The Rhineland on 75 cents a day (5)

Another cloudy day greeted us as we rose for breakfast at the inn in Maring.  Since I was the closest thing to a weather forecaster in our group (by default as my dad was the CO of the base Weather Detachment) I predicted that we might have some small showers during the day, but should clear up by evening.  We packed and walked our bikes up the hill from Maring to the sister-town of Maring-Noviand.

It was a tough climb since the cobblestones were wet with the rain that had fallen during the night.  Our shoes kept slipping so we had to keep a grip on the brakes to keep us from falling when we slid.  With a large effort, we all made it to the top and rested for ten minutes.

When we reached the east edge of town we almost missed a turn and went up the wrong valley.  If it wasn’t for our sharp eyed map reader we would have ended up miles from where we wanted to be.  As it was, we had to backtrack about a half mile to take the right road.

We were now on a big sweeping loop through bean, corn, and beet fields again.  The ‘honey wagons’ (you don’t really want to know what they are) were out in force and the smell was horrible.  We went through yet another split town, Monzel and Osann-Monzel.  Some time later, when I asked down at my office about the split towns I was told that most of them were once separate towns, but merged their city governments and became hyphenated.  Made sense to me.

We rested beside a small stream and ate our lunch.  Clouds began building up again and, with the threat of rain, we decided to pick up the pace to our camp area.  A gentle slope up, through a narrow valley, with vineyards on the north side and a nice lake opposite was a much more pleasant climb than hiking over wet cobblestones any time.

Along the way, we passed a winery but both chaperones said we couldn’t stop for a tour.  What a drag, man.  It would have been nice to have a taste of their wine because it was a brand that most of us recognized.  Wines in Germany tended to be distributed in a smaller area than those in the States.  A thriving, local, winery built it’s reputation on the good will (and good taste) of the citizens in the immediate area.  Most Gasthaus’s, Inns and hotels utilized the local wineries and breweries almost exclusively.

We started up another slight incline and began diving into a deeply wooded area.  The trees hung over the road and put us into an even darker shadow than just the clouds alone.  A slight foggy drizzle began making us miserable.  It wasn’t enough to stop and put on rain gear, but it was enough to make us wet.  The rain gear would have kept us drier, but since it was plastic we would have steamed ourselves into dehydration rapidly.

Once through the woods, we began to cross a very wide valley which contained several small villages.  One of then, named Neuminheim, apparently existed only as a sign and nothing more.  As one of our resident wags put it “should have been painted on both side of the sign”.  Klausen, Pohlbach, and Esche were mere one-road towns with maybe two or three cross roads.  Clearly they were farming towns as we met a great many trucks laden with produce going to them and coming back empty to the fields again.

Finally, we reached Sehlem.  Our group descended on one of the local markets and loaded up on fruits and vegetables for our meal tonight.  We were also allowed one beer apiece so we made the best of it by choosing a nice, dark, ale brewed just down the road.  There was a small park in the middle of town where we filled our water bottles and rested for a bit.

Prodded again by spitting rain showers, we mounted up for our climb through the wooded hills to our camp spot which was located about halfway up the hill.  This time, the entire hillside was covered with old-growth timber and darkened our way yet again.

The first bit wasn’t too bad and provided a little levity into a dreary day.  A sign pointed up a narrow valley to the town of Heckenmünster.  We all started to laugh at an incorrect translation of “Heck Monster”.  The rain was beginning to warp our brains.

About halfway up the next slope, we were met by our caravan of vans and cars at the junction of our road and a dirt track.  The turnoff was gravel so it wasn’t muddy, but it was wet and slippery.  One of us slid sideways and almost crashed into a tree so we decided that care was dictated here and walked the rest of the way to camp.

Our logistics crew had picked a very nice spot for us to camp, right on the edge of a sea of grass which led downwards to a small stream which crashed its way noisily downhill over a series of waterfalls and boulder strewn stretches.  At our camp we could hear it, but down in the background so it wasn’t intrusive.  Unpacking and setting up our tents occupied us for a while and preparing for dinner was underway soon.  A couple of us, including myself, were drafted into slicing and dicing vegetables for the stew pot while two of the girls cut strips of beef began dropping them into the pot also.  Apples were cored, pears sliced, and fresh strawberries would be our desert.

Dinner was superb tonight and, as we were cleaning up, the skies opened and torrents of rain fell on us.  The cook area tent fly wasn’t up to the task of keeping the rain off and collapsed right into the middle of the camp table.  Things got a little soggy, but the plates had to be washed anyway and this turned out to be the fasted way to get the job done.

Once washed, with no hope of drying them, we drifted off to do some exploring.  Sharon, Paul, Virginia and I went to the top of the grassy slope to see what we could see.  In the process of leaning over a large log, Paul slipped and fell across it.  When he landed on his stomach, face downhill, he didn’t stop.  With increasing speed, he slid like a toboggan down the grass and fetched up on a muddy bank of the stream.

He stood, arms waving, and laughing like a hyena, said that he was fine.  It was the best ride he’d had in a long time.  I figured that I couldn’t get any wetter and leapt down the hill feet first on my butt.  Virginia and Sharon were right behind me shrieking with joy at the ride.  I slipped sideways and made one complete loop only to land back on my bottom for the rest of the ride.  When I hit the mud feet first, I showered it all over Paul who was not wise enough to have moved away from the muddy spot.

Virginia crashed into me, tumbled right over my shoulders, and planted herself on her back in the middle of a muddy puddle, gasping for breath.  Sharon, trying to slow herself, twisted enough to come into the puddle at an angle and stop dead when she hit it.  This was accomplished by shooting a huge bow wave of muddy water over all of us.

We were laughing so hard we could hardly stand.  I don’t know who really started it, only that I remember being slapped in the back with a huge mudball by someone (I suspected Virginia, but she only looked at me wide-eyed with innocence).  The fight was on.  By the time several others from camp had joined us we all looked like chocolate soldiers.

Dave had the idea first of simply splashing into the creek to wash off – and did so.  If this was a cartoon, he would have levitated up until he was tiptoeing across the surface while voicing claims that the water was COLD.  This particular stream had, as it’s source, a very deep spring about halfway up the mountain.  It never had the benefits of the sun warming it because it was way too swift.  By the time it got to where we were, it was still very cold.

We stripped off as much clothing as we dared and dunked them in the water to clean them off.  This was not a co-ed bath however.  The girls had found a large bunch of bushes to go behind and used them as a shield while they cleaned off.  Yeah, we peeked.

Finding a path leading back up to the camp was difficult as the grass was much taller down here on the bottom of the hill but we managed it.  We arrived, huffing and puffing, back in camp to the stern eyes of the chaperones who asked us just what the heel we’d been up to.  We couldn’t lie so we told them that an avalanche had swept us up and buried us.  We were all okay though and no broken bones.  They just rolled their eyes.

The rain continued most of the night.  Lightning flashed and thunder rolled across the valley.  We were beginning to wonder if the Heck Monster actually was stomping around the hills at night.  This led to a chain of ghost stories as we lay in our tents facing each other in a circle.  One of us would start it off and reach a climax only to pass it to the next person who added their own embellishments.  By the time it got back to the original storyteller the entire plot had changed.  This is a great way to pass the time.

One by one we dropped off to sleep as best as we could in our soggy tents.  It was not a fun time.

T.O.M.

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One Response to “The Rhineland on 75 cents a day (5)”

  1. NeedleNose Says:

    Good story so far. Keep it coming.

    NN

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