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Day 17: Mainburg to Bad Mergentheim

Day 17: Mainburg to Bad Mergentheim

"...the bike racks were even shaped like pretzels."

by Donald Hess

As Art Cahn predicted in the comments from yesterday, the day was going to be beautiful for riding. The temperature was perfect, just below 60 degrees, and the clouds were clearing. The terrain was very scenic, rolling hills with a series of small farms. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 

Can you see the shadows of the 4 cyclists? 

Because of the distance of today's ride - 133 miles on the Garmin - our first stop was a little later than usual, in the town of Eichstatt at 40 miles. The stop was planned to be just before one of the bigger climbs of the day. There was also a psychological benefit to having less than a century ride left. We also ate well before we left Mainburg as Justin and Patrick had purchased yogurt, rolls, sliced meat, and small cheese wheels the night before. 

In Eichstatt, we pulled into Schneller's Backstub'n, a bakery, cafe, and cake shop in business since 1845. The pretzel hanging in the front caught our eyes; the bike racks were even shaped like pretzels. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

The inside proved to be just what we were looking for.

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

With the help of a local German, I was able to extend my vocabulary to include all the words seen here. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17

Some of the words describe a type of bread with no English equivalent, but I could point out each one in the case. 

We devoured egg sandwiches, bagels and lox, meat and cheese plates, and more pastries than riders. Shortly after we left, we were routed onto a beautiful bike path that took us up the first hill. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

Germany is full of these bike paths, and we took advantage of riding without the threat of cars for most of the day.

We also rode past many small towns that each seemed to have a beautiful collection of old buildings near the center. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17

Earlier in the day, we had planned to stop at a bike shop. As we were passing through Gunzenhausen, we spotted one. As we pulled into one, I saw a man in uniform and asked in German if he worked there. He immediately switched to English, telling me it would be easier, and asked what we needed. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

Justin described his problem of not being able to get into the lower gears of his rear cassette when shifting. The man nodded and immediately brought us around back to the "workshop." Although the front of the store was unassuming, once inside it was the largest bike shop that any of the four of us had ever seen. The repair area was a beehive of activity. As we later learned from internet searching, the man who helped us was Roland. Roland ordered a worker to clear the repair area. He then used a device attached to the ceiling that we had never seen before to suspend Justin's bike and fixed it within minutes. 
Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17

He then instructed Justin to ride around to test the repair. When the other three of us asked for air in our tires, he brought over a pump and asked us what pressure we wanted (100psi). After finishing both tires on a bike, Roland didn't look up but said "next bike," and wheeled one away and the next one in. With this efficiency, all four of us had full tires in under two minutes. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

Roland had noticed an Ironman sticker on Justin's bike earlier and asked about it. Justin, Steve Cardillo, and I did the Lake Placid half Ironman last September, and we told him that was where the sticker was from. As it turned out, we were in the presence of greatness. Roland not only had done the full course at Lake Placid, he had done over 20 full Ironman distance triathlons including Kona four times. 

Kona is a race that one must qualify for and is a very impressive feat to manage that even once. He then told us he was on the Olympic triathlon team for Germany and was to represent Germany in the Sydney Olympics in 2000 (the first year triathlon was an Olympic sport) but was injured. 

As we suspected, he would take no money for the repair as he said that it was not very common for Americans to visit his bike shop, but asked for a picture. There is a connection between cyclists, triathletes, and endurance athletes, and meeting such an accomplished man was certainly proof of that. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

As we left the bike shop, we noticed a very strong headwind that was developing. Over the course of the day, this wind would plague us and really slow our pace. 

When we were approaching the 90-mile mark, we began to get very hungry. Originally we planned to each in Ansbach, but from the road signs, it became clear that we would be passing south. We regrouped, checked the route, and found that the next town was Herriden.

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

We searched restaurants on Google maps and found a few. One was named Akropolis and, because it had been a while since a Greek salad, we decided to go there. As we pulled into town, Dave saw a slightly hidden restaurant first, shouted, but Justin kept riding. After we waited for him to come back, he said he had run into a man on a bicycle who struck up a conversation with him. Justin had asked him for lunch recommendations; he said there were two in town a few streets away that were excellent. As we rode towards them, the man reappeared and led us to his favorite. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom cycling Jerseys

The restaurant served traditional Bavarian food. We started with potato soup, then two order sof Wiener schnitzel, one Käsespätzle, and one omelette. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17

Dave, put down your fork, I'm trying to take a picture of the Bavarian lunch! 

The waitress/owner (?) was a matronly figure who corrected Justin' pronunciation of Käsespätzle, "more from lower down," scolded Patrick who was using his phone once the lunch was served. Staring at him she said, "In Germany, we don't do that. Quite uninteresting." She brought us two hard mint candies with the bill, despite being part of a part of four. Dave and I grabbed them, and, when Dave started chewing his, she instructed him to stop biting the hard candy! That being said, the meal was delicious, and we were glad to eat local dishes. 

When lunch was over, the man on the bike arrived in cycling clothes and asked to ride with us. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

His name is Marco, and he's and administrator at the University of Ansbach. His job is to help evaluate the faculty. He would accompany us to our next rest stop, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. At first there were two additional riders (Marco's friend who seemed to be commuting home) but with the speed and the brutal headwind, Marco's friend dropped out. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

Marco has looked at our GPS route and suggested a better path, nearly all on bike trails that would add no more than 2km. We agreed.

Justin began cycling next to Marco and each seemed to be trying to outdo the other. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

The speed kept increasing as the rest of us kept up by drafting. He and Justin continued talking, trying to show each other that they were not out of breath. Eventually, Marco, who was wearing a heart rate monitor, announced that he was at 92% maximum and wanted to let us ride on. We wanted his company to Rothenburg, so we slowed the pace. Dave took the lead at a slightly reduced speed, and we reached there quickly. Without Marco, our route would have had us go past what we were to see next. 

Marco led us through this stone entranceway, and we were in a Bavarian storybook village. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

We rode through the old cobblestone streets until we reached Marco's favorite coffee shop. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17

As he said goodbye, he asked for a picture.

Athens 2 Amsterdam Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

We had a longer stop than anticipated as Dave needed to call into a meeting at 4 pm, 8 am Denver time. After coffee and two pastries each, we waited until Dave finished, a little after 5. Although Marco has given us directions to follow the Tauber River into Bad Mergentheim, we promptly got lost leaving the windy streets of the old city. We knew there were 25 miles left, and the prospect of doing any more now that we were lost was depressing. We had unfortunately followed the wrong river to the south of town and now needed to climb out of the valley. After many miles of cycling with the hopes of a city in the distance, this is all we saw. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17

Eventually, we reconnected with the Tauber River and cycled into Bad Mergentheim, the last few miles downhill with the headwinds finally abating. As we entered town, we divided up duties. Justin and Dave headed to Lidl, our new favorite discount grocery store to buy a pre-dinner beer and snacks, after-dinner dessert, and food for the morning. Patrick was to find a dinner place, and, as usual, the writer of the blog is exempt from additional tasks, although I did check us in and negotiate for bikes in the rooms. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17

We were so tired that we decided to go to the restaurant right in front of the hotel.

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17 

We had tried to eat Greek at lunch but plans changed. Despite looking Bavarian, the restaurant was named Poseidon and had Greek food! We ordered beers, and they brought us a shot of ouzo on the house. 

Athens 2 Amsterdam Day 17

The meal was terrific with a salad to start and then the most meat-heavy entrees they had. We were trying to increase our protein intake to convince our bodies not to use our own muscle as fuel. Strava said I burned 9000 calories, and their calculations didn't consider headwinds!

We walked back to our rooms, which smelled like a gymnasium. I asked Command Central to try to find an apartment in Mainz with a washing machine as we've had two days without. Washing our biking clothes in the sink isn't the same. We also decided to eat the free hotel breakfast tomorrow at 7 am, so we were able to eat the donuts tonight that were supposed to be for the morning! 

Overall a great day, despite headwinds, with a sense of satsifaciton at having complteted our longest day. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

ABOUT DONALD HESS

Athens to Amsterdam - Donald HessDonald is a minimally invasive surgeon at Boston University and is the director of the surgery residency program. He first became interested in distance athletics when he was stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. It was there that he was introduced to triathlons, completed his first marathon, and went on to do a full ironman (Ironman California 2000). He has lived in Boston for the past 19 years where he has completed over 15 marathons including 6 Boston marathons, many half-ironman distance triathlons and countless adventure races. He first thought of attempting a cross country bike ride after participating in the 148-mile Harpoon Brewery to Brewery ride in 2008, and rode across the U.S. in 2014 from Seattle to Boston with Dave and Justin.

 




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