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45. Last whirl of the wheel. (July 31)

It has taken me a week to get around to writing to you, because baby Elia and I have been so busy catching up and playing.

This is a last look at the stats after finishing…

55 sunny days of pedalling from morning till night + 2 days of heavy rain when I stopped + 5 days of rest. Grand total 62 days journey over 4180 kms. Top speed 59.8 Kph, at which point the panniers would rise up dangerously, like wings opening for take-off. Average speed 18.5 kph. Oiled chain twice and pumped one tire once. Gratefully shared some riding days with Simon (8 days),  Georgio (0.5 day), Birgitta and Hans-George (1 day), Regina and Zoe (2 days), Bruce and Kealena (3 days), Tyrone (4 days).

I slept in 50 different beds which varied from a raw mattress to a bed fit for a queen and everything in between. Showers were always good. My booking app was very useful, and so was the Googley girl app.

 

Being alone for much of the time, led to the upwelling of seven “me’s” who I labelled: Dizzy blonde, Stupid-bloody-fool, Guru, Panic-pot, Happy, Sneezy, and Dopey.

All my personalities suffered moments of despair and exhilaration. Guru had the most arduous job of all, and only stopped nagging when I arrived in Oslo.

It would yell: “Get up out of that bed immediately and get on your bike” or it would shout: “PAY ATTENTION ! … stop…… go go go GO…. take your blinkers off, wait here, do this, do that blah blah blah.

Listen carefully and trust that voice. Act instantly. It saves your life.

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There was also the very much appreciated daily input from Simon, and the imaginary team (the voices of my kids who cheered me on), and my family and friends as the ‘blog-backup support team’ who wrote wonderful messages which kept me going. Thank you everyone for your kind words. I would have been miserable without you. Your good wishes put wind in my tires, and your comments put power in my pedals.

I became a man; no makeup, no hair brush, a ravenous appetite, strong muscles, navigating by the sun, loving my bike, drinking beer, not caring how ugly I looked, and going places where no women dare to go;  prohibited factory yards, pubs full of scary men, dark forest paths with wolves, that kind of thing. It was fantastic to be liberated of that fussy feminine stuff.

 

Europe is a remarkably safe place, despite the TV news. Chances of being led astray are extremely rare for someone my age. People are especially kind and they help you when asked. Just smiling and being pleasant.

Children are particularly interested, many a moment when feeling fatigued a bus full of kids would wave at me going past. Nothing gets you going like a little child looking you in the eye and asking a question. Like the little boy who traced the bike symbol on my pannier with his tiny fingers and asked if the bike was all new. Kids notice a lot of things that adults are too busy to see.


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Italians generally love to chat, discuss solutions, and give one really good food. Although cycling is yet to become a really popular thing to do, hence the lack of cycle paths. Everybody I met along the way became my friend and kept in touch.

Austrians are generally well organised and care about cyclists. Everyone is treated with equal respect, smokers and non-smokers alike. There are so many Harley-Davidson groups, cycle groups, and tourists from every part of the world, that they have become really good at hosting all types without getting too involved.

The Swiss work hard to make better food than the Italians and the French put together. Their properties are cultivated, their shops are expensive, and everything is run like a beautiful clock.

Germans are very busy doing everything properly. People are doers, movers and makers. Hotels are good, food is good, beer is good. Everything works. Maintenance and construction is continuous from south to north. The people are friendly, and it’s gemütlich.

The French are naturally confident, and they like to please who they choose. The villages along the Rhine are smartly renovated but everybody goes away at work somewhere. There are no facilities for Eurovelo 7 cycle route users yet, although there were a lot of nice french cyclists going past.

Danes are discreet, everything looks pretty, even the biggest factory is super stylish versatile and safe to be near. There is a certain wealth, but it’s softly tailored with humility. Cyclists everywhere, commuting on the thousands of well controlled cycle roads.

Swedish are similar to Danes, they also have nice wooden cottages at the seaside. Everyone speaks perfect English, and they’re nice to strangers. They have made a spectacular cycle track from Gothenburg.

Norwegians are similar to Swedes, they also have nice cottages at the seaside or in the woods. My children live here so I’m happy that Norwegians are happy people. They care a lot about children too.

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Last word…

Much to my surprise and relief the body managed to survive the journey with no sickness, or delays due to health problems.

The hands grew a bit claw-like and developed pads on the palms, painful at night…. werewolf symptoms?

Some short episodes of vertigo were annoying, it is caused by crystals in the inner ear detaching and moving. This has been an issue for almost three years now, so no fault of the cycling. It only occurs when I lie down or sit, so it did not prevent me from riding. However it is better now.

Allergies were a nuisance for about 2500 kms, dust and pollen blew around in clouds. No allergies since.

Finally, the answer to the most asked question…how is the seat?

The answer…UNCOMFORTABLE! But no damage done.

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44. Grande Finale Day – OSLO ! (July 24)

Suddenly Oslo popped up, and my family were waiting for me at the finish line! .

Bike-ride_0291.jpgMy first hugs in a long time! and 4138 kms since I left home.
Photos still to come, but most of you have seen the video on Instagram or Facebook. It was a very happy moment, although it feels like a dream. About 56 days of riding, is enough to become a habit, so tomorrow I may wake up to the usual feeling of ‘get up, get going”. But Elia will be awake before me I suspect, and bring me back to another reality.


Tyrone navigated the way to Oslo after a sumptuous breakfast at the rather posh old hotel on the beach in Moss. It was hot, and we rode in a very determined mode, along good cycle tracks past Ås, and Ski and onwards.
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Finishing with a long speedy downhill into the city, and arriving in front of the marble Opera House. Megs and Stefano had made a banner with ROME TO OSLO written very large on it, and a finish line tape.

Ty had sped off ahead to photograph the scene, but I got caught up in a large crowd of pedestrians at the traffic light, who I overtook and went blasting through the middle of the banner in a flash, tearing it in half.

I wish I could do it again more slowly…. (tearing the banner I mean).

Exquisite Baby Elia was ok with being given to a stinky old cyclist for kisses.

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All the wonderful messages from friends came popping up on my phone as soon as the video was shared. Everyone has been incredibly generous with words of congratulations, and I am so glad that you were pleased to see me finish.
After a sprinkling of confetti, delicious Proseco, deep red South African wine, and a fabulous meal, it is time for rest.
I will write again tomorrow….

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43. A Rolling stone gathers no moss for 4000 kms (July 23)

The terrain rose up and became beautifully hilly. Massive piles of mossy granite boulders pushed up through the oats fields while balancing trees on their heads. These hills are perfectly spaced to allow cyclists to whizz down a steep slope for 10 seconds before starting up the next for 10 minutes. Up and down like that for hours. There were black-blue lakes there, shimmering behind the shaking birch leaves. All day we rode through the wilderness, with only one little fawn leaping away into the bushes.

It became clear at some time after lunch that hotels were far too few. Stenungsund offered us lunch, and a chance to ask for accommodation at the info office. A sweet girl telephoned ahead to the Hotel in Henån, the Henån Hotel, where we were able to choose between a hotel room and a bed & breakfast room. We chose the bed & breakfast, which was cheaper, and had a better chance of breakfast. But the situation was rather not up to our usual standards. Mostly due to the smell. Breakfast was nice and the manager gave us a winning smile. She came out on the doorstep to wave goodbye.

Another day of ups and downs. Tyrone was doing well on his new bike, although the seat was uncomfortable. Mine is too but not as punishing. After many, many hours perched on those seats, we realised there were no more hotels on the map.
We were in limbo between Sweden and Norway.
That “oh dear’ feeling was getting stronger the further we went into the forest. The feeling reached “Uh Oh!!! after 88 kms….”

But in the nick of time, up popped a camping ground.

With rejoicing we rode up to the reception, and found a lady who examined her bookings, and finally said: “Yes, I do” …’ have a hut for you”. She also told us the restaurant (food place) would be closing at 19:00. So we disembarked our paraphernalia and took a swim in the blue-black lake. Well, Ty took a swim, but i found it a bit cool, so painted something in my notebook instead. We needed tokens for the public showers, which were surprisingly good. By 18:00 we were puffed and perfumed, ravenous for a delicious dinner.

The husband of the receptionist watched us walk past the office window with straight legs, then he telephoned ahead to the restaurant to warn them we were coming and please would they give us something to eat. But they would not. The receptionist had made a mistake. Closing time was at 18:00. I told my sob story to the waitresses while they stuffed pomme frites in their mouths, but they said there was no food left over, the had a “hectic weekend”. I asked in my begging voice if they could spare a slice of bread?

All  they could serve was beer. Which they did.

The evening did not last long after that. We took our beer belly grumbles to bunk-bed in a tiny wooden room. I dreamed somebody stole my army boots which was very upsetting.

Sun up, so we went down to the receptionist, bikes all packed and ready to go. She and her husband had fragrant cinnamon buns in the oven, and hot coffee at the ready. So all was forgiven.

Soon it was time for my mileage meter to reach 4000 kms. I felt very happy, I suppose. Although it is a staggering thought that the whole ride has been rather a selfish endeavour, yet you are pleased that I made it. There were times of discomforting euphoria, peaceful joy, some humiliation and fearsome miracles, boredom, distraught feebleness, confident delight, and all the emoticons on the list. But I’ll tell you about that another time. There were times when I thought my mother was thinking about me, and an eagle would fly overhead. The perfume of a strawberry field would bring thoughts of Megan. I thought a lot about my children and their children, who are actually mine….

All day, we rode, up and down the granite hills under the forest trees, along highways and byways, on roads and paths, until we came to the sea at Moss. The only deviation was an urgent rush for a loo, when the lunch in my tummy gurgled. Three men in green road-working suits sat at a table outside their quarters eating lunch. I rode right up to them with panic on my face. “please excuse me, but can I use your toilet???!!”. The look went around between them, and the one who got the look from both of the others, got up and showed me into a dark little room with an unmade bed. The basin was less white than it should have been, but at least there was plenty of loo paper.

Pictures of Sweden blending with Norway. We rode 109 kms today, so it’s time for bed.

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Blowing avenue of trees in the garden.

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42. Swedish bitters (July 21)

Apologies to the Swedish for putting these dull pictures on the blog, it was the only cloudy day they’ve had in a long time. Most days they are either fighting fires or lying on the beaches.

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After a very pleasant rest near Ängelholme, I made my wiggly way up the coast. The cycle route was clearly marked – called Kattegattleden 1, which is highly recommended for anybody going that way. Brownish red signs show exactly where to go. Rain splattered down on my luminous jacket, under which were two layers of warm garments, but the locals were happy with sleeveless T-shirts and carried on their holidays quite happily.

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This photo was taken the next day, in the sun.
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In Båstad, my bike posed with a red Tesla model S. Both eco friendly, but mine a million times more. Ok so the model S has nicer handles…maybe. But my bike completed 3500 Kms at Skummestōvsstrand.

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Halmstad had a nice little centre along the river, where I searched for the most healthy burger menu. How I wish for one of those Rhine river Salads!  The waitress kindly suggested I do away with the bun, and take extra salad. HUMff…you mean two extra stalks in the garnish?

My big single room at the hostel had two desks. There were a lot of bikes standing around, but no bike lock-up area, so I rolled mine through the foyer, into the lift, up to the second floor, along a passage, through two spring-loaded doors, past the kitchen, and into the bedroom. No funny looks.


The morning sky broke into a smile.

The Swedes are having a wonderful summer, mostly half-naked at their holiday cottages, fixing things and potting around in their gardens. Children laughing, birds singing type of atmosphere.

Here are some banal photos of the general scenery of the day.
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What is “Nordic camping”? Is it different to Normal camping?
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This is the tourist office. Inside is a very nice map of the area.
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I realised as I pedalled along, that there are only three different types of cars in Sweden, all of them Volvo’s; black, grey and white. Beware of black car drivers, they don’t give you much room, grey car drivers give you 2 meters, and white cars drivers go completely over into the oncoming lane, dangerously close to on-coming traffic.

The bed&makeyourownbreakfast man at Varberg enthusiastically pointed me to the beach, which was actually in another direction. I should have checked the map. I put on my swim-suit and found the wind to be nipping about my legs, but nevertheless waded into the sea, and waded, and waded. How far out do you need to go before one can actually swim?

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I was so grateful to find a nicely decorated b&b with a polite gentleman to take my credit card. Paid an extra 100 for breakfast. Lodging in the area was completely full. All was fine except there was no restaurant, and there was only one shower for ten people. The boiler was smaller than me and I wasn’t the first to shower. One thing that a long distance weary rider needs, is a very good hot shower at the end of 124 kms.

There was no whiff of coffee in the morning, just silence. I waited, fully packed, and nothing happened, so I grimly opened the fridge and took out some tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese and bread. Made coffee, ate sandwich. Went.

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A watercolour view of the beach between singing trees in the wind.


GETTING TO GOTHENBURG

If you would like to ride your bike, go to Gothenburg and ride south along the Kattegattleden 1 track. You will see beautiful homes, stunning seascapes, wonderful woods, and interesting people.

Again a marathon day of 124 kms, (strangely enough), but this time staying in a 4 star hotel which cost less than the pay-then-makeyourownbreakfast place. I was very enthusiastic about getting there because Tyrone was coming from Oslo to meet me and to ride with me to Oslo.
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At Kungsbäcker, the Kattegattleden led me south, and since my phone had given up the ghost, I was forced to follow along. Good thing I did because at Gottskar two kind people let me charge my battery and sold me a giant Kebab, even I could not finish. They wrapped the remaining half in foil and I ate it in the hotel later that night.
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41. Copenhagen magic (July 19)

It was the hottest day of the year.

Even so, it’s always a pleasure to be in this city.

We spent the day rolling around enjoying the scenery.

 

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Bruce and Kealena treated me to an all insclusive personalised tour. Meals, a chat with the little mermaid, and a new lock for my bike. So now I can stay in dodgy places without worry that a goblin will make off with it.
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If you’re in Copenhagen then get over to the other side, and partake in the street food fest. A freshly grilled Mackerel wrapped up with salt and pepper? Wash it down with a Tuborg or Carlsberg, both locally made beer.
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This building is a power station which has a ski ramp on it, dubbed Copenhill. The chimney puffs out smoke rings. It also brags the highest artificial climbing wall in the world. Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group……magicians.


Morning came cloaked in soft grey blanket of cloud. Thank heavens.

I said goodbye to my lovely niece and Bruce escorted me out of town and north along the flat sandy shores towards Helsingør to catch the ferry over to Sweden. On the way we stopped to see the charming museum dedicated to a fellow Africa lover and multitalented author, Karin Blixen, who wrote “Out of Africa”.  (  Isak Dinesen ).
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This is her house in Kenya, which looks very like my own G.Grandmothers home.

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It began to rain, so we dashed over the moat to look at Kronborg castle, where Shakespeare had Hamlet play out his drama.

Eric of Pomerania, (don’t you love that name), built the place in the 1420’s. You can look up the facts on wiki. It’s a lot bigger than it looks in my photograph.
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Bruce very generously did the round trip on the ferry, just to make sure I got to Sweden.

I felt a bit like I used to feel, when I had to go back to boarding school. I have never been to Sweden, my 7th country on this trip, and there was a very long way to go, starting with Helsingborg. This time I was first off the ferry on my bike and had to find the way out of the docks, with some very large pantechnicons grating their gears behind me. This time, google girl knew better, and I followed her through a modest but neat residential area. A very new giant cycle track was all mine for the next 20 kms or so, then it was road riding once again. All the way there was a minipanic going on in my head, but it became clear that Swedish people are kind, and things are going to be ok.

Ängelholm sounded like a good place for a peaceful night, however there was no available accommodation at all, anywhere up or down the coast. The ladies at the info office called around, and found a rather expensive room in a conference park out of town. I turned it down, then checked on my phone once again, and there was that same room for almost half the price on booking dot com. So, I quickly booked it and set off in the rain. My phone ran out of battery, so no directions from google, but I had picked up a map at the info place. Arrived by way of a forest and a highway, a bit soggy and too tired for dinner…. but gnawed on an energy bar and half a hot dog from the ferry, then went to sleep.

101 kms.
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40. Sneaking up to Copenhagen (July 18)

There are two respectful ways to enter Copenhagen, one is sailing in, and the other is rolling softly in on a bike. One should take a full day to do it.

When cycling in these realms, one needs a particular set of skills. Kealena and Bruce kindly gave me a crash course, thereby avoiding unecessary calamity.

We rode north along the coastline from Køge, which was very pretty. Even the factories were pretty! Children splashed around in the sea, old people sat on benches looking over the bay, and cows slept in the shade of trees. Quaint yacht harbours, bridges and waterways chequer the landscape.

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Stopped to look at the ARKEN MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, which sits on a sand bank. Intriguing architecture – a stranded ship. A large collection of Damien Hirst, some Ai Weiwei, and  other important artists. Definitely worth a visit. The café hangs like a lifeboat on the side of the building. The lunch order took so long to come we thought we had been stranded. When it arrived, it was delicious, and the waitress gave us free coffee as a survival gesture.

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This is a super heater, it uses waste heat from other sources, to heat water which circulates through the homes in winter. Very efficient and clean. 98% of Copenhagen’s heating comes from utilising waste heat from power stations or other sources. They also burn straw, wood pellets and similar stuff in these plants, but so efficiently there is no pollution. No more boiler in the cellar.

At least they have these big fans to cool the country in the summer. Although they make it very windy.

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So happy to be in Scandinavia, the last section. At the same time, I’m a bit afraid of that long haul up the coast of Sweden. More than 600kms still to do, with all the mystery and the fatigue.

It’s not over till the Grandchildren sing, which I’m looking forward to very much.

 

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39. Bridging the Baltic Sea (July 17)

The great crossing began with a blue sun.

Our posh hotel elevator, being slightly too short for a bike body, had the girls doing a circus trick by balancing the front wheels up on the golden hand rail. It was a frizzling hot day, so we had ice-cream at the beach and a large Döner Kebab between fast biking sprints along the top of dykes along the coast.

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Regina was slightly shocked at my ability to eat with such ravenous gusto. What with my wiry arms and brown lizard skin, it wouldn’t be far off to call me a wild animal. Mentally and physically.

I hope I don’t scare off my grandchildren.

It was mid-afternoon before we reached the tunnel that goes under the river. Being Germany, and very organised, a shuttle bus pulled up at a cement ramp where we could wheel our bikes onto a bus sized bike-trailer. Special green ‘hands’ are positioned to grip the seats, and off we roared into the gloom.

When we got off, a nice man, who had just booked tickets for Johannesburg, told us to go one way, and the bus driver told us to go the other. So we went the way the bus driver pointed, and arrived at the Fehmarn bridge over the sound to the island, at Großebode.

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Having said goodbye to my two ladies, I spun my wheels for the ship. Time to cross over to Denmark. My battery was running dangerously low, however I made a mistake and went down a long road, only to be told by a boy in a ticket box, that ‘you need to ride all the way back to the main road and take the next left’. A tall fence prevented any sort of short cuts. I sped along as fast as I could, but missed the boat.

Being very early for the next ferry, I stood with my bike in lane 1 of 10 empty lanes for 30 mins, until they began to fill up with cars and trucks. All were allowed to embark, except me, the last. I was also the last to disembark 45 minutes later but very pleased to put my tires on Danish turf.
It was late, so I booked into the hotel which stands between four roads, with a bunch of tired truck drivers. My room was nice, I took a much needed shower, and went to the dining room for dinner. Two men run the place, and the food was gourmet.

The morning was grey everywhere. I pushed my dusty bike out of it’s cozy foyer space and the front door snapped shut. My key had already been put in the box. A man was sitting on a bench smoking, and I asked him if he would mind opening the door for me, since my bags where on the inside. He said he had forgotten his key in his room. So we went around to the kitchen and tapped on the chefs window until he noticed and came to open up.

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According to La google, a train station was nearby, which raised the important question, would it be ok to take a train for 24 minutes if it was for a very good reason?

I realised that the distance to be ridden from Rødby, to meet up with Helle at Vordinborg at 11am, and still go on to meet Bruce and Kealena at Faxe, and still ride to Køge for the night, was beyond my abilities, even on an ebike.

So, with greyness all around, I attempted half-heartedly, to find the train. There were some big fences along some rusty railway lines, and you know all the stuff that lies around the back of railway sidings, weeds and broken up bits of cement. However, with some perseverance I found a little pathway around the end of some rails, and reached a place that looked like a public office. A ticket machine popped up, so I bought one for my bike and one for me. Then we went out on a very vacant platform with no words or numbers. After standing there feeling like a silly blonde for a while, two men in luminous green jackets yelled over from the far side of the fence, that I was to “come to that side…the train comes off the ferry and stops over here”.
So I pounced on my bike and scuttled around the little path to the far side of about 5 railway lines. A school group arrived with a teacher, who, in a very teachery voice, told me that was the right place as she has done it before and they were also going. “I know” she said, “I have done it before”.
Just then a little train arrived from the Copenhagen direction on the platform that I had so hurriedly left. There was a very large bike symbol on the side. It hummed and haaad for a while, then a conductor shouted over, that I should come immediately that side, as this was the train. So I leapt onto my bike and scuttled back around the rails, and just made it before he blew his whistle.
The school group and teacher stood and stared.
One learns that people are very kind and helpful, but it’s always best to ask the conductor of the train itself. He is the only one who really knows.

So there was my bike, the first train trip of her 3300 km life, strapped to a seat.
It was a short trip, 24 minutes to be exact, and we were soon gliding along the road again. The road would still see us do 130 kms before evening.

I was very happy to see Helle and share a quick lunch and lovely conversation. Then pedalling onwards to Faxe where Bruce and Kealena were waiting with tea and apple pie at the big white quarry. We rode to Køgel, taking the scenic route through golden fields of ripe wheat, dark green woods, and a soft smooth sea to the west. Dinner at the harbour was an Italian affair of linguine allo scoglio and Chardonnay! Again, wild animal me, gulped every scrap on the plate.

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38. Coasting along! (July 16)

Moments in Hamburg that I couldn’t resist sharing, even under sprinkling grey skies we were happy to explore.

 

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It was a sunshine and birdsong day as we rolled out of town, eventually, the three of us on our eeeee-bikes. It took us most of the morning to get going, city exits are always a bit complicated. Once you’re into the countryside it’s a breeze.

The cycle path we chose was once a railway, so it was very pleasant chuffing along the smooth, tarred surface.

Finding a coffee stop was not easy, nothing open for about 40 kms. We eventually reached a supermarket, mid-afternoon, where some caffeine relief was found, and Regina smiled once again. One becomes aware of circadian, nutritional, and sleep needs on a long journey such as this. I could write a very long blog about it, but I’ll spare you all that for now.

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These are the pictures missing from my previous blog of Lübeck…. a lovely old city, where I reached 3000kms and we celebrated with a glass of Proseco.
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Finally arrived at our Arthotel just before midnight. It was dark as we rode along the perfectly planned and pretty esplanade, which was lined with fabulous homes. Checked into our hotel at an ‘automated desk’, and flopped into white beds.  Regina put a bit of muscle cream on her sore knees which caused a rash and kept hopping for a few hours, poor lady. But she is always enthusiastic, so the morning saw us pedalling northwards along the coast to Puttgarden.

 

 

 

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37. Beautiful Baltic (July 14)

It has been 3 days since I wrote to you last. No time for blogging or photo uploading when I’m with friends. It is 6 am, and today is going to be a marathon ride. Off to breakfast now.

It rained on Wednesday, so Regina showed me around Hamburg, and I had a comfortable and dry day off. Photos to follow.

We rode together to Lübeck on Thursday, where we had a glass of Proseco to celebrate the big 3000km mark, right in the old centre. That evening we slept at the ArtHotel in Scharbeutz. Beautiful Baltic coast, lined with fancy homes and swish restaurants. Magical riding along there!

106 kms.

Slow start on Friday, but nice riding all the way up north towards Puttgarden. Said goodbye to Regina and Zoe at Burg, and dashed across to the ferry. Many huge trucks on the ship and one little bicycle.

Arrived in Rødby and took the first hotel…”Stop and Sleep”.

96 kms

 

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36. Hamburger sophistication (July 11)

What do you order for dinner in Hamburg?

Sweet-potato chips.

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But ask any Hamburger citizen and they will tell you with pride that the food here is highly sophisticated and exquisite. From rich and savoury to spicy and sweet, luscious meats, delightful veggies, free range biofriendly everything under the sun and rain.


I began the day at Zeven. A nice little town 86 kilometres by bike from my destination in the city.

The farms are perfectly manicured and manured, judging by the scents. I rode along adjacent to the main roads until Buxtehude, where I was supposed to head north (via the pretty part), sometimes ignorance is not bliss. Instead I  followed the googley girl’s shortest route which was along the edge of the highway to Harburg and then north into a melange of bridges and intersections, where my phone battery expired and left me stranded.

Fringe people don’t really speak English, but they understand enough, and I don’t really speak German, but I understand enough. Thereby communicating quite efficiently. However, the people I asked said it was possible to go into town from all directions. I just needed one. Thank Goodness for church steeples.

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Buxtehude is lovely, the old centre is perfectly preserved and interesting. I sat down there and ate my breakfast bun.
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Hamburg is a port city with an incredibly difficult history of fire, plague and war. But obviously the population is clever and resilient, so they have created a splendid city once again.
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A whole bridge for my bike and I… crossing into the city in style!
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Last night Regina and Michael, with their pretty niece Zoe, kindly hosted me. Regina hired ebikes so she and Zoe could ride with me tomorrow, but the clouds came up and the rain came down in buckets.

After an abundant breakfast we decided not ride out until the rain subsides a bit. I’m happy to have a day of rest in their lovely home.
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35. Grimm’s Bremen story (July 9)

Lucky find, the hotel in Neubruchausen, it was pleasant. I especially liked the knitted bunny incubating my breakfast egg.

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The scene changed dramatically when I went out of the door. WHAT THE grey sky!

The cycle path was mine all the way from Neubruchausen to Bremen, about 35 kilometres.

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Here are some pictures of random things I stopped to photograph along the way.

The camera is looking weary, and the strap has blackened my neck. It has done thousands of kilometres dangling under my arm without a lens cap.
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My heels dug into the pedals, because I don’t enjoy riding through the fringe of big cities. But Bremen has it all sorted out, and now you can go all the way in, on dedicated cycle tracks.
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Just a quick recap:  “The farm animals were old and mistreated, so they travelled to Bremen to become musicians. On the way they looked into the window of a little cottage and saw some burglars admiring their loot, so they made an altogether hideous noise, and the robbers ran away….but the robbers came back later that night. The animals kicked, bit, scratched and screamed at them, so they ran away and never came back, and the animals lived there forever”. Or happily ever after at least…
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Storks are bringing babies!
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The true Grimm story is about the wind. It came from the side and tried to flatten me and fly away with my panniers (bags). I struggled along for miles and miles, looking for a lunch place and not finding one.

Eventually I stopped at a bus stop booth for wind protection, and ate the half roll and cheese left over from the other day. It was surprisingly delicious. A swig of water and I was on my way with the wind howling in my ears.
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Just when the clouds hung darkly low I rode past an irrigation sprayer and heard pops on my helmet. I thought  “Oh no, now I’ll have to put on those plastic trousers”. But I didn’t.

When I arrived in Zeven, the first thing to do was circle around for a hotel. There was a fancy blue place with ‘restaurant’ written very large in gold. The lady said she didn’t have a room for me.

My luck was up, because the only other hotel in town, Hotel Central, did have a room for me, a very nice big room with beds covered in starched white sheets and duvets, and a soft white pillow….

88 kms

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34. Biking on. (July 8)

Riding together with Birgitta and Hanns Georg was fantastic, they knew where to go, so I didn’t need to navigate, and could just pedal along in bliss, babbling on. We had a delicious lunch in a big garden.

They let me go after about 60 kms. I had to go on over the hills. I felt suddenly quite alone after waving goodbye. Not knowing where I was going to go, so I could get to where I would end up. But that’s the story…

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There is a kind of faith involved, as long as there are roads and intersections and people, everything will be ok.

On a small country road near the industrial side of Osnabrück city, a group of about 20 young men, shirtless and shouting drunk, tried to block my way. They were playing, but the ancestral voices spoke to me. They screamed: “*&£$@”

I imagine that since the time of Eve, a lone foreign woman confronted by a group of young men in party mode, has never been a good thing. I powered my way between them and after a few seconds felt the old heart kick.

It is wonderful that we have come so far in this world, where a woman can travel more than 3000 kms across various countries and be safe. I suppose it’s very much safer to be an old crone like me who poses very little temptation to men.

My bed in the hotel opposite the station was clean. These days, I flop down without a second look. I walk around the room barefoot, so I may get a viruca, but that’s curable.

My slinky bike outfit gets a hand wash in the basin every evening. The water is always brown.

I’ve noticed my ostrich legs, the same sort of hardness, scaly skin, and redish colour near the ankles.

The sun goes down so late up north, it’s quite disturbing. I had the choice of closing the window against the noise and putting on the air-conditioning, or getting a steady supply of oxygen with noise. I chose the air-conditioning which was wrong. I woke up very early with a terrible thirst and a sore throat.

Nothing that a good ride couldn’t cure.

Riding out too early can be depressing. Cold air and no coffee.

After 15 kms of misery, I came across a path that was totally overgrown with nettles. It was the google cycle track. A kind man who was taking out his trash told me to go back up the hill and turn left. I did.

The perfume of baking bread came around the corner before I did. Real joy filled my stomach. I ordered the large coffee with milch, and a large piece of apple pie, then sat in a sunny window and gulped it down.

From there the road was all up, then straight. So straight, there was hardly an end. Pedalling and pedalling with not a peepee place in sight. Eventually I gave up on the idea of a nice biergarten, and took a small farm road. That was perfect, although one must be aware of stray stinging nettles when squatting.

I painted a little sketch, and ate my last power bar.

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The afternoon was also pretty straight, but it gave me a chance to clock up 106 kms without too much bother. Incredible how much power music has on the soul, I put on my iPod and earPods, and suddenly the world changed from sepia to a blast of handlebar tapping and singing out of tune.

I’m not going to tell you about the pig sty stinks, and the super loud tires of German cars that zoom past at 140 kms per hour.

So to finish up, I rode into Bassum, looking for a place to stay. Something about the weedy pavements put me in moody trepidation. After ringing the bell of a house which had appeared on booking dot com, and standing forlornly looking at the dwindling bit of ebike battery power, a very large man came sweating by with his tiny shiny black dog. It had one blind eye, and found my bike very scary. The big kind man said: “ You should go on to the next town, there is a Post hotel, they will have rooms for you”. I asked him to repeat the name of the place….”Neubruchausen”.

On the way there the cycle track fizzled out, so I broke the law and rode as fast as I could on a fast road. I took my helmet off, so the drivers could see they were dealing with a dizzy blonde, and so gave me a lot of space.

One usually prefers to take the cycle track next to the road. A very common bit of infrastructure up here in the north. Riding a bike on a main road is very annoying to the general driving population.

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106 kms

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33. 2500 km raspberry-pop shop. (July 7)

The 2500 km mark popped up directly in front of a raspberry farm stall. It was a happy moment after a day of riding through industrial parks and road works. I was negotiating yet another “umlietung” which took me off canal and through a farm. It had been a tough, hot, smelly day of riding through industrial parks, when Britta Jakobi, offered me some of her fresh raspberries to taste, and took my photograph.
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The air there is not good. If you look on the map for Marxloh, Oberhausen, Essen, Bochum, Dortmund…you’ll see a large area of crusty looking industry. It took me three hours to ride through it. My eyes burned terribly.
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Coffee stop, recharged phone, but it lasted only 20 minutes and so wandered lonely as a cloud until I found a yacht club where I had lunch and charged it again. The waitress pointed the direction of Heinrichenburg, but I decided to follow the signs instead.
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Very interesting place, Henrichenburg, where the ships get taken in and out of the water.

Found a nice place to sleep at Datteln.

Odometer: 2516

78kms

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Grey sky day. I had a nice invitation from Hans-Georg and Birgitta to stay with them. They sent me maps but I soon took the wrong turn, and thinking it was simply a ride along the river, didn’t bother to check on my google map.

A lock, from front and back.
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A long way later, in Lüdinghausen, found it was supposed to be Lünen, so had to change plans… but first a visit to a medieval expo at the castle.
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This is the path I frantically took to reach Ascheberg. Googley girl made me go through the farms.
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Birgitta kindly came by bike and met me in Acheberg, and we rode together to their home town Drensteinfurt. I was given a lovely welcome, and enjoyed the afternoon and evening in their company.

 

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Bike ride_0161.jpgFamous Haggi waffles with strawberries and cream.

 

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32. Goodbye my friend, Rhine. (July 5)

This is yesterday’s post. Hotel’s and hostels offer very poor wifi, so the blog cannot be shared when it should be, it has to wait for the next stop, just like many things in life.

The sun is dragging his billowing sky down to the smoking chimney stacks. A giant storm growled through dinner, but not a drop of rain fell on the canvas Erdinger umbrella.

Flammkuchen is a thin pastry crust with high edges. It is smeared with a thin layer of sour cheese, and usually one would have the traditional onions and speck sprinkled on top, but I chose sliced tomatoes and rocket. Eat it while it’s hot.

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Getting here from Monheim am Rhein, took me through Düsseldorf, where an enthusiastic young man at the bike shop sold me a gadget to attach the phone to the handlebars, so now I can see the map while I ride.

Düsseldorf surprised me with it’s simplicity, and I had no problem at all getting into town, and out of it again.

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From there the cycle path took me into a daydream, it was so so beautiful. Large old trees line the road, many old people pedal along too, some in wheelchairs, some on roller skates. You can just go for miles and miles through the fields without interruption.

A lunch place popped up on the edge of the river, tables set out under a dark green canopy of trees. “Poeusgeu”, rather fancy, to be found on the Alte Rheinfäre.

The waiter, dressed in black and white, had a special look about him, he stooped down to get my order, and I nervously pointed around the middle of the menu. The plate came…matjes, with roast potatoes and a creamy dressing. Marinaded fish, really delicious.

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Afternoons on the bike tend to get a bit hot and complicated, and after going around the same wheat field twice, I told Googlely-girl to take a break. I rode alone through many small towns, mostly very quiet, on the edge of a skyline of factory towers and billowing chimneys.

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On one of my unplanned reconnaissance missions around Duisburg, I found myself braking in front of a police station. It looked approachable, so I went in and declared the theft of my glasses. An officer wrote up the report in German.

Typing ferociously on his old clickitty-clacketty keyboard at high speed, I was astonished that he only managed three sentences. Seriously, this report will be sent to the police in Linz am Rhein, where I said I suspect the thief stole the things. There they will investigate the matter further. I hope I’m right about the location. What a bother.

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I’m losing sight of the Great River Rhine (english name). My route will take me eastward and away. It is a sad goodbye. Moving with the fast flow of a big river every day for so long has been incredible. We became friends, I got to know the scintilla, caught glimpses of the dark beneath, felt the heave and the power, and sang with the ancient.

Knowing that it goes on is a great comfort, from mountain to sea to sky to mountain.

Unfortunately we have heaved up dykes of stone and soil to contain it, plastered the banks with cement walls, hemmed it in, and blocked it up with locks. We dump vast amounts of chemical waste into it. We motor our cruise ships and barges up and down without rest, blasting it with fumes and a huge din of vibrations that resonate underwater.

A small bottle of water cost me Euro 5 this afternoon.

 

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Spent the night in a hostel Jugendherberge, Duisberg, Landschaftspark…in a rusty old Industrial zone, which was very interesting. Good preparation for the day to come…a day of Industrial parks.

The girl at the desk gave me their special handicap room, most likely because I looked like I needed help. It was very clean and comfortable with a chair in the shower, and a red switch next to the bed, which I pressed thinking it was the light switch. It blinked for a while, then I blinked off to sleep.

66 kms.

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31. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. (July 4)

Mostly very very good, a little bad and a tiny bit of Ugly.

Magnificent riding along the Rhein from Bad Honnef to Cologne. Thanks to those who have worked to make the cycle tracks there. Brilliant! There is also a ferry man that pulls you across a stream on a raft…wearing a sailor cap and a broad smile.

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signsAfter admiring the great cathedral in Cologne, my “Googledy girl” on the maps app told me to go west. Now, if you are stuck in the middle of an old city with a mish-mash of roads, how is one to know where WEST actually is? It was midday, so the shadows didn’t show…. couldn’t she just say go straight ahead, or turn around…?cathedral

After a lot of bother, I used my pigeon instinct and got out there. Only to realise that my fancy new sunglasses and my hat were not on board anymore. They’ve taken another route. Quite an ugly realisation, as those are prescription glasses with a price tag that takes your breath away. As for my hat, it was brown, with a big flap around the back and a sun peak. Not beautiful but I liked it.

I cannot blame Cologne for that.  Someone must have made a grab for those the day before when I stopped at the supermarket for a green drink. I had presumed they were packed in my panniers.

Shortly after that I merged with the biggest industrial park in the world. All that concrete and tar and puffing chimney heat, mixed with hard sunshine, made the next hours of cycling slightly tougher. However, I finally found the river again, and crossed over on the ferry. From there on all I could think about was finding a place to stay, which I found at 17:30, and plonked down for an ice cold beer. A bit lonely.

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Odometer: 2371,6

distance today 83.32

 

 

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30. Loreley. (July 3)

Simon came to see me at the Loreley section of the Rhein for the weekend. A short relaxing break from riding my bike. We visited 5 castles on Sunday morning.

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The Bellevue Rheinhotel, a historic place to stay, if you’re looking for a bit of pampering.

 

Riesling wine tasting and gourmet cuisine. I think these two days made up for any lack of nutrition.
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The horseshoe which belonged to the devil, was embedded in the road when the people rolled a barrel down upon him as he tried to enter the town….

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We also took a small boat over to an island to see the customs house. Here the ships had to stop and pay taxes. History on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pfalzgrafenstein_Castle
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Monday morning saw me dashing down river, hopping by ferry from side to side, whenever things looked more interesting there. The track is perfect up until Koblenz where it gets a bit lost in the industrial zone. An older couple complained, they thought it was an idyllic riverside tour all the way. It soon became idyllic once again.
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Having crossed over at Ermitz, the path fizzled out, and I found myself struggling along in the grass. But after some negative thinking up popped a lovely girl with a dog, and said I should persist. Soon to be in another small town. There are many lovely little villages along the way,  but now they are much flatter and more spread out.
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Linz am Rhein.

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I was happy to accept a very generous invitation to stay with Rolf and Bianca in Bad Honnef. They treated me to a sumptuous BBQ and good Italian wine. So good to see friends again! Loreley1 - 4

88 kms.