Beaver Creek Spring Skiing

Thursday

Rachael and Madison flew first-class, using Jeff’s frequent flyer miles, from Pittsburgh to Denver on Thursday, April 30, 2011. At the same time, Jeff was in the air, flying from Newark, NJ. They met up without incident in the B Concourse of the Denver International Airport, and quickly headed out to rent a 4-wheel drive Yukon and head west.

The drive turned out to be not so easy. Loveland Pass was a mess, with avalanche controls shutting down traffic for almost an hour. The 2-hour expected drive took about 4 hours. But, we will made it in time to hit the slopes!

We started skiing at 2pm in Arrowhead Village, taking advantage of Dial-A-Ride to get to the slopes quickly. We ended up skiing over 10,000 vertical feet, including Arrowhead Village, Bachelor’s Gulch, and Beaver Creek. We ended the day with a great meal at Blue Moose Pizza. It was a beautiful, sunny day at Beaver Creek, while the passes were nasty, wet and snowy.

After finishing skiing, we walked over to the park in Edwards. The ski was amazing, with the red of the sun tinting the entire valley a surreal color.

 

Sunset from Edwards over Vail

Friday

We got up and headed out to Walmart to buy food for breakfast. I cooked chorizo and eggs and made breakfast fajitas. It was good and hit the spot.

Today, we took our time, and didn’t get started skiing until almost 1130am. This time, we simply drove up to Arrowhead Village, since no one was here. We got over 14,000 vertical feet in by skiing Arrowhead, Bachelor’s Gulch and all over Beaver Creek. There was never a single wait in a lift line – quite a bit different than over Christmas, eh?

Girls at Arrowhead

The sun was incredible and the sky was a perfect blue. Although the morning started overcast, the sun broke through before we ever hit the lifts, and we all got sun burnt.

We ate a great lunch in the open-air bar at Red Tail Camp. We ate Epic Burgers and enjoyed the heat of the sun and the incredible brightness of the snow and sky.

Red Tail Camp

Eventually, the hot sun prevailed and the snow got sticky. It is amazing, flying down in a tucked position, and all of a sudden – STOPPPP. You almost fly out of your skies in an end-o. It actually hurts your legs quite a bit. So, once this happened, we stopped skiing and headed back down.

Saturday

Ok – this was the perfect day. We started skiing at 930am, and got over 10,000 vertical feet in in just about 8 runs, all at Arrowhead Village on Little Brave. It was the weather that made today perfect – the temperature at the bottom of Arrowhead was 73F by noon. It was incredible – who’s ever heard of skiing in 70 degree temps? Incredible.

Rachael and Madison Top

We took a break around noon, and ate at the base of Arrowhead Village. The girls went out for another run after lunch, while I watched their coats. The snow had turned sticky, and that was the end of our skiing today.

Jeff Arrowhead

However, we had an action packed afternoon and evening. First, we sat outside on the deck overlooking the Eagle River and read books and enjoyed the heat. Next, we walked over to the Edward’s Park again, and watched soccer games. Finally, we went to the Country Club of the Rockies and had an amazing dinner. Then, we shopped in Beaver Creek Village.

Ski House Exterior

Arrowhead Village 73F

Published in: on April 3, 2011 at 10:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Riding in the Rockies

We flew into Denver separately…the family flew in direct from Cleveland, and I flew from Philadelphia. We met up at the Ski House in Beaver Creek on Thursday night, June 17, 2010. The “Great Riding Vacation of 2010” started the very next morning. I got up, hopped on the bike, and rode from the Ski House (in Beaver Creek) to the top of Vail Pass and back. This was a 53-mile long ride climbing almost 3,500 vertical. I rode smoothly, and didn’t really hit it too hard. However, I had to fight a headwind back the whole way, and my legs definitely felt it later that day!

Published in: on December 31, 2010 at 3:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Beaver Creek – Christmas Vacation 2010

Beaver Creek Trail Map

December 22, 2010.

 

 

I take an early flight from Dallas (where I’ve been working since October) to Eagle-Vail. I am very surprised upon landing to see no snow at all around the Vail airport. The wicked “snow riding hills” on the road into the airport and completely bare, uncovered by snow. Where exactly did the 24 inches of snow that supposedly fell over the past 7 days fall at? After driving to the Ski House, I found more snow, but still nothing at all like I had expected.

The original vacation plan was for me to fly from DFW to Vail on December 23rd, and then Laurie and the kids (except for Branden) would fly out on Christmas Eve. I will fly back to DFW on January 4th, and Laurie and kids will fly home on the 5th. I grabbed the opportunity to fly out a day earlier! Branden is flying out on December 27th, since he wants to spend Christmas with his girlfriend.

Immediately after landing in Vail and getting a rental car, I stopped by Costco for the first (of many) stock-up trips. Since we are spending almost a full 2-weeks in Beaver Creek, we’ll need lots of supplies. I made a quick (1 hour) run through Costco and got out with only about $300 damage (a new record, at the low-side for a Costco run).

The Ski House is as beautiful as ever. It’s a magnificent design, with thick wooden beams overhead, solid-heavy planked flooring, marble countertops, stone fireplaces, and much more.

Ski House Great Room from loft above

December 23, 2010. I went straight to the Arrowhead Village ski pass office to pick up our Epic Passes. This year, the cheapest route (if you wan to call $639 per ticket cheap!) was to buy season passes for the family. Even though all the paperwork had been done online, it still took the best part of an hour to get the Epic Passes printed, and getting Emily and William 5-day Peaks Cards (also ski passes).

Epic Passes

The other big task of the day was to buy a new TV for the Ski House. I looked at Costco, but everything there was nice, but too expensive. Then, I went to Walmart this weekend and found a 55″ Vizio. It took a longgg time to get it purchased, and then…the big question…would it fit into my rental car? Luckily, it fit (with less than 1″ to spare). I was able to unload it myself, unpack it, and put it in temporary place on the kitchen table (see following pic), just in time to watch the Steelers’ game.

New 55" TV for Ski House

 

December 24, 2010. Laurie and the kids will arrive today! Laurie had to get up at 3am to make the 6am flight, and then change planes in Chicago. She’s going to be tired, since she never sleeps the night before one of these super-early flights (well, who can?). I was up most of the night talking to her (I’m 2 hour behind on Mountain Time, so it was 1am when I got up to talk to her).

Trail behind Ski House

I decided to go running this morning. The temperature was about 21F – very crisp with crystal clear blue skies above. A gorgeous, perfect morning. I decided to run on the trail behind the Ski House – which was a mistake, since it was all crusty, messed up hard snow and ice. I ran almost the whole way to Avon on the trail before taking one of the golf course bridges and coming back on the paved trail on the edge of Route 6.

I ended up running almost 3.5 miles in 37 minutes (yes, that’s how bad the trail was!). It was a hard effort, with every footstep threatening to turn an ankle, or breaking through the snow’s crust and almost losing your shoes on foot push-off. But, it was a good workout!

Eagle River

Published in: on December 24, 2010 at 7:54 am  Comments (1)  

Hotel Eibsee – MTB Germany/Austria

Last Time in Germany

Eibsee

Eibsee

The knowledge that this is the “last time” that I will be in Germany (at least as part of this contract) has made this 2-week stay much more interesting. For some things, like staying in Darmstadt in the Hotel Maritim Rhein-Main, there is only indifference. However, for riding my bike through the northern edges of the marvelous Odenwald and spending the weekend at the Hotel Eibsee…it is bittersweet. I’m happy that I’m getting to experience these wonderful places again, but sad that I won’t be seeing them again, probably for a long time.

I drove down to Garmisch-Partenkirchen from Darmstadt on Friday afternoon. The autobahns were slow, choked by a combination of “last-weekend-of-summer” traffic (including lots of RVs) and lane-closures due to road construction. However, I wasn’t in any great hurry, so I stayed relaxed. After all, it’s not like Laurie was waiting for me at the Hotel Eibsee…it was just me and a relaxing weekend away from work in the Alps. The normal 4 hour ride took about 6 hours, but once I exited the A7 at the Allgaeuer Tor (the foothills to the Alps), I started feeling great.

The verdant, rolling green pastures of the Allgaeuer hills are framed by the majestic thrust of the Alps. The paved trails/small roads are filled with MTBers and road-bikers. As I pass them, I feel a twinge of jealousy but am happy that they are out in this beautiful evening, enjoying the heat and the incredible panoramic view. The farmers are also out in force – large tractors crawling through the fields like oversized insects, performing the harvest. At every small village, I resist the urge to stop and get out of the car, and explore on foot. If I did this, I’d never get to Garmisch! But, I still want to stop…

The road weaves through beautiful countryside, each village marked by the church steeple at its center. Small shops advertise wood-carvings, farm cheeses, and vegetables. Nobody seems to be in a hurry; everyone being content to enjoy the shadows created by the almost-setting yellow sun. The hot air starts to move as a lighter, cooler breeze seems to descend from the peaks of the Alps.

Alpine Valley in Zugspitze Arena

Alpine Valley in Zugspitze Arena

At one particular bend in the road, I look ahead at the mountains, and am rewarded with a perfect view of Neuschwanstein (King Ludwig’s castle that the one in DisneyWorld is modeled after). I am still about 10 miles away, but the combination of clear air and bright sunlight allow me a view I’ve never had before. The size and majesty of the castle can be clearly seen, even from this distance. Amazing…

As I cross into Austria, the rocky Alps begin to crowd in on the road. I cross over the Lech river, flowing rapidly beside the road with its’ strange bluish-white color (due to minerals from the region).

The name “Lech Tal” (Lech Valley) on a road-sign sets my mind back about 18 years, and Laurie is in the car with me as we drive toward the Alps in the winter (from our home in Weil im Schoenbuch), looking forward to skiing over the weekend. There is a twinge of almost homesickness, for this easier, quieter time of life, before kids, back when Reagan was still in power, and all of life’s wonders were spread out before us. Everyday, we ran twice, and during these runs, we spoke of our future “dream house” and our goals. The reason that we moved to Germany was to “save up” in order to buy a single-family home in Northern Virginia. It’s interesting, looking back at these days from the other end…we have our dream house, we have our dream family, and I have a dream job. Still, it’s one misses those easier, simpler days…

Hotel Eibsee

The Hotel Eibsee is probably our (Laurie and my) favorite spot on the planet. When we lived in Germany from ’88-’91, we found this enchanting and romantic place and spent many weekends here. We’d run the 8+km around the crystal clear Eibsee (Eib Lake), enjoying the cool air that only can be experienced in the high mountains. The elevation at the Eibsee is 1,000 meters (3,000+ feet). Zugspitze stands towering over the valley from 3,000 meters (almost 10,000 feet) at its peak. This height-differential of 6,000+ feet is dramatic…it visually appears to be a straight-cliff up to the mountaineous peak.

Hotel Eibsee with Zugspitze

Hotel Eibsee with Zugspitze

I arrive at the Hotel Eibsee late Friday evening, with the sun already set behind the mountains. However, the sun was still striking the Zugspitze peaks, and the eery red-colored rocks of the mountains were partially obscured by low-lying clouds. It was a beautiful sight. But, all I can think was that I wish Laurie and the kids were here this weekend to experience it, too.

Zugspitze at Sunset, Blanketed in Clouds

Zugspitze at Sunset, Blanketed in Clouds

I eat dinner in the wonderful Hotel Eibsee restaurant, enjoying the view from the outside deck, which overlooks the lake. The restaurant is as full as I’ve ever seen – I guess mostly due to the fact that this is the last weekend of the summer, plus every radio announcer in the region had been saying “go outside this weekend, this will be the best weather of the summer”. The trout tartar appetizer and lamb dinner were outstanding.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen

I slept in a bit Saturday morning, and decided to head into the city of Garmisch-Partenkirchen before riding my MTB. I got into GAP (short for Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it’s on their license plates here) about 11am, and casually walked up and down its quaint, packed streets. The beautiful painted buildings with their magnificent thick-beam and stucco construction sit beneath soaring mountains literally in every direction. Everywhere one looks, it is like a picture-perfect postcard. Even the Germans dress the part – men wearing lederhosen and stately jackets. The women wear traditional dresses while they ride high tech MTBs.

Postcard Perfect

Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Postcard Perfect

 After browsing shops and wandering up and down the streets, I sit down outside at the Alpenhotel, under yellow umbrellas. This is the same place that Laurie, Rachael, William and I ate about a month ago. I ordered the Kaesespaetzle (cheese melted on Swabian noodles) and ate it slowly. I watched the mix of people – from the older stately gentleman wearing a Trachtensakko (traditional Bavarian jacket) to the tattoo and pierced goth teens dressed in all black. I also soak in the view of traditional painted storefronts, wondering how American gets by with its antiseptic buildings and culture?

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Painted Storefronts

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Painted Storefronts

Mountain Biking

Let me put some emphasis on the word “Mountain” in Mountain Bike (MTB). After all, I’m about to do over 6,000 feet vertical on mostly gravel mountain trails ranging from a mere 4% to a lung- and leg-scorching 18%. I start at about 1pm from the Hotel Eibsee and head straight up the mountain trail. I should’ve warmed up on the flat around the lake, I think, as my hamstrings complain on the start of the climb.

Jeff (me) with Mountain Bike above Eibsee

Jeff (me) with Mountain Bike above Eibsee

The climb is unrelentant, and since I’ve done this exact same climb 5 times before, I know that I’m facing between 65-75 minutes of solid climb, depending on how fast I go. As I drop down into lower and lower gears on this yellow Wheeler soft-tail MTB, I hope that my legs will loosen up as the minutes tick by. I tell myself that after only 25 minutes, there will be an overlook where I can take some pics of the Seilbahn (Cable Car from Eibsee to the Zugspitze peak) and the beautiful Eibsee sitting far below.

Overlooking Eibsee from MTB

Overlooking Eibsee from MTB

After stopping just long enough to grab a drink (the hill’s too steep for me to drink and ride at the same time!) and take a few pics, I jump back on the bike and head uphill again. I’m feeling better now, and the legs aren’t complaining anymore. The next 20 minutes I’m “in the zone” of climbing,  and feeling good. I catch another couple bikers on the way up, right before the section where I have to carry my bike. You could call it single track, but it’s way too steep and difficult (roots, mud, etc.) for me to climb. Then, there’s one more 10 minute push to the top.

Once at the top, I decide to turn left instead of right, and go visit the Hochthoerle-Huette (HH). After a few short minutes of steep downhill, I find that the HH is a restaurant perched near the top of this mountain, sitting right below the stark, steep rocky barren slopes of the Zugspitze. I take some pics, and wait until tomorrow to stop and eat/drink there.

Hochtoerle-Huette Sign

Hochtoerle-Huette Sign

 

Hochtoerle-Huette

Hochthoerle-Huette

The HH sits at almost 1 mile above sea-level, and it filled with bikers and hikers. I notice that there is a paved road leading up to the HH, so I dive down this road toward Ehrwald, Austria, and take the switchback turns with a lot of caution, since many corners are covered with loose gravel. I think to myself, “I hope that this road meets the other trail right above Ehrwald”, and sure enough, it does. Whew. I am not lost!

View of Zugspite from Ehrwald, Austria

View of Zugspite from Ehrwald, Austria

This is a hard descent, made harder by the fact that my rental MTB seems to not really have a functioning rear brake and the front one seems to only “catch” on certain parts of the front wheel. The noise, “chh…chh…chh…chh”, accompanies me along with the whine of big, fat MTB wheels on pavement. Finally, at the bottom, I stop at my normal Tankstelle (gas station) and buy a Coke. I drink half of it, and put the bottle into my back pocket for drinking later.

View of Lermoos, Austria from Ehrwald

View of Lermoos, Austria from Ehrwald

The view from Ehwrald is amazing in all directions. Of course, Zugspitze towers over everything and the Tyrolian Cable Car is continually running, taking people from here to the top of the mountain. There are other almost-as-imposing mountain peaks, which surround the verdant green of the Austrian valley. No wonder Putzi misses her homeland (an Austrian ex-part, Olympian who has a great store in New Castle, PA USA). 

Hotel in Ehrwald at Base of Tyroler Cable Car to Zugspitze

Hotel in Ehrwald at Base of Tyroler Cable Car to Zugspitze

 

Austrian Flowers on Hotel in Ehrwald

Austrian Flowers on Hotel in Ehrwald

Now, I head back towards Germany and Garmisch-Partenkirchen through the valley. Here’s what I am absolutely dying for my road bike. I would love to cruise on the roads with the mountain-side stream roaring beside me, on this slightly downhill stretch for about 20km or so. However, I’m stuck on the fat tires and riding on a gravel road that weaves back and forth across the valley floor. It passes through a covered bridge, and then I see the sign for “D” – Deutschland. I’m back in Germany. Not long until the right turn back towards Eibsee.

I now start the gradual climb back towards Grainau. This part is easy, and almost lulls me into a false sense of thinking “I can make this easy” back to Eibsee. But, sure enough, with just 3 km to go in this ride, the slope kicks up to 10%, then 15%, then even more. I take a hiking trail which is covered by shade, but I’m still sweating heavily as I climb at a paltry 5mph, trying not to fall over, and struggling to not stand up to apply more torque to the pedals, and then have my rear wheel peel out.

Finally, I make it to the top, and the welcoming site of the Eibsee greets me. It’s taken just under 4 hours this time, and I’m glad to be done. I take the front wheel off my bike, put the bike into the back of the little Mercedes-Benz B180 that I got from Sixt Car Rental this time. Once again, I think, “if only others could see what my eyes have seen today”.

Jeff in front of Zugspitze at 6,000 ft above sea level

Jeff in front of Zugspitze at 6,000 ft above sea level

Published in: on September 1, 2008 at 4:43 pm  Comments (1)  

Hard MTB Ride Darmstadt on 8/10

MTB Ride – 3 Hrs in Darmstadt/Gernsheim

The first thing I did today was to ride my “bad” bike over to Velocity and switch it for the “good” MTB. The Pogo was back from being rented, and wow…it was 100% easier to ride fast on this bike. The other “bad’ one was just plain painful.

Jeff on Beach at Mallorca - has nothing to do with this post!

Jeff on Beach at Mallorca - has nothing to do with this post!

I headed immediately out toward the Odenwald. I followed the B3, and then accidentally got kicked onto the berm of the B3…not fun. Riding on the berm of basically an interstate with a speed limit of 100km. I rode my ass off, trying to get through this section as quickly as possible. So, I probably did about 10km at my max.

After getting off the B3, I could see that rain was falling on the Odenwald, right near the Auerbach Schloss. So, I decided to head more west, and go toward Gernsheim and the Rhein River. As I rode, I could see the rain was chasing me from the south, but I was determined to beat it to the Rhein. Well, I lost this battle just outside the outskirts of Gernsheim. When the wind started blowing raindrops hard enough to sting, I turned around and headed back (with the wind).

Almost immediately, I started feeling weak. At first, I figured it was just the result of having ridden an all-out 10km max effort, and then followed it up with some more really hard riding. But, it got worse quickly. I as 1.5 hours into my ride,  with another 1+ hrs to go to get back to the hotel, and I was feeling very bad. I kept thinking that perhaps I was bonking, since I didn’t have a waterbottle with me, but I knew deep inside that it was worse than that.

I was getting sick (like virus/flu sick) and I still had 1 hour (of hard pedaling) to get back to the hotel, and it was no longer possible for me to pedal hard. So, I slowed down, and started going into survival mode. It seemed like 3 hours instead of just over 1 hour, but I did make it back to the hotel. And, it rained the entire way. The wind kept shifting, so I never really truly found a true tailwind.

I finished almost 3 hours on the bike, and almost didn’t have enough energy to breakdown the bike and put it in the trunk of the rental Mercedes. But, I made it. Then, it was a struggle to walk to the elevator…I knew things were bad. Finally, I got to the room, stripped off the cold, wet clothes, and stood under the hot shower for literally 1 hour.

I ended up staying sick for the next day or two. Darn.

Published in: on August 10, 2008 at 3:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Auerbach, Alsbach, Frankenstein – Amazing

Three Castles in One Day

 

View from Auerbach Schloss

View from Auerbach Schloss

Jeff (me) drinking wine at Weingut Steinmueller, Bensheim

Jeff (me) drinking wine at Weingut Steinmueller, Bensheim

MTB Ride in Morning

After having been in the office until about 8pm (or later) each day this week, I was so eager to go rent a bike and ride outside. In fact, I actually went out and ran yesterday evening, just before dark, since I needed some type of physical activity and to breathe fresh air (not in an office!).

T-Mobile forest is still beautiful

T-Mobile forest is still beautiful

I went to Velocity and rented a mountainbike. However, they didn’t have my “normal” bike, so I had to settle for another. This ended up being a not-so-good experience. I started riding around 11am, and headed out through T-Mobile forest, and then down to Pfungstadt. Then, I headed over to Jugenheim, and really started to notice problems with the bike. First, the front tire was low on air, and second, both front and rear wheels were both slightly out of true, and the rear brake was worn down way too much, AND the rear shifter would work sometimes unless one pushed upward as well as inward to shift.

The best part of this ride was finding that blackberries are in full bloom (everywhere) in Germany! I stopped and spent about 5 minutes picking and eating blackberries in a remote part of the forest along a train tracks near Pfungstadt. It was a HUGE patch – as big as I’ve ever seen in the wild.

Blackberries near Pfungstadt

Blackberries near Pfungstadt

Mountain bike with problems, while picking blackberries

Mountain bike with problems, while picking blackberries

I stopped at a Tankstelle (service station) and found a free tire/air pump. In about 2 secs, I had me front tire filled up. Then, I decided to top off the rear tire too, since it was also feeling soft. However, this was a BIG mistake. The rear tire had a strange adapter on it, and when I unscrewed it, the whole tire went flat! I played with it for about 15 mins, and finally managed to fill it back to about 75% full.

I started heading toward Alsbach, but the bike felt so unresponsive, and I began to worry that the rear tire was going to flat, that I turned around and limped back to home (actually, to the Maritim Rhein-Main Hotel in Darmstadt).

Cool House near Jugenheim

Cool House near Jugenheim

Going Exploring

My goal for the morning’s MTB ride had been to make it to Auerbach, to see the “better” castle (better than Alsbach’s, as told to me by a very nice person). However, I never made it due to mechanical issues. So, I decided to just head out and start driving by car down along Naturpark Odenwald, and explore the small villages that way.

FRANKENSTEIN’S CASTLE – Castle #1

Frankenstein's Castle!

Frankenstein's Castle!

My first discovery was that Burg Frankenstein (Frankenstein’s Castle) was only a few minutes away from my hotel! Burg Frankenstein is a castle about 5km south of Darmstadt, and sits on top of a hill near the Naturpark Odenwald. There is actually a Naturpark built around the castle. The road up the castle is very windy and climbs quite a bit. It would be a great climb on a road bicycle…not too steep and not too long, but a great workout.

The Frankenstein’s built this castle in 1250 (YES, I said 1250!) by Konrad Reiz von Breuberg. Today, two towers, a chapel, and some ruined walls remain of the original castle, which was a much bigger fortress. It is believed that one of the castle’s inhabitants used to steal dead bodies for the purpose of studying anatomy, and that perhaps Mary Shelley (who wrote “Frankenstein”), was influenced by this legend. Who knows? All I know is that someone was getting married there while I visited, and it wasn’t scary in the slightest.

It was an absolutely beautiful day – temps in the low 70s, blue skies punctuated by puffy white clouds, and long shadows being thrown in the late afternoon sun. Here are some more pics from this fabulous location:

Fortress wall at Burg Frankenstein

Fortress wall at Burg Frankenstein

Tower at Burg Frankenstein

Tower at Burg Frankenstein

Amazing view over Darmstadt/Frankfurt from Tower at Burg Frankenstein

Amazing view over Darmstadt/Frankfurt from Tower at Burg Frankenstein

I have to say that I was really enjoying myself this afternoon – I think it was the combination of having been penned up in an office for the past several days, and the wonderful fall-like weather. I wish that Alyssa had been here with me (she wanted to come with me to Germany this week, but the rigors of work for Go-Live would’ve made most of her stay here boring).

Alsbach Schloss – Castle #2 

Although I have ridden to Alsbach Schloss several times on my MTB, I still drove up and visited again. I’ll only include one picture here, since I have shown pictures in my blog before. I only spent about 15 minutes here, and then headed out to Auerbach. 

Alsbach Schloss

Alsbach Schloss

Auerbach Schloss – Castle #3 (and most amazing)

View from Tower at Auerbach Schloss - Amazing

View from Tower at Auerbach Schloss - Amazing

I was amazed that a wonderful castle like Auerbach Schloss was so close to my hotel (which I’ve spent months in here in Darmstadt), and I’ve never been there before. It was beautiful. The pics that I’m including don’t do justice to its magnificence. Plus, there is a great restaurant in the castle, and one can shoot a cross-bow or throw an axe. There’s even a jousting lane!

The entrance to Auerbach Schloss is beautiful

The entrance to Auerbach Schloss is beautiful

Restaurant at Auerbach Schloss, as seen from entrance

Restaurant at Auerbach Schloss, as seen from entrance

Upon entering the castle, you are facing a beautiful building attached to a wonderful restaurant (on the left side). The castle towers rise majestically on your right – there are two completely intact towers which one can climb. I walked around the lower portion of the castle, inside the outer fortress walls, but outside of the inner walls. I found a tent where a group of period-dressed people were showing off cross-bows and other knight’s weapons. It looked fun! There were also several cool implements and a large round grill.

Knights Weapons Display

Knights Weapons Display

 Then, I climbed the steps and entered the inner part of the castle. I climbed the steps up to the top of one of the towers, and the 360 degree views were incredible. The rolling green hills of the Odenwald were on two sides, and the outstretched flat valleys were on the others.

Beautiful view of countryside around Auerbach Schloss

Beautiful view of countryside around Auerbach Schloss

Valleys below Auerbach Schloos

Valleys below Auerbach Schloss

After spending about an hour in theh castle, and taking some neat videos (for everyone at home to watch), I left down starting driving down. Now, the interesting thing is that the road up is one-way and another road down is one-way. So, at the bottom, I had to drive through Bensheim, which turned out to be a gorgeous little town. I quickly found a place to park and walked up and down its narrow streets.

Typical Bensheim building

Typical Bensheim building

 

The one side of the ancient cobblestone street had a small stream running down in (in an indented section of the cobblestones…really cool). There were beautiful, old German buildings all along this street. After walking up and down a few times, I found a wine cellar/store called Weingut Steinmueller. I saw a group of pretty German girls all dressed in white doing a wine-tasting there. After they left, I went in and spoke with the owner. I asked her to recommend a red wine for me, and she suggested the St-Laurent. I bought 2 bottles (only $11 each) and then she opened one and I sat down in the old courtyard with her Newfoundland dog and sipped on my wine.

Me drinking wine in courtyard of Weingut Steinmueller in Bensheim

Me drinking wine in courtyard of Weingut Steinmueller in Bensheim

The street name was called Bachgasse, and it had not only beautiful homes, but also nice restaurants, too. I ended up eating right next door to the wine cellar at a restaurant called Dorfmuehle, which means Village Mill. I was starving, and the schnitzel hit the spot. The restaurant owners had a sense of humor because when one opened the door to the WC (restrooms), it pulled a rope and it lifted something over one of the tables. Also, they interspersed hand-drawings of pigs on the menu whenever they meant schnitzel. It was fun, and I ate outside in the warm evening sun.
I ate Schnitzel at this Bensheim Restaurant

I ate Schnitzel at this Bensheim Restaurant

Flowers and stream on Bachgasse in Bensheim

Flowers and stream on Bachgasse in Bensheim

More beautiful streets

More beautiful streets

Published in: on August 9, 2008 at 6:45 pm  Comments (3)  

2 Hr Evening MTB Ride Darmstadt 7/15/08

2 Hr MTB Ride Darmstadt, Gernsheim, Seeheim

 

After working in the office all day at the dura office in Darmstadt, I couldn’t wait to get outside. I had been continually looking out at the brigh sun and the blue skies, and feeling the warm wind blowing through the open windows in our office. At around 6pm, I snuck out of the office, and…the heat from the sun felt great on my arms- it was warm, but not hot. There was a soft breeze blowing, but not too much. It was one of those perfect days.

Mountain bike (the "bad" one), while picking blackberries

Mountain bike (the

I drove the 1km back to the hotel from the office, and practically ran upstairs to my room. I changed into my garish orange Sette Nove kit, and went back down the parking garage to get my rental bike out of the rental car. Out of the dark parking garage, I rode the steep, slick cement into the sun and light. It felt … good.

Out into the brightness and heat I pedaled. I quickly covered the first 10 minutes past the Polizei office and the T-Mobile forest.

T-Mobile forest is still beautiful

T-Mobile forest is still beautiful

My first decision – stay in the forest, or head out across the open fields? The sun on my shoulders made that choice easy – stay in the sun as long as possible, and as much as possible. I pedaled towards Gernsheim. It was the right choice – I just enjoyed the warm wind, the hot sun, and the cranking of the pedals. As I made it to the outskirts of Gernsheim, I decided to try to head south and go towards the Alsbach Schloss. There is a nice trail alongside the road, and I followed it, turning my cadence up higher and higher, still feeling very good.

One of the highligts of this ride was when I passed 2 guys on time-trial bikes and skinsuits and in full TT positions! I came off of a small side trail and started riding from Gernsheim towards Alsbach alongside a perfectly smooth road on the berm. It was with the wind, and slightly downhill, and I was beginning to worry about beating the sunset home, so … I upped the cadence, the gears, and my speed. I didn’t really pay attention to the 2 bikers in front of me until I went past them, and noticed first that they were on road bikes, and then realized they were on TT bikes! Wow, now that is embarrasing…getting pass by a guy on a softail MTB with running shoes and regular pedals on.

Both of them came after me immediately. One passed me, and as I jumped into his draft, the second guy got into my draft. After about 500 meters, I couldn’t stay with #1, so I left go. Now, #2 was still trying to draft off of me, so I zigged and zagged, making it impossible for him to do so :).

Pumpkins or Zucchini?

Pumpkins or Zucchini?

After this hard effort, I ended up slowing down and just enjoying the rest of the ride at an easier, comfortable pace. All-in-all, it was a great 50+km ride and 2+ hours.

Published in: on July 15, 2008 at 4:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Alyssa’s Surgery – July 14, 2008

Well, today was the big day. Alyssa went in for jaw surgery. She was a “real trooper”, and never complained or whined, but took this whole experience of braces, multiple doctor visits in Pittsburgh, etc. in stride. I am very proud of her.

Alyssa is crazy, too. She went with her grandmother’s church to the island of Trinidad for an entire week, working a Vacation Bible School in a foreign country! There was no air conditioning, etc. And, she did and missed out on going to Hilton Head Island with us, and it was the week before her surgery. Who would’ve blamed her for taking it easy…but she didn’t.

The 2 days before her surgery were “challenging”. She said she pulled an all-nighter with her cousins and friends in Trinidad on the last night there. Then, once she arrived in Miami, she found that her flight was delayed…delayed…canceled. So, she had to spend the night in Miami. After only 4 hours sleep, she was on a flight to Dallas (why Dallas? she as going to Pittsburgh!).

Anyway, she survived, and did great during the entire surgery and is recovering at home now.

Published in: on July 14, 2008 at 4:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

2Hr 45Min MTB Ride in Darmstadt on July 13, 2008

Darmstadt to Alsbach to Gernsheim Loop

 

I rode basically the reverse of the loop that I did yesterday. But, the overall time was faster but almost the same distance was covered. I rode for about 2hr 45min and covered about 63km.

I headed out through the T-Mobile forest, and then followed the bike trail through the next forest down to the village of Pfungstadt. There, I found the Pfungstaedter Braeuri (local brewery)…

Pfungstaeder Braueri

Pfungstaeder Braueri

Some other neat pics from Pfungstadt follow…

Cool German home in Pfungstadt

Cool German home in Pfungstadt

Old farm in Pfungstadt

Old farm in Pfungstadt

 

Near the middle of Pfungstadt, I hung a left and went through the forest again. The forest trail was much rougher here, covered with larger stones and pine cones, as you can see in the following pic:

Rough trail

Rough trail

Then, the trail turned and was paved, beside a small road. As you can see in the following pics, this is the trail on the road. Note: the “weight limit” sign on the bridges Germany shows not only weight limits for trucks, but also for tanks!

Bridge Weight Limit Sign for Trucks AND Tanks!

Bridge Weight Limit Sign for Trucks AND Tanks!

Trail alongside road

Trail alongside road

 At the end of this trail, I hit the village of Seeheim-Jugenheim. The bike trail winds through this large village, and there are many beautiful buildings, including this church:

Church in Seeheim-Jugenheim

Church in Seeheim-Jugenheim

I was in familiar territory once again, with just a couple kms until I hit Alsbach. After crossing some open agricultural fields, I hit the village of Alsbach, and looked for the signs to the Alsbach Schloss. Note that the sign shows the climb is 1.7km long as 7%:

Signs for Alsbach Schloss

Signs for Alsbach Schloss

I started the climb, and you can see from the following pic that the climb  starts on a small road that winds uphill through the village:

Alsbach Climb in Village

Alsbach Climb in Village

My legs were a bit fried from yesterday, so I wasn’t able to ride nearly as hard up the climb today as yesterday. Luckily, no one else was climbing, so I didn’t get beat by anybody!

Plus, it was much cooler today. Yesterday’s climb was pretty hot, in spite of the climb moving into the shade of the forest and the valley, as can be seen in the following pic:

 

 

 

Alsbach Schloss climb - forest section

Alsbach Schloss climb - forest section

Once at the top, I took some video and pics, then started right back down.

Alsbach Schloss

Alsbach SchlossThe village of Alsbach is very pretty, as you can see from the following pics:Alsbach - houseAlsbach Kirche

 After leaving Alsbach, I headed due north up to Gernsheim. The first intermediate village I came to was caleld Alsbach-Haehnlein. I stopped at a Tankstelle (gas station) and drank a Coke. I didn’t have a water bottle with me, so this was my only drink of the ride. Luckily, it was pretty cool out.

Then, I made it to Gernsheim, and decided to try (once again) to find the Rhein Ferry. I FOUND IT this time! I guess if I had just followed the signs last time, I would’ve found it. The route was very pretty to get to the Rhein…
Gernsheim Colorful Homes

Gernsheim Colorful HomesGernsheim HomeGernsheim Building for sale

It was neat to see the Rhein Ferry in operation. I drove to the edge of the Rhein River just as the cars started loading. I took a video of the whole operation. Cars drive onto a rather small, flat boat and park in 3 lanes. Bicycles and people with strollers simply walk on. The ferry didn’t blow a horn or anything, it just left the shore and went across the other shore – which was about 100 meters. The Rhein, at this point, is about 1/3 of the size of the Ohio River, I’d estimate.
Rhein Faehre

Rhein FaehreRhein RiverCafe on Rhein River near FerryRhein Harbor

Here’s one more cool restaurant/building in Gernsheim…
Cool Restaurant in Gernsheim, about 1km from Rhein River

Cool Restaurant in Gernsheim, about 1km from Rhein River

After leaving Gernsheim, I headed back to Darmstadt, which is about 20km, and rode very hard. That’s it for today.
Published in: on July 13, 2008 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

3+ Hr MTB Ride Darmstadt, Gernsheim, Alsbach on July 12, 2008

Big Loop from Maritim Rhein-Main Hotel

Summary: Rode from my hotel in Darmstadt out to Gernsheim (same as I did 2 days ago), but then headed over to Alsbach and climbed the 7% incline to the castle, then followed the signs back to Darmstadt, getting lost several times.

I rode 3hrs 15mins and covered about 65Km. For the first hour of the ride (from Darmstadt to Gernsheim), there was a terrific headwind that kept my average speed at about 22kph.

I started, as usual, through the T-Mobile forest, as I call it. The trail is deep in the forest, as you can see from the following picture:

Forest trail near T-Mobile Allee

Forest trail near T-Mobile Allee

 Then, I headed due west, more or less, and headed out across mainly dead-flat agricultural fields. There were apple trees, lots of spargel (asparagus) which resembled a forest since they left them grow to seed, plenty of flowers, and one strange thing…it smelled like wild onions. There were several fields, planted in double rows that almost looked like long grass, but were some type of onion. A large machine came and “mowed” the field, sucking up the “onions” as it went along. There is a pic of this below:

Onions?

Onions?

I tried to find the Rhein river again, with no luck – again! So, then I started heading back to find the bike path to Alsbach, where the ancient castle on the mountain is located. Near the Gernsheim Bahnof (train station), I found some great blackberries – so, I stopped and ate a bunch of them!

Delicious Blackberries near Gernsheim Bahnhof

Delicious Blackberries near Gernsheim Bahnhof

 
Then, I headed south to Alsbach. It was just about 10km from Gernsheim, and there was a great trail alongside the road, so it was fairly easy.
 
Bike trail from Gernsheim to Alsbach

Bike trail from Gernsheim to Alsbach

I started pushing myself harder on the bike now, since I already had over 1hr of riding in and my legs were warmed up. Soon, I could see another beautiful castle – the Auerbacher Schloss (castle) on the top of a small mountain…Actually, I really thought this was the Alsbach Schloss, but a kind German told me that this was actually Auerbacher. [The next time I’m riding from Darmstadt, which will be in 2 weeks from now, I’ll go find Auerbacher!]

Alsbach Schloss on the hill

Alsbach Schloss on the hill

Alsbach is a beautiful town, as you can see from the following pic:
Cool building in outskirts of Alsbach

Cool building in village of Haehnlein

Finally, I hit the 7%, 2km climb fairly hard at the bottom, determined to climb fast to the Alsbach Schloss. There were 3 other MTBers just ahead of me. One of them just absolutely took off and accelerated away from all of us. I caught the other two, but one of those two decided to pick up the pace. He took off at a pace I couldn’t match, too. But, at least I kicked one guy’s butt as I climbed. I warmed up quite a bit, but my legs just never really felt that good on the climb. I worked it hard, and hurt, though. Here are some pics of the Alsbach Schloss:
Jeff (me) in front of Alsbach Schloss

Jeff (me) in front of Alsbach Schloss

Alsbach Schloss

Alsbach Schloss

 

After leaving Alsbach, I tried to find a “new” route back to Darmstadt. So, I followed a trail marked “R8” (not sure what that meant), that said it was about 17km back. I was not completely successful in following this trail, so I ended up in the serious forests and did one more big, but gentle climb. I did go through Seeheim, which is a beautiful little town, as you can see…
Old Building in Seeheim

Old Building in Seeheim

I had a great bike ride, and in the last 10 km, I really did some hard intervals. I am trying to make my legs and body feel some “race pace” and “race effort” so that when I get home in 1 week, I might be able to race and not get dropped in 2 seconds. I’m headed to Hochheim am Mein for a wine festival right now, and hope to get some pics and have fun there. It’s the home town of my client, Wolfgang, who heads up the Germany Mylan office.
Published in: on July 12, 2008 at 5:25 pm  Comments (1)