October 4, 2019; Odometer 2650 mi.
In this blog I continue east along the Danube. Along the way, I get a message from my brother Eric that he is planning a trip to Munich with his son, Toshi. Caught in the dilemma of diverting my course, or holding to the plan; I resolve to continue with the plan to Linz, Austria. Park my bike there for a few days while I take a train to meet my Brother in Munich, and then return by train to Linz to continue the trek.
In the map you can see the international borders in tan, Germany in the west, Austria in the east and Check Republic in the north. I spent three days off the bike. It was well worth it.
I have covered a bit of ground since the last blog ten days ago. I am becoming increasingly aware of deadlines. I must get to Budapest in time to pack up my bike, fly it to Bangkok, then return to Chicago for the family reunion at my mothers place on her 93rd birthday. That, and summer is over. It is getting colder. Some mornings it is 4C (39F) at 8AM.
While this is not at all a bad temperature for cycling, it requires some motivation to get started. Once I am running at speed and warmed up, I don’t feel cold at all. Even if it is raining and my clothes are wet, the body generates enough heat just keeping the bike moving. My rule of thumb: if you feel cold, ride faster. If you can’t keep that fast a pace, put on another layer of clothing. I’m carrying layers I have not had to use yet.
As it gets colder, I am not using my tent as much. I can stay warm enough at night. I have trouble with breaking camp on a cold morning. It is much easier to get organized in a warm hotel room, then launch into the cold air and quickly warm up.
I found this charming structure set up in a park near the cycleway. It was right on the river. It was not part of a campground. It seemed to me that the locals had erected the place for cyclists to use. The nearby fire ring indicated that folks would occasionally overnight here. I would have done so myself except I had more miles to go that day.
I was racing a rainstorm that was headed east, coming up behind me. I could see the dark clouds coming. I remember from my days of Race Across America, one could sometimes out run a storm. This requires keeping a speed of about 35kph, which sounds like a lot. But the tailwind helps. These days I don’t keep speeds like that, but it was fun to race and lose just the same.
The big dump of rain hit me just as I was coming into the villiage of Pondorf. I found a farm supply store there and ducked into an open storage shed to get out of the driving rain. I was discovered there by an employee who was speaking loud and too fast for me to comprehend.
I explained that German is not my better language and that I can understand only if he speaks slowly and simply. We then got into a useful dialogue. I found out that there are no hotels or hostels in this villiage. The next town is about 8km east and would be the closest accommodation of any kind. I asked to use the toilet.
When I came out of the toilet, I was shown to the general manager’s office to meet Bernard. He took me in to his office to show me his recumbent (Liegerad). He rides this to work everyday. He also owns a Bacchetta Corsa. He has a dream of doing Race Across America. We got into a good discussion in both English and German. He is about my age, a marathoner with impressive finish times (~2.5 hours).
I think it would be fun to go down to Oceanside and see Bernard’s team start. He explained a plan to ride the course, not during the race itself. I told him to beware of the California desert, and don’t give up.
Bernard gave me some good advice on places to stay. By the time we were done talking the rain had stopped. It was really good luck for me to have picked his storage shed to duck into for cover.
On my way to the next town I find two French cyclists Jacque and Joseline. They have apparently gotten the full dump of rain that I missed while talking with Bernard. It has now been at least a month since I have spoken any French. We stumble through greetings and some simple questions about origin and ride plans. I am surprised to find while searching for French words, German words pop up, which I dismiss in mid sentence.
It turns out I meet these two more than once over the next few days. They apparently are using tents in spite of the rain. The photos here show them drying out their tent before folding it up. I am impressed with their tenacity.
East of Ulm, I am traveling in Bavaria Germany. Here Oktoberfest has started. This is a big thing in Munich. Out here in the surrounding community there are smaller local festivals with the same name.
It was in Regensburg, I found the temporary fairgrounds were erected on the Danube Cycleway. It was a comical thing riding my muddy touring bike through a carnival setting. Germans are typically more organized. OK, maybe I missed the detour sign.
Signs are important. Especially warning signs. I encounter one regarding airplanes and take out my translation app to help out.
I found this sign posted alongside the Danube Cycleway.
Just as I am figuring out that it is a warning about an airplane runway where walking and riding is forbidden, I hear an engine coming up behind me. I turn around in time to see a single engine Piper about 20 meters off the ground coming nearly straight at me.
He is on final approach. He flys directly overhead and lands about 100 meters beyond me in the grass field. OK, a near miss. Now what!?!! I can’t figure out how I managed to wander into this situation.
I see no more air traffic coming. I investigate to find I have not made a mistake. The Danube Cycleway is at the edge of a grass landing strip. I find other cyclists on this path. I sure hope the pilots all understand to land in the grass not on the cyclists.
Decision to meet in Munich
A day or so before reaching Austria, I decide it would be good to meet Rick and Toshi (my brother and his son) in Munich. Thanks to Heike for pointing out that this would be an important part of my trip, not to be missed.
The thing is, a big diversion in my course would not be easy to accommodate. It would be possible for me to leave my bike where it is on the course and take a train to meet Rick in Munich on Sunday Sept 29. I push eastward toward Austria.
Passau is a big German town near the border. I take a moment to have a beer and give thanks for a great time had.
Crossing to border into Austria is a very popular part of the Danube Cycleway. I discover that upper Austria is a rural place. There is no train service of any kind until you get to Linz. There are few bridges that span the Danube. The popular way to get across is by ferry. There are many restaurants along the cycleway that are specifically set up to serve the cyclists.
I stop at one such place and order lunch. A large tour group comes rolling in. They are speaking English. One cyclist is wearing a Ragbrai jersey. Ragbrai is a famous ride which goes across the state of Iowa every year. I chat some of them up. They are the Iowa city cyclists. A fun group headed west unfortunately. I am headed the other way.
I head out and meet Richard, a cyclist from Melbourne, Australia. We get to talking. He is not carrying much. We keep a good pace together with one other cyclist from Australia.I learn that he has an agreement with a tour group which arranges to carry most of his stuff on a barge. They meet once a day and provide a place to sleep.
Swapping stories, I find he knows of Glenn Druery, a racing partner of mine from Sydney. Small world.
There is a cottage industry of ferries set up to move cyclists across the Danube. This is a charming on demand operation. One simply stands the bike near the loading ramp and someone appears to run the ferry across. It costs less than the price of a beer.
Linz is an industrial city on the Danube. I do not think this place is at all charming. I would not stop here except, it does have a major train station. I need this to make a smooth run to Munich. Here I find an inexpensive hotel which is willing to keep my bike for three days while I go to Munich.
OK, Linz has a very different vibe than upper Austria. Maybe I shouldn’t be so negative. It is home to a Thermo Fisher plant and some kool urban art painted onto a freight train.
Popping back into Germany was a breath of fresh air. It is here where my brother worked for SuedDeutcher Zeitung back in the 80’s. He has maintained friends with Werner and Sigurd there. We stayed at Sigrun’s home in the northern part of town.
Munich is the capital city of Bavaria. Much of it was destroyed during World War II. For many Germans this is an important city in Germany, and it shows. There is so much to see there, we could only scratch the surface.
We spent a lot of time in the German Science Museum. There are many exhibits on how modern technology works, (E.g. GPS, Aircraft, Astronomy). We also got a tour of Marianplatz which was my brother’s home while he worked there. Many of the old buildings are untouched. It is the new ones that have changed most. We got around mostly with electric powered rental scooters, and rental bikes.
Of course if you wind up in Munich near the end of September, one is obligated to go to Oktoberfest. We did. There is only one size beer sold there. It’s one liter, that’s more than two pints. We hung out long enough to sample the scene, then returned to a more civilized downtown Munich.
Back to Austria
Vienna (Wien) is the capital of Austria. It is the largest city in this country. I was here once before when I was 17 years old. Just graduated from High School, my father took my brother and I on our first trip to Europe. A very cool tradition.
Things I remember of that trip are not all very clear. I do remember my dad making a big deal about Vienna, the eastern most point on our voyage. I remember he made a big deal about Sachertort mit Schlag (sugar cake with whipped cream).
It’s always a good thing to make some goals larger than life. So to remember that, I went out and found this elusive delicacy.
To be completely honest. The presentation and expectations are wonderful. The praise stops there. Maybe my palette has not been properly educated.
I don’t mean to be negative on Vienna. I really haven’t spent enough time to get to know the city. On my next pass this way, maybe I should give it a second chance. At the moment, I need to keep it moving.
The forecast for today was rain. I took the day off to see Vienna and catch up on my blog. At least the blog is up to date.
Doing some quick calculations on rate of travel and time remaining, I find that I average between 60 and 70 km/day, based on markers placed on the Danube. Thus I am not including some kilometers I spend getting lost. I will need time to negotiate visas and pack up my bike for air travel, once I get to Budapest.
All in all I think I’m on a good track. Though I have some challenges ahead. I still have to get through Slovakia, then part way through Hungary. I don’t speak the languages there. I will need to set up visas for Russia and Thailand. So the plan is: I will get to Budapest on Oct 14 and fly to Moscow on Oct 19. I will fly to Bangkok the next day.
Danube marker Oct 3
An earlier version of this blog was published with an error. Bernard is the recumbent rider I met in Pondorf. The original version had his name incorrect.