Category Archives: Six Wheels In Germany

Auntie Helen’s year in Germany with her Velomobile and Recumbent Trike

Six Wheels in Germany – January 2018 (Month 46)

Cycling this month

I started this month with a rather better attitude than last month, managing to ride to work on many occasions. However, overall mileage was still very low due to poor weather (cold and/or rainy).

And here is where I actually went.

It seems that now Ralf has his DF velomobile we often all go out together on a Sunday morning. However, once per month the ADFC do a ‘Fit durch den Winter’ ride and we decided to join that ride at the end of January. There were four velomobiles and about 8 upright bikes.

And of course we stopped for cake – except Klaus and I had roast beef and vegetables instead.

A bit of maintenance on Millie

One Saturday morning Klaus and I planned to go out for a ride, so I thought I should pump up Millie’s tyres (I do that once per week) and noticed a broken spoke next to the valve. A bit more checking and there was a second broken spoke. So no riding for me, and Klaus went off for a 100km ride on his own.

I knew chum Jochen regularly has to rebuild his wheels as he is rather dangerous to spokes so I rang him to see if he had them the right length. He didn’t know, and as he was on his way to Velomobiel.nl in Dronten to pick up his repaired velomobile couldn’t tell me right away. However, he agreed to pick up some spare spokes from Velomobiel as it was they who supplied me with the wheel!

The next day we had an appointment with a chap from Cologne who contacted me asking to test ride my Milan as he is thinking of getting one. In the end he also had a ride in Celeste to get an alternative velomobile experience. Jochen turned up with the spare spokes whilst this chap was here so he was able to see 3 velomobiles and hear about them from 2 experts and from me!

The chap left with our recommendation to also try a DF and a WAW and then it was time for Millie’s spoke repair, which involved removing the front wheel. This is a non-trivial procedure in the Milan and actually took us about an hour and a quarter, mainly because we started by using the wrong size spanners (the nuts weren’t all the same size which tricked us!) It was a perishingly cold day and the back garden where we were working was being blasted with an arctic wind.

We had watched the guys at Velomobiel.nl do this to Millie a year ago when she had her new wheels but they made it look much easier than we found it.

Once the wheel was out we drove to Jochen’s house and he gave us a mini lesson in wheel repair… although it was also pretty cold in his garage! However, the two spokes were replaced and then it was back in the car to replace the wheel before the light faded as Millie was in the garden and there was rain forecast for later.

Replacing the wheel was pretty quick with regard to the fixings but trying to get the brake cable back on the end of the caliper was a very fiddly job and took us 15 minutes or so. Needless to say, since then the brake has been much sharper, so I wonder if I have an extra twist in the cable somewhere. But I hope not to have to remove the wheel again in the near future. I checked all the spokes 2 weeks later and they were all OK so this is a good sign that none others were weakened. As I pump my tyres up every week the spokes could only have broken on one of two rides between wheel pumping so it wasn’t running for long like that.

Then a week later I realised that my indicators on the right side weren’t working. This is a bit annoying as I ride on the road so really need functional indicators.

Jochen has replaced the rear indicator in his Strada and this was really an appalling job which took him hours and required child labour (his daughter) to squeeze her arm into a tight spot. That was a year ago so daughter is larger and that option probably doesn’t work now if he has to do it again!

We knew with the Milan it would not be as bad as the rear indicator is easily accessible and the front not too bad. So once again we laid Millie on her side on the garden table and Klaus had a look – he tested the rear LED and it was OK, he removed the front LED from its silicon sealant and it was dead.

He decided to short cut the wires for me so I had at least a rear indicator whilst we wait for the replacement yellow LEDs but struggled again with the very poor quality of cable used in Millie. It’s impossible to strip the sheath from the cable without the whole thing snapping, it is so brittle. So on the list is replacement cable when we do the LED replacement. On the fourth attempt he managed to strip the wire without the whole thing breaking and rigged it so the rear indicator works, so I felt confident enough to use Millie on my short ride to work and back. The new LEDs were ordered and we expect a visit to the local DIY store to get some cable sometime soon.

Penelope gets another makeover

Penelope’s new owner has sent me a couple of pictures of her. He has done some vinyl on her and also repaired a crack in her nose. He has also made some videos of riding with her.

I am not sure about the green myself but he likes it so that’s the main thing!

Life in Germany

Going Keto again

Last year in January I started following a ketogenic (low carb, high fat) diet and found it excellent for my health. I lost 10kg over 3 months and felt really good, very rarely hungry. However, I fell off the wagon a bit and in fact ended up putting on another 20kg over the course of the year, most in the last 3-4 months.

So Klaus and I discussed going Keto from January as he also wanted to lose 8kg.

So on January 1st I put all the pasta and other carby/starchy foodstuffs in one of our cupboards in the lounge so they weren’t a temptation in the kitchen, prepared a few lists of what items were low carb (mostly meat, dairy and veg that grows above the ground) and Klaus and I went shopping. We have decided to buy higher quality meat from a reputable source rather than Aldi/Lidl, but apart from that our buying habits have remained mostly the same, except minimal chocolate and no biscuits.

Here was our fridge on day 1:

I am writing this at the end of month 1 and it has gone very well so far. In fact, it’s been easier than last year because we are both doing it together (rather than me cooking for myself alone), we are finding lots of interesting recipes on the internet, and with two both doing it we can support and encourage each other. So far I have lost 7kg and Klaus has lost 2. He aims to lose 1kg per month, I hope to lose 2-4 per month (the first month you always lose more due to shedding water).

We have agreed to do the Keto diet at least until the end of June this year, so our 2 week bike tour will be during that. It will be interesting to see how possible it is to carry on keto eating when having to eat out at lots of restaurants, but so far restaurant meals have been fine.

This also means that I will not be eating any cakes! I might possibly allow myself one slice of cake at a special event, but at the moment have found it fairly easy to say no, despite my colleague often bringing cakes in to work. However, I include this photo of a cake that Ralf had on a Sunday morning velomobile ride with us, so that my blog readers who like cake pictures are not disappointed!

And also here’s a picture of the cake that Nasim my assistant arranged for Annette’s birthday (although I didn’t eat any of course):

Klaus and I were both in ketosis within a couple of days (according to the Ketostix) and think we are staying in Ketosis although Klaus’s body has already adapted so the Ketostix are no longer registering any ketones in pee. I still get results on the Ketostix but I guess this will also go away, but as long as I don’t feel hungry it should show ketosis is still working. That was the main benefit for me last time, and is this time too – not feeling hungry all the time!

I have also decided to do 18:6 fasting two days per week, that is Tuesday and Thursday. What this means is that I eat nothing for 18 hours, and only eat in a 6 hour window. This is incredibly easy as it means I don’t eat breakfast on Tuesdays or Thursdays, just eat my lunch as normal at 2pm and then evening meal before 8pm. I don’t feel hungry without the breakfast because of being in ketosis. I considered doing it two days running but did find on the second day I wanted breakfast so had it – I only want to do it if it is easy, and indeed it is!

We’ve found some good recipes for meals and are particularly enjoying discovering new curries, bakes and fish dishes. The choice of desserts isn’t always great but I am doing my best to find some more options! We will see where we are at the end of June.

And just a side note, I have a vegetable chopper machine that looks like Darth Vader!

A trip to Dresden and Leipzig

Klaus had a meeting in Dresden on a Friday and would use the Thursday to travel up. We decided we could make a weekend of it so I took two days’ leave and we drove up to Dresden on the Thursday. This was the day when a storm/hurricane was battering NL and Germany so it was a quite interesting drive directly downwind across the breadth of Germany. We saw many Transit-type vans lying on their sides after having been blown over, plus trees down, and of course the motorways were sometimes blocked so we had to do some cross country bits. But overall we arrived after seven and a half hours which wasn’t too bad (it should have been about five and a half).

Klaus had a meal and chat with his colleagues, I just chilled out in the hotel room of what was a very posh hotel right on the main square. However, before I went to bed I discovered the toilet didn’t flush at all. This was rather suboptimal but as I was already in my nightwear I didn’t go downstairs to report it (I also hadn’t noticed the phone in the room – I could have called reception).

The next morning Klaus had the very expensive breakfast (20 EUR per head!) with his colleagues and I decided to have breakfast later at a café. I got dressed and went downstairs to tell them about the loo but they didn’t seem that apologetic, just gave me the code to use the loo in the downstairs lounge area. Klaus also reported the loo but there wasn’t much interest, they just said someone would be along to fix it. I said I wouldn’t check out of the room until 11 (we were going to Leipzig that evening) so went out for some walks but generally hung out in the hotel room in the morning because it was cold and rainy outside. I had a low carb breakfast in a café.

I was back in the room when the workman came at about 10:30 and fixed the loo in 30 seconds, no idea what he did.

After I checked out I went for a longer walk around Dresden again, managing to find a rather fine hat and it was reduced from 30 EUR to 3 EUR so that was a mega bonus! I enjoyed walking around, especially as the rain had now eased off. There were lots of roof tiles on the ground following the storm.

Later in the afternoon I sat in the hotel’s lounge area and read until Klaus arrived and it was time for us to head off to Leipzig. The car had been in an underground carpark which had all the spaces numbered – but I liked their sense of humour on one space number!

The drive from Dresden to Leipzig was very easy, just an hour and a half.

We had booked an apartment which had very good reviews but we had to pick the keys up from a different location, which turned out to be a room with a code to open the door and then a code for each keybox. We picked up our keys OK and then headed off to our flat, which we found fairly easily. There was supposedly on-street parking but it was all full so we found a very convenient multi-storey car park about 100 metres away which turned out to be only 7 EUR per 24 hours. Bargain!

The apartment was very nice, on the ground floor of a very traditional old building. Klaus took a wonderful photo of the hallway:

There were also some lovely encaustic tiles on the floor outside our apartment, and I took a less-good photo of them.

The flat was very nice, spacious and with a very large bathroom. There was a kitchen with a double bed at the end of the room, a separate bedroom and a bathroom. Weirdly the bed in the separate bedroom wasn’t made up and had a note on it asking us to use the other bed. The other bed was in the kitchen and the fridge was noisy, so we decided no way and changed the bedding over. I thought this was very strange, as the bedroom had a sofa and an easy chair as well and the kitchen was just… well… a kitchen. Not somewhere I really want to sleep.

As soon as we had settled in we went out for food. We both fancied steak but when we walked to a googled steak restaurant it was full, so we headed back towards the centre of town and found an italian restaurant which did a very nice steak and they provided us with extra vegetables instead of potatoes which was great.

We walked back to the apartment after this as we were tired but saw a bit of Leipzig on the way. The next day was Saturday so we had plenty of time.

The next morning I was first to have a shower and thought it rather lukewarm. I ended up feeling a bit chilly afterwards. When Klaus has his shower it was ice cold! So immediately we both tried over 15 minutes or so to phone the number on the information if there are problems. The phone just rang and rang, no reply. The third time I left a message on the voicemail, and for good measure also sent an SMS. After all, if the hot water wasn’t fixed they needed to put us up in another apartment (they had over 30 on their books in the area). But no reply came.

We had our breakfast in the flat as I had brought eggs and bacon in Dresden, and after that we discovered the hot water was starting to work. Phew!

We headed out to walk into Leipzig. We were only about 300 metres from the centre, and just round the corner from our flat was the Leipzig Jewish Memorial.

It was interesting to see how you write Leipzig in Hebrew!

It is a lot of empty chairs arranged in even rows and I thought it worked really well.

From here we just had to cross a main road and we were in the pedestrian centre of Leipzig. The first thing we saw was the Thomaskirche, which was Johann Sebastian Bach’s church where he was the Kantor (Choirmaster) and composed for almost 30 years.

We noticed a sign outside saying there would be a Motette concert at 3 o’clock in the afternoon with the Thomanerchor which is perhaps the best boys’ choir in Germany, so decided we would definitely go along! We had tickets for an organ concert in the Gewandthaus (the main concert venue) at 5pm so thought it would all fit in nicely.

Leipzig is a lovely city. We enjoyed walking around, noticing that it has less expensive watch shops than Dresden, but it did have an expensive Piano shop!

We went to the Nikolaikirche which is where the peace protests started before the Berlin wall came down. This was a very moving and powerful experience for Klaus.

We enjoyed our walk around and Klaus spent some time looking at various mobile phones as he needed to update his current one. We went into Media Markt which is a huge electronics shop and looked at all the options. He wanted a Dual SIM version and found something he liked from HTC.

We wanted something warm for lunch and in our wanderings found a very lovely restaurant tucked away and enjoyed some soup. Klaus had Kürbis (pumpkin) and I had some very tasty spinach soup!

During our soup eating Klaus decided he would buy the HTC phone but with a contract at Vodafone as he wanted to upgrade to something with 4G/LTE (his phone contract was only 3G, as was mine). We enjoyed our lunch so much we booked to eat there again in the evening, and then set off back to the Vodafone shop.

It was very busy so we had to wait awhile but eventually we were seen by a very nice chap who persuaded us to take out a certain contract and so Klaus signed everything and we walked away with his new phone and a 4G/LTE SIM for both of us. Sadly we since discovered that the phone was a single SIM (Vodafone won’t do a dual SIM), the contract ran for two days and then it was the next month so Klaus paid a month’s cost for 2 days rather than 30, and the amount of data we received was less than the advertising because we had a phone with it, but that was buried in the small print. He has written emails to Vodafone to complain (mainly about the new month starting after 2 days!) but has not yet had any joy.

He couldn’t play with his phone straight away as we had to go to the Thomaskirche to listen to the Motette. It was a church service rather than a concert but they asked 2 EUR each for a programme. We sat down and I looked through the programme… and this is just the first page of it.

Hmmm, some of Bach’s Mass in B Minor. Interesting. On the next page there was more Mass in B Minor.

The concert/service started, and wow! Not only was it the Thomanerchor but there were professional soloists and a full orchestra on a balcony in front of the organ (which we couldn’t really see from our pew). When they started singing the Mass in B Minor I couldn’t help but shed some tears – to be in Bach’s church hearing his music sung/played so beautifully. It was very, very special.

The service did have a very short sermon, we said the Lord’s prayer and also sung one hymn, but mostly it was fantastic music played/sung by really talented people. What a treat!

It finished at 4:30 and Klaus and I had started getting slightly shifty as we knew our next concert (!!!) started at 5pm. Fortunately it was just a 15 minute walk away and we soon arrived at the Gewandthaus with 10 minutes to spare. Our seats were in the middle on about the 10th row so an excellent view of the organ.

The programme was lots of Bach cantatas and the orchestra who sang were very good, as was the organist. We really enjoyed it, and the building had a very good acoustic. It was nice to be in comfortable seats too!

Two and a half hours of Bach music is quite mentally exhausting so by the end I was ready for some fresh air but it was wonderful.

We walked to the restaurant and enjoyed a lovely evening meal before returning to our apartment at 9pm. Shortly after that the apartment’s landlady phoned to ask if our hot water was working. We felt an 11 hour delay to answer the phone was very bad – we had no other way of contacting anyone. I have written this in my review on Booking.com, although the lady was very apologetic. But it was not good service.

The next morning we had our breakfast, checked out of the apartment and then walked to the Leipzig Bach Museum. This was great, there was a guided tour and the museum was very well laid out with lots of interesting exhibits. The lady tour guide was extremely knowledgeable although the fellow tour members asked rather a lot of questions. In the end we had to periodically sit down to rest our backs!

There were displays of period musical instruments including one of Bach’s organs, and the room was kept warm and humid, as well as manuscripts and lots of other information. The museum itself was in the former house of friends of the Bachs, right opposite the church.

We spent almost two hours there and then it was time for lunch and a sit down. We had a lovely salmon, broccoli and cauliflower Auflauf (bake) which is something I subsequently made at home and was equally tasty!

It was then time for the drive home which went very well. Not so much wind as the outward journey! We both agreed we must visit Leipzig again soon, and that having visited the Leipzig Choir and the Dresden Choir we really ought to go to the other important one in Germany in Regensburg, but that’s right down in Bavaria so quite a trek. Maybe later this year!

Life in Kempen

Nothing much to report from Kempen or St Hubert except on the Facebook page for Kempen people someone posted a fantastic photo they took of fireworks on Silvester (New Year’s Eve) in Kempen. Isn’t it great!

February looks like a fairly quiet month too but there is just a slight chance that my Quattrovelo velomobile will be available then. Who knows? I await the arrival of the new velomobile with great excitement!

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Six Wheels in Germany – December 2017 (Month 45)

So 2017 is at an end! This is a little something I wrote over the New Year 2017/2018:

I’m not the sort of person who looks back the whole time and lives on memories. Generally I feel happy with all my life choices so far and I appreciate the wonderful times I have had with family, friends and James over the last 46 years.

But a quick look back at last year shows that it was very different than I had expected!

I started the year relatively newly divorced but used to being on my own and happy with my own company (well, Poppy was also part of this!) I love living with the Roddays and find my life in Germany is peaceful and fun. Work was continuing its usual challenges but as I started 2017 my main focus was on trying to lose some weight and being a support to Klaus who was going through an incredibly tough time at home.

And then the path of 2017 rather changed as Klaus separated from his wife. As his closest friend I was happy to support him through this huge life earthquake and more time together confirmed what had been clear for a while really, that we could become a really good partnership. Our relationship developed quickly and we were soon planning to take a cycle tour together in June. This became a wonderful focus for 2017, a two week 1900km tour to Usedom on the Baltic Sea, then to Berlin, and then back. It was a fantastic life experience and my cycling partner was, as always, excellent company. On our return Klaus moved in with me.

There was lots of Velomobile activity over 2017, including our friend Ralf buying a DF and friend Hartmut making further investigations as to whether he should join the Velomobile gang. We took part in many group cycle rides with the ADFC and with others, finishing the year with the Oliebollentocht in Rotterdam with more than 100 velomobiles.

Klaus and I had several trips in the car too, to England for my hospital appointment and again for Christmas, to Dresden, to Berlin… all great fun and a chance to see a bit more of Germany or the UK without having to turn the pedals!

Looking forward to 2018, I have made few plans. One plan is to lose the 20kg extra that I put on this year (!!!!!!) so that I can fit in my Quattrovelo when it becomes available in February. This involves the low carb diet again and no cakes for the time being. Another plan is to increase my mileage, I want to make 10.000km this year, having managed less than 8.000km in 2017. Klaus and I have plans for 3 multi-day bike tours, one with Ralf, and we will also no doubt do some more trips in the car. I am developing plans to take my Mum to visit the bench in memory of my father on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. I will also be working full time, at least for the first couple of months of 2018, so must fit my social events in around that!

2018 will hopefully be one of health and fresh air and time spent with friends and family. Klaus and I are both enjoying the simple life, a chance to live within our means, to not buy unnecessary fripperies and to value what we have. With the uncertainty around Brexit and politics in general, it is good to have people with whom you can relax and be peaceful, and we have many good friends here.

I am looking forward to 2018 and wish you all a happy and blessed year!

Cycling

The statistics speak for themselves… this year I have not done so much cycling!

I hope to achieve a bit more next year, but there were reasons why this year fell rather short of my target.

The Kempen ADFC group had arranged a Nikolaustour (cycle ride) at the beginning of December but there was such a heavy snowfall that we all drove in our cars instead to the venue where we were stopping for tea and cake.

Hartmut had provided a very attractive advent wreath based on a bicycle wheel and with remote control LED candles.

We also found ourselves on a cycle ride on Silvester (New Year’s Eve) as Hartmut realised the Fit Durch Den Winter tour had been advertised in the Rad am Niederrhein magazine although it had been run on another date. He felt he ought to do the ride anyway and asked if anyone else was about. In the end no unexpected people turned up, it was just the usual suspects, but we had a nice ride around St Tönis to Vorst where we stopped at Papperlapapp for tea and cake.

In the café was this excellent sign which ably demonstrates my concept for the year!


(Cake doesn’t make you fat, it just stretches out all the creases)

Unfortunately it is incorrect, cakes have made me fat (along with other things of course) so I shall have to eat a lot less in 2018!

Oliebollentocht

Arguably the biggest event of the year for Velomobiles, the annual Oliebollentocht (cycle ride with Dutch Oliebollen doughnutty things),hart was in my diary from the beginning of the year as something not to miss. In 2016 there were 260 velomobiles, we looked forward very much to the Rotterdam 2017 version.

As Klaus and I were in the UK and coming back via Hoek van Holland/Rotterdam we arranged our return trip so that we arrived on the morning of Oliebollentocht. Ralf had very kindly offered to take our velomobiles to Rotterdam in a trailer and with friend Rolf along too it was a very full trailer!

Ralf and Rolf (also with Hartmut who came along for the ride) arrived way before Klaus and I as the border control out from the Ferry took forever. But we arrived in due course, helped get the VMs out of the trailer and then added them to the large selection parked in front of the trucker’s diner which was our base for the day.

Hartmut (on the right in the yellow/green waterproofs) was having a good look around before cycling off to visit his son. He is very interested in Velomobiles and this is about the best opportunity to get a look at a lot of them!

Hartmut appears in most of the photos and videos of the day, peering at various Velomobiles. Keep an eye out for him if you watch any OBT videos!

We were given armbands to wear which enabled us to have free tea and coffee and food that had been arranged. You can see that I have already got very oily from Millie after just being with her for 5 minutes!

Klaus and I had an omelette for breakfast at the café as we had nothing on the boat, caught up with friends and then we all rolled out on the ride of 63km which went along the Oude Maas via Portugaal before heading up to the heart of Rotterdam.

We stopped for cake at the restaurant Prachtig next to the Erasmus Bridge.

(Please note that some of the photos below are mine but others are from Klaus from Köln or Birger Landuyt, and possibly other Forum members)

We had some apple cake and tea.

Then it was time to leave.

Because Rotterdam has lots of traffic lights and pedestrians it was decided we would leave in groups of up to 10 velomobiles, so the guy in the dark green and cream Quattrovelo was our group leader. Klaus and I had already seen this Quattrovelo in Dronten and I had also seen it at SPEZI – it was the cause of my colour choice for my QV!

It was quite stop/start through the town and it was very hard to keep the group together. In fact, we didn’t succeed, and it split into various groups. Fortunately I had the route on my Garmin, as did others, as I wouldn’t have known where to go without as our leaders were often out of sight. The traffic lights take a long time!

The entire way around Rotterdam we were being filmed and photographed by people. It’s not often you see 100 jellybeans cycling around a major city!

Klaus spotted this photo amongst the thousands people have posted online – it is Millie and Celeste crossing the road.

I found myself leading a group of Velomobiles after a while as there was a younger girl who was not able to ride as fast so we kept pace with her and eventually my little group of 6 velomobiles grew to a larger group as we returned to the starting point. It was really fun riding in such a big group although quite tricky in the town, and there had unfortunately been one Quest/bollard interface at the beginning of the ride, plus another minor bump in Rotterdam centre.

We returned to the truck stop and whilst it was still light loaded up the trailer with the four velomobiles again. Here is Ralf practising his yoga.

Then it was time for the pea soup and Oliebollen (which shockingly I didn’t photograph!) and catching up with more friends again. It was good to meet Andrew Allen for the first time at OBT although it was sad to hear his tale of woe about his trip (he was taken out by a white van near Colchester on his way to the ferry and had to continue without his DF, mainly as he was collecting his new Quattrovelo). He discovered on the Rotterdam tour that the gearing on his new QV was too high and would have to delay his return to the UK to find an alternative sprocket for his Rohloff as these things are not so easy to get in the UK. I hope he had some success!

We had been lucky with clear weather although it was bitingly cold. It was a relief to be in the warm trucker’s restaurant with soup and tea. Ralf and Rolf headed off home pulling the trailer and Klaus and I left 15 minutes later. We had time to empty Klaus’s car of our week’s luggage from our England trip before the trailer arrived and we unloaded Millie and Celeste.

There are many videos on YouTube about Oliebollentocht 2017, it’s worth a watch if you have some spare time!

Thanks again to Ralf for transporting our velomobiles and for the organisers of Oliebollentocht for putting on such a fun event. We will be there again in 2018!

Life in Germany

Life in Germany continues much the same… I have been here over three and a half years now so am well settled in. But there are still always some interesting events each month!

In December we had a fair bit of snowfall. Most arrived on Sunday which was good as I didn’t have to drive (I don’t have much experience in driving in snow). Poppy investigated it in the garden but was cheesed off that I made her wear her fleece when we went out for a walk.

It had all cleared by the next morning and I drove to work on normal roads. But during the morning it snowed again so I had to clear the car before driving home!

More changes to our flat

Having an extra person in the flat means that we need to be a bit more organised with storage so I decided to buy a couple of sideboards. These arrived in 6 parcels altogether, each parcel weighing 30kg or more, but fortunately the delivery company carried them up the stairs into the lounge for us!

So one Saturday morning Klaus decided to start building the two sideboards, from the company Dänisches Bettenlager. They were called ‘Goliath’ which is pronounced totally different in German than English so we have had quite a lot of amusement over the names.

Anyway, he made a start:

He was ably assisted, as always, by Poppy:

Very complicated bags of screws, bolts, dowels, tacks and more…

But in just 2 hours Goliath Number 1 was complete!

Goliath Number 2 took less time as we were now experienced!

They remain relatively empty of items at the moment as we haven’t got round to sorting stuff out, but they will undoubtedly fill up soon enough!

Work

This month I spent a lot of time thinking about whether I would increase my working hours to full time, at the request of the company. I thought long and hard and decided in the end to offer to work full time but with the proviso that if it became possible to return to part time I would do this as soon as possible. It was all agreed with my boss and so from 2 January 2018 I will be working full time. A bit of a change of pace for me, but I hope it will only be for a few months.

I have an assistant at work, a young chap from Bangladesh called Nasim, and he is very friendly. He noticed that we have cakes at work and so arranged for cakes to be made for Annette and I in the Bangladeshi style (except with less sugar as they like their cakes extra-sweet). How about these!

My colleague Annette regularly brings in a selection of cakes for us to enjoy during our meetings.

And the Quality Assurance representative of my customer also brought us cakes from Poland one day!

Nasim and I also had a visit from Nikolaus on 6 December

Christmas in England

Klaus and I booked to go to England for Christmas to stay with my mother. We travelled over on 21 December on the overnight ferry which was very packed!

As I had a lot of Stena reward points I treated us to an upgrade on the cabin – with a window and no bunkbeds! Also a free mini bar although we weren’t very hungry so didn’t get much value out of that.

We arrived by 8 in the morning and had a very relaxing few days with Mum before the busyness of Christmas. This included going to the village carol concert and I also went to my old church in Colchester for their Sunday morning service on Christmas Eve. After this service we went for a walk at Walton on the Naze near the Naze Tower – it was very blowy!

But we spent a lot of time hanging out at Mum’s house relaxing, chatting and making use of her fibre broadband!

We were treated to a beautiful day as well which showed her 450 year old house off at its best.

We celebrated Christmas Day with my Mum and her next door neighbours, plus some friends. We had good food (of course) and a very relaxing time.

On Boxing Day we had such beautiful weather Klaus and I decided to go to the sea again and this time went to Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast.

The beach is stony but large and we had a good walk along.

We passed a fish smokery so purchased a fish pie each.

As the sign says, any fresher and it would still be swimming!

Whilst we were buying the fish pie I noticed some people with strange hats and bells on their legs – yes, the Morris Dancers were here! I explained it briefly to Klaus and we waited to watch the beginning of their dancing. Another example of English eccentricity for him!

Further along the beach there is a giant shell which is artwork to do with Benjamin Britten.

We walked back and then awarded ourselves a cream tea at a hotel in Aldeburgh.

We very much enjoyed our time with my Mum and took the overnight ferry back again (this time in a cheaper cabin with bunkbeds and no window!), arriving the next morning in Rotterdam for Oliebollentocht.

Silvester/New Year’s Eve

As a dog owner, New Year’s Eve in Germany is never much fun. We knew the fireworks would start at midnight and go on for an hour or so, and that meant an hour of Poppy barking. But we decided to go out to an organ concert a few hours beforehand (9:30pm in Kempen).

And this is what we heard.

It was a great concert and the organ in the Propsteikirche is obviously very decent. We will look out for more concerts there.

Randomness

Who says Germans have no sense of humour?

Another item of randomness. I was at a party celebrating the 50th birthday of Klaus’s friend and colleague and we were serenaded by a bagpiper!

There has been a cheddar famine in Aldi for the last couple of months (apparently a production issue, not that they are no longer doing it). Fortunately Lidl had a special offer on Cheddar which was also very good.

Cakes this month

As these are the last cakes I will be having for some time I thought I would display them full size in their glory!

Starting with some Krapfen made by Rohallah who lives with Gudula and Frank. They were fantastic!!

So that’s the end of 2017, see you in 2018!!!

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

Six Wheels in Germany – November 2017 (Month 44)

Cycling this month

Another low mileage month. In fact, it looks highly unlikely that I will reach my year’s target of 8000km and so will be the lowest year’s cycling total since I started recumbenteering ten years ago.

But do you know what? I don’t mind. This year has been massively different in my life with a new relationship with Klaus, him moving in with me, us beginning our lives together, plus a more-and-more stressful work environment for me as my workload increases. If I have to cycle less then so be it. But I do hope to get out on the bike more next year!

And here is where I went this month:

A trip to a local coffee shop

Klaus had visited alone a coffee shop in Uerdingen and said it would be nice for me to also go there as it had its own charm. So we headed off on our bikes to Beans & Sweets on a cold and slightly mizzly day, although the sun came out once we got there.

The café was full but we found a space on a table occupied by a lone female. The table was made from some old railway furniture where the seat folds out. It was rather creaky and wobbly so I was a bit wary of it!

I chose cheesecake

Klaus made the better choice, a kind of biscuity creamy cakey thing.

It was only 45km but I wasn’t on very good form so found it harder work than usual!

Penelope goes to a new home

I recently wrote on this blog that I planned to sell Penelope. I put an advert in the German Velomobilforum and had several people interested, including a relatively local chap who came to try her out but wasn’t keen on the colour. However, I was contacted by another chap, Thomas, who was very keen and made arrangements to get the train to Kempen and to ride her home if he bought her.

So Thomas duly arrived and I picked him up from the station. He had a look at Penelope and we adjusted her seat position etc to suit her, and he decided to have her after a couple of short test rides.

He had bought rather a lot of luggage with him – this is because he planned to cycle the 360km home to south east of Mannheim, a massively long journey even for someone used to recumbent trikes as he was.

I gave him a free spiked tyre for Penelope and then he handed over just six small pieces of paper to take Penelope away, but at least they were also purple!

He set off at about 2 in the afternoon, using his phone as a GPS (he had a backup battery but I was unsure it would last the whole way).

Here is is, just about to go:

I heard from him the next day that he had stopped after 270km and got a friend to pick him up as he was so tired. But what an incredibly impressive first ride on Penelope, and I hope he has loads of fun riding her around his rather hillier town!

I also now need to do some new artwork for the top of this page – Millie and Alfie are my only bikes remaining. But not for long…

Life in Germany

A weekend in Dresden

Following on from our trip to Potsdam, Berlin and Usedom in October, we had booked flights for a weekend in Dresden. The idea was to go on the mid-afternoon flight on Friday and fly back Sunday evening. We booked with Eurowings, found an apartment right near the centre of Dresden and then investigated car parking at Düsseldorf airport.

Then we had an email from Eurowings saying because of not enough passengers they now had a smaller plane and we would be returning on a different flight, to Köln this time. This was hopeless for us as we would be back stupidly late, plus have really complicated travel for which we would have to apply for compensation. Stress. So instead we cancelled the flights (and got a full refund) and decided to go by car instead!

It’s a drive of at least six hours but Klaus does it fairly regularly for work anyway, and his car is comfy and his diesel is free! Hurrah!

He took the day off work and came and picked me up from my workplace on the dot of 1pm and we set off eastwards… being stuck in all the Friday afternoon traffic as we headed through the Ruhr, but we expected that. It was a bit rainy and dark which meant the journey wasn’t as fast as it could be but we were stocked up with Gummibärchen and Klaus’s music system was playing his entirely playlist by song in alphabetical order. We tried to guess how many songs would start with “N” and what those songs were. Needless to say, we were not very accurate at this game!

We stopped for a Burger King on the way (Klaus’s favourite) and finally arrived at our hotel at 8pm. There was underground parking available but for some reason the gate wasn’t opening and as I stood outside talking to the intercom the heavens opened and I ended up looking like a drowned rat. But we had a parking spot in the centre of Dresden – and the car next to us had a Viersen number plate!

Our apartment was very spacious and even had a washing machine! But first things first, we headed off for tea and cake.

We stopped at the Kufürstenhof right opposite the Marienkirche in the centre of Dresden. Everything was very nicely set out. I tried this cake which had an interesting name (which I cannot now remember) but had meringue, jam, cream and pistachios.

Klaus went for this apple cake.

Suitably fortified after our long drive, we walked around a little looking in various shop windows. Initial impressions were that Dresden has a lot of watch shops. Further impressions were that Dresden has a LOT of watch shops, Dresden has OODLES of watch shops and Dresden has VAST QUANTITIES of watches for sale. Posh ones too. The most pricey we saw was 129,000€. Which is a lot.

The next morning, Saturday morning, we headed off to breakfast at a café round the corner. We had a few plans of what to do with the day, which included a boat trip along the Elbe.

But first we did some more walking around, seeing the sights. Klaus had been in Dresden some weeks beforehand so acted as my guide to show me around.

I had been thinking about getting a new winter coat and Klaus turns out to be an excellent personal shopper. We found the perfect winter coat in Karstadt and the price was fair so I was sorted! My grey hat doesn’t match it so that is my next challenge, finding a similar wool boater but in black. Not so easy!

In order to fortify ourselves for the boat trip we had some cake.

The boat trip was with a firm who have paddle wheel steamships but unfortunately we were on a rather more modern one.

It went along the river to the south east, past some very posh residential areas with palaces and castles. The architecture of Dresden was lovely, especially when you realise most of it has been built since World War 2 after the firebombing of Dresden by the Allies.

After the ship it was time for our next event which we had spotted the evening before – a service of Vespers in the Kreuzkirche including organ music. It was free entry but 3€ for a programme, and we had a 45 minute service consisting mostly of the Dresdner Kreuzchor singing. This choir has been going for seven centuries. They were very impressive, as was the organ, although where we were seated and with the acoustics of the building the organ was a bit overwhelming at times.

We finished our evening with a meal at a steak restaurant which offered Worcestershire Sauce Dresden Style!

We did some more walking after our meal, some more window shopping at watches (we both like them so this was fun) and then found ourselves near the Semperoper and stopped for some dessert cake. Klaus went for this.

And I chose this option. It had lots of fruit on so was very healthy.

After a busy day with lots of impressions we went back to our apartment. In the dark we could see into the windows of the building next to us – the Transport museum – and once I discovered it was open the next day (Sunday) that became our plan for Sunday morning before we left to drive home.

The next morning, after breakfast in the café we had another wander around and then checked out of our hotel. We were able to leave the car in the car park whilst we looked around the  Transport Museum.

They had lots of older vehicles and many from the time of East Germany including Trabants and Wartburgs, of course. It was interesting to see a museum on transport history with the view from the former communist East.

Klaus and I rather laughed at this graphic though – a fellow Velomobilist recently cycled from Hamburg to Berlin in 5 hours 20 minutes.

They also had this enormous bicycle!

That wheel is rather dwarfing the bottle dynamo.

Here it is in all its glory!

This was also good news, although sadly inaccurate for me I fear!

It is more likely that I burn 300-400 calories per hour, so that’s not even one cake!

UK museums are a bit more interested in Health & Safety. In this museum you could try various bikes around the track which went around one medium-sized room. We were impressed that they had a recumbent bicycle in there, and then discovered a trike. So we both had a go.

 

Klaus’s Facebook message about it had a brilliant autocorrect from his misbehaving phone for the word ‘gesehen’ (‘seen’). It was a Sunday morning and I was not at church so I guess I was rather heathen!

The museum had trains and boats too, so we had a good look around for a couple of hours and then it was time to head home.

Klaus had fancied walking along the Elbe for a little but after lots of standing and walking in the Museum our backs were protesting so instead we drove along the river. After a while we spotted a sign to Glashütte. This is a town where lots of watches are made and as we had been in what appeared to be the Watch City we decided to do the 20km detour to Glashütte. My watch, that I bought in memory of my father, also came from Glashütte (from the firm Mühle Glashütte).

It turned out to be up a rather winding road through some attractive scenery (despite the rain) and, being Sunday, when we got there everything was shut. But we saw the huge posh buildings belonging to Lange & Söhne as well as the other big Glashütte brands.

From here to get back to the motorway was a bid fiddly as we had actually been going in the opposite direction to where we needed to go and also gone up into the mountains (Erzgebirge) a bit. But eventually we were back on the main motorway and passing Dresden again, heading for home. We passed signs to Colditz castle; I visited it years ago with my Father and James and would like to go again one day. Klaus hadn’t heard of it – it’s obviously British WW2 history rather than German!

It was raining all the way back but we had a run with less traffic and were home at 7 in the evening. We stopped halfway – Klaus had a McDonalds Burger and I had something more to my taste:

We had had a brilliant weekend – you can pack a lot in over two days and we certainly saw a lot. Dresden is lovely and I hope to go back there again before too long.

Choir performances

I sing in the Willich Choir which is linked to the Evangelische Kirche in Willich. This year we were doing Paulus by Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and I grew to really love this music the more we sang it.

Our two performances were two days apart in November. The first, in Anrath, didn’t go as well as it could have done (in my view), partly because of the tricky acoustics. The second performance, in the Friedenskirche in Krefeld, was much better.

I sat right behind a guy with a Contra-Bassoon. It’s an amazing  instrument, sound like deep organ pipes and looks very complicated!

Here is the local newspaper report (in German of course) for the Friday concert in Anrath: Anrath report and here is the report from Krefeld: Krefeld report.

Next year we will be doing Joshua by Handel. I am looking forward to it already!

Some more cakes

We had a number of shorter rides this year with a cake as the goal. Here are the results of our travails:

I had this rice cake (and Klaus the apple cake in the background) in Arcen in the Netherlands. We went for a ride and then friend Ralf with his new DF Velomobile said he was heading our way, so we waited for him (not a hardship in a nice warm café with cake) and then rode back together.

My colleague Annette kindly shared some pastries with me at work one day!

On another occasion the ADFC Fit durch den Winter tour went to a café about 11km away. Unfortunately I had pulled a muscle in my back so couldn’t cycle but Klaus did. I went by car with the dog and met them there and had this very tasty Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen.

A puzzling time…

When winter arrives and it’s less appealing to go walking or cycling I like to fill up some time by doing a jigsaw puzzle, so I bought a new one for November and made a start.

It became clear, however, that the piece of board I do the puzzle on was too small. Fortunately Gudula had a frameless frame available in the cellar and I could use the perspex on it as a larger work area. It was quite flexible so I used the old hardboard base to strengthen it from underneath. And the puzzle starts to take shape.

A day later and you can begin to see what it is…

And here it is finally finished!

I shall start another one during the Christmas break from work – I get two weeks off at Christmas, hurrah! I will be visiting the UK for part of that time with Klaus.

A work visit.

I work as a Key Account Manager at a Kempen firm and my Account is a Russian customer. I speak daily on the phone to this customer (in English, fortunately!) and also to an organisation in Bavaria with whom we partner on this contract.

In the last week in November we discovered a delegation from Russia and Bavaria would come to visit us for several days – from Thursday to Sunday. Unfortunately I already had appointments on Friday afternoon and the whole of Saturday but was able to meet the visitors at other times.

Thursday I went with them for an inventory at a warehouse we use locally and got to know the three representatives from Russia and the chap from Bavaria. We had a meal together that evening in Kempen. The next day they were with me in the office in the morning and then I met them again for dinner in the evening which was great fun. We had a really enjoyable evening, chatting in four languages (English, German, Russian and Polish) because of the mix of nationalities we had amongst us.

On Sunday morning I met my main counterpart in Russia for cake as she has read this blog for many months and so knows about my cake experiences.

I had this rice cake.

Klaus went for his favourite Käse-Sahne Torte.

Julia from Russia chose this Black Forest Gateau.

We had a lovely chinwag. Having spoken to her loads on the phone for the last fifteen months it was really good to get to know her in person. And, even more of a bonus, she had brought me some Russian chocolates!

It seems I have an invitation to visit the company in Moscow so maybe one day I will manage it – it would be great fun!

It’s been a tiring month work-wise for both Klaus and me. He was away in Nürnberg for a week which involves lots of travelling and standing around at the Trade Fair. I ended up having to do some extra work due to workload, plus I had a few days off sick at the beginning of the month which involved various tests at the doctors (all was fine in the end). The grey and cold weather that Germany is now experiencing isn’t very cosy either, but the Advent season is upon us now and I am looking forward to seeing my Mum and Sister and her family in the UK, as well as Oliebollentocht 2017 Velomobile gathering in Rotterdam just after Christmas. Watch this space!

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6 Wheels In Germany – September 2017 (Month 42)

This month has been appalling for cycling – I have managed just 33km, which is four commutes by bike.

This is firstly because the weather was less good, I spent some time in the UK, we had our new kitchen fitted so much less spare time (we had to prepare everything) and also I had a cold which gave me a lingering cough and I did my best to keep warm. But still, this is my lowest month’s distance ridden since I started recumbent triking/velomobiling. But sometimes these things just happen.

This means that for once this blog post won’t be boring you with velomobile tales (except to say I have attempted to fix my malfunctioning Schlumpf Mountain Drive with a new switch button but will need to test it on longer rides to see if the fix is permanent).

So… not much to say about bikes. What’s next? Cakes?

Cakes will come later, as usual. But there are still some things to report about September this year.

A visit to the UK

I had my annual visit to hospital in the UK to check out my arm prosthesis. These visits to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital are always on Thursdays so Klaus and I drove via Eurotunnel on Wednesday evening, arriving at my Mum’s house at 11pm.

Mum lives in a small village north of Ipswich in a lovely 16th century cottage.

Klaus really enjoyed staying in such a wonderful English cottage, although we both have to duck to pass through the doorways on the ground floor.

On Thursday we drove to Walthamstow where we parked the car and then got the Tube into central London. After checking in and having my x-ray we popped out of the hospital to the Tesco Express around the corner to buy some lunch. Klaus was very pleased to discover a German sandwich!

We were seen very quickly at the hospital and had the usual conversation about taking care of my prosthesis and not doing any dangerous activities, and then it was time to leave. It’s always a feeling of relief and so we stopped at a Caffe Nero for coffee and cake.

The quality of cakes in large chains like this isn’t great and I did notice a definite difference between the tastiness of the cakes I usually have in Germany!

That evening we went out for a proper British curry (at my request). The curry house in Ipswich does a 5-course meal for £11 each which is good value.

We also had ice cream for dessert (not exciting enough to photograph!)

The next day we had a visit from my sister and two of her children, and the following day my oldest friend Lindsay. We also found time to pop to Marks & Spencer for me to buy some jeans, winter boots, the obligatory smalls, and Klaus also had some success with trousers and jumpers. Here he is with my Mum surveying M&S, the expat’s favourite haunt when back in the UK…

Once we walked out of M&S in Ipswich we saw another coffee shop and as we still had plenty of time on our pay & display parking ticket we took Mum for coffee and cake.

Once again the cakes were slightly disappointing. I know some great cafés for cake in North Essex/Suffolk but they are generally not to be found in main high streets of towns.

We left on Sunday morning and drove back to Folkestone for Eurotunnel, meeting my chum Charlotte at Trosley Country Park for cake and coffee on the way. It was lovely to see Charlotte again, but as we set off back onto the M20 there had been an accident and we had to do a diversion. We missed our Eurotunnel train but fortunately were put on the next one so it was only a slight delay.

We arrived back in Kempen at 7 in the evening on the Sunday. Driving the long way round takes quite a long time (8 hours door-to-door) but is considerably cheaper by car than taking the Harwich-Hook of Holland ferry but I do prefer the latter and we have decided to use that for our visit over Christmas.

The new kitchen

As mentioned in a previous blog post, the kitchen in my flat was very basic and once Klaus moved in with me and we decided to do a lot more interesting cooking we found the limitations of the existing kitchen very frustrating. So we ordered a new kitchen from the local furniture place (as well as a new couch) and then had a six week wait.

This was actually a good thing as we had lots of preparatory work to do. Last month I detailed the electrical works that we did to prepare for the new kitchen, including increasing the number of power sockets from 3 to 14 and making the 3-phase supply reach the other wall so the hob could be moved.

This month saw the rest of the work. This involved having the contents of the kitchen spread about the flat which was quite tricky at times as to make a cup of tea you had to find the fridge in the spare room, the kettle in the kitchen and the teabags in the lounge.

I ordered a new fridge freezer and that arrived two weeks before the kitchen was due. We had to hang the door the other side and this was something we did ourselves. It went very well and we only had this item left over at the end:

Our electrician who is a family friend said he could come over and complete the wiring one evening during the week so he duly arrived with some high-quality sockets etc and went about fitting them.

We hadn’t fixed a couple of the socket bases in place as they were where the tiles had been (which had been removed after the electrician had last visited) but he said he would like them to be anchored with plaster/filler so Frank set about that straight away.

The electrician had done a fantastic job and he left us with the sockets for the items Frank had just plastered as that would need to dry; Klaus and Frank could wire them up themselves.

Big thanks go to Peter who gave up several evenings to do our kitchen work and regaled us with tales of his Amphicar rally in Bremen recently. He’s a top chap!

We had to give up the second weekend in September to further Kitchen preparation. On the Saturday Klaus spent the day wallpapering

and on the Sunday I painted the walls and ceiling (the ceiling required 3 coats in places) whilst Klaus lay in bed with the man-flu. His cold knocked him out for a week and he was still coughing 3 weeks later. I caught it after 2 weeks of course.

The following Saturday the old kitchen was removed by some more friends of Frank and Gudula – it would be going to a new flat owned by the son of one of their friends and he had arranged a couple of friends to help dismantle it and move it out.

We would have to survive two days with no oven or sink – but of course tea can always be made with the kettle in the bathroom and the microwave was still in action.

Once the kitchen was removed Frank and Klaus wired up the remaining sockets as the plaster had now dried.

With a few more bits of touch-up paint by me and a small additional area of wallpapering by Klaus we were ready for the kitchen delivery!

Here is a panorama of the whole room ready for the new kitchen.

Klaus had taken three days off work to oversee this. I went to work at 7:30 in the morning on the Monday morning, wondering what I would find when I returned home!

Luckily he sent me photo updates throughout the morning…

As it was slowly being built up Klaus took the opportunity to put the plaque behind a floor unit.

We had discovered this plaque when removing the old kitchen – with the first date from 2010 on it.

I showed it to Frank and he took it away; he returned it a day later with the new kitchen date on it so we could hide it behind the kitchen again. And you can just make it out here!

Work continued throughout the morning.

The wall cupboards were more tricky because of the cabling that went all through the walls – in the end the chaps fitted rails which they then hung the cupboards from.

When I got home at half past one they had made very good progress and they finished for the day at about 4pm with probably only two more hours to do.

We enjoyed a cup of tea in our kitchen and, of course, using the dishwasher for the first time!

The next morning I went off to work again and when I returned everything was finished!

Klaus had also tested all our pans; unfortunately only three worked with the induction hob:

So I knew we would have to buy a few more, especially a larger one. But that is life!

Klaus went out for a much-needed cycle ride as he had been stuck at home for days and I baked my first cake, a lemon drizzle, which was reasonably successful but a bit over-browned.

It took a while to stow all our food and other kitchen items which were distributed all around the flat but we have plenty of room and are getting used to where everything is. It’s a very easy kitchen to use with everything to hand and of course the dishwasher is a mega bonus! I am really pleased we went to the effort of getting it done and we are already enjoying cooking together.

I did buy a couple of good quality induction pans. One of them, the Titanium Wokpfanne, had a rather unfortunate description on my receipt!

I invited friend Babs round to celebrate the new kitchen with cake and made a Käse-Sahne Torte. Then the next day I had some work colleagues round too and made a Victoria Sandwich Cake and a Banoffee Pie for them.

I have had rather a lot of cake over the last few weeks as my colleague Birgit had a birthday and gave us all a slice of this fantastic cake.

And Rohallah the young man who lives here also made his first ever cake, a cheesecake.

Klaus has already cooked up some very impressive meals and we are really enjoying choosing together what to eat and experimenting a bit with food ideas. Which will not help the waistline, but life is short!!

The new couch

When I went to the furniture store to buy the kitchen my original plan was just to buy a couch but I got distracted.

Anyway, we had decided to buy a new couch as the two old ones that we had in the lounge weren’t ideal. The old black leather one wasn’t comfortable for anyone was wasn’t a small dog and the larger red one which I liked was a hand-me-down with room for only one person to stretch out in comfort. Now there were two of us we needed something that we could both lounge on.

So wandering round the local furniture store I bowed to the inevitable and ordered what almost all Germans have – an Eckcouch or corner sofa. It was from a quality brand called Musterring and we got to specify the size of the two halves, the feet, how high it was, whether it had an armrest that can fold down to be a pillow etc. It’s quite hard choosing a sofa in Germany as you have so many options! This also means it also took 6 weeks to come after ordering. But come it did, a week before the kitchen was fitted.

It came in two halves but the first of these was very large and the chaps had great difficulties getting it from my hallway into the lounge.

There were mirrors on the doorframe to this door and they warned me they might be damaged. I said this was OK as we had already removed the mirrors from the other doorframes and had planned to do these ones in due course too. So they pushed and pushed and the sofa went through with two chips out of the mirrors in the doorway.

…and, as I discovered despite the delivery chaps trying to hide it by leaving the packaging material lying on it as long as possible, the couch had also been sliced open.

This was very disappointing but they told me they had warned me. I thought the warning was just about the mirrors, but there you go. The couch was only covered with light plastic, not even cardboard. One of the chaps did a repair with a sewing kit and staple gun and because of where the rip is (right on the base, not under any load) it shouldn’t matter – but it was rather disappointing for my expensive new sofa!

Here it is in pride of place:

And here is my celebratory piece of chocolate cake!

A week after the couch was here the kitchen had also been fitted and we were able to sort out the lounge a bit more (it had been full of old kitchen stuff). We still need to get rid of the old red couch which may go to Lara who has a new flat in Berlin but in the meantime it is in a corner of the lounge. But pride of place in the lounge is my new rug…

I tried to resist it for a month but when Klaus said he had no objection then it was clear it would end up on my floor… It matches the new couch perfectly you see!

A trip to Greetsiel

The following Saturday I was still too coldy to cycle so we decided to do a day trip to Greetsiel on the North Sea. This is a three hour drive (which ended up 45 minutes longer because of an accident) but I was nice and warm in Klaus’s car and it was enjoyable watching the world go by.

Greetsiel is lovely!

There are huge dykes built all the way around – and from this post with high water marks you can see why!!!

Poppy had come with us on this trip and she really enjoyed smelling all the smells of a new town.

After a walk around we decided to find some cake. Most places were rather full or didn’t allow dogs but we ended up going to the café in this windmill.

There was cake!

The journey home was easier and we had a good day out. This sort of trip would be better if we stayed overnight but I had to play my flute in church the next morning so it was just a day trip but really relaxing and enjoyable.

Life in Kempen

The local farm has made his pumpkin caterpillar again. It’s great!

And I loved this vehicle parked in the local Aldi car park. A local no doubt popping in for his shopping…

Part of the reason for not cycling so much at the moment is that my work is really busy. I am non-stop from when I arrive at about 7:40 in the morning until I leave at just past 1pm. It’s quite stressful having full-on work the whole time and not being able to complete all my tasks (the customer I am responsible for has hugely increased their work with us) but I look forward to a two week break at Christmas, plus Klaus and I are having a short break in Berlin in October and probably a weekend in Dresden in November too, so there is much to look forward to. I must get out on my bike again soon!

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6 Wheels In Germany – August 2017 (Month 41)

Cycling this month

Here are the statistics for my rides this month. Not included is my work commute on 30 August but I had to write this blog before then – that gives me another 8.2km.

Notice I have not ridden Penelope once this month!

Klaus is now way ahead of me for his riding for the year as he has commuted to work 11 times. That’s a minimum of 90km for the route, often longer if he does a diversion on the way home. He was well over 1100km for August.

And here is my ‘wheel’ to show the roads I have ridden in August.

The mega hills in the first few days are our tour to Aachen, Liege and Maastricht which you can read about here.

I won a prize!

…and so did Klaus.

We took part in the Stadtradeln action which was a 3 week cycling challenge. It happened to be partly when we were on our summer tour to Usedom and Berlin so we both had quite a high mileage, but that wasn’t actually the reason we won the prizes – I think it was actually just luck. Anyway, we received our prizes (along with 10 others) in the Kempen Town Hall, with the Bürgermeister (mayor) handing them over.

Klaus got a Buff and I got a voucher for a sauna at the local fitness club.

A Sunday ride with Podbiker

Klaus and I received a message from Stefan (Podbiker) who asked if we fancied a ride the next day (a Sunday) as he was free, so we arranged for him to come to us for 9am and we would ride somewhere nice. We ended up in Xanten, riding home via Bislicher Insel. This is a lovely route and three velomobiles certainly cause a stir!

Unfortunately there were rather a lot of people who insisted on touching the velomobiles and one guy even lifted up Celeste at the back. When Klaus shouted at him he said “I only wanted to know how heavy it is!!” Klaus commented that he could have asked, and that we didn’t really like people touching our private property, at which point the man said that if we didn’t want people touching the bikes then we shouldn’t park them here. Not a good attitude.

Klaus took a couple of action shots underway…

I ended up with 99km for the day. Klaus did the extra 1km but my calves were really tight after our longish stop for food most of the way home, partly as a result of my hill walking the day before (see below), so I was lazy and ended up with only 2 100km rides this month.

Uli’s birthday party

Cycling chum Uli turned 70 and invited loads of friends and relations for breakfast at the restaurant near De Witt See (a breakfast which finished at about 16:00). He asked Klaus, Jochen and I to come in our Velomobiles so of course we did!

And here am I explaining tyres to Hartmut and Ralf.

We had a lovely day celebrating with Uli and eating and drinking way too much!

Life in Germany

<3>A new kitchen! Well, preparations for it anyway

August has been another busy month, but this time busy due to rather mega works in my flat on the kitchen.

I decided after Klaus moved in that living without a dishwasher when having to do the washing up for two people is really a step too far, and so we decided to upgrade the kitchen. When I moved into the flat it had a small kitchen without any wall cupboards as it was just for a holiday let – people don’t have a lot of food or utensils for a week’s holiday. However, I had very quickly filled up the cupboards and wanted something a bit more spacious, also a larger fridge as for two of us the one I had was a bit small.

I ordered the kitchen last month from the local kitchen shop (and ordered a new couch at the same time! an expensive day!) but it wouldn’t be delivered till mid-September. This almost 2 month wait hasn’t been a bad thing as it turned out we had to do quite a lot of preparation of the room, including wiring.

First of all we had to take out the removable furniture – the fridge/freezer, a narrow floor cupboard, an Ikea storage unit, a wheelable set of shelves, a cutlery and crockery wall unit.

Once these items were out, all that remained was the single stretch of worktop with sink and hob and the cupboards underneath, with one small area of worktop.

The flat has a number of mirrors as decoration and there was a large area of wall mirrors that had to be removed. Klaus and I wandered round Self, the local DIY store, and bought some special gloves that are resistant to glass as he had to pull this lot off by hand with the help of a chisel, as well as safety glasses.

After this we had to remove the wallpaper which took us two evenings to do successfully.

Then it was time for the electrical work, which was done by an electrician who is a friend of Frank’s but with significant help from Frank and Klaus. The three of them worked really hard for two evenings and laid in the new cable for the hob and dishwasher and increased my number of wall sockets from 3 to 14.

What was tricky was that the special cable for the cooker and hob had to end up on the other side of the room but couldn’t go via the floor (tiles) or over the ceiling (tiles) so they routed the cable along the wall, through the Rollladenkasten (boxes for the shutters) and then out the other side. They did a great job!

And here are the finished walls. They had to work around a previous cable which was in a nice swooping bow shape rather than vertical or horizontal. We had to fit our horizontal/vertical cables around and behind this. Building norms were different 50 years ago when the house was built!

There were also some tiles that had to come away and friend Ralf (who has just ordered a velomobile so finds Klaus and I very useful to chat to!) happens to have a tiling company so he came along one evening after work and removed the tiles for us.

Once the tiles were gone he put in some plasterboard in the gap.

Now we had some big gaps to fill in where the cables were, and this was a job for Frank and Klaus.

Frank mixed up some plaster and with Klaus’s help with the mixing and preparation he filled all the gaps.

After a few days it had dried and shrunk a bit so Frank did another go over whilst Klaus and I were away for a couple of days. He did a perfect job of smoothing the walls, filling all the little holes for screws and rawlplugs and a few areas where the surface had crumbled. Everything was ready for us to wallpaper and then paint.

The rest of the work won’t happen until September, however, so you will have to wait for the next instalment of Auntie Helen’s Kitchen Transformation!

Andreas Scholl Concert and a trip to the Bergstraße

I have long been a fan of Andreas Scholl and regularly used to travel to Germany to attend his concerts. Since I have lived here I haven’t actually been to many concerts, but I found out about one in Kloster Eberbach (near Wiesbaden) in August so got a couple of tickets.

As it is a three hour drive home Klaus and I decided it would be better to stay overnight after the concert somewhere near Wiesbaden and then the next day visit Klaus’s old stomping ground near Mannheim.

So we booked into the hotel Zum Neuen Schwann in Walluf where I had stayed previously on one of my bike tours. It was just a short walk across the road to the Rhine.

There was a huge electric storm whilst we were eating our evening meal but fortunately the worst of the rain had stopped as we arrived at Kloster Eberbach. We had arrived an hour before the concert was due to start and this was a very good thing as there were what seemed like thousands of cars trying to park… we got a reasonable spot and then went into the shelter of the cloister buildings to wait the hour until the concert started.

We had the cheapest seats in the side aisle without a view of the stage but it just so happened I could see Andreas Scholl between two pillars as he was singing – but nothing else really. It was, of course, wonderful!

During the interval Klaus took this great photo of the period instruments on the stage – they did not appreciate the high humidity after the thunderstorm and had to be tuned every ten minutes or so!

The next day after a leisurely breakfast we set off towards Mannheim. We took a more scenic route rather than the Autobahn the whole way and Klaus showed me lots of the areas he used to cycle – and we passed Frankenstein and Reichenbach!

He suggested we go for a short walk on a hill he used to ride up which sounded nice, but it was a hot day so I said I would need to buy a hairband or something to keep my hair off my neck so we stopped in Bensheim for tea and cake (of course) and I bought a hairband in a local shop. All the various German political parties were out canvassing – but of course I am not able to vote in these elections.

We left Bensheim and headed towards this hill for our walk… which turned out to be a former volcano, Melibokus, and it is 517 metres high (ground level at the bottom is 100 metres). Fortunately the car park was half way up.

First we walked to a very impressive castle Auerbach which is a ruin but was being used for a wedding reception – they were just doing the initial preparations so we were allowed to look around. The views from the top were excellent despite the haze. There had been clouds a couple of hours earlier so we were very happy to be able to see this much.

We were looking across at the Melibokus which was clearly higher. Interesting.

Klaus asked if I fancied the walk and I said “why not”? So we set off.

It was 4km to the top of Melibokus with a steady gradient all the way. We were passed by lots of mountain bikers and a few roadies – this is a regular route for cyclists as the road is tarmacked the whole way (the US Army had a radio station on the top).

We had a lovely walk despite the heat which meant we were sweating loads and had just one bottle of water between us. But the view at the top – and the sense of achievement – was well worth it!!

We walked down again (it was this that gave us both aching muscles two days later!) and enjoyed the air conditioning in the car as we drove to visit Klaus’s parents who lived nearby. We had tea and cake with them (Klaus’s father reads my blog so knows about my cake-eating ways) and it was good to meet them. Then it was time to head off home, this time taking the scenic route along the Rhine with some diversions due to closed roads that took us up into the hills. Fun!!!

Cakes this month

Here are a selection of the cakes that I, or my friends, have enjoyed this month!

In England

As this blog post is published I am in England for my annual hospital visit to check my arm prosthesis. As the appointment is on a Thursday and I have another medical appointment the next day we are also staying for the weekend and will catch up with some of my friends as well as empty the supermarkets of teabags, Quaker Porage Oats (for my boss), Rich Tea biscuits (for friend Christine), paracetamol and antihistamines (stupidly expensive in Germany), Walkers Crisps for Babs and more… We are driving over via Eurotunnel so that will be a bit tiring but it is the easiest way for the two of us, our luggage and all the things we need to bring back to Germany!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this month’s report. There’s not so much new stuff to say now, but I can confirm life in Germany is still great!

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6 Wheels In Germany – July 2017 (Month 40)

Cycling this month

This month I didn’t cycle as much as normal, whereas Klaus had a very impressive month’s total 1533.83km. As you can see from the screenshot of my rides below, I only managed 733.32!

And this is where I rode:

Local velomobile meet

There are more and more Velomobiles making their home in our part of the Niederrhein and one day Johannes who lives in Vorst sent round a message to various Velomobile owners saying if they wanted to meet at his house for a beer after work we should come along.

In the end it was a good gathering with Johannes, Klaus and I, Jochen, Stefan (with the Celeste DF), Liegender_Robert (with his green DF) and Andreas who rides a Go-One Evo R.

3 Wheels 4 France

3Wheels4France is a 3 week velomobile tour around France. No, I didn’t take part – I am nowhere near fast enough and good at hill climbing to ride with the 21 chaps who set off – but Klaus and I decided to wave them off from Trier one Sunday morning in July.

We drove to Trier, had lunch there and visited the Porta Nigra, as well as having a short walk along the Mosel.

We then drove to Igel where we checked into our hotel.

Igel was where the campsite for the Velomobilists was, and our hotel was next to the notable local landmark, the Igeler Säule, a Roman Monument.

After checking in we headed to the campsite in Igel where they were staying the night before. It would be a chance to see some friends again and have a relaxing chat whilst they arrived ready for the off the next morning.

There were many familiar faces and some new ones. Lots of shiny velomobiles with a very strong bias towards the DF.

At 18:00 there was a rider’s meeting about the event.

Klaus and I went back to the hotel at this point for our evening meal, agreeing to meet everyone at 9am the next morning for the off. It was lovely to walk alongside the peaceful Mosel.

Hajo’s wife was also staying at the hotel so we breakfasted together the next morning and then walked together to the campsite to discover… almost everyone had already left at least an hour before!

Hajo and Daniel Fenn had stayed behind to see us so we chatted to them before waving them off.

The tour has been extremely well organised by Josef (Jupp), who Klaus and I breakfasted with in Berlin a month or so ago. He had also arranged for there to be a Broom Wagon which even included a spare velomobile, a DF.

If you want to read about the tour there is a website http://3wheels4france.eu/ and a very long thread in the Velomobilforum with pictures from the tour.

Visiting Luxembourg

We knew we would be finished with the 3Wheels4France crew by 9am so decided as we were right on the border with Luxembourg to visit it – I had never been there. My godfather, who I had not seen since I was 4 years old but with whom I had been in contact since the death of my father, lives in Luxembourg and offered for us to visit and for him to show us around and his wife Clara to cook us an Italian lunch (she is Italian).

We gratefully accepted these invitations and had a really lovely day with Stephen and Clara.

First of all, after the obligatory cup of tea for me and proper Italian coffee for Klaus, Stephen took us on a tour in the car to see the major sights of Luxembourg which include of course many European institutions where he had his career as a translator.

Our lunch was very tasty with Italian specialities and finished off by a Luxembourg cake

We then went into Luxembourg again and walked around some of the main parts.

It’s a very interesting city as it is well fortified and built on very steep hills beside two rivers.

The Grand Duke’s palace is right amongst the shopping streets.

We had a final cuppa before heading home. Klaus took this photo of me with Stephen and Clara and their cat too!

It was a busy but really enjoyable weekend, but it felt very odd travelling for such a long time in the car. We would have both preferred to go by bike!

Events this month

This will be a short blog post as not that much has happened this month really. Work does rather cut into my cycling time!

I moved into the new office at work and my boss had a birthday so all the staff members were invited for some Bratwurst and rolls and cake one afternoon.

I was impressed by this cupcake which was almost Celeste colour!

Cakes this month

Talking of cakes, here are the cakes and I and my chums have enjoyed this month.

I hope to write a bit more next month – life in Germany continues to be great, but there are not so many new things to talk about!

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6 Wheels In Germany – June 2017 (Month 39)

Cycling this month

Cycling Statistics this month

This month was one of my highest distance months ever ridden:

And here is where I went – from the Netherlands to Poland and back via Berlin.

This is of course my tour Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen, for which I wrote a blog post every day. If you haven’t seen it then you can read the tour reports here.

Apart from this most of my rides were commutes.

Helen’s birthday ride

However, the day after we returned from our long bike tour was my birthday. So how should I celebrate it but a cycle ride!

Unfortunately Klaus had to drive to Berlin that day for a work conference so he was unable to ride with us – instead he arranged to meet us at the café and drive straight on to Berlin from there.

I had invited various friends and a plan was hatched to meet in Straelen. My host family Gudula, Frank, Nils and Lara would meet us there, along with the new family member Rohallah, a refugee who is now living with us. This was because Rohallah wasn’t keen on cycling the 60km round trip, having only a few weeks ago received his own bicycle. Plus it was Ramadan so he was fasting so a long ride on a very hot day was not such a good idea.

Anyway, Jochen came round to my house and he and I cycled together to Straelen where we met Uli who had ridden straight there.

Due to various elements of disorganisation we didn’t actually leave Straelen until 45 minutes after the scheduled leaving time, partly because of a flat tyre on Gudula’s bike too, so that Klaus arrived alone at the café and sat Billy-No-Mates on a table set for 10. But eventually we got there, having cycled on a very hot day. Well, not all of us had cycled – Lara and Nils were on their inline skates, so the 16km to the café was a fair distance.

We sat on the long table and ordered our cakes/drinks.

And there were some very nice cakes!

As my second slice of cake I decided to go for a pancake.

Gudula, Lara, Nils and Rohallah played mini golf but the rest of us sheltered from the heat under the umbrella and enjoyed our drinks. We were at Café zum Schafstall which I have visited a few times before and which I really like. It’s in the middle of nowhere though so it would be vastly unlikely for someone to stumble upon it by accident (although that is in fact what Klaus and I once did, but we were on a ride to NL).

Klaus headed off to Berlin and then Uli had to leave. After a very pleasant 3 hours at the café it was time to ride back to Straelen.

When we got to Straelen it seemed like a good idea to have some ice cream.

Our velomobiles were causing great interest. Nils had left his skates in front of them too – his feet were rather hurting!

Jochen had to go off somewhere else for a barbecue so I ended up riding home on my own. I really pushed, feeling very fit after my tour and well-fuelled with cake, and managed a 35.9km/h average for the ride home which felt good.

I enjoyed my birthday very much and it was good to share the day with friends and my German ‘family’ here too.

After Klaus returned from Berlin we gave the velomobiles a good clean and service.

The really good news is that my new back wheel performed really well on the tour and has made a huge improvement in terms of noise (the freehub in the old wheel was super-noisy when freewheeling). I did discover the rear wheel was slightly loose one day – Millie felt a bit funny when pulling away from a standstill – but I tightened it up and all was well again. I will have to watch that as a loose rear wheel is sub-optimal.

Klaus and I decided to go out for breakfast cake the Sunday after my birthday. But we have made a new agreement that we are only allowed cake if we cycle more than 50km, so we had to take quite a detour home after eating this at 17km…

Life in Germany

This month was super-busy at work following my two week break as the customer I look after has hugely increased the amount of items they produce with us. The new contract of course started on the first day of my holiday so my colleagues had to take care of everything; it will take me a couple more weeks to get on top of it all.

Into all the business was added the bonus that I moved office into the new part of our building. This is very nice and an open office, sharing with a colleague instead of being on my own but in a much airier and more spacious room. I also have a view of everyone coming and going and there is a special parking place for Millie out the front.

Not only did I move office on 30 June but it was also another important moving day – it was the day that Klaus moved in with me. He handed back the keys to his flat and is now making his home with Poppy and me. He and Poppy have already bonded very well!

This is a shorter blog post due to half the month already having been written about in detail! More next month…

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6 Wheels In Germany – May 2017 (Month 38)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

This month I did a bit better with my distance but I am still not riding as regularly as I used to do (excluding work commutes). This is because life is busy and has been changing quite a lot recently! But it’s all good.

And here is the ‘wheel’ of where I went, including my 3 day tour to Bad Bentheim and Soest.

Millie in the news

I was interviewed by the Westdeutsche Zeitung and they wrote two articles on me, and here they are…

They are great articles and I have already been recognised by one reader of the newspaper!

Cycle Tour – Trike Treffen

I have written a separate blog post about my short tour to Bad Bentheim, Soest and back with Klaus. You can read about it here: Christi Himmelfahrt Tour 2017

Events this month

Visit of my Mum

My Mum came to visit me for just under a week and we had a really good time.

On the Saturday Klaus drove us to Monschau, a beautiful town in the Eifel. On the way we stopped off at the Giant Hole In The Ground at Garzweiler near Jackerath. This is where they are currently re-routing the Autobahn as they will be digging coal from where it currently runs.

Then we drove on to Monschau and had a look around.

Monschau lies on the River Rur (not Ruhr, that is a different one) and I had cycled there with Klaus once.

There is a Rur Radweg but it’s not suitable for Veloombiles so we might try it on the trikes on day but it’s quite off-road.

Klaus, Poppy and I climbed up the hill behind the town and looked down on it – you get to quite an impressive height.

Another cake!

This month Klaus celebrated a round birthday so I organised him a cake from our local bakery, Café Poeth. I sent them some photos and they did an excellent job!

His actual birthday was on the day of the Fahrrad Stammtisch so that worked rather well for cake-sharing. Cycling chum Ralf was 50 the day before and was also at the Stammtisch so it was a great celebration.

Once the cake was all eaten we kept Mini Celeste and I decided to see how she compared to Big Celeste. Very similar!


I have cycled to work most days this month and am often treated to lovely skies but this one was a cracker!

Cakes this month

This month I enjoyed rather more cakes than I should have, although some in this collage were consumed by Klaus rather than me. But they were all yummy!!

From tomorrow I will be off on my bike tour so expect daily blog posts. The forecast for tomorrow is thunderstorms and 12mm rain which is rather sub-optimal with leaky Millie, but we will survive! I am a Brit after all and used to rain.

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Christi Himmelfahrt Tour 2017

Despite having toured long distances on my trikes over the last nine years, I have only done one multi-day tour in a Velomobile which was my two day trip to Millingen aan de Rijn in Penelope two summers ago.

However, this state of affairs is very much changing within three weeks, starting with a four day tour over the Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) break and then after a six day break (one week of work) then a two week tour to Usedom and Berlin and back. Almost 1700km in total. 

So, Christi Himmelfahrt. Klaus and I decided a short tour would be good, especially as the Trike Treffen was taking place in Bad Bentheim, 130km to the north. That seemed like a plan.

Trike Treffen involves camping and despite not having camped for 31 years, I decided to give it a go. So over the months leading up to the tour I purchased an isomatte (sleeping mattress), sleeping bag, super lightweight towel etc. I also bought a selection of Karrimor dry bags to help fit my belongings in Millie who isn’t exactly designed as a touring Velomobile.

We decided to extend the riding a bit so after one night at the campsite to ride to Soest, a beautiful old town to the east, and stay in a hotel there. Klaus has a good friend who lives there so we could visit him. For the journey back we planned to split it in two at Haltern am See, camping again.

Thursday 

The day dawned with a fantastic weather forecast, 23 degrees for the Thursday but quickly rising to 28 degrees on Saturday and Sunday.

We managed to fit everything in the Velomobiles without any difficulty. We set off, heading first of all towards the Rhine bridge at Wesel but this involved going over the mega hill Tönisberg (20 metres!!) within 5km of the start. A rather rude warm up!!

Here is the track for the day:

We had a really enjoyable ride, the extra weight in the Velomobiles only really noticeable when we were pushing them around before getting in (especially noticeable with Millie as she has no handle at the back). With the warm weather and despite the headwind the bikes covered the ground very well.


We found the roads fairly empty of traffic and enjoyed the weather and scenery as we made our way towards the Rhein on familiar roads.

In order to cross the Wesel we needed to get into the Rheindeich… and this involved a pair of Drängelgitter that we couldn’t negotiate awheel.

However, a short break for walking is not a bad thing!

We then had the difficult entry onto the Wesel bridge with two hairpins which I cannot manage in one go with Millie’s turning circle but was able to shuffle back and forth and get round without too much inconvenience. The view as we crossed the bridge was lovely.

and here is the view looking down on the Rhein.

Now we had crossed the river we were heading into less explored territory. I was also tending towards needing the loo but we didn’t see many open bakeries. When we eventually found one it didn’t have a loo so we decided to ride further.

After 5-6 kilometres Klaus spotted a Biergarten beside the long, straight and fast B70 we had been zooming along so we decided to stop for a piece of Apricot Streusel.

We enjoyed our cake and tea/coffee and water and the chance to relax for a bit as we had been making good progress.


There was a group of motorcyclists there and they asked us how fast we rode as they had passed us in Wesel and were very surprised how quickly we had caught them up.

It was lovely to sit, relax and enjoy the sunshine, but the road was calling so after 45 minutes or so we got back into the Velomobiles and pushed on.

We left the B70 after about 10km and headed onto a quieter Landstraße which took us through Homer and then around the edge of Borken.

I saw signs to some familiar places – Südlohn and Stadtlohn. I remembered these place names from my Berlin to London tour many years ago.

In Stadtlohn I wasn’t paying attention and went the wrong way, which involved cobbles and pedestrian areas before I managed to catch up with Klaus again.

We were now heading to Ahaus and when we arrived it was time for some lunch (it is always time for lunch in Helenworld). We found cafe Muse and left the Velomobiles outside. It had interesting decor!


I enjoyed a schnitzel and salad but then found it impossible to resist a strawberry Schnitte – after all, fruit is healthy!

We were sitting inside as it was cooler and we needed a break from the sun. You are very much exposed to the sun in a Velomobile and so we were wearing hats and sun cream etc. Klaus had slightly pink upper arms so we wielded some sun cream again.

From Ahaus we cycled along the Landstraße L573 for a long time, sometimes on the cycle path but often on the road. The cycle paths beside the road weren’t bad in this sector but sometimes you can go faster on the road and there wasn’t much traffic.

This road took us all the way to Ochtrup where we turned more north and crossed the border out of Nordrhein-Westfalen into Niedersachsen. The last few kilometres to Bad Bentheim had slight hilly tendencies but we were soon at the campsite between Bad Bentheim and Suddendorf.

When we arrived we found the trike Treffen area but there were only a few people there – most were still out on the group ride. Klaus set out to put up the tent.

Once the tent was up I had a much-needed shower and then fashioned a Heath Robinson washing line between the two Velomobiles. Celeste has a handle on the back which I used but with Millie I had to fix the line to the Lichtkanone on the top. Not the best idea but it worked ok in the end.


After about an hour the rest of the people arrived and we talked to lots of acquaintances. We had signed up for the barbecue where the food was provided but hadn’t realised that was just the meat, so our dinner was two pork steaks each cut up with the knife on Klaus’s multi tool and eaten off a plate we borrowed from someone. A real low carb meal!

After Dinner I was so tired that I went into the tent and tried to get to sleep. However, I discovered why people said you need ear plugs when camping – the conversations of others kept me awake. I also found it difficult to get comfortable in terms of temperature – I think actually I was a bit dehydrated. Anyway, I didn’t have a brilliant night’s sleep but will be better prepared next time!

The total day’s distance was 143.64km at an average speed of 25.5km/h and I burned 2,671 calories.

Friday

We were awake and ready to leave by 8:30am with the tent packed away. Our washing was still damp (mainly from dew) so we packed it away in plastic bags and set off towards Soest. First plan of the day was to find somewhere for breakfast.

This proved trickier than expected as there were only very small villages on the beginning of our ride. However, when we arrived at Wettringen we found a supermarket with a bakery attached and managed to find something to keep us going…

There was a man siting outside chatting to everyone who passed and we had a good conversation with him. Of course he talked to me about Brexit – the flag on Millie rather gives away my nationality.

We set off after a leisurely stop and headed towards Emsdetten. There were some long stretches which meant we could get the speed up nicely – what I have noticed with Millie is that she is definitely better in the long distances. Because I only really have one power setting, it takes me a while to get up to speed, but Millie rolls so well that once I am up to 35km/h I can sit at that speed without expending much effort.

At one point when going over a bumpy bit I heard a pinging sound as if a stone had jumped up through the foothole and was crashing around a bit inside. I didn’t think much of it, but then during a lovely downhill when I was in my top gear the chain suddenly jammed. This was very annoying as I had to stop. It soon became apparent that my Schlumpf button had fallen out again – and it was the one from the other side! I walked back down the road but couldn’t find it.

Then Klaus, trying to free the chain, realised the button was actually stuck in my chain tunnel and rescued it. I was relieved to still have it (as I didn’t have the spares with me) but without its mini allen bolt it wouldn’t stay in for very long. So for the time being I put it in my bag for safekeeping and carried on, hoping not to have to experience too many steep hills.

The day was warming up but when you ride with enough speed the Velomobiles create enough draught that it is cooling. With Millie, anything above 25 km/h provides plenty of cooling, especially as I have a Naca duct (air intake). However, hills at a slower pace mean it heats up quite a lot inside, as does sitting waiting at traffic lights.

Again the roads were pretty clear and we were whizzing along. It was getting towards time to stop to refresh the water supplies so when we arrived in Sendenhorst, a reasonably-sized town, we decided to go off route and find somewhere to eat. We found a Greek restaurant and stopped, laying our wet washing on the velomobiles to dry in the sun.

The staff in the restaurant were super-friendly, chatting to us about the bikes and photographing them, sending the pictures to relatives in Greece. They also offered some very nice food – I had this great cold platter.

I asked to buy some cold still water and they gave me water that came from Greece. Because I was thirsty I tried to buy some more but in the end he gave me three bottles completely free of charge, which was very sweet of him. The whole cost of our lunch stop was extremely reasonable – Klaus’s litre of coke was about 2 Euros.

Once we had finished our lunch we discovered our clothes were pretty much dry so we packed everything away and headed off again towards Soest.

We skirted around Hamm and then started heading towards Soest on roads that were a bit more rolling. I had decided to screw my Schlumpf button back in and decided to keep checking it was done up – I really needed the extra gears and it wasn’t doing me any good in my bag. So I was able to Schlumpf for the hills on the way to Soest but they weren’t too bad. Klaus was a bit nervous I think about my speed when the hills start as he knows I don’t like them but with the high speeds we were riding it was mostly OK and I enjoyed it.

Just as we were going down the hill into Soest my Schlumpf button popped out again but it landed in the foodwell and I grabbed it. We found our way to the hotel which was the oldest guest house in Nordrhein-Westfalen, from 1307. Hotel Pilgrimhaus had really friendly staff.

I realised I was pretty dehydrated from the heat so spent the next few hours drinking lots of water but having very little output. This was a reminder that when riding velomobiles you maybe don’t feel the heat as much but the wind is wicking away moisture all the time. I resolved to be better with my drink planning the next day.

There was no storage space for our velomobiles but this wasn’t a problem as Klaus’s friend said we could store them in his garage so we rode there after our showers and he drove us back (it was just a mile), joining us for dinner at Hotel Pilgrimhaus.

Here are our bikes in his very roomy garage:

The total day’s distance was 129.21km at an average speed of 23.8km/h and I burned 2,429 calories.

The food at Hotel Pilgrimhaus was fabulous but I didn’t remember to photograph it (I was too keen on eating it!) except for the dessert, a white chocolate Panna Cotta. Lovely!

I was really really tired after my poor night’s sleep the day before so went to bed early and left Klaus chatting with his friend Dirk for a couple more hours. I went out like a light, enjoying a comfortable room and the peace and quiet without lots of other campers talking!

Saturday

Our original plan for today was to ride to Haltern am See and camp there for the night. However, due to my less than ideal camping experience on Thursday night, the weather forecast (super-hot), and the fact that 82km seemed way too short for a day’s ride, we considered riding all the way home instead, 162km. We didn’t know how we would feel riding in 30 degree heat but decided to give it a go. We would stop between 2pm and 5pm when the temperature is highest and would also ensure that we regularly drank lots of fluids whilst riding.

Here is our track for the day – as you can see, we did end up riding the whole way home.

We enjoyed an excellent breakfast at the hotel and checked out by 9am. Dirk was there to collect us and take us to his garage where we collected the bikes. Then it was time to head towards Haltern and maybe home.

The route out of Soest was absolutely beautiful – rolling hills, everything very green, few cars. I had been a bit concerned that I still wasn’t peeing much after my dehydration yesterday so I drank a litre of water just before we set out. Clearly by this point I had actually replenished my water stocks as after riding for about 10 minutes I was desperate for the loo. Klaus was far ahead and I had forgotten to get my radio ready and I couldn’t wait till I could catch up with him so nipped into a side road and made the most of rather sparse tree cover. Fortunately no-one came along!

Klaus waited for me a bit further on and I ensured I had my radio on after that. We had a lovely ride, really enjoying the scenery and the great road quality, except for one very disappointing downhill. It was curvy and fast but suddenly the road surface became awful! I had to brake from 50 to about 20 as it was so rough. Klaus, who was ahead, wanted to get on the radio to warn me but needed both hands on the tiller to hang on for dear life! We made it to the bottom, amazingly with my Schlumpf button still in place, and decided to stop shortly after for a scheduled drink spot. I had decided to ensure I drank a bottle of water every 25km.

We stopped at a car park area which happened to be at a cemetery so Klaus found some fresh water after we had drunk ours. I also found a convenient hedge for a loo stop again. It wasn’t too fiercely warm yet but the sky was blue and we could see we would soon be feeling the heat.

We went on, riding mostly on the roads as there were few cycle paths. It was a beautiful day.

We were keeping to our drinking schedule and going well. The plan was to ride to the campsite at Haltern am See but we realised that was a bit of a detour so could cut off about 5-10km if we decided to push on to Kempen. I had radioed Klaus to say I wanted to stop for water at about 60km but we were on such a lovely road I kept going – cruising at 35km/h you cover so much ground it seems a shame to stop! He had slowed a couple of times for potential stops but I kept going.

When we turned off the fast road I said we could now have our drink stop but Klaus’s Biergarten radar spotted something just up the road so we found ourselves at a campsite with beer garden near Datteln. We stopped and had a cuppa and a piece of cheesecake each.

We had 100km to go from this point and we discussed whether we should stay there for the heat but it was only midday so I thought it worth riding a bit further (the main heat hits at 2pm), plus I wanted to be more than halfway when we did our long stop. So we continued on after a good break, having refilled our water and eaten some salty peanuts to refresh our electrolytes.

The route followed the Lippetal canal and was very interesting. We weren’t on our official track because of the detour to shorten the route but soon joined back up with the official route at Haltern.

We were now looking out for our longer stop location as it was 2 o’clock and very hot, but didn’t find a suitable looking place. We went through the village of Lippramsdorf which had some hotels with garden terraces but Klaus kept going. Halfway between Haltern and Dorsten he spotted a sign for a Hofcafé – and really hit the jackpot!

This was a brand new cafe with some wonderful cakes and nice comfy seats outside with sunshades. The lady serving us was very nice and we spent two hours there, eating an enormous slice of Käse Sahne torte and drinking tea/coffee, watching the other guests (including a big group of bikers) and generally enjoying the peace and relaxation.

However our plan to stay there till 5 or 6 seemed a bit of a waste of time as it wasn’t getting any cooler so in the end we left at 16:15, ready to get back on the road and complete the final 75km to home. With refilled water bottles we set off again, riding through Dorsten (which was rather traffic-lighty) and then through Kirchhellen which had the most wonderful downhill towards Dinslaken. At this point our average speed for an 8km stretch was over 30km/h!

From Dinslaken we headed to Duisburg-Walsum where our Rhine crossing (a ferry) awaited us. Klaus began to feel he had low energy so we stopped at a Netto for him to buy some supplies – a bread roll each and he had a litre of buttermilk which he drank neat and it gave him his energy back. Whilst he was in Netto lots of the locals were asking me about the bikes – they had never seen anything like them before.

From Walsum it was a short ride to the ferry and we ate our bread rolls during the short Rhein crossing. Once on ‘our’ side of the river we were definitely on the home stretch and zoomed towards Moers, Neukirchen Vluyn and then round Siebenhäuser back to St Hubert, averaging 29km/h for the last 22km.

We got back at 19:15, unpacked the bikes and then Klaus tipped a whole bottle of water over his head to cool down! Gudula and Frank were having a barbecue so we ate with them which was very handy as I had no food in the house, not expecting us to be back until tomorrow!

Today’s distance was 161.72km (that’s a shade over 100 miles) with an average speed of 26km/h and I burned 2,627 calories.

All in all it was a fabulous tour. Millie is a much better touring velomobile than I had expected and her speed really eats up the distance. I need to fix the Schlumpf button before we start the Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen tour in a week’s time but I will sort something out – worst case scenario I will use threadlock or superglue on the current button.

With velomobiles you can ride a lot further each day which increases the visiting distance. I would like to do some more two day tours, perhaps with camping, in the Netherlands and north of here, so we can see some new places and ride some new roads. It’s all such fun!

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Filed under Christi Himmelfahrt Tour 2017, Cycle Tours, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

6 Wheels In Germany – April 2017 (Month 37)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Here is my total for the month – as you can see, not very impressive!

And here is where I cycled to this month.

A trip to Xanten and Wesel

At the beginning of April Klaus and I decided to do our long ride (Strava Gran Fondo) in the direction of Xanten and Rees.

We were very lucky as it was a sunny day and we flew along to Xanten, this time my Schlumpf behaved perfectly (the previous two visits to Xanten had involved ‘issues’). We arrived at the Stadtcafé as usual and stopped for a cuppa and piece of cake.

My planned track took us to Rees on the other side of the Rhein and then back via Goch. We headed off to Rees along the disused railway towards Marienbaum; it’s a great route although was a bit busier today because of the good Sunday weather.

We arrived in Rees after a very short time. This had been my plan for a lunch stop but we were still full from cake so I just got us each an ice cream whilst Klaus looked after the bikes and answered questions from the very many passers-by.

I had a classic question from one chap – “is that a boat?” I haven’t been asked that one before!

I had been thinking about our track and thought returning via Goch would be a bit dull – maybe we should investigate this side of the Rhein towards the east, so we had a quick look on the Garmins and it looked as though we could ride to Wesel and then cross back to ‘our’ side of the Rhein there.

With just a couple of waypoints on my Garmin we headed off. I missed an early turning which kept us on the road rather than the busy cycle path on the Deich. Our view was less interesting as we couldn’t see the river but I think there was rather a lot of bike traffic on the actual route so perhaps it was for the best.

We had a rather scary moment when I needed to turn right and Klaus was close behind me and of course didn’t realise I was using the brakes and couldn’t see my indicators (because they are rubbish). He very nearly went into the back of me, I aborted the turn as I was going too fast (had not realised it was so soon), and eventually got myself turned round and rejoined Klaus at the offending junction. The emergency stop he had done had taken years off his life and also meant he had to start in top gear – not easy! This made me resolve to do something to solve the problem of my stealth indicators.

Nevertheless this route was actually rather nice – not many cars, not much of anything really, just pretty fast roads and occasional glimpses of the Rhein. However, as we approached Wesel, our planned lunch stop, we discovered the world and his wife were there. It seems there was some kind of event on in Wesel centre and it was heaving with people. It was clearly not a good option for food so we pressed on, neither of us wanting to have to deal with all the attention on the velomobiles from the masses, some of whom seemed a bit rowdy.

The bridge across from Wesel isn’t very nice really with a bit of a climb and a bad cycle path surface. There also turned out to be a very sharp corner which I couldn’t manage in Millie; Klaus had got ahead and stopped so he came and picked Millie’s back end up (with me still in her) to turn her round. Saved a lot of effort getting out!

Once back on the left bank of the Rhein we were in familiar territory from a couple of rides including the Trike Treffen last year and our August trike tour. We stopped once again at the café on the Rhein with the very poor customer service and once again the customer service was awful, but the cake was OK!

Here are the velomobiles enjoying their rest by the Rhein.

The route back from here wasn’t so interesting but was fast, along the straight road to Neukirchen Vluyn, and we got up some good speeds.

We eventually got back with 132km on the clock at an average of 23.1 which is fine for a touring pace. We were so lucky with the weather too, and two cakes always makes it a bonus!

Used bicycle market in Kempen

On one sunny Saturday I helped out at the Used Bike Market in Kempen. This is run by the ADFC and is a great opportunity for people to bring their no-longer-needed bikes to a central point and sell them.

It is interested to see the variety of bikes, mostly between the 100-150 EUR mark. They were mostly standard Hollandräder (sit up and beg bikes) or other basic bikes, but there were a few interesting items such as a unicycle, a tandem and a very nice Fahrradmanufaktur bike with Rohloff hub for 1000 EUR. I went in Millie and had a few queries as to how much she would cost but I said she wasn’t currently for sale!

Velomobiltreff in Zons

On the Velomobilforum various people suggested meeting in Zons on Easter Saturday. Zons is 60km away so this seemed like a good plan, and Jochen was also able to come along, so Klaus, Jochen and I headed off on a rather chilly day towards Zons, which is near Dormagen (south of Düsseldorf).

It started to rain on the trip and as Millie is not very watertight at all I started to get quite damp. Klaus always has vision problems in the rain (because of his glasses) but despite these inconveniences we enjoyed the ride to Zons.

We arrived with 40 minutes in hand so settled down on the chairs outside and ordered some cake. Well, Klaus and I ordered cake, Jochen went for ice cream.

And then more people started to arrive.

A lady, Karspeed, arrived in her wonderful colour Milan SL. This light blue is really a beautiful colour!

In fact, there was very much a blue and white theme going on (Endeavour, Jochen’s Velomobile, is out of shot but is white with red and grey decals).

Jupp appeared in his new QuattroVelo which you see parked beside Millie in the photos above, and Düssel arrived on his first long trip in quite a while (he broke his arm). He expects to collect his new QuattroVelo shortly… and his QuattroVelo is what was going to be mine (see below for explanation).

It was very cold outside and although there were blankets on the chairs which I wrapped around me I started to get really, really cold and a bit shivery. Clearly it was time to head off and warm up again, after two hours sitting around in wet clothes in a cold wind. I really was perished!

So Klaus, Jochen and I set off homewards on a slightly different route. I had warmed up reasonably after 15 minutes but poor Jochen had to stop to fix a puncture beside a horribly busy road on an elevated section so probably got perished then too!

We were riding through Schiefbahn and I thought it might be good to stop for food, but then promptly failed with my sense of direction to find the very nice Italian restaurant and we ended up in Willich at that other famous restaurant…

We ended up with 126km on the clock at an average of 22.9. It was a fun trip and it was great to meet Karspeed and her chap for the first time. I really love the colour of her Milan! It is worth also noting that her Milan is much more watertight…

A trip to Velomobiel.nl

Velomobiel.nl is the company in the Netherlands which makes the Strada, Quest, Quattrovelo and formerly also the Mango. Klaus’s velomobile is a Strada and he wanted to have Celeste serviced as she was now 1 year old and he needed the rear gear cable changed, plus a general checkup. We would normally change the rear gear cable ourselves but were unable to loose the screws holding it on at the tiller (this is a known thing – turns out you need to use a British imperial allen key, not a metric one, oddly!)

However, this service was not the entire point of the visit. I had also decided that I needed to get some better brakes on Millie as I had experienced rather a lot of brown trouser moments when the brakes did not work well enough for me. It was partly as they were not adjusted to pull strongly enough, and if I adjusted them myself then the cable was too short to allow me to use the parking brake (which you need to get in and out), but mostly because Millie has 70cm drum brakes rather than the beefier 90mm brakes for heavier riders.

To change the brakes I would need to change the wheels too as the drum brake is built into the wheel, so I got a couple of quotes and decided to let Velomobiel.nl do it for me as I am impressed with their service. So I ordered new wheels and mentioned a couple of other bits that I would like done, including fixing properly the Schlumpf button to my left hand gear changer (it is the world’s smallest allen bolt and Velomobiel.nl said they had the right tool).

Rather than hiring a van my company kindly said I could borrow their van so when I finished work on Friday I drove straight home where Klaus was waiting, having left work early, so we could get on the road to the Netherlands and get as much done as possible on Friday. We had booked a hotel for Friday night as we knew we would need a couple of hours on Saturday for Millie’s wheel change.

Here are the velomobiles in the van.

The cardboard box belongs to Jochen who had two wheel rims to return to Velomobiel.nl which turned out not to be the right things when he ordered them. We were saving him some postage costs!

When we arrived we unloaded both velomobiles and brought them inside the workshop.

Theo was working on a QuattroVelo and on the rack above him you see several new QuattroVelos. The white one would soon belong to cycling acquaintance Achim and the black (with blue above, which you can’t see in the photo) belongs to Düssel, a friend of ours who cycles in our area. That velomobile would also, technically, have been mine as I was on the order list and then gave my place to Düssel as I decided the Milan would be a better option.

The floor of the workshop was also filled with velomobiles, both new and under repair.

One chap was working on a Quest which had been opened right up.

Once Theo had finished his particular task on the orange QuattroVelo he moved it off the platform and Celeste went on instead. He gave her a general check over and replaced the gear cable, checked a few bits and bobs and all was well.

Klaus had also ordered a new rear tyre which he took the opportunity to fit.

This tyre seemed absolutely massive and I wasn’t sure it would fit but eventually it did – at which point it was noted that the tyre was in the wrong rotation direction so he had to take it off to turn it round again!

Whilst there we were chatting to a chap, Gert, I have bumped into a couple of times when involved with Audaxes. Gert has a black Strada and I met him on LEL and again during the Hamburg Berlin Köln Hamburg audax (I was helping at both, not actually riding them); this time he was there to help with the fitting of various lights to his new QuattroVelo, also in black. It was very good to talk to him again!

It was the end of the working day by the time Celeste was finished so Millie would have her time in the spotlight the next morning. She spent the night locked up in Velomobiel.nl’s workshop with Celeste.

Whilst driving the van to Kampen where our hotel was booked it started bleating about wanting some Adblue and the engine warning light came on. I wasn’t sure how desperately urgent this was but it was a little troubling.

The next morning we arrived at Velomobiel.nl at 9:30am ready for Millie’s new wheels.

Here she is up on the operating table:

It was relatively quick work for Theo to remove the front wheel, although the different routing of the brake cable caused him a few puzzled moments to start with.

Here are the wheel boxes without the wheel – very muddy, but it’s almost impossible to clean this with the wheels in place. I had a go and made it rather worse, ending up with muddy water inside the velomobile a few weeks ago.

We weighed the old wheel – 760 grammes. We weighed the new wheel – 1250 grammes. That’s quite a difference, but it was also clear looking at the two side-by-side that they are made for different purposes. The old wheels were race wheels, super-lightweight with knife spokes and milled drum area to save weight. The new wheels have metal eyelets for the rims, stronger rims, normal spokes and of course the larger drums.

Once the old wheels were out and we had a look at them we noticed that one of the two had a damaged rim with the spokes pulling the rim out of shape. This has also happened to my back wheel (and I have ordered a new back wheel to be built by a local bike shop). This is the issue with race bikes built for lightness and speed but not for everyday touring on bad quality roads. Although you save weight with these super-light wheels they aren’t really the right choice for me – having more solid wheels with much more effective brakes is a very worthwhile investment for me!

The new wheels were fitted whilst Millie lay on her side like a beached whale.

After this Theo fitted the new button to my Schlumpf and then drilled a couple more drain holes around the chain tunnel (Millie isn’t very waterproof and the existing drain holes aren’t in quite the right place with my tyre selection).

We had a demonstration of some tyre milk to reduce punctures and bought some of that, plus I also bought two batteries and a charger and cable connector so that I can change the electrical system in Millie for one that hopefully is more reliable.

During the staff’s tea break we headed off to a garage to buy some Adblue for the van.

Disappointingly the warning lights stayed on after this 2 litre dose. Apparently the warning lights have to be disabled by a garage (it’s a usual service item). Still, this meant I was slightly nervous as to whether the van might play up on the 220km drive home.

After all Millie’s things were completed it was time for one of the other purposes of our trip – test riding a QuattroVelo.

I wanted to have another go at a QuattroVelo, knowing that I was getting much more expert at getting in and out of Millie. Klaus was also very interested to try one as he likes the idea of a four-wheel option for the extra safety.

This lovely red QV was our test vehicle.

It has the cover that goes right over your head. Klaus really liked this but I found it made me strangely claustrophobic (not something I have ever experienced before) so I would definitely be more for open air riding!

Celeste in the mirror here…

The QuattroVelo has a very different front view than most velomobiles. With this (rather dark) photo I think it looks like Thomas the Tank Engine (which is also apparently a thing in Germany, but with a different name – which I have forgotten at the moment).

We both had test rides in the rain. For Klaus it was a real speed improvement over his Strada although he found it quite a lot noisier – this is partly due to the hood thingie which makes the sound echo rather. I found it only slightly harder than Millie to get in or out so that was a great discovery – I got in and out three times without any difficulty. I then thought I’d try the Strada again to see if I was just having a bad day the time I got stuck in Jochen’s velomobile but no, I couldn’t get out at all – I use my right arm behind me to lever me out and the Strada has bodywork in the way; with the QuattroVelo that space is clear for my hand so it worked really well, although (as with Millie) I do have to stand on the seat to get right out.

And what was the result of this test ride…? I am once again on the order list! The plan is that if I find I get on well enough with the QV (which won’t be ready till December probably) it would work as an all-round velomobile for me and I can sell Penelope and Millie. Klaus would also use it so we will order two different hoods – the covering one that he liked and the open one for me. And as for colour… we had talked about British Racing Green and then we saw one of the QV’s ready to go to a customer… what a great colour…

So I have ordered green and cream. The exact shade of green might change a bit as I found this one maybe a tad dark, but the general colour scheme is lovely. And I think I will see if I can get Union Jack flags on the mirrors…

Thanks again to Theo and Allert for their excellent service!!

Minor Millie maintenance

Millie is turning out to be a bit of a thoroughbred and less of a workhorse, which means she needs attention. I had noticed her drivetrain getting more and more noisy and it was noticed that my chain idler at the front seemed damaged so I have ordered a new one to see if that reduces some of the noise. Idlers are consumables and Millie has done 15.000km.

As mentioned above, not only did I buy two new front wheels this month but I also ordered a new rear wheel from the very good bike shop Siegers in Korschenbroich. Here is Mr Siegers having a look at my existing wheel (which I transported there in the car!) – we spent a good half hour discussing what I wanted for a replacement and after his two week Easter holiday he would build it for me.

One big issue with Millie is her rear indicators, which are virtually useless – no-one can see them from behind unless it is really dark. They are bright, but flush with the bodyshell and at a very oblique angle. I was trying to work out how to improve them when someone suggested some kind of lens on top to distribute the light. Of course Ebay has that kind of thing and for a few Euros I received 10 small plastic lens thingies. I thought I would get lots of spares as undoubtedly they would fall off periodically.

Anyway, I superglued them on and they work really well! I don’t feel quite so nervous when a large truck is behind me now and I need to indicate to turn left…

As mentioned above, Millie needed a new battery system so I ordered all the bits and bobs from eBay to accompany the 12v batteries from Velomobiel.nl. Millie currently runs on 7.2V so the plan was to get a voltage regulator, which is exactly what we did with Penelope two years ago. The gadget was ordered and Klaus made a start on testing it.

Unfortunately we couldn’t get the output voltage to change. An email exchange with the seller suggested we needed to actually have some kind of load on it in order for it to work so that will be the next plan. I have also bought a battery life indicator (which Millie doesn’t currently have – you don’t know your battery is flat until it goes dark or your indicators stop working). We will have to find the optimum location to fit this gadgetry which is rather something for a rainy day but I am sure we will achieve something before the bike tours.

SPEZI Radmesse

The last day of April was my day to visit SPEZI Radmesse, this year (as last year) by car. Hartmut offered to give me a lift and he and a chum Felix picked me up at 8:30 on the Sunday morning to head to Germersheim (near Speyer), about 3.5 hours’ drive away. Poppy also came along for the trip.

We stopped at the motorway services next to the bridge over the Mosel for a cuppa. I have to say, seeing this landscape makes me want to go touring there again, and it’s really best on a trike. I am starting to work out a way of doing a car-assisted long weekend Mosel & Rhein tour on the trike…

Poppy ate her breakfast and I had a muffin.

We arrived at SPEZI and started looking around. I went straight to the ICE Stand as usual and this time Neil Selwood, one of the directors, was there. He has been my contact for advice and technical/maintenance items over the years and I know his voice very well (and he mine) but it was the first time we had met in the flesh. It was gerat to chat to him, even though I am not really riding my trike these days.

Outside the main hall I spotted the QuattroVelo in green and cream that we had seen at Velomobiel.nl a couple of weeks ago. This is the colour that I have nominally ordered, but I think the green is too dark so will probably choose a slightly lighter one. It was good to see it in bright daylight though!

There were lots of velomobiles around of course, including this DF with amusing decals!

There were a string of them parked together.

Amongst these was the Milan belonging to TimB who bumped into me at the ICE stand again and we had another good chinwag. He told me to look at the Milan on the Räderwerk stand as the build quality was excellent. These are now built in Romania and I went to have a look – he was right, very impressive!

I also visited the Steintrikes stand as Klaus’s chain idler was rather worn and I thought I would see if I could order another one for him. Very fortunately they had a couple of spares on the stand and gave one to me after they heard it was for Klaus (Thomas Seide remembered him), so that was very kind of them.

I bumped into several other people, one of whom, Christoph, said “I see your interval between purchasing Velomobiles is reducing). He is right! Between Penelope and Millie it was 2.5 years, between Millie and the QuattroVelo it will be 1.25 years… hmmmm.

After a good look around we headed back home to Kempen. It was a good day out as always, and thanks to Hartmut for the driving. Poppy was shattered after such an exciting day and slept on my lap the whole way home.

Life in Germany

There’s been quite a lot going on this year. This month saw another connection to the UK disappear – my house in Colchester was sold. This means that I don’t now have a home back in the UK – when I visit the UK now I will stay with my Mum. James and I had been selling the house for over a year and the buyer took 5 months to get to completion but the house was finally sold at the end of April – the end of my ten year connection with Great Bromley/Colchester but it was definitely time.

Another big life event this year has been a change in my domestic circumstances. Klaus separated from his wife in January and we are now together. His velomobile Celeste is living in my garage as he has no garage/storage space in his flat south of Kempen, and his trike has also made its way to my spare garage as part of a possible plan to sell it (as he barely uses it).

We have some tours planned – a four day tour as part of the Trike Treffen over Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) at the end of March and a two week tour from Kempen to Usedom, then Berlin and then back to Kempen in June. It will be fantastic to be out touring again, and for me the first touring in Millie which may provide its own challenges, mainly in terms of storage space for touring luggage. We have been preparing by buying a few bits and bobs such as dry bags to store my things in and I am hoping to bodge together some kind of chain baffle to stop my storage rubbing against the chain as it is wont to do.

A visit from my sister and two nieces

Another great event this month was the visit of my sister Anna and her two younger daughters, Hari (16) and Ceri (13). Klaus drove me to the Hook of Holland to collect Anna and the girls after their overnight ferry trip and we stopped for breakfast at McDonalds before heading to Kempen. Klaus headed off then for some time with his daughter and I took Anna and the girls to St Hubert for some lunch in Café Poeth. Hari and Ceri chose filled rolls but Anna and I, showing sibling tendencies, both had cakes…

They were staying at the Ferienwohnung round the corner, Müllers Hof, and I visited with Poppy, who very much enjoyed hanging out with her English relatives.

Anna had bought some vital supplies from England for me…

In the late afternoon we went to Kempen for a walk about and then had a meal in Ela, my favourite restaurant there. But before the evening meal we had an ice cream.

The next day the plan was to visit Düsseldorf. It was a lovely sunny day and we drove there, finding a reasonable parking place and then walking along the river towards the Media Hafen.

Whilst we were there the Pulse of Europe march was taking place.

We had a burger for lunch and then after a bit more walking headed home via St Tönis where we stopped at the Water Tower for some cake/food. I had a crepe.

The next day was what I think they had been most looking forward to – a visit to CentrO, Europe’s largest shopping centre. We had lunch there in the food court and had plenty of time to nose around the shops. Anna and the girls managed to buy things, finding that most sales assistants spoke enough English for them to work it all out.

We had some very nice ice creams there, if all rather a similar colour scheme.

On their last day we wandered around Kempen and had lunch in Café Peerbooms. My lunch was of course a slice of cake.

Poppy was with us hiding under the seat and she discovered a slight gap in their cleaning regime…

We walked around the outside of Kempen’s walls enjoying the scenery.

We then headed back to my flat to collect their luggage and I drove them back to the Hook of Holland and after a nice meal at the Torpedo Lounge they got onto the ferry and I drove home again.

It was very enjoyable to see them and also interesting for them to visit Germany – the first time for Hari and Ceri and I think probably at least 33 years since Anna was last there, although she did actually live in Germany for 3 years as a baby. She said she could see very much why I had moved to the Kempen area and that the lifestyle was great. I think she liked the cakes and shopping too!!

Cakes this month

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