Bike Touring Journals by Neil Anderson and Sharon Anderson Bicycle touring journals
October 4 Wednesday sunny Bicycle touring Germany
Using the cyclist host family book Kai gave us, I phoned a German family to see if we could stay with them. I was nervous and asked, "Spreche zie Deutsch?"
The answer immediately came back, "Ya."
Today is finally a sunny day. All systems are go. After two weeks of inclement weather, fog, cloud and cold rainy grey days we luckily chose a gorgeous day to start off our bicycle tour in Germany with Sherry.
I rode my bike to the post office to mail my journal home and a small packet of postcards and an exposed roll of film ready for processing. But after finding it was 24 Marks per package I decided to take it back and combine the packages together for the same price.
A couple of days ago I bought a lighting system from a local bike shop. I finally decided it was time to become legal as we have been known to occasionally be out riding after dark. Last night I tried to install the generator and headlight, but after valiantly trying to decipher the German instruction booklet I couldn't get the generator to work.
I arrived at the bike shop at 9:30 AM only to be greeted with a sign on the door stating they wouldn't be open until 2:30 PM. "That's the trouble with supporting the little guy," I lamented. "They're not always there when I need them."
We decided that Sharon and Sherry would head off to Forchheim. I would follow later in the hockey team's van, courteously being chauffeured by Sharon's brother, Murray Bokenfohr. I waved forlornly as the two girls struck out on their loaded touring bikes for our night's destination. Sherry has two rear panniers on her loaded mountain bike - pretty much the only thing she has in them are hair-care products.
Murray and I did a little grocery shopping. Murray picked up a spare tube for Sherry just in case she gets a flat on her mountain bike. I picked up new bike seat covers for myself and Sharon. These German saddle covers are actually sewn out of two pieces of material, rather than the usual Lycra stretch bikini jobbies.
At 2:30 PM, Murray and I arrived back at the bike shop. We were greeted with a new sign saying they would now open at 4:00 PM. Oh boy. Are we truly cycle touring in Germany, or are we back in Spain?
We drove to another bike shop so I could ask how to install the generator light system. The proprietor didn't speak English. After he patiently showed me how to mount the connectors correctly, I ended up buying another halogen light and generator from him. It was the least I could do. And I figured Sharon would be happy to have a light of her own.
At 4:00 PM, we actually found the first bike shop open. They put my bike on a repair stand immediately after determining that I wanted to leave Pegnitz that day. After trying a couple of different bulbs and still no light, the bicycle repair fellow deduced the generator was kaput. He installed a different make generator since they didn't have another like the first one they sold me. It's not as heavy duty, so I hope it lasts the bike trip at least.
By the time we finished at the bike shop it was dark. My bike and bags were loaded into the back of Murray's van. The drive to Forchheim was along a scenic little river. It would have been a great bike ride. I imagined Sharon and Sherry must have had a terrific first day of bicycle touring with the fine weather and gentle terrain.
In Forchheim, Murray and I drove around town looking for the address of our host family. Eventually we needed more gas. Maybe a GPS system would have helped us? We pulled into a gas station and there was a map on the wall. We noted the directions and soon found the street we were looking for.
We drove the length of the street and then back again peering through darkness trying to discern house numbers. The numbers on the houses didn't seem to make sense in any orderly North American type of manner.
We decided to park the van at the end of the street and continue looking on foot. We had to be close. Dumping my bike out of the van's back doors, I mounted my panniers onto their racks and strapped my sleeping bag and pad onto the rear carrier. It's easier to push a loaded bike rather than trying to carry four individual panniers, tent, sleeping bag and pad.
Even when walking we had difficulty trying to locate house numbers in the dark. I wondered what ambulance drivers did when they were trying to locate an address in a hurry.
After wandering down the street and back again, we came across an old lady out for a walk. In my best German accent I asked her for the street and house number we were looking for. She shrugged. I repeated the address. She brightened, and said, "American?"
I said, "Close enough."
She indicated to follow her. She led us to a house on the next street. Hmmm? Pointing toward an unassuming bungalow, with number not even close to what we were looking for, the old woman happily took her leave.
I knocked politely on the door. I was greeted by an American personnel officer who worked at a nearby army base. I explained how I happened to end up on his doorstep. His wife knew the street we were looking for. Of course it was back where we had come from.
We arrived back at the point where we first met the helpful old lady. Fortunately she was nowhere in sight. A car pulled into a driveway next to us. I enquired for the address I was looking for once again. They pointed to a house we were standing in front of. It had only taken us 27 minutes to find the right house.
I knocked on the door. The woman who opened the door looked quite surprised to see two of us standing there. I quickly explained that Murray was just dropping me off. He wasn't planning on staying.
"That is good," she said. "We only have three sleeping spaces." That was if one wanted to be in a bed and after kicking their seven-year-old daughter out of her bedroom sanctuary.
She invited us in. Sharon and Sherry had arrived on their bikes a couple of hours earlier. They told us that they had almost as much fun as we had of finding the place.
We had a tea and bite of cheese and bread. Murray made his exit. Sherry went out to the van to see him off and say good-bye for the next two weeks.
When Sherry returned, I asked them how their bike ride was. They said they found a lovely 18% grade into Bamberg. They had detoured off the main route to see a church. (Leaving town they went screaming down the 18% grade. Partway down they flashed past a sign: No Bicycles.)
Sherry said she had had to push her bike up the hill. Puffing and grunting, I imagined she kept muttering to herself, "I hate my gel ... I love my gel ... I hate my gel...." She was lucky I had loaned her my two small front panniers to use for our cycling tour. Before setting out on the tour, I had told her she had to fit everything inside the two small Cannondale front panniers, including what she happened to be wearing at the moment. Beginners (and even some not so neophyte tourists) often make the mistake of filling up all available space. In the comfort of one's living room, it is easy to dismiss the fact that one has to haul every ounce of that bike gear over hill and dale.
Our host family, Tony and Helene, have two lovely daughters, Rita and Maria. The girls are seven and five years old. They were already buttoned into bed for the night, but when Murray and I arrived, they insisted on getting up and being introduced. Very sweet.
Tony works for FUCHS (and, yes, to my untrained German ear, it sounded very much like that word we have in English that is an acronym for For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge), a construction company. The company has been getting a lot of work from the reunification of Germany. Tony gets up at 5:00 AM and doesn't return home until 8:00 PM.
Friends of Helene came over. They began practicing guitars and flutes. After an hour, Sharon, Sherry, and I retired upstairs to our bedroom. We were quickly lulled to sleep to strains of the House of the Rising Sun.
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