Trip Report: French Border

Sometimes things just don’t go as planned.  Sometimes even that statement just doesn’t do the unfortunate events the justice they duly deserve.

If you’ve spent any time here on Thrifty Travel Mama, you know I have grand ideas.  And grand ideas often lead to epic experiences.. or cosmic failures.  Well the grand idea du jour was to run to France as part of my marathon training.  This week was to be 13 miles, and the route came out to be 13.6.  I knew I’d be tired, but I hoped I could pull off the extra .6.

Ha ha ha.

If I’d only known.

The challenge in training for a marathon by yourself is coming up with routes.  They have to be safe (no running in the woods alone), they can’t be too boring (no two long runs should be the same if you can help it), they can’t be too hard (uphill the whole way will burn you out too fast), and they have to be easy enough to remember.  I use MapMyRun to chart the course, and then I write the route on a piece of paper that I pin upside down on my shirt so I can read it as I’m running.

The major problem is that the real route looks nothing like the map software.  (And, p.s. – Germany has a serious lack of street signs!)  After getting frustrated one too many times on long runs, I made Doc Sci learn the route with me the night before, so we could both make decisions if we thought we might be lost.

In reviewing our route Friday evening, I showed Doc Sci a patch of forest.  It was marked differently than other forest areas we had been to before and there was no real way through it, only around.  He switched the view to satellite and found what looked like a trail.  We agreed that he would ride ahead of me on the bike and then signal on the walkie talkie whether or not it actually went through.  Simple enough.

The forest path - open street version.

Saturday morning, he started out again by going ahead of me on the bike with the boys in the trailer.  You see, we have to give those ferocious foodies some time out of the bike cage or they get a bit restless.  And we give them snacks.  Lots. of. snacks.  Walkie in hand, I was to signal when close to our meeting point.

First mistake.. charge the walkies!  As I neared the boys, I turned on the walkie.  Beep.  Beep.  Beep.  Beeeeep.

Frazzled, I made a wrong turn but fortunately figured it out after only a quarter mile.  UNfortunately, I ripped the route map off my shirt to read it and correct my way.  I tucked it back in my running belt.  Second mistake!  I should have reattached it…

A little further on, we had difficulty finding our way through a town in which every street had the same name of the one where we were supposed to turn.  I tried to picture the map in my mind and made a guess.  It turned out to be correct.. and straight up hill.  I don’t like to walk on long runs, but it was impossible not to do so.

The next section was to be through vineyards.  I thought this was totally cool.  That is, until I realized that the paths were nothing more than tall grass smashed down by tractor wheels.  Freaky (hello, snakes!) and dangerous.  The mud tracks were hardened and very uneven.  I prayed that I wouldn’t twist an ankle six miles in to the run and have to be carried all the way back home.

After a nerve-wracking spin on a county highway with no shoulder and no sidewalk, things started to look up.  We easily found our turn and headed to the fated woods.  Though the walkies were dead, we decided that Doc Sci would still ride ahead and wait for me on the other side (to give the boys a break) or come back if the path in fact did not go through.

I had two choices.  I could go along the prescribed map route or I could follow Doc Sci and just assume it went through.  I thought the second idea was the best because if I got lost, I would be alone in the fields.  When I came to where the path was supposed to be, THREE paths stood.  Waiting for me.  You. Must. Choose.

I didn’t choose.  I screamed my husband’s name at the top of my lungs.  Again and again and again.  Fortunately, he rode up quickly on the middle one and again we were on our way.

Satellite View

The path did go through.  But to a field full of wildflowers as tall as my man’s chest.  We didn’t want to turn back so we tried going through it.  No dice.  It led nowhere.  We tried going around it.  Also no end in sight.  We tried going through the woods to the south of it.  We about ended up on the Blair Witch Project.

It would have been bad enough to try to do this with just the two of us running.  But, Doc Sci was on a bike pulling 80 pounds of kid, metal, and canvas through fields, over stumps, around in circles.  If ever I doubted this man loved me, I never will again.

We had no choice.  We had to go back and return to the map route.

I should mention that the path through the woods was full of low-lying branches of a medieval torture variety.  Fortunately, I wore my dorky old man high compression socks.  But Doc Sci’s legs and arms got sliced in the sharp tendrils.

On the way back, we noticed yet another trail.  Doc Sci decided to go down it to see if that went through.  I told him I had to save my legs and would wait for him there.  He was gone only five minutes, but I felt like I was fighting off imaginary ROUS‘s in the Fire Swamp.

As my heart palpitated waiting for a beast to strike, I decided to go over the directions.  The directions.  Where are the directions!?!  Somewhere between the last town and the fated path I was standing on, we had lost the route.  I felt faint.  Could this get any worse?

Actually, yes.

No dice on the super secret trail.  We headed back around the frustrating forest, looking for the path.  The problem was we couldn’t even see the forest on the north side because it was hidden by stalks of corn as tall as skyscrapers.  We explored several smashed grass paths (with smashed field mice and ginormous orange slugs).  Only one seemed to go through.

Can you guess?

It was none other than a path leading back to the wildflower field.  As despair set in and we started totally freaking out, we prayed.  Though we were in the middle of nowhere, Germans often appear in such places.  We prayed for one.

Doc Sci thought he had seen some people on the super secret trail.  We concluded this was our last hope.  If nothing came of it, we’d backtrack to a town and find a bus home.  How disappointing.

As I ran, I tried to remember how to say, “We’re lost” in German.  I had just learned it and hoped I could say it correctly.  The Fire Swamp path led us to a Johannisbeer (red currant) field.  Lo and behold, a half a dozen or so workers were about to go on break.

Fresh from the vine

The matron of the field spoke kindly to us and understood my pathetic German (I think).  She told us to help ourselves to some berries for the boys and come with her.  She lumbered onto her bike, and we followed this stout woman through the rows of vines to her farm house.  I wanted to keep running, but Doc Sci convinced me to accept her hospitality.

This blessed lady gave us water and fresh Johannisbeer juice (and more berries to take with us).  And a map.  Oh thank God for that map!  We even somewhat understood her verbal directions.

Unexpected kindness

As we neared the end of our route and the hope that we might actually make it to our goal, the bike chain broke.  Haha, seriously?  Doc Sci tried to fix it, but that proved impossible with no tools and no other bikes around to help figure out just exactly how the chain is to be threaded.

(Almost) the end of the road.

Thank God this happened only a mile or so away from our goal.  Hot and tired, we walked.  And walked.  And walked.  And somehow, we found the bridge to France.  I left Doc Sci and the boys at McDonalds and ran across the Rhine to French soil.

Let's git 'er done.

Victory, at last.

You can think what you want of me for eating at the Golden Arches.  But it’s what Doc Sci wanted and that man saved my day.  He can buy anything he stinkin’ well pleases for getting me through.

I don't think I've ever been more excited to see McDonalds. Ever.

You’d think this would be the end of the story.  Sadly, no.

We took a train home (part of the plan).  Unfortunately, not all trains on Saturdays stop at all stations (not part of the plan).  This particular train took us all the way to the main station.  That would have been okay, but we had to carry a busted bike + trailer up and down stairs whereas the other station has a ramp.

And then there was the poo.  That Screech man certainly has a way of dropping a load at THE most unexpected time.

Weary, we returned home two hours later than expected with one of the craziest stories yet.  I must say that not everything in this day stunk.  The weather was perfect, warm in the sun with a cool breeze.  I do not know what we would have done in 90-degree heat.

Even better than that, our boys were amazing through the whole adventure.  They laughed while bumping along through tall grass.  They didn’t scream or throw tantrums while their parents did.  They listened and obeyed when asked to get back in the trailer quickly.  They hardly had a break and were still so good.

At the end of the day, I love my husband who went on this adventure with me and I love my kids who are growing up to see life as a journey with crazy side trips.  In the end, I did make it to France but even if I hadn’t, I’m still in good company.

(P.s. – My Nike+ says I ran 14.97 miles.  I turned it off whenever we walked or stood around freaking out.  We easily walked 2-3 miles in addition to what I ran.  Hokey Smokes, Bullwinkle!)

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3 thoughts on “Trip Report: French Border

  1. Pingback: Our First French Road Trip – Château de Saint-Ulrich « Thrifty Travel Mama

  2. Pingback: Visiting Strasbourg, France with Kids « Thrifty Travel Mama

  3. Pingback: Trip Report : Colmar | Thrifty Travel Mama

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