Monthly Archives: August 2019

Nine Wheels in Germany – August 2019 (Month 65)

Cycling this month

I’m writing this two days before the end of the month as I will shortly be saying goodbye to my MacBook and heading off in the Velomobile to England. Here is where I cycled during the month of August, including the beginning of the England trip.

And here is where I went:

As it was very warm towards the end of August, I fetched Alfie out of the Summer Palace (our second rented garage) and used him for my work commute on a few days. The ride to work is fine temperature-wise, it was just the ride home at midday in temperatures of 33 degrees that was less inviting in a velomobile, plus I had to pop to the shops and get some groceries.

It’s always fun riding the trike, although it does feel slow! But the lovely morning sunrises have started.

As I am 48 years old and living in Germany I am allowed to wear socks with my sandals
Tile-bagging

Over the last few months I have written quite a bit about my tile-bagging, which is using the website at Veloviewer.com to show a grid of 1km squares and to award me the ’tile’ if I have cycled in any part of that 1km square. At the end of July/beginning of August my maximum square was 18×18 tiles

Tile-bagging gives a good purpose for a ride when you don’t have a specific reason to go somewhere, and it also means that you cover a wide area and visit places you might otherwise avoid. Such as Krefeld!

Tile-bagging Neukirchen Vluyn – 1 August

So I started August very well, as on the 1 August I did a quick 35km tile-bagging ride after work to get some missing tiles in Neukirchen Vluyn.

The route up to Neukirchen Vluyn is very nice (I had done a similar route with Klaus a couple of days before) and the roads round here are fast. This was easy, but the top right hand corner of my square is the easiest area as it’s still fairly close; as I get more tiles I have to travel further to get new ones, and will start heading into more built-up areas which is less appealing.

I am getting pretty good at planning my track too, and I use course points on my Garmin to show me each tile as I reach it. This gives a bit of encouragement on the longer rides, plus shows if there is somewhere that I can take a detour if necessary.

Tile-bagging in Krefeld – 2 August

One place that Klaus and I tend to avoid is Krefeld. This is partly because, despite being a fahrradfreundlicher Stadt, it is not very bike-friendly in our opinion. This is mainly down to the poor quality road surfaces which is of course related to the relative poverty of this town, especially when compared to rich Kempen just 10km away.

But I would have to ride through Krefeld to get the tiles, so I plotted a route (attempting to avoid the trams where possible) and headed out after work.

This was a very worthwhile route as it actually got me 24 tiles. It was also pleasanter than I thought as the route through Krefeld wasn’t too bad, although I had a 3km section on a road beside tram tracks; it’s not very relaxing riding between tram tracks and parked cars as you know if you are doored you will probably either break the nose of the velomobile on the car door or the suspension on the tram tracks. But I rode carefully and despite it being 3pm it didn’t seem too busy in Krefeld.

There was some fiddly stuff at the southernmost part of the track and I wasn’t sure if all the paths were asphalted but indeed they were, and I was able to return through Krefeld on a route which was also OK.

Klaus was cycling home from work which meant he wouldn’t be back till around 7pm so I had plenty of time on my ride. I stopped at a red traffic light and noticed a café beside the road so pulled in and awarded myself a slice of cake and a cuppa.

I actually really enjoyed my ride, despite having to go through Krefeld twice. Almost 61km but good fun on an afternoon after work. But I still had more Krefeld tiles to do!

Tile-bagging with Klaus in Repelen – 3 August

I was on a bit of a roll now with tile-bagging and Klaus also wanted to get some. I planned a route that would get me 7 tiles and these would probably also be new for him, as his square is a little smaller than mine. We set off at a comfortable pace and found ourselves on a few new roads, but the route was overall very good.

We decided we had deserved a piece of cake after this ride so headed to Kempen to café Peerbooms where there is always something suitable!

Tile-Bagging with Klaus near Venlo – 4 August

As it was the weekend (Sunday) Klaus had planned a longer route, to bag some tiles for him in Venlo. I had already done a very similar route to this so I actually would only get one new tile (near Arcen) on his original route, but I spotted that a slight detour of 100 metres north of Arcen would get us both a second tile. And in the end we got a third… via off-road means!

Klaus had originally planned the route boing anticlockwise, with a stop at Hofcafé Alt Bruch in Kaldenkirchen if necessary. However, I noticed that the route went past Jacobs Bauerncafé on the border with NL near Straelen and I wanted to show him their cake selection. So we decided to reverse the route, and also to set off a little later than normal as according to Google the Bauerncafé only opened at 14:00.

So after walking the dog we set off, riding directly to Kaldenkirchen on familiar roads (with a quick detour into Hofcafé Alt Bruch as I needed the loo!) and then we did some roads at the back of Kaldenkirchen which I had done a few weeks ago. From there we went into the Netherlands and this was on a different route than I had done.

Klaus had plotted a route which goes round a mini housing estate and then down a track, which was marked as no longer having asphalt about 100 metres before his Coursepoint, at which point his route turned around. We parked up at the end of the asphalt as he was trying to remember if we actually needed to go off-road to get the tile, or if he had put a good buffer in.

I checked with my veloviewer and saw that we did indeed need to go off-road, but that we did another 300 metres or so we could get another tile – one that I also needed. But the track looked even narrower so we didn’t know if it was passable.

We decided it was worth giving it a go, and set off. The first tile was easy as the surface under wheel was not too bad. But then we had to do a right turn, then another right to return to our original point.

At the first right turn we saw that the path was rather less rideable than the wide dirt track we had been on before.

But we decided to carry on – the prize of the tile was now only about 100 metres away!

And then we passed into the tile, and turned right again to go back to the road… whereupon the surface was even worse. But we struggled on, through long grass in places (but at least the velomobile body protects you from the stinging nettles) and eventually we popped back out into the housing estate. Success!

The route continued northwards and we ended up riding through Schandelo which I really liked when I rode there a week or two ago. There were some twists and turns on the route, plus some bits that we rode in both directions, but we ended up completing the NL tiles that Klaus had aimed for and then arrived at Bauerncafé Jacobs at a quarter past two.

Knowing that it opened at 2pm we were a bit astounded that it was so full – but the lady serving us said that Google was wrong and it opened at 10am. She said whenever they changed the info on Google someone changed it back. The service was very good as despite the large number of people we didn’t have to wait long at all for our cake and tea.

The final 25km goes by in a flash. This was a fun ride although I think I’m a bit more keen on the whole tile-bagging thing than Klaus, who tends to prefer more direct routes places.

Tile-bagging in Krefeld again – 7 August

Krefeld was an issue I had to ‘solve’ with the tile-bagging. Once it was done then I could always ride around it and wouldn’t have to risk cycling through. So I decided to get it sorted once and for all.

Klaus was seeing his daughter Lara after work so I had the evening to myself, so I decided to route for some Krefeld tiles and then end up at the Chinese noodle bar I like in Tönisvorst. So I did.

On this ride I went through some of the very nice bits of Krefeld – near Bockum, Linn, and then out into the countryside at Bösinghoven. I had been very brave and routed myself right through the centre of Krefeld on the way back, as there were some tiles I needed and I couldn’t be bothered to do a huge detour to avoid the city centre and still end up at Tönisvorst. But surprisingly the route was OK, except for Uerdinger Straße which had bumps in the cycle path which were like mini mountains!

I was riding through Krefeld in rush hour but it was actually OK.

I enjoyed my Chinese duck and vegetables and then popped to see friends Inge and Frank to pick up an invitation to a party they had for us – and they fed me some home-made plum cake.

Just under 60km got me another 9 tiles so that was also good going.

Tilebagging in NL Maasduinen – 12 August

I had planned myself a nice route to NL to get some pesky tiles, and decided to ride this one afternoon.

I was aiming for a bunch of tiles to the north west, one or two of which seemed rather tricky (no actual roads going through them, just footpaths/farm tracks). Still, it was worth a go, so I headed off…

I rode into the Maasduinen, and this is a great bit of NL to cycle in as you are allowed to cycle on the roads and they are mostly empty. But then I reached the ‘farm track’ section, and I discovered there was a wooden gate into a woodland area.

The gate was wide enough, it just needed 3 hands to hold it open and push the Milan through. I managed on my own, fortunately.

The other side of the gate were… lots of goats, with horns!

They didn’t seem that interested in me.

I needed to ride about 500 metres along this track, and it was OK initially, but then I had to turn right and the track changed from woodland to sandy heathland…

It’s very pretty but riding on a layer of sand is tricky in a velomobile, or any three-wheeler, as the back wheel tends to fishtail as you put power through it. I managed to make it to the magic point on my Garmin where I should have got the tile, and then turned round and went back again. This time at the gate there were some Dutch cyclists who helped me escape.

The rest of the ride was uneventful, but I got all the tiles I wanted and so it was a successful ride. And another reminder how much I like cycling in this bit of NL.

Tile-bagging in NL – Californie and more

I had a lot of random tiles still to get in NL and had idled away some time producing a route that got the lot of ’em in one big attempt. I decided if the weather and my legs were good, I’d give it a go one afternoon.

And I had luck! I rode down to Belfield at the bottom left of the map above and then picked up lots of tiles, also zigzagging northwards to get two columns of tiles. This involved riding along some really nice quiet roads but also some fairly narrow asphalted bike tracks next to unmade roads.

I had originally planned to stop for cake somewhere but in the end I just kept going, and did the 105km without stopping for more than a few minutes. I enjoyed it, and bagged 20 tiles.

Tile-bagging in Rheinberg – 21 August

The day after the Schlössertour in Münsterland I still had a bit of energy so decided to do a short ride and grab a few tiles to the north east.

I had to ride quite a long way before I could actually start on the tiles – they are all getting further away now! But I had a reasonably nice route which picked up 12 tiles altogether, and this time I awarded myself a tea and cake in Neukirchen Vluyn on the way back, with a view of one of the pithead machines.

Tile-bagging near Rheinberg again

I was making really good progress on my square now, but it seemed one of the easier areas to fill in some spaces was again to the north east, near Rheinberg.

What’s good about going this way is there is a direct road from Kerken to Rheinberg which is straight (Roman road?) and fast, so you can get to the start of the new tiles fairly quickly. My first tile was after 25km but I averaged 32 km/h to get there.

I had originally planned to do this route clockwise but then changed my mind as I wasn’t sure if I would want to do the two tiles near Issum (to the west of the above track) or shorten the ride and go home earlier. So I did the ride anticlockwise with the risk that I would go the wrong way down a one-way street! But this didn’t happen.

One tile was tricky, but I though it should be possible as Garmin’s cyclist-routing algorithm suggested it was possible. It was possible, and actually quite nice – an old stretch of road since bypassed and left to slowly fade away. There were just dog walkers on this road.

Klaus phoned me as I was cycling down this road to say he was leaving work. Although that meant he would be home before I was, I decided to continue on and do the two tiles near Issum as it was only an extra 15km. So I zoomed my way around some lovely quiet roads between Rheinberg and Issum and then made my way home. My average speed for today’s 72km ride was 32.3 km/h so you can see it was efficient – this was mostly as I cycled on the Landstraße to Rheinberg and back from Issum. On a Friday afternoon at 14:00 during school holidays there’s not so much going on.

After this ride I had just 5 more tiles to get in order to increase my max square from 21×21 to 23×23 – so I planned a route to get these five tiles, including one rather tricky one in NL (might involve walking), and persuaded Klaus that we could do this ride as our Sunday morning one, especially as that final tile is very close to Café zum Schafstall near Twisteden!

Tile-bagging around Twisteden

As mentioned above, I planned a route that just needed five tiles but would increase my max square significantly. On a sunny Sunday morning Klaus and I headed out on the ride.

We started fairly early as the day was due to be hot, plus we had some bike maintenance we wanted to do in the afternoon. We headed up to Geldern and then went further north than we usually ride, finding some lovely lanes. There wasn’t much going on (it was a Sunday morning after all) so we really enjoyed cruising around in our velomobiles.

In due course we arrived at Café zum Schafstall, where they are always very friendly and have a good cake selection!

We sat outside for quite a while, just enjoying the relaxing surroundings, before heading off to get the final tile.

This tile seemed a bit tricky as according to the map on Veloviewer there was no asphalted road going there. Here is the missing tile:

I identified the only really feasible way to get this tile was in the very top right hand corner.

I wasn’t sure what sort of a track this would be, if it would be possible for me to ride on it, but it was such a short distance (the square is 1km across, so to get to the square would probably be only 50 metres or so), I thought I would give it a go.

I didn’t actually check Google Maps beforehand – if I had, I would have seen that this track doesn’t show on Google Maps at all.

I have marked in blue where the track on the Veloviewer map is

And if you look at the satellite view, it just seems to be a turf field:

And I didn’t think to look at Google Streetview before going either. This is partly because Streetview doesn’t work in Germany so I don’t tend to think about it (but this tile is in NL so would have functioned). Streetview shows it is indeed a turf field.

When Klaus and I got there, it was just a turf field. No footpath really visible except for a really thin worn section right on the left of the field.

I then spent some time trying to get a closer look at the Veloviewer map on my phone but I didn’t have enough signal. I wanted to know how far I had to walk across the field (no way could I ride Millie on there). Klaus’s phone had more signal so I took a quick look on that, but he was very much overheating so I told him to ride on and I would catch him up. I decided I had to walk along the field edge, at least 100 metres, so I could get the tile.

So I set off in my click-shoes, walking beside the field. I got three quarters of the way along it and decided I must have bagged the tile, so turned and walked back. The proof would be when I got home on Veloviewer:

Yes, I managed it!!

It actually took me a long time to catch Klaus up, even though I switched my motor on to a higher setting, because he ended up chasing a bunch of roadies along the road and then up a hill.

When I got home my max square was now 23×23. I would have to make several trips to different areas to increase to 24 and then what I have as my mini target for 2019, to get to a 25×25 max square by the end of the year. It should be possible, although I can not go any further west as there are some unreachable areas in Brachter Wald, so I can only go north, east and south.

Mini-Treff in Xanten

Klaus fancied a trip to Xanten on a Sunday morning as we had only been there once this year, so we mentioned in the Velomobilforum that we would be at Market Café in Xanten at 11am and if anyone else wanted to join us we would be glad to see them.

Klaus planned a new route to Xanten which was a bit hillier than our normal one, but ended up being lovely.

We set off going northwards via Schaphuysen, where I stopped to photograph the huge building site that is the gas pipeline. These massive channels are being dug right across our cycling area, from Issum to Tönisvorst and beyond. Our rides regularly criss-cross the building works which run like a scar through the landscape.

As you can see from the photos above, it was a lovely day for cycling – not too warm and with a bit of a breeze but blue skies.

We arrived in Xanten half an hour early.

We hadn’t known if anyone else would come but saw that Thomas/Speedastir from Kleve had written on the Velomobilforum that he would arrive. As we were early we thought we should get the first round of cakes in.

After we had finished these and had a second round of drinks, Thomas arrived and then just a few minutes later another chap appeared – in a home-built wooden velomobile!

The amazing thing about this velomobile was that it only weighs 35km, so comparable with Emily! The builder, a Dutch chap, talked about how he made it (it also has quite a lot of carbon fibre bits in!), and we enjoyed relaxing outside in the sunshine.

There were lots of people in the market square so my velomobile alarm sounded a couple of times when kids poked too much at Millie, but generally it was very relaxed (in contrast to a weird argument we had with a chap last time who was very odd).

Klaus and I felt that, having had a slice of cake for breakfast, it was now lunchtime so we should have another cake slice.

This gave us the power to cycle over the Sonsbecker Schweiz (a bit of a mega hill) on our route back via Geldern. I bagged 4 tiles on today’s ride, but that wasn’t the main purpose of it of course.

It was good to see Thomas again, and also to meet the Dutch guy (whose name escapes me).

Riding with Josef on his trip home from Norddeich

We’re ridden a few times with Josef (nickname Jupp) in the past, including in Berlin and in Bonn, where he lives. He wrote in the Velomobilforum to say he would be cycling home from Norddeich (on the very north coast of Germany) and we knew his route passes very close to our house, so we suggested we intercepted him on the way and stopped for cake. He thought this was a good plan.

He started the day in Ahaus, where he had overnighted, leaving there before 9am. We had reckoned that we would be in Uerdingen for cake at midday and had posted this on the Velomobilforum in case anyone wanted to come, but had planned to meet Josef 12km earlier and to take him with us to visit the grave of our friend Robert Frischemeier.

Josef texted us when he was passing through Wesel and this was our signal to get riding too. We lay in wait just south of the A40 bridge in Moers-Schwafheim.

He arrived and we decided to go straight on to the Cemetery, so we rode together, a group of three now, and parked outside.

After a short visit at Robert’s grave we then headed towards Uerdingen for a much-needed slice of cake and cup of tea.

Photo by Josef (Jupp)

We arrived and parked outside, and just a couple of minutes later Norbert and Elke from the forum arrived too on their recumbent trikes!

Photo by Josef (Jupp)

We were able to sit outside (it was a very hot day) although Elke, Norbert and I were in full sun which got a bit much after a while. We ordered a variety of cakes:

Josef was keen to get home to Bonn so he headed off at speed (he’s a speedy rider) and Klaus and I had another drink. We said goodbye to Norbert and Elke who made their way home and then Klaus and I also headed back. I had got rather too warm sitting in the full sun and needed some shade!

It was lovely to be able to ride a short distance with Josef again – he accompanied us on our first day of our summer tour this year – and it’s impressive that he will have ridden the 411km home in less than 24 hours!

Millie gets pimped some more!

Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will have noticed that in the 2.5 years/22,500km that I have had her, I have regularly done things to (a) make her slower, but (b) make her suit my needs more.

Basically, most people who buy a Milan buy it for SPEEEEEEEEEED!!!!! The Milan isn’t the ideal everyday velomobile – it’s low-slung so can get stuck on speed bumps/kerbs, it has a turning circle like that of a car (13 metres), it’s not overburdened with room for luggage, it isn’t very waterproof, it’s long so hard to store, and and and. However, the BIG benefit of the Milan to me is the easy entry and exit because of the Deckel. My choice of velomobiles that I can get out of without resorting to a crane is very small – and the Milan is actually the best option for me.

However, having bought an ex-racing Milan I have ended up ruining it by: (a) adding some strengthening carbon (more weight) around the entrance sill; (b) removing the foot hole on the left so I can go in reverse; (c) adding an electric motor (weight, and reduction of luggage space due to battery); (d) sticking vinyl wrap on it to make it look cooler although this adds weight; (e) changing all three lightweight wheels to stronger and heavier touring wheels; (f) fitting various chain tubes/covers to prevent me getting oily, (g) fitting larger drum brakes which are heavier but have better functionality, etc etc etc. Anyway, this month I did yet another shocking thing to Millie… I had another large hole cut in her!

In the photo above you can see that the left hand side foothole is open but the right side is closed. It has a sacrificial strip on it which is riveted onto the base, but this was now twisted and damaged which meant I was bottoming out on slight bumps.

I asked around amongst chums if anyone had the tools and the bravery to remove the footbump for me, but no-one felt quite up to the task. So I asked Andreas Beyß in Straelen (he manufactures the Go-One velomobiles) and he said he was happy to do it as it was an easy job.

So I rode the 20km to Straelen and helped Andreas turn Millie upside down onto a stand.

Because he would be cutting carbon fibre Andreas got a hoover ready.

He drilled a pilot hole with a drill, and then used an electric saw to cut out the shape. He just did this by eye.

The hole is now there!

He sanded off the edges of the hole. The photo below shows the piece that was cut out.

And the view from the interior now – two foot holes! The one on the right is a bit wider and doesn’t come back as far but that is partly because the mounting for the chain idler is there.

Interestingly, on my ride home I did notice a bit of a difference. Not so much the fact there is slightly more cooling air, but that there is a bit more light inside the velomobile when I look at my feet.

What will be very handy is if I need to do maintenance in the nose on that side I can now reach it much easier. The real test, of course, will be when I ride on some of my familiar routes where I used to bottom out. If this is not so noisy in the future it will be well worth the effort of riding to Straelen. Mr Beyß very kindly didn’t charge me for his work, which is very generous!

Battery woes?

This month Klaus and I did a weekend tour of castles in Münsterland (see my blog post here). During this tour I had to take the battery out of Millie overnight in order to charge it – when I am at home the battery is charged in situ as there is a socket in the garage next to where Millie is stored.

The last time the battery had been removed was our summer tour in June, but this time I noticed that the battery seemed to have slightly swollen.

You can just see in this photo, where I lined the battery up with a tile edge, that there is a slight swelling in the middle of the photo.

I didn’t know if this was a really serious issue, so I phoned the suppliers:

They suggested I brought the battery and charger to them in Köln so that they could check them out. So on a day when Klaus was cycling to work I nabbed his car and drove to Köln after work to visit Akkurad.

They had asked me to bring the charger as well as the battery, so I arrived and handed the battery to Houssem. He opened it up straight away and said everything was fine with the battery.

It seems that the bulging was just in the plastic of the case, perhaps it had got a bit warm. He tested the battery with a device and said the battery was OK, then also tested the charger and said that, too, was working fine. So with a clean bill of health my battery was screwed back into its box and I set off home again from Köln.

One last very useful bit of information though. I remembered Houssem saying, when I first got the motor, that the stages 1-5 weren’t evenly spaced. It is not that 1 is 20%, 2 is 40%, 3 60% etc… but he didn’t tell me at the time what the spacing is. Having used the motor for about 7,500km, usually just on number 1, I have got a bit of a feeling and that was that 4 and 5 were notably more powerful than 1-3, but I didn’t know much more than that. So Houssem gave me the percentages:

1 = 5%
2 = 15%
3 = 27%
4 = 65%
5 = 100%

This was really good news for me, as it shows that the level of support from the motor that I have is not soooooo huge (5% of 250 watts is 12.5 watts). The maximum I have needed to use on a group ride is setting 3 (I use 4 and 5 only when going up mega or mega mega hills). So this makes me feel good, that I am not needing as much power as I had thought to ride with my chums.

Preparations for our England trip

Klaus and I had planned to cycle to England in early September – it’s actually not that far, just 210km to Hoek van Holland and then 50km from Harwich to my Mum’s place north of Ipswich.

However, I reminded him about the bad roads in England and, more notably, the hedge-cutting season which starts early September.

He thought about it a bit and decided that his Continental tyres on the front of Emily and the GoCycles on the back would probably not be enough puncture-resistance. The best option would be Schwalbe Marathons. We thought we had a lot of these in stock but in fact they were mostly on our bikes – we only had 2 spares. So we robbed Alfie of his two Marathon front wheels, replacing them with Shreddas which we had lying around. Alfie may not be used again for the rest of the year so that doesn’t matter much.

And then Klaus had the fun job of replacing four tyres on the Quattrovelo and pumping them up, having replaced the tyres on Alfie and pumped them up too!

Emily goes barefoot

We later in the day did a test ride and one of them had a puncture; Klaus thinks he reused a holed tube as he had to go for SV6 rather than SV7 tubes and we found various ones lying about, but apparently one which needed repairing!

I did a few jobs on Millie too. I deflated both front tyres, checked them for stones and flints (not too many!) and then pumped them up again. I fitted a new tiller hanger – the one I had was a bit too short; I wanted to drop the tiller marginally lower now that my belly has reduced in size, but the end was too short. The tiller hanger is just a gear cable and we had a couple of spares so I fitted one and then cut it with plenty more length available if I want to drop the tiller further.

My third job was to replace the plastic wedge under my seat mounting. This had been fitted by Etienne at emvelomobiel.be a long time ago and he had warned that he didn’t know how well it would last. Well, it had lasted a year and a half which wasn’t bad (and six months longer than the one on the other side!). As with the left hand side seat raiser, I had a piece of old car/van tyre that Frank had supplied me with – so this is very strong reinforced rubber. Klaus had to drill two holes in it for the screws that come from the underside of the Milan, and then we just fitted the new seat mounting. All worked fine, and it works well. It adds a very minor bit of suspension too as the rubber has a tiny amount of give.

As I have got two more broken spokes (one in each front wheel) I bit the bullet and ordered a new set of front wheels from Gingko who are well-known in the velomobile world for wheels. Hopefully I will finally get some reliable wheels that stay round!

After this we took ourselves to Kempen for a test ride – this is when we discovered Emily’s puncture. After that was repaired (and Klaus had pumped up his seventh tyre of the day to about 6 bar/100 psi), we rode to Kempen and had an ice cream.

We are now ready for the England trip and really looking forward to it!

Other events

Redecorating of our study/spare room

Because of the hospitality we received from friends during our Summer Tour, which we said we would reciprocate, we realised we needed to get a proper guest double bed. Well, a sofa bed, as most of the time we wouldn’t have people staying. So with input from Klaus’s daughter Lara (who would probably also be using the bed) we visited IKEA and bounced up and down on some sofa beds and also did a lot of internet research. Because most sofa beds were too wide the choice wasn’t enormous, plus Lara was keen to have a boxspring bed for comfort, but in the end we found one we could all agree on and ordered it.

The spare room has a white carpet which has not worn well over the years and although I have several times hired a carpet shampoo machine, it was not possible to remove the stains. So I decided if we were going to have this room as a room for Lara/my Mum/other guests I needed to do something else. Either recarpeting the room (expensive) or, the easier option, buying a large rug to cover most of the dodgy bits. And I found a good rug which looked reasonably hardwearing and was the right size (3.5 metres by 2.5 metres).

The old sofa went out of the room and was taken away by the Kempen Sperrmüll – it was sad to see it go as I had had that sofa for five years. I then moved the desk as Mum said it would be better to have the bed in the corner where the desk currently was, and then I laid the rug out.

Poppy seemed to approve.

I ordered a couple of carpet runners to fill in the gaps where the shape of the room meant the rug didn’t cover the whole white carpet.

And then, several days later, the sofa was delivered. The delivery guys offered to built it (for a price) but we said no, we would do it ourselves. This was a good plan as actually it just needed six screws to fix it together! Here it is as a bed (it is a double, but with just a single duvet on it).

And here as a sofa.

The sofa is comfortable and the bed seems so, but we will have to ask Lara after her first night on it. She certainly liked it to sit on and test-lie on.

I rather liked this amusing note that came with the sofa – instructions to stroke it, and then it will be more attractive!

More dogwalking

My Garmin Vivoactive 3 smartwatch encourages me to do my 8,000 steps per day and I manage it for about 28 days in 30. I even went out when rain was threatened – but got caught out and had to wait under a tree for a few minutes!

The dog is always grateful for a walk but otherwise she generally hangs out downstairs with Gudula and Frank as they are clearly more interesting than Klaus and I!

Cakes this month

As usual, here are the cakes that I enjoyed with friends and haven’t been featured above. The last one (with raspberries on) is a bad photo of a really tasty cake that my colleague Inna brought in for me early as her birthday cake. In Germany on your birthday you are supposed to bring cakes in for your colleagues (rather than them treating you!!) but as I would be on holiday in England when Inna brought her cake in, she produced something early just for me. It was really tasty!

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Filed under Bertie the Velomobile, Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Schlössertour in Münsterland

Klaus and I both agreed that we like doing short bike tours as well as the long ones – three days gives you a real chance to travel further and do some exploring, but you only have to take one day off work.

So we had a look at our diaries and decided that the weekend in the middle of August would be suitable for a tour. Klaus put together a route for us, 350km over three days, and we made arrangements.

The tour was to be in Münsterland which is east of where we live, with rolling hills. We had ridden a little in Münsterland a few years ago, but this would be a chance to explore a bit more. Klaus also managed to route our track past lots of different castles, so we decided to call it a Schlössertour (Castle Tour).

This was the planned route for the entire trip:

We were both able to get the Monday off so our tour would be from Saturday to Monday.

Packing for our tours now takes just a few minutes – this is because what you need for a 3 day tour and what you need for a 2 week tour is mostly the same – 3 sets of cycling clothing, 1 set of normal clothing, shoes, wash kit, gadget chargers, iPad. Tools and waterproofs are usually already in the velomobile.

I had split the days up into three similar length days, with just the first day a bit shorter (this was due to a rather meagre choice of hotels).

Day 1: Kempen to Gescher

So on Saturday morning we set off in a leisurely manner after 10:30am, heading to Gescher.

The weather forecast was a bit unfortunate for the tour, with the first two days pretty rainy. Thus we started late, as it was forecasted to dry up as the day wore on. But we didn’t want to leave it too late!

The first fifteen minutes or so were in drizzle but it wasn’t too bad. We were cycling to Rees am Rhein which is a 55km route which we know really well. We also knew that food opportunities weren’t great after Rees, and our route actually bypassed Rees rather than going into the town, so I suggested we tried the café we have ridden past quite often on our way past Uedem – it’s Hochwald-Spargel but they have signs for a café too; we don’t usually stop there as we have already stopped at Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk, but for a 115km ride Winnekendonk was a bit too soon for a cake stop, at 31km. The one to the east of Uedem would be at 40km and Google thought it would be open, so we decided to give it a go!

So we pootled along in the drizzle but it soon dried up and although the roads were still a bit wet it was fine for us. It was a fairly cool day, maybe 17 degrees, and I was feeling the chill a little from my wet cycling jersey. I hadn’t thought to bring my motorbike neckwarmer and that turned out to be a bit of a mistake on this tour!

In due course we arrived at Hochwald-Spargel and the Hufschen Henn Hofcafé. There was just one other group of people there but it was open and they had a selection of cakes which all looked pretty good.

The people were very friendly and as we sat eating our cake they brought out several new cakes which had been freshly-prepared in house. They all looked good!

We also saw the food that was brought to the other table for those having lunch and it looked really nice. So this café was definitely another good find!

As we left the café the rain started, and it stayed with us for quite a bit of the rest of our journey.

However, we are made of tough stuff and battled through!

Our castles started fairly early in the trip – just after Rees we passed Haus Empel. We couldn’t see it very well through the trees (we were riding fast on the B67) but it looks like this:

It was the first of many “Wasserschlösser” or castles with a moat that we saw over the next three days.

Just a few kilometres further on we passed Wasserburg Anholt which is another impressively-moated castle.

Von Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20473008

We rode along the border with NL but staying on the German side, past some places with excellent names: Dinxperlo and Spork.

At 86km cycled we crossed into the Netherlands, but there was almost nothing to see – no border post, no change in landscape – the only difference is the road markings and road signs are a bit different.

This section of ride was rather nice as it was through woodland. The 2km of road surface which was brick paved rather than asphalt was a bit annoying, but otherwise we enjoyed our brief foray into NL, crossing back into Germany 12km later at Oeding.

Oeding looked familiar, and indeed it was – I had stayed there on my Berlin to London ride. There was rather more traffic than we had seen so far on our ride, and we were restricted to a cycle path which was mostly OK but had its moments, but we headed east on the B525 between Südlohn and Weseke, eventually turning off to take a back way into Gescher. Riding along Bundesstraßen can be quick but isn’t always very scenic!

We arrived at our hotel and went to check in. I reminded them that they had offered us a room to store the velomobiles, but the chap said “but we have a wedding today! No space at all!” This was rather bad news as a wedding meant lots of people wandering about and if the velomobiles had to overnight out in the open where lots of people were carousing this was not great. The chap then offered some space in a carport (which was at least covered to keep the rain off) but this was, too, open to passers-by. In the end he said that in a couple of hours there would be a storage room inside the hotel free and we could put the bikes in there, but would have to get them out by 9:30am the following morning. That would be no problem, so we said we’d go for that.

We had our showers and then I decided to go for a walk to buy a few supplies to nibble on (we hadn’t bought any nuts with us). As I was walking past reception the man who had booked us in said that he had an alternative option, and what turned out to be the owner of the hotel handed me a remote lock for his garage; this was in his private house, opposite the hotel. It was very kind of him, and we were pleased to take up the offer – Millie and Emily were safely ensconced in the garage where they dripped gently onto the floor as they had taken on a fair bit of water today, although it was mostly just a fine drizzle or mist.

We ate in the restaurant at the hotel and it was very good food with efficient service. We also had some entertainment – not the wedding, there was also a Schützenfest going on which involved lots of young chaps walking around in uniforms carrying rifles and a brass band playing VERY loudly outside our bedroom window. During our meal a chap arrived with a squeeze-box and played some tunes very well, with lots of the restaurant patrons singing along.

This kind of thing happens in Germany!

We didn’t get a great night’s sleep because of the Schützenfest which seemed to involve lots of drumming and very loud brass band music. And to cap it all off, at 6am on the dot we had two marching band songs – and then silence again! Needless to say we were awake at that point.

Day 2: Gescher to Selm.

Early this morning Klaus received a message from a Velomobilforum member who saw that we were cycling in his part of the world and offered for us to pop in and see him to dry off from the rain. This was because the forecast for the day was 13mm rain, pretty much non-stop. Anyway, we said yes, and adjusted our planned track accordingly (we would go closer to Münster as that is where Otfried lives).

We had breakfast in the hotel and then noticed on the rain radar a band of dry weather between two huge rainclouds. Sure enough, the rain paused… and we thought it would be a good plan to get cycling during that break. We extracted the velomobiles, returned the garage remote control, paid the bill and then with the audience of most of those breakfasting (not the wedding party, I guess they were still hung over – this was a lot of pensioners!) we set off. Just as the heavy rain began to fall again!!

At times the rain was pretty heavy and it meant that we were both getting quite wet. Klaus periodically put on the Schaumdeckel but this then meant that he overheated and that when he stopped for a traffic light or something his visor steamed up very badly. So he mostly cycled open…

However, overall we were luckier with the weather than expected as we were able to catch up the band of dry weather we had noticed at breakfast and then cycle within it for quite a lot of the first 40km today.

Our first castle today was Schloss Varlar near Rosendahl, but it wasn’t somewhere we could actually get to.

Which was a shame, as the photographs show it is a beautiful building.

Von © Günter Seggebäing, CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43281475

And an unusual shape for a castle, as visible from the aerial photo:

Von © Günter Seggebäing, CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39132044

So having just looked at the closed gates we turned round and carried on.

We were making a reasonable pace with views of the gentle rolling Münsterland hills ahead.

Our second castle was near Havixbeck, Haus Stapel.

Von PanoGraph.eu – Wilfried Pinsdorf – PanoGraph.eu – Wilfried Pinsdorf, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3342164

We didn’t manage to see this one at all from the road; the rain meant we didn’t feel like getting out of the velomobiles to look at anything anyway!

Our original route had us passing the second Havixbeck castle, Haus Havixbeck, but instead we stayed north of the main town and headed eastwards towards Münster.

Our alternative route to us to Otfried’s routed us near the third Havixbeck castle, Burg Hülshoff.

Von © Günter Seggebäing, CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27974456

We arrived at Otfried’s in the dry but it looked like the rain cloud would catch us up soon. There was nowhere undercover to store Millie so Otfried lent me a cover he made for his Quest. It fitted Millie very well, although was no longer waterproof (he had warned me of this). But it’s given me some ideas if I can find a suitable-size tarpaulin – it would need to cover the whole Deckel and the Naca Duct too.

Otfried and his wife had made us a cheesecake. It was warm out of the oven so we got to admire it for the first round of teas while it cooled down.

When it was time for the second round of warming drinks, the Käsekuchen was judged cool enough to eat…

We spent two hours with Otfried and his wife and it was great to talk to them and share experiences of cycling.

The rain was coming down very hard when we left but we weren’t expecting it to improve so there was little point in waiting. We waved goodbye and headed off into the rain.

I noticed some very sweet and amusing road names on our tour through Münsterland, and one was just south of Otfried’s house – a road called Dingbängerweg!

We were now heading south, parallel to the A1, as it curved slightly to the east. We rode through Amelsbüren and then headed towards Rinkerode, where we passed Haus Borg.

(from website https://www.heimatverein-rinkerode.de/index.php/rinkerode/historischer-ortsrundgang/historischer-ortsrundgang-rinkerode-20-haus-borg?reload=none)

And almost opposite this one is Haus Bisping.

(Image from http://malwoanders.de/rundweg-rinkerode-wanderung/)

After Rinkerode we crossed the little river Werse just before Albersloh and then headed south to Drensteinfurt.

There were two castles within 1.5 kilometres here. The first was Haus Venne.

(from website https://www.muensterland.de/freizeit-urlaub/sehenswuerdigkeiten/schloesser-und-burgen-im-muensterland/drensteinfurt-haus-venne/)

The second was Haus Itlingen,

Von Wik FGK – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63739284

And not too far further along the road we came to yet another castle, Schloss Westerwinkel. This was another huge castle!

Von Mbdortmund – Eigenes Werk, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7462248

The size of some of these places is very impressive, but was totally dwarfed by the next (and final for this day) castle that we passed…

Schloss Nordkirchen is like a German version of Versailles!

Not a good photograph by me at all, here are a couple of better ones!

Von © Günter Seggebäing, CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37590927
Von Mbdortmund – Eigenes Werk, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6487270
Von “Foto Wolfgang Pehlemann” direkt unter dem Bild mit Angabe “erweiterte Lizenz CC-by-sa  V. 3.0”, wobei der Nutzer für dessen Nutzung a) Rechte oder Ansprüche Dritter prüfen und verantwortlich beachten sowie b) Motivveränderungen durch ihn als solche mit angeben muss., CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78507201

The amazing thing about this castle is that it seems to now be in use as a Polytechnic (Fachhochschule). What an amazing place to get your education!

Klaus and I were hungry after all this cycling in the heavy rain and we needed something warming so cycled further into the town of Nordkirchen and eventually found a restaurant that was open for hot food at 3:30 in the afternoon – a Croatian restaurant. We had a good meal and then set off for the final 10km to our accommodation in Selm.

We were overnighting in a small Ferienwohnung and the host and hostess were very friendly, letting us store the velomobiles in a store room under one of the apartments.

Both velomobiles were soaking wet but the rain had finally moved away and the forecast for our last day was dry, hurrah!

Day 3: Selm to Kempen

Klaus woke up with a headache, and realised he had not slept very well on the bed/pillow. This unfortunately dogged him throughout the day as the headache was often tending towards a migraine – but we had 120km to ride.

You can see from our reduced average speed that today was harder – not because of the weather (it was dry) or the terrain (less hilly), but as Klaus was feeling under the weather.

We set off at about 9am, enjoying the fact that the sun was shining at last, although it wasn’t particularly warm.

We were very soon at our first castle of the day, Schloss Sandfort. It was a bit hair-raising pulling into the driveway of this castle as there were lots of massive trucks barrelling along the country road to this castle. Some kind of building work was going on, so I quickly got a photo and escaped again!

Here is a better photo, from the inside:

Von Begede – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6337513

We cycled through Olfen and then continued on roads which were busier than yesterday (Monday morning, to be expected). We used the cycle paths a bit more than we might usually do, partly because of the traffic but also because Klaus wasn’t feeling quite so energetic. Sometimes the cycle path is a bit of a challenge in itself – this one was full of twists and turns for a couple of kilometres:

Approaching Ahsen there was a road closure with diversion, which we followed. It turned out to be OK but one is never entirely sure if it will be a huge detour (it probably added 2km to the total so not too bad). We were riding alongside the wiggly river Lippe, and there is also a canal which had been above the height of the road earlier in our ride today.

We skirted north of Haltern am See but stopped for a coffee and cookie at a McDonalds as Klaus was flagging.

Suitably refreshed we carried on through Wulfren and then we arrived at Schloss Lembeck, somewhere Klaus has regularly stayed in the past (it is a hotel). We stopped, of course!

Despite it only being 20km since our McDonalds stop, we couldn’t resist the café…

We enjoyed a good break here, sitting outside in the sunshine rather than hiding from the rain as we had been doing the last two days!

We continued on in due course, once again to stop quite soon at another castle – Schloss Raesfeld. What a lovely place!

As we were having a relaxing day we stopped and had a bowl of soup whilst looking at the castle. It was a really lovely little area with quaint shops, no cars – just lots of people on bikes!

It was time to move on and we were now heading for Wesel, which is definitely our part of the world. The route Klaus had chosen avoided the busy main roads and took us through some lovely rural areas with fields, woodland and mostly good quality roads. It was lovely!

As we approached Wesel we had to stop for ten minutes as Klaus was feeling a bit seedy with his headache. He took another paracetamol and closed his eyes for a little bit, and then we were OK to carry on.

The route through Wesel isn’t particularly nice but eventually we were on the bridge crossing the Rhine.

Rather than the direct route back from Wesel that we had planned we chose a quieter and more scenic route through Menzelen before rejoining our route at Alpen – with a mega hill. The run back to Issum, Sevelen, Kengen, Saelhuysen and then home via Stenden felt like quite a long way for Klaus, I believe, as his headache was getting worse. But we arrived home safe and sound, unpacked the bikes, wrung out the water from the sound-dampening foam in Emily’s side pockets (Klaus was transporting about a kilo of water, I think!) and then it was time for a shower and for Klaus to lie down in a darkened room! He felt better after about half an hour.

Despite Klaus being a bit poorly on the last day, and despite the rain, we had a lovely tour. Münsterland is great to cycle through and we will definitely go back again. Thanks again to Otfried and his wife for their generous hospitality and Käsekuchen.

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Velomobiles

Nine Wheels in Germany – July 2019 (Month 64)

Cycling this month

Last month was a very good month for cycling as we had our Bodensee tour, but this month wasn’t too shabby either, with a total of 766km cycled.

And I went here:

As there were some warm days I decided to get Alfie the trike out of storage and ride him a little. I always love riding my trikes, although it is of course much slower than riding a velomobile. I used him for my work commute for a week.

Alfie the Trike on work’s random parking space, only accessible if you can ride across grass or negotiate two 90 degree corners in the paving. Bizarre design, but works well for a trike!

Tile-bagging and other rides

I have mentioned my tile-bagging (Veloviewer Explorer Square) in previous blog posts. The image below is my Veloviewer Max Square on 1 July:

Veloviewer 13×13 Max Square, 1 July 2019

As you can see from this, I had completed lots of squares north or south of my central point but I needed to expand east and west. So that gave me a purpose for some of my rides over the month of July.

Below I have written a few short reports of some of these rides, most of which involved tile-bagging, at least tangentially.

Niederrhein Radwandertag

The first Saturday in July was the Niederrhein Radwandertag. This wasn’t something I had been particularly aware of, but when asking Ralf if he wanted to cycle (Klaus was away in Korea) he said that people were meeting in St Tönis so I said I might go there as part of a tile-bagging route. I then looked up what was happening and saw it was the Radwandertag.

My plan was to ride the route with Hartmut (he was leading a ride) but then I noticed that his route was going to Willich and that isn’t a route I particularly like, so I decided instead to go to Kempen first, get the card there (they stamp it if you visit one of the Stands) and then get a second stamp in St Tönis.

So I went to Kempen, got the card and a stamp, and also a booklet which had the routes. I decided not to follow the official route to St Tönis from Kempen as it had some stretches that weren’t so velomobile-suitable, I just rode directly there.

It was lovely to see Hartmut and Herbert at St Tönis and I took the opportunity to have a nice slice of cake!

I had planned a route from St Tönis towards Nettetal as then I could collect some more Veloviewer tiles on the west of Nettetal, heading to Herongen. I noticed that my route went through Grefrath-Oedt where there was a Niederrhein Radwandertag Stamping point so I might as well get that. The road was closed for a bit event in Oedt, mostly with the fire brigade, all as part of this special day. I managed to squeeze my way into the town centre and got my card stamped.

From Oedt I headed to Nettetal. I knew there was a stamping point there which was directly on my route (at the De Witt See information centre) so I might as well get that one. I passed a sign to Breyell, 1.5km away, and there was a stamping point there but as I wasn’t really doing this I didn’t bother. Which I then started to regret about 2km later as I though I could get several more, and I had only just missed Breyell. Oh well, too late!

I got my stamped at the Nettetal place and used their loo whilst also having a quick look around the wildlife information centre.

Now I was on my tile-bagging route and so I fiddled around a bit, as you can see from the map below of my whole ride. The western side is where I was tile-bagging – I needed tiles in Hinsbeck, Louisenburg and Herongen.

I noticed from the Radwandertag booklet that there were stamping places also in Wachtendonk and Kerken (although the Kerken one was actually in Stenden). Why not get those on the way home too? So I did!

I could have also gone to Geldern and got another one, but I was so annoyed about missing the Breyell one that I decided to stop at Kerken. I handed in my card there, and the lady said I had by far the most stamps.

All in all it was a 70km ride and I enjoyed it a lot. Good weather, good cake, some fast roads… what more can you ask for?

By the way, KK (the first stamp) is the German shorthand for Kempen, which is now on our number plates (we used to only be allowed VIE for Viersen but some of the older plate designations, that had been removed formerly, are now allowed again). KK was originally “Kempen und Krefeld”, when they shared a registration mark, but Krefeld has had its own (KR) for a long time now. Some wag decided that KK stands for “Königreich Kempen” (the Kingdom of Kempen) and you see that in lots of places – people have numberplate holders made with Königreich Kempen on them, also stickers etc.

Tilebagging – NL part 1

I had a second tile-bagging ride, this time 72km and mostly in the Netherlands. I managed to bag lots of tiles on this one, but had to do a very fiddly route to get them!

I rode first to Straelen via Kerken (good, fast roads!) and then headed down down a long, straight road which went towards the B9, crossing it briefly before I nipped into Herongen. From there it was into the Netherlands and following my Garmin to ensure I picked up the tiles. At one point I was riding on the road (although there was a cycle path available – naughty me!) and I was very pleased to be on the road as the cycle path went in a completely different direction and I would have missed my tile!

The route my Garmin had arranged around Venlo was surprisingly good and I was able to keep moving and the cycling infrastructure was very good.

I went north towards Arcen and got some tiles, then it was time to go east again and head home. I saw signs to Jagersrust which looked like some kind of café which indeed it was, and I stopped for an ice cream and a cuppa! It was a warm day and I had forgotten to take a bottle of water with me.

The ice cream was very good!


However, being NL this was pretty pricey (I think I paid 8 Euro in total for the tea and ice cream). And then when I left, I noticed about 50 metres up the road I crossed back into Germany and there was a rather nice looking Bauerncafé which undoubtedly sold good German cakes! I would have to return to check it out…

And two days later I did! As Klaus was away in Korea I had a lot of time on my hands and with the good weather I decided to bag some more tiles.

Tile-bagging NL – part 2

This ride was 76km and was back in a similar region to the last one.

I started via Kerken again and this time rode up to Walbeck. From here I followed the purple line on my Garmin (the route carefully prepared by me the night before to get all the possible tiles I could in the shortest distance!), then I headed across to Arcen. I would perhaps normally have stopped for cake in Arcen but I had planned my route to take me to the new Bauerncafé on the way back, so I kept on.

I rode straight down the main road between Arcen and Venlo, using the cycle path beside the road. This is a decent path and it is of course the law that we should use it. I just reached the outskirts of Venlo when my track curved round and started taking me back north again, to get another set of tiles.

When planning the route there was a very tricky tile to get, as there only seemed to be narrow farm tracks to get there. It wasn’t clear whether I would actually succeed, and when I got there (the black spot on the map below) I discovered a sub-optimal track ahead.

Oh dear, I definitely couldn’t cycle this!

I had climbed out of Millie and had a look around. It looked as though an asphalted track started after just 100 metres or so. There was no obvious alternative route on my Garmin so I just had to push Millie. She is low-slung so it was quite musical with all the plants and thistles rubbing on her underside, plus I have a minor paranoia about ticks (I was wearing sandals), but eventually Millie and I both made it through mostly unscathed.

The road surface was pretty bad for the next 2km but still way better than walking across bumpy grass! I visited some bits of NL I guess I will never visit again – really quaint hamlets, farms etc. But in due course I arrived at the Bauerncafé Jacobs and they did indeed have cakes, and they were indeed tasty!

After being fortified with this cake I headed home at super-speed, glad to have bagged some more tiles!

Tile-Bagging in Brachter Wald

Another long tile-bagging ride this month was an attempt to get into the former military manoeuvres area in Brüggen. This ended up as a 90km ride as I also added some more tiles near Venlo.

The problem is on the south-west corner of my track, the Brachter Wald.

Where the black blob is, is a gate. The Brachter Wald/Brüggener Wald are closed off to motorists with various gates. Years ago Klaus and I had major difficulties getting his recumbent trike through the gate at the bottom of the picture (near the Baggersee, where my track abruptly stopped).

August 2014, a Steintrikes Wild One does not easily fit through a turnstile gate

I knew that gate would be impassable for me, but wondered if other gates into the woodland would be perhaps of a different design. I had a backup plan, as there were two tiles available within about 500 metres of the gate, so if I couldn’t ride through I would walk through so at least I could bag these two tiles which would certainly help with my Max Square, although walking in SPD sandals isn’t ideal, plus leaving Millie unsupervised!

I arrived at the gate… and it was of a different style, hurrah! The gate that had caused us problems before was a turnstile-type, but this one was a bit different. I thought it might JUST be wide enough for Millie. I had a go – but I couldn’t get her nose moved when I was pushing her from behind. This was really a two-person job. Fortunately a cyclist appeared at the gate from inside the wood and he offered to help. He lifted Millie’s nose up and it just had to shuffle about 10cm to one side and then it worked. She was through!

I decided this meant I could get out OK this way if I had to, but I would try to ride right through in case they had changed the other gate. So you see from my track above, I cycled about 6km through the Brachter Wald, which is lovely – there are wild ponies there! The whole place has become a huge nature reserve, but with signs still of the former Army presence with giant concrete bunkers and silos which nature is slowly assimilating.

Ponies in the distance

(Those last three photos were taken when I visited with Klaus in August 2014, I didn’t take any pictures this time).

When I arrived at the gate at the south end of the Wald, I discovered it had not been changed in the last five years.

I had a bit of a try but there was no way Millie would get through there without having her sawn in half.

So I turned round and cycled the 6km back to the original gate.

This time I really struggled on my own to get through. There was no-one to help and although I had positioned myself at the nose end of Millie, it really needed two people as her tail needed to be shuffled across and this was very hard from her nose end. I watched the carbon fibre flanks of Millie being slightly compressed near her tail area as I slowly wiggled her through the airlock. Finally success, and she had no visible additional scrapes/marks on her (she already has quite a few so I am very phlegmatic about them anyway). So I counted that as a win, plus I bagged my five tiles.

What I did learn from this, however, was that Klaus would no way be able to get Emily through this gate. Not a chance. He will also need to do these tiles in due course. My suggestion to him was that we ride there with Ralf and then Klaus borrow’s Ralf’s DF (which is narrower and shorter than our velomobiles) to do the five tiles/6km ride in Brachter Wald. I mentioned this to Ralf and he told us that our friend Uli actually has a key to the lock to these gates (there is a large gate area which is padlocked but would allow a tank through). So we may have to tempt Uli to have a ride with Klaus through Brachter Wald sometime!

In total my ride on this day was 92km. The rest of it, after negotiating the Brachter Wald gates, was pretty easy; I did one short detour to bag a tile (at a former monastery south of Venlo) where I had to retrace my track after getting to that tile, but it’s not something I usually have to do as there are generally good through-routes. The tile is 1 kilometre square so there are usually several roads in each tile, even in the rural areas.

Cake with Ralf in Stemmeshof

My colleagues had given me a Voucher for a café in Nettetal for my birthday in June and so when Klaus was back from Korea and as he was fighting the jet lag I suggested we rode (with Ralf) to the café to use up the 20 € voucher. This seemed like a good plan, so we had a ride one day with Ralf, doing some tile-bagging.

It turned out also to be a day when we did some velomobile sub-aqua when Ralf led us through some water-filled gullies across some of the field tracks. Millie remained dry inside (and she is usually very leaky), but Klaus’s Emily sucked up rather a lot of water, both in the foot holes at the front and also somehow into the axle box at the back where the gears are. He had to lift Emily’s tail and then her nose to try to encourage the water out of the drainage holes.

After this we had definitely earned our cakes! We arrived at Stemmeshof; I had been there once or twice before but as we walked inside it became clear we could not sit down in there as the noise level was huge! This seems to be a thing with design of public spaces in Germany now – plain walls, tile floor, hard furniture… and it makes for a huge volume level as there are no soft furnishings to dampen the sound. Klaus with his jet lag definitely didn’t fancy a noisy cake so we sat outside although it was a bit cool.

We were a bit boring and all ordered the same cake!

Klaus was feeling really hungry though so he had another slice, this time of a different cake.

That would keep him going for the ride home!

In total this was a 76km ride but it was good fun and it was good to ride with Ralf again – we haven’t managed that so much recently.

Tile-bagging in Viersen

Klaus needed a haircut and he really likes the barber shop in Viersen (so do I). It’s 20km away so it seemed wise to cycle there.

As I had some missing tiles south of Viersen I asked Klaus if we could do a little detour after the haircut and collect them. Of course he agreed (he also needs the tiles!) so I planned a route that would collect several of them.

We passed close to Ralf’s house so dropped in to see him – he was doing some maintenance on his DF. This included the first time he had oiled the chain – after about 6,000km. But in velomobiles the chain is so well protected it doesn’t get that dirty.

We then headed into Lobberich to stop for cake.

Our ride was 71km in total, and Klaus came back with a very good haircut too!

Papperlapapp with Klaus

After our separate holidays (Klaus in Berlin, me in England) we went out for a cycle ride together to enjoy some cake at Papperlapapp. As rain was forecasted we chose Papperlapapp in Vorst because we knew there was a place to park which was undercover – this is the advantage of knowing all the cafes and cake establishments within a 40km radius!

We enjoyed a slice of cake each and just relaxing outside.

The threatened rain didn’t really arrive, just a few spots.

On the way home we rode through quite a different landscape that before our holidays as during this week the wheat had been harvested.

Tile-bagging Steudle

My final solo bit of tile-bagging for the month was an after-work dash around to pick up some tiles to the north (my favourite area to ride) and the north east.

I needed some tiles around Kamp-Lintfort and managed to organise a ride of 93km which bagged a whopping 22 tiles!

I hadn’t originally planned a cake stop but I knew that Landcafé Steudle in Vernum would be open on a Monday (most cafés are shut then) so I had it in the back of my mind, as it would only be a small detour. I wasn’t sure if I would do the whole track, or if I would stop once I had completed the Horstgen tiles (to the NE of the map) as then there was quite a long transfer to Geldern where the next batch of tiles started. I could have stopped halfway round if I didn’t feel like riding more.

However, my legs were good (as was my motor!) and so I kept going, enjoying the relatively quiet roads at three in the afternoon in Kreis Kleve.

There were roadworks in Geldern but I was very lucky and able to continue on my track through the roadworks; they were one way so if I had done this track the other way round I wouldn’t have been able to get a tile. I maintained a good speed for this ride too, with an average of 29.4 km/h for the 93km.

I had to put my foot down a bit towards the end as I suddenly couldn’t remember if Steudle was open until 18:00 or 18:30. I estimated I would arrive there at 17:45 and some German establishments start cashing up early and won’t serve you, even if they are still officially open! But it was fine, I arrived at 17:30 (I put the pedal to the metal a bit for the last hour) and had a lovely slice of cake.

Stelde is 19km from home but we ride this route so regularly that it feels like you are almost home and the journey home goes by in a flash! The only difficulty was crossing the B9 road during rush hour, so it took a bit longer before I was safe to cross to Winternam.

Tile-bagging for Klaus in Krefeld

On the last day in July Klaus suggested we did a ride to bag some of his tiles. His Max Square is smaller than mine, so he is bagging tiles that I have mostly got, but there were two available for me on this tour so it was a worthwhile 36km!

The funny detour out to the east from Niep was to enable me to get a missing tile; Klaus had originally planned the route directly down on the main road from Niep to Krefeld but I spotted there was a very small diversion of 2km to get a tile that we both needed. The planning of these routes is actually fairly complicated, if you try to get all tiles with minimum distance, and also because the maps on Veloviewer are not the same as Google Maps or the maps on the Garmin software, so it’s not always clear exactly where the tiles start and finish.

And this was my Veloviewer Max Square map by the end of July:

Veloviewer 18×18 Max Square

And, as a reminder, here’s what it looked like at the beginning of July, when it was 13×13

Doing the Veloviewer Max Square challenge is a really interesting way to ride new roads and visit new places. This is just the rides for 2019, my lifetime Max Square is 21×21 (also here in Germany, as my UK Max Square was limited by the Colne river which meant I couldn’t get several squares north east of where I lived unless I hired a boat).

A visit to England

Because I have been doing lots of overtime at work I have ended up with almost two weeks’ additional leave. So I decided to take a week when Klaus was in Berlin with his daughter Lara (and Poppy also went with them to Berlin but stayed with Lars for the five days) and visit my Mum in England.

Rather than make Klaus drive the 450km round trip to the Hoek van Holland the day before he had to drive all the way to Berlin, I decided to take the train. This used to be easy – Venlo to Rotterdam, Rotterdam to Hoek van Holland. Two trains, one change. However, things are now much more complicated!

As you can see, it is now three trains and a bus. It also costs 24 € for the train and 2,22 € for the bus. Things are much easier with an OV-Chipkaart (a bit like an Oyster card) so on one of my tile-bagging trips I went to Venlo station and bought the card in advance and put 55 € credit on it.

This meant Klaus just had to drop me off at Venlo on the Sunday morning. The return journey on Friday night was more complex as Klaus would probably still be driving back from Berlin, Gudula and Frank weren’t available so I investigated how much a taxi would cost. 55 € seemed very steep, especially as my two day ferry crossings only totalled 77 pounds! Fortunately my colleague Dorothee came to the rescue and said she would pick me up. Hurrah!

So Klaus drove me bright and early to Venlo and I got on the first train, the comfy double-decker.

I got off at Eindhoven and bought a cup of tea whilst awaiting the next train, which took me to Rotterdam. This was a single-decker train and not so nice, but still fine.

At Rotterdam I just needed to get a train to Schiedam. This was only a four minute journey but I had to wait a while for the train.

I got off at Schiedam and then had to follow the signage to the bus stop, bus 711 which goes directly to Hoek van Holland. It arrived after about 10 minutes and several people with suitcases – including me! – got on.

I went right to the back so I could leave my case on the floor.

This was an easy journey and I arrived at the Stena ferry with two hours in hand.

This was planned, as I knew I wanted to pop into the Albert Heijn supermarket in Hoek van Holland to buy food for the ferry journey. It’s 8 hours on the ferry with not much to do except read, play on the iPad (but no wifi, so I had downloaded some TV programmes) and eat. If you eat on the ferry it’s expensive so I went round Albert Heijn picking up things that I thought I fancied. This included salad, olives and feta, bottled water, houmous, but also a few non-Keto things such as a sandwich and a bread roll to go with my salad.

I managed to kill enough time that boarding was starting once I had walked back to the ferry terminal. The queue for motor traffic seemed to be 90% motorhomes!

I knew the ferry would be very busy and indeed it was. I went to the front end to look at the view.

It was way too noisy here though, right next to the big restaurant, so I took myself off to the quiet area near the stern of the boat and found a comfortable chair. I settled down for the long journey.

I watched a couple of TV programmes and finished a book I had brought with me. Then I went for a constitutional around the deck. I left my bag of food and my water bottle on my seat/table area so it was bagged as I didn’t want to lose it! But I had to take my iPad with me (I had checked in my suitcase).

It was a beautiful day for a crossing. We left Hoek van Holland at 14:00 and I sighted land in the UK an hour and a half before we actually docked – this is due to the route the ferry has to take due to the sandbanks around the East Coast waters. There were some lovely views though. That line on the horizon is Suffolk, where I was headed!

We disembarked at 20:00 UK time and Mum was there to collect me. It was great to see her again and to be back in the UK.

The next day was a mostly lazy day. It was going to be very warm in the UK but fortunately where Mum lives is a village at the top of a hill so there’s always a nice breeze.

I had my morning cup of tea in the garden.

Later on in the day I went for a walk to visit my Dad’s grave, and took the cross-country walk back. The gentle rolling hills of Suffolk have a very different view than Niederrhein.

The barley seemed a bit further ahead than in Germany.

In the afternoon we went for a cuppa with Mum’s neighbour and friend Stephanie. Stephanie rents her house and the landlord won’t let her plant things in the garden, so instead she has created an amazing flower garden in pots. It was beautiful!

The next day was set to be really warm – 34 degrees (very unusual for England although we get to that temperature quite often in Kempen). We had arranged to visit my cousin Moyna in the afternoon, but in the morning we headed into Ipswich by bus to do a few bits and bobs (I bought a new bag as the one I had with me on the way over started collapsing). The bus journey back was interesting as the bus conked out at the bus station but the driver found another one, although when we were underway he said it was gutless and there were some hills on the route. We made it back though!

In the afternoon we drove to Moyna’s. She lives in a beautiful thatched cottage called Holly Cottage.

As it was such a warm day we sat in the garden. Moyna has a fantastic garden!

We sat on the verandah of the summerhouse and ate scones with homemade jam and clotted cream.

And we looked across the fields to some of the rather nicer bits of Essex!

We had a really good chinwag with Moyna and plenty of cups of tea. I last saw her at the funeral of my father, over three years ago, so it was good to catch up again. I also enjoyed driving Mum’s car around the lanes fairly near where I used to live in Colchester.

Mum and I settled down in the evening to watch an episode of the series Chernobyl. I had ordered the DVD to be delivered to Mum’s in England and so we watched all five episodes whilst I was at her house. I had also brought along some Russian chocolates that my customer had brought for me at work; we ate the mystery Russian chocs whilst watching Chernobyl.

I also went to visit my sister one day and went out for lunch with her and my eldest niece, Gwenllian. In a spooky coincidence we were all dressed in white tops.

Helen, Gwen, Anna

We then proceeded to go out for a Chinese buffet meal and Klaus said I was bound to spill some down my white linen top. This is mainly because I usually spill food when I eat (I have to eat largely one-handed due to dodgy left elbow). Anyway, on this occasion I was very careful with my napkin and at the end of the meal I hadn’t spilled any but the other two had. Go me!

I also met my middle niece Angharad’s new kitten, Socks.

Gwen’s dog Chip was in the house and he was being very friendly to Socks, but Socks was not sure about Chip. As Chip can’t walk up the stairs in Anna’s house, Socks had learned to go up the stairs and look through the gap between the treads at what was happening below.

I had a lovely time with Anna and Gwen, and later also saw my other two nieces Angharad and Ceridwen, but was a bit shocked by the mug my sister gave me to drink my tea from:

Although Anna and I have a very easy-going relationship, and we agree on many things (Brexit being a disaster, etc), we clearly don’t vote the same way in General Elections!

The next day was my last full day and we had no specific plans, so decided to head to the beach (I had said to Mum I would like to visit the beach as we can’t really do that in Kempen as we are at least two hours away from the coast!)

We went to a beach in Suffolk called Shingle Street. We had been told there was nothing there, which was true, but it was lovely.

We walked past the artist and then found ourselves on a beach with only about 10 other people in sight.

A few people were swimming but they said it was very cold!

It wasn’t just the heads of swimmers we saw, there was also a seal in this cove area. We could just see his face peeping out of the water from time to time.

After an hour of simply sitting on the shingle and watching the ships go by (including the ferry I would be travelling on tomorrow), and also watching the swimmers and dogs frolicking in the water, we headed back via a pub for a pub lunch.

We stopped at the supermarket on the way back and bought me some more teabags. I bought about 2500 bags, carrying 840 home and leaving the rest in stock at Mum’s to collect when we come at Christmas with the car. I had actually misremembered how many teabags I had back in Germany and when I got home I counted them all up and it seems that I now own 5,000 bags. So that should keep me safe over the first few months of Brexit anyway.

In order to improve my tea drinking at Mum’s I bought myself a larger mug (I like big mugs). The choice was a bit slim but I liked this one’s shape and the message on it is acceptable (not sure if Klaus agrees).

Mum’s lovely neighbour Maureen brought round some slices of a coffee & walnut cake she had made so we enjoyed that with a cuppa.

In the evening Mum accommodated my request and we went out for an Indian meal as I do miss a good Indian here in Germany!

The following morning we left home at 06:30 for Mum to take me to the ferry, which would leave at 09:00. We had bought food for the journey yesterday, so I said goodbye to Mum, checked my suitcase and then headed to the quiet area again, where I got a better seat. I watched out of the window as we went past the many wind farms in the shallows around the East Coast.

The journey was fine – I read a lot of Michelle Obama’s book Becoming which I had purchased in the UK. I watched a film or two on my iPad, and then we were approaching the Hook of Holland.

I had the schedule for the return bus/train/train/train and annoyingly missed the first bus as we had to wait ages for our suitcases to arrive at Baggage Reclaim. When I caught the next bus I had to stand the whole way as it was full.

The train connection from Schiedam to Rotterdam was easy, and as I had a 20 minute wait for the next train I had an ice cream at Rotterdam.

I hopped on the train to Eindhoven, and had a message from Klaus to say he was already home from Berlin! He had made excellent progress with the driving. He had picked up Poppy from Lars in Berlin too so she was also home. I was able to tell my colleague Dorothee that she wouldn’t need to pick me up from Venlo, Klaus would.

Except it didn’t quite work like that. There was a huge electrical storm as my train approached Tilburg and when it got to the station it stopped. After half an hour people got on, and it was clear that this train was now going back to Rotterdam rather than continuing to Eindhoven. It was hard to get any information about the trains but I did hear an announcement saying passengers for Venlo should get the train to Nijmegen as no trains were continuing to Eindhoven because of the storm.

Nijmegen is definitely nearer home than Tilburg so I decided that was a plan. After a 20 minute wait a train arrived, which I got on. During this time I had been checking on the Dutch rail website ns.nl to see what trains ran from Nijmegen to Venlo – and it turned out none did! I could get multiple busses (6 in total to get to Venlo). This was completely hopeless so I phoned Klaus and he said he would set off straight away to drive to Nijmegen to pick me up. This, another 2 hours in total, after driving all the way back from Berlin!

I wrote a post on Facebook saying how annoying this was that there was no train from Nijmegen to Venlo and friend Oliver said that there is one, it just isn’t an NS train but is Arriva. I checked Arriva’s website (very poor!) and lo and behold there was! It travels via Cuijk, Boxmeer, Venray etc (familiar cycling territory). I phoned Klaus to ask if it helped him if I got the train to Cuijk or something but he said he was approaching Nijmegen. I only had to wait about five minutes before he appeared at the station to pick me up – what a hero! I eventually got home at 22:00, having expected to be home at 20:30.

I really enjoyed my time in England, it was very relaxing, and I don’t mind the travelling either, but it was good to be home. We’ll be returning to England at the beginning of September, but this time in our velomobiles!

Miscellaneous

As July has been very dry, the farmers have to water the potatoes almost constantly. They often have to lay giant hoses across the road. They are supposed to put blocks each side to let cars cross, but some are better than others. This was on my way to work one morning:

And you can clearly see from this photo why I got stuck!

I tend to always get stuck on the foot cover/bump, which I only have on the left hand side (as you look at this picture, the right hand side from inside) and I am seriously considering cutting this one out as well so that I have more ground clearance. It will also give more airflow which is positive in summer but probably negative in winter.

Same location, another day, another type of hose covering – although this one I actually managed to ride over without coming to a juddering halt!

I am now careful to choose a different route if I can see signs of watering on the potato field.

I walked back from work one day in July (Klaus gave me a lift into the office) and on the 4.2km route I spotted a few places where there were some nice blackberries so went back in the afternoon with a tub to collect ’em!

My working life is mostly OK. There are constant changes where I work but other things remain eternally static… I have some great colleagues and we work really well together, but there are also some very difficult issues to deal with at work. But things are looking up in some ways. At least I am having to do less overtime at the moment so I can enjoy the nice weather for all my bike trips.

I have effectively a job-share, where I work 5 hours a day and my colleague Alex full time, both looking after our key account. As an management-desired experiment she has been working from another office for the last two weeks. The logic of this is hard to fathom, but it does mean I get more exercise walking to her office to pick up paperwork etc; it’s a good five minute round trip! It also means lots of phone calls to discuss what we are doing, rather than the previous rotating my chair 10 degrees so I can talk directly to her where she sits a metre away. As is always the case, the Ways of Management are Unknowable.

I have noticed that our new photocopier/printer/scanner in the office speaks a rather weird version of Dutch.

Firstly, I am not entirely sure why our photocopier is speaking Dutch to us anyway (it’s a German company, although the touchscreen talks to us in German), but I also have a strong suspicion that’s not a real Dutch word…

Cakes this month

You have undoubtedly noticed lots of cake pictures scattered throughout the text of this blog, but here are some other cakes that were consumed this month by me or by companions.

And next month, August? We have a mini bike tour in the middle of August to visit some castles in Münsterland (we have taken the Monday off work so we can have a three day tour). We also leave for our tour to England at the end of August, riding through NL over two days to Hoek van Holland. But apart from that we have a fairly normal month with work and no doubt tile-bagging (although this is now getting harder as the tiles are further away!).

I really appreciate whenever my readers comment, so please let me know if there is anything you particularly like about my blog posts or if there are things I should talk about more. I guarantee I will continue to do some good cake testing on your behalf, should you ever find yourself in this part of Germany!

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