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Journal for 1-06-2007 : Seltz

Rained all night, heavily at times, and with wind, so even though my bike was under the cover of the tarp, it still got soaked. Rediscovered the benefits of scotch guard on panniers, or more accurately the foolishness of *not* doing this :-).

I think I also discovered why the French eat snails. They were all over my tent this morning.

Ride started off OK (but rainy), but I quickly had navigation difficulties. My suggested route maps are in German, and use street names rather than the French preferred route numbers. This route is also covered by the "Rhine Veloroute", essentially a (mostly) bike path parallelling my route.

I couldn't find the road I was looking for, but I came across the veloroute and a sign pointing me to my next town. I got there, and the Veloroute disappeared (as it often does in towns), and my maps looked nothing like the town. I eventually found a "carte d'ville" (town map, often on signs in France) and learned I'd arrived at Vogelrun, not Volgasheim. A lot of towns have very similar names here, like Marckensheim and Mackenheim etc.

My suggested route guide had a solution to my problem, involving a road which no longer exists.

I eventually found my route (maybe) and got back to Volgelsheim, on a road I thought should be the D120, but was signed the d12.

At the next town I could not find any street names at the intersection I needed. I consulted the chart d'ville, found my road, and on the outskirts of town saw a road name sign conflicting with my map *and* the chart d'ville. The road immediately forked with no indication which way I should go.

So in frustration, and working on the usually reliable theory that every road in France *must* go somewhere, picked a road that looked like it went in roughly the right direction and took it. The choice eventually crossed the veloroute, so I switched to this, hoping to get to a town on my route.

After some nice easy cycling I did arrive at a town. I found a veloroute sign pointing one way to a town I thought I'd already been through, and another to the town I started from 2hrs ago (1.5hrs riding, 30min scratching my head) and the disturbing distance indicator: 5km. How could I have ridden 35km and be only 5ks from where I started?

In desperation I asked someone where I was, and they picked out a town on my map that was indeed only 5km from where I started. With solid cloud cover and ubiquitous pancake flat terrain, there is no way to tell which direction I'm cycling. I'd clearly turned left rather than right somewhere, and cycled back along the veloroute the wrong way.

Heading back along the veloroute the way I'd just came I wondered what went wrong. While it still takes a great deal of stupidity to mistake left and right, in a country where they drive on the wrong side of the road it's easier than you'd think. For the first few days I'm constantly mentally transposing left to right, clearly also at times I'm not supposed to.

After this disaster I decided I'd follow the veloroute religiously, no matter how indirect or illogical it's route might be. This worked till I reached the next town, where I lost the route in a maze of back streets, found it again, and lost it at a roundabout with no signs and a choice of only left or right. This time I chose right :-). A few ks on a busy main road (with no more veloroute signs) had me at a set of traffic lights. The main road had a sign pointing to the next town, and to Strasbourg, so this *must* be the right direction. Plan C (or D or E), follow the main road.

This worked until I reached the next town. It was the *same* town just 5km from where I'd started! I'd now been riding 3hrs to go 5km.

Thanks to a "welcome to this town" sign on the main road (but not the veloroute), I realised I was not 5km from where I started at all. The veloroute sign was referring to a town with an almost identical name (the silent z is placed differently). And the person I'd asked for help had pointed to the wrong spot on my map which really was 5km from where I started!

Followed the main road (which is a lovely quiet French road) to Boofzheim where I somehow found a supermarket for a major stock up. Food shopping in France is heaven. 300g of delicious Bree style cheese: 0.69 Euro. (about $1 Aussie), for something that would be $6 in Australia and only half as good. Made myself a massive Bree baguette, and munched on it till short enough to fit in my panniers.

Back on the veloroute along the Rhine-Rhone canal. No nav problems here, just fast straight road right into the centre of Strasbourg.

Central Strasbourg loverly. Paris on water. Too much rain to photograph properly though.

In trying to avoid 15km of dirt road on my recommended route, I lost for over an hour in la Wantzenau. Plus I got bucketed on by a thunder storm I could no longer outrun. Refound the veloroute while looking for a place to shelter.

Another navigation mistake (missed an unsigned right hand turn at a roundabout) left me on a major highway. Stopped at a bike shop to ask directions. They'd never heard of the Rhine veloroute. With a bad combination of French, English, German, my maps and their (limited) local knowledge I was directed on a back road to Offendorf. I followed the signs to Offendorf, but instead of a nice quiet French country lane, they lead me to a freeway entrance. I had to stay on a pretty busy narrow main road (safe, just about as much fun as getting lost in a foreign country) to reach the next town on my preferred route. This nav error turned out to be a short cut!

Great fast riding once finally on the Rhine levy's service road. Very pretty too. The levy was quite ugly, but the flood planes to the left were a totally undeveloped combination of lakes and bush.

'Route Barrre' deviation sign brought that to a shuddering halt. The temporary alternate bike route was extremely well marked (much better than the veloroute proper) and lead me right into Beinheim. This would have been good except Beinheim was not on any of my routes.

Main road shortcut to Seltz township, to find the campground located 2km by the river, and the veloroute.

Most of the town names here in the Rheinland are German, and many/most of the locals speak German as their native language, some not speaking much French at all. But all the signs are clearly required to be in French (remind you of anywhere?), which can look quite out of place. "rue de Shultz" etc.

I've met very few francophones here. The standard greeting is "bonjour", but in the shops when they hear me struggling to get my French phrases out, they immediately switch to German. I asked a teenage girl for directions (in French), she answered in German, then realised her faux pas and repeated them in French. And the older people I spoke to only spoke German. The architecture is more German than French too, not that there is that much difference.

And finally, the campground I'm in is clearly German owned and run. The toilets have seats and paper.

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