The Main: Regensburg to the Rhineland

DSCN3830On Friday the 9th of June, I enjoyed breakfast in the lounge of the Brook Lane Hostel with Arianna, a pleasant, intelligent, German-American touring cyclist. She is a special education teacher, riding down the Danube during the two-week Bavarian spring break. She rides every break she gets, and was able to dispense a wealth of useful information to me about riding, living and working in Germany.

DSCN3837After breakfast, I rode to the Tourist Office, where they confirmed that I could not ride a ship up the Donau-Main-Rhein Kanal (DMR). Only freighters made stops, and the cruise ships only embarked passengers for entire cruises (e.g., from Budapest or Vienna). I rode to the Bahnhof and took the Regional Express to Nürnberg. There were six other cyclists, but the conductor shooed some surly teenagers out of the bicycle car, so we could all fit in. I had never seen that kind of bicycle-friendly help on a train before! In Nürnberg, I stopped at the War Trials Memorial on my way to the hotel.

DSCN3842The War Trials Memorial is located in the city’s court building, which is still in use. Courtroom 600 has interactive displays in the visitor gallery, so we could see what was where, and how the trials unfolded. The exhibition area on the next floor contained a fuller explanation of the historical milestone that was Nürnberg. There were 22 defendants, all high-level officials. DSCN3847It was the first-ever serious effort to judge fairly in accordance with international law. Some of the accused were hanged, some imprisoned, and some acquitted. The “Nuremberg Principles” that came from the trial inspired the International Courts of Justice in Den Haag. I resolved to visit the ICJ when I get there.

DSCN3845I was especially impressed by the description of the work of the Language Services Division, which provided simultaneous interpreting (for the first time ever) and document translation to support the four languages of the trials. A Navy Lieutenant Commander led the 350 linguists in the division. The ingenious solutions to certain problems were interesting: for example, a red and a yellow light bulb on the podium. If the yellow one came on, the interpreter needed the speaker to slow down; a red one meant to pause. Even a judge could not exert that kind of control over a loquacious lawyer!

Hotel Metropole was something of a disappointment. It was a long walk to the nearest eatery, but at least I found a supermarket. This was the first neighborhood I have seen since leaving Italy with trash and litter in the streets and on the sidewalks. I was glad that the bicycle was indoors at the hotel. The staff told me that it would be safe.

DSCN3850On Saturday, I learned that parking my bike indoors was not enough in this neighborhood. I came down to find that my bicycle had been stripped of its small pieces: bottles and bottle cages, headlight, tool bag, power cell, and pant clips, as well as the bracket for the telephone. The people at the Adrenaline bike store next door were very helpful, and sold me a light and bottle cages. They also told me where the big Stadler bicycle megastore was, on my way to the canal. The “idiot tax” came to about EUR 200 to replace everything. In spite of being late getting out of town (1330), I was able to ride all the way to the campground in Bamberg as originally planned. My first surprise was to see the DMR Kanal going over streets and railways!

DSCN3852At one point, I passed a group of young men drinking beer by the ramp to the DMR Kanal Radweg. They passed me a few kilometres down the road, then turned off into what looked like the woods. There was a beautiful football (soccer) pitch in the woods, which can be approached only by bicycle on the bike path. They were going to play.

DSCN3861The campground in Bamberg was very big and full, but they had a lovely stretch on the river edge reserved for tent campers. They also had a good restaurant, and free showers. I felt like a new man as I settled into my tent that night.

DSCN3865The family that had camped next to me in Bamberg were very friendly. We chatted as we broke camp. I knew that it would be a pleasant day when I found myself crossing the Regnitz River on a narrow bridge flanked by pink bedding plants installed in window boxes on the handrails of the entire bridge. DSCN3866Nothing that day could spoil my mood after that. I leapfrogged the family from the campground all day, which surprised me because I expected them to ride faster than me, and they got out of Bamberg sooner. Thomas, Susan, and Tobias were from Nürnberg, and they were cycling to Frankfurt. However, it turned out that this was their first family bike tour, and only the second day. Their rear ends were not happy with the new lifestyle!

I ran into them late in the day at the bridge to Senfeld in Schweinfurt. They decided to push on to Vollach; I booked a room in the Hotel am Bergl on the edge of Schweinfurt.

DSCN3869On Monday, I checked out at 1100 after spending some time trying to make phone calls. I expected to ride 75 km halfway to Würzburg, but when I set out, I saw that the Radweg sign pointed to “Würzburg – 50 km”. I ignored the map and my software, and followed the signs all the way to Würzburg in 55 km. It was not the Main Radweg, but the cross-Germany “Radbahn” called D-5. It went more or less directly to Würzburg instead of hugging the river. Rolling hills, but nothing gut-busting. DSCN3872Miles and miles of beautiful fields in all different kinds of green because of the variety of crops. Only the 14-knot headwinds most of the day presented a challenge. I was only 2 km from the campground when I passed the Würzburg Jugenherberge, and saw that it was an HI hostel. I knew that Hostelling International had high standards, so I checked in. I got comfy bed, blazing WiFi in the lobby, and dinner in the hostel cafeteria. Breakfast the next morning was included. Before I turned in, I sent out messages to Warm Showers hosts in the Kaiserslautern and Landstuhl areas to see if anyone could host me. Caitlin answered almost immediately. She was also flexible about my arrival dates, because I did not know how long it would take me to ride to her home.

DSCN3875Tuesday morning, the haematuria returned, only this time it continued all day. I rode 77 km to Marktheinfeld which included the adventure of finding the bridge over the river out at Gemünden am Main. There was a ferry replacement a km down the river, but it was a steep push out of town. DSCN3878From the ridge above Hofstetten, it was a smooth ride down to Marktheidenfeld. I was concerned about the haematuria, so I decided to take the train from Wertheim the next day. Marktheidenfeld has no train station. Caitlin offered to pick me up at the Frankfurt station and drive me directly to the Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center (ARMC).

DSCN3882The next morning, I decided to take a cab to Wertheim, so that I could get to Frankfurt sooner. Once in the cab, however, I had the driver take me all the way to Frankfurt. The money saved by not taking another three days to get to Landstuhl more than covered the fare. Caitlin met me at the Hauptbanhof and by 1500, I was checking into the Emergency Room at the Landstuhl ARMC .

DSCN3893

Landstuhl

The staff at Landstuhl was outstanding. By 1800, I had had bloodwork, urinalysis, and a CT scan done (all clear, except for a vague clot in the bladder; “direct visual inspection recommended”). Caitlin drove me back to her flat in Kaiserslautern. I bought dinner at the Indian restaurant nearby. She goes to a trivia contest at a pub around the corner on Wednesday nights. I joined her. Our team won first place, mainly because of John’s amazing grasp of movie trivia. The margin was tight (two points), so I think my contribution in the history category helped.

The next morning at 0915, Caitlin delivered me back to the hospital for my cystoscopy appointment. Maj. Marc Walker was the urologist, a confident, pleasant physician with a reassuring bedside manner. He turned the screen so we could observe together, and talked me through the procedure. We found a tumour on the bladder wall. It looked like a sea anemone, and had a break near its base. That was the source of the blood. Dr. Walker got a slot in the Operating Room for the next day, and sent me back to Kaiserslautern with Caitlin.

The operation the next day was a success. I had no pain before or after the procedure, and the haematuria ceased by the time I left the hospital. I would stay off the bicycle until after the followup visit on Wednesday the 21st, but I had planned to take a train to the Mosel River anyway. I will be riding reduced distances each day, and not tackling any hills, but the overall plan for River Run 2017 remains on track. The time gained by leaping ahead to Landstuhl made room on the calendar for the recovery week.

A big shout out to Dr. Julian Reiss of Caritas St. Joseph in Regensburg, to Major Marc Walker, the surgeon, Major Jerrold Robertson, the anaesthesiologist, and the team of nurses who took care of me with such cheerful efficiency.

The trip down the Main was too short. While I recover and prepare for the Mosel and the Rhine, I wish you

Smooth roads and tailwinds,

Jonathan.

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