A Royal Tribute (August 25)

My morning began with the most important meal of the day. The fact that today’s breakfast included cereal made me rather happy. Given the current heatwave, travelling with milk is no longer a practical option which means cereal is once again a luxury. Fresh fruit to put on said cereal is, well … extreme luxury. It was a luxurious morning!

The beginning of today's ride.Yes, there's a headwind.

The beginning of today’s ride.
Yes, there’s a headwind.

Matthias left for work before I remembered to get a group photo with my hosts but I at least remembered to get a photo with Andrea before heading out for the day. And when I did head out for the day Andrea was kind enough to lead me back to the Rhine to resume my river route. It wasn’t at all far to get to the Rhine but having a guide always makes it easier.

When I arrived back at the Rhine trail, two things were abundantly clear. It was going to be another VERY hot day and a headwind would be accompanying me along the way.

In keeping with a common theme of late, I didn’t have a destination for today’s ride. Again, the larger goal was to get to Mainz for Saturday. As such, I figured today would be another 85 km day which would put me near Bonn. Again, I sent out some Warm Showers requests and had also identified a couple of campgrounds near Bonn. One way or another, I wasn’t too concerned about finding accommodation tonight.

Now that's a big cathedral.

Now that’s a big cathedral.

My first major stop for the day was in Cologne. I stopped there for a few of reasons. I wanted a break from the wind. I wanted to try to find a WiFi connection. And, perhaps most notably, Andrea had mentioned that the Cologne Cathedral was something to be seen. Spoiler Alert: She was right.

To say that the Cologne Cathedral is huge is a bit of an understatement. It’s truly massive. So much so that even with my wide-angle lens I still struggled to fit the entire building into a photo. That didn’t stop me from trying but it was certainly a struggle and the photos really don’t do it justice. Then again, they rarely do.

During my visit around the cathedral, I took some photos, had some lunch, and found a WiFi connection. And then I found a Warm Showers host for the night. Although, it was going to require some effort on my part to make it work out.

It was shortly before 16:00 when I received an e-mail from a Warm Showers host, Neil, indicating that he might be able to host. The only issue was that he had plans to go out to a work social this evening. Translation: I needed to be at his place around 18:00. “His place” was about 35 km from Cologne. In good conditions, 35 km in two hours was reasonable. However, with today’s wind, heat, and the navigational factors that would inevitably come up, 35 km in two hours was going to be a challenge. Then again, what else did I have to do. And so, the race to Bonn began.

As would be expected, the route that actually followed the river was easy to navigate. However, there were several sections where the river was absent from view at which point I had to put a lot of faith in my phone’s mapping application.

I was too busy racing to Bonn to take photos.  So, here's another one of the cathedral.

I was too busy racing to Bonn to take photos. So, here’s another one of the cathedral.

As the race progressed, it was becoming apparent that my margin of error for arriving by 18:00 was growing very slim. Almost non-existent. As such wrong turns were not an option. I’m not going to lie, I wish I could’ve used my GPS unit on this day. That said, I couldn’t so I did the only thing I could do. I spent much of the ride with my phone in my hand so I could keep a somewhat constant eye on my route. No, that’s not particularly safe. Or comfortable. But there just wasn’t time to stop and look at a map every two minutes.

It was about 17:55 when I found myself on the homestretch to Neil’s place. And then I missed a turn. Grrrrr. It wasn’t a significant error but it was an error that took a few minutes to correct. Minutes that I didn’t have to spare. I now needed to increase my speed to make up for lost time. Given the 33 degree temperature, I didn’t even want to think about how sweaty I would be when I reached my destination.

Fast-forward … well, only a few minutes actually and I arrived at Neil’s place. It was 18:07. Considering the circumstances, I think I did pretty well. And fortunately Neil hadn’t left yet. Neil welcomed me into his apartment and there was even time for me to take a quick shower before we needed to head out again. Given how sweaty I was, my taking a shower was beneficial to all parties.

As mentioned before, Neil had plans to go out this evening to meet up with work colleagues and I was invited to come along. The plan was to bike to a nearby Beer Garden where a Queen tribute band was going to be performing. Apparently said Beer Garden has hosted several tribute bands over the summer including tributes to Bruce Springsteen and Cher.

Fortunately the tribute band sang Queen songs better than my phone takes photos.

Fortunately the tribute band sang Queen songs better than my phone takes photos.

I haven’t seen many tribute bands but I generally hope for the best and expect the worst. In this case we got the former. It was an absolutely great night. Over the course of a few hours, the band played about four sets and played all of Queen’s hits you would expect to hear. And they did so to a very enthusiastic crowd. It was all very entertaining. Plus there was beer and food. I’m not going to lie, after today’s hot ride and frantic pace the beer went down EXTREMELY well.

I think it was shortly after 23:00 when we headed back to Neil’s. On the way, we had to stop at a railroad crossing for about ten minutes as we watched five trains speed by. And when I say “speed by” I mean SPEED by. The trains going through town move SO much faster than those back in Canada. And that includes the freight trains. In fairness, the freight trains here aren’t pulling 150 train cars – more like 35. But still. They were fast!

Tomorrow will be an early start as Neil has to leave for work by 7:30. Which mean, I’ll also be hitting the road by 7:30. The destination? Well, I’ll worry about that tomorrow. It’s been a long, hot, tiring, and yet fantastic day. That said, I’m going to bed.

Today’s totals:
Distance travelled: 85.70 km
Ride time: 4:55:33
Average speed: 17.39 km/h (sigh)
Maximum speed: 33.80 km/h

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