Corona continues. It hasn’t affected me closely (a relative in the UK has had it but recovered), but of course the lockdown and other effects are making a difference to all our lives. I am still working normal hours but as I share a smallish office with another colleague we are staggering our work hours and also working at home to avoid both being in at the same time. I initially was only working at home but it became clear I had to be in the office sometimes to keep up with everything. But it is also good to see some different faces at work – apart from this I am staying at home, venturing out just to do some grocery shopping, walk the dog (which often includes buying strawberries from our local asparagus farmer) and do some longer cycle rides for exercise.
Cycling in April 2020
From the image below you can see that I managed over 1,000km on the bike this month.
And I also happened to notice that my lifetime cycling is now over 130,000km – that’s in 12 years, all on three (or four) wheels. And over 3 million calories apparently – all eaten back in cake deliciousness!
Here are all the cycle rides this month.
And here below is the same list from Veloviewer with more information.
As you can see from the list above, the words ‘cake’ and ’tile-bagging’ pop up quite a few times. As I know many of my loyal readers enjoy seeing the cake pictures I have written some short descriptions of the rides (and the cakes).
We had the week before Easter off (we were supposed to be holidaying in Scotland) and so Klaus decided to challenge himself to ride every day. I accompanied him for lots of these rides, and we managed to find cake whilst out and about too.
I had discovered that our favourite cafes all had Facebook pages which informed you when/if they were open for cake take-away. The rules in our part of Germany at this time of Coronavirus was that restaurants and cafés can provide take-away but people must move at least 50 metres from the restaurant/cafe.
So here are some quick summaries of our rides.
Easter Challenge – Büllhorsthof 1
My favourite café in Germany is Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof. This is because it is in a great location (Winnekendonk, 31km from home by the most direct route), just outside the village. It has a lovely garden with seating and also a nicely-decorated interior. The staff are very friendly and helpful (they always give me my hot water for tea with no issues) and the cakes are wonderful! The only slight negative is you can sometimes have to wait a bit at busy times, but this is a very small disadvantage. After all, when going out for cake you are rarely in a rush.
We zoomed up the road as normal and soon found ourselves parked outside the café. We had notified them through Facebook that we were coming.
There was actually a bit of a queue (I think three sets of people in front of us) which was good to see – I want the cafes to still be here after the lockdown has finished!
She wrapped up our cake and we headed down the road about 150 metres to the picnic table for our cake picnic.
This time we had gone for the standard Pfirsich Schmand. It tastes as good as it looks!
A man stopped to chat to us while we were there and said he had put the flowers there in a pot and if we had any water left over perhaps we could water them (which we did). As you can see from the photo of Klaus on the bench, I had my tea with me in a flask.
Bauerncafé Winthuis near Weeze
The next day it was time to visit my other favourite café. In fact, the day before I had discussed with the lady at Büllhorsthof that her Pfirsich Schmand was my second favourite cake because Winthuis in Weeze do the absolute favourite – Erdbeer Baiser. So I thought I ought to go and check it out again, especially as they said on their Facebook site that it would be in stock.
We took a more scenic route than normal, just for fun. This was taking quieter country roads with more twists and turns, so slower but more scenic. When on main roads we tend to ride on the cycle paths now as there is less traffic so they are not as dangerous for us and keep the motorists happier.
We arrived at Winthuis with the sign “Kuchen zum mitnehmen”. Good news!
We had a nice chat with the chap selling them and then realised that we didn’t have any plastic spoons with us. Fortunately he gave us some, and also let me use the loo.
We rode up the road a little until we found a bench.
Not only had I brought my flask of tea along but also a mug to drink the tea from!
I had the Erdbeer Baiser, Klaus had a normal Käse Sahne Torte.
Interestingly, the Erdbeer Baiser, although extremely tasty, wasn’t quite as great as I had remembered. I wrote a message to the Büllhorsthof lady that evening and sent her some photos of the cake (she had asked about it), but I said that overall her Pfirsich Schmand was better!
Southwards – to Viersen
The next day Klaus decided we should ride in the other direction – back to his old stomping ground in Viersen. He plotted a route which picked up some Veloviewer tiles for him and off we went.
We stopped to buy a slice of cake on the way but didn’t eat it beside the noisy road, we kept on as we knew we would soon be on the cycle path to Waldniel. We stopped there for our short break.
From here we went along the top of Mönchengladbach including Windberg (which is a bit hilly) before returning to more familiar territory. It was a nice day’s ride on a sunny day.
Good Friday at Schafstall
When I eventually write my book on The Best Cafés In Kreis Kleve I will include Café zum Schafstall in the top three (along with Büllhorsthof and Winthuis). So it seemed fair to visit Schafstall on this week as we had been to the other two. Once again I was able to contact them on Facebook to say that we would come.
Klaus had plotted us the route this time and off we went, enjoying the sunshine. I like the windmills along the route up past Saelhuysen/Kengen/Rheurdt.
The last 300 metres to Café zum Schafstall have very rough gravel and Klaus had his fast but thin Nutrak tyres on. We hoped he would survive puncture-free – which he did fortunately.
Very well organised with disinfection spray. They also let me use the loo which was a bonus!
The strawberry cake was very nice.
We cruised home, arriving back with a pretty decent average speed.
Another successful cake-finding ride!
Remember the tilebagging? This is a never-ending challenge from the Veloviewer.com website where you can ride in every square kilometre around you. My square was 25 x 25 in 2019 but I decided I would try to slowly increase this in 2020. There were a couple of missing tiles out to the north east so Klaus agreed to have a ride in that direction – and of course a cake.
We set off heading up to Saelhuysen although Klaus missed a turning and rather than turning Emily round, he did an extra 1km until he caught up with me. I stopped and waited just outside Stenden – look at the flat terrain in the photo below. If I had taken the photo from the other side of the velomobile you would have seen our local mountain (a small moraine).
We rode up to Orsoy and stopped at a bakery there to buy some cake, riding further to the church in the centre of the town to eat it.
I chose the mandarin cheesecake.
Klaus went for this orangey layery thing which I think may have looked a bit better than it tasted. I tend to find these complicated cakes are often a slight disappointment.
I didn’t get a chance to check it out myself though as Klaus ate the lot!
We then headed off, getting a random tile which meant we had to double back on ourselves afterwards, and pedalling our way through some residential areas around Moers to get tiles. We passed two very good looking Konditorei which were open so I now know another oasis if ever needed.
I was just ahead on the final bit after Siebenhäuser when I noticed Klaus wasn’t in my rear-view mirror. It turns out he had had an impressive blowout of a front tyre! BANG!
The Nutraks had only done about 200km, but the damage was impressive.
Klaus had said over the previous couple of days that he thought one of the tyres wasn’t quite right, didn’t seem entirely smooth, so I guess this issue was there at that point. He changed the tyre without any issues but somehow lost one of his favourite tyre levers, although there was nowhere for it to have gone! We looked everywhere but it had simply disappeared. So unless it falls out of the chain tunnel one day it will remain a mystery.
A relaxing 65km at 28 km/h.
I wanted to go back to Büllhorsthof as I like it there so much and they were open on Easter Day. Klaus had some tile-bagging to do as well so off we went, following a route he had planned which was 102km.
This alternative route was rather lovely, a bit quieter than our normal roads. We also found a lovely path heading south into Kevelaer which was well-used by bicycles but we had not been on it before.
There was also this underpass under a railway. We travelled through it and then made the turn that you can see to cross the road. But as we were about to go through it a car came though – as you can see from the signs it’s pedestrians/bikes only. But the woman came through in a car. Mad!
After bagging Klaus’s Kevelaer tiles we headed to Büllhorsthof.
As we had a 100km ride on total we allowed ourselves another half slice of cake each, so had a full Pfirsich Schmand slice and another slice of Oma’s Apfelkuchen to share.
Conclusion – one and a half cakes is actually a bit too much. One is enough! My stomach was a bit gurgly on the way home.
Another Büllhorsthof trip
Easter Monday was our last day of the long weekend/long ride options, and as we had been blessed with wonderful weather we wanted to make the most of it.
I requested another visit to Büllhorsthof, Klaus picked a new route, more laney again.
It’s lovely to try out some new routes and enjoy the sunshine. I also liked this tree decoration in a tiny hamlet.
This time when we got to Büllhorsthof Klaus decided to try a different cake – Himbeer. He liked it very much!
Büttgen and Neuss Tile-Bagging
The third week in April was when originally my Mum was coming to visit. Of course she was not able to come but my company asked that we keep to holiday plans where possible, so I had some days off (in the end only 2 as there was too much to do and my colleague was also off sick).
On one of these days I decided to bag some irritating tiles to the south. I am much happier riding north into Kreis Kleve than south into the more built-up areas, but I planned a ride I thought would be OK.
I rode first of all to Schiefbahn which is a familiar route (my choir meets there), but after that it was less familiar roads, heading to Büttgen where one of our cycling chums Norbert lives. I didn’t visit him due to social distancing of course.
I rode through the town of Grefrath. There is one of these about 10km from us but this was a different one!
After Grefrath I had to go through Neuss which is not too much fun. I am less keen on riding in unfamiliar busy towns, although I was mostly skirting the real centre.
However, when doing a complicated turn at a traffic light to pass under the railway my Garmin Edge 1000 GPS suddenly switched off. I turned it back on again and it was complaining about low battery – I had started with a full battery about an hour and a half before.
I had noticed it being a bit weird with battery so fortunately had a powerbank and cable with me, so I stopped and fixed them on. However, the cable was a tad short (I had to tuck the powerbank into my shorts waistband so the cable would reach the tiller where the Garmin was mounted) and it was also tricky to plug it into the Garmin when attached to the tiller, but I couldn’t fix the Garmin onto the tiller with the twist action if it was already plugged in (cable fouled the tiller).
I managed to get it charging up in the end but the cable was rather in the way of my thumb when braking. Not dangerous but not comfortable. I resolved to do something about the Garmin!
I carried on riding and fortunately had the track to follow as I was in very unfamiliar territory. I stuck to the cycle paths in busy areas but of course had to deal with all the usual cycle path nonsense such as this – fortunately I just squeezed through!
I got home, pleased to have ticked off a lot of tricky tiles. I was still on 25×25 but had at last got to the point where just a few more tiles should get me up to 26×26. They were all in the Wesel area.
So of course it was time to go and finally get up to 26×26. I agreed with work I would ride in the morning and work in the afternoon and so I set off on a quite long ride to Wesel, and rather than crossing back at Orsoy/Walsum I would ride further south to get some tricky tiles – if I could – and then go back over the motorway bridge for the A42.
The trip up to Wesel via Alpen is very nice. I take the country route through Saelhuysen/Kengen etc, which is a route we always enjoy. Very quiet and lots of windmills!
There’s a railway crossing which has a signpost at the top – I don’t think I needed to go to Sevelen in Switzerland, it’s a bit far away!
Eventually the route ends up on the main B58 which goes from Geldern to Wesel, but the cycle path alongside this is good so I was pootling along comfortably. Near Büderich my Garmin conked out again. This time I was better organised with a longer cable so the power bank could be on the floor of the velomobile, so normal service was resumed. Except when I went over bumps the USB socket on the power bank was a bit temperamental and my Garmin would peep “external power lost”, then “charging”, then “external power lost”… every second until I poked about at it. This was annoying and I resolved to either replace the Garmin or buy a new battery when I got home.
Here is the Wesel Rhine bridge hoving into view.
The other side of the bridge I went the same route as we did last month to go to Tetrion (bike shop) and saw the same annoying chicanes on the bike path. This is to stop cyclists going too fast past a building site. Why don’t the lorries just look carefully!
As I rode through Walsum I saw a bakery so stopped to pick up my fuel. There was quite a queue so I had to wait for about 10 minutes without being able to see what cakes were there. The choice was actually a bit disappointing but I plumped for a mandarin cheesecake.
I didn’t eat it there (not allowed of course!) but rode on, following my track which wound its way through a very industrial section.
There were very impressive steelworks and, as you can see from the track above, I had a bit of a dead end. My track showed a way which turned out to be a narrow footpath through nettles, but I had seen some other cycling signs which suggested a path onto the dike and there was indeed a way up. So I rode along beside the Rhein, stopping for my cake at a convenient bench.
I carried on, enjoying the sunshine and the quiet route. There were loads od dogwalkers out and other cyclists too.
I crossed over on the motorway bridge back to my side of the Rhein and then wended my way home through Moers.
This isn’t the most attractive bit of cycling territory but you can’t expect everywhere to be lovely when we are right at the mouth of the Ruhr river!
Over 100km I felt quite tired when I got home. One cake was perhaps not enough!
Ice cream in Moers
Klaus managed to cycle to work on one Friday and so I decided to meet him on the way back for an ice cream or cake. We had heard that ice cream (and perhaps cake) were available in our usual café in Moers so I headed there.
The ice cream was open but not the cake – that’s just weekend. Klaus isn’t such an ice cream fan so he did without but I bought some take-away ice cream and we rode around the corner into a park where I ate it. And got an ice cream headache. Well, it was my first Eis of the year!
Two tiles and cake
The good weather became a bit less reliable (a rainy Saturday) but Sunday looked good so it was time for another ride.
This time it was some tile-bagging for me, two missing ones right up on the border with NL near Weeze. I plotted a route that remained in Germany but if we had stopped the bikes and crossed the road at a few points we would have been in NL.
We had to stop for the Kempen train as we headed out from home. It’s a rarely-spotted thing these days, less than one an hour I believe.
I took us on a fast route up to Weeze, where we then took the road that circles round the airport. I wasn’t sure if one of the tiles was possible as it seemed to be up an unmade track but the website rideeverytile.com showed that one other person had done it in the past. I just hoped it wasn’t on a mountain bike!
We got there and it was manageable.
Klaus didn’t follow me the 150 metres up this track as he’s not so desperate for these tiles yet! He may regret it in a few months though.
After my 150 metres I turned around and came back again, tile duly bagged.
The two required tiles in the bag, the next stop was Bauerncafé Winthuis.
And then a speedy ride home, fuelled by cake.
This was the last of the April rides in great weather. However, we did have a couple of shorter trips with Lara, the daughter of our landlord and landlady.
Collecting Lara and taking her training
She was coming to visit bringing her new race bike (she’s a triathlete). She was travelling by train but had a rather large bag with her so we said we would pick her up from the railway station so Klaus (and Emily) could transport her bag.
We ignored our usual plan of avoiding Krefeld like the plague and instead arranged to meet Lara at Krefeld Hauptbahnhof, although on the quieter south side.
The problem with riding to Krefeld is when you stop, lots of dodgy-looking locals come and ask you about the bikes and try to poke at them. This is ignoring the trauma of the Krefeld cycle path system which is a recipe for broken suspension and angry cyclist. However, we survived our journey there and Lara appeared a few minutes later. We agreed we would just ride back along the B9 (main road) rather than faffing about as the road was much safer than the cycle path.
Lara is very competitive and as we were leaving Klaus said to her “do you want us to give you a real challenge”. She said yes as she thought, “how fast can they be?” Especially knowing Klaus had about 10kg of Lara’s luggage in his already-heavy velomobile.
So we zoomed along the B9 heading out of Krefeld. Lara rides really well and was comfortable keeping with us till about 35 km/h but it was when we accelerated to over 40 that she really had to work! We could drop her at 42, and she couldn’t maintain the really high speeds for very long.
When we got home she admitted she was pretty pooped and she hadn’t expected us to be so fast. Even uphill! (Of course, I was cheating with my motor, but Klaus was doing it all with pedal power).
More Lara training
Despite half-killing her she asked to go out riding with us the next day. Her competitive nature I guess!
We took her one some nice lanes around Kempen but there were also a couple of long, straight sections where she could get down onto the tri-bars and do her stuff. Here she is riding at 40 km/h on a cycle path.
We enjoyed riding with Lara and she found it a good challenge to keep up with the velomobiles. At low speeds she had much more of a power/acceleration advantage but as soon as wind resistance came into the equation we were better off. It was fun!
And… at the end of the month, my Max Square on Veloviewer was 26×26 but I should very easily be able to get to 28×28.
Repairing the Garmin
Having an unreliable Garmin was most annoying.
What was also annoying is that the Garmin Edge 1000 is no longer available. It has been replaced by the Edge 1030 which is the best part of 400 Euros. I didn’t fancy that! The Edge Touring was a lite version of my current Edge 1000 and a possibility but it was missing some features.
I did some googling and it seems that you can replace the battery. I ordered a new battery, as at 14 Euro I thought it was worth a punt. I had the option for another 8 Euros to buy a toolkit for it but I was pretty sure we had everything. My tame electronic engineer would fit the new battery.
Except… we didn’t have a small enough Torx screwdriver. So we went out on Saturday morning to the local Obi and eventually, after about 5 minutes of looking, found one – 4.99€ so better value than the toolkit I didn’t order.
We came home ready for the job. Klaus got out his soldering station and we watched a YouTube video about how to do the battery replacement.
Basically you undo the 8 Torx screws and open up the casing. It looks like this.
Klaus carefully removed the battery (it was stuck on with adhesive that slowly gave way) and the green tape is released, and then he had to cut two wires to the loudspeaker. The old battery was now out, and he soldered the new battery wires to the loudspeaker. We had no adhesive to stick the battery in place but it was a tight fit and seemed OK when we closed the case again.
We turned it on – it worked!!!
However, it doesn’t do any pings anymore, the loudspeaker seems not to want to work, but as I don’t really need the noise prompts this doesn’t worry me too much. Klaus opened it up again to see if the solder had failed but no – it’s a mystery why it doesn’t work.
I have tested it and it seems to have fixed the battery problem, but I have had a couple of weird buggy things (screen lock randomly going on and I couldn’t switch it off, course suddenly stopping) but I assume this is just Garmin protest about being opened up and having surgery and it should settle down. The total repair cost of 19€ isn’t too shocking.
And more technology
Having saved the 400 EUR as I didn’t need to buy a new Garmin Edge 1030, I bought myself an Apple Watch instead. I liked my Garmin Vivoactive 3 very much but I missed the integration with my phone and there are a lot of benefits with the Apple Watch.
I’ve been using it for a few days now and I like it, but it has a different purpose than my sports tracker Garmin Vivoactive 3 so I am getting used to that. The battery life is also rather poor (which I knew about) so it has to be charged every day, and if you are using the GPS then you have to take that into account. The Apple Workouts app seems fine and I can integrate to Strava and also (although slightly more long-winded) to Garmin. We will see how I get on with it long term but my Vivoactive 3 is now up for sale.
April has had beautiful weather – lovely for dogwalking!
I have tried to get out every day with Poppy for at least 15 minutes but most of our walks are around 45 minutes.
I walk almost every day to buy fresh strawberries from our local Asparagus farm.
They have also created an asparagus drive-through because of Coronavirus.
And talking of coronavirus, my boss gave us all an Easter gift – toilet roll and 10 face masks. As well as a chocolate Easter bunny. Who would have thought, 4 months ago, that the loo roll and face masks would be more appreciated than the Lindt chocolate?
Klaus and I also had some Easter Bunnies on Easter day. We don’t generally eat milk chocolate as we are Keto but we made an exception on Easter Day. I have to say though, it doesn’t taste as good as I remember.
By the end of April the mega weather had subsided a bit but we still had some beautiful sunsets.
Cakes this month
There are rather a lot of cake pictures earlier in this blog, but here are a couple that weren’t included (mostly home-made)
So here we are, in the time of Coronavirus when we are meant to stay at home as much as possible. I am writing this on 9 April (so rather later than normal for a March report) and like most of you I am following the news throughout the day, hearing all the stories from people with Covid-19, wondering who will get it next, worrying for people who have lost their incomes etc. For the moment I am continuing working as I work in the food ingredients industry but I am lucky – so many people have been furloughed or lost their jobs; or worse, are ill or have experienced bereavement.
For Klaus and I things haven’t changed too significantly yet. He has to drive to the office every day still although he could technically work from home (although we have only one office chair between the two of us so might have to stagger our work times!), but I am mostly working from home now.
I have to go into the office about once per week to check various bits of paper but I have a relatively new colleague who is working from the office (there’s very little he can do at home) so he prints things out for me, scans documents and passes them on to me etc. I tend to go in once per week for a couple of hours just to do some additional training for him but he is pretty busy running around the whole production facility sorting out everything on site. Most people are still working in our production site, I am lucky that I can do most of my work from home now.
We have of course stopped seeing friends and going out to eat at restaurants but are still walking the dog and also going for cycle rides. This is still allowed in Nordrhein Westfalen, but we are mostly choosing to ride in very sparsely-populated areas. Cafes and bakeries are also allowed to provide cakes as a take-away service so we have been supporting our favourite cafés by visiting, making a purchase and then eating on a bench somewhere.
Other than that we have been staying at home, and that has been quite a long time for me as I was off work for two weeks with stress in March so basically stayed at home anyway as it was clear the Coronavirus was starting up in Germany and I thought keeping away from other people was the best I could do for the community.
So far neither Klaus nor I seem to have had Covid-19 but there are some people with it in Kempen, so I guess it is a matter of time. My mother and Klaus’s father are both self-isolating but are also both in situations where they have people who can do shopping for them, which is a relief.
And as for shopping? Well, as you have probably read on the news, Germany seems to be weathering the Covid-19 storm fairly well. Klaus and I don’t eat pasta or rice so haven’t been troubled by shortages of them and all the food we do normally eat has always been available. The only thing that affected us was the loo roll situation; at the middle of February I bought a multipack of loo rolls and felt confident we wouldn’t need any more for ages. Germany, too, suffered from the loo roll “Hamsterkauf” as it is called here. This is a photo from my local Edeka – it always looks like this, as does Aldi!
However, we are not suffering from any food shortages. And my workplace supplied me with a set of loo rolls in April as they had bought in extra stock from the usual wholesaler in order to pass it on to the staff. They also provided me with a few masks (the production workers use masks as they are blending powders), although I am using my buff at the moment when out and about as I need it for cycling anyway.
So… on to the blog report for March.
Here is where I cycled or walked in the month. The colour is now green for almost all the activities as I have switched to recording my rides as ‘Velomobile’ and Veloviewer treats them differently…
And here is the list of rides for the month:
From the Wheel you can see a number of longer rides throughout the month. The first says “In search of cake”. As you can probably guess, we were successful! Here are some reports about the other longer rides:
Fit Durch Den Winter
The second ride was “Fit durch den Winter”, which is the ADFC-led once per month ride. We don’t usually attend as our speed is too different but Ralf told us he was going to test-ride the route in his velomobile and would we like to come along. So we said yes!
We all met up in the centre of Kempen. This was before the Coronavirus lockdown so there were still quite a few people around and Klaus and I enjoyed a cup of tea and piece of cake in Café Peerbooms first to fortify us for the ride ahead.
We then went outside to join the other two velomobiles and Uli on his normal bike.
It was good to catch up with our friends again – it felt like a long time since we had seen Ralf and Hartmut and Uli. It ended up as the last time we saw them before the Coronavirus measures really took off.
We followed the route that Ralf/Hartmut had prepared and it was rather pleasant. The route was going to take the Selbstbedienungfähre over the Niers at Wachtendonk but that wasn’t very velomobile-suitable so Ralf, Klaus and I decided to do an on-road detour. Hartmut did indeed take his velomobile on the ferry – he was braver than us.
We had arranged to stop for lunch in Straelen at the Straelener Hof which is probably the poshest place that we go to on the ADFC bike rides, but there aren’t many other large enough places in Straelen. Klaus, Ralf and I got there first because Hartmut was presumably still battling with the ferry.
We found somewhere to sit and asked for something sweet. They provided us with waffles!
After about fifteen minutes Hartmut and a few others showed up. Klaus and I decided to ride directly home as we needed to get back, so we whizzed home. It was a refreshing trip out in rather chilly weather! 48km on the clock with an average of 27.7 km/h
Trike seat testing
Klaus has started to think about getting a trike again. He needs it to be folding and not too heavy so it looks like an ICE Sprint (the newer version of Alfie, who is almost 10 years old) would be the right option. However, ICE have a number of different seat types and Klaus was keen to try them out.
He could possibly buy the trike on the Business Bike scheme, which is another version of JobRad, like the schemes you can get in the UK where your company help you to buy a bike in instalments, often contributing towards it.
Klaus’s company hadn’t yet set up the scheme but it was in progress and would be BusinessBike. Unfortunately our local trike dealer Liegeradbau Schumacher don’t do the BusinessBike scheme, but there was a shop in Wesel that did do it, Tetrion, so we decided to go there to have a look at their stock and discuss options.
The guy agreed to open up the shop on a Saturday morning and we decided to cycle there in our velomobiles.
We rode straight towards Wesel on the main road (cycle path), crossing the Rhein before skirting south and found ourselves at Tetrion. We were 15 minutes early but the chap turned up five minutes later.
He had a fairly small shop/workshop and almost all of his products were HP Velotechnic or Hase. He had one ICE, an Adventure, but it did have the relevant seat so Klaus was able to sit on it. Conclusion: comfy.
What was a bit disappointing was that the chap didn’t seem interested in speccing Klaus’s ICE Sprint. The standard German Sprint comes with 70mm drum brakes but in the UK you can buy them with 90mm drum brakes, which is what we have on the velomobiles and we think is worth it. Klaus asked the Tetrion guy how much to upgrade to the 90mm drums but he wasn’t interested in considering anything outside the standard German distributor’s setup.
Klaus was fairly disappointed with this conversation with the chap but subsequently contacted ICLETTA the distributor directly and they were very helpful. The specification that Klaus wants will be available from them to whichever shop he goes through – and that will probably be our local shop Liegeradbau Schumacher as Klaus has decided not to go down the BusinessBike route. But due to Corona the whole thing is on hold now anyway.
So we left Tetrion a bit disappointed but my unerring cake radar found us a bakery where we could refuel with cheesecake.
After restoring ourselves with cake we headed alongside the Rhein towards the ferry crossing at Walsum. The waiting area had moved much further back as the water level was much higher.
Those trees in the water are normally on dry land, so it was an interesting journey to see how high the Rhein was.
Docking at Orsoy was very strange as the water level was so high we actually landed on the access road, rather than the loading ramp. It cut at least 50 metres off our ride distance!
On the way home from Orsoy I took the photo shown below. No idea why, it just looks like a field with some water in it, but I add it here in case anyone else has a clue!
This ride was 102km with an average of 27.5 km/h.
Pre-lockdown 2 cake slices at Jacobs
When it became clear that Germany would have some kind of lockdown it seemed wise to go out with a bang and enjoy a slice of cake at Bauerncafé Jacobs.
We had a lovey ride there except for a very aggressive motorist who nearly ran Klaus off the road less than 500 metres from the café. He was a stupid idiot who tried to overtake at an unsuitable place. Such things give a bit too much of an adrenaline rush and it takes a while to recover. So to assist Klaus in getting back to a state of calmness we decided to have to pieces of cake each!
The ride was 50km with an average of 28.5 km/h.
We had thought that would be our last cake from our favourite cafes for maybe a few months. Reader, we were wrong!
Evening cruise along the lanes
After the lockdown in Germany was announced we were told we could still go out walking and cycling as long as it was with maximum one other person, or multiple people if members of your household. Naturally we had to consider that if we had an accident whilst underway that would divert medical resources which were needed elsewhere. On the other hand, neither of us have had any issues with velomobile riding so far (they are very safe) and they help with social distancing anyway as you ride alone.
We generally choose to ride north into Kreis Kleve which has a lower population density and in fact we see very few people on our rides. It is good to get out in the fresh air though, to keep our fitness levels good and get a bit of Vitamin D.
Klaus came home an hour or so early on a couple of days to use up some overtime and we took the opportunity one nice evening for a ride.
The light was lovely as we rode through the open, flat horsey areas of Saelhuysen and Kengen.
Klaus took this great picture of me.
This short ride made us feel good and we only saw a few walkers and a couple of other cyclists. We rode 38km at an average of 28 km/h.
To Xanten for take-out cake
The German government, as part of its lockdown measures, closed all restaurants and cafes. However, they are all allowed to provide take-away or delivery options, and this included cafes. You have to go at least 50 metres away to eat what you buy there, but even Ice cream dealers are open in Germany now (which I personally think is a bit unnecessary but then I am not so much into ice cream).
We weren’t sure how many places would actually be open. Normal bakeries yes, but actual Cafés? We decided to head to Xanten for a ride and see if we got lucky. I took a plastic spoon and a flask of tea just in case.
We set off to the north, Klaus having routed us with a bit of a hill, but we were riding in a very leisurely manner and taking it easy.
He had plotted a new route and once we arrived at a short section we understood why – we had once arrived at this section of off-road from the other side and changed our minds (we were on a ride with Ralf that time) but this time we pushed through as we knew it was only about 500 metres of bumpy stones. Still, we won’t do it again.
We arrived in Xanten and headed to the Markt Café but that was closed. I then rode to a coffee shop along the square but that was also closed, despite signs outside saying it was open. We asked a passer by (from 2 metres distance!) and she said that there were bakeries open in the industrial estate so we headed in that direction, stopping opposite the Siegfried Museum as we saw an open chocolatier who also had cakes. And so we had our take away cake and flask of tea sitting on a bench in historic Xanten.
The journey home was a bit longer as Klaus had routed us towards Kevelaer but it was lovely. The roads are really quiet due to reduction in car traffic and it makes cycling much more relaxing. We use cycle paths more than usual as that makes sense with fewer cars coming out of side roads (less dangerous to use the cycle paths).
Klaus was testing out a new route back from Walbeck across some minor roads rather than the usual roads we took, but it became clear why we don’t use them – the road surfaces are really rough and it takes more energy to ride on them. I also found I had tingly hands when I got home from the road buzz. I remember riding this way years before on my trike with Uli and deciding at that time that it wasn’t a good option. We have confirmed it isn’t good for velomobiles, even with full suspension, either!
In the end our ride was 111km with an average speed of 27.2 km/h.
Not just us…
But of course it’s not just us who are riding around at the moment. Of course, lots of Germans get on their bikes in springtime and we meet more people daily who are riding – although I would estimate that at least 90% of the bikes have electric power now.
But there are also some people on weird bikes. Here is Gudula who borrowed Alfie for a ride of an hour and a half, just because!
And below you see the photo from a shopping trip where Klaus was not involved. I needed to go to the supermarket but didn’t have much space in Millie for all the things I needed to buy, so Klaus’s daughter Lara who had been staying agreed to come along as my pack mule on Alfie. So we went and collected Alfie from his other garage and she rode him, both panniers were full of food after we left Edeka and I just had one bag of salad in Millie!
As Lara’s treat she had her first ever proper ride in a velomobile
She thought it was brilliant fun! This could get expensive!
Doing the daily 45 minute walk with the dog we get to see some wonderful scenery.
As we are required with the lockdown to stay at home as far as possible, we are very grateful that we live in such comfortable surroundings and with fresh air and exercise just out the door. We feel much sympathy for people who cannot go outside, who are afraid for their health, who live in the middle of cities where perhaps they cannot get such clean, fresh air.
Cakes this month
There have been lots of cake pictures above but here are some of the others.
February was a bit of a dull month and we didn’t manage too much cycling.
As you can see from the Wheel above, I was mostly commuting, although as there were some rainy windy days I used a car occasionally.
On one of the very windy days I got a bit concerned about Millie blowing away so I was allowed to store her in our foyer.
I did less walking than usual as I ended up working loads of overtime. The overtime will continue as I am training a new colleague and so everything takes much longer, but I am looking forward to having a bit more free time when he is up to speed!
Millie needed a minor repair at the end of the month, when her front right suspension seemed a bit noisy. I guessed what the issue was, and I was right:
There should be a washer the other side of the carbon where the steering linkage track rod thingie passes through, as in this photo above of the left hand side wheel area. But look below, the right wheel…
This was an easy fix, once I worked out what kind of washer it was. Fortunately Beyß in Straelen told me that it’s a standard tap washer so we went to Obi and bought a pack of them. The hole in the middle is too small so Klaus drilled it out. Fitting it was a 5 minute job. I need to change the other one (photographed above, looking a bit manky!) but decided to wait for nicer weather when I could clean Millie as well.
A trip to Hamburg
Klaus’s daughter Lara asked if we might take her for a weekend to Hamburg as she had visited it with the school but not had much chance to look around. As Klaus had also not really visited he thought this was a good idea. Lara’s additional persuading reason was that she would get her School Report (Zeugnis) on that day and she was hopeful that it would be a good one, so we would want to celebrate. As it was also Brexit day there was one of us who would not be celebrating!
Because Klaus had a meeting at work in the morning it was agreed I would collect Lara from school to save some time (and driving) for Klaus, so I was waiting for her outside her school in Viersen at 11:30. She came out absolutely beaming and overflowing with excitement – she had got a much better grade than expected (a 1.8 instead of the expected 2.3, so an A grade rather than a B grade) and she had also got a 2 (B) in English whereas she expected at least a 3 (C), because she had had a couple of dodgy English exams. Clearly the English teacher had given her a lot of credit for her class work and class interactions. Anyway, she was overjoyed with the result and we were all very proud of her – she was first in her class too!
So we definitely had something to celebrate, despite Brexit. We got home and made lunch and Klaus arrived soon after. We set off on our way at 1pm, with the Navi telling us it would be a drive of about five hours.
The journey was OK considering it was the Friday afternoon rush-hour through the Ruhr area. We stopped for a break on the motorway and I found myself in Cookie Hell:
We carried on after a break of half an hour and arrived at our hotel around 6pm. We had a Ferienwohnung within the hotel that had a kitchen and it was an old building with extremely high ceilings! We had our meal downstairs in the hotel and it was a good thing we like fish as almost all the meal items were fish, and the menu was also written in their dialect.
Our hotel was just down the road from the Airbus factory in Hamburg and we were interested to see a Guppy parked near the runway.
We were tired after our driving and needed an early night as we had tickets for Miniatur Wunderland the next morning for between 8 and 9am and the journey there would be nearly an hour. So we set our alarms for 6am (on a Saturday morning, holiday!!!).
It turned out to have been really worth the early start as our journey to Hamburg City Centre involved taking a ferry boat… in the dark.
We had the boat almost to ourselves, as you can see above!
The view from the top deck outside was wonderful!
As we approached the centre of Hamburg it was much lighter.
We had driven for 20 minutes to get to the ferry, then taken the Ferry to Landungbrücken, and from here we were meant to take an S-Bahn to the Speicherstadt. However we had a 9 minute wait for the S-Bahn and it was only just over a kilometre to walk so we decided to walk it. There was hardly anyone about so we had the whole promenade area to ourselves.
As we were arriving just after 8 we decided to have a spot of breakfast first in a bakery.
We then walked to Miniatur Wunderland and after stowing our coats, hats and bags we went in.
I have visited Miniatur Wunderland before so I knew what to expect, and we all had great fun looking around and seeing some of the amusing and clever details. We also had better phone cameras this time round!
Miniatur Wunderland is basically a giant train set which has developed over the years to extend over two floors and loads of space, with the items split into themed areas – Switzerland, Venice, Germany, America etc. There are trains moving around all the time but actually there were so many of them I rather lost interest. No doubt it’s incredibly clever how it is all organised and scheduled but I am not a train spotter.
Some of the time we see the areas in darkness.
I did spot a poor cyclist!
They had some large structures such as this bridge with a bike race heading away from us.
They also had Greta Thunberg on an ice floe.
We particularly liked the airport where you can see planes take off and land and also go to their gates or parking areas.
There are lots of funny items scattered around. Here was Shaun the Sheep.
The place was getting busier over the two and a half hours we were there and by that point we had had enough. There are only so many little figurines and moving trains you can marvel at, although the whole place is very impressive. We did feel, though, the the minds behind it are a little juvenile at times (perhaps the cariacature of a model railway enthusiast) with lots of naked people if you peered through windows, a collapsing house in Venice because there is activity going on in a bed in there, and a lady providing a special service to a gentleman in a field of sunflowers which was highlighted for the viewers with a plaque. I felt it was in places rather immature humour, although there were also some lovely touches (a family of penguins waiting on a railway platform, for example).
After this we walked to the Altstadt and as it started to rain we decided we had earned a piece of cake.
After a sit down and relax we had to choose what to do next. We thought we would like to visit the Elbphilharmonie which meant going back to where we had just been, but this time we took the U-Bahn.
On the way we walked over this bridge where the footpath has been replaced by a design of stones to look like a carpet.
In the photo below you can see the waterways and buildings of the Speicherstadt, where all the old warehouses were.
And also of course the love locks on the bridge.
From here we walked to the Elbphilharmonie.
You can see a viewing platform where the red brick meets the glass, and we decided to go up there. The tickets are free, and you get to travel on a giant escalator whose angle of attach shallows quite a lot halfway.
And at the top you can walk right around and see the whole of Hamburg.
After having a good look around we came down and decided to do some sightseeing underground for a change – having a walk through the old Elbe Tunnel. I had been here before years ago on foot when visiting Hamburg with friend Gwenllian, but it was Lara’s first visit. Klaus had driven through it years ago in an Audi A4 when it was still used for cars (it is now just pedestrians and bikes).
There are some giant lifts to get the cars down, and some smaller ones for people/bikes.
And for those who feel like lots of exercise, you can go up and down the stairs!
The tunnel itself is very impressive.
There are signs along it to tell you how deep you are. Here is the centre point.
And at each end a sign showing you the gradients.
We walked through and popped out the other end – where there wasn’t much to see really, and no transport connections, so we walked back through again.
Klaus had walked up and down the stairs twice now so we needed some refuelling. Both the oldies (Klaus and I) had bad backs from all the walking so were keen for a sit-down, so we headed towards St Pauli to find a café where we could relax for an hour or so.
On the way I saw this Banksy-esque graffiti.
And Klaus this colourful backdrop to one of the ubiquitous electroscooters.
We walked to the Reeperbahn. Lara had visited this on her school trip, but it’s just a load of shops with a high proportion of sex shops and some side streets closed off as they have the brothels.
We walked a little way before we found a decent café, but Café May had comfortable sofas to sit on and a nice choice of cakes. I chose a Banana Split Cake.
We stayed about an hour here whilst Klaus tried to relax his back muscles a bit. We had now walked about 12km so were doing very well but our feet were tired.
After a second round of teas/coffees/soft drinks it was time to head onward and so we hopped onto a tube train to return to the Altstadt. We decided to go window shopping in one of the indoor shopping areas as it was a bit rainy.
We had a look at a few shoe shops and then Lara noticed that there was an outlet for Zalando round the corner somewhere so we followed our Google Maps (with some difficulties!) and eventually found it, where Lara bought a pair of Vans shoes and I bought a small handbag. Klaus looked longingly across the water to a shop he really likes for smart shoes, Budapest.
We were really tired now and my back was starting to get really painful, so we decided to get an early dinner. We did lots of walking around this nice area of Hamburg but struggled to find somewhere suitable to eat. We had nice views though!
In the end we found a hamburger restaurant inside the Marriott Hotel and the food there was fine. We ate a hearty evening meal and then headed back to our hotel via train, boat ferry and car. By the time we got home we had walked 16 kilometres in total! Very impressive. We had had a really good day in Hamburg and enjoyed seeing lots of the city.
The next day (Sunday) we were due to go home but decided we should do something else first. At least we had a lie-in, getting up at 9am and eating some croissants we had bought the day before as our breakfast.
Klaus suggested visiting Cuxhaven as he would like to see the sea again. This was an extra hour and three quarters driving which I thought seemed a bit much, and I suggested instead that we went to Leer in Ostfriesland, but Klaus really wanted to see the sea. So as we were leaving at 10am we said we might as well go to Cuxhaven.
So we headed off to Cuxhaven, mostly on winding country roads rather than the motorway which makes for a nicer journey. I was driving to start with, as I am trying to drive at least once a week as I was definitely losing the skill.
We arrived at Cuxhaven and found a parking area near the beach. A few steps and we could see the North Sea!
Cuxhaven is where the Elbe river flows out into the sea (so the Hamburg traffic eventually) and it’s not far from Bremerhafen where the river Weser meets the sea. There was lots of marina traffic on the AIS which we were watching head towards Hamburg.
We walked along the beach to this tower.
We liked this warning sign about the wash from large vessels.
We had lunch of soup at a café on the beach and then it was time to set off for home.
There had clearly been some changes in the traffic as Google Maps routed us a different way than we expected, and it became clear we were heading to Ostfriesland. As we were going to be fairly close to Leer I suggested we stopped there for a tea break, which the others agreed. It was good to stretch our legs in Leer’s quaint town. It was pretty quiet as it was a Sunday and rainy.
We found a café of course.
And had a selection of cakes.
Then it was time to drive home, and so we got back on the road and took Lara home.
All in all it was a lovely weekend and we visited lots of different places and saw lots of interesting things. Both Klaus and I were suffering for a few days with our backs – we are not young enough now to walk around all day with a rucksack on! But still, it was good to be out and about and to see somewhere new in Germany.
Celeste goes to a new home
Someone else who saw something new this month was Celeste, Klaus’s Strada velomobile.
We had been visited by Dirk last year to talk to us about Velomobiles and to see some of them in the flesh, as he was interested in getting one but had issues with storage at home. On his second visit he had a go in Celeste as Klaus had decided it was probably wise to sell her. Dirk was keen but had to sort out some kind of garage – which fortunately he managed to arrange. So on a fairly windy day in early February he came to collect Celeste and ride to her new home.
I had my choir that afternoon but Klaus agreed to ride with Dirk to show him a good route. Dirk is hoping in the future to cycle to work (in St Tönis, so only 10km from us), and so Klaus was able to show him a good route.
First of all Klaus and I fetched Celeste from our second garage and then gave her a good clean up. Klaus put Shredda tyres on the front as the tyres she had on were slightly too large for the wheel arch.
We washed her down a bit and then put her in the garage to await Dirk’s arrival.
Dirk had to contend with the unreliability of our local NWB trains and so phoned us to say his train had been cancelled and he was stuck in Krefeld, so we went to pick him up from there.
After signing a purchase contract with Klaus and a handover of various bits and bobs (battery, charger, spare tyres and tubes, versatile roof etc) it was time for them to ride back to Düsseldorf. Here is Dirk getting ready for his maiden journey.
And now they are ready for the off, on what ended up a very clear and bright February afternoon.
Klaus reported back that they had a really good ride and that Dirk had a good turn of speed. The route to Dirk’s flat in Düsseldorf was also OK. Klaus had a piece of cake with Dirk at a local café and then headed back home, meeting me at Burger King in Tönisvorst on his way back as I was on my way home from choir and our paths crossed (I was in the car).
We both wish Dirk all the best with Celeste and thousands of enjoyable velomobile miles. It’s a little sad to see her go, but she wasn’t getting used and it’s such a shame to have such a great bike just standing around in a garage and never moving. She will have an interesting new life now!
Trying a new bike
Klaus and I have been talking about going back to touring on the trikes. Well, Klaus no longer has a trike, but he considered buying another one. This is because Velomobile touring is not without its issues, as we discovered when we had to return from England when I was ill. I had loved all my previous trike tours and so we thought we could maybe do those next year, perhaps not point-to-point tours but instead driving somewhere and having a fixed overnight point but doing different day rides.
Klaus wondered if maybe going for a two-wheeled recumbent might be a good idea. He very much liked the recumbents from the company Wolf&Wolf and had a good chat with them about them. They have no dealers so it would not be easy to have a test ride – except chum Tom in Duisburg had one. Tom invited Klaus to have a go, so on one Saturday we drove to Tom’s place and Klaus hopped on.
It turns out that velomobile riding and balancing on a recumbent bike are rather different skills. To ride a 2-wheeler you have to learn to balance differently and it is a pretty tricky thing to do!
Friend Jana was also there and she helped Klaus by holding him upright and running alongside. He wasn’t used to leaning so Tom brought out a normal upright bike and Klaus went for a short ride on that to switch his brain back into balancing mode again.
That helped, but he still found it difficult to balance himself properly on the Wolf&Wolf and needed Jana’s guiding hand at times so he didn’t lose all balance.
He enjoyed the test ride but it is clear that learning this skill will take a lot of practice and that needs time and elbow pads and he’s not yet sure it is worth it.
The second option is that Klaus buys a new or a second hand recumbent trike, which we know will work for us, so he is currently mulling this one over. There would have been a lot of advantages with the Wolf&Wolf, not least ease of storage, but if it’s too tricky to learn to ride reliably then it is maybe not the best option.
Poppy under the weather
We had a bit of an expensive month at the vets with Poppy as she ended up under the weather, being sick. I took her in to be checked over and they did a blood test which showed liver issues. So a week later she had an ultrasound (which was interesting) but all looked OK. A second set of blood tests showed things were mostly back to normal, so the liver issues were presumably related to the stomach issue she had. She had to have her belly shaved for the ultrasound and she has very sensitive skin so had to go back to the vet for an anti-scratching injection.
Then a week later whilst out on a walk she ate something she found in a field. I went to investigate and it was a mixture of unknown white stuff, dates and raisins. I know that raisins can be poisonous to dogs and I didn’t know what the other stuff was, but there had been local reports of people putting down poison for dogs so I didn’t take any risks. Off we went again to the vets and she had an injection to make her sick, deposited lots of raisins, dates and white stuff in a bowl in the vet surgery, and eventually had another injection to stop her being sick/
She was back to normal about 15 minutes later and didn’t suffer any ill effects. I have no idea if it was poison or not but had heard three local reports of dogs being very unwell because of something they ate so I am glad I didn’t risk it.
So a New Year has begun. I hope you all had a good and healthy start to 2020.
As January is a cold and grey month I didn’t do much velomobile riding.
And this is where I went:
As you can see from the Wheel above, I went north west of Kempen to Straelen. This was to have Millie serviced as her Lichtkanone (Light Canon) had stopped working. We suspected a dodgy cable/join in the switch box thingie on the left hand side front wheel arch interior.
Because I am no electrician and Klaus had no desire to fiddle about with bad cabling in a cold garage we decided to ask Andreas Beyß the Velomobile builder in Straelen to have a look. He was very happy to do so, and I delivered Millie to him on the 4th January.
We had to hurry back from delivering Millie as we had another Velomobile appointment – a mini gathering in Zons, near Köln. As I had no Milan and we had no time we went by car, which we in fact had done last year on New Year’s Day too!
There were over 25 velomobiles at the gathering, but first we all sat in a café, enjoyed some cake and tea and chatted. Afterwards the Velomobilists were persuaded to stand outside in the biting wind for a group photo.
There was even a lesser-spotted Velayo, which is huge!
It was really nice to meet up with many of our friends again and have a good chat.
We were also visited again by Dirk, someone who came to see us last year to talk about Velomobiles as he was interested in buying one. He talked to us a lot and had a good look at both of ours last year, and Klaus also offered that he could have a test ride in Celeste to see how she might work out for him. So we had to collect Celeste from the other garage. Poppy came along for the ride.
Dirk enjoyed riding Celeste and is hoping to buy her once he sorts out somewhere he can store her as he lives in a block of flats and has no garage or secure storage. Let’s hope she can go to a nice new home in Düsseldorf where she is regularly used rather than languishing unused in a garage.
Klaus and I also joined the ADFC cycling tour Fit Durch Den Winter as Ralf told us where they would stop for lunch. Unfortunately I had the wrong café in my mind with the name so when we arrived at what we thought was Birkenhof it was closed and was called Stemmeshof! We had a speedy ride about 5km further to find the correct café, Birkenhof. We happened to arrive at the same time as the tour group and all had lunch together.
We cycled together with the group for a few kilometres and then headed off home.
I have had some lovely commutes to work this month and the lighting has changed a lot as I have sometimes started work at 7am (completely dark) and sometimes at 8am (sun just appearing). I have also been enjoying using the excellent camera on the iPhone 11 so my night shots are much better!
The photo above is a view from Bertie, who I used for the week whilst Millie was having her Lichtkanone repaired in Straelen.
After a week I had Millie back though, all repaired.
What was also great was that Andreas Beyß had listened to me complaining about having to use SV (Presta) valves in my new front wheels as the holes were too small for AV (Schraeder) and he offered to drill out the rims so I could fit the AV tyres. He did this for me and I am very pleased! He also tightened up Millie’s steering as well, all for a very good price, so I would definitely recommend him to other Velomobile owners who are looking for a reliable person to do some servicing items.
I have also seen some very nice scenery whilst out walking Poppy.
I haven’t walked as much with Poppy this month due to the weather, but she has also enjoyed being lazy with Klaus!
Klaus and I also went to the Fahrrad Stammtisch and took the opportunity to photograph Kempen by night (he has an iPhone 11 Pro). This is my pic, his was much better!
We are very blessed to live in such a nice part of the world.
We have had a fairly quiet month overall. Klaus seems to finally have shaken off his cough which lasted several weeks. I have been very busy at work as there is a change in personnel and I have to cover more than usual, so am feeling a bit overworked at times, but am hoping this will be resolved in February. We have started preparing for our summer velomobile tour along the Elbe river and have booked up several hotels and planned some routes. It should be great fun, and the planning stage is a nice thing to do in winter as it is a chance to look forward to summer and the lovely weather.
Cakes this month
As usual, despite eating generally Keto I have enjoyed some cakes this month when out cycling or being generally social.
I am writing this on 31st January, the day of Brexit. Yesterday my Garmin watch reminded me about it during our Production Planning meeting at work…
And this morning again…
Although I personally will probably not have too many issues, I am very sad for all my European friends back in the UK and the many Brits around Europe who it will affect. I hope that things will settle down soon, and I really look forward to receiving my official German documentation to show I am now a permanent resident of Germany.
2019 has been a good year, and as you can see my cycling total for the year isn’t tooooo shabby:
I also did quite a bit of walking after getting my Garmin Vivoactive 3 smartwatch:
And I am particularly proud that I managed to hit my Steps goal 103 days in a row! So that was 8000 steps (about 6km) every day for over three months. Boxing Day was the first day that I didn’t hit the goal as we had visitors most of the day, after they left it was rainy and dark, and then we had to get on the ferry – at some point I had to stop reaching my target!
I wasn’t always walking alone with Poppy though – Klaus also came along, as did his daughter Lara when she visits us.
Poppy finds Klaus rather fascinating as it tends to be him who feeds her in the morning so she associates him with goodies…
They have a lovely relationship!
Here is my Veloviewer Wheel for the whole year with cycling in red and walking in green.
This year I cycled in Germany, the Netherlands, England, Austria and Switzerland.
And as for the month of December, it wasn’t brilliant (I was very busy at work and also in England for a week)
On a large proportion of these rides I have been accompanied by my partner Klaus, and also many rides with Ralf the Cookie Monster, days on the summer tour with TimB, Uli, Christoph and Anna, and the final hurrah of Oliebollentocht with 160+ velomobiles. Thanks again for everyone who rode with me during the year – it was great fun sharing cycling time together.
Mannheim twice in December
Klaus’s father lives in Mannheim and we visited twice during December.
The first visit was before Christmas and Klaus’s daughter Lara came with us. The plan was to visit Opa (Granddad) with Lara and then also visit a Christmas Market in Mannheim.
Mannheim had a really good selection of Christmas Markets and shops too, and we had a very enjoyable couple of hours wandering around looking at all the goodies. And we had a very successful time in one Christmas Market stand where we bought two hats (one for me and one for Klaus), a scarf and some ear-warmers. It was not cheap but they were good items – I am always looking for suitable hats so was delighted to find one!
I also found some Poffertjes on sale
And then afterwards we went to the Eiscafe Fontanelle which is where Spaghetti Eis was apparently invented. It was too cold for ice cream so we had a hot drink instead.
We had lunched at a nice Italian restaurant and walked about 9km around the Christmas Markets so it was a good day with lots of exercise!
The second visit to Mannheim was for Silvester/New Year’s Eve where we visited Klaus’s father and joined him for lunch at a local restaurant.
On the way we stopped for a coffee and I had a play with my new iPhone camera which is brilliant!
After lunch with Klaus’s father we returned to his flat and he gave us some Cheesecake.
We gave him a mince pie with clotted cream in return, not sure what he made of them!
We had to be back in Kempen for the evening because of the fireworks and the dog, and ended up putting on the 5 hour long DVD of Das Boot to shut out the fireworks noise for Poppy. It partially worked, although I think depth charges and fireworks are probably not that much different. It was good to see Klaus’s father again and wish him the best for 2020.
Christmas in England
As for the past three years, Klaus and I have travelled to England to celebrate Christmas with my Mum.
As usual we took the ferry across from Hoek van Holland but this time travelled during the day which involved lots of watching films on the iPad etc while the Ferry did its eight hour trip. But it was a good way to relax before the holiday.
We arrived at Mum’s house in Witnesham which was of course all decorated for Christmas (we have very few decorations at home in Kempen as we are never here for Christmas).
As I was still doing my walking challenge we went out for several walks. We wandered north from Witnesham into Swilland where we visited the church which was still open during the day.
It was a very traditional English church and very similar to that in Witnesham (although smaller), but I think Mum said they only have one service per month now.
On Christmas Eve we decided to take a trip to see the sea and rather than going to Aldeburgh we would travel a bit further to Southwold as I had never been there before. It turned out to be lovely!
We had parked a fair way from the town but there was a nice walk across some dunes until we reached the main area with lots of beach huts.
Of course we saw the sea too!
After walking for a bit we wandered into the town, passing the Adnams Brewery site and then deciding to have a piece of cake for lunch. We found one of the Wilkin & Sons Tea Rooms (they have one in Tiptree which we have often visited) and I had the requisite Cream Tea.
Klaus, being continental, had a slice of cake.
This was about the maximum for him as he finds British cakes incredibly rich. My genes are correctly aligned to allow me to eat these things without any ill-effects.
On our way back towards the car we saw a sign which may have partly explained why there were so many dogs at Southwold:
For our walk back the skies were less blue.
In the photo below you can see in the far distance the shape of Sizewell B, one of the British nuclear reactors. Having watched the HBO series of Chernobyl just before heading to the UK it does make you think!
When we got back home it was technically Christmas for Klaus (Heiligabend), which is when the main Christmas meal is eaten. So, just because he could, we decided to walk to the pub in Swilland so he could have a pint on Christmas Eve.
This seems to have fulfilled some long-desired wish so we walked home again.
Christmas Day was celebrated with just the three of us (Klaus and I and my Mum) but we had the proper turkey and all the trimmings and it was lovely!
We were both relaxing a lot, reading books and taking it easy.
I was reunited with the 1,600 tea bags I had stored at Mum’s and which we would take home with us – Mum bought an extra packet of teabags for my tea drinking at her house!
On Boxing Day we were visited by my sister and her daughter and son-in-law, plus their dog Chip. We had a lovely time with them, eating Christmas turkey again (although Anna and Gwen also had a veggie option which looked nice). Anna had brought along a “Chocolate Bomb” which turned out to be a kind of treacle pudding but with chocolate. This was a mega sugar affair, but as Klaus and I were being non-Keto for the Christmas period we tried some. It was OK but very, very filling!
Before we headed back to the ferry on Boxing Day evening I popped to a supermarket to get some supplies. I got a bit carried away as things seemed such good value in UK supermarkets, plus the selection of some things is rather better. In a German supermarket we tend to get one type of Cheddar, usually Cathedral City, and here in Sainsbury’s Ipswich we had four metres long of cheddar…
I ended up taking 3kg home, plus clotted cream, Tiptree jam and scones for Gudula and Frank, and even a pyrex bowl because it was a third of the price than in Germany. I do miss UK supermarkets!
Our journey back was good, we travelled overnight and were back in Kempen at 10:30 in the morning on the 27th. We saw Lara in the afternoon and the next day was Oliebollentocht, the velomobile gathering for which I have written a separate blog post here.
After Oliebollentocht we had a quiet few days as Klaus had picked up a cold in England and it laid him a little low.
But all in all it has been a good month and a good year and we are looking forward to 2020.
Cakes this month
And not just a cake, but I also made some Keto Sushi which was a bit of a success!
I do hope that all of my readers have had a good 2019 and that we will enjoy 2020 with all its opportunities and interests. It will be my last year as a European Citizen (as far as I know) but we will cross whatever hurdles Brexit gives us when we meet them.
This month I cycled a total of 542km, largely commuting/.
And this is where I went:
Although November was quite cold we also had some bright, clear days when Klaus and I managed to get out for some rides together.
Tile-bagging, the final tile!
I had set myself a challenge to get my Veloviewer square up to 25×25 for the year 2019. Veloviewer divides the world into 1km squares and if you cycle at any point into that square, you get it credited to you. If you do several consecutive squares then you start building up your ‘max square’. Last month I tried to complete my 25 x 25 squares but was foiled by a path which was ‘no entry’.
I had already seen that I could get this square from the other side of the Rhein, which would mean a pretty long ride (86km) just to get this one square, but I hoped I could give it a go and complete my challenge.
As I was using up a lot of overtime in November I had a number of days off and one very cold Monday morning I decided to have a stab at this tile.
I had decided to cross the Rhein at Wesel and then come back over the Orsoy/Walsum ferry just to make it a round trip. There aren’t that many Rhein crossings where we are so this was what made it a long ride.
Because the temperature was 1 degree and with a lot of wind chill (it was actually very windy) I wrapped up my face well!
Because you are warm inside a velomobile I was wearing winter cycling trousers and a normal long-sleeve jersey with an underlayer beneath, but on my head I had a buff on my hair and a buff around my neck/to cover my mouth, plus this fleecy head, mouth and neck warmer. My clothing choices were almost perfect except my bad arm got a bit cold leaning against the side of the velomobile as the chill was transmitted through the carbon to my titanium!
I cycled on main roads pretty much all the way to the bridge at Wesel, but just before switched onto the Deich cycle path (having had to negotiate Drängelgitter, but I managed them without getting out of the Milan – bonus!)
I crossed over the bridge and could see in the distance where I would cross back – the power station with the mega cloud coming out of the chimney (not the nearer one)
After crossing the bridge I turned right and followed the Rhein, knowing that the main road takes me through the missing tile. And indeed it did!
I arrived at the Orsoy ferry, still feeling a bit chilly on my arm. Due to the cold weather my Durano Plus tyres were very slow (this is always the case when the temperature drops below 7 or 8) and as I didn’t want to hang around my motor was on level 2 or 3 (I usually cycle on level 1) to give me that extra assistance, but my overall speed for this ride at 29.4 km/h was a little less than I would manage in the summer with level 1 assist (15 Watts).
I did the ride non-stop and was very happy when I got home to see that my route planning had worked and that I did, indeed, have the tile!
Klaus and I didn’t have so many chances to cycle together this month as the weather wasn’t always great and we were busy. However, we did manage one Sunday morning ride with Ralf the Cookie Monster and also were able to have a ride together to our favourite café in Winnekendonk.
And the ride back was lovely!
I have continued to complete my 8000 steps per day (which is roughly 6km) to see how long a streak I can get. On 30 November I achieved 78 days straight, I am now trying for 100 days.
Poppy is usually keen to come with me, although not when it is raining! You can see by her face below that she was not happy so I took her back home again.
But mostly we were able to time our walks for the better weather.
Politics and the Election
I try not to talk tooooo much about politics/Brexit on this blog as it is a difficult topic. Brexit will have only negative consequences for me, and I doubt there are any real positive consequences for people in Britain, so I am vehemently against.
I was pleased that my postal ballot papers arrived early enough for the General Election on 12 December and sent them back. I voted tactically to try to unseat the Conservative party candidate. Fingers crossed!
As in the previous four years, in November the choir that I sing with has its two concerts.
We practice all year for this so it’s always a bit of a risk that you get a cold or something and miss both concerts, although this year they were nine days apart.
The first concert took place in Anrath, which has somewhat tricky acoustics.
We were singing Brahms’ “ein deutsches Requiem” which I had not heard before this year. The concert went OK but we really messed up one of the Brahms pieces so we all felt a bit bad after this!
The second concert took place over a week later in Krefeld and this one went rather better.
Klaus and I also attended another concert together, this time in Düsseldorf. This was a concert by Roger Hodgson, formerly of Supertramp, who Klaus has seen a number of times.
A visit from the UK
The daughter of some friends of mine from church in Colchester is currently having her year in Germany as part of a degree in German at Sheffield Uni (my Alma Mater!) She is studying in Münster and as that’s not too far away I offered for her to come and visit. She ended up coming over on a Sunday afternoon as we were having the St Martin Parade later in the day and she actually knew about this (her teacher at school, a German lady, had got the class to make lanterns, sing the songs and have a mini procession near Colchester). Anyway, Klaus and I picked Nicole up from Uerdingen station as there were issues with the train and took her to Landcafé Steudle for some cake.
The absolute shocker was that Nicole said she hadn’t had any cake yet in Germany – and she’s been here for a couple of months!
Klaus got into the spirit of the thing by eating Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake). It’s really a flan.
We then had a cup of tea at home before Nicole and I went to Kempen for the St Martin Parade. We parked at my office as lots of roads are closed and walked into Kempen. We wandered around a bit so she could see it, had an apple doughnut each and bumped into St Martin and his helper.
We then went to our chosen waiting spot near the railway station and got ready for the parade.
Nicole’s train was leaving at 18:15 and she had to catch it as the next was an hour later. Unfortunately the parade didn’t actually arrive at our spot before then – I heard it as I was walking back to my car after seeing Nicole onto the train. But she got to experience some of the atmosphere of St Martin which is really a big thing in Kempen.
It was good to see Nicole and interesting to hear her experiences of studying in Germany and also job applications in the UK for when she finishes her degree. We wish her all the best with her further studies!
When we were in Berlin Klaus spent some time looking for a waterproof coat and we ended up finding some Barbour jackets in Peek & Cloppenburg. He said he had always wanted a Barbour and so tried some on and really liked one of them. However the price was rather high, I think about 340€. I said we should do some more research.
We did some more research later that day and found the identical coat available for £150 in the UK, so he went ahead and ordered one, plus the hood, and it duly arrived two days later.
I may be living in Germany but the cultural assimilation works two ways!
I also had a rather expensive month as I had a number of expensive purchases. One of these was a new iPad (my Mum will have my old one) and I decided to upgrade to an iPad Pro. And of course I had to get the Apple Pencil for it. Klaus has also bought himself an iPad and an Apple Pencil in the last few months so our collection of Apple Boxes is pretty impressive (and does not include the box from my 27″ iMac).
As it happens, one of the iPads has already been given away and another will go to my Mum so we haven’t actually got five iPads between two people… we have three.
Cakes this month
There’s not much more to report from November. Klaus and I have both worked quite hard this month (he was away at a Trade Fair at the end of November and I have a new colleague who I had to support and train so worked more than my usual hours), but we have also had time to relax at home and enjoy the changing seasons. Tomorrow is December when the festive season really starts – we will mostly hide away from all that!
October was not a good month for cycling. We had one week when my Mum visited and another week when we were away in Berlin, so all the riding was concentrated into two weeks. This was almost entirely commuting, with just three leisure rides.
This is the Veloviewer Wheel for the month, excluding walks in Berlin and Used:
And this is the list of all my activity this year. The walks start from when I got my Garmin Vivoactive smartwatch in February, and these are just walks where I used the GPS tracking feature (dog walks, etc) and not my standard walking around in a day, including at work where I often walk 3km in my 5 hours as I visit the production area and warehouses.
As you can see from this, Bertie hasn’t had much use this year and Alfie even less.
A visit from my Mum
I invited my Mum to come and visit us before the 31 October Brexit date, so we planned for her to come in the second week of October.
As Klaus and I eat Keto and my Mum doesn’t, plus she tends to eat different food to us (she’s not very keen on salad, for example, which is one or two meals a day for us), we went shopping to get her some Brit Supplies.
We collected Mum from Hoek van Holland and then went to have breakfast at Dechi Beach in what has become a tradition for us! The breakfast there is very good value and we were also able to have Poppy with us. Mum and I had a short walk along the beach in the drizzle – but it’s always nice seeing the North Sea!
A visit to Kloster Kamp gardens
The next day Klaus had to go to work but I had planned for Mum and I to visit the formal gardens of Kloster Kamp. I had hoped to do this during her last trip but the weather was too bad. Although it was a rather grey day this time, it was at least dry and it was really nice to visit these gardens.
Here is a short summary of Kloster Kamp from Wikipedia:
Kamp was largely rebuilt in the 15th century but suffered extensive damage in the Reformation. The abbey was abandoned early in the Cologne War (1583–1588); many of the monks went to the city of Neuss, where they underwent the siege and bombardment of July 1586; another portion went to Rheinberg, which was the focus of three battles to take the city, the last in 1589. The abbey itself was destroyed by Adolf von Neuenahr in 1586. A small group of monks returned under abbot Polenius (1636–64), but re-construction did not begin until 1683, and the community did not return fully until 1700.
The abbey was secularised during the German mediatisation of 1802 and the buildings were sold, and mostly demolished. The church was converted for use as a parish church.
Between 1954 and 2002 a Carmelite community resided on the remains of the monastery. The last monk left the monastery in 2010. The abbey site is still known for the terraced gardens and the orangeries.
So as you can see, there is a lot of history there, and the beautiful gardens have been restored to how they looked in 1747:
Während der Bau der ersten Klosterkirche um ca. 1150 erfolgte und bis Ende des 17. Jahrhunderts nach mehreren Bauphasen und trotz vieler Kriegsunruhen eine prächtige Klosteranlage entstanden war, wurde ein erster Terrassengarten am Südhang des Kamper Berges erst während der Amtszeit des Abtes Edmundus von Richterich (1695-1715) im Jahr 1700 geschaffen.
Als dann Franziskus Daniels aus Grevenbroich sein Amt als Abt im Kloster Kamp (1733-1749) antrat, erteilte er 1740 dem Kamper Mönch Benedictus Bücken den Auftrag, gemäß der Ideen des Barocks den Terrassengarten neu zu gestalten: Architektur, Treppen, Beete, Wege, Figuren und Wasserspiele sollten ein Gesamtkunstwerk bilden, wobei ein geplanter Wechsel von Standort und Licht die wichtigsten Gestaltungsgrundlagen sein sollten. 1747 fertigten August Querfurth / Ernst Ludwig Ceite einen Kupferstich von der Kamper Gartenanlage an, die in Vogelperspektive die Verwirklichung der barocken Gartengestaltung zeigt. Die Terrassenanlage war 5-stufig gemauert, wobei vier einschwingende Terrassen Sonnenlicht und Wärme sammelten. An Bepflanzung wechselten sich Obstbau und Taxus in Pyramidenform ab. An den Mauern befanden sich Spaliere mit Aprikosen, Pfirsichen und anderem Obst. Zierbeete umrahmten den Springbrunnen. Die beiden Orangerien – zum Überwintern der empfindlichen Pflanzen benötigt – waren beheizbar. Im unteren Teil des Gartens wurden quadratische Beete für Gemüse und Kräuter und Heckenbeete, ein ovaler Platz und ein Fischteich angelegt. Statuen schmückten die Treppen.
Nachdem 1794-1804 die französische Revolutionsarmee das Rheinland besetzte und 1802 auch Kloster Kamp im Zuge der Säkularisation aufgehoben wurde, verfielen Klostergebäude und Terrassenanlage zusehends. Der Enteignung entgingen nur die Klosterkirche und das östlich der Kirche gelegene Gebäude, das ehemalige Krankenhaus des Klosters, das nun zum Pfarrhaus bestimmt wurde, und deshalb bis heute erhalten geblieben ist.
1986 begann die Stadt Kamp-Lintfort – nach dem Vorbild des Kupferstichs von 1747 von A. Querfurth und E.L. Ceite – den Terrassengarten neu aufzubauen. Nach fast 5jähriger Bauzeit wurde der neue Terrassengarten 1990 mit einem Festakt in der Kamper Abteikirche eröffnet und zieht seitdem viele Besucher an, die sich an der wundervollen Anlage erfreuen. Auch zwei modern gestaltete Orangerien sind immer wieder ein Anziehungspunkt. Während in der östlichen Orangerie die Geschichte von Kloster und Terrassengarten erläutert wird, finden während des Sommers in der westlichen Orangerie von der Stadt Kamp-Lintfort organisierte Ausstellungen statt.
We then went into the Kloster church to have a look. It was a peaceful and quiet building but we assume not actually that old (compared to how long ago the Kloster was founded). I really liked some painted panels with the names of all the former abbots, including some unusual old spellings of places we know well:
On another day Mum and I went to Kevelaer, which is a pilgrimage town about 30km north of Kempen. It turned out to be twinned with Bury St Edmunds which is the centre of the local diocese for where Mum lives near Ipswich.
We felt at home as soon as we arrived – these two were next to the car park, celebrating the twinning with Bury St Edmunds.
We walked up the main street and arrived at one of the many churches in the centre.
The first that we looked at was the little chapel, the Gnadenkapelle, with some kind of pilgrimage relic, a picture. The intense gilding and other artwork around this chapel was impressive. I didn’t take a photo so as not to disturb the pilgrims there, but here is a Wikipedia image:
I have to say, I was a bit shocked that right under this special small picture (almost as small as a postcard) was a slot for you to donate money.
For those who can read German, here is the Wiki explanation of this chapel.
Im Zentrum der Wallfahrt nach Kevelaer steht die Gnadenkapelle, welche das Gnadenbild von Kevelaer beheimatet. Die Kapelle wurde im Jahr 1654 um einen Bildstock errichtet. Diesen Bildstock hatte ein Mann namens Hendrick Busman geschaffen, der Überlieferung nach über dem Ort, wo dieser – im Dreißigjährigen Krieg, in der Weihnachtszeit des Jahres 1641 – innegehalten hatte, um an einem Wegkreuz zu beten. Über ihm soll sich der Himmel geöffnet haben, und er soll die Gottesmutter gehört und verstanden haben können. Drei Mal soll er den Anruf „An dieser Stelle sollst du mir ein Kapellchen bauen!“ vernommen haben. Nachdem auch seine Ehefrau eine Vision eines Heiligenhäuschens mit Gnadenbild hatte, baute Hendrick Busman über dem Bildstock als „Schutzhülle“ ein Heiligenhäuschen, zu dessen Schutz dann später die Gnadenkapelle errichtet wurde. Die Gnadenkapelle ist ein sechseckiger Kuppelbau, der auf der Seite des Gnadenbilds eine große, portalartige Fensteröffnung besitzt. Die künstlerische Ausgestaltung der Kapelle wurde erst im Jahr 1888 begonnen und vier Jahre später abgeschlossen. Das Gnadenbild stammt aus den Händen von Soldaten, die es bei sich trugen, und es 1641 an Hendrick Busmann veräußerten. Seine Frau hatte dieses Bildchen bereits in ihrer Vision von dem Heiligenhäuschen gesehen, nachdem Busman selbst es bereits vorher bei den Soldaten entdeckt hatte. Das Gnadenbild wurde zunächst in Geldern aufbewahrt und verehrt, und erst 1642 in den Bildstock gebracht.
This was a very small chapel and there were three or four worshippers in there so we moved on so as not to disturb them further.
Our next visit was about 20 metres away, the Kerzenkapelle (Candle Chapel). The Wiki information in German is below, and under it my attempt at a translation!
Südlich neben der Gnadenkapelle befindet sich die Kerzenkapelle, die älteste Wallfahrtskirche der Stadt Kevelaer, die zwischen 1643 und 1645 errichtet wurde. Der Kirchenraum ist mehr als 30 Meter lang, etwa 10 Meter breit und 15 Meter hoch und ähnelt durch diesen Baustil einer schmalen Filialkirche. Der einschiffige Backsteinbau besitzt keinen Turm, sondern wurde mit einem Dachreiter ausgestattet. Später wurde der Kirche eine Sakristei angeschlossen. In der Kerzenkapelle sind eine Fülle großer, beschrifteter Wallfahrtskerzen mit den Wappen der Herkunftsorte bzw. -Gemeinden aufgestellt, die die Wallfahrtstradition dokumentieren.
“To the south next to the Gnadenkapelle is the Kerzenkapelle, the oldest pilgrimage church in the town of Kevelaer. It was built between 1643 and 1645. The church interior is more than 30 metres long, about 10 metres wide and 15 metres high and because of its building style is reminiscent of a narrow local church. The single-aisled brick building has no tower, but was equipped with a ridge turret. A sacristy was later attached to the church. The Kerzenkapelle contains a large number of large, inscribed pilgrimage candles bearing the coats of arms of the places of origin or communities documenting the pilgrimage tradition.”
Although this church had a lot of candles, what was more obvious were the various Standards/Plaques that groups had carried whilst doing their pilgrimage to Kevelaer, and it was really interesting looking at some of the really old ones. I spotted several dating from the early 1900s.
We also visited the large Marienbasilica which had impressive paintwork inside!
There was one last Catholic Church to visit in Kevelaer centre, a little way away from the others, and this was in a much more simple style. This was the Sankt Antonius church and it took me a little while to work out whether it was Catholic or Protestant because it was such a different style.
Kevelaer is an interesting place and worth a visit, especially if you like buying candles or catholic religious articles. I loved this metal plaque just on a wall between two shops, showing Kevelaer’s position as a pilgrimage centre.
Arcen with Autumn Colours
On another day I took Mum to visit Arcen which is a rather lovely small town just over the border in the Netherlands. Klaus and I go there by bike quite frequently, usually passing through or stopping for a piece of cake in the town centre, but I thought Mum and I could have more of a look, especially as there is the Kasteeltuinen castle and gardens.
However, on preparing for the visit I noticed that the entry price to castle and gardens was 17,50 € each. This seemed a bit too steep for us, especially as we didn’t know how long we would actually want to spend there. However, I thought it was worth going to have a look around Arcen generally.
We found a parking space and then walked first to visit the Maas river.
We then started walking towards the Kasteeltuinen and saw this gun overlooking the river.
The Kasteeltuinen is a moated castle with extensive gardens. Here is the bridge across.
And once into the inner area across the bridge, we could see one of the large houses.
From this point onward we would have had to pay, so having seen some lovely trees and concluded this would definitely be worth a visit on a day when we had the energy, we headed back to the car and then drove to Bauerncafé Jacobs for a celebratory piece of cake. It would have been my Dad’s birthday so Mum and I had a piece of birthday cake each for him.
Klaus and I both really enjoyed having Mum to stay and we were lucky that the weather was fairly good. We drove her back to Hoek van Holland on the Saturday evening, having an Italian meal in Vlaardingen on the way, and then waved goodbye at the ferry terminal and Mum set off on her overnight trip back to the UK.
Another Velomobile in the garage – but just for one night!
Klaus and I drove straight back home again as we were expecting some time after 10pm a visit from a chap with a Velomobile who was riding back from Dronten to Frankfurt. He had posted on the Velomobilforum to say that he would be riding via Nijmegen in a second-hand Mango he would collect and would try to stay overnight somewhere on the way. We had offered a bed for him which he gratefully accepted. His plan was to leave Dronten at 4pm and he estimated he would arrive at our place at 10pm. I thought this was massively overoptimistic as he was estimating a 30 km/h average speed – and Mangos are not quick. So I expected to see him at about midnight perhaps.
But lo and behold, at 21:55, the doorbell rang and it was our guest, Jockel!
He had ridden very efficiently indeed to arrive with us so early.
The next morning I made a full English breakfast to give him energy for his ride back to Frankfurt am Main, 300 or so kilometres.
We had offered to accompany Jockel on his first 20km as the route he had picked wasn’t so nice and we had an alternative of a similar distance, so we led him around Kempen early on a Sunday morning (no traffic) and then through Vorst and Anrath to Neersen.
Just outside Neersen we stopped to wave him on his way as we were going to stop somewhere on the way back for a slice of cake.
Jockel did indeed make it back to Frankfurt that day, although he had a slower trip as the route along the Rhein is just difficult for velomobiles. However, he made it back safely and now has a spare Velomobile for if his Quest ever has issues. As the photos above show, his head it higher than the roll-over bump so he will need to do some seat adjustment so he sits a bit lower!
I have done very well this month with dog walking. I decided to see how long a streak I could manage of hitting my steps target of 8000 steps per day (about 6km). It was going very well through out the end of September and October, as I managed first of all the 31 days, then it extended. At the time of writing (31 October) I have managed 47 continuous days of at least 8000 steps. It helped that I wanted to take Poppy out for a walk every day, and that mostly the weather was OK and I had some lovely views and autumnal colours.
Cycle rides this month
As the days moved through October my commute became darker and darker.
By the middle of October my entire commute was in darkness, but I could often see some nice sunrises across the truck parking area at work!
I also experimented with using Millie on days where rain was forecasted during the morning, but using the rain cover on her (rather than using Bertie). Obviously if it were pouring with rain on the way to work I would probably get too wet, but the tarpaulin worked really well to keep her dry during rain showers and meant I could ride her home and stay dry when first climbing in!
I’m going to continue with this, possibly also fitting the Haube (the head cover) on rainy day, and see if I can have her as a fairly dry commuting machine. Riding Millie is much less effort than riding Bertie, although I can’t fit as much in her when grocery shopping!
A long walk for a Chinese meal
My colleagues and I periodically arrange a meal together socially, and we arranged to meet at a Chinese restaurant 5km from my house to celebrate the start of maternity leave for a colleague, Sabrina.
I didn’t fancy cycling there as I wasn’t too keen on leaving Millie outside a very busy restaurant for several hours. Klaus could drive me there but in the end I decided to walk there and have him pick me up.
I got Google Maps to suggest a walking route and off I went.
I was walking through the Tote Rahm area where we usually cycle, to meet up with Tönisberger Straße, but after this I crossed almost straight over the road to take a track that Google Maps suggested.
This looked like a nice bit of path but was clearly not used very often and not asphalted so I wondered how it would progress.
I had to turn off that road to the right, along this grassy track between two ploughed fields. It was a bit rough underfoot in places and I had to hop over some boggy bits.
It then got a bit narrower…
But after a while the track entered a wood and became a bit wider again.
This soon turned a bit boggy as there were some small streams criss-crossing the area.
The path started to get narrower and narrower and I wondered if it might peter out altogether before I got to my destination!
I had had to jump a few boggy mud puddles and had a slightly wet right foot after one of these was not too successful.
And then the path opened out into a large grassy field. I was able to walk in one of two sets of hoof prints but the long grass meant that my feet were now pretty wet!
And then, after 5km in total, I was spat out onto the main road along this little track you see in the photo below.
I made it to the Chinese restaurant bang on time at 19:00 and my colleagues arrived soon after. I had walked 5.18km and enjoyed it very much, although I was a little concerned at some points that the way would become impassable and I might need to turn back.
And as for the Chinese? It was a buffet, and I ate too much and had to get Klaus to collect me early as I felt a bit dodgy. My eyes were bigger than my stomach! But all was back to normal the next day. My virtuous feeling from having walked there was entirely negated by huge quantities of duck and other goodies at the meal…
A little more tile-bagging
My challenge for this year was to get a 25×25 square of Veloviewer Tiles, as I have mentioned in previous months. This was going pretty well and at the start of October I had a 23×23 square.
As I had so much overtime I decided to take two days off work as the weather forecast was looking good and do a bit of riding.
The first day I bagged a nice lot of tiles, starting right in the south at Kaarst and working northwards.
As you can see, there was a lot of fiddling about right to left in order to collect all the required tiles in that area. I had some but not all, but was able to make a decent 78km ride and get all of the required ones on the eastern side below Moers.
The plan for the next day was to get the missing tiles on the east above Moers and then also the missing 7 along the top, which meant I would need to go as far west as Kevelaer. I knew the roads in Kreis Kleve are fast though so that wasn’t an issue.
I set off at 11 in the morning, riding first to Moers and then I started tile-bagging again.
I had seen a potentially difficult section north of Rheinberg where I would have to cycle along the Rheindeich. I didn’t know if this would be possible in the velomobile. I also saw that I would have to do a small detour to collect a tile between some of the little gravel pit lakes on the north side. Google Earth suggested there was a track there.
So I set off, enjoying my ride and very pleased to discover that the Rheindeich was paved with bricks so this was OK for Millie.
I spotted another recumbent rider on the Deich and had a short chat. He was cycling on a HP Speedmachine and recognised me from the Liegeradtreff but I didn’t recognise him. But I have a very poor memory for faces!
When I arrived at the location where I needed to go off-track between the gravel pits it turned out not to be passable in a Velomobile. Never mind, I could walk up as I only needed to travel about 200 metres to get two tiles. So I hopped out of Millie and walked up the short slope onto the Deich.
And I was faced with a No Entry sign, it was private land.
Oh no! This meant I couldn’t get the tile needed for my 25×25.
I wasn’t sure if I would carry on for the entire ride as I wouldn’t get my Maximum Square now, but in the end as it was such a nice day I kept going.
Here is my track going round the Deich.
And here is the Veloviewer schematic showing that I didn’t bag the required square.
What you can probably just see in the top left hand corner of that square, though, is a road. This is on the other side of the Rhein and I actually cycled along here with Klaus last year. So I have a chance to get this tile, but it is a 90km round trip just for the tile. I shall give it a go if we have reasonable weather for such a long ride later in the year. Fingers crossed!
I was now heading west towards Kevelaer, mopping up seven tiles that I had missed out for various reasons. It was a beautiful day for riding, with the clouds and the tree colours vying to impress me!
I had just three tiles to go, and 45km to ride, when I saw a sign for Winnekendonk just 4km away. I fancied some cake and I knew there is good cake there so I diverted… and when I arrived Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof was closed. Oh no!
Fortunately the sign on the door said they opened at 13:00 so I only needed to wait for 10 minutes.
I was rewarded for my wait with the chance to use the loo and a slice of their fantastic Pfirsich Schmand Kuchen.
The final 45km went quickly and I was soon home, uploading my route to Veloviewer. And here is the 25×25 square, minus the one tile on the top right below Mehrum.
Just maybe I will manage that elusive tile in November!
A week in Berlin
Klaus and I both really love Berlin and have visited it loads of times. I lived there for 5 weeks back in 2007, and Klaus first visited during the time of the GDR. Of course, now that we are together it is an ideal destination for us both.
As we both had some holiday left to use up by the end of the year we booked the final week in October as holiday and then decided to visit the same Ferienwohnung where Klaus stayed with his daughter in July. They were available from Saturday to the following Friday (one day shorter than we had originally planned) so we booked up.
As we are both a bit long in the tooth, we aren’t keen on mega long drives in one day, so decided to break up both journeys to and from Berlin. We would leave after work on Friday and stop halfway to Berlin Friday night, and then on the way back we had to leave Friday anyway and would stop somewhere around halfway on the way back before returning home on Saturday. Thus was the plan.
For the return journey I would finally achieve my goal of spending a night in the wonderfully-named Vlotho. I had seen this name on motorway gantries when driving to Berlin in the past and said to Klaus it was such a great name – in English it is a bit like “blotto”, but of course using our wonderful “th” sound which gives older Germans so many issues (all Germans under about 60 can now say this sound). But, surprisingly, it is pronounced in German “Floe-toe”. Weird, huh?
Anyway, Klaus said there is nothing there but I said I wanted to visit anyway. I found a nice-sounding hotel in the wilderness near Vlotho and booked a room. Job done.
For the trip to Berlin we got in touch with friends Fritz and Biggi who spent a few days with us after last Christmas for Oliebollentocht. They live near Willebadessen in Westfalen and said we could stay overnight with them. Great news!
When they visited us last December we had returned from the UK just a few hours before they got to us and had very little food in the house. Fortunately they brought home-made bread and a huge home-made Strudel as that was pretty much all we had to eat for three days. A bit tough on our guests, that they had to supply the food for the hosts! So this time I decided we definitely had to come laden with gifts too. A nice selection of Tönisvorst Obsthof goodies in a wooden case was one thing, but I also wanted to bring fresh cakes. The problem was that Klaus couldn’t get away from work until 13:00 which meant, with the Friday evening traffic through the Ruhr, we would have a horrible journey. A 15 minute detour to buy cakes from St Hubert would just be a pain.
I only had Millie available so I decided I would just have to try and fit the cakes somewhere in her. I had no idea if they would survive the journey, but decided to try.
I bought five slices and asked the lady in Café Poeth to separate them into two parcels so they were easier to stow.
It turned out not to be a problem at all!
Here are the cakes without the seat in place. I had to be careful when replacing the seat that my hips weren’t going to squash the front end of the cake parcels.
Fortunately there was plenty of room!
I got home with the cakes seemingly intact, had my lunch, then started doing all the little jobs (emptying bins, etc) before one goes on an 8 day holiday. Then Klaus arrived and we finished up before emptying our fridge into a cool bag and hitting the road.
A night in an old mill
As expected, traffic was pretty bad and our two and a half hour journey ended up as three and a half. But we had expected this, and arrived at Fritz and Biggi’s lovely secluded house between 5 and 6pm. It’s a former mill and a beautiful building which they have fitted out ideally for them. We felt very at home there!
First things first, we unpacked the cakes – they had survived!
We shared some cake and then were treated to Fritz the Meister making Flammkuchen dough (like super-thin pizza) and then cooking several Flammkuchen for us in his special pizza oven which is built in their garden.
And here was the first Flammkuchen, ham and spring onion.
And the second, with smoked salmon.
I even had a third!
And then the piece de resistance, he made a chocolate and nut cake and cooked it in the Pizza Oven too!
We sat and chatted to Fritz and Biggi all evening and had a lovely time. I had to go up to bed at 11pm as I was really pooped but Klaus and the other two were doing well with their beer, gin, wine and whisky-quaffing and stayed up later. They all seemed remarkably clear-headed in the morning!
We are both very grateful to Biggi and Fritz for their wonderful hospitality!
Bernau bei Berlin
The following morning after a lovely breakfast, again prepared by Fritz, we headed off to Berlin. This journey was about four hours and we had some planned diversions due to a big accident towards Wolfsburg but fortunately it had cleared by the time we got there.
We arrived at our Ferienwohnung in Bernau at 5pm and settled in. It’s a lovely place with everything one might need for a relaxing week. We walked the 300 metres or so to the local supermarket to buy our evening meal and some food for the next day (Sunday) and later went for a longer walk around to see a little of Bernau. Klaus cooked me a wonderful Entrecôte Steak and we relaxed, enjoying being back in Berlin.
Unfortunately on Sunday Klaus’s regular headache returned. He seems to get these at the moment, presumably a reaction to work stress, in that one day each weekend he usually has a bad headache. But as we were on this holiday to relax we just took it easy, making our own breakfast and lunch and having a take-away for dinner. It didn’t help that I had unpacked the paracetamol I brought with me and didn’t find them again until the evening – they would have helped him during the day. But he had a chance to sleep and recover from a really busy time at work, and I enjoyed relaxing and going for a walk on my own in Bernau, so the day was still good.
Sachsenhausen and Wannsee
On Monday our trip to Berlin began in earnest. We had decided, as this was likely to be the warmest day of the week, to use this opportunity to visit Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, where most of the exhibits are outside. I had been once years ago and it was perishingly cold then.
We arrived in sunshine and it didn’t feel too cool, but once we were into the large open spaces around the Camp it was pretty chilly. We were glad for our thick coats. Once again I think of the inmates who were there with clothing of just rags and wonder how any of them survived.
What was a bit shocking was there is a Police training facility right next to Sachsenhausen whose buildings use some of the previous barracks of the concentration camp. This gave us a strange feeling and we wondered how the police felt using this, and then saw this sign which explained it:
Sachsenhausen has, like many/most of the concentration camps, this chilling ironwork on the main gate:
After WW2 the camp came into the possession of the Russian army who kept using it as virtually a concentration camp themselves. They turned it into a memorial site for the murdered communists/political prisoners (although not generally referencing the murdered jews, homosexual people, Sinti and Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses etc). Most of the buildings have been removed and some that were still there were locked, although you could see there were exhibitions inside. I think this is a winter vs summer thing.
I wondered if the few large trees had been in the camp at the time – I guess not. If they had been there, what had they seen?
Outside the main triangle of the camp where the barracks were located were the places where people were shot or killed in other ways and also the remains of some crematorium ovens. Although not so many people died in Sachsenhausen (I think about 200,000) it was the place where they practiced various methods which were then incorporated into other, larger concentration camps.
After reading some of the exhibition information we went to warm up with a coffee and piece of cake in the bistro just outside.
We had originally wondered about also visit Haus der Wannsee Konferenz today but I said to Klaus I thought it might be a bit much for the emotions. However, we were fairly close and had the car available and it seemed like a good idea. I thought also that there would be a shocking comparison between the two sites – Wannsee where men in uniform were served nice food and had a meeting to discuss their plans and then Sachsenhausen with all its blood and horror where these plans were brought to fruition. It is like the two ends of the whole Nazi extermination idea.
We arrived at the house, only to discover a note that the exhibition inside was closed as it was being renewed/changed, and we could only visit the gardens.
There was in fact an exhibition fixed to metal railings around the garden and this was really interesting. It was about the role of normal people in the Third Reich – the neighbours who denounced their neighbours as Jews; people who looted Jewish property; physical attacks on Jews by people they used to work beside. It was a reminder that it was not just the big cheeses, such as the Nazi leaders who met at this house, who were responsible – ordinary people were also involved at every level, even if just because of their avarice (wanting to loot nice things from their neighbours).
There were of course references to those who hid Jews, bought up their children as their own – although there was an interesting story of one German lady who sheltered two young children for her Jewish neighbours but she actually hated Jews. They think she did it as she thought she would get a reward at the end. The children survived, the parents didn’t. But, as so often, you see signs that things aren’t perhaps so black and white and that the ordinary people have tried to remove blame from themselves where they should perhaps have shouldered more of it.
We also thought about this at Sachsenhausen which is right next to the town of Oranienburg; the smoke from the crematoria, the high chimneys, the stench must have been apparent to the townspeople but they did nothing?
The exhibition snaked around the beautiful garden of this lakeside villa.
We spent a good half hour here reading the stories. We had watched the Wannsee Conference film with Kenneth Branagh a few months ago so knew a lot of the history of this place.
From here we drove the car a bit nearer to the S-Bahn station of Wannsee and parked, and then got the train into Berlin. The train stopped at the Anhalter Bahnhof and we were told there were people on the tracks up ahead and a police response so it looked like we would be there a while. We decided to walk instead, a nice 5.49km!
We were heading to Hackescher Markt and the Hackescher Höfe as Klaus wanted to buy a new Secrit wallet and they sold them there (he wanted to check the workmanship out rather than buying online).
It was a lovely walk through bits of Berlin with which we are both familiar. There is the stretch of wall beside Topographie des Terrors:
And then of course the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt.
We passed hundreds of E-Scooters as well as hire bikes. I was amazed by how many E-Scooters there were as I have only seen one or two near us in Kempen. I would perhaps like to have a go sometime!
We arrived at Hackescher Höfe and Klaus had a good look at the wallets, eventually choosing one and buying it. It is very nice!
We then decided to visit the Apple Store on his other mission for this holiday – to check out an Apple Pencil. The Apple Store was on the Kurfürstendamm so we took the S-Bahn from Hackescher Markt to Zoologische Garten and then walked to the Ku’Damm and the Apple Store which was absolutely heaving with people! Klaus duly played with an Apple Pencil and bought one.
We then took the train back to Wannsee to head off for a meal at Moorlake where Klaus has a restaurant he really likes (I have been there once before). Unfortunately it was closed (although Google had said it would be open) so we went for Plan B which was to eat in an Italian restaurant in Konradshöhe, which was on our way back. We had a very tasty meal there and returned to our Ferienwohnung at 9pm. We had had a really busy day but very interesting too. We had walked over 14km as well, and interestingly Klaus’s swollen foot (which he damaged when falling down the cellar steps a month ago) seemed actually to be improved by all the walking and the swelling had subsided a bit! The next day would be another trip to Berlin and more walking around of course, so we would see if this benefit lasted!
Tempelhof and Schönhauser Alleee
So the next day we walked to the S-Bahn station at Bernau and got the train into Berlin. We had decided to go first to Tempelhof Airport as Klaus fancied visiting it. I had been there a couple of times before but not for ages.
We got off at the U-Bahn stop Platz Der Luftbrücke which has a memorial to the aircrew who died carrying out the airlift – a surprising number of names.
Just round the corner you see part of the massive terminal building which was built in 1936.
You can’t actually get in here to go through to the airport as it is now used for other purposes, the walk round to the airfield park area is actually 1.6km. So we set off walking again.
Once on the grassy area of the airfield you can see how massive that building is!
We walked along the disused taxiways and passed a DC-3 standing in front of the hangar.
We then headed out again as we had already done a lot of walking!
We grabbed some food (Klaus had a Burger King, I bought a sandwich and some crisps from a supermarket – yes, Keto is on hold for this holiday!) and then we headed back to the U-Bahn station Platz Der Luftbrücke to head to Schönhauser Allee.
We had to change at Friedrichstraße and took the opportunity to walk away from the station to find somewhere for a coffee. Heading towards Alexanderplatz, with the TV tower in view.
We found a café and chose our cake slices.
We were taking it easy as we had done lots of walking and were quite early anyway. We were meeting Lars and Lara for an Indian meal at 6pm and it was only 3pm now. We had some shopping to do but decided to relax a bit first. Klaus had brought his iPad and new Apple Pencil along so spent some time doing whatever-one-does-with-an-Apple-Pencil.
We then walked back to Friedrichstraße and got the train to Schönhauser Allee Arkaden where we did a bit of shopping (trousers, hat, fleece, looking at shoes) before it was time to meet Lara and Lars.
We had a very tasty Indian meal with them.
We said goodbye and then Klaus and I had a bit of a long wait for a train back to Bernau (lots of them stop earlier at Buch). But we made it back and then had the 1.5km walk back to our Ferienwohnung in the dark, but this was fine.
We had a good day in Berlin again, and it was lovely to see Lara and Lars.
A quick trip to Usedom
One place that Klaus has regularly visited throughout his adulthood is the island of Usedom on the Baltic coast next to Poland. I have also been there with him three times.
As we were setting off on Monday morning to drive to Sachsenhausen we were briefly on the motorway which goes up to Usedom and Klaus said, “we could go and visit Rebecca!” We then thought about this and decided it would be rather a nice idea, as Rebecca and her partner Henry are friends of ours. Klaus knows Rebecca through their shared interest in photography and we enjoy visiting her in her goldsmith gallery as she is a jewellery-maker with a real focus on art and individuality.
Anyway, we contacted Rebecca to see if she would be around on the Wednesday and she said yes, so we arranged to meet her at her gallery.
So two days later we were heading off in the car northwards. The car wasn’t having its best day, though, as we had this warning message when we started:
“Motorisierung ist reduziert” means “power is reduced”, and we also had the engine warning light on. We couldn’t work out what was wrong, and did all the normal tests (doing a complete reset of the car which means locking it and walking away for 10 metres or so and leaving it) but it didn’t cure it. The temperature gauge wasn’t registering anything as we drove so we wondered if that was something to do with it, but that came online again later. Klaus also had a recurrence of a previous bug where some of the gadgets stop working (automatic cruise control, distance, automatic braking) and we thought this had been fixed. It always seems to happen on a cold and damp day and there had been a frost the night before.
Anyway, we carried on, and although the car was limited to a maximum of 160km/h this wouldn’t be an issue!
We drove straight to Heringsdorf where Rebecca has her gallery, parked and walked to the gallery. It is worth taking a look at some of her lovely jewellery on her website here.
I talked over a commission with her as I have a ring that I no longer wear which I thought I could get made into something else, using its sapphire and two diamonds. I didn’t have it with me (as I didn’t expect to be visiting Rebecca when we headed for Berlin) but showed her a photo and she started coming up with some really interesting ideas. I will send her the actual ring and then she will look into some options for me. Rebecca doesn’t do dainty, delicate rings but robust and solid and I like that style as I, too, am not dainty and delicate! She was already coming up with ideas so it will be interesting to see what happens as a result.
We spent some time with Rebecca and also her partner Henry who popped in, and then we decided to go for some lunch. Klaus and I walked to a bakery and had a sandwich and a cuppa, and then it was time for a lovely walk along the beach at Heringsdorf. We ended up walking to Seebad Ahlbeck, but I forgot to switch on my Garmin until halfway!
We arrived in Ahlbeck and it was definitely time for cake!
We were being watched by sparrows the whole time whilst eating. They are clearly often fed by guests sitting outside the bakery but this meant the chairs were a bit poopy.
We walked back along the walking/cycle path above the beach – it is very interesting looking at all the different villas as you go along the seafront. Lots of lovely houses, mostly now hotels.
We returned to the car and then were ready to head home, another two and a half hour drive. But first we had to stop at Wasserschloss Mellenthin for the requisite waffle!
You have to pay a 2 Euro toll for the bridge but get that money back once you pay for some food!
I loved the simple vaulted ceiling in the restaurant where we ate our waffle.
And we both chose the same waffle – apple and cream. And of course tea and coffee for us both.
The sun was setting as we headed south back to Berlin/Bernau. It was an easy drive although the car was still complaining about its power being limited. We had expected to be a bit later back but hadn’t been able to catch up with Klaus’s other friend Tim who lives on Usedom but wasn’t available. But it was a lovely day out, and our only chance this year to visit Usedom. We were in fact on Usedom last year at around this time, and I can recommend it in late October (assuming the weather is good, as it was) as it’s not so horribly touristy!
Shopping and Sushi in Berlin
Our plan for Thursday, our final full day in Berlin, was mainly to enjoy a meal at the Sushi restaurant in Potsdamer Platz that Klaus had discovered on his visit in the summer with Lara. We also had a few more bits and bobs to do (I wanted to visit the Spy Museum, we wanted to find some smart shoes for me, to perhaps find a couple of work shirts for me, to look at possible winter jackets for Klaus, to visit the Vodafone shop to see how to renew our mobile contracts) and all of these things were available around Potsdamer Platz, so we decided to spend the day there.
We had originally thought we would get the train from Bernau or Buch but as it was quite possible we would end up carrying things around (clothing/shoes that we bought), and because one can park for a reasonable price at Potsdamer Platz, we decided to go by car so we could place our purchases in the car and didn’t have to carry heavy rucksacks around all day.
So we set off in the morning heading south into Berlin on a very slow journey, which was to be expected on a work day. Klaus was able to squeeze his large car into the Potsdamer Platz Tiefgarage (underground garage) and then we made our way out into Potsdamer Platz/the Sony Centre.
We decided to do our shopping first, so walked to Potsdamer Platz Arkaden. This had really gone downhill with lots of empty shops – we soon discovered why, the Mall of Berlin which was just across the road was a much better shopping experience.
We spent some time in the Mall of Berlin searching for some smart shoes for me. I have large feet (size 42) and my left foot is a bit wider than my right foot. Lots of the shoe shops have the right shoe for you to try on and all seems well until I try the left shoe. Such was the case here. We looked in lots of shops but there were often no size 42s at all, and if there were they weren’t suitable or didn’t fit. We were getting discouraged so stopped for a muffin.
After the Muffin with a second wind we went into Schuh City and lo and behold I found some good shoes. They were 2-3 times as much as I wanted to pay, but in the end I went for them as it is rare to have such comfortable shoes.
I was also thinking about getting some boots for the winter so we then went into another shop and I found some that I liked, although decided not to buy them there and then as the ones I were looking at had a few manufacturing issues. Klaus had a look at some shoes and ended up buying some for himself, however, as they would be good for him for winter.
So laden with shoe boxes, we returned to the car to dump our bags before heading off to the Spy Museum.
I had wanted to visit this museum for several years since it opened and it was finally our chance!
It was fairly small but well done, with various interactive things. They had an Enigma machine and lots of other old equipment from the DDR time as well as the war. They also had an exhibition of James Bond items.
We had a cup of coffee/tea in the Museum café and then it was time to walk to the Sushi place where Klaus was going to treat me to an evening meal. We walked past Potsdamer Platz again.
It was a fifteen minute walk to the Sushi place and Klaus’s back was complaining about all the walking/standing/walking from today by the time we got there, but the food made it all worthwhile!
We also selected three small desserts to share – they were really tasty!
After a fantastic meal it was time to walk back to the car at Potsdamer Platz.
As we were driving back to Bernau we followed this car with the rather unusual sign writing:
It turns out that SINOB is a health food brand. But it doesn’t really appeal to me with that name!
We arrived home with our holiday in Berlin almost at an end. The good news is that I will wake up tomorrow morning as still a European citizen (as Brexit has been delayed again). We will be driving to Vlotho for our overnight stay there before returning home to Kempen. It’s been a wonderful time in Berlin and we will be back again soon!
The language of German tends to stick together various words to make longer ones. For English eyes sometimes these words look a bit odd as we break them up in different places where there are recognisable English words. One example is the German word for a pre-cooked herring, which is written “Brathering” in German. I read that as brather-ring, but it is actually pronounced braat-herring.
My car radio did a good demonstration of this the other day when the radio station information was scrolling across the screen. My ‘favourite hits’ looked rather amusing!
I was also heartened to see that in the large Edeka supermarket in Aldekerk which we visit once a week they have increased their curry sauces.
These are British Sharwoods sauces with stickers on the back in German with the ingredients/usage instructions translated into German. No idea if these will continue after Brexit, and as you can see they are a lot more expensive than they would be in the UK, but at least there is some hope for curry!
Here is a nice photo of us that friend Inge took at her birthday event last month:
Cakes this month
This month I have had a bit more success with Keto cake recipes as I have been improving recipes that I have and experimenting with new ingredients/methods.
Here was the first success – a mascarpone berry cake:
Followed up by a Mascarpone Torte
These cakes have no sugar and almost no carbohydrate and are made with Almond flour. The mascarpone is a great option as it is very creamy and tasty, and has up to 70% fat (high fat is very good in the Keto diet).
Always ensuring that we are not running short on cakes, Klaus and I took his daughter Lara to Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk for a cake as they have a wonderful selection. They also had a new option, which was a mix ‘n match selection, which I thought I would try out. There were seven different cake pieces, each about a quarter of a usual cake size, so this is very generous and should probably be shared amongst two people!
Klaus and Lara had normal sized cakes.
Most of this month’s cakes have already been included in the images above, but here are a couple of additional ones!
Last month I rode 1,600km, this month rather less:
However, I did use all three of my bikes this month.
And this is where I actually cycled to:
A bit of a weird-looking map, but you can see there was some riding in the east of England, a ride between Hoek van Holland and Rotterdam, and then riding at home around Kempen. More will be revealed below!
A Velomobile tour to the UK
Klaus and I had planned early in the year to visit my Mum in the UK in September, and then we thought it might be rather nice to go in the velomobiles! So over the last weekend in August and the first week of September we headed to Blighty.
England Trip – Day 1: Kempen to Maren-Kessel
As the ride to Hoek van Holland is about 200km, we decided to do it in a leisurely manner over two days. We were both working on the Friday but Klaus was able to leave a bit early so we set off around 2pm in beautiful sunshine.
The first 45km of the ride were our standard route to Siebengewald and then we were riding in NL. The roads were fairly clear and we were making great progress.
Our ride was to be about 110km and we had given the Vrienden op de Fiets hosts an estimated arrival time of 6pm. So we decided to stop for a cup of tea after the halfway point. Up till now the route had been really good.
Once we had had a couple of drinks we headed off again, still enjoying the weather and the good roads. This time I had allowed the Garmin software to choose the route to Maren-Kessel and it had done an excellent job, this was a really good route which I am sure we will use again if we ever go in this direction. Lots of quiet roads but long, straight routes too so we were able to keep up a good speed – we averaged over 30 km/h for the 110km and that is including lots of luggage!
Our host and hostess had agreed to provide us with dinner (for an extra cost of course) and we enjoyed our evening meal with them, relaxing at the outside table in their garden. The next day would be shorter and nice and relaxing hopefully!
England Trip Day 2: Maren-Kessel to Hoek van Holland
We had a leisurely start this morning, so I went out for a walk before breakfast as I woke up early. It was lovely walking along the Maas looking at the sunrise over the fields.
And then we were treated to another wonderful breakfast at this Vrienden op de Fiets.
At a quarter to ten we were on our way with just 120km to ride.
The route started along the dike beside the Maas (I had especially planned this) and it turned out to be absolutely wonderful.
Long, smooth roads with no traffic. There was a minor detour due to some roadworks but we soon found ourselves back on the dike. We pedalled smoothly and efficiently, enjoying the morning sunshine.
One small section went through a field of sheep!
But then we were back on our cycle route with rather cleaner road surfaces!
We were to cross the Maas many times today, and our first crossing involved coming down off the dike with what turned out to be a hairpin bend. This was very tricky in Millie and I had to shuffle back and forth quite a lot.
But then we were on the ferry, which turned out to be free!
Here is the Maas.
And here is my cycling companion – and me!
This was such a great route, as we were now on a route that had been sent to us by friend Gabi who had ridden it with other friend Rolf. We went through lots of interestingly-named places and some lovely Dutch villages.
After a while we felt it right to stop for some cake and I had already identified on the map a bakery in Almkerk. Unfortunately it was a bakery that didn’t offer tea or coffee so we left and then stood around outside trying to work out where we could go instead. A lady passer-by who had heard us asking about a place for a hot drink suggested we tried a different place a couple of kilometres away (unfortunately in the wrong direction!) but as we had plenty of time we gave it a go.
There was some kind of event going on so we were surrounded by Dutch people having some kind of mini presentation but we had some drinks and a piece of cake each and enjoyed the rest.
After an hour and a half we moved on, carrying on along the route. We rode along the Waal for a while and then it was time for another river crossing on a ferry.
We were now approaching Dordrecht and the beginning of the more built-up areas. We had also arranged to meet chum Alex somewhere around here so various messages were exchanged, with the meeting point decided as Zwijndrecht Station.
However, our excellent route started to go non-excellent from this point. First of all, I missed a slight right fork in a cycle path and kept on the left side which then took us the wrong way. Never mind, I could see we would join up further ahead – except we didn’t, as the other cycle path would have taken us onto a higher street level and we were stuck down underneath. We also briefly had the entire cycle path blocked by some police vehicles and had to wait about five minutes.
We had stops, starts, curves, traffic lights etc and were beginning to get annoyed with Dordrecht. And then… the absolute classic!
The railway line is a significant obstacle so the cycle-friendly Dutch have built a bicycle tunnel underneath it. A great idea. Except that if you are heading towards Zwijndrecht and want to go under the tunnel, you have to do a hairpin curve. Not just any curve, one with built-up kerbs both sides, so you cannot move out of your cycle lane. Which is maybe 1.5 metres wide maximum.
And just look at that curve!
I think I needed about a 30-point turn to get round there, and there was a queue of bikes behind me as no-one could overtake me as I tried to get round. Plus Klaus was behind me and would have to do the same thing too. This was very inconvenient for velomobiles, and also for other cyclists!
But eventually we got through, out the other side, and the we crossed the bridge past Dordrecht.
Zwijndrecht was also very difficult, with fixed cycle routes with sharp bends and traffic light buttons we couldn’t reach, etc. We were both feeling pretty annoyed with these built-up areas by the time we met Alex.
Alex headed off in the lead and almost immediately we were faced with roadworks which were tricky to find a way around. We had ended up back at our meeting point after riding 1-2km before finally escaping that bit of the city.
And then we lost Alex again as he went off ahead and we had to follow our route (as had no idea where we would be going otherwise) but he caught us up again.
Unfortunately we lost him again a bit later. He was off the front and we needed to stop as we needed to put our feet down. We have not really optimised our riding with Alex as we always seem to end up going different ways and not riding together!
Anyway, after a brief break (and I had an ice cream) we carried on. We passed Portugaal.
Just after this point it turned out we had passed Alex who was at a café having a drink but we didn’t see him, and as he had only just ordered we realised we wouldn’t see him again unless he decided to come to Maassluis where we were going to have our evening meal. In the end the weather wasn’t so good so he went home – we’d only had a brief time with him but it was nice to see him again!
At Hoogvliet we crossed a bridge over the Oude Maas towards Spijkenisse and then another bridge over the Hartelkanaal where we were riding through an industrial area but with an excellent cycle infrastructure.
We were actually zooming along here, past the port of Rotterdam.
As we neared Maassluis our route was suddenly closed – with no information about a diversion for cyclists.
Fortunately we could see on our Garmins an alternative route, which was the car route which we took – on the road, as we didn’t spot the cycle path early enough and there were no ways to join in after the beginning.
We crossed on the ferry to Maassluis and then rode around a bit before we found a Greek restaurant where we ate a hearty evening meal as a few raindrops started to fall.
We headed off to the ferry along the Maas, enjoying the beautiful skies and great light. This cycle route between Maassluis and Hoek van Holland is very nice to ride, even in a Velomobile!
And before long we were in the queue of cars, 95% of which had British registrations, to get on the ferry.
We were directed to park near the motorbikes.
We went up to our cabin and, seasoned travellers that we are, had a cuppa in the lounge before going for an early night. The next morning would be Klaus’s first experience of cycling in England!
England Trip Day 3: Harwich to Witnesham
I have ridden the route from Harwich to Manningtree loads of times on my trike but this would be the first time in the Velomobile. Likewise the route from Manningtree to Witnesham. It would be interesting to see how well the velomobiles performed.
But first, breakfast. Like NL, Britain doesn’t go in much for breakfast, and definitely not at 6:30am on a Sunday morning. However, I had seen a new McDonalds near Parkestone, Harwich, when I was in England a month or so ago, and indeed it was open for a McBreakfast, after a 1km ride from the ferry terminal.
The choice of breakfast is different in the UK to that in Germany – McMuffins are more of a thing here. And of course proper tea!
After we had fuelled up it was time to head off to Witnesham. The day was fabulous, with blue skies. We wended our way up the hill into Harwich, then down again (this was to avoid the A120) and around the roundabout to Ramsey, where we started on the traditional winding country lanes of the UK with high hedges and sudden unexpected views.
It was also very up and down, which I had known about from my triking days. Of course, with the motor this was no issue at all for me – I just turned up the power from Number 1 to Number 3 or 4 or 5 (depending on how steep the hill was) and kept going. Klaus was proving once again that he is a very decent hill climber in the heavy Quattrovelo and only had to use his Schlumpf Mountain Drive (the clue is in the name) once. This was on a 16% slope so fair enough!
I knew as we cycled towards Mistley Heath we would have a bit of a view, and so we did – the river Stour, which flows out at Harwich. We were looking across at Holbrook where the Royal Hospital School occupies a prime position – we would ride past this a bit later.
Here is Klaus still looking cheerful despite the hills!
We rode into Manningtree and then crossed the border into Suffolk, leaving Essex behind for today. We then toiled up the hill towards Brantham which was one of my least-liked hills when I used to ride my trike all around here. We were slow, of course, but then a group of race cyclists came past us. That would never do, so Klaus sped up and so did I (with motor assistance for me), and as the hill levelled off we passed the cyclists. Klaus was justifiably proud of this as he had 15kg or so of luggage in his Quattrovelo (which they couldn’t see).
We turned off shortly afterwards to head to Stutton (didn’t want to take the really busy road into Ipswich as it is narrow and fast) and I rather hoped the race cyclists would carry on, but they turned off too so we had to keep pedalling at speed till they were out of sight behind us. Strava Flyby shows us that they actually stopped just after the turn-off.
We were now on the country lanes heading to Holbrook with lots of ups and downs. My front wheels in Millie weren’t very round (I had one broken spoke each side) and I felt it upon braking, so I was nursing Millie a bit trying not to corner TOO fast. Which is a shame as there are some nice corners, albeit with blind exits where you could run into a tractor or an Essex Boy in his car.
The road surface magically improves as you go past Royal Hospital School, a very expensive private school with impressive grounds and lots of interesting buildings. Klaus was going too fast for me to stop and get a photo! And then once you leave Holbrook the roads become rough and potholey again.
We rode through Holbrook and then past Freston where we joined the Orwell river and cycled under the impressive bridge.
From here we joined back on the main road from Manningtree to Ipswich and headed into Ipswich Town itself, which was pretty quiet as it was 7:30am on a Sunday morning.
Riding through Ipswich was OK at this time of day, particularly as we are familiar with the route as it’s the same route we take with the car.
In the centre of Ipswich we had the very steep climb up by Ipswich School, and then we were heading out to the north on some nicer, wider roads.
We were on the Westerfield Road where we drive so often, and it was interesting to experience it in velomobiles. The distances seem further (of course, as we were slower), and the road surfaces rougher than we are used to, but it was a lovely ride and Klaus was really enjoying his first experience of cycling in England. It helped that no car drivers had tried to kill us yet.
After Westerfield we had lots of ups and downs, including America Hill, where I saw the first sign to Witnesham, our destination.
It’s a very long, thin village but we soon arrived at Mum’s house. The gate was open (her neighbour had opened this for us) so we could ride right into the Cart Lodge where the velomobiles would spend the week, hanging out with Mum’s car.
Mum was actually away on holiday so we had the place to ourselves for two days. We hit the supermarket for food (by car), driving to Ipswich, and on the way we were passed by someone in a Quest Velomobile going the other way! This Quest appears periodically in the local papers and Mum once talked to him – he uses it to cycle to work but lives in Bentley and his furthest distance is apparently to Ipswich (16km or so) so he’s not so much a mile-eater. A lady who is interested in velomobiles and lives in Ipswich told me on Facebook she had never seen a velomobile in the flesh, and we saw one after 10 minutes of being in Ipswich!
In the afternoon I went out for a bit of a walk to enjoy the English countryside.
Part of the purpose of my walk was to see if I could spot any decent blackberry bushes – there were loads so I was in luck!
At the end of the lane was an old telephone box. This one, like many others, has been repurposed as a book exchange.
But the old postbox next to it still carries out its main function.
When I got home I had definitely earned my cream tea. Klaus enjoyed his too!
England Trip Day 4: A DF in Diss
We had been in contact with the Velomobile Club of Great Britain before we headed to the UK to say we would be there, and did anyone want to meet up. A chap called Bill who lived in Suffolk said he would, so we arranged to meet in Diss for lunch on the Monday. That would be a 60km round trip for us and similar for him.
Before we headed off I went for a bit of a walk again. My walk this time took me towards the Village church which is at the bottom of one of the hills. There’s a small stream which clearly floods.
The sign is another reminder you are no longer in continental Europe – no metres!
I returned to Mum’s house and we got the velomobiles ready to head to Diss.
I had ridden the route to Diss once or twice before on my trike and it had felt like a long way then. However, riding at almost double the speed in the velomobiles it was a much quicker journey.
By bike you see much more than by car. We passed some beautiful houses, went through a few villages (Debenham, Eye) and had a long stretch of about 6km on brand new surface-dressed chip-seal. Horribly rough and noisy!
This route was also quite up and down, and with the rough road surface I wondered if Klaus would be enjoying it. Turned out he really loved it, particularly the twisting, curving roads with different views around each corner.
Just before Diss we had a pretty nasty crossing of a main road where we had to wait quite a long time, but safety first! I have no idea why no refuge had been built for cars/cyclists but there you go, it often feels like UK road infrastructure thinks only of cars.
We arrived in Diss at the riverside restaurant I had chosen (via Google) and discovered there was nowhere to park our velomobiles within sight of the restaurant. However, some guys selling coffee out of a historic car said they would watch over them for us. They were very friendly chaps, and I made sure to tell them we had alarms on the bikes which would inform us also if anyone touched the bikes. So in the end they were pretty safely tucked away.
Bill arrived just a few minutes later in his cream-coloured DF.
As you may be able to see from the photos, he had rolled his DF fairly recently. We discussed this with him and it seems there is some kind of problem with his suspension/steering linkage as it all feels very nervous when riding over 40 km/h and that should not be the case with a DF. We had a look and there was definitely some play in the front wheels which should not be there, so he now knows this is not normal and will look into it.
Klaus and I chose our food. I had a steak and kidney pudding, one of those things I loved as a child (I picked the kidney out though), but a pub version of a suet pudding is nowhere near as good as Mum’s. It was still nice to have some good, hearty English food again though. Not very Keto.
Klaus went for a burger and chips.
It was really good to chat with Bill, and we had a very pleasant lunch. Then it was time for us to go our separate ways so we went back to the velomobiles, had a bit more of a chat, and then off he went. He had locked his DF back wheel to Millie’s front wheel. This was interesting as Klaus and I never think of locking our velomobiles (we don’t actually carry a lock) but Bill seemed to think it wise in the UK. Hmmmm.
The ride home ended up being the same route as the outward ride. The ride was slightly slower, though, as when in Diss I had checked my front wheels again and found a second broken spoke on the right hand side. This was quite concerning as I wasn’t sure if it was entirely safe riding with two broken spokes. I decided I would be careful on the speedy corners and on braking and take it much more gently, which I did.
We got home via a stop at a supermarket for some food (adding more weight to the Quattrovelo) and overall really enjoyed our day. In fact, Klaus started floating the idea that instead of doing an Elbe tour next year, we could perhaps do Harwich to Edinburgh or something. There is a ferry to Newcastle from Rotterdam so we could do a bit of a round tour from Newcastle to Ipswich along the coast, possibly going a bit north of Newcastle first (maybe the borders) but I thought Edinburgh seemed a bit far away. We will look into this some more.
Once we were home I also checked my tyres – they were cut to pieces, presumably from the chip-seal. We would have to factor this in for a UK tour – that brand-new tyres can be ruined very quickly!
England Trip – The rest of the holiday
When we got back from Diss Mum had returned from her holiday, so the velomobiles were put back in the garage and we spent more time with Mum. I still did some walking of course, enjoying a walk across the fields one day and persuading Klaus to come with me the next day.
I saw this sign which I thought was rather relevant to Millie.
I was a bit concerned about the broken spokes on my Milan so took some advice from the Velomobilforum and also from Ginkgo (who were building my new wheels) and the general advice was that it was OK to continue riding but I needed to not corner too fast and not brake too hard.
Klaus and I took a trip to Ipswich for me to visit Marks & Spencer for the obligatory undies and stopped for some cake in Costa Coffee.
Our plan was to cycle to my cousin Moyna’s house on Wednesday and then cycle back via Dedham where we would meet friends Gwenllian and Mark. Unfortunately on Tuesday I realised I was developing a significant cold and it was clear on Wednesday morning that I shouldn’t cycle with it (120km round trip), especially as I had the extra issue of my broken spokes.
So in the end we bagged Mum’s car and drove to Moyna’s thatched cottage where we sat out in her garden house and had some lunch.
It was lovely to see Moyna again (I had visited her when I was in the UK in June too) and have a good chinwag. And she made us some lovely lunch of a quiche and new potatoes,
We then drove to Stratford St Mary to Hall Farm Shop where Gwenllian and Mark joined us and we had some of their huge cakes!
I have to say, that I prefer German cakes. British cakes are very spongey and sugary, German cakes are lighter and more creamy. Such a hefty slice of a British cake can be a bit overwhelming, especially when like me you don’t eat much sugar at all (Keto diet). Although I enjoyed my cake, if I had a chance of a Käse Sahne Torte I would have chosen that instead.
It was lovely talking to Gwenllian and Mark and reconnecting with the Colchester world. I have moved away permanently now so I have few connections there except for some friends and church, but it is good to revisit some old haunts like Hall Farm shop and of course see friends again.
The next day I was still coldy, but felt well enough to do what we had planned – a trip to Southend on Sea! I had threatened Klaus with this trip for some time – I wanted him to see some of where I grew up. So we drove to Southend and I showed him The Sea and The Pier and Rossi’s ice cream.
After this we dropped in to see Wowbagger and Jan, who had of course visited me in Germany twice before and so Klaus already knew them. We had a nice cup of tea and some cake with them too.
After this we went to my sister’s house and then off for an Indian Meal in Benfleet to celebrate my sister and my niece’s birthday. It was great to eat proper Indian again – and good preparation for Klaus who was off to India the following week.
The next day was Friday, the day we were due to return to Harwich and the ferry in the evening. When I woke up I felt much rougher with my cold, all I could really do was lie around the house blowing my nose.
At about 11 o’clock Klaus made the decision that I couldn’t cycle home from Hoek van Holland to Kempen the next day. My cold was travelling down towards my chest and it would not be good, especially as rain was forecasted on the Saturday and Sunday. He set about finding out if we could hire a sprinter in NL. It was clear we would have to ride to Harwich as hiring a sprinter from the UK just wouldn’t work
In the end we found an option at Sixt rental, but we couldn’t return the Sprinter to Venlo but would need to take it back to Rotterdam. That meant a lot of driving back and forth for Klaus. Unfortunately my brain was a bit foggy so all I could focus on was the 50km to Harwich in the dark, cold and rain that evening. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but at least I knew I could have a hot shower when I got on the boat.
So we cancelled our Vrienden op de Fiets in Eindhoven for Saturday night and Klaus’s credit card took a hit for the Sprinter.
It was raining in the late afternoon but the weather radar suggested it would stop around 6pm. We decided it was worth waiting to see if this happened because riding in the dry would be much better for me. Sure enough, at almost exactly 18:00 the rain stopped and we set off in the velomobiles, me wrapped up in buffs and with a jumper on.
We retraced our route of the previous Sunday, which meant of course riding up America Hill almost immediately. For Klaus, without warmed-up muscles, this was a bit tougher than last time, but he soon got in the swing of it.
This time Ipswich was more happening and we had lots of people shouting and laughing at us and hooting their horns. This is often very annoying.
The climb up after the Orwell Bridge was pretty tough as we had a bit of a queue behind us and nowhere to stop. There were some lovely views of sunset over the river Orwell but no chance to photograph them unfortunately.
We were back on the country lanes of the Shotley Peninsula before long and the up-and-down route carried on, with me being extra careful on the fast descents and corners due to my spoke issues.
I felt a bit muzzy-headed but otherwise OK to ride as it wasn’t too cold yet. We arrived at Manningtree and I decided to stop at the supermarket and buy some sandwiches – we had thought about stopping at a pub somewhere but I was worried about getting cold sitting around in cycling gear. So the sandwiches were a good option as we could eat them on the boat.
We checked in but unfortunately were not boarding straight away. I stayed in Millie most of the time as I got a bit cold when I got out. Lots of people came to talk to us about our bikes of course.
And then finally we were able to board, go to our room and I could have a hot shower which was wonderful. Tomorrow we still had a bit of a ride as we had to get to the Rotterdam Sixt Van Hire place which was on the east side of Rotterdam, but I thought that would be manageable.
England Trip – Back in continental Europe
The next morning we woke up in Hoek van Holland and had a hot cup of tea before it was time to disembark.
What was very annoying was that several of the motorcyclists around us switched on their engines long before there was any chance of leaving the ferry. All those exhaust fumes in a confined space! Klaus even patted one guy on the shoulder and asked him to switch the engine off and he just shuffled forward about 20cm.
We left the ferry into some light drizzle. The Dutch border guards directed the bikes all to a side area where we were processed very quickly – so we effectively queue-jumped the cars which feels good. Mind you, it was raining so it was nice not to be stationary for too long.
This was our route for the day.
We set off along the same route that we had ridden six days before, but this time heading towards a black cloud.
I was actually feeling a little better than I had expected, but was very happy to just be riding 39km rather than 120.
I had asked my Garmin to plot a route straight to the Sixt Van Hire place and the route it chose was actually really good. We had a detour coming out of Hoek van Holland because of building works on the path, and the signage was a bit feeble (we did a different route than on the way to HvH and it turned out to be a lot longer, but I didn’t see any sign to show an alternative), but we were soon back on the known track and at Maassluis. Rather than crossing at Maassluis we continued on towards Rotterdam.
Riding through Rotterdam I found myself behind a lady on a Dutch Bike who was riding at 20 km/h. She seemed to know where she was going so I tucked in behind her and followed her, as she could press the buttons on the traffic lights. This worked well as you do have to concentrate a lot when riding in a strange city on cycle paths and my brain was still a bit foggy. It was probably tougher for Klaus behind me as Emily doesn’t ride so well under 25 km/h.
We were heading to the area called Alexander and we got there without too much trouble, although not particularly quickly. We went in to get our van and the lady confirmed what she had said on the phone to Klaus yesterday, that they would have to ‘upgrade’ us for free as the Sprinter had a puncture and they hadn’t been able to get it fixed. The upgrade was to a 3.5 tonne truck with a tail lift.
In some ways this was good (easier to get the VMs in and out) but for Klaus it would be more of a driving challenge and would use more fuel.
As we started loading the velomobiles the heavens opened and we got absolutely soaked. But we were eventually on our way, despite another car almost backing into us after about 10 metres driven!
We used my phone’s SatNav propped up on the dashboard as there was no Satnav in the van, and soon got onto the familiar motorways that lead us through NL.
We arrived home under grey skies but it was at least dry.
We extracted our Velomobiles.
The tail-lift was very useful although we had to put the velomobiles on it sideways as they were too long for it if they went nose-first.
But finally our bikes were home.
Klaus had an hour’s rest and recuperation and then it was time for him to drive back to Rotterdam. The plan was for him then to get the train back to Venlo and I would collect him from there. It would make for a very long day.
He started feeling not so good on the way back to Rotterdam, and then the train journey did not improve things. It looked as though he had picked up the bug I had. I picked him up from Venlo and he was so relieved to be home again. It was Saturday evening but we didn’t do anything on Sunday and then were both off work on Monday due to feeling ill, and although Klaus went back to work Tuesday I stayed at home that day too. I went back to work on Wednesday and presumably gave it to my colleague who was then off work for a week and a half!
What is interesting is to see the stress that my body was under for the cycling and travelling whilst feeling ill. My Garmin Vivoactive 3 tracks stress and this is what it showed for the day we came back from Hoek van Holland:
And the image below is a ‘control’ day, the day we cycled to Diss when we were in the UK when I was feeling much better. My stress score is almost always under 25 (because I ensure I have as stress-free a life as I can!)
What our experience with having to come home by van also showed us is that velomobiles have the disadvantage that you can’t really easily be rescued. You can’t go on a train with them, most people don’t have a suitable trailer available, and especially if you are in another country there can be problems with hiring vans (it was not possible with the first van hire place we tried in NL as we didn’t have an NL address).
Undoubtedly if we had given a couple of days’ warning and put messages on Facebook and in the Velomobilforum we would have had an offer for someone at least to look after our velomobiles whilst we got the train home. However, we made the decision we couldn’t ride at 11am on Friday morning and were leaving at 18:00 that evening, so we had 7 hours to sort something out. That wasn’t enough time to wait for the marvels of social media.
I wondered on the Saturday if I would actually have been able to ride to Eindhoven as I actually felt a bit better. However, Klaus ended up also feeling ill and we couldn’t have known that’s how it would be when deciding what to do on Friday. Van hire, fuel and train tickets came to about 250€ so it was expensive too, but that’s the risk with the velomobiles. We talked together about how it is easier with open trikes (you can usually use the train) and wondered about maybe in the future doing touring in trikes as you see more and have more options, although can only go half the distance.
It didn’t ruin the holiday but it was a bit of a shame, but also a learning experience. We will probably built exit strategies into future tours, and I think we should think more about seeing if the velomobile can be stored at a hotel or somewhere if we have to get the train home in an emergency.
More Millie pimping
When on our Münsterland Tour I tried out Otfried’s rain cover for his Quest which fitted rather well. I thought it worth trying something similar for Millie, although it would have to be larger to cover the Naca duct. So I ordered a piece of relatively thin tarpaulin and added some elastic into the eyelets. It seems OK, and folds up pretty small. I have not used it in anger yet though.
I also finally bit the bullet and bought my new wheels for Millie. I had decided this last month and placed an order with Ginkgo Veloteile who make lots of wheels for velomobilists. Lutz the boss was very kind to advise me by email when I had my spoke problems in England, and so I was very pleased to receive the new wheels a couple of days after we got home.
They felt lighter than the old wheels. I stupidly didn’t weigh them, but I did weigh an old wheel and that was 1205g per wheel. So one day I will weigh the new ones, but that will mean I will have had to remove them which is no fun at all!
One unfortunate thing was that the rims only had holes drilled for Presta (SV) valves. I like using Schraeder (AV/Autoventil) and so this was rather a pain as I have had to adjust all my pumps to take Presta. Plus I don’t like them. I have ordered an adapter that I can screw on the Presta and then use a Schraeder pump but I will see if I can get used to using a Presta pump fitting first. I said nothing to Ginkgo about this so it’s my own fault. I of course had to buy 4 new tubes as well.
Anyway, when the time came to change the wheels, Frank kindly helped me. Klaus was keeping out of the way as he had to look after his back as he was flying to India the next day… more about this later!
Anyway, Frank very efficiently removed each wheel. Here is the old with the new.
We refitted them with only minimal trauma. Except when I had finished, and was feeling very proud about my new wheels, I noticed one of the old wheels had a screw-on magnet. Yikes, that was for the speed sensor for the motor! Fortunately I was able to screw it on tightly enough to the replacement wheel in situ and didn’t have to take it out again (which would have been NOT FUN).
And the conclusion… the wheels are much rounder so the ride is smoother, they (currently) have no broken spokes, they seem to give better shock absorption over minor bumps, and they are generally a real improvement. It took a short amount of time for the brakes to bed in, but now all works fine. It was a very worthwhile upgrade, and I just hope they survive without spokes breaking for a while!
Klaus wanted to improve the foam in the side pockets of the Quattrovelo so bought some Ventisit-type thin material from eBay, which turned out to be pretty decent. He got a large amount so I could steal some for Millie – it sits on her floor under the seat and stops things sliding around, plus hides some of the cables snaking around on her floor.
Whilst Klaus was in India we had a hot day so I decided to do a hot-weather job which is to redo the vinyl wrap on Millie.
I hadn’t done the best job with the previous wrap (my own bit of artwork, the first was a sticker I put on). I felt the red was too thin, the large areas of blue had some bubbles/slices in, and I felt it didn’t look quite right.
So I googled images of flags in movement which I felt would be nicer for Millie. But I didn’t have much success, and decided in the end to just try SOMETHING, as I could always redo the above version but with wider red and white sections.
First job is to remove the old vinyl. Not too tricky, but removing the adhesive isn’t so easy. I used lots of isopropyl alcohol and elbow grease. And eventually got there…
Next job was to get a large sheet of paper and lay it against Millie. There was enough remaining adhesive that the paper stayed in situ, and I just drew freehand an idea for a flag.
I then used this freehand drawing to cut a couple of red pieces, using the same template for both sides (but obviously mirror-image). I fitted the red and quite liked it – I was using much smaller pieces which tapered to a narrower point. It is much easier to fit the wide section first and then guide the narrower sections with the flexibility of the vinyl.
I also took a lot of care to line up each side of Millie so that when I viewed her from the back it would be straight and level. This was surprisingly tricky but I managed it. I had removed the rear brake light for this (it had mostly fallen off anyway) and was just hanging down by its cable, I would superglue it back in place when the flag was finished.
Just two small blue pieces each side finished the job. The large blue pieces last time were a complete nightmare but these were easy, although in retrospect I wish I had slightly changed the shape (I may redo the blue sometime – I have enough blue vinyl left to wrap about 20 Milans).
And here is the finished product!
I’m very pleased with it! Millie looks like she goes faster now…
On this day I also had a visit from a chap named Kai and his cycling pal Micha. Kai had become interested in Velomobiles and was trying to learn about them. As he lived not too far away I suggested he could come and view our 4, although further conversation with him showed he was an out-and-out speedy rider so could ignore the Strada and the Versatile; he was actually mainly interested in the Milan.
We had a really good chat and he had a short test ride in Millie with and without motor (he was considering a motor due to some long-standing knee issues). He is considering a velomobile for his commute which is 35km each way with mainly open roads and a gentle slope for the final 6km. A Milan would be great (SL or GT), and a DF or Alpha7 might also do the trick, so he’s doing some more investigation.
It was good to meet Kai and Micha and I have no doubt we will meet him in a velomobile before too long!
It’s now dark when I ride to work (around 6:45am, sometimes earlier), so I am treated to some lovely scenery on my commute.
I also pass a local farm who each year do a lovely pumpkin display.
We have had some impressive skies.
But now it’s mostly dark when I arrive. I am using Bertie for the rainy days of course.
Because of our England trip (and bad colds afterwards), plus Klaus’s trip to India, we didn’t ride much in the month. He had a two-week break from cycling (I was still commuting) so we were delighted to both get out on the bikes to ride to the 50th birthday celebration of our friend Inge.
This was a lovely ride through the countryside on the way to Süchteln, we were so happy to be out on the bikes again.
Inge had asked us to bring the velomobiles as she had borrowed Celeste and was interested to show her friends our velomobiles. So we parked near the seating area – near the tents where Inge and family were overnighting.
As mentioned above, Klaus had a business trip to India. He was to fly out on the Sunday morning and stay until Thursday night, returning on the overnight flight and I would pick him up on midday Friday from Düsseldorf airport.
As mentioned above, he was concerned about such a long flight as he is no longer allowed to fly business class (cost-cutting) so he decided he should keep away from the maintenance work on Millie’s wheels as that can give him back problems.
So it was of course typical that whilst I was working on Millie, he was carrying the washing down the cellar steps and somehow slipped down the bottom 3-4 steps and turned his ankle. Which swelled up a lot.
We were concerned about him having to spend most of the next day sitting immobile in an aeroplane seat (thrombosis?) so we went to the A&E department of Kempen hospital. The lady doctor he saw there was surprisingly dismissive of him (“Why have you come, of course you can fly!” but at least we had official word he could make the trip. On the way to hospital we had both said we thought it was probably not possible. She took an x-ray as Klaus looked a bit surprised by her response, and it showed nothing broken, so that was good news – they strapped his foot up tightly and said to keep it raised up.
So he went to India, wearing loose-fitting shoes and keeping his foot up as much as possible. While he was there I had use of his car, and I took the opportunity to redecorate the rear passenger-side door whilst having a rather-too-close encounter with a low brick wall.
The brick wall actually came off worst.
Unfortunately the brick wall belongs to Gudula and Frank, and it is also the second time I have done this (I also did it with my Roomster). So Klaus is dealing with the insurance for his car and I am looking for a Maurer (brickie) in the locality who will do a repair/replacement for me.
And Klaus’s experience in India? Mixed, as he found Mumbai and Puna both rather dirty and scruffy with lots of poverty, and then there would be pockets of ‘normal’ and posh areas, cheek by jowl with the slums.
We were glad to see him home and our Household Blackboard showed his route:
The Brexit and general UK implosion story keeps going, as we have all experienced! However, Germany has organised a law which shows I am safe here with my right to stay. Phew!
I have been getting more and more fed up with the whole Brexit shenanigans so have decided to set aside my lifelong rejection of swearing and have bought myself a mug for work which shows how I feel.
I also have two cracking t-shirts…
I ordered these three items from the “Very Brexit Problems” facebook page and they were produced in Latvia and delivered to me in Germany 3 days later. The European Union in action. You can order your own, or lots of other goods, here: https://verybrexitproblems.com
As mentioned above, my colleague Alex went down with a bug (presumably mine from England) on the Tuesday of my first week back at work and was off for the rest of that week and the entire following week. This meant that I ended up doing rather a lot of overtime, working 8-10 hours per day instead of my usual 5, so I have built up loads of overtime. This will translate into lots of days off over the next couple of months, although I already have two weeks of holidays booked in October (Mum visiting and then going to Berlin with Klaus).
I also had a couple of choir practices this month, including our Probentag which was from 10am until 5pm. We are singing Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem and it is lovely! The concerts (two) will be in November and I am really looking forward to it again. I even managed to go by velomobile to the Probentag despite a weather forecast of rain (which I mostly missed), so I am getting braver about riding in the rain now winter approaches. But generally, riding in rain is about going slowly in Bertie and staying dry!
Cakes this month
Most of this month’s cakes have already been included in the images above, but here are a couple of money ones!
I’m writing this two days before the end of the month as I will shortly be saying goodbye to my MacBook and heading off in the Velomobile to England. Here is where I cycled during the month of August, including the beginning of the England trip.
And here is where I went:
As it was very warm towards the end of August, I fetched Alfie out of the Summer Palace (our second rented garage) and used him for my work commute on a few days. The ride to work is fine temperature-wise, it was just the ride home at midday in temperatures of 33 degrees that was less inviting in a velomobile, plus I had to pop to the shops and get some groceries.
It’s always fun riding the trike, although it does feel slow! But the lovely morning sunrises have started.
Over the last few months I have written quite a bit about my tile-bagging, which is using the website at Veloviewer.com to show a grid of 1km squares and to award me the ’tile’ if I have cycled in any part of that 1km square. At the end of July/beginning of August my maximum square was 18×18 tiles
Tile-bagging gives a good purpose for a ride when you don’t have a specific reason to go somewhere, and it also means that you cover a wide area and visit places you might otherwise avoid. Such as Krefeld!
Tile-bagging Neukirchen Vluyn – 1 August
So I started August very well, as on the 1 August I did a quick 35km tile-bagging ride after work to get some missing tiles in Neukirchen Vluyn.
The route up to Neukirchen Vluyn is very nice (I had done a similar route with Klaus a couple of days before) and the roads round here are fast. This was easy, but the top right hand corner of my square is the easiest area as it’s still fairly close; as I get more tiles I have to travel further to get new ones, and will start heading into more built-up areas which is less appealing.
I am getting pretty good at planning my track too, and I use course points on my Garmin to show me each tile as I reach it. This gives a bit of encouragement on the longer rides, plus shows if there is somewhere that I can take a detour if necessary.
Tile-bagging in Krefeld – 2 August
One place that Klaus and I tend to avoid is Krefeld. This is partly because, despite being a fahrradfreundlicher Stadt, it is not very bike-friendly in our opinion. This is mainly down to the poor quality road surfaces which is of course related to the relative poverty of this town, especially when compared to rich Kempen just 10km away.
But I would have to ride through Krefeld to get the tiles, so I plotted a route (attempting to avoid the trams where possible) and headed out after work.
This was a very worthwhile route as it actually got me 24 tiles. It was also pleasanter than I thought as the route through Krefeld wasn’t too bad, although I had a 3km section on a road beside tram tracks; it’s not very relaxing riding between tram tracks and parked cars as you know if you are doored you will probably either break the nose of the velomobile on the car door or the suspension on the tram tracks. But I rode carefully and despite it being 3pm it didn’t seem too busy in Krefeld.
There was some fiddly stuff at the southernmost part of the track and I wasn’t sure if all the paths were asphalted but indeed they were, and I was able to return through Krefeld on a route which was also OK.
Klaus was cycling home from work which meant he wouldn’t be back till around 7pm so I had plenty of time on my ride. I stopped at a red traffic light and noticed a café beside the road so pulled in and awarded myself a slice of cake and a cuppa.
I actually really enjoyed my ride, despite having to go through Krefeld twice. Almost 61km but good fun on an afternoon after work. But I still had more Krefeld tiles to do!
Tile-bagging with Klaus in Repelen – 3 August
I was on a bit of a roll now with tile-bagging and Klaus also wanted to get some. I planned a route that would get me 7 tiles and these would probably also be new for him, as his square is a little smaller than mine. We set off at a comfortable pace and found ourselves on a few new roads, but the route was overall very good.
We decided we had deserved a piece of cake after this ride so headed to Kempen to café Peerbooms where there is always something suitable!
Tile-Bagging with Klaus near Venlo – 4 August
As it was the weekend (Sunday) Klaus had planned a longer route, to bag some tiles for him in Venlo. I had already done a very similar route to this so I actually would only get one new tile (near Arcen) on his original route, but I spotted that a slight detour of 100 metres north of Arcen would get us both a second tile. And in the end we got a third… via off-road means!
Klaus had originally planned the route boing anticlockwise, with a stop at Hofcafé Alt Bruch in Kaldenkirchen if necessary. However, I noticed that the route went past Jacobs Bauerncafé on the border with NL near Straelen and I wanted to show him their cake selection. So we decided to reverse the route, and also to set off a little later than normal as according to Google the Bauerncafé only opened at 14:00.
So after walking the dog we set off, riding directly to Kaldenkirchen on familiar roads (with a quick detour into Hofcafé Alt Bruch as I needed the loo!) and then we did some roads at the back of Kaldenkirchen which I had done a few weeks ago. From there we went into the Netherlands and this was on a different route than I had done.
Klaus had plotted a route which goes round a mini housing estate and then down a track, which was marked as no longer having asphalt about 100 metres before his Coursepoint, at which point his route turned around. We parked up at the end of the asphalt as he was trying to remember if we actually needed to go off-road to get the tile, or if he had put a good buffer in.
I checked with my veloviewer and saw that we did indeed need to go off-road, but that we did another 300 metres or so we could get another tile – one that I also needed. But the track looked even narrower so we didn’t know if it was passable.
We decided it was worth giving it a go, and set off. The first tile was easy as the surface under wheel was not too bad. But then we had to do a right turn, then another right to return to our original point.
At the first right turn we saw that the path was rather less rideable than the wide dirt track we had been on before.
But we decided to carry on – the prize of the tile was now only about 100 metres away!
And then we passed into the tile, and turned right again to go back to the road… whereupon the surface was even worse. But we struggled on, through long grass in places (but at least the velomobile body protects you from the stinging nettles) and eventually we popped back out into the housing estate. Success!
The route continued northwards and we ended up riding through Schandelo which I really liked when I rode there a week or two ago. There were some twists and turns on the route, plus some bits that we rode in both directions, but we ended up completing the NL tiles that Klaus had aimed for and then arrived at Bauerncafé Jacobs at a quarter past two.
Knowing that it opened at 2pm we were a bit astounded that it was so full – but the lady serving us said that Google was wrong and it opened at 10am. She said whenever they changed the info on Google someone changed it back. The service was very good as despite the large number of people we didn’t have to wait long at all for our cake and tea.
The final 25km goes by in a flash. This was a fun ride although I think I’m a bit more keen on the whole tile-bagging thing than Klaus, who tends to prefer more direct routes places.
Tile-bagging in Krefeld again – 7 August
Krefeld was an issue I had to ‘solve’ with the tile-bagging. Once it was done then I could always ride around it and wouldn’t have to risk cycling through. So I decided to get it sorted once and for all.
Klaus was seeing his daughter Lara after work so I had the evening to myself, so I decided to route for some Krefeld tiles and then end up at the Chinese noodle bar I like in Tönisvorst. So I did.
On this ride I went through some of the very nice bits of Krefeld – near Bockum, Linn, and then out into the countryside at Bösinghoven. I had been very brave and routed myself right through the centre of Krefeld on the way back, as there were some tiles I needed and I couldn’t be bothered to do a huge detour to avoid the city centre and still end up at Tönisvorst. But surprisingly the route was OK, except for Uerdinger Straße which had bumps in the cycle path which were like mini mountains!
I was riding through Krefeld in rush hour but it was actually OK.
I enjoyed my Chinese duck and vegetables and then popped to see friends Inge and Frank to pick up an invitation to a party they had for us – and they fed me some home-made plum cake.
Just under 60km got me another 9 tiles so that was also good going.
Tilebagging in NL Maasduinen – 12 August
I had planned myself a nice route to NL to get some pesky tiles, and decided to ride this one afternoon.
I was aiming for a bunch of tiles to the north west, one or two of which seemed rather tricky (no actual roads going through them, just footpaths/farm tracks). Still, it was worth a go, so I headed off…
I rode into the Maasduinen, and this is a great bit of NL to cycle in as you are allowed to cycle on the roads and they are mostly empty. But then I reached the ‘farm track’ section, and I discovered there was a wooden gate into a woodland area.
The gate was wide enough, it just needed 3 hands to hold it open and push the Milan through. I managed on my own, fortunately.
The other side of the gate were… lots of goats, with horns!
They didn’t seem that interested in me.
I needed to ride about 500 metres along this track, and it was OK initially, but then I had to turn right and the track changed from woodland to sandy heathland…
It’s very pretty but riding on a layer of sand is tricky in a velomobile, or any three-wheeler, as the back wheel tends to fishtail as you put power through it. I managed to make it to the magic point on my Garmin where I should have got the tile, and then turned round and went back again. This time at the gate there were some Dutch cyclists who helped me escape.
The rest of the ride was uneventful, but I got all the tiles I wanted and so it was a successful ride. And another reminder how much I like cycling in this bit of NL.
Tile-bagging in NL – Californie and more
I had a lot of random tiles still to get in NL and had idled away some time producing a route that got the lot of ’em in one big attempt. I decided if the weather and my legs were good, I’d give it a go one afternoon.
And I had luck! I rode down to Belfield at the bottom left of the map above and then picked up lots of tiles, also zigzagging northwards to get two columns of tiles. This involved riding along some really nice quiet roads but also some fairly narrow asphalted bike tracks next to unmade roads.
I had originally planned to stop for cake somewhere but in the end I just kept going, and did the 105km without stopping for more than a few minutes. I enjoyed it, and bagged 20 tiles.
Tile-bagging in Rheinberg – 21 August
The day after the Schlössertour in Münsterland I still had a bit of energy so decided to do a short ride and grab a few tiles to the north east.
I had to ride quite a long way before I could actually start on the tiles – they are all getting further away now! But I had a reasonably nice route which picked up 12 tiles altogether, and this time I awarded myself a tea and cake in Neukirchen Vluyn on the way back, with a view of one of the pithead machines.
Tile-bagging near Rheinberg again
I was making really good progress on my square now, but it seemed one of the easier areas to fill in some spaces was again to the north east, near Rheinberg.
What’s good about going this way is there is a direct road from Kerken to Rheinberg which is straight (Roman road?) and fast, so you can get to the start of the new tiles fairly quickly. My first tile was after 25km but I averaged 32 km/h to get there.
I had originally planned to do this route clockwise but then changed my mind as I wasn’t sure if I would want to do the two tiles near Issum (to the west of the above track) or shorten the ride and go home earlier. So I did the ride anticlockwise with the risk that I would go the wrong way down a one-way street! But this didn’t happen.
One tile was tricky, but I though it should be possible as Garmin’s cyclist-routing algorithm suggested it was possible. It was possible, and actually quite nice – an old stretch of road since bypassed and left to slowly fade away. There were just dog walkers on this road.
Klaus phoned me as I was cycling down this road to say he was leaving work. Although that meant he would be home before I was, I decided to continue on and do the two tiles near Issum as it was only an extra 15km. So I zoomed my way around some lovely quiet roads between Rheinberg and Issum and then made my way home. My average speed for today’s 72km ride was 32.3 km/h so you can see it was efficient – this was mostly as I cycled on the Landstraße to Rheinberg and back from Issum. On a Friday afternoon at 14:00 during school holidays there’s not so much going on.
After this ride I had just 5 more tiles to get in order to increase my max square from 21×21 to 23×23 – so I planned a route to get these five tiles, including one rather tricky one in NL (might involve walking), and persuaded Klaus that we could do this ride as our Sunday morning one, especially as that final tile is very close to Café zum Schafstall near Twisteden!
Tile-bagging around Twisteden
As mentioned above, I planned a route that just needed five tiles but would increase my max square significantly. On a sunny Sunday morning Klaus and I headed out on the ride.
We started fairly early as the day was due to be hot, plus we had some bike maintenance we wanted to do in the afternoon. We headed up to Geldern and then went further north than we usually ride, finding some lovely lanes. There wasn’t much going on (it was a Sunday morning after all) so we really enjoyed cruising around in our velomobiles.
In due course we arrived at Café zum Schafstall, where they are always very friendly and have a good cake selection!
We sat outside for quite a while, just enjoying the relaxing surroundings, before heading off to get the final tile.
This tile seemed a bit tricky as according to the map on Veloviewer there was no asphalted road going there. Here is the missing tile:
I identified the only really feasible way to get this tile was in the very top right hand corner.
I wasn’t sure what sort of a track this would be, if it would be possible for me to ride on it, but it was such a short distance (the square is 1km across, so to get to the square would probably be only 50 metres or so), I thought I would give it a go.
I didn’t actually check Google Maps beforehand – if I had, I would have seen that this track doesn’t show on Google Maps at all.
And if you look at the satellite view, it just seems to be a turf field:
And I didn’t think to look at Google Streetview before going either. This is partly because Streetview doesn’t work in Germany so I don’t tend to think about it (but this tile is in NL so would have functioned). Streetview shows it is indeed a turf field.
When Klaus and I got there, it was just a turf field. No footpath really visible except for a really thin worn section right on the left of the field.
I then spent some time trying to get a closer look at the Veloviewer map on my phone but I didn’t have enough signal. I wanted to know how far I had to walk across the field (no way could I ride Millie on there). Klaus’s phone had more signal so I took a quick look on that, but he was very much overheating so I told him to ride on and I would catch him up. I decided I had to walk along the field edge, at least 100 metres, so I could get the tile.
So I set off in my click-shoes, walking beside the field. I got three quarters of the way along it and decided I must have bagged the tile, so turned and walked back. The proof would be when I got home on Veloviewer:
Yes, I managed it!!
It actually took me a long time to catch Klaus up, even though I switched my motor on to a higher setting, because he ended up chasing a bunch of roadies along the road and then up a hill.
When I got home my max square was now 23×23. I would have to make several trips to different areas to increase to 24 and then what I have as my mini target for 2019, to get to a 25×25 max square by the end of the year. It should be possible, although I can not go any further west as there are some unreachable areas in Brachter Wald, so I can only go north, east and south.
Mini-Treff in Xanten
Klaus fancied a trip to Xanten on a Sunday morning as we had only been there once this year, so we mentioned in the Velomobilforum that we would be at Market Café in Xanten at 11am and if anyone else wanted to join us we would be glad to see them.
Klaus planned a new route to Xanten which was a bit hillier than our normal one, but ended up being lovely.
We set off going northwards via Schaphuysen, where I stopped to photograph the huge building site that is the gas pipeline. These massive channels are being dug right across our cycling area, from Issum to Tönisvorst and beyond. Our rides regularly criss-cross the building works which run like a scar through the landscape.
As you can see from the photos above, it was a lovely day for cycling – not too warm and with a bit of a breeze but blue skies.
We arrived in Xanten half an hour early.
We hadn’t known if anyone else would come but saw that Thomas/Speedastir from Kleve had written on the Velomobilforum that he would arrive. As we were early we thought we should get the first round of cakes in.
After we had finished these and had a second round of drinks, Thomas arrived and then just a few minutes later another chap appeared – in a home-built wooden velomobile!
The amazing thing about this velomobile was that it only weighs 35km, so comparable with Emily! The builder, a Dutch chap, talked about how he made it (it also has quite a lot of carbon fibre bits in!), and we enjoyed relaxing outside in the sunshine.
There were lots of people in the market square so my velomobile alarm sounded a couple of times when kids poked too much at Millie, but generally it was very relaxed (in contrast to a weird argument we had with a chap last time who was very odd).
Klaus and I felt that, having had a slice of cake for breakfast, it was now lunchtime so we should have another cake slice.
This gave us the power to cycle over the Sonsbecker Schweiz (a bit of a mega hill) on our route back via Geldern. I bagged 4 tiles on today’s ride, but that wasn’t the main purpose of it of course.
It was good to see Thomas again, and also to meet the Dutch guy (whose name escapes me).
Riding with Josef on his trip home from Norddeich
We’re ridden a few times with Josef (nickname Jupp) in the past, including in Berlin and in Bonn, where he lives. He wrote in the Velomobilforum to say he would be cycling home from Norddeich (on the very north coast of Germany) and we knew his route passes very close to our house, so we suggested we intercepted him on the way and stopped for cake. He thought this was a good plan.
He started the day in Ahaus, where he had overnighted, leaving there before 9am. We had reckoned that we would be in Uerdingen for cake at midday and had posted this on the Velomobilforum in case anyone wanted to come, but had planned to meet Josef 12km earlier and to take him with us to visit the grave of our friend Robert Frischemeier.
Josef texted us when he was passing through Wesel and this was our signal to get riding too. We lay in wait just south of the A40 bridge in Moers-Schwafheim.
He arrived and we decided to go straight on to the Cemetery, so we rode together, a group of three now, and parked outside.
After a short visit at Robert’s grave we then headed towards Uerdingen for a much-needed slice of cake and cup of tea.
We arrived and parked outside, and just a couple of minutes later Norbert and Elke from the forum arrived too on their recumbent trikes!
We were able to sit outside (it was a very hot day) although Elke, Norbert and I were in full sun which got a bit much after a while. We ordered a variety of cakes:
Josef was keen to get home to Bonn so he headed off at speed (he’s a speedy rider) and Klaus and I had another drink. We said goodbye to Norbert and Elke who made their way home and then Klaus and I also headed back. I had got rather too warm sitting in the full sun and needed some shade!
It was lovely to be able to ride a short distance with Josef again – he accompanied us on our first day of our summer tour this year – and it’s impressive that he will have ridden the 411km home in less than 24 hours!
Millie gets pimped some more!
Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will have noticed that in the 2.5 years/22,500km that I have had her, I have regularly done things to (a) make her slower, but (b) make her suit my needs more.
Basically, most people who buy a Milan buy it for SPEEEEEEEEEED!!!!! The Milan isn’t the ideal everyday velomobile – it’s low-slung so can get stuck on speed bumps/kerbs, it has a turning circle like that of a car (13 metres), it’s not overburdened with room for luggage, it isn’t very waterproof, it’s long so hard to store, and and and. However, the BIG benefit of the Milan to me is the easy entry and exit because of the Deckel. My choice of velomobiles that I can get out of without resorting to a crane is very small – and the Milan is actually the best option for me.
However, having bought an ex-racing Milan I have ended up ruining it by: (a) adding some strengthening carbon (more weight) around the entrance sill; (b) removing the foot hole on the left so I can go in reverse; (c) adding an electric motor (weight, and reduction of luggage space due to battery); (d) sticking vinyl wrap on it to make it look cooler although this adds weight; (e) changing all three lightweight wheels to stronger and heavier touring wheels; (f) fitting various chain tubes/covers to prevent me getting oily, (g) fitting larger drum brakes which are heavier but have better functionality, etc etc etc. Anyway, this month I did yet another shocking thing to Millie… I had another large hole cut in her!
In the photo above you can see that the left hand side foothole is open but the right side is closed. It has a sacrificial strip on it which is riveted onto the base, but this was now twisted and damaged which meant I was bottoming out on slight bumps.
I asked around amongst chums if anyone had the tools and the bravery to remove the footbump for me, but no-one felt quite up to the task. So I asked Andreas Beyß in Straelen (he manufactures the Go-One velomobiles) and he said he was happy to do it as it was an easy job.
So I rode the 20km to Straelen and helped Andreas turn Millie upside down onto a stand.
Because he would be cutting carbon fibre Andreas got a hoover ready.
He drilled a pilot hole with a drill, and then used an electric saw to cut out the shape. He just did this by eye.
The hole is now there!
He sanded off the edges of the hole. The photo below shows the piece that was cut out.
And the view from the interior now – two foot holes! The one on the right is a bit wider and doesn’t come back as far but that is partly because the mounting for the chain idler is there.
Interestingly, on my ride home I did notice a bit of a difference. Not so much the fact there is slightly more cooling air, but that there is a bit more light inside the velomobile when I look at my feet.
What will be very handy is if I need to do maintenance in the nose on that side I can now reach it much easier. The real test, of course, will be when I ride on some of my familiar routes where I used to bottom out. If this is not so noisy in the future it will be well worth the effort of riding to Straelen. Mr Beyß very kindly didn’t charge me for his work, which is very generous!
This month Klaus and I did a weekend tour of castles in Münsterland (see my blog post here). During this tour I had to take the battery out of Millie overnight in order to charge it – when I am at home the battery is charged in situ as there is a socket in the garage next to where Millie is stored.
The last time the battery had been removed was our summer tour in June, but this time I noticed that the battery seemed to have slightly swollen.
You can just see in this photo, where I lined the battery up with a tile edge, that there is a slight swelling in the middle of the photo.
I didn’t know if this was a really serious issue, so I phoned the suppliers:
They suggested I brought the battery and charger to them in Köln so that they could check them out. So on a day when Klaus was cycling to work I nabbed his car and drove to Köln after work to visit Akkurad.
They had asked me to bring the charger as well as the battery, so I arrived and handed the battery to Houssem. He opened it up straight away and said everything was fine with the battery.
It seems that the bulging was just in the plastic of the case, perhaps it had got a bit warm. He tested the battery with a device and said the battery was OK, then also tested the charger and said that, too, was working fine. So with a clean bill of health my battery was screwed back into its box and I set off home again from Köln.
One last very useful bit of information though. I remembered Houssem saying, when I first got the motor, that the stages 1-5 weren’t evenly spaced. It is not that 1 is 20%, 2 is 40%, 3 60% etc… but he didn’t tell me at the time what the spacing is. Having used the motor for about 7,500km, usually just on number 1, I have got a bit of a feeling and that was that 4 and 5 were notably more powerful than 1-3, but I didn’t know much more than that. So Houssem gave me the percentages:
1 = 5% 2 = 15% 3 = 27% 4 = 65% 5 = 100%
This was really good news for me, as it shows that the level of support from the motor that I have is not soooooo huge (5% of 250 watts is 12.5 watts). The maximum I have needed to use on a group ride is setting 3 (I use 4 and 5 only when going up mega or mega mega hills). So this makes me feel good, that I am not needing as much power as I had thought to ride with my chums.
Preparations for our England trip
Klaus and I had planned to cycle to England in early September – it’s actually not that far, just 210km to Hoek van Holland and then 50km from Harwich to my Mum’s place north of Ipswich.
However, I reminded him about the bad roads in England and, more notably, the hedge-cutting season which starts early September.
He thought about it a bit and decided that his Continental tyres on the front of Emily and the GoCycles on the back would probably not be enough puncture-resistance. The best option would be Schwalbe Marathons. We thought we had a lot of these in stock but in fact they were mostly on our bikes – we only had 2 spares. So we robbed Alfie of his two Marathon front wheels, replacing them with Shreddas which we had lying around. Alfie may not be used again for the rest of the year so that doesn’t matter much.
And then Klaus had the fun job of replacing four tyres on the Quattrovelo and pumping them up, having replaced the tyres on Alfie and pumped them up too!
We later in the day did a test ride and one of them had a puncture; Klaus thinks he reused a holed tube as he had to go for SV6 rather than SV7 tubes and we found various ones lying about, but apparently one which needed repairing!
I did a few jobs on Millie too. I deflated both front tyres, checked them for stones and flints (not too many!) and then pumped them up again. I fitted a new tiller hanger – the one I had was a bit too short; I wanted to drop the tiller marginally lower now that my belly has reduced in size, but the end was too short. The tiller hanger is just a gear cable and we had a couple of spares so I fitted one and then cut it with plenty more length available if I want to drop the tiller further.
My third job was to replace the plastic wedge under my seat mounting. This had been fitted by Etienne at emvelomobiel.be a long time ago and he had warned that he didn’t know how well it would last. Well, it had lasted a year and a half which wasn’t bad (and six months longer than the one on the other side!). As with the left hand side seat raiser, I had a piece of old car/van tyre that Frank had supplied me with – so this is very strong reinforced rubber. Klaus had to drill two holes in it for the screws that come from the underside of the Milan, and then we just fitted the new seat mounting. All worked fine, and it works well. It adds a very minor bit of suspension too as the rubber has a tiny amount of give.
As I have got two more broken spokes (one in each front wheel) I bit the bullet and ordered a new set of front wheels from Gingko who are well-known in the velomobile world for wheels. Hopefully I will finally get some reliable wheels that stay round!
After this we took ourselves to Kempen for a test ride – this is when we discovered Emily’s puncture. After that was repaired (and Klaus had pumped up his seventh tyre of the day to about 6 bar/100 psi), we rode to Kempen and had an ice cream.
We are now ready for the England trip and really looking forward to it!
Redecorating of our study/spare room
Because of the hospitality we received from friends during our Summer Tour, which we said we would reciprocate, we realised we needed to get a proper guest double bed. Well, a sofa bed, as most of the time we wouldn’t have people staying. So with input from Klaus’s daughter Lara (who would probably also be using the bed) we visited IKEA and bounced up and down on some sofa beds and also did a lot of internet research. Because most sofa beds were too wide the choice wasn’t enormous, plus Lara was keen to have a boxspring bed for comfort, but in the end we found one we could all agree on and ordered it.
The spare room has a white carpet which has not worn well over the years and although I have several times hired a carpet shampoo machine, it was not possible to remove the stains. So I decided if we were going to have this room as a room for Lara/my Mum/other guests I needed to do something else. Either recarpeting the room (expensive) or, the easier option, buying a large rug to cover most of the dodgy bits. And I found a good rug which looked reasonably hardwearing and was the right size (3.5 metres by 2.5 metres).
The old sofa went out of the room and was taken away by the Kempen Sperrmüll – it was sad to see it go as I had had that sofa for five years. I then moved the desk as Mum said it would be better to have the bed in the corner where the desk currently was, and then I laid the rug out.
Poppy seemed to approve.
I ordered a couple of carpet runners to fill in the gaps where the shape of the room meant the rug didn’t cover the whole white carpet.
And then, several days later, the sofa was delivered. The delivery guys offered to built it (for a price) but we said no, we would do it ourselves. This was a good plan as actually it just needed six screws to fix it together! Here it is as a bed (it is a double, but with just a single duvet on it).
And here as a sofa.
The sofa is comfortable and the bed seems so, but we will have to ask Lara after her first night on it. She certainly liked it to sit on and test-lie on.
I rather liked this amusing note that came with the sofa – instructions to stroke it, and then it will be more attractive!
My Garmin Vivoactive 3 smartwatch encourages me to do my 8,000 steps per day and I manage it for about 28 days in 30. I even went out when rain was threatened – but got caught out and had to wait under a tree for a few minutes!
The dog is always grateful for a walk but otherwise she generally hangs out downstairs with Gudula and Frank as they are clearly more interesting than Klaus and I!
Cakes this month
As usual, here are the cakes that I enjoyed with friends and haven’t been featured above. The last one (with raspberries on) is a bad photo of a really tasty cake that my colleague Inna brought in for me early as her birthday cake. In Germany on your birthday you are supposed to bring cakes in for your colleagues (rather than them treating you!!) but as I would be on holiday in England when Inna brought her cake in, she produced something early just for me. It was really tasty!
Last month was a very good month for cycling as we had our Bodensee tour, but this month wasn’t too shabby either, with a total of 766km cycled.
And I went here:
As there were some warm days I decided to get Alfie the trike out of storage and ride him a little. I always love riding my trikes, although it is of course much slower than riding a velomobile. I used him for my work commute for a week.
Tile-bagging and other rides
I have mentioned my tile-bagging (Veloviewer Explorer Square) in previous blog posts. The image below is my Veloviewer Max Square on 1 July:
As you can see from this, I had completed lots of squares north or south of my central point but I needed to expand east and west. So that gave me a purpose for some of my rides over the month of July.
Below I have written a few short reports of some of these rides, most of which involved tile-bagging, at least tangentially.
The first Saturday in July was the Niederrhein Radwandertag. This wasn’t something I had been particularly aware of, but when asking Ralf if he wanted to cycle (Klaus was away in Korea) he said that people were meeting in St Tönis so I said I might go there as part of a tile-bagging route. I then looked up what was happening and saw it was the Radwandertag.
My plan was to ride the route with Hartmut (he was leading a ride) but then I noticed that his route was going to Willich and that isn’t a route I particularly like, so I decided instead to go to Kempen first, get the card there (they stamp it if you visit one of the Stands) and then get a second stamp in St Tönis.
So I went to Kempen, got the card and a stamp, and also a booklet which had the routes. I decided not to follow the official route to St Tönis from Kempen as it had some stretches that weren’t so velomobile-suitable, I just rode directly there.
It was lovely to see Hartmut and Herbert at St Tönis and I took the opportunity to have a nice slice of cake!
I had planned a route from St Tönis towards Nettetal as then I could collect some more Veloviewer tiles on the west of Nettetal, heading to Herongen. I noticed that my route went through Grefrath-Oedt where there was a Niederrhein Radwandertag Stamping point so I might as well get that. The road was closed for a bit event in Oedt, mostly with the fire brigade, all as part of this special day. I managed to squeeze my way into the town centre and got my card stamped.
From Oedt I headed to Nettetal. I knew there was a stamping point there which was directly on my route (at the De Witt See information centre) so I might as well get that one. I passed a sign to Breyell, 1.5km away, and there was a stamping point there but as I wasn’t really doing this I didn’t bother. Which I then started to regret about 2km later as I though I could get several more, and I had only just missed Breyell. Oh well, too late!
I got my stamped at the Nettetal place and used their loo whilst also having a quick look around the wildlife information centre.
Now I was on my tile-bagging route and so I fiddled around a bit, as you can see from the map below of my whole ride. The western side is where I was tile-bagging – I needed tiles in Hinsbeck, Louisenburg and Herongen.
I noticed from the Radwandertag booklet that there were stamping places also in Wachtendonk and Kerken (although the Kerken one was actually in Stenden). Why not get those on the way home too? So I did!
I could have also gone to Geldern and got another one, but I was so annoyed about missing the Breyell one that I decided to stop at Kerken. I handed in my card there, and the lady said I had by far the most stamps.
All in all it was a 70km ride and I enjoyed it a lot. Good weather, good cake, some fast roads… what more can you ask for?
By the way, KK (the first stamp) is the German shorthand for Kempen, which is now on our number plates (we used to only be allowed VIE for Viersen but some of the older plate designations, that had been removed formerly, are now allowed again). KK was originally “Kempen und Krefeld”, when they shared a registration mark, but Krefeld has had its own (KR) for a long time now. Some wag decided that KK stands for “Königreich Kempen” (the Kingdom of Kempen) and you see that in lots of places – people have numberplate holders made with Königreich Kempen on them, also stickers etc.
Tilebagging – NL part 1
I had a second tile-bagging ride, this time 72km and mostly in the Netherlands. I managed to bag lots of tiles on this one, but had to do a very fiddly route to get them!
I rode first to Straelen via Kerken (good, fast roads!) and then headed down down a long, straight road which went towards the B9, crossing it briefly before I nipped into Herongen. From there it was into the Netherlands and following my Garmin to ensure I picked up the tiles. At one point I was riding on the road (although there was a cycle path available – naughty me!) and I was very pleased to be on the road as the cycle path went in a completely different direction and I would have missed my tile!
The route my Garmin had arranged around Venlo was surprisingly good and I was able to keep moving and the cycling infrastructure was very good.
I went north towards Arcen and got some tiles, then it was time to go east again and head home. I saw signs to Jagersrust which looked like some kind of café which indeed it was, and I stopped for an ice cream and a cuppa! It was a warm day and I had forgotten to take a bottle of water with me.
The ice cream was very good!
However, being NL this was pretty pricey (I think I paid 8 Euro in total for the tea and ice cream). And then when I left, I noticed about 50 metres up the road I crossed back into Germany and there was a rather nice looking Bauerncafé which undoubtedly sold good German cakes! I would have to return to check it out…
And two days later I did! As Klaus was away in Korea I had a lot of time on my hands and with the good weather I decided to bag some more tiles.
Tile-bagging NL – part 2
This ride was 76km and was back in a similar region to the last one.
I started via Kerken again and this time rode up to Walbeck. From here I followed the purple line on my Garmin (the route carefully prepared by me the night before to get all the possible tiles I could in the shortest distance!), then I headed across to Arcen. I would perhaps normally have stopped for cake in Arcen but I had planned my route to take me to the new Bauerncafé on the way back, so I kept on.
I rode straight down the main road between Arcen and Venlo, using the cycle path beside the road. This is a decent path and it is of course the law that we should use it. I just reached the outskirts of Venlo when my track curved round and started taking me back north again, to get another set of tiles.
When planning the route there was a very tricky tile to get, as there only seemed to be narrow farm tracks to get there. It wasn’t clear whether I would actually succeed, and when I got there (the black spot on the map below) I discovered a sub-optimal track ahead.
Oh dear, I definitely couldn’t cycle this!
I had climbed out of Millie and had a look around. It looked as though an asphalted track started after just 100 metres or so. There was no obvious alternative route on my Garmin so I just had to push Millie. She is low-slung so it was quite musical with all the plants and thistles rubbing on her underside, plus I have a minor paranoia about ticks (I was wearing sandals), but eventually Millie and I both made it through mostly unscathed.
The road surface was pretty bad for the next 2km but still way better than walking across bumpy grass! I visited some bits of NL I guess I will never visit again – really quaint hamlets, farms etc. But in due course I arrived at the Bauerncafé Jacobs and they did indeed have cakes, and they were indeed tasty!
After being fortified with this cake I headed home at super-speed, glad to have bagged some more tiles!
Tile-Bagging in Brachter Wald
Another long tile-bagging ride this month was an attempt to get into the former military manoeuvres area in Brüggen. This ended up as a 90km ride as I also added some more tiles near Venlo.
The problem is on the south-west corner of my track, the Brachter Wald.
Where the black blob is, is a gate. The Brachter Wald/Brüggener Wald are closed off to motorists with various gates. Years ago Klaus and I had major difficulties getting his recumbent trike through the gate at the bottom of the picture (near the Baggersee, where my track abruptly stopped).
I knew that gate would be impassable for me, but wondered if other gates into the woodland would be perhaps of a different design. I had a backup plan, as there were two tiles available within about 500 metres of the gate, so if I couldn’t ride through I would walk through so at least I could bag these two tiles which would certainly help with my Max Square, although walking in SPD sandals isn’t ideal, plus leaving Millie unsupervised!
I arrived at the gate… and it was of a different style, hurrah! The gate that had caused us problems before was a turnstile-type, but this one was a bit different. I thought it might JUST be wide enough for Millie. I had a go – but I couldn’t get her nose moved when I was pushing her from behind. This was really a two-person job. Fortunately a cyclist appeared at the gate from inside the wood and he offered to help. He lifted Millie’s nose up and it just had to shuffle about 10cm to one side and then it worked. She was through!
I decided this meant I could get out OK this way if I had to, but I would try to ride right through in case they had changed the other gate. So you see from my track above, I cycled about 6km through the Brachter Wald, which is lovely – there are wild ponies there! The whole place has become a huge nature reserve, but with signs still of the former Army presence with giant concrete bunkers and silos which nature is slowly assimilating.
(Those last three photos were taken when I visited with Klaus in August 2014, I didn’t take any pictures this time).
When I arrived at the gate at the south end of the Wald, I discovered it had not been changed in the last five years.
I had a bit of a try but there was no way Millie would get through there without having her sawn in half.
So I turned round and cycled the 6km back to the original gate.
This time I really struggled on my own to get through. There was no-one to help and although I had positioned myself at the nose end of Millie, it really needed two people as her tail needed to be shuffled across and this was very hard from her nose end. I watched the carbon fibre flanks of Millie being slightly compressed near her tail area as I slowly wiggled her through the airlock. Finally success, and she had no visible additional scrapes/marks on her (she already has quite a few so I am very phlegmatic about them anyway). So I counted that as a win, plus I bagged my five tiles.
What I did learn from this, however, was that Klaus would no way be able to get Emily through this gate. Not a chance. He will also need to do these tiles in due course. My suggestion to him was that we ride there with Ralf and then Klaus borrow’s Ralf’s DF (which is narrower and shorter than our velomobiles) to do the five tiles/6km ride in Brachter Wald. I mentioned this to Ralf and he told us that our friend Uli actually has a key to the lock to these gates (there is a large gate area which is padlocked but would allow a tank through). So we may have to tempt Uli to have a ride with Klaus through Brachter Wald sometime!
In total my ride on this day was 92km. The rest of it, after negotiating the Brachter Wald gates, was pretty easy; I did one short detour to bag a tile (at a former monastery south of Venlo) where I had to retrace my track after getting to that tile, but it’s not something I usually have to do as there are generally good through-routes. The tile is 1 kilometre square so there are usually several roads in each tile, even in the rural areas.
Cake with Ralf in Stemmeshof
My colleagues had given me a Voucher for a café in Nettetal for my birthday in June and so when Klaus was back from Korea and as he was fighting the jet lag I suggested we rode (with Ralf) to the café to use up the 20 € voucher. This seemed like a good plan, so we had a ride one day with Ralf, doing some tile-bagging.
It turned out also to be a day when we did some velomobile sub-aqua when Ralf led us through some water-filled gullies across some of the field tracks. Millie remained dry inside (and she is usually very leaky), but Klaus’s Emily sucked up rather a lot of water, both in the foot holes at the front and also somehow into the axle box at the back where the gears are. He had to lift Emily’s tail and then her nose to try to encourage the water out of the drainage holes.
After this we had definitely earned our cakes! We arrived at Stemmeshof; I had been there once or twice before but as we walked inside it became clear we could not sit down in there as the noise level was huge! This seems to be a thing with design of public spaces in Germany now – plain walls, tile floor, hard furniture… and it makes for a huge volume level as there are no soft furnishings to dampen the sound. Klaus with his jet lag definitely didn’t fancy a noisy cake so we sat outside although it was a bit cool.
We were a bit boring and all ordered the same cake!
Klaus was feeling really hungry though so he had another slice, this time of a different cake.
That would keep him going for the ride home!
In total this was a 76km ride but it was good fun and it was good to ride with Ralf again – we haven’t managed that so much recently.
Tile-bagging in Viersen
Klaus needed a haircut and he really likes the barber shop in Viersen (so do I). It’s 20km away so it seemed wise to cycle there.
As I had some missing tiles south of Viersen I asked Klaus if we could do a little detour after the haircut and collect them. Of course he agreed (he also needs the tiles!) so I planned a route that would collect several of them.
We passed close to Ralf’s house so dropped in to see him – he was doing some maintenance on his DF. This included the first time he had oiled the chain – after about 6,000km. But in velomobiles the chain is so well protected it doesn’t get that dirty.
We then headed into Lobberich to stop for cake.
Our ride was 71km in total, and Klaus came back with a very good haircut too!
Papperlapapp with Klaus
After our separate holidays (Klaus in Berlin, me in England) we went out for a cycle ride together to enjoy some cake at Papperlapapp. As rain was forecasted we chose Papperlapapp in Vorst because we knew there was a place to park which was undercover – this is the advantage of knowing all the cafes and cake establishments within a 40km radius!
We enjoyed a slice of cake each and just relaxing outside.
The threatened rain didn’t really arrive, just a few spots.
On the way home we rode through quite a different landscape that before our holidays as during this week the wheat had been harvested.
My final solo bit of tile-bagging for the month was an after-work dash around to pick up some tiles to the north (my favourite area to ride) and the north east.
I needed some tiles around Kamp-Lintfort and managed to organise a ride of 93km which bagged a whopping 22 tiles!
I hadn’t originally planned a cake stop but I knew that Landcafé Steudle in Vernum would be open on a Monday (most cafés are shut then) so I had it in the back of my mind, as it would only be a small detour. I wasn’t sure if I would do the whole track, or if I would stop once I had completed the Horstgen tiles (to the NE of the map) as then there was quite a long transfer to Geldern where the next batch of tiles started. I could have stopped halfway round if I didn’t feel like riding more.
However, my legs were good (as was my motor!) and so I kept going, enjoying the relatively quiet roads at three in the afternoon in Kreis Kleve.
There were roadworks in Geldern but I was very lucky and able to continue on my track through the roadworks; they were one way so if I had done this track the other way round I wouldn’t have been able to get a tile. I maintained a good speed for this ride too, with an average of 29.4 km/h for the 93km.
I had to put my foot down a bit towards the end as I suddenly couldn’t remember if Steudle was open until 18:00 or 18:30. I estimated I would arrive there at 17:45 and some German establishments start cashing up early and won’t serve you, even if they are still officially open! But it was fine, I arrived at 17:30 (I put the pedal to the metal a bit for the last hour) and had a lovely slice of cake.
Stelde is 19km from home but we ride this route so regularly that it feels like you are almost home and the journey home goes by in a flash! The only difficulty was crossing the B9 road during rush hour, so it took a bit longer before I was safe to cross to Winternam.
Tile-bagging for Klaus in Krefeld
On the last day in July Klaus suggested we did a ride to bag some of his tiles. His Max Square is smaller than mine, so he is bagging tiles that I have mostly got, but there were two available for me on this tour so it was a worthwhile 36km!
The funny detour out to the east from Niep was to enable me to get a missing tile; Klaus had originally planned the route directly down on the main road from Niep to Krefeld but I spotted there was a very small diversion of 2km to get a tile that we both needed. The planning of these routes is actually fairly complicated, if you try to get all tiles with minimum distance, and also because the maps on Veloviewer are not the same as Google Maps or the maps on the Garmin software, so it’s not always clear exactly where the tiles start and finish.
And this was my Veloviewer Max Square map by the end of July:
And, as a reminder, here’s what it looked like at the beginning of July, when it was 13×13
Doing the Veloviewer Max Square challenge is a really interesting way to ride new roads and visit new places. This is just the rides for 2019, my lifetime Max Square is 21×21 (also here in Germany, as my UK Max Square was limited by the Colne river which meant I couldn’t get several squares north east of where I lived unless I hired a boat).
A visit to England
Because I have been doing lots of overtime at work I have ended up with almost two weeks’ additional leave. So I decided to take a week when Klaus was in Berlin with his daughter Lara (and Poppy also went with them to Berlin but stayed with Lars for the five days) and visit my Mum in England.
Rather than make Klaus drive the 450km round trip to the Hoek van Holland the day before he had to drive all the way to Berlin, I decided to take the train. This used to be easy – Venlo to Rotterdam, Rotterdam to Hoek van Holland. Two trains, one change. However, things are now much more complicated!
As you can see, it is now three trains and a bus. It also costs 24 € for the train and 2,22 € for the bus. Things are much easier with an OV-Chipkaart (a bit like an Oyster card) so on one of my tile-bagging trips I went to Venlo station and bought the card in advance and put 55 € credit on it.
This meant Klaus just had to drop me off at Venlo on the Sunday morning. The return journey on Friday night was more complex as Klaus would probably still be driving back from Berlin, Gudula and Frank weren’t available so I investigated how much a taxi would cost. 55 € seemed very steep, especially as my two day ferry crossings only totalled 77 pounds! Fortunately my colleague Dorothee came to the rescue and said she would pick me up. Hurrah!
So Klaus drove me bright and early to Venlo and I got on the first train, the comfy double-decker.
I got off at Eindhoven and bought a cup of tea whilst awaiting the next train, which took me to Rotterdam. This was a single-decker train and not so nice, but still fine.
At Rotterdam I just needed to get a train to Schiedam. This was only a four minute journey but I had to wait a while for the train.
I got off at Schiedam and then had to follow the signage to the bus stop, bus 711 which goes directly to Hoek van Holland. It arrived after about 10 minutes and several people with suitcases – including me! – got on.
I went right to the back so I could leave my case on the floor.
This was an easy journey and I arrived at the Stena ferry with two hours in hand.
This was planned, as I knew I wanted to pop into the Albert Heijn supermarket in Hoek van Holland to buy food for the ferry journey. It’s 8 hours on the ferry with not much to do except read, play on the iPad (but no wifi, so I had downloaded some TV programmes) and eat. If you eat on the ferry it’s expensive so I went round Albert Heijn picking up things that I thought I fancied. This included salad, olives and feta, bottled water, houmous, but also a few non-Keto things such as a sandwich and a bread roll to go with my salad.
I managed to kill enough time that boarding was starting once I had walked back to the ferry terminal. The queue for motor traffic seemed to be 90% motorhomes!
I knew the ferry would be very busy and indeed it was. I went to the front end to look at the view.
It was way too noisy here though, right next to the big restaurant, so I took myself off to the quiet area near the stern of the boat and found a comfortable chair. I settled down for the long journey.
I watched a couple of TV programmes and finished a book I had brought with me. Then I went for a constitutional around the deck. I left my bag of food and my water bottle on my seat/table area so it was bagged as I didn’t want to lose it! But I had to take my iPad with me (I had checked in my suitcase).
It was a beautiful day for a crossing. We left Hoek van Holland at 14:00 and I sighted land in the UK an hour and a half before we actually docked – this is due to the route the ferry has to take due to the sandbanks around the East Coast waters. There were some lovely views though. That line on the horizon is Suffolk, where I was headed!
We disembarked at 20:00 UK time and Mum was there to collect me. It was great to see her again and to be back in the UK.
The next day was a mostly lazy day. It was going to be very warm in the UK but fortunately where Mum lives is a village at the top of a hill so there’s always a nice breeze.
I had my morning cup of tea in the garden.
Later on in the day I went for a walk to visit my Dad’s grave, and took the cross-country walk back. The gentle rolling hills of Suffolk have a very different view than Niederrhein.
The barley seemed a bit further ahead than in Germany.
In the afternoon we went for a cuppa with Mum’s neighbour and friend Stephanie. Stephanie rents her house and the landlord won’t let her plant things in the garden, so instead she has created an amazing flower garden in pots. It was beautiful!
The next day was set to be really warm – 34 degrees (very unusual for England although we get to that temperature quite often in Kempen). We had arranged to visit my cousin Moyna in the afternoon, but in the morning we headed into Ipswich by bus to do a few bits and bobs (I bought a new bag as the one I had with me on the way over started collapsing). The bus journey back was interesting as the bus conked out at the bus station but the driver found another one, although when we were underway he said it was gutless and there were some hills on the route. We made it back though!
In the afternoon we drove to Moyna’s. She lives in a beautiful thatched cottage called Holly Cottage.
As it was such a warm day we sat in the garden. Moyna has a fantastic garden!
We sat on the verandah of the summerhouse and ate scones with homemade jam and clotted cream.
And we looked across the fields to some of the rather nicer bits of Essex!
We had a really good chinwag with Moyna and plenty of cups of tea. I last saw her at the funeral of my father, over three years ago, so it was good to catch up again. I also enjoyed driving Mum’s car around the lanes fairly near where I used to live in Colchester.
Mum and I settled down in the evening to watch an episode of the series Chernobyl. I had ordered the DVD to be delivered to Mum’s in England and so we watched all five episodes whilst I was at her house. I had also brought along some Russian chocolates that my customer had brought for me at work; we ate the mystery Russian chocs whilst watching Chernobyl.
I also went to visit my sister one day and went out for lunch with her and my eldest niece, Gwenllian. In a spooky coincidence we were all dressed in white tops.
We then proceeded to go out for a Chinese buffet meal and Klaus said I was bound to spill some down my white linen top. This is mainly because I usually spill food when I eat (I have to eat largely one-handed due to dodgy left elbow). Anyway, on this occasion I was very careful with my napkin and at the end of the meal I hadn’t spilled any but the other two had. Go me!
I also met my middle niece Angharad’s new kitten, Socks.
Gwen’s dog Chip was in the house and he was being very friendly to Socks, but Socks was not sure about Chip. As Chip can’t walk up the stairs in Anna’s house, Socks had learned to go up the stairs and look through the gap between the treads at what was happening below.
I had a lovely time with Anna and Gwen, and later also saw my other two nieces Angharad and Ceridwen, but was a bit shocked by the mug my sister gave me to drink my tea from:
Although Anna and I have a very easy-going relationship, and we agree on many things (Brexit being a disaster, etc), we clearly don’t vote the same way in General Elections!
The next day was my last full day and we had no specific plans, so decided to head to the beach (I had said to Mum I would like to visit the beach as we can’t really do that in Kempen as we are at least two hours away from the coast!)
We went to a beach in Suffolk called Shingle Street. We had been told there was nothing there, which was true, but it was lovely.
We walked past the artist and then found ourselves on a beach with only about 10 other people in sight.
A few people were swimming but they said it was very cold!
It wasn’t just the heads of swimmers we saw, there was also a seal in this cove area. We could just see his face peeping out of the water from time to time.
After an hour of simply sitting on the shingle and watching the ships go by (including the ferry I would be travelling on tomorrow), and also watching the swimmers and dogs frolicking in the water, we headed back via a pub for a pub lunch.
We stopped at the supermarket on the way back and bought me some more teabags. I bought about 2500 bags, carrying 840 home and leaving the rest in stock at Mum’s to collect when we come at Christmas with the car. I had actually misremembered how many teabags I had back in Germany and when I got home I counted them all up and it seems that I now own 5,000 bags. So that should keep me safe over the first few months of Brexit anyway.
In order to improve my tea drinking at Mum’s I bought myself a larger mug (I like big mugs). The choice was a bit slim but I liked this one’s shape and the message on it is acceptable (not sure if Klaus agrees).
Mum’s lovely neighbour Maureen brought round some slices of a coffee & walnut cake she had made so we enjoyed that with a cuppa.
In the evening Mum accommodated my request and we went out for an Indian meal as I do miss a good Indian here in Germany!
The following morning we left home at 06:30 for Mum to take me to the ferry, which would leave at 09:00. We had bought food for the journey yesterday, so I said goodbye to Mum, checked my suitcase and then headed to the quiet area again, where I got a better seat. I watched out of the window as we went past the many wind farms in the shallows around the East Coast.
The journey was fine – I read a lot of Michelle Obama’s book Becoming which I had purchased in the UK. I watched a film or two on my iPad, and then we were approaching the Hook of Holland.
I had the schedule for the return bus/train/train/train and annoyingly missed the first bus as we had to wait ages for our suitcases to arrive at Baggage Reclaim. When I caught the next bus I had to stand the whole way as it was full.
The train connection from Schiedam to Rotterdam was easy, and as I had a 20 minute wait for the next train I had an ice cream at Rotterdam.
I hopped on the train to Eindhoven, and had a message from Klaus to say he was already home from Berlin! He had made excellent progress with the driving. He had picked up Poppy from Lars in Berlin too so she was also home. I was able to tell my colleague Dorothee that she wouldn’t need to pick me up from Venlo, Klaus would.
Except it didn’t quite work like that. There was a huge electrical storm as my train approached Tilburg and when it got to the station it stopped. After half an hour people got on, and it was clear that this train was now going back to Rotterdam rather than continuing to Eindhoven. It was hard to get any information about the trains but I did hear an announcement saying passengers for Venlo should get the train to Nijmegen as no trains were continuing to Eindhoven because of the storm.
Nijmegen is definitely nearer home than Tilburg so I decided that was a plan. After a 20 minute wait a train arrived, which I got on. During this time I had been checking on the Dutch rail website ns.nl to see what trains ran from Nijmegen to Venlo – and it turned out none did! I could get multiple busses (6 in total to get to Venlo). This was completely hopeless so I phoned Klaus and he said he would set off straight away to drive to Nijmegen to pick me up. This, another 2 hours in total, after driving all the way back from Berlin!
I wrote a post on Facebook saying how annoying this was that there was no train from Nijmegen to Venlo and friend Oliver said that there is one, it just isn’t an NS train but is Arriva. I checked Arriva’s website (very poor!) and lo and behold there was! It travels via Cuijk, Boxmeer, Venray etc (familiar cycling territory). I phoned Klaus to ask if it helped him if I got the train to Cuijk or something but he said he was approaching Nijmegen. I only had to wait about five minutes before he appeared at the station to pick me up – what a hero! I eventually got home at 22:00, having expected to be home at 20:30.
I really enjoyed my time in England, it was very relaxing, and I don’t mind the travelling either, but it was good to be home. We’ll be returning to England at the beginning of September, but this time in our velomobiles!
As July has been very dry, the farmers have to water the potatoes almost constantly. They often have to lay giant hoses across the road. They are supposed to put blocks each side to let cars cross, but some are better than others. This was on my way to work one morning:
And you can clearly see from this photo why I got stuck!
I tend to always get stuck on the foot cover/bump, which I only have on the left hand side (as you look at this picture, the right hand side from inside) and I am seriously considering cutting this one out as well so that I have more ground clearance. It will also give more airflow which is positive in summer but probably negative in winter.
Same location, another day, another type of hose covering – although this one I actually managed to ride over without coming to a juddering halt!
I am now careful to choose a different route if I can see signs of watering on the potato field.
I walked back from work one day in July (Klaus gave me a lift into the office) and on the 4.2km route I spotted a few places where there were some nice blackberries so went back in the afternoon with a tub to collect ’em!
My working life is mostly OK. There are constant changes where I work but other things remain eternally static… I have some great colleagues and we work really well together, but there are also some very difficult issues to deal with at work. But things are looking up in some ways. At least I am having to do less overtime at the moment so I can enjoy the nice weather for all my bike trips.
I have effectively a job-share, where I work 5 hours a day and my colleague Alex full time, both looking after our key account. As an management-desired experiment she has been working from another office for the last two weeks. The logic of this is hard to fathom, but it does mean I get more exercise walking to her office to pick up paperwork etc; it’s a good five minute round trip! It also means lots of phone calls to discuss what we are doing, rather than the previous rotating my chair 10 degrees so I can talk directly to her where she sits a metre away. As is always the case, the Ways of Management are Unknowable.
I have noticed that our new photocopier/printer/scanner in the office speaks a rather weird version of Dutch.
Firstly, I am not entirely sure why our photocopier is speaking Dutch to us anyway (it’s a German company, although the touchscreen talks to us in German), but I also have a strong suspicion that’s not a real Dutch word…
Cakes this month
You have undoubtedly noticed lots of cake pictures scattered throughout the text of this blog, but here are some other cakes that were consumed this month by me or by companions.
And next month, August? We have a mini bike tour in the middle of August to visit some castles in Münsterland (we have taken the Monday off work so we can have a three day tour). We also leave for our tour to England at the end of August, riding through NL over two days to Hoek van Holland. But apart from that we have a fairly normal month with work and no doubt tile-bagging (although this is now getting harder as the tiles are further away!).
I really appreciate whenever my readers comment, so please let me know if there is anything you particularly like about my blog posts or if there are things I should talk about more. I guarantee I will continue to do some good cake testing on your behalf, should you ever find yourself in this part of Germany!