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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.

CMHZ1540

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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20. Singing down to the Bodensee. (June 18)

I dropped down from the mountain ice, with the river misting at my side. From Stuben to Bludenz to Nenzing to Feldkirch. My wheels spun fast between the trees, until the land began to plain, and the white stream expanded into a calm turquoise lens.
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The tunnel panic wasn’t so bad this time, being Sunday morning, the traffic minimal.

There was an Austrian Oompah band playing in a carnival tent, and around the corner stood this beautiful black horse. I took this shot from the hip.

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I’m officially over the hill. There will be no more mountains ranges until I reach Oslo. Quite sad.

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Noticed the change in architecture and the cooking smells wafting from the houses.

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The Rhine River deserves a mention…Rhenus, Rein, Rhein, le Rhin, Reno, Rijn…. I will be following it for the next 1000 kms, so we’ll get to the whole history and geography of it later.

When the road flattened out, I felt it was finally time to admit I was going to Oslo, so I wrote ROM – OSLO on my front carrier label. This had a magic effect on the people around me. Paolo was the first to approach me to talk about the journey, and from then on everyone has been much more friendly and inquiring. They all say….”going solo” with astonishment.

By now the number of HELLO’S that have been said per day, must be nearing a million. A smile works wonders with passing cyclists, and they generally smile back. I sail along from smile to smile.

103 kms later, in Rorschach, Switzerland, I flopped into a bunk bed in this youth hostel. Felt rather like an old codger, but was very pleased to have the room to myself. It had a fabulous view over the lake and a basin in it where I washed my textiles.
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The plugs and the money are different in Switzerland. All my electronic equipment could not be charged. So I went out looking for food, which was a lot of trouble for my legs. Some nice ladies fed me some green asparagus spears with very yellow hollandaise sauce, and a little beer. – €26.00.

The world cup soccer – Switzerland versus Brazil game was on. Shame, they were all so enthusiastic, boys shouting from cars covered in red and white cross flags speeding past. As I left the restaurant the rain came pouring down and I had a soggy barefoot walk all the way back to the hostel. My sandals are very slippery on the inside when wet.

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The first thing I look for in a hotel room, is how many plugs there are. The hostel room had one that didn’t work. My ebike battery was critically low on power after 103 km even if it was mostly downhill. Here is a sketch to show you exactly how many electronics I carry with me in my panniers.


Jumped on the bike in the morning, and had 30 kms on the display…of course I could pedal without power, but it’s like going from riding a black stallion to riding a cow.

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A cyclist told me yesterday that the weather would be bad today. I have heard that so many times, and it turns out perfectly fine.
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Friends come in all shapes and sizes. This little sparrow had coffee and a biscuit with me.
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Just tell me how many bike paths do these people have!?!  So many choices! I am taking the Eurovelo 15, which runs next to the Rhine, via Basel.

There wasn’t the exact, perfect looking restaurant in Kontanz area, so I took a chance and went on with only 5 kms of power left on my ebike. Suddenly I was out in the countryside with fields as far as the eye could see, but at least it was flat in case my black stallion turned into a cow.

With just 1 km to go, a hotel appeared like a genie from a bottle, and I fizzled into the bike parking space.

The menu was: “Salad, Il Risotto al pomodoro with fried feta…and a banana-berry smoothy.   After lunch I asked the waiter if they had a room free, and in a flash I was booked into the hotel, and my cables were all plugged into the walls of my room.
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Little bowl of sunshine.
if you get lost
Sunday 17, Odometer: 1366.3 – today ‘s trip distance 103 kms, average speed 18.6 kph. Monday 18. Odometer 1410.4 – today 44 kms…

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1. Before leaving Rome (April 22)

“All roads lead to Rome”  – to be more precise… the Via Appia Antica will lead us into Rome and the Via Francigena will lead us straight out again. Very, very far out this time.

I am preparing to ride my bike from our home town, Marino Laziale, which is situated on the slops of a volcano at the southern edge of the eternal city of Rome, and head north to Oslo, capital of Norway.

Departure date is planned for May 26th, early morning, when the moon will be at her fullest. Which I hope will have some beneficial effects.

Below is a very nice image, thanks to Copernicus (Sentinel 3) where you can see a cloudless Europe…just point at mid-Italy, and go north!

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There is a secret feature on my bike……a battery!

It’s an e-bike you see …. a very smart CUBE bicycle. It arrived in a giant box with an operating manual almost as heavy as the bike itself: “General Operating Instructions Pedelec”.

Some say I’m cheating. And I admit there is a paradox involved.

I am doing this because I can only do it with the help of a battery – but sneer if they must.  Little pushes from my battery will certainly help to keep the grinding-grit out of my nonna knees.

The 80 page Bicycle User Manual is also a long read. Then there are the instructions for my onboard computer, and I need to download the smart phone map-apps, and setup a tablet to write this blog. This ‘over the hill’ grandmother is quite boggled by tech.. TBH.

(TBH means ‘to be honest’, for you other ‘over-the-hillers’.)

Simon will accompany me for the first week of the adventure, but then he has to get back to work, leaving me to figure things out as I go! Going solo is quite a scary challenge I must admit, I am a bit of a Simon follower when exploring unknown realms. Usually Simon takes care of the responsible stuff, and I dawdle behind with my camera, and paint box.

Mostly I have generous encouragement from Simon, my family and friends.  But my parents have, in their wisdom given me stern warning of the dangers.  So it’s a toss-up between lounging on my couch, or lunging around in the traffic seated precariously on a metal instrument, most probably lost. Certainly not overly safe, but I will do my utmost to avoid a dramatic end.

When one reaches what is commonly known as ‘a midlife crisis’, it is obvious a red sports car is not the way to go anymore, what with the environmental hazards it provokes. The new and revolutionary way to travel is by e-bike, going gracefully green is key to surviving difficult accusations from the grandchildren. Such as: why did you muck up our planet ? and: What did you do to stop global warming?

Midlife crisis is not the real reason I’m going on this trip… really. In case you thought it was. Actually there are other reasons, those being… I like riding my bike and going places. Something to do with my nomadic roots I suppose.

Alone on my bike in the forest, I might meet animals, or feel how the birds fly and know the slow opening of the yellow flowers in the morning.

 

Picture of my bike in Marino. (Snazzy seat cover and bell – gifts from Megan.)fullsizeoutput_188c

“May the force be with you”