Today could easily go down as the best of the trip, for the sheer sense of achievement. Three milestones added the list. We crossed the 1000 miles mark (which was the whole point of touring in the first place), we got all the way to Basel setting foot (or wheel) in Germany and Switzerland after crossing all of France from West to East, and finally managing to put in the biggest mileage day of the entire trip, at 85 miles. Mind you, we were slightly lighter for most of the day, but more on that later.
The weather was pretty kind to us today, it had pissed down all night, but the forecast was for it to clear by morning, which fortunately it did. Also, for about the first day on the entire trip, the wind was from the south-west, and so on our backs. This made for very easy cycling during the morning. A little too much cloud in the sky to let the sun through, so a slight chill, but good for keeping a good pace. Ahead of us lay about 30 miles of unbroken cycle path along the banks of the Rhone-Rhine Canal. We were both out of the trap like a couple of greyhounds (on bikes? There must be a better analogy!). I’m sure there was a bit of competing going on, or at least we were both thrilled by the idea of clocking up the 1000 and getting to end that we we both likes kids at Christmas, eager to get the wrapping off and play with our new toys.
About 9 miles into the route, Jones’ trip computer clocked up the 1000, but he’d been into town one evening on his own whilst I was recovering, so that didn’t quite count. I decided to wait until mine went past the tape before celebrating. There is a short video clip on the map of the point where we made it. Only knows what the cyclist going the other way thought of us as we whopped it up, it was a little more than the Bonjour that he might have been expecting!
We decided to stop into the next town to get a celebratory beer for a job well done. One of the most satisfying that we’ve had on the trip. We were joined by a group of German riders on old Vespa’s and Lambretta’s who were on a day out, their bikes old and battered but still going strong.
Mulhouse arrived just around lunch and 36 miles in the bag, and Jones had the stirling idea to find a hotel, drop the bags and then make the run to Basel and back before dark. First we thought we ought to check out the transport options for getting home, so went to the train station for info. We could get to Paris by train no problem, at about €84 each including the bikes, and we could have booked on the Eurostar but couldn’t make reservations for the bikes. I had heard this before, that for some reason you can’t do this when booking in France, but you can if travelling or booking from London. So we decided to just get the tickets to Paris and figure the rest out later. Once in Paris, we can go via Eurostar, or train to Calais, ferry and train back in the UK. Or just stay in Paris! Or cycle back from Paris (there is a Voies Verte that goes from London to Paris, so could be quite enjoyable!).
For now, destination Basel. We took the essentials needed to cover for breakdowns and weather in the top bags, and left the rest of the kit behind, which made quite a difference to the performance of the bikes. Apart from getting out of Mulhouse, the rest of the ride was back on the cycle paths. Here the planners had decided the path shouldn’t be straight down the side of the canal, but to wind from left to right much like it might in a park, so it added slightly to the distance, but made for a fun bit of riding at speed and without the weight of the bags.
The final few miles into Basel was on grit cycle paths, but in good order so didn’t slow us down. We crossed the Rhine on a foot bridge, a bit like the Millenium Bridge in London (which also had a slight wobble in the wind) and was reminded on the Steelers Wheel song Stuck in the Middle With You, but my version went,
Germans to the left of me, Swiss to the right, here I am, stuck in France with you.
Navigating the route over the Rhine and into Germany first, then across the border into Switzerland was a little tricky, helped by a couple of students. We finally arrived in the old Swiss centre around 5:30. By this time I was starving, as we’d effectively skipped lunch bar a few bits of fruit, so finding a meal was a priority, as well of course as a decent celebratory beer. We found what looked like a good restaurant in a square where there was a live band playing a short distance away, and plenty of people passing to watch. We both went of the Stockel Kebab, described as three different meats and frites, so thought this would be a hearty meal. Two ‘grossen’ beers in nice big handled mugs seemed fitting as well. The beers were great, even at €7 a piece, but the food was hopeless. One skewer with bite sized chunks, 6 in all, and a fairly standard portion of frites, with a sprig of parsley as garnish. For €34.50 each, it was daylight robbery. If that is reflective of food prices in Switzerland, I’ll be taking a packed lunch next time (the students earlier had aluded to the fact that most of the Swiss cross the border into Germany to do their food shopping).
There was a brief shower but we were undercover, and once it passed we started the journey back to Mulhouse. The sun was kind enough to come out for most of the rest of the evening, and we got the chance to have another beer on the way back (although the stop was rather forced by the fact that my stomach is still slightly upset by something) but the timing was good either way. We then got a short shower within the last few miles, but not really enough to wet us through, and we were back to jumpers by the time we got into Mulhouse just after dark. We quickly showered and then went out for a last beer, and deciding that we hadn’t had a proper meal earlier, decided to find somewhere to eat. We found a lively restaurant with a live Jazz band playing, and both had spicy pizzas. I know I’m not meant to do the wheat, but I thought I’d treat myself and suffer the consequences. The pizza was great though, washed down with a lovely large Affligem, and polished off with a final Café Leigois. This one of the best of the trip, with loads of coffee beans floating around in it, I thought I might never sleep again.
Miles Covered Today: 85
Milestones Achieved: 1000 miles in a single trip, most miles in a day both on this trip, and also a personal best, and cycling across France from the Atlantic to Switzerland.
Executive Summary: Sometimes all your Christmases come at once.