It never gets easier, you just go faster – Greg Lemond
Ardagger Stift to Weissenkirchen -51.25 Miles
Our luck has run out. The monsoons have arrived. We woke up this AM to a very rainy and gloomy day. Nothing to do but for to drag out the rain gear and go for it. We went to breakfast and they had the WORST breakfast selection we’ve seen so far by leaps and bounds. I could barely find anything I wanted to eat… I tried. Not ideal to start the longest biking leg of the trip with what was basically a miniature cinnamon roll…without the frosting…
On the way out of the breakfast area we saw the Spanish guys we’ve been crossing paths with along the way and I tried to start a conversation with them – they were nice, but I’m sure they wondered why I was talking to them. I’d expected more of a “we’re all in this together” comaraderie amongst the cyclists -but in general it seemed like people kept to themselves. I’m sure a big part of that was the language barriers. They did ask how far we were going and then they said: “Buen Camino!” That’s something I haven’t been wished since I walked the Camino. It means – basically – have a good trip. Made my day.
After breakfast we put the finishing touches on our ensemble for the day. I felt like the little kid in A Christmas Story when the mom dressed him up in his snow suit to walk to school. I don’t remember when I’ve ever layered up my clothes quite so much. Because of our flights, we had to pack relatively lightly for this trip so that we didn’t have to check our luggage – and so different pieces of clothing have to double up as layers…etc… I forgot to have Mike take a picture of me in my rain gear – its bright yellow and I felt like a duck.
We asked at the desk where we should leave our luggage. One person said, “Right here at the registration desk.” We didn’t think that was right, so we asked someone else. She said we had to put it in the conference room –which was the same place we’d found our bags when we arrived. We figured the second person was correct. This was a very nice hotel, but they seemed very confused about what they were supposed to do with us. You’d think they’ve never hosted bikers before.
We got our bikes out from the back of the hotel and away we went. Mike’s brakes feel squishy to him so he didn’t want to chance the first hill and he decided to walk down it from the hotel. From that moment on –until nearly the end of the day- we were riding in a cold, driving, unrelenting rain. FUN! (kidding) Mike says that the temperature that morning was high 40s/low 50s. In the four hours or so of riding we did today, it rained steadily for about 3 1/2 of them.
On a day like this you don’t want to make unnecessary stops, so I curtailed a lot of my picture taking impulses to focus on just getting as many miles done as fast as possible. I had to keep my eye on Mike because he was so focused on just going –he missed a couple of critical turns. Not entirely his fault –one was hidden by the branch of a tree and I happened to see it out of the corner of my eye.
We didn’t make our first real stop until we’d ridden about 20 miles when we found a grocery store on the route. We wanted to get more food in us because we hadn’t had a good breakfast. Mike said not to be in there too long or we’d be cooling down and feeling the cold even more. I did a supermarket sweep and just grabbed what looked quick and easy –which was Gatorade, water, and a container with 4 donuts in it! We still weren’t having a good breakfast. We scarfed down the donuts with our pruny, cold hands and got back on the bikes so we could get warm (relatively speaking).
As we came into the outskirts of Ybbs around the 30 mile mark, we could see all the cruise ships lined up along a pier/river wall and just beyond them we found a little restaurant. Next to the restaurant was a staging area for the tour buses. The other day I said that I was sure that one day during this trip I’d be jealous of the cruisers…well, today was that day!
I started out that morning with a pair of gloves I use for running in colder weather and they were soaked. When I took them off, I wrung them and the water poured out of them. I felt like someone had poured a pitcher of water into each of my shoes. The good news is that my raincoat and rain pants kept me dry – except my sweat made all my layers damp and so I was dry, but not dry.
We “clocked out” for our rest stop and ate lunch there. Mike finally got his wienershnitzel – he arrived in Germany & Austria with that as a goal and as the week has unfolded, it seemed he was never in the right place for it. Check that off his food bucket list!
We lingered over lunch hoping to get warmed up and a bit dryer even though the restaurant wasn’t overly warm. We ordered hot chocolate –but it arrived only lukewarm. We knew we couldn’t wait the rain out forever and decided it was time to go out and face the reality. It was tough to step out through that door from the relative warmth of the restaurant out into the coldI
I had said to Mike at lunch, “Wow, I’m really amazed we’ve come almost 30 miles already. It went by fast for me.” He said, “Have we been on the same trip today?”
Last night, when we were checking the weather and got an idea of what we’d be up against today, I reminded Mike that there were other options we could consider, such as taking a bus or a train (they accept bikes) or even a tour boat -our tour company had conveniently given us a couple of schedules for different ones along the whole route. Mike said no, we came to ride. I was actually OK with that sentiment -I just wanted to make sure we put all of our options for the day on the table.
Our next town on the map was Melk, another 10-ish miles ahead. We put our noses to the grindstone and made good time. There’s a beautiful abbey there up on a hill…I managed to snap a picture of it because we had to stop at a corner to get our bearings as we rode into town.
There were two choices of routes here – one a bypass and one through town. We took the bypass. We needed to switch from the S. bank of the Danube to the N, bank at Melk, and did so by riding over a regular highway bridge that had a separate bike/pedestrian area. We were initially on a path below the bridge and had to take a side path up a really short steep hill to reach the bridge (which was pretty high up there above the river) and surprise …I had to walk again… I am a terrible hill climber. What is written on the door to hell in Dante’s Inferno? Abandon all hope ye who enter here ? Well, hill is only one letter different than hell! Coincidence? I think not.
Once on the other side of the river, we were on a route that wove back and forth from being right along a highway to diverting into and through a series of small, quaint and really charming villages.
If the weather had only allowed us to dawdle –we would have seen so much more. In some of them the road was so narrow I almost felt like I could put my hands out to the sides and touch the walls of the buildings on both sides at once as I rode by. They weren’t quite that narrow –but they were only wide enough for a car to pass through.
Between today’s route and tomorrow’s we would be passing through the Wachau Valley. The Wachau Valley region is a 25 mile long area along the Danube that is famous for wine-making. It is known to have been inhabited from prehistoric times on –so there’s tons of history (and wine) in the area. We were looking forward to passing through the Wachau and maybe having time to do some tasting. Today, of all days, was when we were finally going to have the chance to explore it a bit –and the weather wasn’t cooperating. We went by a few wineries, but they didn’t look open. We didn’t want to drip on them either! Another thing “we almost got to do” !
At one point the trail curved to go through an arched opening in a very old looking wall and this church popped into view. It was St. Michael.
We finally found the little village, Weissenkirchen, that was to be our home for the night. Our hotel was easy to find and not up a hill for once!
We checked in – and discovered that our bags weren’t there yet. SIGH. The ONE day we’re dripping wet and tired and just want a warm shower and dry clothes to put on. We knew that the delivery company had until 5:30 to get them to us, but because of the mixed instructions this morning we were nervous that they hadn’t been picked up at all from our last hotel. They finally arrived after we’d been checked in for an hour or so. A sight for sore eyes!
Dinner, we were informed, would be at a restaurant near the church several blocks away. After 51 miles we didn’t want to walk an inch –but dinner was the carrot in front of our noses and off we went. Fortunately, the rain had let up by the time we were ready for dinner.
The restaurant was very cute, with a friendly waiter who spoke a bit of English. We were offered a choice of either goulash or wienershnitzel for dinner.
Mike chose wienershnitzel again and the least of the evils for me was goulash. In my world –goulash is noodles with some meat and a topping something like spaghetti sauce on it. Not this!!!
Talk about a Spaghetti Seville style flashback ! (I once got spaghetti with an egg on it in Spain). Mike, ever gallant and willing to eat fried eggs, immediately offered to switch plates with me. He said the goulash was delicious! I’ll be taking his word for it.
Mike asked me during dinner if the trip was everything I’d dreamed of. I said, “Is it wrong that at some point in the middle of this day…while being frozen, drenched with rain and riding 51 miles (the furthest I’ve ridden in one day in a long time) that I had this little moment of glee and was thinking how much fun we were having?” Basically…he stared at me incredulously and said yes, it IS wrong! 🙂
On the way back from dinner we were going to stop at the grocery store to stock up on water for the next day and got there 5 minutes after closing time. No worries, we said, we’ll take care of that first thing in the morning.
Back to the hotel where I spent a good part of the evening in the lobby with my netbook because I thought that was the only place I could get internet, only to return to the room and have Mike mention he had been able to get it in our room! Sigh!
Categories: The Danube Bike Trail 2014