Click here to see my progress so far: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride
My cycle ride is featuring on the Help For Heroes website at the moment: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike
If you think what I’m doing is pretty cool, perhaps you might sponsor me to give me some encouragement and, more importantly, to help a really good cause. All sponsorship greatly appreciated! The link to my sponsor page is here: Auntie Helen’s sponsorship page
Thursday 10 May 2012
This morning when I woke up it appeared all my washing was dry which was good as the forecast was for rain and I could see raindrops on the window as I got myself ready. All my clothing was bundled into the pannier and I saved the waterproof bag for my coat as when the time came for me to leave (at 7:30am!) the rain had tailed off.
I set off with windproof jacket on, finding it pleasantly warm. Particularly when I found myself climbing up a not-insignificant hill!
From Duiven I headed towards Arnhem and it wasn’t long before the rain started in earnest and I swapped to my waterproof jacket. I was pretty hungry already and so looked out for a bakery that might do breakfast. The first one I parked up at clearly didn’t (and had nowhere to sit) so I carried on, eventually finding one which had a couple of tables inside.
I ordered a bread roll with cheese and ham and a cup of tea. The bread roll had little green things in which I assumed were pistachio nut pieces or sunflower seeds or something but, rather bizarrely, seemed to be very small pieces of green Fruit Pastille, which I didn’t feel worked entirely well in a savoury roll.
After this short stop I headed off again, this time using the official LF4b cycle route (4b goes east to west, 4a goes west to east, but it’s the same route).
Just outside Arnhem the route went through some woodland which included a few hilly bits. The rain was really coming down now and unfortunately woodland cycle paths mean that you get a bit mucky (the wheels flick up bits of stick and mud and grot) so my hands felt quite gritty on the handlebars and I could see dots of mud down my waterproof jacket, slowly dissolving in the rain.
This route was actually a bit faffy and without the Garmin track I probably would have missed some of the signs (which were sometimes very small). I realised after a few miles that this route wasn’t really my cup of tea and I’d stick to more main roads again, as is my wont. It was easy enough to plot a route using the Garmin and so I left LF4b and headed on my own route.
I passed this fantastically-named petrol station:
I went through Oosterbeek and Heelsum/Renkum and found myself crossing the official route again, following it for a short while past the fantastically-named village of Nude. This was a nice bit of cycling on a dike looking down at a river. I left the cycle route when it went off on a detour through the village of Renkum and decided to take the main road – which proceeded to go up a 7% hill! I thought Holland was flat!
At the top of the hill I found myself at a war memorial with lots of graves.
By now I had done eighteen miles and the rain was making it all feel a bit harder work than it should. Tea and cake were calling and as I arrived in the fairly large town of Rhenen I thought I should be able to find a nice café. It took me a while, as it happened, and the one I found didn’t do poffertjes but did give me a slice of apple cake and a cup of tea for the princely sum of 6,25€. A bit pricey really.
By the time I came out of the café the rain had stopped (hurrah!) and I had also dried off a bit. I set off enjoying not getting soaked and continued heading towards Utrecht on the N225. It was easy cycle paths all the way and I was able to keep up a respectable speed, stopping now and again to look at things, to take off my waterproof jacket and generally to faff about.
Just before one o’clock I started thinking it was time to stop for food. I was ten miles from Utrecht so had covered the distance well (partly due to starting so early!) and so that was also a good time to stop to give me an hour’s further ride when I set off again. Imagine my delight when the cycle path went straight past a Pancake and Poffertjes House – a fine option for lunch!
I ordered poffertjes, of course (which took a surprisingly long time to come) and had a glass of orange juice to wash them down. When I’d had poffertjes before, in Maassluis, they came on a dinner plate and covered it, being totally covered in powdered sugar as well. These poffertjes looked similar but slightly shrunken – they were on a dessert-plate so there was less of them, but they still tasted great and it was a decent lunch portion (and only 4€.)
The loo in the poffertjes restaurant had a German-style shelf (plus a really dodgy handle – I had visions of being stuck in there for months if the handle fell off in my hand!)
I headed off at about 2pm, now straight into a fairly fierce headwind. At least the rain had stopped though – I was riding with just my jersey as it was fairly warm (i.e. no windproof or waterproof) but I felt a bit mucky and smelly after having been rained on.
Utrecht seemed not to be getting all that much nearer, despite making good progress. I briefly joined the LF4 route again, then turned off it, enjoying finally a three mile run on a super-smooth and wide cycle path which was beside a motorway or major A-road anyway.
The last mile was wending my way through the outskirts of Utrecht and there were lots of interesting buildings to look at. There were also some attractive bridges over the canals but I didn’t find a good opportunity to stop for a photo.
I arrived at the Beurs Hotel by 3:30pm and installed Alfie in the reception – he will be very safe there.
I then asked for the wifi password – oh no, the wifi wasn’t working and had been out of action yesterday too. The receptionist said that they had called a repairman but they didn’t know when he would arrive. This was a pain! Still, I know hotels in Utrecht are expensive and busy so decided I would have to stay here anyway and see if I could find an internet café for later. I did find it interesting that the two hotels pre-booked in Holland which should have wifi both had non-functional wifi.
Anyway, I went up to my room which was on the second floor. The stairs were incredibly steep and had a couple of interesting curves which were hard to negotiate with panniers. I assume this is part of the old building style but it would never pass UK hotel regulations!
I was slightly perturbed by signs on some doors for ‘bathroom’ and ‘toilet’. Did this mean there weren’t en-suites? I got to room 303 and the keycard wouldn’t open the door. So I headed off downstairs again to ask the receptionist chappie about this; my room was 302 so that explained that one, but I also asked him if I had a bathroom in the room and he said yes. If he’d said no then I might have gone for another hotel – no wifi and no toilet is a step too far!
So imagine my surprise when, having climbed up the two flights of scary steps again with my panniers and getting into room 302, I opened the bathroom door and there was a shower and sink – but no loo. Where was it? I was getting very frustrated by now – I was desperate for a shower but was still trying to decide whether to find a different hotel. I used my phone to google internet cafes and it looked like there might be one just up the road. On that basis I decided to have a shower and take the room.
As I was hanging up my coat on the coathook near the door I noticed a doorhandle – yep, you’ve guessed it, a tiny cubicle with a toilet! The sink was across the room with the shower behind another door which perhaps explains why I failed to initially spot the loo. Still, it was good to know I wouldn’t have to go prowling the corridors in the night if I needed the loo.
After my shower and washing of clothes I decided to go downstairs and get a cup of tea (there were teamaking facilities in the reception area). As I passed the reception desk the chap told me that the wifi was working again – and so it was! What a relief! I was able to plan my route for tomorrow and have started looking at hotels in Den Haag which seem reasonable but breakfast is ridiculously expensive (12,50€ or more). As I’m just going from Den Haag to the Hoek of Holland, which is less than 15 miles, I am sure I will have time for breakfast on the way!
I had some good news today too from the Colchester Personnel Recovery Centre. My army contact has said they are going to let me visit the Centre on Sunday morning at 9am to have some photographs taken and to have a quick look around before heading off to London. The Centre Manager is coming in to open up especially for me as they are so pleased with my fundraising efforts. It will be really good to finally see the centre, especially now that it is open. And of course I will be on the last 65 miles of my tour too!
For those who want to cycle with me from Colchester, we are meeting at 9:30am at the Personnel Recovery Centre which is in Berechurch Hall Road. The actual meeting point is the Corporal Budd VC Gymnasium which is accessible to civilians and which has a large car park/bike stand area by the main doors which looks across at the PRC. I look forward to riding with a bunch of people to the Big Smoke!
Oh, and I have been having some thoughts about German and Dutch bicycles today and the way they differ from UK bikes and from each other. Here are my observations:
UK bikes are generally cool. Men won’t be seen dead on a step-through frame or ‘girlie’ bike, bikes are generally covered in logos and meant to look fast and sporty. Lots have drop handlebars. They are a status symbol so may look quite new.
German bikes are very utilitarian. They look huge as they are mostly made of big aluminium tubing. They pretty much all have full suspension (perhaps to deal with some of their cycle routes!) and lots have electric assist. They often have huge fluffy saddles and butterfly bars; very few have drops. They are mostly silver/aluminium in colour.
Dutch bikes are usually very rusty, old, worn, often with pringled wheels. They seem to be made of steel rather than aluminium like the German bikes so the tubing is thinner. Lots have baskets or child seats attached. Dutch men seem quite happy to ride pink bikes with step-through frames. They tend to lean their arms on the handlebars with their hands together for comfort. People seem to have to work quite hard to make progress on them – there’s often a lot of leaning from side to side when riding.
I do like seeing groups of young lads cycling along on really uncool bikes – it shows that cycling is just part of everyday life here and much less of a status symbol. Mind you, I wouldn’t want one of these bikes myself – I’ll stick with Alfie!
Statistics for today:
Distance travelled: 48.18 miles
Moving time: 5 hours 26 minutes 31 seconds
Maximum speed: 20.9 mph
Average speed: 8.9 mph
Average heart rate: 105
Maximum heart rate: 150
Calorie burn: 1,525 calories