Today we rode 53.5 km from Neuf Briasch to Boofzheim. We almost made it to Strasbourg! We are so close.
Since we slept in the Hobbit Hole last night, packing the bags and bikes was a pretty quick affair this morning.
Packed and ready to roll
We hit the road at about 10:20 and following the route signs, somehow did about a 5 or 6 km loop before we got on the right path headed North. We didn’t have any problems at all with the signs in Switzerland or Germany, but for some reason the French signs seem a bit tricky. Its not a function of not being able to read them (we can), but rather the placement of the signs, the number of different routes indicated, and je ne sais quoi. While on our loop we met a nice Canadian couple on a tandem and chatted for a few minutes. It wasn’t long before we were on the right path.
Headed North again
It was more cornfields and small villages, and then we were on a long, straight path along the Rhone au Rhin Canal once again.
We stopped for lunch at a village with a patisserie. It was the only thing we could find, and it was quite good. We each ate a sandwich and took some pain au chocolate to go for fuel along the way.
One of the highlights of the day for Jette was finding and exploring an old, spider-filled bunker from World War II. This area is full of the old concrete fortifications which formed the Maginot Line. This was a good opportunity for a quick talk about the history of WWII.
World War Two bunker
It is difficult to see, but next to Jette’s leg in the photo above is the gun slot out of which soldiers would presumably look and shoot. There was a narrow trail through the brush and down a small slope to the back where there were two openings into the bunker. Each had a “drop” of about 4 feet down into the bunker. I’m assuming this was so soldiers could have a good amount of cover for themselves if engaging enemies from the rear entrances. We scampered around and I helped Jette down the drop and into the entrance. Jette slid easily past the old iron door which was stuck partially open. I really had to squeeze through.
Sliding down to the back of the bunker
Helping Jette down
Jette slips easily through the narrow doorway
I squeeze through
Into the dark
Oh, hello spiders.
Lots of black spiders on the walls and ceiling
G.I. Jette. Smooth operator.
After exploring the bunker, it was back on the canal path.
Back on the canal path
We rode for a while and stopped in the village of Sundhouse for some refreshments. We were hoping for a snack, but the only thing open was a bar, so drinks it was.
Choosing a tea
Refreshed and ready to roll
The weather was cool and the path was flat. We passed the time talking and looking for fish in the water. We saw some big ones, probably 60 cm long.
The Rhone au Rhin Canal
Looking for fish
The first hints of Fall are not just in the air, but on the ground. Some of the trees are already dropping their leaves and the edges of the path are lined with coppery red leaves.
As we approach the area around Boofzheim, we reach the section of the canal that is still in use and navigable. We see our first boats on the canal.
We also decide that it is time to call it a day and find a place to sleep. We leave the canal path and head into the town of Boofzheim to a campground.
Headed for camp
Getting ready to pitch the tent
Tent pitched, it’s time for miniature golf.
Surprisingly, the internet connection is strong enough for a quick (and rare) Facetime session with a friend.
The campground is close enough to Strasbourg and just enough off the route that they don’t get many cyclists. We are welcomed as something of an oddity, particularly as Americans. Tonight the campground restaurant is having a special dinner of a spécialité d’Alsace – the tarte flambée. I had two gratinée.
Then it was time for showers, laundry and bed.
Home sweet home
We were late in getting packed this morning. It was just past 11:00 when we left the campground and went into Neuf Brisach. Mila wasn’t feeling well and I think we were all a bit tired and grumpy.
Crossing into Neuf Brisach
It struck us as exceedingly quiet and a bit rough around the edges. There were few shops or restaurants and even fewer open. We rode around town for a bit and then stopped at the grocery store and assembled a lunch.
Lunch on a bench
We talked about today’s ride and where we might find a campground. Both the guidebooks and Google maps presented few options between here and Strasbourg, some 69km away. Even hotels seem few and far between on this particular stretch. With the late start and everyone feeling tired, we were hoping for a short 25 km day, but looking at the map that just didn’t seem feasible. After lunch we went to find tea and coffee and I spent quite a bit of time on my phone searching for possible accommodation along the way.
Before we knew it, it was 2:00 and Mila’s head was still throbbing. We decided that this would officially be a rest day and headed back to camp. Much to Jette’s delight, instead of pitching the tent and setting up camp, we rented one of the little “Hobbit Holes” as we call them:
Our own Hobbit Hole
I can’t capture it in photographs, but somehow these tiny, little cabins are really roomy inside. It is a very efficient use of space. There is a full size bed, a bunk bed, a nice size table with bench and stools, a mini fridge, microwave, coffee maker, little coset area and a good amount of floor space so you don’t feel like you are tripping over each other. Very cozy and functional. We’re not in Holland, but this place is gezellig!
Full size bed
And of course, a bunk bed!
Hopefully the Hobbit Hole will work its magic and we’ll all feel better in the morning. We still haven’t decided on a final destination, but if we get an early enough start we’ll have a little more flexibility to figure that out as we go.
Today we rode 43.69 km from Kembs to Neuf Brisach.
We started the day with a delicious breakfast at the B&B. Bread, butter, museli, homemade marmalade, and egg. One of the marmalades was made from wild rose hips. Yum.
Breakfast at the B&B
Chocolate chip and red wine muffins
After breakfast we rode back to the canal trail and headed North. It wasn’t long before we got to the Le Corbusier Sluice Gates. As an architect, Mila had to stop and snap some photos.
Le Corbusier Sluice Gate
Somewhere around there we missed a turn.
Missed a turn
Oh yeah, there were more swamp rats, and bigger ones too!
More swamp rats
It was some time before we realized that we were off our route. We’ve found the signage quite confusing at times as there are a number of routes which all intersect right in this area. Rather than go back to correct our mistake we simply shifted to another northbound route. With other routes to the East and West, we ended up heading North through more cornfields and small villages right in the middle.
See the yellow line that runs through the “b” in Hombourg? We ended up following that instead of the red line through the forests to the West.
The corn fields seemed endless. There were so many we started cracking cornfield jokes just to pass the time. They were corny, so I won’t repeat them.
Hey! More cornfields!
Entering a village
We passed through a number of small villages, all of which were very quiet with few or no people visible. None of them had much in way of retail or services, at least not visible to us on the streets we used. One of the villages had a patisserie boulangerie but it was closed. A couple of them had a single restaurant, but they were closed, I suppose it’s because it was Saturday. We didn’t see any grocery stores or connivence stores. Although it had few shops and none were open, this village did feature this:
Farm fresh eggs in a vending machine!
Look! It’s not corn!
Pretty views. As city kids we have no idea what this crop is. Do you?
As we passed through one village, the clouds came in and the temperature dropped. Mila and Jette put their jackets on.
This place wins the ‘House of the Day’ award for the nice garden and howling elk painted on the wall.
We finally found a village with a restaurant that was open. This little kebab/pizza joint. Jette had a salad with fries. Mila and I had chicken donner with salad and fries. I think we found the best items on the very limited menu.
The salad is hidden under the funky stuff 😉
Fueled up and back on the bikes, we rode though more fields.
Pretty clouds and views
And more villages.
The last little village before Neuf Brisach.
Around here we went off planned route and switched to a more direct route to a campground on the outskirts of Neuf Brisach. On the way we finally saw a supermarket, a huge supermarket that was open, and made a stop for provisions. I waited outside with the bikes and it was almost 45 minutes before Mila and Jette made it out of the store. They said it was like a crazy cross between WalMart and Costco, but smaller and much more chaotic.
Big crazy supermarket
Another kilometer or so and we arrived at Camping Vauban. We found a very nice spot for the tent and got to work unpacking and setting up camp.
Getting ready to pitch the tent
Inflating the sleeping pads
The campground is quite cute. They’ve built a variety of whimsical cabin and tent structures and there are beautiful flowers everywhere.
That’s our tent back there
Jette found a pedal car for rent, and one Euro later, she was at the wheel…
Our young driver
Then it was time for some math workbooks. She’s studying metric measurements. What better place for that, right?!
Then it was dinner time.
Dinner at camp
Somehow a bread and butter fight broke out.
Bread and butter fight
Thankfully no one was injured. We didn’t have napkins but we did have plenty of soft bread to wipe the butter from our faces.
Math and blogging
Showers and laundry and it was off to bed just as the sun went down. I tried to complete this blog post, but the connection was so slow I could only upload the first few photos. It’s now morning and we’ve just had a breakfast of leftover fruit and bread and butter. The internet connection is faster now so I’m trying to get this posted before we hit the road again.
It rained off and on throughout the night but our tent stayed mostly dry. Jette’s sleeping bag was up against the seam on one of the tent walls and water wicked through. She woke up with one side of her sleeping bag pretty wet.
It was a weird night for me. I got really creeped out and didn’t sleep much. At 1:11 am I awoke to the sound of men chanting. I couldn’t make out what they were saying but it was not too far away. There was rushing water behind our tent, so the white noise drowned out the details, but they seemed to be chanting something and shouting a sort of a cheer. It almost sounded like a weird Maori Haka. There was an aggressiveness to it. Things would get quiet for a while and then I would hear them again. This went on for more than an hour. At some point I finally slept. Weird.
Oh I forgot to mention. After breakfast this morning, there was dancing.
The morning dance
The sun is out and the dark rain clouds are melting away. I we need to pack up and hit the road. The plan for today is to briefly explore Neuf Briasch and then get back on the road. It is a very interesting city. Take a look at this:
Work begun in 1698, to plans drawn by Vauban, a military engineer at the service of Louis XIV. Vauban died in 1707 and this, his last work, was completed by Louis de Cormontaigne. The city’s layout was that of an ‘ideal city’, as was popular at the time, with a regular square grid street pattern inside an octagonal fortification. Generous space was given to a central square across the four blocks at the middle, flanked by an impressive church. Individual blocks were offered for private development, either as affluent houses in private gardens, or as properties for commercial rent. Simpler housing was provided in long tenement blocks, built inside each curtain wall, which also had the effect of shielding the better houses from the risk of cannon fire…
That’s all for now. We’ve got to roll…