Day 5 – “It is forbidden to ride on the highway”

Hotel Notre-Dame de Bonne Fontaine

Hotel Notre-Dame de Bonne Fontaine outside Phalsbourg

The Hotel Notre Dame in Phalsbourg turned out to be extremely nice: good dinner and breakfast, and the patrons were extremely eager to please. I’d certainly recommend it for future stays. And it’s easily accessible from local Motorways!

I hope yesterday’s post didn’t come across as snide; Barbara and Andy’s hotel and route planning have been impeccable, and my comments were meant in humour and kindness. Tonight we are staying in utter luxury in an apartment hotel outside Tuttlingen, which means that Leslie and I have adjoining rooms in a suite! I’m missing our “Goodnight John-Boy”, “Goodnight Jim-Bob” ritual.

We knew today would be tough and so it turned out. 113 miles, the longest stage of the trip, savage weather at times, and a 700m climb.

The first section into Strasbourg was, you guessed it, undulating. We set off as a group of six: James B, Jim, Leslie, Simon, Rob J and Ollie, but picked up fellow-travellers along the way, so when we finally rolled into the city of Strasbourg we were 20-strong and filled the streets with the rolling river sound of spinning chains and coasting freewheels. Looking south from the Rhine road bridge, the suspension foot bridge looked delicately spectacular. The Rhine also marks the country border, so we entered country five: Germany.

Somehow we had missed the morning break stop, so stopped instead at a Turkish cafe for coffee and baclava. Tim sat at the roadside calling in passing riders with his wolf whistle, which someone (I think it was Ollie) said sounds like a Spanish prostitute calling in punters.

Time slipped away and suddenly Andrew reminded us  it was 12 noon, we had 130km to go, including that climb, and only 7 hours before dark. So it was down the highway again, with a 15-bike line moving at speed along a 40km stretch of the E531. It was very busy, and the honking truckers did perhaps seem a little more agitated than friendly, but it was only when we pulled off the highway for the lunch stop that we were approached by a police car with flashing lights and loud announcements that “it is forbidden to ride on the highway”. We were sternly spoken to, and pointed at the sign which means ‘no bikes’ so we all looked contrite, and then Simon asked if they would sponsor us!

The weather promised rain, and though the mountains looked bright enough when we arrived at lunch, dark clouds were soon gathering. Driver Rob wisely put up the gazebo, just as the spots turned into downpour. We later found out that Leslie and Jim were out in it, dealing with a broken spoke. Leslie apparently performed a brief tribute to the Morecambe and Wise version of Singing in the Rain: as they sheltered under the awning of a shop, Leslie’s helmet tumbled down the steps, landing upside down precisely under a drainage downpipe.

Rob J and Ben at the summit of Day 5

Rob J and Ben at the summit of Day 5

The rain easing off slightly, a group set off in force and trepidation towards the foot of the day’s great climb. It started in Reichenbach; apparently not the same one where Sherlock Holmes met his end. Needless to say, the mountain goats Tim D and Simon led the way, with Ben, Dom and Rob J following at a distance. Dom punched the air as he crested what seemed to be the summit at 890m, but after a fast descent losing 100m in altitude, we were climbing again to the true peak at Meereshohe.

It was still a long 50km trudge back to our evening resting stop here at Tuttlingen, and while mostly downhill, it was busy and tiring. After all the weather and incidents of the day, groups were stretched over almost two hours, with the final party arriving drenched and in pitch darkness at 8:15. A hard day!

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