This is my first attempt at writing up a ride report. What I am about to describe is a five week odyssey roughly following the Rhine River from its source in Switzerland to its junction with the Moselle River at Koblenz in Germany, with a little bit of the Netherlands tacked on for good measure. The original plan was to follow the Rhine from its source all the way to the North Sea, but, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men .....
If you are looking for information on distances, average speed, elevations, etc, then read no further - I do not even own a cycle computer, and Denis' computer kept resetting itself in his pocket whenever he was off his bike. This is more a socio-historico-geographico-meteorological report on a European holiday I never thought to experience - coming from Down Under, Europe is a distant dream for the average person.
Let's start at the beginning. Denis has always been keen on cycling, I haven't. Last year we joined PedalPower, the local cycling advocacy and social biking group. Reading their magazine one day we noticed a personal ad: "I am riding down the Rhine for two months next year. If you are interested in joining me call Elaine .." It sounded like a great adventure, pity we couldn't go. Well, why coudn't we? Our daughters had both left school, they were old enough to look after themselves; we could afford to go if the bike was to be our transport; the only problem was with Denis, he couldn't get eight weeks off work - so what? let's go for five and see how far we get!
Elaine called monthly meetings of those interested in joining her and everyone had equal input to the travel plans. I devised an itinerary which would allow Denis and me to travel the length of the Rhine in four weeks, with a few days left over for a tour round North Holland. The others, with more time at their disposal, would carry on around the north, east and south of the Netherlands, and then cross in to Belgium for a week or two. The plan was to ride around 60 kilometers a day and stay at youth hostels overnight. Conveniently, cities in Europe seem to be located every 60 or so kilometers, and most of the interesting ones have a youth hostel. I used an old Philips' Auto atlas:Europe as a planning tool - this was a mistake. I also used whatever Lonely Planet guides I could find for the area involved, and the Hostelling International Guide for the addresses of youth hostels. I also surfed the internet for helpful sites and joined Eurobike (EB), an international cycling list, where I received a lot of information, and made contact with some truly wonderful people who met up with us along the way.
THE FLIGHT TO EUROPE
The final contingent consisted of eight people: six from Canberra (Elaine, Kim, Roy, Russell, Denis, me), one from Sydney (Mary), and one who would meet us in Zürich (Louise). Travelling en masse has its advantages - when confronted with six travellers pushing six bicycle boxes before them, the check-in clerk at Canberra airport paled slightly then announced "No excess to pay". Our bikes and one pannier each were then checked through all the way to Zürich. We left Canberra at 13.30 on Thursday 27 March, we left Sydney at 19.30 the same day. At that stage Australian Eastern Summer Time was 10 hours ahead of Western European time, so, European time, we left Canberra at 3.30 am on 27 March. We arrived in Amsterdam at 7.45 am on Friday 28 March, and we reached our final destination, Zürich, Switzerland, at around 11.30 am - 32 hours in transit! On arrival at Zürich airport we put our bikes back together, loaded them up with barbag and panniers, and headed off into the great unknown.