Beyond Munich – Day 1: May 14th

Sunday was our first day on the road, but this time with our new cycling buddies, 26 of us in all.  After a Saturday night  group dinner at  the Hofbrauhaus, where we were entertained by live German music and traditional dances in lederhosen, we took off  by coach bus, towing our bikes in a trailer behind us on Sunday.  We drove through parts of Germany, Austria and  Switzerland happy to take in extraordinary views of alpine mountains and meadows.

The highlight of the day happened as we entered Burgeis, Italy.  Janet, the petite but rugged bus driver stopped at the sign to enter this little town, and there, we all saw the sign indicating that buses were verboten.  Randy, one of the ride leaders assured Janet that the passage, though tight, was possible as he’d done it before on another tour. Low and behold, we crossed a tiny bridge, rounded a corner, and it became quite obvious that passage through the town this way, was, indeed, not possible.  Soon, everyone in the village was stretched around us, with the “mayor” of the Burgeis,  a toothless man wearing an official cap, was circling us in a tiny red truck, trying to help as Janet tried repeatedly to back the bus across the bridge without jackknifing the trailer.  Which, of course, happened every time.  After a half an hour of repeated tries, I was certain that Janet would be arrested, and we would be left to cart our bikes and luggage across the city.  Finally, the guys on the bus and those watching outside, unshackled the trailer and pushed it out of the way.  Janet was able to move us out! We did manage to walk our bikes down a long hill to our lovely  hotel, by passing stables for cows (and, yes, smell like a barnyard) throughout the little village.

With enough time left in the day,  we saddled up for a check out ride, and rode down, down, downhill into Mals, another village, and then we rode and walked, walked and walked our bikes back up to Burgeis fighting winds of 30 mph. Not pleasant, but wonderful scenery.

Joy on the hillJoy with cow

The is a reason this  is called the Bicycle ADVENTURE Club.

Getting to Munich (Part 1)

Like much of life itself, international travel is not a spontaneous event.  It require more planning (and, preparation for the unexpected) than one might like.

Despite challenges with the TSA Gestapo in Atlanta (too annoying to document in this Blog), we arrived in Munich with our bikes two days before the official start of the tour.

A chance to adjust to a 6 hour time zone switch, and time to be visitors in a new city.  We have been astonished  to discover that the subway system is well documented even for those of us who are “German-speaking challenged.”

And, from the perspective of a tourist, the approach to urban design for bicycle inclusion is marvelous.  Tiled pedestrian sidewalks abut bicycle paths of asphalt and the only challenge is for pedestrians to remember to stay in their lane.  Greenspace is everywhere, and even the banks of the River Izar through the city are unadorned by restaurants or other obstructions to the beauty of nature.

Our hotel overlooking Nymphenburger Strasse showed an awareness that bicycles are not considered “vehicles” in the sense of the USA.  They rarely share traffic zones with motor vehicles, but are part of the human-powered lane of traffic.   Consequently, the zones / lanes are as follows:

  1. Moving out from the edge of buildings is a zone for vegetation and outdoor seating.  The enables gardens, trees, and cafés to flourish.
  2. Next is the lane for pedestrian traffic.  People still walk in Europe! We might call this a “sidewalk.”
  3. The next lane is for bikes.  Really, an extension of the sidewalk.  That makes it clear that the “Walk / Do Not Walk” signs refer to the human-powered zone.
  4. The next line is another zone for vegetation: both for aesthetics and for a reminder that motor vehicles are beyond the people zone.
  5. Next is a lane for parking.  (Perhaps more separation for safety.)
  6. Finally, a lane for cars, buses, and delivery vehicles.  (In wide areas, two lanes.)
  7. Lastly, before reversing the pattern toward the other side of the street, is a set of tracks for the trolley.
Munich_street

view from a window

Complex, by US standards, but a design that speaks to a multi-modal aesthetic that is practical.

Leaving for Europe

Children just hop on their bikes, and – zoom – they ride away.  When we old folks were young, no helmets.  And, in the summer, no shoes.  But, that was the “natural” way, not the modern technique.  Now biking is safer and more complicated.

First is the helmet.  Much could be written – but, basically, it’s essential.  Next, we deal with spandex. A ride of any significant distance requires bike shorts for comfort.  (If you just go around the block on your old cruiser, bike shorts are not needed.)  And, if you are at all serious about keeping up with folks your age, clipless pedals are vital.  And, so now we need special bike shoes.  And, gloves, shirt, rain jacket…

And, if traveling to Europe with the Bicycle Adventure Club, packing the bike into a suitcase is essential.  [Best YouTube video on what this looks like when done by a professional.]

For those of us who are not professional bike folk, this is one of the most anxiety producing events of the trip.  For more on the positive effects of biking and anxiety, please read a brilliant article in Monday’s (May 7, 2012) New York Times: Anxiety: Cycle of Fear.

Now, to print the boarding pass for tomorrow’s flight…

wheel and part of frame in suitcase

Starting to pack the bike box…

Introduction

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Imagine for a moment that we were able to develop a civilization where all technology is appropriate, and society’s growth and development are sustainable.  A world where “natural” does not simply mean a return to the 11th century – nor, just wearing organic cotton T-shirts with trendy phrases.

We would have diverse visions of this new civilization – but the bicycle would be integral to our modes of travel in almost all scenarios of the future.

We recognize that this invention, in the second half of the 19th century, of a human-powered, pedal-driven machine was an enduring contribution to transportation.  Not merely the 19th century enthusiasts. Not just the folks who ride around the block in suburbia on weekends.  Not the heroic athletes of the Tour de France.  The bicycle has, and will have, many forms and uses.

It can produce glee and broad smiles in a newly competent 5 year old on her first tricycle.  A bicycle can, under proper circumstance, serve as a commute option.  It can enable us to experience travel in new ways.  Faster than walking, much slower than an automobile – a pace in harmony with an awareness of our journeys.

Stories and Journeys

Much of this blog will be stories – rides and observations from a couple who are attempting to integrate bicycles into our lives.  Part of this blog is musing on the themes in the above paragraphs: visions of a less fossil fuel dependent economy; benefits of a slower pace of life; advantages of integrating healthy exercise into the fabric of getting from here to there…

Like all efforts, there is a catalyst: a desire to share our current journey with friends and colleagues.  We (Joy and Arthur) are about to head off on a two-week bike ride in Northern Italy, a May 2012 ride organized by the Bicycle Adventure Club.

Hello world!

Welcome to the work of a novice at WordPress.com! This is my very first post. It should be deleted – but, an edit seems better.

Part of the challenge will be posting while on the road. No real computer. Not much guaranteed connectivity. Two iPhones and an iPad…

We shall see…

An edit made from an iPad.
And, an iPhone edit!

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