By Judy Steffes Special to Published Jun 24, 2008 at 6:24 PM

BLAUBEUREN, Germany -- A beautiful Saturday leaving Lorch and my goal is to make it 60 miles southeast to Ulm.

The Engelhart family from the Catholic church in Lorch put me up for the night. Johannes and Heide have two children; Stefan will be 7 years old next month and 12-year-old Florian likes to ride his scooter in the house, plays piano, LOVED the music group ABBA and eats Nutella chocolate on his bread for breakfast.

Within 10 miles of my ride a farmer, Hienz from Gruibingen, pulls his tractor off to the side of the road and we chat about the Swabish Alps ... it's the monster hill ahead which I've been trying to ignore and hoping for a tunnel.

Hienz said the climb would be broken into two phases, the second the steeper challenge. The first section should take 30 to 45 minutes and the latter, much the same except harder.

I'm not much of a fan of this type of biking, however I will have lots of company as one spandex clad rider after the other races past for what is probably their normal weekend tour.

The only difference between us, I'm the only one carrying my house. Well ... me and the snails.

The road is well paved, few cars and one lane in each direction. I'm wearing my YMCA / Mountain Outfitters green and yellow jersey from spin camp, a red vest and ear muffs as the temperature change has been dramatic.

I stay to the far outside of the hairpin turns as the road switches back up the side of the hill. The crows sit in pairs amidst the trees and laugh, like Heckel and Jeckel, as I grind along.

After the first climb and coast into the valley the temperatures cool. Rather than having a hill only in front of me, they're now on both sides.

The trees jut from the hillside and loom large overhead, like a ceiling.

Hienz is right, the second climb is more of a test. Sweat drips from my elbows and runs down my arms into my already wet gloves which reek like a man's leather watchband.

My lungs bleed and burn and my breathing is labored like a seasoned smoker who has a Marlboro for breakfast.

I see hikers on the side of the hill. I look at them and think they're crazy. They wave and point at me and I'm sure they say, "She's crazy."

But, with my legs screaming, feet crying and panting so hard I feel like a slack-jawed mouth breather I have to disagree ... this is not crazy, it's vacation!

As I climb out of the valley I get closer to the triple blades of the windmills at the top of the hill.

The sun starts to fade and clouds grow dark. I fear rain would be the worst however I feel so close to the clouds I may be able to just reach up and zip the soggy seam shut.

I crest the top of the hill and stop. My arms shake and I fumble to hold the camera and take a picture of myself and the giant windmills.

Almost Ulm ...

Drifting away from the Swabish Alps I pull into Blaubeuren and find a youth hostel for the night.

The Blautopf, blue pool, is the main attraction in town. It's a beautiful karstic spring, fed by waters from the limestone hills.

The funnel-shaped pool is a vibrant, deep royal blue, like the best day on your mood ring.

The locals say there are underwater caverns, and the location by the dam is 21 meters deep. The intensive blue color comes from the depth combined with the sunlight.

There is a statue of a woman nearby. The Die Schone Lau was a water-nymph featured in a book by Eduard Morike.

The romantic tale has Lau living at the bottom of the Blue Pool and as a result of heartening experiences in Blaubeuren, she is released from an evil curse.

Today's tidbits ...

I've been on the road several weeks and, like a house on wheels, I'm reluctantly starting to collect things. You know, when you get a house and you say I'm only going to have one shovel, one rake, one car ... and then you find yourself with two.

Well, I brought two water bottles but now I have two air pumps, but only because the seal on the one is failing, I know I can get a replacement part at home and I'd hate to throw it out.

I've managed to collect five pens, 10 maps and I had to buy a bottle of shampoo. I wash my clothes with the shampoo since it's easier and I've yet to find a laundry.

The brand name on the 10 ounce bottle is Flemge, like phlegm ... and it's green. I can't wait to stir it into my hair.

Judy Steffes Special to

Judy is a Milwaukee native who is ever exploring the country. Her favorite mode of travel is her 21-speed, blue Centurion bicycle, which she bought after high school. Judy has worked in the local media for the past 20 years. "I need to do something to support my biking habit."

Judy has an extensive history in radio news, having worked at WISN, WUWM, WTMJ, WKTY in La Crosse and WBKV in West Bend. A strong interest in sports also had Judy reporting for ESPN Radio covering the Packers, Buck, Brewers and Badgers. "One of my first Brewer games at County Stadium the security guy yelled as I walked into the locker room ‘LADY IN THE LOCKER ROOM.’ Now it’s so commonplace. But that story makes me sound really old."

Judy is currently working at WISN-TV in Milwaukee. She is a freelance writer and her pieces have been seen in The Small Business Times and The Business Journal. Her travel journal has appeared in Minnesota Trails Magazine, The Statesman and the West Bend Daily News, to name a few.

Aside from biking, running and being active in her community, Judy is known as someone who is "very, very thrifty." "I get candles for Christmas. My friends call them my space heaters because I normally keep the heat in my house at 40 degrees during the winter. It’s not that I can’t afford to turn up the thermostat, I just hate paying for heat."

Judy said her "conservative attitude" plays a part in her bike tours ... not needing to pay for gas and frequently spending nights camping inside churches. "First of all, it makes me feel safe since I’m traveling alone and second all you’re doing is sleeping, so why pay for that. It’s no wonder I can’t ever get someone to travel with me."

Judy grew up in Whitefish Bay and graduated from Dominican High School and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Judy is the second oldest among seven siblings and spends a lot of her time working as a "park tester" along with her eight nieces and nephews.