November 2, 2013
I wanted to get in another ride over the weekend, even though the forecast called for a mixed bag of conditions. Dan would have joined me, but my day was going to start out by shopping in Rheinfelden (DE) and he was smart enough to avoid that place on a Saturday. I wasn’t smart enough and wasted quite a bit of time standing in the check out line. However, once I made it outside I stuffed my purchases into the saddlebags and headed to France.
It was raining as I left the store and I wondered if I was now on a fool’s errand. But I had nothing better to do, all day to do it in and good gear. I headed across the Rhine and then north through the French countryside. While the rain had stopped, the sky stilled looked ominous – except for the area over my destination. There, an oasis of of blue sky hovered, a delicate rainbow falling to the ground.
Norther Europe had been experiencing heavy storms and high winds, and those winds extended to where I was now. The open landscape gave me little protection, but fortunately the wind was coming a little from behind me, so if anything it just pushed me a long. But it was still quite a wind. I estimated the speed to be about 30kph.
As I pulled off the main road the wind died down, as the road was sheltered by the Vogas Mountains. I enjoyed the views, even though they were limited due to low clouds further into the mountains. I noticed a flock of birds migrating and stopped to watch. I am used to Canada geese flying the the usual V formation but didn’t expect to see anything like there here. I initially ID’d the birds as storks but once I got home and had a chance to look around, I came to the conclusion that they were Common Cranes (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). I got off the bike to try to get a better picture but of course by then, they had moved off over another field. I could hear them though; they sounded a lot like turkeys.
By now I was in the thick of the vineyards of the Alsace, away from the winds, the clouds and the fast-paced motorways. It was time to explore what the region had to offer.
I’d been on this road before, when were here in June for a wine tasting tour. But today I was alone and could explore a little more throughly. I wanted to see if I could find the access road to the ruins pictured above. I had no idea what the structure was called but I turned off at a likely looking place and tried my luck. Sure enough, just a few kilometers down the road I saw a sign for La Route des Cinq Chateaux – I was on the right track!
And track it was… the road was nicely paved but narrow, made even narrower by the litter of leaves along the sides. I don’t mind leaves, but I don’t like wet leaves – or pine needles. I had a healthy helping of both along this road. I’d like to come back and ride it on a warmer, drier day. It climbed up through the mountains, trees close on both sides. Numerous parking areas were positioned along the way, populated even on a damp day like today, was a testament to the popularity of the hiking trails that ran through here. From what I could tell by the signs, there was a trail that linked all five of the Chateaus that the road was named for. I only saw two of the structures: the first one that put me on this road, and further down a single tower peeking through the trees.
I finally dropped into a valley on the other side of the mountain. I was looking forward to open countryside and faster roads. I was immediately greeted with both.
I headed for the town of Munster, attempting to retrace the steps of the first ride I’d taken in this area, months ago. Unfortunately, the track saved in my GPS was leading in the wrong direction and I would not easily be able to follow it. Instead, I’d set out on new roads to see what kind of adventures I could find.
Almost to Munster
The first thing that changed was the weather: I was heading deeper into the mountains and into the low clouds. This was too bad, as my new route was going to take me over a pass that would probably normally offer incredible views. Instead, I got a light drizzle, low clouds and cold hands. I really need to install my heated grips one of these days. The pass peaked at 880m but took its time in losing elevation on the other side, making me wait for warmer temperatures.
Heading up Route de Wettstein
Wettstein military cemetery near the top
At least now I was out of the clouds and warming up again. It was time to head home though, and I set my GPS for the quickest way. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was now almost 3 o’clock – my stomach was excited at the idea of raclette and one of the thin steaks I had in my side bag.
I wandered around the town of Keyserberg, content to ride by and avoid any of the crowds that might be lurking in the medieval streets. I had seen it under better weather conditions and I now had a goal: dinner.
Looking back at Kayserberg
I did make one more detour on the way home: the charming-looking village of Keintzheim that had caught my eye the last couple of times I’d been through here. This time I took the time to leave the main road and check it out. There wasn’t much too it, but what I saw was lovely. I would like to come back on another day and walk around the narrow streets.
Gate on the far side of town
After leaving the walled town behind it was just me and road for the next 45 minutes. And the vineyards, sunshine, clouds and wind.
There’s a reason this region is known for its wines
The wind hadn’t let up since I started and now the effect was even worse: the 30kph wind joined with my 130kph speed to really increase the resistance my neck and shoulders were feeling. I hunched behind the Transalp’s windscreen for relief but what I really wanted was to just get home. I eventually reached the split for Basel and was able to get a little relief. After a brief wait in line at the border I made it through the quiet streets of Basel, happy to pull into my warm and dry garage.