Wednesday, September 07, 2016

2016 Tour of the Alps: Frankfurt to Luzern

I stood in front of the youth hostel, frustrated and desperate. My watch read 12:30am on July 6th. I'd called both Pengtoh and Arturo. Neither had answered. I didn't even know the layout of the hostel or which room they were in, so even the idea of throwing a rock at their window wasn't feasible. My cell phone was nearly drained, and Arturo had already told me that he'd exhausted all the hotel options in the area before settling on the youth hostel.

My departure from Frankfurt was an hour late. It wasn't too much of a concern for me, because I'd set up my train tickets for departure at 6:00pm from the main train station. Upon arriving at the airport, Wow airlines set me up for an hour wait before the bike was delivered. If I had opted for the 4:00pm departure, I would have been sweating bullets by then. As it was, I chatted with the other "oversized luggage" passengers,commiserating with them over vacation days lost due to misplaced bikes and golf clubs.
When the bikes and golf clubs finally arrived, I breathed a sigh of relief. This was by far the highest risk part of the trip: all my plans would have been laid waste by a couple of days worth of delays of my bike. Hopping onto the airport hotel to Hotel Steigenberger Frankfurt Airport, I got off the shuttle and moved to the left side of the hotel where there was a bike rack, and started putting together the bike. I took my time, moving carefully and greasing all the threads on every screw. When putting together the saddlebag loops on the saddle, I finally noticed that my Ritchey WCS saddle came with "vector-wing" technology, which is apparently Ritchey-speak for saddlebag loops! I tried the saddlebag with no support, but no dice: I still needed the saddlebag support to keep the Nelson Longflap off the tire.
Pleased with myself for saving another 5 grams off my bike, I installed the saddlebag, loaded up all my pre-packed gear, pumped up the tires, and then locked the bike to the bike rack. I walked in with the mostly empty bike box, changed to cycling attire in the bathroom, and then asked to leave my luggage with the hotel until I came back.
After I left the hotel, I didn't ride even 3 blocks before spotting a bike path signed for Frankfurt downtown, and immediately hopped off the road and followed the forested dirt bike path, detour and all, towards the city. I didn't bother noting the exit from the bike path because I expected to return by train 20 days later. Upon arriving downtown, I got lost for a bit before asking people how to actually get to the main train station. I arrived at exactly 4:00pm, but since I had a couple of hours, visited the bank to close down my German bank account (which had all of 33 Euros left in it) as well as getting a late lunch and some cash.
The trick with German trains is that in big train stations like Frankfurt, the long distance trains are frequently already at the gate as much as an hour before departure, and indeed, my train was early. I sat down in my reserved spot and went through the text messages. Both Pengtoh and Arturo had arrived in Luzern, and had toured the town as well as established themselves in the youth hostel. They were worried, however, that I'd have a hard time finding the hostel, since it was hard for them to find, so they'd pre-scouted my route. I tried to persuade them to meet me at the station, but no dice.
I have a hard time sleeping on moving vehicles, but for once, I slept on the train from Frankfurt to Stuttgart, whereupon I'd switched to the long distance train to Zurich. In Zurich, I pretty much ran at full speed to catch the last train to Luzern, but arrived in plenty of time despite the train from Stuttgart being 10 minutes late.
Once in Luzern, I turned on my light (wow, they have night here in Switzerland, a novelty after 2 weeks in Iceland) and GPS and rode hard and fast, since despite it being summer, it was still cool. Finding the hostel turned out to be no problem at all, but both Pengtoh and Arturo had fallen asleep while waiting for me.
Not 5 minutes later, my phone rang. It was Pengtoh. "Did I finally wake you up?" "No. I'd set an alarm." Lucky for me. The door opened and I was in. It didn't take 20 minutes for me to get settled and sleeping.

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