Day 2 of our tour started with a slightly cloudy sky but no sign of rain.
Breakfast at the hotel started officially at 9am, which was a bit late as we were both up and dressed by 7:30 and keen to get going as we had 150km to ride today. So instead we packed everything up and then did a bit of maintenance on Millie (fixing the movement alarm to the boom). Various other guests came out to talk to us, and several others said how annoying it was we had to wait till 9 for breakfast.
Then I noticed, at 8:15, that several people were in the dining room – they had opened early. So we went straight to breakfast and enjoyed tea/coffee as well as a reasonable selection of food. No eggs, although the egg cups were there; I guess perhaps eggs are from 9am!
We eventually set off on our journey at 9:15, heading south towards Koblenz, which would be our first planned cake stop at 50km.
We had two crossings of the Rhein planned for today, the first at Rolandseck.
It’s not too expensive for a bike and person!
After this crossing we were back onto the west side of the Rhein, riding down through very familiar names as I have ridden this stretch multiple times. Andernach, Bad Breisig, Remagen, Neuwied. This time, though, we were using a different track; rather than following the Rhein Radweg we were using a route used by Hajo, another velomobile rider. It turned out to be a mix of good main roads (fast) and some better bits of cycle path. All in all it was a much better route that we had taken in the past with the trikes, at least as far as average speed goes.
At one point going through a section of cycle path with fields either side, a salamander/lizard ran across the road in front of me. He was really fast! I managed not to run him over.
We stopped briefly at Remagen to look at the bridge,, or at least remains of the bridge. here they are behind Emily’s hood.
We were soon approaching Koblenz and after a slight detour we found our way across the Mosel and then to Deutsches Eck for the obligatory photo.
Whilst faffing about there a chap came to talk to us. He said someone in his village also has a velomobile – this turned out to be Roland who did a record ride across Germany two years ago. The world is small. I pointed out that he has the same Velomobile as me, only his goes an awful lot faster!
We then rode into Koblenz itself and stopped at a café for the first cake of the day.
After about an hour’s break it was time to continue on. The way out of Koblenz on the main road (rather than the meandering cycle path) had rather a lot of traffic lights, but eventually we ended up passing Rhens, but this time on the other side of the railway – on the main road rather than the appallingly-cobbled cycle path. A big improvement!
We had fast stretches on the main road (cycling between 30 and 40 km/h) interspersed with slower sections on various cycle paths. We had to go a lot slower on the cycle paths of course, although there weren’t too many people about today considering it was a dry Sunday. We saw a lot of bike tourers! They can’t tell by looking at us that we are touring too as we don’t have visible panniers.
Klaus mostly rode ahead on the cycle paths as he had a working horn. I had to regularly shout ‘Vorsicht!’ When going past as it’s surprising how some people wobble across the road with no warning.
We were now on the Mittelrhein section which is a UN World Heritage Site. It’s the section of the Rhein where you have pretty much always got at least one castle in sight. It’s also quite packed with main road (B9), cycle path and railway all sharing a very narrow space, so mostly the cycle path was just along the side of the B9. This was quite good for us.
We had planned to stop for another piece of cake at Oberwesel but it was a bit happening so we carried on, ending up in Bacharach which is where we will overnight on the way back. We enjoyed some apple cake but found the cars clattering their way up narrow cobbled streets rather spoiled the sitting outside.
After Bacharach Klaus and I had a variation in navigation but we met up again in due course and then sailed into Bingen, where we would cross on our second ferry of the day, this one to Rüdesheim.
This ferry cost a bit more too!
From Rüdesheim our route was parallel to the B42 so decent quality but not too busy. I presume the B42 was built as a bypass for the roads we were on at some point. Anyway, we made good progress heading east towards Mainz until we arrived at the town of Erbach where there was a Happening of some sort.
This meant roads were closed and although you can usually get through by bike, our way was blocked by revellers, bouncy castles, beer tents etc. We eventually found our way around the blockage, although this involved going through at least two patches of broken glass on the road. But we survived with our tyres unscathed!
My occasionally-troublesome knee was hurting a bit now so I used less power with my pedalling and turned the motor up. I had run it on 1 or 2 today (out of 5) but did the last 20km or so on number 3 which, with very light assistance from me, allows me to keep up with speedy Klaus and Emily.
Finally we arrived in Walluf and went to our hotel, where I have stayed at least four times and Klaus once before. The bikes were stored out of the way at the back and we, after the shower and clothes washing tradition, walked across the road to Rhein Pavillon for some food.
Washed down by a nice panna cotta.
I was pretty pooped after today – 145km is quite a lot on such variable terrain. We had lots of brick path surfaces, some evil cobbles, some lovely smooth tarmac, some impressive kerbs and potholes, some patches of glass, sand, dirt, mud… but we enjoyed our ride very much and it is impressive to cover so much ground now we are Rhein touring in velomobiles rather than trikes. On trikes our average was about 15 km/h, with the velomobiles it is 25 or more.
Tomorrow we head to Speyer, just 100km (so a nice relaxed day). I’ve stayed in Speyer many times and it’s somewhere Klaus remembers well from his youth, so we are looking forward to it. I will write all about it tomorrow!
Long in planning (I think the first tracks were prepared in January), our first day of the tour would be a trip along the Rhein to Drachenfels, just south of Bonn and on the other side of the Rhein.
We posted a list of our day stages on the Velomobilforum and fellow rider Klaus said he could ride some of the way with us. Then the whole thing developed some more and it turned out that the month meeting of the Rhein/Sieg Velomobile group would join us.
Klaus from Köln sent us an updated route which he said would be nicer, and agreed to meet us near Grevenbroich at 11:30am, so Klaus and I set off from home just before 10 and made our way southwards.
I actually had to stop after just 300 metres as there was a weird rubbing sound from the back of Millie. I adjusted my bag which I had stuffed into her luggage area behind my motor’s battery, and then the issue was fixed. Onwards.
Here is the route we rode today:
The night before we left it had rained a lot, but the rain seemed to have stopped by the time we left. However, as we cycled around St Tönis the rain started again; however, it wasn’t heavy enough to trouble us.
We had a ride of an hour and a half to the meeting point with Klaus from Köln and we were seven minutes early – he was already waiting!
Once we joined Klaus the route was more countryside but with views from afar of Köln Cathedral. But mostly our views were of fields and clouds.
We were also riding quite near to the giant hole in the ground (Braunkohl mining) and the related power stations were to be seen on the horizon belching out smoke.
We stopped at one point because I could hear a slightly weird noise at time. Klaus told me that the gaffer tape I had placed over the open area for the rear gears (usually covered with a plastic cover but mine had broken) was hanging down. The reason became clear fairly quickly – my waterproof jacket (packed away in its little bag) had fallen down from the space behind my head and into the area near the rear gears. So I pulled the gaffer tape off and discovered some interesting metal shavings – very thin aluminium – stuck to the gaffer tape. No idea where that come from on Millie but could be interesting in the future.
We carried on and that noise had gone but another new noise developed – when going over bumps. Something seemed to be banging and crashing, so I decided it was probably my new bike alarm, which had already come loose from its Velcro. I had placed it on the floor of Millie and I guessed it was being noisy. I would sort it out at the cake stop.
I hadn’t entirely paid attention to the plan for today and thought that the cake stop was at Strommel, which we reached fairly quickly. But then we carried on… ah, Strommel was just the place where the track we had was being ignored for a new track that Klaus from Köln had created. I wasn’t sure if the end of this track was the cake stop – but it was. Hurrah, as I fancied a break and some tea and cake after 75km.
My cake (above) was a Bienenstich. Klaus had the pink one below.
Several velomobile riders were at the café when we arrived, and the bikes were all squeezed in around the cars. Fortunately three of the parked cars soon left (although an 80 year old lady driver reversing her car around these expensive bikes was a bit scary!) and we were able to tessellated all 10 velomobiles into the space taken previously by three cars.
It was nice to have a chat with everyone, and of course to enjoy tea and cake, but soon it was time to head to Bonn.
We were a large group so cycled mostly on the cycle paths, which were bumpy. Annoyingly my banging noise was continuing, so it wasn’t my alarm after all. I wondered if it could perhaps be my tool bag which has plastic clips, perhaps these were rattling against the side of Millie. I had the problem that we were in a large group so I couldn’t really stop, so I carried on riding wincing at the banging sounds that came over empty bump.
Here is a pic that Hajo took of me:
You can see there were some threatening clouds but we avoided getting rained on, fortunately.
We did a lot of riding beside busy roads with lots of traffic lights – this was necessary to get round Köln – but in the end we found ourselves in a more country area. I liked this field of poppies.
We were now riding on the Rhein cycle path through Bonn and I found myself getting more and more irritated by the banging sound. So I asked the informal leader Josef if we could stop and have a look what it was. So he stopped and it very quickly became clear what the source of the noise was – why was my bicycle hooter sitting in the right hand footwell? It is supposed to be fitted below the headlamps!
Klaus climbed under Millie to have a look, but it was tricky to see anything. So we laid her on her side.
Klaus could take hold of the horn but there was nothing to fix it to (its mounting had snapped and it was only held in place by the two wires). Another rider supplied a cable tie but it became clear this wouldn’t actually help as the thing would rattle.
Hajo then had a look, and either accidentally or on purpose amputated the horn! So I now have it in my tool bag and the rattling has gone; but I also cannot hoot my horn until it is replaced.
After this delay we had just 10km to the beer garden Blauer Affe that Josef had suggested. We all arrived and caused quite a stir with the other guests!
There was lots of chatting about velomobiles. A bit later two more velomobilists arrived and one was the guy who had fitted Millie’s motor – and her horn! I said the horn had broken, but of course there was nothing to be done about it there.
I didn’t want to hang around for too long as I wanted to get showered. The rain at the beginning of the ride had made my clothes a bit smelly! So Klaus and I said goodbye to everyone and headed off.
It was just 12km further to Drachenfels. We had stayed there before on our SPEZI tour in 2015 when riding with Simon and Joyce as well. It was as we remembered, but this time the bikes weren’t parked in the ballroom but under our balcony outside.
The view from our balcony was the vineyard with Dragon’s Rock at the back.
And the view under our balcony… a Quattrovelo!
We had ridden 125km in total so I was keen for a shower. And of course as we are on a tour of two weeks we have to wash our clothes each day in the shower.
We then walked towards Rhöndorf for food. Konrad Adenauer lived here and his presence still looms large in photographs hung on walls and street names. Here we are looking back towards the Dragon’s Rock.
We found a restaurant and ate a simple Schnitzel and then walked to the ice cream parlour afterwards for an ice cream.
It took us a while to find a restaurant that wasn’t super-expensive so our track looks a bit meandering!
We were back in our room by 8pm. There is a kettle in the hallway outside but unfortunately no mugs so I cannot make a cuppa. The main reception area was open when we left for our dinner (and I saw some mugs there) but unfortunately when we got back it was closed. So I will have to go without my cuppa this evening. Which is tough!
Tomorrow we have our longest day of the tour at 150km. We are again staying in a hotel we have used before, this time in Walluf which is a very quiet town on the Rhein near Wiesbaden. Tomorrow we will be riding along too. It was fun to have so many cycling with us today, so thanks to all who came along!
As mentioned in my blog post from May 2019, Klaus and I planned to take part in the Grensland Tour organised by the Dutch Grensrijders on the 1st June.
The tour would start from Posterholt in the Netherlands which is about 50km from home. We decided this was a bit far in one day, as the tour itself was planned as 60km, and so thought it would be good to book a Vrienden op de Fiets (cycling B&B) somewhere near Posterholt. It seems many other participants of the Grensland Tour had had the same idea, but a bit earlier than us, so we had to try several Vrienden op de Fiets hosts before we found somewhere that could have us. That somewhere was in Swalmen-Boukoul, just 40km from home and 15km from Posterholt.
So on the Friday afternoon, Klaus escaped from work early and we ended up leaving home at about 15:30. Our host AnneMarie said that she would be out at 6pm so we wanted to get there beforehand to meet her properly (otherwise she would just leave us a key hidden).
The ride from home to Swalmen seems to be mostly downhill and includes some wonderful fast bits!
The section from Brüggen to the border of NL is VERY fast. I spun out at 58km/h, Klaus managed 69.
Total distance was 42km and you can see the other statistics from the ride here:
We arrived at our Vrienden op de Fiets and met out host, Annemarie. We were staying in a Granny Annexe attached to the house, although having looked on Google Earth I assumed we would be in the garden shed that you see in this picture. No, the shed was a proper shed, but we parked our bikes beside it.
Our mini apartment had a lounge with kitchen corner, a bedroom and a bathroom. The hosts were obviously keen practitioners of yoga so there were books on yoga everywhere as well as a little buddhist altar and lots of colourful decoration. The garden was lovely to look out onto.
For our first evening we decided to walk to the local pizzeria in Swalmen. This was 3km away but we are getting good at walking now.
The pizzas that we chose were both very good prices, and then on the way back we had an ice cream from the ice cream parlour as it was pretty warm!
The 3km walk back was less good for Klaus who had a pretty nasty blister on his heel. I fortunately had a small plaster with me but it wasn’t enough to prevent the blister getting worse and I think it was pretty painful for him. But soon we were leaving Swalmen and approaching Boukoul.
We arrived back at our apartment for a cup of tea and a relax. Although we had not cycled far, it was a warm day and we had had a long walk so were both pretty tired.
We planned to leave at 9 the next morning to get to Posterholt with plenty of time to relax and have a cup of tea first.
We slept well and the next morning helped ourselves to the breakfast which had been left for us in the fridge. It was the typical Dutch breakfast of soft rolls and bread, cheese and ham, spreads, fruit, orange juice. It would keep us going!
We contacted Ralf who was riding from home to Posterholt and suggested he came via Swalmen and met us. He agreed to this and at twenty to nine our three velomobiles were outside the house in Boukoul. We set off for Posterholt following a track I had created which turned out to be pretty good. The only odd moment was the totally drunk man who slurred to us in Dutch and then English, asking for 5 Euro for us to pass. We didn’t pay up, but were briefly worried he might fall onto one of the velomobiles as we rode past. But fortunately he didn’t totter right onto us.
We arrived at Vurenhof in Posterholt and saw that we were not the first.
Chum Oliver was organising and he took subs from us all for the lunch. Once we had paid up we sat in the sunshine with a cup of tea and watched more friends and acquaintances arriving.
At 10:30 on the dot it was time to head off on our tour.
Oliver was leading the way on his recumbent two-wheeler. Unfortunately he had been in an accident in his Quattrovelo (someone at a roundabout had driven into him when he had priority and rolled it) so it was in for repair. This meant that the speed was very comfortable and the group stayed largely together.
The route took us to Selfkant, the smallest section of NL, and also to the most westerly point in Germany.
We went up quite high at one point where there were lots of windmills and I took the chance to pull over and take some photos.
After 35km we arrived at our lunch stop. We had reserved tables which had cakes on!
I chose the rice cake.
After the cakes we had rolls with cheese and ham (breakfast revisited really). We were on a table of mostly Germans and had a good chat.
We stayed at the lunch stop for about an hour before heading off again.
We rode, still all together apart from a couple who got punctures, and eventually returned to Vurenhof where we had an ice cream.
Most people stayed there as we were also going to cycle to Swalmen to the spot where Erwin de Vries died last year just before Oliebollentocht when he cycled into a barrier in the dark. The barrier had no reflectives on it and was right across the cycle path through a forest. He was in hospital for two weeks as a result of facial injuries and then very sadly he died as a result of these injuries.
Since that time the Grensland Rijders have been sticking reflective strips on all such poles that they find. We were all going to ride together to the spot to remember Erwin, especially as it would have been his birthday that day.
What seemed like almost the entire group then headed off together towards Swalmen, passing the place Klaus and I were staying.
We arrived at the area which is just next to a restaurant. The velomobiles all parked in the car park and the people sitting outside at the tables were watching us. I guess they had no idea what was going on.
Some words were said to remember Erwin and then a bouquet of flowers was laid.
This event was a reminder to us that all transport has its dangers, and that velomobiles, being an unusual size/shape, are not considered by cycle infrastructure planners. We need to be careful, but we need to ensure that the cycle paths that we are obliged to use in the Netherlands are also safe for us.
Klaus and I then road back with the group as they headed to Boukoul and stopped at our Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation.
In total our ride was 97km, and here is the route:
And here are the figures:
You can see we had a much slower average speed. This always happens in group riding as you can’t easily find your rhythm. At the end of the day my fingers were aching from constantly pulling the brakes!
Klaus’s blister was causing him trouble still but I fancied a walk so I walked to the Italian restaurant (the same as yesterday) and Klaus cycled. The walk was lovely again to stretch the legs, with half of it along a woodland path.
Klaus overtook me five minutes before I arrived, and he was sitting with a cold drink (and had ordered one for me) when I arrived. We enjoyed our dinner and then he headed back home, eschewing the ice cream. I treated myself to a larger ice cream this time!
We were both pretty tired, partly from the heat of the day. It had been very warm and we probably hadn’t drunk enough.
The next morning was our ride home, but we weren’t going the direct route but taking a detour to Wegberg.
We were ready to leave at 9am after having breakfast and washing up. We said goodbye to our hostess AnneMarie, we had very much enjoyed our time with her.
This was our route for the day:
As you can see, it was rather an indirect route back!
And here are the statistics:
First we headed to Sint Odilienberg which is a lovely town with a very impressive church.
Whilst we were out stretching our legs we heard a noise like thunder – another velomobile! It was a green Quest which we had seen on the tour yesterday. He didn’t see us.
After Sint Odilienburg we headed towards Wegberg where we planned to stop for some cake. This involved riding through the Meinweg National Park (but a different sector than we usually use) and just as we came out of the park there was a really steep hill at Dahlheim-Rodgen. I switched my motor onto maximum and trundled past Klaus as he was winching Emily with all our luggage up the hill. I stopped at the top and Klaus seemed to be taking a very long time, so much so that I fired up the tracker app on my phone to see where he was. Then he appeared behind me, with the news that his Schlumpf Mountain Drive had failed so he had no low gears, the pedals were just spinning. He had initially thought it was a broken chain and had to get out (which is tricky in a 7% hill as the brakes aren’t keen to hold the weight) and push it up the hill. When he got to the top and looked inside he realised the chain was still in place. It was the Schlumpf Drive.
He changed the Schlumpf gear back to the high gear and that worked, but it made some slightly unhealthy noises. What with his visor coming unstuck yesterday, the mystery squeaking noise from the free hub which he is concerned about, plus another deflation of the air suspension balls later in the ride today, he is getting quite concerned about Emily’s reliability. Humphrey before her wasn’t great either. I think there will be some serious thinking about whether or not to continue with the Quattrovelo experiment because of all the breakages and failures; compare this with the Milan which is supposedly less well built and the Quattrovelo fares very badly. My only Milan issues have been with the electrical wiring (indicators failing) and spokes breaking (from wheels that I bought from Velomobiel.nl). Millie is very reliable, and Emily should also be the same. We will think about it.
Klaus was now stuck only in the high gears and our terrain was slightly rolling at times. Despite the grinding noises from the front bottom bracket we headed on, stopping as planned at Wegberg for cake and tea.
My Velomobile alarm went off during our cake. As they were parked out of sight round the corner Klaus went to have a look. It seems that a loud motorcycle passing had vibrated the velomobile enough to make the alarm sound!
I asked Klaus if the grinding noise from the gears was getting any worse but he said no, so we carried on. He was restricted to only the high gear ranges so that meant it was a bit more effort for him pulling away at some junctions, but overall Emily was running very well at the speeds that we were able to maintain. She zooms along over 45km/h. I run out of pedalling speed (my chainring is too small and my cadence too low) so Klaus and Emily were out of sight ahead sometimes.
After Wegberg we headed towards Mönchengladbach, going around many of the small hamlets surrounding it. Then we finally got back to somewhere that I know – Dülken. As it was very hot it seemed time for an ice cream.
From Dülken we headed north to Bistard and then joined the Bahnradweg at Lobberich. Our original plan was to ride through Kempen but as there was a running race on we decided to give Kempen a wide berth and we rode past Abtei Mariendonk.
We arrived home feeling very hot and quite thirsty, but having enjoyed our ride. We also had a nice message on the family blackboard!
All in all we really enjoyed the Grensland Treffen. It is always good to speak to other Velomobile riders, and to get to know new people as well as meeting up with old friends. The weather was very good too, although perhaps a bit too hot. We also picked up some very interesting information, that the Milan will in future be sold by Intercitybike in Dronten and also Beyß in Straelen – he is just 20km away. This has started me thinking about a new Milan next year…
Thanks again to Oliver Piper for organising the Grenslandtreffen, along with his supporters and also especially Chris for doing all the original planning and organising. Chris had an operation last week so was unable to ride with us, but we wish him a quick recovery and that he is back riding his Quattrovelo soon. And, of course, we remember Erwin de Vries.
This month I have felt very fit which has given me more enthusiasm for riding. This has included bagging ’tiles’ with Veloviewer, which is a Strava add-on which shows where you have ridden, overlaying it with a 1km squared grid. If any part of your ride goes through that square tile, then you have ‘bagged’ this tile. Veloviewer will show you your maximum square, as well as max cluster etc.
This offers an opportunity to ride new roads to make sure you pass through all the squares locally. This was my square in mid-April, a square which was 6×6 in size:
By the end of May I had made quite a lot of progress with a 13×13 square and quite a lot of opportunity to increase it further with one long ride out to the west.
We had an interesting afternoon with a chap Norbert who got in touch with me through a friend who had read my blog. He was interested in velomobiles so came over one Saturday afternoon to have a look at our stable of velomobiles (four at the moment). He said he found that they were much better in real life than in pictures, and we spent a long time chatting. As well as having a good look at Emily and Millie, we also took him to our other garage to see Celeste and Bertie. He was really enthused, went on a visit to Dronten a few days later and has now ordered a velomobile.
In showing Celeste to Norbert we discovered that her paint has cracked some more.
This seems to be a result of the repair which was done last autumn – it seems that the job wasn’t done entirely successfully. Klaus has been in contact with Velomobiel.nl who did the repair and we have said we will take Celeste to them later in the year for them to put her right.
We also arranged to visit Velomobiel.nl in early June, the last weekend before our bike tour starts, as Emily is making a strange creaking noise when under load but not being pedalled. Klaus thinks it might be something to do with one of the rear free hubs and wants to get it checked out before we head off on our tour to Bodensee. So we will have a tour to Dronten over the weekend (leaving Friday afternoon) and staying at the Vrienden op de Fiets in Vaassen again. This time I will cycle up with Klaus (unless the weather is appalling) and I am thinking about perhaps getting Millie serviced as well while I am there. We shall see.
One Sunday Klaus and I decided to go for a ride to Uerdingen to enjoy a cake at the Markt Café there. We also invited Ralf, who would have to join us a bit later.
Klaus and I decided we would visit the grave of Liegender Robert on the way and pay our respects.
We of course travelled there by velomobile in his honour.
After spending a short amount of time at the grave, we carried on to Uerdingen where we were soon joined by Ralf.
Christi Himmelfahrt or Ascension Day was at the very end of May. The Thursday of Ascension Day is a public holiday but Klaus had to work on the Friday. Grensland Rijders (the Roermond-based Velomobile group) had arranged a tour for Saturday 1 June, and we had registered for this. Rather than riding the 45km to the start in Posterholt, then doing the 70km tour, then riding 45km back (as Klaus did for Oliebollentocht in the winter) we decided instead to make a weekend of it (of course!) and travel to somewhere near Posterholt on the Friday night after work.
It seems the other velomobilists had had the same idea as the local Vrienden op de Fiets were all booked up, but eventually we found a space in Boukoul which is near Swalmen, just 40km from home. The plan is to cycle there and bag some Veloviewer tiles on the way!
I will write a separate blog post about the Grensland Tour.
Once again, I had some lovely scenes on my walk to work.
This month I changed my work hours from 08:00-13:00 to 07:00-12:00. This works better with my job-share as it means someone is in the office earlier (the production area starts at 06:00). However, it means I would have to leave home at 6:10 at the latest if I walked to work, so I thought that might mean the end of my walks. Fortunately Klaus agreed to drive me to work one day, so I still had my walk home. I have now done this three times, and it is a good chance for me to still get my walking in. It also confuses my colleagues when my Velomobile isn’t parked outside so they think I haven’t turned up!
This month Poppy went on holiday to Berlin with Lars, the son of my landlord and landlady. He had visited for a week and would be back in three and a half weeks’ time and asked to take Poppy back to Berlin with him. As we know she loves the time with him, and likes travel, we agreed. But we really missed her – I came home to this note on our communal message blackboard:
It was great to welcome her back at the end of May, although she had to have a haircut straight away as she looked too much like a teddy bear, plus warm weather was coming, so she wasn’t too pleased with me.
I had a lovely long walk one day where I did a much longer circuit (10.56km) and ended up in Kreis Kleve – a walk Poppy would have really enjoyed, if she hadn’t have been in the nation’s capital at the time!
I walked up past the little stream which I think is the Eschel.
I then crossed under the A40 motorway and was in Kreis Kleve. Where we regularly cycle, but I had not walked there before.
I was very quickly away from the Landstrasse onto some lanes, which were all pretty nicely surfaced, although I didn’t see any cars. There were loads of benches to sit and relax on.
Before long I was approaching Stenden, with its interesting church in view.
I was also pleased to see these visitors returning again.
I then had to walk along the road through the village for a short way before heading over the bridge over the A40 and joining back with one of our usual walking routes. It was a really nice walk, and I treated myself to some strawberries from the farm shop on my way past.
The local strawberry/asparagus place also has some baby goats (kids) that wander around and are very sweet!
And quite a few other animals too!
I have tried to keep up the walking despite Poppy not being around and have been reasonably successful in this. I tend to want to do a walk each day, if I don’t go out I feel a bit cooped up!
Over the last few months I have shown screenshots of my VO2 Max reading as measured by my Garmin Vivoactive 3 smartwatch. I started off with a ‘very poor’ VO2 Max reading for my age (which is 47) but it has been steadily improving due to all my walking (it is only measuring it through walking, not cycling). This month the improvement continued, and it seems I am now a 20-year-old in fitness terms!
The European Elections
I don’t want this blog to become too political as I am just so tired of it all. But readers will know that I very much support Britain remaining in the European Union – not just because that is to my benefit as someone who has exercised my right of freedom of movement, but also because I believe it is better for the UK and the rest of Europe.
I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t get a chance to vote in the European Elections as a UK citizen. I had to decide whether or not to vote in Germany (I had this option); I had to register at the Rathaus by a certain date if I wanted to vote in Germany. This date was before Britain had decided whether or not we would be taking part, but my hunch was that we would, and that I wanted to vote in England rather than Germany. So I held fire from registering in Germany and waited for my vote to come.
Finally, seven days before the vote, my documents arrived.
I filled it in immediately.
Klaus also had a postal vote as he had expected to be in Korea for work on the day of the election (although in the end that was postponed). His ballot paper was interesting and rather different than the British one which had, if I remember correctly, 7 parties:
There were also some interesting people on the German ballot, where you have to give some personal info (unlike the UK one)
We had both completed our ballots in about ten minutes and then I had to purchase the 3,70 € postage to send it back to England. I really hope the post was quick enough for it to arrive in time – a week is not that long for international letters if you are unlucky.
Of course, I was much luckier than a lot of people in France who apparently didn’t receive their postal ballots, plus of course so many of the European citizens in the UK who were denied their right to vote due to councils failing to send them a form or process it in time.
The elections are over and in Germany the results were good (in my opinion). Clearly in the UK the Brexit muddle continues. But there is nothing I can do about it now I have cast my vote, I just have to watch and wait and see.
A trip to Mannheim
More than a year ago, a WhatsApp group of Klaus’s former classmates from his secondary school/Realschule started discussing having a Klassentreffen or Class Reunion. Eventually they fixed on a date and Klaus said he would like to go. This would of course also give him an opportunity to visit his father who moved to Mannheim a few months ago.
The Klassentreffen was on a Saturday evening so we booked a hotel for Saturday. We arranged to meet with Klaus’s friend Martin after lunch on Saturday, and it was good to spend time with him. We then headed to our hotel in Lorsch which was just 2km from the bar where the Klassentreffen would take place. I dropped Klaus off at the bar at 17:00 and headed back to our hotel.
I had decided to have a mini explore of Lorsch which has in fact a UNESCO World Heritage site in its Abbey.
After doing a bit of sightseeing I stopped and had a piece of cake which was actually slightly disappointing (a bit dry). A disappointing cake is unusual in Germany!
The shops were all closed in Lorsch (Saturday afternoon is apparently not a great time for shopping!) so I went back to the hotel and then went out for a longer walk. I dropped in on Klaus’s Klassentreffen as I was round the corner and said hello, and then left him to it. He eventually rolled into the hotel at 2am, having had a really good time.
The next morning we had quite a bit of time as we had arranged to see Klaus’s father after lunch. So we went for a bit of a walk up some hills to one of Klaus’s favourite places to sit and relax. He used to mountain bike up the hills behind Heppenheim, and showed me some of the steep tracks he cycled up. We walked up ’em.
We walked back down again and then went for a coffee in Heppenheim. This is a lovely small town where Klaus lived many years ago, and the Rathaus opposite was where he got married.
After our walk around Heppenheim we headed to Mannheim. We were still early so went for a very long walk alongside the Rhein in Mannheim, another of Klaus’s favourite places where he often goes to. We walked 8km with an ice-cream stop in the middle at an outdoor swimming place.
Klaus’s father had of course made a cake for us, so we enjoyed a couple of slices of the Erdbeerboden and a good chat before heading home again. Mannheim to Kempen is just over three hours’ drive, which is not bad but we do tend to feel a bit tired after these weekends.
One of the main two purposes of the visit, the Klassentreffen, was a real success and they are already talking about doing it again. I guess Klaus will be very happy to go again!
Cakes this month
As usual, here is the gallery of cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed eating this month! For the avoidance of doubt, I have NOT eaten all of these myself.
The month of June will be very busy as we have the Grensland Tour, the ride to Dronten and then also our two week summer Velomobile tour to Bodensee. The Bodensee Tour will have separate blog posts, as will the Grensland Tour, so keep an eye out for those – no need to wait until the end of June! And, if you haven’t done it before, you can register for email updates when I write a new blog post; just put your email address in the “Subscribe to my Blog” box on the top right of this page. Your email address isn’t shared or used for anything except for emailing you when I publish a new post. I hope you enjoy them enough to want to read more!
I ended last month with the cliffhanger… what would happen at my meeting at the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Office) with regard to Brexit?
Of course, Brexit was delayed from its original date of 29 March 2019, thus meaning that when I arrived for my appointment at the Kreishaus Viersen on 1 April (I had lived exactly five years in Germany at this point) I was still a European citizen.
The lady with whom I had an appointment said she had expected me not to show up, as Brexit hadn’t happened! However, I said to her that I would like some kind of documentation to show that I had now lived in Germany for five years as an EU citizen so was theoretically entitled to remain permanently. Unfortunately Kreis Viersen doesn’t offer the usual document for EU citizens (because they don’t need it, because they are EU citizens so have the right to remain anyway!) so all she could do is prepare the documents for me for after Brexit. I had already found this document and filled it in as much as possible, so she said they would hold it on file so I would be one of the first processed after Brexit (whenever it comes, hopefully never).
This involved taking my fingerprints, a copy of a photograph of me for the future ID card, and evidence of my employment income (I had the last few payslips with me). My huge folder of documents, including bank statements, education certificates, rental contract etc etc was not needed.
I asked her if I could have some kind of document to prove that I had attempted to gain my Niederlassungserlaubnis because I felt rather unsure of the situation when Brexit came. How quickly would I be able to get an appointment, for example. She discussed with a colleague and in the end provided me with a letter which basically just shows that I have put in an application for a right to remain, and that I am currently allowed to remain in Germany.
I don’t suppose this document is worth very much really but at least it is something, and Germans do like their pieces of paper!
So after all the preparation for this appointment, gathering together all my documentation over the last 4-5 months, it was a bit of a damp squib. But at least I have now handed in my application for the Aufenthaltserlaubnis (leave to remain) so hopefully that will all be accepted when the time comes.
Cycling this month
Here is where I went this month:
And here is the list of rides:
A large distance this month was of course the tour that Klaus and I did in the Netherlands following his Dronten trip. You can read a separate blog post about our Easter NL Tour here.
I of course continued to cycle to work, the 4.2km each way taking just under ten minutes. It’s no quicker by car. And I get some lovely morning views across the fields.
In addition to our Netherlands Tour, Klaus and I also had a longer ride in NL one Saturday.
This ended up as a 120km tour. Our plan was first to go to Café Schafstall in Twisteden for some cake, and then ride to the Netherlands, returning back via the Reuver/Kessel ferry.
We enjoyed a slice of cake at Schafstall…
And then headed downhill into NL, crossing the river Maas on a bridge at Knikkerdorp.
We were going really well as it was nice weather and we zoomed south, heading towards Kessel. We decided to stop for lunch at Grubbenvorst, and parked next to another interesting vehicle!
We had a lunch of soup and then headed on, zooming our way through Venlo and down to Kessel. The velomobiles were both flying!
We crossed the ferry at Kessel/Reuver and then rode home up the hill at Weissen Stein. I have to say, it’s much more fun now I have a motor in the velomobile!
This wasn’t our only long Sunday ride into NL. At the end of April we did another trip, this time with Ralf. I had so enjoyed the slice of Erbeer Baiser Kuchen at Winthuis on our way back from our Easter NL tour that I suggested we went there the following Sunday. Ralf agreed to come too!
Ralf came to our house at 9am. We had agreed to check the weather in the morning as there was some rain threatened but in the end it was nicer than expected and we didn’t get rained on at all.
This was our track for the day:
The route to Winthuis is one that we regularly do with Ralf – we love these fast roads heading north-west from Kempen. We ride first through Kerken, then bypass Geldern by heading to Pont, then Walbeck (on a major road but it has a wide side strip we can use), then towards Weeze going through Twisteden. This always gives us an option for another decent Bauerncafé!
We arrived at Winthuis and I initially thought it was closed as there didn’t seem much going on. I said if that were so then we could just go back to Twisteden and Café zum Schafstall but Ralf was running out of energy (he had ridden an extra 20km and had not done so much cycling over the last few months due to a short hospital stay). Fortunately the café was indeed open.
I ordered the Erdbeer Baiser Kuchen of course, but Klaus went for a Black Forest Gateau
and Ralf for a Käse Sahne Torte.
They were great of course, and we enjoyed the relaxation after working fairly hard to get to Weeze.
We then headed off to the Netherlands.
The clouds were massing but fortunately we avoided the rain.
This ride ended up at 76km in total for us, quite a bit further for Ralf who stayed with us until Wachtendonk. I had assumed he would peel off for home in Straelen, but I think he was enjoying being part of this speedy Velomobile train! Our average speed ended up at 29 km/h.
One other cycling event this year was the Spezi Radmesse. Klaus and I went together and spent about three hours there as we had an afternoon appointment. It was great to meet up with many friends again, and also to see what is going on in the world of velomobiles and recumbents.
A lot of our friends cycled there. We were quite envious of them for the ride, but it’s a long way (we did it four years ago by trike!). We were disappointed not to bump into Andrew Allen and John Williams, two Brits who were there. We hope maybe to catch up with them when we are in the UK in September.
As well as cycling, I have also continued my walking in the month of April. I have walked 130km in total in April, including at least one day per week walking the 8.2km round trip to work and back. However, my working hours have now changed so I am starting at 7am rather than 8am which might put paid to the commuting by walking (I would need to leave the house around 6am which is a trifle early!)
A side-effect of the walking is that my Vo2 Max has continued to improve.
As a reminder, when I first bought my Garmin smartwatch it calculated my VO2 max as “Poor or very poor”, 29 on the scale, and that my fitness age was 53 years old. Seeing as I am 47 and a regular cyclist that was a bit surprising!
However, over the time with all the walking my VO2 max has gradually improved.
So that at the end of April it was at a rather pleasing 38, so my fitness age is 26!
My Garmin only measures my VO2 max when walking, not cycling; if I had a power meter on Millie it would measure it during cycling and would probably provide a different measurement because the two sports are different, although I guess with my electric motor it wouldn’t work anyway!
And another beneficiary of the walking is…
Poppy the dog is getting very fit now, as she gets walks from me/us each day, plus walks from Gudula. Gudula also takes her inline skating, and came to visit me at work one day with Poppy (at least a ten kilometre round trip).
She seems not to have entirely given up her aspirations to car driving though.
Poppy often gets evening walks with us, now that it stays light until nearly nine pm.
And during my afternoons free from work, if the weather is nice, we go for a longer walk too.
The scenery where we live is lovely, although Klaus suffered from hayfever this month.
An interesting thing about hay fever… in the UK there are three different tablets commonly available in supermarkets/chemists: Cetirizine hydrochloride, Loratadine and Acrivastine. The first two are cheap as chips, the Acrivastine is harder to find and about three times the price. They all have different ways of working. We stocked up big time on the first two and bought one packet of Acrivastine when in the UK last September as antihistamines cost about ten times as much in Germany.
Last year on our summer tour we both got itchy skin rashes from the Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillars and I had read that Cetirizine antihistamines can help with this; of course, on that occasion we had the Loratadine with us. We know for our next summer tour!
Anyway, this year the Cetirizine wasn’t helping Klaus, nor was the Loratadine. I had one box of the more expensive Acrivastine and he tried that for the first time and it worked for him, although the tablets are only for eight hours (rather than the full day of the others). Which made them even more expensive… It was £7 for 24, whereas the others are about £2.30 for a pack of 30.
Anyway, as he only had the one packet of 24 Acrivastine we started seeing about getting some more. And as I had been warned by friend Babs, it seems Acrivastine is not available at all in Germany. How odd! So my next cunning plan was to cycle to NL and buy some there; however, I soon saw that there are very few Apotheeks/chemists compared to the number in Germany. I wanted to go to Arcen (a nice ride from here) but they had none. Venlo had several chemists but I am less keen on cycling there, I wanted to check the tablets would be available. I couldn’t tell, so I asked Dutch chum Alex who told me Acrivastine is only available on prescription in the Netherlands. So no luck there.
Fortunately the hay fever time had passed before we ran out of Acrivastine, but we know to stock up again as soon as we are in the UK. And how strange, that despite the European Union the authorisations for these tablets are so different. (Medications are massively cheaper in the UK than in Germany so we buy paracetamol and ibuprofen when visiting the UK too).
Back to walking now! My work walking commute is also still fun.
Still eating Keto
The Keto diet continues. I have now lost 17 kg since January, and not been hungry during that time. I allow myself a slice of cake during a cycle ride but try not to do that too often as then I would slip too far out of ketosis and start getting hunger pangs/sugar cravings again.
Here are some more pics of the Keto food that we eat. All prepared freshly, with fresh vegetables, meat from the local butcher, lots of cream and butter and cheese. Wonderful!
It seems this month my cooking has tended more to traditional British food. I also made a lovely butter chicken curry. Klaus has also cooked as well, of course – he is the expert with pork steaks. We are both eating really well, and enjoying our daily strawberries from the Asparagus grower down the road.
I also finally managed to make a decent Keto bread. It has almond flour, chia seeds, quark and a few other bits and bobs.
Cakes this month
Of course my blog cannot be complete without the gallery of cakes this month. These have been shared by Klaus and I. Good thing we are also doing lots of cycling!
May will be a busy month. Klaus celebrates his birthday and of course we will go on a bike tour for it (NL again!) He also has to go to Korea for work for a week which is not such fun. We have a couple of bank holidays which is nice, as we also did in April. And we possibly have the European elections too (I decided to vote with my UK postal vote rather than in Germany, as I want to be a pro-European Brit).
The Easter long weekend of 2019 turned out to have a rather good weather forecast. Rather good for bike touring!!
Unfortunately, before the thought of touring had had much of a chance to get established, Emily (Klaus’s Quattrovelo) broke yet another weld in her rear suspension/axle/frame whilst we were out on a ride together. It made the back end very swimmy and we rode home very carefully.
We needed another trip to Dronten to get it welded. We hoped this could be done soon, and so contacted Velomobiel.nl who said they could do it on Easter Saturday.
This looked like curtains for our tour, except I managed to work out a cunning plan!
Plan was, that we would (once again!) steal friend Ralf’s Sprinter and drive Emily up to Dronten. I would then drive straight home again, leaving Klaus there, return the Sprinter to Ralf, drive home to Kempen and then jump in Millie and ride north. Klaus, after Emily was fixed, would ride south and we would meet somewhere in the middle to start our tour.
We decided to use Vrienden op de Fiets again, and after quite a lot of phoning around I found accommodation for the two nights (Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday) that we planned to be away.
So on Good Friday late afternoon we collected the Sprinter from Ralf and installed Emily, ready to leave early the next morning. We needed as much time as possible as we each had 90km to ride to our evening accommodation and I also had 450km to drive in total.
We arrived at Velomobiel.nl in Dronten just after they opened and disgorged Emily. Allert started straight away doing the repair – this was a known issue, the manufacturers in Romania had switched from the specified 4mm metal for the weld to 3mm. Allert was now replacing them with 5mm to be sure.
The rear axle assembly thingie was out very quickly.
It was at this point that I headed off home again, knowing I had nearly three hours of driving till I was home again and then had to head off in Millie to meet Klaus between Doesburg and Doetinchem. So I waved goodbye to the guys at Velomobiel.nl, and Klaus of course, and headed back to Germany.
I passed the amazing display of tulips along the road from Dronten to Zwolle. Klaus fortunately was able to photograph it later when he rode past.
Sprinter refuelled and returned to Ralf, five minutes fuss and attention to his two lovely doggies, and then it was time to head home. I didn’t bother to have any lunch but changed directly into my cycling gear and fished Millie out of the garage. I had already packed all my stuff yesterday to save time. And I was this time carrying all my own luggage – usually I have Klaus as my pack mule but I wanted to see if I could carry touring luggage for a long tour now my battery for the motor is taking up a lot of space, as I am vaguely formulating plans to do a solo tour in July (when Klaus is away).
Anyway, the good news is that all my luggage fit perfectly week. For a three day tour I needed pretty much the same amount of luggage as for a three week tour (three sets of cycle clothing, one set of normal clothes, a change of shoes, charging cables and gadgets). The only thing I didn’t take with me that I usually do is my iPad. I regretted that choice as it’s no fun reading the entire internet on a small phone screen.
This was my route for my solo tour to Wehl (between Doetinchem and Doesburg):
As you see, the route is mostly in Germany, it was just the final 30km which was in the Netherlands. I followed our normal route to Rees am Rhein and from this point onward used a track that Klaus has used on his trips back from Dronten which he said was a really nice route. He was right!
My original plan was to ride to Rees and there eat some cake or ice cream. However, having not had any breakfast or lunch, and being concerned about the detour into Rees and the slow roads around there, I decided instead to make a 5km detour on my way to visit our favourite café for cake, Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof. This was after just 31km of my 90km route, but I thought it was still worth it!
Büllhorsthof had my favourite Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen which I enjoyed very much.
Millie was parked alongside lots of other e-bikes (yes, she is now an e-bike of course), but also this rather fetching trike.
After enjoying my cake in the relaxing surroundings, it was time to head onward. Klaus was already on his way, and had in fact left Dronten before I had returned to Kempen, so I knew he was probably ahead of me on the tour. But this was fine, we could arrive any time in the afternoon. No pressure!
I headed onward, enjoying the ride and giving it some gas. With the motor I have the opportunity to choose how much assistance I want – lots, little, none. The motor also switches off after you reach a certain speed and I was riding faster than the switch-off speed for quite a lot of my ride today. I worked quite hard in the end, enjoying the effort and knowing that if my knees started to complain I could dial back my efforts and let the motor take the strain.
With about 10km to go I received a message from Klaus saying he had arrived and it was ‘beautiful’. We knew we were staying in some kind of Garden House (we always choose that with Vrienden op de Fiets as it means there is likely to be a large enough garden to store the velomobiles!), but as I rolled past (remembered the wrong house number and overshot!) it seemed not so much a shed as a… house. A four-bedroom house with kitchen, lounge, range-style six burner cooker, everything you need… and for 22,50€ each per night including breakfast. What a bargain!
Klaus had been there about half an hour and had a good chat with the hosts. I had my shower and freshened up. I had cycled 91.36km at an average speed of 28.9 km/h.
We were about 3.5km outside of Wehl so decided to take the bikes to look for food, rather than walking, and soon found ourselves at a pizzeria. We parked outside – along with all the other guests who seemed to have arrived by bike too.
We sat outside and enjoyed our pizzas before returning home for a nightcap of a cup of tea and an Easter present… some genuine Dairy Milk chocolate my Mum had brought with her from England and I saved for Easter. My first milk chocolate since the beginning of the year (because of Keto).
The next morning was Easter Morning and I took a short walk to enjoy the peacefulness of the country setting.
The bikes had spent the night out-of-doors but seemed to cope OK. We found a peacock looking at them later on.
We were treated to an excellent breakfast, and the lady said we could make sandwiches out of things that were left over (and gave us sandwich bags for them), so we were able to sort out our lunch too.
As you can see from the breakfast, this was not exactly Keto (very low carb)! We put the Keto way of eating aside when on bike tours as it’s just too hard to find the right food otherwise!
We had a leisurely breakfast and then got ready to go. We headed off at about 10 as we knew we only had 90km to do and the next hosts would not be available until 16:00.
My original plan was to skirt around Arnhem but as we had more time I suggested we went into Arnhem and visited the museum for the Bridge Too Far. I had visited it about 10 years ago and fancied another look (it is a very small museum). So we plotted a detour to take us through Arnhem.
We set off on very quiet roads, a wonderful route on quiet roads which mostly avoided cycle paths.
We arrived in Arnhem and stopped outside the museum, which looked a lot different than I remembered. It seems it must have been completely rebuilt. I had a quick look around, used their loo, but there wasn’t much to see really. Slightly disappointing.
As we had so much time on our hands we cycled a little way towards the centre and stopped for a cup of tea in a large open square. We relaxed there for nearly an hour, and then decided to head off again. We asked a guy on the next table how to get onto the bridge as a cyclist, and he suggested our route. We set off and were crossing the John Frost bridge and quickly out of Arnhem on some very good cycle paths.
Our route soon joined the dike where the path runs along the top, and this was a wonderful and fast bit of cycling. Slow sweeping curves, not too many cars, great views, various bridges.
The motorbikes were a bit kamikaze at times, as were the other cyclists who pootle along at normal bike speeds and don’t perhaps realise how speedy the velomobiles are, but it was a really enjoyable stretch of route with lots to look at.
We stopped at a bench and ate our sandwiches and had some water whilst soaking up the nice weather.
We carried on, and started thinking that an ice cream might be a nice idea. As our radar to find cakes or ice creams in NL isn’t very effective (unlike in Germany), we decided to stop at a McDonalds when we saw one for a McFlurry.
Suitably refuelled, we headed on again.
Our route (planned using the online software brouter and set for Velomobile) was generally pretty good, but it let us down slightly as we came to the bridge to cross the Waal at Beneden-Leeuwen…
We arrived up the slope where the car is in the photo and then the track sent us round this circle and up the narrow (and VERY steep path) on the bottom right hand side. Needless to say, this would not have been a wise idea in a velomobile. Some people were waiting on the top of the bridge (from where I took this photo later) and they did some hand signals to show us the correct route, which we duly followed and arrived on the bridge in a more elegant fashion.
We had a ferry crossing of the river Maas a little later on, where it is pretty narrow.
We were still a bit early as we would probably arrive before 4pm so decided to stop for a cup of tea in Lith, with just 10km to go to our destination. We stopped at a café looking over the river although it was a bit downmarket; when we headed off half an hour later we passed several nicer-looking cafes in the centre of the town. Oh well! We had our drinks and the chance for the loo.
The final sector from Lith to ‘t Wild (part of Maren-Kessel) was on inland roads which were rather a rough surface and with drempels (speed bumps) but few cars. We cruised along and soon arrived at the house. The owners came out to meet us and helped us to move the velomobiles to the garden. It turned out I hadn’t put their correct email address in the confirmation email I sent them so they didn’t get it and wondered if we would actually be coming; fortunately they decided we would!
Our accommodation this time was a granny annexe they had built for when they were perhaps a bit older. It was wheelchair-accessible, including a shower, and everything was really high quality. All the fixtures, fittings, tiling etc. When the next morning we went into their part of the house for breakfast we saw the same attention to quality there. It was all very nice.
We had a cup of tea and the hostess offered to book us a table at the restaurant 1.5km away along the dike. This was most handy, so we asked for a table at 6:30pm and that was fine. We showered and then walked along the dike to the restaurant where I had lamb and Klaus steak. Very nice!
The walk back was as the sun was low in the sky and it was all rather beautiful.
Our total distance for today was 85.56km which we rode at an average of 25.6km/h. Interestingly, my average heart rate was 99, so this suggests I was being very lazy today and letting the motor take most of the strain! Usually my heart rate average is 130-140. However, the massive influx of carbohydrate at breakfast, which I am not used to, might also have played a part!
Here is the map of where we went with the white markings above the blue showing how little effort I was actually expending. If you look at the map from the previous day, you can see my effort/heart rate showing in lots of colours!
After a good night’s sleep it was time for our return leg, but first I decided to go for a bit of a walk before breakfast.
A short lap around the block including along the dike, just 1.5km but still a nice bit of refreshment before sitting all day in a velomobile.
Breakfast was great!
Again, not very Keto, and Klaus and I were slightly feeling the digestive effects of all these carbohydrates, but it’s tricky to eat low-carb for breakfast anywhere really.
Our route home today was 115km. We had decided we would stop at Bauerncafé Winthuis just outside Weeze (back in Germany) and posted on the Velomobilforum to ask if anyone would like to join us. We thought we would be there around 2pm.
We thanked our hosts again and said goodbye, heading off into wind this time, and in fact we had a headwind pretty much the whole way.
Our route today was also not quite as nice – more bumpy roads and also a fair stretch on a cycle path beside a main road. Each time you have a roundabout or a junction there is a curve which can be tricky for a Milan, plus sometimes visibility is poor. Our average speed was fairly low for this section, and my heart rate too didn’t want to raise at all. We pootled along.
Our routing was mostly OK except for yet another random off-road section, such as we had yesterday. Again, to get onto a bridge. Obviously the local mountain-bikers do the shortcut up the bank of the bridge but this is not suitable for velomobiles.
We hadn’t particularly discussed our strategy for a break but apart from a pee break behind a tree for me, we didn’t see anywhere suitable to stop. And then we were getting close to roads we know well and so we just pressed on. In the end we rode 80km non-stop, then arriving at Bauercafe Winthuis where we rewarded ourselves with cake.
The strawberry cake is so wonderful, I think it classes as the nicest cake I have ever eaten!!
The opportunity was too good to miss, so Klaus and I had another round of cakes whilst we chilled out waiting to see if any of the Velomobilforum readers might turn up (they didn’t)
We stayed about an hour and a half, enjoying the relaxation and of course the cakes. And then it was time to head home, just 35km along some of our favourite fast roads.
What was also very noticeable was that after I had the cake, I was able to increase my power and my heart rate went right up. You can see from the graphic below where the cake stop was (at 80km).
We absolutely zoomed home, looking forward to a cup of tea and a bit of a chill out after our really enjoyable short trip away. In the end we did 116km with an average speed of 26.1; our average was hovering around 24,5 whilst in NL but we were able to speed up a lot once we got to Germany again.
This was a lovely little break and we were really thrilled by the quality of the Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation. It’s a very fair price and it is nice to meet the hosts; mostly these places aren’t in the centre of cities (which would not have space for our velomobiles anyway) but are in the countryside but we are fine with that, we like being in the peace and quiet.
Our next NL tour is in just a couple of weeks, as we are touring to Leiden and celebrating Klaus’s birthday on that trip.
And summary of the velomobiles performance? Once Emily was fixed, all was fine. No repairs needed, no punctures, easy touring with loads of luggage space in the Quattrovelo, good cooling whilst riding so we didn’t overheat in the 25 degree temperatures. I finished each day’s riding with about 80% battery left, 90% on the first day (when I pushed more myself). The battery should be fine for the 190km to Leiden in the next few weeks. And touring with Millie with her motor shows me that, once again, it was a great choice for me. I still have enough space for my luggage (although Klaus carried it for me on the second and third days, but that’s because he is gentlemanly), Millie’s handling hasn’t changed in any way the worst, and she is still a brilliant velomobile for me.
I am writing this on 31 March. Until a few days ago I assumed I would no longer be an EU citizen on this date. But, hurrah, that is not the case! Tomorrow is my visit to the Ausländerbehörde, the Foreigners Office, in Viersen; hopefully there I will be able to get some kind of documentation for the fact I will have lived 5 years in Germany. This time five years ago I was heading to Harwich on my way to the ferry to start my new life (not that I knew at the time it would be my new life!) So much has happened in those five years, but it has been very good!
Cycling this month
Here is where I went this month by bike:
And here is the list of rides. This totalled 298km by bike, but I also walked 97km too!
Long term readers of my blog will remember Celeste, Klaus’s Strada velomobile. This had been damaged by some vandals and then repaired, but had been stored in our next door neighbour’s workshop as we didn’t have space in our garage at the house and we weren’t happy with the security at the other rented garage (where Celeste was vandalised).
Some months ago we met Inge and her husband Frank, as well as her brother (also called Frank) and talked a lot about velomobiles. She was very interested in trying out Celeste to see if it would suit, so we extracted Celeste from the neighbour’s garage and Klaus cycled her to Inge’s.
Before Celeste went to Inge’s, however, Poppy had to have a little go…
Inge had to buy some SPD shoes of course, but otherwise we didn’t need to do much to Celeste at all as Inge’s leg length seems to fit with the chain length in Celeste.
We have been out for a couple of rides with her and Celeste, it is funny to follow that celeste-coloured shape again after a full year of Quattrovelo following!
We are letting Inge use Celeste for several weeks before she has to decide whether or not to buy her. Celeste is an ideal velomobile for most uses and a bit easier to maintain than the Quattrovelo or Milan, plus she is very quiet. So far Inge seems to be enjoying using her!
Millie’s brake and spokes repair
This month saw (finally!) the repair to Millie’s sticking brake.
The brakes in the Milan (as in most other velomobiles) pass through the plates where the steering rods are attached. The Milan brake cable makes a 180 degree turn in order to go inside the front suspension and up to the brake drum. You can see a picture here.
I had ordered a new brake sheath (the metal bit at the end) from the UK as I couldn’t find this type in Germany. It took a couple of weeks to arrive but eventually came. I didn’t have an opportunity to do the repair, and then wanted to ride Millie one Friday afternoon. It was impossible, the brake was constantly stuck on and squealing. So the next day it was a definite job to do!
First of all, we laid Millie on her side on the garden table. Here you can see both wheels still in place.
Then it was time to remove the right hand wheel (although we needed to do both, as there was also a broken spoke on each wheel).
This had previously taken us hours but Frank had a convenient tool that we could use. He was originally going to help me but ended up not being available so Klaus and I had to have a go on our own.
On the left hand wheel we also had to unscrew the speed sensor for the Bafang motor, which was cable-tied to the bunged-up brake cable.
We managed to get the wheel off after about 10 minutes.
And were left this this arrangement inside the wheel well.
Klaus is holding onto the brake cable in that photo. The idea was to just pull the metal brake noodle thingie off. But would it come off? No!
More and more pulling… unsuccessful
The problem was that the brake noodle thingie was getting caught on the end of the brake cable which was a bit split. We had no success so in the end Klaus resolved to cycle to a bike shop and buy a new brake cable and we would cut this one off.
We were then able to pull out the entire brake cable. Which involved some fiddling on the tiller too…
So off he went to buy a brake cable or three (I suggested two spares as well!) and I replaced the broken spoke on the wheel.
Klaus returned, having invested 15 Euros in some decentish cable (Shimano rather than No-Name).
We would now have to feed the new cable into the old sheath. The possibility had been to change the sheath too, but as everything is rather hidden away around the tiller I didn’t fancy that, although it probably would not have been as bad as I had feared.
The new cable ran nicely down inside the cable sheath until right at the end… where it was presumably still full of a bit of gunk which had caused the issue before. We sprayed some teflon fluid down it but no luck. In the end Klaus just cut the bottom 5mm off the cable and then it was fine, we were able to attach the new noodle.
Then the really tricky bit started! Getting the new cable the right length to work the brakes, without having actually measured the correct length of cable.
There is very little room to work in Millie’s wheel well and we had to mostly replace the wheel (except for the final fine positioning) to gauge the length of the cable. I think this took us at least an hour, but finally the brake was working. Klaus did the fine-tuning on the tiller and the brakes are now perfect – don’t pull to one side, release easily, run smoothly. It’s a real improvement!
We then removed the second wheel so I could replace the spoke on that one. This didn’t take too long, fortunately. I also added new washers to the top of the suspension arms for each front wheel as the old ones had rather perished. They are what you see when inside the cockpit of the Milan.
So Millie is now running very nicely with definitely improved braking control!
A second minor repair also used a brake cable, but this time the outer…
I had ridden Millie to work on a really windy day and at one point in the morning the wind blew her lid/deckel open. This is held in place with some stiff cable which had been getting a bit rusty/grotty over the last couple of years, and finally the cover was pulled off the end of the cable and it ripped out of Millie. There was no way to feed this frayed metal nightmare back through the small hole between cockpit and lid!
As I was at work I asked the Schlosser (Handyman) if he had a suitable bit of replacement cable. He did, but it was too flexible (and turned out to also be too wide), but he recommended screws and washers instead. So he did a quick repair but it was clear to me that the screws/washers option didn’t allow enough flexibility for the movement required for the lid.
When I got home I had a look around for a bit of suitable wire, and in our box of Miscellaneous Bike Bits I found two spare brake cables. This was clearly the right thing! I wasn’t able to cut the cable so it is rather longer than needed, but hopefully at some point I will find someone with a suitable cable cutter and have it the right length, but in the meantime the lid is now properly affixed again. And if anyone needs an emergency brake cable outer I have one!
More walking again
I am really enjoying doing a lot more walking, and aim to walk to work and back at least once per week. In the last week of March I managed it twice in one week! The journey on the route I take is 4.2km so that is about 50 minutes of walking for me.
And I see such lovely sights on the walk…
On the days I don’t walk to work I take Poppy out for around an hour each day. It is interesting to see how my fitness is improving, at least according to my Garmin Vivoactive Smartwatch. It measures VO2 Max; I have no idea how accurate it is, but I guess its readings may give me a bit of a clue… and I am finally younger than my actual age (47 3/4)
A visit to Vaessen and a visit from my Mum
I had a lovely week with my Mum, who booked to come over two weeks before Brexit to avoid any potential travel issues if she came in the more usual April/May time.
We were to collect her on Sunday morning from the Hoek van Holland. Klaus had booked to have Emily checked in Dronten the day before as there were some things that needed doing and it was the only suitable time.
The original plan was for us both to cycle part of the way there on the Friday evening and stay in a Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation on Friday night. Klaus would then cycle to Dronten on Saturday, get the work done and return to the same Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation Saturday afternoon. I would ride home on Saturday to be ready to pick Mum up Sunday morning.
We had loved our visit to Vaassen last time and contacted the Vrienden op de Fiets host, but this time unfortunately (for us) he had friends visiting who were staying in the accommodation. But he recommended two other options and I contacted the first who said yes, we could stay.
Looking at the weather forecast in advance it looked like it would not be good weather for Millie (too rainy), so I made the decision to go by car. I checked first with the Vrienden op de Fiets hosts and they said that was fine. Klaus was coming by bike after all.
He came home from work just after lunch and set off on the 135km ride to Vaassen. I left home a couple of hours later and had a motorway run which is very familiar – the route to Dronten!
I arrived about 20 minutes before Klaus (he has a tracker in Emily so I could see where he was). We were in a ‘Garden House’ which in this case was a shed that had been built as a separate accommodation area and was really nice.
Klaus rolled in shortly after I had made a cup of tea and he parked in the carport – his Insignia could cope with being out in the rain and wind, we thought!
After he had showered we walked into Vaassen, about 2km, to the Turkish restaurant we had eaten in before (we were aiming for something else but nothing else tickled our fancy). After a good meal we walked back again in the dark, periodically using our phone lights to signal our presence to the occasional car drivers who whizzed along this narrow road.
The next morning we had the traditional Dutch breakfast (best not to say much about that) and then Klaus headed off to Dronten and I returned to Kempen. He had a reasonably successful time in Dronten although didn’t get everything done, and I made final preparations for Mum’s visit.
I left home at 6am on the Sunday morning to head for the Hook of Holland. Mum arrived just as I did, and we headed to Dechi Beach for breakfast. This is a beachfront café which does a very nice breakfast, in fact the only decent breakfast I think I’ve had in the Netherlands! It wasn’t really beach weather though.
But we enjoyed our breakfast and the chance to relax before the 2 hour drive back to Germany.
I had the week off work so Mum and I had a lot of time together. Unfortunately the weather was awful so we didn’t get out as much as we’d like, but we did visit a Garden centre, did a bit of shopping in Kempen, had a few cakes and Mum even came with us to visit Inge when Klaus delivered Celeste. Poppy really enjoyed having her Oma visiting too!
It was sad to wave goodbye to Mum, but we will see her when we visit the UK in September… by bike!
Here are a few miscellaneous items I experienced this month…
Cakes this month
As usual, here are the cakes that I or my cycling companions enjoyed this month…
And not just cakes. We have (despite the cakes) continued with eating Keto. I have now lost 14kg in the last three months and feel really good with it, as I am almost never hungry and don’t have any energy dips.
Here are a few photos of the food that we have cooked for ourselves this month:
And what’s next…
With Brexit, who knows! I woke up yesterday and was still a European Citizen, which I had not necessarily expected. Tomorrow at the Ausländerbehörde I will find out what options are open to me as a UK national who has been resident in Germany for five years. As the Germans say, ‘es bleibt spannend…’
Welcome to my February blog – the last before Brexit (or so it seems, we are not quite sure!)
As usual, there’s been some cycling, and in fact February was much more successful than January in terms of riding distance, helped by the fact we had some cracking weather!!
In total in February I rode 605km, a big improvement over January’s 224km.
As you can also see, although there were a few rides in Bertie, the majority were in Millie. This is because the weather was very good so I could use my non-waterproof Velomobile!
The month started out rainy, and Bertie had to hide under his cover at home in the garden.
Fortunately most of the days were sunny, and on my rides (and walks) to work I was treated to some wonderful sunrises.
Not only did I cycle to work, but I also walked to work on two occasions. I really enjoyed the 4km walk, which took me about 50 minutes. I walked home again one day, and on the other Klaus picked me up from work as he had been in the Netherlands for work and returned early. I will hope to do more walking to work when the weather improves again as it’s a lovely way to start the day.
Klaus and I managed to do more weekend riding in February, although disappointingly not accompanied by Ralf who had a hernia which was repaired but means he’s off the bike for a bit.
A few longer rides
One Sunday morning we decided to ride to Winnekendonk to our favourite café, Büllhorsthof. Unfortunately when we got there the café was full with breakfasters and as it was too cold to sit outside we decided to head somewhere else. We phoned Café Binnenheide but they were also full, so we took our chances with a town and headed towards Kevelaer.
We have had some slightly weird experiences in Kevelaer with people poking our bikes (it is a pilgrim town and attracts unusual people). This time we found a café in a side street and could sit at the window watching the bikes outside.
Although Klaus and I are both eating low carb food, we decided on longer rides to reward ourselves with half a cake each. We agreed on the cheesecake…
This was a nice ride, and it was good to stretch my legs for 70km, my longest ride of the year so far.
To the Radfahrer Kaffeeklatsch
I attended one of the Friday Kaffeeklatsches, where cyclists meet at a café and chat and have cake. This one was in Tönisvorst at the Obsthof so I could manage to get there after work.
I cut my slice of cake in half and took the second half home for Klaus (aren’t I nice!)
There was also a Kaffeeklatsch in St Hubert so that time I walked there with Poppy… but had enough willpower to eschew a piece of cake altogether. Impressive!
Xanten over three mountains
We also had a ride to Xanten, and rather than using my traditional hill-avoidance route I took in three mountains, including one very sharp, short climb. Hallelujah for Millie’s motor!
So we rewarded ourselves with an entire slice of cake each.
This ride was 79km in total, and then we went out later that day by bike to see friends Inge and Frank so I ended up with 105km for the day.
A small Velomobile meet in Rees
With the wonderful weather Klaus posted in the Velomobilforum to say we would ride to Rees on a Sunday morning and would love to be joined by other velomobilists. In the end a few people said they would come, so we set off at 9:30am in lovely sunshine, riding through rural Kreis Kleve.
We arrived in Rees at 11:00 and sat down outside on the terrace of a café with a good view over the Rhine. And had cake of course.
We were pleased to be joined by Thomas (Speedastir) in his yellow Quest
And also two others, a guy Dirk who lives in Rees and rides a DF and another guy Uwe with a new (to him) eOrca who lives in Krefeld so had a similar distance to us to get to Rees.
We had a lovely chat over a couple of hours, although observed a chap in a motorised wheelchair crash into the back of Emily. The chap was severely disabled and unable to really communicate, but it was clear he wanted to try to make amends. We checked Emily and she just had minor scratches. It was clearly purely an accident and so we waved the chap on. These things happen.
Eventually it was time to head back. Klaus had developed a slow puncture on the way to Rees so pumped Emily’s tyres up before we headed back. The DF rider agreed to show us a slightly nicer route the other side of the Rhine, so we all followed him over the Rhine Bridge.
I had followed the Orca over the bridge and seen that he, too, had a bit of a flat rear tyre so we stopped for both Klaus and Uwe to pump up their tyres.
After about 10km the DF rider headed back to Rees and we kept going. The Orca guy Uwe said he would like to accompany us. I thought it might be a bit challenging for him as the Orca is heavy, despite the motor, but he kept up really well (although said he would not normally ride that fast!)
We had another stop to pump up the tyres.
The route back was lovely, the sunshine had really warmed the air and it felt like a late spring morning – but this was mid February.
Uwe came with us as far as Stenden and then headed off home to Krefeld. I am sure we will see him on a group ride again soon!
We got home with 115km on the clock, which was another good ride for me. I am slowly getting back into the swing of it!
More on Millie’s motor
Millie of course now has her motor, and I have ridden her a lot more with it. I now have got very used to it and really enjoy using it.
I did a test to see what distance the battery would last when riding under normal conditions. This was with the assistance level set at 1 (out of 5) but increasing to 3 at traffic lights/stops and for a few hilly bits.
I was delighted to see that the battery was good for well over 200km.
I also had a chance to do a bit of experimentation with what was causing some of the newer noises in Millie since the motor was fitted.
The main noticeable issue is that when the road has a fairly strong camber down to the right, there is a bit of a grinding noise at the back of Millie. I initially thought it was the chain but realised after a while it was something else, and eventually was able to reproduce a similar noise by flexing the cover for the back wheel. There is a wheel box built around the back wheel and the tolerances are very fine – it seems that when the bike is leaning to the right, there is a slight vibration in this area.
I did a second experiment, removing the heavy battery which is fixed on the left hand side of the velomobile but with its frame attached to the rear swing-arm. Lo and behold, without the battery the noise was not there. It seems that the weight of the battery (about 3.2kg) is ever so slightly moving the weight in the bike so that there is a tiny deformation and the wheel box is rubbing on the right hand slopes. It’s not an issue now I know what it is, and the noise only occurs on very cambered roads – it’s something I can live with,
Something that was trickier to live with was my left brake jamming up completely one rainy day. I rode to work with the brake squealing and the motor having to help me to push against its resistance. The bottom of the brake cable does a u-bend through the sheath and had obviously got full of grot.
Frank helped me to remove the wheel (in other words, he did it for me – super-efficiently!) as initially I assumed the drum brakes were binding around the axle.
Removing the wheel usually takes me about an hour – I was mega impressed to see Frank do it in about five minutes.
Anyway, we saw it wasn’t a problem with the actual drums and pads, but Frank noticed it was the brake cable not moving smoothly through the sheath. We oiled it a bit, and had to do it again a couple of days later. I ordered a spare brake noodle (which had to come from England, weirdly, as there were none of the right type on German eBay) and hope that Frank will be available again when it is time to replace the brake noodle.
What was less impressive was that when Frank and I were lifting Millie onto the garden table in order to remove her wheel, my sleeve caught on Millie’s brake light (a strip of LEDs) and pulled it off. It’s just held on with Superglue.
I attempted to repair it, by gluing again, but had to fix it with some unattractive red insulating tape until I can check it will stay in place.
Klaus has had a number of punctures this month, two in the rear tyres (Schwalbe Shreddas). The Shreddas roll really well but at this time of the year, with the tractors putting a lot of mud on the road, perhaps they are a little thin-skinned.
And on another note, once the rainy weather came I brought Bertie back from the other garage and used him to commute to work. Although I had been riding with a motor almost exclusively for three weeks, it was no problem riding the heavy bike without the motor and my speed was the same as usual for Bertie. The risk of having a motor was that I would become lazy; undoubtedly some of the time I make the most of having it and don’t push too hard, but other times I am riding using a lot of power. So I am hopeful to continue my cycling fitness, especially over the summer touring.
I mentioned in last month’s blog that Klaus and I had both bought Garmin Smartwatches. He has a Fenix 3HR and I have a Vivoactive 3.
These have turned out to be very good gadgets, encouraging us to do a lot more walking than we used to do. The dog is very much enjoying this too!
What has been interesting is seeing various measurements of fitness/general health which we previously didn’t know about. Both watches track sleep, although mine tracks REM sleep as well as Deep and Light sleep. Klaus’s only tracks Deep or Light sleep. However, the readings from mine cannot be right as I apparently get about 20 minutes’ deep sleep per night; if that were really the case I guess I’d be walking around like a zombie! But overall it shows us how many hours we are actually sleeping (although if you just sit in bed reading the iPad that gets registered as Light Sleep with my Vivoactive 3).
What I have found most interesting was the VO2 max reading. Now I don’t really know how it measures this, but it purports to provide this information each time you go for a walk of more than about 15 minutes and with the GPS on (rather than counting steps, it is actually measuring distance travelled). When I first noticed this feature it told me my VO2 Max was “Poor to Very Poor” at 29 on a scale from The Cooper Institute. It suggested my Fitness Age was 57, which is 10 years older than my real age! This was a bit startling as I think I’m actually reasonably fit for a lardy lady.
Anyway, this figure began to regularly increase and I got myself into the “Fair” category after a week or so. Then it went slightly downhill again and has stayed there since. Today’s reading told me I have a fitness age of 47. As I am indeed 47 I guess this is OK. It puts me in a category of 40-49 so although I am at the top end of this category, I assumes I am 44.5 I think, judging by the message at the bottom.
Because I walk around quite a lot at work (baby-sitting Russian supervisors during our production) my steps target for the day increased from the initial 7,200 steps to almost 12,000. If you reach your target, the next day it increases! I decided to fix it at 7,500 steps each day as that is a sensible target, just under 6km for me, and I don’t want to become a slave to the watch!
I have also given up with its counting of stairs climbed. It usually only awards me one flight of stairs for every three that I climb. On the other hand, when cycling over a railway bridge or travelling fast in the car it awards me with lots of flights of stairs! The set target was 10 and I reduced that to 5; I must hit this every day in reality but half of the time my watch says no. So I ignore it.
The dog is getting lots of walkies!
As mentioned above, due to the Garmin Smartwatches both Klaus and I need to walk quite a bit each day to meet our targets. Poppy has been a real beneficiary of this!
We even go for walkies in the dark…
And Poppy has a pink illuminated collar for the night walks.
But mostly it’s just lovely to live in the countryside and to wander around the very quiet lanes and woodland. All these photos were taken in February a few minutes’ walk from our flat.
Keto food again
Since 2 January I have been eating Keto and Klaus has been eating low carb. This basically means we are eating the same evening meals, but he is having a few more goodies such as an orange a day. Because I am back in Ketosis and therefore not hungry I am doing 16:8 fasting, which means I eat lunch at about 14:00 and dinner at 19:00 but no breakfast. It’s really easy not to eat breakfast when you’re not hungry!
The low carb meals mean no pasta, bread, rice, potatoes but fresh meat, vegetables and creamy/buttery sauces. Everything is very tasty! There’s lots of dairy but as we like that it is OK. Here are a selection of our meals from this month:
As before, the Keto diet really suits me. I love the food choices, I find it reasonably easy to stick to, and it is such a relief not to be constantly hungry. When I eat Keto (that means in my case, eating less than 40g net carbs per day), I lose this overwhelming hunger that I usually have, which means I can eat sensible amounts of food in the day. I also do the 16:8 fasting which means I don’t eat breakfast except at the weekends.
Anyway, we have been enjoying this lovely food, all freshly prepared, with masses of vegetables, some high-quality meat and good fats (butter, olive oil, cream), and in the two months I have lost 10.5kg, which is 23lb.
As you have seen in the above reports, some cakes are still being consumed. This could be a slippery slope but I am trying my best to really limit these to times when I am doing a lot of riding (so I burn off the sugar/glycogen and go back to burning ketones). I have to watch this carefully, but the symptom of the return of hunger is quite noticeable so I will hopefully be able to keep track. I am lucky as a lot of Keto dieters need to keep under 20g net carbs; I can get away with much more.
My Mum is visiting next month and so we will be cooking some additional carbs for her (potatoes, perhaps pasta) and providing her with bread, but we will try to stick to our diet as much as possible. I am sure she will also enjoy eating our meat and vegetables with lovely creamy sauces!
The rate of weight loss will slow right down now, as the first month tends to be shedding lots of water, but my trousers are definitely looser and I feel great in myself. I felt great with Keto in 2017 and 2018 but didn’t manage to keep it going properly all year (although we managed 2018 with eating Keto at home, which meant I started 2019 4kg less in weight than I started 2018). We feel more confident about it this time, as we have got so used to the diet and we only have suitable food at home now.
Klaus is not eating Keto but low-carb (which means he allows himself a lot more carbohydrate per day, he is probably on around 100g carbs). He doesn’t need to lose any weight, but he likes the lack of hunger on low carb so is doing it for that reason. And to support me, of course. He is losing weight slowly so we will need soon to work out how he can increase his calories a bit as he doesn’t really need to lose much at all.
I realised my glasses were getting a bit long in the tooth so thought it was time for a visit to the optician. When I gathered together all my old prescriptions and other documentation I discovered my sunglasses were 11 years old and my glasses 9 years. Not bad!
So Klaus came with me to an optician in Kempen and I had a sight test and ordered a pair of glasses and sunglasses.
The glasses arrived in 10 days and seem fine so far. The price was pretty decent too, cheaper than the previous ones (although they had more costly lenses).
I discovered one of the delivery drivers around here had an ingenious way of delivering a small Amazon parcel to me when I wasn’t in. I was actually in the back garden and expecting the delivery of the charger stand for my Garmin watch, and then I had a notification on my phone that it had been delivered. With an image to help me know where…
Yes, this was a photo of Bertie… and indeed the chap had posted the small box through the gap between Versatile roof and Bertie’s side so it was on the seat. Interesting, but not really where these things should be left!
And some more cakes…
These are the cakes that we had on other occasions not mentioned above.
So as I am writing this we have less than 27 days until Brexit… supposedly.
I have my appointment at the Ausländerbehörde on Monday 1 April in the morning so that I can try to get my permanent residency.
As part of this, I reported that last month I did the Einbürgerungstest or Citizenship test. I don’t yet qualify for citizenship (you have to have lived in Germany for 7/8 years and I have been here just under 5), but you also need it to get the Niederlassungserlaubnis (Permanent Leave to Remain/Settled Status).
I received the results of my test and wasn’t surprised to have passed as I felt I had got all the questions right on the day. You need 17 correct in order to ‘pass’, but it was nice that the certificate includes the fact I did indeed get them all right.
The next blog post I write will be the beginning of April. I wonder whether Brexit will have been delayed for a short time, or a No Deal Brexit will have taken place. I may still be an EU citizen for the next blog, or I may be a third-country national in need of a residence permit, work permit etc. As the Germans say, “es bleibt spannend…”
January isn’t generally a particularly high-mileage month, and this year was the same – also as I had the lurgy twice during that time, which included an entire week off work/no cycling. However, I managed to cycle to work every day that I worked, including a couple of very snowy days where it was a bit of a challenge to get through the snow. At the end I had 220km for January which was OK.
Almost all my rides were in Bertie this month, as you can see. During the weekend he is living in the garden with a motorcycle cover over him.
During the week he is sheltering in front of the garage so I can access him easily to get to work in the dark. This means when Klaus reverses his car onto the driveway he has a good target to aim for:
Millie gets a tiller cover
With Velomobiles there is always something that can be done to improve them. Most people are interested in improving their velomobiles for speed, but for me comfort is more important.
During Oliebollentocht, the first long ride in Millie since the motor was fitted, I kept catching the inside of my trousers on some cable ties around the tiller. The entire tiller arrangement was changed by Akkurad when they fitted the motor, and as usual the heads of the cable ties kept spinning round and getting in the way. They actually ripped a couple of small holes in my cycling trousers during Oliebollentocht.
This is a problem I have had before, and it’s a tricky one to fix. If you rotate the cable tie head round so it doesn’t connect with your trouser leg, after a kilometre or so the rubbing of my leg against the tiller will have rotated it back into scratching distance.
I moaned about this to Biggi when she was here and she told me that she has made a tiller cover for her DF, and would happily make me one. I looked at the one on her DF – it looked good! So she took some measurements of Millie’s tiller and a few days later I had a little parcel in the post.
Unfortunately, a bout of lurgy and some awful weather meant I didn’t have a chance to test it out, but after I had arisen from my deathbed it was time to try it out. Biggi had needed to carefully measure the tiller as there are various cables, the end of the tiller hanger etc which all have to be avoided.
So here was the tiller before the cover went on.
Biggi had made the cover with some velcro to hold it together, and it was a work of seconds to fit it in place.
It fitted very well, and when I was finally able to ride with it (a week or two later) it did its job admirably. No more scratching of trouser legs and destroying my lycra cycling kit. I even got out a needle and thread and sewed a rather ham-fisted repair on the damaged trousers. They should survive another season.
Thanks again to Biggi for so kindly making me this cover!
January 2019 was very significant for lots of parts of America with the freezing conditions. Here in Germany we had some snow, although it wasn’t too significant. There were a few days when it was icy underfoot and also some days where I had to cycle to work not only in the dark but also in the snow!
Bertie has very good lights, shown by this photo when I was ready to leave on the first snowy day.
It was a tough ride to get to work. With three wheels, each of which have their own track, you have to plough three furrows in the snow to make any progress. And the back wheel is apt to spin and so you lose traction. But I made it to work in the end!
The snow partially melted a couple of days later, and then it was very cold and icy. I had some slippery rides to work, especially as the melted snow refroze on my Versatile Roof overnight. I rode to work one day with lots of icicles in front of me:
And the same day I rode home with fresh snow
I also happened to notice, during the icy/snowy period, that the right hand side front tyre on Bertie was looking rather sub-optimal
I decided that a pretty urgent tyre change was called for, as I didn’t want a puncture on the way to work in minus 7 degree temperatures! Sadly we don’t really have a warm place to work on the bikes, but I managed to change both front tyres without completely freezing the next day. This was also a good opportunity to change from the Blitz Ventil in the front tubes, to the normal Autoventil (Schraeder valve). I am unable to pump the Blitz valves as it needs two hands which I don’t have available; I had to rely on Klaus to pump up the tyres for me and he was never around in daylight!
Anyway, Bertie had two fresh Marathon Greenguard tyres fitted to the front, plus two new tubes, so he was happy. Klaus also worked a bit on my non-functional front left brake and oiled/greased the pivots of the drum brakes and it now works properly, hurrah! Previously the brake would go on, but wouldn’t fully release once you stopped pressing the levers. Now all seems to be well. I have to say, it’s a bit improvement riding a 45kg bike on icy roads with more than one wheel with braking ability!
It wasn’t all ice and snow though – we had occasional glimpses of the sun!
Rides with friends
Despite the weather and various illnesses (both Klaus and I were ill twice in January), we managed to catch up with some friends and cycle with them.
Chief Cycling Companion is of course Ralf, with his Cookie Monster DF.
Also regularly joined by Hartmut and his WAW
And of course Klaus, my chief cycling companion – as well as my life companion.
Klaus finds the Alienhaube (the head covering rear section) on the Quattrovelo absolutely wonderful, and he has cycled in all weather this January. Here he is in Straelen on a rainy Saturday; he has cycled in snow (although if it is too deep then the wheels get bunged up), and on very slippery ice which was a bit challenging!
Millie and Emily have been shopping together too (Emily carries everything, Millie just looks good)
Klaus managed to ride 278 kilometres in January, despite being ill twice and having a very busy and stressful time at work. He sometimes comes home from work and just rides for an hour in the dark, doing a loop somewhere familiar, just to exercise out the stress of the work day. But he – and I – are definitely looking forward to the warmer (and drier!) weather.
Poppy in the snow
Of course, our dog finds the snow very interesting!
I took a second photo and realised I got her in mid-air, so I have zoomed in on it…
We live in a rural hamlet outside Kempen, and with the snow laying on the asparagus fields it was rather lovely.
Last year Klaus and I followed the Ketogenic (Keto/Very Low Carbohydrate) diet for a few months and felt great on it. We decided to do it again this year, so started on 2 January. We didn’t have to change much as we had continued often eating Keto at home throughout 2018 but I wanted to be a bit more disciplined about it.
We also both bought Garmin fitness smartwatches (I have a Vivoactive 3, Klaus has a Fenix 3). These measure heart rate, steps, stairs, sleep, resting etc. It has been interesting using them for a few days to see how far we walk (I walk about 5-10km per day) and it has encouraged us to do some more walking. Poppy is pleased with this too!
After the first month on Keto I had lost 7kg without feeling hungry (which is the real benefit of Keto for me). This does mean no cakes at cafes, or only on special occasions, but this is OK in January when the weather is bad. When on holiday or visiting people we will eat ‘normally’, but want to try to stick to relatively strict low carb at home. We both just feel better eating like that and enjoy the meals that we create.
Choir 2019 – Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem
Each year I have sung with the Willicher Musikprojekt and this year the chosen piece is Ein Deutsches Requiem by Brahms.
This is a completely unknown piece to me, but I have listened to it now and I am sure it will be a wonderful musical event. Especially as friend Inge will be singing as well this year.
In order to be allowed to remain in Germany after Brexit, I will need to apply for a Niederlassungserlaubnis (Indefinite Leave to Remain) and as part of this, I have to show that I have adequate knowledge of the German state and system. Germany has a Citizenship Test, called the Einbürgerungstest, which is a selection of 33 questions from a field of 310, and with four multiple choice answers. You have to get a minimum of 17 answers correct in the test.
I was luckily able to sign up in time for the test at the end of January, so that I would hopefully get my results in time for my meeting at the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Office) in Viersen on 1 April.
I was able to practice for the exam through an App and it was pretty easy – I generally only got one or two questions wrong from the 33, usually the technical ones about the structure of the German parliamentary system. They have lots of very similar-looking words for slightly different official jobs!
Anyway, the test happened on 30 January at six in the evening. I drove to the Language School in Viersen where I had registered and was let into a room where about 30 of us were taking the test. We had an hour to complete it, but could leave as soon as we had finished. I left after 9 minutes and I am pretty sure I have got all the answers correct. We will find out in due course when the results come (about six weeks’ time).
This month has been a low cycling month due to a visit to the UK and also rather chilly weather!
And here is where I actually rode:
My total distance for the year was 7,522km and you can see below how it was divided up.
There have been some good rides this month however, including Oliebollentocht. I am getting used to riding Millie now she has a motor and I have changed the seat/pedal positions, but so far all is looking very positive.
I finally got round to putting the bee stickers onto Bertie. I had ordered two different designs of sticker from the Internet but neither were good enough, so in the end I photographed the Bee on the sign for the Holiday Home here (the house is called Bienenstock, or Beehive), cleaned it up in Photoshop and got it printed for Bertie.
There is a sticker on both sides. They don’t cover up all the scratches of course, but it is nice to have Bertie properly decorated!
Bertie is a useful load carrier. I now use him when buying eggs – as Klaus and I eat low carb we have scrambled egg for breakfast every day, which contains 7 eggs. So we need to buy quite a lot. I buy 100 at a time, and this was our egg situation recently, all collected by Bertie (each box holds 10 eggs):
A visit to Aalst in Belgium
I work a kind of Flexi-time at work and this meant that in December I had two Fridays off work. For one of these Fridays I decided to go with Klaus to Aalst in Belgium. He had to go there for a customer visit but we decided I would go with him and he’d drop me off in the town and then collect me at the end of his day.
Our original plan was to share a cuppa at a café before he went to his meeting but we were unable to find a café that was open (having navigated to three that Google Maps had suggested). We were running out of time so I got Klaus to drop me near the town centre and then he headed off. I walked around for a fair bit before I found a likely-looking café, but eventually struck lucky.
Aalst itself was a nice, small town with a large pedestrianised area with lots of shops.
I did a lot of wandering around looking for a wine-red scarf but failed to find one. I did find somewhere for lunch and then did some more walking. Eventually I received a message from Klaus to say he would be back in Aalst at the company offices in half an hour so I decided to walk there to meet him – it was about 2km away. On the way I popped into an electrical shop (was looking for a cable) and saw this fridge. Which I didn’t buy!
We met up at the Belgian office of Klaus’s company and had a chat before heading off past Gent on a Friday before Christmas. The traffic was so bad that Klaus ended up being late for his work’s Christmas party once he had dropped me off. The following week he went to Russia for the entire week and experienced temperatures of minus 25 and quite a few Vodkas.
I attended a concert in Krefeld where friends Inge and Frank were singing. Unfortunately Klaus wasn’t feeling too good on the day so he couldn’t come, but I went on my own (borrowing his car, as no-one wants to cycle to Krefeld). It was an interesting programme and they sang well.
My car had a bit of a tough month. It is used by Gudula my landlady most of the time, but Frank also occasionally uses it and I do too now and again.
Frank unfortunately had an accident when someone didn’t yield priority to him at a junction. The front bumper and headlamp were damaged. But then three days later, Gudula was shunted in the back whilst waiting in a queue of traffic. She suffered whiplash and the car was assessed as an insurance write-off.
Current plan is for us to buy the damaged car from the insurers and Frank will have a go at repairing the rear bumper and tailgate. Fortunately the underlying structure is fine. This seemed much easier (and cheaper!) than finding a new car.
Poppy was allowed to grow longer hair this month as everyone else likes her with long hair. She also managed to perfect the lugubrious expression.
She suffered a mega haircut from me just before New Year as we would be taking her to visit Klaus’s father on a rainy day and I didn’t want her to put muddy paws everywhere!
Christmas in the UK
We travelled to the UK a few days before Christmas to celebrate the season with my Mum. As Klaus had just got back from Russia he was badly in need of a rest so we didn’t do a great deal. We visited Thorpeness on the coast to see the sea but the tea room there was closed – fortunately we found an open tea room on the way home.
I went to the midnight service at my church in Colchester, Lion Walk United Reformed Church, and was really pleased to see that they had a “There but not there” figure. This is part of commemorations of the end of World War 1.
Staying up till midnight (which is 01:00 German time) was a bit of a challenge for me as I normally go to bed at 9pm! But it was good to be at the church again, although numbers were down this year due to illness.
Christmas morning was frosty but clear and beautiful.
We celebrated Christmas with my Mum and her good friend Stephanie. We enjoyed traditional British Roast Turkey with all the trimmings (including stuffing and bread sauce!) and of course Christmas Pudding.
On Boxing Day my sister and her three daughters and son-in-law came to visit for the day. And also my niece’s 6 month old dog, Chip, the Miniature Schnauzer/Dachshund cross. He was a real sweetie, full of beans!
In preparation for my visit my Mum had been buying teabags whenever she saw them on special offer. I think I’ve probably got enough to survive the first few months of Brexit, this is more than 3840 teabags!!!:
My sister also bought me some curry sauces, so we’re probably OK for a bit now.
Cakes this month
Klaus and I took these cakes with us to England to share with my Mum.
And while in England we also had English cakes. Klaus sampled this very rich chocolate sponge.
And I had Lemon Meringue Pie, not something you find in Germany.
Back in Germany, we cycled to Straelen one morning for cake.
And last but not least in the cake gallery, a rather amazing Strudel that Fritz made and brought with him when he and Biggi came to stay with us. This provided us with several meals’ worth of cake!
Looking back on 2018
We have both enjoyed 2018, although there have been some challenges, of course.
For me, the looming nightmare of Brexit causes me lots of worry. I sincerely hope that I will be able to get Indefinite Leave to Remain (Dauerauftenthaltserlaubnis) in Germany after Brexit so that I am able to stay and continue my life here. But we won’t know until we get there.
Klaus has had a great year with the Quattrovelos Humphrey and Emily and has ended up with 13,280km cycled which is really impressive, knowing that he has a full-time and stressful job! We are really enjoying our life together and our partnership in life and hobbies.
This is what Klaus wrote as his year summary:
Das war das Radeljahr 2018. Der letzte Ritt. Das Jahresziel von 10.000 Kilometer habe ich erreicht. Am Ende waren es 13.280 Kilometer. Es waren sehr schöne und ereignisreiche Kilometer und ich bin froh das ich eine ebenso velomobilbegeisterte “Wingwoman” an meiner Seite weiß. Mal sehen was 2019 bringt. Ich wünsche Euch allen einen guten Start ins neue Jahr. Wir sehen uns.
We are both thankful that we have our health, despite regular reminders that we are getting older! Our plans for 2019 are largely the same as 2018 – to enjoy our time together, to ride our velomobiles together, to meet up with friends and family, and of course to enjoy all the cakes that the Niederrhein has to offer (along with returning more strictly to our low-carb diet to attempt to offset the cakes!). We have a couple of tours planned in 2019 included a ride to Bodensee (Lake Constance) and back and we have also decided that our September trip to the UK will be with the velomobiles rather than in the car. Not much room for teabags, thus the large quantity brought back this month.
I wish all my readers an enjoyable, challenging and healthy 2019 and hope to meet a lot of you on the road sometime!