Cycling this month
The first day of this month was the last day of the bike tour (was it really so long ago??!!) so the tracks start in Hitdorf near Leverkusen.
And here is the report of all the rides I have done.
My main challenge this month was visiting all the windmills and watermills in Kreis Viersen, which I did along with Klaus (and with Claudia and Lara for some of the trips too). You can read about these visits here.
I worked a little on riding some intervals to try to increase my speed. During May I tended to use Alfie for group rides with friends (average speed over the month was 16.17km/h) and Penelope for utility cycling such as to my choir or language class or supermarket (average speed over the month 20.68km/h). You can see here the difference in speed for me with the velomobile, but it is also due to a difference in routes chosen. The routes on Alfie are more scenic but have more obstacles such as Drängelgitter which are a right pain with the velomobile. It is very much two different types of cycling. I love ’em both!
A visit with Jochen to Rolf’s
Friend Jochen has been mulling over buying a velomobile for some time as he has a 60km round trip to work each day (which he does on an upright bike) and fancied a bit more winter protection.
I heard from Rolf that he was selling his Mango velomobile now he has a Quest and so mentioned it to Jochen – who was keen to go and visit and have a look.
The three of us met up at the Fahrrad Stammtisch in mid-May and arranged for Jochen and I to ride over to Rolf’s the following Saturday to have a look at the Mango (Rolf had come by car to the Stammtisch).
On what turned out to be a very drizzly day Jochen and I set off for Schwalmtal. I was in Penelope with her roof on so stayed dry. Jochen didn’t.
After 30km we arrived at Rolf’s house – and Jochen had his first look at the Mango.
So then it was time to try it out for size.
Oh dear – his shoulders were too wide!
Rolf had a quick measure:
Yep, definitely too broad.
Jochen could get in and out OK but just couldn’t settle back properly into the seat, even when Rolf made some adjustments.
Unfortunately it was clearly not going to work which was such a shame – Jochen was very disappointed.
After some cake that Rolf had made for us:
We headed back home in more drizzle. We stopped off in Kempen for a kebab.
Jochen had a proper go in Penelope and seems to be able to fit in her OK so there are some velomobile options open to him, but he’ll have to look around for the right option second-hand in due course.
Riding with Klaus on two wheels
As mentioned in some of the posts on my SPEZI reports, the wheel bearings in Klaus’s Steintrikes Wild One were failing. In the end he decided he could no longer ride the trike.
This is what the worst side looked like:
And the better, but still not great, side:
So while he waited for replacement bearings (and also a set of new wheels) to arrive from Bike Revolution in Austria, he realised he would have to ride his upright bike, a very decent Stevens bike.
So we set off for our traditional Thursday evening ride, this time to do some Mill-bagging.
Although we had a very nice ride (57km in total), it’s a completely different experience riding with an upright. Firstly he was much faster up hills (and the ride headed off to Dülken to start so that was 4-5km of climbing to begin). He was always whizzing ahead and then having to wait for me – not helped by the fact he has no rear-view mirror on his upright so couldn’t always keep track of my location.
it was also pretty much impossible to converse while riding as he was so much higher up.
Initially he was enjoying the speed and the lightness of the bike (it’s a totally different proposition to the Wild One) but he reported after 5km that he could start to feel some aches and pains; backside naturally but also shoulders and collarbones. By the time we returned after the 57km (which included a horrible climb over the Süchtelner Höhen in the last 6km) he was reporting really painful shoulders, arms and backside. And he had once again completely confirmed to himself the brilliance of recumbent triking for pain-free, if slower, cycling.
A ride to Kloster Kamp
I have been riding Penelope a lot more this month as the weather has been suitable and I have been enjoying the increase in speed that she offers.
One Sunday I had nothing to do after church in the morning so after having my lunch I decided to just go for a random ride in Penelope and see where I ended up.
I headed north from Kempen into Kreis Kleve, approaching the moraine which stretches down the eastern side of this area.
I was just vaguely following my nose but decided to skirt around to the west of the moraine to reduce my hill climbing. It was perfect conditions for the velomobile with quite a bit of wind – but that doesn’t affect the speed too much, just gives a nice breeze within!
Once I reached the outskirts of Sevelen I decided it was time to work out an alternative route back and I saw a sign for Kloster Kamp just 8km away. I thought that would be a nice diversion (and I knew there was a restaurant that did cake there) so I followed the cycling signs to Kloster Kamp.
Considering it was a nice sunny Sunday afternoon I was surprised not to see more cyclists out and about. The reason was they were all at Kloster Kamp enjoying a cup of coffee and slice of cake so I joined them.
Penelope had a lot of admirers, including a chap who seemed to know quite a bit about velomobiles. I gave him my little business card so he could look him up.
Whilst sitting eating my waffle (photograph below) and drinking my tea I watched a parade of people peering into Penelope’s depths, undoubtedly attempting to work out whether I had an electric motor in there.
Suitably fortified by the waffle I decided to head back over the moraine, riding via Tönisberg. This involves a bit of a hill (although it’s worse going the other way).
I also passed one of the windmills for my challenge but didn’t bag it as the idea was to do all my windmill-bagging starting from Viersen rather than Kempen.
It was a lovely 40km ride at an average of 20.5km/h, a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Events this month
The first day of this month was the last day of the SPEZI tour. I’m writing this just three weeks later but it seems like so long ago – I had such a wonderful time on tour with my excellent companions Joyce, Klaus, Nigel and Simon.
The tour has reminded me how much I love bike touring so I might take myself off for a few short tours (a few days perhaps) via train over the next few months – if Gudula and Frank are able to look after Poppy of course.
A visit from my parents
My parents had booked a holiday in Bayern (Schliersee, not too far from München) and included two nights in Escheln so we could spend some time together.
It was very nice to have them visit – and they brought the necessary supplies of additional teabags too! They had had not great weather in Bayern (although our weather here had been very good) but unfortunately they brought the worse weather with them!
We had a visit to one of our favourite shops, Self in Kempen – which is kind of a mix of a DIY shop, garden centre and home furnishings place. It’s the sort of place you can spend hours in although we managed less than an hour. We also visited Griesson de Beukelaer chocolate factory shop (of course!) and a German supermarket, Edeka, for Mum and Dad to buy some supplies and some gifts for friends from Germany. And of course some fresh asparagus and strawberries from the local Spargelhof.
We spent some time with Klaus, Claudia, Lara and Petra (Klaus’s cousin) too, which included a traditional German evening barbecue. Here we all are relaxing after the tasty food!
And of course there were cakes and biscuits (I made some choc-chip shortbread too).
My parents will return the favour in July when I bring Klaus, Claudia and Lara with me to England for a five day holiday. I have tricked my mother into providing a proper English Sunday Lunch (roast beef and yorkshire pudding) for them. The German view of England food is that it is pretty poor, and it can be, but certain things like that are just wonderful!
It was great to see my folks and for them to spend a bit more time in the Niederrhein region.
The ‘no toilet’ day
Frank had warned me many weeks ago that they needed to have a new drain built and that on Tuesday 5 May I would not be able to use the toilet or water in the house.
As someone who works at home (and often washes her hands after patting the dog, and uses the loo of course) this seemed like it might be a recipe for a mini disaster. So I hatched a plan to spend the day cycling (church-bagging) and invited myself round to Claudia’s house for a shower (and toilet) before heading off to the Volkshochschule in the evening, with the hope that everything would be sorted when I returned at 10pm.
The day dawned and I heard the workmen arrive and Frank soon appeared upstairs to tell me to make my last use of the facilities. So I did so and then, as an aide memoire, covered the loo and both sinks to avoid any messy mistakes…
I worked for about two hours after the water was no more and then it was time to go out riding. I had a wonderful cycle ride, visiting lots of churches and riding 87km in Penelope overall. I also enjoyed a hot shower at Claudia’s before heading to the VHS.
When I got home late that evening Gudula told me that the loo was actually back online pretty quickly but that the kitchen sink had still been out of bounds – and she forgot and used it. Apparently there was lots of roaring/shouting from downstairs and then she remembered.
I spend a lot of time with Klaus, Claudia and Lara and two of the three of them celebrated birthdays this year (combined age of 59). I was delighted to be invited to celebrate the birthdays of Klaus and Lara (two days running).
For Klaus we had all conspired together to make him a present as a memento of the SPEZI tour. I’d sorted out a CD of the best photos and Claudia had them made as prints and Lara assembled them as a collage (with the additional photos in an album for him). Here’s Lara’s collage.
I had spent some time searching for a flag for his trike for Kurpfalz which is the region of Germany from which he hails. When in Speyer (in the Kurpfalz) I had a quick look for flags but no luck, but found one on the internet. It turns out there are two different flags and this wasn’t actually the one he generally considers the right one but anyway it is a nice colourful flag for his trike – although I really feel the Union Jack flag ought to stay too!
We had a very nice meal in Schloss Rheydt (south of Mönchengladbach).
Lara’s birthday was the next day and she was having friends and neighbours round, as well as a young friend from school. She and her friend Nastia helped prepare the salads we enjoyed.
Our main course was a meat casserole with rice and then we had this rather tasty dessert!
We had enjoyed some birthday cakes earlier in the afternoon (see ‘cakes’ section below) so were all very full!
Concert in Viersen
Lara is learning the flute at school and there was a concert in the centre of Viersen on one Saturday – she invited me to come along and listen so of course I said yes.
Poppy came along and I ended up cycling there with Poppy in the basket.
They were actually playing for about two and a half hours so after a little while Klaus and I cycled off (with Poppy) to try to find a bike shop that could change his wheel bearings, and also to give Poppy a bit of a run off lead. We went to Dülken, to the very friendly bike shop, but they said they had no wheel bearings, but could change them if he got some. So his noisy wheel was still not fixed.
We got back for some more of the concert but by this time Poppy was very tired.
A Visit to Reuver
One Sunday afternoon I was with the Ebingers and we decided to go (by car) to Reuver for a walk with Poppy. Reuver is somewhere that I occasionally cycle to in the Netherlands and is a rather nice little town along the Maas river.
So we headed off in the car and parked, walking along the river for about a kilometre. Poppy took the opportunity to swim!
I rather liked these little flowers perched on the wall.
A little further along we came to a most handy café and stopped for ice creams. Outside was this plaque.
The explanation was as follows:
Aircraft crash in the night of 21st July 1944
At half past twelve on the night of 21st July a Lancaster bomber crashed into the river Maas at Kessel. Its 6000kg heavy bomb load exploded, destroying a large number of houses around the market. The Town Hall was also very heavily damaged. In one stroke 22 families were made homeless.
Of the crew, two left the aircraft. One, tail-gunner Flt. Sgt Henry Hiscox, landed on the other side of the river in a cornfield near to the Lommerbergen Holiday Camp where he died after a short time. He is buried in the Old Cemetery at Beesel. Another crew member, Sgt Thomas Gilbert Little, escaped by parachute and landed, badly wounded, in the Veers district. He was later taken to a POW Camp by the Germans where he stayed, surviving the rest of the war.
The other five crew members could not get out to safety and died when the aircraft crashed into the water. The place where this happened has become a ‘Sailors Grave’.
A brother and sister of the pilot Flt Sgt Neil Douglas Davidson unveiled a plaque on 21st July 2011, engraved with the names of the crew.
I always find these kinds of sites very moving and it was good to see that people still care about what happened seventy years ago.
We stopped for ice cream and a cup of tea. Unfortunately I had forgotten my teabags so had to use a Dutch one – it was OK but not to the English standard. But I got a mysterious glass of booze with it (which I gave to Klaus as I don’t drink alcohol).
While we were there another dog arrived – which looked like a giant version of Poppy!!!
We decided to cross the river on the ferry on the way back. It’s not as interesting in a car as you can’t see as much as on a bike but was still fun!
For the Eurovision weekend Klaus and Claudia had Klaus’s cousin Petra visiting. Petra is originally from Germany but has lived most of her life in America (although has been in München for two years now). She hadn’t previously seen Eurovision. We told her it was unmissable!
I explained it to her and she apparently decided it was eminently missable, but we gave her no choice but to sit through it.
Lara prepared banners for the three nationalities watching Eurovision in their house:
Claudia prepared the requisite snacks to keep us going through the long evening:
And we took some selfies to show how much fun we were having!
The food and lots of cups of tea were needed to maintain morale during the evening as we thought the Russian song would win it (we wanted Sweden).
Fortunately Sweden triumphed!
Petra’s comment at the end was: “it wasn’t as bad as I thought after your description” so I guess that’s a win. I think Eurovision will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for her though.
The growing season is really underway here. Spargelhof Goetzens, the local asparagus and strawberries place, is doing a roaring trade as usual – including me regularly buying strawberries.
The local fields are planted with potatoes, sweetcorn and cabbage again, as well as grass for animal food. The hares are still running around the fields a lot – they are a regular sighting.
There are also quite a few more equine residents in Escheln.
The weather has been pretty good this month but the sunshine is often interspersed with quite heavy downpours so I tend to ride Penelope with the roof on a lot of the time.
This was a particularly impressive cloud on the way to the Süchteln choir one evening.
And I have also seen some fabulous rainbows. I tried to stitch these two photos together – not entirely successfully but I think you get the idea!
I was out windmill-bagging and spotted this Union Jack symbol on a bin.
All was revealed – just a few metres away was this plaque.
On a cycle ride I stopped off somewhere near Willich to buy some asparagus… and I discovered a set of scales with an existentialist problem!
I was also very impressed to spot this vending machine south of Viersen – vending punnets of strawberries!
I also discovered another issue when out on a ride. I was cycling past Knotenpunkt 54 which is near Viersen-Dülken when I spotted an error…
It should be ‘Bismarckturm’ not ‘tum’ at the end – and the mistake was on both sides of the sign. I informed Hartmut who is the ADFC chap who has been very instrumental in the Knotenpunkt system and he says he will inform Kreis Viersen.
On another note, I have planned a Knotenpunkt cycle ride which is going to be visiting all the Knotenpunkte that are round the edge of Kreis Viersen (so basically riding around inside the boundary). It’s 152km so will be quite a ride for me, plus there will undoubtedly be some off-road, but I think it could be great fun!
A link to the map (so you can zoom in) is here: http://www.bikehike.co.uk/mapview.php?lnk=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hancox.org.uk%2Fborderkpsonroad.gpx
Poppy has been getting a lot of attention from Gudula who has been revising for exams. Poppy sits outside with her helping her learn. But Poppy also had a new experience – going in a bike basket on a two-wheeler bike. She shifts around all over the place in the basket on the trike but on this open basket she sat very nicely and didn’t misbehave at all – for the 50 metre test ride anyway. Things might be different if Gudula or Frank ride past another doggie…
I parked my car in a different spot than usual and someone unfortunately scraped the rear wheel arch.
The local bus went past a few days ago and I noticed it is painted the same colours. Oh well, a 13 year old car is expected to have a few dents and scratches!
On crossing the river Maas at Reuver in NL on a bike tour I saw this rather interesting load on the tractor…
My Wohnung is bigger!
My Wohnung, which is a pretty decent size for one person, had two doors which lead to a room behind the kitchen. This was previously full of various things belonging to Nils. However Nils is due to move into a new flat soon and so the room would be emptied – and would become available to me as another room (usefully a work room so my computer/work space could be in there and not in my living area).
Whilst I was on tour Gudula, Frank and Lara decided to clear the room for me and store the contents in the cellar. It was obviously a big job to empty it but the results were well worth it when I returned!
I moved my desk with computer impedimenta and also my hi-fi into the room and then had a chance to re-arrange my lounge. Here’s two panorama shots of the new lounge.
I’m enjoying having more space and especially having my work area outside of my relaxation space.
Cakes this month
It was Lara’s eleventh birthday and so there was an excellent selection of cakes made available – I sampled them all over a couple of days of course!
This was called a ‘fanta cake’ in that you apparently use fanta drink in the sponge base. It was very tasty – with a strawberry creamy topping.