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08/30 Friestett, Germany

Today was a WONDERFUL day!

We all decided to take a casual ride around the countryside. J&L rode up Hwy 36 to the Odyssey campground and back.

We had a real adventure ride. We rode over to the Rhine River, then up and down the levee road on this (the German) side. Then we crossed a bridge over the river into France and rode along the river on the that side.

We rode on bike lanes, bike paths and quiet country roads. We rode through a few tiny French towns. They seemed absolutely deserted. I guess it's because it was midday on a work day.

Talking about work, we passed a HUGE Dow chemical and agriculture products plant. I guess that's why they chose this region for their international conference.

We stopped in a restaurant/cafe/brassiere for lunch. I guess I talk a lot about food that we eat, so I won't say anything about the absolutely delicious food we had. The waitress was very friendly, (spoke NO English --Lisa talked to her in French) and her 4 year old son (hanging out waiting for her to finish at 2 o'clock) was cute.

After lunch we rode up another quiet road to another French town. We stopped at a bike shop, bought a replacement water bottle, got some directions, and rode on.

We took a very small ferry across the Rhine River back into Germany. Then we set out on another exploring adventure getting back to our hotel.

The narrow, back-country roads were deserted of cars and people. Very flat though. Nice riding. They went along waterway offshoots of the Rhine, through thick woods -- generally in the direction we wanted to go.

We found a small, remote, community beach, but the road there was a dead end. So, we followed a gravel road along the levee on the Rhine -- then we followed another gravel and dirt road through the woods -- then another dirt road through the woods -- then another -- and another. Finally we came to a small paved road that went behind a factory.

Then, with a little more educated naviguessing, we came out on the road that led to the back of our hotel!

Wow!! Was Lisa impressed! (She thought we were totally and irreparably lost.)

L&J went to dinner at the camp. We opted for dinner at the hotel. Again, it was superb! -- but the service was V E R Y S L O W ! !

Love to all,
David and Lisa

08/31 Friestett, Germany

YIKES! It's the last day of August already -- and we're leaving for Australia in just 10 days!

EARLY this morning, after breakfast and dropping L&J off at camp, we went back to our hotel room for a short nap. Then we went out for an hour's run around the small town of Friestett, Germany -- and it IS a SMALL TOWN. In an hour we both crisscrossed AND ran around it.

Then we showered, packed up and headed out to meet L&J because Joan asked to be picked up about 2:30. No problem.

The route today was WONDERFUL! After following the Rhine for awhile, we crossed into the wine country of Germany. Most of the day was in the German wine country.

We passed acres and acres of vineyards, went through numerous little villages that were the homes of small wineries, then went through more vineyards and more small villages. The terrain was rolling. Just a few steep hills.

Lisa and I had lunch with Bill (from Florida) at a cafe in one of the villages. He told us how, 30 years ago when he was here with the Army, he discovered "volkswalks." These are group walks of varying lengths, sponsored by communities, that visit different places in an area. They always end in a town square with local food and music from an "ompah" band. He's trying to find one. We asked him to let us know if he does.

After lunch we picked up Joan, then we all drove into Bad Durkheim ("Bad" means "bath" -- which means there are mineral bathes in the area), our camping destination for the night. We found a "Gasthaus" or guesthouse nearby -- in the middle if a vineyard. Our room opened to a balcony that looked out over a vast expanse of vineyards. (Lisa and I sat there for an hour, sipping wine and reading. How absolutely delightful!)

At 6, we headed back to camp to meet Larry. He is riding extra today so he can hit 1000 km for the month.

We had dinner in the campground restaurant. What a feast they had prepared for us! Again, I don't want to linger on food -- but it included a delicious German Potato Salad and incredibly savory roast pork that had been cooking on a spit for who knows how long. Then the "piece de resistance" was something called "cream of white wine" a kind of custard or pudding made with white wine. It's hard to describe how good everything was.

After dinner, Al Young (the music teacher who recently fell and hurt her neck) took our bike. We just found out that she cleans bikes as a way of making extra money so we're having her clean ours. (She just cleaned Joan's and it came back with the gears and chain looking like new.) We'll pick it up tomorrow.

We also found out from Bill (from Florida) that he found out about a volkswalk that will be held Friday or Saturday in a town near where we will be. We would like to participate so he will give us the details at breakfast.

We went back to our gasthaus and sat on the balcony overlooking the vineyards and read some more. What a peaceful, relaxing way to end the evening.

Love to all,
David and Lisa -- PS Later we found a DIS-advantage to a gasthaus in the vineyards -- MOSQUITOES! But we survived -- and a few mosquitoes didn't. And I, David, verified, again, that I have developed a pretty harsh reaction to mosquito and other bug bites. I get big swellings and they itch like crazy and if I scratch them they bleed, scab and scar. What a bummer!!!


09/01 Germany, Bad Durkheim to Koblenz

Today is Elbert's 80th birthday and we've been celebrating with him all day. It started at breakfast when he got some cards and gifts. Then, when he left this morning, he had a bunch of big balloons tied to the back of his bike. And he rode with them all day. At one point, a group of riders converged on him and I led a round of the happy birthday song. He beamed with pleasure.

The DRG today said lots of traffic on the first half, and easy riding along the Rhine River for the second half. Lisa and I opted to ride the second half.

We waited for Joan to finish her laundry, then she and Liz (from Boston -- Joan was giving her a ride so she wouldn't have to ride in the sag van) -- gave us a lift to Bingen. We rode from there -- mostly on bike paths along the river. What a beautiful ride it was! Vineyards cover the hillsides on either side of the river. Castles overlooking the river in every town -- and they occurred about every 10 km.

(I learned the meaning of "robber baron." The Baron's who owned the castles used to charge boats to pass on the river. No pay, no pass -- or they get cannon-balled out of the river.)

We stopped in Bacharach for lunch. We took pot luck -- kinda -- because we couldn't read, speak or understand German and the owner couldn't speak or understand English. It turned out okay though. We ended up with homemade cream of tomato with rice soup and some kind of baked meat, cheese and pasta dish.

When we came out, it had started raining. So we put on our rain gear (jacket for Lisa, jacket, pants, booties and gloves for me) and headed out. The route was still bike path along the river, but it wasn't very pretty when you're riding in the rain.

About 5 km from the end, along came Joan. She had spent most of the afternoon trying to mail a package that they wanted to have at home next year. Since it was then raining quite hard, we took a lift into town.

We went directly to camp. Got there a little after 4. We dropped Liz off and checked to see when and where dinner was scheduled. Then we headed into town to find rooms.

Joan was driving and in charge, so we did the usual running around trying to find a better and cheaper place to stay. At about 6, we checked into a hotel about a mile farther out and about $7 cheaper than the first place we had found. We finally got into our rooms about 6:20. Then we had to go right back to camp to check on Larry and to have dinner.

Fortunately, Larry was in (and having dinner) so we didn't have to go out looking for him.

It was raining heavily. Dinner was being served under large white tent-roofs -- that dripped between every eave. Fortunately the tables were lined up to allow for the drips without soaking those seated or the food. The food was, again, very, very good.

The tents were all decorated with crepe paper stringers and balloons in honor of Elbert's 80th birthday. And the dinner ended with a party and birthday celebration. There were a lot of testimonials, a few tears, and two cakes, each holding 40 candles. And Elbert was able to blow them all out!(I don't know if I can do that....)

The community gift for Elbert was a new tent. He can pick anyone that he likes, and we'll have it for him in Amsterdam.

Elbert was touched. He alternated between having big, beaming smiles and being teary eyed. After all the "testimonials", someone asked Elbert what was the most special thing about his big day. His answer: "just getting out and enjoying my bike ride like I did yesterday and will tomorrow." He really does exemplify someone who gets the most out of each day and thinks every day is special.

It was a fun and special time for everyone!

Love to all,
David and Lisa

09/02 Germany, Koblenz to Wintrich

Another rainy night last night and more rain this morning -- not too heavy though. We opted to ride along the Mosel River. (Joan opted not to ride today because of the rain.) The route was mostly bike path, mostly right along the river, mostly in light, .intermittent rain, and mostly into a fierce headwind. (Given a choice, we'd rather have the rain than the headwind.)

There are a lot of boats on both the Rhine and on the Mosel Rivers -- both barges hauling various types of materials, like coal, lumber, equipment, etc. and tour/cruise boats. We raced them all -- they on the river, us on the bike path, -- and we beat them all! :-)

We passed through many, many more cute villages. One thing we've noticed throughout Germany, in every village, town and city, are cigarette vending machines. They're mounted on posts on the sidewalks all over the place! Sad.

On the brighter side though, we stopped in Cochem, one of the middle-sized villages, for coffee and a pastry and to warm up and dry off. First, the commercial street was a block off the road along the river -- and it was quite long and VERY busy. There were all kinds of cafes, restaurants, shops AND TOURISTS.

We picked one of the nicer looking cafes for our coffee and pastry. And we had one of the tastiest pastries that we've had on the whole trip! Maybe THE tastiest. It was simply apple strudel with whipped cream -- but WAS IT EVER GOOD!!!

When we started riding again, we got rain, scattered showers and spots of sunshine -- then more rain. Good for the grapes, I guess. All along the rivers for two days we've seen lots and lots of vineyards. Every square inch of climbable hill has been planted. We're wondering how the grapes are harvested, because the slopes they're planted on are so steep.

One time, when the rain got particularly heavy, we took cover under an overpass with Bill Bliss. We were talking when, from the other way came a Cannondale tandem and a single. A father and daughter were riding the tandem with the mother following on the single. The, too, stopped in the shelter of the overpass. We got to talking. They were on holiday from Saudi Arabia. We told them about our trip. They asked us if we knew a "Mrs. Russell."

Of course we did! We shared a room with her on the first night of our trip!

Well, Alice Russell was the daughter's teacher last year in Saudi Arabia, and the Taylors had done a lot of bicycling with her during the past several years. It IS a small world, isn't it?

Of course we had to tell Alice about our encounter. Yes, she remembered Julia Taylor and, of course, she was sorry to have missed seeing the Taylors.

Today, our scheduled 2:30ish pickup was at 3:20. (Pretty good for Larry. :-) We were having a wonderful ride, but we had to stop so we all could go to end-of-day and find rooms.

We stopped at the Tourist Info office just 3 km's from camp. (The campground, by the way, was in the village sports complex on soccer fields -- in the pouring rain.) They got us two rooms (of the few available because of the big, week-long wine festival in the next town) right in town. These were really unusual.

The tourist bureau quoted 80DM (Deutch Marks -- about 2.1 to the dollar). When I talked to the woman who showed us the rooms, I tried to tell her "No breakfast. Could we get a lower price?"

She indicated $70DM. I asked if they took VISA. No. That meant we had to go to the bank before we could pay.

(In Europe, it is the custom to pay for rooms in the morning before you leave. But we usually pay at night because we leave at 7 a.m. which is usually earlier than anyone gets up.)

We drove to dinner at a restaurant near the camp. This was one of the nicer dinners. We were invited to sit down at the tables, then we served like regular customers. Very unusual and very nice!

After dinner we drove back to our rooms in Brauneburg. We gave Ramona and Jane a ride to their room, then we all went to the ATM to get some cash.

Then we went back to pay. Joan and I each gave the manager 70DM for the two rooms. He said thanks, and told us that breakfast would be right there in that restaurant. I told him we would not be having breakfast. He was surprised. I asked him if the price should be lower.

The woman that had given me the price before, smiled and nodded yes. The manager gave me gave me 20DM back. So the bottom line was, these very nice rooms with full bath, in the middle of the big tourist attraction of the wine festival, ended up costing less than $30 each! What a deal!!

We got back to our nice, comfortable, low-cost room by 9.

Love to all,
David and Lisa

09/03 Wintrich, Germany, to Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

It was our day to drive. We saw L&J off at 8:30, (Joan wanted to be picked up between 3:30 and 4) then jumped on our bike and rode back to the Wine Festival in Bernkassel-Kues (about 15 km away).

We first rode through the area with all the wine and food booths. It was early and not much was open, so we rode on down the Mosel river about another 10k to the next bridge, crossed the river, then rode back up the other side through the winefest carnival area. Then we walked into the town. What fun!

We looked for a place to purchase Birkenstocks. (They're about half the USA cost here.) No luck. The one store we found was closed for Sunday.

We stopped and listened to music from several bands -- mostly German "ompah" bands, one orchestra playing American songs.

We looked into many touristy stores. We bought some goodies from a bakery. And we wandered through the very cute and very touristy town.

Later we rode back to the car, hopped in and headed up the road along the Mosel River. The vineyard covered hills continued until we left the Mosel.

We stopped for lunch at a little Italian Cafe called Pinochios. We managed to order two soups and a lasagna from the non-English speaking waitress. (Our sign language is getting pretty good. :-)

We drove the whole route to the end. We passed many riders but never saw L&J. We even passed Al (the photographer) who is usually the very last rider in, but no L&J. By 4 o'clock, at 100 km, we had several thoughts -- primarily that they made fantastic time to have finished by this time. By 4:30, we got to the end point, but . . . still no L&J. They had not checked in. No one had seen them since early this morning. Then we got really worried.

We jumped in the car and hurried backwards along the route. We passed all of the riders we had seen earlier -- even Al -- but no L&J.

Finally, about 25 km back, we found them. It seems Larry had two flats along the way. Of course, fixing them took a lot of time. Then they got lost -- twice. That had to have been the time we passed along the route.

Anyway, we were happy to see them. Joan hopped in the car. Larry continued to ride to the end.

The group stayed in the Novotel and the Sofitel Hotels tonight. Very nice, American style rooms. We had Jane H. (from Seattle) for a roommate.

Dinner was in our hotel, the Novotel. It was, again, very good and very plentiful.

After dinner we made plans with L&J for our trip tomorrow to Bruges, had a glass of wine, read, then headed up to bed.

Love to all,
David and Lisa

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