Biking and Barging, Wishing we were Touring

 When we go to Europe, we do the cycle touring.  It's our favorite kind of holiday, and our favorite place for it.  This year, however, there was a complication.  We were going to be spending the first part of our trip meeting, and visiting, some of my long-lost relatives.  We tried to figure out how we could take our bikes along and make it a "relatives-and-cycle-tour" trip, but it just wasn't feasible.  We'd been contemplating doing a "Bike and Barge" since 2018, so we decided that we would do it this year, since it was a good opportunity... being in Europe without our own bikes.

So, now we've tried a Bike and Barge trip.  It was... ok.  We don't regret doing it.  We're happy to have tried it once, and maybe we'll do something like it again someday, but it really wasn't our cup of tea.  

While we were on this trip, I started getting "Photo of the Day" e-mails from a former colleague, Keith, who was cycle touring with his wife, Wendy.  They were touring in Europe, and they tour very much like Brent and me, with the only noticeable difference being that they book accommodation, while we camp.  We pored over his updates and photos each day, touring vicariously, and envying them hard.  

DateRhonda and BrentKeith and Wendy
Sept 10
  • Got Covid tests and waited around Stralsund until we could get on the ship at 4PM.
  • Heavy and late dinner
  • Rode: 0km
  • Started their tour on August 31 and had cycled 626km so far
  • Rest day in Würzburg
  • Quote: "Good thing today was a bum break day, we would have gotten rather wet otherwise."
  • Rode: 0km
Sept 11
  • Cycled from Stralsund to Lauterbach
  • Boat took us from Lauterbach to Peenemünde
  • Heavy and late dinner
  • Rode: approx 44km
  • Cycled to Wertheim am Main
  • Quote: "2 1/2 years after we had planned to ride the Romantic Route (RR) we actually started it today"
  • Rode: 46km
Sept 12
  • Visited Peenemünde, then cycled to Wolgast
  • Heavy and late dinner
  • Rode: Approx 20km
  • Cycled to Markelsheim 
  • Quote: "Today is what cycling touring is all about. And it pretty much had all the good “stuff” and none of the bad. "
  • Rode: 56km
Sept 13
  • Spent the whole day on the boat traveling to Szczecin, then walked around Szczecin
  • Heavy and late dinner
  • Rode: 0km
  • Cycled to Rothenburg ob der Tauber
  • Quote: "We are running in to a problem I had not anticipated on this trip — lack of suitably spaced accommodation."
  • Rode: 46km
Sept 14
  • Spent the morning on the boat, moving from Szczecin to Mescherin, then cycled from Mescherin to Schwedt
  • Heavy and late dinner
  • Rode: Approx 33km
  • Cycled to Dinkelsbühl
  • Quote: "Rain was supposedly the order of the day and it was as promised when we got up. We dawdled over breakfast then dragged our heels postponing the “what now?” decision. But by mid morning the rain had tapered off although the skies still looked somewhat threatening. “What now?” became “let’s go for it!”. So we did!"
  • Rode: 45km
Sept 15
  • Spent the morning on the boat, moving from Schwedt to Hohensaaten, then cycled to Eberswalde
  • Heavy and late dinner
  • Rode: Approx 32km
  • Cycled to Nördlingen
  • Quote: "The forecast promised us rain today and the promise was delivered. While not raining when we went for breakfast it was raining when we returned. We waited several hours and finally decided to go during a short easing of intensity. "
  • Rode: 39km
Sept 16
  • Spent the morning on the boat, moving from Ebenswalde to Oranienburg, then cycled from Oranienburg to Berlin
  • Heavy and late dinner
  • Rode: Approx 40km
  • Cycled to Augsburg
  • Quote: "Well, we cheated a bit today. Rain was once again in the forecast but the start time moved back a bit so rather than dawdle we got going a bit early."
  • Rode: 37km
Sept 17
  • Booted off the ship after breakfast to continue our vacation
  • Rest day in Augsburg
  • Quote: "Today in a word? Cold! Our day time highs are currently marginally higher than Edmonton’s over night lows. Throw in a cold north wind and occasional rain showers and this is not a day to meander. "
  • Rode: 0km

Some of the reasons we prefer self-supported touring (and why we envied Keith and Wendy so much) are:

  1. We decide what time of day we start and finish.  For us, we normally start early morning.  On this trip, it was mid/late morning or afternoon, and it was pre-ordained.  We couldn't choose or adjust based on the weather, or how we felt.
  2. We decide where we go.  Obviously, we didn't.  I mean... we chose which tour we were going on, but after that the details were out of our hands.  We couldn't lengthen or shorten anything, and we couldn't change direction at a whim if we wanted to (incidentally, Keith and Wendy do just that nearer the end of their trip).
  3. We decide what and when to eat.  Don't get me wrong, the food on the trip was AMAZING, but dinner every night was a four-course meal that commenced at 7PM and didn't finish until close to 9PM.  That's way too late for someone managing pre-diabetes (me), or who has problems with acid reflux (also... me).
  4. We decide who to travel with.  Normally, it's just Brent and me, or Brent, me and Laura.  And we like it that way.  Being on a ship for a week with a group of people who are not of our choosing was... ok.  The people were pleasant enough, but most of them were quite a bit older than Brent and me, and we really didn't have much in common.  Even if we did, that was just a little too much togetherness with them for me.
  5. Air at night.  I like a lot of air.  One might say I'm even an addict.  Our cabin window didn't open (and, being at water-level, that's probably a good thing), so I found it really hard to sleep at night with no fresh air.
  6. And of course, self-supported touring, especially if you're camping, is much much less expensive than a Bike and Barge.

A couple of things I did like about the trip: 

  1. Not having to look for food or accommodation every day
  2. Not having to carry all of our own crap - we were very lightly-laden

Photos from our trip:

Bikes lined up on the upper deck of the ship

We were fascinated with the Bucket (Bicycle) Brigade process of loading/unloading the bikes

Riding without all of our luggage.  How delightful!

Our ship passed under us while we were cycling over a bridge

Our ship, the Princess, going up the Boat Lift (she's about halfway up in this pic)


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