Jami said I had to blog about this. I'm actually a little embarrassed to admit this, but here goes. I have been doing quite of bit of jogging and mountain biking in the Odenwald (hills and forest) behind our house and thought I am getting in decent shape. So when a friend at worked asked if I wanted to go mountain biking with his biking group, I said sure. I thought at worst, I might be a little behind, but I can hack it. I showed up over at Mile's house at 6 PM where we were going to ride over to where the group meets. The group, by the way, is made up of about 15 German men and a couple of German women, ages ranging from 30-55. As I followed Miles along a trail up the hill behind his house, I started to get worried. I had to stop a couple of times and hike, pushing my bike up the hill. Twenty minutes later we finally got to the meeting point. I was really tired just making it to the meeting point so I asked Miles what the ride was going to be like. He said half uphill, half downhill. I asked him if he thought I could make it and he said he thought I could. The leader of the group, a German man who looked to be about 55 years old, said "Alles auf" and we all took off. I did my best, but quickly fell behind. At the top of the first hill, I finally caught up with the rest of the group who patiently waited for me and I was severely winded and wanted to turn back. No one else seemed to even be breathing hard. I sucked it up and we took off again. By the time we got to the next hill top, I was not doing so good and I offered to let them go on without me. In the end, Miles stayed with me and we took a different, less strenuous path. We rode between rows of grape vines and after a short climb we came to the top of another hill where there was a Biergarten with a spectacular view of the town Bensheim in the valley below. Biergarten is German for a restaurant that you can order drinks and light food entrees. I had heard about Biergartens that you couldn't drive to but had not ever been to one. It was amazing how many people where there, on top of this hill in the middle of no-where. Most had walked, a few had ridden their bikes, but it was several miles from the nearest town or parking lot. Miles and rested there for about 20 minutes and I actually thought we were done for the evening since we had been riding for over an hour to get there. He said "We better get some riding in before dark" so we took off. It was hard to keep going, but we finally made our way back to town and we began to look for the rest of the group who had told Miles where they would be. After riding through Bensheim and finally asking directions from a local, we turned our bikes uphill again and begin riding back up the hill. It got steep and I had to get off and walk. By the time we got to the top, I could barely walk up the hill, much less ride. We stopped at another small Biergarten on the side of the hill that was only accessible via walking/riding. The old German woman who ran the place was not to happy that we were there because she wanted to go to bed, but I think they knew here so she stayed open. It was good getting to practice my broken German with them and I like to think that I earned back a little respect for not giving up and going home, but with my limited German it was hard to tell. To top it all off, we had to ride back to Mile's house, which turned out to be several miles (no pun intended) away and I swear it was uphill the entire way. Even wimping out, we rode a total of 21 kilometers. By the time I got home, I was so tired I practically crawled through our front door and slid down the stairs to the living room. It was the by far the hardest thing I have done in years.
To leave the story on a good note, the experience motivated me to work harder on my mountain biking skills/stamina so today I rode from our house to our local castle, Starkenberg, and back home which is about 12 miles. I had to stop and walk up a couple of the hills, but I'm getting better. I haven't decided if I will try and go out with the biking group again this year or not, but I am determined to be able to keep up next year, especially with the ones that are almost twice my age. By the way, if you want to see what the terrain looks like, check out our pictures of Auerbach castle on www.flickr.com. If you can't see them, send me an email and I'll add you to my friends list.