Before it began I drove from Blacksburg, VA to Pocono Lake, PA where over two days I gathered the necessary gear, packed and rested. On the morning of May 20th, 2013 my bike, my gear, my father, and I loaded into the pickup truck and drove towards JFK Airport.
The traffic was mild by New York standards and I was dropped on at JFK 3.5 hrs before departure. Laden with two Orlieb panniers, a Rack Pack, and pushing my Trek up to the check in counter caught a few peoples attention. The man at the desk was unfamiliar with Air Lingus’ Bike Policy but before long I had secured a personal escort to see my bike through the airport. Thirty minutes later the Trek and I bid farewell at the gate to meet again in Frankfurt 28 hours later.
The plane brought me to Dublin and a quick bus and train ride turned my 8 hour layover into a meeting with my sister over a wonderful Irish breakfast in Center City Dublin. The next flight, delayed slightly, brought me to Frankfurt where I anxiously awaited the arrival of the Trek on the oversized baggage conveyer. She arrived and I quickly set about assembling her for the eminent and ambitious adventure. But alas the last train to Wurzberg that evening had no bike car.
Before long we scored a bench in a quiet corner that didn’t have armrests. It was an ideal mattress and with bike chained up and valuables under my head I settled in for the night.
The 5:00am wake up and following train ride ferried us to Wurzburg via some beautiful mountain passes and an in-transit clothing change had us ready to ride upon our 9:00am arrival.
The day was long but the riding beautiful. I felt free and route took me through fields, woods, villages, and towns via bike paths and roads that each had their own distinct feel. The destination emerged as Kirchberg an der Jangt around lunch time. As a small town no one had heard of getting there with limited access to maps was a bit of a challenge. My journey took me through high farmland that had an eerie resemblance to central Pennsylvania with the exception of the language on the road signs.
After 7 hrs in the saddle and 130 km I descended in to the Jangst valley and saw Kirchberg emerge from behind the trees. The welcome I got filled my weary body with joy and when they showed me my bed I couldn’t contain it. The generosity of the Holtz family was heart touching. I showed quickly and then joined a local German family in a meal, history lesson, and tour of the area before enjoying a pint or two at the local pub. I fell into bed that evening exhausted but with a grin on my face. This was going to be a grand adventure.
The next morning after breakfast, again with the Holtz’s, I saddled up and headed towards Creilsheim the next large town on my route. The plan was to ride about 100 km that day but my knees had other plans and the decision to take a short cut 30 minutes into the ride resulted in an amazing 4 hour adventure in the jangst river valley. My bike, my gear, and me rode, walked, and carried ourselves through a combination of dirt bike paths, farmers fields, old mill words, and beautiful bridges on the Radweg an der Jangst. A gorgeous trail but not one intended for bikes loaded down with 40 lbs of gear.
I made up for lost time by catching a train from Creilsheim to Augsberg where I moved on to the next host in an apartment on the south end of town. Again I was greeted with enthusiasm allowed to shower and provided a free dinner. The conversation this evening was in English but getting to know Tobi and Naira and hear their stories about studying in Germany and Brazil and their adventures as couchsurfers around the world made my excursion sound a bit more reasonable. I slept in the next morning and then bid them farewell after being laden with snacks for the day to curb my hunger on the way to Kempton.
My knees encouraged me to take a train most of the way to Kempton and when I arrived I meet my final host at a gas station on the edge of town. It was raining, cold, and my only correspondence with Michael had been two emails and a 30 second phone conversation. My bike was too big for his car so he told me to follow him to his house on my bike. We turned down a highway hung a right and then started up a hill where he quickly started to pull away from me. My mind was wondering where we were going right about when Michael hung a right onto a dirt road that lead to a farm house on the edge of a field. Couchsurfing for the win.
The next two days were spent with the Family Ott on their Dairy farm on the outskirts of Kempton in the Allgau region of Bayern. I joined them for meals, got a tour of the local town and attended a barn party Friday evening that had live music and about 1000 people dancing and singing along.
A last minute decision to spend one final evening with the Ott’s proved for the best as the train ride to Zurich revealed that the previously abandoned bike route would have included snow covered descents that morning. The rest of the trip to Zurich, by train, marked the end of the first leg of my journey. The snow-capped foothills passing by the windows helped me begin to transition to phase two of the journey. It was time to pack up the spandex and break out the khakis
You can check out some photos from the trip here