4 Rides, 3 Countries, 400 kilometres

Rather than writing a separate blog post for the four notable rides I’ve done this week, I thought I’d combine them all into one.
1. Tour des Monats im Kreis Viersen August
2. All the Bahnradwege of Kreis Viersen with Klaus
3. Venlo with Poppy in the basket
4. 3 Countries 2 Velomobiles

It’s been a busy week of cycling for me!

Tour des Monats im Kreis Viersen – August 2014

Sunday 3 August 2014

“Den Gleisen auf der Spur – Radroute des Monats: Auf ehemaligen Bahnstrecken von Overhetfeld am Hariksee vorbei bis nach Dülken”

Peter and Jan (Wowbagger and Mrs Wow) were visiting for this week and also came on this ride. Before my report I will offer up Peter’s report, written on a cycling forum, for a different viewpoint. I have edited it slightly to remove a few things that won’t make sense in this context. The photos are mine added in at the relevant places!

Today we missed breakfast because we were up too early. We met Auntie Helen, Jochen and Herbert at Kempen station and then cycled about 30k to the start of the ride, which was being organised under the auspices of the ADFC, the German equivalent to the Cyclists’ Touring Club.

Mostly we rode on tiny roads and tracks, so we had very little contact with motor vehicles all day. Neither were there any hills worthy of the name, but just lots and lots of intensively-farmed crops interspersed with the odd farm house and the occasional small town. We saw sweetcorn, potatoes, asparagus, wheat, mangolds, parsnips, carrots, cabbages, pak choi, French beans, pear, apple and plum orchards, leeks and heather. The heather was being grown in small pots. Each “row” was about 30 pots wide and about one hundred yards long. Each pot was about 4″ in diameter so, allowing for spacing, I reckon that each yard of each row contained 240 pots, so 24000 pots per row. I didn’t count the rows but it took us quite some time to ride past them all, so there were probably between 50 and 100. If my calculations are close then there must have been about 2,000,000 pots of heather in that field.

Today’s ride was one of a monthly series entitled “Fahr des Monats” or some such and Jochen was our leader. He was a large jovial chap with a beautiful bass voice, a falsetto laugh, a fine sense of humour and a bike equipped with a 36-hole Rohloff hub. His English was easily good enough for us to hold a fairly elaborate conversation and we discussed the trip that Jan and I had from the Hook of Holland to Tilburg. He told me that he had once cycled all the way from Kempen to the Hook in 16 hours and that he had suffered quite a lot as a result. He pointed to his rear end and said “what is the English word for this part of the body?”

“That depends on how polite you are being,” I retorted. “I suppose the polite term is the buttocks but most people settle for bum or arse.”

The word “buttocks” seemed to amuse him and he used it a few more times during the day, putting the emphasis on the second syllable.

From having ridden with Klaus, whose riding style seemed to involve eating an apple once every 70k, whether he needed it or not, Auntie Helen seemed to be much more favourably disposed towards the ADFC style of riding. The ride started at die Kapelle an die Heide, across the road from which was a splendid café selling the sort of confections that seem to be ubiquitous in Germany. We arrived at about 10.20, so we had 40 minutes before the official ride started and we used them well. Mrs. Wow plumped for a cup of tea and of course she received a mug of hot water and a tea bag. This particular variety of tea was named “Dark Passion” so I am hoping to reap some benefit at some stage.

Jan Dark Passion

One small point of interest in the men’s bogs were the splash guards fitted to the urinals. They were fashioned from green plastic and at the back there was a set of white plastic goalposts at which one could aim. It would appear that the Germans like their football.

When we set off our ranks had swelled to rather more than 20 cyclists, many of whom were considerably older than us and equipped with electric bikes. There are lots of these to be seen in Germany, along with the very upright human-powered bikes, many of which are manufactured by Gazelle. There were few hills, and only two or three times did we have to delve deep into the gearbox to find the cog we wanted to maintain momentum, but as soon as we slowed down, even slightly, the e-bikes were upon us. The hills were never sufficiently steep or long for us to gather any momentum to overtake them on the downhill, so, despite the advanced age of our fellow-travellers, we were generally at the back. This didn’t matter as Jochen stopped every so often to talk a bit about the countryside we were going through. It was all in German, of course, so Jan and I understood about two words in every sentence if we were lucky. Later we had some of it explained to us by Auntie Helen’s landlord. There was a large NATO base nearby and it seems that some time in 1998 a nuclear missile fell off the back of a lorry.

After a mere 14 kilometres it was time for lunch at a very attractive restaurant, Inselschlösschen am Hariksee, Hariksee being a small lake. I had a wonderful pasta dish with baked salmon washed down with ein grosse Paulaner whereas Jan and Auntie Helen had Schnitzel. Soon we were off again for the remaining 26k of the official ride, and mostly it was more of the same: flat, richly productive farm land interspersed with the occasional tree-lined lane and small, tightly-packed village.

When we arrived back at die Kapelle an die Heide it was time for more drink, and ice cream, whereupon we trundled the 30k or so back to Kempen. We said our farewells to Jochen, had a shower and a change of clothes, and then it was time to cycle to Auntie Helen’s for curry. Our mileage for the day was 67.78 in 7h 23m 25s, an average speed of 9.1mph.

So that’s Peter’s view of the ride – his first ADFC ride. Normally you pay for them if you are not a member but as he and Jan are members of the CTC (the UK equivalent) their membership of that was recognised and their ride was free.

Now for my report!

This is the track for the day that includes riding to the start at Overhetfeld:

Screen shot 2014-08-07 at 15.06.40

As Peter mentions, we met Jochen and Herbert at Kempen. I hadn’t met either of these fine chaps before, I had just received an email from Jochen some days before saying that Hartmut had given him my email address and would we like company to ride to Overhetfeld. I was happy to agree to this but warned him that we would not be quick. This was fine, he was happy to ride with us and we made a very early start to give us time for a cuppa when we arrived.

The meeting point was Kempen Bahnhof and when I arrived I spied two chaps with bicycles loitering – and it was indeed the chaps I was meant to be meeting. We made introductions and soon after Wow and Jan hove into view around the corner.

I had had some email discussion with Jochen about the best route to Overhetfeld. He had plotted a route originally that is one I’d tried the previous week (when recceing the route) and I had decided that that alternative option, the Kempen-Lobberich Bahnradweg, would be better, so we did that instead. With some slight variations following Jochen’s route which ended up being 4km longer than mine and also involving some off-road which was rather muddy and hard work.

Jochen soon learned that I don’t like off-road and mud as he heard my familiar-t0-Klaus moaning and whining and complaining. It’s pretty effective though as it seems to actually change chaps’ behaviour which is something that can be quite difficult to do!

Here is the little band of cyclists heading along a road in yet another sleepy German village with nothing much going on at 9am on a Sunday morning.

Jochen Herbert Wows 1

It was great to get to know Jochen whose English, as Wow said above, was very good. As Wow mentioned he also has an absolutely lovely velvety sound to his voice – he would make a fantastic radio announcer or something. I managed to persuade him to say ‘squirrel’ several times (pretty much perfectly too!) but foolish me didn’t actually record it.

I chatted quite a lot with Herbert too (in German this time). Both he and Jochen had steel bikes, the sort of bike you might see in the UK (which is unusual in Germany). Herbert’s was actually a Koga Miyata so a fairly familiar sight to me. Both were from the ‘steel is real’ camp, which was fine as Alfie is mostly steel and the Wowbaggers’ tandem also steel. We were a small island of steel bikes surrounded by the ubiquity of aluminium German monstrosities!

Jochen Herbert Wows 2

The ride to Overhetfeld was very enjoyable and we arrived with enough time for tea and cake. Goodie! I chose this rather nice Himbeer-Mascarpone Kuchen.

Himbeer Mascarpone

Jan went for the traditional Apfelkuchen mit Sahne.

Apfelkuchen

As Peter said above, Jan braved German tea although I offered her a teabag.

People were beginning to gather outside the church which was the meeting place so eventually we trotted over there. The door to the church was open so I had a look inside – very pretty.

Waiting at church to set off

Frank and Gudula, my landlord and landlady, were coming for this ride but hadn’t turned up by 11am. We waited and after ten minutes I tried to phone them – no reply. I was about to say to Jochen to head off with the group and I would catch them up (I had the track on my Garmin) when I saw the VW Bus arriving. Gudula and Frank had gone to the wrong Kapellenweg in Niederkrüchten (they needed to be at Overhetfeld), so I think they had a rather stressy beginning to the ride as they were so worried at being late.

Off we went, a group of 23 cyclists with 22 bikes, most of which were Alu Räder with E-Assist. But our little group was all steel (Gudula’s and Frank’s bikes are also steel, hurrah).

The journey set off up a bit of a hill in a southerly direction towards Elmpt. We cycled a loop around a church (that I have not  yet bagged) but I didn’t want to stop so soon so continued on with everyone else. From Elmpt we crossed the A52 motorway and headed through some woodland, which turned out to be less than 100 metres from the Dutch border as we rode along. From them we went through Oberkrüchten at which point everyone stopped outside a very pretty church. Rather usefully it was one I had not yet bagged. Jochen had previously read my blog so he knew why I was wandering around with my camera. I’m not sure the other riders realised what was going on though!

Picture courtesy of Wowbagger

St Martin Oberkruechten

After Oberkrüchten we rode through Niederkrüchten with yet another unbagged church. We did a big loop around the church but never got close enough to get a good picture so I told Herbert I would go and take a pic and catch them up (because I had the route and because they were riding slowly). So I peeled off in the high street to go up a bit of a hill and Frank (my landlord) came with me. This was a pretty church and visually quite similar to a lot of churches in the UK, I thought.

St Bartholomaus Niederkruechten

I faffed around for a bit taking photos and then Frank and I headed off to catch up with the rest – who had made much more progress than I was expecting. They had crossed the A52 again and reached Brempt where they had stopped outside yet another church which was, yet again, an unbagged one. Jochen had really organised this ride very suitably for me!

Georg Kapelle Brempt

Georg Kapelle Brempt 2

After Brempt we arrived at Hariksee where we stopped for lunch – after just 15km. I tried to arrange a table for me and the Wows and Gudula and Frank but it didn’t work out like that, Wow and I were joined by a chap who spoke only German and was on his own on the ride. I translated various bits of our conversation for him as we ate our Schnitzels. I also phoned my husband whose birthday it was and who is currently sailing around the British Isles – he was in Dublin having a Guinness which is about right for a birthday I think!

After lunch we rode onward through various little villages and soon arrived in Waldniel, somewhere I seem to have been visiting regularly recently. From here we took the recently-discovered Bahnradweg towards Dülken which was the most easterly part of our ride. I checked that Peter and Jan were still happy to ride on the full distance as this was an opportunity for a shortcut home if they weren’t feeling up to a 100km ride. They were fine so we continued on.

We were now heading back west again, through Dilkrath and then Born. We had a few stops for drinks and for some of the cyclists to rest – the electric-assist bikes enable people to ride farther than normal but they are very heavy and seem a bit dodgy at low speeds. Several of the riders aren’t maybe as experienced as one might like and they tend to hop off the bikes and start walking at inconvenient moments (inconvenient if you are a recumbent tricyclist behind them stuck in the middle of the road with oncoming traffic, for example). But everyone was very friendly and lots of them were asking me why I didn’t have e-assist on my trike. I told them I was too young.

From Born we rode near the Schwalm round the edge of Brüggen (more off-road) and then back to Overhetfeld. Our 41km ride was done but Frank decided he wanted to cycle home with me and the Wows, rather than taking the VW Bus. So we stopped for ice creams in the nice café again before beginning the voyage back to Kempen.

Frank had this Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.

Black Forest Gateau

Gudula and her Ice Cream/coffee.

Gudula and Milcheis

I ordered a Schlemmerbecher.

Schlemmerbecher

As Jochen’s route on the way here had been 4km longer than my planned route I suggested we followed mine. He agreed (after saying that he always liked to pick quiet roads as he didn’t like riding beside main roads) but mine was mostly quiet roads too.

We rode to Brüggen and at this point I had, with the help of the map, spotted a nice road that circled round the centre of Brüggen and ought to be a good option. When we actually turned onto this road, however, it was a huge hill! My companions all laughed at my route planning but we rode up there anyway, heading to Bracht and then Breyell, through Sassenfeld and we then joined the Bahnradweg again for the direct route back to Kempen on lovely smooth cycle path.

We delivered the Wowbaggers to their hotel and then went to the café in Buttermarkt where Hartmut (ADFC organiser chappie I have ridden with) was waiting for a beer with Jochen. I had to dash off as I had arranged to cook a curry for the household so just had a chance to say hello to Hartmut and goodbye to Jochen before Frank and I zoomed at high speed back to Escheln.

Overall I rode 111.07km (69.02 miles) at 15.3 km/h (9.5mph) which was a moving time of 7 hours 15 minutes. I burned 2,588 calories so that’s probably sorted out both cake and ice cream which is good! Not sure about the Schnitzel though.

Thanks to Jochen for leading the ride and being so friendly and chatty. We will hopefully do some rides together in the future – he likes riding in Kreis Kleve (which I haven’t visited much – it’s just a bit north of where I live) so I may get to expand my horizons a bit. Thanks to Herbert too for being an excellent Tail End Charlie and always waiting for the stragglers.

 

The Bahnradwege of Kreis Viersen with Klaus

Monday 4 August 2014, 126km

Klaus has featured a fair bit in this blog in the last two months since I made his acquaintance – he has now become my chief cycling companion in Germany (the role that Wowbagger held in the UK so it’s nice that they have met and cycled together as well!) We have settled into a nice routine of triking together about once per week, which involves me suggesting we go for a ride and then making him do all the work with route planning. He sends me the GPX track, I load it on my Garmin and then turn up at his house and we ride.

As previously mentioned, he’s been a bit reluctant to stop for food but I seem to have worn him down now with my constant moaning and he appears to be resigned to the necessity of one or two stops per ride to attempt to forestall me whining about being hungry the whole time. He is learning.

Anyway, he’s had his trike for a year and a bit and has been building up his recumbent cycling experience. One thing he wanted to do was a 100km ride in one go (he had already cycled 100km in one day but that was a 60km ride in the morning and a 40+km ride the same evening, with quite a long gap in the middle). I am always happy to go for longer rides and as he was on holiday from work and had the whole day, he suggested an attempt to ride a track that he had found somewhere on Kreis Viersen’s website. The track includes all the Bahnradwege (disused railway line cycle routes) in Kreis Viersen and was 121km long. It sounded like something well worth doing!

So I drove to Klaus’s house in Viersen with Alfie in the boot as usual (my car is beginning to know the way there by itself) and then we set off to join up with the ‘official’ track further south. Here’s the track of our ride.

Screen shot 2014-08-07 at 15.10.18

I hadn’t looked closely at the ride beforehand but I realised very quickly, after we joined the Bahnradweg between Dülken and Waldniel, that we were riding the same route as yesterday. And indeed we were – the first quarter was pretty much identical to the Tour des Monats (we rode the above route clockwise). Which meant I was familiar with the route which was handy.

It also meant that it wasn’t actually the easiest route to do as it involved quite a lot of gravel paths, rather than nice smooth asphalt that trikes like. This stuff is called Schotte in German and it really annoys me as for some reason it slows me down significantly. There were also some spots of rain which meant that Klaus, without mudguards, was looking a bit muddy after the first ten kilometres. He’s a former mountainbiker so doesn’t seem to mind the mud too much, fortunately. I, of course, felt very superior about the mudguards on my ICE Sprint.

One disadvantage of cycling with me is my tendency to get excited when I see a church that I haven’t bagged as part of my challenge. So within about two kilometres I had requested a detour from the route to find a church in Viersen (that we couldn’t find), then another detour later for a church that it turned out I had already previously bagged. Klaus was being very patient but we had a long ride and I was causing a lot of faffage so I resolved to only get excited about churches that were directly on the route.

But I couldn’t ignore St Anton in Schwalmtal as we virtually cycled past it. I persuaded Klaus to stop and even to take a photo of me outside the church. However, when downloading the photo for this blog I discovered I somehow look like the fattest woman in the world on it so it will not see the light of day.

We went round to the other side of the church and I tried to get a picture but, once again, the church was too large for my camera!

St Anton Schwalmtal 1We continued on and I was astounded to hear Klaus asking if I wanted to stop at a bakery. I wasn’t sure I would ever hear these words issuing forth from him, and had resolved not to mention food on this ride (so as not to be even more annoying – bearing in mind the detours for church visiting) but perhaps this silent treatment worked as we stopped at a Stinges bakery.

Turns out Klaus hadn’t had any breakfast so he was probably peckish. He bought this large Streuselkuchen and had it cut into four.

Oma Helene's Blechkuchen

He offered me a piece but I had fancied an Amerikaner (a small one) and once I had that I didn’t need any Streuselkuchen.

Iced Amerikaner

Klaus was able to eat three of the four slices so he’s not averse to cake when it’s placed in front of him. The final piece was given to me to take home (it was very tasty the next day!)

He was a bit surprised to discover that we had only cycled 16km in about two hours, what with the stop, which made it look as though it would be an extremely long day. But I knew the difficult terrain was part of this – but decided I needed to try to pedal a bit faster anyway for the next bit.

We rode on, going through Elmpt where there was yet another church almost directly on our track. Once again I asked for a detour to visit it – after all, Elmpt is a heck of a long way from Kempen. Longsuffering Klaus agreed and so I took a quick pic of our trikes next to the belltower.

Evangelische Kirche Elmpt 1These church visits only take a minute or two, which is mainly me faffing about trying to find a good angle for my less-than-stellar photography skills.

Pic taken and we headed off again, me in the lead down a nice cycle path/pavement beside the road.

I’d gone a few metres and then realised I had sat down oddly on my cycling jersey and that it was all crinkly on my back. So I put both hands on my shoulders to pull it up from behind me – and suddenly a car pulled out of a side driveway right into my path.

With no hands on the handlebars or brakes there was a millisecond of terror (I let out a very unladylike squeak/yell) before I could grab the handlebars, do a huge emergency stop and swerve slightly to the right to try to miss the car. I stopped in time (with a stoppie – lifting the rear wheel quite significantly) and the rear wheel skidded a bit to the side too.

I reckon this was one of the four closest near-misses I have had in my recumbent tricycling career and it was pretty scary for a minute or so. I looked back at Klaus and he had gone rather white. But I was alive and my brakes are clearly still excellent and so I carried on, not unduly bothered once my heart rate had returned to normal (it only reached 172 which is 27bpm less than when I was climbing a wooden tower being chased by mosquitoes a few weeks ago).

The route now passed through Overhetfeld, past the church where we met up yesterday for the ADFC ride (and with the extremely nice cake café) but we pushed on as we had a long way to ride.

The route now went through the Brachter Wald which is the former British Army ammunition store area (the largest ammunition store in Europe outside the UK, apparently). The army and the munitions have gone now but it’s been left as a nature reserve – you can’t wander off the tracks because of potential ordnance there.

First of all, though, we had to get through the gate to get in. It was not very recumbent trike friendly.

Brachter Wald Gate 1

Klaus went first, his Steintrikes Wild One being slightly wider than my ICE Sprint and also perhaps a little longer. It was a bit of a struggle.

Brachter Wald Gate 2

I realised how unhelpful I was being sitting on my trike and taking photos so got off my backside and helped him. We eventually managed to get the Wild One through the barrier, then it was Alfie’s turn – he went through fairly easily.

The other side was a LONG uphill which was pretty steep (I gather from friend Oliver that this is no fun on a velomobile but I am still amazed he could fit his Mango through that gate!)

We were cycling past lots of trees but also open areas of heath land. At one point there was another viewing area so we dumped the trikes in the sand at the bottom and climbed up to have a look.

Trikes at the viewpoint

There was a sort of fenced-in valley and in the distance were wild horses, a very light dun colour.

View of the Bracht Heath

We returned to the trikes. Klaus had negated the need for a parking brake by parking his in the sand.

Wild One in Sand

I passed this information board – a memorial of the cold war.

Denkmal des Kalten Krieges

There were still remnants of the earthworks involved in this ammunition store and lots of railway tracks criss-crossing our path.

Brachter Wald

Brachter Wald 2

And, of course, another gate the other side – but this one was easier to use. Although it is a good thing neither trike was much wider.

Brachter Wald exit gate

From here we returned to familiar roads which head from Bracht towards Kaldenkirchen. We were almost at the halfway point and lunch was beckoning me (except I still was keeping to my vow not to talk about food so had made no comments). Klaus did mention food so I took the opportunity to inform him that unfortunately the Hofcafé Alt Bruch (which we virtually went past) was closed today but that there was a nice ice cream place in Kaldenkirchen. As it happened when we got to Kaldenkirchen we felt it a better idea to press on to Nettetal and when we got there we decided to continue to Grefrath as we were nicely warmed up, cycling very fast and improving our average speed.

We got to Grefrath and I led us to a nice little bakery with outside seating where we stopped for a sandwich and cuppa.

Whilst we were sitting there, having eaten our lunch, a man came up to me and said “hello Auntie Helen, do you remember me?” And, miracle of miracles, I with my appalling name-remembering skills was able to pluck from deep in the recesses of my brain the name Uli. I’d met him with Hartmut at a country fayre in Gut Heimendahl at the end of April and we’d corresponded a bit by email but it was a surprise to me that I was able to remember his name and also to recognise him (I have an extremely poor memory for faces).

Anyway, it was great to see Uli again and have a bit of a chat. He took a photograph of Klaus and me (looking like we had just cycled 65km, which indeed we had), and sent it to me.

Uli's Photo in Grefrath

Whilst sitting there with our drinks we watched a traffic-warden equivalent (a lady from the Ordnungsamt) go up to a car parked on the pavement and start to do the equivalent of ticketing it. The man sitting on the table next to us got up and went over and presumably tried to persuade her not to fine him but he was not successful. It was sheer laziness on his part as there was a car park about thirty metres further on. Says she, who parked her trike right next to her table – the ultimate in laziness (but another demonstration of the convenience of a bike!)

This stretch of the route is known by both of us pretty much backwards so we hopped onto the trikes again and whizzed off towards… Kempen. We rode through Mülhausen but rather than taking the shortcut on the road (which I almost always do) we kept to the Bahnradweg of course which involves negotiating rather a lot of Drängelgitter (double gates to slow you down – inconvenient on a trike if they are too close together).

As we arrived in Kempen I saw something which definitely required a photo and made Klaus cycle back so he could pose.

Klaus and Klaus

We got to Kempen and the cycle route appeared to go all the way around the walls of the town – so we did too. The route was now heading back in a similar direction to where we had come from (it originally started and finished in Kempen but we adjusted it to start in Viersen) and we headed down Sankt-Töniser-Straße. It was then that the track on my Garmin appeared to take us right through a house. We followed it as best we could, which involved some twisty routefinding in a housing estate, before I realised that the two ends of the original route had not quite joined up and my Garmin was showing an as-the-crow-flies track between the original start and end points. Still, we were able to follow our noses well enough to get to the proper bit of route again on Oedter Straße.

A bit of cycling alongside the Landstraße and then off we headed down an unmade bit of Bahnradweg which goes around Oedt.

Rather off-road

This was a slightly muddy and rough path so once again it slowed me right down (these surfaces seem to have much more of an effect on me than anyone else – you can see Klaus was able to zoom ahead). This was a fairly short section of Bahnradweg roughly between Oedt and Vorst and when we got to the other end of it there was a bit of a sign of its former use.

Signs of the railway

In Vorst we joined an oh-so-familiar section of the Nordkanal Cycle Route which leads right down to Klaus’s house just a mile or two away. We’d cycled 88km by this point so for someone not made of sterner stuff it might have been an excuse to give up and go home, but we were both feeling quite strong and plenty able to continue. Our average speed had increased overall, which was an improvement after the less than 10mph/16km/h average for the first 30-ish kilometres.

At Süchteln we turned off the Nordkanal Radweg and headed north-east on a Bahnradweg which I quite often use now – it goes from Süchteln to Tönisvorst and is well-asphalted although too narrow for two trikes side-by-side. We zoomed along here – familiarity meaning that the distance flies by, although it was also necessary to go fast to outrun mosquitoes.

More railway

At Tönisvorst Klaus suggested we stopped for an ice cream. You can imagine how much I was congratulating myself on teaching him how to stop for food on rides – three stops! Amazing!

He led the way to an Eiscafé and we sat outside (it was a warm day) and ordered our ice creams.

Ice Cream 1

Ice Cream 2

I had a bit of a disastrous time attempting to get my Teewasser mit Milch though. I explained it to the waitress and she looked blank. So I took the lazy option and got Klaus to explain what I wanted to the waitress and she looked blank. So he explained again, so did I, and she went away. She returned after some time with a glass of hot water for my tea – but no milk. So I asked for milk. “Ich komme sofort!” she said, which I think is probably the German version of Mañana. She did not return with the milk, I asked twice more, and in the end gave up and went inside to fetch some for myself. There it was, right next to the door. My tea was rather over-stewed by this point.

I got a slight bit of revenge though as when she came out again she apologised and patted me on the back – which must have left her with a hand covered in horrible damp cyclist sweat. I wouldn’t pat me on the back after 96km.

The section from Tönisvorst onwards was an area that I haven’t actually cycled in before and it didn’t start off that auspiciously – the track was one of those I really don’t like – with a grassy mound down the middle. This is OK for two-wheelers but a pain in the neck for trikes.

More off-road

Fortunately this only lasted for about 600 metres and then we were on more field lanes. We crossed over the A44 motorway and headed to Willich, somewhere I visit for my choir practices.

In Willich we joined the previously-unknown-to-me Bahnradweg which was a great bit of route – wide, smooth and fast. We were passing between Schiefbahn and Neersen (two places that the choir also practises) but it was mostly countryside. We passed over the A52 motorway and then the A44 again, riding for a short time alongside the Niers river – which had this hand-propelled river crossing.

Self-service ferry crossing

It would have been great fun to try this out – I reckon the cage thing had room for a trike – but time was marching on and we weren’t that far from the end point so we pedalled on, following signs to Viersen that was just 7km away.

In Viersen we stopped following the official route (there weren’t any more Bahnradwege anyway) and Klaus directed us the best route to his house which included a bit of cycling along the Nordkanal route again with a very attractive new housing area with the canal running along the centre.

Nordkanal through ViersenAs we approached his house I could see that the distance would be about 124km. Well, that didn’t seem like a round enough number to me and when I mentioned that fact to Klaus he clearly agreed and diverted up the road for an extra kilometre or two. A phone call from his daughter requesting help to put up a tent in the garden saw us turning round and heading back to his house, confident that we had definitely got 125km in the bag. In the end we had done 126.12km (78.37 miles) at an average speed of 17.2 km/h (10.7 mph) in seven hours eighteen minutes. I had burned 3,623 calories so I reckon that I had used more than I had eaten in cake/bread/ice cream so I count that as a win!

I had ridden 111km the day before and was clearly feeling the effects more than Klaus by the end (he could have carried on a fair bit more, I suspect). My knees had just started to complain a little so for the last 15km I came out of the big chainring and used the middle ring, spinning a bit more than normal for me. Klaus now seems keen to increase his distance further and made some noises about 150km, at which point I commented that 161km is an imperial century (100 miles) so he has already plotted a suitable route for that. Hopefully we will get a chance to ride that this year but it will definitely be an all day thing and work can really cut into cycling time (well, for people who actually go out to work properly, unlike me who faffs about as a freelancer working when I like).

My combined riding total for two days was now 237km, all on Alfie, which was great. I had time for a quick shower before meeting Wowbagger and Jan in Kempen for pizza (they had visited Düsseldorf today). Thanks again to Klaus for his company, his willingness to stop for food and for occasionally giving me a tow (I grabbed onto the back of his trike once or twice for a few moments – mainly to annoy him but also to have a rest).

To Venlo with Poppy in the basket

Wednesday 6 August 2014, 55km

Once again, I start with Wowbagger’s report of the day’s ride.

All good things must come to an end and here we are on a train from Venlo to Rotterdam Centraal when we catch the Sprinter to the Hoek van Holland. Auntie Helen accompanied us to the station on a warm day – schwül indeed, but not in any way schwul. We left the hotel at about 9.30 and cycled the 4 miles or so to Auntie Helen’s abode where we drank tea, Jan tried on a pair of cycling shoes that AH had bought and found that they didn’t fit her either, we drank tea and helped our hostess out by eating a banana and a peach that were in her view past their best (I prefer my banana to have brown speckles) and set off for Venlo at around noon, Poppy the Cockapoo occupying her basket on the back of AH’s trike, barking madly as we trundled along the road, setting off the other neighbourhood dogs and frightening the horses.

One thing that had puzzled me a little was the number of cafés we had seen whose wifi was provided by a company named “Geoffnet”, as we had used a few of these but never did my ipad detect a signal from them, and this had frustrated me rather. Then the pfennig dropped when we saw a blackboard with “CAFÉ GEÖFFNET” written on it, and an arrow pointing off the radweg. Slap me own Tilley, suddenly my addled brain delved into the archives and recalled that “geöffnet” was simply the word for “open”.

We were to meet Klaus and family en route and shortly before 1pm Auntie Helen received a text to say that they were at the appointed spot and where were we? We still had another 3 or 4 miles to do but eventually we saw them waiting for us at the top of the nearest thing to a hill, from which we would descend to a lake. When we arrived there it was time to throw sticks into the water for Poppy to fetch and she thoroughly enjoyed herself, but she didn’t seem to be a terribly confident swimmer. Soon it was time to find the Hof Café Alt Bruch again so that we could partake of their gargantuan confections. I won’t attempt the different names for the overblown cream-filled monstrosities although Jan had one which involved apple whereas Auntie Helen and I had the same sort, which involved fruit salad in jelly atop layers of cake, cream and blancmange. To my shock and horror Helen failed to finish hers.

At about 3pm it was time for us to wend our way as we were intending to catch the 3.50 train. However, we were a little late for it but it didn’t matter at all as there was another in half an hour. The train arrived a few minutes early which gave us plenty of time to store the bike and find seats, which was pretty easy as there were very few passengers, but no sooner had we done so than the heavens opened and our hostess and dog were in for a bit of a soaking for their return trip.

Here is my track for the day.

Screen shot 2014-08-07 at 15.08.50

A complicated plan was devised to meet up with Klaus and his wife Claudia and daughter Lara so they could ride with us to Hofcafé Alt Bruch. I had decided to take Poppy on this ride as she’d had a very boring few days (I’d been out riding a lot!) and that was a bit of a draw for Claudia and Lara who are working on Klaus to let them get a dog.

We worked out a meeting place (near Haus Milbeck in Schliebeck) and arranged to be there at 1pm. From there we would ride to the Hofcafé for cake for an hour or so before I headed off to Venlo with the Wows and Klaus and family rode home again.

I planned for the Wows and me to leave my Wohnung at midday but I found myself doing a ridiculous amount of faffing so we were actually ten minutes later than planned once I’d finished. It does take a while to get the dog properly installed in the basket – she was very excited by the opportunity to go cycling with me for just the third time since I’ve been in Germany.

Picture courtesy of Wowbagger

Poppy barks a fair bit when you set off – she knows where all the dogs live and is finally higher up than them so can bark down at them from her lofty perch. I’m partly deaf so it’s sub-optimal that she barks directly into my good ear, about 5cm from it, but at least she doesn’t do it the whole time. Usually.

We pootled off and because of the time I took us the unscenic main road route to Kempen, round Berliner Allee and then along the main road to Grefrath via Mülhausen (but on the cycle path). Poppy had stopped barking after a bit so things were a bit quieter which was a relief.

I exchanged iMessages with Klaus to inform him of our progress as we were clearly going to be late and we finally got there at 1:15. Haus Milbeck is at the top of a bit of a hill and as I was toiling up there with 5kg of basket and 7.5kg of Cockapoo on the back of the trike I could see the family standing waiting at the top. So could Poppy and she started barking and whining – impressive that she could recognise them from so far away as she hadn’t been very interested in other people we had passed.

The final 100 metres was for some reason a mosquito-fest so we set off straight away towards Hofcafé Alt Bruch.

When we got to Sassenfeld, where I had had a week’s holiday in August 2012, I decided it was time to let Poppy out of the basket for a run on the path that she was familiar with. This went down very well with Lara who is clearly a dog fan. Poppy runs well beside the bikes, generally wanting to be about two metres in front of me but continually checking I am still there, but it became apparent that she still thinks she’s in England and likes to run on the left hand side. This is OK but when there are bikes coming the other way she’s not on the side people expect. She managed a 2km run without causing any accidents and was clearly enjoying the chance to run alongside two trikes.

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger, taken by Jan on the back of the tandem

We arrived at De Witt See which is a beautiful, tranquil spot.

Image courtesy of Wowbagger

Here are Claudia and Lara enjoying a break at the lake.

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger

Poppy often swam here two years ago and we collected some sticks for her to fetch from the water. She’s a bit wary of getting in the water if she can’t see the bottom so took some persuading but was soon splashing about quite happily, jumping out and shaking over us so we were all a bit wet by the end.

This is a video I took of Poppy in the same place in 2012:

I was the lucky one who gets to pick her up (wet dog!) and put her in the basket too!

We rode on and were soon at the Hofcafé Alt Bruch where we chose our enormous cakes. This is Lara’s apple cake:

Lara E's Cake

And this is my very healthy fruit cake.

Colourful cake

Of course my order of tea water didn’t work out quite right and they originally brought me a glass of cold water. But this always provides amusement for my companions so I don’t mind.

Whilst we were sitting at the café chatting a whole load of old-timer tractors came past… then parked and the drivers came for cake. There were probably 15 or so tractors including a Porsche.

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger

We spent about an hour at the café and then it was time to head off.

As usual Poppy prefers to sit in the driver’s seat on the trike.

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger

And here we are about to leave – with a woman peering at us curiously. Well, a tandem and two recumbent trikes, one with dog on the seat, are a bit unusual.

Photo courtesy of Wowbagger

Lara wanted to come with us but the hill out of Venlo is a bit nasty so she was persuaded against it. It turned out to be a good thing as, as Peter mentioned above, I got completely drenched on the way back.

Peter, Jan and I rode to Venlo which is almost entirely downhill so rather fun. I said goodbye to them at the station and then Poppy and I headed home, a very different route (via Herongen and Wankum and Wachtendonk) which is shorter and faster.

The rain started just as we were leaving Venlo Station concourse and continued the entire way home, getting pretty heavy at some points. Poppy and I both looked like drowned rats and I think she was getting a bit cold too (I wasn’t as I was cycling with the extra weight of the dog as well).

I noticed at one point a very bad bit of grammar on the instruction on my Garmin:

Left Off Of Vei

The road is called ‘Vei’ and the instruction was “Left off of Vei”. Very poor language skills by my Garmin there!

Anyway, I whizzed home as fast as I could, thinking the Velomobile would have been a rather better choice in that weather (except no room for dog). But we eventually arrived home, tired and utterly sopping wet but still having enjoyed ourselves (I think Poppy had fun too).

My total distance today was 55.32km (34.37 miles) at an average speed of 15km/h (9.3 mph). This took 3 hours 41 minutes and burned 1,191 calories.

3 countries, 2 Velomobiles

Saturday 9 August 2014, 101km

Six days after the ADFC Ride I did my third 100km of the week, this time starting in Posterholt in the Netherlands.

Before I came to Germany and whilst I was investigating velomobiles a chap called Oliver provided me with lots of useful advice. It turns out that he lives fairly near to my part of Germany, near Roermond in the Netherlands. We’ve met up twice since I moved here – both of us cycling 30km or so and meeting in the middle.

Oliver suggested I might like to try a ‘3 countries one ride’ cycle tour which sounded an excellent plan, except I couldn’t really reach Belgium from here and back again in one day, it was too far. So Oliver offered to come and collect Penelope and me so we could start the ride somewhat nearer to Belgium. I agreed immediately of course – a great opportunity to ride somewhere new and with another velomobile!

I hadn’t been riding Penelope for the fortnight before this ride because it was too hot but fortunately Saturday dawned windy and rainy and not so hot. The rain was set to dry up, the wind continue, and the temperature was unlikely to be above 24 degrees. Manageable, if a trifle warm, in a velomobile.

Oliver arrived as scheduled at 8:30am with his trailer.

Trailer Ready

I had already emptied everything out of Penelope (and I mean everything) and closed her up tight to stop things blowing around inside. The box of Penelope contents weighed about 5kg which explains why she can seem pretty heavy. Manoeuvring her without all that lot inside was much easier!

We lifted her onto the trailer and it was the work of just five minutes to strap her down safely.

Penelope on trailer

And then we set off to the Netherlands. This was the view out of the back window of Oliver’s car.

View from the inside

We got a lot of strange looks as we voyaged along the motorway to Posterholt.

We arrived at Oliver’s house and took Penelope off the trailer and I refitted all her bits (batteries, tools, pump, lock, basket to stick my phone in, keys, Garmin, phone, water, spare tyre etc). Oliver’s daughter Nina had a quick go inside Penelope (but she couldn’t see out!) and then we were ready to go.

Oliver and Helen about to set off

This is the route that we rode today.

Screen shot 2014-08-09 at 20.20.04

This was the view for a lot of the ride – the yellow Mango in front marking the way.

Mango in front

After just a kilometre or so we crossed the border into Germany in Kreis Heinsberg.

Arriving in Germany

We cycled through the town of Karken. There are lots of similar names in this area to where I live – there’s another Kempen, Karken sounds like Kerken (just up the road from where I live), there was a Born we cycled through and there’s also a Born near Niederkrüchten so I think it could get confusing for a postman who has to change from my Kempen to this one!

From Karken we rode to Kempen – a sweet little village with a rather nice church in the middle. I was hoping to find a road sign with Kempen on it but we couldn’t (we fixed this on the way home, photo later in this post).

After Kempen we crossed the Kempener Straße (yes, another one) and then Oliver stopped in a layby – he was having problems with his right hand side brake. The cable had come a bit loose and the brake wasn’t working. So we had a few minutes of roadside maintenance.

Roadside Maintenance

Fixing the Mango's brakes

He managed to fix it enough to carry on, so off we went.

We were riding along farm tracks but the quality of the road surface was much worse than that I am used to in Kreis Viersen. Perhaps Heinsberg has less money but the roads were pretty rutted and potholey – more like English roads perhaps!

We passed a group of young people out on horses and a lot of the horses were very spooked by us. I think they coped a bit better with me because they could see me but Oliver rides with the roof on his Mango so they probably couldn’t work out what was in this monstrous machine and a few horses shied into the field.

I hadn’t quite appreciated that Oliver was going to make me ride up a hill into the teeth of a gale. But he did. It was quite a climb towards Kirchhoven and the wind was very strong and right on the nose. Our previous average speed of 21km/h slowed down to 18km/h (this was me, not Oliver – he rides much faster).

There were also a heck of a lot of wind turbines in view which rather highlighted the fact we were on a windy bit.

Mango and Wind Turbines

But they weren’t all new ones – we passed this rather pretty windmill in Kirchhoven.

Windmill at Kirchhoven

Just a bit further on we came across a pretty deep puddle. Oliver went through first – and discovered a pothole on the left hand side. He ended up with wet feet. I crossed carefully, keeping to the right and staying dry. There are advantages to not being in the lead!

Oliver gets wet foot

It felt like rather a long slog across this plain on slightly bumpy roads but soon enough we crossed the border back into the Netherlands. We had half been expecting a German WAW Velomobile rider, Christophe, to join us but Oliver received a text from him saying he wasn’t sure about the weather so wasn’t coming. This seemed rather Typisch Deutsch, afraid of a bit of weather – that’s the whole point of velomobiles, they protect you from the weather. It was a shame not to meet Christophe but perhaps I will bump into him some other time.

We went through Koningbosch and then followed the German/Dutch border (about 50 metres away) for a good kilometre before the track went through a wood. My photo of this isn’t very good as I was in front at this point and trying not to slow down too much for photography!

Woodland path

We zoomed along through this wood and I could see ahead on my Garmin a waypoint for a food stop – yes, Oliver has read my blog enough to know that I need fairly regular feeding and he had actually included five food waypoints in the track (we didn’t need them all of course).

We stopped for a break at Koffiehuis ‘het ijzeren bos’ in Susteren.

Outside Susteren coffee house

We were the only punters there which seemed surprising for 12:30pm on a Saturday. I commented on this to Oliver and he said the most astounding thing, and I quote…: “It’s too early for cake”. Just when you think you’re getting to know someone and they seem like a sensible chap, they say something bonkers like that!

Well, it wasn’t too early for ME to have cake so I did.

My cake

And I clearly shamed Oliver into also having a slice of cake.

Oliver's cake

And what was also amazing was that they brought me a cup of hot water and normal milk (not coffee creamer) without me having to explain it six times. The Dutch seem rather civilised about tea. Not that I could understand all that the chap serving us was saying – he was speaking in some kind of Rhinelander dialect, according to Oliver, which seemed like German but not quite. But we were in the Netherlands. Oliver told me that this area is known as Het smalste stukje Nederland (the most narrow piece of the Netherlands) – if you look at a map you can see why – it is surrounded by Belgium and Germany.

After a half hour or so of relaxing I discovered that my iPhone portable battery (which I used to top it up when using it a lot) seemed not to hold any charge. I now had range anxiety about my phone, what with all the photographs and messages and stuff, so I hoped it would last out the day with all the pics I would undoubtedly take. (I got home with 3% battery left so it was a near thing).

We rode through Born (there’s also a village named Born near Waldniel where I cycled on Sunday and Monday) and then crossed the Julianakanaal.

Julianakanaal

It’s very easy riding when you’re just following a yellow velomobile on the road ahead so I had plenty of time to look around and appreciate the different towns and villages we went through. I hadn’t studied the track beforehand so wasn’t particularly aware of where we were going but I did notice this ferry crossing.

Waiting for the Maas ferry

We were crossing the Maas and it was free for bikes (cars have to pay).

On the Maas ferry

Because I was being particularly dense today I didn’t initially realise that crossing the river was crossing to another country. Until I saw this sign.

Vlaanderen

And then this one, in case I hadn’t twigged beforehand.

Belgium

So this was my third country in just 43km!

We now cycled along the river on a decent cycle path with some great views.

The Maas

It was also a pretty wide path in places so I was able to cycle far on the left and get a still photo of my riding companion underway.

My riding companion

As well as a video. Please note that it’s not as noisy as that actually in the velomobile, that’s wind noise on the phone’s microphone.

It was less than a couple of kilometres into Belgium that we bagged ourselves another Kempen.

Kempenstraat

Another waypoint was approaching on my Garmin – not a food stop but instead a velomobile shop, called emvelomobiel.be just outside Maaseik.

They had a nice spread of velomobiles (Quest and Strada) being guarded by some bulldogs.

Emvelomobiel.be

Oliver’s brake had been playing up again so the chap at emvelomobiel had a look at it and sorted it for him.

Fixing Oliver's brakes again

We had a chat with the chap (he spoke excellent English although I seemed able to understand some of his Flemish) and then headed off along a former railway (now nice cycle path) which took us to the centre of Masseik and from there we made our way back to the Maas river.

Speedboat on the Maas

We had a lunch of soup at the Leeuwerik café right near the river – our parked velomobiles provided a great deal of amusement for the groups of pedestrians and cyclists continually going past.

We continued on after soup and drinks. The river makes a big lake at this point and there was a huge marina.

Maas marina

After this we crossed back to the Netherlands again but I didn’t notice for quite some time.

We rode through Thorn which had a very fierce 700 metres or so of cobbles.

Cobbles

Oliver pointed out that if nothing had fallen off Penelope riding across that lot then probably nothing ever would. I think he’s right too!

We passed a large lock area for the Maas at Osen.

Maas Schleuse

Maas Schleuse 2

There was a bit of fiddly riding around here but we were rewarded with a rather nice tranquil lake view.

Tranquil lake

And a narrow bridge…

Narrow bridge

We rode down quiet paths and went round the outskirts of Sint Odiliënberg and then briefly alongside a fast road before heading off on the most excellent fast cycle path. Oliver rode off ahead here to enjoy some speed – I was up to 35km/h fairly easily as well.

Fab cycle path

The countdown on my Garmin was telling me we would arrive back at Oliver’s house with only 92km on the clock so I asked him if we could extend the ride a bit to get the century. He was happy to do this so we detoured a bit round another nice windmill.

Windmill

The route also included this nice but narrow bridge!

Narrow wooden bridge

Narrow wooden bridge 2

After our short detour we headed back towards Posterholt and Oliver stopped to phone his family to suggest they meet us for cake at a local café. So as we arrived at Vurenhof Oliver’s daughter arrived on her KMX Kart, with mother and brother walking behind.

3 wheelers at Vurenhof

Afternoon is also cake time so I had a cherry cake with cream.

Cherry cake

It was a short 1km or less ride back to Oliver’s house where I emptied out Penelope’s entrails again and we loaded her onto the trailer.

Ready to head home

Rather than driving back the same route (mostly motorways) we decided we really ought to bag a photo of Penelope at the town sign for Kempen in Heinsberg (rather than Kempen in Niederrhein) so here it is. Does it still count if Penelope’s wheels aren’t touching the ground? We did actually cycle through there, honest!

Penelope at Kempen

Oliver delivered Penelope and I safely home before heading back to Posterholt. Thanks again to him for being a taxi for me and my bike and for providing such a good route – and not leaving me behind at all, despite being a much faster cyclist!

My statistics for this ride were 100.93km in 4 hours 48 minutes, which is an overall average of 21km/h. I burned 2,645 calories.

That brings the total for the four rides done in the last six days to almost 400km which is great! I feel very fit after such an interesting week and also very blessed to have so many great people to cycle with. What can be better than to spend the day in the countryside, cycling and enjoying cakes and spending time with good friends?

3 Comments

Filed under Trikes & Velomobiles

3 Responses to 4 Rides, 3 Countries, 400 kilometres

  1. Stefan

    Moin,

    wie immer ein schöner Bericht zu Deinen Fahrten! Es macht wirklich Spaß sie zu lesen.
    Da ja auch die “Heimat” mitliest vielleicht der Hinweis, daß ‘gravel’ mit ‘Schotter’ übersetzt wird. Du hast da am Ende ein ‘r’ vergessen.

    Nicht, daß Du den Engländern falsches Deutsch beibringst *g

    Gruß
    S.

    • I didn’t ‘forget’ the spelling of Schotter, I never knew it! When I hear German spoken I find it tricky to detect whether something ends with an -e or an -er, so decided to save energy by not typing the additional ‘r’ in case it wasn’t needed!

      (In other words, I didn’t know how to spell it and didn’t bother looking it up…)

      I am already teaching English people vast amounts of incorrect German so no change there!

  2. Anke

    Hi Helen
    We Found your site after looking for trike touring sites online as Anke is buying an ICE Adventure Hd to tour with. We especially liked your Holiday report on the Romantischer Staße. As way of thanks heres a tip to ensure you dont run out of English tea (as mentoned in a earlier post)
    http://fudge-shop.com/de/
    We get all our English food stuff there.
    Mfg.
    Anke & Chris.

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