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Musings about bikes and such

Black Forest - May 2007

I had a long weekend so I decided to take the bike into Europe for the first time to experiment with continental touring.  One of my original goals when I decided late last year to buy a new bike over here was to basically tour ALL of Europe.  For my first test run, I took a 4 day run out to the Schwarzwold…the black forest…..It was a 1500 mile trip through 6 countries…..First day out made it through 5…gotta be a record…for me anyway.


The Picture below was added to the previous email because I thought that I lost the data but was indeed able to find it.  My GPS units (Garmin Zumo 500) stores all trip data so that it can later be reviewed, converted to routes, shared, whatever… the less useful, but more visual features is that route data can be displayed on Google Earth, so below is my actual track as recorded by my Zumo.



Zooming in on a section of the black forest, one can get the idea of the road quality below


And zooming even closer, you can see where I ran off the road……Not really, GPS just doesn’t provide THAT much accuracy.   But I am fascinated how the actual path is so well recorded…good stuff.




I started off by crossing the channel on the “Eurotunnel” auto transport train.   Cost £40 for me and the bike and only takes 30 minutes to go from Folkston to Calais.  As you can see from the picture below, they load all the bikes together so you have time to BS with like mindeds for a while.   There were about 30 on this load…unusually high as it was a long weekend.  That’s a very nice African Twin right behind me.


Let me clear one thing up…..the dead thing lying on my seat is NOT a seat cover…it is part of a sheep skin I picked up in the Southwest that I throw over the seat for long trips (only £8, so cheap too).  It’s a European thing and it works really well fighting numb bum….good at regulating heat and cold as well.   You don’t even have to worry about it getting wet as it never really penetrates the surface….rain doesn’t bother sheep does it?  I think it looks pretty good in it’s rough state even if it is a bit soft and fluffy…..wouldn’t have a fitted one though…gotta just be a dead animal part…much more masculine J


After the crossing I decided to use the motorways to get through France, Belgium and Luxembourg, so I could start the interesting part of the trip at Trier.  From Trier I followed the Moeselle valley.   This is a winding road that follows the riverbed up to Koblenz, where it meets the Rhine.  This is wine country and is very scenic.  I ran into lots of cruisers, but not a lot of spirited riding.   Wow was it hot, my on-board computer showed an ambient 32 degrees….that’s 90 in American…so pretty damn hot!  Below is a pic of the river…typical scenery.


I spent the night in Koblenz…nice small city with scenic river fronts.  The main feature is that this where the Moeselle meets the Rhine. So the next morning I started following the Rhine southward towards “der schwarzwold”.   The scenery (and temperature!) were similar, but the really neat thing about the Rhine valley is all of the old castles that are perched on the hilltops over looking the valley.  It’s a B road so minimal traffic, but with typical German efficiency, there weren’t a lot of easy spots to stop and take GOOD photos.  Below is a pretty good one to give the idea:



I followed the river and when I completed the scenic “castlely” portion, I had to ferry across to continue on towards the Black Forest.  So I loaded up for another crossing…a truly multi-model trip.


Wow…The bike’s ass really looks big in this picture…don’t tell her OK?


So I meandered down into the forest and the roads starting getting very winding and technical in places.  Lots of bikes, lots of BMs, the K1200s were the best ridden.  Below is a typical road….this wasn’t like Scotland…the roads were twisty and seemingly remote, but they were German smooth….I don’t see how there could be better roads to ride on.  I wish I had a better picture as this road isn’t really representative, but the ones that are more typical are fast and either I wouldn’t think of stopping for a photo, or there really wasn’t a good place.





I stopped in Frieburg, which is considered the southern gateway to the Black Forest and turned out to  be a really nice city/town so I decided to stay Sunday night there as well and just do some local exploring the next the day.


On Sunday Morning I headed out towards Switzerland and really passed through some beautiful roads…the B500, B31 & B315 Deutschland highways are highly recommended for anyone in the area.  I crossed over the Rhine into Switzerland on this picturesque bridge.  Since I was leaving the EU, I expected some sort of passport control but was just waved though.  Even if the border guard was an attractive young blonde girl, she was still a German with a machine gun, so I was on best behaviour J.  Funny thing is I never needed my passport once…until I crossed the Dover straights back into England.?!?



Over is Switzerland here they have the Rheinfall which is supposedly the largest waterfall in Europe



Frieburg is fairly interesting town.  They have little canals (like 1 foot wide) running down the sides of the streets by the shops.  Supposedly these provided the medieval shops with non-potable water and they have remained for aesthetic reasons.   Lonely Planet describes them as genuine “tourist Traps” as some drop a foot in them.  The town is in a valley and a local hill/mountain provides a nice view if you’re ready for a bit of a climb…I was.

 On Sunday night the rain started and on Monday morning I headed back in the down pour.  No longer having worry about the heat, I got a bit chilly, but full credit to my Hein Gericke – Gore-tex riding suit….I stayed nice & dry.   I started over the Alsace mountains…very technical in the wet conditions, but overall a nice ride.   I then picked up the N roads and by the time I got to Nancy the rain had let off.   I decided to take a break in Metz and it turned out that in addition to having a nice cathedral was quite a nice town in it’s own right.





So after getting warmed up and a little rested, I was ready for the penultimate leg through Belgium and into Calais to catch the train.   An uneventful ride brought me to Folkston at about 6PM in in what seemed like a hurricane.   I rode all the way back to London at what seemed like a 45 degree angle due to the wind.   The GS could handle it and once again my gear kept me dry…so not too many complaints.  I later found out that the weather had been real rough all weekend in “old blighty”….good time to be away.


The trip worked out really well and showed me that I was ready for longer tours in the continent.  Italy, Spain…(maybe Greece?)....and Scandinavia beckon.   The idea of riding up past the artic circle seems particularly tantalizing right now for some reason.  It’s only about 1500 miles so a lot easier to reach from here than from anywhere I lived in North America….we’ll see. 


I have a week booked off at the end of June and originally planned to run over the Alps and deep into Italy, but have decided to attend a GS rally up in Scotland over the first weekend they have dubbed “The Gathering of Clans” so will probably make due with another short continental run….may into the Alps or Pyrenees but no real far.