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vogese alps, take 2

my trip to the vogese alps just a few weeks ago was extremely nice. i couldn’t stop talking about the beautiful landscapes, quaint little villages and the very nice chalet jc and i stayed in.

my wife and i then decided to retrace the same route during the week-end around may 1st.


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the drive to freiburg was really nice and relaxing, no rain and no feldberg-recharge, beautiful views – the place jc and i chose for recharging the TWIKE last time also “recharges” people in other ways – it hosts a multitude of healing seminars and if you feel like finding your chakras – this is a good place to come to! (besides: the bar is cool and the fireplace is huge. during our stay it was pretty cold outside – we got some organic drinks and warmed up again.)

at least there was no rain – yet. we drove across the flatlands around the rhine river and crossed through neuf brissach which – again – was impressive. this time the whole city centre was closed and a huge fair was on. check out the layout of neuf brissach:


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the moat and city perimeter walls are impressive and a must-see!

but the alsace region has more really cool places in store for us. even in the heavy rain starting just as we arrive in turckheim, it remains a very, very special place to visit – and in our case – to try some local specialities at one of the many restaurants.

Entering Turckheim through the main gate (c)theworldinlight.com

Entering Turckheim through the main gate (c)theworldinlight.com

After eating well, we head out up the hills towards a place called trois epis (three spices).

after some bends, TW560 starts to act really strange at the apex of the corners when forces on the front wheel are the greatest. it feels like hard oversteering due to the loss of traction. this, on a completely wet road with lots of gravel and leaves might happen at higher speeds and is easily controllable thanks to the direct control the central joystick offers when steering. but this feels different.

after just a few 100 metres more i am quite sure that we have a punctured front tyre, since TW560 feels strange even when driving in a straight line.

the road isn’t very wide and we have to push forward another few 100 metres until we can stop at the side of the road and have our suspicion confirmed. a flat front tyre.

thanks to a very comprehensive insurance package i’m covered for any kind of breakdown anywhere in (extended) europe. calling local road assistance, they tell me that it will take at least 1 hour for someone to get to us, since it’s may 1st and this is one of the most respected holidays in france, whilst the rain seems to have surprised many drivers. this means that there are many accidents that need to be taken care of before our “small” problem can be tended to.

fortunately, we’re in no hurry. we were looking forward to the sauna and jacuzzi at the chalet but there is no point in getting angry. due to the torrential rain we stay in the TWIKE and just relax for 90 minutes until we are picked up by a road assistance truck, able to deal with a 3 wheel vehicle.

small but still a client

small but still a client

after being transported to colmar, the guy at the garage tries to repair our front tyre using materials designed for car tyres, since there is no repair shop open that caters to motorbikes.

front wheel gone.

front wheel gone.

while TW560 is being tended to, i just think back to our trip in india and how we then had all that stuff with us to be able to deal with any kind of breakdown.

this time, again, i’ve got my travel-cable set and repair box in the back of the TWIKE, but why haven’t i got an inner tube as part of the set anymore? (update: it’s part of the set now!)

wandering around i find cars in various states of road-worthiness plus this baby:

one of the cars at the garage - valid number plates and insurance: only in france!

one of the cars at the garage – valid number plates and insurance: only in france!

fully street-legal and with valid number plates and insurance, it belongs to a staff member. you’d get about 10 metres in switzerland before being incarcerated for life!

well, at least TW560 doesn’t rust – let’s see how the wheel-wells hold up in comparison 🙂

no rust, but similar!

no rust, but similar!

TW560’s tyre cannot be repaired with the materials at the repair-shop. after calling our insurance they agree to cover two €130 taxi rides – from the workshop to gerardmer and back tomorrow. we were promised that by tomorrow the tyre should be fixed.

We're going to have to leave the TWIKE here...

We’re going to have to leave the TWIKE here…

we arrived at the chalet by taxi and started to relax.

did i mention that the place is extremely nice and cosy? (and ideal for a married couple with kids (minus kids) to have some time to themselves)

the couple running the place even offer a table d’hôte. (Wikipedia: Table d’hôte is a French loan phrase that literally means “the host’s table”. The term is used to denote a table set aside for residents of a guesthouse, who presumably sit at the same table as their host.)

Very, very tasty local food and the rooms are very nicely decorated.

Jacuzzi in Chalet with view of Gerardmer and surrounding hills.

Jacuzzi in Chalet with view of Gerardmer and surrounding hills.

the next day consisted of pampering ourselves, wandering around gerardmer, getting TW560 in colmar and a nice and slow drive to gerardmer via trois épis… and dining in style at the chalet.

on the third day, we continued our trip towards the val d’ajol – if you want to see some truly rural scenary just follow our google map trace – it’s really worth it.

obviously, a stop at the auberge was a must!

parking at the auberge, the TWIKE looks just like it belongs there!

parking at the auberge, the TWIKE looks just like it belongs there!

we are greeted by an enthusiastic owner who allowed me to plug in the TWIKE without any hesitation.

l'auberge

l’auberge

we settle down and start our hors d’oevres as, suddenly, the most of the restaurant goes dark.

a worried owner starts fiddling in the fuse box and slowly lights come back on. he asks me if i could disconnect the vehicle, since the kitchen is completely without power.

a frantic 10 minutes of unplugging and replugging lights and other appliances later it becomes clear that the kitchen crew has a very hectic midday shift ahead: (no) minimal electricity, gas only. they start pulling extension cords from other parts of the restaurant to the kitchen.

we feel less than comfortable, because somehow it’s a lost case to explain to them that it probably wasn’t the TWIKE’s fault: i checked the plug and it had power. most likely a main fuse for one phase somewhere along the feeder line blew, since only parts of the restaurant were affected. bad electrical design compounded the problem by having 100% of the kitchen on one phase.

however: chapeau to the kitchen crew. we guests didn’t notice anything – the food was exceptional and i’ll be back soon for more.

effortless luxury at the auberge

effortless luxury at the auberge

the rest of our trip back home was nice and relaxing. travelling with a TWIKE is still one of the best ways to explore and get in touch with local people.

epilogue: i called the auberge a day later to apologise again and ask what was the problem after the EDF technicians had paid a visit. unsurprisingly the answer was: one phase out at the supply transformer and all appliances plus lights in the kitchen on this one phase.