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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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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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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