Frankfurt to Sanary, spring 2003

highs and lows of bikepacking I

I am ensconced back in Sanary, sandwiched in between this summer's two bikepacking tours. The first, which I've just completed, was filled with highs and lows. It was the best of trips. It was the worst of trips.

In planning this trip, the internet again proved quite useful. There are two cycling forums --

the Touring list

Lonely Planet's Thorntree
-- and two collections of travelogs:

one from Italy

another from Germany PA


This trip started with a free air ticket, courtesy of Star Alliance, in appreciation of all the hours I have endured in the past on the member airlines (United, Singapore, Lufthansa, etc). Instead of flying me directly to Frankfurt, however, the airlines routed me through Vancouver. The free-ticket rules prohibited my going directly to Europe, they said, so the airlines gave me an extra 12 hours on planes. One doesn't wonder that so many airlines are going bankrupt. In any case, I had a nice lunch with friends in Vancouver.

Eventually, I deplaned at Frankfurt and followed a planned 1,900 km route over 20 cycling days that took me be to Sanary:

From Frankfurt, to Darmstadt, Mainz, down the Rhein River to Koblenz, up the Mosel to Trier, up the Saar to Saarbrucken, over into France to Metz, Epinal, Vesoul, Nancy (a lovely place), Besancon, Grenoble, Gap to Sisteron (on the part of the Route Napoleon that I didn't cover last year), then to Mees, St. Maximin and on to Sanary. Germany is great for cycling. The German cycling organization ADFC has maps that show the array of bike routes. There is almost no need to confront road traffic.

The itinerary, however, doesn't tell much about the trip. I had beautiful weather, the best of any bike trip yet, with no rain, some tail-wind, manageable hills. I camped a few nights and ate in a few restaurants, but mostly I stayed in private homes, with strangers who host strangers as part of either cycling organizations [the Warm Showers List, the German ADFC - Dachgeber and the French Cyclo Accueil Cyclo (CAC) (] or SERVAS. This latter organization was set up after WWII with the object to promoting cultural exchange and peace in general. The hosts I stayed with were extraordinary individuals, kind not just to me, but plain good people.

Seeing such nice people almost restores my faith in humanity. 'Almost' because I still think our species is despicable, organized as it is in its primitive state into self-serving nation-states, something so evil that only the devil could do worse, hell-bent on destroying itself and anything unfortunate enough to occupy the same planet. How we humans can do so well at the individual level and so poorly in large groups continues to boggle my mind.

The lows of the trip for me started in Grenoble (a charming place), where my lower back went out. Pain the likes of which I hadn't experienced in 20 years brought fear that my cycling days were over. Alas, thanks to kind friends who indulged my pain and to the local kinesitherapist, whose electric shock cured me for now, I recovered. What I haven't recovered from yet is the news I received in an email from China.


24 May 2003

Sanary s/ Mer