Today we took the train from Strasbourg, France to Mainz, Germany. We rode 7.75 km.
We woke up early, packed the bikes and rode a few blocks to the train station. Getting the bike to the platform was easy. We rolled right into the station and there was an elevator to the platform. We were able to leave all the bags on the bikes and simply roll them into the elevator, one-by-one. Once we were up on the platform, Mila and Jette ran back down to get breakfast and snacks for later. Fully provisioned, we made our way down the platform. The train was already there,standing empty but the doors were locked. After half an hour or so, they powered up the train and unlocked the doors. Thankfully it was one of the commuter trains where the floor of the train is level with the platform, so when the unlocked the doors, once again we simply rolled the bikes on, fully loaded. So nice!
Up the elevator
On the platform
The first train of the day
Bike on the train
Apples and Math
About twenty minutes later we rolled the bikes off in Appenweier. The plan was to go to the ticket agent there and buy tickets for Mainz for us and the bikes. The train pulled away and we were left standing on an empty platform. There was no station, no ticket agent. Just the empty platform of a suburban commuter station. Thankfully there was a ticket machine. Using the ticket machine we were able to find the trains to Mainz and purchase tickets for ourselves. The only problem was the bikes. The schedule said that reservations were required to transport bicycles on that route, but the ticket machine did not let us make reservations, nor did it tell us how we might do so. With no other options, we decided to simply do it, and ask for forgiveness not reservations!
More math while we wait for the next train
As we stood waiting on the platform, we realized that the tickets said “Platform 1” and the platform we were waiting on had a sign saying “9.” Odd. There were no other platforms in sight. This appeared to be a one platform station. Adjacent to the ticket machine Mila found a display which showed a map of the station. Cleary there were other platforms out of view. We hopped on our bikes, rode down the sidewalk, around a corner, along a street under an overpass and back up on the other side where there there two more platforms. (Still no station or ticket agents). Whew! That was a close one. Our train arrived and once again it was a regional commuter. We rolled the bikes on to a busy train and they just fit. There was some contortionist action necessary but we were on. A few stops later, off again and another train. This time it was a regional express. Almost empty. We had to unload the bikes this time, but there was plenty of room for bikes and bags, and it was pretty easy to split them across two cars. It was a comfortable ride and we looked out the window to changing scenery. Flatlands and corn fields were being replaced with rolling hills, vineyards, and large, modern windmills. The conductor announced Mainz as the next stop. A rushed dance of bikes and bags and we were standing on the Mainz platform with the train pulling away.
Comfy regional express train
Two elevators later we rolled out of the station and into traffic of the city. We made our way across town to the Gutenberg Museum. Yes, that Gutenberg. You know, the German dude with the printing press and the bible who effectively ended the Middle Ages, ushered in modernity, and utterly transformed the world? Yeah, him. OK, perhaps it wasn’t him alone, but he was a pivotal figure and his printing innovations helped to user in the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution and the Protestant Reformation.
Waco and Jette in Mainz
Our bikes parked at the Guterberg Museum
Printing demonstration at the Gutenberg Museum
It was a very nice museum with a large vault room housing original Gutenberg Bibles and a large collection of pre-Gutenberg hand written books of incalculable value, presses of various types and four floors of exhibits to put it all in context. Photography was not allowed, except for the printing demonstration.
After the museum it was time for fuel (a.k.a. “food”). Across the plaza from the museum were a number of restaurants. Jette went straight for Taco Kidd, the first “mexican” food we had seen for some time. The folks there were super nice and fixed Jette up with a bean and cheese burrito. It wasn’t Tex-Mex but it was good.
Jette enjoying a bean and cheese burrito
Mila and I opted for one of the plaza cafes where she had beef tips (yes, you read that right, Mila ate beef tips! When in Rome…) and I had a really delicious salad. The only photo I shot of Mila has her with her eyes closed, so I’ll post this one of our smokey neighbors on the patio. It is still shocking how many people in Europe still smoke, and smoke constantly. You can’t see it in this photo, but all of these guys were smoking non-stop. D-i-s-g-u-s-t-i-n-g but typical. Despite the smokies, it was a nice dinner.
As the sun was getting low, it was starting to get chilly. In fact some of the trees think it is already Fall.
Our bikes and fall leaves
After dinner we rode across the river to our campsite. We crossed and rode along the biggest and busiest road we have seen for a long time, and then up and over a big bridge. The noise from the traffic was jarring. After the quiet country roads, canal paths and forest trails, the noise, foul air and general chaos of the city traffic was a shock to the senses.
Looking across to our campsite
Crossing the bridge
The campsite was right across the river, with a great view of the city. The location made up for a grumpy proprietor who seemed more interested in smoking and drinking on the patio than assisting guests. While we were setting up camp, we met Alan from Alaska, a super nice guy who had just arrived in Europe and was beginning a bike tour of his own. His plan was to ride up the Rhine to Rotterdam and then South West along the cost of France and possibly Spain. We spent probably an hour or more talking that evening and then again in the morning. He’s cycled the continental US East-West from coast to coat and North-South from border to border. He’s even cycled through Alpine, Texas ;-). Alan, if you read this, we wish you safe travels and tailwinds!
We haven’t had a pop quiz for a while, so here you go kiddos:
POP QUIZ! Western History is typically divided into three main periods: Antiquity, ____________, and the Modern Period.
“Middle Ages” or medieval period. More info on the Middle Ages
Iceland, airplane trouble, a surprise trip to Scotland, and finally Amsterdam!
Here we sit, nibbling fruit and cheese on the shores of the IJmeer. Yes, we are finally in Amsterdam! Our legs are tired from a day pedaling back and forth across the city on various errands in preparation for our EuroVelo bike trip. It feels good to be back in Amsterdam. It’s easy to fall back into the relaxed groove of summer in Amsterdam, although this time we’ve traded the houseboat for a swanky pod hotel and now a tent (more on that later).
We left home Wednesday morning on a very long (and cheap!) flight agenda: Dallas to Boston on JetBlue (5 hour layover and a switch to Icelandair), Boston to Reykjavik (8 hour layover), Reykjavik to Amsterdam, arriving about 9 PM on Thursday. Of course, things didn’t quite go as planned…
The flight to Boston and and layover was uneventful. The Icelandair flight to Reykjavik was most noteworthy for the interior design of the Icelandair planes and what we learned about Iceland. The cabin lights along the fuselage were a very cool white color temperature, reminiscent of sea ice, and the ceiling lights along the overhead bins were color changing LEDs that looked like the slowly morphing Northern Lights (the photo doesn’t do it justice). Very thoughtful design and great branding.
Cool lighting on the Icelandair planes
Grabbing a couple hours of sleep on the flight
The flight was a surprise opportunity for us to learn about geothermal energy. Iceland sits along the fault where the North American and European tectonic plates meet, and is a “hot bed” of seismic and volcanic activity. There is A LOT of heat and energy stored underground in Iceland. There are active volcanoes, geysers, and hot springs around the islands, and this energy from the earth is harnessed by the Icelandic people for a variety of purposes.
Around Reykjavik they extract the naturally occurring hot water and steam from underground to heat their homes, offices, water, and even keep the streets and sidewalks snow-free (there is a network of geothermal hot water pipes under the surface of the streets and sidewalks that heats their surface!).
What percentage of Iceland's energy usage is from renewable sources?
Answer: 85% – one of the highest rates in the world! About 90% of homes and buildings in Iceland are heated geothermally.
The 8 or so hours we spent in Iceland were a pleasure. The “food” in the Boston airport was, well, disgusting so we were pleased to find a super-yummy place in the Keflavík International Airport. “Joe and The Juice” serves fresh juice and delicious sandwiches on toasted brown bread. It sounds hippy-dippy, but it was delicious!
Enjoying fresh juice and smoothies in Iceland
We took a bus from the airport to Reykjavik (about 40 mins) and spent a few hours walking around the quaint and quiet city.
On top of Reykjavik
After the quick Reykjavik walkabout, it was back to the airport for the flight to Amsterdam.
Waiting for another flight
Our 4:30 departure was delayed slightly by an equipment issue, but we were soon back in the air. We were exhausted. Mila and Jette managed to get a little sleep on the plane. I nodded off just long enough to give me a crick in the neck!
At some point in the flight, the captain announced that we were having “equipment issues” and would be landing in Glasgow, Scotland. I almost never get nervous on commercial airplanes, but I have to admit that I was a little bit jittery. It is not everyday that the captain of an airplane on a trans-Atlantic flight announces “equipment issues” and a bee line for the first chunk of dry ground!
We landed safely in Glasgow and sat on the runway. After some time we were directed off the plane and into the airport terminal which was, by that time, already closed. After a while they brought us bottled water and said they were flying a part in. As midnight approached they announced that the airline would be finding hotel rooms for all of the passengers. We were shuffled downstairs, through immigration and into a long line of 200 or 300 people. Names were taken, arrangements were made, and we were soon in a cab to one of the airport hotels where we waited in another long line to check-in. It was after 1 am on Thursday when we finally put our heads on a pillow. The last bed we had seen was on Tuesday night.
Though still tired, we were up early Friday morning for a quick breakfast and a shuttle ride back to the airport. Word among the passengers was that we would be departing at noon but that wasn’t to be. We ended up spending a full day at the Glasgow Airport. It was our first trip to Scotland, and we didn’t see much, but we made the best of it!
Glasgow airport fun
It was beautiful, sunny day. We lounged on the airport lawn with some of our fellow travelers and played volleyball with a free, promotional beachball from one of the vendors in the airport.
It wasn’t cloudy or raining. Could we have really been in Glasgow?!
We finally arrived in Amsterdam at 10 pm on Thursday about 60 hours after our Dallas departure. We checked in to the very fun and swanky CitizenM Hotel on the ground of Schiphol Airport, so it wasn’t long before we were snoozing in a real bed! The CitizenM is a “pod” hotel. The showers are glass “tubes” in the room with color changing LED lights controlled with an iPad. Fun stuff.
Fun room with shower and toilet “tubes” and one super-gigantic bed.
After one night in the fun and funky CitizenM, we switched to a tent in the equally fun and funky Camping Zeeburg Amsterdam campground.
Comfy bed 😉
OK, so here’s the plan…
Sell the car.
Sell our stuff or put it in storage.
Rent out the house.
Get some backpacks.
- Explore the world (our classroom).
That last one starts on Wednesday. We better get packing!
So, where are we going and what will we do?
We have some ideas, but few firm plans. Mostly we’ll figure it out as we go.
Of course we have to start somewhere, so we’ve given ourselves quite a challenge for the beginning of the trip: fly to Amsterdam, buy used bicycles, strap our stuff to the bikes and ride across Europe on the Eurovelo 15 cycle route which follows the Rhine river from its source in the Alps of Switzerland, through Germany, France and the Netherlands to its mouth in the North Sea.
Map of the Eurovelo 15 route.
The Rhine is the second longest river in Europe, and our route is about 1,400 km.
Pop quiz: If one kilometer equals 0.621371 miles, how far is the route in miles?
Answer: About 870 miles. (1,400 x 0.621371 = 869.9194)
Will we actually make it all the way?
How long will it take us?
What will we learn along the way?
We hope you’ll follow along on this blog to find out…