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Follow along on our rides

I use an app on my smartphone called LocaToWeb which uploads our actual GPS ride in real time. If you send me an email I can even add your t...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Updated the Daily Blog Posts

I've gone back thru all the daily posts from my recent Dunkirk to Vienna ride and embedded the actual GPS tracks, so you can see exactly where we rode.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Grein to Krems

Grein is on the north bank of the Danube, as is our next stop Krems, so we had planned on following the bike path on that side, especially as it seemed to be the main one on my map.

As we were checking out, the landlady said we should definitely ride on the South Bank as it was much more scenic and there was less traffic. But we didn't want to backtrack a couple of km to the previous bridge. "Just take the town ferry -- it starts at 9:00am" she said. My map is a couple years old and that ferry wasn't on the map. But sure enough, just down from our hotel was a ferry sign. 

There was a bike  shop just down from the hotel and we stopped to borrow their pump to top up our tires. If there was a sound track to this post, it would be playing ominous music. Remember this. 

When we arrived the ferry was just leaving, completely packed with bikes and cyclists. There were two people on the dock who hadn't made it on to that ferry. We waited on the bank (where there were benches)

Looking down river you could again see all the hills as the river twists and bends. I just love this sort of view so you get to see another one.

Danube view from Grein
By the time the ferry headed back we decide to go down to the dock as more cyclists started to arrive.

From the middle of the river you got a great view of Grein.

Grein, Austira
By the time we got across the Danube it as past 9:30 but the sun had already burned away the clouds. It was going to be a hot one.

In what has become our standard practice, we push things a little in the morning and don't stop for lunch until we are pass the halfway mark. The town of Melk was our first choice but about 6 tour boats were docked and it was just too full of people wandering around, so we pushed on,

Finally, just past 1am we came across a Gasthaus and pull in for lunch and a beer. They had a menu of cold dishes for the hot weather which were great. They had four beers on draft, I had a Zwettler Zwickl (say that fast 5 times). It is a Brau Union/Heineken brand so it didn't expect much but it was quite nice in the heat.

Zwettler Zwickl

After lunch, we pushed on in the heat. Near Bacharnsdorf was a cafe right along the path, so we stopped. While enjoying a cooling beverage there was a loud bang almost like a gunshot but louder. Everybody looked around and finally somebody said, "Look, your rear tire is flat." Oh boy, I just had a blowout.

I check the bike and the tire was damaged as well. No way was I riding on this one. On most trips I carry a spare, folding tire but I had never used it and it was just about the last thing I took out of my suitcase when packing -- for weight and space reasons.

We were about 20 km from Krems, our destination for the day. I inquired about ordering a taxi and the owner, Anna (the place is Anna's Landhaus ) said she was sending somebody near Krems to do some shopping and she'd see if that lady wouldn't mind giving me a ride. She didn't, so Martina drove me directly to a bike shop near Krems, where after a while (they were busy) the replaced my tire (with a slightly larger one but it will do) and fixed a broke spoke I didn't know I had.  There was bit of a crisis as an Irish group with bicycles rented in Regensburg had a major problem the bike shop was helping them talk to the rental company in Regensburg.  So after about and hour and half I rode the last 4km into the hotel, where Tom and Tim had already arrived.

We found a nice restaurant with an fairly rare beer, Hubertus Bräu Herrn Pils so we headed over for beer and dinner.

Hubertus Bräu Herrn Pils
The beer was wonderful, I'd say tying with the Trummer Pils for the best Austrian beer so far.

The also had bottles Schneider Weisse so I had one with desert to remind me what a wheat beer should taste like.

The Wheat Beer
Tomorrow is the last day of riding, as we will arrive in Vienna.

Distance Riden (72km) me (86 km) others
Total Distance: 1650km

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Oberlandshaag to Grein

The morning started off fairly cool -- rain looked possible. The official Danube Bike Path moved inland for a bit before returning to the river. Tim thought the path down the other bank was shorter but it involved a bridge that did have a bike path listed and taking a ferry on the other end.

This was one strange looking ferry -- it had superstructure built up, I guess easier to get cars on and off but looked might top heavy. Oh, in case you wondered, the other bank was not shorter.

We made good time until about noon when it started to warm up. We crossed the Danube again with a bike ferry, this time at Mauthausen. This ferry was obviously newer than the others but built pretty much to the same design.

On side benefit is you sometimes get great views of the villages along the river.

 We stopped a couple times for re-hydration but both places had Kaiser beer and my one yesterday was enough to last a while.

When we pulled up to the hotel, I noticed they had an Ottakringer sign. This is the last old style brewery remaining in Vienna and I had never tried their beers. Something to look forward to. Oh, the hotel was having a BBQ -- fitting for July 4th.

After making myself suitable for the human world, and went down to the biergarten and ordered an Ottakringer Zwickel.

Ottakringer Zwickel
This was one strange beer. Traditionally, Zwickel beers are not yet completely fermented and so can be a bit sweet. This one tasted if somebody had dumped a boatload of crystal malt in the mash. It just didn't work for me. Nothing "off", just sort of confused.

Ottakringer Helles and Stiegl Weizen
 Next I tried the Ottakringer Helles and this was much nicer. A decent beer with a bit of a fruity note. They also had Stiegl Weizenbier so I had one of those as well.

Grein town square
Grein seems to be a nice little town. Definitely tourist oriented.

On the way in we had noticed another hotel with a Trummer Pils sign. I think the were really hoping to close but they let us order a round of Trummer Pils. Now this is a nice beer, the best one I've had in Austria. Soft yet enough hop bitterness to make it a true Pils. So good, that we had another.

Trummer Pils
We are nearing the end of the journey -- only two more riding days to go.

Distance Ridden: 95km
Total Distance: 1578km

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Passau to Oberlandhaag

Day started overcast and a bit cooler. About 20kn down the Danube was our first stop, the Trappist Monastery of Engelzell. They brewed beer up until around 1925 and recently installed a new brewery and have started brewing again. Only July 1 they released their first beer, Gregorius (8.5% abv) and while I heard they sold out the first day, we had hopes.

Gift Shop at Engelzell
No luck, sold out and next batch not ready until August 15. 

It started to rain lightly, so we put on our rain covers. Then came the first of 3 ferries we would take today. While waiting for the ferry to leave the rain started to come down harder so we were all crouched underneath the overhang.

Ferry full of bicyclists

When we got off it started coming down again so we ducked under some trees with some other cyclists. When the rain lifted a bit, we took off. Below is the village of Engelhartszell

After a while the rain let up enough to make riding pleasant, though it was quite muggy.

Near the village of Au we came to a Längefähre -- "Long Ferry." This ferry carried us about 4km down the river, around a place where the rock clifts came to the waters edge. There also was a regular ferry that just went across the Danube where you could continue riding on the other (south) bank, but we wanted to be mainly on the north.

Soon the ferry arrived, loading with looked like a school group. Not a bicycle in the bunch

Unlike the previous ferry, this operator was very concerned with how the bikes were stored. Makes sense, as we would be traveling down the river, not just crossing it.

It sort of felt like our own version of African Queen, put-puting in the little boat down the Danube.

By this time it was pretty much past time for lunch, so we stopped at the next place. Good timing, we got there 15 minutes before they closed the kitchen. The beer was Kaiser, brewed by Brau Union (part of the Heineken Group). It was as you expect: wet, cold and a little bit of flavor.

They also had Edelweiss wheat beer on draft. I used to drink it in the bottle in the US and once drank way too much of it at the Salzburg Ibis hotel, but I had never had the draft version. It was much blander than even the bottled version I had in Salzburg 6 years ago.

Leave the restaurant, there was a great view of how the river twists and turns. There are four different ridge lines you can see.

We were merrily riding down the river, occasionally going inland to avoid a boat harbor, when the bike path just ended. We could see there was a ferry (which wasn't on our map) but our hotel was on this side and we weren't sure if would could cross back easily. The map showed the path continuing so were confused. We show the ferry operator and he that he crossed but then crossed back and went a couple km downstream. So another African Queen adventure.

You could see the cliffs came down to the rivers edge. Every now and then you could see old fortifications

After that, it was an easy 10km to our hotel. It was a bit a race to see if we got there before the rain started again. We made it, but just.

The hotel had Schloss Eggenberger Hopfenkönig on draft. Eggenberger brews the famous Samiclaus Christmas beer (14%) as well as some nice bock beers but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) they didn't have any. 

Eggenberger Hopfenkönig

The hotel up on a high hill, giving a great view of the village across the river.

Today was a short ride, make shorted by the hotel being 4km outside of our "target" city for the night. So we'll have to ride that 4m on top of the 93 already scheduled, making for a long day, even if the weather is good.

Distance Ridden: 60km (plus 6km by boat)
Total Distance: 1483 km

Monday, July 02, 2012

Deggendorf to Passau

Sunday started off just a bit cooler, but by midmorning it was hot. It was a shorter day, which was welcome after Saturday's inferno.

Up until lunch time or so it was the same boring riding thru grain fields with no idea there was a major river in the area.

We made good time, so when we got to Vilshofen it was a bit early for lunch, so we just had soup and a couple of beers.

Wolferstetter in Vilshofen
Their wheat beers came highly recommended but we decided to try some of the others. I won't way it was a mistake because the Dunkles Exportbier and Helles Lagerbier were fine, but the Weizenbier was outstanding. We all had that as a second.

Dunkles, Helles and Weizen
 I have  a friend, Frank, who lives in Passau. He is an ex-pat Scot, whom I met when visiting Bamberg (We actually met at Adler Bräu in Stettfeld!). I texted him that we were in Vishofen and he said he'd meet us at a riverside Gasthaus along the way.

But first we had to cross the Danube on a little ferry.

Ferry Arriving
 The arriving ferry had a couple of cars but ours going back was only bicycles.

Ferry going across the Danube

We soon arrived at Gasthof Bauer, about half way between Vilshofen and Passau. As promised, it is right along the Danube. We stopped and ordered beer and soon Frank arrived.

A couple of beers later, it was clear we needed to move on to Passau but it was hard as it was so pleasant along the river. Frank promised an interesting stop along the way, Stelzhof, that specialized in organic beers.

It was up a hill just outside of Passau, but the hill was worth it.

Organic beers (and others)
 The draft beers was Gutbräu from Strasskirchen (just north or Passau) and was quite nice
Gutsbräu from Strasskirchen
They had an interesting beer list and would be worth a return visit

Stelzhof beer list

Unertl Weizen
 Alas, we had to move on. Along the way we passed the Hacklberg brewery and Frank recommended their biergarten. The brewery was built on the grounds of a former Bishop's palace.

Hacklberg Brewery
We soon reached our hotel in the Innstadt district of Passau (along the Inn river). Just down the street was the Innstadt brewery, so after re-humanizing ourselves, we walked down for dinner and beer. The dinner was good, the beers not quite so.

Monday is a rest day -- which hopefully means laundry day and Tuesday we cross into Austria. I will be relying on our hotel's WiFi (if it exists) so don't panic if a couple days go by without a post.

Distance Ridden: 60km
Total Distance: 1423 km

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Regensburg to Deggendorf

We were all woken up about 6am with a giant clap of thunder and pouring rain. Problems today, I thought. Yes, but not in the way I figured.

The storm blew quickly past and probably kept the morning a bit cooler but it also made everything damp and muggy.

We me good time out of Regensburg and shortly after noon we were in Straubing, home to two breweries, Röhrl and Karmelieten. Röhrl was not far off our path so we stopped in.

Röhrl Weizen and Helles
 The place reeked of cigarette smoke -- more than could be accounted for by what built up in the upholstery before the smoking ban, but it was cool and dark. The beer was OK -- though after having wheat beers that were banana laden, Tim thought this one could use a bit more banana. The helles had a little something in the finish, but not enough to stop me from ordering a second.
Röhrl Dunkel and Pils
They had no food whatsoever, so we decided to find a place to eat, hopefully with the town's other brewery. After riding around a bit, we ended up stopping at the Bayerischer Löwe, which served Acro Bräu from Moos (which doesn't seem to be anywhere near here, but we saw lots of outlets in the area).

Beer garden at Bayerishe Löwe

Service was slow, but we didn't care -- we were trying to wait out the hotest part of the day. They beers were fine, but it was getting so hot that I really sort of lost interest in the beer. That tells you how hot it was.

Acro Bräu Helles and Pils

It turns out I made a slight math error in my route "cheat sheets" and instead of 81km it was actually 88km from city center to city center. Oops.

The afternoon dragged on and on. We stopped frequently for shade and water and once, some ice cream. At our last rest stop they had a thermometer and it read 35 deg C (= 95 deg F). This was in the shade at 5:15pm.

To make matters worse, this was the most borring stretch of the whole ride. It is the "Danube Bike Trail" but we rarely saw the river. It was basically riding thru fields of corn, wheat and barley with very few trees (means no shade) -- we could have been in Iowa or Kansas for most of the time.

The hotel is a bit on the outskirts of town. They only had Paulaner beers, so we had a light dinner and called it an early night.

Tomorrow we ride to Passau, where we'll have a rest day. Should be a short ride (60km) but it will be hot again and the others want to check my math.

Distance ridden: 92km
Total distance: 1363 km

Friday, June 29, 2012

Amberg to Regensburg

This was supposed to be an easy day, a nice quiet ride down the Vils and Naab rivers, some hills but a generally down hill ride. Mother Nature disagreed.

It was a clear day and the sun was blazingly hot. In the morning we had stretches thru the forest and so it was a bit cooler but by noon we were mostly on open ground. We made frequent stops for liquids, which often did not involve beer.

The first beer stop was in Schmidtmühlen, were we had a Naabecker Helles. It was nothing special but did hit the spot.

Naabecker Helles

When we got to Kallmünz it was past time for lunch, so we stopped at Brauerei Zum Goldenen Löwen for lunch and beer.  I had heard great things about this brewery from friends whose judgement I trust but we must have caught them on a bad day. The helles (which was quite dark) tasted like homebrew with a sanitation problem. The dunkles had a similar flavor, not quite so far advanced and somewhat covered by the dark malts. The Weizen was actually quite nice. The food was good.

Zum Goldenen Löwen Dunkel, Weizen and Helles (yes, Helles)

As the day got hotter, we stopped more often but most places had Thurn & Taxis or Paulaner (which owns and brews the Thurn & Taxis brands).

We finally arrived in Regensburg and rode by the Spital brewery and we decided to stop at their riverside garden for a refresher. It turns out they had a Maibock on draft as well, and even though it was hot we couldn't pass that up.

Sptial Maibock and Helles
The Maibock was tasty but (and I know many think I see this about most German beers) it could use some more hops. It tasted like a bigger version of the Helles and increased bitterness would have balanced it out.

The garden at Spital is quite nice

Spital Garden
After checking in at the hotel and re-humanizing ourselves, we headed over to Kneitinger Keller for dinner and beer. Since it was still quite warm, we headed for the keller instead of the brewery hoping it would be cooler.

Entrance to Kneitinger Keller
 They had their two usual beers, a beer which is called a Pils on the menu but isn't really and everybody just calls it "Helles" and a nice dark beer. The picture below is the first of many sampled.

Kneitinger Helles and Dunkles
 The keller is fairly large and quite well shaded with a playground. Of course, compared to the Munich beer gardens it is relatively small.

Kneitinger Keller
Tomorrow we ride to Deggendorf, roughly half way to Passau. Weather looks to be hot as well.

Distance Ridden: 76 km
Total Distance 1271 km