If you write down all the little details of the day when you’re living in isolation, the page begins to take on a pattern of “I” marks. It is too easy to make this egotistical line when describing a solo bike ride, and eventually it becomes so monotonous it almost makes you cry.
That’s why it was so lovely to be riding together with Birgitta and Hanns Georg. They did all the navigating and listening. The inner voices shut up for a change.
After about 60 kms, having circumnavigated Münster my cycling companions happily waved me off and turned to make the journey home. This parting of the ways happened at the foot of a range of hills which form the border between North Rhine-Westphalia and lower Saxony.
The sudden feeling of solitude was quite exaggerated. You feel as if you are always on high alert for something great and glorious to happen. Or something quite the opposite.
What actually happens is you develop a kind of humility and deep faith in people. They provide the roads and hotels and prepare the food. Especially grateful to my husband who provides the means with a huge amount of encouragement and moral support, and my kids who cheer me on. And all my interested friends who follow the blog and write encouraging notes. So many components make up the journey.
On a small country road going into the industrial side of Osnabrück city, a rowdy bunch of about twenty young men, shirtless and drunk, tried to block my path. They were probably playing the fool, but the inner voices screamed in unison “ don’t let them kill you!”.
Since the time of Eve, a lone foreign woman confronted by a group of strange bored men in party mode has never been a good thing. Adrenaline propelled me into a speedy zigzag between their outstretched arms. My dikky heart thumped quite hard for the next few kilometers. Shew!
It is wonderful that we have come so far in this world, where a woman can travel alone for thousands of kilometers across cultures. I suppose it’s very much safer for a middle-aged crone like me who attracts very little attention or temptation.
The bed in the hotel opposite the main station at the center of Onsabrück is crispy clean. These days who cares about bed cleanliness when one’s body looks and feels like a female Frankenstein. So long as the bed is soft and horizontal and free of smears and hair that’s fine. From the dizzy height of puffed up pillows looking down at my bird legs, the same sort of hard scaly skin, and reddish colour around the ankles. The fingers stick out in all directions, until they’re forced back into alignment.
The final sounds of the day are a couple of drunks outside the window yelling songs and smashing bottles.
Day 42 – Osnabrück to Neubruchhausen
Riding out too early into the cold air. No coffee shop open at this hour on a Sunday morning to soothe a sore throat.
After 15 kms of banal misery the cycle path came to a nettle infested end. According to google this is actually the cycle track. A man in a big black coat and a trash bag came out of his gate and told me to go back up the hill and turn left. I did.
In a village with no name, the hot yeasty perfume of baking bread came floating around the corner. A huge frothy cappuccino and a helping of German apple pie in yellow custard brought tears to my eyes. Cuddled into a sunny window nook. That soon sorted out the brown mood of the morning.
From there on the road goes straight. So straight, there was no end to it. Pedalling and pedalling with not a peepee place in sight. Beware of stinging nettles when squatting in the bushes.
Taking a break to paint a straight row of round trees in watercolour.
The afternoon was also pretty straight, but it gave me a chance to clock up 106 kms without too much bother. Incredible how music can heal a person. Normally the phone battery fizzles too quickly so music has been sadly missed on this journey. For the first time in 2600 kms I put in the earbuds and play a song. Suddenly the world changes from sepia to a blast of handlebar tapping and singing out of tune.
Riding into Bassum now, looking around for a place to stay. Something about the weedy pavements sends me back into moody trepidation. One B&B appears on booking dot com. Now standing on the dusty doorstep of the modest looking place ringing the doorbell. No answer. Don’t panic. A very large man comes sweating along the pavement in a green stretchy sports suit and a tiny shiny black dog. It had one blind eye and shows me his teensy white fangs. The big man tells me “ closed, you must go on to next town noi broogh house in. There is Post hotel. Have rooms for sure”. I asked him to repeat the name of the place….”Neubruchhausen”.
On the way there the cycle track fizzles out so the only thing to do is ride on a super fast road. It is forbidden to cycle on the road. Take off my helmet so drivers can see they were dealing with a dizzy blonde and give me some shoulder room to ride on.
Zum Hotel Post is difficult to miss. Good room and supper, no wifi.