It was 8:00pm. I was sitting in a window seat at the Talblick Restuarant in Wilhelmsfeld. A tall glass of beer stood to one side and the view of the valley below on the other. Cool evening air came through the window, providing a contrast with my sweat-sticky bike shorts and jersey. I turned on my phone and plugged in my camera's SD Card to look through the day's pictures. My heart dropped like a stone. There were no new pictures. A random bump had shaken the SD card from the phone loose and every picture from that day had been lost.
We packed. Arturo gave me his map and spare tire, as well as what was left of the salt pills. He then rode off towards the train station, and me towards France! I'd noticed that we were really close to the French border, and that in fact, it was right across the Rhine. Since the Rhine river had a bike path, I could go over and ride it and follow the Rhine all the way back into Germany, making my tour a 6-country tour (Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Liechtenstein, France!). I made my way over to Roppenheim, and indeed over the Rhein bridge there was the sign for France. I followed signs down to the Rhine river, and stayed on it for a while, only pausing in the village of Munchausen (unfortunately, no hint of the Baron there!) for a little snack.
Near Karlsruhe, I passed back across the Rhine to get on the bike path, and there on the paved bike path got my first flat. People make a big deal out of riding dirt bike paths, but in practice, at least in Germany, all my flat tires have always been on a paved bike path. In particular, people in Germany have a preference for beer bottles over cans, walk on the bike paths with said bottles, and then discard the bottles on the pavement after drinking. I have a deep aversion to riding on bike paths in big German cities for that reason.
After I fixed my flat, I rode into the Karlsruhe main train station for a quick Sunday lunch, it being one of the few places guaranteed to have food. I responded to the one AirBnB person who pre-approved me for rental, a too-good-to-be-true $19 stay just outside of Heidelberg. I flatted again, and this time found and dug out the glass shard from the tire which caused it, and rode on. I would get a third flat from the same patch of glass after I returned home, but for better or worse, my frame pump did not get my tire up to a high enough level to grant me a third flat that day.
German bike paths are horribly signed for directions once you're not on a river bike path. As a result I got turned around once and had to backtrack for a bit before asking a local. After an experience like that I was loathed to rely on bike path signs any further and just rode on the main road or as close to it as possible.
Once in Leimen, I found an alternative path which pointed directly at Heidelberg, and happily stayed on it. The outskirts of Heidelberg was decidedly unimpressive, looking just like any other town. But once I got to the old town it was gorgeous. I even stopped to walk for a bit to take pictures --- all in vain, as I would belatedly discover.
With all these meanderings, by the time I started the climb out of Heidelberg, it was 6:30pm. The climb wasn't difficult, but coming at the end of a long day it was a bit of a drag. Once I descended into Wilhelmsfeld, I discovered that I still had to climb to get to Brigitte's house. Brigitte and her husband were very nice people, and very understanding when I explained that I was a little hungry and needed food. They'd already booked me a place at Talblick, which was a very nice restaurant. Brigitte drove me there! She even gave me a phone # to call in case I didn't feel like walking back, but I wasn't going to make her do that!
Dinner was fabulous --- lots of food. I couldn't even finish the fries. The beer hit the spot. I knew I had to return to Heidelberg the next day to take pictures of the town, but didn't feel like backtracking by bike. Fortunately, there was a bus that would save me the trouble of backtracking. I turned in at a late 10:00pm. It was the longest day of the trip yet, but it was all good. I looked at where to go next and decided that Mainz was a good place because of the Gutenberg museum and its relative proximity to Frankfurt. An early return to Frankfurt was ruled out as the airport hotel was expensive, and my hosts also agreed that it wasn't an interesting town compared to Heidelberg!