Twelve hours, two trains, three countries and thirty miles
Total Distance: 45.9 km
See end of post for elevation profile, maps and GPX files.
We got up early to catch the train from Geneva to Basel. We were originally going to start our tour from Geneva, but we were a little out of shape and short on time. We opted to start in Basel since it would get us through the Jura mountains and pretty much right onto the Rhine River and EuroVelo 5.
This is our first long bike trip in Europe and we only spent about two days planning it. We got some help from George Jemmott, who sent us GPS files from his trip earlier this year where he followed the EV5. They were a huge help and were fantastic for getting us out of the city.
We arrived in Basel at around 11am and stepped outside to be greeted by a downpour. We immediately wondered if this was going to be Bali all over again. We checked the weather before we left and it appeared to be clear as far forward as the forecast can predict. We decided to assemble our bike and deal with the rain when the time came, luckily by the time we finished it was clear and sunny. While I got to work on the bike Briana ran to the grocery store and set out to look for a map. Being a Sunday we were a little worried that everything would be closed. Luckily there was a grocery store in the train station and it was open. We had no luck finding a map nearby but with our trusty GPS we figured we would manage.
As we assembled the bike we got quite a few people who would give us a second glance as they walked by, and we even had a couple of super friends who stayed the whole time we assembled the bike. Our first friend said he was a musician and was really amazed at how the bike came together before him. But given that it was 11am and he was already on his second beer (that we could see) I think we were just a little bit of morning entertainment and he would have been sitting there in front of the train station regardless. When he found out it was a tandem he just kept saying “that’s love, that’s love.” Our other friend was staring intently at us pretty much the whole time, including when we sat and ate lunch after the bike was assembled. He walked up to the suitcase with our bike parts in it and stared at it for awhile. We were starting to wonder if he was going to demand a ride when he asked us where we were from very slowly and deliberately. That’s when we realized he was a little slow. About two and a half hours after we arrived at the train station the bike was assembled the trailer was packed and we said goodbye to our super friends to hit the road.
The route out of Basel is really beautiful. There is a bike path right next to the Rhine and it was packed with touring cyclists. There were a few summer restaurants set up along the water which were serving sausages and other grilled food that looked tempting but we were eager to get moving. We already spent half a day getting there and we wanted to cover as much ground as possible.
Trying to find our way to the EuroVelo 5 route and across the river into France we accidentally rode right through the border checkpoint. Passing the line of cars waiting to be flagged through we got a pretty funny look from the customs official, but passed through without incident. Only about 20 minutes in and we had already made our first international border crossing.
We deviated from the river at some point and rode through an industrial port area while we tried to meet up with the track we got from George. We didn’t make too many wrong turns before finding it and started riding along a secondary canal that paralleled the Rhine. This route was packed dirt and reserved only for cyclists and pedestrians. It is really well marked with signs for both the EuroVelo route and the Voie Verte, the French cycling paths. The EuroVelo signs showed that we were on EuroVelo 6 but had no markings for EuroVelo 5. As far as we could tell from our preliminary research, EuroVelo 6 is really well developed while there isn’t a well marked path for the EuroVelo 5.
There was a scale solar system along the path where they marked the planets’ distances and sizes along the route. The sun came along soon after we hit the dirt and little models of the planets were spread out at scaled distances throughout the ride. We never saw Pluto on our route and we don’t know if they actually removed it (considering it is no longer a planet) or we missed it when we took the path back to the Rhine. We just followed the bicycle signs and ended up on Velo Route 2 which took us between the canal and the Rhine through a bunch of corn fields and other agricultural land and onto some nondescript French suburbs.
About 3 hours before sunset we checked our GPS for a campground and found one about 5k away and another one 20k away. We had seen a bike path on the German side of the Rhine on the posted maps we kept passing and figured we were up for a change of scenery. We thought we could make it another 20k, took the turn toward the Rhine at Chalampe and hopped onto what we thought was the bike path along the German Rhine. No sooner did we turn off the road than the path became loose gravel and we realized we were actually on some island in the Rhine and not the path we intended. We slogged through it for about a kilometer before we decided to turn around. At that point we decided to be a bit more realistic and headed to the close campground in Neuenburg, Germany and called it a day. The campingplatz was called Gugel and it was 6.50€ per person and 4€ for the tent and is located here. The facilities were more resort than campground; it had a pool, restaurant, little store, spa treatments, laundry and free wifi that was unfortunately broken. We had forgotten to get fuel before we left so we ate a moderately price meal at the restaurant and went straight to bed.
If you use a GPS you can download a GPX file of our ride here (right click-save target as).
View Bike to Beer day 1: Basel to Neuenburg in a larger map