Last ride of the trip

Monday morning started with a drive from Harrison to Hamilton. It was tough leaving such a comfortable Airbnb, but it was also comfortable to travel so many miles in an air-conditioned vehicle. Our adventures teach us to appreciate our modern vehicular conveniences but also appreciate opportunities to travel in a slower, more immersive way. You experience a landscape differently at 10 mph with no glass isolating you from the sounds and smells. In any case, the Idaho panhandle and Montana are beautiful both on bike and in car.

As we drove to Hamilton, backtracking some of our route, it was cool to see how far we had biked. We also had some really great conversations with Page and Vance. Upon arriving in Hamilton we were excited to get riding again and we were also grateful to find the truck in good condition where we had left it two weeks earlier.

We got ready to ride and rode the Bitterroot Trail for 30 miles back towards Missoula, before turnng around and riding back toward Hamilton. We
rode from about 4:00 to 9:00 PM. It was pretty warm, and we had a head wind going north which turned into a tail wind going south as we returned to Hamilton. We enjoyed riding through pretty farmland, small towns, and mountain scenery. We were on a dedicated bike path the whole way but were close to a highway with some traffic and its associated noise. The route was part of the same trail we had done 2 weeks ago.

Total miles today were 63.5 and our whole trip total ended up at just under 730.

We found a hotel, cleaned up, soaked in the hot tub and pool, and went to sleep, happy and tired.

As we write this it is Tuesday and we are driving home. We are sad to see our adventure end but happy to think about the memories we created. We love seeing the world this way and enjoy this unique opportunity to accomplish something difficult together. It was also fun to share the last part of our trip with people we love.

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

Skagen day trip (no bike)

On our first rest day (Saturday) we took a day trip out to Skagen and Grenen. The train station was just minutes by foot from our Airbnb so that was nice, and we stopped at a delicious bakery on the way! Even better! Skagen/Grenen is a really cool site, the most northern point in Denmark where the North and Baltic Seas meet. That meeting creates a big sand dune from the beach out to sea, and it also makes a series of waves crashing into each other in a line out to sea. The day was perfect weather except for a very strong wind, but we survived (it was a good place and time not to be on our bike.) We ended doing quite a bit of walking, from the little town out to the site, so we were glad for the good temperature. It is so nice to walk along the beach!

We are on the train now, back to Aalborg. We plan to stop at a grocery store to grab some things for dinner and then head back to the Airbnb. We have had several late nights and we need to get more sleep. We tend to be sleeping well but not enough on this trip, so we hope tonight will be different.

Good rest day!

Google Photo Album: Skagen rest day

Riding to Aalborg

We woke early-ish, ate oatmeal provided by our Airbnb host, and headed to the ferry. It was literally minutes away on our bike and through a funny old door in a huge wooden wall. Our host said it was like the wardrobe door in the Chronicles of Narnia, and it was! One side was old houses and natural landscapes (forest, wildflowers, etc.), and the other side was 12 lanes of pavement and cars headed for part of their 7:20 AM commute via a big ferry. There was only one other bike, a couple of motorcycles, many many cars, and at least one double decker bus! The ferry ride was about an hour, and we sat comfortably on the passenger deck, using the free wifi and eating our chocolate croissants we bought on board.

We were then in Aarhus, which seems like a cool, very old city (that we wish we had time to explore), but we pedaled on. The weather really was perfect, just a nice breeze, perfect temperatures, sunshine, blue sky. We rode a little over 75 miles today. Our legs are feeling stronger. Some of the ride was on busy roads with no shoulder ☹️ but the drivers were nicer and more careful then in Iceland. Those roads made us especially grateful for some particularly beautiful bike paths we also had today! Hurray for bike paths!!

Food was mostly grocery store stops, but we found some extra yummy stuff. The food in Denmark seems to be more expensive than what we found in Sweden, but it had been easy to find. Unlike Iceland we don’t have to plan too far in advance.

We are in an Airbnb in a city called Aalborg, and we got in late enough that we haven’t explored it much yet, only enough to buy a few groceries in passing. We did find the LDS meetinghouse where we’ll go Sunday. It looks like a cool city! We love the architecture. We are on the middle of downtown and can hear everyone enjoying the night life down below. We are in a nicely renovated top-floor flat in quite an old building. We had a few glitches getting into the building, but a few sets of residents were very kind and friendly and helped us out. Showers felt great as always. There is free laundry in the old basement! Much needed. We didn’t have detergent, but washing our clothes without saying will still make them much cleaner and more spun dry than a rinse in the sink. There is a place to hang dry in the basement too. We had a simple quick dinner of fresh strawberries, stir fry (frozen) veggies, rice, peanuts, and chocolate ?. We will finish hanging our laundry, put in our earplugs, and sleep well. Oh! Another plus: we can store the bike in the locked basement too.

Saturday and Sunday are off-bike days, and we have some good stuff planned! Then we will be peddling again on Monday morning. We also hope the rest will be good for my ankle. It is doing all right but could use some love and rest.

This is awesome!

Google Photo Album: Ride to Aalborg

Last day in Sweden

We began a bit later, due to being up so late the night before. It was another day of beautiful weather, high forecast for 82F. We are getting used to riding in the sun all day, so sometimes by afternoon we feel pretty tired and we stop and find a shady place to have a snack and break.

The views today we’re not quite as pretty as yesterday, but still nice. Part of the reason was once again we bypassed some of the peninsulas to take a more direct route. This put about half of our ride on roads and the other half on bike paths. We rode a bit on single track, but it was all very nicely maintained.

As we began our big climb of the day, sweating and pedaling hard, we stopped and talked to a very nice person — riding home from a nearby town — who helped us avoid the remainder of the big hill as well as get off the road with it’s relatively busy traffic! She pointed us to a beautiful new paved cycle way that was not in our routing software. It appeared to have been maybe a rails to trails path, so the grade was much better for our heavy bike and tired bodies. We loved the bike path and appreciated her help so much! It was another case of perfect timing.

Food most of today was just roadside grocery store or small store stops, or stuff from our bicycle “trunk” trail food collection.

In Sweden we rode from Halmstad to Helsingborg, then crossed in the big ferry to Denmark (city of Helsingor). The crossing took about 20 minutes. It was cool to see how they pack in the big trucks right next to us on our bike and the cars. We went upstairs for a bit on the passenger deck and Pete bought a popsicle. It felt like the boat was moving really fast, which it was compared to our ride speed. Plus it was nice to gain some distance without having to do anything but pay. It was about $6 for us and our bike.

It was probably 6:30pm by the time we reached Denmark. Once across I really wanted to visit Kronborg Castle (associated with the story of Hamlet), since I teach high school English. It was closed but we rode all around and took photos. The moat was cool and it’s a beautiful castle, right on Baltic Sea very close to the ferry landing.

In Helsingor, we had a hard time finding somewhere to stay or eat. We had a few dead end ideas but finally found veggie pizza and salad. Getting food helped us think clearly as we searched for somewhere to sleep. We talked to a nice local person and got a recommendation for a free camping place, but when we checked it out the public toilet there wasn’t working and it was a bit rowdy for our taste, so we rode a few more miles to a pay campsite and stayed there. It is simple, quiet, clean, and cute. We were able to use the pay showers which felt wonderful after a hot grimy day.

Many people here set up elaborate tent homes connected to their camper trailers. It is hard to describe how fancy these are. They have fences, tables, and even potted flowers and plants. One person even had a weed whacker leaning against their “home” because who knows when you’ll have the urge to do a bit of yardwork on vacation?

We rode about 65 miles. By the time we got to the camping where we stayed, it was almost 10 pm and the host was closing up. Glad we made it in time.

So far Denmark seems more expensive than Sweden, but may just be area we’re in.

On to Copenhagen next! Thanks Sweden!

Google Photo Album: Last day in Sweden


… And yes it feels so much better than being separated from our orange bike!

Natalie writing tonight…

This morning we had a sure enough sounding message from the airport (that our bike had been on the midnight flight) that we got up early, dressed in our bike clothes, and Uberred to the airport, ready to put the bike together and get in as many miles as we could. But … it wasn’t there. Long story short, we waited a while, communicated with all kinds of airport/airline personnel in a few different countries, waited to see if it got on the next flight, and finally left the airport bikeless, pretty bummed but knowing we had to get out of there and try to still enjoy Sweden.

We public transportation-ed to a town called Kungsbacka, a bit south of Gothenburg, just for a change of scenery and a small but tidy Airbnb with a kitchen. We walked in town a bit, got food, and tried to figure out what we could do to enjoy our time but still be available if the airline called. We couldn’t go off wandering too far since we only had feet and buses for transportation now. Just when we had given up on it arriving tonight, Pete got a text in Swedish that mentioned 25 minutes! Thanks Google translate for helping us text back that yes we would be available for our missing luggage to be dropped off!! The guy doesn’t know he almost got a hug from me, but we were so happy to see those two boxes — and they were in remarkably good condition! We spent the next couple of hours putting it together happily. Such. A. Relief. Thank you, bike guardian angels! Thank you anyone in the airlines who helped it happen in the end (finally).

Google Photo Album: Putting the bike together

Riding to Egilsstaðir

It rained at night (but we still slept great) and we woke to the most beautiful sunny blue skies! Our tent even dried out before we had to pack it! That rarely happens in Iceland, at least in our 8 days of experience. We biked along the Atlantic up and down hills, stopping once for the biggest order of fries we’ve ever had (to go with our canned peaches).

We left behind the zig-zag fjord roads and began to head inland and a little northwest.

The sun gave way to rain and the terrain changed as we approached and entered the mountains. Literally. We drove through a 4-mile tunnel. Bikes are allowed! But not horses or pedestrians. Or semi-trucks (although a few must have missed that memo today…). It was kinda nerve-wracking but also pretty awesome. Also a way to avoid the rain for a while!

Next we rode up up up for 5 to 10 miles (in the rain) over a beautiful steep mountain pass. (Why no tunnel there?) Coming down was less effort but much much colder. Much. We were soooo chilled and wet by the time we reached the bottom, even with our excellent rain gear.

We are in a town called Egilsstaðir. We quickly bought a few groceries, then found our guesthouse. (Pete was able to find a last minute opening.) Soooo nice to take a long hot shower and dry out. Pete opted for the community center pool and hot tub. We cooked our simple dinner in the cozy guesthouse kitchen and got to visit with fellow travelers from Dallas, France, and Korea! I honestly can’t believe how much French I have been able to speak here! And Pete got to speak Korean.

It was a good day with a few tough parts. The traffic was a little busier again today, but still not as bad as along the southern coast. It still is stressful at times. But we gratefully have had some very courteous drivers. The winds weren’t a huge factor today, but the rain definitely was. The sunshine during the first part was delightful. Having a roof over our heads tonight after getting so wet and cold cold cold is delightful.

A little under 60 miles today, with a little under 3000 feet vertical gain. This is a great adventure!

Wonderful Reunion in Bastogne

Natalie writing today.
This morning Pete and I went to “Le Mardasson,” the beautiful World War II memorial in Bastogne. I of course had been there in 1987, but in 2014 they had built a new museum. The outdoor memorial really is as beautiful as I remember. The new museum was very nicely done, with many interesting artifacts, interesting audio, informative displays, and readings. But our favorite parts were probably the three rooms where elaborate scenes had been created with films and narration about three parts of the Battle of the Bulge, in and around Bastogne near the later part of the war in Europe. The whole memorial/museum experience was sobering and very moving. It was good to go and reflect. 

But the afternoon and early evening today were the most memorable for me, and we accomplished one if the major goals and reasons for this trip: We were able to visit Josiane and Maurice, the dear couple with whom I lived 30 years ago when I worked at the grocery store here. It was so very good to see them! And I was able to see most of their family as they stopped by throughout our visit. It was truly a delight. They were so good to me and welcomed me into their family and lives back in the summer of 1987. We talked and laughed and took pictures. I tried to translate for Pete occasionally, as he really doesn’t speak French, but he had to be (and was) very patient, and that meant so much to me. Thank you, Pete! Merci encore, Josiane et Maurice ! Je vous aime. 

30 years ago

Natalie again… Thirty years ago this summer (so, 1987) I did an internship in French-speaking Belgium, after completing an intensive university program of French. It was an amazing experience; I learned so much, and not just about French. I traveled for 2 weeks before beginning work, to London, Paris, Dijon, Geneva, and Interlochen. On weekends I traveled with friends to other places in Belgium like Brussels, Bruges, and Luxembourg. I had two consecutive jobs: one at a grocery store in Bastogne and one teaching English in Thiaumont. I’ll write more about Bastogne later — we head there tomorrow!
In this post I want to reflect on some things I’ve noticed are waaayyy different about this Europe trip for me.

Finding your way around: “Fodor” travel book and paper maps vs GPS and Google maps. What a world of difference. Can’t even compare. Seriously, I don’t know where to begin to compare these two methods. Technology is amazing despite its “problems.”

Google translate. You can hold up your phone’s camera to text in other languages and it translates right there before your eyes. It even matches the fonts. I would never have believed that was possible 30 years ago. We had little pocket dictionaries and hand signals.

Euros. Once again, go E.U.!! Soooo nice not to have to be trying to use up your cash before you leave each country so as not to lose too much with the exchange rate. Or just trying to find somewhere to exchange all your different money all the time. Boo Brexit. And 30 years ago I just had a pile of traveler’s checks (and an emergency-only credit card). Did ATMs even exist 30 years ago? Haha, I forget!

Of course my mode of travel is completely different this time. A recumbent tandem orange bike vs trains and buses. That affects where you travel and of course speed and what you are able to notice and experience.

Eating simply:  In 1987 I had “no money,” so I ate simply out of necessity. Now we are eating simpler by choice (vegan and mostly gluten-free for going on 8 years, and what a difference it has made in our health). I have been eating a little bread, sometimes out of necessity. So far I’m doing ok. But I am worried about long term effects, as that is what I have noticed mostly in the past. This time, 30 years later, despite eating simpler than many people would in Europe, we are enjoying some very nice meals in fun restaurants and cafes. Again, a big plus for 30 years later.

Contact with the U.S. In 1987 I wrote paper letters to family and friends. I think I called my parents 3 times the entire 3-month internship (remember how crazy expensive long distance calls used to be?) This time we have social media, texting, and email at our disposal and if we want to call it’s much cheaper.

Photos! 30 years ago I had one camera and a few rolls of film. You never knew if the photos turned out until you paid to get them printed (which I didn’t do until I got back to the US). Sadly, the film was not advancing in my camera due to user error all the time I was in London, Paris, and Interlochen so I essentially lost all my photos from that time. It was a devastating feeling. I only had postcards and my memories. You had to “conserve” your shots/film. Now we are taking a ridiculous amount of photos and videos everywhere we go. It is great!

And saving the best for last: Being a 19- and 20-year-old woman traveling alone (and with another young woman I didn’t really know very well) is also obviously very different from traveling as a 49- and 50-year-old woman with my husband/ best friend! That is definitely the biggest win of this trip by far!!!

June 24 from Dilsen-Stokkem to Monschau

Natalie here, writing about our 3rd day of riding. We usually kinda co-write….

Last night we had a harder time getting to sleep. We wondered if our sodas at dinner may have been caffeinated or something. Or it could be our body clocks still adjusting. We really speak/read no Dutch! So menus and labels are mysterious to us. Thank goodness for translating apps. And also GPS and Google maps! How did people do trips like this before then?! Haha

Breakfast at Huyze Max B&B was simple but very yummy: fruit, plain salad, bread, OJ. We really appreciated our host’s effort to make something we could eat. We are also grateful that he let us park our bike in his garage!

The weather today was perfect: cloudy and breezy and cool. Great biking weather, especially for a day with hills to climb.
As it was a Saturday, we saw tons of bikers on the trails and roads, especially groups of road bikers. We had one short ferry crossing early today, and the only customers were in fact groups of bikers! 

Early today we also experienced our first detour of the trip: a closed bridge. Thanks to our routing software we were pretty easily able to re-route, and the detour was through beautiful farmland.

We began in Belgium of course, then we were in Netherlands part of the day, and finally Germany. We rode 48.8 miles (78.5 km) and gained 2700 vertical feet. That’s a lot compared to our last two days which have been pretty flat. Our legs are tired but happy. We’re staying in Germany tonight. It’s fun to keep crossing borders. We’ve never had to show our passports except at the airport. I love having Euros, as compared to when I did my Belgium internship 30 years ago and was constantly exchanging money in every country. (Go E.U.!!)

Much of today’s ride was in kind of more industrial but small towns. Interesting! Then as we climbed higher we got into more green and wow it was beautiful!!!

A couple of the cities we passed through were Heerlen, Netherlands, and Aachen, Germany (where we rode through a cool little cobblestone shopping area).

Today near the end of ride we had 10 miles of sustained climbing. Then we ended the ride going down a bunch of super steep, twisting, narrow, cobblestone streets and being amazed by this old German town of Monschau! Google it! We did not expect to be staying in such a cool place! Monschau Germany is a 300-year-old town and we are staying in a 200-year-old house (B&B found through AirBnB), up a tiny cobblestone crazy-steep street. We have a sweet old German lady host who helped us stash our bike safely in a random small room at the bottom of her house. After cleaning up we found a simple but good dinner at an outside cafe, surrounded by many different languages, and ate slowly and just talked. Then we strolled through the quaint old town, happy to relax and stretch our legs. 

Tired but happy! It really was an amazing day. What a great adventure! What great variety we have in our world. 

Natalie’s first post

Yes, this is Natalie. I’ll be posting here sometimes too. I’m here to let you know that I am seriously excited about this trip to Europe — AND our future trips as well! I am already thinking about Iceland, which is where I want us to go next. ?  So to all of you who think Pete is the only one excited about this, Nope! I am SOOO excited! I really really really am enjoying the bike, even more than I anticipated! And it was honestly not hard to get used to, as I feared it might be. I have loved all our longer distance road bike rides, and this is a way we can “see the world” but still have adventures too. It allows us to travel together more, in a way Pete will like better, and in a way I will love too. So stay tuned!