Category Archives: Penelope the Velomobile

Six Wheels In Germany – May 2016 (Month 26)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Here are my rides for this month.

Statistics for month

And here’s VeloViewer’s Wheel which shows where I have ridden (except for a ride I did in NL). However, the total distance is wrong on this wheel – no idea why as Strava has the correct data (and it gets the data from Strava).

Veloviewer Heatmap Wheel

A word about cycling apps… at the moment the Velomobile community is rather annoyed with Strava (where many of us track our rides) because of the following message we received:

Hello, I’m from Strava Support. Please note that any activity performed while using a velomobile should use the activity type “Workout” or be made private and can not be marked as a standard bike ride according to our policy and outlined in our article, which is linked to below. This policy is in effect to protect the integrity and fairness of our segment leaderboards. https://support.strava.com/hc/en-us/articles/216919507-Uploading-E-bike-motor-assisted-or-non-conventional-bike-data-to-Strava-Guidelines

Any activity that is marked as a ride, but performed in a velomobile is subject to being flagged. Continued violation of the above mentioned policy may lead to the termination of a Strava account. We appreciate your cooperation in advance. Please submit a support ticket if you have any questions about this policy.

In the future, we do hope to add an activity type for velomobiles although we currently have no plans to do so. Please feel free to add your votes and thoughts on that feature request to the forum linked to below. https://support.strava.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/208837707-Support-Aero-Velomobiles-or-Rocket-bikes-on-Strava

Basically, if we mark our rides as ‘workout’ or ‘private’ they are not included in leaderboards with other riders and many other features are lost. Several people have left Strava because their rides are constantly flagged (even if just round the corner for a coffee, no speed records) so it seems we may move across to Garmin Connect as that seems to accept velomobiles at the moment.

One ride, two countries, three companions

Chum Oliver who rides a Mango velomobile had contacted me to ask if I’d like to meet up with him on his way back from a longer ride (back from Ede in NL to his home near Roermond). He said we could meet for a cuppa in Arcen and then ride together to Venlo or something. Of course I said yes as it would be great to catch up with Oliver again.

Sunday mornings is a time that Klaus often rides, starting early in the morning (7 or 8am sometimes) as he has to be home at midday for breakfast. We decided to ride together to Straelen and from there I would head to Arcen to meet Oliver and Klaus would ride home again.

1 ride 3 companions

So Klaus and I set off from my house and rode together the relatively short route to Straelen, doing a detour to Obereyll and Nieukerk on the way to stretch out the ride a bit, and because that section of road is fab (smooth, fast and empty).

I had to stop to take the photo of this amazing place name on the road sign – a clear mix of the local dialect of German-meets-Dutch.

Schpootenhuske

We arrived in Straelen and stopped at Hoenen bakery where I had their breakfast and Klaus had a piece of cake. We were very early as Klaus would need to head back by 11 at the latest and I wouldn’t need to leave for Arcen until midday, but I thought I could safely sit in a bakery for an hour on my own with no problems.

Just as I had finished my breakfast and Klaus his cake we spotted chum Uli cycling outside. He had seen the velomobiles so parked his bike and came in to see us.

Klaus and Uli

Helen Klaus Uli

He was on his way to Walbeck which was a bit further north to attend a Radio Ham Field Day. I know a bit about these as my father was a Radio Ham previously and went to a couple of these field days. Anyway, Uli asked if I wanted to come along as I had some time to kill so I said yes of course.

Klaus headed off home and Uli and I set off to Walbeck, about 10km further on than Straelen. There was some kind of event on in Walbeck that day which meant some of the roads were closed and traffic was a bit random but we found the field with the Hams in in due course – right next to this windmill.

Helen and Uli at Walbeck

The sights and sounds were familiar from my youth when my Dad did lots of radioing (before the Internet appeared).

Radio Field Day

The chaps there were impressed to know that I had experience of Ham Radio but seemed appalled I hadn’t got into it myself. But I find the internet rather easier and involves less equipment!

After half an hour there it was time to head off on my own to meet Oliver in Arcen, so I said goodbye to Uli and the other chaps and zoomed down the hill to NL, my second country of the day. I stopped at the usual café, sitting outside to wait for Oliver.

He was on a 200ish kilometre ride back from Ede and had given me a very vague estimated time of 12:30 but he was spot on – I heard the thunderous noise of his Mango rolling over the cobbles before I saw him. I waved to him and he stopped, parked near to Penelope and we sat down for some lunch together.

Helen and Oliver

After lunch we rode together to Venlo where we stopped briefly to watch what seemed to be a championship of Water Polo played with canoes. Great fun!

Venlo watersports

At Venlo we went our separate ways and I dragged myself up the hill back to Germany, reaching home with 75km on the clock at an average of 20.1km/h. A fun day out with three companions on my voyage to two countries.

Trike Treffen, Christi Himmelfahrt, Xanten

Two years ago, when I had just been in Germany a month, I attended the Trike Treffen at the Hariksee near Brüggen. This is organised by people in the velomobilforum.de and liegeradforum.de and was great fun. I met Oliver there, and met Klaus for the first time as well, and also got to know other people who I have subsequently seen again.

Last year the Treffen was miles away in the south but this year it was back in Niederrhein, in Xanten which is just 40km away, so Klaus and I hatched a plan to visit on the Thursday (a public holiday in Germany for Ascension Day). The group were going to do a cycle tour during the day and then meet back at the campsite; we decided because of the distance just to go to the campsite after they were back, so leaving my house at about 13:00.

On the day Klaus had to pull out for domestic reasons so I set off on my own in Penelope on a lovely sunny day to head to Xanten via the route Klaus had planned.

Trike Treffen Track

I started out riding the eastern side of the track which was a much more interesting scenic route, particularly when I got near to the Rhein and there was a lovely cycle path on a very quiet piece of land, the Bislicher Insel. The place was heaving with cyclists and the sun was shining and it was a lovely day to be out on a bike.

I stopped at a café for a waffle which was extremely good value at 3,50€ with a free cuppa.

Trike Treffen waffle

Here was my first view of the Rhein as I turned towards Xanten.

Rhein

The track Klaus had planned went round Xanten rather than through it (a wise move on a busy public holiday) and I was soon at the campsite which is marked with the little photo square on the map above.

It was impressive to see how many people were there with their tents and bikes.

Campsite 1

Campsite 2

Campsite 3

I walked around a couple of times looking at all the trikes and velomobiles. I loved this decoration!

Ladybird trike

And this Alleweder A4 had a Haribo dispenser on the side!

Alleweder with Haribo

A very friendly chap who I had met at the previous Trike Treffen made me a cuppa and I sat chatting with friends, including Detlef who lives not too far from me and has a WAW velomobile (he let Klaus try it out before he bought Celeste). It was good to catch up with some people I knew.

After a couple of hours I decided it was time to ride home so I headed off, avoiding the huge hill at Sonsbeck by going round it and then taking the fast roads home. It was a very good route back and I averaged 22.4km/h for the day’s ride and hadn’t felt like I was riding particularly quickly.

I woke up very early on Saturday morning so made a last-minute decision to join the Trike Treffen tour that day. The plan was to drive with Alfie in the car to the campsite and join them on their tour along the Rhein around Xanten. So I quickly downloaded the track for my Garmin and headed to Xanten in the car.

Trike Treffen route

It’s impressive seeing so many tents and recumbents.

Camping field 1

Camping field 2

We had a little introductory talk about the route and then set off in a big group of what turned out to be 62 bikes and riders.

Bikes on Radweg

The Rhein was in sight during lots of this ride.

Rhine bridge near Xanten

Weird bikes in normal town

Xanten lakes

Xanten lake 2

I was very impressed by this topiary!

Duck topiary

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant next to a Rhine ferry crossing. We parked our vehicles under a tree as it was a very hot day!

Alfie and friends

Unusual trike

Wooden trike

Leitra and two Mangos

Trikes under tree

The organisers of the Treffen had booked food for the participants but as I hadn’t put my name down to come I bought my food separately in the restaurant. I started with a piece of cheesecake.

Cheesecake

And then had a Flammkuchen (a very thin pizza)

Flammkuchen

It was a really hot day and I was thirsty so had to order a bottle of water (they wouldn’t give me tap water). Look at the price of it!!!!

Rheinfaehre Bill

It was a very good sociable ride and I had lots of chance to chat to people underway. The pace was very sedate – we averaged 14.2 km/h for the 78.62km ride.

Group underway

I’ve ridden around here a few times so recognised some landmarks – Xanten is always easy to spot with the double-steepled cathedral.

Across fields to Xanten

Most of the group stopped off at a supermarket on the way back but I whizzed straight back to the campsite as it was time to get back to Poppy and I felt like stretching my legs a bit (using my electric motor to help me over the hill to Sonsbeck of course!)

I enjoyed the day very much and it was good to catch up with acquaintances and meet new people as well. There’s a lot of organisation that goes into these events but as a participant you don’t always appreciate how much work it is, so thanks to Walter who did the organising this year, as well as the others who helped him.

A short Rhine tour – part of my Metric Century A Month challenge

May is a strange month in Germany as it seems to consist almost entirely of public holidays. It feels like every week has at least one day off – Christi Himmelfahrt, Pfingsten, Fronleichnam…

Anyway, Pfingsten (Whitsun) was a free Monday. On the Saturday I was going to a Eurovision party with Claudia and Gudula but Sunday and Monday were completely free so I decided I would do a short bike tour. I’ve done the Rhein south of here lots of times but not really north of Kempen so I decided to cycle northwards along the Rhein. And for it to be my first ever proper tour in the Velomobile (overnight tour I mean).

Interestingly, you need almost as much equipment for a one-night tour as for a three week tour. You need two sets of cycle clothing and one set of casual evening clothing, including shoes that aren’t SPD/clipless. I also wanted my iPad. You need tools, wash kit, phone chargers etc. The only things I left behind were the charger for Penelope’s batteries (they would last no problem for two days) and the charger for my AA batteries for my Garmin.

What is notable about a velomobile on a bike tour is… other people can’t tell you’re on a bike tour. All the luggage is stored in the velomobile so as far as they are concerned you might be cycling round the corner to visit a friend. On a normal bike the touring panniers are a dead giveaway.

This is what Penelope looked like from outside and inside during my tour.

VM for touring

VM for touring 2

I had planned a route there which went first to Xanten (or near it, past where the Trike Treffen had been the previous week) and then on to the Rhein, following the southern bank until Millingen. That was the plan, but I changed it a bit underway.

Screenshot to Millingen

Anyway, I set off northwards to Geldern where I partook of a breakfast in the café overlooking the market square. I had all day, plenty of time for the 84km, and so I thought I would take it very easy. Also because Penelope was pretty heavy with my luggage (shoes, lock and iPad add quite a bit of weight!)

After Geldern I headed towards Xanten via Sonsbeck on the route I had taken home from the Trike Treffen Thursday evening meet. This had an excellent hill-avoidance diversion so I didn’t have to haul myself up the hill between Sonsbeck and Xanten, just looked at it to my left as I pootled along on the flat. A much better option!

I cycled past the road to the camping place for the Trike Treffen and then continued north, through Marienbaum and then eventually to the Rhein.

But before I reached the Rhein I had my first obstacle… Drängelgitter

Draengelgitter

These are a pain in the neck with velomobiles as you have to get out, manoeuvre the bike through and then get in again. My velomobile routes always avoid them if possible but I didn’t know these were here. Fortunately they were the only ones I encountered on my tour.

Soon I was up on the Deich/dyke and able to see my river, the Rhein. I was having a very relaxed ride, not overdoing it and being careful about my knee which has had a few problems recently. With a heavy velomobile and unknown route it would be easy to go too fast so I was careful. Well, that’s my excuse as to why the day’s average speed was only 18.9km/h.

Then I found myself on a familiar bit of road that I had cycled with Hartmut first, and then Klaus on the way back from Dronten – the bit before the bridge to Rees. I had been considering the distance of my tour – only 84km. I wasn’t sure if I would have another opportunity for a 100km ride this month and thought it sensible to extend the ride so I could bag the Century. I thought therefore it might be nice to cross at Rees and head to Emmerich for tea/cake as that ought to add on up to 10km. So I decided to follow the cycle signs to Emmerich (rather than my Garmin), and found myself riding up an extremely steep slope up to the bridge. I almost didn’t manage the slope because of traction issues… when I had crossed the bridge with Hartmut and Klaus we had gone on the road. The cycle path was definitely less suitable although I managed it.

You can see here how narrow the bridge pedestrian/cycle section is.

Bridge to Rees

But of course a lovely view down the Rhein.

Looking down the Rhein

It was an extremely windy day and once I crossed the river and turned north west and west I was directly into wind and even in Penelope I noticed it. It was actually quite a cold day and I had chosen unwisely when I wore a short-sleeved cycling jersey – long sleeves would have been better. Thank goodness for my buffs too, to keep my head and neck warm too. We had had a week of very warm temperatures in Germany (27-28 degrees) and then suddenly overnight it had gone down to 14 degrees and I was not accustomed!

Anyway, I pootled on following the signs after Rees to Bienen (German for “bees”) and then eventually to Emmerich.

I rode through the rather deserted town centre not seeing any likely cafés for lunch but soon realised that they would all be facing the river and found a long strip of food establishments with masses of bikes parked outside.

Emmerich Rheinterasse

Rhein and bikes

The hardy Germans were sitting outside but I was still cold and so decided to sit inside. I chose a waffle…

Waffle in Emmerich

After a relatively short stop I carried on, heading for the bridge to cross back over the Rhein.

Emmerich bridge and statue

It was really windy going over the bridge and the lady cyclist in front of me was weaving all over the place. I was a bit worried about the wind blowing my phone away so I didn’t take any photos!

Once back over on the left hand side of the Rhein I rejoined my Garmin’s track and cycled into a howling gale, overtaking lots of other cyclists on upright bikes who were really battling the elements.

I had a wonderful display at one point of a huge bird circling around… and I realised it was a stork. It was trying to join two other storks on a nest but they seemed not keen on this idea and chased him/her away. Here are the storks on the nest.

Storks

Seeing these enormous birds flying is amazing!

As I got nearer to Millingen I realised I still wouldn’t hit the 100km, I would be six short. So at one junction I saw a likely-looking detour along some quiet roads which would take me south west (side wind instead of headwind) and then I could go north-east back a little way, doing two sides of a triangle. I guesstimated it would be about a 6km detour so should do the trick. So off I went.

There was a fringe benefit for this detour – this excellent road name!

Dingdung

And then I found myself crossing the border from Germany to the Netherlands directly at the sign for the town of Millingen.

Millingen border

I found my hotel which I had pre-booked. It was pretty cheap (57€ for a single room including breakfast) and seemed fine, although the restaurant menu proved too expensive for me so I went to the chinese restaurant round the corner.

I ordered satay chicken and rice and a pancake roll. The pancake roll was enormous and the rice had, rather bizarrely, two slices of ham on it. Very Dutch I suppose!

Chinese

I had completed 100.69km for the day with an average heart rate of 130bpm which is lower than normal. A nice relaxing tour and although my back was hurting at the end (I have had back trouble for a month now) it wasn’t too bad and my knee had held up well.

After my Chinese I went to bed, pretty tired after the cycling.

I slept 10 hours which is extremely unusual for me – but shows again that cycle touring is a very relaxing holiday!

My route back to Kempen was much shorter as it was more direct, going round Kleve but through Goch, Weeze, Kevelaer, Geldern and Stenden. I’ve ridden to Kleve before on Alfie so vaguely knew the route, but had decided to take a different route to Goch which seemed to go through some kind of forest/wood.

Screenshot home

Of course, what I had failed to notice during my planning is that this route took me over a mountain…

Mountain

Here it is in the distance as I pootled my way across the landscape which was subtly different to my bit of the Niederrhein (more trees perhaps).

Different scenery

The forecast was for rain today and I was followed by some menacing clouds quite a lot of the time. Today of course I had a rather good tailwind so I felt like it was much easier riding – which is evidenced by my overall average heart rate of 110 with the maximum of 148. My average is usually around the 140 mark.

I decided I would stop at Weeze or Kevelaer for cake and had decided to just press on for home today rather than do any sightseeing but my plans changed when I spotted an RAF flag fluttering through some trees, shortly followed by a light aircraft landing and glimpses of more planes. There was tape preventing people from parking on both sides of this main road but then I saw a chap in a fluorescent tabard sitting on a chair beside a road closure gate and decided to go and investigate. I cycled past this chap, and also past some people who had money belts on (I later discovered other visitors were paying to go to see the airfield! Oops!) and found myself at an airfield where there was some kind of Open Day taking place.

This plane was called the Red Baron and you could have flights for 60€. It turns out to be an Antonov AN-2T Albatros from 1957 so not the actual Red Baron plane…

Red Baron plane

There were lots of other small light aircraft there, a beer stand, Bratwurst stand, seating area in the hangar and various displays from local sponsors (banks etc). Although I have to say there weren’t that many people there, perhaps because of the unfavourable weather forecast.

Planes

This plane had a Union Jack flag attached to the propellor. It’s a Slingsby Sedburgh with Dutch registration so no idea of the UK link.

Slingsby Sedburgh

But the UK link was very obvious on this plane (rather zoomed in so sorry for the quality!)

BAE Hawk model

The announcer told us over the tannoy that this plane was a one-third scale model of a BAE Hawk which has all the features of the real Hawk except a pilot! He told the crowd that the Hawk was the Red Arrows plane, and would now do a display including the coloured smoke. So this was definitely worth hanging around to watch!

Here is a small collage of some of the photos I took during the display, which was great fun and felt really, really close. That thing flies brilliantly!

Model Hawk flying

I’ve seen the Red Arrows a few times at air displays and this was just like seeing one of them… the size wasn’t really noticeable when up in the air. But he flew just 50 feet above the airstrip at some parts of the show which was fun. Apparently the chap built it himself which is amazing, and it runs on proper jet fuel and weighs 25kg.

After watching this display I was getting very cold (again, I didn’t have the right clothes really for this tour) so decided to continue on. I rode through Goch and then found myself leaving it on the way to… who knows!!!

Goch to where

Again, the landscape felt different than Kreis Viersen; more forests and not so wide views. But nice.

More trees

When I arrived at Weeze I decided it was time to stop for cake as I realised my track didn’t go through Kevelaer but round the outside and I hadn’t visited Weeze for a while. So I found a nice café which offered me a good selection of cakes… and I chose this very light moussy number.

Cake in Weeze

Having dodged a few raindrops during my cake session it was time to set off for the last 30 or so kilometres, all very easy and relaxed.

I went around Kevelaer and made a couple of detours to keep me off the B9 road where there is no cycle path (previously I rode on the road but with some ramps over railways I was slow at times and it was a bit uncomfortable with the fast cars). And on one of these small detours I spotted this rather large bike!

Giant bike 1

It was on a trailer.

Giant bike trailer

I liked the Schwalbe sticker on the tyre.

Giant bike schwalbe

The white pipework is I guess some kind of lighting for winter.

Giant bike 2

I think I could have fitted my entire foot on this pedal.

Giant pedal

I think the chain needs a bit of work to be effective!

Giant bike chain

Here is Penelope again with her new friend.

Penelope and giant bike

It was a very cool bike and I would have loved to try to sit on the enormous saddle but of course it was Zutritt Verboten.

The rest of the route home was very familiar from my recent Sunday rides into Kreis Kleve and went quickly apart from my brief detour into Geldern where the circus had closed some of the roads which made things a bit slow. I was home nice and early for a hot shower and some warmer clothes!

My ride back had been 73.87km at an average of 18.7km/h but I only burned 1,069 calories as I wasn’t working hard at all.

My conclusion about touring with the Velomobile – it works well, you can cover ground quickly, you keep warmer and if it rains it would have been ideal, but it’s harder to manoeuvre to park and through gates and things and some really steep ramps for cycle paths on some of the official routes might defeat me.

Riding with Kajsa Tylén

I have mentioned in previous blogs that a cycling acquaintance Steve Abraham was going for the Highest Annual Mileage Record (HAM’R) last year, which was over 125,000km. He broke his leg partway through the attempt after a drunken moped rider hit him so didn’t get the record but Kurt Searvogel from America did.

Anyway, this interest in the men’s record of 67,000 miles in a year also awakened interest in the women’s record, set by Billie Fleming (née Dovey) at 29,603.7 miles (47,642.5 km) which she set in 1938. There are currently three women undertaking this record, Kajsa Tylén from the UK, Amanda Coker from the USA and Alicia Searvogel (wife of Kurt who holds the men’s record) also from the USA.

Kajsa started her attempt first, on 1 January 2016, and has been very successful with updates to supporters on Facebook, plus articles elsewhere such as the BBC. She encourages people to ride with her, although as she is riding to Guinness rules she is not allowed to draft. Several UK friends have ridden with her and said it was a really good day out.

I noticed from her website A Year In The Saddle that she would be travelling from the UK to Sweden in May/June and wondered if I could intercept her.

So I sent her a message through her Facebook site as I saw that she would be in NL for a few days which might work for me. She replied that she’d love for me to cycle with her and after a bit of diary-checking I realised the only day I could do this would be a Saturday when she was riding from Delft to Dedgum in Friesland.

I initially thought I would get the train to ride with her but Dedgum is miles from any railway places so in the end I concluded I would have to do a there-and-back ride, driving to Dedgum and then riding towards Delft, hopefully bumping into Kajsa along the way. Fortunately she has a spot tracker which gives her position every 10 minutes or so which meant I would be able to know when to expect her. She had also sent me a GPX track of her route which she intended to follow (with possible diversions on the day if necessary).

So on the Saturday morning I loaded Alfie into the car and headed off to Dedgum, which was a three hour drive. I arrived at the campsite and fished Alfie out of the car.

Alfie and Roomster

Here is a map of NL (with Kempen off the bottom, just to the south west of Essen) which shows where I rode.

IJsselmeer

And this is a close-up of the track. (The boxes show where I have taken photos and uploaded them to Strava).

Afsluitsdijk

The forecast for Kempen was 25 degrees and sunny but I knew on the coast it would be cooler. It was probably around 19 degrees so I was glad I had my windproof jacket on. The sun wasn’t really breaking through and there was a lot of wind – these turbines were turning pretty fast.

Windmills

I set off without using any e-assist. Although I was riding into wind I thought I might need all my motor’s help for the way back with Kajsa as she’s a lot faster than me. So I had a pretty slow trundle to Zurich where I stopped for a very overpriced ham roll.

Zurich

I stopped here to prepare for the next 30km which would be on the Afsluitdijk, a causeway built in 1932 that separated off the IJsselmeer. It is an impressive engineering feat and I was keen to have a look and cycle over it – twice.

Afsluitdijk 2

My Garmin map was very blue!

Garmin

Looking back over both sides – the North Sea on the left, the IJsselmeer on the right.

Both sides

After about 5km there was a curve and I could see the causeway stretching out into the distance.

Curve in road

There were a couple of motorway service stations along the 30km route which were accessible by bike but I kept going.

What was less pleasant were the huge clouds of insects that I found myself cycling through. I had to ride with mouth firmly closed, breathing through my nose, and could feel them hitting my face… You can see on this photo lots of little black dots – the insects.

Insects

There were patches where there weren’t any insects but for most of the journey across they were annoying.

When I got to the other side and got off the trike there was a visible tide mark of insects on my seat where my legs had been…

Insect tide mark

Once I was across the causeway I found myself in Den Oever. Kajsa’s track headed away from the village through some woodland but I checked the tracker and saw she was 20km or more away so decided to stop for food as I didn’t know if she would want to stop on the way back and I hadn’t really passed anything suitable anyway.

So I wandered into Den Oever and found a burger café which did me a burger and chips for a reasonable price.

lunch

As the day was warming up I decided to have an ice cream and photographed my Magnum next to the village’s windmill.

Magnum and windmill

It looked as though Kajsa was now about 5km away so I decided to start riding in her direction – as this would get me another 100km for the day as I had already done 49.

The track went through some woodland and was rather pleasant.

Woodland track

I checked the tracker again and she was less than a kilometre away so I stopped at the top of a small rise and watched the track in front of me. Soon enough a small figure came very fast towards me…

Kajsa

I settled in to cycling beside her, impressed at how well she was going after 150km. I had my electric motor on now to adjust to her speed and soon we were riding side-by-side quite effectively. If there was ever a reason to single out I was either a long way in front of her (so she couldn’t draft me) or behind.

I warned her about the insects on the causeway which she clearly wasn’t looking forward to but the reality was they had all been blown northwards by the time we got there. We were fast across the causeway with the tailwind Kajsa had had all day helping us to an average of 25-26km/h. Over 25 my motor switches off so I was using my leg power too!

Here we are – I had ridden ahead to try to get a selfie.

Selfie on Dijk

And here is a pic that Kajsa took of me.

Helen cycling with Kajsa

We had a really good chinwag over the time we were riding. It was fascinating talking to her and hearing about this mammonth undertaking. I’d been watching her videos on Facebook over the year so it was also a weird experience seeing her in real life for the first time as I felt like I already knew her.

We whizzed along, soon off the causeway and back into the Frisian countryside.

Kajsa realised that she would arrive at the campsite with 196.4km on the clock so we clearly had to do another four. We agreed to divert just before the campsite up a road but turned a bit too soon so we needed to do another 500 metres. This involved riding into the village of Dedgum where we met a lady on a horse and Kajsa managed to photograph the moment the horse saw my trike and clearly wondered “whatever is that!!!!????”

Scared horse

I had only used half of the battery in my trike despite riding for 60km with it on level 7 or 8 (out of 9) so I was pleased with that, although it’s party explained by us riding at above 25km/h in some sections which means there is no e-assist.

We got to the campsite and Kajsa kindly offered for me to have a cup of tea and slice of apple pie with them. She had a quick sit on Alfie too but after a 200km day had no wish to actually ride anywhere, especially as she had the wrong cleats.

Sitting on trike

So they fortified me with apple pie…

Apple pie

Then I headed off for the three hour journey home.

All in all it was a great day, some interesting new scenery and the Afsluitdijk was really cool to ride over (twice), and 109.44km for me at an average of 18.4km/h.

Every couple of days Kajsa does a video diary and here is the one where she mentions riding with me:

ADFC Sternfahrt Mönchengladbach

The ADFC (German cycling club) periodically organises things called Sternfahrten (Star Rides) where people ride from lots of different directions to a central meeting point. Mönchengladbach, which is a rather car-overrun city, has had two before and the last one was very successful. So the Sternfahrt for this year was planned… and a couple of ADFC acquaintances asked me to come along with the Velomobile.

One of the feeder rides was starting in Kempen so I persuaded various people (Klaus, Gudula and Frank) to come with me and to first of all have breakfast of cake in Kempen. Which we did.

Jochen, who was leading the ride from Kempen, joined us at the café. He is currently seriously considering buying a velomobile, probably a Strada, so he and Klaus had a lot to talk about!

We set off at 11:30am from Kempen with a few other riders, having decorated our bikes with ADFC-coloured balloons (blue and orange)

Balloons on bikes

Here is the track of our ride.

Sternfahrt Track

The feeder ride stopped also in Vorst (Tönisvorst) and then Viersen where we picked up more people. At each stop Jochen could be seen looking at Celeste and talking to Klaus about velomobiles…

Jochen velomobile fixated 1

As we were quite early to Vorst we also had ice creams.

Sternfahrt Eis

Eventually we arrived in Rheydt where the ride would start.

At Rheydt
(In the above picture you can see Jochen gazing at Celeste again)

And here he is again..

Jochen fixated by Celeste 3

More and more people were arriving – as were the rainclouds. Rain had been forecast but we were lucky that it had so far held off. But then it started.

As everyone began to put on their waterproofs a small peloton of velomobiles and recumbents arrived… some people from the Velomobilforum including Düssel who Klaus and I have met several times.

VMs at Sternfahrt 1

At just past three o’clock it was time for the ride to start. There were several police vans plus police motorcyclists and cyclists who would close the roads for us – fun!

Velomobiles are quite hard to ride in groups so we decided to all go at the back for the ride. The ADFC Facebook site had this great photo of the ride though, and Gudula and Frank are visible in it.

Sternfahrt Gudula and Frank

And there was also a video taken – the velomobiles are in the last few seconds!

The ride was just 10km long and very slow because of all the bikes. It was also raining a lot as you can see from this shot I took whilst riding.

Ride through P's windscreen

It was fun being in a group with the other VMs.

Sternfahrt Velomobiles 1

Sternfahrt Velomobiles 2

Passers-by were standing watching and cheering and it was good fun except for a few dodgy motorists near the end. There was a near-accident with a bus (who got a good stern talking-to by a policeman) and Klaus witnessed a policewoman knocked off her bike and he had a close shave. Still, it was great fun and lovely to ride in such a big group with people of all different abilities and ages.

When we got back to the square we lined ourselves up for a photo.

A row of weird bikes

Sternfahrt VM noses

And at some point the semi-official photographer got a shot of Klaus and I… and of course Jochen gazing fixedly at Celeste again!

Helen Klaus Jochen

We then rode back in the rain and I was very glad to be dry and warm in the velomobile.

I ended up with 82km for the day which wasn’t bad and brought me to the brink of 4,000km for the year.

If the weather had been good they would probably had double the number of participants but it was still fun and I enjoyed catching up with cycling friends who I’ve met over the last two years. I look forward to the next Sternfahrt!

Some other ride pictures

Here are a few other pictures taken on rides this month.

This was Burg Linn near Krefeld early evening.

Burg Linn

And this was a beautiful morning scene on my way to work one day.

Landscape sky

And on my way home one evening

St Hubert by sunset

And here was a very interesting velomobile that whizzed towards where Klaus and I had stopped for some soup on an evening ride. The rider stopped and had a great chat with us about his Go-One Evo R. He lives in Kaldenkirchen so not so far away from us!

Evo 1

Look at the size of that chainring!

Giant kettenblatt

And you can use it as a knife if riding in reverse!

Sharp rear of Evo

It was very good to chat to the owner Oliver. He says it is a really fast machine but not particularly comfortable on long journeys – it’s a stripped-down racer without rear suspension.

3 VMs 2 chaps

3 VMs

Life in Germany

Just a quick note to say that after two years here I appear to be beginning to assimilate. I found myself buying a jar of Rotkohl to have with my Bratwurst one evening…

Rotkohl

A visit to the Oberhausen Gasometer

I had several days off work as there wasn’t enough for us to do and this coincided with both Gudula and Frank also having a day off so we decided to go on a trip to visit the exhibition within the Oberhausen Gasometer.

There exhibition was ‘the wonders of nature’ and consisted of lots of photographs of nature with accompanying text. Lots of the images were from the BBC’s Planet Earth series.

Gasometer

Gasometer 2

Gasometer 3

Inside were two huge floors with the picture and video displays and then the floor above was something else altogether (more anon).

Here are some views of the ground floor.

Ground Floor 1

Ground Floor 2

And the first floor which was crisscrossed by girders and beams, most of which had spongy material on them in case you bumped your head!

First Floor 1

First Floor 2

I spent about an hour and a half looking at these two floors and then it was time for the third floor… which turned out to be a real surprise!

It was a huge, huge space with a giant globe suspended from the room of the Gasometer onto which were projected slowly moving images of the earth taken from the ISS and other space expeditions. The images slowly changed from night to day with the earth very slowly rotating. It was beautiful to watch, especially as there were beanbags for you to lie on so you could look up at the globe in comfort.

Here are some of the photos I took.

Earth 1

Earth 2

Earth 3

Earth 4

And here I walked around a bit away from the stepped seating area which you can just see at the bottom of this photo.

Earth and steps

I watched the images for half an hour and then they restarted – it was a very impressive show and quite hypnotising.

I met back up with Frank and Gudula and they said we should take the lift up to the top. We had to queue but they said it would be worth it – and it was!

Firstly, it was a glass lift so we were able to watch as we went above the globe, almost to the very top of the gasometer.

Looking down on globe

The above picture looks a bit like a jellyfish but it is looking down onto the globe and then lower onto the lit steps where people sit to watch the globe.

At the top we are almost 105 metres above ground.

104.94 metres

There was a slight extra bit to climb to get to the very top of the structure.

Climbing up

Where there were some excellent views over the industrial areas.

View from Gasometer

View from Gasometer 2

And lots of evidence of landscaping by humans.

Hill

It was well worth a visit to the Gasometer and I will probably go back again to see the next exhibition as it was all so well displayed.

Fixing my CD Player

A long time ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth people listened to CDs rather than MP3s or streaming music. Because CDs only contain about 45 minutes of music you had to keep changing the CD in the player. Except Sony invented a CD player that, like a slide carousel, held 300 CDs in one machine and worked rather like a jukebox. I had one of these.

I bought it back in 1992 or thereabouts and have used it ever since as the sound quality is much better than an MP3 player. However, it had started making some strange noises when rotating the carousel or selecting the disk… and eventually it stopped working altogether, just making slight noises but not playing anything. It was also not possible to open the door to get the CDs out.

Clearly I would have to get it repaired but I had no idea how much this would cost and whether it would be possible. So after procrastinating for a month or so I decided I would take the lid off myself and have a look. After all, to transport it to a repair person I would need to take all the CDs out so they didn’t fall out and get stuck.

Here it is before I attacked it with a screwdriver

CD Player

And with the lid off – you can see all the CDs lined up inside.

CD player with lid off

And from the side (I have removed a whole bunch of CDs here to get a better look).

CD player side view

Aha! The problem becomes evident. A rubber band has fallen off the two spindles.

Rubber off spindle

Nils came to help me and we decided that we would attempt to get the rubber ring back on the spindle. Whether this was the main issue we didn’t know but it was worth a go. So we had to find the right tools for the job…

The right tools for the job

We had to remove a lot of the CDs so we had space to move, and then Nils did his surgery.

Nils does surgery

He managed to fit the rubber ring back on the spindles. We turned the machine on and things started to happen but it didn’t entirely work right and when we stopped it the rubber ring had fallen off the spindles again. Perhaps it was a bit perished and had stretched (after all, it’s over 20 years old). But we tried again, removing some of the grease from the rubber ring with our fingers (it had dropped into a grease reservoir).

And then, the second time, it was working perfectly! So we put the lid back on, I put all the CDs back in (which is rather time-consuming) and now it is back in pride of place working excellently.

Working again

Top marks to Nils and me for our engineering geniusness!

Buying a watch

My Dad was always keen on watches and clocks and so I decided to buy myself a nice automatic watch as a way of remembering him.

I obviously needed to do some research so wrote to some of the brands I liked asking for their catalogues. I got some amazingly posh catalogues back, including the catalogue from Sinn which was more like a really high-quality hardback book.

Watch catalogues

Eventually after lots of studying and thinking I narrowed down my choice to two different watches by the firm Mühle Glashütte. A jeweller in Kempen had some of their products so Gudula came with me to have a look. I rode Penelope, Gudula used Alfie.

Gudula on Alfie

I tried on several watches at this jeweller (they didn’t have the specific models I wanted but had others in the range) and decided which one I would go for. I had identified one in stock at a jeweller in Nürnberg and had negotiated quite a good discount so I ordered it and it arrived a few days later. It’s a Mühle Glashütte Antaria Tag Datum and very lovely!

Antaria Tag Datum

Cakes this month

Because this blog post is rather long and difficult to download I have gathered all the cake pictures together for this month into one image. Enjoy!

May Cakes

Friend Lara had her twelfth birthday and she and I made a Käse Sahne Torte the day before.

Lara's birthday kaese sahne

Her mother also made a Strawberry tart

Lara's birthday Sprudel

And a chocolate ‘Sprudel Cake’

Lara's birthday strawberry

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Penelope the Velomobile, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany

Six Wheels In Germany – April 2016 (Month 25)

Cycling in April 2016

Here is a listing of all my rides in April 2016

April Statistics

You will notice that I haven’t used Alfie again this month. In fact, my last ride on Alfie was on 29th January… Velomobiles are so much more pleasant to ride in winter than open trikes!

And here are all the routes that I took over the month.

Tracks for April

My target for the year is 10,000km and I have fallen a little behind the schedule of where I should be at this point in the year. This is partly explained by riding less in winter and also because I have been making lots of journeys to the UK so not able to ride. But I hope to make up more kilometres now the nicer weather is approaching.

And at this point I have to say a big ‘congratulations’ to Klaus who has cycled further than me this year (normally I do almost double his mileage), whilst also having to go to work every day and sit at a desk pretending not to be bored. He has increased his speed significantly which means he can cycle much further in the same time, thus increase his overall distance. He is also of course enjoying his new toy of a velomobile so perhaps cycling more than he will in the long run. But kudos to him!

Metric Century A Month Challenge: A ride to Mülheim

As mentioned above, Klaus has started cycling to work. This is a pretty massive round trip for him of about 120km minimum, but it is a great way to start the working day.

On his first attempt he decided to ride on a Friday as he finishes earlier that day. I suggested, as I didn’t have to work for many hours that day, that I met him and we cycled back together. This seemed like a good plan so he set off at 5:15am and did a full day’s work and I pootled off in the direction of Mülheim at midday.

Ride to Muelheim

I took a fairly direct route there through Moers-Kapellen and over the A40 motorway bridge which I regularly travel over in the work’s van. I stopped briefly at the confluence point of the Ruhr and Rhein.

Rhein trifft Ruhr

Klaus had taken a similar photo on his ride to work many hours earlier.

Ruhrmuendung

Anyway, I had a good fast ride to Mülheim, arriving at 2 o’clock. I had planned to stop for a sandwich om the way but hadn’t seen anywhere to stop. I followed the new Radschnellweg (fast bike route) from Mülheim Station towards Essen – it’s a great bit of bike route.

I parked Penelope in the bike sheds next to Celeste.

VMs in Muelheim

After drinking a cup of tea in Klaus’s firm he was ready to escape for the day so we headed down to where the bikes were parked. Several of his colleagues had to have a go in Celeste of course. Apparently they all think he’s mad cycling so far to get to work.

We decided not to do the same route back and to cross the Rhein via a different bridge. Our initial route was the same, we whizzed down the Rad Schnellweg, stopping at the railway station for me to buy some lunch (a filled roll). It was at this point that I realised my knee was hurting a little. It seemed to be the problem I had experienced on the way back from Dronten again – not good.

Anyway, we arrived at Duisburg Hafen and decided to have a look around. I took a few photos. I loved these yarn bombing balls!

Duisburg hafen

Klaus also took a photo and did a bit of editing to bring out the colours:

Klaus's Hafen Yarn Bombing

What is noticeable when both velomobiles are together is that most passers-by seem to engage us in conversation if we stop; when on my own lots of people talk to me but there are definitely a higher proportion of people wanting to chat when there is more than one velomobile. We had a 15 minute conversation with two chaps at the Hafen.

We then carried on, discovering the small bridge we wanted to use was closed but found our way OK to where we needed to go.

Penelope and Celeste at the Rhein

Having seen the interesting filters available on Klaus’s iPhone App I invested in one myself (a different one) and produced this…

Penelope and Celeste at the Rhein 2

My knee was getting more and more painful though. I stopped a few times to stretch it but it didn’t help much so once again I was reduced to much less power with my right leg and our speed reduced noticeably.

But eventually we arrived back at my home and I had completed 103km so also my Metric Century for my monthly challenge. An enjoyable ride but there are some less good bits between Duisburg and Mülheim on busy roads – it is possible the route could be refined further!

My third visit to SPEZI

Last year I visited the SPEZI Radmesse (Special Bike Show) by bike… the wonderful SPEZI Tour with Klaus, Simon, Joyce and Nigel. This year I decided to go by car and persuaded Hartmut to come with me; he ended up driving and also brought along a chum Dirk from the ADFC in Mönchengladbach. Part of the motorway was shut on the way so we had to detour through the fantastically-named Titz; definitely worth the detour!

SPEZI Titz

We arrived around midday – and there were lots of interesting bikes and velomobiles parked all over the place!

SPEZI Velomobiles

Directly after registering I was accosted by Rene, another velomobile rider who I had first met on LEL. We had a good chat and he had some recommendations for improvements to the route to Mülheim that Klaus rides to work.

After Rene and I had had a good chat we said goodbye and I headed to the first Messe Hall, being stopped within a few metres to chat to Michael who had joined us for a day on the SPEZI tour last year. We chatted a bit too… and then I got round to visiting the exhibition. It’s great to meet people you know though, especially in a foreign country!

I had a good look around – most of the exhibits seemed similar to last year.

I liked this bicycle helmet – but I don’t wear helmets.

SPEZI bike helmet

I also noticed a stand from Liegeradbau Schumacher, a local recumbent shop to me just 20km away. I visited them several years ago.

SPEZI Schumacher

I also spotted the Veloschmitt. There was lots of interest in this last year but then it all went quiet.

SPEZI Veloschmitt

To me this looked a bit sad and manky. I think the drive for this project seems to have sloughed away. Sad.

One thing that did catch my eye was this new velomobile on the Cycles JV stand:

SPEZI Mulsanne 2

It clearly had an opening very like Penelope’s but looked faster and lighter… so I had a closer look.

SPEZI Mulsanne

SPEZI inside Mulsanne

Hmmm…. unprotected chain.

I decided I’d like to try to get in and out so with a passer-by translating (the exhibitor spoke only French, not German or English, and I couldn’t produce enough French to ask him what I needed to know), I worked my way carefully in.

My food was just millimetres from the chain and there were only a few places I could put my feet that were strong enough. Some sharp edges at the back dug into me – but I eventually made it in!

SPEZI Helen in Mulsanne

SPEZI Helen in Mulsanne 2

Although it was comfortable inside it was even more difficult to get out and I just didn’t feel happy about that open chain. I would undoubtedly end up with dirty legs immediately. It looked good but isn’t an option for me.

I spent a little time on the ICE stand and there bumped into TimB who had been at SPEZI last year in a wheelchair as he had broken his foot. We had a good chinwag!

I bought a ventisit neck rest for Klaus (who asked if I could see if there was one there), a new flag pole for Claudia’s trike as she is using my old rather battered one, amd a mew Union Jack buff for me. Apart from that it was a surprisingly cheap exhibition for me as I managed not to buy another trike or velomobile.

We headed off back home in due course, agreeing that the fact it was a really cold and rainy day had made the whole event a little harder to appreciate. But it’s still worth a visit and it was interesting to see lots of new velomobiles in development, particularly from Eastern Europe.

Thanks to Hartmut for driving me!

Velomobile photography

As Klaus is a bit of a photographer and has a nice shiny new velomobile, he takes lots of pictures of Celeste. This has got me into the habit too, so here are a couple of Penelope pics.

Penelope at sunset

Versatile

Strada and Versatile

Strada and Versatile 2

And here are a few photos Klaus has taken of Celeste:

Celeste 2

Celeste 3

Celeste 1

Celeste and Penelope

Strada BW

Sorry for all the Bike Pr0n there!

A speedy trip to Kevelaer

As Klaus was doing lots of fast cycling I decided it was time that I worked a bit harder on my speed; after all, as a velomobile rider I should definitely be achieving higher average speeds than I do.

So one day after work I decided to ride to Kevelaer and to take a fast road and put the pedal to the metal.

Here was my average speed after 30km…

Average speed 26

I arrived in Kevelaer and stopped for a Grillagetorte and tea. Yummy!

Grillage in Kevelaer

As you see, Penelope was once again proving interesting for the passers-by.

I rode home at a slightly slower speed but my average speed for the 65km was 25.1, with which I was very pleased.

A few days later I did a ride with Klaus to Geldern on a Sunday morning and managed an average of 25km per hour on that ride too. But generally I am slower.

Events this month

A funeral in England

As I reported last month, my father died at the end of March and so I returned the the UK at the beginning of April for his funeral.

Klaus, Claudia and Lara kindly said they would come too to support me, and we ended up all travelling together ‘the long way round’ (Dunkirk to Dover) which involves lots of driving but a cheap ferry; the other route, Hoek van Holland to Harwich, involves lots of expensive ferry and not much driving but was too expensive for a last-minute booking.

Here we are on the ferry… which was almost entirely occupied by German cars. Very few from other nationalities.

On the ferry

Klaus, Claudia and Lara would stay in my house in the UK and I would stay with my Mum.

We went straight to the pub for an evening meal, this time to the Wooden Fender in Ardleigh although I felt it had gone downhill slightly (less choice of food, and food more expensive). I had a steak and kidney pudding as you just don’t get that in Germany!

Steak and Kidney Pudding

We then went to my house in Colchester and I switched on the heating for my guests before Klaus drove me to my mother’s house 40 minutes’ away. He returned to what was a cold house – it turns out our heating had tripped out but they didn’t want to bother me with it so just went to bed very early with lots of blankets!

It was lovely to see my Mum again and she had some visitors who had come up early for the funeral so I chatted to them.

The next morning was the day of the funeral and we were treated to a beautiful sunrise.

Sunrise at Witnesham

Misty Sunrise 2

The funeral was a very moving experience and the church was packed with all Dad’s friends and colleagues. When we went outside for the burial a light plane flew low overhead – which we guess was a friend of Dad’s saying his own private goodbye as Dad had been a light aircraft pilot for over 32 years and had many friends in the flying community.

The next morning I was treated to another lovely sunrise

Another sunrise

Then Mum drove me to Stratford St Mary where I met Klaus, Claudia and Lara and we all had breakfast together at the Farm Shop before Mum headed home and we drove off to Dover, making a short stop at Tesco to buy a few English food goodies. The journey back was easy and we arrived back in Germany tired but it was a very worthwhile trip and lovely for me to have some friends at the funeral.

It has been very inspirational reading all the comments that people have made about my father, his nature and friendliness and how much he helped people. We all miss him very much.

The piano move

Tied up with the funeral was the planned collection of my baby grand piano from the UK and delivery to Germany. However, after the service was over I saw a message from the piano removal chaps that they had had an accident in Belgium on the way over the UK and couldn’t open the rear door of the van – thus no piano collection. We would have to find a new date. This was rather disappointing as the plan was for them to collect the piano when Klaus and Claudia were in the house to let them in and to keep an eye on everything, but it couldn’t be helped.

In the end they were able to offer a new collection appointment just a few days later. Unfortunately no one was available to be at the house in the UK so a neighbour hid a key for the chaps and I told them where it would be. In due course I got a message to say it had been picked up and they were on their way back to Germany.

The next day they said they could deliver it after I finished my work so I got the room ready and they arrived at five thirty in the evening.

Space for piano

They had used a trailer behind a car for the piano.

Piano in trailer

They separated out the keyboard for transit.

Keyboard separate

The piano was on a trolley.

Piano on trolley 1

Piano on trolley 2

The big issue about moving the piano was the fact that I live on the first floor and it is a fairly narrow spiral staircase with wooden treads. The chap had been round to check everything and said they could do it but would use three chaps to help carry the piano up to my Wohnung. But there were only two who actually arrived…

We carried all the bits and pieces up to the Wohnung first, including the keyboard which had this writing on the side.

Writing on side of keyboard

Interesting to see the date 1920 – I had been told it was a 20s or 30s piano from its style.

The keyboard was made by Herrburger Brooks (the piano is Raymond & Co, London)

Herrburger Brooks Ltd

To move the piano into the house they had a ramp which helped for the step up to the front garden.

From driveway

After that it was just heavy lifting – first the five steps into the front door.

In the doorway of the house

And then the massive job of carrying the piano up the stairs.

The two men prepared for about 15 minutes before lifting the piano. They covered with a cloth the bannisters. They fitted huge straps around the piano and then around their bodies to help them lift. They looked quite nervous about it – explaining that the piano probably weighed 250kg and just two of them would have to carry it up the stairs.

When they were finally ready to start they actually went pretty quickly.

Heading upstairs 1

Heading upstairs 2

Heading upstairs 3

They stopped at the top of the stairs, panting as if they had run a marathon. It really illustrated how much physical work lifting can be! They were also pouring sweat so we gave them cold drinks and they needed five minutes or so to get their breath back before carrying on – assembling the piano again.

Raymond’s legs were put back on, and his lid.

On its legs

Here is a close-up of the keyboard which had some mould in places on the woodwork, probably a result of the cold and damp at the house in the UK as the heating hadn’t been working. I wiped it with a damp cloth and it seems to be OK now.

Keyboard close up

The soft pedal wasn’t working so the chap removed it and had a look – a nut that had wound down was the culprit and it was soon working.

Fixing the pedals

Here is the piano in my original planned position. You can’t lift the lid up here because of the sloping ceiling.

Piano in position

After a day I decided to turn it round – this position is much better! Whilst I am playing I am looking into the room and I can lift the lid up.

Piano rotated round

The piano survived the journey pretty well and isn’t appallingly out of tune. I decided to leave it a few weeks to get accustomed to the temperature here and then I will bring in a piano tuner – interestingly they are much more expensive in Germany!

Work

My job continues and was much busier in April when the catering company had lots to do (lots of catering for confirmations).

I have started photographing some of the food as I am adding it to work’s Facebook site. I quite like some of these pics I have taken!

Food 1

Haenchenspiesse

Mozzarella

Salad

Salad 2

Obstsalat 1

Obstsalat 2

Bad back

Somehow at work I managed to really upset my back, to such an extent that it was very hard to put my socks on or lean down at all. After a few days it improved a bit but it curtailed my bike riding this month.

When I visited the UK at the end of the month I managed to squeeze in a visit to my osteopath who made things much, much better and it is only lightly troubling me. He also did something to my dodgy knee and that seems to be significantly improved too so I am hoping the main problems with that are over.

Wasserball

Lara who I live with has joined the Wasserball (Water Polo?) team at her University in Essen and they were having a match against Uerdingen (the east side of Krefeld on the Rhein) and I decided I would go along and watch.

I have never watched Wasserball before and had to learn the rules by watching what happened.

It is clearly a very tiring game – people are swapped in and out fairly regularly as it’s so physically demanding.

At the beginning there is a race to the centre to get the ball. Lara is a very fast swimmer so won this race in the quarter when she was in the starting line-up.

Wasserball 2

The actual play was easy to follow as the ball doesn’t move that fast as swimming is much slower than running or ice skating.

Wasserball 1

Uerdingen are known as one of the best teams in the country and the final score showed that!

24-1

Everyone cheered when Essen got their one goal!

Lara still had the energy to cycle back from Uerdingen with me (20km at a reasonable speed).

Views this month

Some of my morning dog walks have offered wonderful misty morning sunrises.

Misty morning with horses 2

Misty Sunrise 1

Misty Sunrise 2

Dogwalk sunrise

Here am I with Poppy (a selfie)

Poppy and Helen

Miscellaneous

I saw this on Facebook and had to share it with my student Carole as well as some other friends – an excellent example of the awkwardness of English pronunciation.

English can be weird

I saw this piece of graffiti which I found rather interesting! (Image was edited with a phone App)

Drogendialogue

Cakes this month

I have had slightly fewer cakes this month due to becoming a bit lardy. Or not cycling enough due to dodgy knee. Take your pick!

Strawberry cake

Cheesecake

Bienenstich

Ice cream

Sticky bun

Strawberry cake 2

I had this waffle with banana in Xanten.

Waffle with banana

One of my companions had this very filling-looking apple cake.

Apfelkuchen

Whilst in England visiting Mum at the end of the month (I went twice in April) I enjoyed some English cakes – as did Mum (one or two of these were eaten by her and not me)

Chocolate Brownie

Chocolate fudge cake

Coffee and walnut cake

Cream Tea 2

Mixed fruit waffles

And with this excellent option you can tell you’re in the UK!

English dessert

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Penelope the Velomobile, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany

Six Wheels In Germany – March 2016 (Month 24)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

March Rides Info

Here are all the rides – getting the train to Dronten confused the software!

Whole mnths rdes

And a close-up of the local rides.

Whole mnths rdes local

Once again I managed my metric century (in fact this time a double century) this month with my ride from Dronten to Kempen.

Of course once Klaus had his velomobile he set about doing lots of rides, extending his range and significantly increasing his average speed. Klaus is way faster than me when in Celeste – he seems able to average 28km/h already, whereas I am lucky to manage 20km/h. This means that on our joint rides he often cycles to my house (20km) at high speed, we then ride together for 40-60km and then go back to my house, and he then cycles home at high speed again. So he gets a good workout, some fast speeds but also some company on the rides.

We have done a number of rides since Celeste was collected. This included a ride to Straelen and then Arcen and Venlo.

Arcen and Venlo track

We stopped at Straelen for a snack, not wanting to spend the time to have a full meal as time was a bit short for our planned distance.

Eating at Straelen

Straelen food stop

It didn’t help that I was on another rather slow day. The knee problem that had manifested on the Dronten ride rumbled along in the background and as I’d been doing a lot of riding over several days I found it was hurting a bit again. But we made the ride anyway, having an excellent zoom down to Arcen, a new route across the Maas back to Venlo, and Klaus whizzing up the hill from Venlo whilst I toiled slowly with my 14 rather high gears.

Another day I rode to Klaus’s house whilst he was on his way home from work and we did a short round trip together to Krickenbecker See

Krickenbecker See track

where we put our feet down for a rest.

Celeste at hinsbecker Bruch

On the way back we decided to take one of the main roads from Hinsbeck north and it was lovely and fast – I reached 56km/h which was great fun. Klaus is still getting used to the handling of the Strada with its tiller steering at high speeds so stayed a little behind me for this downhill; he is getting much more used to the velomobile’s handling and it’s very stable but it is worth taking the time to acclimatise as rolling these vehicles is no fun at all.

Another day we decided to ride to Uerdingen which is to the east of Krefeld and on the Rhine. I’ve been there a few times before doing various trike routes but this was the first velomobile time and so I planned a route that took faster roads. We met up at St Tönis to start which is equidistant between our two houses and then rode from there.

Uerdingen Track

It turned out to be a pretty good route and we arrived in Uerdingen in time for a Friday evening meal.

VMs at Uerdingen 1

This metal barrier is the relatively new flood defences for the Rhine which is hiding behind the barrier.

VMs at Uerdingen 2

I was a little tired on the way back as there was a very long uphill but overall it was a good ride and my average speeds are increasing as I am putting in more effort to try to keep up with Klaus. I made him cycle up the hill of Tönisberg on the way back from this ride, telling him there was a lovely road downhill where he could have a good speed run; unfortunately I had muddled up where the road was so he ended up descending very gingerly on a steep, potholey semi-unmade road. He was not so pleased with me for that recommendation!

Whilst I was in England at the end of March Klaus did loads of riding in Celeste – in fact he has now done over 1000km in her! He is getting quicker too, averaging when riding alone over 25km/h. But when I was back for a couple of days I persuaded him to ride at a more normal speed with me, and we did a nice short tour to Nette Bruch.

Nette Bruch Tranquility

We stopped earlier at the lovely little church in Lind.

Klaus and Strada

Tour des Monats im Kreis Viersen

The Tour des Monats series started again in March, a ride organised by Hartmut. Very conveniently it was starting at the church in St Hubert on a Sunday morning at 11am. I decided I would definitely like to go along!

Klaus said he would meet us there to say hello and let Hartmut, Uli and Petra meet Celeste the velomobile but would then ride directly home for breakfast with his family. To make the most of his riding he got up early that morning and did a really fast 60km before meeting us at the church. He looked pretty pooped at that point!

So we met up and there were lots of other people I didn’t recognise who joined – I think there were 16 of us in total. There were just two bikes without electric assist, and the two velomobiles. E-bikes are massively popular in Germany!

Here is the track that we took.

Tour des Monats track

We set off and I attempted to take a few photos behind me of the cyclists – I got a good shot here of Petra and Uli!

TDM Selfie

Petra and Uli

Klaus rode with us to the outskirts of St Hubert and then headed on his way home whilst we turned northwards.

Klaus and Celeste

We carried on, mostly keeping together but with me out front a lot of the time. It’s tricky to ride behind normal cyclists in a velomobile as the speed profile can be quite different.

TDM group

Hartmut stopped regularly to tell us some local information – he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Kreis Viersen and its history.

Here he is explaining about all the different symbols on the bicycle signage

Hartmut explains

Our lunch stop had originally been planned as the restaurant in the old railway building at Mülhausen but Hartmut had discovered it wasn’t available to us for some reason on that Sunday so instead we stopped at a different place in Oedt, right in front of the old water tower.

Oedt water tower

Oedt Kneipe 1

Oedt Kneipe 2

After a very good value light lunch (I had chicken nuggets and chips for 4€) we continued on. Very near Café Kornblume (where I have previously enjoyed cake and breakfast) Hartmut got us to stop and showed us two WW2 pill poxes/hides, either side of a field gate. I had never noticed them before!

WW2 Pill Boxes

The route was taking us up Tönisberg which is one of our local mountains. The route took us a very different way up it and I was able to maintain some good speed though!

Hill up to Toenisberg

Klaus is trying to encourage me to try harder on the hills and push a bit more so I don’t slow down so much when it’s not pan flat, so this was my first attempt. I did reasonably well I think!

At the top of Tönisberg is the impressive windmill I have often visited.

Windmill

I then had the lovely zoom down the hill, disappointingly being stopped at the bottom by red traffic lights. I rode with the group until just around the corner from my house where they turned towards St Hubert and I did the final 400 metres alone.

It was a very enjoyable ride and I was glad to see so many people out on their bikes on a rather grey day in March. Bodes well for the success of these rides in the summer!

Klaus’s increase in speed has also rubbed off on me a bit as I am trying to go faster. Our last ride together in March, on the 30th in the evening, saw me riding 40km at an average of 23.3km/h so I am rather pleased with that. Fuelled by the three cakes I had eaten earlier in the day perhaps!

Events this month

More trips to the UK

As my Dad is very unwell I am visiting the UK a lot.

I went for a few days at the beginning of March to help look after my Dad as my Mum was poorly with a cold she couldn’t shake off. My sister had been staying with them for four days and I drove over to arrive on English Mothering Sunday and stay for a couple of days. Anna and I would both be at my parents’ house on Mothering Sunday for Sunday lunch (at 5 in the afternoon because of my travel time) and Anna would cook us the traditional food. We realised it would be the first time my Mum had had both daughters together on Mothering Sunday for probably over 25 years.

Anyway, for reasons of cost and time I decided to travel over via the Dunkirk-Dover route. This involves 3.5 hours’ driving from Germany through NL and Belgium to France, the two hour ferry crossing and then 2.5 hours’ driving on the UK side, so it’s not really much quicker than the Hoek van Holland ferry in total but is considerably cheaper and there are many more sailing times. I booked the ferry from Dunkirk at 14:00 but ended up waking really early and setting off from home four hours earlier than needed. The ferry company usually let you take one ferry earlier or one later at no extra cost so I was pleased to think I should make the 12:00 ferry.

As it happened I had such a good, fast run on the roads (I had left home at 06:15) that I arrived at the ferry port at 9:15. There would be a sailing at 10:00 and I might just make it for that one, I realised. So I went straight to the check-in and the lady said that I could transfer free to the 12:00 ferry but would have to pay a supplement to get the 10:00 ferry. I asked how much and she didn’t know, I had to drive round to the booking office. It was definitely worth trying so I headed to the booking office and the man said it would be £89 to get on the earlier ferry. I decided that wasn’t worth it, I would wait the two hours as I would already arrive earlier than I had originally thought at my parents. But it seemed sensible to check in anyway so I was at the front of the 12:00 ferry queue so I went back to the check-in, told the lady I wasn’t paying the extra so she booked me in for the 12:00 and waved me through.

It was 9:40 by now and the ferry was being loaded and lo and behold they let me drive straight onto it! So despite not paying the £89 I was loaded on the earlier crossing and so would land in the UK at 11am. Brilliant! I am very glad I didn’t pay the extra for the upgrade but then if I had I wouldn’t have known that I would have been allowed on the earlier ferry free of charge anyway.

I am becoming a seasoned ferry traveller now and as food on board is pricey and not very tasty I was well organised with no-sugar goodies.

Food supplies

The DFDS ferry is reasonable but definitely looks a bit sad and tired compared to the Stena ferries which are much newer.

Dunkirk ferry

Despite the fact I am really happy to live in Germany and love my life there, there is always a special feeling when you first see the white cliffs of Dover…

White cliffs of Dover

We docked and then I had to get used to driving on the left hand side of the road again but it comes back very quickly and I whizzed my way along the M20, round the M25 and then up the A12 to Ipswich.

I got to my parents’ house before 2pm which was great. It was lovely to see my sister Anna again as we don’t get to see each other that often, and she then cooked a wonderful Roast Chicken with all the trimmings for us.

Mothering SUnday lunch

Anna headed off home and I stayed with my folks, chatting to my Dad and Mum and hopefully giving Mum a bit of a chance to rest from time to time.

The next morning was frosty but there were beautiful views out of their windows as the sun rose.

Morning in Witnesham

Morning in Witnesham 2

Morning in Witnesham 3

Morning in Witnesham 4

On Monday morning we received a phone call from one of the nurses to say that the local hospice in Ipswich had a place for Dad for some respite care for a few days. This was absolutely brilliant news as it would give Mum a chance to get over her cold and get her strength back, as well as give Dad a chance to have the experienced doctors there check on all his medications and treatments, etc. They said we could come in that morning so after getting everything ready – this included finding chargers for all Dad’s iGadgets, etc – we drove to St Elizabeth Hospice in Ipswich.

The hospice is an amazing place, so different in feel from a hospital. Dad was sharing a bay of four beds although for the two days I was there with him there was only one other person there.

Hospice bay

The food for the patients is the same as the food for visitors from the canteen and it was excellent. Here is the menu for Dad’s first day.

Hospice menu

He was even allowed a glass of wine!

Dad had an amazing number of visitors over the two days that I was there. There was a constant stream of friends and neighbours and people that he knows through the world of flying (he is a private pilot). There was also this visitor who was peering through the window at us.

Cheeky visitor 1

Cheeky visitor 2

The hospice allows visiting at all times so I was able to spend the whole of Monday with Dad whilst he settled in. The nurses, doctors and volunteers there are amazing and the atmosphere was wonderful – friendly, people had time for him to talk, no annoying bleeping of machines. It was very restful despite there being lots going on.

I drove home to spend the night with Mum at the house and passed this wonderful road name.

Humber doucy lane

I looked up the meaning and found the following:

Humber Doucy Lane: runs from Tuddenham Road (near Westerfield House) to Playford Road (close to the juction with the A1214), roughly parallel with the old by-pass, it is the road with the prefabs. Norma Laming writes: ‘Incidentally, you may remember that I asked you if you knew how Humber Doucy Lane got its name? Someone told me that it comes from the French for sweet shade, which would be “ombre doucer” or something.’ Thanks to Norma for the suggestion. The Anglo-Saxon ‘Humbre’ and the Latin verb ‘umbro’ suggest “to cover with shadows”. The name ‘Humber Doucy’ came about in the same way that Ypres became ‘Wipers’ during World War I. And this goes back to the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) when Ipswich had a number of militia barracks and also played host to a number of French prisoners of war. On their hot march to and from whatever labour they were required to due during incarceration (working in the fields, perhaps?) they were grateful for the cool shade of the trees along this path/lane, so called it “ombre doucer” or possibly more correctly “ombre douce”. Sweet shade it is.

The next morning I cooked myself an English breakfast.

English breakfast

I spent the following day in the hospice with Dad and booked myself an overnight ferry crossing via Harwich-Hook of Holland to return to Germany. I didn’t fancy the long drive again so was happy to pay the extra for the comfortable overnight on the superferry. Just before I left the hospice to head to Harwich my cousin Moyna came to visit – here we are together.

Helen and Moyna

The crossing back was good and I was very pleased to know how well Dad was being looked after in the hospice.

Then two weeks later, a few days before my scheduled trip to the UK for Easter with my parents, I received a phone call from my sister to say that I should come as soon as possible as the Hospice said he had got a lot worse. I travelled to Hoek van Holland a few hours later to get the overnight ferry.

Sadly when I turned my phone on in the morning as I was waiting to disembark from the ferry I received the news that my father had died just before midnight on 23 March.

I arrived at my parents’ house and my sister was there with my Mum. The neighbours were wonderful, coming to visit and bringing gifts of cake and scones and flowers.

As I was still on my no-sugar for Lent challenge, I wasn’t able to enjoy the cake (yet!) but I did have a hot cross bun on Good Friday at breakfast time.

Hot cross bun

There was a lot to do to prepare for my father’s funeral which would take place on 1 April so Anna, my mother and I were very busy, but we did have time for a walk around a lake and to stop for tea and cake. Anna and my Mum shared this cake

Choc nut cake

The sugar-free option that most appealed to me was this toasted teacake.

Toasted teacake

Although I think it had a slight glazing of sugar on the outside. But I didn’t know that when I ordered it!

Anna’s eldest daughter Gwen, who got married at the beginning of February, also visited with her husband and they brought some Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Krispy Kreme

Here am I with Gwen and Anna.

Helen Gwen Anna

It was obviously a very sad time for us all but there were also some very special moments. I was looking through Dad’s books and found this one from 1989:

Coping with Germany

And inside was this note from a mystery borrower:

Frightening

Easter morning dawned.

Easter Morning 1

Easter Morning 2

Lent was now over and I could eat sugar again!

My Mum had given me this Easter Egg.

Easter Egg

Easter Egg 2

It was now also time for me to eat my first slice of cake – a slice from the wonderful Victoria Sandwich that the neighbour had made.

Victoria sandwich cake

Helen with first cake slice

And then the neighbour popped round with a second cake as she knew we had lots of visitors and were giving them slices!

Victoria Sandwich Cake 2

The people in the village have been wonderful with my parents, visiting my Dad and helping my Mum and just being friendly and supportive. It has been so encouraging for my sister and I to see how well they both were looked after and I know the friendship and care will continue for my mother now.

We also visited the church to prepare for the funeral. It is a lovely village church down a quiet lane.

Witnesham Church interior

Witnesham Church

My father was a Lay Reader at the church and very much involved in its life. When the news of his death was publicised on Facebook and various Forums that he was involved in we received so many wonderful tributes to him; it was very moving and emotional to read them all. We are expecting a lot of friends and acquaintances at the funeral on 1 April.

Here is the picture of Dad and me from Gwen’s wedding last month.

Helen and Dad

Although I would obviously be in England for the funeral I needed really to go back to Germany to sort out a few things beforehand so planned to use my original ferry booking to return on Easter Monday. My friends Klaus, Claudia and Lara said they wanted to come to the funeral to support me so they booked the Dunkirk Dover ferry for Thursday 31 March, returning Saturday 2 April, and I would travel with them in their car.

So I spent Easter Monday with Mum doing some sorting out of Dad’s effects but we also went to Sainsbury’s to buy some goodies and stopped at a coffee shop in Ipswich for some cake.

Cheesecake

We also visited my house in Colchester to check it and to prepare for the collection of my grand piano also on Friday (the funeral day) – I have arranged for it to be transported to Germany by a German removals firm as I couldn’t sell it in the UK. I am looking forward to its arrival – and it will be interesting to see how they manage to get it up the stairs to my first floor flat. But the removals firm visited and saw the stairs!

I returned to Germany overnight on Monday and was greeted very warmly by Poppy when I got in on Tuesday morning. Here she is trying to help with the garden.

Poppy and gardening

Cakes this month

Giving up sugar for Lent

As mentioned last month, I decided to give up sugar for Lent. This included orange juice, honey etc but not fruit in its fruity form. It also meant if sugar was on the ingredients list, such as in tomato ketchup or pasta sauces, I wouldn’t eat those. It meant a lot of cooking from plain ingredients, salad dressings that were just olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a complete absence of chocolates, biscuits, sweets, cakes etc. My snacks were natural yoghurt or nuts.

This was not as hard as I had expected except for breakfasts. As a traditional Brit I eat cereal with milk for breakfast which is quick, easy to eat, doesn’t involve much washing up and I have a good selection of cereals such as Weetabix, Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, Muesli, Shreddies etc. Replacing these with scrambled egg or yoghurt with fruit just didn’t do the trick for me and I really struggled. I was counting down the days before I could have my cereal again, whereas I did not really struggle with not being able to eat cake, chocolate, biscuits or ice cream.

Anyway, here are some cakes that I didn’t eat but watched other people eat.

5 cake slices

I ordered a cuppa at an Eiscafé in the Minto shopping centre with Claudia and Lara and they provided me with a mini ice cream (which I didn’t eat) and a sugar stick (which I didn’t use).

Tea with mini ice cream

And after Lent was over I enjoyed several cakes and then arranged with Babs to go for the Tortenschlemmen (‘eat as much cake as you like’) at the local café. This time I managed three cakes. Here are the cakes we enjoyed!

Kiwi cake

Cherry meringue pie

Stachelbeer meringue pie

Babs and cake

Grillage Torte

So despite enjoying the challenge of Lent without sugar, and losing about 5kg, I generally didn’t feel much better. One friend said my face was maybe a bit thinner but I have no idea. But I am enjoying my cakes again – it makes a cycle ride more fun when you stop to refuel at a nice bakery or café!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Penelope the Velomobile, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany

A new Velomobile and a 201km ride

Nope, I haven’t bought a new Velomobile. But Klaus has!

Here is the tale of our two trips to Dronten in NL where most Velomobiles seem to be born.

Dronten by car

Last year I took Penelope to Ligfietsshop Tempelman for her annual service of the Rohloff hub and a general checkup. Gerritt Tempelman did an excellent job and his price was extremely reasonable so I decided then that I wouldn’t bother trying to do it myself (less well) but would bring Penelope back to him.

The trip to Dronten this year was planned to coincide with another major event – Klaus would be collecting his new velomobile. As explained in January’s blog, after trying out a few velomobiles he decided to order a white Strada from Velomobiel.nl and the delivery date was eventually confirmed for 9 March. So a plan was hatched to collect the Strada and ride the 200km back home afterwards. Obviously I needed a velomobile to ride back in so we decided to deliver Penelope the week before for her service, then collect her and the new Strada, stay overnight near Dronten and then set off back to Kempen/Viersen early the next morning.

So anyway, the Saturday before this planned trip I borrowed the VW bus from my landlord again and, with Penelope squeezed on board, collected Klaus for the two hour drive to Dronten.

Penelope and box of bits

Here she is with a cardboard box behind filled with all her accessories – batteries, floor mats, tools, spare tyre, Versatile roof, hats and buffs, sunglasses etc. I realised I seem to be carrying around 8kg of extra weight when I am riding Penelope. But I need most of those things!

We arrived in Dronten and went first to Ligfietsshop Tempelman to deliver Penelope.

It’s always interesting to see what velomobile and bikes he has there.

Orange Versatile

This blue Versatile had been in a collision with a pedestrian who ended up sitting on its nose – that looks rather tricky to repair!

Crunched Versatile

Here is Penelope in the shop waiting for her service.

Penelope in Ligfietsshop

As we had driven along the road towards Dronten we saw a cyclist on a two-wheeled recumbent whizzing along the cycle path. As we were chatting to Gerritt Tempelman in the shop the cyclist appeared with a Greenmachine to be serviced – and surprised me by saying “Hello Helen!” I didn’t recognise him but it turns out he has been reading this blog and recognised me and my velomobile. Hello to Edwin, good to meet you!!!

After a good chat with Gerritt Tempelman we headed off round the corner to Velomobiel.nl to deliver a cable for Klaus’s new Strada (which would not yet be there). Klaus had sourced a light tower with a static green, rotating yellow and flashing red light which he wanted them to fit on the Strada and he had needed a special cable which, rather than posting, he decided to hand deliver as he was interested in visiting Velomobiel.nl. When we arrived I think they were briefly a bit worried that we thought we were collecting the new Strada (as this was the original delivery date) but we explained soon enough that we were just dropping in as we had been delivering Penelope.

I had a good look at the new QuattroVelo, a four-wheeled Velomobile with a dog seat or luggage space at the back. Hmmmmmmm….

Quattrovelos

We had a good chat with Theo whilst we were there. There were several Velomobiles on a rack high up in the building including this Strada which was a rather lovely colour, very close to the Bianchi blue which is called Celeste.

Celeste Strada

This Strada was on their list as immediately available and we both agreed it was a lovely colour.

After a half an hour nosing around it was time to head back to Germany so we were on our way, looking forward to returning six days later to collect Klaus’s new velomobile, pick up Penelope and then ride the 200km back…

Dronten by train

So Klaus had booked a day off work on Friday 11 March for this trip. This meant that we would ride back on Saturday but if we had bike problems and couldn’t manage the 200km we also had Sunday.

On Wednesday, the day that the Strada body would be delivered to Velomobiel.nl, he decided to telephone them to check everything was OK. Disaster!! The white Strada had not been on the transporter from Romania.

Klaus had two options – wait a week for the white Strada body to arrive (which meant that we would have to pay for the two hotel rooms we had booked as it was too late to cancel, I would need to be without Penelope for another week, he would have to try to get the following Friday off work) or take one of the current in-stock Stradas, in yellow, orange or Celeste. It took him just a few moments to decide that the Celeste Strada had been such a nice colour and he would happily take that one, with a few other goodies thrown in for free because of the inconvenience.

So our trip for Friday 11th was still on. Klaus arranged the train tickets for us and we did some very light packing, knowing we would have to bring everything back with us.

Klaus also bought some walkie talkies – these are useful with velomobiles as it is harder to talk to each other as they can be a bit noisier inside. My job was to get the batteries for them. We had checked the sticker inside the battery compartment and it said AA.

Walkie talkies

So of course, having bought 16 AA batteries, when I arrived at Klaus’s house Friday morning ready to head to the station, we discovered they actually take AAA batteries. So Klaus dashed off to Aldi whilst I was having a cuppa and the day was saved.

Claudia gave us a lift to Viersen station.

Viersen station

I was weighed down with food supplies for our ride the next day – nuts, yoghurts, bananas, water, babybel, bruschetta… we knew we would need to regularly refuel underway and as I’m not eating sugar and Klaus doesn’t eat many carbohydrates it can be a bit tricky to find suitable things underway.

I had originally assumed we would do the route Viersen – Venlo – Nijmegen – Zwolle – Dronten but Klaus had booked through Deutsche Bahn and that was one fewer change, Viersen – Duisburg – Amsterdam Centraal – Dronten. It also meant I would have my first ever trip on a German ICE train.

Train route

We arrived at Duisburg and had a half hour wait (which ended up as 40 minutes as the ICE train was delayed) so bought a cup of tea, Klaus bought some sweets (he is addicted to Haribo) and I bought a fruit salad (my only legal sugar this lent).

We got on the ICE train and it was comfortable enough except… our carriage was full of English football fans who had been at the Borussia Dortmund vs Tottenham Hotspur match.

ICE train

Their accents were wonderfully London but the conversation wasn’t very edifying and they were waving their phones around in the air comparing different porn photos, talking loudly about how weird Germans were etc. I spoke only German to Klaus to make sure they didn’t spot the Englishwoman hiding away in the corner. Unfortunately they travelled the whole way to Amsterdam. Klaus kept saying to me “Sie sind so peinlich!!!” He had a point!

From Amsterdam we hopped on a slow local train to Dronten, heading out onto the Flevoland island. The landscape was very different than our bit of Niederrhein – fewer trees, wider spaces (and Niederrhein is wide anyway), not so many dwellings. The forecasted sunny day wasn’t quite what we experienced, it was more cloudy and misty, but not too cold and it was still great to look out of the window at the passing scenery.

When we got to Dronten we saw the industrial estate where the velomobiles are and then tried to gauge how far it was to the station from there. Too far was our conclusion… Walking in SPD clickshoes is not particularly comfortable and I was carrying the heavy coolbag of food too. Never mind, my original plan had been to take a taxi.

So we alighted from the train, went to the taxi stand (that was empty) and I phoned the taxi firm number which was stuck onto the taxi rank post. “You will have to wait for an hour!” Yikes!

Klaus had been studying the bus map and thought that the bus 22 might do the trick. There was a bus at the stand, it was a 22 so I got on and asked the driver if he went anywhere near De Gouwe (where Ligfietsshop Tempelman is). He sucked his teeth, thought about it a bit, consulted his phone and said “yes!” so we got on board. We paid 3€ each for our tickets.

Bus tickets

The bus headed off and after what felt like about 3 minutes we realised we were right near the industrial estate. The bus stopped and the driver peered round the partition at us, to say it was time to get off. 6€ for two people felt a bit steep for such a short journey, but there you go. A taxi would have been more!

We had to walk about 250 metres to get to the shop and I was glad we hadn’t walked the whole way as I had clothing suitable for velomobile riding but not walking in the open air and was a bit chilly by the time we arrived at Tempelmans.

And there was Penelope, with her hub gear serviced, the rear swing arm with some new parts (some kind of bush I think) and some fresh paint on the black lower bit as it had got a bit scratched after my two chums rolled her!

Penelope repainted

We chatted to Gerritt a bit, paid his exceptionally reasonable bill (again under 100€), packed Penelope’s chattels back into her and then it was time to go round the corner to collect the new velomobile…

And here she was!

Celeste

Celeste nose

Klaus took her for a short spin around the block to check that everything was OK. Whilst he was there I took the opportunity to see if I could get in and out of a QuattroVelo. The answer appears to be yes, so I am seriously considering adding my name to the orderlist. There’s a space for a dog in there!!!

Klaus returned very happy with his new velomobile. There were a few last things to be done and then we were ready to head off to our B&B which was 20km away in Elburg.

Dronten to Elburg track

Here’s a short video I took on the way – slightly tricky to film with the Versatile roof on, plus a rather bumpy cycle track!

it was Klaus’s first proper bit of riding in his new velomobile and he was sensibly careful around the corners as he was not yet used to the steering behaviour of the Strada and didn’t want to roll it, but we made reasonable progress and he felt very comfortable in his new machine.

Bed and Breakfast De Zwanebloem turned out to be a wonderful little place, two rooms as part of a farmyard. I had chosen it because it had got a very good satisfaction score on Booking.com and was very good value. We arrived and the lady showed us in after her Bernese Mountain Dogs had barked hello and looked surprised at our bikes.

My room (with kitchen) was 55€ for the night including breakfast.

My room

My kitchen

Klaus’s room (without kitchen but still with coffee making facilities and a fridge) was 52,50€.

Klaus's room

He had an en-suite but my bathroom was across the shared hall which might have been a bit weird if the other people staying in the B&B were entirely unknown to you at the time and you bumped into them in the night.

The landlady then returned with some apple turnovers for us. Due to it being Lent Klaus was able to eat them both as I eschewed mine. Lucky chap!

Apple turnovers

Apple turnovers 2

The rooms also had lots of Easter Egg choccies so I collected them up for fuel for Klaus for the next day’s ride (plus perhaps for me to have after Easter).

Choccies

There were also four small packs of Pringles which looked like they might come in handy on our journey the next day.

I was actually a bit cold when we arrived as I had got a bit sweaty on the 20km ride and was wearing a normal cotton t-shirt rather than cycling shirt, so I changed into my cycling top that I had planned to wear the next day for our trip a bit later to Elburg town to find some food.

But first it was time to have a good look at the new velomobile and do some photography.

P and C 1

P and C 2

P and C 3

P and C 4

Klaus has much better photography skills than me and took these four pics.

P and C 5

P and C 6

P and C 7

P and C 8

Strada logo

He had wondered about moving the seat slightly further back and we saw a way of doing it but discovered that our toolkits weren’t ideal so didn’t risk it.

We decided to cycle into Elburg for dinner and headed there. It is a fascinating old town as you can see from the track – there’s kind of a square of canal around it.

Elburg to restaurant track

We stopped at an Italian restaurant which looked very cosy but perhaps a bit upmarket for me in my cycling gear. But they made us welcome and we had some good food and Klaus celebrated his new purchase with some wine.

I had persuaded him to give a name to his Wild One trike (“Killer”) and so of course said he needed to name the new Velomobile. The obvious name, due to its colour, was Celeste. So Celeste she became!

Here is Celeste parked outside the Italian restaurant with Penelope’s striplights casting a red glow.

Celeste in Elburg

Elburg to Kempen by bike

The day dawned beautifully!

Morning mists

I had slept well and was looking forward to the very challenging ride. The breakfast tray appeared at 7am in the hallway of the B&B.

Breakfast Tray

I took it into my room which had the kitchen table and laid it all out.

Breakfast laid out

A very generous amount of food including, in the paper bag, two almond croissants.

Klaus appeared and we enjoyed the breakfast – he was the lucky recipient of both orange juices (sugar in Lent) but as he doesn’t eat much carbohydrate I was able to use two rolls to make sandwiches for later on in our ride.

The sun was getting higher in the sky and the mist was burning off a little.

Sun is rising

At 8:30am we were ready to set off. Celeste had spent the night in the bike shed but there wasn’t room for both velomobiles so I decided that Penelope, who is a bit long in the tooth (nearly 10 years old), could cope with a night on the tiles.

She looked very frosty!

Frosty P 1

Frosty P 2

Celeste still looked fine after her night under cover.

Klaus was faffing about putting his stuff in Celeste (I am more experienced with distributing luggage around a velomobile) so I said I would ride round to the B&B Owner’s door and pay our bills. So I released the parking brake and moved off… very slowly. The parking brake was stuck on. Frozen!

We fetched the hairdryer from my room and moved Penelope as close as possible to the door to the B&B so that an electric socket was in reach. Klaus heated up my rear drum brake and cable and soon it released. Phew! Not a particularly auspicious start!

I rode round to the landlady and paid our very reasonable bill (107,50€) and said how much we had liked the rooms and enjoyed the breakfast. Next time I do an overnight Dronten trip I will definitely try to book there again!

Then it was truly time to set off, to head the 210km to Viersen or 200km to Kempen.

Here is our track for the day.

Dronten to Kempen track

And here is the elevation profile of our ride.

Dronten to Viersen altitude profile

The weather was beautiful as we set off along the dike towards Zwolle.

Heading along the Deich

I did notice, however, that my heart rate was rather high at 160bpm when just riding along the dike. In the end I spoke to Klaus through the walkie talkie and said I needed to slow down a bit – it is not good to do too much work at the beginning of a long ride as you can get exhausted too easily. I guess it was my body trying to do the work of digesting the excellent breakfast as well as cycling…

My camera focused on the wrong thing here but you can see my frosty roof and the fuzzy Strada ahead of me, the view I would have for a lot of the day.

frosty windscreen

Very early on when cycling over a bridge that crossed a major road we decided to do a roll test. This means you stop side-by-side at the top of a hill and just let the bike/velomobile roll down to see how the speed compares. We often do this on the trikes – I tend to accelerate quicker but Klaus then catches up and overtakes when the route levels out. The velomobiles were much closer matched on the way down with me perhaps edging ahead by a gnat’s whisker but when we got onto the flat the Strada rolled about 20 metres further before finally stopping, but we went a very long way without a single pedal stroke.

Klaus is a stronger rider than me and that was definitely apparent right from the beginning. I had had almost two weeks off riding due to visiting the UK etc and my legs did not feel very good energy-wise which was unfortunate at the start of such a long ride. I also found very quickly that I needed to put my feet down to get blood flowing back into my feet; this is usually more of a problem for Klaus and not for me, but this time our roles were reversed.

So after 20km I asked for us to stop so I could put my feet down for a minute or two.

Stop at Zwolle

From my 150km ride with Hartmut a few weeks before I had learned that I need to eat little and often on long rides so had, as previously mentioned, lots of snacks with me. At these stops we generally grabbed something from the bag. Klaus went for a banana this time as we looked across at the bridge to Zwolle.

Zwolle bridge

It was still pretty chilly so Klaus was wearing his buff over his ears.

Klaus with buff

The day was beautiful as we wafted our way through the northern Dutch landscape.

Open landscape

We also saw lots of wildlife including two storks here.

Storks

I had expected the road surfaces to be a bit better than they actually were. They weren’t potholey but weren’t as smooth as the surfaces in NL near Venlo. I guess they are more grippy for cars but it did involve more cycling effort than on really smooth asphalt. We weren’t on cycle paths but on quiet roads on an excellent route that Klaus had made using routes from friend Gabi (who has ridden from Dronten to Bonn several times) and also another velomobile rider called Liegender_Robert.

Cycling in the Netherlands is not for the accident-prone as you often cycle beside canals with no crash barriers or anything to stop you going in if something unexpected happens!

Strada and Canal

We changed places sometimes with me ahead or Klaus ahead, communicating through the walkie talkies mostly.

Following the Strada

After 30km I started noticing a strange twinge in the muscle behind my right knee. I hoped it would go away but it got stronger and meant that I was using less force on that leg (my more powerful leg) when pedalling. I started to get a very bad feeling about my ability to ride the distance if I had already got some kind of problem with only just over 10% of the route covered.

Which was ironic as before we had left for Dronten I had talked to a few people about the upcoming ride and had said airily “I know I can do the distance, the only probable issue that will stop us is if Klaus isn’t able to set up the velomobile correctly for him and pulls a muscle or something.” Hoist by my own petard, it was me who was quite clearly the weak spot in this team!

At about the 45km mark we came to a bridge that we needed to cross – and it was decidedly uncrossable!!!

Closed bridge 1

We both stopped and consulted our Garmins. I have an Oregon with one map, Klaus has an Edge 1000 with another map, and they often show different things. Mine showed that we really need to backtrack half a kilometre to join up most easily with our route, but Klaus’s Garmin showed an option if we continued on. I wasn’t sure but in then end decided to go with his plan as his map download was newer than mine.

We rolled on 10 metres and were passed by a local chap on a bike who proceeded to go past a metal gate thingie and over a small footbridge that neither of us had noticed. So we instantly followed him.

The bridge was too twisty and narrow to safely ride over so we got out of the velomobiles and I wheeled Penelope over first, then it was Klaus’s turn.

Celeste crossing the bridge

We made it across and wheeled the bikes along a muddy footpath before arriving at the other side of the closed road bridge.

Closed bridge 2

We walked on a little further until we were back on solid ground.

Wheeling the velomobiles

I had hoped that a bit of walking would help my knee but as I sat back in Penelope and started pedalling I realised that wasn’t the case, it was still hurting a lot. So I told Klaus about it. This was bad news after less than a quarter of our journey. I said I would of course continue on but would need to be careful. So we slowly rolled on.

We had divided our track for the full ride into four sections, so that the “Distance to Destination” field didn’t say horrible numbers like 198 but usually less than 50. This is a psychological help to me on a long ride. Klaus had broken each sector at a town that looked like it’d have food options and we reached the first of these at 55km, Heeten in Overijssel.

I felt it was wise to stop for some food and maybe a hot drink and for me to have a think about my knee problem a bit. My bakery radar was suitably successful and we found a bakery which provided us with tea and coffee. We sat outside on the benches and drank our drinks, eating some of our food supplies. I took this photo which I think illustrates very well long-distance touring – tea, food, phone chargers…

Food stop

I carry around a bag which has everything you might need in all circumstances and it did not fail me again as I found four paracetamol deep in the depths. I took two and hoped they would help my knee to deal with the next 155km. A tall order!

Off we pedalled, still slow as I couldn’t put much pressure on the knee and my legs weren’t that good anyway. I could see in Klaus’s face he was realising that this was all going to take much longer than he had thought, but of course he would stick with me. I could tell he was raring to push on and see how fast he could ride in his new lightweight machine but with slow Helen in heavy Penelope (no mention of me being heavy too here!) that was not going to happen. I had custody of the food supplies though just to ensure he didn’t disappear too far ahead!

As midday approached it got a lot warmer so it was time to remove a layer of clothing.

Jumper removal

What we also began to notice was that the landscape was changing. Now we were away from the reclaimed land and the salty marshes there were more trees. The houses also seemed a little different, perhaps a bit smaller and closer together. They still looked like Dutch houses though, no sign of the German Rollladen (external window shutters) like you get around the Niederrhein and Venlo areas.

The next 45km for Segment 2 on our GPS tracks was a bit better for my knee as the paracetamol were doing the trick. Klaus asked if I had some more as he had banged his knee on a bolt sticking out on the underside of the top of his Strada and grazed his knee, which was sore and being irritated by his lycra trousers with every pedal stroke. As I only had two left I meanly hoarded them for myself but said I would try to get something more in NL if I saw a likely shop. In Germany you can only buy painkillers in Apotheke (chemist shops) but I assumed NL was like the UK and you can get them in supermarkets and petrol stations etc and very cheaply. German medicines are stupidly expensive.

Anyway, eventually the next 45km were completed and we arrived in Beltrum in Gelderland and found a nice restaurant with conservatory overlooking the bike parking area.

Bike parked

We had soup and tea/coffee and the lady also refilled our water bottles. I hadn’t been drinking enough water I realised and was perhaps a little dehydrated. Klaus was putting magnesium tablets into his water but I don’t like any taste in water so was just drinking plain.

We set off at 4pm and were less than halfway home – this was going to be a SLOOOOOOOOOW ride because of me!

I stopped about 400 metres later as I saw a supermarket. I popped in there and indeed they had paracetamol (53 cents) and Ibuprofen (1 euro 39 cents) so I bought one of each and we both popped the relevant pills. Vitamin P for me, Vitamin I for Klaus (I am allergic to ibuprofen). It was good to know we had a better supply of painkillers in case it got a bit more dramatic later!

Klaus did a bit of mental arithmetic and decided that at our current rate of progress we would be back at one in the morning. I wasn’t sure if I would actually manage the entire ride and was seriously considering stopping in Rees am Rhein. This had always been an option and I had recced Rees with Hartmut a few weeks before and seen that they had a decent looking hotel. However, I knew that Klaus really really wanted to do the full ride, that there is no way he would leave me in Rees and carry on alone, and I also didn’t have any fresh clothing and underwear if I had to ride the next day so these reasons meant I decided to do all I could to carry on.

The great thing about cycling is that you go at a natural pace for your body and mind and can see and appreciate the landscape around you. In a car you whizz by, in a velomobile you sail by but can smell and hear what is going on around you to a much greater extent. We really appreciated the scenery throughout the whole day. I would often get on the walkie talkie and say “look at that lovely thatched barn” or something similar – there were lots of thatched buildings in NL, we don’t see as many in the Niederrhein it seems to me. The whole time we were passing fields with horses and ponies and also some fields with deer too.

We stopped every 15km for me to put my feet down as they were getting more and more problematic. We were slowly munching our way through our food supplies – I ate one of the two filled rolls I had made with the breakfast leftovers and Klaus was steadily working his way through a big hand of bananas. The nuts I had packed were useful except they were mixed nuts and Klaus can’t eat walnuts so he had to pick them out a bit carefully but generally survived. The yoghurts were surprisingly refreshing too. The Pringles I had taken from the hotel were good for a change of taste and Klaus started on the easter eggs – they were all white chocolate so I said he could have them all. There is no earthly need for white chocolate when normal milk chocolate is in existence. Yuck. There was no point in me saving any for the post-Easter chocolate-and-cake-fest.

On one stop I realised we must be pretty close to the border with Germany. I had to stop for my feet again and so we just pulled up by the side of the road and I got out and walked around a bit. Klaus helped himself to another banana.

Then a chap came out of the house opposite and came to admire the velomobiles. He spoke to us first in Dutch so I said “English?!” and he said “English!” and carried on speaking Dutch. So I tried “Deutsch!” and he said “ah, Deutsch!” and spoke a few words of German – and then carried on in Dutch. But weirdly we could somehow understand him. He was talking about our velomobiles of course, and we’re pretty familiar with what most people say about them in any language.

We asked him how far to the border and he said about 10km. He was talking all the time in Dutch but we were able to communicate reasonably. He wished us well and headed off back into his house and we pedalled further.

As we arrived in the town of Dinxperlo we started noticing signs in German as well as Dutch. I noticed that all the cars parked at houses on the left hand side of the road had German registrations and all the buildings on the right (an industrial estate) had Dutch-registered vehicles, so I wondered if the German/Dutch border ran alongside this road. I have looked it up on the map and indeed that is the case!

Dinxperlo

We then passed a sign “Welcome to Nordrhein-Westfalen” and instantly the bike cycle path disappeared and we had to ride on the L606 main road. This wasn’t a problem in the velomobiles as such roads are fast and there wasn’t too much traffic. It was a good feeling to have made it all the way to Germany although we still had 85km to go.

We stopped for another foot rest/food break and Klaus and I did some more velomobile photography.

German border 1

German border 2

You can see the light tower on Celeste very well in this last picture. It turned out to be an excellent addition as now sunset was coming Klaus turned it on and it was really easy to see. He used mostly the flashing red light which is not technically legal in Germany I believe but is definitely worthwhile to warn cars that there is something usual up ahead. He has the normal solid light that all bikes must have too.

I was counting down the distance to Rees for psychological reasons – I had cycled to Rees with Hartmut so felt I knew the route and was ‘back home’ again once we were on it. It was a struggle though as my legs were getting more and more dead and I had occasional recurrences of the knee pain (and took some more paracetamol for it). I knew I probably wouldn’t stop at Rees as then Klaus would stop but my other option, cadging a lift home in the VW Bus from Frank, wouldn’t be an option as they were out for the evening. Oh well, I would just have to man/woman up and keep turning those pedals.

Eventually we passed Rees and crossed the Rhine river, a great feeling! There were still 65 miles to go and this was if I rode directly home rather than to Viersen. My car was at Viersen but that wouldn’t be an issue, and the direct route would shave 10km off my distance. I told Klaus I would do that and that was clearly OK.

I had run out of water and knew it was important to keep hydrated so we stopped at a petrol station which I had noted on my ride with Hartmut. Standing at the counter buying two water bottles and gazing at thousands of Mars and Snickers bars made me realise that this was probably also extra difficult because I couldn’t refuel on any sugar.

We also took the opportunity for what might be the last loo stop of the day!

VMs at petrol station

And then it was time to ride on. I was unfortunately getting slower and slower and we had to tackle a hill that had seemed notable on my ride with Hartmut when I was much fresher. Fortunately Tötenhugel didn’t seem as bad as I feared although Klaus had a long wait for me at the top. The roll down the other side is great fun – Klaus did it without pedalling and was amazed at how efficient and aerodynamic the Strada is. I kept pedalling as I was getting a bit worried that if I stopped my legs would seize up.

The kilometres were counting down very slowly now. Klaus had his flashing light on and stayed behind me mostly as we rode on the roads and not cycle paths for speed and because there was very little traffic. Kevelaer was approaching and that felt good as I have visited it a few times and it didn’t feel too far away. We whizzed through with the next stop Straelen which we very regularly visit and feels really near home.

The 12km between Kevelaer and Straelen seemed forever though as I was pretty much finished energy-wise. There were some very slight gradients which Klaus didn’t even notice but they slowed me right down… I was crawling along at 12km/h. Then when I had a slightly faster bit on the road my battery jumped out and fell through the foot holes again (it occasionally does this when I go over a bump as the elastic that holds it in is stretched and I haven’t worked out how to improve it). Klaus didn’t even see it but didn’t run it over but then two cars came past. As I only have three of these, and they cost 50€ each, I wanted to go back for it so Klaus put all his lights on and I used my iPhone torch to look up the road – there was the battery lying on the ground. There were no cars coming so I fetched it and it seemed undamaged. I plugged it in and it seemed to work – phew! The connector was a bit dicky as it flickered on and off a bit which is slightly perturbing in the pitch darkness but it then settled down a bit. Klaus stayed behind me with his lights for a bit until it seemed OK.

Eventually Straelen appeared before us. The route was to go round it but I knew that included a railway bridge that would be abominably slow for me so we went straight through the town centre instead. Our usual route is on the trikes and I had forgotten about the set of Drängelgitter gates. I had to get out of Penelope and wheel her round – once again a major pain as getting in and out was very difficult as my body had stiffened up. I also found where I sat on the seat my sit bones had clearly got a bit too overfamiliar with the metal frame and were complaining. I tried to sit on yesterday’s t-shirt but that didn’t help much.

Anyway, I got through the gates and went to the other side of the road where the cycle path was. Klaus was having trouble with his parking brake so said he’d find a different route out. I said I’d carry on as I was getting a bit concerned if my knees stopped moving they would freeze up, so I pootled onwards…

He eventually caught me up at the traffic lights on the main road out towards Wachtendonk. He told me later that he was a bit cheesed off as he couldn’t see to reverse out of where he was because it was dark and couldn’t get out of the velomobile as the parking brake wouldn’t set and would have liked my help but I had disappeared. Eventually he managed the brake and got through the gates and he seems to bear me no ill will for leaving him behind!

Perhaps he extracted a small amount of revenge as he went ahead on the section between Straelen and Wachtendonk and completely disappeared from view. I went a bit faster here as it is a smooth road with slight downhill tendencies and I was soon at the traffic lights at Wachtendonk where Klaus was waiting. We rode around the outskirts and then came the point where we should separate with me going through Gelinter to the east back to Kempen and him continuing south to Viersen. As expected he was a little reluctant to leave me on my own as I was clearly totally exhausted but I insisted that I knew what I was doing, I was familiar with the route and it was only 10km, and of course I could phone him if anything dramatic happened, so we said goodbye and headed off on our own separate ways.

At this point Klaus speeded up dramatically (no surprise there!) but I just got slower and slower. I suppose it was knowing the end was in sight and having absolutely no energy reserves I could access (I have a heck of a lot of stored fat but it was clearly not available at this point). I pedalled slowly on, my mental arithmetic showing me that I would get home before the 200km. What a disaster!

As I rode up the 1.5km road to my house I realised I needed to do a slight detour to add another 600 metres onto my track to make the 200. I could have cried! But I absolutely had to do it, so took the extra diversion around the back roads so that my Garmin finally showed me a magic number as I pulled up at my house.

Garmin

The actual amount was 201.1km as I had forgotten to turn my Garmin on straight away on two occasions and had ridden a bit before I realised and Ascent/Strava correct this.

These are my actual figures:

Distance = 201.15
Moving time = 11 hours 43 minutes 44 seconds
Average speed = 17.1 km/h
Average heart rate = 141 bpm
Maximum heart rate = 170
Maximum speed = 34.6 km/h (very slow!!!!)
Calories burned (calculated with heart rate monitor) = 5,648

Klaus ended up with a total distance of 210.2km.

The five stairs to my front door seemed rather a mega challenge when I finally got home, and the flight of stairs up to my room was a real mountain. However I made it, had a shower and fell into bed feeling very pleased with myself for managing what had seemed a very tall order at 30km. Klaus had no ill effects and cycled for an hour the next day in Celeste, and would have been 3-4 hours quicker on his own, but it will still good fun for him and a very impressive start to his velomobile career.

The next day I was stiff and my legs hurt but the following day I was back in Penelope to cycle to work with no ill effects. I’d like to try such a distance again sometime soon when I am a bit better trained and see how it goes. But overall I had a brilliant time, I loved the cycling and I so appreciated the chance to cover a lot of ground and to be able to experience the changing landscape and note the different styles of buildings as you move through a country.

Thanks again to Klaus for his company and for sticking with Mrs Slow!

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Penelope the Velomobile, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 20

November 2015

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

This month has been less of a cycling month for me – various other things getting in the way. Nevertheless I managed almost 550km which leaves me 510 by 31st December to hit my target of 10,000km for the year.

November statistics

And here is where I rode this month.

November rides

Bike maintenance

Last month Penelope was treated to various bits of maintenance. This month it was Alfie’s turn.

I noticed on the Ruhrtal cycle tour in September that part of Alfie’s rack had broken. Because it was making an annoying rattle I decided to remove it for the winter (when I don’t really use it, I use the Velomobile for shopping), but found that was also not possible. There were pins holding in some support arms and I just couldn’t get the pins out.

I managed to remove most of the rack and just had two arms and a wider section still attached to Alfie’s frame, which I cable-tied out of the way. Alfie was much quieter to ride without the rattling rack. But I did want to remove the rest of the rack.

So of course my landlord Frank came to the rescue…

Removing Alfie's final rack parts

He had to hammer out the pins. One side worked well, the other was so stuck that he had to bend it off using brute force. This is what it looked like afterwards.

Dead rack arm

And here is Alfie looking a bit more bare at the back end.

Rack arm removed

Whilst removing the rack various bushes crumbled away and some parts of the rack were clearly no good, so I had already contacted ICE to ask their advice. Their advice was that they would send me a new rack (this is an old design, but they had a lightly-used one lying around in the bits basket), so I said yes please and they sent it to me.

Package with rack bits

Here it is unpacked.

Replacement rack

It was missing the shaft that holds the big flat piece to the trike and this was one of the parts that we couldn’t get out of Alfie’s frame, and whose bushes had really worn away so there was a lot of play when moving this. So I emailed Neil at ICE to see if he could suggest a safe way of removing this shaft without damaging it so it could be reused. He made some suggestions but managed to find a replacement, and the bushes, and posted them to me. Once again, fantastic service from ICE.

I haven’t yet done the final bit of this job as there’s no great urgency (I’m not using the rack) and removing the old shaft is a job that Frank is planning to do. He brought a tool home from work which he thought would do the job but unfortunately Alfie’s frame was slightly in the way. But Frank likes these challenges and I am sure that he will have success very soon!

Alfie has also had a VERY big birthday recently… Well, he’s only four and a half years old, but he’s had some mega attention from me over the last few days with a big upgrade. I will write a blog post about this in a few days’ time so stay tuned!!

Helen’s birthday cycle ride

My birthday was in mid-June and my present from the ADFC chums was a led ride with food stop. Due to the difficulty of arranging a date that six of us could make, it ended up taking place at the end of November (and with four out of the six – Herbert and Klaus were unable to come).

However, we were blessed with a great weather forecast and the planned trip was to Museum Insel Hombroich to visit.

Track for Birthday Ride

Hartmut and Jochen collected me from home. Hartmut was wearing shorts!

Setting off Hartmut in shorts

We set off, I was in Penelope with my woolly hat on because it was a bit chilly. Hartmut had planned an excellent route and we went at a comfortable pace (the others are both much faster cyclists than me).

Cycling to Hombroich

We met Uli just before St Tönis and the four of us continued in the sunshine towards Neuss and Hombroich.

Sunny cycling

We arrived, locked up the bikes and went to the reception area to buy our tickets. Unfortunately they wouldn’t allow Uli to bring his bike into the parkland as there was a no bikes rule, despite the fact he can’t walk very far. They said he could use a wheelchair – but he didn’t have one with him on his bike. So we had to agree to meet him (and Jochen, who would go with him) at the cafeteria which was easier to reach and Hartmut and I would walk through the park (which included stairs). I felt the woman at the reception was rather unfriendly and unsympathetic to Uli. Oh well.

I was cheered up by this information on the wall. I always like to think that plants are grateful when I don’t step on them.

Grateful plants

There are various buildings which have artworks in, plus some antiquities.

Artworks

I have to say I’m a bit of a luddite where art is concerned and prefer old-fashioned stuff that looks like something I can recognise. The old artefacts I liked though!

Walking through the park we were less than a metre from a nutria (like a giant rat) which was very unconcerned by us.

Nutria

Nutria running away

Hartmut and I walked round to the caféteria where Uli and Jochen were waiting – with their bikes. They had risked cycling within the park and got away with it so far!!

Cafeteria

We set off for the next stage of our ride – a visit to the Hombroich rocket station that was just round the corner.

Uli and rocket station

Penelope is often mistaken for a rocket so I decided it was a good place for her to visit!

Helen and Penelope at Raketenstation

Rocket meets Rakete

At old rocket silo

Of course, as with pretty much any German place that I visit, there was a cake opportunity.

Rocket station four of us

I chose an orange cake. Hartmut had a spinach quiche rather than cake – most unusual! But he washed it down with a couple of beers so normal service was resumed.

Helen and Hartmut with cake

Jochen also enjoyed a beer.

Jochen and beer

Uli took this picture of me – I had emptied my Bag Of Things that I carry around with me so they could see how I have everything I might need when out and about!

Helen with bag contents

We rode back into a pretty strong wind. Not too much of a problem with the velomobile but harder work for the rest. They all came back as far as St Hubert and then Uli left for home. Hartmut and Jochen came for tea and an apple cake I had made for them.

Tea and cake post-ride

A really enjoyable day, a nice 87km ride for me (the others did over 100km) and some great company.

Fahrrad Stammtisch

Once again I attended the Fahrrad Stammtisch in Kempen. I really enjoy these events, a chance to chat to friends and eat a nice meal. I often order the Baklava dessert which is different every time but this time the restaurant Ela really triumphed – look at this wonderful fruit salad, including persimmon:

Baklava with persimmon

Here we all are in a photo from Uli’s camera.

Fahrrad Stammtisch

And here I am with Uli.

Helen and Uli

Life in Germany

Last month was quite sporty with squash and badminton. This month has not been so sporty, party because of the cold weather but mostly because of laziness on my part. I have spent some time making my Wohnung more of a home for me as I will now be staying here indefinitely.

My first purchase was a washing basket to replace the cheapo blue plastic one I had. I had spotted this in the supermarket Real and it looked pretty good. Here are all the parts when I opened the box.

Washing basket parts

I did a good job of building it and it is now in my bathroom and performing very well (if a wooden washing basket can be said to perform)

Washing basket completed

My second purchase was a chest of drawers (known as an Apotheke Schrank, chemist’s cupboard) from Dänisches Bettenlager, a bed shop.

Apotheke Schrank Box

I unpacked everything and found at the very bottom (naturally) the instruction leaflet. It was an IKEA-style leaflet with pictures which involve a fair bit of interpretation. But what was quite clear was that it said it was a two-person job and would take three hours. Yikes!

Apotheke Schrank instructions

Fortunately Nils (son of my landlady) was at home and clearly a bit bored as when I asked if he wanted to help me he jumped at the chance. It turns out it was his first furniture build.

Apotheke Schrank 1

Apotheke Schrank 2

Apotheke Schrank 3

Apotheke Schrank 4

The finished product fits very nicely in my bedroom.

Apotheke Schrank completed

Many thanks to Nils for his help!

The third set of furniture building involved a trip to IKEA to buy a pin board for my wall. I failed on the pin board (didn’t find one) but managed to buy several other bits and bobs, including two items of furniture which I assembled on my own.

I had measured a space in my kitchen for a large recycling bin (my current one has collapsed) but my eye was caught by this ‘Rollerwagen’ as some additional workspace as well as storage so I bought it and assembled it.

Rollerwagen pieces

Rollerwagen

And the last item was what I knew as a Billy Bookcase but is now a Gradby. I already had one white one so bought another (which showed that the first one had become rather off-white in the meantime…)

Gradby Bookshelf

This was to make space for my CDs which I had brought back from England.

A quick dash to England

My Dad’s a bit under the weather so I decided to pop over to England and visit my parents. Because I had quite a busy diary I decided to do two overnight trips and spend the Tuesday with them, so leaving Germany on Monday late afternoon and getting back around Midday on Wednesday. This was taking the Hoek van Holland to Harwich ferry which is the luxury option!

Ferry cabin

And I was very organised this time with a flask of tea and a fake Snickers to eat before the sailing.

Ferry supplies

The first surprise was that when arriving at the UK border every car was individually checked. This was very quick for me as I had the load area open and it was clear I had no passengers. I guess they were checking for the escaped Belgian man who had masterminded the Paris attacks.

Arriving UK border

I arrived in the UK at 6:45am so drove to my house and swapped cars with James (I will now be using my Audi). I also loaded up all the things I was going to take back to Germany including lots more CDs, a few items of furniture, bike tools, car tyres and more.

Pile of things to take back to DE

Car full of stuff

After a quick visit to Colchester to M&S for the traditional expatriate underwear purchasing session it was time to drive to my parents’ north of Ipswich.

It was lovely to see them and have a good chat. Mum had made us a curry too!

Curry with parents

Followed by the quintessential British dessert, a trifle.

trifle

Here I should mention that I actually made a trifle in Germany for Klaus, Claudia and Lara. It was tricky as I couldn’t find trifle sponges, there was no strawberry jelly (only raspberry which I don’t like as much), and they don’t have double cream. At least I had some custard left over, and was able to buy some fruits of the forest to go in it. Anyway, they seemed to like it.

Helen's Trifle

So back to England. I had a very enjoyable time with my parents catching up and generally chatting. We also had some cake of course.

The weather was really abominable with very strong winds. I checked the forecast for my ferry crossing back – rather exciting!

Gale forecast

The reality was that the captain on the ferry said it was Force 9 gusting to 11!!!

Anyway, I gave myself plenty of time to get to Harwich and popped into Morrisons the Supermarket in Harwich to buy some supplies (more teabags of course, custard, some English newspapers for friend Uli, some biscuits for Christine etc).

I joined the queue for the ferry, expecting us to be let on at 21:00.

Queue for ferry

Sadly this was not the case – the ferry had been delayed sailing over from NL (no great surprise due to the huge headwind it must have experienced) and we didn’t load until 22:30. The boat was really rocking as we drove on too, which is unusual – it’s usually steady as a rock!

I expected a difficult night’s sleep due to the huge waves and wind but the reality was it was fine, I slept very well and of course due to the ferry delay was not woken up at too ungodly an hour (7:30am instead of 6am). There was another delay at the border in NL where they were checking cars again, but I was eventually on my way back to Kempen.

When I arrived home Poppy was delighted to see her favourite car again.

Poppy helping unpack car 1

She had to check all the seats are as comfortable as she remembered.

Poppy in car

Despite a lot of travelling (350 miles, two North Sea crossings) doing a trip like this wasn’t particularly tiring and it was enjoyable. Last-minute ferry prices are a bit scary so I have bought a lot of crossings for 2016 with a special offer and I can change or cancel them free of charge if I don’t need them so hopefully I can make use of them when I next want to visit my parents. I’ll be back there again at Christmas of course.

Anja (Mrs Jochen) has a birthday party

I was very pleased to be invited to Jochen’s wife Anja’s 40th birthday party, which would be the traditional German barbecue outside.

Jochen was in charge of the barbecue all night and did an excellent job!

Jochen's party him barbecuing

I brought along some Apple Roses I had made.

Jochen's party apple roses

In a brief break from his Grilling Jochen came and sat with us and wore a strange cake table decoration on his head.

Jochen's Party Jochen with cake hat

Hartmut appropriated one of Anja’s presents…

Jochen's Party Hartmut 40

And Andreas demonstrated his self protection for walking around Krefeld at night (yes, this is allowed in Germany, unlike in England).

Andreas with knife

It was a great party and another enjoyable chance to chat to chums.

Rolf’s silver wedding celebrations

Sometimes the world is full of strange coincidences and happenings. Getting to know Rolf is one of these. I first met him in Manningtree in the UK but a year later moved to within 30km of his house and he has extended his hospitality to me many times.

He and his wife Petra were celebrating 25 years of marriage and I was invited. The event was a lunch after a church service at the evangelische Kirche in Waldniel but I went along to the service too (in the Velomobile), and really enjoyed it. Rolf’s wife and daughters are all extremely musical, as evidenced by this piece of equipment that was played during the service.

Rolf's event harp feet

Rolf's event harp

The church hall was filled with friends of Rolf and Petra, which included Adelheid from the Süchteln choir (we had already discovered we both knew Rolf) and HaJo the velomobile rider who I met at HBK last year. He was accompanied by Ursula, friend of Gabi who was unfortunately not able to come. I was the only person who arrived by velomobile which was a surprise.

Rolf's event seated in hall

There was an excellent spread of food!

Rolf's event cheeses etc

And cake.

Rolf's event cakes 1

I enjoyed this marshmallow cake made by one of his daughters.

Rolf's event marshmallow cake

It was great to chat to Rolf, Hajo, Ursula, Adelheid and others and wonderful to celebrate such a special occasion with Rolf.

Two concerts

November is the date of the Willicher Musikprojekt concert, for which we practice the entire year starting in January. This year it was Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Elias (Elijah) which was previously unknown to me but which I grew to like more and more as we practised.

The day before the concert we had a full rehearsal with the orchestra in the church in Anrath. Gudula my landlady came along to listen, as did Uli for a little while, and reports were that it sounded good. Certainly the acoustics in Anrath church are very good!

Anrath Kirche 1

Choir rehearsal

Here was the view from my vantage point.

Anrath Kirche 2

The actual concert was on a Friday evening and we met in a local Bierhalle for the warm-up singing before the concert.

Concert Einsingen

The concert went really well. Obviously I have no photos as I was singing but Klaus was in the audience and said it sounded really good and took this pic from his side-on view.

Anrath concert Klaus photo

It was great fun and I am really looking forward to next year’s performance which is Messiah by Handel (although in German).

The second concert was just a week later and with the other choir that I am part of, Sound of Joy.

Sound of Joy concert poster

This was in a church in Dülken that I had not visited before (inside anyway, I have visited the exterior of all churches in Kreis Viersen).

Duelken Church 1

Duelken Church 2

The concert was free of charge with a retiring collection for refugees and it went very well – the audience were so appreciative that we did two encores!

The following day we sang three songs as part of a church service in the Evangelische Kirche in Süchteln so it’s been quite a musical month for me!

Next month I will be going to the last of these concerts in Bonn:

Bonn Carol Service

Miscellaneous

At Klaus’s house I have infected them all with the tea-drinking bug as you can see from this photo of Claudia’s preparations for a nice cuppa…

Cups of tea at the ready

Claudia doesn’t speak English but we communicate fine. However, written communication can be a bit harder as I don’t get the tone of voice so sometimes I use a translator App to help with her messages. But you occasionally get odd results…

Amitava saha

Since when has feeling unwell been feeling Amitava Saha? And what the heck is Amitava Saha????!!!!!

Did you know that Germans don’t know the film ‘The Sound of Music’??? How is this possible! Anyway, I bought the DVD with English and German soundtracks and watched it with Claudia and Lara (in German eventually as the subtitles were too quick for them). They enjoyed it but I have to say it wasn’t the same having the songs in German…

The Sound Of Music

Tutoring

My Nachhilfe continues with Carole and also with the son of her neighbour who needs a bit of help in English. Carole often supplies me with cake!

Cake from Carole

I also had, for a very brief time, a teaching job in Essen with two PhD students.

Essen Uni

They wanted help with speaking English as part of their studies in Philosophy and their advert made its way to me via Christine. We had two sessions at Essen Uni which was enjoyable but then their Professor announced he would pay for their English lessons (they were funding it themselves) but with the Uni’s English teacher so that came to an end. But I think they may get me to do some proof-reading for them. I’m still doing proofing for various people but am not having much luck with proper job hunting. Due to the approach of Christmas I’m not doing much in the job-hunting department, I’ll try a bit harder in the New Year and will enjoy my free time over the next month.

Karneval

Karneval has started again and I went once again to Lara’s Proklamation for the children’s carnival prince and princess. Yes, it was as bonkers as last time!Proklamation ticket

Proklamation 1

Proklamation 2

Photo of the month of me…

I am regularly to be seen looking at my phone (of course!) and Klaus snapped this excellent pic of me when I was unawares.

Helen on phone

Last month Claudia got the excellent photo of me in Burger King (the ‘Hot Blondie’ photo!) so I am very grateful to that family for actually getting photos of me where I am not gurning!

Poppy goes on holiday again

Poppy has a fabulous life for a dog.

For example, she gets to regularly go for a walk to Aldi wearing her posh fluorescent jacket.

Poppy at Aldi

She is somehow able to snuggle under the covers when I freshly make the bed

Poppy in bed

She has an automatic dog food dispenser for when I’m out at feeding time so she can lie in front of it and try to force it to open through ESP

Waiting for food

And then she gets to go on holiday without me! Once again Gudula and Frank were travelling to Berlin to visit their son Lars and as I was going to be out for the whole day on the Saturday (for my birthday cycle ride) and they wanted to take her to Berlin anyway she went away for the four-day trip.

Poppy loves Lars very much and you can see that in these photos.

Lars and Poppy 1

Lars and Poppy 2

Here Lars took Poppy with him to University, to the Evangelische Hochschule Berlin, and she is sitting in on a lesson about Betreuungsrecht.

Lars and Poppy at Uni

She had a great time and was apparently very well behaved. It was extremely quiet here without her!

Cakes this month

Apfelmohn Kuchen

Apple cake 2

Carole Cake

Mini Gugelhupf

Orange cake at Raketenstation

pecan pie

Raspberry cake

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Penelope the Velomobile, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 16

July 2015

Cycling this month

Cycling Statistics for July 2015

July Rides

July Rides

Cycle rides this month

At the tail end of June and the beginning of July Claudia was off work and Lara was at a holiday club so we had several hours each day for cycling – and used the time well!

1 July – ride to Café Kornblume with Claudia

I have visited Café Kornblume just east of my house in Escheln several times for cake or breakfast and thought it would be a good place for Claudia to also visit – which leaving from her house would make a nice 56km ride. Here are the details on my tracking software VeloHero.

1 July ride with Claudia

We headed off north, following the Niers river and then at Abtei Mariendonk (somewhere I always seem to visit!) turned north east towards Escheln. We were too early for the café so stopped at my Wohnung for a cold drink (it was a very hot day) and to talk to the dog.

Café Kornblume is one of those places you are unlikely to randomly drive or cycle past as it’s not really on the way to anywhere but lots of people seek it out especially for its food.

We started off with a beer.

Claudia and beer

As it was lunchtime we then decided to go for the salad which was rather nice.

Salad starter

Claudia and Helen and salad

However, as we had arrived at a café that had good cakes it seemed churlish not to have one. So we did.

cake 1

cake 2

It was a really hot day, about 32 degrees, so being out on the bikes was the best way to cool off. Notice despite the heat Claudia is still displaying the recumbent grin.

recumbent grin

Overall it was a very enjoyable ride at an average speed of 16.4km/h so nice and relaxing.

1 July – To Krefeld-Forstwald with Klaus and Claudia

Klaus also wanted a chance to ride so after Claudia and I got back to their house I waited there until Klaus returned from a day sitting at his desk twiddling his thumbs in Mülheim. We had a plan to ride to Krefeld-Forstwald, the restaurant Forsthaus, and eat our evening meal there.

1 July ride with Klaus

The ride was 29.12km at an average of 17.8km/h. Here is the information on VeloHero.

We arrived at the restaurant Forsthaus which is pretty big and which very much promotes the all-you-can-eat buffet. But it’s 18€ or so – I’d have to do a long ride to work up an appetite before paying that much for food.

I was thirsty though as it was still really hot and asked for a large orange. I got what is almost a pint of the stuff!

Forsthaus orange

(You can see I look a bit perturbed about it – wondering what so much orange will do to my digestion? I survived though).

Forsthaus is an interesting place as the Biergarten is full of animals – lots of chickens and a cockerel and also at least eight peacocks, several of which were displaying for us. Of course decent photos weren’t easy to come by.

Displaying peacock

After our meal and a cup of tea it was time to ride back via Anrath. We stopped to talk to a dog (a young dobermann) and its owner who was pleased we had stopped and helped the dog get used to weird bikes.

We were whizzing along in the wonderful evening air although had to keep our mouths closed due to insect ingestion.

Speedy trikes

I had to stop for this wonderful photograph of sunset over the church at Vorst.

Sunset over church

4 July – Escheln loop with Klaus and Claudia

Before I moved to Kempen Klaus had developed a 50km round trip which happens to go almost past my house. I have ridden this a fair bit, as has he, and we decided to take Claudia on this ride with a small diversion to find some cake.

4 July Escheln Loop

The ride was 52.01km at an average speed of 19.3km/h. You can see more about this ride on VeloHero.

We set off towards St Tönis, deciding an early stop for cake was in order. Klaus and I had previously discovered a rather good cafe, Steeg’s Backhaus, which makes some very impressive cakes. So we stopped there.

Cake 1

Cake 2

Cake 3

I have often joked with Klaus that whenever I visit St Tönis I seem to bump into Hartmut who lives there and, lo and behold, he cycled past when we were sitting outside and noticed the three trikes and then us. Small world.

It was another very enjoyable ride with good weather (32 degrees and sunny) and excellent cakes.

5 July – to Café Poeth in St Hubert with Klaus and Claudia

Another day, another ride… this time the plan was to visit Café Poeth in St Hubert as they do nice cakes and Claudia had never been there.

To cafe poeth track

Our total ride was 46.48km at an average speed of 17.8km/h. Route on VeloHero.

We headed off on our usual 50km loop route. I had made the mistake of forgetting to replace my mudguards (which were back at my house) as rain was forecasted and in fact a huge thunderstorm arrived just as we were approaching St Hubert. We put pedal to the metal and went as fast as we could through the pouring rain, arriving at Café Poeth rather wet. They didn’t seem to mind too much though. I wiped the mud off my arms (from my front wheels) and then we settled down to some excellent cake.

Cake 5

Cake 6

Cake 7

By the time we had finished our tea and cake the rain had passed so we popped up the road to my Wohnung to get my mudguards and then headed back through Kempen. Yet another very enjoyable cycle ride and Claudia is very much getting the hang of cycling and cake eating!

6 July – to the Netherlands with Claudia

Despite several long rides with me Claudia still hadn’t been put off and was really enjoying the riding and the good endorphins so, once again, we organised to ride together whilst Lara was at her holiday children’s club.

We would drop Lara off (by bike) at 10am and had until 4pm so I decided to plan a rather more interesting route than normal and take Claudia to the Netherlands – she had never cycled there. I didn’t tell her where we were going, it would just be a surprise.

Reuver map

The ride was 67.68km in total and we rode it at an average of 16.6km/h. Click for VeloHero information.

We dropped Lara off in Süchteln and then took the obvious route out of Süchteln towards the Brachter Wald. Unfortunately I had momentarily taken leave of my senses when planning the route and failed to notice it went over the Süchtelner Höhen and on an off-road gravel path with traction issues. We made it, eventually. Very hard work for the first few kilometres, also because of the headwind.

But Claudia is game for anything with the trike now she’s got the hang of it so we continued on, her just following me, me following the purple line on the Garmin. A magical mystery tour.

I told her about the lovely fast downhill in the Brachter Wald (and that she needed to be able to stop at the bottom) and whizzed off ahead. She had a classic baseball-cap-blowing-away moment so had to stop to retrieve it and consequently didn’t get up as much speed as was possible.

We crossed over into NL but Claudia didn’t notice – it isn’t particularly obvious really except for slightly different road markings. We passed Weissen Stein where I have regularly eaten (and always found it too expensive) and were soon on the outskirts of Reuver. Claudia was delighted to discover she had cycled to the Netherlands – a new experience!

I’ve done this route five or six times with Klaus but had just plotted it afresh and it turned out my route took us through the centre of Reuver (his route is much more scenic). This was a bit annoying to me as it was slower but Claudia liked to look at the houses and the front gardens and the people we pass.

We arrived soon enough at the Maas ferry that crosses to Beesel and cycled on.

Reuver ferry

The view from the ferry – another beautiful day with sunshine which made the water look very blue.

Maas river

From Beesel it’s a lovely fast ride along the side of the river and we found it very interesting how different the heights of the maize crops were growing along the river. Different breeds? Different planting times? No idea, but there was a huge variety.

When I ride this with Klaus we usually go to Venlo but I felt that would take a little too long and so it would be better to cross the Maas again at Steijl and then head back to Kaldenkirchen.

We had to wait for the ferry at Steijl so asked a passing chap to take a photo of us.

Helen and Claudia crossing Maas

We also took quite a few selfies – this is apparently also the word for it in German. However the selfie camera on my iPhone is a bit pants so none of the pictures are good enough for my high quality blog 😉

The route between Steijl and Kaldenkirchen involves cycling along a Landstraße but it is a relatively painless way of climbing up the hill into Germany again so we managed it without any issues. We had planned to get some food in Steijl but didn’t find anything suitable and it’s pricey and less tasty in NL anyway so I suggested we pressed on a few more kilometres to Kaldenkirchen where I knew of a very good Eiscafé. Claudia agreed.

We arrived and sat down and Claudia ordered a filled roll. I, with far more experience in such matters, ordered a waffle with kiwi and strawberries. After Claudia saw mine she had to order one too.

Claudia and Waffle

We enjoyed our waffle, relaxing in the sunshine in Kaldenkirchen, and then headed back along the lovely smooth Bahnradweg to Viersen. Another lovely day and another very impressive ride from Claudia who is relatively new to recumbent triking but is managing long distances at a decent speed already!

8 July – to Straelen with Claudia

Two days after our long trip to the Netherlands (which had left Claudia rather pooped) she had regained enough energy to come back for more… this time a trip to Straelen.

Straelen map

This was 67.39km in total at an average speed of 16.1km/h. VeloHero.

I had ridden this back in November 2014 with Klaus, Claudia and Lara and so decided to redo the same route as it was on nice quiet roads. We headed up the western track at a reasonable speed with an eye on the rainclouds in the distance. Rain was forecasted but we were hoping we might be able to miss it with our lunch stop at Straelen – and indeed we managed this, with the drizzle starting as we arrived in Straelen.

To discover there was some kind of massive flea market taking place and all the pedestrian areas were covered with people selling junk (like a car boot sale) and, now, getting concerned about the rain.

Straelen Flohmarkt

We were more concerned about finding somewhere outside to sit which had some shelter but were lucky that some people moved from a table under a giant umbrella at the café in the centre of Straelen.

Claudia ordered a slice of strawberry tart.

Straelen cake 1

I ordered a Strawberry Slice with cream.

Straelen cake 2

Here we are with the obligatory selfie. I seem rather surprised by the amount of cream on my cake.

Surprising Straelen cakes

We finished our cake and tea but it was still drizzling a bit. Oh well, we needed to head back to collect Lara so put on our jackets and headed off.

The route back went to Wachtendonk and so I decided to do the tiny detour to the weird little ferry that crosses the Niers.

On Wachtendonk ferry

Claudia powered us across and I turned the wheel so we returned back again.

On Wachtendonk ferry 2

After all these exertions we felt in need of some more sustenance. Fortunately the Grefrath Pancake House was just a short diversion away so we headed for that.

Because we had already had cake something more savoury was called for – so we went for the soup in a bread loaf.

Soup in bread

I dunno if it’s just me but two of these together look like a pair of boobs.

Soup boobs

There was actually a rather disappointing lack of soup in there, just a couple of spoonfuls, but the bread filled a gap.

Selfie with soup

We now had the energy for the 10km back to Viersen so off we went. Another great ride and more experience for Claudia in recumbenteering. The Recumbent Grin was still regularly in evidence.

20 July – ride with Lara-R to Geldern

Friend Babs bought me a copy of the book Hereinspaziert 2015 which contains lots of vouchers for buy one, get one free cakes in the Niederrhein area.

Hereinspaziert

Two of the cafés are in Kreis Viersen (one of which is Hofcafé Alt Bruch) but the other 21 are in Kreis Kleve, north of Kempen – not somewhere that I tend to visit that often by bike (as I am so often starting in Viersen in the south). But now that would all change as I had a book with free cake vouchers!

So the plan today was to go for a cycle ride with Lara who I live with. She had a swimming competition in the evening so didn’t want to cycle too far so I planned a 42km ride to Geldern to take in a café.

Ride with Lara

I took Penelope for this ride and it ended up 45.85km at 20.9km/h. VeloHero.

As the café in Geldern was only 15km away I devised a circuitous route to get there that went via Wachtendonk and the outskirts of Straelen. Just past Wachtendonk we went to visit the little Niers ferry again as Lara hadn’t seen it before – but it involved a bit of off-road to start with.

Penelope off road

Lara powered us across the river and back again. What it is to be young and fit. Here are our bikes waiting patiently.

Bikes at Wachtendonk ferry

Kreis Kleve isn’t that well known to me but I thought it had no Knotenpunkte. I was wrong, there are some that are for specific routes it seems.

Knotenpunkte

Our destination was Landcafé Steudle. When we arrived there was only one other customer but there was a good choice of cakes. First of all I handed over my voucher – which would give us one free cake and coffee/tea. Bargain!

Landcafe Steudle

I chose a lovely light chocolate mousse cake.

Helens Cake

Lara had a rhubarb pie.

Laras cake

And here is the now-obligatory selfie.

Cakes selfie

It was a nice café although rather out of the way which may have explained the lack of visitors on a Monday morning. Still, we had good food and it looks like a nice place to return to someday.

We rode back through some drizzle, pedalling well along faster roads going through Nieukerk and then Eyll, Stenden and home. I had planned to stop at a bakery to get some bread for lunch but didn’t find one after Nieukerk so had to continue on into St Hubert.

It was a very enjoyable day’s ride, the first long ride in Penelope for several weeks (it’s been too hot) and I am doing the same again tomorrow, meeting friend Anja in Kevelaer for cake, again using a voucher from the book. I see a challenge coming – to visit all the voucher cafés. But some are a 140km round trip…

21 July – Kevelaer Twisteden with Anja

Anja has a new job in Goch so was ideally situated to join me for a tea and cake from my cake book Hereinspaziert 2015, especially as on Tuesdays she finishes at 14:30. So we arranged to meet at one of the several cafés near Goch, picking one that was south of Goch so that I didn’t have too far to ride – it ended up as 64.13km at an average of 21.5km/h.

Twisteden track

Anja would be travelling there by car, I decided to take Penelope (despite it being quite a hot day). For some variety I cycled a bit through the Netherlands.

Here I am arriving at Arcen, on the border.

Arcen

Cycling facilities are great in Germany but you don’t see roads like this very often – with two wide cycle strips each side.

NL road

We were aiming to meet at Café zum Schafstall at 3pm but I was ten minutes early so had a look at the cakes and ordered a cup of tea (well, Teewasser mit Milch, and added my own teabag).

Cafe Schafstall

Cafe Schafstall 2

I sat outside in the sunshine and soon enough Anja appeared. We showed them our Gutschein (voucher for a free cake) and then made our choices.

Cafe Schafstall Gutschein

I had this Stachelbeerkuchen (Gooseberry cake)

Stachelbeerkuchen

Anja went for the Erdbeerschmandkuchen – strawberry creamy stuff.

Erdbeer Schmand Kuchen

She liked it so much she had a second slice. This impressed me greatly as Anja is fit, not at all overweight, so I thought she’d be a single-cake-slice-eater. But no! She definitely got into the spirit of the cake eating.

Here we are advertising the book that provides all these vouchers.

Helen and Anja

We had a very enjoyable two hours there eating cake, drinking tea and chatting, and then it was time to head home – Anja in her car, me in Penelope.

22 July – cake with Christine in Escheln

It may have become apparent to you, dear reader, that this week in July is proving to be a cakey week. Indeed it is! I appear to have arranged for a cake every day this week and, as an extra bonus, I have not paid for any of them! I have clearly developed an excellent network of friends and cycling partners who all seem keen to encourage my cake consumption.

Anyway, Wednesday evening I would be going to the Süchteln Choir social meal – by bike – so didn’t feel the need to do a long ride to a café. But Christine, my neighbour, invited me over for a slice of cake so I was happy to say yes.

Here is the track from my ride:

Route to Christine

Yes, it really was a 750 metre round trip.

And here was the cake we had (a slice of both each).

Christine's cake

And here I am with Christine after persuading her to let me take a selfie (not really her thing).

Helen and Christine

Obviously such a long ride was tiring but it was worth it for cake of course.

23 July – to Krefeld for cake with Babs

Another day, another cake…

For my birthday, as well as the Hereinspaziert book (which has the vouchers for the cake) Babs also gave me a voucher for a café very near to her apartment in Krefeld which served excellent cakes. So today was the day that I would voyage forth to Krefeld (hopefully avoiding the tramlines) and enjoy some cake.

Cake route

I’m not too keen on cycling to Krefeld as although it is technically a Bicycle-Friendly Town the paths are quite narrow for three-wheelers and there are also issues with tree roots pushing up some of the paths. I also discovered this interesting barrier on my route.

Velomobile obstacle

I found an alternative way across the level crossing but it did remind me why I tend not to cycle to Krefeld too often.

We arranged to meet at 3pm and I was most impressed to arrive at Café Liesgen just as the clock around the corner was striking three. There was a spare table outside so Babs and I sat in the fresh air and ordered our cakes…

Babs had a carrot cake which she says she loves.

Carrot cake

I had a ‘Strawberry Milkshake Cake’ which was very tasty.

Strawberry Milkshake cake

The café did vegan Donauwelle and also several gluten free cakes. It was a very interesting and cosy café with lots of homely touches.

Babs and I were there for over three hours chatting away – as you can see, we were having a great time.

Helen and Babs

At six thirty it was time for me to head off so I took a different route out of Krefeld which gets me onto a Landstrasse more quickly. This is less scenic but easier for the velomobile than weaving around trees on cycle paths in the town.

I used my voucher for my tea and cake so it was the fourth day in a row that I had eaten cake that someone else paid for. Excellent!

25 July – to Rolf’s in Schwalmtal

And to complete my week of free cakes… a trip to visit Rolf in Schwalmtal again, and he provided cake!

However, this time I also brought some scones along, as well as Tiptree jam and clotted cream (that I had frozen following my visit to the UK in June – it defrosted fine).

Friday Rolf Track

I arrived first but Gabi’s husband Achim soon arrived in his Strada velomobile. Gabi and friend Ursula (who I met at Spezi in 2014) then arrived on their recumbent two-wheeled bikes. They had all ridden from Bonn.

This was Ursula’s fantastic new Zox bike. Very swish!

Ursula's Zox 1

Ursula's Zox 2

And this is Gabi’s Challenge Fujin. The first time I’ve seen her riding something other than her Quest velomobile.

Gabi's Challenge

We settled down to the scones.

Scones

And the cake that Rolf and his wife had made – cherry or gooseberry.

Cakes

Gabi and I discovered that clotted cream went very well with the cake too, after we had finished the scones.

Cake and clotted cream

Here we are relaxing.

Cyclists at Rolfs

Once again it was lovely to catch up with Rolf, Gabi, Achim and Ursula. It was just a 60.8km round trip for me and a rather hot day for Penelope – I only averaged 20.4km/h for the route. But it was good fun as always!

26 July – a trip to Streithöfe in Willich

Claudia and Klaus returned from their week’s holiday on the Baltic and both felt the need to do some riding… so we arranged to cycle on Sunday afternoon. An original half plan was to go to the very nice café in Uerdingen but we decided in the end that that would be too far so instead headed off to Landcafé Streithöfe near Willich.

26 July track

Off we went without a track to follow, Klaus was just making it up as he went along, but he’s familiar with this area so chose us a good route.

Two trikes

Recumbent grin

Recumbent grin 2

We arrived at Streithöfe and parked in the Hof.

Three trikes at Streithoefe

Streithöfe is somewhere I have been several times when meeting Babs. Despite Klaus and Claudia having passed it thousands of times (as they said), they had never sampled its cakes. So we were glad to rectify that omission.

Windbeutel

Strawberry cream cake

We had an enjoyable hour there relaxing and eating cake. Then it was time to head back, this time via Mönchengladbach Airport. We had a look at some of the old timer aeroplanes there.

Dornier Do 27B-1

That’s a Dornier Do 27B-1 apparently.

There is a viewing platform which I trotted up. The metal grill underfoot was a bit scary with my cleats but I managed it without getting stuck.

Planes from above

My fellow cyclists were lazy and stayed on their trikes!

Trikes from above

Total distance was 47.54km and we rode it at an average speed of 19.7km/h which is very impressive for the recumbent trikes, especially for Claudia who is relatively new to triking.

Events this month

A visit to the Eifel

The weather was really hot in Germany at the beginning of July and on the 6th July the forecast was for 37 degrees – too hot to do anything! Klaus suggested that we all go to the Eifel where it would be cooler. Claudia’s brother Andreas was visiting and we wanted to do something interesting for him so we all hopped into the car (with air conditioning, hurrah!) and drove the one and a half hours to the Rursee.

It was a good choice to leave the lowlands of the Niederrhein as the temperature gauge in the car suggested (note also the very apt song that was playing when I took this photo):

Tag am meer

There was additional amusement on the journey with this road sign for an excellently-named place. I may have to cycle there one day.

Titz

The Rursee is absolutely beautiful, as you can see from these library photographs.

Rursee

Rursee 2

However, it was absolutely heaving with people.

Rursee

There was very little space for us to sit in the shade but we managed it. The others went swimming but I stayed put (no swimming costume in Germany) and enjoyed people watching, which is always fascinating.

Lara who I live with works at the Kempen swimming pool and sent me a photo of that – they have 5,000 people there that day!

Kempen Aqua Sol

I had a bit of an unpleasant surprise at one point when lying down on the blanket though whilst the others were swimming. I felt something crawling on my arm, looked down – and it was a tick! I managed to flick it off before it attached itself to me but after that I felt itchy all over. Fortunately we headed back soon after!

Although it was a few degrees cooler at Rursee overall it was most comfortable when we were in the car with air conditioning! It feels a shame to hide inside the house on lovely sunny days but 38 degrees is just too much.

Sting concert

Way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth Klaus told me that he and Claudia were planning to go to a Sting concert in Mönchengladbach and did I want to come along? I said yes and the tickets were duly bought… some time in January I think.

Well, the evening finally came around and Klaus drove us all to the Hockeypark at Mönchengladbach.

There was a bag check at the gates but they weren’t checking for weapons but umbrellas. How random!

First things first, Klaus needed to get some pick ‘n mix. That stuff is expensive!

Pick n mix

Then we found our seats which were surprisingly not in a row but behind each other…

Us at concert

Claudia fortified herself with a mystery drink.

Claudia and drink

The concert venue was open air so we were lucky the rain stayed away.

Sting concert 0

When the concert began I didn’t actually recognise Sting. You will see why from this photo:

Sting concert 3

What a terrifying beard!

Sting concert 1

He sang really well though – doing all the old Police favourites as well as some of his later stuff. But none of the Dowland Folk Songs that he did some time ago.

Sting concert 2

He played for two hours and I was really impressed by the quality of his live singing and the other musicians. All in all it was a very good evening!

A holiday in England

Months and months ago I had the idea to invite Klaus, Claudia and Lara to come and visit England with me and they thought this was a great plan. The date was fixed, my husband prepared our house for three additional guests (and Poppy) and all was sorted.

As Poppy was coming we decided to travel via Eurotunnel (also as Klaus has free diesel in his company car so the extra driving would not cost anything).

First of all Poppy had to have her anti-rabies worming treatment at the vet’s and he had to stamp her passport. This was done several days before we travelled.

Worm treatment

One of my tasks is to swap around my phone SIMs – English SIM into my iPhone, German SIM into the spare phone.

Phone SIM swap

We left at 6am for the drive to Calais Coquelles for the Eurotunnel terminal. It’s usually about a three and a half hour drive but one of the motorways in Belgium was shut so we had a delay of about half an hour, compounded by the fact that they reopened the motorway and so removed some of the diversion signs once we were on the diversion.

Anyway, we arrived at Calais, checked Poppy in with her passport, but found the queues for the car check in pretty long. In the end we missed our crossing but got the next one twenty minutes later without any problems.

Here we are on the Shuttle – a car on a train.

On Shuttle

And a selfie of us all…

On shuttle 2

We arrived safely in England and then it was a two hour journey along the M20, M25 and A12 to my bit of Essex. Klaus did all the driving and coped very well with it but he was feeling pretty tired by the end and was relieved to get to our house just after lunchtime.

We had some vague plans to do a few things in the afternoon but these were put on hold as everyone was tired (and James was out sailing for the day so Klaus would have had to drive again). So instead we spent some time doing puzzles – James has lots of different Rubiks Cubes (and can do them all)…

Rubiks

And Klaus cast an engineer’s eye over my grand piano and how everything worked, which he seemed to find very interesting.

Inspecting piano

We had booked a table at the Haywain, a local pub, for the evening meal. Klaus and Claudia had always seemed rather unsure about British food – the reputation of British food is pretty poor in Germany and although I’d cooked a few things for them over the last few months (curries etc) I am not sure this much changed their opinion. However the Haywain’s food is very good and I think they liked it. Klaus also risked some English beer.

At Haywain

We also went for some desserts – there were lots of traditional British things such as spotted dick and custard, syrup sponge pudding etc. James and I shared a syrup sponge.

Syrup sponge pudding

Claudia went for a chocolate tart.

Chocolate tart

They liked the desserts but found them very sweet and very filling. Which they are.

The next day, Sunday, was a mix of different things. We all went to my church in Colchester (although Claudia and Lara couldn’t understand the language) and then popped into M&S for some shopping, followed by a trip to Waitrose for the English Supermarket Experience. We bought some Waitrose Quark for a blind taste testing for Klaus later on.

We then went for Sunday lunch at my parents’ house. I had tricked my Mum into cooking roast beef & yorkshire pudding (hurrah!) followed by trifle, excellently typical British food which everyone enjoyed. My parents live in a house that dates from 1491 called Buckshorns and had a lot of repair work done several years ago, about which my father wrote an interesting blog post here.

The house has low doorways which cause James and me to regularly bang our heads but my parents are shorter so OK – as was Claudia, who really loved seeing the house.

Klaus and my Dad settled down to test some of Dad’s whisky collection.

Highland Park

We also enjoyed some homemade muffins and playing some card games. It was a chance for my German guests to see a bit of British life and they found it very enjoyable.

The next day was our first London trip – this time to Greenwich. This is because little Lara’s English text book is based on the Thomas Tallis School in Greenwich (which does exist) and she wanted to visit the general area of Greenwich.

First, though, we went for a full English breakfast at the Hall Farm Café in Dedham.

Full English Breakfast

Full English Breakfast 2

It was a very filling breakfast to give us energy for the trip to Greenwich.

Because there were five of us (and Poppy), and the train from Colchester is fearsomely expensive, we decided to drive to Greenwich.

Driving to Greenwich

Klaus says he never really got used to sitting on the left hand side at the front but without a steering wheel and brakes!

We parked in an NCP near Millwall Docks on the Isle of Dogs.

Greenwich docks

Then we walked down to the Thames, looked across at the Naval College, and then went through the foot tunnel.

Greenwich foot tunnel

There was an option to visit the Cutty Sark but with Poppy with us that would have meant someone staying outside, plus it was rather pricey, so we just looked from outside.

Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark 2

We walked along to the Old Royal Naval College.

Greenwich Naval College

From there we went to the National Maritime Museum.

National Maritime Museum

This wasn’t really Claudia or Lara’s kind of thing so after a brief look round they came outside and looked after Poppy so I could have a look inside. It was a very interesting museum!

Display of instruments

There was a huge map of the world on the floor and James, Klaus and I walked around showing places we had visited and then all stood around London.

Feet on London

As we were in Greenwich we decided we ought to visit the Meridian – its official point is in the Greenwich Observatory so we walked up the hill to get there.

View from Observatory

Interestingly, our iPhones didn’t have this as 000 00.000 for a technical reason that James understood (because the GPS on the phones uses a different datum known as WGS84). James and Klaus went to where their phones said 000 00.000.

000

I’d checked up on information about the Greenwich Observatory before we headed off to London and it was supposed to be free but it turned out the free area was actually very small. However, Klaus and I quickly popped into an exhibition about time. This one one of my mottoes!

Time is short

We were also able to go into the observatory and see the telescope.

Observatory telescope

Observatory telescope 2

The route out from the Observatory took us towards the Planetarium where James caught up with us.

Planetarium

There was an exhibition of photographs which were stunning. Klaus does photography as a hobby and was explaining to us how some of them were taken.

Claudia and Lara were looking after Poppy and waiting for some special dance thing to start (that was being filmed) on the area outside. They weren’t quite sure who was performing, and what exactly was going on, but it had been performed twice whilst we were wandering around the Planetarium.

Waiting for the music event

When we were all gathered together again we headed back down the hill, stopping briefly to stand on the meridian. Poppy is out of shot at the end of the lead!

At the meridian

When we reached ground level we headed for a DLR (Docklands Light Railway) station to get the train back to the car park but were feeling peckish so we stopped first at a Wetherspoon’s for some food – cake, mostly. I had an apple crumble and custard and the others tried it and liked it.

Using the DLR was interesting as we had two Oyster Cards between us but also several Contactless Credit Cards or Debit Cards which can now be used. It all worked pretty well for the short journey back to Crossharbour from where we walked to the car.

Conclusion about Greenwich was that it was nice but perhaps not a ideal venue for an eleven-year-old but the views of London from the Observatory were great.

The plan for Tuesday was for James and Klaus to go sailing in the morning and all of us go to the beach in the afternoon. The weather forecast had originally been all sunshine for the five days in England but had got less good with some rain forecasted.

Anyway, James and Klaus headed off to the boat and I went with Claudia and Lara to Dedham to look around the Craft Centre there. We spent quite a lot of time trying on their hats!

Dedham hats

Claudia bought the wonderful lilac hat for Lara – it is a Paddington Hat, we decided – Lara is very keen on Paddington Bear.

Dedham art and craft centre

We had a little walk around Dedham including the church with its Constable painting and a little look at the Stour river before heading off for tea and cake at Craft Nurseries.

We all chose a Cream Tea

Cream tea at Craft Nurseries 1

Cream tea at Craft Nurseries 2

Cream tea at Craft Nurseries 3

It was very tasty and of course very filling!

As we were finishing our scones we had a phone call from James to say that they were on their way back from the boat so we made our way home and got ready for our beach trip.

Some friends of ours from church have a beach hut at Frinton-on-Sea and they very kindly said we could use it, which was brilliant! Here you can see James standing in the doorway.

Beach hut

We had the beach to ourselves (and there is a lot of beach at Frinton), although this was probably partly because of the weather.

Threatening clouds 1

Lara went straight into the water, the rest of us faffed around a bit making a cup of tea in the beach hut. The weather was looking a bit ominous.

Clouds over the sea

It started to rain so we all went into the beach hut – except Poppy, we didn’t think a wet sandy dog in a beach hut was a good idea.

Poppy outside

James enjoyed the chance to sit down and relax.

James resting

The rain only lasted ten minutes and then it cleared up a bit so it was time to go out onto the beach again. Lara, Claudia and I all swam. The men were feeble and stayed out of the water, sitting on beach chairs and playing fetch with Poppy.

After we’d finished swimming Lara and James started making a very long drainage ditch from a pool of water by a breakwater…

JAmes and Lara digging

It became a multi-person job!

More digging

Whilst this was still underway my sister arrived with her two youngest daughters. Here am I with Anna looking out of the beach hut window.

Helen and Anna

The water channel was finished and worked very well!

Beach and water channel

Anna had bought a picnic with her so we ate some of that and then began to clear up. Here are most of us sitting on a wall.

On the beach

The plan was to have Fish ‘n chips at my house, so we drove home via the chippy in Ardleigh where we had a selection of different things.

Fish n chips

Klaus made the mistake of ordering an entire portion of chips for himself. He doesn’t eat much carbohydrate and felt a bit dodgy after the meal. Not helped by having a small portion of the deep fried mars bar (I had never had one before and thought it worth trying it – but I won’t bother again!)

Deep fried mars bar

The first thing you have to do with modern children when they visit is give them the WiFi password. The second thing is that they have to take selfies…

Three girls and selfie

It was a school night for Anna’s children so they headed off back home (an hour’s drive). It was good to see them all and interesting for Claudia, Klaus and Lara to have met more of my family.

The next day was London Trip Mk2 – this time to the touristy bits.

Once again we used the car to get to London, this time parking at Walthamstow Central and taking the Victoria Line underground from there. So we all piled onto a tube train again.

On the tube

The first stop was Regent Street where we walked down to Hamleys so Lara could have a look at the Paddington Bear toys. She bought a little teddy, as did Claudia, and they posed beside this huge bear. James and Klaus wisely stayed outside.

Hamleys

We then walked down to Buckingham Palace and watched some of the guards walking back and forth.

Buckingham Palace

When walked down Birdcage Walk and stopped to watch a marching band practising – and one of the soldiers was walking around without an instrument but with a huge bandage on his thumb. He was with the Trombone section and it looked as though even if he couldn’t play he still had to march! It was good fun watching them for ten minutes.

A little further and we were at Westminster Abbey, then Big Ben which had a lot of Sikhs with colourful turbans protesting outside.

Big Ben and demonstrating Sikhs

We walked past Downing Street and also had a look at Horseguards Parade.

It was definitely time for tea and cake and I was pleased to discover my cake radar, which is so effective in Germany, did not fail me…

Chocolate cake

Chocolate cake 2

Cheesecake

Nice tea service

Just down from Trafalgar Square isn’t the cheapest place to eat but it was good and we were refreshed.

We had a look at Nelson and the church of St Martin In The Fields and then hopped on a bus. The plan was to go to Liverpool Street station and then get a taxi to Tower Bridge but the bus decided to stop unexpectedly at St Paul’s (there was a road closure ahead) and we found ourselves directly beside the wobbly bridge (millennium bridge), so we changed our plans and decided to walk across the bridge.

Wobbly bridge

It was here that I took a photo of which I am very proud – with my iPhone. Click to enlarge.

London's bridges

I worked in London 11 years ago. Since then the skyline seems to have changed quite significantly. The Cheesegrater and walkie Talkie buildings are new.

Cheesegrater and Walkie Talkie

Here is a view back at the wobbly bridge, which we crossed, and St Paul’s.

St Pauls and Wobbly Bridge

We walked along the river bank. James and I were on the search for a taxi (we wanted them to experience a traditional London taxi) but of course none were around. We also fancied an ice cream but they were so fearsomely expensive we decided against.

We walked about half a kilometre before we found a road with taxis on – and hailed one. We all squeezed in.

In taxi

Our destination was Tower Bridge.

Looking across at the Tower of London I was struck by how much it was dwarfed by these new skyscrapers. 400 years ago the Tower would have been the biggest and most impressive building, I suppose.

Skyscrapers and The Tower

We walked across Tower Bridge.

Tower Bridge 1

Tower Bridge 2

I was interested in the juxtaposition between the old, old Tower and the new scryscrapers appearing behind it.

Tower and Shard

Tower and Cheesegrater

Tower and Bridge

We then made our way to Tower Hill tube station to get our two tubes back to Walthamstow. You can see some weary travellers here!

Weary travellers on the tube

We had a meal at the Haywain again in the evening – we were all completely pooped.

The next day we (excluding James) set off back to Germany.

Leaving for Germany again

Operation Stack was in place on the M20 which meant it was closed… the diversion delayed us so we missed our crossing but got the next one so were only 20 minutes later. Here is the view on le Shuttle.

On le Shuttle

And driving through Belgium we spotted another Kempen on the SatNav!

Another Kempen

All in all it was a very enjoyable holiday although rather busy! It reminds me why I’m not a big fan of London – too crowded – but it was good to do the touristy things with friends. I was happy to be back in the peace and quiet of Great Bromley and Escheln though!

Miscellaneous

You may have notice I’ve done a lot of riding this month. This is partly because the company I have worked for over the last ten years unfortunately went into Administration at the end of June so I am now unemployed. I’ve been doing some other freelance work (proof-reading of two Master Theses, for example) but am currently looking for a part-time job here in Germany. So I’m brushing up my CV into German form (with the help of neighbour Christine) and will start applying for jobs in September when all my visitors/guests have gone home.

This month my house became a temporary home for a fortnight for Peterson the Guinea Pig, who belongs to little Lara. As the family were having a week in England with me and a week on the Baltic I offered to look after him (for the Baltic week) and Lara here would look after him for the England week.

Peterson 1

Peterson 2

He had more luggage for two weeks in Escheln than I did for a week in England!

Peterson's Impedimenta

He is in the cellar in Escheln, up on a worktop so out of sight of Poppy.

Peterson in Escheln

James is coming to visit at the end of August for a few weeks so we have decided to do a short bike tour – the Ruhrtalradweg from Winterberg in the Sauerland back to my front door (the Ruhr goes to Duisburg where it flows into the Rhein and that’s just 30km from home). So I’ve bought the Bikeline book and also got a couple of free brochures which are very helpful. We think we’ll take 3-4 days to do it, so fairly leisurely (it’s 260km in total).

Ruhrtal Radweg planning

I also met a Canadian lady named Jill for a drink in St Hubert. She had contacted me through my blog as she had moved to Kempen from Berlin and wanted a bit of information about accommodation options. We met at Café Poeth and had a good chat – it was interesting to discuss the differences in food between Germany, the UK and Canada (she’s a vegan chef).

I’ve published this blog a day early (there is one more day in July) but I will be on a weekend holiday in Berlin so unable to update the blog. Next month you can read about my three days in Berlin, my favourite city.

Views this month

Sunset over church

Viersen sunset

On a ride to Waldniel I got caught in a rainstorm so hid under some trees.
In the rain 1

Rainbow 1

Menacing clouds

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

Cakes this month

cake 1

cake 2

Cake 1

Cake 2

Cake 3

Cake 5

Cake 6

Cake 7

Italian Waffle

Helens Cake

Laras cake

Stachelbeerkuchen

Erdbeer Schmand Kuchen

Christine's cake

Syrup sponge pudding

Cream tea at Craft Nurseries 3

Carrot cake

Strawberry Milkshake cake

Chocolate cake

Chocolate cake 2

Cheesecake

Scones

Cakes

Cake and clotted cream

Windbeutel

Strawberry cream cake

Black forest gateau

I have got into the habit of making shortbread for friends which is a bit dangerous as, obviously, I have to test them myself first…

Shortbread

A very nice pancake in Grefrath.

Pancake

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Penelope the Velomobile, Six Wheels In Germany

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 15

June 2015

Cycling Statistics This Month

Here’s a map of all my rides this month.

June Rides

And here are the statistics.

June Statistics

Rides this month

Alfie goes to Kleve

I had long nurtured a plan to cycle to Kleve (where Anne of Cleves, one of the wives of Henry the Eighth, came from). One weekday the weather forecast was for 35 degrees which is horribly hot – but when one is cycling on a recumbent trike the wind cools you down, so I decided to do a long ride. Train-assisted of course.

The original plan was to get the train to Kleve and cycle back, but when I set off heading to Kempen railway station (cycling due south to get to the station) there was such a massive headwind I thought it would be really tiring riding back from Kleve (also south). So I decided to do the tour the other way round, ride north to Kleve and get the train back (with the desperate hope that there wouldn’t be any train issues).

So here’s my ride for the day:

Kleve trip map

Although I live right on the border with Kreis Kleve I don’t cycle there very much, mainly because most of my chums are to the south in Viersen or St Tönis or Krefeld etc. But I was reminded how lovely Kleve is – the villages seem spread further apart and it feels a bit quieter somehow. There are also regular reminders of the Dutch influence on this part of the world – I had no idea how to pronounce the name on this bus stop!

Eyll

It’s very relaxing doing this kind of cycle ride – pootling along at a relaxing pace, following the little purple line on the Garmin, seeing very few other people (and those you do see say hello). It gave me loads of thinking time which was good.

I had decided I would stop for cake halfway so when I arrived in Kevelaer, a rather lovely town, I turned on my Cake-Radar and it didn’t let me down – I found an absolutely fabulous café which a great selection of cakes. I chose this amazing Straciatellakuchen which was really, really tasty.

Straciatella Kuchen 1

As you can see, my tea came in a nice china cup and they gave me a teapot so I was able to have plenty to drink. The orange juice was also much-needed refreshment as the temperature was now 32 degrees. I lingered at the café, not rushing on, just watching the world go by and enjoying my tea. After all, I was in no hurry – I had the entire day to ride.

Eventually I extricated myself from my seat and headed off. It was 12:30pm and the sun was really, really hot, but as soon as I got up a bit of speed on Alfie the wind cooled me nicely. I made good progress too due to the tailwind – it made me think I was a much stronger cyclist than I really am!

I rode through Weeze which is where Ryanair have their airport for Düsseldorf (which is a very long way away). Lara flies from Weeze to England regularly as she’s still brave enough to fly Ryanair; it’s a former British airfield I believe. Anyway, Weeze itself was small.

After Weeze I followed my purple line on my Garmin and it looked like it was taking me to ride along a Landstrasse (busy A-road) but I saw signs for a Bahnradweg to Goch which sounded like a better plan so I turned back and followed those signs – and had a wonderful fast section on lovely, smooth asphalt with no cars.

There was a lot of traffic though – dozens and dozens of school children riding home from school along this Radweg. It’s great to see how for German children the bike is just a normal method of transport to and from school.

I had soon finished the contents of my water bottle and decided to stop at a supermarket and buy some more. I happened to be in Goch and so popped into the local Edeka supermarket – which seemed to be full of really fat people. I was the thinnest person there! It was most odd as usually Germans seem much more normal weights than Brits, but it was like a trip to Asda in Colchester. Anyway, I was able to buy a bottle of water from a chiller cabinet and drank half of the litre straight away. Lovely!

Goch may have fat people but it also has a sense of humour – look at the name of this swimming pool:

GochNess

From Goch I decided to follow the cycle signs rather than my Garmin to have a hopefully more attractive route to Kleve than the Landstrasse one that I had plotted. And this worked well except I found myself riding up a rather steep hill (Asperberg) which was hard work in the 35 degree heat. And then the cycle sign pointed to the right, which seemed weird as the road signs for Kleve were straight ahead, but I obeyed the cycle sign.

And ended up on quite a detour. I think some wag had rotated the sign a bit. As after 2km I saw that I was going to intersect with my original-planned track and so was doing two sides of a triangle. And of course the cycle signs had disappeared as I wasn’t actually on a route. But I found my way to Kleve and was surprised to discover there’s a very steep hill down into the town centre.

I stopped at an Eiscafé for a refreshing ice-cream… except that no-one came to my table. After a fifteen minute wait I gave up and headed to the railway station – and lo and behold there was the train to Kempen already there! I dashed into the ticket office and bought my tickets – the chap said the train wasn’t leaving for seven minutes (Kleve is the end of the line). I manhandled Alfie onto the train, sat down in my seat and then realised I hadn’t pinged the tickets (you have to put them in a machine to validate them). The machine was on the platform, Alfie and I were on the train. I wasn’t sure if it was about to go so asked a group of ladies sitting near me and they said I had two minutes. So I hopped off and ran to the pinger machine to do the tickets and ran back. When I got back to the train I noticed one of these ladies was standing at the door ready to stop it closing if I wasn’t back in time. Very nice of her!

The journey back to Kempen started most inauspiciously with the family from hell (a woman and two very-badly-misbehaving children). I had significant fears for Alfie as he was in kicking distance of the very wriggly younger son but they actually ignored us and the family got off at the next stop. Phew!

The rest of the train journey back was very pleasant, watching the landscape at a faster speed but recognising places where I had cycled.

I arrived back in Kempen and rode the 5km back to my house from the station, making my total day’s ride 68.93km at an average of 17.9km/h. It was great fun too and I burned 1,600 calories according to my heart rate monitor and software. Which isn’t much for nearly four hours on the bike but shows that my fitness levels are a bit too high for real energy expenditure on the bike!

Alfie rides with Oliver and Klaus

Just the next day, after the Kleve ride, I’d planned to ride with Klaus as usual but this time to meet up with Oliver our friend in the Netherlands. I had planned an adapted version of the Knotenpunkte ride I had developed a few months ago (which I have still not managed to ride – going round all the Knotenpunkte on the border of Kreis Viersen, 150km or so). Anyway, one section of this was very unknown to me as it was around the Brachter Wald and Elmpter Wald (former British Army hangouts) and I thought it would be good to ride over there and check it out before I do the proper Knotenpunkt tour (if I ever manage it).

As we were going to Oliver’s general area I asked if he would be around and he said yes, he’d meet us for coffee at Weissen Stein and then ride with us as far as the Lüttelforster Mühle where we’d have a late lunch and be joined by Claudia and Lara, Klaus’s wife and daughter.

Here’s the track of the day.

Oliver trip map

Klaus and I set off from his home in Viersen and headed west to Boisheim, bagging a mill on our way. We arrived at Weissen Stein a few minutes early but Oliver was already there in his cool yellow Mango.

Oliver in Mango

We went into Weissen Stein and ordered some drinks.

Oliver and Klaus

I also ordered Poffertjes as I like them.

Poffertjes

We then headed off on our Netherlands section of the tour which Oliver had refined for me previously (he’d sent me an updated GPS track). It was a lovely ride along quiet roads and he did very well to ride slowly enough to keep with us – he is twice as fast in his Mango as I am on Alfie usually!

We stopped for me to climb on these giant lego bricks.

Giant lego bricks

This is such a familiar sight to me on bike rides – I’ve stopped to photograph something/climb on something/look more closely at something and my companions are patiently sitting there on their trike/bike/velomobile thinking “I wish she’d hurry up!!”

Oliver and Klaus 2

We were underway again with some odd bits of off-road but nothing too terrifying. And also a very impressive cycle path crossing of the motorway which becomes the A52 when it enters Germany.

Crossing the A52

We went through a few little villages – here are my companions whizzing ahead as usual.

Riding along

We were now heading towards the Meinweg National Park which turned out to be a wonderful bike-friendly park where you can cycle really fast (if you’re Oliver or Klaus; not if you’re me).

It was a wonderful fast, smooth road surface with almost no cars. Oliver headed off on his own ahead (very sensibly!) and Klaus also disappeared into the distance. I pootled along at a reasonable speed (for me, on Alfie) and eventually found Oliver and Klaus. Oliver had only had to wait five minutes for me! But it was a lovely ride and we had made up some time (we looked like we were going to be late).

We crossed over into Germany again and Klaus’s and my phones started working again – with messages from Claudia checking we were on time for our meeting at Lüttelforster Mühle. It looked like we would be late so I put the pedal to the metal and we whizzed the remaining five or six kilometres to the mill, arriving one minute late.

To discover that it was closed. Ah.

A quick bit of discussion and we decided to go to the nice little Windbeutel place at Hariksee, just 5km away. Claudia and Lara started up their car and headed off, we cyclists also headed off. I wondered if it would be possible for us to beat them to the destination and Klaus thought it very likely as the bike route is more direct and the car park at Hariksee can be a little walk.

As it was, Oliver Klaus and I arrived about fifteen minutes before Lara and Claudia. They had a bit of a walk from the car park (they’d chosen the larger car park) but still, it shows how bikes can be much more efficient for these sorts of journeys.

Oliver ordered a Windbeutel.

Oliver Windbeutel

I also had one of course.

We spent an enjoyable hour or so relaxing there with Claudia and Lara before it was time to head off again. Oliver was going directly home and Klaus and I planned another 30km ride, which ended up rather more as we realised we could go for 100km fairly easily. Se we diverted to Kaldenkirchen before taking the fast Bahnradweg from Lobberich back to Grefrath giving us a total for the day of 107.39km at an average speed of 18.2.

It was great to ride with Oliver again and it’s always good to share cakes/Windbeutel with Claudia and Lara. The chance to ride a longer ride was good for the legs too, and it was good to do a new, unknown section through the Netherlands.

Penelope goes to Xanten with Lara

Lara (who I live with) and I had booked a Friday when we were both free to go for a long ride together. The weather forecast was pretty warm so I couldn’t decide which bike to take – Alfie is cooler but Penelope is faster. In the end I decided on Penelope as Lara is such a fast rider.

I had plotted a route to Xanten which would return via the hill at Sonsbeck but with the chance to climb the Aussichtsturm and enjoy the views.

Xanten trip map

We set off very early as the forecast was for it to get very hot. Lara’s a very fast cyclist and the route was actually quite a lot of Landstrassen (fast A-roads) so we kept up a good pace. We got to Xanten pretty quickly without stopping on the way. We sat down at Eiscafé Santin in Xanten – our bikes were surrounded by lots of Carbon Bling.

Xanten 1

It turns out that the Eiscafé in Xanten has its own cycling club with matching blue jerseys – well, they meet at the Eiscafé before their rides and the café seem to sponsor their jerseys. There were a lot of very skinny, fit-looking pensioners in the group – and one lady that we saw. Lots of them came over to Penelope to peer inside.

I ordered an ice cream of course.

Xanten Eis

We stopped for about half an hour and then, mindful of the weather forecast (it would continue to get hotter), we decided to head back.

I had planned the route to go past Sonsbeck and the Aussichtsturm (viewing platform) which I had visited on my previous ride to Xanten with the ADFC. Of course it involves riding up a hill… which is no fun in Penelope, particularly on a hot day. Here is the view of the hill from the cockpit as I approached.

Sonsbeck Hill

Yes I know that doesn’t look very hilly but, believe me, when you live in the flat Niederrhein area, any hill is annoying.

However, I have not reached my vast age without learning some cunning tricks. “Lara,” I said, “Would you like to ride Penelope for a bit?”

“Sure!” she replied.

So I parked Penelope at the bottom of the hill, got out, hopped onto Lara’s upright bike, sorted her out in Penelope and off we went.

Lara rides up hill

Since my visit to Ligfietsshop Tempelman in January I have reduced the height of the seat in Penelope and Lara hadn’t ridden her since. It turns out that Lara can’t now really see out when sitting back in Penelope so she rode rather a weaving path up the hill, unable to see the cycle path in front of her.

As you can see, it’s as hilly as Switzerland!

Sonsbecker Schweitz

Lara is incredibly fit – she’s brilliant at all sports, wins lots of swimming competitions including open water swimming, and is deadly fast on her bike. And she does all this without breaking a sweat. But not any more – in Penelope the oven, riding at 10km/h up a long hill, she was getting decidedly overheated. I consider it one of this month’s triumphs that I got her to actually work hard at some sporting endeavour!

I weaved a very odd course on her bike as I’m not used to uprights and don’t like the way they lean round corners. But we made it to the top of the hill, Lara riding about 1.5km in Penelope overall, and then it was time to expend even more energy to climb the tower.

The website explains the tower as such:

Der Aussichtsturm auf dem Dürsberg, eine Holzkonstruktion aus dem Jahre 1981 ist eine einmalige Attraktion am unteren Niederrhein. 154 Stufen führen zur Aussichtsplattform, die ca. 100 m über NN liegt.

Von hier aus hat man einen herrlichen Panoramablick über weite Teile des unteren Niederrheins.

In other words, the Dürsberg Viewing Platform was constructed in 1981 out of wood. It has 154 steps to the platform which is 100 metres above sea level (no idea how high it actually is to climb).

Notably, it was lovely and cool at the top with the wind. And the views were fab!

View towards Xanten

View towards Sonsbeck

The bikes were a long way down.

Looking down at bikes

Here is Lara at the top. It would be all downhill from here so we were both looking rather cheerful.

Lara at the top

We were both pretty warm after our cycling and tower-climbing exploits so shared the bottle of water that I had brought with me. We set off on a lovely downhill (we reached 51 km/h, me in Penelope and Lara on her upright) and then wended our way back in the direction of Kempen, riding through Kapellen, between Geldern and Issum and then Hartefeld. We were both pretty thirsty by now so decided to buy some water in Hartefeld but couldn’t find a shop. Never mind, we could get some in the next town which is Nieukerk.

Except…

Lara called out that she had a puncture when were were in the middle of nowhere.

We rolled forward another 100 metres or so as there was a farm building. We then stopped and I felt most relieved that I had picked up my spare 700C inner tube which we bought when James was riding Klaus’s bike. The reason was that Lara’s rear wheel tube has the Dunlop or Blitz valve that my bike pump doesn’t do. The Presta valve on James’s inner tube would be a bit thin but at least I could pump it. Lara didn’t have any tools with her, she was relying on me having everything with me (which I do), but the pump issue could have been a major problem.

But, a big relief, the puncture was in the front wheel which had a Schraeder (Autoventil) valve and my pump does that fine. This was very good news – we’d expected the puncture in the rear tyre as she had had two punctures in the last week in that wheel and had changed the tyre but the tyre wasn’t sitting properly. But anyway, it was the front wheel.

Puncture repair 1

As I’m much more experienced in puncture repair I set about changing the tyre and sent Lara off with my empty water bottle to see if someone at the farm would give us some water. The gate to the front door was locked so she walked 100 metres or so to another house with builders outside; it was rather unfortunate that the house had no running water because of the building works! A builder gave us a bottle of iced tea (which was very kind of him) and we said thankyou and were very grateful – but neither of us drink it! Lara tried a small amount but it wasn’t her thing either.

We took the front wheel right out and repaired the tube, which involved me giving one of my little lessons on puncture repairing. There was a very obvious sharp stone that had wedged itself in the tyre so finding the hole in the tube was not exactly a challenge. I got to use my new Topeak Turbo Morph pump which my parents gave me for my birthday and it worked really well! It’s a mini foot pump which is necessary for me as I can’t use two hands to pump.

With the repair done we put the wheel back in, discovered that the connector for her hub dynamo was rather rubbish (in fact it didn’t work properly – I fixed it later), and headed off again.

Puncture Repair 2

Lara wasn’t feeling too great because of the lack of water so we were pleased to find an Edeka supermarket in Nieukerk and buy a bottle of water each. From there it was just a quick ride through Aldekerk back to Kempen and she felt much better.

In total we rode 82.88km at an average speed of 19.9km/h. It was a very enjoyable day and once again it was great to ride in Kreis Kleve again. I must do more riding going north – which is eminently possible as Babs gave me a book on cafés with special discounts and most of them are in Kreis Kleve…

Alfie goes to Mülheim an der Ruhr

On the last day of June I still had to do 40km to reach my June target of 1000km so hit upon the idea, the day before, of cycling to Mülheim and cadging a lift back home again with Klaus (he sits at a desk there pretending to work). I’ve never ridden to Mülheim, or indeed seen the river Ruhr, so it looked like a good idea!

The weather was mega hot, forecasted to be up to 32 degrees, so I took along an extra bottle of water.

This is my track for the day.

Track to Muelheim

I planned the track on online cycling software and as I wasn’t familiar with this part of the world I was entirely at the mercy of the route planning algorithm. Fortunately it did a very good job!

There were a few sections of mild-off road but they were eminently passable in Alfie.

Off-road

We crossed the Rhein at Duisburg. I always get a good feeling when I see the river!

Crossing the Rhein at Duisburg

We crossed over the A40 motorway bridge.

Rhein bridge

This was a rather inconvenient bit of metalwork to slow you down for crossing the railway.

Railway Slalom 1

Railway Slalom 2

I’ve visited the outskirts of Duisburg before and it’s rather run down and unpleasant. However, this time I rode slap bang through the centre and it was actually quite nice. It had a very interesting church which seemed to be missing a steeple.

Duisburg Church

Eventually I saw a sign to Mülheim, although the distance wasn’t right for my trip (I had to ride 5km to the east for my lift home).

Muelheim sign

Duisburg and Mülheim are pretty much conjoined but I knew I’d reached Mülheim proper when I went over the Ruhr.

River Ruhr

I was surprised how small the river was – from all the wartime stories of bombing along the Ruhr corridor I expected it to be bigger.

I turned off fairly soon on the route to the industrial estate where Klaus works. He had warned me when I first started talking about doing this ride (several months ago) that there was a whopper of a hill to climb from the centre of Mülheim to where he works, virtually in Essen. And he said it again when we made the arrangements for today – did I realise how long a hill it was? So I was well prepared and had left myself with loads of time, but actually the hill wasn’t thaaaaat bad. Just long and slow, I twiddled up in my middle ring, about fourth gear on the Alfine hub, with no real issues. It was a hot day and I didn’t want to go too fast but the hill was fine. You can see it on this elevation profile of my ride.

Hill profile

I was 20 minutes early so rather than going straight to Klaus’s workplace (he was in a meeting until four) I stopped off at a little drinks vendor to buy an ice cream – I definitely deserved it. I had a chat with the lady running the shop who was retiring in a month’s time. She thought, like so many other people, that I come from the Netherlands because of my British accent speaking German.

With a few minutes to go I headed off downhill to Klaus’s workplace, left Alfie outside and signed myself in for the minute I waited in reception until my taxi appeared. Alfie was folded and stowed in his boot and then I had a nice air-conditioned drive back to Viersen, from where I cycled home again.

Total distance for this ride (the two sections – Kempen to Mülheim and Viersen to Kempen) was 64.16km at an average speed of 17.5km/h. On a really hot day it was lovely to be out in Alfie and interesting to explore a new area to the east of where I live.

Mill bagging

I wrote my blog post about visiting all the windmills and watermills of Kreis Viersen – and then a week later Klaus found a list of mills including 36 that I hadn’t visited!!!

These were mills that were converted to houses (or, in some cases, knocked down with nothing to see). I removed the destroyed mills from the list and then set about marking the positions of all the other mills I now had to visit. That is in progress now.

A ride with Tino in the basket

When Poppy was in Berlin (see below) friend Claudia was looking after her neighbour’s dog, Tino. It was a bank holiday Thursday and it seemed like a good idea to go for a cycle ride, but we had to take Tino with us. Fortunately I had Poppy’s bike basket so Tino was my passenger. He’s much quieter than Poppy!

Helen and Tino 1

This picture is most weird as Tino’s face seems to have merged with mine!

Helen and Tino 2

We rode to Landcafé Bruxhof in Klixdorf and had a slice of cake before cycling back (and bumping into four other recumbent trikes on the way back – most unusual!)

And it’s good to see that Claudia has definitely now got the Recumbent Grin

Claudia recumbent grin

Events this month

Poppy goes to Berlin

My dog Poppy has an awful life. She lives in a house with four other people, all of whom love her and pay her lots of attention. I work from home so she isn’t on her own that much – and if I’m out usually someone else is in. She lives out in the countryside surrounded by fields and woodland with plenty to look at. She gets regular walks and also goes out cycling. Most weekends she spends the day in Viersen with me when I visit Claudia, Klaus and Lara and gets to help Claudia with the dishwasher pre-rinse. She likes watching television and often invites herself downstairs to cuddle on the sofa with Gudula, Frank or Lara to watch the latest TV programmes. And then, this month, she got to go on a four day holiday to Berlin – without me!

Gudula and Frank had a holiday planned with friends which had to be cancelled at the last minute by their friends, so they had four spare days. They decided to go and visit their son Lars in Berlin and asked if Poppy wanted to come along. As the day they were leaving was 5 June, Poppy’s birthday, I asked her if she’d like to go as a birthday present. She said yes, of course!

Poppy goes to Berlin 1

So Poppy travelled with them in the VW Bus to Berlin, staying in Lars’s shared flat. Lars’s flatmate, Kitty, really hit it off with Poppy (Poppy already loves Lars completely and absolutely) and so although she was put in her crate to sleep the first night, Kitty sprung her and let her sleep in her bedroom.

It was very hot on the Friday so Kitty took Poppy to the Schlachtensee to relax by the water.

Poppy at Tegeler See

They travelled by S-Bahn. Poppy’s been on a train before with me but not in Berlin.

Poppy on S-Bahn

The next day she went cycling with Frank and Gudula.

On Saturday she hung out with Kitty and Lars.

Poppy and Kitty

Poppy and Lars

They sent me lots of photographs of Poppy in Berlin and the notable thing was that in every photograph after the first day she was asleep. I think she was exhausted by the excitement of a holiday in Berlin!

It was very strange at home without her – very quiet with just me in the house most of the time. But Poppy had a great time and behaved herself completely (apparently). I think Kitty wanted to keep her really but she had to come home to me!

Sound of Joy Choir Concert

This time last year I attended a concert in which Claudia was singing – and was thus introduced to the Gospel choir Sound of Joy which I subsequently joined.

This year I was singing with them as well – and heading off to England for a work event the next morning.

I got a lift with Claudia to the concert (having cycled to her house – and then changed clothes) which was taking place in the Johanniskirche in the LVR Klinikum, Viersen-Süchteln.

Johanniskirche

Here we are singing – we performed 11 gospel and other songs and the audience seemed to really enjoy it.

Choir singing

Gudula my landlady came along (with her mother in law) and took some photos too. This is some of the choir at the end. Including me.

Choir at the end

I went to England

Four times a year I return to England for a work thing and also to see family and friends. Because of the Süchteln Choir concert, and my birthday six days later, it was to be a short England trip (I wanted to be back in Germany for my birthday). Poppy wasn’t coming with me on this trip to make it easier – Gudula and Frank looked after her. But I did have a companion – Lara hitched a ride so she could visit some of her friends in Canterbury for a few days.

As usual for a trip to England I had a list of things to buy there and bring back to Germany but also a few things to take with me this time (as I have a large car). These included clothes for a wedding I am attending in August (when I will go by aeroplane but James will be driving – he will bring my suitcase) and, rather more surprisingly, a coolbox filled with Quark. This is because in early July I am having another holiday in England, this time with Klaus, Claudia and Lara, and Klaus eats Quark for breakfast and it’s not available very widely in England (and where it is – Waitrose – it’s three times as expensive as Germany). So as I was taking a coolbox anyway I bought six tubs of Quark and took them with me.

Coolbox Quark

Although Poppy wasn’t coming with us when I started packing the car she jumped in the back. She wasn’t very keen on being left behind – for three minutes, then she recovered!

Poppy in car

Lara and I left with plenty of time as my car is a bit long in the tooth and has a habit of overheating if stuck in a traffic jam on a long day, so we gave ourselves an extra three hours. And of course had an entirely uneventful journey to Dunkirk, three and a half hours of easy motorway driving. We thought it worth seeing if we could be bumped up onto the sailing two hours earlier so made our way directly to the ferry terminal and checked in. Only to discover there wasn’t a sailing two hours earlier (there isn’t one on a Saturday) and we now had to wait for three hours.

The first thing to do was to get some food. Unfortunately the Dunkirk Terminal passenger area is distinctly un-equipped. No Wi-fi, a couple of vending machines and toilets, And that’s it.

We studied the vending machines.

Vending machine

I chanced a cheese baguette. Which tasted of plastic.

Plastic sandwich

After the excitement of reading leaflets on visitor attractions in England we had another two hours and fifty minutes to kill. So the next plan was to go for a walk.

The only place we could walk was round the car waiting area. So we resolved to take a turn around the car park.

Car park view

This area came with some attractive sea views

Sea view

The fencing made us feel like we were in prison.

Let me out!

After the excitement of walking round the car park (and commenting on the different types of cars that the DFDS UK staff had parked in Dunkirk) we went back to the terminal for some refreshment.

Lara was a bit hungry now but the plastic baguette did not appeal. I had a banana that we shared and then I had a flash of inspiration and raided my coolbox – no, not the all-important Quark but a bag of biscuits from Griesson de Beukelaer meant for church. They wouldn’t notice if a few were missing.

Biscuits and foamy tea

I bought a vending machine tea. It was remarkably foamy on top. Scary.

Foamy tea

With all this excitement we had whiled away one hour. Two more to go.

The next plan was to watch a TV programme on my ipad. Unfortunately I had only got a couple of programmes downloaded (I don’t really watch TV) but we decided on a documentary about a woman who had a stroke-like event and ended up sounding like she was Chinese. Because of the bright sunlight we both sat in the back of the car and had the iPad on the armrest.

Before the end of the programme we were allowed to start boarding – oh, the excitement!

So we drove onto the ferry, made our way up to the passenger area, and had another two and a half hours to kill.

First things first, while there was WiFi it was catching up on Facebook and stuff. Lara borrowed my iPad and I used my phone.

Lara and iPad

When we set off properly it was time to have some more food. Unfortunately the sandwich-type restaurant wasn’t open and the main food area was fish ‘n chips and heavy stuff like that which we didn’t need. But a little coffee bar had a cornish pasty so I had that.

Cornish pasty

Lara splashed out on a sausage roll.

Lara and sausage roll

You’re not long underway before you can see the coast of England, so we decided to go out and have a look.

Dover in the distance 1

It was actually remarkably windy on deck.

It's windy on deck

Inside it was rather less windy but the windows needed a clean. The whole boat really needs a clean – it looks very sad and tired compared to the Stena ferries that take the Harwich-Hook of Holland route.

Inside looking out of front windows

We did a few Sudokus on the iPad and then Lara decided to take some selfies.

Selfie 1

One to show the effects of the wind when outside.

Windy hair

She used the time-lapse feature on the iPad, the video feature, and took dozens and dozens of selfie still photos. Here’s a screenshot from my camera roll on the iPad.

Thousands of selfies

Fortunately before the iPad memory was completely full we docked at Dover. I dropped Lara off at a waiting area (her friends from Canterbury were collecting her) and then headed towards London, taking the Dartford Tunnel to Essex. The A12 junction with the M25 was closed so I took the A127 instead – fortunately I know these roads well. I arrived at my UK home at 00:04.

The next morning I went to church as normal – Lion Walk URC is something I miss now I am in Germany. I distributed the chocolates and biscuits from Griesson de Beukelaer and I don’t think anyone noticed a lot were missing as Lara and I had snaffled them.

On the way home we stopped off at Waitrose – and they had Quark.

Waitrose Quark

£1 for 250gm is about 1,40€; the ones I had brought with me were 0,45€ each.

In the early afternoon a member of the church was hosting a garden party for a charity connected with the church, the Rob George Foundation. James had got us tickets so we went along for a gospel choir concert.

Garden Party 1

Garden Party 2

There was also cake.

Rhys's cake

Cake selection

And strawberries.

Strawberries

We had a good time and the charity did well too with a raffle.

The next day I was travelling down to Eastbourne for work but had lots of appointments on the way, including visiting my sister. She has this wonderful Sock Exchange board for when you end up with only one sock.

Sock exchange

I was passing near to Sevenoaks where my friend Charlotte lives so we met up briefly for a slice of cake.

Cake with Charlotte

I then continued on to Eastbourne and went out for a curry with the sales reps as usual.

Here’s the obligatory photograph of the Full English Breakfast at the hotel.

Camelot Lodge Breakfast

And here we are at the sales meeting – spot the Griesson de Beukelaer chocolates!

Sales meeting chocolates

And my boss had bought some Angry Birds Biscuits!

Angry Birds Biscuits

At lunchtime we went to the Beach Hut Café again. Here’s my burger.

Beach Hut Burger

And here’s the view.

Easbourne Beach 1

Easbourne Beach 2

I left the sales meeting at 4:30pm and headed straight to Dover which was actually a two hour journey because the roads are a bit slow. I found Lara at our arranged meeting place (a BP filling station near the port) and we headed to check in. We were two hours early and, rather fortunately for us, the previous ferry was running late so they put us on that one. We only made up an hour overall but that was a bonus!

Once on the ferry we started a Sudoku challenge. Which Lara won by a country mile. She was also well supplied with food this time.

Ferry Sudoku challenge

We were soon heading into Dunkirk harbour.

Leaving Dover

We had to wait a bit for the previous ferry to leave our berth – there it was going past!

Another ferry

Back in France.

Arriving Dunkirk

The 3.5 hour drive back was OK, although I am now in our Honda Jazz (for insurance reasons) not my lovely comfy Audi and it’s not as good at motorway driving. We got home at 1:30am so I was tired but the journey had been much better than last time I did the Dunkirk run as I had Lara as a companion.

I’m back in England in July (holiday), August (wedding) and September (visit and routine hospital appointment), each time travelling on a different route. I will be an expert about getting from Germany to England!

I had a birthday

It was not only Poppy who celebrates her birthday in June but also me!

I’d been in England a couple of days beforehand but wanted to return to Germany for my actual birthday (It’s kind of a tradition – in the last 13 years I have spent my birthday in Germany for 12 of them).

Anyway, the day started with breakfast with Claudia and Lara at Mokka in Viersen. The breakfasts are great!

Mokka breakfast

I then had Lara with me for the rest of the day (whilst Claudia went to work – Lara’s school was closed that day) and she helped me do a bit of sorting out of my Wohnung ready for my afternoon event… a cake party.

Yes, I know this will surprise regular readers of my blog, but I decided to throw a party where we could enjoy cake.

Two weeks before my birthday I sent out emails to eighteen friends inviting them over between 4pm and 9pm for tea and cake. I was delighted and really touched to receive lots and lots of acceptances, as well as offers to make cakes, which I happily accepted.

Anja dropped her work-of-art cake off on my doorstep at 7am on her way to work. It was great!

Anja cake

Gudula had also made me a huge tray of Donauwelle

Donauwelle

I (with the help of Lara and Lara) made a Banoffee Pie and I also made some scones as I had brought Tiptree jam and clotted cream back with me from England. Here is the table prepared before people started arriving.

Cakes on table

Lots of people seemed to come at once – and they brought more cakes! This work of art was made by Carole, who came along with her daughter Coralie (with whom I did some English coaching).

Carole's cake

And my neighbour Silke, who owns a Ferienwohnung over the road, bought this cake made with the Dickmanns marshmallow biscuitty things!

Dickmanns Cake

Lots of people came at once and several people brought me gifts, which I hadn’t expected at all. It was great that so many people came – in the end sixteen of the eighteen I had invited were there, which made me feel very loved and appreciated!

Here we all are, sitting around drinking tea and coffee, eating cake and getting to know each others:

Party guests 1

Party guests 2

Party guests 3

I was delighted that everyone came – and was amazed when Gabi appeared at my door. She cycled the 110km from Bonn to see me (bringing a present tucked in the back of her Velomobile), stayed a couple of hours and then cycled back 110km again. Nine hours on the road to celebrate my birthday with me! I was really touched.

Several of us went downstairs to wave her off.

Gabi leaves

Notice Jochen sitting on Alfie the trike. He had a go of the trike (after his unfortunate experience of not fitting in Rolf’s Mango) and so did Uli, another friend.

as previously mentioned, several people gave me presents which was wonderful – they ranged from a Music CD (Allegri – I love it), a book on cafés in Niederrhein with discount vouchers, an offer of a led cycle tour with lunch for me, a buff, some toiletries, a jar of chocolates and lots more… but Hartmut went for a very different additional item… matching pink shirts for him and Klaus.

Penelope shirts

Klaus wasn’t able to be at my party as he had to have a tooth out and was lying at home wailing with a cloth pressed to his mouth so Claudia modelled it instead. They are a matching pair, left side and right side of Penelope, which relates to which side the two chaps rolled my Velomobile when they borrowed it.

And this is on the back.

Penelope shirt rear

When I saw Klaus a few days later he modelled his one.

Klaus in shirt

He has worn it several times since so appears to have become reconciled, after nine months, with his velomobile-crashing experience.

Needless to say there was a fair amount of cake left over so I gave doggy-bags of cake to some of the visitors who stayed later and still found myself sharing it about over the next few days. But I had a brilliant evening and it was so lovely that people stayed for such a long time chatting and getting to know each other. Frank my landlord was also brilliant as he kept the tea topped up and ran the plates, mugs and cutlery through his dishwasher!

A visit to Tante Ju

Klaus and I planned a short-ish ride on a Sunday morning and when I arrived at his house with trike he suggested a visit to Mönchengladbach Airport as it was an open day for Tante Ju, the JU-52, as well as the special opening for the new hangar or something. It sounded like a good idea so off we went!

MG Airport is only 10km or so away from Klaus’s house but clearly when we got there we needed something to eat. Pancakes and Strudel seemed the best options.

Pancake

Strudel

And if we looked up from our food we could see:

Tante Ju

Tante Ju 2

Tante Ju 3

Tante Ju 4

BMW Engine

There were other interesting aircraft there too:

D-EKUM

This is a a CASA 1.131, a license-built version of the Bücker Bü-131 Jungmann.

Buecker Bue 131

A very shiny Cessna.

Shiny Cessna

Another JU-52 but not quite in flying condition.

Nachtigall

Is it a bike or is it a plane?

Bike or plane

And on our ride home, as a bonus, we got to play with this cool bridge over the Niers (except we couldn’t fit our bikes into it due to the whacking great metal pole across the entrance way)

Niers Bridge 1

Niers Bridge 2

Niers Bridge 3

My VHS Course finished

I have now completed the B2.2 Volkshochschule course in German. Here is Penelope on our last day in her usual parking place inside the Erasmus von Rotterdam Gymnasium, Viersen, being looked after by the school caretaker.

Penelope at Erasmus von Rotterdam Gymnasium

I could have moved up to the C1.1 course but unfortunately this takes place on Wednesday evenings, when I have my choir practice, so I have decided to take a break from the language lessons at the moment. It was good fun though and the teacher, Brigitte Dubrau, was excellent.

Odds and ends

On one of my regular dogwalks with Poppy there’s a ladder propped up against a tree (which leads to a seat area) which has been there so long the tree has grown around it. I climbed up for a closer look, leaving Poppy below.

Ladder up tree 1

Ladder up tree 2

It appears that I may be turning more German – I went to the supermarket and bought some Quark for myself!

Quark

I saw this fantastic drainpipe in Brüggen

Cool drainpipe

And this exceptionally large mousetrap near Dülken.

Alfie and mousetrap

The Queen did a state visit to Germany and there was quite a lot about it on the news. Lara and Poppy and I watched the Queen visiting Frankfurt…

Queen in Germany

We had a disturbed night at the end of June when lots of fire engines appeared at 2:30am taking water from the hydrant round the corner from our house.

Feuerwehr

It turned out that there was a fire at Spargelhof Goetzens, fortunately not in the main buildings or the animal sheds, but in a machine shed. Lara took this photo at 4:30am.

Fire and smoke

The next morning when I drove past at 8:30am there were still two fire engines there and the smell of ash was very noticeable. Apparently the main issue was a burning hay store. Fortunately no-one was injured.

Their report on Facebook was as follows:

dieses Jahr fand die Spargelsaison ein turbulentes Ende. Nachdem wir Mittwoch den letzten Verkaufstag hatten, brannte in der Nacht von Samstag auf Sonntag unsere Maschinenhalle. Mit Hilfe der Feuerwehr konnte eine Ausbreitung des Brandes verhindert und die in der Halle stehenden Kälber gerettet werden. Der Hof selber ist glücklicherweise nicht betroffen.

Bis zum späten Nachmittag waren wir noch mit dem Nachlöschen und den Aufräumarbeiten beschäftigt. Nun können wir erstmal durchatmen.

Unser Dank geht an die Helfer von der freiwilligen Feuerwehr.

Views this month

As ever, the Niederrhein area provides some wonderful views with its wide open spaces, wind turbines and church spires.

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

Sunset 3

Sunset 4

Cakes this month

Cake 1

Cake 2

Cake 3

Cake 4

Cake 5

Straciatella Kuchen 2

Helen's Windbeutel

Apple SLice

Cake 2

Cheesecake

Pastry in Viersen

Stachelbeer Kaesekuchen

Strawberry cake

Kirschstreusel

The Summer Holidays are here

July should be busy with a holiday in England with Klaus, Claudia and Lara as well as lots of cycle rides of course. In August I am having a weekend in Berlin with Klaus, Claudia and Lara (their birthday present to me) and flying to James’s cousin’s wedding in Exeter. I am also having another visit from Wowbagger and Mrs Wow (who came last year), as well as a visit from friend Ines from Berlin in early September. James my husband is also coming late August until September for a few weeks. I’m looking forward to more cycle rides and want to expand my range a bit – and maybe, just maybe, I’ll manage my Knotenpunkt Tour of 150km…

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Churches In Kreis Viersen 81-90

This is the ninth batch of church visits that I’ve blogged about.

You can read about 1-10, 11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-60, 61-70 and 71-80 as well.

Churches visited this time

Churches in Kreis Viersen 81-90

81. Neuapostolische Kirche Dülken
82. Evangelische freikirche, Dülken
83. Amern Evangelische Kirche
84. Evangelische Kirche Bracht-Breyell
85. St Anna, Schaag
86. St Peter Born-Brüggen
87. Kapelle Klein Jerusalem, Neersen
88. St Hubertus, Willich-Schiefbahn
89. St Mariä Himmelfahrt, Waldnieler Heider
90. Evangelische Kirche, Lobberich

And here are all the churches I have been to so far.

Churches in Kreis Viersen 1-90

81. Neuapostolische Kirche Dülken

Eintrachtstraße 54, 41751 Viersen-Dülken

Yet another Neuapostoliche Kirche – there are loads of them around here!

Neuapostolische Kirche Duelken

82. Evangelische Freikirchegemeinde, Dülken

Dammstraße 45, 41751 Viersen
http://www.paulussaal.de/

Another impossible-to-photograph church but it seems like there’s quite a lot going on there, judging by their website.

EK Duelken

83. Evangelische Kirche, Amern

Kockskamp 22, 41366 Schwalmtal

Amern Ev ChurchThis was a very unusual design of church but not one that I particularly liked! It also has the disadvantage of being up a hill so I was tired when I got there.

84. Evangelische Kirche, Bracht-Breyell

Lötscher Weg 1, 41334 Nettetal

This was another very unusual design of church which I visited with Klaus on a rather rainy day!

Bracht-Breyell Ev Kirche 1

Bracht-Breyell Ev Kirche 2

Bracht-Breyell Ev Kirche 3

Bracht-Breyell Ev Kirche 4

85. St Anna, Schaag

An der Kirche 7, 41334 Nettetal-Schaag

I often ride past this church but ended up photographing it on a very rainy day.

St Anna Schaag 1

St Anna Schaag 2

86. St Peter Born-Brüggen

Born 51, 41379 Brüggen

Another church I regularly cycle past – because there’s a rather nice restaurant/cafe just up the road from here! My visit this time was with my friends Klaus, Claudia and Lara and Lara is posing in front of the church to add some scale to the picture!

Born church 1

Born church 2

87. Kapelle Klein Jerusalem, Neersen

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapelle_Klein-Jerusalem

This is a lovely little chapel which I am told is well worth a visit inside. Unfortunately when I was there it was locked.

Klein Jerusalem 1

Klein Jerusalem 2

88. St Hubertus, Willich-Schiefbahn

Hubertusstraße 5, 47877 Willich
http://www.st-hubertus-schiefbahn.de/

I visit Schiefbahn regularly for my choir practice but I am usually in a hurry to get there so don’t stop for church visits. I was travelling through Schiefbahn in the dark on a ride (so not in a hurry) so I photographed the church then – but, as you can see, it wasn’t entirely successful.

Very dark church in Schiefbahn

This is what it looks like in daylight:

St Hubertus, Schiefbahn

89. St Mariä Himmelfahrt, Waldnieler Heider

Waldnieler Heide 20 41366 Schwalmtal
http://www.st-mariae-himmelfahrt-schwalmtal.de/

Waldnieler Heide St Mariae Himmelfahrt 1

90. Evangelische Kirche, Lobberich

Steegerstraße 39, 41334 Nettetal-Lobberich

EKIR Lobberich 2

EKIR Lobberich 1

So that’s churches 81-90 done and according to my records there are only ten more churches to visit before I complete the challenge of all the churches in Kreis Viersen, a very pleasing 100 (although it is possible I have missed one or two that i didn’t know about).

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Churches in Kreis Viersen, Cycling in Germany, Penelope the Velomobile, Six Wheels In Germany

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 12

March 2015

Cycling Statistics This Month

Here is the summary of rides I did this month – as you can see, not very many, only 224km!

Screen shot 2015-03-31 at 22.01.11

And this is where I rode – not very far afield at all!

Screen shot 2015-03-31 at 22.02.08

As mentioned in last month’s blog post I was hit rather badly with the flu in February/March which seriously curtailed my cycling and meant I dropped behind my year target (10,000km again), having been on track for January and the first half of February. But the summer is coming and that will make it much easier to crank out more miles!

Once I started feeling better in mid-March it was time to get riding again, slowly as a three week layoff means you lose some fitness (although I also lost 5kg in weight with the flu which was a bonus!)

I started with a very gentle ride with Klaus, Claudia and Lara. Claudia seems to be enjoying using my old Trice Q. Here are all three recumbents ready for the off.

Trikes ready to ride

I attended the monthly Fahrrad Stammtisch again (my first longer cycle ride since the flu, riding there with Klaus). There had been a bike exhibition in Essen recently and two people had visited the ADFC stand and found out about the Stammtisch so we had some more faces.

Clockwise from top left: Jochen, new chap, Uli, Hartmut, me, Klaus, new lady

Clockwise from top left: Jochen, new chap, Uli, Hartmut, me, Klaus, new lady

I have enjoyed riding Penelope with her cool new lighting – which gets an awful lot of attention. I also seem to ride faster with the LED striplights on!

Anyway, when I arrived at the VHS the other day I noticed a slight issue…

One-eyed Penelope

This means that Penelope was now technically legal in Germany (you’re only supposed to have one light) but clearly something was amiss. I sent the photo to Klaus and he suggested I pop round on the way back from the VHS and he’d have a look (he lives just 2km away on my route home). So I appeared at his door at nine at night and he quickly identified the problem – in the tangle of wiring beyond my feet a plug had come undone. He sorted it within a minute and commented “we’ll need to change this for a better connector”. I had had a bumpy ride to Viersen along a rutted cycle path so perhaps that’s why.

Anyway, the next day I rode to the Süchteln choir and when I arrived…

One-eyed Penelope 2

But this time, as I knew what the problem was, I was able to fix it – although I wouldn’t have minded arms about a foot longer to assist with scrabbling around in Penelope’s nose.

Two-eyed Penelope

My goals for my year in Germany

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning of the ‘Six Wheels In Germany’ time you may remember I set myself some goals for this year in Germany (which has now extended, of course). But did I achieve them?

Here is the list:

(a) Increase my skill in German from B2 to C1 (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages)
(b) Cycle to all the churches in Kreis Viersen
(c) Join a choir
(d) Get involved in some kind of cycling group in the area

With regard to item 1, the VHS did offer for me to go up to the C1 course after my first semester of B2.2 but the course was on a Wednesday evening (when I have my Süchteln choir) so I decided to stay on in B2.2 as I am still learning plenty at that level. So I think (a) has been achieved.
(b) Is still a work in progress but I have only about fifteen churches to go now.
(c) I have joined two.
(d) I joined the ADFC and ride with them, plus the Fahrrad Stammtisch and also lots of rides with Klaus. So I guess I have achieved that too. Hurrah!

And after a year in Germany, what is my general impression about the Germans – are the stereotypes correct?

Well, as you’d expect, the answer is ‘yes and no’. Some stereotypes are correct, such as the significant bureaucracy in Germany compared to the UK (you have to get your chimney swept every year, for example. This is recommended in the UK but not mandatory). I have also found that German people are generally punctual (which is good as I am too), and they eat a lot of pork and pork products.

What has been quite different than I expected is the friendliness of Germans – even those I haven’t known long. The fact I speak some German clearly helps but I have been overwhelmed by how friendly and hospitable people have been. When ill with the flu I realised I had at least eight different people whom I could have phoned to asked to do things for me such as do some shopping, although this was not necessary as my landlady sorted me out, but it was very encouraging to know I had made such good friendships in a relatively short time.

Having read a lot on Toytown (English-speaking expats forum) I had heard a lot about petty nitpicking from neighbours, strict adherence to pointless rules etc, but I have seen none of that here. Everyone seems laid back, helpful, understanding and not too fussed by the rules (such as not mowing lawns on a Sunday, etc, not that I have to do any lawn mowing).

All in all this has been a fantastic experience of living in another country and culture, improving my skills in another language and getting to know a diverse group of people among whom I count some really close friends now. In fact, as I said to my mother the other day (and I had a bit of an epiphany moment whilst saying it), it’s probably been the best year of my life so far.

People I’ve seen/Things I’ve done

Rose Biketown

I’m leading a cycle tour to SPEZI Radmesse over the last two weeks of April. It will be a group of five trikes (me, Klaus, Simon and Joyce from the UK and also Nigel, a very experienced long-distance triker). That will be four ICE Trikes and one Steintrikes.

Anyway, Klaus doesn’t have any proper cycling waterproofs (being German he used to just leave his trike in the garage over winter; I have now trained him better) so he thought for a two week tour he really ought to get some.

We live an hour from Rose Biketown, a huge German cycling shop with masses of stuff (although the clothing seems rather expensive). Anyway, Klaus decided he would go along and see what he could find and I asked to tag along.

This was on one of the days when I was still recovering from the flu so I was rather weak but I managed to help Klaus choose a set of very smart waterproofs (jacket and trousers), some overshoes and some socks, with occasional sit-downs in the shoes department to recover. Me, I managed to buy some socks and a waterproof bag for my tools – 15€ spent by me, Klaus spent rather more!

Here’s a view of Rose’s clothing section.

Rose Biketown

Interestingly, if you want waterproof jackets your colour choice now seems to be black, red, green or high-vis. Klaus went for black as the jacket he liked the best only came in that colour.

A Concert in Wiesbaden

I’m a big fan of Andreas Scholl the German countertenor and have been for seven or eight years. Usually I go to four or five concerts per year, a couple in the UK and the rest in Germany (combining the concert with a short holiday). Anyway, having been in Germany for a year I hadn’t been to any concerts but discovered he was singing in the St John Passion by Bach in Wiesbaden this month. Wiesbaden is about two and a half hours’ drive away so I thought it worth the trip.

I bought two tickets (I was sure I could find someone to go with me). The Alto voice only actually sings two Arias in the St John Passion, one of which I don’t really like, but I knew I enjoyed the whole Passion with the Chorales etc so it was worth the trip for me, even if there is only a very small contribution by Andreas Scholl.

I was all set to drive there but a couple of weeks before, when Claudia found out I had a spare ticket, she suggested Klaus might like to come along (and drive me there). She would have really loved to come as well but was entertaining her brother as it was his birthday and they wanted some brother/sister time together. Klaus, being rather a third wheel, was offered as a taxi service, which I gladly took up (I am not very used to long distance driving now).

So we duly set off southwards with the traditional boring Autobahn view for most of the way…

On the way to Wiesbaden

However the journey was a bit quicker than I was expecting as Klaus is not afraid to put the pedal to the metal.

Slow German drivers

We arrived with plenty of time to have a cuppa (I eschewed the lovely-looking cheesecakes due to Lent) and a quick evening meal before going into the concert.

Our tickets were in the ‘Orgelempore’ which turned out to be a balcony with an excellent view.

Schiersteiner Kantorei

The acoustics were not so great up here at times and the wooden seats a nightmare for the back and backside but the concert was absolutely wonderful. I have heard the Schiersteiner Kantorei before but this time they were even better. All the soloists sang well but I was particularly impressed by the Evangelist, Andreas Weller.

All in all it was an excellent evening although with the uncomfy chairs I was looking forward to the interval… which didn’t come! They played the full two hours straight though.

We had a quick cup of tea before returning back to Viersen – also a chance to use the loo in the café.

It was the first time Klaus had heard Andreas Scholl sing live and was not the best acoustics for it but he said that he was ‘begeistert’ by the whole thing. It is always great to go to a live concert and we were also very amused to see a chap playing a Bassono grosso, a giant bassoon/Fagott that looks like this:


(This photo is actually taken from the Schiersteiner Kantorei website but I’m not sure if it’s the same chap playing it).

And here’s a report from the local Wiesbaden newspaper: http://www.wiesbadener-kurier.de/lokales/kultur/lokale-kultur/schiersteiner-kantorei-solisten-und-barockorchester-la-corona-glaenzen-mit-bachs-johannes-passion-in-der-marktkirche_15106097.htm

Visit to England

Every three months I visit England to see my husband, family, friends and to also have a day in the office in Eastbourne for our Sales Meeting.

I have got into a routine for this now – I get a list of English things my German friends want (cider, various moisturisers, teabags, Horlicks Light, Kettle Chips etc) before I leave and when I am in Eastbourne for work I go to the Morrisons Supermarket next door to the office and get everything.

I also make my once-per-quarter visit to the Griesson de Beukelaer chocolate factory (any more frequent is dangerous for my waistline) and get supplies to share with friends at church, work and others. I did well this time!

Chocolate supplies

As usual I had booked the overnight ferry so spent the day with friends and headed off from the Niederrhein to Hoek van Holland at 17:30. My car decided to give me some disco party lights (low oil warning light, then low brake pad warning light) but I pressed on, wanting to get to the ferry.

The Dutch are still redoing the roads around HvH so we had the diversion that takes the lorry route but I know where to go and it was fine. I arrived with an hour and a quarter before I planned to board the ferry (I like to leave it late so that Poppy has a chance for a final loo stop as late as possible) so I went to the Torpedoloos (Torpedo Lounge) again for a cuppa. And then decided on a waffle as I was a bit peckish!

After a relaxing hour Poppy and I boarded. Here she is in the car boot.

And here is my cabin – small but comfortable for the night’s crossing.

I arrived back at my house in the UK at 7am. Poppy was delighted to see James of course. I had to go through all my post (three months’ worth) and this included my new YACF jersey that I bought second hand… which will undoubtedly be appearing in photos in this blog on the SPEZI tour which starts in 25 days.

Just two hours after my return it was time to head off to church. We drove to Colchester and parked just down the road from the ruins of St Botolph’s Priory.

We arrived very early as I needed to attend the choir practice. This is the interior of our church – it’s just 25 years old, built over some shops in Lion Walk Shopping Precinct.

Although I am quite clearly in England in Colchester there are a few reminders of Germany – such as this Bockwurst stand in the precinct.

When we got back from church (where I had distributed lots of Griesson de Beukelaer chocolates) we discovered Poppy had found the sunniest spot in the house.

I take lots of photos of the beautiful skies around Niederrhein each month but Great Bromley also has some impressive sunsets – I was treated to this one on my first day back.

On Sunday evening we had some friends round for a Chinese take-away. I have not yet found a decent Chinese restaurant in Germany (and have really given up looking) so it was a definite must for this short visit back to England!

And of course, to finish we also had a cuppa. And just to prove that I am a proper Brit at times, I made it in a teapot.

It was good for Poppy to have a chance to revisit some of her favourite walks. I took her for a walk along the Stour River in Manningtree on what turned out to be a rather nice morning.

We then walked into Manningtree to visit the card shop for some birthday cards for friends. I’ve included this clock in this blog before – can you spot the mistake?

I liked this advertising board outside a pub in Manningtree.

As usual I had to visit Eastbourne for work as part of my UK trip so on Monday afternoon I headed off on the two and a half hour drive to the south coast and, with the reps and the boss and his wife, went out for another evening Curry at the Ganges Restaurant in Sovereign Harbour (where we used to keep our boats).

And of course the following morning it was a Full English Breakfast at the Camelot Lodge Hotel again!

The Sales Meeting at work went well and then it was time to head back to Colchester, stopping off in Tonbridge on the way back to see my in-laws and also my friend Charlotte whose birthday had been the day before. We went to Pizza Express which was nice but very pricey compared to German prices for Italian meals.

It is interesting how quickly Poppy settles down when back in England and gets into her routines – here she is resting her weary head after a day of sleeping on the bed.

I went for lunch with my parents, sister and niece at the Wheelhouse in Woolverstone Marina, Suffolk, overlooking the river Orwell. You can see the impressive Orwell Bridge in the background.

There was a very good selection of food for lunch, which included as starters calamari…

Goat’s cheese with chutney

And main courses chicken with a mushroom sauce

And Anna’s very healthy lentil and squash meal

Desserts included Sticky Toffee Pudding with custard

And a three-chocolate option

Here we all are after our meal. This photo was taken by my niece Gwenllian and is my sister Anna with me and our parents

And here are Anna and Gwenllian

It was great to see everyone and as a bonus my Mum and Dad have given me their old Dyson hoover (which they no longer use) as I can’t get on with the vacuum I have in my Wohnung.

My last day in England was a day for routine appointments – yes, I had the excitement (and expense) of a trip to the dentist, the optician and the vets (for Poppy’s rabies booster). Which involved visits to Brightlingsea, Manningtree and Colchester too!

Poppy of course realised that I was packing that morning when I put a few things in my bag and started to get a bit perturbed.

Poppy halfway down the stair

I went off to the dentist in the morning and parted with £75 for the pleasure. In the afternoon James came along to walk Poppy at Manningtree whilst I had my short (and only £26) visit to the optician.

Manningtree

Manningtree 2

When I got back from Manningtree I had an hour for a cuppa before it was time to go to my third appointment of the day – this time to the vet.

This was to update Poppy’s rabies booster. The reason being that several weeks ago I had noticed on her passport the original rabies stamp had “Authorised Veterinarian” as the title for the column

Rabies vaccination

Whereas for the worming treatment it just says ‘Veterinarian’.
Bandwurmbehandlung

I suddenly wondered if that meant that a normal vet can’t do the Rabies booster. So I emailed the government website to asked them and hadn’t had a response for several weeks until two days before I was due to return home and I got this message:

Yes a vet in Germany can administer the rabies booster provided that they are approved by the authorities in Germany. In GB we class them as Official vets in other EU countries they are referred to Authorised vets. You do not have to return to GB to have this booster.

Any vet who is licensed in the country of treatment can administer and record the tapeworm treatment in the pet passport.

A bit of googling showed this did not help much as I didn’t know what an ‘Authorised Vet’ would be in German and I couldn’t get anywhere with searching. So I quickly rang up my UK vet and fortunately they were able to book Poppy in for her booster, so she had it three months early but at least it was done by an ‘Authorised Veterinarian’.

After that it was time to cook dinner for my husband (toad in the hole, as we were in England) and then I packed up the car ready to head off for the ferry at 9pm.

Car packed

When I booked this crossing months ago I hadn’t realised it would be the first evening of the Easter Holidays and consequently there were long queues for the ferry check-in

Queue at Harwich

And the ferry itself was full. I just went to bed as usual.

The next morning I woke up early so went to the lounge area (wifi wasn’t working in the cabins as they are redoing it) and decided to have some breakfast. I purchased what has got to have been the driest roll in the Netherlands…

Breakfast on the ferry

Then it was the two-and-a-quarter hour drive home and I arrived back in Kempen at 11am. Poppy gave everyone in my house a rapturous welcome and I was delighted to confirm that indeed the central heating and hot water were now working, hurrah!

Poppy immediately returned to her usual German lifestyle of having a snooze during the day to recover from a tiring night’s sleeping…

Poppy asleep on chair

If a pillow is unavailable use a toy donkey.

Poppy with donkey pillow

The German Healthcare System

As mentioned, I’ve had the flu.

Normally I wouldn’t go to the doctor’s for flu but interestingly the German websites about flu all said “go to your doctor as soon as possible” (whereas the NHS sites say “stay at home”). So I did the NHS option but after two weeks when I was still very weak several (German) friends recommended I visited the doctor. So in the end I caved in.

Thus I was introduced to the German healthcare system.

As a Brit I am used to the NHS “free at the point of need”. What this means (for those not familiar with it) is that you don’t pay any money to see the doctor, have no insurance or anything. You just register with a GP (Hausarzt) and go and see them if you have a problem. They may refer you on to a hospital if you have something more serious but your first contact is always with the GP (unless it’s an emergency and you go straight to the local hospital Accident & Emergency department). You don’t pay any money for ambulances, hospital treatment, doctor’s visits. You may pay a charge for a prescription (medicine) but this is capped at £9 per item and most people don’t have to pay (if you have particular long-term health conditions you don’t pay, if you’re over a certain age or out of work, etc etc).

This is a fantastic safety net as you just don’t have to worry about healthcare costs. The money for the NHS comes from general taxation.

There have been lots of media stories about long waiting lists and things like that, which can be true in some cases (if you have a non-urgent situation such as a need for a knee replacement, for example) but my experiences of the NHS have been almost universally positive, as have those of my husband and parents. We love the NHS.

It is possible in the UK to have private health insurance as well but this is not something that most people seem to go for.

Anyway, the German system is somewhat different. By law you MUST have health insurance, either private or public. I would have qualified for the public insurance (as I have come from the EU and have ‘paid in’ to the NHS for years) but unfortunately the way they work out my contribution, as a freelancer, made it rather pricey – 350€ per month. That’s a lot.

However it is also possible to get an Expat International Travel Insurance policy which fulfils the German insurance rules requirements, and this is what I did (at £111 per month). It’s an AXA-PPP policy and is based in Tunbridge Wells in the UK (near where I used to live, in fact). I had been paying my £111 per month since I arrived in Germany.

So now it was time to see if this policy would work – although I have a £300 excess per year so it seemed unlikely that I would actually end up claiming.

So anyway I was ill. St Hubert has three doctors, which should I visit?

I asked the Roddays and my friend Anja and had mixed advice. Lara said not to go to the lady doctor as she always gives out the same tablets that don’t work; Anja thought she would suit me well. I looked at her website and she was clearly into homeopathy (the pointless pills) so I discounted her immediately.

The next two options, two male GPs, were in the same road so I decided to go to whichever one of those I could find. Lara came with me the first time to help out with translations if necessary.

I arrived first at Bernhard Heithoff’s practice which looked new and clean. I went in and handed over my insurance card and they had a look at it and told me to go and sit in the waiting room. There were another nine people already there – in Germany you don’t have appointments, it’s just turn up and pot luck when you get seen (although you are seen in order). As there was a huge flu plague sweeping Germany I wasn’t surprised the waiting room was full of people. And, typical for Germany, everyone says “Guten Morgen” and then when you leave they say “Auf Wiedersehen” or “Tschüß”, none of this unfriendly ignoring British behaviour.

After an hour and a half I was seen. The doctor was very nice and spoke absolutely brilliant English, which was great. I explained about having the flu and said that I felt my heart rate was rather high. He tested my blood pressure (very low – not a surprise as I had fainted in the shower a few days before and woken up lying on the floor very inelegantly) and my pulse rate was 150 which was very high as I was sitting down. So he said they would do an ECG (EKG) on me straight away – and lo and behold I was taken into the next room and the lady I thought was a receptionist (although she turned out to actually be a nurse, but in normal clothes) did the ECG. She took my blood pressure and said it was high but the ECG was borderline a bit high at 130, so better than five minutes before.

I saw the doctor again and he suggested I came back the next day for blood tests and for another ECG.

So the next day I went back (on my own) and had blood drawn. I declined the ECG as I’d been wearing my cycling heart rate monitor the previous afternoon and my readings were generally OK. I suffer from White Coat Syndrome (getting very nervous at the doctors) so readings taken there aren’t really very accurate. Also I had been informed by a German friend that EKGs cost about 80 Euros a pop – and I would be paying for this!!

They took the blood, did not seem to mind about the ECG and told me to come back the next day.

So the next day I arrived again, this time at 11am (when they said the results would be back) and saw the doctor after a wait of just half an hour. He looked a bit serious as he said a couple of values in my blood test, relating to liver function, were clearly very off. One reading (I didn’t get what it was) should be a maximum of 47 and mine was 1,620. He said he would do an ultrasound of my liver and lo and behold had a little room with an ultrasound machine and did it instantly. This was very reassuring as he said there was nothing obviously wrong with my liver, no gall stones or anything or liver tumour, but my spleen was a bit enlarged (not too surprising).

He suggested doing some more involved blood tests the following week to find out if I had some kind of hepatitis, and not to drink alcohol in the meantime (I am a lifelong teetotaller so that was not a hardship).

This was a Wednesday and the following Monday I went in to have the extra blood tests. In the meantime some of my symptoms for liver problems (related to what you might see in the toilet bowl!) had clearly improved a great deal and it looked like my liver was working pretty well again, plus I now felt much, much better. But the blood was taken and I then had the frustration of waiting for the results which took way, way longer than I expected (nearly two weeks – I thought they would be there the next day). In the end the receptionist rang up the laboratory and asked for them to send whatever results they had as I was going on holiday so they faxed through most of the results (which were all OK, according to the doctor).

In the meantime I had no idea how much this was all costing but had contacted my insurance company who sent me a form for the doctor to fill in and also gave me a ‘claim number’ so this illness was officially registered on their system. So far so good. Because I have only had the policy 11 months they had to ensure this was not a pre-existing condition (pre-existing conditions aren’t covered until you’ve had the policy for two years) but it isn’t so that was OK.

The bill for the first (simple) blood test came and it was 55€ so I paid that before my trip to England. On my return from England I had the bill for the Hepatitis blood tests – get a load of this!!

Impressive blood test bill

I’ll have two more at 55€ to come, as well as the bill from the doctor, so the total is looking around 800€. It’s interesting to see how much healthcare costs – God Bless the NHS!

Cakes this month

Somewhat bizarrely, the flu made me go off cakes. And once I was better I realised I’d had three weeks of the six week period of lent (Fastzeit) without cake so perhaps I could try to go for the full Lenten experience. Well, technically I did have cakes (two of ’em at the Tortenschlemmen) on Ash Wednesday but I decided to let that one slide.

So anyway, March was a cake-free month for me. Wow.

However, my friends still had cakes – and one was rather interesting. It was called a ‘Herman Cake‘ and was made with some kind of special sourdough which you pass along to two other friends in a kind of chain letter thing. It takes a week to make and seemed unnecessarily complicated. Claudia made one and offered me part of the mixture but we realised I would be in England for some of the time things needed to be done so that wouldn’t work, but Gudula had a go. Here it is partway through the procedure…

Herman cake

Anyway, this was the resulting cake that Claudia made – I didn’t try it (Lent) but it looked rather dry to me!

Herman cake

And here is Gudula’s finished cake…

At work in England we had lunch all together and a colleague had made a chocolate fudge cake but, due to Lent, I didn’t have a piece. A miracle!!

As Sunday is Easter Day and normal cake-eating service will be resumed you can expect to see some more photos of the great German cakes in my next ‘Six Wheels In Germany’ post, but I’ll be writing daily blog posts during my SPEZI tour (from 20 April till 1 May) so there should be more to read in my blog before then.

I’m writing this at ten in the evening on the 31st March – exactly a year ago I was boarding the ferry heading off for the start of this adventure. Long may it continue!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Penelope the Velomobile, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany

Penelope gets a makeover

It’s been a little while since I’ve written about Penelope but that is partly because she has been a bit of a ‘work in progress’.

I mentioned in some of my earlier blog posts that she had sustained some damage from two accidents when friends were riding her (they each rolled her onto her side – once each side). I had also been working on improvements to her lighting as the installed lights weren’t bright enough for night riding.

Anyway, these tasks are all pretty much finished so I thought I would write a post to update on what’s been happening. Penelope looks rather different now (but still purple of course!)

Lighting Upgrade Stage 1 – New B&M Lights on 6V

Penelope is nine years old and her LED lighting (running on a 12V system) was a bit of a mystery to me. There was a mysterious black box near my feet (which had a plug which occasionally fell out and plunged me into darkness) and there were three different levels of brightness. These were dim, slightly less dim and very slightly less dimmer.

In other words, riding Penelope in the pitch black with just the installed lights was a very scary experience.

My initial solution was to buy a decent battery-powered light and mount it on Penelope’s upper side, attached to the place where the Versatile Roof fixes on (so I could only use this light when not using the roof). This improved matters enough that I could ride a bit more easily.

P in the dark

However the perennial recumbent three-wheeler problem persisted – when you go round corners the light does not go round the corner fast enough for you to really see what you are doing. So eventually I mounted the light on a bicycle helmet (I don’t usually wear them) and that worked OK. But it meant I had to wear a bike helmet (which I don’t like) and that if I was riding in the day (no helmet) I had to take the helmet with me in Penelope for a return in darkness. I also looked rather bonkers!

It seemed a very sensible plan to upgrade the pre-existing lights to something much brighter. I swear by the lights from Busch & Müller (as do lots of cyclists) and the German online bike shop kurbelix.de had the lights I would need for just a shade over 30 Euros each. Bargain.

I am no electronic engineer. Fortunately I know two of them (my husband and Klaus) and I managed to persuade Klaus to have a look at the lighting for me with the thought that James might do some work on it when he next visited.

Klaus spent some time playing with a test meter and then decided on a first plan of action which would involve wiring the two 6V Busch & Müller lights (Lumotec IQ Cyo Plus 60 Lux) in series for my 12V system. Although series is a bit rubbish it would be a good first step and we could decide how good the lighting was.

He had to buy a few bits and bobs for the job – here they all are!

P Lighting Stuff 1

On a sunny Saturday in October we planned to do the first bit of work on Penelope. It was decided to do it here in my house (as Frank, my landlord, has a very comprehensive tool room).

The first thing was to get Penelope in a position where she is easy to work on – in other words, lying on her side on a table. Frank, Klaus and I lifted her up and chocked her so the lid could be open without putting too much pressure on the hinge.

P on table

P open

She looks like a beached whale (orca!) lying on her side

Penelope the beached whale

P from underneath

And when you look inside you see this jumble of wiring and the metal frame in which the current lights were fixed.

P wire spaghetti

There were wires going from the battery area to the mystery black box and from there to the lights, so the black box was removed to see what was in there.

P Black Box

Mystery electronics.

Later on James worked out what was going on in the black box:

The penciled circuit diagram sketch is actually the old ‘mystery’ circuit from the black box – configured as twin current regulators.

James's circuit diagram

With the black box out it was time to also remove the existing headlamps.

Here is Penelope with one removed…

P one light missing

A close-up from the outside. You can see how scratched and crazed the perspex is which is also reducing the available light (apparently the perspex for the Orca is a slightly different shape so I can’t buy a replacement)

P one light missing 2

And here’s the view from inside with no headlamps (the wiring you can see goes to the indicators). And the very solid frame that the lights hung from.

P inside no lamps

Here is the gubbins removed.

Black box and old lamps

Frank my landlord had looked at the frame and bought a couple of items he thought would work to mount the lights – he explained his suggestions to Klaus who was doing the fitting and it all seemed good.

First of all an extra bracket was fitted to attach the lights to.

Light mounting bracket

And another one for the other light.

Brackets ready

The idea was to pass a screw across the bottom of the light (B&M lights are designed for this) and to attach it to the bracket, but the screws that Frank had didn’t have long enough threads. But it turned out Frank had a special thread-lengthening tool which Klaus used to make the thread go the whole way down.

Threading a screw

The wiring from the lights to the main power obviously needed to be done so that was the next job for Klaus.

Connectors ready

Soldering time

He had spent a lot of time with his test meter working out which cables to use as there were rather a lot jumbled up in Penelope’s nose but he found one that provided 12V so that was used. The second cable was just put aside as it wasn’t needed.

Then Klaus fitted the new lamps – which was a surprisingly fiddly job. They JUST fitted in the cut-out in Penelope’s eye sockets.

Lights in place

And here you can see the mounting point and the new wiring.

P new lights in place with wiring

So with all that done it was time for celebratory cake (made by Lara)…

cherry cake

And then to wait for darkness to fall to test the lights.

And the conclusion was:

6V lights completed

Brighter.

I then used Penelope a bit for some evening rides and very quickly came to the conclusion that they were still not bright enough for safe usage. So Plan B (which was always in Klaus’s mind) would have to come into play in due course.

Twist grip

As I was riding to my VHS German course one day I turned the grip shifter to change gear and… nothing happened! At the time I was crossing a busy road with the green pedestrian traffic light so I carried on pedalling very fast (I had attempted to change up two gears) and tried to work out what had happened.

It seemed that the Rohloff was stuck in one gear, a fairly low one. Which was inconvenient 10km into a 40km round trip.

I soon realised the problem was not actually with the gears but with the attachment between the grip-shift and the gear system.

The problem with grip-shifts on recumbents is that you have to use the opposite side of your palm from your thumb to grip to change gears (on an upright bike you are using the circle between thumb and forefinger). The heel of your hand is not very good at making a strong grip (which is the problem I often had with the grip shifts on my Trice Q in the rain). So what the makers of the Versatile did, very sensibly, is attached the Rohloff’s grip shift to the entire handlebar column that you hold – so you turn the entire thing.

Here is Poppy demonstrating…

Twist Grip unglued 1

Basically the superglue (yes, that’s what Flevobike used) had failed after nine years. It was possible to change gear by twisting the very bottom section (in this photo I have lifted up the twist grip so you can see the underlying metal) but this resulted in skinned knuckles.

Twist Grip unglued 2

Fortunately Frank glued this for me and harmony was restored.

Twist Grip reglued

It did actually fail a second time (Frank hadn’t had the ideal glue) whilst my husband was visiting so we invested in some superglue and it was further repaired and seems to be holding well.

Lighting Upgrade Stage 2 – Why did it go dark?

As mentioned above, I had already realised that the lighting upgrade was not enough for safe cycling in the dark, so had continued to use my helmet-mounted light as well. Which was rather fortunate as one day, 3km from home, the main headlamps went completely dark. No light. I had had occasional flickers from the right-hand side lamp but this was rather more dramatic.

I rode home just on the head torch and sent Klaus a message. He suggested bringing Penelope to his house the following Saturday (when I had my 3 hour choir practice fairly near where he lives) and he would borrow a testing gadget from work and have a look whilst I was singing. This was partly to check different brightnesses if we ran Penelope’s lights at a higher voltage. Apparently these lamps have a LOT more light at up to 7.5V. Friend Kim had given me various advice following testing of a lamp for her partner’s trike but the situation of these lamps is slightly different (behind a perspex screen so no cooling airflow). Klaus wanted to check the temperatures when they were running at higher voltages.

So I cycled Penelope to Klaus’s house and left her there while I went to my choir practice. This is what I found when I got back…

Penelope with testing machine

Testing stuff

Klaus had spent a lot of time testing brightness and temperature at different voltages, as you can see here (testing both lamps together).

Calculations 1

His conclusion was that he was concerned that if we ran the lights in parallel at 7.5V they would get too hot but he thought 7V would be OK. I managed to negotiate him up to 7.2V.

James my husband had done some investigation and decided on a mystery widget that reduces the voltage from 12V to whatever we wanted (I spent a lot of time trying to persuade Klaus that 7.5V would be OK but he wouldn’t budge).

Anyway, we agreed that James would buy the gadget and that when he was here over Christmas or in the New Year we would change the lights from 6V in series to 7.2V in parallel.

Klaus couldn’t find out why the lights went dark though (they were working the next day when I tried again) so that was a remaining mystery.

Repairs to Penelope’s bodywork

As mentioned above, Penelope had some redecoration when being borrowed by some friends of mine.

A low-speed roll onto the left side produced the following new features:

P scratch left side 1

P scratch left side 2

The roll to the right side was at a higher speed so the scratches were more extensive and went forward of the hinged lid.

P scratch right side 1

P scratch right side 2

I got some quotes from car paint places for repairs and they ranged from 400-600 Euros which seemed way too much. James my husband suggested that possibly a vinyl wrap (like people do on cars) might be a reasonable option.

We both looked into it a bit and it seemed like it was worth a go as if we did it ourselves the wrap would be pretty cheap and if it didn’t work well we could go for the professional paint job option.

James suggested the carbon fibre-effect wrap so there was a slight pattern (and any imperfections underneath would be less obvious). The issue was what colour – the pink/purple of Penelope did not seem to be available. In the end I decided on silver as I thought that would go OK with purple and would also perhaps be easier to see in the dusk (I think that Penelope is not always that visible).

Vinyl Wrap 1

Vinyl Wrap 2

However the actual wrapping needed to wait for James’s arrival in mid-January for a visit.

Lighting Upgrade Stage 3 – Regulator to run the lights at 7.2V

So James and Klaus had discussed everything between them and James had purchased the regulator widget thing that would be necessary to run the lights at 7.2V.

He tested it with a 12V battery at home and it seemed to light up nicely.

Regulator

The regulator was delivered to me in December when my friends from Colchester visited (James gave them a small care parcel for me). But with the busyness of Christmas we didn’t have a chance to do anything about the lighting upgrade until James’s visit in January.

Because we needed a Saturday (we might need to buy some parts during the job) it was decided that the day of James’s arrival we would work on Penelope, and in fact Klaus arrived before James got here. He’s a hard worker and settled down to work straight away.

Soldering

James arrived shortly afterwards directly from the Hook of Holland and settled down to a quarter slice of this rather fantastic cake I bought from the local bakery.

Cake

Then it was back to work – two electronic engineers soldering away on my dining table.

Two engineers soldering

The plan was to reuse the mystery black box to put the regulator in. So first of all the contents were removed and then it was necessary to fix the regulator in with a hot glue gun.

Sticking the thingie into the black box

Rather than using the existing connectors Klaus had liberated one of his work’s special connector thingies to use which would be a lot more secure.

Turck cables

The black box had a small window which now showed a red glow from the voltage readout. Because it would be beyond my feet in Penelope it would not be visible but would be a useful hint that the gadget is working.

The weather was really awful (blowing a gale, pouring with rain – James’s overnight ferry crossing had been with force 9 winds) so we weren’t entirely sure where we would do the actual work on Penelope. We had decided we would probably need to use the garage (but remove as much as we could from it) but that would probably mean lying on the floor as there wasn’t a large enough table in there. Fortunately my landlord Frank came to the rescue again and asked our next-door neighbour Gerd, who has a workshop for his historic tractor, if we could use his space. He said yes so Penelope was soon installed in an excellent workshop, protected from the wind and the elements.

Working on Penelope at Gerd's 1

Klaus’s job was to wire the regulator (in the black box) to the lights. James did a few odd jobs around other parts of Penelope, including cleaning up the mess of oil that had come out of the Rohloff.

Working on Penelope at Gerd's 2

Once the wiring was in place it was time to test the regulator. James and Klaus were looking at the box, I was asked to turn on the power. And, almost instantly, “TURN IT OFF!”

Magic smoke.

Something was clearly wrong and we had a rather bad feeling that perhaps the regulator was now dead (it was £3.50 from Ebay direct from China so not exactly a major investment, fortunately). Some further investigation showed that the wiring within Penelope wasn’t corresponding to the usual colour scheme so things were swapped around and we had another go, fully expecting the regulator to be dead. But no! Light! It appeared there was a sacrificial diode or something to deal with the wrong polarity (or whatever the problem was – I am a bit hazy on electronics).

We assume that this issue is why Penelope’s lights failed and occasionally flickered as the wiring was a bit weird.

Anyway, when it was all plugged in again wired the correct way round the lights were working! We dialled the voltage up and down and watched them get brighter and dimmer. We had agreed 7.2 Volts so that’s what the regulator ended up on. The black box was then sealed and the wires tidied away inside Penelope so that all was neat.

She had lights! They were clearly brighter than before! The proof was in the testing over the next few days… and the result is excellent. They are bright enough to ride by without any additional lighting and the 12V battery seems to last a lot longer than it used to. A real success! Once again thanks to Klaus and James for all their hard work with Penelope’s electrics.

A visit to the Netherlands for a service

Penelope’s Rohloff is supposed to be serviced every year but it had been almost two years since it was last done and it had been leaking oil for quite a long time (apparently this is normal). I had struggled to find good instructions on how to do the oil change – the rear swing-arm has to be disassembled – so in the end decided it would be much more sensible to take it to Ligfietsshop Tempelman in Dronten, to Gerrit Tempelman who is a Versatile Velomobile service chap. I had spoken with Gerrit on the phone a couple of times and he seemed very helpful.

The main issue was how to get Penelope to Dronten (near Lelystadt) in the Netherlands. The answer was, once again, to impose upon the helpfulness of Frank my landlord and borrow his VW Bus.

Penelope in bus

Before we went we gave Penelope a good clean and discovered a previously-unnoticed crack in her upper plastic.

Penelope crack

We suspect this was actually caused when she was lying on the table in Gerd’s garage when we were finishing the lighting. James effected a repair from the inside with a piece of plastic. this is not a structural element but it was a bit of a shame.

Anyway, we headed off in the VW to Dronten on another rainy, windy day. Not a day to be cycling, much better to be in a warm car. We had made an appointment with Gerrit so he had time to do the service and he had agreed we could watch it all so we knew what to do next time ourselves.

So Penelope was duly installed on a blanket on the floor of Gerrit’s workshop.

P service 1

One thing about Gerrit – he works really fast! Within just a minute or two the rear wheel was removed so the swing-arm was free.

P service 2

He then undid the panel underneath Penelope to check the chain – it was fine. It is the first time I have seen Penelope’s chain in 5000km of riding.

P chain

He then opened up the swing-arm. The loose-ish thing at the top is the Rohloff hub.

P open swing arm

The Rohloff just lifted out.

P swing arm without Rohloff

It was pretty much empty of oil so he put some more in and that was that. Normally you’re supposed to run the thing with a cleaning solution and change gear but as that involves completely rebuilding the swing arm, and then undoing it all again, he just adds the oil.

He put it all back together again fairly quickly (the whole thing was less than 15 minutes) and checked the idlers for the chain.

P chain fiddling

Because of the problems mentioned above with the twist-grip shifter I thought it worth having new Rohloff gear cables so he did those too.

P new Rohloff cables

And then the final major check was the suspension. These suspension arms can be rather pricey if they need replacing (I think he said 150 Euros each). Both had some cracks/tears in the gaiters so he changed them both and then tightened up the suspension. Some play had developed between the two steering handles and this was also improved a bit.

P suspension check

I wondered about lowering the seat (it was on the highest spacers) which he thought was a good idea as I am quite tall but he didn’t have the right size spacers. But he is clearly a resourceful chap and put together some spacers from washers and lowered the seat.

This was not just to keep my face a bit more out of the airflow but also because it marginally lowered the centre of gravity. I always feel safe in Penelope but the fact that two friends have rolled her means it is wise to be careful. Gerrit said that Versatiles can roll when ridden by people not used to recumbent trikes and probably the reason I have been fine is that I’ve ridden 75,000km in recumbent trikes so am used to them.

Gerrit’s shop was a real treasure-trove of recumbents and various parts.

Inside Tempelman's Shop 1

Inside Tempelman's Shop 2

Inside Tempelman's Shop 3

Inside Tempelman's Shop 4

Including this rather old and battered Versatile that he was servicing for someone.

Inside Tempelman's Shop 5

Overall we were there for an hour and three quarters and I was expecting a bill of about 300 Euro for that time (including parts) but was amazed that the cost was only 97 Euro. James and I were really pleased with that and we will definitely take Penelope to Gerrit again if she needs any more attention – excellent, efficient service and a good price.

Repairing Penelope’s scratches

So now James was back in Germany it was time to do the repairs to Penelope’s bodywork both sides.

The first job was to remove the signwriting of my blog name. This involved a hairdryer and some patience.

Scratch Repair 1

The next job was to fill some of the worst dents/cracks/scratches with some flexible filler. James had bought some boat stuff with him and it worked well.

Scratch Repair 2

After all this had dried James did a test section of wrap which was mediumly successful but it didn’t stick terribly well. The instructions had said that the wrap worked best when applied with an ambient temperature of 15 degrees or more – but it was less than 5 degrees in the garage.

Fortunately Klaus came to the rescue again. He and his wife offered for James to use their lounge to do the work (whilst the rest of us were out at the Karneval event mentioned in my recent blog post). There would be enough space for James to work and also some peace and quiet.

So I just needed to ride Penelope to Klaus’s house which I did – he came along too, and had a quick go in Penelope. Here you can see the filler on the side panel and the first section of vinyl wrap.

First test of vinyl wrap

So I rode to Klaus’s house in Viersen with him and James came along by car with the wrap and tools and whatever else was needed.

Here is Penelope safely installed in a nice, warm living room.

Considering the options

Ready for work on P

James just had to get started.

Interesting lounge decoration

We all disappeared off to Karneval (for another three hour session of shouting, watching people stomping around in strange clothing and attempting to catch flying food and small gifts) whilst James (and Poppy) peacefully worked on Penelope.

And when we returned…

Wrapping complete

He had done an excellent job (Poppy was impressed too).

And here is Penelope outside in the fresh air with her new look:

Penelope's New Look 1

Penelope's New Look 2

Penelope's New Look 3

The crack in her side was still a little bit visible underneath the wrap but all the other scratches had disappeared.

Penelope's New Look 4

This was an excellent job by James as you can see. I think the silver helps with visibility too. I am vaguely toying with the idea of getting James to wrap the rest of her on his next visit but there would be some extremely tricky areas round her rear-view mirrors and lights so it’s probably just best to leave her like this – two-tone trike.

I sent pictures of the new look to my mother in law who then stumbled across the perfect hat for Penelope at a church bazaar and bought it for me.

Penelope bobble hat

Lighting Upgrade Stage 4 – LED strip lights

On the German Velomobilforum I spotted a photo of an Orca (newer version of the Versatile) with LED striplights along the side. Of course I HAD to have these.

I contacted the owner of the Orca and asked what he used and he sent me the information so a few days later I had ordered some white and red 12V LED striplights and once again twisted Klaus’s arm to fit them for me.

The package arrived – tiny, tiny lights, 60 per metre.

LED lighting 1

LED Lighting 3

Poppy was impressed with them too.

LED Lighting 2

LED Lighting 4

I had 3 metres of white and 2 metres of red. The guy with the Orca had said that I would need 2.5 metres of red and 1.5 of white (but they only came in full metre lengths) so we had a bit of spare as well which might be useful.

Klaus developed a man-cold so didn’t want to do the work in the garage so once again his lounge became a velomobile workshop.

P ready for work

He nursed the hope that the other mystery cable that went into the original black box would also have a 12V feed and would work on the second light switch that Penelope has (there are two switches, red and green, which were for the different brightnesses of lights in the original installation. At the moment only the ‘green’ button did anything). If that wasn’t the case then he’d have to invent some kind of switch as I would not always want these lights on (they would use a lot more power than the headlamps so would drain my batteries more quickly).

Klaus wielded his test meter and lo and behold the second cable did indeed have 12V. Hurrah! This meant it ought to be a very easy job to fit.

It involved drilling holes in the very solid plastic of Penelope’s bottom half. This hole is for the wiring for the front light strip.

Drilling holes 1

Poppy was doing excellent duty of guard dog in the garden to prevent anyone stealing my cool velomobile.

Poppy as guard dog

And a second hole for the rear light cabling. (Poppy again is carefully observing that everything is being done correctly).

Drilling holes 2

And now feeding the cabling through the hole before soldering it in place.

Feeding wires through

And we decided to turn on the switch to check it works – it does!!!!!

Testing testing

Now we knew it worked the final solders were put in place and then it was time to stick the lights to the body of Penelope (it had a self-adhesive backing strip)

REar light in place

And here is the finished job.

FInished 1

Finished 2

Penelope seems rather happy with it too!

Happy Penelope

Klaus took a photo of me as I was about to set off home – how cool does the velomobile look?

Cool Penelope

On my 20km ride home I got so many astonished looks – even more than normal!

I kept the lights on the whole way home (they actually illuminate the near field rather well and that’s quite useful on some of the Radwege with bumps and tree roots) but as expected they did take quite a toll on the battery. I was using the left-hand battery (which I had used for about three hours previously with the headlamps and rear light on) but it reduced from three yellow blobs and three reds to just two reds in the 55 minute journey.

Battery meter

Obviously battery usage is something I will need to be aware of but for my usual ride lengths this is no problem at all.

I definitely think the extra visibility from the side is a safety bonus (as Penelope isn’t that obvious due to her lighting arrangement when viewed directly from the side) but of course the real reason for having the striplights is for the coolness factor.

I also put together the new wheel covers (the old ones had been damaged in the crashes) and fitted them to the wheels so she now has the solid wheel look. Velomobile friend Oliver had delivered me these new wheel covers almost eight months ago and I hadn’t yet got round to fitting them (the old ones were tatty) but I am glad I hadn’t as there was too much damage after the crashes to reuse them. So Penelope now looks very new and shiny.

So anyway, here is Penelope’s new look, which has cost about £110 in total (for the headlamps, strip lights and vinyl wrap) so great value. This is of course not factoring in any costs of labour from my two helpful engineers. Thanks again to James and Klaus for all the work on Penelope – my only payment to them is occasional cakes.

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Filed under Penelope the Velomobile, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany