Day 13 : From Herrenwies to somewhere near Imsweiler
In the morning, everything was dry, which was good news for the return journey. We would be cycling toward a specific turn in the Rhine River. We likely wouldn't reach it in one day, but we expected to at least get halfway there. After the turn, we would follow the Rhine for one day and then cycle for another two days to get home. That would mean five days of cycling. That seemed doable; the route was a bit longer than the way out, but it was much more level and contained many straight roads on which we were less likely to get lost.
We left the campsite around 9. The first part went really smoothly. Towards Baden-Baden, it was 12 kilometers downhill and, after that, flat towards the Rhine. After the first hour, we had already cycled 30 kilometers but then lost directions. On the map, all villages had different names, however, in real life, they all had the same name as nearby cities. It was also confusing that one town was called 'Au' and a nearby one 'Auw'. When we finally arrived at the right location, we learned that the ferry we had wanted to take didn't exist anymore, so we had to replan our route again.
After 50 kilometers, I got a punctured tire. Fortunately, we were well prepared. I had installed fast-release axles, allowing us to remove my rear wheel quickly. I also carried a spare tire, so we didn't need to fix the original one on the spot. The total process took less than 15 minutes.
Around noon, we had already cycled 60 km, while we typically had completed around 40 km at that time. As usual, we lost our direction twice, once in each city we crossed. We still made good progress. By dinner time, we had already cycled 120 km. We ate dinner next to a vineyard. The entire day, we followed the Deutsche Weinstrasse. We examined our map in Neustadt when a strange guy asked if he could help. 'Yes, we are a bit lost, 'Oh, do you speak English?', 'Yes, we do', 'Oh, are you from England?', 'No, we are Dutch?', 'Oh, van Basten?'.. at least he showed us the right way.
We continued toward Kaiserslautern. It was already getting dark, but fortunately, the road we followed was completely straight. We passed through a village called Frankenstein. After Kaiserslautern, it was another 40 km to the next campsite. It was around 8 o'clock by then. If it would be downhill, we might arrive at the campsite before 10, or so we thought. It had stopped raining moderately and started to poor, it had also gotten dark, and we began to feel cold. I had to hold my flashlight while cycling as my bicycle light was broken. After 160 km, there still was no sign of a campsite.
We took a break at a parking lot with a map. It didn't show a camping anywhere. Suddenly, a car came to a shrieking stop, and two men jumped out. It looked suspicious, so I quickly raced away. Bram also didn't trust it, but he could leave easily as his bike pointed in the wrong direction. The two men jumped into their parked car and drove away. Bram was pretty angry that I hadn't waited for him, but there hadn't been any time to take a break and discuss.
Because it was dark, we couldn't see if we were on a bicycle path or one of the many side roads. A few times, we realized we were on a gravel road that ran straight into one of the wine fields. After 175 km, we still hadn't found the campsite. It was late, and we were cold and tired. I asked someone who was just getting home if he knew about a campsite in the area, but he didn't. Eventually, we decided to just camp by the side of the road and took a side road where we could hide from view. We couldn't seem to get our tent pegs into the gravel. Fortunately, our tent was free-standing, and we could quickly jump in our sleeping bags. We slept reasonably well, considering the circumstances.