Up the Rhine and back to France
Total Distance: 69.8 km
See end of post for elevation profile, maps and GPX files.
We woke up at our posh Gugel campground and set about starting the day. We had neglected to stake out one side of the tent fly and as a result our tent, fly and tarp were all pretty soaked. Getting packed up, ready to go and drying the tent out ended up taking us almost two hours. Turns out we are slow off of the bike on this trip too.
We didn’t have any cooking fuel yet, having forgotten to get it before we left Switzerland so we stopped to buy some breakfast. I guess that’s a result of spending only one day getting ready for this trip. We stopped by the gas station on the way to the bike path. They didn’t have fuel but they had coffee and breakfast. The gas station had a restaurant attached. It was quite a little scene. The two women working there were what I imagine your German grandmother was. Imposing and brusk at first glance, but very sweet. We tried to order two scrambled eggs each and they asked if we wanted speck (pork product of some sort) as well. We went for it and when the food came out we had a mountain of porky eggs in front of each of us. I swear they couldn’t have used less than 6 eggs each. We sat down and crammed in what we could, watching the local guys watch risqué videos on the TV and play the electronic slots and drink beer (at 9am). It was a truck stop after all. We both hardly finished half of our plates and packed the rest to go, it only came to 9 euro with coffee and we were pretty surprised. Here I am with our massive leftovers later that day.
We hit the road with bellies full of pork products and found the actual German Rhine route. The route was gorgeous. The river was wide and calm and we were mostly in the shade as we rode up the east bank. It was unpaved but the packed dirt was definitely rideable and nothing near as bad as the gravel route we had gotten on the day before. The trail was well marked and full of touring cyclists and lots of groups out for a day ride.
At one point we came across a large group camp of motorcycle tricycle enthusiasts. They had all pulled their RV’s for a big party on the river. Numerous couples were going up and down on hilarious Harley-esque trikes.
We rode the Rhine route for 30 km and then decided it was time to cross back over to France. To my knowledge the route continues all the way to Strasbourg and beyond, but after a few hours of picturesque but monotonous dirt trail we were ready for some pavement and a change. We took a left back to France at Neuf-Brisach and immediately found a well signposted cycling route to Colmar, about 16 km inland.
Having no real plan, or map, or idea of where the heck we were going we decided that today was a good day to get a map. We also really wanted fuel so we could start cooking our own meals. Being a big city, Colmar was the obvious destination. We followed the bike route right into town through some pretty fields lined with wild blackberries and blueberries, lots and lots of corn growing and the occasional happy French cow.
Colmar was very cute and very packed. We managed to find the Michelin maps we needed, numbers 315 and 307 with a 1:150,000 resolution at 4,50€ a pop. These maps show minor roads and major bike routes and in tandem with the GPS should get us all the way to Belgium. At the Colmar tourist office we also picked up a free bike map of the Haute Rhin. They had another one which was very detailed but Colmar was the furthest north that it showed. The other map was 2,50€. We managed to get some fuel and some groceries at the Intermarche supermarket on the outskirts of town and we headed off to find a place to spend the night.
This tour is an experiment for us in a lot of ways. We are on a strict budget and would like to save money wherever possible, the easiest way to do that is to stealth camp. For those of you who aren’t familiar stealth camping, it involves camping out of sight on unused land. Since the land is presumably unused (meaning un-improved and possibly not privately owned) there is no one to ask for permission. You are careful to arrive late and leave early and most importantly to leave no trace.
Heading out of Colmar on the bike route we came across a large forested area. We stopped at a nearby place de picnic and contemplated our options. The forest was the perfect place to give stealth camping a try, it was relatively dense and flat with little underbrush. We tossed the idea around as we ate our ratatouille, bleu cheese and baguette and drank our Corbieres, but in the end we wussed out and booked it another 12 km to the nearest campground and shower. I guess these yuppies dies hard.
To our luck, though this being France it also wasn’t very surprising, the campground was closed when we arrived. The reception closed at 8pm and we rolled in around 8:30. With no one to register us and the sun already set we had no choice but to camp there anyway.
The campground was almost entirely full. August in France is RV mania with huge set-ups hauled around Europe from all over. We circled around and found one open place. We unhooked the trailed and started to pitch the tent. Just as we were putting the stakes in a French couple drove up in their giant RV and informed us that we were in their spot. We helped them pull in and apologized, explaining that the reception was closed when we arrived. Seeing our little tent they were very generous and told us we were welcome to share the space. They parked the RV, went into the back and we hardly saw them again. In the morning we packed up and left well before the 9am opening of the reception so in a way I guess we did stealth camp. Success?
If you use a GPS you can download a GPX file of our ride here. (right click – save target as)
View EuroVelo 5 from Neuenburg, Germany to Beblenheim, France in a larger map