"Rather than small highway riding, the next portion of our planned route had us on the bike paths along the Rhine."
by Justin de Benedictis-Kessner, Pactimo Brand Ambassador
After some rest and necessary laundry in the historic town of Mainz, we took off early this morning headed towards the Rhine River, which we knew we would follow for the remainder of the day's ride. Leaving these towns in the pre-dawn light is always a fun spectacle: four men in matching bright jerseys on bikes navigating on cobblestone streets, dodging delivery drivers and early commuters going the opposite direction. This morning we quickly rode past the Gutenberg Museum, which honors its namesake, who was born in Mainz. It was across a small plaza from the Mainz cathedral, in front of which we took a quick photo.
We had some brief navigational difficulties getting out of Mainz, mainly because we couldn't decide whether to take a river path (with detours, and other people on it) or the main road that was more direct. We ended up with a mixture of both: some bike paths and some roads.
This eventually got us onto some open roads that led between farm fields northwest of the city of Mainz. Our constant winding through roads and paths had slowed us down, but these more isolated country roads were excellent for maintaining a pace closer to our normal speed.
This smooth-riding continued between small vineyards until we suddenly reached a road blockade. There was construction blocking off the entirety of the road leading under some raised train tracks with no other route under them visible. We debated turning around and going back several miles to take the turn previous to ty a parallel to the tracks. Though we encountered a couple of fences clearly blocking the path, there were no workers around and it seemed perfectly reasonable for bikes (but not cars) to travel through, so we did. Several more miles of isolated farm roads awaited us on the other side, and then back to our planned route.
We stopped for a quick breakfast at mile 22 in the town of Bingen at a large bakery called Backhaus Luning. We gave ourselves a time limit of 20 minutes because of our slow speeds up to that point, and proceeded to quickly down coffee and each devour several baked goods.
After our earlier roundabout riding, we were pleasantly surprised to be on one road (route B9) for the next many miles. This road follows the Rhine River and so we paralleled its path along a narrow valley between two ridges.
Moving in the same direction as the water made for good speed over the next 40 miles, and so we kept boing without a break.
The lack of turns off one road did not mean our ride was not scenic: despite the similar topography through the entirety of the river valley as we rode north, castles and little medieval towns popped up with every turn of the river. I tried to count the number of ancient castles perched high on the ridge lines above the river during the portion of the ride, but it was difficult to lee track. Depending on whether you count the numerous free-standing medieval-era towers as well as the more picturesque full castles, there were at least 11 castles in these 40 miles! Guide sites on the area say there are many more, so I must have missed a few while trying to keep my eyes on the road.
We finally stopped around mile 60 for lunch in town of Koblenz. We found a place to eat next to the train station at a large restaurant called Remos.
While we waited for our food, we learned a little about the city we were in, which dates from 8 BCE. We learned that farther down the road Koblenz featured an impressive palace built by Clemens Wenceslaus, which we realized that we would pass on the way out of town! After lunch, we waited out a quick rain squall and then made a point to pass by this palace before heading back towards our route along the Rhine.
Rather than small highway riding, the next portion of our planned route had us on bike paths along the Rhine.
While these were quite scenic, they often ended up being circuitous (going around businesses on narrow detoured paths, or through parking lots). They also were sometimes paved poorly with cobblestones or bricks, which are not as pleasant to bike on.
Frustrated with the slow speeds and indirect route - and because there were a number of elderly pedestrians on these paths as well, and we wanted to avoid accidentally hitting anyone - we opted to try and get back to our favored route B9. It was similar to how it had looked when we rode it in the morning, but quickly became a much faster-separated highway that was not as enjoyable to bike on. We knew we should not be on there when we got to a construction zone and cars could not pass us while we rode along the (very slim) shoulder.
As it turns out, the German police agreed with that assessment. As we headed for the exit from this highway, a police car with its lights on flagged us down to pull over after the end of the off-ramp. We should not be on that highway, the police officer promptly informed us. We let Don do the talking as the person who had been leading us on the highway, and he ably explained in his halting German (and then English) the truth that we had tried to follow a bike lane but that it had then disappeared. Luckily, they were understanding of our ignorance and let us off after only taking down Don's passport info. They also gave us directions back to the river bike path.
We returned to the bike paths with our adrenal glands fully operational and quickly decided we all deserved some ice cream (non-dairy for Don) after that close encounter. We stopped for a quick few minutes at a stand along the river and enjoyed a few minutes of relaxation before our last 15 miles into Bonn.
The last few miles headed into the city weren't our fastest, due to plenty of foot and pedal traffic on the bike path along the river, but they were absolutely scenic. On our right, we continued to see large barges headed upriver carrying their loads. And on our left, a number of large and stately homes lined the path with views out over the water.
Once in Bonn, we checked into our small hotel near the old section of town and the university. Dave and I took on the now-ritualistic responsibility of heading to the grocery store to grab supplies for breakfast and a few pre-dinner snacks.
We consulted with the others once back at the hotel, and chose a Korean place for dinner not far away called Mandu that we had investigated on TripAdvisor. Though it was quite busy once we got there, we were able to find a small table and puzzle our way through the German menu. When the heaps of food started arriving, we knew we had made great choices.
Stuffed with rice and spicy dumplings, we walked around the historic town of Bonn a little - and even found Beethoven's birthplace!
As we continued our walk we discovered a statue of the famous composer with large pedestrain plazas surrounding it and clearly a bustling nightlife just getting started. After taking some photos with Ludwig, we headed back to our hotel for an early bedtime. A long day of riding tomorrow is ahead of us, along with crossing into the Netherlands. We're almost to Amsterdam!
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ABOUT JUSTIN DE BENEDICTIS-KESSNER
Justin is a professor at Boston University and has lived in Boston for the last 8 years. He met the others when he was a PhD student at MIT. He was introduced to recreational bicycling at a young age by his father in Berkely, CA, where he grew up. In high school, he started rowing, which he continued as an athlete at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and then as a coach for the men's lightweight rowing at MIT while in grad school. Justin completed his first century ride on his bike in 2012 and rode across the U.S. in 2014 from Seattle to Boston with Don and Dave. Justin is also a Pactimo Brand Ambassador Alumni.