Monday, October 10, 2016

2016 Tour of the Alps: Wilhelmsfeld to Mainz

In the morning, I had breakfast with Brigitte's husband. Even though it was AirBnB, I didn't actually expected to get to eat breakfast --- I was planning to catch an early bus to town to eat breakfast, but when Brigette heard of my plans she said, "No. You can eat cereal with us, and since we're headed in that direction anyway, you can come with us and we'll drop you off at the castle." That was way faster than the bus, so I took them up on the offer.

They first took me on a scenic route, and when we arrived in Heidelberg, pointed me at the bus stop where I would take the bus back. They'd given me keys to the house, and I gave them some of my cash to cover both gas and the breakfast that they never advertised. At $19/night, their price was absurdly low, and even if they were only doing so to meet people and see friendly faces, I didn't want to take advantage.
Heidelberg on a Monday morning was much different than a Sunday evening. Everything was quiet, and I could actually move through the main street without getting blocked every which way. The town was quaint and pretty. I hiked up to the castle for the panoramic view of the city and its environment, but didn't enter the castle as I didn't have sufficient time if I still wanted to ride to Mainz.
I was given conflicting information about when the bus would arrive, so I decided it was better safe than sorry. The light wasn't as nice as the evening before, but I didn't have the time to stay longer. And as nice as the place was, it still didn't compare to the Alps.
I left Wilhelmsfeld at 11:00am, and rode through the forested area to Wald-Michelbach and then Morlenbach before making the long descent into Heppenheim. This was the cool forested part of the ride, and it was pretty enough, but my goal was to hit the Rhine river and then make it over to Mainz along the Rhine. I confirmed my lodging via AirBnB but it turned out to be quite a chore. Thomas had switched his approval settings, but the AirBnB app had cached it and so I wasn't allowed to finsih the transaction. Eventually, I figured it out --- uninstall the app and then use the web interface using a mobile web-browser. While the app is convenient, bugs like this make the user experience much worse than if they'd forgone the app in the first place.
Once down into the flatlands, I tried the Rhine river bike path for a while, but it was incredibly rough! It was also relatively unshaded and hot, so I decided that if I was going to suffer, I might as well have something show for my efforts and got onto a main road as directed by Google maps. Unlike in the Alps, where every town had at least a couple of water fountains with which to refill water bottles, here in Germany there were not many water fountains to be found. In a little village near Riedstadt, I was finally forced to beg for water from a lady who was about to leave her house. She graciously went back into her home with my water bottles and refilled them.
At Kornsland, I arrived just before the ferry was about to depart. Given that I'd heard that the West side of the Rhine had much better bike paths than the East side, I decided that it couldn't hurt to do an earlier crossing in exchange for the 2 Euros it cost.
Indeed, it was night and day on the West side vs the East side. The pavement was smooth, and the bike path routed me up along the vineyards on the hill sides. When it eventually returned to the river, I was on an unpaved route, but one fast enough to sustain 16kph even with a touring load. Near Mainz, the bike path became paved once more, and I was able to ride along at speed, though still slow because the commute traffic along the bike path became quite significant!

Once in town, I quickly found the AirBnB lodging --- the owner had left on a trip, but had left the key locked in a pad-locked box outside the apartment. The best thing about AirBnB is that they usually have washing machines and a full kitchen. I took a shower and started the laundry going while I went out to a restaurant that turned out to be closed for a summer vacation. On the way back, I looked at other places but their prices were so high that I went to a supermarket and bought stuff to make dinner with instead, so the $35 AirBnB saved me about $20 in dining costs!

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