The damp weather broke just long enough last night for me to make a really creative dinner involving Ramen and cabbage and we sat outside on our stools in a light misty rain slurping our deliciously hot soup and making quite a mess. With as many noodles falling on the ground as were making it to our mouths, we were a fit of giggles as we took turns piling our spoons higher and higher with more slippery noodles and tried to eat them without spilling or laughing so hard we choked. We could see our breath as we ate and although I don’t care one bit for being chilly, I wouldn’t have changed those moments for anything. These are the things I will miss the most about being here- the the beautiful, the odd, and the sometimes challenging moments we face together that have cemented our friendship into something simply more than it was before.
Unfortunately, all our wishing for better weather today was for naught, and my first conscious awareness this morning was of rain beating on the tent. This is usually our cue to to go back to bed, and that’s exactly what we did. After a while, Ben got up and picked up our bread from reception and we ate breakfast and listened a while to our audiobook while we waited for the rain to quiet a bit. Ultimately though, it wasn’t showing any signs of clearing up, so we re-arranged our plans and headed into Bertchesgaden to take a tour (gratefully indoors) of the Salzbergwerk salt mines.
From our pitch, the ride couldn’t have been more than about 5 kilometers and it was pretty much all downhill, but it was plenty of time to get perfectly soaked. I cringed as we coasted into town with cold, muddy road water accumulating on our clothes and soaking me clear through. Lately though, I’ve been trying harder to mentally “make the best” of whatever life hands me, and I tried to console myself by remembering that the second we saw blue skies, we’d be doing wash anyway, and beside, we would soon soon be indoors.
Rain aside, we didn’t have time to get chilled before we arrived to the busy building and got in line to get our tickets. Although we usually hate any tour that requires a guide, this particular tour had been recommended to us by two separate family members, so we figured it would be worth a shot. Our tour time was more than an hour away, so we idled away some time eating bacon filled breadsticks that weren’t as tasty as they sound and meandering the gift shop where there were more salt products than I ever imagined possible. We found it a bit amusing that we, two tourists from Salt Lake City, would be in line to learn about digging salt out of a cave in Germany, especially since we know nothing about the salt that comes from our own local sources.
When our tour time arrived, we were issued dark blue jumpsuits to wear which left me feeling a bit like we were about to head into space instead of into a salt mine. Everyone was walking around feeling a bit silly in our new garb and another family offered to take our picture if we would take theirs.
The tour led us through tunnels, into caverns, and even across an underground lake, learning about each step of the salt mining process that is far more labor intensive than I had pictured. By the time they drill the deep holes in the rock and flush out the newly created chamber with water, literally dissolving the mountain and pumping the saltwater out for processing, the process can go on for more than 30 years for a single cavity. This mine has been at work for hundreds of years and I can’t imagine how much work it must have been before some of the modern equipment they now use.
The tour had plenty of entertainment built in as well, with the main attraction being two steep miners slides that they use to get around the mines. We were pretty surprised at how fast you can get cruising on those things!
The tour was in German, so they issued us audio guides with the English recording as we went along. The devices seemed to be having a few technical difficulties so we did miss a fair bit of what was going on, but the guide was making plenty of sound effects which kept us perfectly entertained.
Once we were all done and our jumpsuits had been returned, we were ready to head out in search of some wifi. The rain had stopped and the day was warming. The McDonald’s here in Germany requires a local phone number for validation, and although we found someone willing to let us borrow their phone for a second, no one could figure out how to get the system set up. We ended up paying for the connection through the T-Mobile carrier instead which was kind of annoying, but at least we got access to enough information about our upcoming route to get us through another few days of touring. After a round of sundaes, frech fries, and strange yet delightful veggie burgers which you can’t get at home, it was back to camp.
For the first time in days, the sun was peaking out of the irritating clouds and redeeming patches of blue were showing through. My ability to feel cheerful had been feeling about as soggy as the grass around our tent, and the entire campground seemed to cheer with the addition of the sunshine. With a promising forecast for the evening, we rushed to get the laundry done so that it would have time to dry while it wasn’t raining. We hung nearly every piece of clothing we have off of pretty much any structure we have with us. We must look a bit like children who have run away from home with our mess of laundry, our two stools, and the communal pan that we cook in and usually eat from.
As we washed and cooked and cleaned up camp, we discussed the fact that our trip will conclude in less than three weeks which is pretty unbelievable. It took me probably six weeks to get into the groove of life on the road and now we are thinking about once again adjusting to a new way of life. Without anything particular to mark the passage of time as we’ve been here, it still feels as though it is April and nothing, including the seasons, will have changed in our absence. It is strange to think that instead, we will return without ever paying much mind to Memorial Day and the 4th of July to the dead heat of summer.
As we look toward home, I am unsure what exactly to feel. This trip has been the adventure of a lifetime that has taught me more about myself, about my incredible husband, and about the world around me than I ever might have imagined. I’ve fallen in love with riding my bike all over again and have learned to find great satisfaction in making a meal over a tiny camp stove. We’ve learned to love every step of the journey instead of just the destination in an incredibly tangible way. After only a few short months of our rolling adventure, it seems strange that we once woke up and went our separate ways to work all day, five days a week, and that in a mere matter of weeks, we will return to that same routine.
At the same time though, we have built ourselves such a sweet life in Utah. Our friends and family, our little house, a state known for outdoor adventure, and jobs that we love await us. We have new ideas too, about how we want our life together to be, and getting home will be the first step in the next chapter of our story. Our trip has changed us (hopefully) for the better and I suppose we are up for a new adventure as we figure out what the coming years will hold.