Day 20: Cologne to Arnhem

Today we took a train and rode 6.26 km.

We awoke to rain and wind. We enjoyed a nice buffet breakfast at our over-priced hotel, packed our bags, left them with the front desk, and headed to the Cologne Cathedral for some sightseeing.

Ready to see some sights

Ready to see some sights

At the cathedral there was a service in progress and Mila and I didn’t take many pictures. It is an amazing work of architecture, but some of its impact was dampened by the fact that our experience at the Strasbourg Cathedral was still so fresh in our minds. Also, because there was a service taking place, we could really only “peek” into the interior.

Jette and Waco at the Koln Cathedral

Jette and Waco pretending to be kites in the wind at the Koln Cathedral

In getting to the cathedral, Jette’s purple poncho was almost instantly soaked through. The cool temperature, wind, and rain made it very clear that long days in the saddle were not feasible for us when it was rainy. So, we stood in a sheltered doorway of the cathedral and discussed our next steps. Last night we talked about taking the train to Dusseldorf or Duisburg, but it was quickly dawning on us that we were really running out of time. We decided to skip the industrial part of Germany and take the train to Arnhem, which was about 150 km from our final destination, the North Sea.  With the daily distances we were averaging, this would give us a good chance of finishing the route by bike. Anything short of that and we risked not being able to finish by bike in the time we had left. Also, since the weather forecast for the next couple days was rain, we figured it was better to make a “rain day” a “train day” and jump on a train now rather than later.

Looking at the train station fom the cathedral

Looking at the train station from the cathedral

So, Jette and I ran through the rain to the train station and bought tickets to Arnhem.

In the train station

In the train station with the cathedral in the backbround

We tickets in hand, we rode back to the hotel, picked up our bags, packed the bikes, and rode back to the train station. It was another day of bikes on trains and doing the “train dance.”

At the Koln Station

At the Koln Station

On the first train of the day

On the first train of the day

Our bikes and another on the train

Our bikes and another on the train

My bike and trailer with wheels removed

My bike and trailer with wheels removed

There were multiple trains and transfers and thankfully in each case we were able to roll the loaded bikes onto the trains instead of having to unload the bike and shuttle bags and bikes separately.

We were on local commuter trains, not regional express trains and we seemed to have hit one of them at the same time that the local high school kids were going home. They pushed onto the train before we could get the bikes on and took up all the space in the designated “bicycle car.” We had to cram ourselves and the bikes into the entry vestibule of the train car, which made it virtually impossible for other people to get in an out. We spent a couple of hours standing crammed in, holding our bikes up in the entry way. Each time the train stopped and the people in the bike area exited the “bike area” of the train others filled in before we could move our bikes. Countless people cursed us for blocking the entry/exit, but ironically, they were the same people who sat in the designated bike area! Culturally, this situation stumped us. Everyone’s lives would have been easier if those knuckleheads would have just let us “park” our bikes properly on the train! We just couldn’t understand it!!!

We made it to Arnhem and with more rain forecast, checked into a hotel near the train station. As it turned out, just like “The Expo” in Cologne there was a big event in town and many of the hotels were booked. Who knew?! Luckily the Best Western adjacent to the train station had one room available…

The Safari Room!

The Safari Room!

Hilarious, I know. We seem to be a magnet for “themed” hotel rooms. We are animal lovers. Go figure.

The event in town was the 71st Anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem.  The town was full of soldiers – young, active duty ones, and old originals.

The hotel let us park our bikes in the basement with the employee bikes. Parked, unpacked and cleaned-up we found a nearby cafe for a nice dinner and called it a day.

Meem - the cute cafe

Meem – the cute cafe

Goodnight.

Day 19: Koblenz to Koln (by rain and train)

Today we rode 39.21 km from Koblenz to Koblenz and from Bonn to Bonn and we took a couple trains too! Let’s just say it was kind of a confusing travel day.

We woke up, packed our bags and bikes and headed out of Koblenz. We rode through center city and North across the Moselle.

Map of Koblenz

Leaving Koblenz... the first time!

Leaving Koblenz… the first time!

We wound our way through the northern part of the city and East to a path along the edge of the Rhine. It started sprinkling. I could feel a “bump” in my rear wheel. I was afraid that even with the spoke replacement the wheel was out of true. If the spoke tension was really off, that could be bad with the massive amount of weight I was carrying.

As we crossed into the industrial outskirts of town, a steady rain began. We were wet. We rode for a while and then took shelter under the awning of a nearby building to discuss our options.

Seeking shelter under the tiny awning of a fire station

Seeking shelter under the tiny awning of a fire station

Wet Jette

Wet Jette

Wet Jette with shades

Wet Jette with shades to keep the rain out of her eyes

Jette’s rain poncho was useless and Jette and Mila were not keen on riding all day in the cold rain. We were also running out of time on our visas, and given our current pace, we would not have time to make it to the North Sea before our visas expired. So we decided to go back to Koblenz and take the train to Bonn, and perhaps further.

I also took a look at my rear wheel. I spun the wheel and looked at the gap between the rim and the frame. I expected to see a “wobble” and a change in the gap, but I didn’t. That meant that the “bump” I was feeling was either my imagination or something else. The tire? I checked the tread and there was nothing stuck in it. Hmm…

We began to retrace our steps in the rain. As we passed through the ugliest, most industrial area we’ve seen we hit 1,000 km on the odometer. That’s not our “mileage” since Lindau, but rather our total kilometers ridden since I installed the odometer on my bike a week or so after we got them. Not bad!

High fives for 1,000 km

High fives for 1,000 km

1,000 km!

1,000 km!

We crossed back over the bridge, but before we went to the train station, we stopped by the bike shop again.

I unhooked the trailer and pulled the bags off the bike and rolled it into the shop. I told the mechanic about the “bump” and that it seemed like the wheel was not true. He shook his head “yes” and together we looked at the wheel. He spun the pedals, looked at the gap between the rim and the frame and looked confused. Then he checked the spoke tension with his fingers, squeezing spokes, spinning the wheel and squeezing again.

“It’s not the wheel” he said.

That left the tire. We spun the tire and looked at it. There was the slightest wobble. He took a allen wrench and held it right next to the tire so close it almost touched and spun the pedals. The wheel turned and sure enough, once per revolution the tire just touched the wrench.

He looked really surprised and said, “It’s the tire. But these are good tires!”

“I know,” I said,”they’re Schwalbe.”

“Yes, Schwalbe” he said.

(The tires are Schwalbe Marathons, a German tire known for quality, durability and puncture resistance. The kind of tire you want on a trip like ours and the kind of tire that isn’t supposed to do this).

Back at the bike shop for a new tire

Back at the bike shop for a new tire

There was no damage visible on the outside of the tire but it was now obvious that there was some kind of internal damage or failure and the tire was forming a sort of bump or bubble in one spot. It would have to be replaced. I think we were both surprised.

On a Dutch style bike with an internally geared hub and full chain case removing the rear wheel to replace a tire or tube is not trivial. It’s not especially difficult, it just takes some time. Removing the wheel requires disconnecting the bellcrank of the shifter, removing the chain case, loosening the two chain tensioners and the two lug nuts of the axel, disconnecting the brake arm for the coaster brake. Reinstalling the wheel is essentially all of that in reverse and adjusting the shifter if necessary. I didn’t want to be the one to do it, so once again we left the bike at the shop for an hour or so.

While my bike was getting a new tire we went for a hot tea to dry off and warm up.

Tea time while my bike gets a new tire

Tea time while my bike gets a new tire

Playing with that long hair

Playing with that long hair

While we were having tea, another group of touring cyclists came in to warm up and escape the rain.

Some other cyclists decide to sit out the rain too

Some other cyclists decide to sit out the rain too

After the tea, we decided that we should grab a quick lunch before we picked up the bike and headed for the train station.

Big salad

Big salad

Donner kebab lunch

Donner kebab lunch

After lunch we picked up my bike, rode to the train station, and caught the train to Bonn.

Forget the rain, let's train!

Forget the rain, let’s train!

Waiting for the train

Waiting for the train

On the train to Bonn

On the train to Bonn

Bonn

Bonn

It wasn’t long before we arrived in Bonn. The plan was to visit the Haribo gummy bear factory, then catch a later train on to Arnhem, The Netherlands.

Given our slow pace and the limited time before our visas expire, we decided to train through the industrial part of Germany to Arnhem and pick up the trail again from there. At least that way there was a chance of us riding to the end and dipping our toes in the North Sea.

Mila and Jette had been reading about tours of the Haribo factory in Bonn and were exited to visit. We got off the train at the Bonn Central Station and searched Google Maps for the Haribo factory. It turned out that there were no tours of the Haribo factory, but that there was a Haribo factory store. The bummer was that it was in the Southern suburbs, very close to the Bad Godesberg train station we passed before we got off at Bonn Central Station! We decided that we would ride back South about 7 km to the Haribo Factory Store then get on a train to Arnhem at theBad Godesberg station so we wouldn’t have to ride back to Bonn Central Station.

Bonn seemed like a pretty city and felt very different than other German cities we’ve visited. Some of the streets felt like Brooklyn or Washington D.C.

Somehow it looks like it used to be the capitol.

Leafy streets and townhomes in Bonn

Leafy streets and townhomes in Bonn

Once we navigated through a few city streets there was a long, straight path that paralleled the train tracks all the way South to the Haribo Factory Store.

A long, straight path

A long, straight path

A sugary oasis in a the land of carbs:

The Devil's Wrokshop

The Devil’s Workshop

Jette in gummy paradise

Jette in gummy paradise

There were too many kinds of sugary treats to count and we spent hours, days, maybe even weeks exploring them all.

DSCF4316

DSCF4320

DSCF4321

DSCF4322

DSCF4323

DSCF4324

DSCF4325

DSCF4326

DSCF4327

DSCF4328

DSCF4329

DSCF4330

DSCF4331

DSCF4332

DSCF4333

DSCF4334

DSCF4335

DSCF4339

DSCF4340

DSCF4341

Mila and Jette with our purchases – a bag of gummies and an advent calendar with Haribo treats behind each door.

Cartwheel in GummyLand

Cartwheel in GummyLand

When we were done with Haribo, we rode to the Bad Godesberg train station and bought a ticket to Koln (Cologne) from a grumpy and very unhelpful ticket agent. Tickets in hand we soon discovered that the only way to get to the platform was up and down two giant flights of stairs:

The inaccessable station

The inaccessable station

There was no way that I was going to unload the bikes and make a hundred trips up and down those stairs with heavy bikes and bags. No way. We thought that there must be another way and asked how people in wheelchairs got to the platforms.  We were told that they had to take the stairs. Nice. Still no way, so we decided to ride back to the Bonn Central Station and catch the train to Koln from there.

Apparently we made it back to the Koln station about the time that rush hour started because there were so many people on the platform and the trains were so full and stopped for such short time that it was three trains and about as many hours before we could get our bikes onto one!

When we finally arrived in Koln, the sun was setting and it was raining again. We didn’t have a hotel and my phone suddenly decided to stop working. We had mapped some hotels on the train, so we rode to where we thought we saw a bunch of hotels on the map. Somehow we ended up in the “Bermuda Triangle” surrounded by hotels, but with none nearby and no clue which way to go.

Surrounded but none nearby

Surrounded but none nearby

After some time I got my phone working again and we found our way to one of the closer hotels. They were full and said that most of the hotels in the city were full because of “The Expo” whatever that is. We rode through the dark, cold and rain to another nearby hotel. Again, sold out. The man behind the desk suggested three more nearby hotels… In the end we found an overpriced hotel with a room available and took it. What is it with German cities and sold out hotels?! We unloaded the bikes, locked them up on the street and carried the bags up to our funky but serviceable 1970’s room. At least it offered an internet connection for one device, and at 1980’s speeds!

hayes

Our bags safely stashed in the 70’s, we walked two blocks to an empty but surprisingly good Thai restaurant for a quick dinner.

Thai dinner

Thai dinner

Pad See Ew

Pad See Ew

After dinner, it was finally time for bed and some well-earned rest!

Day 18: Another rest day in Koblenz

Monday morning

Monday morning

Monday morning. We got up and walked into the shopping district in town to find some breakfast. I walked my bike and after breakfast Mila and Jette did some window shopping while I took my bike to Fahrrad XXL Franz a great bike shop with a branch in Koblenz. It’s a big multi-story shop with lots of bikes and accessories and a service area that promises repairs within 24 hours!

The service area of Farrhad XXL Franz

The service area of Farrhad XXL Franz

Farrhad XXL Franz

Farrhad XXL Franz

I was in luck. They had a replacement bellcrank in stock and even did the installation for me while I had a tea. Nice. I didn’t snap a photo, but it is the new style that looks like this:

New bellcrank

New bellcrank

We spent the rest of a rainy afternoon window shopping and sampling the best gelato/ice cream we’ve found so far on this trip. If you are ever in Koblenz, check out eGeLoSIa.

Best ice cream

Best ice cream

eGeLosIa

eGeLosIa

Best gelato-ice cream so far

Best gelato-ice cream so far

I had bitter chocolate gelato and strawberry chocolate chip frozen yoghurt. Mila had hazelnut and stracciatella, and Jette had chocolate and rocher. They were all delicious.

It was a good “rest day”!

Day 17: Rest day in Koblenz

We’ve decided to take a couple of rest days here in Koblenz. We need break from riding. Mila is sore and Jette has saddle sores. I’d like to get a replacement bellcrank for my bike if the bike shops here have one. Today is Sunday, so all the shops are closed. But the castle is open!

After breakfast at the hotel we caught a bus to Stolzenfels Castle in a slow, steady rain.

Breakfast

Breakfast

A little work

A little work

On the bus to the castle

On the bus to the castle

At the castle, we climbed 101 stairs and walked up a winding road to the castle complex.

101 stairs

101 stairs

Dance break on the hill

Dance break on the hill

The original castle dates to the 12th century, but was in ruins by the 1800’s. In 1823 the city gave the castle to the Prussian crown prince Friedrich Wilhelm. Over the next 40 years he restored and constructed “the most beautiful and most important architectural complex of Prussian Rhine Romanticism.”

Castle Stolenfels


DSCF4211

Slippers indside the castle

Slippers inside the castle

Inside Stolenfels

Inside Stolenfels

I had only snapped a couple of photos inside the castle when they told me that photography was not permitted. It’s too bad as the interior was pretty amazing. Beautiful wood floors, paneled walls, ornate ceilings, furniture, frescoes, stained glass, paintings…

In one area they had crafts for kids. Jette made a bottle cap fridge magnet.

Fridge magnet

Fridge magnet

Around the castle grounds, they had little food stands set up offering bratwurst and various sweets, which of course we had to sample.

DSCF4221


DSCF4225

DSCF4227

DSCF4228

DSCF4231

All these dudes in armor are short! Lance and shield?!  Check out these guns!

DSCF4233

DSCF4235

DSCF4237

DSCF4238

DSCF4239

After the castle, we took the bus back to town and found a dinner of thai food for Mila and me and avocado “sushi” for Jette – something she had been craving for a long time.

 

Wishes do come true

Wishes do come true

Smiles in the rain

Smiles in the rain

Another sidewalk playground

Another sidewalk playground

Day 16: Sankt Goar to Koblenz

Today we rode 41.83 km from Sankt Goar to Koblenz.

Sunrise at camp

Sunrise at camp

This morning we packed up camp and I decided to do some quick bike maintenance. The trailer arm had bumped my rear wheel and knocked it out of alignment a couple days ago and I had been procrastinating fixing it. So, we ate some bread and butter, packed up camp, brushed our teeth and I broke out the bike tools. Five minutes later the wheel was aligned, but there was a problem.

When I reattached the bellcrank, the anchor bolt simply kept turning, it was stripped. The bell crank is the mechanism that links the shift cable to the hub of the rear wheel. When you twist the grip shifter, the shift cable moves and the bellcrank translates the movement of the cable to a push rod in the hub, causing the gears to change. In the photo below, the bellcrank is the big silver thing. The shift cable is coming out of the top, the wheel is on the left and the anchor bolt is on the bottom. When tightened the anchor bolt pushes agains the axel lug nut and holds the bellcrank in place. Without the tension of the anchor bolt the bellcrank just falls off. Not good.

Shimano Nexus 3 speed bellcrank

Shimano Nexus 3 speed bellcrank

I have seen this happen before from the anchor bolt being over-tightened. The body of the bell crank is cast from a soft metal and if the bolt is tightened too much, the threads in the bell crank body disintegrate. Some years ago I did this on another bike and have been very careful ever since. It’s possible that I am to blame once again, but I’d like to think it was either the guy who swapped cogs on the bike in Amsterdam or the one who replaced the spoke in Switzerland. Regardless, I was stuck now. I had two wrenches, a multi-tool, and no spare parts.

Clearly it was MacGyver time…

I went into the little shop at the campground to see what I could find to improvise. They didn’t have much. In terms of hardware it was mostly spare parts for campers and RVs. Lightbulbs, hoses, fuses, and things of that sort. A little package of hose clamps caught my eye, and I picked up a roll of duct tape for insurance.

My MacGyver impression

My MacGyver impression

Hose clamps to the rescue

Hose clamps to the rescue

I joined two hose clamps to each other to get the length I needed, then wrapped the hose clamps around the dropout of the frame and the body of the bellcrank. I snugged them up and the bellcrank was held nicely in place. I was ready to roll!

As good as new

As good as new

Off we went, past castles and cruise ships.

Cruise ships and castles

Cruise ships and castles

Taking a water break

Taking a water break

We stopped for lunch in very touristy Boppard. I think we hit town just as the river cruise ships dumped their human cargo for lunch too. We had some yummy omelets and it began to rain. We were tucked safely under the umbrellas and of course our panniers (bike bags) are waterproof.

Lunch in Boppard

Lunch in Boppard

Omelet. Yum!

Omelet. Yum!

'Taters

‘Taters

Silly guy eating a farmer's omelet

Silly guy eating a farmer’s omelet

By the time we finished lunch the rain had stopped. While Mila and Jette waited (forever) for the check I pulled out some tools and made some adjustments on my bike. While I was working a group of about 8 spandex-clad cyclists in matching jerseys pulled up on fancy road bikes. They were clearly amused by our bikes, the amount of stuff we were carrying. I think they were even more amused to see that I was strapping hose clamps on a three-speed. They were speaking Dutch to each other and it wasn’t long before one of them wheeled over a little closer and asked me where we were going and where we were coming from. They had a good laugh. We chatted about our trip our bikes, and one of his friends pulled out his phone and showed me a picture of his fancy touring bike with a BOB trailer. While we were talking even more of their group pulled up. They said that twice a year they come to Germany or Switzerland on a big ride. A few jokes about us joining their pace line and they were off.

We hit the road again. It was a nice ride. We had the river and the cruise ships on our right, there was lots of pretty scenery and a good number of old castles on the hills. One has to marvel at how they were built. With the technology of the past it must have required massive amounts of human labor.

Stopping to check out the wildlife

Stopping to check out the wildlife

As we got to the edge of Koblenz we stopped at the Koblenzer brewery biergarten for a refreshing heffeweizen. While we were there I searched online with my phone to see if I could find and book a hotel. I couldn’t find any that would allow me to book online. They were either fully booked or didn’t have online reservations. I called a couple and they were full. For some reason my phone wouldn’t connect to some of the numbers. We decided the easiest thing would be to ride into town and just find a hotel.

At the Koblenzer biergarten

At the Koblenzer biergarten

The trail into town went through a pretty, wooded park.

Coming into Koblenz

Coming into Koblenz

As we came into town, things seemed eerily quiet. We didn’t see any people at all. Had the zombie apocalypse finally arrived?!

So quiet.

So quiet.

We’d found a few promising hotels on Google Maps, and we stopped at the first one, the Hotel Hamm. They were fully booked. I asked the friendly woman behind the desk if she could recommend another hotel nearby and she said that virtually every hotel in the city was full. She checked some sort of online hotel booking system and called about 8 hotels to see if they had any openings. None of them did. She made a final call and found one that “might” have an room available, but wouldn’t know for half an hour. It was called Hotel B&B and she said that she was not familiar with it and couldn’t vouch for it. She said that they local tourist information office had been calling her looking for rooms and suggested that they might know of some hotels with openings. She drew us a map, gave Jette a candy and we were on our way.

The tourist information office was right in the middle of town, it a very modern new complex surrounded by lots and lots of retail.

At the tourist information office

At the tourist information office

Funky modern building

Funky modern building

Sidewalk playground

Sidewalk playground

At the tourist office, they just laughed when we asked if they knew of any hotels available. Really.  I told them what the nice lady at Hotel Hamm said about the possibility of an opening at Hotel B&B and asked if they could call them on our behalf. They did and there was one room available!  Obviously we said we wanted it and would be there as quickly as we could. The woman at the tourist information office marked the location of Hotel B&B on a map for us and we were on our way. It turns out Hotel B&B is not a B&B at all, but rather a motel on a busy highway called B&B Hotels. Hey, they have showers, beds and electrical outlets! They even have an internet connection. The Holy Grail.

Hotel B&B

B&B Hotel

Cartwheels in B&B Hotel

Cartwheels in B&B Hotel

We checked in to the hotel, locked our bikes up in the parking garage and walked into the city in search of dinner. We hit one of the main shopping streets just before most of the stores were closing. Mila and Jette couldn’t resist going into the local T.J. MAXX which in Germany is called T.K. MAXX.

Transatlantic discount shoppers

Transatlantic discount shoppers

Street portrait

Street portrait

Twigight on Koblenz shopping street

Twilight on Koblenz shopping street

In the almost every town and city we’ve visited the main shopping streets are pedestrian. It is so nice to have quiet streets with sidewalk seating and no traffic or traffic noise. In this regard, the quality of life is so much higher here. In one of the plazas off the main shipping street, there were a number of restaurants. We choose an Italian place and enjoyed a nice dinner under the huge umbrellas. I’d love to get one of these twenty foot umbrellas for our back patio at home!

Restaurants on the plaza

Restaurants on the plaza

Italian for dinner

Italian for dinner

On the way back to the hotel, we giggled at the Oktoberfest outfits for sale in the shop windows.

Oktoberfest here we come

Oktoberfest here we come

Mila said she would pay good money to see me in the men’s outfit above. Even with the offer of renumeration, I think this is highly unlikely. 😉

Balance beam

Balance beam

Back to the hotel and to bed.

We’ve got internet!

Oktoberfest here we come

Oktoberfest here we come

I’ve been trying to post to the blog but it has been some time since we’ve had a internet connection reliable enough. Today we rolled into Koblenz, Germany and we’ve checked into a hotel with a decent internet connection. Yay! I think we’ll make tomorrow a rest day, so I will try to catch up on posts for the days that we have missed, starting with this one. As before, I will back date them so that the post date is the same as the day it describes.