Friday, September 23, 2022

Biking Trier to Koblenz along the Mosel River

BJ wanted to call this blog "BJ, Boys and Bikes" because we couldn't talk any of our female friends into coming along. The group of travelers were the Morrises (us), David, Kevin, and Mike (who we had never met).

Tony had been talking for several years about bicycling along the Mosel river from Trier to Koblenz because it appeared to be downhill and a beautiful ride. He made arrangements to rent electric bicycles from Berg & Bike which is located in Lahnstein, near Koblenz. (BJ and Mike wanted regular bikes but decided if everyone else was getting eBikes, they should too.) The bike shop would deliver the bikes to our hotel in Trier and we could return them to the shop in Lahnstein on our way back to Frankfurt. Tony and David worked together on making hotel reservations for the first and last night of the trip. Beyond that, we would find places to stay in whatever town we ended up each night.

David and Kevin were already in Italy watching some car race when we began our trip. I am told it was the Formula One Italian Grand Prix. Probably a big deal to anyone into racing.

Monday, September 12:  53 minutes in a car, 12 hours 2 minutes on a plane, 20 minutes walking

Mike, a friend of David's would be traveling on a buddy pass from Atlanta while BJ and Tony would depart from the Jacksonville airport. We were hoping for a connection that would take us to Frankfurt in style (Delta One). That didn't look possible, so we opted for a connection through Detroit to Amsterdam. We made it to Detroit in plenty of time for any of the three flights to Amsterdam. As retirees, our standby priority is pretty low and it looked like there were enough higher priority standbys to bump us out of Delta One on the first flight so we elected to try for the second flight. We were enjoying a beverage in the Sky Club when we noticed that the first flight was boarding. We made a quick check of the standby list and saw that there were two empty Delta One seats and no one left on the standby list. We gathered up our things and ran to the gate where the agent graciously accommodated us in the remaining two D1 seats!

This was our first time on the A350-900 where we each got our own suite!

Even my headphones had their own suite! My seatbelt had a shoulder strap, and there was a place to hang my jacket! Classy!

After a delicious meal and a movie, we each had a nice nap.

We had thought we would take a train from Amsterdam to Trier, but Tony woke up early and took advantage of the plane's Wi-Fi to book a stand-by flight on KLM to Frankfurt. As Delta retirees, we also get limited privileges on other airlines as well, but we do not have good visibility into their seat availability so weren't sure if this would work out.

Tuesday, September 13:  1 hour 13 minutes on a plane, 3 hours 35 minutes on a train, 56 minutes walking

We landed in Amsterdam at 6AM and thought we had plenty of time to make our 8:25AM connection. It turned out to be a LONG walk from our arrival gate to the KLM gate so we didn't have much extra time. We were relieved to be given seats together on the flight.

When we got to Frankfurt, we headed for the train station. Navigating the Frankfurt airport is a bit confusing. There are two airport train stations, one for regional trains and one for long distance trains. We weren't sure which station to go to. We decided to go to the long distance station. We had to take a shuttle from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1. We got a text message from Mike who had arrived on the nonstop from Atlanta to Frankfurt and agreed to meet at the train station. We were able to get a group ticket for the 3 of us to Trier with a connection in Koblenz for 59 Euro. We had a snack at Heberer's Traditional Bakery while we waited for our train.

It took us just over an hour on the train to Koblenz. We were supposed to connect with an express train to Trier but it had been cancelled so we caught the next train which turned out to be a local train that made 30 stops and took 2 hours. We noticed sometime into the ride that everyone had on a mask but we had not put ours on and no one said anything. Mike and BJ used the restroom on the train and were pleasantly surprised at how nice and roomy and relatively clean it was.

In Trier, we meandered through town to find our hotel. Trier is a pretty little town with a nice walking street. We passed the Porta Nigra at the entrance to Old Town and had a view of the cathedral from Hauptmarkt Square.

David had booked us in the Park Plaza for our first night.  Mike, Tony and BJ arrived at the hotel and got checked in.  David and Kevin were still en route by train from Milan.

Once we got settled into our room, BJ decided to take a nap.  Mike and Tony went in search of a bier which they found just around the corner at the Coyote Cafe.  BJ napped for about an hour and was awakened by a call from the owner of the bike shop saying he had arrived with our bikes. Tony and Mike came around the corner to help shuttle the bikes down to the hotel's bike garage.  The bikes had interesting stepless hub gears that didn't have numbers but instead indicated the gears by a little cyclist climbing a hill at varying pitches or riding on flat land.

Tony went back to the Coyote Cafe while BJ and Mike went for a walk to find the Roman Bridge, the oldest bridge in Germany.  The nine bridge pillars date from the 2nd century AD. The stone pilings of the Roman Bridge date from A.D. 144-152 and are deeply embedded in the bedrock underneath the river gravel.

We had just gotten back to the Coyote Café when David and Kevin arrived.  They got settled in the hotel and met us back for a bier.  We discussed having dinner at the Coyote Café, but after checking out the menu, no one was hungry for Mexican food.

It was starting to rain so we quickly found the Weinstube Zum Domstein with big umbrellas over outdoor tables.  The server advised that they were closing soon and we could not order a multi-course meal.  That was fine with us.  After dinner, Mike, Kevin and David (unsuccessfully) went in search of an ice cream shop while BJ and Tony headed off to bed.

Wednesday, September 14:  19.9 miles biking, .4 miles walking

BJ got up early and found the Casa Del Caffe at the Hauptmarkt.  Afterward, she found the grocery store and grabbed a diet coke so Tony could get his caffeine in the form he likes.  She didn't notice that she bought caffeine free diet coke. 

Mike, David and Kevin made it to the Casa Del Caffe after BJ had left, so we agreed to meet back at the hotel after they had their coffee.

We had the bike gear in our room, so everyone stopped by to get the chargers and helmets for their bikes.  We all packed up, checked out and headed to the bike storage room in the parking garage under the hotel. It took us quite awhile to get our bikes outfitted.  Tony had brought cutting boards and zip ties for everyone to make the rear bike rack into a larger platform for our luggage.  Kevin and David had the most luggage as a result of their prior travel to the car race.

We finally got away from the hotel at 11:15AM.  We stopped at the Trier Amphitheater on our way out of town.

We went back by the Roman Bridge on our way out of town.

6 km later, we had already gotten separated when Kevin missed a sign for the bike route.  The boys waited under the bridge for him to come back.  BJ pushed her bike up the steep access ramp to wait.  Back together, everyone pushed their bike up onto the bridge to cross the river. There was a sharp switchback on the ramp that made it nearly impossible to ride up.

Just across the bridge, we found the Pfalzeler Biergarten which looked like a good place to stop for a bier and some pomme frites for some of us, lunch for others.

The bike path went away from the river and along Schiffstraße where we saw a Westrock building.  Westrock is one of the paper mills in Fernandina Beach where we live. Our friend Rudy works there, so we sent him a picture.

We went through an industrial section and past a garbage dump.  Not exactly the scenery we were expecting!

The bike path finally took us back to the river!

We arrived at the Zum Fährturm Biergarten and got a table under a big umbrella overlooking the river.

We had just ordered our biers when it began to pour.  Rain was blowing under the tent and flooding the ground around our feet.  We grabbed our biers and rushed inside, getting drenched.  Kevin was quite the hero when he noticed what he thought was BJ's raincoat blowing off of her bike and he braved the rain to go and get it.  It turned out to be David's coat but BJ was still impressed with his chivalry and deemed him the nicest man on the trip! We sat inside and had another bier while we waited for the rain to stop.  Mike had ice cream which he shared with all of us.

We crossed the bridge and rode on past ducks and horses in Longuich. Vineyards grew on every hillside along the river.

In Riol, we stopped to sample the grapes from a vineyard next to the bike path.

We had decided to make Mehring our stop for the night and we almost made it without getting wet, but just before we got to the bridge, the bottom dropped out.  We took refuge under the bridge and tried to stay dry as best we could, but it was too late.

We finally decided that the rain was not going to stop so we rode across the bridge into the town of Mehring.  We tried to go to the Hotel Zum Fährturm but it was closed, so we went to the Zum Moseltal across the street.  They either had no rooms available or they were unwilling to rent a room to wet rats like us!

Kevin and BJ stood just inside the door at Zum Moseltal.  Mike stood under an eave at Zum Fährturm while David and Tony went in search of accommodations.  Five hotels later, they found rooms for us at the small winery Classisches Weingut Hoffranzen.  We stored our bikes in the room where they make their wine.

We cleaned up and dried out as best we could.  We had clothes hanging from anything we could make resemble a hook.  It had stopped raining by the time we set out for dinner.  We strolled back to the Zum Moseltal looking much better than our previous visit.  They found a table for us and we had a delicious meal.

On the way back to the hotel, Kevin was peering in the window admiring the light fixture in the dining room of our winery where the family was having dinner.  The owner waved us away.  We hoped she didn't realize we were the same people who had begged for a room earlier!

Thursday, September 15:  22.1 miles biking, .2 miles walking

Breakfast at the winery was in a large dining room.  We sat with a couple who come to the winery every year.  They said the first time they happened in, the winery was having a multi-course wine dinner and invited them to join.  They were hooked and come back every year.  They said that many of the wineries have guests who come back year after year to help with the harvest.  We learned that we had come during high season and that is why we were having so much trouble finding accommodations.

After breakfast, we packed our bags, being more careful to put things in plastic bags to protect them from the rain.  We left the winery and crossed back over the Mosel.  We had a nice view of the vineyards as we were leaving Mehring.

Shortly we came to a detour to a lock.  Some folks had not seen a lock before so we took the detour to watch.  It is always fascinating to see how the water is normalized and boats are able to pass through to another section of water at a different elevation.  We had talked about river cruises and how they might be more suited to an older crowd.  When we saw a riverboat approaching the lock, we thought we observed bicycles lined up on the deck, but when the boat passed under us, they were actually walkers. We laughed that first thought may have been correct and waved at all of the elderly folks lounging on the deck.

When we left the lock, Mike accidently turned in front of another biker and caused him to fall.  He gave Mike a long lecture in German with a lot of gesturing.  We couldn't understand what he was saying but we were trying to help, offering tools if he needed to fix his bike. Mike kept apologizing but the man kept lecturing and finally rode away as Mike was still apologizing.

We rode on to Leiwen.  A big map seemed to indicate that we should take the K86 highway.

We rode a little way on the busy highway and then realized that there was a bike path above the highway. The boys humped the heavy bikes up the narrow stairs up to the bike path.

We were glad to be back on the bike path.  We got back to the river and stopped for a photo-op near Trittenheim.

We passed a goat and some chickens near Neumagen-Dhron. 

Mike had downloaded a tour on his phone and wanted to stop, so we found a place to lock the bikes across from the Church of St. Mary.

We had a little lunch at Kapt'n Cook and then Mike and Kevin went off to find the highlights of the tour.

We met back at the bikes and set out again.  We hadn't gone far when we made a stop so that Mike could adjust his seat.  

We passed a cemetery with seven crosses representing people lost in WWII. 

The bike path went through a wine festival.  BJ was bringing up the rear and was amazed that no one had stopped at the wine festival.  

The group had stopped just past the festival and realized their mistake and were turning around to go back to the festival.  

Kevin had picked up a bungie cord on the bike path and we realized that Mike's raincoat had been attached to his bike by that bungie cord.  Mike and Kevin backtracked to look for the coat while BJ, Tony and David enjoyed the wine festival.

Before long, Kevin and Mike triumphantly returned with the raincoat.  It had been left when Mike was readjusting his seat.  Some folks in a nearby hotel had found it and were happy to return it.

We celebrated with the local wine from the festival!

Tony, always the polite guest, bussed our table and returned all of the glasses and bottles.  He was surprised to find that he received a refund of the deposit that he didn't know he had made for the glasses!

While we were waiting for Kevin and Mike to return, David had done some googling and found a Marriott Autograph collection hotel in the nearby town of Lieser where he was able to get us a reservation.

We rode on to Lieser and found that the hotel was actually a castle!  The Schloss Lieser was probably too nice for the likes of us, but they didn't turn us away!

Not only didn't they turn us away, they welcomed us with a glass of sparkling wine in the library while they got us checked in!

Our room was really nice and we were very pleased until we realized that the bathroom was up a spiral staircase.  We weren't sure how this was going to work for us if we needed to go in the middle of the night!

Dinner was at Der Italianer Da Pepe, a short walk from the hotel.

Back at the Schloss, everyone wanted to come by our room to see the spiral staircase to the bathroom.

Friday, September 16:  36.5 miles biking, .6miles walking

We went to breakfast in the grand dining room at the Schloss.  There was an elaborate buffet and you could also get egg dishes.  BJ had the eggs benedict.

While we were having breakfast, we got a text message from David saying that he had a scratchy throat and fever and had tested positive for COVID.  

...and then there were four...

David said that he felt well enough to ride to the next town where there was a train station.  He could then get a train to Koblenz, turn in his bike and train to Frankfurt where he would be closer to medical care should he need it.  He would get a hotel near the Frankfurt airport where he would quarantine until he no longer tested positive. The rest of us decided to cut the trip short by a day, planning to return home on Sunday instead of Monday.  After all, it wouldn't be nearly as much fun without David.

We rode together to Bernkastel-Kues.  Mike wanted to get some COVID tests so he and Kevin went to look for a pharmacy.  BJ, Tony and David found a bench by the river to wait.  We made sure to socially distance ourselves.

We saw Mike and Kevin crossing the bridge and had to get them to come back to our side of the river. Back together we rode on, We spotted the Zwaan, the barge we had chartered in May, passing us!  We messaged Dita, our hostess but she was on another barge at the time. 

David left us in Ürzig headed for the train station. The rest of us continued on. We heard from David later that he had made it to the bike shop and then to Frankfurt but had a minor incident getting to the bike shop that resulted in some damage to the brake handle on his bike.

We passed a vendor selling decorative gourds.

We stopped in Krov to see a fountain and welded statue dedicated to winemaking.

We caught a little rain as we were coming through Traben-Trarbach so we found the cute little Beachhouse on the bike path and took refuge while we tried the wine, beer and apple strudel.

We passed a Pétanque court with folks playing who pointed out the rump you have to kiss if you get no points in a game.

We waited out a light rain under a tree in Reil with a nice German couple.

We planned to try to make Cochem for the night by taking a shortcut up a very very steep hill. Even with an ebike, it was a slog to get up the hill. There was a woman and her daughter doing the climb on regular bikes, making us feel bad for complaining!

As though we weren't tired enough yet,
Tony's GPS led us up another hill. We ascended 751 feet climbing the hill and found ourselves at some sort of school with a big courtyard.

We decided the shortcut was just a little way back down the hill. It turned out to be a narrow
treacherous path through the woods with sheer drop offs on the side. BJ took off first so she didn't know that Tony had taken a tumble. Mike and Kevin found him upside down and helped him get his bike back on the path. He got a few scrapes and bruises.

We made it off the side of the mountain a little shaken up so we decided to stop in Bullay for the night. We got to the Brautrock-Keller just as it started to rain again. Kevin talked our server into giving him a garbage bag to protect his backpack.

BJ and Kevin left Tony and Mike at the restaurant having a bier while they went to look for a place to stay. The first place we stopped had no rooms but the proprietor was very friendly and called a place 10 kilometers ahead that had rooms available for us. While Kevin was talking to him, BJ went to the hotel next door and struck out at finding a room. We really didn't want to ride anymore, so we kept looking for another place in town. BJ suggested going to the Tourist Information office. When we asked about rooms, the lady at the desk didn't speak English and called out for someone to come from the back to help us. It turned out to be the same man that we had spoken to first. We asked him if he would please go ahead and call the hotel he first suggested.

We went back to get the other guys at the restaurant and rode on to Ediger-Eller to the Moselromantik Hotel zum Lowen.

When we checked in, we asked about having dinner at the hotel and were told we needed to be seated right away as the dining room was closing soon.

Our rooms overlooked the Mosel and had a balcony with beautiful flower boxes.

We had a nice romantic dinner (BJ and the boys and the hotel dog).

After dinner, we grabbed the comforters off of our bed and enjoyed some M&Ms (that we had smuggled from the Detroit Sky Club) on our flower laden balcony overlooking the Mosel!

Saturday, September 17:  51.5 miles biking, 9 minutes in a cab, 1 hour 11 minutes on the train

We got an early start Saturday since it would be a long ride if we made it all the way to Koblenz.  There was some discussion of taking the train part way but in the end, everyone wanted the sense of accomplishment of riding the entire planned route.

Our first stop was Cochem, a big town in comparison to all of the little villages where we had stopped before.  We had a nice view of the castle from the bike path.

Cochem was teeming with tourists.  We parked our bikes within sight of the Alt Cochem restaurant in the square and took a seat on the porch for a bier.  BJ and Tony had been to the castle on a previous trip  so we opted to wait at the restaurant while Mike and Kevin rode to the castle.


While we were sitting at the restaurant, a band formed up around the fountain and the square filled with so many people that we could no longer see our bikes.  Since all of our possessions were strapped to the bikes, we decided to move them closer to the restaurant.  When Mike got back to our parking spot from the castle, he thought we had left him!

We left Cochem and passed by another hilltop castle near Alken.

A couple of hours later, we found ourselves in Winningen which looked like the perfect place to take a break.  We saw a winery tour go by that looked like it might be fun on another trip.

We sat down under an umbrella at the Brunnenklause because it had started to sprinkle again. The server said they didn't have food so we ordered a bier. We made friends with the couple at the table next to ours, Matteas and Teresa. They were traveling in their RV.

After a couple of biers, we decided we needed some food so we moved to the restaurant next door to try their advertised bratwurst special. We invited Teresa and Matteas to join us and enjoyed chatting with them.

The final leg of our bicycling took us through busy Koblenz to the suburb of La
hnstein where we found the bike shop at Adolfstraße 65. There was a good deal of weaving in and out of traffic trying to follow BJ's GPS to the bike shop. When we got there, we settled with Lothar, the manager, for the damage to David's bike (€80). He promised to give us our full deposit back via paypal if we would pay cash for the damage. We removed our backpacks, cutting boards, mirrors and handlebar bags from the bikes and called a taxi to take us the 4 miles to the Koblenz train station.

The train for the four of us from Koblenz to Frankfurt Airport Hauptbahnhof took just over an hour and cost €111. The station is in the airport and our hotel, the Airport Hilton is just upstairs from the train station. We checked in and made it to the executive lounge just as happy hour was over so we grabbed a few snacks and headed off to bed. Kevin and Mike had dinner in the restaurant downstairs.

David reported via text message that he was still testing positive and quarantining but feeling some better.

We were thrilled to find that Delta had added an extra section the next day from Frankfurt to Atlanta which had plenty of seats for all of us.

Sunday, September 18:  10 hours 36 minutes flying, 14 minutes on the parking shuttle, 48 minutes driving

We got up early and left the Hilton at 6AM, probably way too early for our 9AM flight but we are perpetually early and didn't know how bad the lines would be at the airport.  We took the skywalk from the hotel to Terminal 1 and then a shuttle to Terminal 2.  We could not find a Priority Pass lounge near our gate so we stopped for a coffee with Kevin and Mike across from the security checkpoint, There were no lines so we got through security right away. We waited in the gate area for awhile before we were asked to leave so they could check us in for the flight.  There were 40 or 50 airline employee standby passengers waiting for a seat.  The agent announced that because of weights and balances, we would all be seated in coach seats, a disappointment, but we were happy to be on our way home.

We were pleasantly surprised when the flight attendants on the plane said we only needed to be seated in coach until after takeoff, so they made seat assignments for the higher seniority standbys in Delta One.  That included BJ and Tony, but sadly they ran out of Delta One seats before they got to Mike and Kevin who were traveling on buddy passes.  After takeoff, we were allowed to move to our new seats up front!

We enjoyed a nice meal and a couple of movies before landing in Atlanta.  We were supposed to connect with a 4:20PM flight to Jacksonville, but BJ noticed that the 1:11PM flight had been delayed so she changed our listing.  There was a slim chance we could make it, since we landed at 1:02PM.  Once on the ground though, we did a heroic sprint from F concourse, through passport control, through security, on the plane train and hustled to gate B2 in 25 minutes.  We were cheered on by one of the vendors on our way, "Y'all are speed walking - you're going to make it!"  We got there in time to stand by for the flight but there were no seats for us.

We barely had time for a quick stop at the Sky Club in A concourse before the next flight. Thankfully the gate was right across from the Sky Club so no sprinting was necessary. We won the seat lottery on the that flight and made it home to our sweet chihuahua Lucy by 5PM!

David finally tested negative and got home on September 23rd after 7 nights holed up at the Frankfurt Hyatt and binge watching three seasons of The Expanse. On the plus side, it sounds like his travel insurance may help pay some of his expenses.

Another great trip. A few thoughts:

  • Bring a cell phone mount for the bike handlebar if you will be navigating using Google Maps on your phone.
  • Google Maps seems like a better way to navigate than the Garmin GPS that Tony has but doesn't give information about average speed, elevation, etc. The data disagreed slightly on distances traveled between the two devices.
    • Wednesday – Garmin 17.7 miles versus Google Maps 19.9 miles
    • Thursday – Garmin 23.78 miles versus Google Maps 22.1 miles
    • Friday – Garmin 35.62 miles versus Google Maps 36.5 miles
    • Saturday – Garmin 49.66 miles versus Google Maps 51.5 miles
    • Garmin - Saturday we averaged 6.9 miles an hour for the first 42.93 miles.  We then went FASTER for the last 6.73 miles; 9.7 mph average
  • Bring more garbage bags and pack everything in one that you want to keep dry.
  • eBikes are really nice, especially for going uphill!
  • Consider renting bikes in Frankfurt and taking them on the train to Trier to start the ride.
  • Take clothing that will dry quickly. Pack light!
  • Get better waterproof shoes.
  • Use the kitty method to simplify splitting the cost.

Read about more of our adventures:

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