Introduction - Grampies Ride Again! - CycleBlaze

May 29, 2015


The Lone Ranger

Movies and songs (and books and music and poems) can have a big influence on how we see ourselves and on how we see the world. Quite often in our blogs we will post a song or song lyrics or a video clip that somehow are significant in how we interpret what we are seeing or doing on the bikes. On one occasion, a movie crept into the blog title: Grampies go Hawaiian was a nod to the "Gidget" series of movies, especially "Gidget Goes Hawaiian". So now where does "Grampies Ride Again!" come from?

"Grampies Ride Again!" is a nod to the Lone Ranger, and the various movies or TV shows about him, especially "The Lone Ranger Rides Again!". OK, but what has this to do with the Grampies and this ride?

The links to the Lone Ranger are a bit tenuous, and sometimes backwards, but they are there. First off, the Lone Ranger, like us, was a rider, though his mount was the great horse "Silver" and our mounts are the two dinky blue and black Bike Fridays. Next the Lone Ranger was the lone survivor of an ambush in Texas, who did his recovery in a cave under the care of his Indian (errm First Nations) companion "Tonto". We are the survivors of an ambush by a pickup truck in Florida, and we are recovering under the care of our faithful physiotherapist "Eric". Still, both the Lone Ranger and the Grampies have risen to ride again. It may be thundering hoof beats for him and creak, creak for us but we will try to steal some of that thunder.

The Ambush

The ambush happened on March 10 as we cycled on the NASA Causeway on Florida's east coast, after we had covered almost 2000 km clockwise around the state. We were headed for the Kennedy Space Center, but that was ended by a space worker who hit me with his pickup truck mirror. It broke my scapula and I flew forward through the air, taking out Dodie up ahead and throwing her to the roadway. I landed to dislocate the shoulder as well. We have spent the last three months trying to recover from this. This tour is part of that. They say when you are knocked from your horse you have to get back on asap. We are trying that now. When we face traffic and other challenges, we hope we will be up to it.

Ambushed in Florida
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The Route

Our original plan for this summer was to follow the two major pilgrimage routes in Europe, the Via Francigena and the Jakobsweg, or way of St. James. The destination of the first is Rome, while the other goes to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. We were going to call the blog for that "Grampies Go On Their Knees", a reference to Dodie's weak knees and to the fact that these are pilgrimage routes. The only thing, these routes involve more on road travel than we are ready for. So, we switched gears, and came up with a different, but also fascinating route.

We began by allocating our standard 90 days approximately to the project. 90 days is the maximum length of stay for Canadians in Europe without a special visa. Experience shows that by the time we meander around, checking out every bakery and church, vineyard or town square along the way, we average 50-60 km per day (we will go 100 sometimes, but other times will go nowhere). So that puts our range for the trip at around 4500 km. 4500 km in North America does not really get you very "far". You could use it, for example, to almost squeak across the Southern Tier . But in Europe, 4500 km buys you region after glorious region, filled with history, scenery, architecture, and literally paved with pastries.

So we took our 4500 km and went shopping among the regions that we knew, and regions that we do not yet know. Many of these are covered by an "official" European, National, or Regional cycle route, and many have an available "Bikeline" tour book, published by the German firm Esterbauer. In our 2014 blog "Grampies Go By the Books", we blazed through 19 "books" (or part books), using 4580 km.

Hoping to get at least a taste of the Italy that had been in our earlier plan, we built in Venice, the Po River trail, and Milan. And thumbing our noses at Dodie's problem knees, we targeted the Alps - hoping to stomp over them from the north via the Fernpass and Reschen Pass, and rolling back from the south via the Gothhard Pass and Furka Pass. (Secret weapon, though, we have scoped out the buses and trains that whisk cyclists over these obstacles.) Aside from the Alps, we might lock horns briefly with other mountains - The Jura, the Vosges. We are taking steps, though, to sidestep the Dolomites. Enough is enough!

Aside from the Po, we will travel along some rivers that we had not followed before. This includes the Meuse in Belgium and France, The lower reaches of the Tauber, where it joins the Main in Germany, and the Etch (Adige) into Italy. We love river routes, because they are (mostly) flat.

A big excitement for us this time is a return to Eurovelo 6, the route that runs from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. It begins with 800km along the Loire, and segways into a river and canal stretch over to Besancon and Basel. We will run this bit "backwards" toward the Atlantic, ending at Nantes (Ste Luce), the home of dear friends Michel and Jeanette Fleurance. We first met Michel in 2012 as he rode his trike along the Loire, and have stayed in touch since. If we have any time left, we hope to cycle with Michel a bit around Nantes. He is naturally a local expert and has a Crazyguy blog about his sojourns in the region.

Michel and Dodie in 2012 along the Loire.
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Here is a rough view of the route as we have laid it out. This view is a mash up of all the GPS files we have assembled to cover the tour. It looks crude in this zoomed out view, but the blog continues we will be able to show the routes in detail for each section. For now, though, here is a list of the sections we have in mind:

Brussels, Belgium to Metz, France
The Mosel, in France and Germany
The Rhine and Main to Wertheim, Germany
The Tauber to Rothenburg, Germany
The Romantische Strasse to Donauworth, on the Danube in Germany
The Via Claudia Augusta through the Alps to Verona, Italy
Verona to Venice, Italy
The Po, to Milan, Italy
Milan over the Alps, to Andermatt, Switzerland
The Rhone, to Lausanne, Switzerland
Lausanne to Besancon, France
Besancon to the Loire and ending at Nantes, France

That's about a dozen stages, each with its own attractions and challenges.
Stay tuned, it should be a great ride!

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