Day 17: Thoughts While Cycling (TWC)
Ludwigsstadt to Joditz 33 miles
Cycle touring is hard. There are some things though, that can really make a tough day better.
Shiny little red tear-drops of alpine strawberries arching up from their leaves almost like they are asking to be picked from the side of the path was so steep you could not push one pedal further... When you find yourself on a single track mountain forest track so bumpy with roots that you have to walk the bike and almost completely covered in low thick bushes that your panniers can badly fit and then you find hidden blueberries, deep navy blue and ripe in those bushes hiding under the leaves waiting for you to find them. A sweet long slow downhill, where you pick up enough speed to cool you down but not so much to make you need to pay attention. It is even better when you find your partner waiting for you at the bottom, excited to see you excited too, cheering you on and looking out for you from the bottom. Feeling yourself getting stronger, more able to do things that two weeks ago you would not have been able to do. Eating a steep little hill for lunch (Meaning cranking up a tough little up hill and reaching the top in one push... Only wanting to die after you reach the top!)
You think a lot on the bike. About yourself, about important people in your life, about stupid little things and big huge meaningful things. Today was one of those days. Cycling makes you face fears (like heights) and push through physical exertion, exhaustion, and discomfort. But it is so much like life. When you reach a hill, you can only see so much of it even if you know it is big and you really don't know how long it is going to take you to get up it. There may be steep bits, it might be hard but eventually you make it up and over. You take breaks, drink some water, set short reachable goals, pump yourself up with a song or idea that motivates you, and you make it up the hill. It hurts, you're tired, there are times when you just want to sit down and just stop but you don't. You know you need to get where you are going and you do it. You just do it! Then you get a downhill. Should be easy right? But you don't know how steep it will be or how much traffic might be coming your way or even if it will be long enough to make up for all the work you did getting up there. But sometimes, you can see just far enough to know you are clear. Then you take your hands off the brakes and laugh as you fly downhill, not caring how much more you need to do. Just loving how good it feels to fly.
Today was a really hard day with a lot if climbs. We started in Ludwigsstadt and the road pretty much just kept going up... and up... You get the picture...Stopped at the Netto for provisions. They have the best prices and our favorite yogurt drinks. We hit a really steep hill up to Lauenhain where Bruce found his rear wheel was loose. We had to do a quick fix at the top of a hill. After the quick fix we pushed up past the wind turbines which Andrea hates. One should never cycle where there are wind turbines or ski resorts. These are rules to live by. Up into the woods along the border between Bavaria and Thuringia where ancient border stones from centuries past are all along the Rennsteig trail. We got lost a little lost following the East German convoy road but found our way back on route after coming down some steep hills that made the 18% from yesterday look like Kansas... Holy Moly! We were way out in the woods at this point so we got to see how nature reclaims an area after 50 or more years of little to no human activity. We saw a horde of teeny tiny frogs no bigger than your pinky nail cover the path. They are tricky to avoid! We also saw deer and hares ( which are like bunnies on steroids... Ever their ears are jacked!). In a few of the towns, all the houses are entirely covered in slate, from top to bottom. This is the slate mining capital of the region, so much so that they have a slate museum. We kept getting these annoying downs and then the same amount of up again on the other side. Finally we took the down into Blankenstein where the Rennsteig starts. It is also where a whole bunch of hiking trails start in the area( Hannah check this place out!). We made lunch of wieners wrapped in ham near the cool sculpture with hiking boots. From there the road was nice along the river for a while then more hills... We had a serious up to Eisenbühl then serious down and corner in Rudolphstein. It was really hard to keep momentum. We finally got a nicer stretch down into Hirschberg where we saw a peloton of struggling cyclists going the other way. We cheered them on knowing how hard they were working for that one hill. We stopped in town to geolocate and map check when a very nice older couple came over to help us out. They had traveled in the USA ten years ago and were very excited to meet us. They recommended a campground about 5km out of town. So we took their advice and tried to get there... 3 more hills to the campground in Joditz... But once we got there we had a place to stay, a nice dinner, clean clothes and a lovely Danish couple who wanted to be our friends. They invited us to their table for dinner and we chatted until we all needed to go to bed.
So thinking about today. How hard it was. How many hills we pushed up and over. How hot and exhausted we felt. Without these trials, strawberries don't taste as sweet. When we get home, stuff will still be hard. We will be tired and cranky. Life will still go on. But we know how to overcome really hard days together. We know what will help each other make it up and over even the toughest hills. Most importantly we trust each other with our weaknesses because we saw them and still pushed up those hills together.
The World is Ours!