The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Along the River Rhine

Hi again:

I drove up along the France/Switzerland border, passing back and forth between the two countries. As I've said before, I am never too sure when I go from one country into another since they have done away with border checkpoints. That was especially true of the France/Switzerland area since they speak French in that part of Switzerland so the signs did not change when I went across the border..

I stayed in a nice campground in France up on a hill. The rains that had been plaguing the area moved in about 8 p.m.. They were huge towering things with crashing thunder and explosive lightning. The first wave of the storm hit just as I was getting safely into my tent, and it was strong and violent, with torrential rains and winds that shook the tent back and forth like a wet terrier.

Afterward, I thought the storms were over. I guess the people down in the valley did too because they started shooting off loud rockets that exploded like mortars in the night sky.  I felt dirty and wanted a shower in the worst way. While I was finishing my shower, the second round of storms hit, with rains that made the gutters overflow and winds that slammed the bathroom doors shut. I was trapped in there, and I stayed trapped for the longest time until it slacked off enough for me to make a run and a dive for my tent.

It rained for the longest time. I slept, but I woke up often and laid there listening to the drumming of the rain on the tent. This went on until if finally quit at 3:30 in the morning. Later, when the sun came up, the sky was crystal clear.

I have not written in a while because the landscape, while pretty, does not lend itself to pictures or praise. The mountains started easing off, and I rode into The Black Forest in southeastern Germany.

I love the narrow lanes there. It is indeed a "black forest". There are pretty, rolling farms in there too. The guide book says that the reason there are patches where the trees do not grow is because the limestone bedrock is too close to the surface and the trees cannot sink their roots. I guess the writers should know, but personally I think it is because of logging.  There is certainly a lot of that going on. There are piles of logs all along the country lanes, having been dragged there, I think, by lumbermen doing some selective tree thinning.

There are also a lot of sawmills.

The coo-coo bird is very, very common in The Black Forest. You seldom see them, but you can certainly hear them. They sound exactly like coo-coo clocks.  Speaking of which, if you are ever in a Black Forest village you might want to buy one of their clocks. They are certainly works of art, and well worth the $1,000 price.

I took these clock pictures in the Black Forest town of Triberg. It is famous for its clocks. I waited around in one of the clock stores there hoping the clocks would all go off at the same time. A little raucous cacophony would be fun. But I guess the store owners were not wanting that to happen because all the clocks were set on a different time. Spoil sports. I'll show them. I just won't buy one of their stupid clocks. So there.

I did have my heart set on this seven foot tall  grandfather coo-coo clock. I am sure my wife would be thrilled if I put it in our living room.

They charge to park in every town, city and village. Parking it at a premium. I often park up on the sidewalk. So far, no tickets. Sometimes there are special places for motorcycles and bicycles to park.

Years ago my wife and I went to a flower show in Holland. I have a picture of her from there posed against a huge floral display. Now here is my chance. There is no comparison though. She looked a lot better then than I do now.

Come to think of it, I looked a lot better then than I do now. Ha.

I took this next picture just to show you how many bicycle riders there are in Europe -- not just out on the roads, although there are a bunch of those, but also in town.

With no place to park and gas at 6 Euros a gallon, it is no wonder most people walk, ride bikes, or use public transport.

McDonald's hamburger anyone? So far, I mostly pass on those things. Ugh.

I've  camped the last couple of nights at a campground up in the Black Forest hills. The people there were so friendly, wanting to talk and to hear all about where I was from and how I was enjoying my ride. They all waved goodbye when I left this morning. It was fun.

I rode about an hour to the north to visit the Hohenzollern Castle. There is only one big hill in the area, and the castle was right on top of it.

That was quite a family, those Hohenzollerns. They became kings and Kaisers and I don't know what all. They sure were important. Here is a statue of one of the early guys in that family. Good looking dude isn't he.

He was the King of Prussia at about the same time as our American Revolution. The family is still around today, although they do not live in this castle anymore. Do you suppose this might be the Prince and his Princess?

I guess those two are not real royalty. I did not know what that professional photo shoot was going on for. I sure do like that car though. If I can't have a coo-coo clock, maybe I can have it.

Nice shack, huh? And here is the view they had each morning out across the modest homes of their subjects.

There were some other motorcycle riders there, parked in our special, cheap rate area. I am showing you this picture because I would really like to have a big guy like one of these Gold Wings or BMWs. By the way, my Harley riding friends will be interested in knowing that Harley motorcycles are very popular here. There are clubs with hundreds of people in them. They must have some great rallies.

From the castle, I rode south toward the River Rhine which, as you know, starts in Switzerland and forms the border between Germany and Switzerland. I was surprised when I got to Switzerland because the bridge across the Rhine was a covered wooden bridge.

It had been getting hotter all day. It wasn't too bad if I could keep riding because the breeze helped. But once I got into town and had to slow down, I was sweltering.

Time to camp. An email from my wife tells me that it is in the 70's at home. Here, my thermometer says it is 100 degrees. Everyone is miserable. Fortunately, it is shady down by the river. The Rhine is crystal clear here (I remember from other trips it gets more turbid when it flattens out and slows down up in Holland, but here it is beautiful). Time to go swimming and lie in the shade.

At most European campgrounds they will always find room for a tent. The nice lady at reception put me right next to Johannes and Erika. I was not 10 feet away from their beautiful new camper. I felt bad about crowding them like that, but they didn't mind.

Johannes wanted my picture on his cell phone. He emailed me a copy. Here it is. Thanks Johannes.

Johannes says that storms are moving into the area in a day or so. I guess that might cool things down.