We are only two days from Berlin but it might as well be two hundred. It’s 4:36 in the afternoon and Woodrow is sound asleep. We checked in fifteen minutes ago. Our room is at the intersection of two farm roads, nine miles from the nearest town. We have no food for dinner or breakfast other than the leftovers I brought from Leipzig: a few slices of black bread, some raisins, an apple, and half a jar of jam.Today should have been easy, a 40-miler over gently rolling farm land with a whipping tailwind. It started perfectly with a huge hostile youth breakfast buffet and a quart of coffee. The forty or fifty bites we had from the bedbugs were a minor issue.
We were on the road before seven and within the first half hour the day went sideways and kept on spinning as I made a very wrong turn at a construction detour.
In a car when you go an hour out of the way you flip the car around, scream “fuck” a few times, and endure your wife’s 37 gentle reminders about how she told you to go left and why didn’t you stop and ask?
On a bike it’s all that except you have to pedal back the way you came and if you’re with Woodrow you feel doubly shitty because he’s still cheerful and says “It’s okay, Dad, everybody makes mistakes.”
We got back on the road to Torgau and the problems refused to take the day off. First we had a massive construction detour and then before Eilenburg we got kicked off the highway because it was suddenly for cars only. We sauntered into town, had chocolate croissants and coffee, and remounted.
For a long while things went great. Woodrow pulled down long stretches of bike path and if there is something better than sitting on your son’s wheel on a sunny day abroad I don’t know what it is.
Just before Torgau we hit another detour and it almost proved catastrophic. The already narrow road became narrower and suddenly we were being passed by dozens of giant freight trucks with inches to spare. At one point Woodrow got hit hard by the wind being shed by a passing truck and almost got sucked under its wheels. He instinctively leaned hard and steered for the ditch, which saved his life. We were scared shitless, miles from town and with no other road and no option but continuing.
Then it occurred to me–WWMSD? What would Manslaughter do? He’d fully utilize his MTB, that’s what.
“Ride in front,” I commanded, “and I’ll keep a rear lookout. When a truck comes, I’ll yell ‘truck’ and we’ll hit the ditch and keep pedaling until it passes, then hop back on the tarmac.”
“Ok,” Woodrow said, and for the next five miles that’s exactly what we did, zigzagging from road to ditch and back again. Nothing ups your off-road skills as quickly as the threat of death.
The adrenaline and effort from riding in the ditch wore us out, but we had no more close calls and in Torgau we got lunch and ice cream, and if your adventure ends in ice cream, how bad was it, really?
Unfortunately our hotel room was nine more miles up the road and we resumed ditch-and-tarmac riding after lunch.
Suffice it to say we hate the village of Torgau, but not as much as we’ll hate tomorrow’s stretch to Luckenwalde, which is 40 more miles of the same nonsense. The German drivers are respectful and skilled beyond belief, but the civil engineers definitely consider cyclists third class citizens. Sound familiar, CABO?
Unless you’re on a designated tour route, the bike paths are completely random and stop as abruptly as they begin, which is frustrating when you almost die but which adds to the challenge and therefore the satisfaction. I’m sure that was the engineers’ intent.
The perpetual raw ass from riding in shorts and moldy underwear could have been alleviated with bibs. WHO KNEW???
WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME?
On the other hand, the manliness of crossing Germany by bike with cheesegrater ass is a kind of high water mark in roughing it.
Well, it’s almost six p.m. And the snores next to me have only gotten deeper. His face and arms are tanned with the color you only seem to get after days and days on a bike. Better have a slice of black bread, smear on some jam with my finger, and call it a day.