Category Archives: Velomobiles

Six Wheels in Germany – September 2020 (Month 78)

In September we had a mixture of fairly warm weather and also some very chilly days. My cycling distances are generally down this year – not particularly because of Covid but more I suppose because I have achieved a lot of my cycling goals and I don’t want to overdo it!

Cycling this month

Most of my cycling this month was commuting. I had just three non-commuting rides and the major theme of each of those three was cake!

333km cycling this month

And here is the list of all my rides.

Sooo….. about those cakes!

Klaus and I took a short trip to Café zum Schafstall for some of their nice cake!

A minor disaster was that I forgot my teabags so had to have a German tea – it was, of course, most disappointing!

A visit from TimB – for cake of course!

On our Bodensee tour last year we stayed one night with TimB and he accompanied us for three days on our riding. I have known Tim since the first Spezi when we met up – he had been helpful before I arrived in Germany with velomobile advice. We tend to see each other at Spezi and at Oliebollentocht each year.

Anyway, Tim contacted us to say he was going on a cycling holiday around Germany and would pass our general area. Of course we invited him to overnight with us and we would take him for breakfast cake the next day!

Tim duly arrived (5 minutes ahead of his scheduled arrival, not bad timing after riding from Bonn!) and we had a steak meal with him and Lara (Klaus’s daughter) before Klaus drove Lara home. Tim had his cycle gear laundered which is always handy! His Milan SL fitted into our garage between our two velomobiles.

We took Poppy out for a walk.

The next morning Tim was keen to head off reasonably early and as Büllhorsthof opens at 9:00 that was fine. We left home just after eight and took him on our lovely scenic ride along the lanes towards Kevelaer.

We arrived at Büllhorsthof and arranged our normal parking!

I had told Tim of the delights of the Etagere so of course he had one (so did I!)

Klaus stuck with his normal Pfirsisch Schmand Kuchen.

We waved goodbye to Tim as he headed off towards Rees for his ride and made our way home again. It was great to see him!

Sternfahrt – Cake in Willich

There are a group of Velomobilists from the Rhein/Sieg region who meet once per month somewhere for cake. Klaus suggested they came up to Willich and enjoyed some food at Landcafé Streithöfe where we have often visited. They agreed this was a cunning plan and Klaus arranged it with the café. In the end 27 people came.

On the morning Klaus felt rather coldy so decided he shouldn’t come. It was a shame but we have to be careful in these Covid times! So Thomas (Speedastir) who had arranged to ride with us came to pick me up and we rode on to Willich. Thomas is mega fast normally so he had a very slow ride with me but it’s always nice to ride with other people. We arranged to meet early on purpose so that we would be the first there, as the nominal hosts.

The café has only the outside seating areas open and they are in two separate sections. For us they had set aside the courtyard area which is excellent. It soon started to fill up with other cyclists, including Jochen our chum from Kempen who we haven’t seen for ages. Even Klaus’s old Velomobile Celeste came along from Düsseldorf, piloted by Dirk.

There were also two trikes (Norbert and Elke), a two-wheel recumbent and also a guy on a normal bike.

We had three Alpha 7s parked side-by-side

Lots of DFs, Quests and a couple of Milans.

Jupp had brought his drone along and took this great picture!

Drone image by Josef Janning

I had one slice of cake whilst waiting for the rest to arrive and managed to resist additional slices. Christian W made good use of time and ordered two slices of cake to arrive at the same time as soon as he sat down!

It was good to chat to lots of friends and meet a few new people. Various odds and ends were swapped around, including this very impressive sprocket/Ritzelpaket which was enormous and formed out of just two metal pieces!

After about an hour and a half the groups started to head out again.

Thomas and I then rode home and after he dropped me off he headed up to Kleve where he lives. He had quite a long ride for the day, for me it was just 50km. It was great to see everyone though and I am sure we will have another meet at Streithöfe before too long as they are so helpful.

Rescuing Carsten

Last month we enjoyed the weekend of the Hex ride with Fritz and Biggi, as reported in my last blog. There we met many Velomobilists, including Carsten who lives in Belgium. He headed off to Flensburg after the Hex and was then riding back to Belgium.

One day when Klaus was on Kurzarbeit (i.e. not working) he read in the Velomobilforum that Carsten’s bottom bracket had sheared. He was entirely unable to ride further. He had got it welded by a local garage but they didn’t feel it would last very long. So as Klaus was at home, and Carsten was in Rees (about an hour away by car), Klaus said he would come and pick him up and drive him to Belgium.

So Klaus headed off to Rees with a few luggage straps – but no proper roof bars. His car has roof rails but you cannot tie things to them (slightly weird design). So when he arrived and they discovered immediately that a DF velomobile does not fit in the colossal Insignia estate car, they fixed it to the roof with the straps going through the windows.

The blanket was on the roof to protect the paintwork from the wheels but was quite noisy at speed. However, Klaus took Carsten safely home, had some dinner there and then came back with some beer-flavoured Belgian chocolates courtesy of Carsten and his wife.

This whole episode reminded us why we are looking more to our trikes for rides away from home – they are just so much easier to deal with if something dramatic happens on the ride as they will fit in pretty much any car.

Wonderful commute

My morning commutes have been lovely again.

Unfortunately now my entire commute is in the dark so I don’t see much except the road in front of me. The Milan’s lights are very good so it’s no problem to see where I am going, just disappointing not to enjoy some of the beautiful scenery.

More Millie Maintenance

I think last month I mentioned that Millie’s indicators had failed (again). I repaired them with two new LEDs and rather than siliconing them in place I taped them because silicone was such a hassle last time. However, the tape just doesn’t stick well and I noticed on the way to Streithöfe that my front right indicator wasn’t flush with the hole in the carbon but was hanging a bit inside – and not really visible.

I decided I would have to do the job properly with silicone, even though it would mean a mega effort next time one of the LEDs failed to scrape away all the old silicone. At least now I have the special silicone remover fluid!

So I waited for a nice warm afternoon when I would have plenty of time and, with Klaus’s help, turned Millie over. This meant that gravity would be on my side when sticking the indicators in place.

I had bought a small can of silicone with a built-in trigger system and it worked well. What I needed to learn was that you have up to an hour to adjust the position of the indicator once the silicone is poured so I don’t need to panic.

I let it dry for two hours, then turned Millie the other way up. Yes, the indicator was nicely in place! As I had the open can of silicone (and didn’t know if it would dry out over the next day, so it might just be a one-day option) I also siliconed the rear indicator on that side, which was also just held in by tape. This had a slightly dodgy connector to the poor-quality original cable which indeed failed so Klaus re-stripped the cable and added a new connector; it’s getting horribly short in there, so either I will need to solder on an extension one day (with almost no room to do it) or one day bite the bullet and get the whole thing rewired (not a nice prospect).

Both indicators were now working and nicely in place but it was massively obvious that they are not as bright as the ones on the other side. I had bought them through Ebay and they should be 3W (although the others were 1W) but they are much, much fainter. In bright sunlight not really visible. I suppose I should change them AGAIN but I just can’t face it – and in the winter the lights are visible for my commute in the dark. I guess they will fail within a couple of years again and I can then replace them with better ones. At least this time they aren’t soldered into the wiring but instead connected with the spade connectors so changing them should be easy enough, just the wretched silicone removal headache.

And then a week later Millie gave me another surprise. On my way home from work, just as I was pulling up outside the house, I heard a loud “ping” which I assumed was an acorn or stone in the wheel box. But the next morning, when I tried to set the parking brake so I could get in, it didn’t work – not surprising when I took a look at the parking brake on the tiller.

There should be a brake cable running up to the circle with NB printed upside down on it! You can see the frayed ends next to the metal bar (the parking brake).

Now brakes are a right pain on a Milan with the closed wheel boxes so I was very unenthusiastic about this. As I didn’t feel it wise to ride the bike to work I stole Klaus’s car (he was working from home) and took the lazy option. I was moaning to everyone at work that I would need to spend an hour lying on the cold paving in front of the garage stripping all the skin from my knuckles when trying to refit the cable.

Although that was one step further than I could actually achieve when I got home. Searching through our multiple boxes of bike bits ‘n bobs, I discovered we had three replacement gear cables (two very nice jagwire ones) but zero brake cables. How annoying!

So I jumped in the car again and went to the bike shop in St Hubert which was actually open (the two times I have tried it before he has been shut – long lunch or Ruhetag or something). He sold me a brake cable for 3 Euros.

The first problem was that the knobble on the end of it was wider than the gap between the two brake levers – just. I had been able to get the old knobble out with a bit of poking with a screwdriver but no chance with the new one. So I would have to disassemble the tiller area.

This was not as tricky as I had thought, needing only a spanner and an allen key. Once I had released the brake lever from the tiller (although it was partly still held in place by the remaining brake cable) I could squeeze the knobble from the new brake cable through and it fitted into place. I then oiled the sheath of the cable and fed the new brake cable through until it came out of the front wheel box.

I then needed to guide it correctly into the brake gubbins and pull everything tight. It was hugely too long so I cut off about 50cm of cable to start, so I had a bit more space to work.

I had screwed the brake lever on the tiller back together and now I did the brake cable adjustment so that the cable was at its longest length. This helps to hook it over the Sturmey Archer brakes in the wheel which are very tricky to reach inside the wheelbox. I had expected to take up to an hour to do this but actually managed it in about five minutes, only needing to readjust the length of the cable stopper once.

I then turned the bike the right way up again (it had been on its side) and adjusted the cable length at the tiller end. In just a few minutes it all seemed good! I took the opportunity to adjust the other brake which was a bit loose and now I have two very decent brakes on Millie. The job was much less bother than I had feared so if I have to do it again I won’t be so nervous.

At home in Kempen

Poppy continues to enjoy life in Germany.

However, the weather has got a bit colder and so we have to be careful, when sitting on the bed, that she has not burrowed under the covers. Sometimes there’s not much of her to see…

We took her for a walk along the Rhein at Lank-Latum/Meerbusch and she was rather shocked by this crab.

These are pests that were introduced into the Rhein and they have no natural predators. This one was still alive and Poppy was definitely wary of it – I think it surprised her by moving when she thought it was dead.

Photo by Klaus

Having a dog around the house is nice as sometimes it can be a bit lonely – here is a sad message from my phone to me (although Klaus was in the next room…)

No-one to share with…

My German language test

Last month I talked about my German citizenship application and the urgency to get everything completed before the end of the transition period on 31.12.2020, after which point I would have to renounce my UK citizenship in order to take up German.

The Ausländerbehörde have allowed me to apply early for citizenship as I can demonstrate I am well integrated (my voluntary work with the ADFC over the last six years) but I also have to prove officially that my language skills are B2 or above. So I had to urgently find a suitable B2 exam.

I found the opportunity to sit the TestDaF exam in Duisburg. Although TestDaF wasn’t something the lady at the Ausländerbehörde had previously used, she contacted the institute and they told her that the exam would prove I have B2 or higher, so the lady said it would be OK. She wrote to me “please send me your exam certificate for B2 so I can decide on your application.” By this we assume that all my other documentation is acceptable and she needs nothing further from me except the language certificate. So that is looking very positive!

TestDaf is split into four sections:

  • Reading comprehension (Leseverstehen)
  • Listening comprehension (Hörverstehen)
  • Writing (Schriftlicher Ausdruck)
  • Speaking (Mündlicher Ausdruck)

Unfortunately, it is hard to know what my level is as my writing and speaking have lots of grammatical mistakes (genders of nouns and endings) but the impression given by TestDaF is that grammar isn’t as important as being able to give over an idea and to use more complex sentence structures to show your knowledge of the language.

Here is what the TestDaF Institute says about this for the written piece of work:

Sind die Sätze im Text miteinander verbunden, d.h. ist der Text kohärent? Werden unterschiedliche Konjunktionen verwendet? Sind die verwendet Konjunktionen sinnvoll?

Besteht der Text hauptsächlich aus einfachen Sätzen (z.B. Hauptsätze) oder finden sich auch Nebensätze? Werden die Konstruktionen variiert?

Wie breit und genau ist der Wortschatz? Sind die verwendeten Begriffe passend? Werden z.B. Verben variiert?

Gibt es sprachliche Fehler im Text? Treten diese oft auf oder nur manchmal? Kann man den Text trotz einiger Fehler noch verstehen?

My translation of the above:
“Are the sentences in the text linked to one another; in other words, is the text coherent? Are different conjunctions used? Are the chosen conjunctions suitable?
Does the text mainly consist of main clauses or are there also relative clauses? Is the construction varied?
How wide and accurate is the vocabulary used? Are the phrases used suitable? Are, for example, verbs varied?
Are there language errors in the text? Do these occur often or just sometimes? Is the text still comprehensible despite many mistakes?

And how do they mark it? There are three levels (TDN3, TDN4 and TDN5). TDN3 is B2, TDN4 is between B2 and C1 and TDN5 is C1. I have to get at least TDN3 in all four sections to pass the exam. Here is how Wikipedia explains the language skills required for TDN3 in the TestDaF exam:

Reading that, I should have no problems with the writing and speaking aspect, but one never knows!

For comparison, here is what is required for the highest level (TDN5) which I always achieved when marking my Reading Comprehension and Listening Comprehension (the first two boxes below):

As I wrote last month, I bought several practice papers and also used the two available on TestDaF’s website.

Preparing for a mock exam, even as far as removing my smartwatch and having my traditional watch instead!

For these you can see the correct answers for the first two sections but of course there are no answers for the writing or speaking sections, thus the difficulty in evaluating my level.

I was getting very high marks with the first two sections (95% or so correct) so I had no fears about this, but the writing section was much trickier. I decided all I could do was practise, practise and practise again, as I had to get the muscles in my hand used to writing for an hour again! I also had to learn to structure my thoughts linearly (as with computers if you have a great idea in the previous paragraph you can always insert it – not with handwriting!)

So each afternoon I set the timer for 1 hour and did one of the Schriftlicher Ausdruck test papers. Klaus or Lara his daughter would read them and make comments.

By the end I was getting a bit overwhelmed as so much rides on this exam! It is the key to me keeping the rights I have had my whole life to live, work and retire in the European Union, so it matters a great deal to me. As someone who has already once exercised this right, and moved to another country, how do I know I won’t want/need to do this again in the future? So European citizenship is important to me, and this exam therefore was vital.

On the day of the exam I felt well-enough prepared. I was totally confident on the reading and hearing comprehension sections as I knew I could do these without issue. I was a bit nervous about the written section as I sometimes ran out of time in my practice ones. The speaking seemed generally fine, I had practised that three times (once with Klaus listening, he said it was surely good enough) so that was that.

For the entire day we had to have our phones switched off and in another room. Also no smartwatches were allowed, we could not leave the exam room except to go into the garden, so needed all our food and drink with us. I was fairly well prepared with multiple pens, including my nice fountain pen with which I write more smoothly and legibly, and three bottles of water and a flask of tea.

Klaus dropped me off in Duisburg on his way to work and as I had an hour to kill before exam registration, and was desperate for the loo, I found a bakery with loos and had some calming breakfast cake.

After this I walked back to the exam centre where various other candidates were standing around outside. In the end there were 16 of us and I think the oldest of the rest was 25 years old. I was twice their age! Also older than all the other staff members I saw around. They must have wondered what I was doing there and indeed the lady was surprised when she saw a British passport and said “we haven’t had a Brit do this exam before.” Mainly because the exam is to enable you to study in a German university and that’s not much of a thing in England.

So everything was ready. Here is my workstation before I switched off my phone for the day. We had to wear masks the whole day (I had a spare just in case).

So off we went. The first section (written comprehension) was fine, I think I might have got all 28 questions correct. We then had a 15 minute break (smoking break for half the other candidates!) and then we had the listening comprehension section. Here the sound was played through loudspeakers but I had informed them beforehand I had hearing issues so they sat me right at the front. I could hear fine but did slightly lose track in one section of the Listening Comprehension and as you only hear 2 of the 3 exercises once I know I missed at least one point. Worst case scenario, I got 25 out of 30, which is still a TDN5 (top mark) pass.

I assumed we would now have an hour lunch break before the written exercise, which was the one I was nervous about. But no, she said just 15 minutes. This was probably good as it meant I didn’t make myself too nervous – I had time to drink my flask of tea which I had saved for this section. I had decided tea fortification might be necessary before handwriting for an hour.

The test is one hour of writing and I was rather pleased to see that the topic was household waste and how much people throw out. We had to explain how this could be reduced. The thing is, in my work I deal with some of this terminology – the text talked about “wegwerfen” for throwing out food but I knew of another word, “entsorgen”, which I could also use, which was rather handy. Also I was discussing packaging sizes and of course I know all the terminology (Beutel, Dosen, Verpackung etc). So in a lot of ways this went better than I thought. I felt I wrote it fairly well in terms of grammar, the structure was pretty good and I wrote a lot (not necessarily helpful). I also finished 10 minutes before the end so could read through it again and correct a few endings here and there. So overall I was pleased.

And then after a 10 minute break it was the speaking test. I hadn’t been worried about this but as it turned out I feel this was perhaps my weakest section. Firstly we had to speak into a laptop (we had headphones on) and were warned that if we accidentally jogged the mouse or pressed anything the software would probably freeze and then that would be the end of our exam chance. So I was a bit paranoid! Also it looked to me as though my voice was recording rather loud (they were using the software Audacity and it looked like the sound levels were at maximum) but I of course couldn’t change anything. What is also weird is that there were five of us sitting in the room together and all is very quiet; we all started the exam at the same time, we listen to the recorded voice telling us what we have to do, and then he asks for our name. Suddenly there are 5 random names being spoken at the same time. And this also went for all the answers… the room is quiet, then suddenly we all burst out talking at the same time. I found it a bit off-putting. We didn’t have noise-cancelling headphones and it was definitely weird when I had stopped talking and the others carried on.

I think this affected my answers as instead of stopping when I had finished staying things, even if there was extra time available, I then started waffling on, often searching for words as I hadn’t prepared for this new sentence. And I didn’t just do this once but probably 4 times out of the 7 answers. Really annoying!!! I don’t know why I suddenly started to do this having not done it at all in the previous tests. So I was quite annoyed with myself by the end.

Here’s how TestDaF mark this section:

Wie wirkt die Äußerung als ganzes auf ein*en Hörer*in?
• Wird flüssig, klar und verständlich gesprochen?
• Machen Aussprache und/oder Intonation das Verstehen leicht oder schwer?
• Sind Aufbau und Struktur der Äußerung klar zu erkennen? Kann man dem Gedankengang gut folgen?

Erfüllt die Antwort die Aufgabenstellung?
• Bezieht sich die Äußerung auf das gestellte Thema?
• Werden alle Punkte der Aufgabe ausreichend berücksichtigt?
• Passt das, was gesagt wird, zur Aufgabe und der Situation?

Mit welchen sprachlichen Mitteln wird die Aufgabe gelöst?
• Passt die Äußerung (Register, Aufbau, Anfang und Ende der Äußerung) zur Situation?
• Wie differenziert und angemessen sind Wortschatz und Syntax?
• Erschweren Fehler das Verstehen? Oder kann man trotz Fehlern die Äußerung gut verstehen?

And here is my translation of that (with a little help from Mr Google):

How does the speech as a whole strike a listener?
• Is it spoken fluently, clearly and understandably?
• Do pronunciation and/or intonation make understanding easy or difficult?
• Can the form and structure of the speech be clearly recognised? Can you follow the train of thought well?

Does the answer complete the task requirements?
• Does the speech relate to the topic asked?
• Are all points of the task sufficiently taken into account?
• Does what is said fit the task and the situation?

With which linguistic means are the tasks completed?
• Does the speech (register, structure, beginning and end of the speech) match the situation?
• How differentiated and appropriate are vocabulary and syntax?
• Do mistakes make understanding difficult? Or can one understand the words well despite mistakes?

Having looked through this closely I think I SHOULD have done well enough for all of these points, so despite my verbal diarrhoea which undoubtedly added in some pauses while I was searching for words, I think overall it ought to be good enough.

But I don’t know. And I won’t know until 22 October when the results are released. If I haven’t got TDN3 or above in all four parts of the test then I will have to sit another test (I have already registered for the Goethe B2 exam on 5 December) and throw myself on the mercy of the Ausländerbehörde that they will wait for this.

As I was in Duisburg without a car I needed to make my way home. I walked to the railway station to start the 2 hour journey back to St Hubert via Duisburg HbF, Krefeld and Kempen, with tram, train and bus, but then Klaus sent me a message to say he would be only one more hour in his work meeting and I could go to Mülheim and he would pick me up. So I bought a ticket online to Mülheim, using the Underground to get up to fairly near his office and then walked to the office. The timing was good as he had finished five minutes later and gave me a lift home.

So now I am waiting. And waiting. And waiting for my results. But the exam went well enough, I didn’t have any major disasters, and as this is the first language exam I have taken in 19 years that’s not bad going!

And finally… Cakes this month

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

Six Wheels in Germany – August 2020 (Month 77)

August was a month of really warm weather which shifted into rather autumnal temperatures at the end of the month. But there were plenty of opportunities for cake this month, as you will see.

Cycling this month

Here is where I went:

As you can probably see, there were only two long rides in the whole month (both, coincidentally, going to Landcafé Büllhorsthof) and all the rest of the rides were commutes or utility rides or walks.

Here is the list of rides.

Klaus has done a few more bits of maintenance on his new trike Malcolm the Sprint X and he’s working really well now!

And here is a reflection of Millie in the side of Emily.

A new Milan!

Last autumn I had a visit from Kai from Neuss who was interested in velomobiles and came to have a look at our selection. He was very taken by the Milan and his size suggested the Milan SL would be a good fit for him. So he did further research and ended up ordering a Milan SL.

Ten or so months later, his SL was ready. His experience of collecting it was hardly positive, plus he hit a deer on the way home and had to spend hours waiting for the hunter to come and finish it off, and so his first day with the Milan wasn’t too successful. But after a few days’ cooling off he started riding and then invited Klaus and I for cake as we had helped him with his velomobile experience.

So a day was chosen and Kai cycled to us to go with us to Büllhorsthof. He has a very orange Milan SL with some excellent stickers on it (he is in a road racing group and has decked his Milan out the same).

We arrived at Büllhorsthof after a nice ride and parked in our usual spaces.

Klaus decided to go just for the Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen.

Kai and I had greater cake need so we had an Etagere each (both delivered on one set of plates)

And Kai liked the Himbeer Kuchen so much that he had another one, this time full size.

And then it was time to ride back. Kai had just informed us that he spent half of the ride there freewheeling – he’s clearly already very fast despite not having enough miles for real recumbent muscles yet.

We had a good ride back and then waved goodbye to Kai who headed back to Neuss – he had a total of about 175km for the day. And we enjoyed our cake!

Die Alte Hex

Friend and Velomobilist Fritz had been quietly working away at some interesting cycle rides around his home in Willebadessen (east of Paderborn) and eventually he unveiled a new challenge – Die Alte Hex, a series of cycle rides over 24 hours, with 600km in total. Many velomobilists were invited – and that included us.

Due to logistical issues we couldn’t ride with our velomobiles but Klaus took his trike along. I was there mostly to help out with food and drink for the riders as they would do several circuits, mostly 100-120km, and come back for food/drink/sleep.

Klaus and I weren’t able to get away from work very early (he had a Major Work Crisis just before we left) so by the time we got to Fritz and Biggi’s wonderful home in the middle of nowhere there were no velomobilists to be seen. They were all out doing Hex 1, a route with a whopping great hill called the Köterberg (‘Köter’ is German for dog, so that shows what the locals think of it).

Klaus and I unpacked our stuff, had a bit of a chat then Klaus decided to go out for a short route (Hex 6, officially the Final Circuit) to try to get away from work mode.

He left about 7pm for a 30km route. In the meantime I faffed around with nothing very much but noticed one of the ‘contestants’, who lives in the town where Haribo has a shop, had brought rather a lot with him…

Fritz had really organised everything and he had a board which showed where people were on the course. Most of them started at 4pm which meant they started returning after the Köterberg late evening. They were all complaining mightily about the mega hill. They shovelled in bowlsful of spaghetti bolognese and then disappeared out in the dark again.

Klaus reappeared having enjoyed his 30km Hex 6 although in the dark he had not always seen the friendly cycle paths and had been on the road a bit more than ideal in a trike.

We went to bed but he couldn’t stop thinking about his Major Work Crisis and so woke up at 4 and was unable to sleep again. He decided to go out and try Hex 1 as a bit of gratuitous hill climbing might take his mind off the massive issue he had to deal with at work on Monday. He sent me this picture of the sunrise in the rolling hills.

Some velomobiles were now back from the second course and were having a bit of breakfast.

Klaus was still sending me photos from his ride.

One of the participants was Jockel who had overnighted with us when collecting his Mango velomobile from last year. He has since upgraded to an Alpha 7.

And then Klaus sent me a photo from the top of the Köterberg – he had made it!

I then went out to buy the meat from the not-very-local-but-high-quality butchers, which was a 50 minute round trip. This meant that Fritz could stay at home and look after the cyclists. Once I got back Fritz popped out to buy some more beer (he had underestimated the amount needed) and so I was left alone holding the fort.

And then I got a call from Klaus who had struggled a bit with muscle cramps in his thighs but they had now completely locked up and he was 30km away in Höxter and it wasn’t safe to ride back on the main roads when his legs suddenly could lock up. So I waited till Fritz returned (fortunately just 10 minutes or so) and headed off to pick up Klaus.

He was very cheerful and chirpy although rather disappointed he had not been able to finish the ride. We subsequently think the cramp was caused by a lack of magnesium as his new blood pressure tablets can have this effect so he will take some supplements for a bit and see if that does the trick.

The day was marching on and Biggi decided she only now had time to do the final circuit, Hex 6, so she set off on that one, blasting herself from near the back of the field to first place! She ended up with a very impressive 300km for the 24 hours!

The other riders was slowly arriving back and by 4pm when it finished everyone was back. Everyone had done at least 110km and some were in the 300s or 400s. ChristianW had hit a speed of 120 km/h coming down the Köterberg and Klaus managed about 65 km/h. That shows the efficiency difference between Velomobile and trike!

It was now time for us all to share the barbecue.

We had a really nice evening and Biggi and Fritz as our hosts were given a few gifts. It was nice to get to know some new people.

The next morning we all breakfasted slowly as people left slowly in groups. I rather liked these egg cups Biggi had made – seems to have Penelope the Versatile on it!

And here is the hood ornament on Carsten’s DF.

He had ridden here from Belgium and was now going on further to Denmark or some such far-flung place, then riding back again. He still seems to be smiling though!

This was the view from my window as they all headed off.

It was a really lovely weekend and although everyone complained continuously about the hills, I suspect they will all return for next year’s version.

Oh, and Klaus’s Major Work Crisis resolved itself on Monday – the customer had sent them the wrong product back in different packaging so the major panic was gone. Phew!

Other events

A visit to the Saarland

In the middle of the mega heatwave we had planned a visit to Saarland so that Klaus’s daughter Lara could meet up with an old friend who moved away three years ago.

We had a comfortable trip in the car (air conditioning!) and then arrived in the lovely home where Andreas, Simone and daughter Nastya live. The view out of their lounge window was rather nice!

Andreas and Simone were great hosts and we had some lovely food. Breakfast was very comprehensive (although also very carbohydrate!)

We had barbecues on both evenings which were also very tasty.

Due to the heat we only really ventured out in the morning, but we did have a trip to the Villeroy & Boch Factory Outlet (Andreas works for Villeroy & Boch) and then took a boat trip along the Saar.

We really enjoyed our two days with Andreas, Simone and Nastya and look forward to another visit (or them to visit us) in due course.

The Great Wasps Nest Story

Gudula and Frank planned a barbecue evening with some friends, but realised a few days before that there was a wasp nest in the garden.

It turned out the wasps had built their nest underground in a series of mole tunnels and the nest spread about a metre in each direction. There were dozens of holes in the garden border where the wasps came in and out.

First of all Gudula tried to deal with them by the traditional boiling water method. She wore Frank’s beekeeping equipment but still got stung 7 times and the wasps were unaffected.

The next plan, over two days, was to fill the nest with water. Nils was home and he spent two days with the hosepipe filling the garden with water (from the borehole in the garden, not the mains!)

What he discovered from this was that incredibly dry ground (we were in heatwave) just allows the water to soak away, and that the main bit of the nest was obviously in a well-drained section. Two days of water treatment and there weren’t noticeably fewer wasps, although the lawn was looking much greener in that area.

The next day the solution was arrived upon by Gudula, as you can see from the photo below.

Yes, she is using a hoover to vacuum up the wasps as they come out of the holes. Two full hoover bags full of angry wasps (which ended up in the wheelie bin – so we were very careful not to drop anything sharp in the bin before it was emptied) and there were only a few left. The party went off without any major wasp inconvenience.

And of course Poppy enjoyed the attention and having lots of people to drop bits of food for her.

I took this photo whilst out on a walk with Poppy – look how grey she is!

It must be from all the whiskey! Here she is with Lara, daughter of my landlords.

A trip to England – despite quarantine!

My Mum’s 75th birthday in mid-August was in my calendar as a time when I would definitely visit her. Klaus and I had planned a four day visit using the overnight ferry from Hoek van Holland both ways and were all set to head off on the Friday evening (Mum’s birthday was the following Tuesday).

However, early Friday morning I saw in the news that the Netherlands had been added to the list of places which would require quarantine when arriving in the UK. Oh no! It would start at 04:00 the next morning by which time we would technically be in British waters but not actually ashore.

Klaus had to consider whether it was sensible to make the trip (being in quarantine would be inconvenient!) but in the end he decided to take his laptop in case we ended up stuck. Officially we would only have to quarantine for the length of our stay (4 days), we could travel back before the 2 week quarantine was over, but one is always a bit nervous that the rules could change again! We had filled in the four-page document which we had to bring with us when arriving in the UK.

So we set off to Hoek van Holland having packed slightly differently. We had previously made plans to visit my sister and one of my oldest chums but obviously that would not be possible.

As we arrived at Hoek van Holland and checked in I asked the lady about the quarantine situation. She told us that the ferry would sail faster so that it tied up at Harwich before 04:00 and that the Department for Transport had confirmed we would not need to quarantine. Hooray!

We had posher cabins than normal – this time with a window!

We had a good crossing and were at Mum’s for breakfast cake at 8 in the morning. I had transported six slices of cake from Café Poeth in St Hubert to Witnesham in Suffolk.

On the Saturday we took a quick trip to Ipswich to do a few odd jobs. I noticed this Kebab shop which was a German Döner, rather than a Turkish!

On the Sunday we drove to my sister’s house in Thundersley to celebrate Mum’s birthday with Anna and her family. Due to the social distancing rules my niece and her husband had to wear their masks when in the house but we were sitting out in the garden most of the time so they could remove the masks then.

Gwen (niece) also brought along her dog Chip, the Dachshund/Schnauzer cross.

I had prepared cucumber sandwiches for afternoon tea, and also of course scones and cream.

Meat versions!
Cream tea, yummy!!!

While we were there we also went out for a walk with Chip and also a chance to meet up with my old mate Lindsay and her partner Pip and dog Reggie. Thundersley Common had a lovely path-decoration of painted stones with messages of support during Covid19.

We had a lovely time and also got a great photo of the family – it’s been a long time since we were all together!

I took the opportunity to go to the supermarket where my niece Gwen works (she has a 15% discount) to get all the required items such as teabags, curry sauces, mango chutney and sensibly-priced antihistamines and paracetamols. As there is a limit to how much paracetamol you can buy in one go my sister and niece had been buying them with each shopping trip over the previous week or so and we all got a bit carried away, so I don’t think I need any more paracetamol or antihistamines in the near future!

Monday was a relaxing day at Mum’s, making the most of the cooler weather.

Klaus and I walked down to the churchyard to see my father’s grave.

Back at the house we sat with the Garden Room door open and enjoyed the fresh air!

Daisy the tortoise had found the really hot weather too much, according to my Mum, but she seemed happier in temperatures of 20 degrees or so.

Close-up wildlife photography
The result – Daisy May, about 100 years old…

In the evening we had my treat which was an Indian meal. This qualified for the UK Government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” promotion so half of the cost of the meal was deducted from the bill. So we had a very nice selection of food (including starters) for less than £25 for three people. Bargain!

On the Tuesday, Mum’s birthday, we went to the Railway Inn pub in Westerfield and had another nice meal (subsidised by the Government).

German Citizenship

The countdown to the end of the post-Brexit Withdrawal Period continues. On 31 December 2020 I will lose all my rights as a European Citizen, such as the right of freedom of movement. I will be able to stay in Germany as I am registered here, but would not easily be able to move to Austria, for example.

The rules for German citizenship are relatively clear. Once you have lived there 8 years you can get citizenship as long as you fulfil the following criteria:

• you have an unrestricted right of residence at the time of becoming naturalised, if you hold an EU Blue Card or a time-limited residence permit which in terms of its purpose may also lead to permanent residence,
• you have passed the naturalisation test (knowledge of the legal and social system, as well as about living conditions in Germany),
• you have had your habitual, lawful place of residence in Germany for eight years (this period can be reduced to seven years if you attend an integration course successfully, and can be brought down to as few as six years in the case of special integration measures),
• you have independent means of securing a living (including for family members entitled to maintenance) without resorting to social assistance payments and unemployment benefit II,
• you have adequate German-language skills,
• you do not have any convictions on account of a criminal offence,
• you are committed to the free democratic constitutional order of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, and
• you have lost or given up your former nationality (exceptions apply with regard to this point, depending on the country of origin; please contact the naturalisation authority).

My German level is good so the 8 years is not necessary. However, 7 years is 1 April 2021, so after the end of the Withdrawal Period. Which means if I took German citizenship I would have to give up my British Citizenship.

However, as you see above in some, very special cases you can apply for Citizenship after 6 years. You need to fulfil all the standard criteria but must also show that you are specially integrated. Which I feel that I am, but I wasn’t sure how to show it. And then I decided, a few weeks ago, to contact the Ausländerbehörde and see if all the voluntary work I have done for the ADFC (German cycle club) might count towards this. I had a conversation with a really helpful lady who said it was definitely worth trying this as it sounded like I had done a lot. She suggested that I obtain a letter from the ADFC which describes what I have done and that I email them a copy and they would let me know if it was enough. This would save all the hassle and 250€ cost of doing the full application if it would be rejected because of this integration requirement.

So I contacted Hartmut, who used to be the vice-chair of the ADFC Krefeld Kreis Viersen until he retired a few years ago. He and I did loads of ADFC events together in my first few years here before I got really distracted by velomobiles. He wrote some very kind words about what I had done and this was forwarded to Andreas who is the current Chair of the ADFC (and who knows me too, although not as well) and Andreas formulated this letter into a kind of official report about what I have done for the ADFC. He printed it on ADFC paper and posted it to me (well, he had to post a second copy as the first one got lost in the post, but it turned up eventually).

The letter arrived and we scanned it and then I emailed it to the lady at the Ausländerbehörde – not the one I spoke to before but her colleague, as she would be responsible for my application.

The following day I had a phone call from this lady saying that the ADFC letter was enough to show that I am well integrated into Germany! That was great news. All I have to do now is sit the B2 language exam, and I have one booked for next week and a second booked for the beginning of December (in case I am ill or something – the exams are rather infrequent) and so I am practising hard for handwriting with a pen as the exam is very long and involves writing one piece for an hour!

So with the chance of going ahead with the application for dual citizenship I arranged with the local office in Kempen to receive all the paperwork. There are often huge reams of stuff you need but as my case is relatively simple it wasn’t too bad – here’s a selection.

I had to include my passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate (translated), payslips, proof of pension, a hand-written CV in prose (four pages long!), proof that I have passed the citizenship test and more. But the list was shorter than it would be after the end of the Transition Period because I was able to check this box below:

This option for me (as an EU citizen) disappears in four months.

Once all was filled in (with Klaus’s help) I arranged to hand it in at the Ordnungsamt in Kempen. This had to be by appointment, of course, and was at 7:30 in the morning the next day as the lady was then going away on holiday for two weeks.

In the photo below you see the thick package of paperwork.

What is missing is the Exam Certificate for German B2 as I haven’t yet taken the exam but the lady at the Ausländerbehörde said it is OK for me to send it later.

The lady in Kempen photocopied every page, so it took her about 20 minutes, and the copies were sent to the Ausländerbehörde, I got to take everything home again 45 minutes later.

After a couple of days I got an email from the Ausländerbehörde acknowledging receipt of my paperwork and asking for me to send the B2 Exam Certificate as soon as possible as then they could make the decision on my citizenship (reading between the lines, it suggests all the other things have passed – hurrah!!)

So I am now working hard on the exam. With the practice papers for reading comprehension and hearing comprehension I am getting very high scores (way above the level necessary) but it is hard to mark the Schriftliche Ausdruck (written piece) and I don’t think I’m doing that as well. Klaus’s daughter Lara has marked two of them I have done, but it’s not about grammatical correctness but more about arguing, putting forward opinions, using a wide amount of language. I also have to do a short section of spoken German which I feel confident about but again it’s hard to actually evaluate the level beforehand. It should be fine as my German level is C1 rather than B2, but still… so much hangs on this! Wish me luck for my exam on 10 September and then the 6 week wait for the results! If I have a disaster then I have another chance on the 4th December with the Goethe Exam (a different one than the TestDAF that I am doing in September) which I have invested 215€ as a backup. Let’s hope I don’t need to do that as the results might not come before the end of the transition period!

And finally… Cakes this month

It’s been a good month for cakes as you will see from the photos below!

There does, however, appear to have been a minor side effect from all the cakes and holidays (eating carbs) which is I seem to be carrying around 3kg more than usual, so I may have to avoid the cakes a bit more in September until it goes away! I’m also trying to be stricter Keto which is fine as we both feel better when eating Keto but you do get a bit in the habit of some other things sometimes!

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Six Wheels in Germany – July 2020 (Month 76)

I’ve had a very low mileage month, pretty much only commuting.

And here is the Wheel which shows where I have been – a small green blob around Kempen and a tiny blob near Munich.

Klaus has been out riding Malcolm the Sprint X in the evenings and has taken some lovely photos.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

One good bit of news on the work and cycling front. Where I used to park my velomobile was no longer available and I had to park it in our general open area where various trucks manoeuvre all day long. I had noticed a couple of times some of the truck drivers having a close look. I used to park Millie right under my window but the boss wanted that area left for visitors so I ended up having to park her a long way away – I wouldn’t hear her alarm. A colleague kindly ensured that every day he parked in front of me to block her from view (mostly), but she was out in the rain and I had to make use of the rain cover regularly, which is a bit inconvenient when you need to pack it up and it is wet.

One of the maintenance guys talked with me about it and a couple of weeks later said “I have cleared a Carport for you”. And he was right! Millie’s new parking place, within sight of my window…

There’s room for a couple more velomobiles there! It is also mostly out of sight of the truck drivers as my office is at the far side of our large parking area.

Just before we went on our summer holiday to Munich I had a very busy few days at work where we had to do an inventory. This involves checking batch numbers on up to 1000 tonnes of raw materials for food production and 400 tonnes of finished products.

Here is a pic of me along with my colleague Rashmi (I stuck the sticker on her back, we had to put one of these on each checked pallet). Look at the impressive clothing we have to wear at work!

It was two full days’ work, plus a very busy last Friday morning when I fortunately managed to get everything finished with the inventory and was able to leave work at 1pm – holiday!

Klaus’s daughter Lara came to stay with us overnight and then the next morning we set off on the long, long car journey to Munich. We were staying outside Munich in an area called Starnberg which is beside a lake where a previous Bavarian king drowned (or was he murdered?)

It was a six hour drive to get there but we made good progress and were soon at our lovely Ferienwohnung. It was on the edge of Starnberg and after just a few minutes’ walk we were out in the countryside.

The landscape was very different to that in the Niederrhein – rolling hills, very beautiful.

We amused ourselves well in the Ferienwohnung with various iPads. I taught Lara how to play chess, having not played myself for over 30 years, and not knowing the terms in German (so she learned ‘pawn’ and ‘bishop’ rather than ‘Bauer’ and ‘Läufer’). When I was young I was actually quite good at chess and won a competition in some schools event. Anyway, Lara beat me in her one and only game (although I did help her out!) so I think my chess days are probably over.

I have some friends who live in Munich, Melanie and Konrad, who I got to know when Melanie did a language placement in Colchester and got involved with the cycling campaign. I contacted them to ask if they would like to meet up and we were invited round for cake on the Sunday afternoon. They had bought a great selection of cakes!

I tried this many-layered cake below which is a local speciality and the layers have some meaning (which I can’t remember now, of course).

The Bienenstich was also very nice.

We sat outside in their garden and had a really nice afternoon. Melanie and Lara were comparing notes on school and COVID responses as Melanie is a French and English teacher and Lara has been a French and English student! It seems as though the schools in Bavaria have done things differently than in NRW.

The next morning we decided to go to Ammersee, a local lake, for a bit of a walk. It was very beautiful there.

This boat reminded me that it was chum Jochen’s birthday in a few days – sadly we missed his little celebration as we weren’t back in time.

We also liked the lack of logic with this sign – it is against the rules to have your dog on a lead…

Whilst we were sitting watching the lake there were clearly some flying things going on. There are a couple of airbases not too far away so I guess the US military was doing some exercises.

We went in search of a decent café for some cake (where we could also sit down and use the loo) and struggled a bit to find anywhere that was open. Down a side road we noticed this house identifier.

van Kempen, like us!

We ended up sitting at an Eiscafe looking over the lake with this rather lovely vista.

Service in the Eiscafe was poor but then they have a captive market!

I liked this posh house.

We weren’t sure initially what to do in the afternoon, but one of our plans for the week was to visit Dachau. Because the weather was good it seemed wise to go that afternoon, so we drove to Dachau, parking the car and then walking in to the former concentration camp grounds.

It was much less busy that a normal year (due to corona) but there were still quite a lot of visitors. Things were definitely relaxing with regard to tourists.

There was an exhibition inside one of the enormous camp buildings and I spent more than an hour in there. It becomes too overwhelming eventually and so we left after about an hour and a half there. It was Lara’s first visit to a concentration camp and so quite a draining experience for her. Melanie told us that all schoolchildren in Bavaria have to go to visit as part of their schooling when they are about 12 years old.

That evening we had a barbecue on the balcony.

The next day was the first of our two planned days in Munich.

We were planning later in the evening to meet a friend of Lara’s so we drove to an S-Bahn station with a Park & Ride near to where we would be meeting Sara. We then took the S-Bahn into Munich centre.

It was very noticeable how clean and tidy everything was on the trains, and also every passenger was wearing a mask. In Berlin we found that one or two young people per train carriage were being radical and non mask-wearing.

It was a lovely day and so we went to Marienplatz to look around.

It was obviously time for cake so we stopped for some…

Munich is expensive and eating next to Marienplatz is obviously not cheap but we were a bit shocked by the price of our tea and cake each. We paid 4.20€ for my glass of hot water for tea.

To recover we went for a bit of walk, and went to the surfing spot in the Englischer Garten.

It was enjoyable to watch the people surfing – most managed 30 seconds or less.

Photo by Klaus

We wandered around Munich and stopped for lunch at a bakery about 200 metres from Marienplatz. We each had tomato soup, a filled roll and a drink and it came to almost 50 Euros! I was a bit shocked.

We wandered around a bit but were slightly underwhelmed by Munich over all.

We had planned in the evening to meet Lara’s friend Sara so we headed off to the Biergarten she had suggested as our meeting place. The food here was slightly better value but it was still mega expensive. Klaus chose a giant pretzel but this was 4.80€.

Sara arrived shortly after we had got our drinks and we had a good chat with her. She’s an energetic young lady who is working two jobs as she and her partner are involved in a Guest House in Thüringen whilst they work half the week in Munich. It’s a massive commute but they are young enough to manage it!

The next day we stayed home in the morning (I walked to get our breakfast rolls) and made our own salad lunch to try to recover from the ruinous food prices in Munich. In the afternoon we went to a shopping mall for a look around – Lara bought some trainers and I bought some smart shoes.

The plan for the next day, Thursday, was to go back to Munich and visit the Deutsches Museum. We had to buy our tickets online for this but that was fine.

I had visited this museum many times before and really liked it. It is rather an old-fashioned museum with lots of things to read and sometimes the feeling of a lack of coherence with what is being exhibited, but I enjoyed looking round again, especially as my German is now good enough to read the German exhibits even when they are technical.

There was an exhibition of computer stuff and Klaus and I exclaimed many times, “I had one of these!” It’s a bit odd when your youth is now a museum exhibit, such as this CBM computer (we had a Commodore PET which is basically the same thing and looked identical).

There was a mining section in the museum which must have been there forever. It involved lots of going down into the earth – we were clearly well below ground level a lot of the time, and as the museum is built directly next to the Isar river this was interesting! I have looked in vain for a plan of how deep it actually goes, and where the routes are, as it was snaking all over the place underground and in the dark.

Both Klaus and Lara were slightly disappointed by the museum, I think because of its old-fashioned nature (which was much less old-fashioned when I last visited about 15 years ago I suppose!)

During the day whilst walking around I realised I had a hole in the toe of my walking trainers so we popped into a Kaufhof and I bought a new pair of trainers directly. We then went to a burger restaurant and met Nils, son of our landlord and landlady, and shared an evening meal with him. It was good to see Nils in his new city.

The following day, our last full day in Bavaria, the weather was less good so we decided to go on a bit of a trip. We went to Garmisch Partenkirchen which is at the foot of the Zugspitze (highest mountain in Germany) but which was rather covered in cloud.

We had some cake at a café with dubious customer service but nice cakes and wandered around a bit. We had considered the cablecar up to the Zugspitze but that was nearly 50 Euros each!!! And with zero view as it was in the clouds.

On our way back we stopped at Starnberger See as we had been staying in Starnberg all week but not actually seen the lake. It was peaceful although there were some ominous rainclouds in the distance.

However we stayed dry and ended up having a takeaway curry at home to save money (still 66€ for three people!!!!!)

Our drive back the next day involved a diversion to Mannheim to see Klaus’s father followed by a diversion to Frankfurt to drop Lara off with her Uncle (and her Mum was also there as they were having a week’s holiday).

Klaus and I got home after nearly 10 hours total travelling – to an empty house as Poppy was still on holiday in Berlin. She arrived home two days later and we had prepared a welcoming committee for her of her toys.

Since we have been back we have had a quiet couple of weeks. Firstly trying to save a bit of money after the shocking food prices in Munich, although I had to allow myself a little treat of strawberries – especially as they were from the UK!

Klaus has been riding Malcolm his Sprint quite a lot this month, after getting Liegeradbau Schumacher to service and repair his hydraulic brakes (there was a crack in the plastic cover). We also did some walks with Poppy, including for some cake at Poeth.

We are planning to go to England in the middle of August to celebrate my Mum’s 75th birthday with her. We haven’t seen her this year of course, because of Covid, so it will be lovely to have a chance to spend a few days with her. And, of course, restock on British necessities.

I did a stockcheck of teabags and I have about 2000 still so it’s not desperate but I will probably get another 2000 or so to tide me over.

Cakes this month

Here is the gallery of the cakes we had this month.

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Nine Wheels in Germany – June 2020 (Month 75)

Don’t miss my reports on our Kylltal and Mosel Trike Tour this month!

Cycling this month

Here is where I cycled this month:

Here are my cycling statistics for this month.

534km, but more using the trike than the velomobile

As you see from the top of this post, we did a bike tour early in June. But first of all we had to do a shakedown ride for Klaus’s new trike so headed to Bauerncafé Jacobs on the border with the Netherlands as it’s about 22km away.

We had nice cakes!

Another evening we went out to do some photography of the trikes and happened to find outselves at the great Eiscafé in Kempen.

This was the early days after the easing of lockdown so there weren’t that many people around.

I had a tasty Sundae!

And then afterwards we cycled around Kempen to take some trike photos.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

I bought some new mirrors and a new bell for Alfie my trike but didn’t get round to fitting them before we went on tour and I seem not to have managed it yet.

Klaus on the other hand bought quite a few bits and bobs for Malcolm, his new trike, and these were fitted. This included the Radical Sidepod bags, SPD pedals, a bell, mirrors and also a tool to remove the bottom bracket which was a bit wobbly.

He set to work doing some of these jobs before we went on tour. The bottom bracket would have to wait until we returned as he needed an additional tool – the one we had didn’t fit the bottom bracket he has.

I was doing some animal-watching in the garden. Saw this mouse which was very friendly and didn’t run away at all (presumably it was either very ill or extremely stupid). I got lots of photos of it, and it kept coming towards the phone when I was trying to take close-ups.

Bearing in mind we live in a house with a dog and you can probably work out what happened the next morning. And then a few days later. Dog 2, mice 0.

Just before we went off on our holidays we decided to take Klaus’s daughter Lara to Bauerncafé Jacobs as she hadn’t been there before. So we all enjoyed nice cakes.

And then afterwards we walked to the border with the Netherlands (about 30 metres away) and stepped over briefly. The borders have only just opened and it was the first time I had been in NL this year, I think!

Poppies on the way to work


Klaus and I had originally planned a week in Berlin in mid-May to celebrate his birthday. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic we cancelled this holiday and instead stayed at home. However, when the lockdown in Germany started to lift, and after we had already cancelled our 2 week velomobile tour, we decided we might try the Berlin trip in June – celebrating my birthday whilst we were there. This was the week after we did our Kylltal and Mosel cycle tour – we were at home for one day between the two holidays (where we did three loads of washing!)

We had originally planned this holiday by train and had booked first class tickets a long time in advance with Deutsche Bahn. The tickets were non-transferable so when Covid19 came along we thought we would lose the money but fortunately Deutsche Bahn said we could use the tickets any time before the end of July. So we were able to take advantage of the first class train journey to and from Berlin in June.

Frank kindly drove us to Duisburg main station where we could get directly on our ICE train, having bought a few supplies for the journey. We had to wear masks in the station and on the train.

We had one suitcase between us and two rucksacks for a week.

The train journey was very relaxing and we had good wifi and were able to stream TV shows. This is one of the benefits of First Class as second class Wifi is throttled.

We arrived at Berlin Hauptbahnhof and then it was time to get the S-Bahn to Friedrichstraße.

From Friedrichstraße we took the U-Bahn one stop (although going through a new station on the way, which was not yet opened) and we arrived at Französische Straße. Our Apartment was just up the road in Behrenstraße – and it was a cracker!

It was very large with a large bathroom, a separate wardrobe room, sofas, bed, kitchen area and even a mini balcony. The balcony was built inside but you could open the windows for fresh air, although it was also very warm!

Here I am catching up with the world!

Photo by Klaus

After a cuppa we decided to walk further along Behrenstraße to see what we saw – and within a couple of hundred meters we were in Bebelplatz where the Nazis did the book burning.

Photo by Klaus
Site of the book burning

And of course just round the corner from here is Gendarmenmarkt with the two cathedrals and the concert house in between.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

We had never seen the roads around Mitte so empty, or indeed Gendarmenmarkt. We could walk across the road without any problems as there were almost no cars. And very, very few tourists. We heard mostly German spoken with very occasional English.

We walked along to Potsdamer Platz and on the way saw this European Union bear. Those were the days when Britain was still a member!

Although not every Brit feels British!

Rather fortuitously I was wearing my pro-Europe t-shirt “Better Together”

We arrived at Potsdamer Platz… but where was everyone?

Photo by Klaus

It was very eerie so we purchased some pastries and went home to eat them on the balcony with a cuppa.

We had found a local Edeka which was open in Friedrichstraße and rather amazingly they had McVitie’s biscuits. I have never seen these in Kempen! Klaus also bought some wine gums.

As you can see, for this holiday we had decided not to try to stick to Keto.

Our first full day in Berlin started with a longish S-bahn ride to Schlachtensee as I knew it was a nice walk around (5km).

The lake itself was very beautiful and the temperature was very pleasant for walking around, about 25 degrees.

Klaus noticed some terrapins or turtles on this log!

After we had walked around the lake we wandered into the town and had a pastry and cake at a bakery whilst watching a road crew trying to lay some pipes. There were about 8 workers, including one lady (who just spent the whole time drinking from her water bottle) and three vehicles and a trailer. It was very entertaining to watch all those people and very little action!

But there was cake/pastry action so that was the main thing.

We got out at Unter den Linden on the way back – the station for the Brandenburger Tor.

…and then went back to the apartment for a glass of wine for Klaus.

Later that day we went for a bit of a walk again.

I rather liked this road name, “Behind the Catholic Church”. You see below the e-scooters that are everywhere in Berlin.

Around the back of Bebelplatz I saw this lovely door and doorframe.

We wanted to have a look at the new Stadtschloss – it is almost complete.

One side of it is the Humboldt Forum which is a completely flat facade.

From here we walked up towards Museumsinsel and on the way saw yet another road sign which has some kind of cork and wire figurine on it. We saw four or five of these in different places but don’t know what they are about.

It is lovely walking along the Spree river.

Photo by Klaus

It was time for an ice cream so we found one in Hackescher Markt.

Photo by Klaus

And then we carried on walking along by Museumsinsel.

The photographer at work and, below, his photo!
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

As you can see, it was a beautiful evening for photography. Berlin is such a lovely city with many attractive buildings and you can walk around them easily enough. The lack of tourists made things very relaxed, but we also both felt that Berlin was somehow losing a bit of its vibrancy due to the lack of tourists.

The next day we decided to visit a couple of WW2 historic sights and, for a change, to go there by bus. Klaus spent a long time planning our bus route in order to get to the Schwerbelastungskörper and from there to the Flakturm Humboldthain. This is a screenshot of his planning:

So we set off on our first of many buses.

First destination was the Schwerbelastungskörper.

The Schwerbelastungskörper (German: “heavy load-bearing body”; a.k.a. Großbelastungskörper – GBK) is a hefty concrete cylinder located at the intersection of Dudenstraße, General-Pape-Straße and Loewenhardtdamm in the northwestern part of the borough of Tempelhof in Berlin, Germany. It was built by Hitler’s chief architect Albert Speer to determine the feasibility of constructing large buildings on the area’s marshy, sandy ground. Erected between 1941–1942 it was meant to test the ground for a massive triumphal arch on a nearby plot. The arch in the style of the Nazi architectural movement was to be about three times as large as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It was one component of a plan to redesign the center of Berlin as an imposing, monumental capital reflecting the spirit of the Nazi Germany as envisioned by Hitler.

The Schwerbelastungskörper was built by Dyckerhoff & Widmann AG in 1941 at a cost of 400,000 Reichsmark. At the fixed exchange rate of 4.2 ℛℳ per USD, 400,000 ℛℳ was worth $95,200, which is equivalent to $1,270,000 in 2018. It consists of a foundation with a diameter of 11 m (36 ft) that reaches 18.2 m (60 ft) into the ground and contains rooms which once housed instruments to measure ground subsidence caused by the weight of the cylinder, which was estimated as equivalent to the load calculated for one pillar of the intended arch. On this foundation a cylinder 14 m (46 ft) high and 21 m (69 ft) in diameter weighing 12,650 tonnes was erected at street level. The entire construction puts 1.24 MPa (180 psi) of pressure on an area of 100 m2 (1,100 sq ft). If it were to sink less than 6 cm (2.4 in), the soil would be deemed sound enough for further construction without additional stabilisation. The cylinder itself was to be subsequently buried under an artificial hill upon which the triumphal arch was to be erected, enabling a panoramic view down a new wide north-south axis to a huge assembly hall to be constructed near, and dwarfing the Brandenburg Gate.

Work on the new capital was soon discontinued because of World War II and measurements at the cylinder ceased in June 1944. An analysis of the meticulous measurements only took place in 1948, revealing that the cylinder had sunk some 19 cm (7.5 in) after two and a half years. The arch as conceived by Speer could only have been built after considerable prior stabilisation of the ground.

Removal of the cylinder was considered after the war to create new building sites, but because of its mass as well as nearby train tracks and apartment buildings the structure could not be safely demolished with explosives. Measurements of the subsidence were resumed and continued until 1977 under the auspices of the Technical University of Berlin as part of a project to compile data about the city’s geologic foundation. Since 1995 the monumental cylinder has been protected as a historic monument. It is open to the public for viewing and guided tours.

We arrived but unfortunately it was only open from 2 in the afternoon and we had got there at 11am so we decided we would go on to our next site (via several more buses), the Flakturm.

Flak towers (German: Flaktürme) were eight complexes of large, above-ground, anti-aircraft gun blockhouse towers constructed by Nazi Germany in the cities of Berlin (3), Hamburg (2), and Vienna (3) from 1940 onwards. The towers were operated by the Luftwaffe to defend against Allied strategic air raids against these cities during World War II. They also served as air-raid shelters for tens of thousands of local civilians.

Flakturm III – Humboldthain, Berlin
The third of the first generation flak towers was built at Humboldthain The G-Tower was partially demolished after the war; one side remains visible. The interior can be visited. The L-Tower was partially demolished after the war; some walls remain visible.,_Berlin

And in German, with some slightly different information:

Volkspark Humboldthain
Von Oktober 1941 bis April 1942 wurde ein weiterer Flakturm (unter Einbeziehung zahlreicher Zwangsarbeiter) im Volkspark Humboldthain mit zugehörigem Leitbunker gebaut. Diese wurden nach dem Krieg bis Mai 1948 von den französischen Truppen ebenfalls mehrfach gesprengt und mit Trümmern überdeckt. Da die am Berg vorbeiführende Bahnstrecke der Ringbahn nicht beschädigt werden durfte, ist der nördliche Teil des Bunkers aber noch heute sichtbar und im Rahmen einer Tour des Vereins Berliner Unterwelten begehbar.

This involved a walk through a rather lovely park with a rose garden. I saw this squirrel watching me.

We seemed to be on fairly flat land but of course the Flak tower was built on a hillock – which loomed in front of us suddenly through the trees.

We had to go up a lot of steps but then suddenly found ourselves with a view to the north over Gesundbrunnen (directly below us).

This plaque was in the centre of the highest tower. Made me think of a Star Trek badge.

There was lots of graffiti around which is disappointing, but also lots of random people just visiting.

We could look down onto the rose garden.

We went to the local Gesundbrunnen railway station to buy some lunch and then decided to do some more bus and tram journeys and ended up in Bernauer Straße where there is a very extensive Berlin Wall memorial.

I was very impressed that they already had an information section on borders in the time of Corona.

And the info board below had this thought-provoking quote:

Wir überlassen 20.000 Menschen der Hölle von Moria, wo sie frierern, dürsten und hungern. Aber wir holen 40.000 Menschen aus Rumänien, damit unser Spargel nicht verrotet.

My very poor translation of the above is: “We abandon 20,000 people to the hell of Moria [a Greek refugee camp], where they are cold, thirsty and hungry. But we fetch 40,000 people from Romania so that our asparagus doesn’t rot.”

The former route of the wall has a lot of these metal poles to mark it out.

Although there are still some sections of wall remaining.

It was now time for a tea and cake break.

It was an interesting day doing lots of bus and tram travel. You see a lot more than when you use the underground, and the buses come very regularly (we rarely had to wait more than five minutes) but it can sometimes be a challenge to find the correct bus stop!

We went back to our hotel for an evening meal – we ate in the apartment on three evenings, partly to save money and also because we had eaten so much during the day we didn’t need a full meal. Here we are having salad half al-fresco.

But after our evening salads in our apartment we went out for ice cream. And photography.

There was a lot more security at the Reichstag than when I was there last time.

We walked along the Spree and saw glass panels which have the German Grundgesetz (constitution/basic law) etched onto them.

Klaus found this extremely moving, reading the basic laws of the country, and remarked how privileged we are to live in a country with this as its basic law.

Here are two of them, for those who have not read it, which especially spoke to me:

Artikel 1: (1) Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie zu achten und zu schützen ist Verpflichtung aller staatlichen Gewalt.(2) Das Deutsche Volk bekennt sich darum zu unverletzlichen und unveräußerlichen Menschenrechten als Grundlage jeder menschlichen Gemeinschaft, des Friedens und der Gerechtigkeit in der Welt. / (1) Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority. (2) The German people therefore acknowledge inviolable and inalienable human rights as the basis of every community, of peace and of justice in the world.

Artikel 3: (1) Alle Menschen sind vor dem Gesetz gleich.(2) Männer und Frauen sind gleichberechtigt. Der Staat fördert die tatsächliche Durchsetzung der Gleichberechtigung von Frauen und Männern und wirkt auf die Beseitigung bestehender Nachteile hin.(3) Niemand darf wegen seines Geschlechtes, seiner Abstammung, seiner Rasse, seiner Sprache, seiner Heimat und Herkunft, seines Glaubens, seiner religiösen oder politischen Anschauungen benachteiligt oder bevorzugt werden. Niemand darf wegen seiner Behinderung benachteiligt werden. / (1) All persons shall be equal before the law. (2) Men and women shall have equal rights. The state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantages that now exist. (3) No person shall be favoured or disfavoured because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith or religious or political opinions. No person shall be disfavoured because of disability.

We walked back fairly near to the British Embassy which was in a road which is now closed off to through-traffic and with police standing guard.

There were also Police outside the Russian embassy on Unter den Linden which we walked past several times.

We stopped for an ice cream.

One morning I decided I would like for us to visit Mall of Berlin again – we had visited on our last trip to Berlin and it was a huge place. Then it had been really busy, but this time it was like the Marie Celeste!

There were hardly any visitors. Several shops were being boarded up (clearly gone out of business) and we were reminded again how Covid-19 has been ruining many businesses.

After several days of walking Klaus’s back was complaining a bit so we decided to be sit-down tourists and go on a Spree River cruise. We chose a boat which was a solar-powered catamaran, bought our ticket in advance and then refuelled with cake to prepare us for the voyage.

There were about 15 people in total on the boat, including a couple with a cockapoo dog. We sat around the sides of the boat suitably socially-distanced and watched Berlin slide past.

I wouldn’t fancy standing at the edge of this building
The Fernsehturm reflected in the windows
Hauptbahnhof – when I first visited Berlin there was nothing at all here
Water reflections of a strange black and white building
Another very modern building near the Reichstag

We enjoyed our cruise, seeing Berlin from a different angle. We had travelled through a lock and past the East Side Gallery where there was vast amounts of building work being done.

We decided to walk back from the boat landing stage near Museumsinsel. I liked this message on several of these bikes – “travels with 100% currywurst power”.

As we walked back through Bebelplatz we saw lots of people standing around and heard singing.

A closer look – there are eight opera singers standing in the windows singing along to a backing track.

This made us think how performers such as singers must so much miss the responses of the audience – this was a way of getting that feeling back, although the acoustic must have been incredibly tricky! Later on we saw a lady busking – she was an opera singer, singing to a track in an earpiece (we only heard her voice) and she had an amazing voice. She looked like she was in her fifties or sixties.

Later that day we went to Alexanderplatz to meet up with Lars and Lara, son and daughter of our landlord and landlady, to share an evening meal at a Mexican restaurant.

It was lovely to see them both again, And the food was good!

We watched the sunlight fading around the Fernsehturm.

And the Rotes Rathaus in the Blaue Stunde.

As we were walking back Klaus saw a message to me at the Staatsoper!

Because the next day was my birthday!

It started with some breakfast entertainment, watching a lady cleaning the windows outside the building opposite. She was abseiling and someone inside the building was periodically handing her clean cloths.

We went back to Alexanderplatz for a look around. We went to Decathlon and got a few bike bits that Klaus needed, such as gloves and a windproof, and I got a couple of clothing items in C&A. Because of Corona we haven’t been clothes shopping in ages.

We stopped for some tea and cake in Einstein Kaffee. This was, I suppose, my birthday cake this year. Rich and tasty.

We were observed by a large seagull who wandered around without any fear of the humans.

When we got back to the hotel we had this note:

Klaus did well out of that as I don’t drink alcohol!

We then decided to go for a walk to the East Side Gallery that we had seen from the other side on our boat cruise the day before.

We walked along the Oberbarmbrücke.

And then ended up getting a bus back to the railway station.

My birthday evening treat was another visit to Sticks & Sushi, a wonderful Sushi restaurant near Potsdamer Platz.

We had a lovely corner to ourselves on the first floor and Klaus experimented with some Japanese beer.

Look at the wonderful food we had!

And the desserts were heavenly!

The next day we decided to go out of central Berlin and headed to Wannsee for a bit of a walk. We wanted to walk to the beach there, which is actually a couple of kilometres from the railway station.

We passed this garage with an impressive painting on it.

When we got to Strandbad Wannsee it was closed! Corona again.

So we had some lunch at a café round the corner and then headed back on the train. We decided to visit Tempelhof Airport as there is an exhibition within it which opened at 2pm. Last time we walked around the Airport grounds but the exhibition had been closed.

The head of the Eagle which used to be on the plinth on the top – as a whole Eagle
Photo by Klaus

It was an interesting exhibition, showing all the different stages in the life of the airport. So much history there – one of the first concentration camps was just outside the airfield grounds, then the whole WW2 situation, then the Berliner Luftbrücke, and then the eventual closure of Tempelhof. My father flew into Tempelhof in his light plane about three weeks before it closed for good.

It was definitely time to refuel with cake and a bit of googling showed a likely looking café. And wow was that a good choice!

These cakes were enormous, and very tasty!

The guy persuaded me to try some of his German black tea (which was a waste as it didn’t taste good, so he swapped it for some hot water for me so I could use my teabags). We will definitely go there again to experience some more of the cakes!

Then we decided to visit the hat shop which was the base for a Christmas Market stall we visited in Mannheim last year (when we bought two hats). “Hut und Vino” turned out to be a very small shop but with very friendly staff. We tried on a few hats but didn’t end up buying anything.

Good hat and only 20€ but sadly too small and they didn’t have the next size up

On the bus again!

Notice everyone wearing masks. It seems normal now.

On the way back we did our shopping at the Edeka in Quartier 205 as we decided to eat a salad for our evening meal again. The Quartier 205 and Quartier 207 shopping areas (on Friedrichstraße) are a bit more upmarket than most other areas with a large Galeries Lafayette and some interesting design.

This was our last evening in Berlin.

The next day we packed up our things and headed to the Hauptbahnhof by S-Bahn and bus. Here is our ICE train waiting for the second half of the train to join it.

After four hours we were in Duisburg where we changed for a train to Krefeld and from there another train to Kempen and a taxi home.

The end of a really enjoyable week in Berlin, a city we both love and have visited over many many years.

Bertie finds a new home

After two years and just 790km it was time for Bertie to find a new home. My plan had been to use him on rainy days (as the Milan lets rather a lot of water in) but as he was kept in the other garage, 500 metres away, the reality was that I rarely bothered to go and get him. So I decided he should go to someone who would like to use him.

I put him up for sale at a bargain basement 2.500€ and had interest but as the Corona lockdown had happened. However, once the lockdown had lifted I had a few more enquiries, plus I dropped the price by 100€.

One chap registered on the Velomobilforum to ask about Bertie, and arranged to come and visit. This was quite an undertaking as he was coming from Jutland in Denmark, 600+ km away. We agreed a Saturday evening for him to visit and if he liked Bertie he would take him away with him.

That day Klaus and I drove to Gerrit Tempelman in Dronten to hand over Alfie my trike for a service and for some battery replacement, and then we came home and awaited our visitors. One is never sure if people from the internet will actually come, especially such a long way, but in due course Martin and his wife Amy arrived.

Bertie was the first velomobile Martin had ever seen. He then saw Millie and Emily so has now seen 3! We had a pizza and then he had a bit of a ride. It was late in the evening so there wasn’t too much time, but he managed to ride a circuit or two with me alongside in the Milan. He was surprised at the weight of the velomobile for acceleration – he had done a lot of research but you don’t really understand how weight affects your riding until you actually do it. However, on a longer straight he was able to pedal up to 32km/h and he didn’t have SPD shoes on or any recumbent muscles, so I guess he won’t be slow.

It was getting late so Martin and Amy went to their hotel and arranged to come back the next morning.

The next morning they arrived – yes, they wanted to buy Bertie. So we set about fitting him in the Citroen Jumpy they had hired in Denmark. This was a slightly unusual hire van as it had no internal load hooks – we struggled to find anything to attach Bertie to, but in the end managed to work out a way of securing him, and padded his nose with foam and an old t-shirt of Klaus’s.

There really were only millimetres left to fit Bertie in. It was a close thing as they really would not have wanted to do the huge round trip again!

Amy, Martin, Bertie and Klaus

They headed off back on their mammoth drive, having handed over some cash and received from me an official sales document. I hope that Martin has many happy hours using Bertie – both Klaus and I expect this is just the first in a selection of Velomobiles, but the Versatile is a great choice for a first VM to enable you to (cheaply) know what you might find important in your next velomobile.

A visit to court

Two years ago Klaus’s velomobile Celeste was damaged after some vandals ran amok in the garages where we were storing her and then set fire to the local farmer’s hay storage barn. We had twelve fire engines to put out the fire and stop the gas tank exploding and at the end the entire hay store was gone. I wrote about it all in my blog at the time.

Fast forward two years and one of the four young people alleged to have set the fire had a court case and I was called as a witness. I had a letter from the court inviting me to visit and saying if I didn’t turn up without a good excuse I would be fined 1,000€. So I turned up of course!

I have to admit a certain amount of nervousness about leaving my velomobile out in the open, knowing that the young lads allegedly were those who damaged Celeste. But as I have no car and it was too far to walk from work in the time I just did it!

I had to go through a metal detector and x-ray and then sat outside the court waiting to be called, as my letter had instructed me. Initially I was on my own but eventually three young lads were there with their parent(s) and also the local farmer.

The flickering LED lighting and this floor pattern gave me a bit of a headache!

We all had to wear masks of course.

After an hour’s wait I was called in… to be told they didn’t need me after all and I could go home. So I did.

I don’t know the result of the court case, but my main feeling was sadness at the destruction caused and shock at how young the boys looked, two years after the event.

Cakes this month

Here are some other cake pictures from this month.

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – May 2020 (Month 74)

Cycling this month

Here are my cycling statistics for this month.

You can see the last ride in May was on the trike. More about that later!

And here is where I rode this month

Velomobile rides in green, trike ride in red

Tile-bagging at Düsseldorf Airport

It has to be said, Düsseldorf Airport doesn’t seem like the optimal destination for a cycle ride, unless you are flying somewhere with your bike. However, to move further ahead with my Veloviewer Max Square I needed to do a ride that not only included the airport but actually went pretty much right to the Arrivals/Departures doors.

I had visited Düsseldorf Aiport many times by car. It‘s a concrete jungle with roads, flyovers, an elevated train and more.

From the photo below you can see the tiles I was missing (the ones I have bagged have a red or yellow fill colour)

You can see the relevant tile on the left hand side of the runway… some red dots… There is a closer-up image below.

So somehow I needed to get to Terminal A/B to get that square.

There is a website which shows when other people using Veloviewer and as part of this club have managed to collect this tile. I saw that there were 5 people who had got it and looked at their linked Strava tracks. The first had clearly flown to Düsseldorf and set off from there (no help to me) but the next one had done it on a tile-bagging ride. So I looked at where he had ridden and planned myself a route which used the same roads. Hopefully it would work!

I said to Klaus that bagging this tile would only be possible during the Coronavirus time (as there is not much air traffic) and only really on a Sunday morning (not much general traffic). He agreed, and so we set off at 8:30 in the morning…

I had plotted us to catch 4 tiles at the aiport and another 5 a bit further north at Ungelsheim, Huckingen and Buchholz (I had never heard of these places before and guess I am unlikely to visit them again!)

The beginning of the ride was simply heading directly south to Willich and then heading east to Meerbusch Osterath where we would cross the Rhein on a bridge.

My first error was a basic one – I had forgotten to charge up the battery in Millie. I usually top it up before a long ride and just use it without recharging for all my commuting. I try not to charge it full as that is not so good, I just put another hour on here or there, and make sure I put a bit more on when I am doing a long ride. I had planned to put 2 hours of charge on after my last work commute before the weekend – but ended up taking Klaus‘s car (it was raining) and completely forgot about Millie‘s battery.

So I wheeled her out of the garage, turned on the electronics and noticed battery said 98%. Uh oh.

That sounds OK, but Millie‘s battery isn‘t a very linear scale. When fully charged it stays at 100% for about 70km and then starts counting down. It drains pretty speedily when it gets below 20%. Now I know that a full charge in summer on Level 1 assistance gives me 210km at least, but I wasn‘t sure how much charge I actually had, and it was also a cold morning (battery is less efficient). So I decided to only use the motor on level 1. After all, if it did completely conk out I can ride without the motor, I would just have to let Klaus disappear off on his own as I would be too slow.

Range anxiety is a real thing. Although I had 98% battery showing, which should be good for 100km (and the planned ride was 89), I felt rather nervous as it seemed to be counting down rather speedier than I expected. It also flickered up or down 4-5% depending on whether I was going uphill or coasting… I found myself rather focussed on it.

Once we got to Willich I was at 86% but we had ridden 20km so it was clearly reducing at a lesser rate than the kilometers being ridden. This was a bit of a relief. As the day was warming up a bit the rate of drain also seemed to reduce, plus the inside of the velomobile was also warmer which probably helped. I was riding with assist level 1 (which is 15 watts) so was working a bit harder than normal (I am usually on 2 or 3 when riding with Klaus, although he was also taking it easier today).

Just before arriving beside the Rhein we took a short cycle path which had a set of gates or a horizontal pole. The gates looked tricky for velomobiles but the barrier pole looked like we might just be able to limbo under it. Klaus went first, with me alongside saying „slowly, slowly“ but eventually he went under with about 4cm clearance. It was my turn next and it was easier as Millie is a couple of centimetres lower than Emily. I too went under unscathed. Klaus told me that Dirk, to whom he sold Celeste, had discovered he cannot get under there with his light tower so uses a different route when coming this way.

We had a short ride along the Rhein and then it was time to cross on what I previously called the Helter-Skelter Bridge.

This was good fun, even though I didn‘t increase the support from my motor (range anxiety). And then it was a ride across the bridge, where the cycle path kindly shares its space with the A44 motorway.

Once across it was not far to the airport. I had followed the route this other chap had taken, but we had an early problem due to the route going over a high pedestrian bridge with impassable gates.

I asked a lady if there was an alternative route to the airport for bikes which didn‘t involve this bridge and she gave us some directions. These mostly worked, although we had to be a bit creative.

We had an exceptionally narrow bit of cycle path beside a road, where there were high concrete barriers separating the road from the cycle path but there were regular lamp posts and poles for signs, plus trees, along the path. Klaus was ahead in Emily and I knew if he could get through then so could I, but there were some very tight squeezes. This was a slow, slow section as we were crawling past these lamp posts or trees every 30 metres or so.

We then popped out into a long term parking area of the airport. And, boy, was it spooky. There were no cars. There was signage everywhere (Car park 28. Row B) or whatever, but acres and acres of concrete with not a car to be seen. The grass was growing up between the brick paving so everything had a green tinge. Most odd.

We pootled on, expecting to be stopped by security any time. It was not always clear where we should be riding, although we used the cycle paths when they were available. They were bumpy and rutted and not always easy to see. At other times we used pavements, thinking they were maybe a bit easier than the road.

You can see below the route that we took – quite squiggly!

We had wanted to take some main roads (which were on my track) but they had no cycling signs so we had to work out some alternatives. It looks as though the guy whose track I used was a bit of a naughty boy when he rode it!

It was a bit of a shame at times, though, as there were some four lane roads which were completely empty of cars and would have been great fun to ride on. But we were being good.

We followed a bus through some road works which was handy as it was hard to see where the official road was heading. We were on the road now as the cycle path and footpath were closed for the road works. We found ourselves right in the middle of all the airport roads, going through areas which previously had barriers and ticket machines for short-term parking but all the machines were switched off and with covers over. We could ride right along these roads.

We saw an Airport Security van and also two police cars but no-one stopped us to ask what two velomobiles were doing riding around an airport. But we were not too surprised as we saw loads and loads of cyclists on our trip – who knew that a great location for a Sunday morning ride is an airport?

We had to stop a couple of times to consult our Garmins and I also double-checked on my phone as we hadn‘t managed to get right to the arrivals area and I was worried I wouldn‘t have the tile – I wouldn‘t be coming here again. So we made our way a bit further out of the rings of roads and pulled to a stop somewhere that looked rather Terminally.

We stopped here for a few minutes, Klaus used the vending machine to buy a drink and I decided that we had, indeed, bagged the tile. Which we had, phew!

Next question – how do we get out again? We now wanted to go north but I thought it best that we returned the way we had come as at least we knew that worked and could then join the rest of our track fairly soon.

That worked surprising well and we were soon heading towards Kaiserswerth, where we happened to know there was a decent café. So we stopped for the obligatory cake (I hadn’t had any breakfast today and we were doing lots of stopping and starting, plus I was expending more energy with the pedalling).

Of course we‘re not allowed to eat the cake at the café so headed off along our track, deciding we would stop when the time was right.

The time was right when we followed the Garmin routing suggestion which took us to a narrow slope onto a railway platform, rather than taking the underpass under the railway line. As we had to turn the bikes round we stopped here for our piece of cake each.

The cakes were very nice and it was very peaceful where we had stopped. There were just a few bikes coming past.

We headed back, crossed under the railway line and then found ourselves in a rather lovely quiet country area with horses galore. That is of course an issue with velomobiles as horses can be afraid of us, so we had to pass them very slowly. There were lots of riding stables and loads of people out on horses, plus cyclists. It was a lovely bit of country life sandwiched between the A52, the A524 and the A44 motorways.

We did a bit of a loop to bag some tiles and then headed back to the Rhein to cross over the bridge near Uerdingen.

The 20km home from Uerdingen is something we have done a lot and we were going a bit faster now. My battery was still showing 50% so I felt more confident giving myself assistance level 2 instead. We cruised our way back to our home, I ended up with 44% left on the battery after 92km. So it seems as though 1% is good for about 2km.

When we got home we noticed that Emily had had an extremely accurate bird strike on one of her headlamps!

But the main thing was… I had bagged all the tiles I needed!

My Veloviewer chart now showed that I had multiple overlapping 26×26 squares, so if I got some tiles to the north east or the south west I would increase my max square. You can guess where my next rides were heading!

Tricky tile at Javelin barracks – and goodbye to the Cookie Monster

Some very sad news this month. Our chum Ralf has decided as he uses his velomobile so little it was time to sell it (he still uses upright bikes which work better with his motorhome anyway). So the Cookie Monster or Krümelmonster went up for sale and a few days later someone had visited, tested it and decided to buy it. That someone was Thom who Klaus has occasionally seen cycling along the RS1 cycle route in Mülheim (where he works) and who I met at the Trike Treffen four years ago in Xanten. Thom has a Mango velomobile which he uses for his 20km commute from the far side of Essen to Mülheim.

Ralf suggested that we came to wave goodbye to the Cookie Monster and we agreed. Klaus also said he would ride back with Thom to Mülheim to show him the way, as this was unfamiliar territory to Thom. He was pleased to take Klaus up on the offer but I’m not fond of that route and as I had some tiles to bag a bit further on than Ralf’s house I decided to do those separately.

As it was Ralf’s birthday the next day Klaus and I walked with Poppy in the morning to buy some cake and as we were halfway back got the message that Thom was on his way to Ralf’s, a little earlier than originally planned. So we walked briskly back home and then set off in our velomobiles to Ralf’s place 22km away.

When we arrived Thom was just finalising the adjustments to the chain length (he had to move the boom a bit inward as he is shorter than Ralf), he did a couple of test rides, and all as set.

Old and new owner

We shared the cake and some hot drinks and then it was time for the Cookie Monster to leave. Thom’s wife had driven him to Ralf’s so she headed off in the car with the spare tyres and other things and Klaus headed off with Thom towards Essen.

It was my time to head off on my own to bag some tiles.

The problem I had was that some of the tiles were within the former Javelin Barracks area in Elmpt, right on the border with NL. This is one of the many former British army/RAF areas around here, and I didn’t know if it was possible to go into it or not. Google Maps allowed me to plot routes along the roads, but one never entirely knows.

In total I was aiming for 7 different tiles. Tiles 1-5 were all on normal public roads so I knew they should be OK (well, 5 was a bit tricky, but looked possible). However, it seemed that 6 and 7 required me to be within the former Javelin Barracks area.

It was 10km from Ralf’s house to the beginning of my tile-bagging, tile number 1. That was fine, and then I rode along the road beside the motorway bagging tiles 4, 3, 2 and 5 at great speed (swooping downhill, riding at about 40 km/h). At the end of my run I had to turn round otherwise I would have been in the Netherlands (not allowed!)

I had passed both entrances to Javelin Barracks and the one that I planned to take, just above the number 6 in my map above, was the one I wanted to take. I had seen a security post there with a couple of guys standing around. I didn’t know if I would be successful.

So I cycled into the barracks and stopped beside this guard post thingie. It was Germans there, two chaps – a young Turkish chap and an older German. We had a bit of a chat as I said “am I allowed to ride in here” and they said “no.” Ah.

I explained the tile-bagging (or at least tried to) and they said it was the Brits who didn’t want the general public visiting the barracks. It was clear, despite me attempting to charm them, that they would not let me in. So we just had a nice chat for 15 minutes, they took a photo of Millie, and then I turned round and went back to the main road.

I pulled in to the main barracks entrance (tile 7 above on my map, tile 6 was a washout) but there I clearly wouldn’t be allowed further as there were complicated buildings to check over your car for bombs etc. So I took a photo of Millie outside and decided this was probably the end of my chances of tile-bagging to the south west now.

I was a bit disappointed but cheered myself up with a large ice cream. I had to buy it as take away (Coronavirus measures) so rode for about 5 minutes out of Brüggen and stopped by a small quiet path and ate half of it there.

As I had bought four scoops of ice cream that was actually too much in one go so I wrapped it up again and then rode for another 20 minutes, eating the rest (well, partly drinking by this point) next to the church in Schaag.

And then I pootled home, uploading my ride to see how my tiles looked.

Nightmare – I was incredibly close. The two white tiles below are 6 and 7 from my image above. I could see that where I stopped at the security checkpoint I was right on the gridline for the next tile.

Zoomed in even more below – looks like I missed it by about 5 metres!!!

The thing is, I guess the security guys would have let me cycle another 10 metres further as they could have seen me the whole time and there was a parking area there. I just didn’t realise the tile was so close! Bad preparation.

I had a look on and one cyclist has done exactly what I did, just kept going that extra 10 metres. Another cyclist who saw my post on Facebook moaning about this suggested to me that I might be able to nab this tile from the south. It’s really hard to know what area is barracks and what is public areas, but I planned a track to get just these two tiles. I would be a 90km round trip so rather a time and energy investment but I decided I would definitely give it another go!

A second attempt at Javelin barracks

So, as you might have guessed, I couldn’t leave it long before having another attempt to get the tricky tile at Javelin Barracks in Elmpt.

This was the situation before I set off, on the last day of our short holiday around Klaus’s birthday (he was visiting his daughter as it was her birthday). There were actually three tiles it would be helpful for me to get, right on the border with NL.

Tile 2 was actually fairly easy as I could see on the map a road which cut the bottom right corner of this tile, then it was marked as a track (dotted lines) and went to Auf dem Overschlag and Am Huelsgen and Am Puckel. I hoped that I would be able to take the road within the grey section towards Am Vogelsberg and get my tile 1 here.

The satellite view didn’t help much, except for showing that there is a whacking great runway in the middle.

One issue with using Veloviewer is that the maps it uses are not the same maps as used with Garmin Connect, which I use to plan routes. So sometimes it’s a bit tricky to know where I am planning to go. But I made a one-way ride which took me (hopefully) to all three tiles. I would give it a go! Below is my Garmin track image, which hopefully would take me to Tile 1.

It was a fairly cool and cloudy day but I had the bit between my teeth and wanted to bag the wretched Tile 1. So I cycled the most direct route to Elmpt, which was 37km, and then it was time to hit the southern side of the track.

I crossed the A52 motorway and went through a small hamlet, then I started on the road which heads south west towards my first tile, Tile 2, marked with a purple flag on the map above.

This was OK, I bagged this tile, so it was one of the two definitely needed ones. Hurrah!

But the next tile, next to the 44km marker, was the tricky one. I had to follow along the road and then turn more northwards, and Garmin Route Planning had been a bit difficult about this. I soon discovered why.

I needed to be the other side of this fence

You can also see that the road surface is sub-optimal. Bumpy, dusty, covered in pine cones that constantly ‘pong’ed into my wheel arches and made a racket.

I caught occasional glimpses through the trees of huge buildings, earthworks, pillboxes, bunkers… all very military-looking but with nature taking over again.

The further I rode (and I knew that to get Tile 3 I needed to actually go quite a long way), the worse the road quality became. I was regularly disappearing into gullies in the road which is always very noisy in velomobiles as the bottom scrapes over rough ground. Not to mention you get shaken around inside. I was crawling along at 10km/h, trying to steer around the larger craters.

And then suddenly I found myself at the top of a steep hill. I didn’t want to ride down it (as maybe I would have traction issues riding up again) and as my Garmin suggested Tile 3 was only about 100 metres away I got out, picked up my Garmin and walked with it down the hill.

The other side of the fence (within the barracks, where I needed to be) was a golf course. See below in the photo the lovely bit of tarmac – how i wished I were that side of the fence!

There were two chaps playing golf and they were German speaking. They seemed completely unsurprised by the Union Jack-clad lady in a rocket taking photos through the fence.

But I had reached the end of the line – no chance to get tile 1 from the south. I would have to go back again to the security checkpoint on the north side and see if I could charm myself a bit further into the facility.

So I turned round and started the slow ride back…

Very noisy again, I was a bit worried I might get a puncture, as I was a long way from home and the rims aren’t the easiest to get a tyre on. However, I have to say I am very pleased so far with the Continental Contact Speed tyres as they handled it all well.

Eventually I was back on the proper roads again and I headed round to the west, to the road parallel to the A52, where the access point to the barracks was.

I hoped that the same two chaps were there as on Friday as they were friendly and, I felt, persuadable. I had some screenshots on my phone of where I needed to go, as I thought that would help my case.

But unfortunately it was a different chap and he was absolutely definite. I could not pass the 3 cones on the road (there had been no cones on Friday, just two chaps). I said I only needed to cycle about another 10 metres but he said “sorry, not allowed.”

Let me just remind you, dear reader, how close I came last time:

But clearly it was not to be. The chap was doing his security job properly.

So I sighed and said “OK, but I’ll have to get out to turn around as I have such a bad turning circle.”

He replied, “I will move this cone and you can turn around over there, I will avert my eyes.” ‘Over there’ was the required 10 metres further on…

I was very grateful and so crawled off slowly, arranging it so that my cornering was badly judged and I had to shuffle back a little to make it round in 2 goes. I had definitely gone a bit further south towards the tile but was I far enough? I returned through the remaining two cones and headed out onto the main road, kicking myself that I hadn’t picked up my Garmin and held it as far behind me as I could whilst at the most southern point, to give an extra metre or so. What a numpty!

Had I done it??

Here is the screenshot after my journey.

Hooray! Tile was bagged!!!!

And here is the relevant section, showing all three tiles now bagged.

You can see here why the lower route didn’t actually get up into the tile with the left hand side of the airfield in it. So it was very good I managed to get the tile at the guard’s gate. So now my Max Square was 28×28.

As you can see, the total ride was nearly 90km so I decided I had earned some cake (officially 1,133 calories burned) so I stopped at Café Poeth in St Hubert to get a slice for Klaus and I.

I am pretty much at my limit to the south west now as the Netherlands is there (restrictions on riding there due to Coronavirus) so my next tile-bagging would be to the north east, over the Rhein in the Voerde area.

The end of Tile-Bagging?

There was another tile-bagging run for me in May. This was across the Rhein to the north east again.

This was to pick up some random odd tiles near Dinslaken and Voerde. Klaus came with me on this trip.

He was nearly taken out in the first 5km when a Sunday driver overtook him and then pulled in and braked. It was a close thing and as I was behind I saw it all happening… We actually overtook the guy who pulled in and then Klaus stopped a little further on as he had to let the adrenaline go a bit. The man stopped beside us (blocking a main road in Tönisberg) and started trying to justify his appalling driving but Klaus told him just to drive on. Clearly the guy was too old to be driving his large Mercedes safely but you can only separate a German from their large Mercedes at gunpoint.

This naturally started the ride off on a bit of a sour note but things improved after our Rhein crossing when the Orsoy/Walsum ferry turned out to be free. Maybe this was because it was a Sunday, I don’t know, but we usually pay.

We pootled around various places bagging tiles (13 in total) but there were often signs in the background that we were near the industrial Rhein/Ruhr area.

What was an absolute shocker about this trip was that we had agreed to have a cake after the halfway point – but we found NO OPEN BAKERIES! So we did the entire 96km with no food (I had also had no breakfast but that is usual for me because of the keto diet and I wasn’t hungry or lacking in energy).

When we got home I checked my Veloviewer Tiles and I now have a tile 30×30. The tiles turn out not to be 1km square, they are more like 1.5km. So that’s quite an impressive distance. However, I am now stuck at the bottom left and the top right so will probably have to call it a day on a reasonably impressive 30×30.

A new café in Kreis Kleve

Several times recently we have passed signs to “Das kleine Gartencafé” in Hamb and thought it worth trying it out on a cool and overcast Sunday.

The café is actually in the back garden of a couple who open it up on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays from 13:00. We ended up arriving 20 minutes early as we had a mega tailwind on the way.

Fortunately they let us in! We sat in the garden which has cat decoration everywhere.

The cakes are all home-made and they have a lactose free, gluten free and vegan option too. I took the gluten-free as it has a nut base, so it is a bit more Keto than most cakes.

Gartencafé Kuchen

Klaus took a different option which he said was very tasty.

It was nice and relaxed sitting there and the cakes were great. We will undoubtedly return sometime!

Other uses for a velomobile

The Quattrovelo has a flat area where pizzas can be safely stored. I guess if Klaus got bored of the electronic engineering he could become a pizza delivery driver.

A new member of our bicycle stable/Fuhrpark

Exciting news! We have a new bike in our household!

For some time now we had been talking about going back to trike riding. This was after our experiences with the velomobile tour to England when we had to hire a van to get back. Velomobiles can be complicated and although they are fast and you can travel long distances, they have disadvantages too.

I realised I was hankering after a slower touring pace – not zooming along main roads but sticking to the cycle paths along rivers, things like that. With the chance to stop when you see something interesting – with a velomobile you are 200 metres past it by the time you decide you should stop for a look.

I of course still have a trike, Alfie, but Klaus had sold his Wild One. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, he and I went to look at ICE trikes at Tetrion near Wesel as he was planning to buy a new one but we were underwhelmed with Tetrion as a shop and then the Corona situation put things on hold.

However, with the lockdown easing we started talking about it again. Klaus had been looking at new trikes as he new the specification he wanted but we had also talked to chum TomTom about his Sprint X, and there was also one for sale in the Velomobilforum. Tom’s was an excellent specification and he offered it to us at Mates Rates with a really generous offer, especially as it had a Rohloff. However, Tom’s Sprint had the 20 inch rear wheel and Klaus really wanted the 26 inch. Plus Klaus likes derailleur gears and wasn’t fussed about a Rohloff.

The Sprint X on the Velomobilforum didn’t have front suspension and neither trike had drum brakes (which he wanted) but instead had hydraulic discs, but we decided it was worth looking at the 26 inch rear wheel trike on the Velomobilforum, so Klaus got in contact with the chap and we arranged to go and have a look.

Klaus knew that if he liked the trike we would take it away with us so we cleared out the boot of the car. It would be a 7 hour round trip but as we would not be far from his father we would also go for a visit there to make more of the journey! And as we were visiting Opa Lara, Klaus’s daughter, came along too.

So we set off at 8am on the Saturday morning, heading for Göllheim which is vaguely near Mannheim. We arrived at the chap’s shop at 11:15 and it was immediately clear that his Sprint X was a very tidy example.

Klaus and he had a long chat. The chap had changed the gearing from the supplied groupset to Ultegra 11 speed, and had also done something to the front gears. It had originally been supplied by Icletta, as most of the German ICE trikes are, and had only done about 500km.

Klaus had a good look and had a test ride. The bottom bracket was a bit wobbly (not correctly installed?) and the right hand side brake was squealing (new pads needed?) but the structure was all fine and the price was fair. So Klaus went ahead and bought the ICE Sprint X, now to be called Malcolm (as in Malcolm X).

Whilst he was doing the sales contract etc Lara and I walked around Göllheim in search of a bakery. We found one eventually, although the town seemed really dead. We couldn’t go empty-handed to see Klaus’s father, you see!

We loaded Malcolm into the back of Klaus’s car and he amazingly fitted without the back seats being down (useful as Lara was sitting in the back and we also had some cakes we were trying not to squash). Klaus has an Opel Insignia and the boot is cavernous.

We then drove to Mannheim and spent a couple of hours sitting outside with his Dad (keeping a correct social distance) and sharing cake.

We set off for home but poor Klaus got a mega migraine so I ended up driving home with Lara in the passenger seat and Klaus slumped on a pillow in the back seats. He bought a burger king Whopper and couldn’t eat it so Lara and I shared it (having had our own meals). We concluded that 1 fast food takeaway is enough and an extra half portion just sits in the stomach feeling gloomy. We also had a bit of a challenge finding an open toilet as some of the services were closed – on the third set of motorway services we found one with a loo we could use. It seemed I was giving Lara a tour of motorway service stations whilst her father hid his head under a pillow in the back seat.

Fortunately once we got home the worst of his migraine had passed. It had been a lot of driving in the morning and standing around in the sun, then sitting in the sun, so who knows if this had a part to play. Anyway, I was happy to drive home as the Autobahn wasn’t too busy, considering it was Saturday afternoon.

Malcolm’s first ride

So of course the next day would be Malcolm’s first ride. Klaus had quite a lot of bike maintenance to do first, mainly removing unnecessary weight.

Klaus had already decided that he wanted to keep Malcolm light – take off all unnecessary gadgets and keep him simple.

So first the weighing – 21.5 kg

He hoped to be able to trim a kilo or two.

He removed the extra gadget holders on the handlebars (you can see them against his arm on the photo above), some water bottle holders on the frame that will foul the Radical Side Bags that he has ordered, the mudguards and a few other bits and bobs.

He re-weighed Malcolm and he weighed the same, so we decided our scales are no good outdoors.

He then spent a long time indexing the gears at the back. We cannot see that they had ever worked well as he had to do a lot of work to get all gears accessible and changing smoothly.

There was a lot of noise in the lower gears and it was eventually identified as the terracycle idler at the back (this is an extra that Icletta add, ICE do not supply this) and the nose of the metal part the keeps the chain on the idler wasn’t best positioned. Once Klaus worked this out and adjusted it things were much better.

Whilst Klaus was doing this I was doing the long-postponed oil change on my Alfine hub.

I don’t think I’ve done this for at least four years, but then I have barely used Alfie. The oil came out black, went in green, came out black again and went in green again – so situation normal. You have to wait around for gravity to work on draining the oil out so I was able to help Klaus with pedalling and changing gear as he was adjusting his rear groupset. In the end the Alfine oil change was complete before Klaus had got his gears indexed in but finally he was successful and they are now working well.

I used some of the bits he had taken off Malcolm to improve the holder for my motor controller on Alfie. I have a few more adjustments to make, with the issue always that the wiring is a bit short on the Bafang so I can’t always put things where I want, but it is a better holder system and I will order a couple of new mirrors too which should fit better (Zefal Spin, the same as I have on Millie).

After a spot of lunch it was time to go out for a test ride and – of course! – to buy some cake!

We know that our speed with the trikes is much, much less than with the velomobiles. A tour of about 40km is about right. So we set off to head to the Hofcafé at St Tönis where they make the heavenly Himmelstorte.

Off we went on a beautiful day.

Klaus had remembered to put on sun cream and I had managed to find a spare baseball cap for him. We are not used to riding in the open air!

Malcolm was riding well – quick and responsive, and much lighter than the Steintrikes Wild One, although the missing front suspension was noticeable sometimes.

I was following behind, taking it easy, working out how to adjust my motor power to Klaus’s speed.

The ride to this Café is usually about 25 minutes in the velomobiles but it took us 43 minutes in the trikes. But it was no race, we were enjoying the relaxed pedalling – and the silence of the trikes (velomobiles are noisy and Emily the Quattrovelo is particularly loud)!

Trikes parked

We parked up and then it was time for cake.

It is noticeable that we aren’t such an interesting sight for other cake eaters – normally people come to talk to us about the velomobiles, or go and look at them, but the trikes were pretty much ignored.

We took a longer route back, using lots of the cycle paths which we eschew with the velomobiles as they have too many gates or pinch points. It reminded us that there are some great routes in Kreis Viersen, they just aren’t good for velomobiles.

As we were approaching home Klaus realised that his factor 50 sunblock appeared to be rather less than factor 50 has he had red knees from the sun. His legs have barely seen the light of day for months and now they suddenly were in full sun for two and a half hours. So it is with trike riding, we must remember that!

All in all though it was a fun trip. We will not ride as far or as fast but we can use some different routes and the plan is to take the trikes in the car to some new places and do some rides from there. We may even be doing this in June, watch my blog for more details!

Daily life

My ride to work has lots of wildlife (birds of prey, hares, pheasants) and it is also very interesting to watch all the agriculture that goes on. Fields tend not to be enormous here, and even large fields are split into 2-4 different crops. I like to watch the growth of the potatoes on my commute, although once they start laying hoses across the road for the watering that gives me issues with my Milan.

One morning on the way to work I saw a field with hares and leverets

Another time Klaus and I were out riding and we saw a hare very close up.


As usual, I haven’t just been cycling this month. I’ve also been walking with Poppy a lot.

Lots of Poppies

On our walks we see lots of wildlife of course, including this stork, sharing a field with three herons.

Poppy has also had a bonus on one walk, when she disappeared into the undergrowth and returned with half a cheese roll.

She was so proud of it that she didn’t eat it but carried it around for about 15 minutes before she obviously got too peckish and decided to eat it.

And we not only share our home with a dog, but we also have a couple of new guests.

Our letterbox, now occupied by some robins

As I went to the letterbox I noticed a bird flying out of it. It became clear that someone had been preparing a nest in there (see the grass peeking out of the bottom). So we put up a sign to stop the postman putting letters in. It went quiet for a day but then Gudula saw birds flying back in there (through the tiny hole near the top) and said it is robins. How lovely!

Although we didn’t see much activity, Klaus had seen three eggs in there and then one morning on my way to work I peered in and saw a bird face looking back at me. They were indeed sitting on the eggs!

I of course improved the signage at that point so the postman didn’t disturb them. My hand-written note was fading a bit but I didn’t want to get so close to the nesting area now.

Over the time we watched the letterbox and it was often empty but occasionally Robina was there. In the end she laid 7 eggs, you can just see them here.

After she had laid 7 she then started sitting on the nest a lot more. We can just about see her orange breast when we look at the letterbox from a foot away. She seems not to mind the garage opening and shutting, fortunately.

However, after about 10 days we realised we had not seen her, and she did not come back to the nest at all. We regularly checked, no sign of Robina. The eggs are still sitting there, all alone.

It’s very sad as we had hoped to watch a bit of nature on our doorstep. We will give it another week and then we will clear out the letterbox.

Klaus’s birthday

Klaus celebrated his birthday this month. We had originally planned to be in Berlin for a week (travelling by train) but this had to be cancelled due to Corona. However, the good news was that the lockdown was partially lifted on his birthday so Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof would be open for afternoon tea and cake. So we went!

We shared the cake etagere.

Birthday Boy quite happy about the cake selection

…and then there were none left

It was great to be able to sit down in comfort and eat the cakes with tea/coffee. According to the local rules we had to put down our names and phone numbers which will be kept for a month, in case we have to be contacted for contact tracing. Let’s hope not!

Father’s Day

Christi Himmelfahrt or Ascension Day is also Father’s Day in Germany. So his daughter Lara and I decided to take him out to breakfast at Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof as they advertised on Facebook that they were doing breakfasts. It was a lovely warm day so it was great to sit outside in the sunshine.

The remains of breakfast

Of course, we couldn’t go home without getting some take-out cake too.

Other cakes this month

Himmelskuchen – heavenly cake. Correct description!
A work colleague made this for us! A lovely Baklava.

This has been quite a cakey month but thanks to the keto diet I have not put on any weight. Now the trike season has started and any bloated stomach is visible to all I may have to reduce the cake intake. No, don’t be silly, life’s too short for that!

We have two weeks off in June and will be having a week in Berlin but may also fit in a small bike tour around the Mosel with our trikes. We are looking forward to these breaks!

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – April 2020 (Month 73)

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!

Veloviewer statistics for cycling history

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.

Photographer in shot on the left, taking the following photo
Photo of Emily and Cake by Klaus
Cake with a view!
Oma Helene’s Blechkuchen (no, I am not a grandma!)

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!

Orsoy Tile-Bagging

Remember the tilebagging? This is a never-ending challenge from the 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.

Büllhorsthof again

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.

Wesel tile-bagging

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.

Looking back at the Thyssen-Krupp steelworks
The Rhine heading south

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 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.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

The two required tiles in the bag, the next stop was Bauerncafé Winthuis.

Photo by Klaus
Stachelbeer Baiser
Himbeer Schmand

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!

Tiles bagged…

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.

Other items

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)

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – March 2020 (Month 72)

Life in the time of Coronavirus

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.

My home workstation (on the left). Klaus’s on the right. One chair to share!

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…

Velomobile rides (green) and trike (red) in March 2020

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.

the ferry – tricky enough with trikes, but Velomobiles???

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!

Beautiful Niederrhein

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.

Bleib Gesund!

Cakes this month

There have been lots of cake pictures above but here are some of the others.


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

Nine Wheels in Germany – February 2020 (Month 71)

February was a bit of a dull month and we didn’t manage too much cycling.

February’s riding, 149km
With recorded walks (green) a total of 163km.

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.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

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.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

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.

The old and the new – sign made out of tiles and modern CCTV

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.

Looking to the west/southwest

We walked along the beach to this tower.

Photo by Klaus

We liked this warning sign about the wash from large vessels.

Photo by Klaus

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 recumbent grin

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/

The aftermath, a short rest before going home

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.

Cakes this month

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Nine Wheels in Germany – January 2020 (Month 70)

A new year and the end of my EU membership

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.

329km for January, mostly commuting

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!

You can see the stars in this photo
The view from Bertie’s cockpit

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.

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Nine Wheels in Germany – December 2019 (Month 69)

The end of 2019!

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…

“Please may I have some green pepper, courgette and mushroom…”

They have a lovely relationship!

Photo taken with Focos

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)

224km cycled

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!

The obligatory cake photo. For a motorway service station it wasn’t bad!

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.

A half pint of Powder Monkey
A half pint of Winter Welcome

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.

Happy New Year everyone!

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