Top Ten Reasons for Biking with VBT

There is something about a list with a number alongside that is SO compelling–100 top colleges, 25 top attractions, 15 fool proof ways to excite a man.  They just shout “READ ME”, don’t they?  So, I figured why not?
Drum roll, please.
The Ten Top Reasons for biking with VBT, not necessarily in order of importance–just in the order that my somewhat addled brain extracts them.

1. Fantastic guides!
I’ve taken three VBT trips; each one has had delightful local guides, who do everything in their power to make sure we have an amazing experience.  They are entertaining, knowledgeable and SKILLED!

Flat tire?  No problem…one of them will fix it for you.    Andi DID demonstrate how to change a tire so that we would know what to do back home.  I was quite happy that should the need arise, all I had to do was wait until whichever one was “sweeping” (riding at the back of the group to make sure we were all okay) to catch up and rescue me.  But thanks anyway, Andi.  I hope I never have to put my new knowledge to the test

Here's Andi, ready for ANY emergency!

Here’s Andi, ready for ANY emergency!

I’m posting this photo of Hana, seriously studying for her law exam (no, not during our trip…she emailed it to us later) because it shows her dog, Candy, helping her concentrate.  Candy is a Maltese, just like Lilly, my sister Sue’s dog.

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2. Wonderful New Friends
On every trip, we have managed to meet interesting, fun people.  Some, like Victoria from our Slovenia trip, continue the friendship even after the biking trip is a distant memory.

We hope that will be true for this trip also.  Mike would have really enjoyed talking with Peter because they have so much in common: an interest in meteorites, ancient coins, research, writing, photography.  Mike is not a biker–but maybe there will be other opportunities for them to meet in the future.

The Midwestern Ladies have already appeared in previous posts, but I have to mention them again. They were beyond fantastic biking companions! We made them “honorary biker chicks” a title that is definitely not easy to come by.

The Connecticut Contingent: Peter and Joan in the lead, followed by Julia and Tom

The Connecticut Contingent: Peter and Joan in the lead, followed by Julia and Tom

3. Van stops,  exactly when you need them
How great is it not to have to worry about getting your belongings from town to town?  It also helps to know that riding the van is always an option if you get too tired, or too wet.

Beth, enthusiastically making her way to the van.  Those curls were really bobbing up and down!

Beth is enthusiastically making her way to the van. Those curls were really bobbing up and down!

4. Breath-taking scenery
It is true that the scenery in this area is amazing regardless of how you travel across it, but there is something special about being able to stop whenever you want, to savor the beauty and to take a photo or two.

I found this old tree fascinating.

I found this old tree fascinating.  Probably it was alive when Napoleon was running wild, conquering surrounding countries!

This shot was taken from the center of a dam that we rode across on our way to Austria.  The dam isn't all that visually compelling, so I'll spare you.

This shot was taken from the center of the dam that we rode across on our way to Austria. The dam isn’t all that visually compelling, so I’ll spare you.

5. Alternate Modes of Transportation
Much as I enjoy biking, it is nice to give your hindquarters a little break.  On this trip, we traveled by train and by boat.  The ride down the Danube offered a different view of  the little town of Passau, where the waters of the Inn, the Ilz and the Danube converge, each one a different color.

A view of Passau from the river.

A view of Passau from the river.  You can NEVER have too many churches–or to many clock towers!

6. Exploration Options
We always had sufficient free time to explore the little towns and villages; to pursue whatever interests we might have, whether it be using the zip line at a playground, listening to a concert in the local church, shopping, trying out the local delicacies, or doing all of the above.

Sorry sisters and cousins...I didn't buy any of these.  It was too early in the trip.  They would have either melted, or been eaten before I got home.  (Probably eaten)

Sorry sisters and cousins…I didn’t buy any of these. It was too early in the trip. They would have either melted, or been eaten before I got home. (Probably eaten)

7. Mind Expansion!
You always absorb interesting facts about the countries you visit, and you might even REMEMBER some of what you learned!

Unfortunately, my camera didn’t have a wide enough angle to capture the three different colors of the water coming from the three different rivers that converge at Passau. That image only resides in the space between my ears. Instead, I offer this description.

The waters really WERE different colors!

The waters really WERE different colors!

8.  Dining in Unusual Places
We probably wouldn’t have found this restaurant in a cellar in Cesky Krumlov. (Or was it a cave?).   Getting there was part of the experience.  The taller members of the group had to stay scrunched over as we descended the winding, steep steps.  There wasn’t a lot of headroom!  But the dinner was SO worth it!

Katie, the youngest biker, with Karla from the Midwest and Kim, Katies  mother

Katie, the youngest biker, with Karla from the Midwest and Kim, Katie’s mother

9. Pre and Post Trip Extensions
The trips always start and end in great locations, so if you have the time (and many of us did), you can opt for the pre and/or post trips.  I’ve already posted about Prague, and if I get the energy, will also share Vienna highlights—but here is one photo from each place.

Prague, viewed from the top of the Charles Bridge Tower.  (141 steps to the top, and through a little narrow door).

Prague, viewed from the top of the Charles Bridge Tower. (141 steps to the top, and through a little narrow door).  I just can’t resist a tower!

Sally (Biker Chick who had other travel plans this year) had perfect timing.  She emailed us the night before our last day in Vienna, suggesting that we visit the Hundertwasser Museum. It is always wise to take Sally’s (and Marilyn’s) recommendations.

Not only did we spend a morning in the museum, but we also found Hundertwasser’s village.

Vienna -- This will give you an idea of what Hundertwasser's art is like.

Vienna — This will give you an idea of what Hundertwasser’s art is like.

I particularly enjoyed Hundertwasser’s philosophical statements. Two of my favorites:
“If we do not honor our past, we lose our future. If we destroy our roots, we cannot grow”.

“A dead person is entitled to reincarnation in the form of, for example, a tree that grows on top of him and through him. The result would be a sacred forest of living dead. A garden of the happy dead.”
He asked to be buried without a coffin, to encourage decomposition.

10. Renewing Old Friendships
I know, I already talked about NEW friendships–but being with the other Biker Chicks deserves its very own reason number. Wouldn’t you agree?
For this trip, what was especially special was spending time with the “other” Karen, a college friend that I hadn’t seen in more than 4 decades!

Our Biking Group: The Connecticut Contingent, the Coloradians, the midwest Ladies, the Biker Chicks, and the "Katie" family, plus guides

Our Biking Group: The Connecticut Contingent, the Coloradians, the midwest Ladies, the Biker Chicks, and the “Katie” family, plus our super duper guides

We are all home now, doing laundry, readjusting to time zones, and having to cook our own meals.

Maybe there will be a quiz over the coming days? You never know…

Memorable VBT Moments

Vermont Bike Trips does an amazing job hiring personable, charming and helpful guides, organizing interesting routes, and making sure that there are options for all skill levels.

I’ve been asked how far someone rides on a typical day, and the short answer is as far as you want. For me, the total mileage was 120 miles over 6 days or an average of  20 miles per day.  But some days were longer, others were shorter.  For example, the first day is always short, because you are getting used to the bike and warming up.  That first day,we all rode less than 10 miles. My longest ride was 29 miles, through Sumava, the Czech Republic’s largest national park.

It was uphill a fair part of the morning, because we were crossing the continental divide.

Beth and Denise put the pedal to the metal and powered up the hill.

Beth and Denise put the pedal to the metal and powered up the hill.

Following Karen through the forest

Following Karen through the forest

Fortunately what goes UP must come down, so our ride after lunch was quite delightful. I felt like I was sitting on a motor scooter, zipping through the woods. No pedaling required for a couple of miles–I just held on and coasted.
But then we had a few anxious moments when the path we were following was roped off. Did we make a wrong turn? Were we going to have to retrace our wheels (they definitely weren’t steps), except going UPHILL for those “motor scooter” miles?
As we pondered our dilemma, it soon became clear.  We heard the thunder of hooves, and realized that the ropes functioned as a type of traffic light.  By the time I got my camera out, I was only able to capture this last guy.

The bike path is also the path for an earlier mode of transportation.

The bike path is also the path for an earlier mode of transportation.

If I had been quicker retrieving my camera, you would have seen these guys in action.  They were quite beautiful, galloping from one field to the other.

If I had been quicker retrieving my camera, you would have seen these guys in action. They were quite beautiful, galloping from one field to the other.

We enjoyed two days in Passau, Germany, a gorgeous little town on the Danube. During. Walk through town, I noticed the playground had a little zip line. You’d walk up a slight incline, hop onto a rope with a little seat type contraption, get a little momentum going and zip across to the others side, where you would smash into a big tire that would then fling you back at least halfway. Maybe the kids could get further…MY best distance was halfway. Sorry, no photos. I waited till it was dark, when the kids had all gone home.
I DO have photos of our ride along the River Inn, to the little town of Scharding. This was the morning that stopped raining just as we headed out. From the look of my legs, you can probably surmise that the trail was just a tiny bit muddy.

The bridge between Germany and Austria. I have a foot in each country.

The bridge between Germany and Austria. I have a foot in each country.

This statue symbolizes the warm, loving feelings Germany and Austria have for each other.

The kissing statue

The kissing statue.  As you can see, I am very much in favor of  loving kindness between nations.

It was a BEAUTIFUL ride, not too hot, not too cold, with the mist rising from the river making it very scenic.

I hope you really like this photo.  While taking it, I managed to knock my bike off the path, into the mud.  Good thing I had dismounted!

I hope you really like this photo. While taking it, I managed to knock my bike off the path, into the mud. Good thing I had dismounted!

One last photo of Passau before I call it quits for the night. I don’t want to run out of my Internet allotment!

Passau's ancient tower at sunset

Passau’s ancient tower at sunset

Sometimes your luck just runs out…

Although the weather reports had been predicting rain, rain and more rain, for the first five biking days we had been really fortunate.  The rain DID come, but it was either at night, or in the early morning, ending before we started riding, until our last biking day.  But we were READY.  We all donned our foul weather gear, and Diane improvised–using the hotel shower cap to cover her helmet.

Poncho

My poncho was flapping wildly in the wind. As they whipped past, my co-bikers shouted that I looked like: the Red Baron, ET, the flying nun, Batman, –but the most popular was the witch from the Wizard of Oz. That got a couple of votes.  I admired their creativity, but wondered why Karen didn’t get similar comments on HER poncho. Her theory? She didn’t look quite so ridiculous.  Unfortunately, with the rain coming down, we weren’t able to get action shots, so you could see for yourself, and offer YOUR opinion.

Our wonderful guides, Hana and Andy, gave us several options that weren’t part of the day’s original plan.  Several of us chose the newest option, a SHORT ride –9 miles.  Our mother/ daughter team (Beth and Susan) are real troopers (or masochists), riding the full 16 miles to Melk.

One of the bonuses of our VBT  trips is the people we meet.  We all loved the Midwestern ladies.  Beth was especially grateful for Jessie, who made the return trip from Melk with Susan.  Marcia, Jessie’s sister, was equally grateful for Susan.  Otherwise, Beth and Marcia would have felt compelled to ride back, in the RAIN, with their crazed biker relative.

Our new Midwestern friends: Jessie, Marcia, Karla, and Mary

Our new Midwestern friends: Jessie, Marcia, Karla, and Mary

We’ve declared the Midwestern ladies honorary “Biker Chicks” and hope that they will join us for our ride in 2016.  Here’s Jessie, atop St. Michael’s church tower.

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Back in the day, churches were multipurpose, serving as fortresses AND places of worship. Why not use good time management and fit in a few prayers while you are shooting your arrows?

The tower has been modernized, with lovely art work, so you have something to gaze upon as you climb to the top.

Inside St. michael's church tower

Inside St. michael’s church tower

Also on the ride from our hotel in Weissenkirchen to Melk was a 25,000 year old statue of Venus. But she was high on the hill, it was raining, so I figured I’d just google her. When I did, I learned the one atop the hill is a replica and the real one is here in Vienna!  Wise decision on my part, wouldn’t you say?

Melk was yet another over the top example of the wealth of the Catholic Church.  Our guide explained that God had to be greater than the emperor, so the churches, and his chosen ones had to have the proper wardrobe.  There were capes that Elvis could have worn, Michael Jackson gloves, and Liberace shoes.

The gloves

The gloves

Here are a few more shots of Melk which will likely use up my Internet allotment for the day.

Spiral staircase

Spiral staircase