Europe Tour | Autumn 2016 | Day 7
Today's Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/741473291
I'm starting to forget how many days have passed since I left Hamburg. How about seven? And what a day it was. By the time I finished yesterday in Metz, France, I was already many kilometers off my planned route. I had freelanced my way from Belgium and about 1/3rd of the way across northeastern France towards Germany and the Alps. Today I continued, without a GPS trackline to guide me, to the Rhine and the French-German border. My average pace was a little better than 15 mph, including stops. Along the way, I covered 108 miles (172 km) not counting the few miles from the grocery store to Eric and Julie's AirBnB close to the city center of Strasbourg, France, a city of exceptional antiquity: "The human occupation of the environs of Strasbourg goes back many thousands of years. Neolithic, bronze age and iron age artifacts have [all] been uncovered by archeological excavations. [Strasbourg] was permanently settled by proto-Celts around 1300 BC."
Long before I arrived to the ancient city of Strasbourg on the Rhine, the day started fast for my relatively heavy touring set-up, nearly 20 miles (32 km) in the first hour. But subsequently I pedaled into a significant headwind which persisted most of the way to Sarrebourg, a city about half the distance between Metz and Strasbourg. Adding insult to injury, the D999 and D27 were occasionally uncomfortable, you might say, for a cyclist. Despite light traffic most of the time, the few vehicles that did drive past, including lorries and tourist buses, showed very little concern for my safety. One bus in particular left me no more than a few inches as it zipped past in excess of, what felt like, 120 kph (75 mph). With no bike lane or road shoulder whatsoever, the incident with the bus gave rise to an exceptional state of shock that was shortly thereafter followed by a middle finger wave. Given the company on the road and the distance I wanted to cover today, on the ride from Metz to Sarrebourg I focused on staying alive while maintaining a steady pace. I stopped only when necessary to reassess my route which was mostly via dead reckoning using the horizon and the sun as my guide.
I was expecting more wind and possibly even the foothills of the Alps, which I could occasionally see on the horizon, as I approached Sarrebourg but neither concern materialized. Instead, I made my way through a portion of the medium-sized city then made a right turn, to the south, and crossed the La Sarre River. Straight-on I arrived to and rode over a canal before I turned left onto, something close to, Rue de River, "river road". Finally, the river road led me to the same canal that I'd crossed, Canal de la Marne au Rhine, and soon thereafter I was celebrating a wonderful event that happened, for the most part, by chance (aka, serendipity). The wind and traffic I dealt with for ca. 68 miles (110 km) was quickly a distant memory as I pedaled my way along Canal de la Marne au Rhine. As the light improved, I slowed down for photos, by this time well into the afternoon.
I had detected the Canal de la Marne au Rhine earlier in the day while studying Google map images and was planning to check it out once I reached Sarrebourg. However, my expectations were only half as good as what lay in store for me. The Canal de la Marne au Rhine, part of a network of canals that connect, e.g., the Rhine to the Moselle in Metz, allows boat traffic deep into northeast France. Shortly after locating the canal along the Rue de River, I was spinning comfortably on a (most of the time) paved bike path that, at the end of the day, delivered me to French villages overlooking Strasbourg and the River Rhine. The city and river below were magestic, but the small villages themselves were, for my senses, even more picturesque and memorable. Winding mostly down, down, down, along narrow, steep, cobble stone roads the last few kilometers before entering Strasbourg proper I was treated to an old Europe as much as anywhere else on my trip.
I rolled into Strasbourg at about 5:30, found a grocery store and then my bed for the night at Eric and Julie's AirBnB. Looking out my window, as I type on my iPhone, I can see, 1/2 km away, the European Union Parliament building. Life is full of surprises, but certainly some days deliver more than others. In the evenings I'm wasted, nonetheless I'm surprised how well I continue to feel on the bike day after day. As of this moment, seven days into the tour, I've covered over 700 miles (1120 km) through Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. My shortest day has been about 70 miles, my longest close to 120. Since entering the Ardennes on day four, I've climbed and descended several thousand feet of elevation, including some very steep grades in excess of 18%.
However, the excitement of arriving, as I have, to a River that, like Galileo, is nearly always referred to just by it's first name, "Rhine", quickly dissipated any consideration I might otherwise had allocated to reflecting on my fatigue. And there is the city itself, Strasbourg, a city with a history as impressive as any other in Europe. The name, "Rhine", has been adapted by many languages from the original Gaulish name Rēnos. The Rhine has been and remains so significant in Europe that it has it's own linear measurement, the "Rhine-Kilometer", "a scale introduced in 1939 which runs from the Old Rhine Bridge at [Lake] Constance (0 km) to Hoek van Holland (1036.20 km)." From antiquity, "The Rhine was not known to Herodotus and first enters the historical period in the 1st century BC in Roman-era geography. At that time, it formed the boundary between Gaul and Germania. Augustus ordered his general Drusus to establish 50 military camps along the Rhine, starting the Germanic Wars in 12 BC. At this time, the plain of the Lower Rhine was the territory of the Ubii. The first urban settlement, on the grounds of what is today the centre of Cologne, along the Rhine, was Oppidum Ubiorum, ... founded [by the Ubii] in 38 BC." And that's just the first few breaths when it comes to humanity and their comings and goings from the Rhine. It would literally take, it seems after a quick scroll through Wikipedia's Rhine page, minimum two full university courses to cover the entire history in detail.
On the left bank of the Rhine, in what has been Germany in the recent past, is Strasbourg, a city with a tireless history. Artifacts unearthed in Strasbourg include relics of the Neolithic Period (ca. 10,200 to 4500-2200 BC), Bronze (ca. 3300 to 1200 BC) and Iron Ages (ca. 1200 BC to 600 BC). Nearing the conclusion of the third century BC, Strasbourg "developed into a Celtic township" before a long period of Roman rule: "The Romans under Nero Claudius Drusus established a military outpost belonging to the Germania Superior Roman province at Strasbourg's current location, and named it Argentoratum. (Hence the town is commonly called Argentina in medieval Latin) The name "Argentoratum" was first mentioned in 12 BC and the city celebrated its 2,000th birthday in 1988[!]" And following God(s), one would assume, displeasure with Rome, "In the fifth century Strasbourg was occupied successively by Alemanni, Huns, and Franks. In the ninth century it was commonly known as Strazburg in the local language, as documented in 842 by the Oaths of Strasbourg." And on and on the story goes until a lone, unexceptional, traveler glides down narrow streets through villages on his RLT9 Steel into Strasbourg on 11 October 2016.
With so much already behind me and so many possibilities ahead, the question of 'how to proceed' seems foremost this evening as I prepare for sleep. Should I accept my "farthest south" as Strasbourg and turn north, tomorrow, on the Rhine Cycle Route? Or, should I instead turn south, on the French-side of the Rhine, and adventure my way to Basel, Switzerland. You might be able to guess what option I'm favoring. I will sleep on it, and decide in the morning over an americano or a second espresso. It's 89 miles, about 150 km, to Basel from Strasbourg. Well within the reach of a cyclist inspired by nearly every moment of the last seven days. Dormez bien et réveillez-vous avec une inspiration pour suivre vos rêves.
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Adventure Guide, Mentor, Lifestyle Coach, Consultant, Endurance Athlete