Bike Tracks

bicycle around the world

Bike Tracks random header image


September 1st, 2000 · No Comments

September 1, 2000 Bad Durheim to Koblenz

Day 245

Today is a very special day, today is Elbert Pence’s birthday.  He is rider # 159 and today he turned 80 years old!

This is what a very happy 80 year old Odyssey rider looks like….

Go Elbert, you are so cool!

What does it take to ride at age 80?  Elbert can tell you, it’s not easy.  He gets up everyday and backs out of his tent.  It’s easier to back out, because he is so stiff from arthritis.  It’s the arthritis that forces him to back down stairs and hills when he is walking, it’s easier on the knees.

But everyday, he gets up and gets on his bike.  He loves to ride, sometimes he rides forward in the sag vehicle, sometimes he gets lost.  Actually he gets lost a lot, but then so do I!  In England, Elbert got lost and didn’t get into camp until 1 a.m.  He was tickled about getting lost, because he said every time he gets lost, “young” girls stop and help him.  (I wonder how young, young is?)

He never has a mean or cross word to say, he’s happy all the time.

In the Czech Republic he was trying unsuccessfully to get a certain coin.  I was able to help him by purchasing something and telling the lady we needed 4 coins like this.  Elbert was happy for the help, because he is saving coins for his grandchildren.  I asked him how many grandchildren he has and I nearly fell over.  Elbert has 40 grandkids!  Saving coins for that bunch could break the bank!

Elbert has been an inspiration to us all.  He is a favorite by virtue of his attitude on living and life.  Keep spinning Elbert, you will make it, one stroke at a time.

Back with Team Bahnhof the planning was a little rough going, we didn’t have a bike trail map and it looked like we would have to ride the TK&A route today.  We started out with a much larger group this a.m. because the word was spreading, this was the team to ride with!  But the team didn’t have it’s act together and I was getting bored waiting around.  Finally, I decided to leave,  I wanted to ride alone.

Alone on the road I could go as fast or as slow as I wanted.  I didn’t need a conference about when or where to stop and how much to eat or not to eat.  It was my day and my day alone.

I rode about 60 k then hopped on a train, conveniently the TK&A route took me right by a Bahnhof.  I couldn’t resist.  My initial plan was to ride a bit closer back to the Rhine valley then get off and peddle the rest of the way.  But then, that was before the rain started.  Instead, I just stayed warm and dry and took the train in to Koblenz.

I met an interesting gentleman on the train who was an American, living in Germany for 18 years.  He was taking off for the weekend to skate the Rhine River path.  He was about as happy as I was about the rain.

In our conversation he told me he has not owned a car in 18 years.  He uses public transportation and it costs him approximately $500 a year for an unlimited bus and rail pass.  What a different lifestyle a German can have.  The train system is so well designed people are accustomed to traveling by train and bus saving so much money, not to mention pollution of the environment.  The U.S. is so far away from ever being able to do that.

Once I reached Koblenz I checked on the schedule to Cochan, where Gary and Gloria were staying in a ferienwohnung in the Mosel Valley.  There was a train leaving every 20 minutes or so.  I decided right then and there I would join them that night, rather than waiting until the next day.  I rode into camp, through the puddle soaked streets, packed my panniers with a change of clothes and my computer, then returned to the Bahnhof.

It was a day of empowerment for me.  I purchased a ticket, boarded a train within an hour I was off loading my bike.  My feeling of personal achievement while rolling the bike off the train was very satisfying.  Here I was all alone in Germany.  I didn’t understand the language, nor had I ever been here before, but I felt sure and confident.  If I couldn’t find the Anderson’s, I would go to plan “b”, I just didn’t know what plan “b” was at the moment.

Quickly checking my trusty compass, I knew the direction to head.  There was only one way out of town, so I took it.  Before long I came to the bridge crossing to the south side of the Mosel river.  I crossed over, knowing now I only had to go approximately 15 kilometers before getting to the village of Mesenich.

The road was narrow, but a bike path followed the river, making a perfect surface for me to follow.  There was village after village, each one more attractive than the next.   Harvest of the grapes is only two weeks away and the entire countryside is celebrating by having wein fests.  Each village has a weekend in which they put on a festival.  Buses arrive from all over the country to drop people off.  Traffic stops and if cars need to pass, they need to drive around the village.

For recreation, folks ride bikes through the vineyards.  I discovered a route by accident, when I missed a turn on the bike path.  Instead of following the river road, I continued on riding right through the middle of a grape vineyard.  It was such a special place to be, with the full, juicy looking grapes hanging from the vine.

There are many special times on my trip when I am so happy to be exactly where I am at the moment.  This was one of those times.  I will always remember the moment and the feeling.  It was good to be alive.

Just as my odometer clicked toward 15 kilometers, I reached Mesenich.  By looking at the town directory I was able to determine the direction of the winery where the Anderson’s where staying.  I rode around looking for the sign and hoping to see their car.  The town only has about 350 residents, it is not huge, but just the same I couldn’t see the winery.

I stopped the bike for a minute, when I saw Gary and Gloria driving toward me.  They had just returned from the train station, where they had gone to find me.  I was actually standing in front of the winery.  Talk about destiny, I was meant to be there!

The ferienwohnung where they were staying is also known to us as an apartment or perhaps a town home.  It was a nearly new unit with 2 full size bedrooms, each having a private bath, a fully equipped kitchen, living room with eating area and a patio spanning the full width of the unit.  There was also a TV, unfortunately it too only spoke German. The cost of this unit was only 110 marks a night, less than $55!

Ferienwohnung are preferably rented by the week or more.  Gary and Gloria discovered the owners didn’t want to rent them for a night or two.  They stumbled onto to this unit by accident, after being turned down by a few others.  When the owners asked them how long of a stay, before they asked how many people, they got the hint and said a week or more.  Magically the unit became available.

It is located over a winery, complete with a wine cellar and restaurant.  A family runs the place, doing all the work themselves.  They grow the grapes, tend the vines, harvest, ferment, bottle and sell.  The place is not large enough to product wine to sell on the open market, they sell what they bottle right in their own winery.  It is very exclusive.

The best part of living in the unit is the slower pace of life here.  There isn’t much to do but relax, ride the bike or walk around the country side.  As a cyclist, it would be easy to spend several weeks here, either in one place or touring the river valley, spending a night or two in the various zimmers (rooms for rent) along the way.  I would love to stay and read a book or two.  Just hang out.

The grocery store is so small and compact.  The owner seems to know exactly how much the town will purchase and she carries just that.  Gary walked down to purchase our breakfast of rolls, fruit and yogurt.  The grocery closes at 2 p.m. on Saturday and will not open again until Monday morning.  We had to plan our Sunday breakfast ahead of time.

For dinner we ate in the wine cellar downstairs.  Momma owner cooked a fabulous steak with hot potato salad and a tart sauerkraut.  We shared a bottle of wine and when dinner was done the price was only $8!  The owner’s daughter is Anja, a beautiful women who was Wein Queen and got to go to Las Vegas to represent the Wein.  Anja played the accordion while the other customers in the wine cellar sang drinking songs, swaying back and forth.  It was quite a day of atmosphere. I didn’t even mind the fact that it continued to rain.

Tags: Germany · Northern Europe