A Winter Weekend Ride

February 13-14, 2016

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My nephew is based in Germany for a couple of years so Dan and I are trying to make sure to visit as often as possible. This doesn’t always happen during optimal weather, as was the case this weekend. We left Basel around 10:30 on Saturday to start the 3.5 hour motorcycle ride into Germany. The forecast called for rain and cold, but fortunately no snow.

We burned our way up the French motorway, heated jackets and hand warmers cranked as the temperature never quite made it past 9.5C (50F). There wasn’t much to see, as the cloud cover was low over the Vosges Mountains, although once in a while there was some snow visible on the open areas of the mountainsides.

The Vosges in winter

Sharing the road

One of the few motorcycles we saw that day

There isn’t much to say about the French motorways other than they are fast. We did pass a single-car accident: a Mini driver must have overcorrected, causing them to drive up the grassy embankment, and then roll the car a few times back to the roadside. This is when I learned that my Canon was having issues, presumably with the cold weather. It was about 6C (43F) and the lens was having trouble extending when I powered on the camera. Damn. “On the fly” photos is really what lets me capture my rides these days. I’d look at it more closely when we got to my nephew’s house.

We reached a toll booth. Damn! We had both forgotten about the French’s penchant for toll roads. We doubled up at the automatic booth and after I retrieved my credit card, we both pulled through at the same time. They charge the same for a motorcycle as they do a car – a little unfair, if you ask me. I ignored the GPS until it realized that we were not going to continue on the motorway and it finally recalibrated to the back roads to our destination.
Bonus: I got the Cannon to work a couple of times along the way. It was damp, off and on light rain and cold. The BMWs have digital thermometers that begin to flash at 3.5C and below. It flashed a number of times as we navigated forested ridges.

German countryside

Cold and foggy

Not all over-the-shoulder shots work

We finally made it! The last thirty minutes were brutal: the thermometers were flashing 2C (35F), it was lightly raining and we were numb. We had been on the road steady for almost four hours and usually the temperature had hovered no higher than 6C. Brrrrrr.

After unloading the bikes and putting on warm clothes we settled in for a relaxing time with family. We hopped into his (warm and dry!) car to visit some nearby places as well as the grocery store. After picking up a case of good German beer, we went back to his place where he made a fantastic dinner for us. What a great way to spend the evening!

I didn’t sleep well that night and every time I woke up it was to the sound of rain pelting the skylight above the bed. Rain. It rained all night and it was still raining when we got up on Sunday. We dawdled over another fantastic meal prepared for us while waiting for the rain to subside as promised by the forecast. Eventually it was time to head out. The rain was only a light mist as we packed up the bikes and said our goodbyes. It was 2C: not a good start to our day. But we also knew that it would (should?) only get warmer as we headed into the Rhine valley. But first: the mountains!

Lichtenberg Castle in Küsel, DE

I was just remarking to Dan about what a great road this was when I realized where we were: Johanniskreuz: “As the hub of several scenic routes Johanniskreuz has become a meeting place for motorcyclists. However, the road through the Elmsteiner Tal is closed to motorcycles at weekends during the summer months due to the high number of accidents.” As our limbs were happy to let us know, it was not a summer month and all roads were open to us.

German tunnel near Annweiler, DE

Burg Trifels from 1081, near Annweiler

Racing the train (I was winning)

We had left the mountains behind and were heading for Karlsruhe. From there, we’d take the Autobahn the rest of the way to Basel. It was a little warmer, but not warm enough to warrant spending more time than necessary on the bikes.

Hi Dan!

Two of the six motorcycles we saw all day

Oddly cookie-cutter looking houses in Leimersheim

But some of them were quite unique

It was here that I noticed that my GPS was taking us to a ferry. What??? I knew that I had selected “no highways” until we had reached the other side of the Rhine, but I didn’t expect that to route us to a ferry. And then I realized that this was the same ferry that we had been denied riding last year when coming home from the Horizons Unlimited meet up.

What the ferry crossing looked like in March, 2015

What it looked like in February, 2016 (from the other direction)

The ferry

Unfortunately for us, the ferry wasn’t running until March. Denied again! I re-routed the GPS to just get us home as quickly as possible. We hit the Autobahn just south of Karlsruhe and stuck to the right lane. Of course, even just sitting in the right lane (the “slow lane”) usually means that we’re traveling about 120 kph (75 mph). It was too cold to do much passing, despite how much we just wanted to be home.

The actual church looked nothing like the image on the sign

Cool truck at the Baden-Baden rest stop

“Just follow the clouds to Basel” – Dan

An hour from home and it started to rain. We had reached the high temperature of the day: 9.5C (49F). Our gear kept us dry, but our feet were cold and it just wasn’t fun. We were happy to pull the bikes into the garage and hang up our gear to dry.


  1. jennifer wilkes says:

    Matt told me he was working – guess not! So nice you were able to come up for a visit – I recognized a few of those places.

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