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Klaus’s Birthday Castle Tour – Arnhem to Kempen

Day 3 of our tour, and the last day.

We had slept really well in our aircraft hangar. Cycle tours are wonderful for tiring you out!

The B&B had suggested breakfast at 09:00 (not earlier) so we had a leisurely walk before breakfast where we went to the fence surrounding the Deelen airfield. We couldn’t see a lot really, but gather it is a really large site.

We walked for about 2km before returning to the aircraft hangar.

We seemed to be the only people awake, apart from the two cats who had apparently had a bit of a fight in the night. We heard lots of yowling and then the Movement Alarm on Emily sounded, so one of them must have knocked against her. This was at 3am!

Breakfast was very impressive!

In the past we have found food in NL very disappointing. However, on this trip both breakfasts and evening meals were very good. Lunches less so, and of course the cakes are a bit of a catastrophe, but it seems at least we are improving our luck with Dutch food. Perhaps our experience is leading us to make better choices!

After a leisurely breakfast and a couple of cups of tea, we packed our things and readied the velomobiles. We said goodbye to the excellent host and her dog – we would very much like to come back again to this B&B.

Our planned route for today was this:

We had posted in the Velomobilforum that we expected to be at Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof at around 2pm or perhaps a bit later, if anyone wanted to join us there. We had not received any responses (a bit late notice) when we set off.

Our route started off by going downhill to Arnhem. And it was pretty hilly, so we had some high speeds on some open roads and then when we actually got into Arnhem we had some short, sharp climbs as we made our way through the outskirts of the city. My motor was again doing sterling work!

In Arnhem we crossed the John Frostbrug again, as a few weeks ago, and were now on the Radschnellweg/Fast Bike Route between Arnhem and Nijmegen. It’s an excellent route which is almost entirely on separate cycle infrastructure with not too many main road crossings. We zoomed along.

Soon we were approaching Nijmegen, which is also a bit hilly – we rode downhill to the river (and saw a fantastic cockapoo puppy in the town centre – if I’d had a chance I would have stopped to give it a cuddle, but we were going too fast on a main road!)

Almost immediately we were on a quiet country lane, despite being in the thick of Nijmegen just 600 metres ago. Impressive! We had an issue with two horses where we had to stop and wait for the young boy holding one horse to be rescued by his mum. We weren’t happy to pass with just the boy holding the horse as they can be so frightened of us.

We went through Persingen and then as we approached Wercheren there seemed to be dozens and dozens of race cyclists whizzing along on the relatively narrow cycle path. They were overtaking us at speed which is a bit scary in a velomobile as we have very limited opportunity to dodge hazards. They all disappeared up a steep slope which is where we should also have gone but we overshot. We needed time to work out the best way to get up there with all the race bikes.

In the end, we approached from the other side and it was fine as there was a brief lull in the cyclists. We were waved across the road by Marshalls and congratulated (they clearly thought we were part of this race) and then we passed a field where the racers were all collecting after their race. I think there were several hundred in the field, men and women. Some major event! I didn’t see any portaloos though! This was La Ronda de Nijmegen, as we later discovered.

We carried on of course, with a few race cyclists also going our way (after the finish, going home?). And we realised that we were back in Germany – I spotted the cycle route signs in the familiar German style. We were in the village of Zyfflich and two people on recumbent bikes waved at us, but we were moving at some speed and didn’t stop.

From Zyfflich we went through Niel and then Düffelward. We saw no cars, just a few other cyclists. Sunday morning and Kreis Kleve is really dead (apart from the thousands of cyclists back in NL and then another huge bunch we met in Düffelward, who were on the 160km La Ronda de Nijmegen route, it seems).

From Düffelward we were cycling on the dike on bricks so it was a bit bumpy. We then crossed the Spoykanal and turned south towards Kellen. We then skirted around Kleve, although we briefly considered riding into Kleve to find a café. But Kleve is big and hilly and I thought we would find somewhere to stop on our route. Although I was wrong!

We rode around Bedburg-Hau which was back on fairly familiar roads. And then we headed to Louisendorf which is a village founded by people from the Kurpfalz where Klaus hails from, so it’s like a mini homecoming. We stopped at the church in the centre of Louisendorf and stretched our legs a bit as I was feeling a bit cramped. We had done 65km without a stop and my legs were complaining a bit.

We then discovered that at 9:30 one of our velomobile acquaintances who lives in Kleve had asked where we were crossing the Rhein as he would join us for a short while, but we were already way past and he didn’t have time to come all the way to Winnekendonk where we were headed. It was a shame, but there you go.

It was just 25km from Louisendorf to Winnekendonk and includes a fantastic downhill run where I hit 60 km/h before I started to consider the approaching t-junction and bottled out. I was ahead at this point as we had had to go up a hill first and I had used my motor on maximum; Klaus was having to use leg-power alone, poor chap, plus he had all the luggage. But Emily is good and stable and he didn’t seem to mind.

From this point on we were on roads that we have regularly ridden so for me it felt like we were almost home. And then Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof hove into view – finally a chance for a cup of tea and some cake, 90km after leaving Arnhem.

As usual, it had to be the Mandarinen Schmand Kuchen. It is a real highlight of German Cakiness!

We enjoyed the relaxation, had two cups of tea and the one slice of cake each and rested a bit. I had been interested to see that my heart rate seemed to stay really low again today, as it did yesterday – averaging 95 at this point. That’s really unusual for me, I usually have a heart rate around 130. This has happened before and it seems to be related to me having a very carb-heavy breakfast, which I only do on tour.

However, after we left Winnekendonk things were a bit different. We really put the pedal to the metal, and Klaus (who was a bit quicker) rode the final 31km home at an average of 38.5 km/h. This is with a Quattrovelo which probably weighed close on 50kg with all the luggage and tools. Very impressive, although his legs were complaining about it (and not having had a warm down) the next day. I followed him at a slightly more sedate pace back (average about 36 km/h, I think), and warmed down for the final 2km or so.

In total today’s ride was just under 120 km.

The heart rate data is also interesting, as after the cake stop my heart rate returned to its ‘normal’, i.e. average of 130, with peaks around 160 bpm. You can see here the heart rate trace for the first 90km of the ride (at the beginning the heart rate monitor didn’t work, and it also stopped briefly in the middle where it appears as if I am dead on the trace):

The 90km to Büllhorsthof Cake. Max 125, average 95 bpm.

And then we stopped for cake… After that point the heart rate hugely increased. Here is the trace for the post-cake sector:

Average 134 for the final 31km, post-cake

And what can we conclude from this? I seem to ride better after cake! Good thing we had cake after 50km on the 210km ride on Friday. I have suggested to Klaus that we need to schedule in cake stops earlier on rides than 90km. I hope he will agree.

We arrived home, having remained dry despite some threatening clouds following us from Arnhem. So it seems the poncho that I purchased did its job of chasing off the rain – just 15 minutes of light drizzle over a weekend which originally forecast 6mm of rain. We were once again very lucky with the weather on our tour.

Rain-scaring poncho.

So our mini tour was at an end. Klaus has already planned the next one (we are turning a day group ride with the Grensland Rijders to a three day tour again).

Here is the Veloviewer Wheel to show you where we went on this tour:

457km is not bad for three days. Once again, thanks to my riding partner and pack mule Klaus who carted my clothes, shoes, iPad, battery charger etc around the Netherlands in his voluminous velomobile boot, whilst I just carried the rain-defying poncho as extra ballast. We had a great tour, he really enjoyed his birthday, and we visited some places that we will want to return to again.

Keep an eye out for my reports on the next tour in just a fortnight’s time…

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Klaus’s Birthday Castle Tour – Leiden to Arnhem

Today was Klaus’s birthday.

We had already arranged to cycle some of the way with chum Alex (who originally sold me Penelope the Versatile, and then bought friend Gabi’s Quest XS). He would be very near Leiden that morning so we would arrange to meet somehow. Klaus had planned a route, Alex planned another, then Alex amended Klaus’s route and so we had a choice of three. The expectation was that we would do the Klaus Route with Alex Amendments.

The plan was for Alex to arrive at 9:30 in the morning, having overnighted just down the road as he had some reason to be there. In the end, his plans didn’t work out so he had already cycled 40km from Rotterdam when he arrived at our Birthday Castle. Here is Lewwie (the Little White Whale, Alex’s Quest XS) with Millie and Emily.

As we only had 120km to ride today we were feeling relaxed about things. Alex was having a few issues with his Wahoo Elemnt GPS as for some reason the route today wouldn’t load. Klaus was relaxing on his birthday.

We didn’t actually get to look at the Castle at all, another problem with arriving late in the evening. We stayed at a castle but only saw the reception area, dining room and our bedroom.

In the end Alex concluded he wouldn’t be able to get the track onto his GPS so he would try and remember the route. Although Klaus and I both had the route, if someone who knows the area is in front it is much easier as they know where to cross the road for the cycle path, which path to take when they split etc. So although I started off ahead, Alex took the lead position fairly soon after we were underway.

Lewwie seems quite quick at accelerating. Alex was whizzing off ahead (although presumably he wasn’t weighed down by quite as much luggage as we were!) and Klaus and I were still warming up. Then we realised that Alex had missed a turn on the track and he was ahead. I hooted my horn but he didn’t hear it (he has the removable hood on the Quest and this makes it harder to hear), and he disappeared into the distance.

Klaus and I stopped as it was for us safer to stick to the route, in case we failed to see a turn later on when blindly following Alex. We sent him a message to say he was Off Course and we were waiting. After a few minutes he replied to say he would join up with our route, so we turned round and followed the route.

It turned out (as we later saw with Strava Flyby) that Alex was back on the route ahead of us, when we thought he was behind us. So we periodically stopped and waited (and checked the phone for messages) whilst he was pushing on ahead.

A phone-checking stop beside the ubiquitous canal and windmill. We are in NL after all!

So it was fairly slow going, although a lovely route through Buitenkaag, Huigsloot and then to Oude Wetering, where Klaus had a very annoyed motorist give sustained hooting as we went over the bridge on the road not cycle path (there was no way we could have done the corner to the cycle path). This sort of bad tempered behaviour by drivers when we are on the road for 100 metres or so leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

At this point also my hat blew away but Klaus was able to scoop it up from the road, hooray!

We also had a mini ferry crossing which took less than 1 minute. This was very cool, and only 90 cents per velomobile!

After Oude Wetering we had a fast bit of road towards Nieuwveen. Alex was somewhere ahead of us (and looking at Flyby later we saw he took a different route quite a lot of the time) so we pushed on a bit faster, agreeing to meet in Nieuwveen. Eventually we caught up with him – right by a bit of an obstacle, some Drängelgitter.

All three bikes were safely through in due course.

We were riding now at a fairly good speed alongside a busier road, but the path was set a little bit to the side so was reasonably pleasant. We were fast, of course, being in velomobiles, but were at one point overtaken by a little car (one of the special ones that are allowed on cycle paths – how do they press the button for the traffic lights?) as well as a motor scooter.

We rode through Vinkeveen, I was pulling ahead in the riding as Millie is so efficient and a good shape for the headwind we had. Yes, yesterday we had a headwind as we were heading west (wind was WNW) and today, heading east, the wind had also shifted and was ENE. Alex is quick in Lewwie but the Quest XS’s shape clearly limits the top speed. It is wide and short, and the Quests are also known to be sometimes a bit temperamental in strong side winds.

Finally we were away from the busy road and riding down a rather lovely cycle path. It would have been lovelier if the surface was a bit better – there were quite a lot of ruts and bumps which is sub-optimal with velomobiles.

We were heading towards a lunch stop (Alex had some ideas where) but Klaus was feeling peckish and thought we should stop for some of the cake we had brought from Germany yesterday. So we did. But first I took the opportunity for some photography of Millie and Emily for the header for this blog.

We had no plates or knife for the cake, but Klaus’s toolkit provided the all-purpose knife.

The Streuselkuchen was shared out amongst the three of us, and we nearly lost it to a passing Dobermann who fancied it. Fortunately Klaus mounted a successful defence of the Streuselkuchen!

We stopped for quite a while, enjoying the better weather and watching two storks wheeling about in the air across the canal. We also saw lots of trains going past, including a Deutsche Bahn ICE train.

We then carried on and the bridge at Mijnden was closed when we arrived.

We only had to wait a couple of minutes and then it slowly lowered again and we continued on.

We were now on a lovely bit of road with some really posh houses along the side. Alex explained that the old Amsterdam Traders used to have a posh house in this area for the weekend, and they certainly looked lovely and generally immaculately kept. I guess a bit like the Russian Dachas.

We got to another bridge and Alex took us off-route and we crossed the bridge to have some food. We had a burger and chips seated outside in a nice pedestrian square in a place called Breukelen. Which is pronounced ‘Brooklyn’. Earlier we had seen signs to Haarlem.

We had a very leisurely lunch and then it was time for us to press on and for Alex to return home. We said our goodbyes – it had been great to see him again! Alex sold Penelope my first Velomobile to me and our lives intersect regularly it seems.

On the way out of Breukelen we had another bridge that was open.

And then we were back on fast, easy roads. Having had a decent bit of food we had some more energy and rode on well, passing through Westbroek, Nieuwe-Wetering (skirting to the north of Utrecht), Den Dolder, the edge of Zeist and then we followed a main road past Austerlitz. The road was climbing here as we approached the Hoge Veluwe national park, and we had a little downhill after Austerlitz. A chance for the velomobiles to fly! I hit my max speed of 52 here but Klaus was a bit braver and went to 58 km/h.

We rode through Woudenberg and then Scherpenzeel and Renswoude. We crossed the A30 motorway and then found ourselves to the north of Ede. After Ede the National Park began in earnest, with a long climb followed by a most fantastic downhill. Not as fast as the one after Austerlitz but it went on a long time!

At the bottom our track told us to turn left, but we found ourselves in a car park with a woodland track leading in the direction our track suggested. We didn’t fancy that but I could see an alternative on the main road which would rejoin the track, so we took that way. Last-minute route changes with 10km to go can be rather annoying! Especially as we had lost all our speed from the downhill for this unnecessary left turn.

We crossed the A12 and then the A50 motorways and then turned north, away from Oosterbeek and Arnhem, towards Schaarsbergen where our B&B was.

Our B&B was up an old, brick road. As you can see from the photo below, there was a house and behind it a large barn. The barn had an interesting pointy roof…

And as we arrived, we saw there would be no issues with velomobile parking.

The owner and her dog came out to meet us and said of course we could store the velomobiles in the barn. We could store them right outside the door to our rooms, which were in the barn.

But this wasn’t actually a barn, it was an aircraft hangar!

And not just any aircraft hangar! It was built in WW2 by the Germans, and was the largest aircraft hangar in Europe at the time (although we may have remembered this wrongly).

The hangar is here because Deelen airfield was in the woods behind us. Deelen was the largest airfield in NL and was used by the Germans in WW2, although the Dutch had built it in 1913.

The structure of the hangar was amazing. Super-thick walls, the wooden beams were actually laminate, everything was original and really solid. Klaus thinks the pointy roof was so that from above it looked like a farm building, not an aircraft hangar, so perhaps this was to disguise it from British bombers.

From the website on Forgotten Airfields:

“The airbase was used by the RNLAF without changing much of the original German buildings. As a result, it is one of very few places in Europe where the German “Heimatschutz Architektur” is well preserved. This is why the Dutch Ministry of Culture put the entire complex and its surrounding complexes -a total of 251 objects- on a heritage protection list. Its sheer size makes the Air Base the largest National Cultural Monument in the Netherlands.


The “Heimatschutz Architektur” meant that bunkers and hangars were camouflaged to make them look like Dutch farms. In fact: some of the off-base buildings are in use at farms today. Only if you inspect them up close you will notice walls are a meter (3 feet) thick, windows and doors are actually painted on walls, hatches are made of thick steel, and German texts can still be found all over the air base.


The Germans did make a mistake though: instead of using the local Gelders traditional style of building they used the Holland style. For the purpose it did not matter: the camouflage worked.”

Whatever, this was a fascinating place to stay! And for Klaus, whose birthday it was and who has a real interest in history, it was the icing on the cake!

Here are my statistics from Garmin for the day.

In the evening we walked to a pizzeria just five minutes away. Some of the old airfield buildings are being converted to homes or other purposes and there was a very nice pizzeria there. The service was a bit laid back (it was good that we weren’t in a rush!) but the pizza was tasty!

On our return Klaus took some pictures of Millie and Emily in the evening light.

We can very much recommend B&B Adelaerthoeve, as the rooms were great (we had a mini kitchen) and of course there is loads of history!

Although today was not as far to ride as yesterday, I was still pretty tired and so happy to have an early night. Klaus enjoyed his birthday – what better way to celebrate the new year of life by having a cycle ride and eating some German cake!

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Nine Wheels in Germany – April 2019 (Month 61)

I ended last month with the cliffhanger… what would happen at my meeting at the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Office) with regard to Brexit?

Of course, Brexit was delayed from its original date of 29 March 2019, thus meaning that when I arrived for my appointment at the Kreishaus Viersen on 1 April (I had lived exactly five years in Germany at this point) I was still a European citizen.

The lady with whom I had an appointment said she had expected me not to show up, as Brexit hadn’t happened! However, I said to her that I would like some kind of documentation to show that I had now lived in Germany for five years as an EU citizen so was theoretically entitled to remain permanently. Unfortunately Kreis Viersen doesn’t offer the usual document for EU citizens (because they don’t need it, because they are EU citizens so have the right to remain anyway!) so all she could do is prepare the documents for me for after Brexit. I had already found this document and filled it in as much as possible, so she said they would hold it on file so I would be one of the first processed after Brexit (whenever it comes, hopefully never).

This involved taking my fingerprints, a copy of a photograph of me for the future ID card, and evidence of my employment income (I had the last few payslips with me). My huge folder of documents, including bank statements, education certificates, rental contract etc etc was not needed.

I asked her if I could have some kind of document to prove that I had attempted to gain my Niederlassungserlaubnis because I felt rather unsure of the situation when Brexit came. How quickly would I be able to get an appointment, for example. She discussed with a colleague and in the end provided me with a letter which basically just shows that I have put in an application for a right to remain, and that I am currently allowed to remain in Germany.

I don’t suppose this document is worth very much really but at least it is something, and Germans do like their pieces of paper!

So after all the preparation for this appointment, gathering together all my documentation over the last 4-5 months, it was a bit of a damp squib. But at least I have now handed in my application for the Aufenthaltserlaubnis (leave to remain) so hopefully that will all be accepted when the time comes.

Cycling this month

Here is where I went this month:

My Veloviewer Wheel for April 2019

And here is the list of rides:

April 2019 cycling, only 16km in Bertie

A large distance this month was of course the tour that Klaus and I did in the Netherlands following his Dronten trip. You can read a separate blog post about our Easter NL Tour here.

I of course continued to cycle to work, the 4.2km each way taking just under ten minutes. It’s no quicker by car. And I get some lovely morning views across the fields.

In addition to our Netherlands Tour, Klaus and I also had a longer ride in NL one Saturday.

Schafstall, Kessel Tour

This ended up as a 120km tour. Our plan was first to go to Café Schafstall in Twisteden for some cake, and then ride to the Netherlands, returning back via the Reuver/Kessel ferry.

We enjoyed a slice of cake at Schafstall…

And then headed downhill into NL, crossing the river Maas on a bridge at Knikkerdorp.

We were going really well as it was nice weather and we zoomed south, heading towards Kessel. We decided to stop for lunch at Grubbenvorst, and parked next to another interesting vehicle!

We had a lunch of soup and then headed on, zooming our way through Venlo and down to Kessel. The velomobiles were both flying!

We crossed the ferry at Kessel/Reuver and then rode home up the hill at Weissen Stein. I have to say, it’s much more fun now I have a motor in the velomobile!

This wasn’t our only long Sunday ride into NL. At the end of April we did another trip, this time with Ralf. I had so enjoyed the slice of Erbeer Baiser Kuchen at Winthuis on our way back from our Easter NL tour that I suggested we went there the following Sunday. Ralf agreed to come too!

This was the goal… a fab Erdbeer Baiser Kuchen (Strawberry cream and meringue cake)

Ralf came to our house at 9am. We had agreed to check the weather in the morning as there was some rain threatened but in the end it was nicer than expected and we didn’t get rained on at all.

This was our track for the day:

The route to Winthuis is one that we regularly do with Ralf – we love these fast roads heading north-west from Kempen. We ride first through Kerken, then bypass Geldern by heading to Pont, then Walbeck (on a major road but it has a wide side strip we can use), then towards Weeze going through Twisteden. This always gives us an option for another decent Bauerncafé!

We arrived at Winthuis and I initially thought it was closed as there didn’t seem much going on. I said if that were so then we could just go back to Twisteden and Café zum Schafstall but Ralf was running out of energy (he had ridden an extra 20km and had not done so much cycling over the last few months due to a short hospital stay). Fortunately the café was indeed open.

I ordered the Erdbeer Baiser Kuchen of course, but Klaus went for a Black Forest Gateau

and Ralf for a Käse Sahne Torte.

They were great of course, and we enjoyed the relaxation after working fairly hard to get to Weeze.

We then headed off to the Netherlands.

The clouds were massing but fortunately we avoided the rain.

This ride ended up at 76km in total for us, quite a bit further for Ralf who stayed with us until Wachtendonk. I had assumed he would peel off for home in Straelen, but I think he was enjoying being part of this speedy Velomobile train! Our average speed ended up at 29 km/h.

One other cycling event this year was the Spezi Radmesse. Klaus and I went together and spent about three hours there as we had an afternoon appointment. It was great to meet up with many friends again, and also to see what is going on in the world of velomobiles and recumbents.

Lots of jellybeans

A lot of our friends cycled there. We were quite envious of them for the ride, but it’s a long way (we did it four years ago by trike!). We were disappointed not to bump into Andrew Allen and John Williams, two Brits who were there. We hope maybe to catch up with them when we are in the UK in September.

Walking

As well as cycling, I have also continued my walking in the month of April. I have walked 130km in total in April, including at least one day per week walking the 8.2km round trip to work and back. However, my working hours have now changed so I am starting at 7am rather than 8am which might put paid to the commuting by walking (I would need to leave the house around 6am which is a trifle early!)

A side-effect of the walking is that my Vo2 Max has continued to improve.

As a reminder, when I first bought my Garmin smartwatch it calculated my VO2 max as “Poor or very poor”, 29 on the scale, and that my fitness age was 53 years old. Seeing as I am 47 and a regular cyclist that was a bit surprising!

However, over the time with all the walking my VO2 max has gradually improved.

So that at the end of April it was at a rather pleasing 38, so my fitness age is 26!

My Garmin only measures my VO2 max when walking, not cycling; if I had a power meter on Millie it would measure it during cycling and would probably provide a different measurement because the two sports are different, although I guess with my electric motor it wouldn’t work anyway!

And another beneficiary of the walking is…

Poppy the dog is getting very fit now, as she gets walks from me/us each day, plus walks from Gudula. Gudula also takes her inline skating, and came to visit me at work one day with Poppy (at least a ten kilometre round trip).

She seems not to have entirely given up her aspirations to car driving though.

Poppy often gets evening walks with us, now that it stays light until nearly nine pm.

And during my afternoons free from work, if the weather is nice, we go for a longer walk too.

The scenery where we live is lovely, although Klaus suffered from hayfever this month.

An interesting thing about hay fever… in the UK there are three different tablets commonly available in supermarkets/chemists: Cetirizine hydrochloride, Loratadine and Acrivastine. The first two are cheap as chips, the Acrivastine is harder to find and about three times the price. They all have different ways of working. We stocked up big time on the first two and bought one packet of Acrivastine when in the UK last September as antihistamines cost about ten times as much in Germany.

Last year on our summer tour we both got itchy skin rashes from the Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillars and I had read that Cetirizine antihistamines can help with this; of course, on that occasion we had the Loratadine with us. We know for our next summer tour!

Anyway, this year the Cetirizine wasn’t helping Klaus, nor was the Loratadine. I had one box of the more expensive Acrivastine and he tried that for the first time and it worked for him, although the tablets are only for eight hours (rather than the full day of the others). Which made them even more expensive… It was £7 for 24, whereas the others are about £2.30 for a pack of 30.

Anyway, as he only had the one packet of 24 Acrivastine we started seeing about getting some more. And as I had been warned by friend Babs, it seems Acrivastine is not available at all in Germany. How odd! So my next cunning plan was to cycle to NL and buy some there; however, I soon saw that there are very few Apotheeks/chemists compared to the number in Germany. I wanted to go to Arcen (a nice ride from here) but they had none. Venlo had several chemists but I am less keen on cycling there, I wanted to check the tablets would be available. I couldn’t tell, so I asked Dutch chum Alex who told me Acrivastine is only available on prescription in the Netherlands. So no luck there.

Fortunately the hay fever time had passed before we ran out of Acrivastine, but we know to stock up again as soon as we are in the UK. And how strange, that despite the European Union the authorisations for these tablets are so different. (Medications are massively cheaper in the UK than in Germany so we buy paracetamol and ibuprofen when visiting the UK too).

Back to walking now! My work walking commute is also still fun.

Still eating Keto

The Keto diet continues. I have now lost 17 kg since January, and not been hungry during that time. I allow myself a slice of cake during a cycle ride but try not to do that too often as then I would slip too far out of ketosis and start getting hunger pangs/sugar cravings again.

Here are some more pics of the Keto food that we eat. All prepared freshly, with fresh vegetables, meat from the local butcher, lots of cream and butter and cheese. Wonderful!

Keto roast dinner – roast chicken, celeriac roast ‘potatoes’, other roasted veg
Keto chicken pie. We had some other veg out of shot to accompany it.
Keto burger and chips, with 90-second mug bread which worked really well for the bap. The chips are made of celeriac and taste great!
Keto fish ‘n chips (celeriac chips). I breaded the fish myself with some almond flour, garlic and egg.

It seems this month my cooking has tended more to traditional British food. I also made a lovely butter chicken curry. Klaus has also cooked as well, of course – he is the expert with pork steaks. We are both eating really well, and enjoying our daily strawberries from the Asparagus grower down the road.

I also finally managed to make a decent Keto bread. It has almond flour, chia seeds, quark and a few other bits and bobs.

I make it in small springform tins
Here it is, out of the tins after 50 minutes’ cooking
And inside – chia seeds visible. My phone has made the colour a bit weird, it’s white inside!

Cakes this month

Of course my blog cannot be complete without the gallery of cakes this month. These have been shared by Klaus and I. Good thing we are also doing lots of cycling!

May will be a busy month. Klaus celebrates his birthday and of course we will go on a bike tour for it (NL again!) He also has to go to Korea for work for a week which is not such fun. We have a couple of bank holidays which is nice, as we also did in April. And we possibly have the European elections too (I decided to vote with my UK postal vote rather than in Germany, as I want to be a pro-European Brit).

See you next month!

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – March 2019 (Month 60)

I am writing this on 31 March. Until a few days ago I assumed I would no longer be an EU citizen on this date. But, hurrah, that is not the case! Tomorrow is my visit to the Ausländerbehörde, the Foreigners Office, in Viersen; hopefully there I will be able to get some kind of documentation for the fact I will have lived 5 years in Germany. This time five years ago I was heading to Harwich on my way to the ferry to start my new life (not that I knew at the time it would be my new life!) So much has happened in those five years, but it has been very good!

Cycling this month

Here is where I went this month by bike:

And here is the list of rides. This totalled 298km by bike, but I also walked 97km too!

Celeste again

Long term readers of my blog will remember Celeste, Klaus’s Strada velomobile. This had been damaged by some vandals and then repaired, but had been stored in our next door neighbour’s workshop as we didn’t have space in our garage at the house and we weren’t happy with the security at the other rented garage (where Celeste was vandalised).

Some months ago we met Inge and her husband Frank, as well as her brother (also called Frank) and talked a lot about velomobiles. She was very interested in trying out Celeste to see if it would suit, so we extracted Celeste from the neighbour’s garage and Klaus cycled her to Inge’s.

Before Celeste went to Inge’s, however, Poppy had to have a little go…

Inge had to buy some SPD shoes of course, but otherwise we didn’t need to do much to Celeste at all as Inge’s leg length seems to fit with the chain length in Celeste.

We have been out for a couple of rides with her and Celeste, it is funny to follow that celeste-coloured shape again after a full year of Quattrovelo following!

Emily and Celeste
A view in Emily’s mirror

We are letting Inge use Celeste for several weeks before she has to decide whether or not to buy her. Celeste is an ideal velomobile for most uses and a bit easier to maintain than the Quattrovelo or Milan, plus she is very quiet. So far Inge seems to be enjoying using her!

Millie’s brake and spokes repair

This month saw (finally!) the repair to Millie’s sticking brake.

The brakes in the Milan (as in most other velomobiles) pass through the plates where the steering rods are attached. The Milan brake cable makes a 180 degree turn in order to go inside the front suspension and up to the brake drum. You can see a picture here.

Highlighted is the brake cable with the metal flexible sheath over it

I had ordered a new brake sheath (the metal bit at the end) from the UK as I couldn’t find this type in Germany. It took a couple of weeks to arrive but eventually came. I didn’t have an opportunity to do the repair, and then wanted to ride Millie one Friday afternoon. It was impossible, the brake was constantly stuck on and squealing. So the next day it was a definite job to do!

First of all, we laid Millie on her side on the garden table. Here you can see both wheels still in place.

Then it was time to remove the right hand wheel (although we needed to do both, as there was also a broken spoke on each wheel).

This had previously taken us hours but Frank had a convenient tool that we could use. He was originally going to help me but ended up not being available so Klaus and I had to have a go on our own.

On the left hand wheel we also had to unscrew the speed sensor for the Bafang motor, which was cable-tied to the bunged-up brake cable.

We managed to get the wheel off after about 10 minutes.

And were left this this arrangement inside the wheel well.

Klaus is holding onto the brake cable in that photo. The idea was to just pull the metal brake noodle thingie off. But would it come off? No!

More and more pulling… unsuccessful

The problem was that the brake noodle thingie was getting caught on the end of the brake cable which was a bit split. We had no success so in the end Klaus resolved to cycle to a bike shop and buy a new brake cable and we would cut this one off.

We were then able to pull out the entire brake cable. Which involved some fiddling on the tiller too…

So off he went to buy a brake cable or three (I suggested two spares as well!) and I replaced the broken spoke on the wheel.

Klaus returned, having invested 15 Euros in some decentish cable (Shimano rather than No-Name).

We would now have to feed the new cable into the old sheath. The possibility had been to change the sheath too, but as everything is rather hidden away around the tiller I didn’t fancy that, although it probably would not have been as bad as I had feared.

The new cable ran nicely down inside the cable sheath until right at the end… where it was presumably still full of a bit of gunk which had caused the issue before. We sprayed some teflon fluid down it but no luck. In the end Klaus just cut the bottom 5mm off the cable and then it was fine, we were able to attach the new noodle.

Then the really tricky bit started! Getting the new cable the right length to work the brakes, without having actually measured the correct length of cable.

There is very little room to work in Millie’s wheel well and we had to mostly replace the wheel (except for the final fine positioning) to gauge the length of the cable. I think this took us at least an hour, but finally the brake was working. Klaus did the fine-tuning on the tiller and the brakes are now perfect – don’t pull to one side, release easily, run smoothly. It’s a real improvement!

We then removed the second wheel so I could replace the spoke on that one. This didn’t take too long, fortunately. I also added new washers to the top of the suspension arms for each front wheel as the old ones had rather perished. They are what you see when inside the cockpit of the Milan.

So Millie is now running very nicely with definitely improved braking control!

A second minor repair also used a brake cable, but this time the outer…

I had ridden Millie to work on a really windy day and at one point in the morning the wind blew her lid/deckel open. This is held in place with some stiff cable which had been getting a bit rusty/grotty over the last couple of years, and finally the cover was pulled off the end of the cable and it ripped out of Millie. There was no way to feed this frayed metal nightmare back through the small hole between cockpit and lid!

As I was at work I asked the Schlosser (Handyman) if he had a suitable bit of replacement cable. He did, but it was too flexible (and turned out to also be too wide), but he recommended screws and washers instead. So he did a quick repair but it was clear to me that the screws/washers option didn’t allow enough flexibility for the movement required for the lid.

When I got home I had a look around for a bit of suitable wire, and in our box of Miscellaneous Bike Bits I found two spare brake cables. This was clearly the right thing! I wasn’t able to cut the cable so it is rather longer than needed, but hopefully at some point I will find someone with a suitable cable cutter and have it the right length, but in the meantime the lid is now properly affixed again. And if anyone needs an emergency brake cable outer I have one!

More walking again

I am really enjoying doing a lot more walking, and aim to walk to work and back at least once per week. In the last week of March I managed it twice in one week! The journey on the route I take is 4.2km so that is about 50 minutes of walking for me.

And I see such lovely sights on the walk…

Asparagus fields

On the days I don’t walk to work I take Poppy out for around an hour each day. It is interesting to see how my fitness is improving, at least according to my Garmin Vivoactive Smartwatch. It measures VO2 Max; I have no idea how accurate it is, but I guess its readings may give me a bit of a clue… and I am finally younger than my actual age (47 3/4)

A visit to Vaessen and a visit from my Mum

I had a lovely week with my Mum, who booked to come over two weeks before Brexit to avoid any potential travel issues if she came in the more usual April/May time.

We were to collect her on Sunday morning from the Hoek van Holland. Klaus had booked to have Emily checked in Dronten the day before as there were some things that needed doing and it was the only suitable time.

The original plan was for us both to cycle part of the way there on the Friday evening and stay in a Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation on Friday night. Klaus would then cycle to Dronten on Saturday, get the work done and return to the same Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation Saturday afternoon. I would ride home on Saturday to be ready to pick Mum up Sunday morning.

We had loved our visit to Vaassen last time and contacted the Vrienden op de Fiets host, but this time unfortunately (for us) he had friends visiting who were staying in the accommodation. But he recommended two other options and I contacted the first who said yes, we could stay.

Looking at the weather forecast in advance it looked like it would not be good weather for Millie (too rainy), so I made the decision to go by car. I checked first with the Vrienden op de Fiets hosts and they said that was fine. Klaus was coming by bike after all.

He came home from work just after lunch and set off on the 135km ride to Vaassen. I left home a couple of hours later and had a motorway run which is very familiar – the route to Dronten!

I arrived about 20 minutes before Klaus (he has a tracker in Emily so I could see where he was). We were in a ‘Garden House’ which in this case was a shed that had been built as a separate accommodation area and was really nice.

Klaus rolled in shortly after I had made a cup of tea and he parked in the carport – his Insignia could cope with being out in the rain and wind, we thought!

After he had showered we walked into Vaassen, about 2km, to the Turkish restaurant we had eaten in before (we were aiming for something else but nothing else tickled our fancy). After a good meal we walked back again in the dark, periodically using our phone lights to signal our presence to the occasional car drivers who whizzed along this narrow road.

The next morning we had the traditional Dutch breakfast (best not to say much about that) and then Klaus headed off to Dronten and I returned to Kempen. He had a reasonably successful time in Dronten although didn’t get everything done, and I made final preparations for Mum’s visit.

I left home at 6am on the Sunday morning to head for the Hook of Holland. Mum arrived just as I did, and we headed to Dechi Beach for breakfast. This is a beachfront café which does a very nice breakfast, in fact the only decent breakfast I think I’ve had in the Netherlands! It wasn’t really beach weather though.

But we enjoyed our breakfast and the chance to relax before the 2 hour drive back to Germany.

I had the week off work so Mum and I had a lot of time together. Unfortunately the weather was awful so we didn’t get out as much as we’d like, but we did visit a Garden centre, did a bit of shopping in Kempen, had a few cakes and Mum even came with us to visit Inge when Klaus delivered Celeste. Poppy really enjoyed having her Oma visiting too!

It was sad to wave goodbye to Mum, but we will see her when we visit the UK in September… by bike!

Miscellaneous

Here are a few miscellaneous items I experienced this month…

Google Maps is a bit hazy on German spelling for Ausfahrt… but only if you are visiting Breyell it seems!
My proof-reading skills work quite well in German too. This would be a VERY solid sofa… (should be Polstergarnitur)
In the company where I work, an extra vowel has crept into the last word,
perhaps instead of the missing s…
(should be kommissioniert)

Cakes this month

As usual, here are the cakes that I or my cycling companions enjoyed this month…

And not just cakes. We have (despite the cakes) continued with eating Keto. I have now lost 14kg in the last three months and feel really good with it, as I am almost never hungry and don’t have any energy dips.

Here are a few photos of the food that we have cooked for ourselves this month:

And what’s next…

With Brexit, who knows! I woke up yesterday and was still a European Citizen, which I had not necessarily expected. Tomorrow at the Ausländerbehörde I will find out what options are open to me as a UK national who has been resident in Germany for five years. As the Germans say, ‘es bleibt spannend…’

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – January 2019 (Month 58)

January isn’t generally a particularly high-mileage month, and this year was the same – also as I had the lurgy twice during that time, which included an entire week off work/no cycling. However, I managed to cycle to work every day that I worked, including a couple of very snowy days where it was a bit of a challenge to get through the snow. At the end I had 220km for January which was OK.

And here is the list of rides.
Here is the ‘wheel’ of where I rode this month – mostly commuting, just a couple of other short trips.

Almost all my rides were in Bertie this month, as you can see. During the weekend he is living in the garden with a motorcycle cover over him.

During the week he is sheltering in front of the garage so I can access him easily to get to work in the dark. This means when Klaus reverses his car onto the driveway he has a good target to aim for:

Millie gets a tiller cover

With Velomobiles there is always something that can be done to improve them. Most people are interested in improving their velomobiles for speed, but for me comfort is more important.

During Oliebollentocht, the first long ride in Millie since the motor was fitted, I kept catching the inside of my trousers on some cable ties around the tiller. The entire tiller arrangement was changed by Akkurad when they fitted the motor, and as usual the heads of the cable ties kept spinning round and getting in the way. They actually ripped a couple of small holes in my cycling trousers during Oliebollentocht.

This is a problem I have had before, and it’s a tricky one to fix. If you rotate the cable tie head round so it doesn’t connect with your trouser leg, after a kilometre or so the rubbing of my leg against the tiller will have rotated it back into scratching distance.

I moaned about this to Biggi when she was here and she told me that she has made a tiller cover for her DF, and would happily make me one. I looked at the one on her DF – it looked good! So she took some measurements of Millie’s tiller and a few days later I had a little parcel in the post.

Unfortunately, a bout of lurgy and some awful weather meant I didn’t have a chance to test it out, but after I had arisen from my deathbed it was time to try it out. Biggi had needed to carefully measure the tiller as there are various cables, the end of the tiller hanger etc which all have to be avoided.

So here was the tiller before the cover went on.

Tiller from the right side – the brake cables are free but the cable for the electric controller the hooter and the lights are held in place by three black cable ties
From the other side – you can see the sharp heads of the cable ties.

Biggi had made the cover with some velcro to hold it together, and it was a work of seconds to fit it in place.

Cover starts just under the tiller hanger cable and goes right to the tiller base
From the other side. All cable ties and other sharp objects are fully covered with a soft, leathery-feel fabric

It fitted very well, and when I was finally able to ride with it (a week or two later) it did its job admirably. No more scratching of trouser legs and destroying my lycra cycling kit. I even got out a needle and thread and sewed a rather ham-fisted repair on the damaged trousers. They should survive another season.

Thanks again to Biggi for so kindly making me this cover!

Snowy January

January 2019 was very significant for lots of parts of America with the freezing conditions. Here in Germany we had some snow, although it wasn’t too significant. There were a few days when it was icy underfoot and also some days where I had to cycle to work not only in the dark but also in the snow!

Bertie has very good lights, shown by this photo when I was ready to leave on the first snowy day.

It was a tough ride to get to work. With three wheels, each of which have their own track, you have to plough three furrows in the snow to make any progress. And the back wheel is apt to spin and so you lose traction. But I made it to work in the end!

The display on my Garmin shows the effort to get there – 3.83km at 8.5 km/h

The snow partially melted a couple of days later, and then it was very cold and icy. I had some slippery rides to work, especially as the melted snow refroze on my Versatile Roof overnight. I rode to work one day with lots of icicles in front of me:

And the same day I rode home with fresh snow

I also happened to notice, during the icy/snowy period, that the right hand side front tyre on Bertie was looking rather sub-optimal

I decided that a pretty urgent tyre change was called for, as I didn’t want a puncture on the way to work in minus 7 degree temperatures! Sadly we don’t really have a warm place to work on the bikes, but I managed to change both front tyres without completely freezing the next day. This was also a good opportunity to change from the Blitz Ventil in the front tubes, to the normal Autoventil (Schraeder valve). I am unable to pump the Blitz valves as it needs two hands which I don’t have available; I had to rely on Klaus to pump up the tyres for me and he was never around in daylight!

Anyway, Bertie had two fresh Marathon Greenguard tyres fitted to the front, plus two new tubes, so he was happy. Klaus also worked a bit on my non-functional front left brake and oiled/greased the pivots of the drum brakes and it now works properly, hurrah! Previously the brake would go on, but wouldn’t fully release once you stopped pressing the levers. Now all seems to be well. I have to say, it’s a bit improvement riding a 45kg bike on icy roads with more than one wheel with braking ability!

It wasn’t all ice and snow though – we had occasional glimpses of the sun!

Rides with friends

Despite the weather and various illnesses (both Klaus and I were ill twice in January), we managed to catch up with some friends and cycle with them.

Chief Cycling Companion is of course Ralf, with his Cookie Monster DF.

Also regularly joined by Hartmut and his WAW

And of course Klaus, my chief cycling companion – as well as my life companion.

Klaus finds the Alienhaube (the head covering rear section) on the Quattrovelo absolutely wonderful, and he has cycled in all weather this January. Here he is in Straelen on a rainy Saturday; he has cycled in snow (although if it is too deep then the wheels get bunged up), and on very slippery ice which was a bit challenging!

Millie and Emily have been shopping together too (Emily carries everything, Millie just looks good)

Klaus managed to ride 278 kilometres in January, despite being ill twice and having a very busy and stressful time at work. He sometimes comes home from work and just rides for an hour in the dark, doing a loop somewhere familiar, just to exercise out the stress of the work day. But he – and I – are definitely looking forward to the warmer (and drier!) weather.

Poppy in the snow

Of course, our dog finds the snow very interesting!

I took a second photo and realised I got her in mid-air, so I have zoomed in on it…

We live in a rural hamlet outside Kempen, and with the snow laying on the asparagus fields it was rather lovely.

Keto again

Last year Klaus and I followed the Ketogenic (Keto/Very Low Carbohydrate) diet for a few months and felt great on it. We decided to do it again this year, so started on 2 January. We didn’t have to change much as we had continued often eating Keto at home throughout 2018 but I wanted to be a bit more disciplined about it.

We also both bought Garmin fitness smartwatches (I have a Vivoactive 3, Klaus has a Fenix 3). These measure heart rate, steps, stairs, sleep, resting etc. It has been interesting using them for a few days to see how far we walk (I walk about 5-10km per day) and it has encouraged us to do some more walking. Poppy is pleased with this too!

After the first month on Keto I had lost 7kg without feeling hungry (which is the real benefit of Keto for me). This does mean no cakes at cafes, or only on special occasions, but this is OK in January when the weather is bad. When on holiday or visiting people we will eat ‘normally’, but want to try to stick to relatively strict low carb at home. We both just feel better eating like that and enjoy the meals that we create.

Choir 2019 – Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem

Each year I have sung with the Willicher Musikprojekt and this year the chosen piece is Ein Deutsches Requiem by Brahms.

This is a completely unknown piece to me, but I have listened to it now and I am sure it will be a wonderful musical event. Especially as friend Inge will be singing as well this year.

Einbürgerungstest

In order to be allowed to remain in Germany after Brexit, I will need to apply for a Niederlassungserlaubnis (Indefinite Leave to Remain) and as part of this, I have to show that I have adequate knowledge of the German state and system. Germany has a Citizenship Test, called the Einbürgerungstest, which is a selection of 33 questions from a field of 310, and with four multiple choice answers. You have to get a minimum of 17 answers correct in the test.

I was luckily able to sign up in time for the test at the end of January, so that I would hopefully get my results in time for my meeting at the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Office) in Viersen on 1 April.

I was able to practice for the exam through an App and it was pretty easy – I generally only got one or two questions wrong from the 33, usually the technical ones about the structure of the German parliamentary system. They have lots of very similar-looking words for slightly different official jobs!

Anyway, the test happened on 30 January at six in the evening. I drove to the Language School in Viersen where I had registered and was let into a room where about 30 of us were taking the test. We had an hour to complete it, but could leave as soon as we had finished. I left after 9 minutes and I am pretty sure I have got all the answers correct. We will find out in due course when the results come (about six weeks’ time).

Cakes this month

Himbeer-Sahne Torte, eaten by Ralf not me (sadly)
Klaus and I shared this Käse-Mandarinen-Torte, my first piece of cake in 2019 (and it was in the last week of the month!)
This had pears and Eierlikör so I was happy to let Klaus eat it on his own.
Finally a good Keto recipe for brownies! I divided this into 16 portions and they were gooey in the middle and very tasty!

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

Thirteen Wheels in Germany – July 2018 (Month 52)

The observant among you may have spotted that the title of this month’s report is a little different… More about that later!

Cycling this month

July was a good month for cycling, despite Germany sweltering under mega temperatures.

I think we were above 30 degrees for almost every day of the month, and I saw a temperature of 39 degrees at one point. That is hot!

It also means that the afternoons are just spent hiding in the house with the shutters down and my new best friend, an oscillating tower fan, doing its thing!

So this meant that most of my cycling was on Alfie the trike (out in the fresh air!), except for a few longer rides.

Here is the list of rides:

The green rides are Alfie, the red ones are Velomobiles (Millie or Humphrey, almost entirely Millie).

And here are the year statistics:

As you see, I did 896km in July which was OK.

And here is my Wheel for the places I have been in July.

If you looked closely at the list of rides or the wheel you might have noticed something slightly interesting on Sunday 15 July.

My first 300km ride

Klaus is now riding much more than me, including regular commutes to work (a 94km round trip). For example, I’m typing this on 3 August and he cycled to work today (Friday), as well as on Tuesday and Wednesday. Impressive stuff!

Anyway, he had started toying with the idea of attempting a 300km ride. His highest previous distance in one day was 220km, mine was 215, but we both felt that more was possible. He started thinking through how to do it – he knew his risk was to go out too fast and get tired, and he also knew he would have to ride this on his own as trying to accommodate to someone else’s speed makes you more tired.

Klaus had arranged a week’s holiday with his daughter in Austria and I started to think about what I would do during the week he was away, particularly the first weekend. About three weeks before he went, I got the idea that I could try for a 300km. But the one thing I didn’t want to do was tell anyone (except my Mum!) beforehand as I didn’t want any pressure at all. If the weather was good, I would try for the distance. If I felt bad partway through I would stop.

A week before, when the weather forecast looked good (although mega hot!) I checked with Gudula that she could look after Poppy for the whole day as I knew I would be out for a very long time. I estimated my average speed would be about 25 km/h over such a long distance, which meant twelve hours’ cycling time. I would also need time for breaks, food, loo etc. Gudula was happy to look after Poppy, so my plans were moving on.

The day before, on the Saturday, I ended up driving for nearly six hours (more below) in Ralf’s Sprinter. As I delivered it back to him, I  decided to tell him what I was planning for the next day as he, Klaus and I often rode together on Sundays and I thought he might like to ride with me. He said he would quite like to meet me for a short part of my ride so I told him I would send him my planned GPS tracks and we would communicate the next morning and arrange a meeting spot. I did warn him that I would have to go my own pace and couldn’t wait around a lot.

The whole time that Klaus and Ralf had been talking about doing a 300km ride I, too, had considered how I might do it. It was clear to me that I would need to ride in Kreis Kleve, north of where we live, as it has open roads, few traffic lights, not many cars and – also important – several nice Bauerncafé. Of course, Kreis Kleve isn’t 300km in a straight line so I decided to plan several loops that I could ride – of different distances so I could choose how far to go. Each loop went past a nice Bauerncafé (of course!). One was 90km, one 70 and one 45km.

I also knew I would have to leave early in the morning to give myself enough time. This is partly because in the evening my cycling speed slows a lot, but I am OK with early mornings. So at 06:13 I was in the garage getting into Millie after freshly pumping up her tyres. I had two 500ml bottles of water with me but that was my only extra preparation.

Here is the map of my ride today – three major loops and some smaller ones:

It’s pretty hard to see where I actually rode so I have included images of the individual loops.

So I set off on loop one, which was the 90km one past Weeze airport and then up to Siebengewald (NL) before returning along Ceresweg to Arcen. This is a route we have done loads of times and I know it’s fast and easy roads – well, the German section anyway. NL is not so good but I fancied a bit of NL and Ralf would meet me in Straelen at the end of that loop.

I started off a bit slower than I expected but this is often the case in the early morning. I had eaten a breakfast of scrambled eggs with bacon to give me energy for the first 100km which I wanted to do without a proper stop, if at all possible.

I followed the traditional route up to Kerken, then along Eyll towards Winternam, then going past the prison in Pont and heading towards Twisteden. From there I hugged the NL border going north west past Weeze and then enjoyed the fast road to Siebengewald.

At Siebengewald (48km) I stopped to put my feet down and have a drink. I also sent Ralf a message – he said he was on his way and would meet me in Straelen. I pedalled on.

I had unfortunately forgotten how bad the road surfaces can be in NL. Well, I had sort-of remembered but decided they couldn’t be as bad as I remembered. My memory had been correct! I lost about 3km/h speed because of the rough surface. I was making sure I was just cruising along the whole time, not using much power at all, so that I could last the full 300km. So I just accepted the slower speed and resolved not to do this loop again.

The hill up from Arcen is one of the easier ways of getting up into Germany (Germany is uphill from NL where we live), and as I was approaching it I exchanged messages with Ralf (who was already in Straelen eating his breakfast) and Klaus (who had just woken up in Austria and had no idea I was doing a long ride).

I rolled into Straelen just as Ralf was finishing his breakfast. Rather than stopping for a cake at Hoenen’s bakery in Straelen I said to Ralf I would prefer to go to Café Winthuis near Weeze which has fantastic cakes and was just another 25km. He thought this was fine, so after a sit down on a chair for five minutes I headed off again with Ralf behind me. He rode the whole time together with me tucked in behind so I didn’t have to concentrate on keeping up with him, I could just ride my own pace. No doubt a very leisurely pace for Ralf!

Here is loop 2:

We arrived at Winthuis at 95km ridden (you can see the little stick on the left hand side halfway up the track in the image above), got out of the bikes and I realised I had left one of my two water bottles on the table in Straelen. Annoying! Oh well!

The next annoyance was that Winthuis was “Geschlossene Gesellschaft” (private function) that day so we couldn’t have cake. I said to the woman “I’ve cycled 95km without a break!” but this didn’t sway her so off we went again. I suggested to Ralf that we continue to follow my Loop 2 (which I was now on) as it went past Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk. As the crow flies this was only about 7km away but my loop went much further north first so in the end it would be 29km. He said that was fine, although he had a bit of a deadline to get home for lunch with some neighbours. But off we went.

The day was warming up a lot now, already in the low thirties. My speed had increased to an average of 26 km/h now, as I always find I am faster in warm weather. But my lack of water (only a 500ml bottle) was troubling me a little. I would need to ensure that whenever I stopped I drank plenty.

As we were passing Weeze we saw lots of signs for “Parookaville” which is apparently a festival (Ralf’s daughter has attended). Fortunately it wasn’t this weekend but I made a note not to ride that way the following weekend. As it was, we were a bit later heading through Twisteden towards Weeze and there were a lot more cars. We had a couple of bad overtaking experiences from stupid motorists on the stretch from Straelen towards Goch.

Eventually we arrived at Büllhorsthof and Ralf and I chose cake and drinks.

It was nice to have a break after 125km, and I drank several bottles of water in the loos of the café to replenish some fluids. It was a hot day and I was sweating a lot (which is usual with velomobile riding).

Ralf and I discussed his route home as he had the appointment, and I said that I would amend my Loop 2 to return to Straelen with him so he could easily ride home from there. I thought it’d be a bit tight on time but he seemed relaxed about it, as always.

After a break of about 45 minutes we set off again, me looking forward to reaching the halfway point of my ride. It’s always nicer to know you have a shorter distance to ride than you have already completed.

The ride back to Straelen with Ralf seemed pretty speedy. I had no aches and pains except for my feet felt a little uncomfortable in my cycling sandals. I had worried about my right knee which often gives me issues on longer rides but this time I was riding at exactly my pace, not trying to keep up with Klaus and Ralf who are stronger riders, so everything was fine.

At Straelen I waved goodbye to Ralf and hoped he got home in time (he did, two minutes before his curfew!)

Now it was time for Loop 3, and for this one I decided to go a bit more to the east on the Kengen route that Klaus and Ralf had ridden the previous Sunday (when I was in bed with a lurgy). They said the road had been resurfaced in places and was really fast.

So I went back almost to my start point in Kreis Kleve at Kerken and then rode along the busy B9 (on a decent cycle path) for a short distance until I could take the road up towards Rheurdt. We would normally ride through Stenden here but they seem to be permanently digging up the road so you never know when you will meet a blockage.

I enjoyed the ride north again towards Issum as these roads are fast although there was a whopper of a pothole (well, more of a pot-trench across the road) which Millie crashed across. This is the kind of situation which might give me a puncture but I got away with it.

It was hot hot hot and I had soon drunk all my water that I had filled at Büllhorsthof. But my route would take me back to Büllhorsthof before too long so I kept going.

The road from Issum to Winnekendonk is one of the roads that I love – great surface, fast, no cycle path so you don’t get annoyed motorists hooting at you, and of course low numbers of motorists, although there were more than normal (as I was now riding on a Sunday afternoon). It turns out Sunday afternoon motorists will hoot at you even if there is no cycle path – but hey, they also regularly say they can’t see me (a giant white thing the size of a fridge freezer on the road… they need to get their eyes tested!) so I don’t pay much attention to motorists.

I was enjoying myself, my average speed was around 25 km/h now and I felt just as strong at 190km when I arrived at Büllhorsthof for the second time than I had at 20km. I also knew I was almost two thirds of the way round. Klaus had worked out what I was doing and was sending me supportive messages.

I was very parched when I got to Büllhorsthof so immediately drank about a litre of water (refilling my bottle from the tap in the ladies loos) and then had a cup of tea and a Grillagetorte which is a mixture of ice cream and cake.

I sat inside where it was a bit cooler and found a room that was empty and sat there. I desperately needed to take my sandals off to give my feet a bit of a break from Shimano Sandal Shape, but I was pretty smelly from my sweat and also a bit from my feet. A brave couple came and sat in the same room as me whilst I was there.

I had decided to give myself a reasonable break and was there for another 45 minutes, recharging the battery on my Garmin and exchanging messages with Klaus and Ralf. The Grillage went down very well. I am not entirely sure that fuelling my entire ride on 4 eggs, 1 Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen and 1 Grillagetorte was ideal but I didn’t feel like anything else. On long rides your digestion tends to shut down a bit anyway and my guts were slightly complaining. I was a bit annoyed with myself for failing to bring any nuts with me to snack on – we have packets of them in our cupboard (low-carb lifestyle that we have at home) but I failed to bring any. Numpty.

Despite drinking loads of water I was still thirsty, but I couldn’t do much about that as there is only so much you can drink at one sitting. The lack of water was the only real issue on this ride, and I suppose I could have stopped at a petrol station to buy another bottle, but I hadn’t actually passed any petrol stations so far, and as this was Sunday all the other shops in Germany were shut.

I was originally planning to do Loop 2 in reverse but decided instead to go off-plan and head towards Uedem and from there to Goch as it looked like there was a nice straight road. So off I went, on what turned out eventually to be a road I had never cycled before. All was well until I noticed the road went over a huge flyover which looked very steep. I don’t like hills and was avoiding them as much as possible so took the opportunity to detour through an industrial estate instead, hoping to work my way round to the road I needed back towards Siebengewald. This worked, mostly, although I did have to go up a bit of a hill coming into Goch, and I also had to use a rather badly repaired cycle path which was a bit bumpy and slowed me down quite a lot.

From Goch to Siebengewald was easy, and then it was back on roads I knew well but was this time riding in reverse (this had been Loop 1).

It was baking hot and I stopped from time to time in the shade of some trees to rest my feet and to drink my rapidly-dwindling water supply. I decided I would stop for proper food in Straelen, I thought a take away pizza would be good. I needed to fuel with something other than cake really.

I zoomed down through Twisteden, keeping my regular speed and with my knee still not really complaining. I was feeling very proud of myself now, with 250km completed. I had known from about the 140km mark that I would manage the 300km, I just had that feeling that all was going well. Millie was faultless as usual – no issues at all with her, although I didn’t use the new shifter for my front chainrings (more on this below) in case it didn’t work properly and I unshipped the chain. I took no chances with anything!

From Twisteden I dropped down to Straelen and stopped for a pizza at a tiny pizzeria take-away in a side street. They had a couple of plastic chairs and a table outside so I could sit and eat. I only ordered a small pizza as my digestion wouldn’t want any more. What this place didn’t have was a customer loo or bottled still water or even pure orange juice. As they couldn’t supply either of the two drinks I actually drink, I asked for a glass of tap water. They gave me a really small glass, which I drank instantly, and then asked them to fill my bottle. I drank that immediately and asked for another refill, which they did, but I got the impression this was my last chance.

From Straelen I knew I had to do some extra loop in order to get enough kilometres.

I headed off on familiar roads and rode past Landcafe Steudle (which was closed as it was now 18:30). From here I rode through Hartefeld and then along to the Witchy Roundabout as I call it in Sevelen. From Sevelen I took the fast road south – in the distance I could see a fire burning. My colleague Alex told me the next day that it was a hay store.

Because of the lack of water I decided to go home and drink plenty (and use the loo) before my final mini loop. I got home with 25km still to ride, and resolved to spend just 10 minutes at home (in case laziness overtook me). I drank plenty of water, ate some nuts and used the loo, then it was off again for my final loop.

This was my first real bit of riding in Kreis Viersen – it’s less suitable for long-distance velomobiling because of the traffic lights and more general traffic. I rode around Kempen, then headed towards Grefrath and then north past Zur Fluchtburg and to Abtei Mariendonk, which seems to be a place where most cycle rides somehow go past!

You can see the long shadows… it was approaching nine pm now.

At 298km I had to stop for a couple of minutes whilst a very nervous horse and rider made their way past me. It was a lovely feeling knowing I had almost reached my goal, and so I pootled the last three kilometres (I wanted to do at least 1km extra in case Strava or Garmin clipped some of my ride, which sometimes happened). And then finally I was back home with 301 on the clock!

Here are the statistics of the ride from Strava:

I felt great – no knee pain, no backside pain, I didn’t even feel massively tired. I just felt a bit dehydrated despite gallons of water and absolutely desperate for a shower. I had been dreaming of a cool shower for the last 100 kilometres!

The next day I rode Alfie to work and all was fine, I had no body issues at all although I also had no great desire to go out on long rides, so just commuted with Alfie for the rest of the week.

My conclusion – an old fat woman can ride 300km in under 15 hours total (12 hours moving time) with the massive help of one of the fastest velomobiles, a Milan GT, and also good weather. I am happy to know I can manage this distance, but I have to say I have no great need to do it again. Not because I don’t want to put my body through it, but because it’s a bit boring riding for that long in a day. How people do the massive audaxes of 1400km in five days I don’t know!

Auntie Helen buys YET ANOTHER Velomobile!

Oops, I did it again! I now have thirteen wheels in Germany (3 x Millie Milan, 3 x Alfie ICE Sprint, 4 x Humphrey Quattrovelo and 3 x ….)

Well, after lots of consideration about the situation with velomobiles and car, something needed to be done.

I have given away my car to my landlord and landlady; I can use it on occasion if I need, but it is generally not available to me. And definitely not for my morning commute in winter as that’s when it is being used by Gudula.

The plan was to use Humphrey for winter commutes as he’s mostly waterproof. This was a very good plan up until I realised I couldn’t ride him long-term because of my disability. The plan is to sell him in September/October when Klaus’s Quattrovelo arrives.

I started looking at perhaps leasing or hiring a car for the winter months, as that would probably be cheaper than buying a car that sits all spring, summer and autumn doing nothing. But it still means an extra car taking up space on the roads, not something I really wanted. I considered the option of just getting very wet on a few commutes each year by using Millie, and had almost got to the point of thinking this was the best option. And then I saw a Versatile offered for sale for 2000€ on the Velomobilforum, and not so far away (in Hagen, which is about an hour and a half’s drive away).

This was clearly worth a visit, so Klaus and I made arrangements with the seller to go and visit. We had just seen a couple of photos before this – it was a yellow Versatile with some crash damage that was partly repaired but the spares required were apparently all there, just not yet fitted.

When we arrived I asked the owner Stefan what number Versatile this was (serial number). He said he didn’t know, so I took a quick look on the metal crosspiece behind the rider’s head where the number is stamped – it was number 17, so younger than Penelope but still pretty old.

We had a good look around the bike. The crash had damaged the rear and bent the metal frame slightly. This had been re-straightened by the current owner although the lid didn’t open very smoothly at all. There were scratches on the yellow paintwork at the side.

We checked the underneath and it all looked good.

There was clearly work to be done on the ball joints for the steering mechanism. But this Versatile had to be at least 8 years old so it was not too surprising. We noticed that the rear wheel rim was damaged, and also noticed a couple of missing spokes on the front wheels.

I also noticed that it had the strengthened area where the steering track rod goes through the bodywork. I remember Peter van Heul, who delivered Penelope to me four years ago, explaining that he had this done on his Versatile as the bodywork could be too weak here.

We gave the Versatile a test ride. It rode very well (once we had managed to get the lid shut). The pedals were in the forward position compared to Penelope which gives more luggage space behind the seat but the seat is then a little differently positioned in terms of getting out, but it was fine. The Rohloff worked well which was important as we doubted it had been serviced for a long time. The guy who now owned it had bought it from someone in Belgium but he was a bit vague about how much that person had ridden it.

The electrics weren’t functional and there was no battery anyway. It looked like we might need to do a complete rewire job which wasn’t a terribly pleasant though. One of the front lights was missing, the other was a type that I didn’t recognise. Poor lighting at the front was a real issue with Penelope so this was a job that needed to be done.

I felt that it rode well enough for my 4.6km commute in winter, but didn’t fancy doing some of the bodywork repairs so decided to phone Gerrit Tempelman to see if he was interested. I thought he also might know some of the history of this bike.

And indeed he did! I told him it was number 17 and yellow and he said “I think this is the one that belong to Peter van Heul that he crashed”. Peter is of course the chap who delivered Penelope to me. The world is very small!

Gerrit went on to explain that after the crash the Versatile was written off by the insurance company and sold to a car breaker’s yard for 750€. Gerrit had bid for it but a lower amount as he wasn’t too keen on repairing the bent frame, so he didn’t win the auction. He didn’t know where it had been in the intervening eight years. His advice was to check that it was running OK, but that he would not be able to fix the bent frame. I explained that this seemed already to have been done, and that lots of spare parts were already waiting to be fixed (Gerrit remembered these had been bought from him). I asked Gerrit if he would give it a service and a once-over if I bought it and he said yes, so I went ahead and agreed to buy it with the seller after discussing with Klaus. We know its faults, that the frame has been bent (and is therefore a little weaker), but for my short commute we really couldn’t see a downside.

Once the deal was done I said I would try to collect it in a week or two, would BACS the money to the seller when I got home (which I did), and Klaus and I set off home again. Once at home I emailed Peter van Heul and said I thought I had just bought his old Velomobile. Which indeed I had, he was the original owner of Versatile 017 until the crash. He sent me photos of it…

You can see the bent frame on the side here. A car hit him broadside and knocked him on his side where he slid until being stopped by a post.

In my photo above of the Versatile that I bought you can see a panel on the side where this sticker below with the lions was!

The back section is completely broken and my seller had a new one that he had started to paint yellow.

The interior looks OK. The main front/back chainlink was unaffected.

So two weeks later I had an opportunity to collect the Versatile. I arranged to borrow Ralf’s Sprinter again and set off to Hagen very early. This was because I would then drive it straight to Dronten to Gerrit Tempelman before returning home, a journey of nearly 600km on the first day of the school holidays in NRW when there would be lots of traffic (including Klaus driving to Austria with his daughter). This was the day before my 300km ride so spending up to six hours driving wasn’t ideal but it was the best opportunity to pick up the Versatile. I also planned to take Millie in the Sprinter to get her front chainring shifter changed to a trigger shifter from a grip-shift in the hope that my disabled arm could work this a bit better.

I left home before 8am so I was in Hagen by 9:30 and loaded the Versatile into the Sprinter next to Millie. I then set off towards Dronten, trying to avoid the worst of the holiday traffic; as I crossed the border into NL there was a huge motorway queue but Google Maps gave me a very decent cross-country alternative which I took and I was soon back on the motorway past the blockage.

I parked first at Velomobiel.nl as I wanted them to have a chance to start the work on Millie. As I arrived I noticed a familiar face…

This is Alex who sold me Penelope originally and since then bought the Quest XS which formerly belonged to chum Gabi. More of the Velomobile Small World syndrome. It was very fitting that Alex helped me unload my new Versatile from the Sprinter!

I handed Millie to Velomobiel.nl and then wheeled the Versatile round the corner to Ligfietsshop Tempelman.

In this picture you can see the back is open – the yellow thing on the right hand side is the new rear cover. This will be fitted after the electrics and other things are done.

I asked Gerrit if he might be able to do the electrics for me and he cobbled together a suitable battery and lo and behold it seems that the electrics are actually OK (except for the headlamps). He would replace the headlamps with some decent ones, change the battery connectors to the same ones we have on our other velomobiles, and would also service the Rohloff and change the ball heads on the steering mechanism etc. There were lots of other small jobs to do but the spare parts that the previous owner had bought were mostly the wrong ones, according to Gerrit. I trust him absolutely to do a good job so I left it up to him how much he did.

This is the only picture I have taken of the new velomobile. As you can see, it is very yellow. I am now on the search for a good name for it; at the moment I am considering giving it some black stripes in a vinyl wrap to make it look like a bee, seeing as the house we live in is called Bienenstock (Beehive) and therefore it needs a name starting with B. I am considering Boris, Bertie or Brian. I will wait to see what name best suits when I have him back sometime in August/September. There was no hurry for the work to be done, and Gerrit Tempelman has holiday in August, so I asked him to fit in the work when he felt like it and I would collect when it is ready.

When I returned to Velomobiel.nl Millie’s shifter was changed and the broken spoke I had picked up on our NL tour was fixed. I have since used the shifter a bit and I am still struggling with it; it’s better than the previous grip shift but it is still very difficult for me to change back up to the big ring as I am not strong enough to push the lever really hard which it seems to mean I have to go up and down the gear for a minute or so before it finally works. I have asked Klaus to see if he can do it better and work out what the knack is and that might give me a hand. Really a Schlumpf Mountain Drive would be the best option for me but my previous one was faulty and new ones are just too expensive. That’s life, but at least living in Niederrhein I very rarely have to use my Granny Ring!

I look forward to reporting when I collect the yellow Versatile and how I get on with it.

A visit from Bobb

When I lived in the UK I was part of a very loose cycling group based in Witham in Essex who used to do evening rides, and occasionally I would join them (usually car-assisted as Witham was a fair way away). One of the riders there was Rob (known as Bobb) and I had him as a Facebook friend.

He was on a very long bike tour from Spain back to the UK via France (including some of the big mountains), the Rhine valley and then NL. I realised he would be fairly near Kempen on his way through so offered for him to stay one night with us (rather than camping).

That fitted in very well with his plans and so we arranged for him to stay the night with us and I offered to ride to meet him somewhere on the way. This was on a Thursday so a work day so I checked with him where he was once work finished and we agreed to meet in Willich. I rode there in Millie and sat at an Eiscafé to enjoy an ice cream on a sweltering day!

Bobb arrived five minutes later on his very laden Surly Long Haul Trucker (here is a picture outside our house later).

We rode a scenic 25km ride back at a leisurely pace.

Once we got home it was Bobb’s time for a velomobile test ride.

We rode a short loop around our hamlet, it was a very different cycling experience for Bobb!

We had a pizza in the evening and then a good chat. It was very interesting from Klaus and I to hear of Bobb’s touring experiences, especially as he went over some real mountains in the pyrenees with his heavy bike. Respect!

I plotted a good route for his next day and we googled a good campsite, so he set off the next morning early as I had to take Poppy to the vets to have her teeth cleaned. Congratulations again Bobb on your impressive tour!

A new skill – soldering!

Three of Millie’s four indicators have had to be changed since I owned her, and Klaus has wielded the soldering iron for this. On our NL tour the left side indicators stopped working so I had to use hand signals for indicators. However, I decided to check what had caused this one afternoon and a quick peer inside Millie’s cabin showed me the problem…

I had some spare LEDs from when we had previously repaired it, so I wondered about whether I could try the soldering myself. I would also solder an extension to the cable as it was too short inside Millie, which was one of the issues (the cable could easily be kicked by my foot during pedalling and it was under strain).

My main issue was to ensure that I had the terminals the right way round, so I took a photo…

I had my first ever soldering experience and it went very well – I was able to solder the cable onto the new LED very neatly which would make it easier to fit in place in Millie’s nose. Soldering the new cable onto the old was not so easy as I needed three hands but I eventually managed it. And the new LED worked!

When Klaus got home from work we put Millie upside down in the garden and fixed the LED in with silicone sealant as usual. This worked really well for the first three weeks but then the hot weather released the gaffer tape which was holding the cable to the side and I caught it with my foot and pulled the LED and cable out of the silicone holder. The silicone was just too soft from the heat. The LED still works, it’s just attached to a long cable hanging loose inside the velomobile! I will fix it in place again when the weather is a bit cooler so that the silicone sticks (hopefully) and we will also find a better cable fixing option. But I am very proud of a new skill – soldering! – and this at the advanced age of 47.

Other news

Auntie Helen’s Brexit Stage 1

I am absolutely gutted about Brexit of course, I think it is a complete disaster and hope against hope it can be prevented. I want to stay a citizen of Europe with the right to live in Germany!

However, I have to plan for the worst, and I did the first stage of this… changing my Driving Licence to a German one. I had held off doing this as you lose a lot of the entitlements with the German licence. I took my UK licence to the Stadthaus in Viersen and had to fill in a form, supply a photograph and pay them 28€ and I should receive a new German licence in due course.

I took a photo of the categories I am allowed to drive on my UK licence. We will see when the German one comes what I still have. I think it will probably only be B1, B and C1. No way will I have C1E or D1E on my German licence.

Poppy’s dentist experience!

Poppy ended up having to have her teeth cleaned as she had very bad scale on them. This has to be done under a general anaesthetic of course.

Rather different to the UK, I was there when they put her under and they also made sure I was back before they woke her up. They said this is less stressful for the dog, which I can believe. In the UK you just hand your dog over and have no idea what happens.

Anyway, when I returned after an hour to see if she was waking up, they told me that they had had to remove seven teeth!

These were mostly teeth from her upper jaw although the two at the front of the bottom jaw were also gone. They woke her up whilst I was there and she was obviously very woozy and not too happy. She would not be allowed toys or dry food for ten days as she had stitches in her gums (she could have moistened dry food but I decided to buy her some upmarket wet food instead, which she really loved!)

Whilst she was under I had asked them to clip the hair on her belly which we are not allowed to do and which had got long and matted. They completely shaved her belly and this actually caused her problems with itching as her skin is clearly sensitive and was constantly irritating her. She would scratch it with her back legs and make it red and sore. She got really upset by this and wouldn’t settle, she was often hyperventilating, so on the Monday morning I took her back to the vets for an injection which was like an antihistamine and this did the trick. But she had a very uncomfortable weekend before! I must remember not to have a procedure done on a Friday as there is no vet surgery at the weekend! She hasn’t seemed to mind missing her teeth, but she is disappointed that we have not continued with the wet food which she absolutely loved. It’s a very expensive habit to get into though!

Cakes this month

Here are a selection of cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed this month!

July has been a swelteringly hot month and the beginning of August has continued the trend. This is tiring, and a bit noisy as we have to sleep with a fan running, but it looks as though August should become a little cooler. We all hope so!

Thanks for reading, any comments greatly appreciated as always!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Six Wheels in Germany – January 2018 (Month 46)

Cycling this month

I started this month with a rather better attitude than last month, managing to ride to work on many occasions. However, overall mileage was still very low due to poor weather (cold and/or rainy).

And here is where I actually went.

It seems that now Ralf has his DF velomobile we often all go out together on a Sunday morning. However, once per month the ADFC do a ‘Fit durch den Winter’ ride and we decided to join that ride at the end of January. There were four velomobiles and about 8 upright bikes.

And of course we stopped for cake – except Klaus and I had roast beef and vegetables instead.

A bit of maintenance on Millie

One Saturday morning Klaus and I planned to go out for a ride, so I thought I should pump up Millie’s tyres (I do that once per week) and noticed a broken spoke next to the valve. A bit more checking and there was a second broken spoke. So no riding for me, and Klaus went off for a 100km ride on his own.

I knew chum Jochen regularly has to rebuild his wheels as he is rather dangerous to spokes so I rang him to see if he had them the right length. He didn’t know, and as he was on his way to Velomobiel.nl in Dronten to pick up his repaired velomobile couldn’t tell me right away. However, he agreed to pick up some spare spokes from Velomobiel as it was they who supplied me with the wheel!

The next day we had an appointment with a chap from Cologne who contacted me asking to test ride my Milan as he is thinking of getting one. In the end he also had a ride in Celeste to get an alternative velomobile experience. Jochen turned up with the spare spokes whilst this chap was here so he was able to see 3 velomobiles and hear about them from 2 experts and from me!

The chap left with our recommendation to also try a DF and a WAW and then it was time for Millie’s spoke repair, which involved removing the front wheel. This is a non-trivial procedure in the Milan and actually took us about an hour and a quarter, mainly because we started by using the wrong size spanners (the nuts weren’t all the same size which tricked us!) It was a perishingly cold day and the back garden where we were working was being blasted with an arctic wind.

We had watched the guys at Velomobiel.nl do this to Millie a year ago when she had her new wheels but they made it look much easier than we found it.

Once the wheel was out we drove to Jochen’s house and he gave us a mini lesson in wheel repair… although it was also pretty cold in his garage! However, the two spokes were replaced and then it was back in the car to replace the wheel before the light faded as Millie was in the garden and there was rain forecast for later.

Replacing the wheel was pretty quick with regard to the fixings but trying to get the brake cable back on the end of the caliper was a very fiddly job and took us 15 minutes or so. Needless to say, since then the brake has been much sharper, so I wonder if I have an extra twist in the cable somewhere. But I hope not to have to remove the wheel again in the near future. I checked all the spokes 2 weeks later and they were all OK so this is a good sign that none others were weakened. As I pump my tyres up every week the spokes could only have broken on one of two rides between wheel pumping so it wasn’t running for long like that.

Then a week later I realised that my indicators on the right side weren’t working. This is a bit annoying as I ride on the road so really need functional indicators.

Jochen has replaced the rear indicator in his Strada and this was really an appalling job which took him hours and required child labour (his daughter) to squeeze her arm into a tight spot. That was a year ago so daughter is larger and that option probably doesn’t work now if he has to do it again!

We knew with the Milan it would not be as bad as the rear indicator is easily accessible and the front not too bad. So once again we laid Millie on her side on the garden table and Klaus had a look – he tested the rear LED and it was OK, he removed the front LED from its silicon sealant and it was dead.

He decided to short cut the wires for me so I had at least a rear indicator whilst we wait for the replacement yellow LEDs but struggled again with the very poor quality of cable used in Millie. It’s impossible to strip the sheath from the cable without the whole thing snapping, it is so brittle. So on the list is replacement cable when we do the LED replacement. On the fourth attempt he managed to strip the wire without the whole thing breaking and rigged it so the rear indicator works, so I felt confident enough to use Millie on my short ride to work and back. The new LEDs were ordered and we expect a visit to the local DIY store to get some cable sometime soon.

Penelope gets another makeover

Penelope’s new owner has sent me a couple of pictures of her. He has done some vinyl on her and also repaired a crack in her nose. He has also made some videos of riding with her.

I am not sure about the green myself but he likes it so that’s the main thing!

Life in Germany

Going Keto again

Last year in January I started following a ketogenic (low carb, high fat) diet and found it excellent for my health. I lost 10kg over 3 months and felt really good, very rarely hungry. However, I fell off the wagon a bit and in fact ended up putting on another 20kg over the course of the year, most in the last 3-4 months.

So Klaus and I discussed going Keto from January as he also wanted to lose 8kg.

So on January 1st I put all the pasta and other carby/starchy foodstuffs in one of our cupboards in the lounge so they weren’t a temptation in the kitchen, prepared a few lists of what items were low carb (mostly meat, dairy and veg that grows above the ground) and Klaus and I went shopping. We have decided to buy higher quality meat from a reputable source rather than Aldi/Lidl, but apart from that our buying habits have remained mostly the same, except minimal chocolate and no biscuits.

Here was our fridge on day 1:

I am writing this at the end of month 1 and it has gone very well so far. In fact, it’s been easier than last year because we are both doing it together (rather than me cooking for myself alone), we are finding lots of interesting recipes on the internet, and with two both doing it we can support and encourage each other. So far I have lost 7kg and Klaus has lost 2. He aims to lose 1kg per month, I hope to lose 2-4 per month (the first month you always lose more due to shedding water).

We have agreed to do the Keto diet at least until the end of June this year, so our 2 week bike tour will be during that. It will be interesting to see how possible it is to carry on keto eating when having to eat out at lots of restaurants, but so far restaurant meals have been fine.

This also means that I will not be eating any cakes! I might possibly allow myself one slice of cake at a special event, but at the moment have found it fairly easy to say no, despite my colleague often bringing cakes in to work. However, I include this photo of a cake that Ralf had on a Sunday morning velomobile ride with us, so that my blog readers who like cake pictures are not disappointed!

And also here’s a picture of the cake that Nasim my assistant arranged for Annette’s birthday (although I didn’t eat any of course):

Klaus and I were both in ketosis within a couple of days (according to the Ketostix) and think we are staying in Ketosis although Klaus’s body has already adapted so the Ketostix are no longer registering any ketones in pee. I still get results on the Ketostix but I guess this will also go away, but as long as I don’t feel hungry it should show ketosis is still working. That was the main benefit for me last time, and is this time too – not feeling hungry all the time!

I have also decided to do 18:6 fasting two days per week, that is Tuesday and Thursday. What this means is that I eat nothing for 18 hours, and only eat in a 6 hour window. This is incredibly easy as it means I don’t eat breakfast on Tuesdays or Thursdays, just eat my lunch as normal at 2pm and then evening meal before 8pm. I don’t feel hungry without the breakfast because of being in ketosis. I considered doing it two days running but did find on the second day I wanted breakfast so had it – I only want to do it if it is easy, and indeed it is!

We’ve found some good recipes for meals and are particularly enjoying discovering new curries, bakes and fish dishes. The choice of desserts isn’t always great but I am doing my best to find some more options! We will see where we are at the end of June.

And just a side note, I have a vegetable chopper machine that looks like Darth Vader!

A trip to Dresden and Leipzig

Klaus had a meeting in Dresden on a Friday and would use the Thursday to travel up. We decided we could make a weekend of it so I took two days’ leave and we drove up to Dresden on the Thursday. This was the day when a storm/hurricane was battering NL and Germany so it was a quite interesting drive directly downwind across the breadth of Germany. We saw many Transit-type vans lying on their sides after having been blown over, plus trees down, and of course the motorways were sometimes blocked so we had to do some cross country bits. But overall we arrived after seven and a half hours which wasn’t too bad (it should have been about five and a half).

Klaus had a meal and chat with his colleagues, I just chilled out in the hotel room of what was a very posh hotel right on the main square. However, before I went to bed I discovered the toilet didn’t flush at all. This was rather suboptimal but as I was already in my nightwear I didn’t go downstairs to report it (I also hadn’t noticed the phone in the room – I could have called reception).

The next morning Klaus had the very expensive breakfast (20 EUR per head!) with his colleagues and I decided to have breakfast later at a café. I got dressed and went downstairs to tell them about the loo but they didn’t seem that apologetic, just gave me the code to use the loo in the downstairs lounge area. Klaus also reported the loo but there wasn’t much interest, they just said someone would be along to fix it. I said I wouldn’t check out of the room until 11 (we were going to Leipzig that evening) so went out for some walks but generally hung out in the hotel room in the morning because it was cold and rainy outside. I had a low carb breakfast in a café.

I was back in the room when the workman came at about 10:30 and fixed the loo in 30 seconds, no idea what he did.

After I checked out I went for a longer walk around Dresden again, managing to find a rather fine hat and it was reduced from 30 EUR to 3 EUR so that was a mega bonus! I enjoyed walking around, especially as the rain had now eased off. There were lots of roof tiles on the ground following the storm.

Later in the afternoon I sat in the hotel’s lounge area and read until Klaus arrived and it was time for us to head off to Leipzig. The car had been in an underground carpark which had all the spaces numbered – but I liked their sense of humour on one space number!

The drive from Dresden to Leipzig was very easy, just an hour and a half.

We had booked an apartment which had very good reviews but we had to pick the keys up from a different location, which turned out to be a room with a code to open the door and then a code for each keybox. We picked up our keys OK and then headed off to our flat, which we found fairly easily. There was supposedly on-street parking but it was all full so we found a very convenient multi-storey car park about 100 metres away which turned out to be only 7 EUR per 24 hours. Bargain!

The apartment was very nice, on the ground floor of a very traditional old building. Klaus took a wonderful photo of the hallway:

There were also some lovely encaustic tiles on the floor outside our apartment, and I took a less-good photo of them.

The flat was very nice, spacious and with a very large bathroom. There was a kitchen with a double bed at the end of the room, a separate bedroom and a bathroom. Weirdly the bed in the separate bedroom wasn’t made up and had a note on it asking us to use the other bed. The other bed was in the kitchen and the fridge was noisy, so we decided no way and changed the bedding over. I thought this was very strange, as the bedroom had a sofa and an easy chair as well and the kitchen was just… well… a kitchen. Not somewhere I really want to sleep.

As soon as we had settled in we went out for food. We both fancied steak but when we walked to a googled steak restaurant it was full, so we headed back towards the centre of town and found an italian restaurant which did a very nice steak and they provided us with extra vegetables instead of potatoes which was great.

We walked back to the apartment after this as we were tired but saw a bit of Leipzig on the way. The next day was Saturday so we had plenty of time.

The next morning I was first to have a shower and thought it rather lukewarm. I ended up feeling a bit chilly afterwards. When Klaus has his shower it was ice cold! So immediately we both tried over 15 minutes or so to phone the number on the information if there are problems. The phone just rang and rang, no reply. The third time I left a message on the voicemail, and for good measure also sent an SMS. After all, if the hot water wasn’t fixed they needed to put us up in another apartment (they had over 30 on their books in the area). But no reply came.

We had our breakfast in the flat as I had brought eggs and bacon in Dresden, and after that we discovered the hot water was starting to work. Phew!

We headed out to walk into Leipzig. We were only about 300 metres from the centre, and just round the corner from our flat was the Leipzig Jewish Memorial.

It was interesting to see how you write Leipzig in Hebrew!

It is a lot of empty chairs arranged in even rows and I thought it worked really well.

From here we just had to cross a main road and we were in the pedestrian centre of Leipzig. The first thing we saw was the Thomaskirche, which was Johann Sebastian Bach’s church where he was the Kantor (Choirmaster) and composed for almost 30 years.

We noticed a sign outside saying there would be a Motette concert at 3 o’clock in the afternoon with the Thomanerchor which is perhaps the best boys’ choir in Germany, so decided we would definitely go along! We had tickets for an organ concert in the Gewandthaus (the main concert venue) at 5pm so thought it would all fit in nicely.

Leipzig is a lovely city. We enjoyed walking around, noticing that it has less expensive watch shops than Dresden, but it did have an expensive Piano shop!

We went to the Nikolaikirche which is where the peace protests started before the Berlin wall came down. This was a very moving and powerful experience for Klaus.

We enjoyed our walk around and Klaus spent some time looking at various mobile phones as he needed to update his current one. We went into Media Markt which is a huge electronics shop and looked at all the options. He wanted a Dual SIM version and found something he liked from HTC.

We wanted something warm for lunch and in our wanderings found a very lovely restaurant tucked away and enjoyed some soup. Klaus had Kürbis (pumpkin) and I had some very tasty spinach soup!

During our soup eating Klaus decided he would buy the HTC phone but with a contract at Vodafone as he wanted to upgrade to something with 4G/LTE (his phone contract was only 3G, as was mine). We enjoyed our lunch so much we booked to eat there again in the evening, and then set off back to the Vodafone shop.

It was very busy so we had to wait awhile but eventually we were seen by a very nice chap who persuaded us to take out a certain contract and so Klaus signed everything and we walked away with his new phone and a 4G/LTE SIM for both of us. Sadly we since discovered that the phone was a single SIM (Vodafone won’t do a dual SIM), the contract ran for two days and then it was the next month so Klaus paid a month’s cost for 2 days rather than 30, and the amount of data we received was less than the advertising because we had a phone with it, but that was buried in the small print. He has written emails to Vodafone to complain (mainly about the new month starting after 2 days!) but has not yet had any joy.

He couldn’t play with his phone straight away as we had to go to the Thomaskirche to listen to the Motette. It was a church service rather than a concert but they asked 2 EUR each for a programme. We sat down and I looked through the programme… and this is just the first page of it.

Hmmm, some of Bach’s Mass in B Minor. Interesting. On the next page there was more Mass in B Minor.

The concert/service started, and wow! Not only was it the Thomanerchor but there were professional soloists and a full orchestra on a balcony in front of the organ (which we couldn’t really see from our pew). When they started singing the Mass in B Minor I couldn’t help but shed some tears – to be in Bach’s church hearing his music sung/played so beautifully. It was very, very special.

The service did have a very short sermon, we said the Lord’s prayer and also sung one hymn, but mostly it was fantastic music played/sung by really talented people. What a treat!

It finished at 4:30 and Klaus and I had started getting slightly shifty as we knew our next concert (!!!) started at 5pm. Fortunately it was just a 15 minute walk away and we soon arrived at the Gewandthaus with 10 minutes to spare. Our seats were in the middle on about the 10th row so an excellent view of the organ.

The programme was lots of Bach cantatas and the orchestra who sang were very good, as was the organist. We really enjoyed it, and the building had a very good acoustic. It was nice to be in comfortable seats too!

Two and a half hours of Bach music is quite mentally exhausting so by the end I was ready for some fresh air but it was wonderful.

We walked to the restaurant and enjoyed a lovely evening meal before returning to our apartment at 9pm. Shortly after that the apartment’s landlady phoned to ask if our hot water was working. We felt an 11 hour delay to answer the phone was very bad – we had no other way of contacting anyone. I have written this in my review on Booking.com, although the lady was very apologetic. But it was not good service.

The next morning we had our breakfast, checked out of the apartment and then walked to the Leipzig Bach Museum. This was great, there was a guided tour and the museum was very well laid out with lots of interesting exhibits. The lady tour guide was extremely knowledgeable although the fellow tour members asked rather a lot of questions. In the end we had to periodically sit down to rest our backs!

There were displays of period musical instruments including one of Bach’s organs, and the room was kept warm and humid, as well as manuscripts and lots of other information. The museum itself was in the former house of friends of the Bachs, right opposite the church.

We spent almost two hours there and then it was time for lunch and a sit down. We had a lovely salmon, broccoli and cauliflower Auflauf (bake) which is something I subsequently made at home and was equally tasty!

It was then time for the drive home which went very well. Not so much wind as the outward journey! We both agreed we must visit Leipzig again soon, and that having visited the Leipzig Choir and the Dresden Choir we really ought to go to the other important one in Germany in Regensburg, but that’s right down in Bavaria so quite a trek. Maybe later this year!

Life in Kempen

Nothing much to report from Kempen or St Hubert except on the Facebook page for Kempen people someone posted a fantastic photo they took of fireworks on Silvester (New Year’s Eve) in Kempen. Isn’t it great!

February looks like a fairly quiet month too but there is just a slight chance that my Quattrovelo velomobile will be available then. Who knows? I await the arrival of the new velomobile with great excitement!

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Six Wheels in Germany – December 2017 (Month 45)

So 2017 is at an end! This is a little something I wrote over the New Year 2017/2018:

I’m not the sort of person who looks back the whole time and lives on memories. Generally I feel happy with all my life choices so far and I appreciate the wonderful times I have had with family, friends and James over the last 46 years.

But a quick look back at last year shows that it was very different than I had expected!

I started the year relatively newly divorced but used to being on my own and happy with my own company (well, Poppy was also part of this!) I love living with the Roddays and find my life in Germany is peaceful and fun. Work was continuing its usual challenges but as I started 2017 my main focus was on trying to lose some weight and being a support to Klaus who was going through an incredibly tough time at home.

And then the path of 2017 rather changed as Klaus separated from his wife. As his closest friend I was happy to support him through this huge life earthquake and more time together confirmed what had been clear for a while really, that we could become a really good partnership. Our relationship developed quickly and we were soon planning to take a cycle tour together in June. This became a wonderful focus for 2017, a two week 1900km tour to Usedom on the Baltic Sea, then to Berlin, and then back. It was a fantastic life experience and my cycling partner was, as always, excellent company. On our return Klaus moved in with me.

There was lots of Velomobile activity over 2017, including our friend Ralf buying a DF and friend Hartmut making further investigations as to whether he should join the Velomobile gang. We took part in many group cycle rides with the ADFC and with others, finishing the year with the Oliebollentocht in Rotterdam with more than 100 velomobiles.

Klaus and I had several trips in the car too, to England for my hospital appointment and again for Christmas, to Dresden, to Berlin… all great fun and a chance to see a bit more of Germany or the UK without having to turn the pedals!

Looking forward to 2018, I have made few plans. One plan is to lose the 20kg extra that I put on this year (!!!!!!) so that I can fit in my Quattrovelo when it becomes available in February. This involves the low carb diet again and no cakes for the time being. Another plan is to increase my mileage, I want to make 10.000km this year, having managed less than 8.000km in 2017. Klaus and I have plans for 3 multi-day bike tours, one with Ralf, and we will also no doubt do some more trips in the car. I am developing plans to take my Mum to visit the bench in memory of my father on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. I will also be working full time, at least for the first couple of months of 2018, so must fit my social events in around that!

2018 will hopefully be one of health and fresh air and time spent with friends and family. Klaus and I are both enjoying the simple life, a chance to live within our means, to not buy unnecessary fripperies and to value what we have. With the uncertainty around Brexit and politics in general, it is good to have people with whom you can relax and be peaceful, and we have many good friends here.

I am looking forward to 2018 and wish you all a happy and blessed year!

Cycling

The statistics speak for themselves… this year I have not done so much cycling!

I hope to achieve a bit more next year, but there were reasons why this year fell rather short of my target.

The Kempen ADFC group had arranged a Nikolaustour (cycle ride) at the beginning of December but there was such a heavy snowfall that we all drove in our cars instead to the venue where we were stopping for tea and cake.

Hartmut had provided a very attractive advent wreath based on a bicycle wheel and with remote control LED candles.

We also found ourselves on a cycle ride on Silvester (New Year’s Eve) as Hartmut realised the Fit Durch Den Winter tour had been advertised in the Rad am Niederrhein magazine although it had been run on another date. He felt he ought to do the ride anyway and asked if anyone else was about. In the end no unexpected people turned up, it was just the usual suspects, but we had a nice ride around St Tönis to Vorst where we stopped at Papperlapapp for tea and cake.

In the café was this excellent sign which ably demonstrates my concept for the year!


(Cake doesn’t make you fat, it just stretches out all the creases)

Unfortunately it is incorrect, cakes have made me fat (along with other things of course) so I shall have to eat a lot less in 2018!

Oliebollentocht

Arguably the biggest event of the year for Velomobiles, the annual Oliebollentocht (cycle ride with Dutch Oliebollen doughnutty things),hart was in my diary from the beginning of the year as something not to miss. In 2016 there were 260 velomobiles, we looked forward very much to the Rotterdam 2017 version.

As Klaus and I were in the UK and coming back via Hoek van Holland/Rotterdam we arranged our return trip so that we arrived on the morning of Oliebollentocht. Ralf had very kindly offered to take our velomobiles to Rotterdam in a trailer and with friend Rolf along too it was a very full trailer!

Ralf and Rolf (also with Hartmut who came along for the ride) arrived way before Klaus and I as the border control out from the Ferry took forever. But we arrived in due course, helped get the VMs out of the trailer and then added them to the large selection parked in front of the trucker’s diner which was our base for the day.

Hartmut (on the right in the yellow/green waterproofs) was having a good look around before cycling off to visit his son. He is very interested in Velomobiles and this is about the best opportunity to get a look at a lot of them!

Hartmut appears in most of the photos and videos of the day, peering at various Velomobiles. Keep an eye out for him if you watch any OBT videos!

We were given armbands to wear which enabled us to have free tea and coffee and food that had been arranged. You can see that I have already got very oily from Millie after just being with her for 5 minutes!

Klaus and I had an omelette for breakfast at the café as we had nothing on the boat, caught up with friends and then we all rolled out on the ride of 63km which went along the Oude Maas via Portugaal before heading up to the heart of Rotterdam.

We stopped for cake at the restaurant Prachtig next to the Erasmus Bridge.

(Please note that some of the photos below are mine but others are from Klaus from Köln or Birger Landuyt, and possibly other Forum members)

We had some apple cake and tea.

Then it was time to leave.

Because Rotterdam has lots of traffic lights and pedestrians it was decided we would leave in groups of up to 10 velomobiles, so the guy in the dark green and cream Quattrovelo was our group leader. Klaus and I had already seen this Quattrovelo in Dronten and I had also seen it at SPEZI – it was the cause of my colour choice for my QV!

It was quite stop/start through the town and it was very hard to keep the group together. In fact, we didn’t succeed, and it split into various groups. Fortunately I had the route on my Garmin, as did others, as I wouldn’t have known where to go without as our leaders were often out of sight. The traffic lights take a long time!

The entire way around Rotterdam we were being filmed and photographed by people. It’s not often you see 100 jellybeans cycling around a major city!

Klaus spotted this photo amongst the thousands people have posted online – it is Millie and Celeste crossing the road.

I found myself leading a group of Velomobiles after a while as there was a younger girl who was not able to ride as fast so we kept pace with her and eventually my little group of 6 velomobiles grew to a larger group as we returned to the starting point. It was really fun riding in such a big group although quite tricky in the town, and there had unfortunately been one Quest/bollard interface at the beginning of the ride, plus another minor bump in Rotterdam centre.

We returned to the truck stop and whilst it was still light loaded up the trailer with the four velomobiles again. Here is Ralf practising his yoga.

Then it was time for the pea soup and Oliebollen (which shockingly I didn’t photograph!) and catching up with more friends again. It was good to meet Andrew Allen for the first time at OBT although it was sad to hear his tale of woe about his trip (he was taken out by a white van near Colchester on his way to the ferry and had to continue without his DF, mainly as he was collecting his new Quattrovelo). He discovered on the Rotterdam tour that the gearing on his new QV was too high and would have to delay his return to the UK to find an alternative sprocket for his Rohloff as these things are not so easy to get in the UK. I hope he had some success!

We had been lucky with clear weather although it was bitingly cold. It was a relief to be in the warm trucker’s restaurant with soup and tea. Ralf and Rolf headed off home pulling the trailer and Klaus and I left 15 minutes later. We had time to empty Klaus’s car of our week’s luggage from our England trip before the trailer arrived and we unloaded Millie and Celeste.

There are many videos on YouTube about Oliebollentocht 2017, it’s worth a watch if you have some spare time!

Thanks again to Ralf for transporting our velomobiles and for the organisers of Oliebollentocht for putting on such a fun event. We will be there again in 2018!

Life in Germany

Life in Germany continues much the same… I have been here over three and a half years now so am well settled in. But there are still always some interesting events each month!

In December we had a fair bit of snowfall. Most arrived on Sunday which was good as I didn’t have to drive (I don’t have much experience in driving in snow). Poppy investigated it in the garden but was cheesed off that I made her wear her fleece when we went out for a walk.

It had all cleared by the next morning and I drove to work on normal roads. But during the morning it snowed again so I had to clear the car before driving home!

More changes to our flat

Having an extra person in the flat means that we need to be a bit more organised with storage so I decided to buy a couple of sideboards. These arrived in 6 parcels altogether, each parcel weighing 30kg or more, but fortunately the delivery company carried them up the stairs into the lounge for us!

So one Saturday morning Klaus decided to start building the two sideboards, from the company Dänisches Bettenlager. They were called ‘Goliath’ which is pronounced totally different in German than English so we have had quite a lot of amusement over the names.

Anyway, he made a start:

He was ably assisted, as always, by Poppy:

Very complicated bags of screws, bolts, dowels, tacks and more…

But in just 2 hours Goliath Number 1 was complete!

Goliath Number 2 took less time as we were now experienced!

They remain relatively empty of items at the moment as we haven’t got round to sorting stuff out, but they will undoubtedly fill up soon enough!

Work

This month I spent a lot of time thinking about whether I would increase my working hours to full time, at the request of the company. I thought long and hard and decided in the end to offer to work full time but with the proviso that if it became possible to return to part time I would do this as soon as possible. It was all agreed with my boss and so from 2 January 2018 I will be working full time. A bit of a change of pace for me, but I hope it will only be for a few months.

I have an assistant at work, a young chap from Bangladesh called Nasim, and he is very friendly. He noticed that we have cakes at work and so arranged for cakes to be made for Annette and I in the Bangladeshi style (except with less sugar as they like their cakes extra-sweet). How about these!

My colleague Annette regularly brings in a selection of cakes for us to enjoy during our meetings.

And the Quality Assurance representative of my customer also brought us cakes from Poland one day!

Nasim and I also had a visit from Nikolaus on 6 December

Christmas in England

Klaus and I booked to go to England for Christmas to stay with my mother. We travelled over on 21 December on the overnight ferry which was very packed!

As I had a lot of Stena reward points I treated us to an upgrade on the cabin – with a window and no bunkbeds! Also a free mini bar although we weren’t very hungry so didn’t get much value out of that.

We arrived by 8 in the morning and had a very relaxing few days with Mum before the busyness of Christmas. This included going to the village carol concert and I also went to my old church in Colchester for their Sunday morning service on Christmas Eve. After this service we went for a walk at Walton on the Naze near the Naze Tower – it was very blowy!

But we spent a lot of time hanging out at Mum’s house relaxing, chatting and making use of her fibre broadband!

We were treated to a beautiful day as well which showed her 450 year old house off at its best.

We celebrated Christmas Day with my Mum and her next door neighbours, plus some friends. We had good food (of course) and a very relaxing time.

On Boxing Day we had such beautiful weather Klaus and I decided to go to the sea again and this time went to Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast.

The beach is stony but large and we had a good walk along.

We passed a fish smokery so purchased a fish pie each.

As the sign says, any fresher and it would still be swimming!

Whilst we were buying the fish pie I noticed some people with strange hats and bells on their legs – yes, the Morris Dancers were here! I explained it briefly to Klaus and we waited to watch the beginning of their dancing. Another example of English eccentricity for him!

Further along the beach there is a giant shell which is artwork to do with Benjamin Britten.

We walked back and then awarded ourselves a cream tea at a hotel in Aldeburgh.

We very much enjoyed our time with my Mum and took the overnight ferry back again (this time in a cheaper cabin with bunkbeds and no window!), arriving the next morning in Rotterdam for Oliebollentocht.

Silvester/New Year’s Eve

As a dog owner, New Year’s Eve in Germany is never much fun. We knew the fireworks would start at midnight and go on for an hour or so, and that meant an hour of Poppy barking. But we decided to go out to an organ concert a few hours beforehand (9:30pm in Kempen).

And this is what we heard.

It was a great concert and the organ in the Propsteikirche is obviously very decent. We will look out for more concerts there.

Randomness

Who says Germans have no sense of humour?

Another item of randomness. I was at a party celebrating the 50th birthday of Klaus’s friend and colleague and we were serenaded by a bagpiper!

There has been a cheddar famine in Aldi for the last couple of months (apparently a production issue, not that they are no longer doing it). Fortunately Lidl had a special offer on Cheddar which was also very good.

Cakes this month

As these are the last cakes I will be having for some time I thought I would display them full size in their glory!

Starting with some Krapfen made by Rohallah who lives with Gudula and Frank. They were fantastic!!

So that’s the end of 2017, see you in 2018!!!

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6 Wheels In Germany – May 2017 (Month 38)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

This month I did a bit better with my distance but I am still not riding as regularly as I used to do (excluding work commutes). This is because life is busy and has been changing quite a lot recently! But it’s all good.

And here is the ‘wheel’ of where I went, including my 3 day tour to Bad Bentheim and Soest.

Millie in the news

I was interviewed by the Westdeutsche Zeitung and they wrote two articles on me, and here they are…

They are great articles and I have already been recognised by one reader of the newspaper!

Cycle Tour – Trike Treffen

I have written a separate blog post about my short tour to Bad Bentheim, Soest and back with Klaus. You can read about it here: Christi Himmelfahrt Tour 2017

Events this month

Visit of my Mum

My Mum came to visit me for just under a week and we had a really good time.

On the Saturday Klaus drove us to Monschau, a beautiful town in the Eifel. On the way we stopped off at the Giant Hole In The Ground at Garzweiler near Jackerath. This is where they are currently re-routing the Autobahn as they will be digging coal from where it currently runs.

Then we drove on to Monschau and had a look around.

Monschau lies on the River Rur (not Ruhr, that is a different one) and I had cycled there with Klaus once.

There is a Rur Radweg but it’s not suitable for Veloombiles so we might try it on the trikes on day but it’s quite off-road.

Klaus, Poppy and I climbed up the hill behind the town and looked down on it – you get to quite an impressive height.

Another cake!

This month Klaus celebrated a round birthday so I organised him a cake from our local bakery, Café Poeth. I sent them some photos and they did an excellent job!

His actual birthday was on the day of the Fahrrad Stammtisch so that worked rather well for cake-sharing. Cycling chum Ralf was 50 the day before and was also at the Stammtisch so it was a great celebration.

Once the cake was all eaten we kept Mini Celeste and I decided to see how she compared to Big Celeste. Very similar!


I have cycled to work most days this month and am often treated to lovely skies but this one was a cracker!

Cakes this month

This month I enjoyed rather more cakes than I should have, although some in this collage were consumed by Klaus rather than me. But they were all yummy!!

From tomorrow I will be off on my bike tour so expect daily blog posts. The forecast for tomorrow is thunderstorms and 12mm rain which is rather sub-optimal with leaky Millie, but we will survive! I am a Brit after all and used to rain.

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Christi Himmelfahrt Tour 2017

Despite having toured long distances on my trikes over the last nine years, I have only done one multi-day tour in a Velomobile which was my two day trip to Millingen aan de Rijn in Penelope two summers ago.

However, this state of affairs is very much changing within three weeks, starting with a four day tour over the Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) break and then after a six day break (one week of work) then a two week tour to Usedom and Berlin and back. Almost 1700km in total. 

So, Christi Himmelfahrt. Klaus and I decided a short tour would be good, especially as the Trike Treffen was taking place in Bad Bentheim, 130km to the north. That seemed like a plan.

Trike Treffen involves camping and despite not having camped for 31 years, I decided to give it a go. So over the months leading up to the tour I purchased an isomatte (sleeping mattress), sleeping bag, super lightweight towel etc. I also bought a selection of Karrimor dry bags to help fit my belongings in Millie who isn’t exactly designed as a touring Velomobile.

We decided to extend the riding a bit so after one night at the campsite to ride to Soest, a beautiful old town to the east, and stay in a hotel there. Klaus has a good friend who lives there so we could visit him. For the journey back we planned to split it in two at Haltern am See, camping again.

Thursday 

The day dawned with a fantastic weather forecast, 23 degrees for the Thursday but quickly rising to 28 degrees on Saturday and Sunday.

We managed to fit everything in the Velomobiles without any difficulty. We set off, heading first of all towards the Rhine bridge at Wesel but this involved going over the mega hill Tönisberg (20 metres!!) within 5km of the start. A rather rude warm up!!

Here is the track for the day:

We had a really enjoyable ride, the extra weight in the Velomobiles only really noticeable when we were pushing them around before getting in (especially noticeable with Millie as she has no handle at the back). With the warm weather and despite the headwind the bikes covered the ground very well.


We found the roads fairly empty of traffic and enjoyed the weather and scenery as we made our way towards the Rhein on familiar roads.

In order to cross the Wesel we needed to get into the Rheindeich… and this involved a pair of Drängelgitter that we couldn’t negotiate awheel.

However, a short break for walking is not a bad thing!

We then had the difficult entry onto the Wesel bridge with two hairpins which I cannot manage in one go with Millie’s turning circle but was able to shuffle back and forth and get round without too much inconvenience. The view as we crossed the bridge was lovely.

and here is the view looking down on the Rhein.

Now we had crossed the river we were heading into less explored territory. I was also tending towards needing the loo but we didn’t see many open bakeries. When we eventually found one it didn’t have a loo so we decided to ride further.

After 5-6 kilometres Klaus spotted a Biergarten beside the long, straight and fast B70 we had been zooming along so we decided to stop for a piece of Apricot Streusel.

We enjoyed our cake and tea/coffee and water and the chance to relax for a bit as we had been making good progress.


There was a group of motorcyclists there and they asked us how fast we rode as they had passed us in Wesel and were very surprised how quickly we had caught them up.

It was lovely to sit, relax and enjoy the sunshine, but the road was calling so after 45 minutes or so we got back into the Velomobiles and pushed on.

We left the B70 after about 10km and headed onto a quieter Landstraße which took us through Homer and then around the edge of Borken.

I saw signs to some familiar places – Südlohn and Stadtlohn. I remembered these place names from my Berlin to London tour many years ago.

In Stadtlohn I wasn’t paying attention and went the wrong way, which involved cobbles and pedestrian areas before I managed to catch up with Klaus again.

We were now heading to Ahaus and when we arrived it was time for some lunch (it is always time for lunch in Helenworld). We found cafe Muse and left the Velomobiles outside. It had interesting decor!


I enjoyed a schnitzel and salad but then found it impossible to resist a strawberry Schnitte – after all, fruit is healthy!

We were sitting inside as it was cooler and we needed a break from the sun. You are very much exposed to the sun in a Velomobile and so we were wearing hats and sun cream etc. Klaus had slightly pink upper arms so we wielded some sun cream again.

From Ahaus we cycled along the Landstraße L573 for a long time, sometimes on the cycle path but often on the road. The cycle paths beside the road weren’t bad in this sector but sometimes you can go faster on the road and there wasn’t much traffic.

This road took us all the way to Ochtrup where we turned more north and crossed the border out of Nordrhein-Westfalen into Niedersachsen. The last few kilometres to Bad Bentheim had slight hilly tendencies but we were soon at the campsite between Bad Bentheim and Suddendorf.

When we arrived we found the trike Treffen area but there were only a few people there – most were still out on the group ride. Klaus set out to put up the tent.

Once the tent was up I had a much-needed shower and then fashioned a Heath Robinson washing line between the two Velomobiles. Celeste has a handle on the back which I used but with Millie I had to fix the line to the Lichtkanone on the top. Not the best idea but it worked ok in the end.


After about an hour the rest of the people arrived and we talked to lots of acquaintances. We had signed up for the barbecue where the food was provided but hadn’t realised that was just the meat, so our dinner was two pork steaks each cut up with the knife on Klaus’s multi tool and eaten off a plate we borrowed from someone. A real low carb meal!

After Dinner I was so tired that I went into the tent and tried to get to sleep. However, I discovered why people said you need ear plugs when camping – the conversations of others kept me awake. I also found it difficult to get comfortable in terms of temperature – I think actually I was a bit dehydrated. Anyway, I didn’t have a brilliant night’s sleep but will be better prepared next time!

The total day’s distance was 143.64km at an average speed of 25.5km/h and I burned 2,671 calories.

Friday

We were awake and ready to leave by 8:30am with the tent packed away. Our washing was still damp (mainly from dew) so we packed it away in plastic bags and set off towards Soest. First plan of the day was to find somewhere for breakfast.

This proved trickier than expected as there were only very small villages on the beginning of our ride. However, when we arrived at Wettringen we found a supermarket with a bakery attached and managed to find something to keep us going…

There was a man siting outside chatting to everyone who passed and we had a good conversation with him. Of course he talked to me about Brexit – the flag on Millie rather gives away my nationality.

We set off after a leisurely stop and headed towards Emsdetten. There were some long stretches which meant we could get the speed up nicely – what I have noticed with Millie is that she is definitely better in the long distances. Because I only really have one power setting, it takes me a while to get up to speed, but Millie rolls so well that once I am up to 35km/h I can sit at that speed without expending much effort.

At one point when going over a bumpy bit I heard a pinging sound as if a stone had jumped up through the foothole and was crashing around a bit inside. I didn’t think much of it, but then during a lovely downhill when I was in my top gear the chain suddenly jammed. This was very annoying as I had to stop. It soon became apparent that my Schlumpf button had fallen out again – and it was the one from the other side! I walked back down the road but couldn’t find it.

Then Klaus, trying to free the chain, realised the button was actually stuck in my chain tunnel and rescued it. I was relieved to still have it (as I didn’t have the spares with me) but without its mini allen bolt it wouldn’t stay in for very long. So for the time being I put it in my bag for safekeeping and carried on, hoping not to have to experience too many steep hills.

The day was warming up but when you ride with enough speed the Velomobiles create enough draught that it is cooling. With Millie, anything above 25 km/h provides plenty of cooling, especially as I have a Naca duct (air intake). However, hills at a slower pace mean it heats up quite a lot inside, as does sitting waiting at traffic lights.

Again the roads were pretty clear and we were whizzing along. It was getting towards time to stop to refresh the water supplies so when we arrived in Sendenhorst, a reasonably-sized town, we decided to go off route and find somewhere to eat. We found a Greek restaurant and stopped, laying our wet washing on the velomobiles to dry in the sun.

The staff in the restaurant were super-friendly, chatting to us about the bikes and photographing them, sending the pictures to relatives in Greece. They also offered some very nice food – I had this great cold platter.

I asked to buy some cold still water and they gave me water that came from Greece. Because I was thirsty I tried to buy some more but in the end he gave me three bottles completely free of charge, which was very sweet of him. The whole cost of our lunch stop was extremely reasonable – Klaus’s litre of coke was about 2 Euros.

Once we had finished our lunch we discovered our clothes were pretty much dry so we packed everything away and headed off again towards Soest.

We skirted around Hamm and then started heading towards Soest on roads that were a bit more rolling. I had decided to screw my Schlumpf button back in and decided to keep checking it was done up – I really needed the extra gears and it wasn’t doing me any good in my bag. So I was able to Schlumpf for the hills on the way to Soest but they weren’t too bad. Klaus was a bit nervous I think about my speed when the hills start as he knows I don’t like them but with the high speeds we were riding it was mostly OK and I enjoyed it.

Just as we were going down the hill into Soest my Schlumpf button popped out again but it landed in the foodwell and I grabbed it. We found our way to the hotel which was the oldest guest house in Nordrhein-Westfalen, from 1307. Hotel Pilgrimhaus had really friendly staff.

I realised I was pretty dehydrated from the heat so spent the next few hours drinking lots of water but having very little output. This was a reminder that when riding velomobiles you maybe don’t feel the heat as much but the wind is wicking away moisture all the time. I resolved to be better with my drink planning the next day.

There was no storage space for our velomobiles but this wasn’t a problem as Klaus’s friend said we could store them in his garage so we rode there after our showers and he drove us back (it was just a mile), joining us for dinner at Hotel Pilgrimhaus.

Here are our bikes in his very roomy garage:

The total day’s distance was 129.21km at an average speed of 23.8km/h and I burned 2,429 calories.

The food at Hotel Pilgrimhaus was fabulous but I didn’t remember to photograph it (I was too keen on eating it!) except for the dessert, a white chocolate Panna Cotta. Lovely!

I was really really tired after my poor night’s sleep the day before so went to bed early and left Klaus chatting with his friend Dirk for a couple more hours. I went out like a light, enjoying a comfortable room and the peace and quiet without lots of other campers talking!

Saturday

Our original plan for today was to ride to Haltern am See and camp there for the night. However, due to my less than ideal camping experience on Thursday night, the weather forecast (super-hot), and the fact that 82km seemed way too short for a day’s ride, we considered riding all the way home instead, 162km. We didn’t know how we would feel riding in 30 degree heat but decided to give it a go. We would stop between 2pm and 5pm when the temperature is highest and would also ensure that we regularly drank lots of fluids whilst riding.

Here is our track for the day – as you can see, we did end up riding the whole way home.

We enjoyed an excellent breakfast at the hotel and checked out by 9am. Dirk was there to collect us and take us to his garage where we collected the bikes. Then it was time to head towards Haltern and maybe home.

The route out of Soest was absolutely beautiful – rolling hills, everything very green, few cars. I had been a bit concerned that I still wasn’t peeing much after my dehydration yesterday so I drank a litre of water just before we set out. Clearly by this point I had actually replenished my water stocks as after riding for about 10 minutes I was desperate for the loo. Klaus was far ahead and I had forgotten to get my radio ready and I couldn’t wait till I could catch up with him so nipped into a side road and made the most of rather sparse tree cover. Fortunately no-one came along!

Klaus waited for me a bit further on and I ensured I had my radio on after that. We had a lovely ride, really enjoying the scenery and the great road quality, except for one very disappointing downhill. It was curvy and fast but suddenly the road surface became awful! I had to brake from 50 to about 20 as it was so rough. Klaus, who was ahead, wanted to get on the radio to warn me but needed both hands on the tiller to hang on for dear life! We made it to the bottom, amazingly with my Schlumpf button still in place, and decided to stop shortly after for a scheduled drink spot. I had decided to ensure I drank a bottle of water every 25km.

We stopped at a car park area which happened to be at a cemetery so Klaus found some fresh water after we had drunk ours. I also found a convenient hedge for a loo stop again. It wasn’t too fiercely warm yet but the sky was blue and we could see we would soon be feeling the heat.

We went on, riding mostly on the roads as there were few cycle paths. It was a beautiful day.

We were keeping to our drinking schedule and going well. The plan was to ride to the campsite at Haltern am See but we realised that was a bit of a detour so could cut off about 5-10km if we decided to push on to Kempen. I had radioed Klaus to say I wanted to stop for water at about 60km but we were on such a lovely road I kept going – cruising at 35km/h you cover so much ground it seems a shame to stop! He had slowed a couple of times for potential stops but I kept going.

When we turned off the fast road I said we could now have our drink stop but Klaus’s Biergarten radar spotted something just up the road so we found ourselves at a campsite with beer garden near Datteln. We stopped and had a cuppa and a piece of cheesecake each.

We had 100km to go from this point and we discussed whether we should stay there for the heat but it was only midday so I thought it worth riding a bit further (the main heat hits at 2pm), plus I wanted to be more than halfway when we did our long stop. So we continued on after a good break, having refilled our water and eaten some salty peanuts to refresh our electrolytes.

The route followed the Lippetal canal and was very interesting. We weren’t on our official track because of the detour to shorten the route but soon joined back up with the official route at Haltern.

We were now looking out for our longer stop location as it was 2 o’clock and very hot, but didn’t find a suitable looking place. We went through the village of Lippramsdorf which had some hotels with garden terraces but Klaus kept going. Halfway between Haltern and Dorsten he spotted a sign for a Hofcafé – and really hit the jackpot!

This was a brand new cafe with some wonderful cakes and nice comfy seats outside with sunshades. The lady serving us was very nice and we spent two hours there, eating an enormous slice of Käse Sahne torte and drinking tea/coffee, watching the other guests (including a big group of bikers) and generally enjoying the peace and relaxation.

However our plan to stay there till 5 or 6 seemed a bit of a waste of time as it wasn’t getting any cooler so in the end we left at 16:15, ready to get back on the road and complete the final 75km to home. With refilled water bottles we set off again, riding through Dorsten (which was rather traffic-lighty) and then through Kirchhellen which had the most wonderful downhill towards Dinslaken. At this point our average speed for an 8km stretch was over 30km/h!

From Dinslaken we headed to Duisburg-Walsum where our Rhine crossing (a ferry) awaited us. Klaus began to feel he had low energy so we stopped at a Netto for him to buy some supplies – a bread roll each and he had a litre of buttermilk which he drank neat and it gave him his energy back. Whilst he was in Netto lots of the locals were asking me about the bikes – they had never seen anything like them before.

From Walsum it was a short ride to the ferry and we ate our bread rolls during the short Rhein crossing. Once on ‘our’ side of the river we were definitely on the home stretch and zoomed towards Moers, Neukirchen Vluyn and then round Siebenhäuser back to St Hubert, averaging 29km/h for the last 22km.

We got back at 19:15, unpacked the bikes and then Klaus tipped a whole bottle of water over his head to cool down! Gudula and Frank were having a barbecue so we ate with them which was very handy as I had no food in the house, not expecting us to be back until tomorrow!

Today’s distance was 161.72km (that’s a shade over 100 miles) with an average speed of 26km/h and I burned 2,627 calories.

All in all it was a fabulous tour. Millie is a much better touring velomobile than I had expected and her speed really eats up the distance. I need to fix the Schlumpf button before we start the Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen tour in a week’s time but I will sort something out – worst case scenario I will use threadlock or superglue on the current button.

With velomobiles you can ride a lot further each day which increases the visiting distance. I would like to do some more two day tours, perhaps with camping, in the Netherlands and north of here, so we can see some new places and ride some new roads. It’s all such fun!

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Filed under Christi Himmelfahrt Tour 2017, Cycle Tours, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany