Monday, 29 August 2016

A Few Conclusions

We failed to ride the full length of the River Rhine. We ran out of time. I guess we rode about half the distance - roughly 650 to 700 km. Whilst that was a disappointment for me, the main objective of spending five weeks having an adventure with JP has been achieved.

We have to get back to the UK as JP starts High School later this week so he has to be prepared and rested in readiness.

We've had many difficulties to overcome during our ride but it's been a very good learning experience for JP. I guess he'll be the only one in the school who can say he's been on a 5 week bicycle ride with his dad - and ridden through 6 countries on his bicycle.

Thankfully, my own health issues haven't caused me any problems. A lot of what these trips are all about is how strong / tough you are mentally rather than physically. At my age you have to do these things whilst you still can but it takes a lot of effort to commit to doing so, as well as actually doing it. It's when the talking stops that the adventure starts! It's easy to say how nice it would be to do something, but much less easy to do it. Actually buying the 'plane ticket to Zurich was a big thing for me because that committed me to making this adventure work. I had to make it work and and I did so, but it required a considerable effort to do so. 

That said, as soon as I relaxed at the end of the trip something hit me like a runaway train. I suddenly felt really exhausted and it has taken me a couple of weeks to recover.

Five weeks living on what you can carry on a bicycle is not easy - especially when you have a young lad to care for and keep safe. 

We stayed in a variety of accommodation:

Camp sites
Camping wild
Camping in someone's garden
Two hotels
Sleep-in-Straw on a farm
Two youth hostels

We had to deal with JP's health when he was sick (whilst we were in our little tent). We had to find places to stay every night - only the first night was pre-booked. There were times when there was a long distance between campsites - as well as having to find the campsite once we got to the area.

We had to deal with some difficult navigation at times.

We had to deal with having a bicycle stolen.

We had to deal with riding very heavily laden bicycles - especially hard for JP.

We had to deal with punctures and other bicycle repairs that were needed.

We had to deal with a lack of clean clothes for much of the time - hardly any washing facilities during the trip. We often wore the same clothes for several days.

We had to deal with very high temperatures and sunburn as well as cold weather - one extreme to another on a daily basis.

We had to deal with finding water in quite remote areas (or going without water) as we could only carry fairly small quantities on our bicycles - dehydration was a problem at times.

We had to deal with loading our bicycles on to a variety of trains - as well as getting our bicycles to the right place at the right time at various railway stations.

We had to deal with people who couldn't speak English. JP is now quite keen to learn other languages so that he can communicate better.

One factor we hadn't considered when we set out on this trip was that it is almost impossible to combine sightseeing with bicycle touring. Now this may seem very strange as sightseeing is surely the main objective of bicycle touring. Let me explain:

Along this cycle path there are many wonderful places to explore. Castles, palaces, cathedrals, gardens and a whole lot more. Sadly, because of the high levels of crime, exploring these places is now almost impossible when you have your bicycle with you. Touring bicycles, by their very nature, are designed to carry all your camping gear and other belongings. Even though you may lock your bicycle, you can't lock all the stuff you have piled on your bicycle rack(s) and in your panniers. Of course, some of your most valuable possessions can be taken with you when you remove your handlebar bag and carry it with you. However, what about all your camping equipment and clothes? I also carried on my bicycle rack a full size laptop computer, an external HDD and numerous other electrical bits and pieces. You might say I shouldn't have carried all that stuff, but without it this blog wouldn't have been written until well after the event.

The only alternative is to leave your stuff safe somewhere whilst you are exploring - and this isn't always possible, let alone practicable. Having a support vehicle would have been an ideal solution (and yes, I do know that vehicles get broken into from time to time but the risk is fairly low compared to leaving your things on a bicycle rack in the open).

JP learned that we had to be very self-reliant as there was no one in support whom we could call upon when things got tough. 

That's what these trips are all about. What an experience for JP. Something he will remember for the rest of his life. I'm sure he will have learned a great deal from this adventure.

JP has done well. It's been a big adventure for him.

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