Seeing Europe from a different perspectiveBiking to the grocery store is one thing. But biking 1,600 miles in hail, rain and extreme heat while going up and down hills across several European countries for two months straight is quite another.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Biking to the grocery store is one thing. But biking 1,600 miles in hail, rain and extreme heat while going up and down hills across several European countries for two months straight is quite another.
Nothing, however, was able to stop Rob and Michelle Meyer from taking on that very adventure.
“We’re so tough,” Rob said, a hint of sarcasm in his voice. “I was Lance and she was Armstrong.”
Plans were in the works for an entire year once the pair decided to block off several months for their bike excursion. It was something they’d wanted to do, but the timing worked out especially well when Rob’s 50th birthday and the couple’s 10th anniversary were both approaching.
“It was a good enough excuse,” Rob said.
While initial plans had the vacation mapped out for five months, those five eventually turned into two. Even in the shorter amount of time, the Meyers were able to travel extensively through Germany, France, Spain and Portugal. Seeing everything from farm land to mountains and the ocean to the desert, they were immersed in diverse scenery, which was exactly what they hoped to accomplish by biking.
“It’s a great way to slow down enough to feel what’s around you,” Rob explained.
Some days brought perfect weather, but others were less than convenient for people getting around by bicycle. Rain was prominent for the first week spent in France, and hail made an appearance on one day.
Sometimes the Meyers would continue their journey regardless of rain, but not always. On occasion, mornings were spent waiting for bad weather to clear up — just sitting in the tent.
“It’s a two-person,” Michelle said.
“And not much more,” Rob added.
To keep trip expenses low and avoid paying for hotels, the two learned how to say “Can we camp here for one night?” in every language necessary. Luckily, their newfound expertise wasn’t always needed because they encountered many friendly people who offered them a more comfortable place to sleep along the way.
While France brought challenges with weather, another country offered its own set of trials because of topography. Portugal felt no guilt pushing the Meyers to their limit as the mountainous terrain left them exhausted after biking uphill 45 miles each day.
“You couldn’t imagine that you could possibly go up any farther,” Michelle remembered.
Perhaps their 25-year-old modes of transportation with “granny handlebars” weren’t quite cut out to take on Europe. Rob’s bicycle experienced four flat tires, a broken shifting cable and plenty of squeaky brakes.
“Which was quite annoying when you’re going downhill,” he noted.
To keep up their strength for such long distances on a regular basis, the Meyers would stock up on a few days’ worth of food at a time, including pasta, eggs and fruit they picked from the trees.
They also carried along their cooking materials, including a small stove. Unfortunately, it burst into flames the third night of the trip and became pretty useless to them.
Although they aren’t typically big wine drinkers, the pair enjoyed lots of wine while in Europe.
“We were biking 40 miles in the rain — maybe that’s why it tasted so good,” Michelle said with a laugh.
Despite the sometimes inconvenient circumstances, the Meyers found that every country had something to offer them and they couldn’t single out a favorite. Still, a couple of bumps in the road — or bike path rather — over the course of two months had them second-guessing their adventurous spirits.
“We had at least one moment where we were like, ‘We’ll never do this again,’” Michelle said.
But now that the two have enjoyed the comfort of their own bed since November, plans for another trip are on their minds. Locations being considered for a future agenda include Sweden, eastern Poland and the Loire Valley in France.