Monday 27 to Tuesday 28 May 2013
It’s time for the off! After two beautiful days of sunshine in the UK the forecast for Bodensee when I start cycling round it on Thursday is looking a bit awful (heavy rain for four days at least).
I slightly amended my packing in consequence, changing the small rain mac for a proper waterproof jacket (my winter one!) and adding a thicker windproof jacket.
Alfie needed three new tyres so I did those, plus I sewed on the new www.auntiehelen.co.uk embroidery onto my trike seat. This embroidery was done by Mrs Miggins from YACF who is a superstar!
I also gave Alfie a huge clean on Monday morning as the sun was out and wasn’t leaving until six in the evening. With no work (I’d got it all done) and James out sailing I spent a good hour with various cleaning cloths, getting rid of the worst of the accumulated grime from 14,000 miles. I don’t think Alfie has been this clean since the day he arrived here!
Poppy was fairly unimpressed by my efforts.
I also discovered that the front right hand side wheel has corroded on – James and I couldn’t get it off (we were intending to grease the axle) and we didn’t want to do anything too fierce to it in case we damaged it! I shouldn’t need to take it off as I change the tyre without removing the wheel but I’ll have to have a proper look at it when I get home. We didn’t even try to remove the left hand side wheel. Both wheels spin perfectly fine, I’m not sure where the corrosion is but it seems par for the course after this awful winter.
So all was now ready for my tour – I’ve been looking forward to this for months!
As planned, our friend Mark came round at 6pm with his bike so he and James could accompany me to Harwich, where we’d have a pub meal before I got on the ferry and James and Mark rode back. They did this last year on my Berlin to London trip.
I had also been contacted on Monday morning by a sailing acquaintance who lives near the Hague in the Netherlands (and is doing lots of cycling). He mentioned that he might be able to come along to the Hoek van Holland on Tuesday morning to say hello – that would be fun!
I packed all my things into the Banana Bags and then discovered, rather perturbingly, that it all seemed very heavy. I put the bags on the trike and they looked pretty stuffed full!
I had a brief panic that the bags weren’t strong enough for my luggage (I estimate it weighs about 13kg) and phoned Radical Design to see if they had any weight limit. No, they said, and they’d seen photos of bags on tour absolutely stuffed full of luggage. I decided to go for a quick spin around the block which I did and all seemed OK and it didn’t feel particularly heavy on the trike. I don’t travel light but the main weighty items are all my tools (of which I carry a fair number) and the iPad in its case. Can’t do much about those!
Mark arrived at six and the three of us headed off to Harwich via the scenic route (partly following the National Cycle Route number 51 but deviating from it at times too).
It was a lovely evening although the promised tailwind gave us occasional blustery headwinds as well. I reminisced that when we had done this ride last year, before my Berlin to London ride, dusk was falling as we rode eastwards. This time, a month later, the whole journey was done in daylight.
The pub where we like to stop, the Cherry Tree in Little Oakley, doesn’t serve food on a Monday so instead we went to the Brewer’s Fayre pub, the Mayflower, on the main roundabout outside the ferry port. The food was pretty mediocre but it was a chance to sit down and have some food before I got on the ferry.
On the way out we spotted several trike motorbikes in the car park and I decided to get a photo of Alfie next to one. The owner appeared, a Dutch chap, and he offered for me to sit on his trike – so I did.
It felt remarkably different than a recumbent trike! I offered for him to sit on Alfie but he declined.
James, Mark and I then rode all of a mile to the ferry check in where I waved goodbye to my companions on the other side of the fence.
I then headed to the waiting area before loading. There was a family with a tagalong bike and a trailer (a French mother and English father) and their two children were very interested in my trike – right until the six motorcycle tricycles roared up. I had a little chat with the French lady who said they are doing the same trip as me but in reverse; we thought we might bump into each other around Koblenz.
Bikes were let onto the ferry first and we were right at the front of the ship. Alfie was tied up and chocked and then I headed off to my cabin for a quick shower and then some sleep.
It was bright and early when we disembarked from the ferry and the bicycles were allowed to go first. I headed onto the North Sea Cycle Route towards Den Haag; rather than catching the train at Hoek van Holland and changing at Rotterdam I was going to ride the 15 miles to Den Haag and get the direct train. This saves faffing about waiting for the end of rush hour (you can’t take bikes on trains until after 9) and was a chance to enjoy this wonderful cycle route across the sand dunes (but nicely tarmacked).
This was my planned route (which I followed pretty closely apart from a couple of small detours due to roadworks).
There’s a chap that James and I met through a sailing forum called Vince who lives in the Netherlands but has come over for various sailing events in Essex. He is also a keen cyclist and contacted me to say he might see if he can spot me on his way to work (he would take the scenic route) and lo and behold after about three miles who should I see coming the other way but Vince. We had a good chat and he posed for a photo, took one of me and then had a little sit down on Alfie.
Vince headed off towards Vlaardingen for work and I continued on, really enjoying the gently rolling asphalt as I trundled up and down the dunes. Vince had warned me about these rather large sleeping policemen!
I got a couple of glimpses of the sea as well, looking much more blue than it does on our bit of the Essex coast.
With a few miles to go I headed inland through a more built up area and saw a lot more cyclists, including one lady on a bike wearing very high heels, a fur coat and with a bunch of flowers strapped to the back of the bike.
After sixteen miles I arrived at Den Haag station which was having building work done so was a bit confusing. I bought myself a bicycle ticket for 6 Euros to go with my Stena ticket for me.
I discovered there was a train due to leave for Venlo in five minutes. They are every half hour but I decided to jump on this one – it didn’t give me time to get a cup of tea but I thought I would survive!
It was one of the older trains so didn’t have as large a bicycle storage area as some but as I was the only bike on the train it didn’t matter too much. Alfie was tucked in a corner and I settled down for the two and a half hour journey.
I was really looking forward to my arrival in Venlo so I could cycle the few miles to Germany and then stop and have a cup of tea and my first piece of cake in four weeks!!!!
Venlo arrived slightly quicker than I was expecting so I hadn’t packed my iPad away when the doors opened. Another passenger seemed desperately keen to help me with my trike (although it’s very easy to lift on and off these trains) so I let him grab the pedals and help carry it out. Fortunately the pedals are super-clean following my mega bike clean yesterday.
This was my planned route to Düsseldorf, although I thought I might jump on a train at Viersen to reduce the distance by 20 miles.
From Venlo I headed following my track which took me through very familiar scenery – when I holidayed in Nettetal last August I regularly cycled this route. After a few miles I came to Secretis, a café which had a most wonderful cake when I visited last year. However their cake selection was disappointing (only plum cake) and as I’d waited four weeks for cake I wanted to break my fast with something more enjoyable, so I drank a glass of orange juice and pedalled on.
I found myself cycling through the hamlet of Sassenfeld (where I stayed last year in August) and in fact the route (one I had first cycled three years ago) went within 100 metres of the Ferienwohnung where I stayed. As I came round a corner I approached the house where the owners of the Ferienwohnung live and lo and behold there was Silke in her car (a new one, an open top BMW), so we had a little chat. It was rather cool to see two different people I knew in one day!
I decided to deviate from the route at this point which was doing a big circuit around Lobberich, the town. I wanted my cake so decided to head to Lobberich and find a café there, which I duly did – and had a lovely slice of strawberry cream cake and a cup of tea. Yum!
I continued on, having enjoyed my tea and cake – some welcome food as it was 1:30pm and all I had eaten so far today was a couple of weetabix at 7am.
I was cycling through the Niederrhein area which I love. It has lots of potatoes growing, also some wheat (which was way ahead of what’s being grown at home) and of course the obligatory asparagus!
As I approached Viersen, my train stop, I thought about whether to carry on cycling. The day was so lovely and sunny (and the forecast is so poor for the next week!) that I decided to cycle all the way to Düsseldorf.
I pootled along at a reasonable speed and with ten miles to go thought I ought to have some more food so stopped at an Eiscafé at Osterath. My German chum Olaf had suggested I had a spaghettieis so I did!
Here I am enjoying it!
Note that there is a lady sitting at my table. She and her husband joined me and we had a lovely chat. They thought it was a bit odd I was touring on my own but seemed interested in what I was doing.
It was 5pm by the time I left the Eiscafé but I could see the large tower of Düsseldorf in the distance so I knew my destination was approaching.
As I was cycling along the Rhine path I saw another recumbent trike coming towards me – lo and behold it was another ICE Sprint!
I stopped and chatted for a good half hour to this chap. He had a very nice Sprint although seemed remarkably underinformed about its specification. He had no idea it had front suspension (it took me a while to convince him, but it definitely had!).
He also had a SRAM dual-drive hub at the back which he didn’t seem to know about; he had a gripshift for what he thought was his front chainring but he only had a single chainring up there so I suppose the gripshift ran the dualdrive at the back. He also had a nine speed derailleur.
He said at one point “I wasn’t expecting an English woman to give me technical information about my trike!”
I gave him one of my cards with this blog address on – it was really cool to see another Sprint, and this one is only a year old.
I needed to head on though so said goodbye and followed the Rhine route towards Düsseldorf, crossing at the Theodor-Heuss-Brücke.
I had the usual mad dash through the Düsseldorf traffic, dodging the tram tracks, and arrived at my hotel, the CVJM near the station, just before 7pm.
Here’s my Garmin’s statistics for the day; a whisker under 60 miles.
This was followed up by a crepe – yum!
It was then back to the hotel to write up my blog although my iPhone refused to connect to the wifi so I initially could only use low-res photos that I had posted to Facebook during the day.
All in all it’s been an excellent day and I’ve really enjoyed myself. Tomorrow will be less exciting – 7 hours on one train – but then it will be the start of the official Tour route, Konstanz!