5. Jun, 2019

12 days in. The first leg of the trip is done.

Twelve days ago I left Kohlscheid for a second try at making it to the North Cape and back to Aachen by bicycle.  Leaving Gudrun at home was just as hard as last time.  In one sense it was harder and more emotional.  I'm only comforted that we managed to get settled in to our new apartment with almost everything done.  It will be much more pleasant for her there.  No stairs to climb.  Walking distance to everything.  Maybe I use that to ease my conscience.  

Our friends Resi and Manfred Baumgartner came to see me off and give some support to Gudrun.  I was glad for them being there.

The trip started out with cool weather, but sunny skies.  I met my friend Heinz-Peter (Men) Beckers at the church in Herzogenrath.  He accompanied me as far as Hückelhoven before turning to head back to his home.  We enjoyed a good laugh when, just after leaving Herzogenrath (about 6 km from my home), my cycle computer gave me a low-battery level warning.  Ha!  I got a pair of new batteries when we reached Geilenkirchen.  Still, we were wondering if it was some sort of omen.  I hope not.

After Men left, I had a fairly good ride to the first campground just south of Mülheim on the Rhein.  I did have some problems with my Garmin Edge Explore when riding through Mönchengladbach.  It started frequently hanging when going into sleep mode.  I guessed this was due to the high number of points needed to load such a long route.  I had one route for each segment of the trip.  I made a note to split up the segments so none were longer than 350-400 km.

The next few days were cool with mostly quartering tailwinds.  It was never very hilly, so the lack of preparation over the past month didn't seem to bother me too much.  I was also very fortunate that the rain never managed to catch me.  The skies were almost always threatening, but the rain stayed away.  

I was also fortunate that my traverse of Mülheim, Oberhausen, and Bottrup was made early on Sunday morning.  Zero traffic.  At first it was annoying to stop at every red light when there was no approaching traffic.  In the end I must've run 100 red lights before leaving the built up areas.  

On the second night of the trip I stayed in a small hotel near Steinfurt.  On the third night I stayed in a nice bed and breakfast in Cloppenburg.  I'm not much for wild camping (or stealth camping) where it's officially forbidden.  Also, my budget doesn't preclude me from hotels occassionally.  I don't expect to stay in hotels or pensions too often, but I will stay in the small cabins often available in campgrounds in the Scandinavian countries.  They are heated, have electricity, and, when I stay in one, I don't have to worry about packing up a wet tent the next morning.

On the fourth day I crossed the Weser River in Bremen and ended in a campground in Gnarrenburg.  Gnarrenburg is quite near to where I was stationed for three years when I first came to Germany 1983 - 1986.  The last kilometers before Gnarrenburg were quite interesting.  My route there took me on some tracks that were barely visible as such.  The bonus was seeing a storks nest with a family of storks.  

I woke up in Gnarrenburg to bright, sunny skies.  By time I finished my breakfast the clouds were starting to roll in.  I felt certain I would finally get caught in some rain, but I lucked out another day as far as the weather was concerned.  I didn't luck out with the campground.  It seems they went out of business, and there were no more within 30 km of my route.  I ended up staying in a small hotel in Itzehoe.  It was cheap and o.k., but my room was on the 3rd floor (4th floor for any Americans reading this), and there was no lift.  Ugh!  

On the ride between Gnarrenburg and Itzehoe I crossed the Elbe River between Wischaven and Glückstadt, Germany.  On the ferry I met a young man riding (driving?) a Mango Sport Sinner.  It's a three-wheeled recumbent bicycle with a bullet shaped fiberglass shell.  What a cool ride!  He rode it from Dortmund to Wischaven in 1,5 days!  I covered that distance in 3,5 days.  Granted, he's significantly younger, and he wasn't packing so much stuff.  But, 1,5 days!?!  Wow!

The rain started almost immediately as I left Itzehoe.  Traffic was light as it was a German holiday, Christi Himmelfahrt.  Also celebrated as Fathers' Day.  In Germany many men celebrate Fathers' Day by gathering for a walk or bike tour with a number of friends.  Generally they get plastered along the way.  I was stopped by a couple such groups donating beers to my journey.  I finished this sixth day in Busdorf, near Schleswig on the Baltic coast.

The seventh day I passed through Flensburg which was celebrating a city festival.  It seemed a bit subdued due to the threatening weather and on-and-off rain showers.  Around noon I crossed into Denmark.  That evening I stayed in Vojens, Denmark in a city campground I had used three years before.  

I've become quite adept at taking down my tent in segments.  The exterior tent hangs from the tent poles with small clips.  The interior tent hangs from clips on the inside of the exterior tent.  Taking the tent down in one go is the quickest and easiest way.  But, if the exterior tent is wet you'll be seting up a tent with a wet interior later in the afternoon.  So, even in a downpour, with the shelter of the exterior tent you can take down and pack the interior tent while keeping it dry.  Then you take down the exterior tent and pack it in a waterproof bag.  Take down and set up take a little bit longer, but it sure is nice to have a dry interior tent to move into at the end of the day.

There are many interesting historical burial grounds and rock monuments throughout Denmark.  I saw a number of these on the eighth day.  One was particularly interesting as the stones were laid out in the shape of a ship.  

The eighth day also started giving me some preparation for the hills to come in Sweden and Norway.  I don't believe most people think of Denmark as hilly.  Central Jutland certainly is.  I was exhausted by time I made it to the campground in Byrup.  The following morning I was rewarded with a 1,2 km climb immediately after leaving the campground and heading north.  I had hilly terrain for the first 15 km.  Then I connected to a repurposed rail line converted into a bike path.  I would follow this flat route for most of the day.

My planned campground on the ninth day was in Hadsund, Denmark on the Baltic coast.  When I got there it was a dump.  So, I quickly Googled where the next campground was along my route.  I found one about 24 km further up the road in the village of Als.  It was beautifully situated on the coast, and had a very nice area for tents.  I was the only tent camper there.  Unfortunately, the common areas were as bad as the last place.  Ugh!  

At five o'clock in the morning on the tenth day I woke to the sound of random raindrops and distant thunder.  Looking outside the tent I saw jet black clouds rapidly heading my way.  As the outside of my tent was still pretty dry I started working at breakneck speed to get everything packed and safe from the rain.  Yay!  I just managed.  I got the everything packed in my panniers, and the tent packed before the deluge started.  I did, however, get soaked while packing the tent poles and pegs and mounting everything on the bike.

The rain was forecasted to last until ten a.m., but it actually stopped around seven.  My route on this day ended just short of Frederikshavn about 80 km away from Als.  It was entirely flat, and I had a strong tailwind.  I reached the campground by noon!  

Because I started this day so early, there was no place open for me to get any breakfast or coffee.  When I took the ferry across the fjord at Hals-Egense, the man collecting the fees saw my thermos coffee cup hanging off my top bag by a karabiner.  He went inside the cabin of the small ferry and came out with a coffee pot and filled my cup.  It was sure welcome standing on the windy, cool deck of the ferry.

I was glad to reach the campground early in the day.  I got a small cabin and managed to get all my electronics fully charged.  Phone, Garmin, PC, and two power banks.  I also got a hot shower and did laundry.  So, my bags were going to be packed with clean stuff.  Whew!  

I also rode into the town of Sulbæk and managed to replace my rain trousers and waterproof shoe covers.  The originals disappeared from the back of my bicycle at some point in the past few days.  Probably when I put on the rain jacket and didn't check to ensure the trousers and shoe covers were still properly secured.  That was an unexpected expense.  But, rain gear will most certainly be important on this trip.

Yesterday, the eleventh of the trip, was an easy cycling day as far as distance is concerned.  I had a short, nine km, ride to the ferry terminal in Frederikshavn.  After the 3,5 hour ferry ride to Gothenburg, Sweden I had a 24 km ride to Kungälv, Sweden where I will take a rest day.

It's nice to be in Sweden again.  I love the people here.  They're friendly, open, and kind.  I'm looking forward to the next days and the more rural scenery.  Gothenburhg was an absolute nightmare to ride through.  It seems the entire city is one gigantic public works construction site. Still, my bike route and Garmin got me through it all quite o.k.

One comment to the route.  When I rode to Trondheim three years ago I built the route using Garmin tools and maps.  At many points the route was awful.  This time I used a tool called Bikemap.  It also routed me on a few tough tracks, but each one was rideable and provided a quick connection to tracks, paths, or roads with a better surface.  I am much happier with the routing Bikemap provides.

So, that's how I got from Kohlscheid, Germany to Kungälv, Sweden.  Tomorrow I will press on towards Lake Vänern in Sweden.  If all goes according to plan I will only have three more full days in Sweden before crossing into Norway.  I'll have a longer stretch in Sweden on the segment returning to Germany from the North Cape.