I Now Have Homemade Plum Jam to Share!

I felt rather high leaving Basel after my nice experiences there and with Olivier. I was invited to stay with another Warm Shower’s host, and his girlfriend that evening in the town of Dietikon. It turned out to be another one of those crazy 90+ degree days and I got started late. I was not on the road until 11 am. Despite the frustrating gps route, I cycled through pretty Swiss towns and country sides. One of my favorite things about cycling through Switzerland is that every town has a clean water tap flowing. Each time I was down a bottle of water, sure enough I would cycle upon a pretty little water fountain typically surrounded by nice potted flowers. I met lots of cows and goats along the way, and I do believe that this is my first time ever seeing cowbells actually on cows! By late afternoon the sky turned dark, and Steel and I ended up cycling through a thunderstorm which felt wonderful given the heat. As we neared Dietikon, I noticed these white flowers all over the ground everywhere. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was hail –1/4 to 1/2 inch balls. We missed the hail by about 20 mins!


Even though I probably only cycled 50 miles-ish, I was really tired by the time I rolled into Dietikon. The sun beat down all day, and zapped my energy. Andre and Anna-Barbara welcomed me into their cool roof top flat. They shared a nice dinner with me where I was introduced to their favorite cheese and regional sausage. Both around thirty years of age, they had each done some bicycle touring, and it was fun to hear of their adventures. Andre’s first bicycle tour was with a friend for six months through countries like Iran and Ubekestan. Very interesting tales, more stories of human kindesses, and fabulous pictures. Despite the beginning of the World Cup and the sounds of the game being broadcast from the town square and cheering, I passed out not to move again until morning. My hosts were up and out early to work, and awaiting me was a rear bicycle rack on the table! Mine had broken a few days ago and I though I could get on with some duct-tape, but it was not working. So my project for the day was going to be to go into Zurich to get a new rack –that is until Andre insisted that it was an extra rack that he did not use. What? Really? Wow! How super nice! Further, he refused payment. Since I no longer needed to go into the city, I decided to opt for a writing and relaxation day. I needed it. I felt mentally and physically baked from the sun. I got a lot of writing done, and then picked up some dinner supplies and attempted to make dinner for my hosts. I only say attempted because my cooking skills are just not amazing, but with the addition of their fine cheese, the pasta turned out okay after all. Despite long work weeks for both, and not sleeping well due to the hooting and hollering, my sweet hosts wanted to show me Zurich. It was a very nice cool night, and we went into the city and they showed me around, and took me to a very cool bar that’s a men’s private swimming place in the day, and a hip, watering-hole at night. Tucked under trees, it had a rather tropical feel and a buzz from the excitement of that evening’s World Cup game–very cool.


My day started with a super nice bicycle escort compliments of Andre and Anna-Barbara through Zurich. I’m quite sure if they had not done that my 9.5 hour day would have been hours longer. Not only was that my longest cycling day in Europe, also it was the most enjoyable. The scenery just kept getting prettier and prettier as I wandered east. All along well marked bicycle paths past lake after lake. In fact, the only time when tend to get lost is when I try use my gps. It sort of works well as a back up or in a city to get to a specific address, but simply following bicycle signs across country as a whole is the way to go. About mid-way through the day I accidentally got off the cycle route in a town, so I punched the next city into my gps. Suddenly I was cranking up a mountain, after about fifteen minutes of climbing on the same road, my gps said to make a U-turn! What? Then it wanted me to make to make a right up a gravel path at a more than 10% incline. No way could that be right, so I cycled back down the mountain. Thankfully, I ran into another cyclist who turned out to be a mountain bike guide. We cycled a while together, and he got me back on track, which turned out to be a stunning route along the river to the Lake Wassane? I cycled along a gently rolling bike path along the lake and through cool rock walled tunnels, specific for cyclists through the mountain. This is what I mean about amazing cycling routes all over Switzerland.


I knew it was getting on in the day, but the riding was just so lovely that I really was not feeling tired –that is until I actually arrived at Ulla’s home in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland. I had written to Ulla, another Warm Showers host, the day before and asked if I might stay two nights. It was short notice and I was asking for two nights, so I did not think it was going to happen. Well…not only did she say “yes”, she explained that she had a birthday party to attend, but that she would leave me the key in a particular spot and have dinner waiting and a place to sleep made up. What??? Who does that?? Ulla does!


Upon arriving at Ulla’s home, my fatigue hit me. However, upon entering her home…not only did she have a dinner waiting, but it was all homemade–pumpkin soup, delicious pasta sauce, salad, bread (homemade too) and a flipping rhubarb strawberry tort! I took the tort as a very good sign as I had been trying to have a rhubarb dessert all through France and something would always prevent it from happening. Then low and behold…the most delicious one I’ve ever tasted is awaiting me! Shear heaven! I figured that I had been on the road at least 80 miles and well I was passed out cold by 8:30 p.m.


In the morning I had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful miss Ulla! I was curious what my host looked like, as despite her world travels, I didn’t see any obvious pictures of her around her home. She has cool art and pictures, but not many with her in them. This proved to be telling of her very sweet, humble personality. At one point, she pointed out the things around her home of importance to her — a chest that belonged to her grandmother, a photo of her dad on his bicycle a week before he passed, and another photo of an inspiring friend who had a wonderful positive attitude despite spending five years in a concentration camp in Germany. He got out only and married a German woman with in a few month. “Oh Ulla, you see not all people are bad. Just some get caught up in bad things.”


Ulla immediately had a warm inviting feeling about her. She had a cool sporty look and big smile, and we started chatting easily about everything. We had a lot in common…to say the least –from family situations, to various life experiences, to cycling adventures, you name it. At times when we got to her travels, I loved hearing her tales of experiences in particular in the US. It was so nice to hear that indeed the human kindness types of things that I experienced on my bicycle adventures in Europe, happened to her in the US too. She has been doing bicycle touring since her first trip down the west coast of the US with a boyfriend in 1987. She had done a variety of trips through the years, including last year she cycled solo from Florida to Ventura, California. She has worked at a physical therapist for over 30 years and she is now looking to change things up a bit. Ready for a small world thing? She’s taking mindfulness training. She’s been doing mediation for years, and likes the practical applications of the mindfulness movemovment. So there it is again –mindfullness! I was first introduced to it by 90 year old Mary-D back in Northern California where she had introduced it into the ciriculum in grade schools, and now Ulla. The mind-fullness movement is hot in the US, but not very well know in Switzerland. I predict an interesting future ahead for Ulla, and hopefully a continued connection with us as some of the mindfullness gurus just happen to be based around the San Francisco area.


She invited me to a garden and flower festival that was happening at a castle near by. Did I want to go? Ah…are you kidding? Of course, I do. What a beautiful setting and event. Flowers, art and music all set up inside and outside the castle with views to the Alps. After she took me on a walking tour of the oldest city in Switzerland, Churs. Very interesting too. The Catholic Church had architecture dating back to Roman times. We enjoyed fabulous gelato, and then late afternoon naps. She whipped up another amazing dinner and helped me plan my route. Ulla is originally from Austria and had knowledge of routes through it along the Alps. I again zonked out early and was up early. Ulla sent me on the road with her amazing homemade plum and cinnamon jam (which I will so share and make other people’s day too), and lead Steel and I to the bicycle route leading North out of town. We both were teary eyed upon departure, but I feel confident we will meet again. She was an inspiration for sure!!

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