- Day 10, Biking Day 7, Utrecht to Amsterdam, Germany
A foggy start to the day, but promise of warm temps and sunshine as we set out for a 30 minute bus ride to the countryside to begin our final day of riding.
The morning view from the Carter’s balcony.
The day turned out to be the best overall. Weather, scenery and no injuries.
This is what a really great bike path looks like
And what would a trip to Holland be without seeing a windmill!
Picnic style lunch, beachside then on into downtown Amsterdam for our final night aboard the AmaStella.
Prior to dinner, a canal tour was set up for those who wanted to tour a bit of the city prior to dinner. Amsterdam is a city of bicycles! With a population of 851,000 people, it has 2,000,000 bicycles in the metropolitan area, and 17,000,000 throughout the country. Check out the creative ways they have for bike parking.
And they even utilize old river barges to park them!
Many people have made these river boats their homes, and the newest trend is renting them from AirBnB. They start at $500,000 to purchase.
Back aboard the ship, it was our evening to enjoy dinner in the private Chef’s Table Restaurant. Early to bed for a 6 am wake up and taxi to airport at 7:00 am. Bud and Nancy are staying in Amsterdam for a couple more days.
It was a great week, with lots to see, good food and miles of biking terrain.
- Day 9, Biking Day 6, Bonn to Cologne, Germany
Finally! A sunny warm day to enjoy our 23 mile ride from Bonn to Cologne, Germany. A late morning start to our ride as we changed ports and had a nice ride to Bonn.
Besides sunshine, we saw the sight of the Remagen Bridge. It was built during WW1 at the urging of German generals in order to allow more troops and war materials to be brought to the western front. US troops captured the bridge and as the German’s made several attempts to destroy it. On March 17, 1945 the bridge collapsed and 28 American soldiers lost their lives. This is all that is left, which is on each side of the river.
Our morning briefing from bike leader Jeremy who its the only US Backroads team member this trip.
We rode a bike path along the Rhine River, with a few turns away from the river, and obstacles as we met many other Saturday bikers, walkers, dogs and kids to watch as we made our way, 23 miles into Cologne.
Lunch was at a historic brew house with hearty pub food and Kolsch beer. Here’s a photo of the brew house and our lunch.
After lunch we enjoyed a tour around town and admired the architecture.
Bud and Nancy “touched” the nose of these two statues which is supposed to bring them good luck.
The Catholic cathedral took more than 600 years to build and was finished by the Protestants within 60 years in the 1800’s. It’s now Catholic again and is said to house the ashes of the Three Wise Men.
The railway bridge fencing has adopted the Paris idea of lovers recurring a lock to the fence then throwing the key into the river.
Our evening took us back to the ship for the Captain’s farewell cocktail party and dinner. The ship continued to sail to Amsterdam.
- Day 8, Biking Day 5, Rhine River Gorge, Germany
Today’s weather showed promise for no rain when we woke to partly sunny skies albeit the temperature at 49 degrees. Shortly into the ride the sun disappeared and we were back to cloudy skies. Thankfully no rain.
The path for the 1/2 day trip took us along the Rhine River (20.5 miles) with beautiful views of vineyards and castles.
Bud and the “elite” group continued on to log 60 miles including hills of 18% grades.
Thinking of Marcia, we saw this guy along the trail. And, not the only dog lover take a dog along for a ride along the Rhine.
Lunch was at another local winery where the group enjoyed pork roast, multiple fresh green salads, cheeses, meats, and desert of cherry compote with a layer of custard. Of course, German beer and house wine.
Marcia took to another tour, by way of gondola and then walking to the monument, Niederwald which overlooks the Rhine Valley.
The ship set sail at 2:30 and it was a cold, windy, yet sunny ride north. We enjoyed incredible vistas of numerous castles and vineyards. The Rhine River is the longest river in Europe and runs approximately 765 miles and dates back to prehistoric times.
Here’s Nancy and her fashionable take on staying warm.
There are many great lores of medieval times along this area of the river. Here’s the most famous one. The slate rock, Lorelei which stands 432 feet holds the story that atop the cliff a beautiful nymph wearing a white gown would comb her blond hair and sing melancholy songs that would echo into the gorge below. The irresistible tune would lure sailors to the base of the cliff where they lost all focus and met their demise in the forceful river. One theory why she did this was for her knight in shining armor who went to war never to return. Technically, it’s like the Bermuda Triangle of the Rhine River.
Here’s a sculpture of Lady Lorelei.
Most amazing are the steep hills where the vineyards are planted, 40 – 60 degrees! Acres and acres and acres.
Helicopters are used to spray the vines. (you might have to click in the box to play)
And castles, and more castles…
- Day 7, Biking Day 4, Speyer, Germany
Another rainy start to the day with hopes of blue sky at some point. The route took us through some beautiful small towns all associated with the wine industry. More rain and more than our fair share of mud.
Biking route winded through wine country with a stop at a local winery for a quick taste of the grape and some local appetizers. Many people took the bus back to the boat but biker Bud and Howard forged on through the muddy paths and met the rest of the group back on the boat.
Lunch on the boat today featured whole roast pork, smoked pork and ham, sauerkraut and other traditional German gastronomic specialties.
- Day 6, Biking Day 3, Strasbourg, France
The Boyne City fearless five took to the rain soaked and muddy bike course through many acres of farm land with growing crops. Corn, white asparagus and strawberries to mention a few.
Our route took us over the Friendship Bridge which was erected last year as a symbol of peace and friendship between France and Germany and spans over the Rhine River.
Another 24 miles for these four and Bud took the long route. Once back to the boat we were hosed down before being allowing back on the boat for showers and lunch.
Marcia took to the streets with a great walking tour of Old Town Strasbourg, twice. Once with the ship group in the morning and again with the bike group after lunch. The town dates back to 12 BC established by the Romans. Because of it’s location on the French German border, it has changed governing 3 times each, German to French and back again. The people today associate themselves as Alsatians which is a hybrid of both nationalities.
The highlight of the town is the Strasbourg Catholic Cathedral. It was started by the Roman’ and took over 400 years to build. No other buildings can be built taller than the cathedral. The details of the architecture are incredible!
- Day 5, Biking Day 2, Breisach, Germany
With rain in the forecast and still waiting on word regarding Marcia’s surgery, Bud took to the hills with 2200′ vertical and the rest of us took the day off from biking. Here are some photos from Bud’s day.
Main Street of some small town we can’t pronounce.
The stork is the national bird of Alsace. The government builds structures for nesting storks.
Nancy and Michele took a 2 mile walk through the quaint town of Breisach and found some trinkets which casted the characters of Marcia’s incident.
Upon returning from the walk, we learned Marcia had indeed been taken into surgery and the race was still on to make the departure time of 1:30. If they miss this departure time, they had the train schedule to meet us in Strasbourg, France.
They got to the boat, via Uber, with 30 minutes to spare. Three glasses of wine later, she took a nap. It’s been an exhausting start to the trip but relieve was felt by all once they returned and saw Marcia is good spirits.
The afternoon cruise found us going through four sets of locks. Talk about threading a needle! Approximately 4 inches of clearance each side. The ships are custom built to go through this size of locks. Upon orientation, the captain made special request to NOT touch the sides of walls however tempting it may be, when going through due to slime and risk of cutting yourself.
- Day 4 – Bike Day 1, Black Forest to Basel, Switzerland
An early start from Lucerne on the 7:30 am train to Basel, Switzerland. Instructions were to dress in biking gear, ready to ride upon arrival.
Despite this looking like Howard being a victim of a train robbery, it was merely Marcia reaching out to _____________ (insert your imagination here).
Upon arrival we met our Backroads group of 43 other riders, loaded into buses then made an hour drive into the Black Forest area in Germany where we began our first ride.
Temperatures and weather continued to decline the higher the elevation into the forest. We definitely could relate to where the story of Hansel and Gretel was born!
A briefing in a warm, dry tent with coffee, tea and breakfast of Black Forest cake included route expectations and instruction on how to use newly implemented Garmin navigation GPS.
Marcia showing Howard how it works!
Tom and Michele layered up and ready to ride!
With 43 degrees and rain we hit a couple “warm up” uphill climbs before riding fast and furious down the hilly, wet roads through the forest before entering wine country. Another two big uphill pushes and completed our first 14.5 miles to reach our lunch destination at a local winery. Traditional German fare was served and most of the group enjoyed beautiful 11 mile easy cruise back over the border to Basel. Bud and a few others opted for the “extra” loop which promised to be great scenery and and mostly uphill grades. A great ride was had by all, until, with 1 mile from boat destination, Marcia caught a tire in the rail track of a busy intersection and went down…hard!
A local pedestrian rushed into the street to assist, and in helping her up fell backwards with Marcia on top of him. Three “policia” officers (all handsome) also rushed to our assistance in fear the rail train would come around the corner, not able to see us and stop in time. We should note this occurred in front of a hospital and despite the insistence of the onlookers and the police, Marcia insisted she was fine and mounted the bikes to continue to the boat rendesvouzs.
Upon further examined of her injuries, we discovered blood stains on her biking pants, fanny pack and running down her hand, she took her jacket off to examine her elbow which caught most of her fall. With more blood, strings of flesh and an open wound to her bone, the Backroads crew swiftly sent a van to rush her to the Basel hospital. The rest of us headed onto the ship and awaited Howard’s report from the hospital.
It was determined she burst her bursa sac and would require surgery to remove it and stitches to close the open wound. Expected surgery was 10:00 pm however due to excessive emergencies that evening she was pushed to the next morning which meant she and Howard missed the boat Breisach, Germany.
- Day 3- Lucerne and a trip to Mt. Pilatus
We got a pretty early start on a beautiful day with the temperature in the seventies. We had breakfast at the hotel at about 8 and among many other things they had organic homey that you can harvest yourself right on to your toast.
After breakfast we headed downtown and crossed a bridge from the 1200’s (recently rebuilt) to the farmer’s market. Check out the asparagus both green and white.
Anyone for a pretzel sandwich?
Then on to a boat to get to the base of Mount Pilatus. Here is a panorama from the boat.
Mount Pilatus is about the same height as the Matterhorn at about 7,000 feet. The lake level is about 1,300 feet above sea level so it is quite a climb accomplished by a cog railway that is the steepest in the world with a maximum of 48% gradient (Steep)! It takes 30 minutes to reach the top.
The video shows how the cog railway car changes tracks once it reaches the bottom and prepares to take another group to the top.
(Just click the box or play button to view).
On our way up!
Over the gulley and through the bridge and to the top we go!
And look! There’s still snow.
Here are Nancy and Marcia at the top with a cocktail. That’s been a constant theme.
From here we took a cable car about half way down. Here is a pic of our group getting more tired by the moment.
And what goes up, must come down with a series of gondola rides down the back side. Beautiful view of Lake Lucerne from the top.
A little cloudy at the top on the back side as we prepare to load into the gondola.
Halfway down Bud, Michele and Howard decided to try a luge ride. It was quite fast, but not too over the top. Here is Bud at the top. Note, no helmets required.
A partial view of the luge course.
To get back to the top after your luge run they hooked a T bar to your sled and dragged you up backwards. Great fun until the exit which you couldn’t see because you were going backwards.
While we did the luge Nancy was discovering the pissoir which for some reason she was unable to use despite her sense of urgency.
We left the luge area via a pretty standard gondola that held 4 persons per car. That got us to the bottom where we walked about one half mile and took a bus 3 miles back to the hotel. So in just a few days we had travelled by car, plane, train, van, boat, cog railway, tram, gondola, bus and of course on foot.
Shortly after arrival, Howard noticed a most unusual tree. When asking the server what it was, she paused momentarily, searching for the correct translation and then simply replied, um “Art”.
Upon further observation in the lovely courtyard we noticed another piece of “Art”, which are the cutout sections from the Art Tree.
The meal was fabulous then back to the hotel for much needed sleep.
- Day 2 – Off to Lucerne!
We arrived in Amsterdam without incident about one hour early, except Bud realized when he went to buy coffee, he left his credit card in the bar at the Detroit airport.
We then left on a flight to Zurich. You can tell you are in Europe and Holland in particular by the very neat layout of the farms.
Our next leg was via train from the Zurich Airport to Lucerne. The ride was just over an hour on a train with no bar car and no restaurant. Deprived! Once in Lucerne we took a van to our hotel that over looked the lake. So we travelled by car, plane, train and van in about 22 hours.
Here are a few shots from our patio.
Always ready to go we headed for the hotel beach bar for a drink before dinner. That’s when Tom realized his sport coat and dress slacks were still hanging in the closet back in Boyne City.
From there to a fabulous dinner at our hotel.
Marcia had a duck liver paté.
Michele’s Montana House salad with olive loaf crostini. Not a good restaurant for gluten free or dairy free people.
- Day 1 – Traveling to Switzerland
We left Boyne City for our flight from Traverse City to Detroit at 1:45 the beginning of a long travel period. So what happened next? Flight to Detroit was delayed. Not an auspicious start, but it did get us there on time for our over night flight to Amsterdam. Here are our intrepid travelers.
We had these really cool pod seats for our overnight flight. They fold down absolutely flat so you have some little chance of getting some sleep. Here is Michele and a picture of the front section.