I have some three weeks of visitor-related adventure to catch up on. Of course, given that my visitors make up roughly 3/4 of my reading public, it’s an exercise in redundancy. However, I promised a least one disastrous bike trip, and damned if I am not a man of my word.
Tim and Joc had expressed some interest in seeing a bit of the local countryside by bike. We therefore rented a bike for Tim, and saddled Joc with Amynah’s antique mauve monstrosity.*
I elected to take them on the rainbows and ponies trail along the Bruche canal, the starting point of many epic and ill-starred journeys in the past.
We had a lunch of sandwiches and hot tea. As we were about to head to Molsheim, I noticed the sign for the Dompeter – the oldest church in all of Alsace, originally founded in the 6th century (rebuilt several times). It was only a short detour, and so we proceeded to bump our way down a farm road towards the village of Avolsheim.
The trail** to the church turned off the road about a kilometer in, and it was here that disaster struck: the chain*** on Amynah’s bike snapped, leaving Joç effectively with a two-wheeled skateboard.
As we were only about three or four kilometers from Molsheim, we decided to push on (well, we had no choice, did we?) I took over her ride, pushing myself along as if on a giant scooter, while Joç wobbled along on my bike. We made it to the Dompeter about ten minutes later.
Apparently, the rough part of Avolsheim
We rolled our bikes up to the church, leaning them just inside the cemetery gates. We strolled past an older Alsatian woman tending the flowers on one of the graves, and popped into the church, which still has some of the original carvings from the 8th century foundations. The Dompeter, for reasons lost to history, is about a kilometer outside of Avolsheim, the community it serves. It was only abandoned in the 1920s, when the people of Avolsheim finally decided to build a new church that wasn’t located in the middle of a cornfield.
As we walked back outside, the old lady accosted me.
“You shouldn’t leave you bikes here,” she said, in heavily Alsatian-accented French.
“Sorry! Why not?” I said, in heavily Canadian-English accented French.
“Thieves!” she said.
“Here? In a church?”
“You don’t understand?” she said, referring to my language comprehension.
Looking around at the expanse of empty farmland, the answer was no. Were there criminals lurking behind the tombstones, waiting for some naive tourist to leave their bike unattended here in the middle of nowhere? Surely there were more promising locations than this?
They are not kidding about this.
In any case, I thanked her for the warning, and we hit the road once more for Molsheim. As I pushed myself along on a chainless, mauve, woman’s bike, sweating in the 30 degree heat, I rather wish that someone had stolen it.
Tim’s solution of holding my hand and towing me along the path did nothing to add to my dignity, and only earned us the Mother Of All French Stink-Eyes from another cyclist.
By the time we reached Molsheim I had embraced the ridiculousness of the situation, and would push myself by foot, and then proceed to pedal at great speed to no effect as the bike’s momentum wore off, much like Wile E. Coyote going off a cliff.
I need hardly add that we caught the train home.
* Sleuthing revealed that Amynah’s bike’s colour disqualifies it from being more than 150 years old, but other than that it might well have shared the streets with Penny Farthings and Madamoiselles in hoop skirts.
** In the other direction, the trail led to the Chapel of St Armuth, a saint that does not actually exist. Even more absurd, the chapel is actually dedicated to Mary, built by a guy who lost his either his coat or his hammer who was then nearly hanged for murdering the mayor of a town he was not from. The explanation on the plaque was a little hazy.
*** Legend had it that this chain was forged by blacksmiths in the employ of Charlemagne himself. Their hands were amputated afterwards.