This is the first installment of our European Vacation blog. There will almost certainly be a tale or two of driving around in a roundabout for hours on end, like Chevy Chase and his misguided family. But for now, I am happy to report we made it safely to Germany. We left SLC around noon on Sunday. Flight to Houston was uneventful. The flight from Houston to Frankfurt was one hour delayed, but we were not alarmed, as Drew figured they could make up the time during the 9 and a half hour flight. They mostly did, and we managed to retrieve our luggage and 67 pound bike boxes from the baggage claim.
Drew's brother, Trey, had arranged for his friend Jeremy to pick us up at Stuttgart, thereby avoiding another train transfer. Oh how happy we were to see Jeremy and Trey's truck! Our shoulders are still sore from lugging our packs and bikes around for 30 HOURS of traveling, and Jeremy saved us from having to drag them through city streets at night!
It was like arriving at a relaxing vacation home when Jeremy dropped us off at Trey and Emily's flat in Esslingen. Comfortable and quiet. We crashed out hard and slept for 10 hours.
Tuesday, we ventured onto the quaint city streets of Esslingen. The town is everything I imagined a hip old German town to be. Cobblestone streets, shops of every kind, a pastry and coffee shop on every corner.
Later that night Drew put the bike together, only to discover one essential part of the crank arm was missing and the seal on his tubeless tire had let loose, so we needed a bike shop. The next day walked 1.7 km to a shop, with advertised hours of 10 AM to 12:30 PM and 3 PM to 5 PM. We arrived at 9:50 AM, but at 10:02 the owner, who had been inside a few minutes before, drove by and let us know (in Spanish) that on Wednesday mornings, he was closed! Argh! We walked back to the shopping district, stopping for ice cream and to browse a farmers market.
For the most part, we get by not knowing much German, but it would be nice to be able to read what this window display at a drug store was all about. What's with the mushrooms?
We had to hike back to the bike shop at 3 PM in the wickedly hot and muggy afternoon. After all that, we got the bikes fully functioning and went out for an easy spin on the mostly paved trails along the river.
So Esslingen treated us well as an introduction to Germany. The next day, we headed to Fussen, where the Bike TransALPs will begin.