Left the Köln area, with Britta driving us to the Bonn railway station, a 20 minute drive. We had put our gear (mostly clothes into the panniers but have never really rode with them on the bikes. This will be a first for Jeanne. I have had several trips with panniers and do not like the way the extra weight can throw you around. But unless you pay someone to carry your stuff this is the only way I know of, although The Great Divide trip was nice as lightweight and centered.
But an hour or two after I had fitted the bikes, put on Jeanne’s peddles, attached computers etc., we were sitting inside and a sudden whoosh as “my” bikes rear tire developed a hole in the tube. Aargghhhh. Ok change it, and notice Jeanne’s front tire is low after just pumping it up an hour before. Arrgghhhh! Ok Jeanne’s was the valve, and easily fixed by just tightening the valve which came loose when pumping the tire. But repaired mine with a patch, pumped it up and good to go. Could find nothing in the tire to make a cause of the hole.
A delightful barbecue dinner with Britta and the boys, final packing and begin to load the two bikes, and panniers into the car. My rear tire is flat, and I do a quick repair again. Off to the train station arriving a bit over an early so as not to keep Britta up all night.
At the airport we begin working about getting onto the right train, and as we only have minutes to find the right car for our bikes, load them and then find our car. I start talking with a gal from Köln who spoke excellent English and she explained how you could find where each car would stop.
Every once in a while a train would come roaring through, usually a cargo train. They do not seem to slow down or if they do, only to maybe 60-70 mph.. No wonder you do not even consider jumping over the tracks. Standing on the platform 3 feet from the tracks and a train comes flying by, wow. Jeanne’s hair in this humidity is wild and the wind for the train made it fly.
But we decided on a proper spot where our car (#176) would be and waited, but alas it will be 15 minutes late, then 20 then 25 minutes late. We have 6 hours to Basel, Switzerland where we have 11 minutes to change trains. Oh boy a new worry, but not much can be done now.
The train finally arrives and we have missed our car by only a car length. Climb on pulling the bikes up the steps, panniers throwing weight the wrong way. And we see why reservations for the bikes are needed. It is a special car and maybe 50 bikes hanging from hangers on the walls. A conductor happens by and gets us squared away on the last two hangers, numbers 24 and 25, and checks bike tickets to reassure us, and I notice we are moving and have left the station so now to wander up 3 cars to our seats. Trains are so smooth one barely can tell you are moving. Seems there are not seats as I am used to but compartments. We are lost on the dark train but again a conductor is sitting in his office and helps us out. Turns out our seats are in a compartment of 6 bunks. Someone else had been lost and was in one of our bottom bunks, but after the conductor got us put away he took care of him. Wow a bed, how civilized. Fell asleep almost immediately until my alarm went off at 6 am. 5 delightful hours of sleep.
Then back to the bikes where several others are gathered for their bikes. My rear tire is flat. But we arrived at the station at scheduled time of 6:47 and off we go to find the correct track and train, taking the elevator one at a time from tack 10 to track 3. We make it for the 7:04 departure, this time it is an interegional train not requiring reservations. There are specific cars though for bikes, but we find it, Jeanne and I argueing over if it is the right train as nothing says it is going to Göschenen, but the track number is correct. Jeanne wants to get off rather than find ourselves somewhere wrong, but I prevail and we stay on trusting the paperwork. We hang the bikes and I remove the wheel again, determined to find the cause, as this one was a brand new tube. Repair the tube and find a hole in the rim tape wrapping the wheel to protect the tube from sharp edges of the spokes and rim. I take the plastic from a bag of nuts we have and cover the area repairing the tube, and pumping with our small pump, totally breaking sweat. It is not a good morning as grumpy and pissy.
I realize jet lag is still affecting me. I just feel off. Letting the worries get to me, little sleep at the wrong time, etc. etc.
We ride up into the hills and all looks like a Swiss postcard, people are off and on the train at each stop, finally after leaving Lucerne, Göshenen shows up on one of the stops. This time we have 6 minutes to change but our next ride is less than 15 minutes. I figure we could bike it if train is missed. This time it is a regional train and only three cars. We lift the bikes onto the freight car. Then as the train begins I wonder “what was I thinking we could ride this”. It is a cog railway taking us up a narrow canyon through tunnels and looking out on the highway cut into the mountain. Jeanne described it as a developed Yosemite valley. Incredibly beautiful, and raining, but we reach our final destination of Andermatt at our scheduled time of 10:04. Another wasted worry.
Andermatt is obviously a ski town with the ski runs coming apparently right into town. It has narrow cobblestone streets
and is quite charming.
We walk to our hotel with the bike GPS directions, a distance of 435 meters, pushing the bikes as in street clothes and my rear tire although still inflated because of my morning pumping was lacking, is low, and not because of flat.
This is the only reservation we have made which is non refundable and we felt first night should have something. Numerous sources had said would be difficult, thus we reserved a cheaper hotel online at 155€. I think we are the only ones here. Oh well as soon as we could get into room we both fell asleep barely talking as still grumpy. This is proving to be my worst day of jet lag yet.
But Jeanne woke me about 1:30 and we walked to bike store to check for rim tape, another spare tube and a cycle computer for Jeanne as hers lost somewhere during the night. Nice to walk about and now only misting, with clouds above us. Temperature of 6 C (40s f) and rather pleasant although very humid and chilly. Back for more clothes. Lunch and bike repair also changing the front rim tape as same thin tape on it, so preemptive.
Texted Günter our arrival and our trials. He responded “all part of the adventure”
We have been assured only the first few switchbacks of tomorrow’s climb is steep then it gradually climbs the 800 meters over 11 kilometers then we reach the headwaters of the Rhein river.