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Ko2Ko – Kempen to Hoek van Holland and Great Bromley

My last day of my tour!!!

There are five bakeries in St Hubert and during my week long stay here in March I visited four out of the five. Now was my opportunity to get the full set by having breakfast in Café Poels.

The plan was to have a bread roll (standard German breakfast) but I was almost swayed by the display of cakes:

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And chocolate:

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But common sense won out and I had a Kleines Frühstück which is a cheese and ham roll and a cup of tea, pretty decent value for 2,40€.

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The café also had wifi which isn’t so common in Germany.

The plan was now to head for the Griesson de Beukelaer factory outlet shop on the outskirts of Kempen to stock up on some more chocolate. During this tour I’ve been rather underconsuming chocolate and thought it important to restock. There was a small amount of space left in my Banana Bags, after all!

So I headed off on the nice, smooth cycle route which nips under the main road and takes you into Kempen just a mile from St Hubert. The route by car is considerably longer!

The factory shop had rearranged itself a bit and had a quite different selection of goodies but still plenty that looked yummy.

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I managed to remain sensible and just bought two bags of chocs, one that had little balls a bit like Ferrero Rocher (they had some for you to taste test) and another of very mini chocolate fingers.

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The factory shop has a lot of plates of chocolate for you to test and even a coffee machine to help you browse!

When I got to the checkout and paid, there was also a box of milk chocolate biscuits left on the packing area of the till I was at. I said to the lady that these weren’t mine but were presumably the previous lady’s and she said that as that lady had gone I could take them. Bonus!

I headed back towards Sankt Hubert and my second stop for food shopping – the Stinges bakery. Once again they had the fab Streusel trays which are enough for about six portions (and freeze very well). I had cleverly picked up a strong cardboard box with a decent lid at the chocolate factory and, lo and behold, it was exactly the right size for the Streusel trays! I bought two and they sat nicely on top of each other in the box.

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I also bought a pair of Nuss Striezel (which just fitted on top, slightly squashed) to take home and share with James and an Amerikaner for me for this evening if I fancied something sweet and unhealthy on the ferry.

Then it was back to the Ferienwohnung in some slight drizzle. There was a pretty strong westerly wind which will make my ride to Venlo harder work, and presumably will also mean my ride from Den Haag to Hoek van Holland is a bit blowy.

Here is Alfie parked outside Ferienwohnung Bienenstock – with empty panniers. Soon to be crammed full of luggage and edibles.

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Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday that when cycling into Sankt Hubert two young lads on bikes standing beside the road shouted at me “Are you part of the circus?” Not heard that one before!

Anyway, I took my time loading up my trike as eleven o’clock approached. I had the box of Streusel to fit in and wanted to try not to squash anything! Finally all was ready and I set off.

Here’s the map for the ride to Venlo:

Kempen to Venlo

This ride was done at a fairly leisurely pace. I didn’t think I was in much of a rush (apart from the issue of trains not carrying bikes after 3:30pm, and I would still be on the train at that point), so turned the pedals at only about 10mph for most of this ride.

I headed towards Wachtendonk, going through Voesch and then crossing under the motorway. The skies were quite fierce in the direction I was headed.

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The flat landscape was very familiar from my holiday here in March – I rode these cycle tracks several times but it was interesting to see it all with crops growing rather than snow on the ground.

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It was just outside Wachtendonk that I picked up the first sign to Venlo.

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From Wachtendonk I headed towards Wankum. I’ve done this route a few times but previously went on a narrower cycle track rather than along a road; that’s the thing with cycle path signage, it tends to give you lots of different options depending on your start point – which can also prove rather frustrating!

On the outskirts of Wankum I saw these straw people who looked very cheery.

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My route following the signs went a bit awry here and I (briefly) found myself cycling through a graveyard. I ended up on the main road and soon enough found more Venlo (NL) signs.

I had quite a delay trying to get round this chap – I had to wait for a crossing onto the road, cycle on the road round him and then it was a quarter of a mile before there was another crossing back to the cycle path. Still, good to see them cutting the verges of the cycle paths.

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At Herongen I had an issue with disappearing cycle path signs which means I did two sides of a triangle. This was frustrating, as was the fact that the bakery in Herongen had been shut (imagine that!) as I’d planned to get a filled roll from Germany for lunch. I then stopped at a weird mini food hall but they didn’t have any filled rolls, only huge cheeses, hams and giant packs of coffee. Within 100 metres I was in…

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I realised time was marching on a bit as I wanted to get the 13:50 train so pedalled a bit faster. I was slightly thwarted by some cycle path roadworks in Venlo and rather than taking the detour I just rode on the road (naughty naughty!)

I arrived at the station with 5 minutes until the train left – just enough time to buy my ticket and bicycle ticket and a tuna sandwich. Not time for the loo, unfortunately!

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The train pulled in and a lady with a bicycle started getting on my bicycle carriage. I asked her to wait for my trike as it needed to go in first, but I was talking German and she didn’t understand it. “Do you speak English?” she asked. I have to get used to speaking English again! Anyway, she moved her bike out the way so I could install Alfie and then her bike tucked in beside him.

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I settled myself down in the largely empty train carriage and was surprised to discover there is free wifi on the train

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I ate my sandwich and then still felt hungry so had to extract my Amerikaner from my bags to eat that as well! Sadly most of the icing had stuck to the bag.

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I arrived in Den Haag at 4:10pm which gave me an hour and twenty minutes before meeting Vince at the station (and we would then cycle to his recommended pancake restaurant in Scheveningen). After faffing reattaching my panniers and then putting my windproof jacket on (it was colder than I had expected) I set off ono the trike to the pedestrian area of Den Haag to find a café where I could have a cup of tea and chill out (and use a loo!)

Stadebrasserie De Ooievaer seemed to fit the bill so I stopped there for a tea and cake.

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The cake was very light and tasted fine but the bill came to 5,70€ as I was charged for the tea, something that tends to happen in the Netherlands and not in Germany. However I was able to sit there for an hour and use their wifi so I thought it fair enough to pay for the privilege!

As you can see it was quite grey outside so it was nice to be indoors in the warm – my ride to Hoek van Holland might end up a bit chilly!

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One thing I’ve meant to mention in one of these blog posts for days is to say that whenever I include a photo of someone I’ve talked to, I have always got their permission to post it on the blog. It’s polite and sensible to do so!

I cycled back to Den Haag Centraal station where I was to meet Vince.

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That short trip, just a quarter of a mile, proved that it had become quite chilly out and my legs (in shorts) were cold. I had some legwarmers at the bottom of my clothing bag (within two plastic bags to keep everything dry) but I decided it was worth the faff of getting them out as it would undoubtedly be cold on Friday morning riding back from Harwich.

Whilst I was putting the legwarmers on Vince arrived and we headed off to the pancake house on the seafront at Scheveningen.

Here’s the map of our ride.

Den Haag to Hoek van Holland

It’s much easier cycling on Dutch cycle paths in rush hour when you can follow someone who knows what they are doing!

The occasional blast of wind gave fair warning that the ride to the Hoek (Vince said he would accompany me) would be hard work!

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After a few miles we arrived at the seafront at Scheveningen and discovered a new meteorological situation for this cycle tour – a sandstorm. The sand was being whipped up by the strong wind and blowing right in my face. I was glad I had cycling glasses on and had to cover my mouth with my hand to cycle without getting a mouthful. We were shortly at the pancake house though so locked up the bikes and went into a tent-like structure at the front.

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We were given a menu but I saw no sign of Poffertjes (my favourite). Vince knew that they were available here though so asked and we discovered they were on the drinks menu (obvious, really!) I ordered poffertjes with strawberrries, cream and vanilla ice cream and Vince (proving he has gone native in Holland after 13 years there) ordered a pancake with cheese and ham.

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I really enjoyed my poffertjes and having a cup of tea, a sit down and a chat. Once we had finished we paid up and set off into the strong wind towards the Hoek van Holland.

I decided to extract one of my buffs from my bag of clothing which involved a lot of rooting about but was really worth it over the next 12 or so miles.

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We set off along the seafront, passing some really nice sculptures.

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It’s hard to describe the sand blasting but it was incredibly fierce, like little needles all over exposed skin, and the gusts took my breath away at times. People cycling the other way were flying past, we were working really, really hard just to hit 9mph on the flat. My heart rate was around 150bpm a lot of the time – to do 9mph. Crazy! There were loads of kite surfers out too – mad!

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A chap cycled past us with his surfboard horizontal across his body – and he was using it rather like a sail, not needing to pedal as the wind pushed him along. We also followed this chap cycling along with a second bicycle.

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When we got out onto the dunes the wind was even stronger and some of the mini hills seemed massive. Here’s a picture Vince took of me:

Auntie Helen in a sandstorm

The miles were counting down very slowly and it was hard to hold much of a conversation as the wind whipped your words away. People going past the other way were flying, we were grinding our way across this bit of the Netherlands.

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I realised that Vince was going to have the most marvellous ride back to Den Haag and kept reminding him of this fact – I was really rather envious. Whereas I was doing all this work into wind with no benefit!

Yes I look silly!

We arrived at Hoek van Holland at 8:30pm at which point we said our goodbyes and Vince headed off downwind for 15 miles – lucky chap!

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I realised I was rather hungry after all that effort and, as I had time, popped into the Hoek van Holland pizzeria and had a quick pizza to warm me through and replace some carbohydrate energy.

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I then headed straight to the ferry check in. I was distinctly surprised when the woman greeted me by name as I rolled up – I wondered if this meant I was the only cyclist (she didn’t say, but I did see some other bikes tied up on the ferry). Excellent service anyway!

The sun was setting as I looked behind – Vince ought to have a rather pleasant ride back with the sunset before him and the wind behind him.

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I took this picture of the Garmin trip computer whilst waiting for loading. By the time I had found my parking spot on the ferry it was on 40.00 miles exactly.

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Notice the elevation – 43ft above sea level. The photo of the Garmin trip computer at Meersburg shows it as 1,534 ft, so I have been on a nice downhill run overall (spread out of 781 miles/1,256 kilometres)

I found my cabin on the boat and then searched – in vain – for functional wifi. I think too many people were trying to use it!

I briefly went to the back of the ship for a photo of the sunset but it was so cold I only stayed outside for a minute.

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A close-up in the mirror of the cabin showed a light covering of sand all over my face and a gently sand-blasted appearance. As I said to Vince, people pay a fortune for this kind of dermabrasion and I’ve had it for free!!!

As the wifi wasn’t working I was unable able to write up and post this blog so I went to bed and slept through till the wake-up call at 5:30am.

When I returned to my bike on the Ferry (which was at the back) I saw that the ferry car deck was pretty full and it was absolutely heaving with old MGs, Rolls Royces and various Morris cards (minors, Travellers etc), all with Dutch number plates. There’s clearly some event going on in the UK and it was wonderful to see all the cars, some with old-fashioned leather suitcases strapped to the back.

We were out by 6:30 and I went through passport control and then it was time for the ride home, 15 miles or so.

I didn’t feel like taking the windy, fiddly and hilly NCN51 route (the National Cycle Route from Harwich) as it adds a bit of distance so decided to start off riding down the A120 dual carriageway. At 7am it’s not too busy with British cars although of course all the cars coming off the ferry, and the lorries, passed me. It was a great chance to see (and smell) all those classic cars going past.

I also discovered that, of the various nationalities, the Dutch pass far closer than any other cars, which I wouldn’t have expected. The Germans leave most room and the Brits are somewhere in the middle.

It wasn’t a particularly pleasant ride although was fairly fast and I was pleased when I got to Wix where I can come off the A120 although still be on a reasonably fast road. Unfortunately I’d forgotten that it had been recently surface dressed so the road was really bumpy with gravel chippings and not that comfortable to ride on.

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till, after twelve miles I saw a sign to Great Bromley, nearly home!

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And at 7:45 I rolled up to the front door (having stopped at the local pork butchers for some food for tonight) for the end of my journey.

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A rapturous welcome by the dog (and a reasonably rapturous welcome by James once he saw the Streusel and Nuss-Striezel I had brought him!), a cup of tea and a hot shower and it was time to settle down to work. Three weeks away meant that I had 385 emails in my inbox. Yikes!!!

Anyway, here is the total of all my rides on the Konstanz to Koblenz trip:

Ko2Ko Final Figures

I have also updated MyCyclingLog which lists my monthly goals and also two different yearly goals (One Mile Per Hour, i.e. 24 miles per day, and the slightly higher goal of 9000 miles in the year). Here they are side-by-side before and after I added the Ko2Ko trip.

Stats Before And After

And, finally, I take part in a little mini league amongst various cyclists on the YACF forum. I had slipped down the rankings somewhat during the tour (as I wasn’t posting the figures as I didn’t accurately have them till I got home) but you can see my ranking has rather dramatically improved now! Before is above, After is below.

Ticker

Thanks for reading and it’s been good to chat to lots of different people – please feel free to add a comment below or send me an email using the sidebar on the right hand side (which will be near the top of this page). I do appreciate hearing from readers!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Konstanz to Koblenz, Recumbent Trikes

Ko2Ko – Great Bromley to Düsseldorf

Monday 27 to Tuesday 28 May 2013

It’s time for the off! After two beautiful days of sunshine in the UK the forecast for Bodensee when I start cycling round it on Thursday is looking a bit awful (heavy rain for four days at least).

Rain, rain and more rain!

Rain, rain and more rain!

I slightly amended my packing in consequence, changing the small rain mac for a proper waterproof jacket (my winter one!) and adding a thicker windproof jacket.

Alfie needed three new tyres so I did those, plus I sewed on the new www.auntiehelen.co.uk embroidery onto my trike seat. This embroidery was done by Mrs Miggins from YACF who is a superstar!

Embroidery courtesy of Mrs Miggins

Embroidery courtesy of Mrs Miggins

Embroidered Website Address courtesy of Mrs Miggins

I also gave Alfie a huge clean on Monday morning as the sun was out and wasn’t leaving until six in the evening. With no work (I’d got it all done) and James out sailing I spent a good hour with various cleaning cloths, getting rid of the worst of the accumulated grime from 14,000 miles. I don’t think Alfie has been this clean since the day he arrived here!

Poppy was fairly unimpressed by my efforts.

Dog unimpressed by my bike cleaning skills.

Dog unimpressed by my bike cleaning skills.

Poppy checking the trike is clean enough

Shiny trike – with special mudflap flags!

I also discovered that the front right hand side wheel has corroded on – James and I couldn’t get it off (we were intending to grease the axle) and we didn’t want to do anything too fierce to it in case we damaged it! I shouldn’t need to take it off as I change the tyre without removing the wheel but I’ll have to have a proper look at it when I get home. We didn’t even try to remove the left hand side wheel. Both wheels spin perfectly fine, I’m not sure where the corrosion is but it seems par for the course after this awful winter.

So all was now ready for my tour – I’ve been looking forward to this for months!

As planned, our friend Mark came round at 6pm with his bike so he and James could accompany me to Harwich, where we’d have a pub meal before I got on the ferry and James and Mark rode back. They did this last year on my Berlin to London trip.

I had also been contacted on Monday morning by a sailing acquaintance who lives near the Hague in the Netherlands (and is doing lots of cycling). He mentioned that he might be able to come along to the Hoek van Holland on Tuesday morning to say hello – that would be fun!

I packed all my things into the Banana Bags and then discovered, rather perturbingly, that it all seemed very heavy. I put the bags on the trike and they looked pretty stuffed full!

Luggage for three week's touring in rain and sun

Luggage for three week’s touring in rain and sun

I had a brief panic that the bags weren’t strong enough for my luggage (I estimate it weighs about 13kg) and phoned Radical Design to see if they had any weight limit. No, they said, and they’d seen photos of bags on tour absolutely stuffed full of luggage. I decided to go for a quick spin around the block which I did and all seemed OK and it didn’t feel particularly heavy on the trike. I don’t travel light but the main weighty items are all my tools (of which I carry a fair number) and the iPad in its case. Can’t do much about those!

Mark arrived at six and the three of us headed off to Harwich via the scenic route (partly following the National Cycle Route number 51 but deviating from it at times too).

Here am I, about to leave the front garge for foreign parts!
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It was a lovely evening although the promised tailwind gave us occasional blustery headwinds as well. I reminisced that when we had done this ride last year, before my Berlin to London ride, dusk was falling as we rode eastwards. This time, a month later, the whole journey was done in daylight.

The pub where we like to stop, the Cherry Tree in Little Oakley, doesn’t serve food on a Monday so instead we went to the Brewer’s Fayre pub, the Mayflower, on the main roundabout outside the ferry port. The food was pretty mediocre but it was a chance to sit down and have some food before I got on the ferry.

On the way out we spotted several trike motorbikes in the car park and I decided to get a photo of Alfie next to one. The owner appeared, a Dutch chap, and he offered for me to sit on his trike – so I did.

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It felt remarkably different than a recumbent trike! I offered for him to sit on Alfie but he declined.

James, Mark and I then rode all of a mile to the ferry check in where I waved goodbye to my companions on the other side of the fence.

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I then headed to the waiting area before loading. There was a family with a tagalong bike and a trailer (a French mother and English father) and their two children were very interested in my trike – right until the six motorcycle tricycles roared up. I had a little chat with the French lady who said they are doing the same trip as me but in reverse; we thought we might bump into each other around Koblenz.

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Bikes were let onto the ferry first and we were right at the front of the ship. Alfie was tied up and chocked and then I headed off to my cabin for a quick shower and then some sleep.

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It was bright and early when we disembarked from the ferry and the bicycles were allowed to go first. I headed onto the North Sea Cycle Route towards Den Haag; rather than catching the train at Hoek van Holland and changing at Rotterdam I was going to ride the 15 miles to Den Haag and get the direct train. This saves faffing about waiting for the end of rush hour (you can’t take bikes on trains until after 9) and was a chance to enjoy this wonderful cycle route across the sand dunes (but nicely tarmacked).

This was my planned route (which I followed pretty closely apart from a couple of small detours due to roadworks).

Pre-planned cycling route from Hoek van Holland to the railway station at Den Haag

Pre-planned cycling route from Hoek van Holland to the railway station at Den Haag

There’s a chap that James and I met through a sailing forum called Vince who lives in the Netherlands but has come over for various sailing events in Essex. He is also a keen cyclist and contacted me to say he might see if he can spot me on his way to work (he would take the scenic route) and lo and behold after about three miles who should I see coming the other way but Vince. We had a good chat and he posed for a photo, took one of me and then had a little sit down on Alfie.
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Vince headed off towards Vlaardingen for work and I continued on, really enjoying the gently rolling asphalt as I trundled up and down the dunes. Vince had warned me about these rather large sleeping policemen!

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I got a couple of glimpses of the sea as well, looking much more blue than it does on our bit of the Essex coast.

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With a few miles to go I headed inland through a more built up area and saw a lot more cyclists, including one lady on a bike wearing very high heels, a fur coat and with a bunch of flowers strapped to the back of the bike.

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After sixteen miles I arrived at Den Haag station which was having building work done so was a bit confusing. I bought myself a bicycle ticket for 6 Euros to go with my Stena ticket for me.

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I discovered there was a train due to leave for Venlo in five minutes. They are every half hour but I decided to jump on this one – it didn’t give me time to get a cup of tea but I thought I would survive!

It was one of the older trains so didn’t have as large a bicycle storage area as some but as I was the only bike on the train it didn’t matter too much. Alfie was tucked in a corner and I settled down for the two and a half hour journey.

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I was really looking forward to my arrival in Venlo so I could cycle the few miles to Germany and then stop and have a cup of tea and my first piece of cake in four weeks!!!!

Venlo arrived slightly quicker than I was expecting so I hadn’t packed my iPad away when the doors opened. Another passenger seemed desperately keen to help me with my trike (although it’s very easy to lift on and off these trains) so I let him grab the pedals and help carry it out. Fortunately the pedals are super-clean following my mega bike clean yesterday.

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This was my planned route to Düsseldorf, although I thought I might jump on a train at Viersen to reduce the distance by 20 miles.

Planned GPS route from Venlo to Düsseldorf CVJM Hotel

Planned GPS route from Venlo to Düsseldorf CVJM Hotel

From Venlo I headed following my track which took me through very familiar scenery – when I holidayed in Nettetal last August I regularly cycled this route. After a few miles I came to Secretis, a café which had a most wonderful cake when I visited last year. However their cake selection was disappointing (only plum cake) and as I’d waited four weeks for cake I wanted to break my fast with something more enjoyable, so I drank a glass of orange juice and pedalled on.

I found myself cycling through the hamlet of Sassenfeld (where I stayed last year in August) and in fact the route (one I had first cycled three years ago) went within 100 metres of the Ferienwohnung where I stayed. As I came round a corner I approached the house where the owners of the Ferienwohnung live and lo and behold there was Silke in her car (a new one, an open top BMW), so we had a little chat. It was rather cool to see two different people I knew in one day!

I decided to deviate from the route at this point which was doing a big circuit around Lobberich, the town. I wanted my cake so decided to head to Lobberich and find a café there, which I duly did – and had a lovely slice of strawberry cream cake and a cup of tea. Yum!

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I continued on, having enjoyed my tea and cake – some welcome food as it was 1:30pm and all I had eaten so far today was a couple of weetabix at 7am.

I was cycling through the Niederrhein area which I love. It has lots of potatoes growing, also some wheat (which was way ahead of what’s being grown at home) and of course the obligatory asparagus!

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As I approached Viersen, my train stop, I thought about whether to carry on cycling. The day was so lovely and sunny (and the forecast is so poor for the next week!) that I decided to cycle all the way to Düsseldorf.

I pootled along at a reasonable speed and with ten miles to go thought I ought to have some more food so stopped at an Eiscafé at Osterath. My German chum Olaf had suggested I had a spaghettieis so I did!

Here I am enjoying it!

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Note that there is a lady sitting at my table. She and her husband joined me and we had a lovely chat. They thought it was a bit odd I was touring on my own but seemed interested in what I was doing.

It was 5pm by the time I left the Eiscafé but I could see the large tower of Düsseldorf in the distance so I knew my destination was approaching.

As I was cycling along the Rhine path I saw another recumbent trike coming towards me – lo and behold it was another ICE Sprint!

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I stopped and chatted for a good half hour to this chap. He had a very nice Sprint although seemed remarkably underinformed about its specification. He had no idea it had front suspension (it took me a while to convince him, but it definitely had!).

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He also had a SRAM dual-drive hub at the back which he didn’t seem to know about; he had a gripshift for what he thought was his front chainring but he only had a single chainring up there so I suppose the gripshift ran the dualdrive at the back. He also had a nine speed derailleur.

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He said at one point “I wasn’t expecting an English woman to give me technical information about my trike!”

I gave him one of my cards with this blog address on – it was really cool to see another Sprint, and this one is only a year old.

I needed to head on though so said goodbye and followed the Rhine route towards Düsseldorf, crossing at the Theodor-Heuss-Brücke.

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I had the usual mad dash through the Düsseldorf traffic, dodging the tram tracks, and arrived at my hotel, the CVJM near the station, just before 7pm.

Here’s my Garmin’s statistics for the day; a whisker under 60 miles.

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After a shower and the obligatory clothes washing I headed out for a pizza.
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This was followed up by a crepe – yum!

It was then back to the hotel to write up my blog although my iPhone refused to connect to the wifi so I initially could only use low-res photos that I had posted to Facebook during the day.

All in all it’s been an excellent day and I’ve really enjoyed myself. Tomorrow will be less exciting – 7 hours on one train – but then it will be the start of the official Tour route, Konstanz!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Konstanz to Koblenz, Recumbent Trikes