Finally an itinerary and disaster strikes
Total Distance: 25 km
See end of post for elevation profile, maps and GPX files.
We started the morning at Luxembourg’s only youth hostel which thankfully had free wifi. Given that it was the fifth day of the tour and we had just completely changed our plans we decided to actually figure out where we were going. A few hours later we had sketched out a decent schedule and itinerary for our remaining days. We ate lunch at the hostel cafeteria and set out from Luxembourg City at the early hour of 3:00pm headed for Orval, our first Trappist brewery. We were hoping to camp a few kilometers from the brewery and take a tour the following morning.
The Luxembourg government website has a lot of seemingly useful information on cycling routes. In fact, the accessibility and downloadable maps were a large part of our decision to include Luxembourg on our tour. One of the few things I had done prior to leaving on this tour was download and print all of the cycling maps. However, the maps turned out not to be detailed enough for us to even get out of town. After circling around a high school a few times on what we thought was the bike route we gave up on the cycling routes and asked the GPS to take us across the border to Belgium.
On another note Luxembourg city was really quite beautiful. The capital of the Grand Duchy, is a large walled complex with beautiful old ramparts towering above a river and canal system. The little we saw of Luxembourg city was pretty impressive and for jaded tourists like us that is saying a lot. If you’re biking around, however, be warned that the hills are quite steep and were nearly impossible for us with the trailer.
When we made it out of the city we were quickly surrounded by nothing but fields and rangeland. Cows and horses were the only living things we encountered for much of our ride through the countryside. In fact, at one point we ran out of water and stopped by the church in the next town hoping for a fountain. Struck by another “eau non potable” sign we reluctantly got back on the bike and rode another 10 km before we could ask the first people we saw out in front of their house. They were very sweet and happy to refill our bottles for us.
About 30 km into the ride we found the Luxembourg equivalent of WalMart which was called Cactus. If you are cycle touring in Europe you will come to love these stores. They often go by different names such as Intermarche, Carrefore, and Coop but they all boil down to the same thing, one stop shopping. In the land of boutique style shopping and scarce opening hours these stores are a godsend. We headed in hoping to find the Michelin maps we needed to cover the rest of our tour. We were in luck and purchased the maps for the rest of our trip. We also stocked up on some food for dinner and set our sights on a campground another 25 km away that would put us just a short ride from Orval tomorrow.
Since we spent the morning planning and had so much confusion getting out of the city it was getting late. When we left the store it was already after six. With only a few hours of daylight remaining we were eager to get to the campground as fast as possible.
Just as we were on a descent through some little Luxembourg village only a few kilometers from the Belgium border we got a little too close to a planter box with the left trailer wheel and we hit it and broke the axle clean off, sending the suitcases dragging on their sides along the pavement. We screeched to a halt to assess the damage. We were going nowhere.
We quickly brainstormed what we could do to fix it and get on the road, Kyle suggested we try to get a replacement pipe or a coupler. I sat with the sad broken trailer and the rest of the gear and he set off back towards Cactus (the only thing open after 6pm). Kyle had no luck in finding anything to fix it but the people at Cactus told him that there was a plumber few kilometers away and they could probably weld it for us tomorrow, at this hour they were definitely closed.
Kyle came back and we decided it was time to figure out where we’d be sleeping. With one wheel off our trailer we essentially had a tandem and two huge, heavy rolling suitcases. We were going nowhere fast. The GPS told us that it was 10km to the nearest campground but there was a hotel of some sort named Threeland just about 2km away. With few other options in suburban Luxembourg I set off for Threeland.
Keep in mind that we are on a very strict budget, even staying in campgrounds night after night takes it’s toll on our savings account and I wasn’t terribly excited about having to pay for a hotel room. I hop on the tandem leaving Kyle with the stuff and GPS’d my way to Threeland. When I get there it looks really nice, too nice, uncomfortably nice. There is a yellow Ferrari parked out front so naturally I pull the Bike Friday up and lean it against the wall right next to the Ferrari. The gentleman who owned the Ferrari was sitting having a drink in the patio undoubtedly admiring his expensive car and he gave me quite a funny look as I pulled my bike right up next to the Ferrari. At least I knew they’d be careful not to hit my bike on the way out.
A little intimidated by the Ferrari I went in and asked how much a room would be for the night, 90 euros. Ouch! Without much choice I decided to go for it and asked if we could get a lift for Kyle and the trailer. The receptionist was very sweet and pulled a few strings to give herself a quick break in order to take her car to pick up Kyle and the stuff. I left the tandem parked next to the Ferrari and we drove back to get Kyle. Her little euro car was great but there wasn’t enough room for the three of us and the trailer so I opted to walk back.
Spending 90€ on a room didn’t leave us much money for dinner and we were stoked to see that our room had a big window that opened. Cue the trusty Trangia stove. Yes, we opened the hotel room window and cooked canned ravioli on the windowsill. Long live budget travel.
Hopefully tomorrow we can get the trailer fixed. There is a plumber on our street and we are going to try him first, but who knows.
It’s pretty ironic that the first day we have a plan and a goal in mind we get completely stopped in our tracks.
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 5: Luxembourg City to the Belgian Border in a larger map