Ride to Amsterdam

We slept great. For the second time on this trip we had air conditioning. It is so nice to have a cool room to sleep in. The hotel had a large breakfast buffet, so we just continued our feast from last night and over-ate a second meal. We were on the road around 10 and had an easy 30 miles to the airport. It was a different experience than in past days: often I watch miles wondering why they pass so slowly. Today I wondered why they passed so fast.

We had several construction detours and had to reroute a few times — one time it was a significant reroute in a more crowded suburb of Amsterdam. Luckily, while trying to find our way we found a place where we could get a spinach smoothie.

I hadn’t been very careful with the destination address, and we ended up at the airport (technically) but several miles from where we actually needed to be. Whenever we have minor navigation challenges we think back in amazement that people found their way around this world without a computer telling them what to do next. It is amazing to think my bike computer, about ⅓ the size of a mobile phone, stores internally a map containing almost every road in the world.

We made quick work of packing our bike at the airport. Previously it had taken us 2-3 hours. Today it took us an hour. Unfortunately being ahead of schedule didn’t buy us anything, as I had told our Airbnb host we wouldn’t be to her house until 5 so she isn’t going to be there until then. We are hot and sweaty in our biking clothes schlepping around 2 panniers each and don’t feel like going into Amsterdam like this, so we are catching up on email in the airport and writing a blog entry.

We are sad to have this be over. It was a good ride.

Google Photo Album: 16 new photos added to shared album

Ride to Almere

Today we left our Airbnb around 8:30 AM and headed toward Amsterdam. Our tour took us 55 miles to a town about 15 miles northeast of Amsterdam. The first half of the ride felt like we were in small towns the entire way. It wasn’t the most scenic, but we were on a bike path and enjoyed the lack of climbing. Eventually we reached the water and as we rode south we started to enjoy more beautiful and secluded bike paths.

We stopped a few times for snacks and bathroom, but otherwise kept moving. We hit a stiff headwind with about 20 miles to go and worked against it for about 15 miles as we rode west. Eventually we changed directions to the north and went into the trees, which eliminated most of the wind.

We had reserved a hotel last night, but as is typically the case we didn’t know for sure what we were getting into. We were pleasantly surprised to ride up to a beautiful large hotel. The room cost was about $100, but it feels far nicer than a hotel room costing 4x that amount. Thank you hotels.com. 🙂

We went for a quick swim in the pool and sat in the sauna a bit. Then it was time to go search for food….

People ask if we lose weight on a trip like this. We drink so many calories of fruit juice and chocolate soy milk, and then chase that by drinking cartons of pudding and eating handful after handful of nuts. It should be no surprise we don’t lose weight. Tonight we kind of overdid the eating, as there was an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant next to our hotel. It had plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. We would order what we wanted on a tablet computer and within minutes, sometimes less than a minute, a server would show up with the food. When he dropped off the first plate of avacado sushi rolls we both dug in with our hands (chopsticks are too slow when famished) and nearly finished the plate before he walked away. After a few more rounds we slowed down enough to eat like civilized beings. I tried to count the number of dishes of food we ordered. They were small, but it approached 50. We were eating mostly vegetables and fruit, and probably could have kept going, but eventually decided we needed to stop. Needless to say, we are not losing any weight.

We will ride around 30 miles to the airport tomorrow, pack up our bike, and then spend the night at an Airbnb near the airport. We will have carried out tent, sleeping bags, air mattresses, and cook kits almost 1000 miles only to use them twice, but when we needed them it was great to have them. Next time we do this however we may leave them behind. They took up a lot of precious space.

We are happy, but kind of sad to have this adventure end.

Google Photo Album: Ride to Almere

Rest day in Zwolle (Eindhoven)

Picking up where the last post left off…. We rode buses and trains for about 3 hours and covered a distance that would have taken us 2-3 days to ride. Everything just flew past and I can’t remember much of the landscape. Apparently we missed seeing a cow statue on a balcony (according to our new friend who helped us navigate public transit). We hit each bus and train perfectly, arriving at church about 30 minutes early. It was really good to see Holly. She just radiated happiness. Several people commented on how consistently happy she is. It was fun to see her interact with people she had grown to love so much. We didn’t want to get in the way of the special moment between her and those she will be leaving this week to return home and restart her college education — so we mostly just enjoyed observing her and her friends’ happiness.

We had good translators who helped us understand what was being said. It is nice to experience so much consistency of faith even when the language and culture are so different. We met a man whose son was in the congregation in Aalborg (Denmark) we attended last week. It is a small world.

Our ride home began a bit frustrating, as the bus we needed to catch was late, then drove right past us because it was full. A half hour later another very full bus took pity on us and stopped. The train schedules worked well once we arrived at the terminal and we made it back to the Airbnb a little after 4.

Now we are walking around Zwolle, picking up a little food for breakfast that we can eat in our room, and finding dinner as we can’t cook tonight in our Airbnb. We found a simple small restaurant that our host recommended which had half of its menu with vegan options. The cost to eat out here tries my soul, but I’m working through it. 🙂

We are happy.

Google Photo Album: 3 new photos added to shared album

Ride to Zwolle

We are writing this Sunday morning as we ride in a train headed for Eindhoven to attend church with my niece Holly who is finishing 18 months as a missionary here. We are excited to see her. We are so grateful to a couple of locals who helped us navigate public transportation, as the train station in Zwolle is being repaired, which necessitated a slightly more involved bus transit to t’Harde where we caught our first of two trains. There was one especially helpful college student who basically had us follow her as we hustled between buses and trains. With her help we were able to just make each connection within minutes of departure. We woke up around 5 am to make sure we’d be early for our first connection, leaving the house around 6. We are grateful we were conservative with our travel estimates, or we wouldn’t have been successful this morning.

Yesterday’s ride (Saturday) was far more relaxing than Friday’s ride. We only had 50 miles to make it to Zwolle, which I semi arbitrarily selected as our destination due to its proximity to public transportation. In hindsight, t’Harde would have been a better choice, but by the time I realized that I had already arranged an Airbnb, so we made Zwolle work.

Friday night’s hotel was the best yet. We slept past 8 AM, which never happens for us. I think the air conditioning, firm bed, and blackout curtains all contributed. I think we could have stayed there another couple of days. The hotel had a massive breakfast buffet, which we took advantage of. I went for another soak in pool while Natalie caught up on email and Instagram. We started riding at about 11 AM, headed for Nijeveen, the town where our bike was built.

Most of the riding was on trails. We rode through a national forest, which was beautiful. The trees and bike path were exceptional, and there were no hills! We love the tidy Dutch homes, architecture, yards, and gardens.

We arrived in Nijeveen a little before 3 PM and met Monique, the woman partner in the company that made our bike. Nijeveen is a small town. We didn’t notice any business other than the bike shop where our bike was created. It was just starting to rain and we were able to get us and our bike out of the weather for an hour while we visited with Monique and two of her friends. It was great to see where it was created and see so many of its siblings. 🙂

We put on our wet weather gear and left for Zwolle in the rain. It wasn’t a downpour, but wet enough to make us grateful for better waterproofing than we had 2 years ago. The cobblestone streets seemed a bit slippery so we rode a bit more carefully, making it to our Airbnb around 6 pm. This accommodation was a bit different than others on this trip, as it is a room in the upper floor of the home of a young family. The hostess was exceptionally kind and accommodating, but we felt like we needed to walk extra quietly and kind of disappear into our room. We had misread the listing and were expecting to be able to cook dinner in home, but it was just a room, so we ended up buying salad and fruit. We were able to use her washing machine — and after a week of riding with only 4 changes of ride clothes, our clothes and noses needed it!

We are sad that our trip is drawing to a close. We have loved being here. We are starting to talk about next year. We are considering a rails-to-trails ride in the US or another trip to Europe. We are considering altering our approach to be more trail-focused and less destination focused. This far our routes have been determined by where we want to go. We are intrigued by the idea of having our focus be on the trail itself. Instead of riding beautiful trails for segments of our ride and filling in the gaps with streets and roads, we would commit to a trail, leaving it only when we need food or someplace to sleep.

We are happy.

Google Photo Album: 16 new photos added to shared album

Last day in Germany — ride to Assen

We are writing this on Saturday morning, as last night we were completely exhausted. We started at 7:30 in Bremerhaven, just missing the ferry about 10 minutes into our ride. We waited about 20 minutes and soon were across the river riding towards Holland. It was about 70 miles to the border.

The ride was still pretty rural with a mix of bike paths and small roads. The traffic was light and slow when we are on the road. It seemed like we passed through small towns at least once an hour and we seemed to do a better job stopping and eating. Sometimes we would eat from the food we were carrying with us and sometimes we would buy something in a café or store. On one of the larger towns we stopped at a McDonald’s so I could try their vegan burger (the Big Vegan) that is to compete with the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger. It wasn’t worth the stop. 🙂

As we rode Natalie reviewed for me many of Shakespeare’s classics. I tried to tell her about some of the historical non-fiction books I’ve recently finished. It was a fun way to pass the time. Sometimes we just rode in silence, lost in our own thoughts.

We crossed into Holland a little before 5 PM. It was surprising to feel such a definite difference. Holland feels more modern. This could have been due to where we were in Germany, but it was surprising to feel the difference almost immediately upon crossing the border. We had stopped at a grocery store about 5 miles before leaving Germany and one about 5 miles after entering Holland. If felt like both were in towns of similar size, yet the one in Holland seemed so much more modern and more organized. The one in Germany was consistent with the two we had visited in Bremerhaven the night before. Maybe we have a sample size problem, and maybe it is because the one in Holland had the best vegan chocolate pudding ever (it came in a carton and we just drank it like you would drink a box of milk), but we immediately fell in love with Holland’s supermarkets. Hopefully the next few days will be consistent. 🙂

The bike paths in Holland have been amazing. Sometimes there are as wide as a small road. Often they take you next to canals where you can see beautiful houses and their boats docked in the back yard. We had fought a headwind for most of the day, and that seemed to die down in the evening. We were feeling good (due to the vegan chocolate pudding super powers) so we decided to ride to Assen. This made our total milage a bit over 110 miles. In 5 days we have ridden a little over 450 miles. We are a bit tired. Luckily our Airbnb for Saturday is about 50 miles away, so we have no option but to take it easy for the last segment this week.

Part of the reason for the big push last night it is supposed to start raining today. Our ride to Zwolle will be in the rain. Gratefully we have great waterproof coats and pants — a lesson we learned the hard way on our first Europe ride.

We are staying in a nice hotel in Assen. We checked in after 9:30 PM. The place is part of a large building that has a pool which seems to be a destination in and of itself. When we asked about hours that the pool was open the front desk lady said something like: you can’t go tonight because it closes at 10. We still had to secure our bike in a special bike storage area quite far from our room and then haul out bags to our room. Clearly she didn’t know me. Needless to say, I had a solid 15 minute soak in their warm pool. Sadly there were no hot pools like Iceland, but the soak did me well. Our room is very nice and for the first time this trip we have air conditioning. We are in heaven.

It is now Saturday morning and Natalie is just waking up after 9 hours of sleep. Apparently a little bike ride does wonders for your ability to sleep well.

After breakfast note by Natalie: Our stay included a huge buffet with all kinds of options, even for vegan eaters, and we ate a large and wonderful breakfast! So good!

Google Photo Album: 19 new photos added to shared album

Ride to Bremerhaven

We loved our simple little campsite last night. We shared the tent space with three solo bicyclists and one cute cyclist family with 2 young children. They were very helpful to us, as in Germany we are finding not as many people speak English as readily as in Denmark and Sweden. When we arrived at the campsite last night it was cash only — which took a bit of help from our new friends to understand. We ended up riding into town to find an ATM. We didn’t feel much like riding more after our long day, but capitalism was calling and we had to answer.

Neither of us slept well — but Natalie had an especially poor sleep. In order to fit everything in our two small panniers we needed very small sleeping bags. Therefore our sleep kit had to extend beyond sleeping bags. For example, I brought my down coat to augment my sleeping bag. Natalie had a puffy vest, but didn’t want to dig it out. She ended up being chilled in her sleeping bag. Who knew it would be colder further south? We eventually covered Natalie’s sleeping bag with our rain gear which provided her with enough warmth to get to sleep.

We packed up and said goodbye to our new German friends and noticed the front tire was nearly flat. After 6000 miles I guess we were due for a flat. The German bike paths have been a bit hard on us — the paved paths being rougher than many of the dirt paths in Denmark and Sweden. Several times yesterday we would hit something hard with the front wheel and be amazed we didn’t get a pinch flat. Well, it turns out we did.

We quickly changed the tube and were on our way. We eventually made it to the main ferry for crossing the Elbe River west of Hamburg, missing the ferry by 10 seconds (literally the gate was dropping as we were riding up and this operator wasn’t going to let us on). Luckily there were about 5 running at the same time, so in another 20 minutes we were on our way again. The ferry also only took cash. We had almost crossed the night before, which would have been problematic because had it not been for the campsite we wouldn’t have been carrying cash. Germany is very different than Sweden and Denmark in this way as well. Everything we paid for in those two countries was electronic (usually with my phone). We had a small amount of Danish currency we were carrying with us and ended up spending it last night and this morning at a grocery store just to get rid of it.

The weather was drier than yesterday, but sometimes we had a head wind. The temperature was pleasant, just right.

Today was far more rural than any other day on our ride. We were often on small paved farm roads, only occasionally encountering cars. We would ride past some of the most beautiful homes with yards filled with flowers. Sometimes we gawked too long, missing the opportunity to take a photo. (Most of our photos are taken by Natalie as we continue to move.)

Several times our route would have us dive into the woods, leaving a nicely paved and marked path. It requires a bit of faith that the routing software knows what it is doing. It usually works for us, which is why we keep using it. We see some amazingly beautiful and random places — the types of places we would never see if we were in a car. (Many have been inaccessible to 4-wheeled vehicles.)

Since we had been so rural today we didn’t find lunch until around 3. We looked at route and accommodation options and decided that, since we were feeling flat and had ridden 300 miles over the last 3 days, we would cut the day short at 65 miles and stay in Bremerhaven, where we found a simple and inexpensive hotel room.

Hopefully we’ll rest up well and have a good day tomorrow. We are 140 miles away from our Saturday destination, but we want to arrive early to meet the person from whom we bought our bike. We’ll also try to do laundry, as on Sunday morning we are going to get up early and take a train south to try to attend church with our niece who is serving in Eindhoven. Then next week we ride to Amsterdam and pack our bike. :'(

Google Photo Album: Ride to Bremerhaven

Ride to Brunsbüttel

(Natalie writing)

We got off to a later start this morning, due to a later night. But we had slept well. We grabbed a grocery store breakfast and were pedaling by about 10:00 AM. Very soon we left Denmark and crossed into Germany.

The day’s weather was a bit all over the place — wind, rain, sun, clouds, cool, warm — but we didn’t complain when we had a tail wind sometimes. That helped us make up for the later start, and we were able to ride basically 90 miles before finding a cute, comfy campground right by the Elbe River.

Today’s route was usually near towns, and sometimes a bigger road but always with either an adjacent bike path or good shoulder. We rode through some beautiful neighborhoods and picturesque towns. We were amazed at how many wind turbines or “wind farms” we have seen. Kudos to Germany for efforts toward renewable energy.

During the day we ate “off the bike” and found a great salad bar at one grocery store for dinner. Campground showers felt good. It’s a bit chilly but dry tonight, and we’re looking forward to our sleeping bags.

Google Photo Album: 16 new photos added to shared album

Last day in Denmark

We slept well in our Airbnb. It has been hard to justify camping when you can sleep on a bed, have as long of a shower as you would like, and have a normal kitchen for the same cost. Our stays in Denmark have all been around $50 per night, including the night we slept in our tent. As I’ve started to look for accommodations in Germany I’ve begun to realize that even though Denmark felt more expensive than Sweden, both are inexpensive compared to Germany.

Today’s ride featured somewhere between 10 and 15 miles of single track and not another soul on the trail. It was so peaceful to ride in the woods in near silence. There were usually trees all around us which helped to shield us from the wind. Much of the balance of the day was on semi-abandoned roads. Today felt exceptional from a ride quality standpoint. Perhaps my favorite day yet. I just wish the single track had extended another 50 miles.

We stopped early in the day to buy a “chocolate triangle.” Think of a triangle shaped pastry the size of your head. It was like sitting down to breakfast and eating a birthday cake, with flaky layers of pastry and some kind of cream, topped with gooey chocolate. Natalie’s assistant principal had recommended it, so we had to eat one, right? We thought about eating it in parts, as some allegedly eat an elephant. The metaphor works here. But the pain of packing it up and stuffing it in our bags left us no choice but to eat the whole thing in one sitting. That’s our story at least. It was great and somehow we didn’t have a sugar coma 30 minutes after eating it.

We ate lunch at a grocery store, again. This is starting to be a habit for us. We also stopped and ate veggie pizza and salad for dinner in a quaint town called Ribe. The winds shifted in the late afternoon and we hadn’t made reservations, so we decided to bank some miles and ride with a tailwind. In less than 3 hours with the wind at our backs we covered what would have taken more than 6 hours riding into a headwind. We finished the day at a little over 100 miles and 2000 feet of vertical. We are staying in another Airbnb in Tønder. We love how unique each stay is.

I was reminded again and again today how lucky I am to have Natalie. Who else would put up with a vacation that includes 12 hours of physical exertion day after day, rides into the woods just hoping the route planning software isn’t going to lead us to a dead end, eating gigantic pastries immediately before a big ride, and just smiling when I make stupid statements like: “It’s a vacation… It’s supposed to hurt.”

Google Photo Album: Last day in Denmark

Ride to Herning

We actually were on the bike by about 7:15 this morning, because we got ourselves into an earlier sleep schedule (hope it lasts). We hoped to do about 85 miles today, and we did 90. Trying to do a bit of catching up from the two days we lost due to the bike being stuck in Paris. It was a cooler day but also very windy, sometimes a head wind. So we were on the road for almost 13 hours, including a few grocery store breaks. It was a bit rainy, but not too bad. And now we have good rain gear, unlike our first Europe trip two years ago.

We did have a little “tip over” incident due to an unexpectedly soft shoulder going up a hill, but other than one broken bike bell and a few bumps and scrapes we were fine.

We were mostly on beautiful bike paths today, and when they were surrounded by trees that gave us a much-needed break from the wind. We encountered quite a few helpful, friendly people today. That’s always nice! The world has so much good, despite the problems.

We are now at an Airbnb in a town called Herning. It’s a nice basement apartment, set up to accommodate 3 sets of guests at the same time, but we’re the only ones here so we have the kitchen, living room and bathroom to ourselves. We showered, ate a good, simple grocery store dinner, and will soon be sleeping soundly I think.

Google Photo Album: Ride to Herning