Monday, June 21, 2004

Bruchsal, Germany

Friends: I've only had to make one illegal mad dash of four miles so far today in the 50 miles I've come, hoping the authorities wouldn't pounce on me for riding a stretch of road verboten to bicyclists. It was either that or backtrack a couple miles to access the bicycle path along the road through a nice downhill stretch of a gorge. Otherwise it has been a great day of cycling in Germany through rolling woodlands and lush green farmlands. I met a guy here in Bruchsal, as I was lunching in its plaza, who used to work for my messenger company, Cannonball, back in Chicago as a driver. He'd married an American, seven years ago, and goes back and forth between Chicago and here.

I'm still alternating between loving and hating Germany. Last night I declared, "Enough!," after a couple of frustrating hours trying to bike fifteen miles from one town to the next as I was repeatedly diverted from roadways to bike paths and back, turning the biking into more of a
scavenger hunt, trying to find the next index card- sized bike sign on a post telling me which way to go, through a maze of intersections and deadends. I enjoyed an occasional a jolt of delight and relief when I discovered a sign that told me I was heading in the right direction, but then had it swept away by the frustration of coming to an unsigned intersection. I just want to let my legs and mind spin without having to be on alert for directions.

This exploratory cycling does not provide me the escape from earthly concerns and constraints that makes me go off on my bike. If this is how the Germans like to tour, then I'm definitely not very German. I am very eager to meet touring Germans on future tours and ask how they put up with their bike paths. Maybe that's why I haven't encountered anyone else touring here and there are so many Germans around the world doing it. But I keep hoping I will figure all this out and I won't have to give up on Germany, as everything else about touring here is most exceptional--the friendly people, the great camping and the great eating. There are several chains of discount grocery stores, including Aldis, that have phenomenally cheap food. A kilo of potato salad is a 1.69 euros, about a tenth the cost in Italy or Switzerland. A pound of quality bread is half a euro. A liter of banana-cherry juice, a surprisingly tasty combination, goes for .45 Euros. I don't want to leave.

And the road-scavenging is the best I've encountered as well. It was very paltry through France
and Italy. About all it amounted to was snapped, worthless bungee cords. Here I've come up with an over-sized neckerchief, which I can use as a table cloth in my tent or towel. I found my second chocolate bar of the trip. The other was in Switzerland just emerging from a snow bank on one of the high passes. They were both well sealed and in tact. Every supermarket has at least half an aisle devoted to chocolate bars, so its no surprise to find them.

The roads of Germany also offered up some porno. Its usually a given that in Western countries, whether in the U.S. or New Zealand or Spain or Scandinavia, I'll notice discarded porn magazines along the road. There had been none, however, in France, Italy or Switzerland on this trip, though Italy offered a live version. There were several African women in pink hot pants standing along the road in a semi-rural area, and also a rather weathered white woman on the outskirts of Milan on the way to the campground offering her services.

I also found a pair of sports shorts along the road in Germany. They are climbing into the top five of things I find along the road. I found some in Iceland and on my trip out west last fall too. Money is up there as well. I've found a euro coin and a ten euro note so far on this trip. It doesn't compare to Brazil, where I came across literally piles of cheap alloy coins rendered worthless by hyper-inflation. The road continues to offer up rags when I need them to clean my chain, and hats, which I never stop for, and towels and socks, which generally fall into the rag category.

The scavenging makes me want to stay in Germany, and its cool weather too. The corn is barely knee high here. In southern France it was already chest high. The Cannonballer said they've had some 80 and 90 degree days, and today is the first official day of summer, so I'm enjoying the cool while its lasts. I just don't want to spend time lolly-gagging on its bike paths, where I feel as if I should be riding no-handed at about six miles per hour I want to be out on the road where the riding is for real.

Later, George

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