By Judy Steffes Special to Published Jun 09, 2008 at 9:59 AM

BUHLERTAHN, GERMANY - I reluctantly left the wonderful youth hostel in Donauworth this morning.

Before going, I was finally able to fix my handlebars. They had slipped a little following the rain in Neuburg.

I tried fixing them while in downtown Neuburg but a really old man stopped to help. He rode past, slowly on his orange one-speed; had on a golfers hat, a light brown windbreaker, plaid shorts, dark socks and sandals. The man also wore bicycling gloves, but the gloves looked antique, like they were made of expensive leather.

I had already loosened the bolt on the stem so my allen wrench could get at the other bolt and secure the bars in a better upright position.

I'd call the old man "damnit," for lack of a better name because in my brain I kept saying, "Damnit would you cut it out?"

I had the stem in place and the old man grabbed it and started lifting. No, no, no, I said and pushed the stem back down.

I just about had the wrench on it and the old man twisted things and pulled up again. NYET... no, no, no, stop, stop, stop, nein, nein; he looked at me and grinned.

He was helpful not at all.

Finally I just let him have his way and figured I'd fix it later. I screwed the bolt, smiled, nodded a big thanks and moved along.

The handlebars felt up to my chin, like I was behind the wheel of a school bus.

The bars also were turned a little to the left and didn't ride true over the front wheel. To look down made me nauseous.

German weather report

I sat with three other adults at breakfast at the hostel along with about 50 kids. They were a class of fifth graders on a week-long trip and they were staying at the youth hostel.

Melanie knew a bit of English and helped me read the weather for the day. Next to Melanie sat a little boy; he must of had a food allergy because everything on his tray was in a special carton and not among the selections in the cafeteria.

The boy's father was from the states and the kid knew English but refused to help translate. Melanie said most of the day would be foggy and there would be some rain in the afternoon along with flashlights.

The boy looked at her, raised his eyebrows and said nothing. I asked if she meant lightning and she agreed, that was the term she was looking for.

The day was actually nice, a little cloudy and windy but no rain.

I went from Donauworth to Harburg, moving northwest. Up through Nordlingen where they had the most wonderful library and a helpful man, Wolfgang who spoke distinctly clear English.

I fell for him in a subtle way. "If we'd get married I'd name our first child Wolfgang Junior."

I'm really not sure why he didn't jump at the opportunity.

He explained he had an art show opening shortly and thoughtfully declined my offer. Wolfgang helped me find my way out of town and our/my brief, lusting relationship was over.

From Nordlingen up to Wallersteing and on to Ellwangen. I was forced to stop and wrestled with the stage curtain map as I advanced to the back page. That show was a good 15 minutes but provided a well needed break.

Through Ellwangen, onto Rosenberg and into Buhlertahn; I had over 55 miles in and it was nearing 4 p.m.

It seems I'm on the road a majority of the day, I'm surprised my distance isn't near 70 or 80 miles. I blame the challenge of direction.

In Buhlertahn I managed to secure a church. A woman at the cemetery led me to the parsonage. The priest, Father Bernhardt, initially offered his extensive backyard and suggested I camp under a tree because rain was coming shortly.

A garage became an indoor option and we finally agreed on a huge empty school across the driveway; building that trust factor with a stranger on a bicycle sometimes takes a while.

It started pouring about 30 minutes after I arrived and hasn't let up since.


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.