Saturday, September 22, 2007

Travel: Biking Adventures Through the Woods Outside Frankfurt

Warning: this post is entirely about travel stuff: there is no software or technology here, so feel free to avoid this if that's all you care about.
Terry Dietzler and I have spoken at the Entwickler conference for 9 years in a row (that's how I always spend my last week of September). On the first trip here, the hotel had bicycles you could borrow for the day, and we did several bike trips through the German countryside (the conference is in a suburb of Frankfurt, named Morfelden, near a national forest). We were hooked. Biking in Europe is a blast: there are bike routes simply everywhere (you can buy maps of just bike routes in bike stores). Our most elaborate trip to date was in 2003, when we biked about 200 miles in 2 days, from Frankfurt (actually, Morfelden) to Metz, France. In 2002, we made a deal with the conference organizer: in lieu of payment for pre-conference tutorials, buy us bikes and keep them in Frankfurt for us, in the basement of their offices. They kindly agreed, so Terry and I have bikes that live year-round in Germany.

This is all prelude to the adventure we had yesterday (we tend to have lots of adventures when we are here in Germany). We took the train (the S-bahn, or regional train) into the city and picked up the bikes. We had thought about bringing them back to Morfelden on the train, but decided instead of ride them back: follow the Main river trail until it gets out of the city, them find our way back to Morfelden. The biggest problem: the Frankfurt airport is between us and Morfelden, but we had maps, so we can find our way. Here is the route we ended up taking (Terry has a GPS, and he turned it on, so we got a record of the entire route):

It was 9 miles (according to the GPS) from where we picked up the bikes to our the crow flies. We estimated more like 20 miles because of the major obstacle, the airport. About 2 hours should to it; we started out at about 5.

As you can tell, we made good progress along the river, and we got minorly lost a few times as we lost the trail then reacquired it later. Very typical. Then, as we got near the airport, we started having to cross more major autobahns and train tracks. There are abundant bike bridges and crossing, you just have to find them. And, notice the backtracking as we neared the airport. We got on one trail that literally dead-ended at the junction of two sets of train tracks. As we're thrashing around, the sun is setting. Many of the trails are through the woods, so it's getting darker and darker. Our bikes have headlights, but mine was the only one working. So, picture this: we're biking through dense woods in pitch blackness following one headlight. Fortunately, the trails are very good, but it was still spooky and hard to do because the light only reached a little ways ahead of us, and it looked like we were biking into a black wall, which made me claustrophobic.

Fortunately, we've biked around Morfelden a lot, and as we got close, we recognized a landmark from a former trip. We followed the trail through a really dark and increasingly cold section of trail until, to the right, we spotted our hotel. 4 hours after we started, we ended up cycling 23 miles (including all the switch backs). What fun; we're going out again tomorrow.

1 comment:

Michael Easter said...

I enjoyed the post... Very medieval, "In the pitch-black forest beyond the castle keep..."

It would be cool to see some images of these places (I know it was too dark for a camera) but save me the Google search ;-)

Having a bike available in another country is awesome. I'm a fan of triathlon and have no idea how non-pro's can manage to schlep their stuff around to exotic locales.