Six Wheels In Germany – March 2016 (Month 24)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

March Rides Info

Here are all the rides – getting the train to Dronten confused the software!

Whole mnths rdes

And a close-up of the local rides.

Whole mnths rdes local

Once again I managed my metric century (in fact this time a double century) this month with my ride from Dronten to Kempen.

Of course once Klaus had his velomobile he set about doing lots of rides, extending his range and significantly increasing his average speed. Klaus is way faster than me when in Celeste – he seems able to average 28km/h already, whereas I am lucky to manage 20km/h. This means that on our joint rides he often cycles to my house (20km) at high speed, we then ride together for 40-60km and then go back to my house, and he then cycles home at high speed again. So he gets a good workout, some fast speeds but also some company on the rides.

We have done a number of rides since Celeste was collected. This included a ride to Straelen and then Arcen and Venlo.

Arcen and Venlo track

We stopped at Straelen for a snack, not wanting to spend the time to have a full meal as time was a bit short for our planned distance.

Eating at Straelen

Straelen food stop

It didn’t help that I was on another rather slow day. The knee problem that had manifested on the Dronten ride rumbled along in the background and as I’d been doing a lot of riding over several days I found it was hurting a bit again. But we made the ride anyway, having an excellent zoom down to Arcen, a new route across the Maas back to Venlo, and Klaus whizzing up the hill from Venlo whilst I toiled slowly with my 14 rather high gears.

Another day I rode to Klaus’s house whilst he was on his way home from work and we did a short round trip together to Krickenbecker See

Krickenbecker See track

where we put our feet down for a rest.

Celeste at hinsbecker Bruch

On the way back we decided to take one of the main roads from Hinsbeck north and it was lovely and fast – I reached 56km/h which was great fun. Klaus is still getting used to the handling of the Strada with its tiller steering at high speeds so stayed a little behind me for this downhill; he is getting much more used to the velomobile’s handling and it’s very stable but it is worth taking the time to acclimatise as rolling these vehicles is no fun at all.

Another day we decided to ride to Uerdingen which is to the east of Krefeld and on the Rhine. I’ve been there a few times before doing various trike routes but this was the first velomobile time and so I planned a route that took faster roads. We met up at St Tönis to start which is equidistant between our two houses and then rode from there.

Uerdingen Track

It turned out to be a pretty good route and we arrived in Uerdingen in time for a Friday evening meal.

VMs at Uerdingen 1

This metal barrier is the relatively new flood defences for the Rhine which is hiding behind the barrier.

VMs at Uerdingen 2

I was a little tired on the way back as there was a very long uphill but overall it was a good ride and my average speeds are increasing as I am putting in more effort to try to keep up with Klaus. I made him cycle up the hill of Tönisberg on the way back from this ride, telling him there was a lovely road downhill where he could have a good speed run; unfortunately I had muddled up where the road was so he ended up descending very gingerly on a steep, potholey semi-unmade road. He was not so pleased with me for that recommendation!

Whilst I was in England at the end of March Klaus did loads of riding in Celeste – in fact he has now done over 1000km in her! He is getting quicker too, averaging when riding alone over 25km/h. But when I was back for a couple of days I persuaded him to ride at a more normal speed with me, and we did a nice short tour to Nette Bruch.

Nette Bruch Tranquility

We stopped earlier at the lovely little church in Lind.

Klaus and Strada

Tour des Monats im Kreis Viersen

The Tour des Monats series started again in March, a ride organised by Hartmut. Very conveniently it was starting at the church in St Hubert on a Sunday morning at 11am. I decided I would definitely like to go along!

Klaus said he would meet us there to say hello and let Hartmut, Uli and Petra meet Celeste the velomobile but would then ride directly home for breakfast with his family. To make the most of his riding he got up early that morning and did a really fast 60km before meeting us at the church. He looked pretty pooped at that point!

So we met up and there were lots of other people I didn’t recognise who joined – I think there were 16 of us in total. There were just two bikes without electric assist, and the two velomobiles. E-bikes are massively popular in Germany!

Here is the track that we took.

Tour des Monats track

We set off and I attempted to take a few photos behind me of the cyclists – I got a good shot here of Petra and Uli!

TDM Selfie

Petra and Uli

Klaus rode with us to the outskirts of St Hubert and then headed on his way home whilst we turned northwards.

Klaus and Celeste

We carried on, mostly keeping together but with me out front a lot of the time. It’s tricky to ride behind normal cyclists in a velomobile as the speed profile can be quite different.

TDM group

Hartmut stopped regularly to tell us some local information – he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Kreis Viersen and its history.

Here he is explaining about all the different symbols on the bicycle signage

Hartmut explains

Our lunch stop had originally been planned as the restaurant in the old railway building at Mülhausen but Hartmut had discovered it wasn’t available to us for some reason on that Sunday so instead we stopped at a different place in Oedt, right in front of the old water tower.

Oedt water tower

Oedt Kneipe 1

Oedt Kneipe 2

After a very good value light lunch (I had chicken nuggets and chips for 4€) we continued on. Very near Café Kornblume (where I have previously enjoyed cake and breakfast) Hartmut got us to stop and showed us two WW2 pill poxes/hides, either side of a field gate. I had never noticed them before!

WW2 Pill Boxes

The route was taking us up Tönisberg which is one of our local mountains. The route took us a very different way up it and I was able to maintain some good speed though!

Hill up to Toenisberg

Klaus is trying to encourage me to try harder on the hills and push a bit more so I don’t slow down so much when it’s not pan flat, so this was my first attempt. I did reasonably well I think!

At the top of Tönisberg is the impressive windmill I have often visited.


I then had the lovely zoom down the hill, disappointingly being stopped at the bottom by red traffic lights. I rode with the group until just around the corner from my house where they turned towards St Hubert and I did the final 400 metres alone.

It was a very enjoyable ride and I was glad to see so many people out on their bikes on a rather grey day in March. Bodes well for the success of these rides in the summer!

Klaus’s increase in speed has also rubbed off on me a bit as I am trying to go faster. Our last ride together in March, on the 30th in the evening, saw me riding 40km at an average of 23.3km/h so I am rather pleased with that. Fuelled by the three cakes I had eaten earlier in the day perhaps!

Events this month

More trips to the UK

As my Dad is very unwell I am visiting the UK a lot.

I went for a few days at the beginning of March to help look after my Dad as my Mum was poorly with a cold she couldn’t shake off. My sister had been staying with them for four days and I drove over to arrive on English Mothering Sunday and stay for a couple of days. Anna and I would both be at my parents’ house on Mothering Sunday for Sunday lunch (at 5 in the afternoon because of my travel time) and Anna would cook us the traditional food. We realised it would be the first time my Mum had had both daughters together on Mothering Sunday for probably over 25 years.

Anyway, for reasons of cost and time I decided to travel over via the Dunkirk-Dover route. This involves 3.5 hours’ driving from Germany through NL and Belgium to France, the two hour ferry crossing and then 2.5 hours’ driving on the UK side, so it’s not really much quicker than the Hoek van Holland ferry in total but is considerably cheaper and there are many more sailing times. I booked the ferry from Dunkirk at 14:00 but ended up waking really early and setting off from home four hours earlier than needed. The ferry company usually let you take one ferry earlier or one later at no extra cost so I was pleased to think I should make the 12:00 ferry.

As it happened I had such a good, fast run on the roads (I had left home at 06:15) that I arrived at the ferry port at 9:15. There would be a sailing at 10:00 and I might just make it for that one, I realised. So I went straight to the check-in and the lady said that I could transfer free to the 12:00 ferry but would have to pay a supplement to get the 10:00 ferry. I asked how much and she didn’t know, I had to drive round to the booking office. It was definitely worth trying so I headed to the booking office and the man said it would be £89 to get on the earlier ferry. I decided that wasn’t worth it, I would wait the two hours as I would already arrive earlier than I had originally thought at my parents. But it seemed sensible to check in anyway so I was at the front of the 12:00 ferry queue so I went back to the check-in, told the lady I wasn’t paying the extra so she booked me in for the 12:00 and waved me through.

It was 9:40 by now and the ferry was being loaded and lo and behold they let me drive straight onto it! So despite not paying the £89 I was loaded on the earlier crossing and so would land in the UK at 11am. Brilliant! I am very glad I didn’t pay the extra for the upgrade but then if I had I wouldn’t have known that I would have been allowed on the earlier ferry free of charge anyway.

I am becoming a seasoned ferry traveller now and as food on board is pricey and not very tasty I was well organised with no-sugar goodies.

Food supplies

The DFDS ferry is reasonable but definitely looks a bit sad and tired compared to the Stena ferries which are much newer.

Dunkirk ferry

Despite the fact I am really happy to live in Germany and love my life there, there is always a special feeling when you first see the white cliffs of Dover…

White cliffs of Dover

We docked and then I had to get used to driving on the left hand side of the road again but it comes back very quickly and I whizzed my way along the M20, round the M25 and then up the A12 to Ipswich.

I got to my parents’ house before 2pm which was great. It was lovely to see my sister Anna again as we don’t get to see each other that often, and she then cooked a wonderful Roast Chicken with all the trimmings for us.

Mothering SUnday lunch

Anna headed off home and I stayed with my folks, chatting to my Dad and Mum and hopefully giving Mum a bit of a chance to rest from time to time.

The next morning was frosty but there were beautiful views out of their windows as the sun rose.

Morning in Witnesham

Morning in Witnesham 2

Morning in Witnesham 3

Morning in Witnesham 4

On Monday morning we received a phone call from one of the nurses to say that the local hospice in Ipswich had a place for Dad for some respite care for a few days. This was absolutely brilliant news as it would give Mum a chance to get over her cold and get her strength back, as well as give Dad a chance to have the experienced doctors there check on all his medications and treatments, etc. They said we could come in that morning so after getting everything ready – this included finding chargers for all Dad’s iGadgets, etc – we drove to St Elizabeth Hospice in Ipswich.

The hospice is an amazing place, so different in feel from a hospital. Dad was sharing a bay of four beds although for the two days I was there with him there was only one other person there.

Hospice bay

The food for the patients is the same as the food for visitors from the canteen and it was excellent. Here is the menu for Dad’s first day.

Hospice menu

He was even allowed a glass of wine!

Dad had an amazing number of visitors over the two days that I was there. There was a constant stream of friends and neighbours and people that he knows through the world of flying (he is a private pilot). There was also this visitor who was peering through the window at us.

Cheeky visitor 1

Cheeky visitor 2

The hospice allows visiting at all times so I was able to spend the whole of Monday with Dad whilst he settled in. The nurses, doctors and volunteers there are amazing and the atmosphere was wonderful – friendly, people had time for him to talk, no annoying bleeping of machines. It was very restful despite there being lots going on.

I drove home to spend the night with Mum at the house and passed this wonderful road name.

Humber doucy lane

I looked up the meaning and found the following:

Humber Doucy Lane: runs from Tuddenham Road (near Westerfield House) to Playford Road (close to the juction with the A1214), roughly parallel with the old by-pass, it is the road with the prefabs. Norma Laming writes: ‘Incidentally, you may remember that I asked you if you knew how Humber Doucy Lane got its name? Someone told me that it comes from the French for sweet shade, which would be “ombre doucer” or something.’ Thanks to Norma for the suggestion. The Anglo-Saxon ‘Humbre’ and the Latin verb ‘umbro’ suggest “to cover with shadows”. The name ‘Humber Doucy’ came about in the same way that Ypres became ‘Wipers’ during World War I. And this goes back to the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) when Ipswich had a number of militia barracks and also played host to a number of French prisoners of war. On their hot march to and from whatever labour they were required to due during incarceration (working in the fields, perhaps?) they were grateful for the cool shade of the trees along this path/lane, so called it “ombre doucer” or possibly more correctly “ombre douce”. Sweet shade it is.

The next morning I cooked myself an English breakfast.

English breakfast

I spent the following day in the hospice with Dad and booked myself an overnight ferry crossing via Harwich-Hook of Holland to return to Germany. I didn’t fancy the long drive again so was happy to pay the extra for the comfortable overnight on the superferry. Just before I left the hospice to head to Harwich my cousin Moyna came to visit – here we are together.

Helen and Moyna

The crossing back was good and I was very pleased to know how well Dad was being looked after in the hospice.

Then two weeks later, a few days before my scheduled trip to the UK for Easter with my parents, I received a phone call from my sister to say that I should come as soon as possible as the Hospice said he had got a lot worse. I travelled to Hoek van Holland a few hours later to get the overnight ferry.

Sadly when I turned my phone on in the morning as I was waiting to disembark from the ferry I received the news that my father had died just before midnight on 23 March.

I arrived at my parents’ house and my sister was there with my Mum. The neighbours were wonderful, coming to visit and bringing gifts of cake and scones and flowers.

As I was still on my no-sugar for Lent challenge, I wasn’t able to enjoy the cake (yet!) but I did have a hot cross bun on Good Friday at breakfast time.

Hot cross bun

There was a lot to do to prepare for my father’s funeral which would take place on 1 April so Anna, my mother and I were very busy, but we did have time for a walk around a lake and to stop for tea and cake. Anna and my Mum shared this cake

Choc nut cake

The sugar-free option that most appealed to me was this toasted teacake.

Toasted teacake

Although I think it had a slight glazing of sugar on the outside. But I didn’t know that when I ordered it!

Anna’s eldest daughter Gwen, who got married at the beginning of February, also visited with her husband and they brought some Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Krispy Kreme

Here am I with Gwen and Anna.

Helen Gwen Anna

It was obviously a very sad time for us all but there were also some very special moments. I was looking through Dad’s books and found this one from 1989:

Coping with Germany

And inside was this note from a mystery borrower:


Easter morning dawned.

Easter Morning 1

Easter Morning 2

Lent was now over and I could eat sugar again!

My Mum had given me this Easter Egg.

Easter Egg

Easter Egg 2

It was now also time for me to eat my first slice of cake – a slice from the wonderful Victoria Sandwich that the neighbour had made.

Victoria sandwich cake

Helen with first cake slice

And then the neighbour popped round with a second cake as she knew we had lots of visitors and were giving them slices!

Victoria Sandwich Cake 2

The people in the village have been wonderful with my parents, visiting my Dad and helping my Mum and just being friendly and supportive. It has been so encouraging for my sister and I to see how well they both were looked after and I know the friendship and care will continue for my mother now.

We also visited the church to prepare for the funeral. It is a lovely village church down a quiet lane.

Witnesham Church interior

Witnesham Church

My father was a Lay Reader at the church and very much involved in its life. When the news of his death was publicised on Facebook and various Forums that he was involved in we received so many wonderful tributes to him; it was very moving and emotional to read them all. We are expecting a lot of friends and acquaintances at the funeral on 1 April.

Here is the picture of Dad and me from Gwen’s wedding last month.

Helen and Dad

Although I would obviously be in England for the funeral I needed really to go back to Germany to sort out a few things beforehand so planned to use my original ferry booking to return on Easter Monday. My friends Klaus, Claudia and Lara said they wanted to come to the funeral to support me so they booked the Dunkirk Dover ferry for Thursday 31 March, returning Saturday 2 April, and I would travel with them in their car.

So I spent Easter Monday with Mum doing some sorting out of Dad’s effects but we also went to Sainsbury’s to buy some goodies and stopped at a coffee shop in Ipswich for some cake.


We also visited my house in Colchester to check it and to prepare for the collection of my grand piano also on Friday (the funeral day) – I have arranged for it to be transported to Germany by a German removals firm as I couldn’t sell it in the UK. I am looking forward to its arrival – and it will be interesting to see how they manage to get it up the stairs to my first floor flat. But the removals firm visited and saw the stairs!

I returned to Germany overnight on Monday and was greeted very warmly by Poppy when I got in on Tuesday morning. Here she is trying to help with the garden.

Poppy and gardening

Cakes this month

Giving up sugar for Lent

As mentioned last month, I decided to give up sugar for Lent. This included orange juice, honey etc but not fruit in its fruity form. It also meant if sugar was on the ingredients list, such as in tomato ketchup or pasta sauces, I wouldn’t eat those. It meant a lot of cooking from plain ingredients, salad dressings that were just olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a complete absence of chocolates, biscuits, sweets, cakes etc. My snacks were natural yoghurt or nuts.

This was not as hard as I had expected except for breakfasts. As a traditional Brit I eat cereal with milk for breakfast which is quick, easy to eat, doesn’t involve much washing up and I have a good selection of cereals such as Weetabix, Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, Muesli, Shreddies etc. Replacing these with scrambled egg or yoghurt with fruit just didn’t do the trick for me and I really struggled. I was counting down the days before I could have my cereal again, whereas I did not really struggle with not being able to eat cake, chocolate, biscuits or ice cream.

Anyway, here are some cakes that I didn’t eat but watched other people eat.

5 cake slices

I ordered a cuppa at an Eiscafé in the Minto shopping centre with Claudia and Lara and they provided me with a mini ice cream (which I didn’t eat) and a sugar stick (which I didn’t use).

Tea with mini ice cream

And after Lent was over I enjoyed several cakes and then arranged with Babs to go for the Tortenschlemmen (‘eat as much cake as you like’) at the local café. This time I managed three cakes. Here are the cakes we enjoyed!

Kiwi cake

Cherry meringue pie

Stachelbeer meringue pie

Babs and cake

Grillage Torte

So despite enjoying the challenge of Lent without sugar, and losing about 5kg, I generally didn’t feel much better. One friend said my face was maybe a bit thinner but I have no idea. But I am enjoying my cakes again – it makes a cycle ride more fun when you stop to refuel at a nice bakery or café!

One comment

  1. Hi Helen,
    Speeding along in flat Rhineland. I wonder if you moved to Germany for the flatlands or for the “Tortenkultur – Kuchenkultur”, those Konditoreien, you find everywhere in the country?

    As to me, I am still in the training phase, trying to accustom my muscles to the trike. Somewhere I read one must at least cover 500 km before being broken in. And I am at 180 km, still a long way to go and this is a very hilly area.

    Sometimes, I feel my knee and in that case I do a massage with massage oil containing Arnica. Very efficient. My stuff comes from Germany/Switzerland, brand name WELEDA”. Just for information.


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