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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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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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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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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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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.

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29. Painting at the riverside. (June 29)

 

The morning was exuberant with fresh vineyards. Riesling grapes still budding on the vines. The Rhein is becoming greener too.

My little paintbox made happy colours and manifested this naivety.

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Someone had set up the perfect table and chairs on the riverbank just for me. I felt very happy under my number. Would a cruise ship tourist like to bid on 542….? Maybe not.

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It was a hot day, and so with a bit of meandering and hanging around painting, I didn’t do more than 30 kilometres. Thought I would be very soft on myself and book a room in advance. On arriving in the village, as a challenge to my searching and finding skills (no map), pedalled up and down looking for nr 43 Rheinhöenstrasse…  Lost that round, and had to ask a shopkeeper. She said “Oh that’s right on top of the mountain!! You can’t go up there with the bicycle, it is a very hot day”.

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I did go up, thanks to my E…. and have a pleasant room, but the river is nowhere to be seen from here. Tomorrow I’ll whizz down the hill to meet Simon.

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