The return of the Jedi – 9/10 August 2012
I was very fortunate to be able to return to Heidelberg relatively soon after my first ride, and this time I had enough time and used up two whole days to ride, so I repeated the same process: Fly to Frankfurt, catch a train to Heidelberg and grab my bike at Stefan’s house (where I also stayed). The flight went well and without problems but changing trains in Mannheim betrayed me as I lost the conexión and wasted a whole hour waiting for a train that never arrived (that’s what happens when you look for a train that doesn’t operate on weekends). Finally I took another train to Heidelberg’s main station and from there another regional one that dropped me off on the Rohrbach area, where the house is located. As the last time, both room and bike were prepared and ready. With the summer days being so long, I took some resto for a couple of hours and then had more than enough sunlight to go out for a short trip.
This time, I went back towards the Neckar river but after a few kms. turned north to go into the hills and change the scenery a bit, lots of hills with beautiful forests everywhere (yes, all very green!) I followed the route I had highlighted on the map (yes, life before GPS) and was a tad surprised to not see much traffic around, and I mean, there was nobody around me – literally -. The explanation came to me soon enough when all of the sudden the road ended, right before my eyes there was an army of workers and construction equipment. I realised then that it’s not really necessary to speak German to understand de meaning of the road signs when the names of the towns are crossed with orange tape. All you need is to have an IQ higher than “1” and pay a little attention!
With no option to go forward, I turned around and rode the 25k’s back to the river, found a crossing point right away and kept on going south to a small city called Bruchsal. I rode through town and had a good look at its magnificent chateau and turned back north towards Sinsheim, a place that has a fantastic technical museum (http://www.technik-museum.de) when I decided it was time to head back home for a beer, and stopped to have a look at the map.
I must have looked a bit lost because not one minute later, another biker stopped to offer help, his name Markus, riding a R1200R Rockster. I gladly accepted an offer for a quick tour and guidance back to the main road.
He took me to the top of a hill with a view that dominates the whole area, so much that it still has some ruins of what must have been a small fortress or at least a big watch tower, probably medieval or older. We could see all the way to the vosgues mountains on the french border. After taking a couple of pictures he took me back to the autobahn, but there I decided to take a longer and slower route as I still had some time and daylight left.
The whole area is quite easy to navigate as it is defined by the river on the north and east and a couple of superslabs to the south and west, so getting lost is all but impossible. I ended up arriving into Heidelberg (affectionally calle “HD” by the locals) via a small old road with no traffic at all, that takes you exactly to the old city, behind the castle. The road is beautiful and full of curves, but I must confess that I was getting a but nervous at sunset, as the road got dark very quickly and it had plenty of “deer” caution signs everywhere. If there is something I DON’T NEED right now is to fuck up my trip by slamming head-on into Bambi. Nevertheless I managed to get back to the house with some light and totally enamoured of my new hobby. The day’s success had to be rewarded with a few good german beers.
ON the second day and after the nominal breakfast, I decided to go ahead and go on my own to a town called Wertheim, to the northeast of Heidelberg and on the Main river. The original plan had been to do this trip accompanied by Rolf, the local rider who had kindly guided me around the river a few weeks earlier, but there was some confusion and we did not manage to communicate (the blessing of texting), so I decided to go it alone and with that enjoy the freedom to stop whenever I like. This time I did not go through the whole town like every time before but went straight to the autobahn and determined to use it for the first time as any self-respecting biker should when in Germany… right? but once I got to it I found it looking like a parking lot, with heavy traffic backed up for miles and miles, so much so that it reminded me of Carrefour in Dubai on a pay day.
After a few minutes I decided to get out of the famous autobahn and try to take an alternate road, but after being lost for half an hour in some town (read: “Life before GPS”) I finally admitted defeat and went back to the superslab which by now was free of cars, which surely were long gone and having dinner somewhere. I quickly headed north towards Frankfurt, and after about 30 mins. I exited towards the east (Bensheim) to enter the are known as the “Odenwald”, a beautiful are full of forests and hills. Needless to say that the roads are in excellent shape, with all kinds of turns and curves but not very sharp bends and with very good visibility, all perfect for a novice like me.
I came across lots of bikes, including a group of bikes with sidecars that I followed for a while as they were going at a nice leisurely pace. After longer than expected I arrived to destination, a beautiful medieval town – with its castle of course – and quickly found a place to park next to other bikes besides the typical pizzeria.
One thing I did underestimate was the distance and especially the duration of the trip, about 400kms but it took me nearly 8 hours! The result being that by the time I got back to HD I was exhausted, totally dehydrated and with my lower back killing me, but I was so happy that I just didn’t care. The trip was wonderful and it helped me get even more confidence on both the bike and my riding abilities, but not on the navigation skills. Even though the road signs are really good, it’s just not enough and I hate having to do U-turns on this thing. I have no choice but to join the 21st century and buy myself a GPS.
- At least for now, my limit on the bike is about five hours. Any more than that and my back will complain.
- Do not try to get smart by trying to find “alternate routes” to avoid the traffic on the autobahn. Leave that to the locals.
- The vast majority of gas stations in Germany are closed on sundays. Fill up every time you can.
- Be VERY careful when coming across those signs with Bambi on it. Avoid them at sunset as far as possible.
- Buy a GPS. Now.
- If not clear, read point 5 again.