Before we tacked a visit with Karel’s family onto the beginning of our trip, we had already arranged a week-long bicycle tour from Munich to Salzburg. The idea was to break up the long, long journey from Colorado to Madagascar, and give ourselves time to get over most of the jet lag.
Under the new plan, we took two days to drive our rental car from the north of the Netherlands to Munich, enjoying one night in a Medieval German town, and a visit to one of the larger electronics outlets to replace the broken camera. After a comfy rest at our hotel in Munich, we began our journey through the countryside by e-bike.
The tour company provided us with e-bikes, maps, instructions, hotel reservations, and “half board” —breakfast and dinner— for the entire route. Otherwise we were on our own. The first day’s route took us through a park in Munich to an old canal road, now a popular trail not so different from the Boulder Creek Path. This linked to trails, narrow and winding back roads, and more canal roads, sometimes paved, sometimes not, with only occasional forays onto the shoulder of a highway or a busy road through a small town. Our first day was the longest, distance-wise, and also one of the warmest, but we came upon a gasthaus just when we were in need of a refreshing drink and a delicious strudel.
If you’ve read some of our earlier blogs, you know that Karel and I are big fans of e-bikes. You still have to work, but the battery provides a nice assist, increasing your cruising speed by about 20% and, best of all, helping you get up those hills. In the past, we had tried e-bikes when we had only one day or half a day to see the highlights of a large, hilly city, with great success. Now we were putting them to the test as touring bikes, and once again, we were very happy. We quickly grew confident about venturing into unknown territory, certain that we could handle the distances and the terrain.
Navigation, on the other hand, was a challenge. The map was at too small a scale to provide more than a general sense of what direction to go, what villages we would pass through, and when we’d be crossing a major highway. The instructions were next to useless, with “follow the bike path” being the most common guidance. When you’re sitting at an intersection with five bike paths going off in every direction, that isn’t much help. We found that both the maps and the instructions were occasionally inaccurate or at odds with each other. Signage along the route was sometimes excellent, sometimes ambiguous, and sometimes nonexistent. Fortunately, Karel had a map application on his iPhone that allowed him to use maps offline; it even tracked our current location. This was mostly very helpful, but now and then it was confusing or led us completely astray.
It was on the last bike day to Salzburg that we hit some bad weather, with intermittent rain. Early in the day we had gotten off track and made a detour that cost several kilometers and put us, for a while, on a road with heavy traffic, which I find very stressful. For whatever reason, route-finding seemed especially frustrating that day, and both Karel and I had saddle sores by then, so the whole “bicycling through the Bavarian countryside experience” seemed less charming than it did the days before. We were wet, weary, and irritable when Karel called out to me to take a right hand turn.
“Really?” I asked. “On the map it looks like we go straight here, and turn right a little further on.”
“Yes, really,” Karel replied. He sounded confident, and also like he was in no mood for discussion. I turned. The road began to climb. It was scenic, and traffic was light, two encouraging indicators that we were going the right way. But we were going uphill, when the map indicated we should be going down. I said as much when we stopped to catch our breath after the first pitch. It wasn’t the first time the map had been wrong, though, and Karel didn’t comment. We continued, up, up, up. It was a long climb, with rain pelting us. We were within sight of the top when we came to an intersection with a road sign showing the next towns and points of interest. The names were different from what I was expecting to see, based on the map. I pointed out the discrepancy. Karel looked at his phone app. It was very hard to match up the map provided by the tour company with the map on the phone, but after several minutes of scrutiny, Karel announced that we should have gone straight where we turned right.
Well, I was pissed. For the second or third time that day, I had just been through a half hour of pointless misery due to confusing and misleading information provided by the phone app. Compounded, of course, by the vagueness of the tour instructions. I snarled something about the gps not being very helpful. Well, Karel retorted, if I thought I knew better, why didn’t I say anything? I did say something, I pointed out. Three times. Maybe so, but I didn’t insist. I should have insisted.
That is the closest we have ever come to having a fight. We pointed our bikes downhill, back the way we came. You know, hills go a lot faster when you’re going down. Within minutes we knew we were back on the correct route. The rain stopped, the sun came out, the scenery rolled by.This entry was posted in Vacation 2016: East/South Africa