when I returned back to the campsite after logging another 7 miles riding around. Dejected I reluctantly showered up and we ate another baguette sandwich. Probably not the best meal as it was really fatty with salami and swiss cheese.
Things don’t always work out for you all the time. I was not happy at first but I decided I can’t worry about something I couldn’t control. I hope my family is not freaking out because I haven’t been online. I even missed calling my mom for Mother’s Day on Sunday. I had all the right intention but not the right connection. I sure hope that other German campsites are better than the last 3 that we’ve been to. So far France is winning on accommodations on this trip.
Ulm (May 12, 2015)
The morning was another wet one where our rainfly was soaked. We’re thinking that this will be the way of life for a while until the mornings are warmer and lest humid. We quickly packed up and had our breakfast of oatmeal.
We continued up the path for the day until we reached the town of Ehingen. We were primarily on wide open farm roads which snaked up, down, left, right along the Donau River and the train tracks that we’ve been following. There was one hill that was posted at 20% incline. I actually got it down to my granny gear and churned it all the way up, Luckily it was a short ascent with biker’s oasis at the top. The great part about riding in Germany, there are spots like this in many different parts of the route where they provide benches and tables for you to rest. This is always accompanied by a cross with Jesus on it or a shrine. I’m thinking it serves both bikers and hikers who are also walking through Europe.
One of my main concerns was to get Internet access to let my family know that I’m alive. We actually got to do that in the town before Ehingen at a coffee shop. Thank goodness because it has been 3 days of not being in touch. I suppose this will be a regular problem as we continue on our journey past Budapest. I was glad to reach out to the family and to share some photos.
In Ehingen, the town square was bustling with people. Unlike France, many of these German towns actually have people walking around and eating outside. We sat down to some sausage and pomme frites for Harry and I had a Schnitzel Weiner Art which is like a fried chicken steak with pomme frites as well. Satisfied with lunch we continued on the EuroVelo 6. The route had several opportunities for us to take alternative routes which reduced the mileage and climbing. The official EuroVelo 6 maps are getting easier for me to read and we’ve been going with the information they provide to plan our day-to-day ride. Having the complete set is a comforting thought as we don’t have to go searching for maps all the time. We should be good until we get to Belgrade.
We were planning to check out 2 camping spots in the town of ?Opp? but one site did not exist the other one was even more primitive than the night before. Harry felt great for the ride so we both decided to ride another 20KM to Ulm.
The ride into Ulm was beautiful. Flat with the benefits of a constant tailwind. We made it into Ulm about 4:30PM. The town was hustling and bustling around the Donau with cyclists flowing in and out of the bike paths. There was bike paths that led up and over to various different directions. We essentially followed the paths that directed us towards the huge cathedral at the center of the town.
This was called the Munster Church, a Lutheran church that was once a Roman Catholic church back in the days. It was never considered a cathedral as a cardinal never presided over it. Info was told to me by Harry who was reading Wikipedia. Nevertheless, the building is a masterpiece. It is the tallest religious house in the world at about 162 meters high. Just being in its presence was awe-inspiring. The details that it took to construct every inch of that building was incredible. It only took 300 years to do it.
We found a hotel on the north side of the church. The hotel also owned and operated the restaurant downstairs. The owner and her son was very nice. We had to explain to them we needed a double bed room so they had to find one. This happens a lot. I’m not sure if it’s the old bait and switch but it happened in France as well where they think we’re staying in 1 bed. Our bikes were stored away in a bike parking garage (essentially a room that is locked overnight next to the hotel).
We decided to settle in for a bit before walking over to the church to admire it again. We continued walking down the town promenade where troves of people were out and about enjoying the warm weather. They were shopping and eating outside. We parked ourselves in one of these restaurants where we both ordered a half pint of beer and had our dinner of an American hamburger (Harry) and grilled chicken with veggies (me). We topped the night off with a couple of gelatos near our hotel.
Reutlingen (May 13, 2015)
If you’re familiar with German cities you’ll know that the city of Reutlingen is going the opposite direction of Ulm and also the opposite direction of where we’ve been riding. That’s because I took a train trip to visit my family there. This would be the first time that I get to visit my uncle and his family in Germany. They’ve come over to the States a few times and I last saw my uncle about 2 years ago when he came for my dad’s funeral. Harry stayed in Ulm why I went on my day trip.
The earliest train left a few minutes past 9AM. So I made sure to get there by 8:30 to purchase my tickets. It cost 25 Euros for an all-day train pass. The train ride was 1 hour to Phlochingen and then a 40 minute wait until the next train to Reutlingen. I got there by 11:30.
My uncle picked me up from the train station and we went back to his house for me to give my regards to the family. They pretty much kept my belly full the entire time like what typical Asian families would do. My aunt is a wonderful cook and she cooked up 2 incredible meals for lunch and dinner. Both of the Vietnamese variety. She made her own Pho (beef noodle soup) for lunch and spring rolls for dinner. While we waited for dinner, she made sesame balls as a snack. These are my favorite Chinese desserts at dim sum places. They actually wrapped up 3 for me to take on my trip.
I finally got to see my cousin who I haven’t seen for over 16 years, his wife, and most importantly his first-born son who is a happy and funny kid. He kept on trying to speak to me in Vietnamese or German but I don’t know either language so it was hard to communicate. In fact, I couldn’t really speak to my aunt and my cousin’s wife as they only knew the same 2 languages. My uncle and cousin had to do much of the translation.
I told them that I was going to take the 8:30PM train back to Ulm. They wanted to drive me back but I rather just take the train back as I enjoyed the train trips. My cousin, uncle, aunt, and cousin’s son came for the ride to the train station. We got there with about 5 minutes to spare before the train arrived. I hugged everyone goodbye and sadly bid adieu to my only blood relatives in Europe.
I got back at the hotel at 11:30 and immediately went to bed. It’s funny how it takes a long bike trip like this to be closer to family. I’ve always wanted to come to visit in the past but never really made a choice to do so. I’m glad I got to see them even if it is just for a few hours.
Dillingen (May 14, 2015)
The next morning, we woke up and packed up all our bags in the room. We went downstairs to grab a quick breakfast and retrieved our bike from the hotel’s bike garage. Everything felt familiar once again as we loaded our 4 bags and gear onto our heavy bikes.
Even the familiar routine of dressing for the rain was back. Luckily the rain wasn’t so bad today but we kept our rain gear close to us just in case we needed it.
The ride out of Ulm was flat and we didn’t face any hills of any until we reached our final town in Dillingen. Not bad if you considered the prior days.
Today is also German’s Fathers Day so many people were out riding and more importantly celebrating by attending bierfest parties. We past by several until we settled for one in the town of Offingen. We had 1/2 a chicken each at 3 Euros for one. This included bread. I had a half liter beer while Harry opted for a Coke. It all came out to be a little over 10 Euros. The best deal of the day. There was so many people enjoying their time eating and drinking.
As we left, the “oompa” bad was getting ready to play. Harry said I wasn’t missing much.
The rest of the ride was fantastic as the route took us in and out of towns. We primarily rode on gravel roads today. I thoroughly enjoyed it as we dodge mud puddles and loose rocks.
When we finally found our campsite, it turns out they were having their own biergarten and so we were told to set up tent right in front of the many customers. So we did and was entertainment for them for a few minutes. In fact, I am writing this post under the chatting of a few customers who are staying until closing time of 10PM.
We both grabbed another 1/2 liter of beer and showered up. I took a quick nap before dinner time came up. We simply just walked over to a table and ordered our dinner and yet more beer for me. That’s 1 and 1/2 liter of beer! That’s the most I’ve ever drank in a day. We topped off our dinner with a deliciously famous Apple strudel.
Camping at a biergarten wasn’t something I was prepared for but it is a very interesting experience. I have a feeling this won’t be our last biergarten camping opportunity on this trip.
Donauworth (May 15, 2015)
Surprise, surprised, it rained this morning. Even worse, I had a case of some food poisoning from the day before that woke me up at 3 in the morning. As you may guess, I didn’t get a good night’s sleep and it showed in today’s riding. We’ll get back to that in a little bit.
The rain again was persistent and endless. We waited when it finally stopped at around 8AM and started our packing up process. The 2 family that was camping near us watched us with curiosity as we pulled our wet tents down and stuffed them away.
We left camp to find the gas station for a warm cup of joe for Harry and hot chocolate for me. We finally got on the road by 9:30 and was treated to a muddy ride along gravel roads next to the Donau. The condition was wet and foggy but we churned out those miles only to stop a few times for water and regrouping.
We finally made it to Donauworth at noon to for an Italian lunch. The guy who helped us (possibly the owner) told us he was born in Brooklyn and had to come back to Germany with his wife to run the family restaurant. I was reluctantly ate my meal even though I didn’t feel like it. I pretty much felt sluggish and tired the entire time as Harry took the lead into town. I had to take more breaks and was in dire need of a nap. So I told Harry we should probably find camping locally in town.
So after lunch we went searching for camp at a Canoe Club next to a lake Northwest of the town. We finally got here at 2PM and was the only ones here as the posting on the wall said check-in time was between 6:30PM to 8:30PM (odd times if you ask me). We quickly unloaded our bikes and pulled our wet tent out to lay out to dry with the little sun that we had.
I climbed into my tent after it was dried and took an hour nap. When I woke up, the area was a complete circus. Harry and I thought we were going to have the whole place to ourselves but instead, we had visitors coming in to drink at the bar upstairs in the Canoe Club, the family with the 2 boys from the night before also showed up to camp here, 3 canoes docked right next to our tent, and another family with an RV and 3 tents was setting up across the way. Harry and I looked at each other and just laughed our heads off. There goes that peace and quiet evening!