Day 18, Belfort to Mulhouse - 59 kilometers
Route conditions: some small uphill sections when leaving Belfort and then downhill or flat riding on low traffic country roads and canal path. Directions: Head east on D13 when leaving Belfort passing through Vezelois to Brebotte. Turn northeast on the D35 from Brebotte towards Montreux and to the canal tow path.
We were on our own as far as planning a route between Belfort and Mulhouse. We had no information on what type of country we'd be riding through or the character of the landscape. I looked closely at our Michelin map. I saw a canal to the east of Belfort and then I noticed another thing, a thin red line ran alongside the canal from the small village of Montreux all the way to Mulhouse. Was this a paved canal tow path? It was my hunch that it was although I saw nothing in the map's legend to indicate it. Montreux was almost due east of Belfort and only about 10 kilometers away but almost 90 degrees from the direction we wanted to go. We decided to follow our instincts and head for Montreux and the canal.
We actually started out early for a change and were on the road by 8:30 and were greeted by clear skies and no wind. The route we chose took us east out of town and uphill for a short ways. As we started up a steeper portion of a rather small hill we blew the chain on the tandem. I looked and saw that one of the rivets had failed and a link separated. I took out the broken link and shorted the chain by one link and repaired the chain with a link kit. The repair only took a few minutes and we were on our way again.
After climbing a few small hills the road angled downhill, we almost coasted the four remaining kilometers down to the canal where we found a dirt tow path. I still had my hopes though since the red line on the map did not start until Montreux. We rode along the small country road along side the canal until, just south of Montreux, the canal turned to a paved surface. We were also the beneficiaries of some additional good fortune, the wind came around and was at our backs and the canal was going down the hill meaning flat riding with a downhill at every lock. We rode the rest of the way to Mulhouse at a breakneck pace of over 25 k an hour.
The canal path took us into the middle of Mulhouse where we saw signs to the old village. A left turn and in less than a kilometer, we were in the old section of Mulhouse in a pedestrian only area and directly in front of a McDonalds. Roxcie may be a precocious 12 year old but to any 12 year old, McDonalds means "home cooking". We gave in and started to chain the bikes to a metal ring protecting one of the trees on the mall when one of the pedestrians advised us that if we went just around the corner we would find a bike parking lot with free security. We walked our bikes as instructed to find a parking lot with space for about 100 bikes and a small house with two young people in it. They told us to pick out a space and tell them the number and they'd issue us a parking receipt. They would be manning the lot until 7:30. We chained up the bikes, panniers and all and spent the day walking the old town, admiring the sights. Of course, first we had to return to Mickey D's for lunch.
We returned to the bikes at 5:30 and rode to the hostel, about 2 kilometers from the old town. It appeared to be almost new and very clean. We checked in and unloaded all our stuff and relaxed for a while and then I took a walk to scout for somewhere to have dinner. I found a small neighborhood brasserie about three blocks from the hostel, asked the waitress if they'd be serving about 8:00. She said yes and the menu included steak and fries.
I returned and told the girls. They cleaned up and we walked back. The lady showed us to a table and she and Jeanette discussed the menu. We were given several choices and we all picked potato salad as a starter with some sliced cold cuts on the side. In about ten minutes time we were brought three huge plates of potato salad, the salad filled the plate and was piled almost five inches high. Roxcie and I looked at Jeanette. She said that she wasn't sure but thought the lady said that they were out of everything but potato salad. We were hungry so we started eating, not thrilled at the idea of a potato salad dinner. Just as we started to dig in, the waitress walked out with two plates of steak and fries and then more of them as guests arrived. We laughed at ourselves and ate what we could. The three piles of potato salad and drinks cost over E30.
Accommodations and recommendations: