Saturday, 10 April 2010

Day 2 - Cochem to Rosenheim

The first thing to do was to get fuel. I have often run the tank down until the dashboard is warning me that I am low on fuel. But this was not one of those times. I was just close to empty, but not empty. I was really surprised to squeeze 18 litres into the tank, 16 litres being the previous record. This lead me to check in the manual to see what the tank capacity was and it is supposed to be 25 litres. Clearly, I need to be more ambitious about how far I can go on reserve.
After paying for the fuel, I made my way up the side of the valley to leave the Rhine behind me. The morning mist was thinning, the sun was shining in my face as I headed south, and the roads were excellent. There is a really nice winding road with great hairpins going up from Bruttig-Frankel to Mösdorf. After a happy few miles of whizzing round bends and over hills, I got back to the autobahn and headed south to Baden-Baden for the B500, Shwarzwoldhochstrasse.

The B500 was everything that I'd expected and more. Because of the hills that I was climbing, it was getting colder, down to about 6° again. And the clouds were low, as the hill rose to meet them. Then, as I finally got on to the stretch I had head so much about, I was surprised to see snow lying all over the place, but it was not fresh snow, and there was not enough to ski on, despite the preponderance of ski lifts and ski hotels in the area. The road was just perfect: massive long sweeping bends that could be taken at 90-100 mph. I've never ridden anything like this before. The road had no potholes, the bends had excellent visibility, they did not tighten as you went around them, when I encountered a bus or lorry, it was always at the beginning of a straight stretch ready for a good overtake without missing a beat, or perhaps this was because the forward visibility was so good, I could time it that way - the slow traffic probably occurs on bends, too, but being able to see and anticipate made the overtakes safe and well-planned (as they always should be). This road made me very happy indeed, and I look forward to doing it in the sunshine one day, rather than this drizzling mist. I hope I can get some photos on the way back.

After that, the autobahn was a little bit dull. The A8 had the most enormous roadworks and contra-flows that went on for a long time. The bits without roadworks were relatively short, but that might be because they were without speed limits, too, and it was exhilarating to be riding legally at speeds around 120-130 mph. The straight road and fast moving traffic was in marked contrast to the UK version of motorways. There is something quite different about the habits and expectations of drivers on the autobahn. Of course, moving at this speed meant that I was frequently slowing down as I approached any other vehicle, and was anticipating anyone moving out for an overtake. All too soon, another long drag of roadworks slowed the traffic to 120 kph or less.

At one point, the traffic had slowed to a complete halt. It was approaching the junction with the A8, the main road to München. The cars and lorries had clearly been stationary for some time because their engines were off and people were getting out for a chat and a leg stretch and a head scratch. Bizarrely, they had pulled to the edges of the carriageway, leaving a really wide space, big enough for a truck, so that I could pootle along past the envious motorists. I had to go really slowly, though, as so many people were getting out. I thought that an emergency vehicle must have come through as they slowed, forcing them all to the edges of the road, leaving this lovely space for me to filter through. After a few miles, the traffic started to move, and people hurriedly dashed back to their vehicles to start them up. And shortly after joining the congested and busy A8, I could see on the hard shoulder police cars and other cars, as the police tried to sort out what had happened. The congestion was just he queue clearing itself, and off we all went as before, lurching between roadworks.

By about 2 pm I was getting quite peckish, and pretty tired, so I stopped at a service station and had a sandwich and a coffee. I was trying to skip lunch, in order to make good progress, but realised that I was not going to arrive at my destination until about 16:00 and with 680km to do today, I needed to keep up my energy levels and concentration.

After many more miles of autobahn, I finally got to the hotel, finding it was still in Germany after all, and not Austria. The border is near, but runs along the river Inn, before the road crosses it a few kilometres south of here. I rolled up to the front door, and a handwritten sign with a “P” on it said “hintern haus”, which I recognised as meaning park around the back. I did so, and there was no way into the hotel from the car park, so then I had to walk back around to the front. I should have unloaded first, parked later.

This was a slightly larger hotel, a bit more formal than the last one, and I registered at reception and got my room key, moved my bags in, then went for a walk up the nearest hill to get a good look at the locality. I am in the foothills of the alps; there is no snow on the nearby hills, but plenty on the distant peaks. I am intrigued by the churches and crosses placed at the summits of the nearby hills. It is beautiful here.

On the way down the mountain, a boy in his early twenties caught up with me, walking more quickly. He had what looked like a mattress on his back. We walked together and chatted. He'd been "bouldering" on the mountain. Basically, this involves placing the mattress on the floor below a boulder which is anything from 1m to 6m in size, then climbing up the boulder. You place the mattress on the floor below you. If you slip, you land on it, thus protecting your knees. Perhaps it lost something in the translation to English. He was very enthusiastic about it, though, and very interested in my camera because he has used a Canon 1D for his work, a much bigger and more professional model, but not his own, and too big to take scrambling over boulders. He was interested in getting a 7D like mine. At least, he seemed to be quite knowledgeable about all that kind of stuff, and it was nice to chat to someone after a day of solitary biking.

After my walk, I was hungry and thirsty. In the bar/café/restaurant, they had a log fire burning and music playing. English pop songs from the seventies: dreadful. I survived six songs before caving in. When the waitress brought my meal, I felt compelled to grumble about the awful music. She couldn't find anything else, so she put the radio on instead. Half music, half sports spiel, in Austrian. Ice Hockey special, and Rosenheim have a chance to get into the championship league! Exciting stuff, eh? At least it made me feel like I was outside UK, which was the main thing. Anyway, after my pizza and salad (the only vegetarian option, again!) and a few beers, I was ready for some sleep.

I was up at 05:00 again the next day, and ready for a leisurely ride to Motovun, across the Austrian and Italian alps. Only 430 km to ride today, so it should be a lot less tiring, and there is a chance that I might not be too late arriving. However, there are a lot of mountain roads to play on this morning…

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