Today's Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/742499350
The EuroVelo 15, aka, Rhine Cycle Route, follows the Rhine from its source in the Swiss Alps to its end at the Nordsee in the Netherlands. As the number fifteen implies, there are other EuroVelo routes: as of October 2016, fifteen are either completed, like the Rhine Cycle Route, or in some stage of development, such as the EuroVelo 9. When the EuroVelo 9 is completed, cyclists will be able to ride from the East Sea in Poland all the way to the Adriatic in Italy; a distance of 1,930 kilometers (1,199 miles) all on a well-marked cycling route. The list of EuroVelo routes on this web page is truly enviable fodder for any contemplative cyclist. If you're addicted to your bike(s), then I advise that you check it out right away and start making your own plans to explore a portion of the over 70,000 kilometers (43,495 miles) of signed cycling routes. Put that in your dirty bike sock and eat it!
Whilst sipping coffee this morning, I was thrilled when I discovered that the EuroVelo 15 was less than 200 meters from my room at Eric and Julie's AirBnB in Strasbourg. That proximity made the start of my day far simpler, or at least it should have anyway, than navigating through the city of Strasbourg in search of the famous bike path by the Rhine. Nonetheless, as I approached the city center, by this point already on the Rhine Cycle Route, I still managed to miss a few turns, each time requiring that I turn-around and relocate the route. Those errors withstanding, it took less than 30 minutes to exit the city where I was on my way to Switzerland via the Rhine Cycle Route on the French side of the river.
As I exited town, I was aware of a famous church, Strasbourg Cathedral, easily visible at times, to the north, from the bike route. But I decided to ride on, perhaps on my next visit to Strasbourg I'll make my introduction to this exceptionally historic building: "At 142 metres (466 feet), it was the world's tallest building from 1647 to 1874 (227 years), when it was surpassed by St. Nikolai's Church, Hamburg. Today it is the sixth-tallest church in the world and the highest extant structure built entirely in the Middle Ages. [It was] described by Victor Hugo as a "gigantic and delicate marvel", and by Goethe as a "sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God."
On the French side of the Rhine, as this implies the Rhine Cycle Route is available on both sides of the river, at times a moderate headwind shaved some of my speed. Otherwise, on varied surfaces including hard-packed dirt and pea gravel, I managed to keep a reasonable bike touring pace, average 15-16 mph (24-26 kph) but often 20-22 mph (32-35 kph), with a body that is now eight days into a long bike trip without a break.
Three hours into the ride I passed through a small village, wandered around, was nearly run over by a kid on a scooter, and eventually found what I was looking for, a baguette! The last few days I've had one hanging out of a kit pocket or two, broken in half, for refueling on the go as I pedal across the countryside. They're excellent bike food, along with fresh apples, cherry tomatoes, and nuts. And when I stop cheese, sliced meats, and other easily carried foods have also been popular on the shop-as-I-go menu.
Despite the #15 being complete, including signs, it's still tricky to follow in and out of human population centers, even small villages. That's led to many mistakes, including one that I decided not to recover from, instead I rode on, a decision that turned out to be serendipitous. Soon I was spinning through a forest, alone, just the bird chatter to keep me company. It was a nice break from route finding. I continued south on a very straight line for many miles, made-up some time along the way (recovered my average 15 mph pace for the day), and enjoyed a road, and cycle route, less traveled.
My biggest surprise today was the absence, with rare exception, of the Rhine on the French portion of the Rhine Cycle Route that I followed from Strasbourg to Basel. Instead, the French route favors often paved (not exclusively) bike paths along a network of canals that parallel the Rhine. I was slightly disappointed by the absence of the famous river. Nonetheless, the route did not disappoint an adventure seeking cyclist and if I'd had more time there were plenty of opportunities for side trips, especially the famous Alsatian Wine Region including the self-proclaimed capital, Colmar, France: "[Colmar} considers itself to be the ... capitale des vins d'Alsace. The city is renowned for its well preserved old town, its numerous architectural landmarks and its museums." For a cyclist, an evening in the old town to sample the wine and a part of a day to make a quick tour is certainly an enviable objective. Hopefully, I'll get a second chance to sample the Alsace.
Basel made itself known in typical urban fashion as it grew out of the woods and verge until it surrounded me on all sides, a wee bike rider in contrast. Basel is small relative to New York City or even Hamburg, but it's nonetheless a city by any measure, "urban" and all that the word implies. As has become my habit, I located a grocery store and purchased what I needed for an evening meal, breakfast, and snacks the next day (on-the-go bike food). Then I did something I've not done since I departed Hamburg, I went to restaurant! For this occasion I chose an Indian take-out option that also had stay-and-eat seating. I ordered an appetizer followd by two entrées, I could have eaten a third. My body celebrated each bite of the warm, spicy, food. Up until this foray into an Indian kitchen, warm food had been on the menu only one other time, at the conclusion of day two.
I have some ideas about tomorrow but at this moment I'm still contemplating most of the details. Uncertainty aside, soon I must begin my northward migration towards Hamburg and Northern Germany. Following today's unplanned ca. 100 mile ride from Strasbourg south to Basel, I'm now over 500 miles, 800 km, from Hamburg by the shortest auto route. That confirms that I'll be riding on for some time, apparently, before I perform the last pedal revolution at the end of the tour.
This evening my AirBnB host is a fellow from Belgrade, Serbia. Srdjan eventually met a Swiss lady, Mirijam, in Switzerland and never left. Srdjan kindly offered me a beer in the evening and we discussed, mostly he educated me, his experience living in Serbia, including the period from 1992 to 1995 when adjacent Bosnia and Herzegovina were at war and carrying-out awful, really unbelievable, war crimes. One comment that stuck was "the story told by the media was very misleading", paraphrased. In fact, he informed me that people, including himself, that wanted the real story to be told, eventually gave up and accepted that the media was not something that they could influence to the extent that was necessary to clean-up their misleading story.
But wars aside, and instead, a comfortable place to stay for less than 30 Euro foremost, I agree with Katia, another guest of Srdjan's, "[that] Srdjan [and Mirijam's] house is simple ... cozy and charming. [Srdjan] is a lovely, helpful gentleman. Don't miss staying at [their] place." In the morning I'll have a go at operating Srdjan's espresso machine, perhaps the best AirBnB espresso so far? We will see, and see as well how the day unfolds ... in the morning I'll make some decisions about the next here and now. I bid you Guten Nacht from where I am sitting, feet up, a beer on my right, less than a handful of kilometers from a border, in the middle of the Rhine, shared by France, Germany, and Switzerland. If you set it free, life delivers marvelous in large doses.