Today's Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/739527709
Everyday has been special, full of surprises and memories, but today was even better than the previous four. As much as I enjoyed the cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands, the network of canals, villages, farms, and forests, the Ardennes of Belgium and Luxembourg delivered one stunning scene after another on my ride today. Perhaps the landscape high point of my autumn adventure? We will have to wait and see.
A very cool (fresh) start this morning was unavoidable as I descended into the river valley below Carmen's le Cafe and BnB. I paid my bill just before I left, 61 euro. That covered a private room and bath in a funky, unique, inspired inn. As well as hot soup, bread, and more for dinner; an equally robust breakfast, and lunch for the road! It was, until this evening, by far my highest lodging cost in four days, but with all the extras it really was very reasonable.
Within an hour or less of my departure the sun warmed my nearly frozen fingers and I was subsequently grinning my way down a paved bike path at full casual speed, about 20-22 mph. Even before solar radiation dispelled the numbness, I stopped for photos, including the header image from this post, to take advantage of morning light, mostly clear skies, and sunshine, the finest weather so far on the trip. I'm hoping for the same tomorrow. In the meantime, I've decided to deploy a 'wait and see' weather policy, whatever awaits my departure each morning is what I'll have to manage including brillaint sunshine, my fate this morning.
My experience today on fast, auto- and lory-free cycle ways, that were once rail lines, has inspired me to make significant changes to my itinerary. Tomorrow, I'm planning to freelance my way to Metz, France, a city with a 3000 year history located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille Rivers, and then follow a famous, for its beauty, cycle route along the Moselle River. By "freelance" I'm referring to navigation by GPS without a planned route / GPS line to follow on the GPS screen, I'll navigate to Metz by dead-reckoning based on the sun and use the GPS to choose what seems to be the best route as I go. From Metz, the well marked Moselle River Cycle Route will take me north-northeast through France to Germany. From there, I'll follow the German-Luxembourg border, the river itself, north for many miles. Eventually, the river will turn east-northeast, my revised plan is to follow the Moselle River Cycle Route to its conclusion at Koblenz, Germany, "where in 55 BC Roman troops commanded by Julius Caesar reached the Rhine and built a bridge between Koblenz and Andernach." From Koblenz, I'm not sure at the moment. Perhaps south on the Rhine [River] Cycle Route then east, or east right-away freelancing my way to Cheb in the Czech Republic where I would then rejoin my original itinerary.
The bike path that inspired me to re-think my itinerary, the Vennbahn Cycle Route, is one of Europe's longest cycle routes built almost entirely on a converted (raised) railway bed. The Cycle Way retains the name of the original rail line, "a former railway line that was built partly across what was then German territory by the Prussian state railways. It is now entirely in Belgium, because the [track and underlying subgrade], as well as the stations and other installations, were made provisional Belgian territory in 1919 (permanent in 1922) under an article of the Treaty of Versailles." The Vennbahn rail line remained in use into the 1980s. In the 1990s, the rail line was decommissioned and the track was removed along with other infrastructure changes necessary for transforming the raised rail bed into a Cycle Route. From NRW-Toursim Dot Com, "The Vennbahn [Cycle Route] leads from Aachen to Monschau and on to Belgium and Luxembourg. At 125 kilometres, it is one of Europe’s longest cycle paths that runs on disused railway lines. It crosses the borders between the three countries more than a dozen times".
My experience on the Vennbahn Cycle Route came to fruition, in part, because of my chance encounter with Tom on Day 4. My original itinerary included part of Vennbahn, however without Tom's historical revelations and other thoughts about the route I may not have altered my itinerary as I've now decided to do. After Tom and I climbed nearly to the top of Belgium, he eventually led me down, down, down in elevation eventually to the easily recognizable Vennbahn Cycle Route near the village of Küchelscheid, Belgium where we enjoyed a coffee and a Belgian waffle together and I eventually, that evening, found lodging at Carmen's le Cafe and BnB. Küchelscheid touches Monschau, Germany, on its eastern border. Following Tom's last recommendation among many, I rode the cycle way (after the waffle) towards Achen, where the route begins, to Monschau. It was all that was needed to get me thinking about the possibility of following the same route south from Küchelscheid to its terminus in Troisvierges, Luxembourg, and soon I was revising my itinerary over beer and yummy food at Carmen's le Cafe.
I'm knackered this evening, a common theme since about day 2, but nonetheless each day on the bike I feel good after a bit of a waking-up period during the first 30-45 minutes. So far I've enjoyed 100-120 miles (160-190 km) a day since leaving Hamburg five days ago. I wonder when my body will say that's enough? When that happens I'll consider a rest day!
As I prepare to close my eyes, I am excited to wake up tomorrow and ride into France sometime in the early part of the morning, a special memory no doubt. In the meantime, I bid you a bonne nuit et au revoir pour le moment from Sampont, Belgium, a French-speaking "village in the Belgian town of Arlon located in [the] Walloon region in the province of Luxembourg." This evening, I'll sleep and dream on the third floor of a beautiful former château. My hosts, Stephanie and her Italian husband, speak fluent french, among other languages, despite being roughly 20 kilometers from the French border.