Life in the time of Coronavirus
So here we are, in the time of Coronavirus when we are meant to stay at home as much as possible. I am writing this on 9 April (so rather later than normal for a March report) and like most of you I am following the news throughout the day, hearing all the stories from people with Covid-19, wondering who will get it next, worrying for people who have lost their incomes etc. For the moment I am continuing working as I work in the food ingredients industry but I am lucky – so many people have been furloughed or lost their jobs; or worse, are ill or have experienced bereavement.
For Klaus and I things haven’t changed too significantly yet. He has to drive to the office every day still although he could technically work from home (although we have only one office chair between the two of us so might have to stagger our work times!), but I am mostly working from home now.
I have to go into the office about once per week to check various bits of paper but I have a relatively new colleague who is working from the office (there’s very little he can do at home) so he prints things out for me, scans documents and passes them on to me etc. I tend to go in once per week for a couple of hours just to do some additional training for him but he is pretty busy running around the whole production facility sorting out everything on site. Most people are still working in our production site, I am lucky that I can do most of my work from home now.
We have of course stopped seeing friends and going out to eat at restaurants but are still walking the dog and also going for cycle rides. This is still allowed in Nordrhein Westfalen, but we are mostly choosing to ride in very sparsely-populated areas. Cafes and bakeries are also allowed to provide cakes as a take-away service so we have been supporting our favourite cafés by visiting, making a purchase and then eating on a bench somewhere.
Other than that we have been staying at home, and that has been quite a long time for me as I was off work for two weeks with stress in March so basically stayed at home anyway as it was clear the Coronavirus was starting up in Germany and I thought keeping away from other people was the best I could do for the community.
So far neither Klaus nor I seem to have had Covid-19 but there are some people with it in Kempen, so I guess it is a matter of time. My mother and Klaus’s father are both self-isolating but are also both in situations where they have people who can do shopping for them, which is a relief.
And as for shopping? Well, as you have probably read on the news, Germany seems to be weathering the Covid-19 storm fairly well. Klaus and I don’t eat pasta or rice so haven’t been troubled by shortages of them and all the food we do normally eat has always been available. The only thing that affected us was the loo roll situation; at the middle of February I bought a multipack of loo rolls and felt confident we wouldn’t need any more for ages. Germany, too, suffered from the loo roll “Hamsterkauf” as it is called here. This is a photo from my local Edeka – it always looks like this, as does Aldi!
However, we are not suffering from any food shortages. And my workplace supplied me with a set of loo rolls in April as they had bought in extra stock from the usual wholesaler in order to pass it on to the staff. They also provided me with a few masks (the production workers use masks as they are blending powders), although I am using my buff at the moment when out and about as I need it for cycling anyway.
So… on to the blog report for March.
Here is where I cycled or walked in the month. The colour is now green for almost all the activities as I have switched to recording my rides as ‘Velomobile’ and Veloviewer treats them differently…
And here is the list of rides for the month:
From the Wheel you can see a number of longer rides throughout the month. The first says “In search of cake”. As you can probably guess, we were successful! Here are some reports about the other longer rides:
Fit Durch Den Winter
The second ride was “Fit durch den Winter”, which is the ADFC-led once per month ride. We don’t usually attend as our speed is too different but Ralf told us he was going to test-ride the route in his velomobile and would we like to come along. So we said yes!
We all met up in the centre of Kempen. This was before the Coronavirus lockdown so there were still quite a few people around and Klaus and I enjoyed a cup of tea and piece of cake in Café Peerbooms first to fortify us for the ride ahead.
We then went outside to join the other two velomobiles and Uli on his normal bike.
It was good to catch up with our friends again – it felt like a long time since we had seen Ralf and Hartmut and Uli. It ended up as the last time we saw them before the Coronavirus measures really took off.
We followed the route that Ralf/Hartmut had prepared and it was rather pleasant. The route was going to take the Selbstbedienungfähre over the Niers at Wachtendonk but that wasn’t very velomobile-suitable so Ralf, Klaus and I decided to do an on-road detour. Hartmut did indeed take his velomobile on the ferry – he was braver than us.
We had arranged to stop for lunch in Straelen at the Straelener Hof which is probably the poshest place that we go to on the ADFC bike rides, but there aren’t many other large enough places in Straelen. Klaus, Ralf and I got there first because Hartmut was presumably still battling with the ferry.
We found somewhere to sit and asked for something sweet. They provided us with waffles!
After about fifteen minutes Hartmut and a few others showed up. Klaus and I decided to ride directly home as we needed to get back, so we whizzed home. It was a refreshing trip out in rather chilly weather! 48km on the clock with an average of 27.7 km/h
Trike seat testing
Klaus has started to think about getting a trike again. He needs it to be folding and not too heavy so it looks like an ICE Sprint (the newer version of Alfie, who is almost 10 years old) would be the right option. However, ICE have a number of different seat types and Klaus was keen to try them out.
He could possibly buy the trike on the Business Bike scheme, which is another version of JobRad, like the schemes you can get in the UK where your company help you to buy a bike in instalments, often contributing towards it.
Klaus’s company hadn’t yet set up the scheme but it was in progress and would be BusinessBike. Unfortunately our local trike dealer Liegeradbau Schumacher don’t do the BusinessBike scheme, but there was a shop in Wesel that did do it, Tetrion, so we decided to go there to have a look at their stock and discuss options.
The guy agreed to open up the shop on a Saturday morning and we decided to cycle there in our velomobiles.
We rode straight towards Wesel on the main road (cycle path), crossing the Rhein before skirting south and found ourselves at Tetrion. We were 15 minutes early but the chap turned up five minutes later.
He had a fairly small shop/workshop and almost all of his products were HP Velotechnic or Hase. He had one ICE, an Adventure, but it did have the relevant seat so Klaus was able to sit on it. Conclusion: comfy.
What was a bit disappointing was that the chap didn’t seem interested in speccing Klaus’s ICE Sprint. The standard German Sprint comes with 70mm drum brakes but in the UK you can buy them with 90mm drum brakes, which is what we have on the velomobiles and we think is worth it. Klaus asked the Tetrion guy how much to upgrade to the 90mm drums but he wasn’t interested in considering anything outside the standard German distributor’s setup.
Klaus was fairly disappointed with this conversation with the chap but subsequently contacted ICLETTA the distributor directly and they were very helpful. The specification that Klaus wants will be available from them to whichever shop he goes through – and that will probably be our local shop Liegeradbau Schumacher as Klaus has decided not to go down the BusinessBike route. But due to Corona the whole thing is on hold now anyway.
So we left Tetrion a bit disappointed but my unerring cake radar found us a bakery where we could refuel with cheesecake.
After restoring ourselves with cake we headed alongside the Rhein towards the ferry crossing at Walsum. The waiting area had moved much further back as the water level was much higher.
Those trees in the water are normally on dry land, so it was an interesting journey to see how high the Rhein was.
Docking at Orsoy was very strange as the water level was so high we actually landed on the access road, rather than the loading ramp. It cut at least 50 metres off our ride distance!
On the way home from Orsoy I took the photo shown below. No idea why, it just looks like a field with some water in it, but I add it here in case anyone else has a clue!
This ride was 102km with an average of 27.5 km/h.
Pre-lockdown 2 cake slices at Jacobs
When it became clear that Germany would have some kind of lockdown it seemed wise to go out with a bang and enjoy a slice of cake at Bauerncafé Jacobs.
We had a lovey ride there except for a very aggressive motorist who nearly ran Klaus off the road less than 500 metres from the café. He was a stupid idiot who tried to overtake at an unsuitable place. Such things give a bit too much of an adrenaline rush and it takes a while to recover. So to assist Klaus in getting back to a state of calmness we decided to have to pieces of cake each!
The ride was 50km with an average of 28.5 km/h.
We had thought that would be our last cake from our favourite cafes for maybe a few months. Reader, we were wrong!
Evening cruise along the lanes
After the lockdown in Germany was announced we were told we could still go out walking and cycling as long as it was with maximum one other person, or multiple people if members of your household. Naturally we had to consider that if we had an accident whilst underway that would divert medical resources which were needed elsewhere. On the other hand, neither of us have had any issues with velomobile riding so far (they are very safe) and they help with social distancing anyway as you ride alone.
We generally choose to ride north into Kreis Kleve which has a lower population density and in fact we see very few people on our rides. It is good to get out in the fresh air though, to keep our fitness levels good and get a bit of Vitamin D.
Klaus came home an hour or so early on a couple of days to use up some overtime and we took the opportunity one nice evening for a ride.
The light was lovely as we rode through the open, flat horsey areas of Saelhuysen and Kengen.
Klaus took this great picture of me.
This short ride made us feel good and we only saw a few walkers and a couple of other cyclists. We rode 38km at an average of 28 km/h.
To Xanten for take-out cake
The German government, as part of its lockdown measures, closed all restaurants and cafes. However, they are all allowed to provide take-away or delivery options, and this included cafes. You have to go at least 50 metres away to eat what you buy there, but even Ice cream dealers are open in Germany now (which I personally think is a bit unnecessary but then I am not so much into ice cream).
We weren’t sure how many places would actually be open. Normal bakeries yes, but actual Cafés? We decided to head to Xanten for a ride and see if we got lucky. I took a plastic spoon and a flask of tea just in case.
We set off to the north, Klaus having routed us with a bit of a hill, but we were riding in a very leisurely manner and taking it easy.
He had plotted a new route and once we arrived at a short section we understood why – we had once arrived at this section of off-road from the other side and changed our minds (we were on a ride with Ralf that time) but this time we pushed through as we knew it was only about 500 metres of bumpy stones. Still, we won’t do it again.
We arrived in Xanten and headed to the Markt Café but that was closed. I then rode to a coffee shop along the square but that was also closed, despite signs outside saying it was open. We asked a passer by (from 2 metres distance!) and she said that there were bakeries open in the industrial estate so we headed in that direction, stopping opposite the Siegfried Museum as we saw an open chocolatier who also had cakes. And so we had our take away cake and flask of tea sitting on a bench in historic Xanten.
The journey home was a bit longer as Klaus had routed us towards Kevelaer but it was lovely. The roads are really quiet due to reduction in car traffic and it makes cycling much more relaxing. We use cycle paths more than usual as that makes sense with fewer cars coming out of side roads (less dangerous to use the cycle paths).
Klaus was testing out a new route back from Walbeck across some minor roads rather than the usual roads we took, but it became clear why we don’t use them – the road surfaces are really rough and it takes more energy to ride on them. I also found I had tingly hands when I got home from the road buzz. I remember riding this way years before on my trike with Uli and deciding at that time that it wasn’t a good option. We have confirmed it isn’t good for velomobiles, even with full suspension, either!
In the end our ride was 111km with an average speed of 27.2 km/h.
Not just us…
But of course it’s not just us who are riding around at the moment. Of course, lots of Germans get on their bikes in springtime and we meet more people daily who are riding – although I would estimate that at least 90% of the bikes have electric power now.
But there are also some people on weird bikes. Here is Gudula who borrowed Alfie for a ride of an hour and a half, just because!
And below you see the photo from a shopping trip where Klaus was not involved. I needed to go to the supermarket but didn’t have much space in Millie for all the things I needed to buy, so Klaus’s daughter Lara who had been staying agreed to come along as my pack mule on Alfie. So we went and collected Alfie from his other garage and she rode him, both panniers were full of food after we left Edeka and I just had one bag of salad in Millie!
As Lara’s treat she had her first ever proper ride in a velomobile
She thought it was brilliant fun! This could get expensive!
Doing the daily 45 minute walk with the dog we get to see some wonderful scenery.
As we are required with the lockdown to stay at home as far as possible, we are very grateful that we live in such comfortable surroundings and with fresh air and exercise just out the door. We feel much sympathy for people who cannot go outside, who are afraid for their health, who live in the middle of cities where perhaps they cannot get such clean, fresh air.
Cakes this month
There have been lots of cake pictures above but here are some of the others.