The alarm went off at 6am. Breakfast was served by the pool by a most attentive host and the best breakfast so far- we had scrambled eggs from her own chickens and home made cake to take with us. We paid our bill for food etc and it was €32. She said the washing was complementary to cyclists and the ice cold beer was free – a gift for cycling up the hill to stay with her. This accommodation has made its way into the number one slot!
We were on the bikes early with 4 litres of iced water. It was warm already. Luckily, the hill we trudged up to get here was a joyful and delicious start to this ride – all downhill. This is our longest ride ever.
Going through the town at the foot of the hill we caught up with Gerhard from Salzburg. He and many of those solo riders are camping. Gerhard tagged along. He was a bit slower than us and I could see Duncan was increasing the speed by half a kph every couple of minutes until he was happily chatting away at 19kph! Duncan noticed his bike and it’s nuances. It was grey and the chosen colour to make it look cheap. Ah ha, this was all intentional so at first glance you believed it not worthy of stealing. It was however, a highly technical and custom built bike similar to a Koga. No chain! Clever Gerhard.
The steep forests of the Doubs valley flattened out and slowly they fell away, leaving us with the ubiquitous wheat and corn. The coolness of the forests gave in to a warming breeze that by the end of the day was just damn hot. We have never ridden 91 km before and we didn’t appreciate doing it in 38 degrees. Others reckoned it was over 40, and that’s the temperature in the shade – sadly not the case for us in the afternoon. Some rare stretches of trees on the canal.
We broke away from Gerhard to take one of Duncan’s calculated diversions (the sort that drove Tony bonkers). We rode for 5 km on a busy but flat road to cut out a 60m climb. Duncan had explained why he was doing it to Gerhard but he wanted to stick to the route.
We found a coffee shop at a marina. It was the worst coffee we’ve ever had – so bad that even with extra packet milk Julie couldn’t drink it – €3 each. Then Gerhard appeared, he had gotten 1 km into the hill and thought “stuff this, I will go Duncan’s route”. He was heading to another town for a shorter day, so we bid him farewell. If you ever feel like moaning or complaining, think of Gerhard, age 78, carrying everything and having a wonderful time along the way, meeting new friends. He was an inspiration and very very fit having had a serious illness and heart attack, so he gave up work and started cycling!
Then we had a bit of a diversion to find the only Decathlon store on the whole trip so far, within reach and open. We needed salt tablets as had run out. Crucial to our long rides in heat. Closed roads, blocked bridges, irritating to say the least but finally found along with some rather good baguettes from another close by store that didn’t contain ham and cheese.
Above is a weed remover – simply ride up and down the canal collecting weed and dumping it on the bank. Quite a nice job perhaps!
Determined to get 50km notched up before stopping for lunch but then had to keep going for much longer to find shade and a seat. We had moved into another department and one which obviously didn’t consider the hundreds of cyclists cycling through with absolutely nowhere to take a break. We finally found a bench next to a lock keepers house and took a break to eat, while some local lads swam in the murky canal. Now in mid 30s. A woman rode past and shouted “are you the Australians, I’ve heard about you”! this comment threw us a bit.
Finally got to the top of the canal, where we found a road closed sign and diversion. Ignored that, and 2km later literally cycled over the barrier at the other end, then downhill through a flight of 12 locks to start the final 25 kms into Mulhouse. Running out of water. Cyclists all over trying to find the same – nowhere open on route yet again. We now know that in every town and village there is a church and a graveyard – both provide drinking water!
We caught up with Claudia from Frankfurt who had heard about us from Gerhard. We said we were stopping at the first bar on route. She found us there thirty minutes later and we had an ice cold shandy while watching other cyclists slam on the breaks when they spotted this shabby bar. She loved this verboten sign
Mulhouse – staying in an aged care apartment block! It was cheap and well located but it’s in a rather tatty bit of the city. It’s quiet and spacious but very bare and no aircon! Due to be hotter today. Duncan working. Will explore later.