You know it’s too hot when a headwind is welcome. You know the route-finding has gone wrong when you are on a bridge crossing the Rhine and that was not part of the plan. And you know that the indecision at a multi-crossroads of bike paths on a slight slope was a bad idea when you lose your balance and topple off your bike sideways in front of two concerned Germans.
These are some of the signs we have encountered in the last couple of days. All important learning, I think. The indecision one, alas, was really not news but sometimes it takes a few more bruises (body and ego) to really drive the message home. On the plus side, I have fallen off my bike in some very beautiful places*.
Another unfortunate feature of this afternoon was mechanical issues with my brakes. They took quite a hammering in the Alps but I thought I had successfully adjusted them since. The last few days we have had mostly flat routes but today riding around in the hills (through vineyards – see below) I was struggling come to a stop on the steeper slopes. We did some adjustments by the side of the path and I have just about decent braking now, but one of the brakes is rubbing. More adjustment will be needed tomorrow.
The scenery has been changing rapidly around us for the last couple of days. The industrial sites along the river have been noticeable since Basel and increasing significantly, but there are still large stretches of beautiful rural scenery. Yesterday morning’s route-finding error took us over a bridge towards the outskirts of Mannheim and got us very tangled in an industrial estate with heavy lorry traffic, but also led to an unscheduled visit to one of the Rhine islands that has been turned into a nature reserve. It was peaceful and verdant – a little gem, reached by a lovely wooden bridge.
The Rhine islands were created in the 19th century by engineering works to straighten the river. They sit between the old meandering curves and the modern main river. Some are not fully islands, and some have commercial buildings on them. I think they are all liable to flooding so I’m not entirely sure how this works. Also a very limited bit of internet research suggests that the straightening of the Upper Rhine has created further flooding issues further down and there is work ongoing now to deal with this. I hope that at least some of the islands remain.
The most impressive industrial site we have seen was the BASF works that we cycled past at Ludwigshafen. It stretches for about 5km with multiple numbered gates, and the company provides bikes for its employees to get around the site. Many thousands of bikes. Apparently more than 30,000 people work there, and we unfortunately hit the Friday afternoon exodus as we were passing. It’s a busy place!
Last night in Worms we stumbled into the middle of the Jazz und Joy festival. Didn’t try to get tickets to go in as it could be heard all round the central square and also from our hotel room. When the bustle became a bit much we went for a stroll and admired the Luther memorial.
Once we cycled out of Worms today we had a long stretch of good path following the flood dykes along the river. It was a glorious morning and I was really enjoying the cycle. I made the mistake of saying so, and shortly afterwards had my indecision-inversion moment. Then after lunch the weather turned furnace-like once again, and we reached the vineyard terraces. I was not feeling very charitable towards the groups of people sitting in sunshaded trailers, laughing and drinking wine while being towed round the countryside by tractors as they tumbled past me on the hills.
We eventually reached Mainz, or at least its suburbs. Hotels are very busy in Mainz this weekend and the prices for city-centre rooms are eye-watering, so we are in a perfectly decent budget hotel about 5km from the city centre. This caused a slight inconvenience because today was that highlight of a cycle tour: laundry day! Mainz has several laundrettes and I am very tired of hand-washing clothes and attempting to get them dry overnight so the opportunity to use washing machines and dryers was not to be missed. I could have done without the 11km round trip to the laundrette in the city centre, and especially the bits cycling (uphill again!) through a very unfamiliar city in the dark on our return, but it’s a delight to have properly clean clothes again.
I will try to post a glowing TripAdviser review of the laundrette (another Eco-Express Waschsalon – we have used these on previous trips). For some reason, it doesn’t feature in the top attractions of Mainz. Tomorrow we will explore some of the others.
*Note that I am also capable of enjoying the beautiful places while remaining on my bike, and on the whole prefer this option.