Spessart: Prophylactic winter escape

Winter will come, that is for sure. It is definitely the time for a last ride on dry roads and at acceptable temperatures. The densely forested Spessart in autumn is ideal for this. 

Until not so long ago I was quite taken with the idea to ride the beautiful and very charismatic Moto Guzzi V7 Scrambler through autumnal landscapes, with minimal luggage and without the usual full equipment knick-knacks. Just the Guzzi and me. One last lap before winter takes us into its icy grip.

But a quick trip to the Alps again? Indian Summer and all that? To the sea, preferably with a tent! The local Eifel region gave me a first shock before my departure: after a day with a jet helmet I had an approaching cold latently on my neck. So without further ambitions the equipment was adapted to the conditions: Spessart with full face helmet, hotel instead of tent and departure already tomorrow morning, because it won't get any warmer. Just behind Cologne I would have loved to move from the saddle to the tank bag. The thermometer fluctuates between twelve degrees in the shade and a lousy ten degrees as the Guzzi rushes through the long right-hand bend of the motorway exit near Aschaffenburg.

My old Main man!

Spessart: Sounds pretty unglamorous. Like the deepest German province and pensioners under heating blankets. Indeed, the low mountain range is home to the largest contiguous area of deciduous forests in Germany. Actually exactly what I was looking for for this short trip. My destination is Lohr am Main. Here I hope to find a warm coffee and old buildings. A look on the internet shows that Lohr not only has old, perfectly restored facades, but also a remarkable history. The town on the Main was first mentioned in documents as early as the 13th century, and was initially largely spared by the Thirty Years' War, but in the course of which it was hit first by the Swedes and then by the plague. In the second half of the 17th century the heavily decimated population recovered from the consequences of the epidemic. The town became part of Bavaria in 1814 and has since then developed into a very respectable place. 

Thorough thanks to Thoreau

I turn the guzzi and plunge back into the woods. Shortly behind Lichtenau, water shimmers through the still dense leaves. Fern-lined and filled with abundant autumnal biomass, the oak lake is not far from the road. Sitting on the bank with the almost warming sun on my face I have to think of Henry David Thoreau's book "Walden". Simply setting up a hut in the forest, burning the abundance of civilisation and warming yourself by the flames? The cracking exhaust pipe of the Guzzi bring me back from the alternative exit scenario. Don't worry, Bella! I wouldn't burn you even in the iciest winter.

Although the sun sends apparently bundled rays through the leaves counted by the seasons, the temperature is still low. On the wonderfully meandering country road I celebrate the end of the summer – freezing but cheerfully.

In Mespelbrunn they apparently thought something similar and the tourist season has already ended. I follow the signs to the moated castle Mespelbrunn and hope to be able to offer the V7 a suitable scenery here. Without Guzzi but with a winning smile I walk to the ticket office and present my request.

No, to ride up to the edge of the water on a motorbike is unfortunately impossible, I am told. Private area. In return, I am kindly allowed to enter the grounds for a few photos without the Guzzi for free. Mespelbrunn disappears in the vibrating rear mirrors, while I cannot see the Spessart because of all the trees. As in the rest of the republic, gravel cuttings are rare here, too. At every possible chance I slow down the Guzzi, only to catch the next prohibition sign when looking into the green tunnel.

But suddenly a yellow post car rumbles out of the forest between the trees. "Hundsrück" is written on the sign flanking the road. The following two kilometres lead over torn up old asphalt, loose branches and superficial gravel. The journey ends at "Hof Hundsrück" or at the adjacent forest fire distillery. And since the cold is already in my bones by now, I wouldn't mind a warming schnapps. But even here everything is already in winter mode. No one there, locked doors. Only the dogs are barking.

Guzzi in the sun

Wertheim will mark the southernmost point on this ride and will probably have to offer suitable accommodation for the late afternoon. The shadows are already long when I see a hill along the road on which a magnificent oak tree is enthroned whose exposed position promises a view to the west. 

While leaning against the front wheel of the Guzzi I enjoy the evening mood and the sun disappears on the horizon. As the colour transition reaches from the still bright horizon to the deep dark blue with the first visible stars above me, I take the last few kilometres to Wertheim.

According to the internet there is a hotel which hopefully has a warm room, something to eat and a beer for me. But the cosy warmth will have to wait a bit, because Wertheim at night is an attractive place to stay. Not - as one might think - because of a flourishing nightlife in the timber-framed alleys, but primarily because of the very photogenic view of Wertheim Castle which is illuminated at night and whose illumination is reflected in the pitch-black flowing Main.

The next morning welcomes the Italo-Scrambler and crew with a fresh six degrees and the outlook for a sunny day. In the valleys, the morning fog is still very thick in some places and thin swaths waft downriver even above the surface of the Main. My next stop is the last active water-powered hammer in the Spessart. The hammer mill and adjacent museum is located in an old half-timbered building complex where time seems to have stood still. The hammer driven by water wheel was first put into operation in 1779 and is such a well thought-out construction that the old forge can still be used today, at least for demonstration purposes.

Perfect day!

I let myself drift, go this way, and turn there. The expected rush of colours is still missing, it is probably still two weeks too early to admire the autumn foliage in all its splendour. But the Spessart is not stingy with charms and certainly not with curves. Most of the time the Guzzi and I are alone in the wide-open fields. Only in the villages along the Main river the traffic is concentrated, which is why I direct the scrambler back into the woods and onto the wide fields of the western foothills of the Spessart. In the quite picturesque Miltenberg a wine festival is in full swing. From here it is actually only a stone's throw into the Odenwald, but I am drawn back to the north.

At Klingenberg I cross the Main for the last time and climb higher, more deserted terrain again. A good and winding decision, which partly leads over single-lane country roads. Even though the cold has already crawled under the leather again - at this moment there can be nothing better than roaming the country on the Guzzi. What a perfect end to the season, I think, as the V7 takes the long right turn onto the A3. Now the winter can come along. Only for the 250 kilometres of motorway still to come it should give a small lead.

Copy: Alan Klee





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