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Thursday, October 06, 2016

2016 Tour of the Alps: Trossingen to Baden-Baden

We weren't in a hurry, but the forecast for rain made us not want to dally either. We ate a regular breakfast with plenty of time, and then rode the 10 odd miles to Villingen. We tried to take the bike path, but after some frustration, ended up on the local highway. It wasn't pleasant, but it sure beat waiting at the train station twice: once at Trossingen, and another time at Villingen where we'd have to make the transfer.
We asked a woman on what looked like a standard European "trekking" bike where the bike car was, and she said: "it's either the first or the last." Then I noticed that her bike sported a $1200 Rohloff Speedhub. This wasn't a casual trekking bike, this was a serious touring bike. And indeed, since we got on the train together and asked her about her travels, she'd been to England (on the ferry!) and done a few weeks of touring there, and hoped to one day ride the Land's End to John O' Groats route. She gave me a few tips on where to go on from Baden-Baden, mentioning that there was a bike path to Heidelberg (which she recommended) from Baden-Baden via the Neckar. I took note of Heidelberg, since I'd seen it on a map and it was labeled as an interesting town.

She expressed doubts that our skinny bike tires could handle the bike route, and I told her we spent half the day yesterday on the Danube River bike path, which was only partially paved. "Ah. If you can do that, then you can do the Neckar!" Europeans very much get sold on big fat touring tires on their touring bikes when in reality, with a little practice most dirt paths rarely get rough enough to demand anything wider than about 28mm tires. While I sympathize with the trend to ride wider tires, there are very few inexpensive lightweight high quality 700c tires above 28mm, and for those of us who climb alot, light weight is well worth the time spent learning to ride better.

She explained that she bought the Rohloff bike second hand, and that she did do an oil change every 5,000km, but didn't think it was really necessary.
The one nice side effect of the thunderstorm from last night was that Arturo had a nice long time to find a good hotel, and boy did he find a good one. Not only was it well priced, it had grand views and easy walking access to town. They didn't have covered bike parking, but supplied us with plastic bags to cover our bikes with outside. After that, we went downtown for lunch and then over to The Friedrichsbad. Introduced by Rick Steves as the 2nd best way to get over jet-lag (the best way, of course, is to ride a bike as hard as possible in the afternoon sun), the place was very German: the baths have 17 stages in which you're supposed to take them, each labeled carefully and in a certain order. Arturo told me to order the package with the soap and brush massage as well.

Near the end, Arturo said, "if you make it in the cold plunge a full minute I'll buy dinner." I got into the cold plunge and said, "Oh, this isn't nearly as bad as the Stelvio descent, and started counting." The result was a well-earned dinner at the Monte Christo Tapas Bar.

It was our last day touring together, so we celebrated and reminiscence over the adventures we'd had on this trip. It's a truism that as you get older time seems to pass faster, but cycle touring shows how you can reverse that. On a bike tour, even 2 days ago seems like a long time ago, as every experience is so intense that your mind recalls everything, which lengthens the days of your experience. People who ride to new places don't just live longer physically because of the effects of exercise, but also subjectively live fuller lives, as each day is packed with new experiences.

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