Molly on the Main

Day 15 - Friday, June 7

The Hotel Weisses Ross in Kleinostheim proved to be a very comfortable hotel, and we enjoyed our brief stay there. In the morning, we made an effort to get on the trail a little earlier because it will be our longest day in terms of mileage, and also because there is a forecast of possible thunderstorms around 7 pm in the Frankfurt area.

After breakfast at the hotel, we loaded up the bikes and were on the trail at 9 am. We expect to cross the Main twice today - once at Mainflingen and again at Sindlingen. But before we were even 7 km down the trail (long before we reached Mainflingen), we got a surprise detour and were directed to cross the river on the catwalk over one of the locks. This involved getting our bicycles up some metal stairs (there is a little ramp to roll the bike up), crossing the catwalk, and then going down another set of stairs. Yesterday (Thursday), when I tried navigating a short set of steps this way, I strained my right shoulder trying to grapple with the weight of my loaded bike, and I wasn't about to do that again. Instead, this time I first took the panniers off my bike, rolled the bike up the ramp, and then went back and fetched the panniers. I had to repeat the process on the other side of the river. And before the day was over, there were three more sets of steps to navigate.

Just as Steve and I were reaching the other side of the river at this morning crossing, we met a woman coming up the steps. She had a small dog with her, and she asked us if we were on a big tour. So we stopped and chatted with her for a while and learned that the reason for the crossing detour - the bridge for the usual crossing is undergoing cleaning and maintenance. She wished a good trip (the German expression for this is "ein gute fahrt"), and we moved on.

Once we reached the bottom of the stairs, we did not see any directional signs and first took the wrong way and had to backtrack when it turned out to be a dead end. We checked our maps to see just how far off course we were, and we could see that once we got on a route along the river, we would rejoin the planned route about 7 km up the river.

The bike path stayed close to the river, winding through woodsy trails and riverside parks of the towns along the river. Some of these places were quite nice, with grassy areas, picnic tables and playgrounds, or sometimes a row of nice apartment buildings or townhouses nestled among beautiful gardens and facing out toward the Main.

When we reached Seligenstadt, we diverted to go into the old part of town. It is one of Germany's oldest towns, having been settled by the Romans, who left there around 260 AD, and then the location was settled by the Alemanni, followed by the Franks. There are only traces of the Roman presence remaining today, one being an old romanesque house near the center market place. We found it by walking under an arch beside the old town hall. I took some photos of the old house and noticed that is apparently being used to store bicycles.

Seligenstadt also has a very picturesque town center with dozens of half-timbered houses and cobbled streets. Add the remnants of the old city wall and couple of fortified towers, and it doesn't take much to imagine that you are walking through a medieval village hundreds of years ago. On the edge of town is the basilica, St. Marcellinus and Petrus, a former Benedictine abbey with a convent garden built between 830 and 840. The gardens here are worth a look. The garden plan, also hundreds of years old, was recently restored and refreshed. We saw several young people tending the plots during our brief look.

Tour buses and cruise barges disgorge hundreds of passengers a day at Seligenstadt, and even though it was early in the day, there was already evidence of tour groups moving around the town and in the garden paths.

We cycled north from Seligenstadt, continuing on a path along the river. Today is the start of another holiday weekend in Germany - Monday is Pfingsten (Pentecost) and is a state holiday. We expected to see more people out on the bike way as the day went on and we got closer to Frankfurt, but it seemed as though the bike trail was less busy than what we encountered around Bamberg on the previous weekend.

We were cycling along a section of trail at the edge of the woods when we could see a cyclist stopped in the middle of the trail ahead of us. There was another cyclist between her and us and two oncoming cyclists. The man in front of us stopped, and we paused to let the oncoming cyclists get through. It was apparent that the stopped cyclist, who was a young woman with a small child in the trailer, was having some sort of mechanical problem, and the guy who stopped was examining her front wheel. Steve and I slowed, expecting that he might ask for assistance, and he did. He asked if we had any "werkzeugen" (tools) since he was not carrying any.

Of course we had tools, and we gladly stopped to help. Steve told him we had the necessary hex wrench and added, "aber es kostet 100 Euro. Wir muessen unseres Urlaub finanzieren." ("But it it will cost 100 euros. We have to pay for our vacation.") The fellow immediately laughed, and then inquired where we were from. As he adjusted the fender, we learned that he was from a nearby town and had taken the day to ride the trail and take photographs. Thirty years ago, when he was a young man, he met an American soldier stationed at nearby Hanau, and he became friends with the family. When the solider moved back to Jamestown, ND, his family invited our newfound bike-trail friend to come visit them. In North Dakota. In January. We laughed and told him that we had lived in South Dakota for two years.

By this time, the repair on the young woman's bicycle was complete. It was a simple matter of adjusting her front fender to keep it from rubbing against the front wheel. She thanked us and pedaled away. We stood at the trail side a while longer to visit with the friendly cyclist. His English was excellent, and in our short chat, we talked about lots of things. He said that years ago there was a large American presence at the military base at Hanau, but after the collapse of the USSR, the bases were downsized and the one at Hanau was closed. "It now houses many refugees from the Middle East," he added. "It is a different culture." He went on to say how he felt it was important to support these newcomers who are fleeing strife and violence in their own lands. "It's not about the money," he said. "Some people complain about how much money we give to help the refugees, but the kind of support I feel is most important is that we talk to them. Listen to them." He feels that "95% of them are good people, but opponents to immigration want to focus on the problems introduced by the 5%." We agreed with him that, even in the best of circumstances, it is a struggle to be a stranger in a strange land and that we hoped more people agreed with his philosophy.

We rode on down the river and passed Hanau - birthplace of the Brothers Grimm - on the opposite side of the river. We had a brief glimpse of St. Paul's Church and a canoeist moving past it down the river.

We have frequently seen people with their dogs on the trail - all types of dogs, and all well behaved. Rarely has a dog even barked at us, and when it did happen, the dog was behind a fence. Most are on a leash, and those who are not sit obediently with their owners when we pass by. Often it is an older dog, such as a Labrador, walking slowly with an older person, each one patient with the other as they go along the trail in their unhurried way. Today we saw a group of people with two small dogs, and the littlest one, a type of pug, was running as fast as he could to catch up to the other dog. He wasn't much larger than half-gallon size, and it was cute to see him running.

Other critters of which we have seen plenty are geese - with the majority of them being Canada geese. Sometimes the flocks of these are concentrated in areas next to the trail, such as the pedestrian walkways along the river or the grassy park areas. Naturally, that means that there is also an abundance of goose poop in those places, too. We have also heard - but not seen - cuckoos several times.

Shortly after Hanau, we began entering the towns on the south bank of the Main across the river from Frankfurt - Offenbach and Sachsenhausen. For the past several miles, we had already been hearing the airplanes from the Frankfurt airport, a soundtrack that accompanied us for several more hours. The skyline of Frankfurt soon appeared, but our path was unchanged and only slightly more populated with walkers and cyclists.

Around 1 pm, we stopped for a midday break at a shady beer garden (Paulaner Platzhirsch Biergarten in Oberrad) and could not resist ordering a couple of cold pilsners. For lunch, I ordered a Frankfurt specialty - Gruene Sosse (green sauce), which is a mixture of sour cream and seven fresh herbs: parsley, chives, chervil, borage, sorrel, garden cress and salad burnet. It is often served with sliced boiled eggs and boiled potatoes. Steve ordered a dish of rotbarsch (ocean perch), which came with boiled potatoes and some Gruene Sosse (also sometimes called "Grie Soss.") We later learned that the day before was an attempt to set the record in Frankfurt for the number of portions of Guene Sosse sold. To do this, they needed to sell 231,775 portions in one day, but they did not make it. If we had been a day earlier, maybe we could have helped.

It was amazingly uncomplicated to bicycle through the metropolitan areas on the south bank of the Main, and not long after our lunch, we were already in the countryside and heading toward our endpoint for the day and for this trip - the confluence of the Main and the Rhine rivers at Mainz, about 22 miles west of Frankfurt. Near Schwanheim, we spied a gas station where we stopped to use the restroom and buy a couple bottles of water (I also got an M&M peanut ice cream bar for the two of us to share.) While Steve was waiting for me, he saw that the gas station had two options for hydrogen fuel for cars - at two different pressures: one at 350 bar (equivalent to 5076 psi) or 700 bar (10153 psi.) We didn't see any vehicles tanking up at these places but were nevertheless fascinated at the possibilities and the various questions raised about the safety issues of fueling a car with hydrogen, not to mention driving one.

We crossed the river at Sindlingen and continued west on the north side of the Main. We rode on a levee through an open field of wheat and had an excellent view of many planes approaching the Frankfurt airport for landing. They came one after another, about a minute apart, and they were low enough that we could see the details of each ship.

To the west, we could see dark clouds building and knew that the change in weather would reach the area soon. We still had about five or six miles to go, and our legs were starting to give out. We pressed on to to get to the confluence before the weather front and its headwind gusts. Around 5:30 pm, we rolled down the trail beside a lateral canal and the main channel of the Main. Ahead we could see a large barge wheeling around the bend from the Rhine and getting in position to move upriver on the Main.

We had reached the confluence. We took a few selfies ("us-ies") and then hailed a passerby to get a better photo of the two of us. We had cycled 57.04 miles (91.80 km) today, our longest day on the entire trip, and we were too tired to ride the 20+ miles back to our hotel at the airport. So we took a break and went to a nearby cafe and celebrated our Main tour with a couple of beers and some light food. While we sat, we checked the train schedules from the nearest station in Mainz-Kastel and saw that there was a train going to the airport about every 30 minutes.

After we rested, we made our way to the train station, not more than 2 miles away. We purchased tickets for ourselves (4.50 Euro each) with the help of some young ladies at a self-service kiosk on the platform. We thought that there should be an option to indicate we were also buying tickets for the bikes, and they thought so too, but none of us could find that option in the kiosk menu. So we just went with the simple day-ticket for two adults. Just as we finished our ticket purchase, a strong gust of wind came through, and it started to sprinkle.

The next challenge was getting the bikes over to Track 2 before the train arrived. We had about 5 minutes to get the bicycles down some concrete steps, through a passageway and back up another set of steps.

Again, I knew that my arms could not handle the entire load of my bike and bags, so I did them one at a time. Steve saw some workers painting the wall in the passage way (covering up graffiti) and asked one of them to help me. He gladly did, but he also wanted to ask about that thing on our helmets (the ever-fascinating rearview mirror.) Perhaps we should have been selling those things for the amount of interest have attracted.

We finally got ourselves situated on the platform for Track 2 and had about 30 seconds to catch our breath before the train rolled in. We rolled our bikes on board, leaned them in an area provided for bicycles and used a bungee cord to keep them parked there. Then we sat down and glided our way to the airport as rain moved in across the landscape. It took about 30 minutes to reach the station, and we rolled our bikes out into the airport station which leads directly into Terminal 1, where the Sheraton Hotel is located on the upper level. We never had to step outside into the rain. But once again, we were faced with the problem of getting our bicycles to the upper level. The obvious solution - the lift - was still out of order, and the only other option was a long staircase or the escalator.

We wrestled our bikes onto the escalator, but I cannot recommend this. My bicycle flopped on its side toward me, and it was all I could do to hang on to it. I managed to keep control of my bike (but just barely) and the poor man on the escalator behind me was probably terrified.

We checked in to the Sheraton, took showers and rested. Tomorrow, we will disassemble our bikes and get them back in their travel bags and then celebrate the end of our trip with a couple of good friends who live on the north side of Frankfurt.

Miles ridden today: 57.04 (91.80 km)
Miles ridden since the start of this trip: 400.65 (644.78 km)

Steps at the locks, with a small ramp for rolling bikes up or downn

Molly crossing the Main via the catwalk over the locks

Seligenstadt

Convent gardens at the former monastery at Seligenstadt

The old romanesque house in Seligenstadt

Bicycles in the lower level of the old romanesque house at Seligenstadt

St. Paul's church at Hanau, with a canoe on the Main River

A cottonwood tree seen along the trail

Skyline of Frankfurt am Main

In the Paulaner Platzhirsch beer garden at Oberrad

Gruene Sosse

A part of the trail under an avenue of shade trees

Hydrogen fuel pumps for cars

At the confluence of the Main and Rhine rivers near Mainz


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