Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Day Thirty Five – Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Day Thirty Five – Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Travelling from Monster, The Netherlands to Preston, Lancashire, England

 Rather sadly, we had to say a fond farewell to our friends in Monster:

JP, Katja, Timo, Femka and Erik

Katja took all our bags to the ferry terminal in Hoek van Holland so we could cycle unloaded. That was a massive help for us as the wind was against us for the 10 km ride to the terminal.

We had reached the end of the River Rhine - albeit without cycling the full length.

JP with the end of the River Rhine in the background

Day Thirty Four – Monday, 29 August 2016

Day Thirty Four – Monday, 29 August 2016

In Monster, The Netherlands

A quiet day with our dear friends in Monster. The way JP and I were cared for touched our hearts.

Later, in the evening, we went out for a bicycle ride with Katja, Timo and Femka - and bought some ice creams.

JP and Femka played on the swings:

and we watched the sun go down over the village and over the beach at Hoek van Holland:

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.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Day Thirty Three – Sunday 28 August 2016

Day Thirty Three – Sunday 28 August 2016

Travelling by train from Dusseldof to Hoek van Holland, then by bicycle to Monster.

My puncture repair held! Great.

We got away from the youth hostel at about 0950 hrs. - One hour before the train was scheduled to depart. We got on board on time and away we went to Venlo, then changed trains to Rotterdam, then another train to Hoek van Holland. We arrived on time and off we pedalled on the North Sea Cycle Route - a path that runs very close to the beach. With the wind behind us it was a very rapid journey (about 10 km.) and we were soon delighted to see the houses of Monster come into view. After all, this had been our home for nearly two years.

JP raced ahead as soon as we came close to the village and had already banged on the door of Erik and Katja's home well before I arrived to find him chatting to Katja. We arrived at about 1530 hrs.

We were made so welcome, it was like being at home (our former home being just next door).

Katja looked after us (and continues to do so) like an angel.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Day Thirty Two – Saturday 27 August 2016

 Day Thirty Two – Saturday 27 August 2016

Sightseeing day in Dusseldorf

We stayed at the youth hostel:

We listened to some music being played and had a small ice cream cone to help us cool down.

After going to the railway station to buy our train tickets for tomorrow, we went sightseeing and found the place to be buzzing. People everywhere – and huge numbers of trade stands.

We visited one of the better known Roman Catholic churches; a somewhat depressing experience.

We then went for an hour long trip on one of the many tour boats. It was scorching hot again but JP in particular enjoyed the trip.

At JP's suggestion, we re-crossed the River Rhine, and spent the afternoon at one of the festivity parks by the side of the river. Many of the activities were free, so JP really enjoyed taking part in all sorts of things – climbing and mountain biking being just two of them.

Late in the afternoon, we sat and ate some Bratwurst (giant hot dogs), before heading off to find our bicycles.

I'd just started to ride mine when JP informed me I'd got a flat rear tyre – yet another puncture. We wheeled my bicycle back to the mountain bike activity centre and one of the staff there inflated my tyre with a really efficient high pressure pump. We pedalled off to the youth hostel and got there just before the tyre deflated again – and just as it started raining – just a quick summer shower.

The problem with the 'new' bicycle is that the tyre valves are not the same as those of the spare tubes I have available to use. In fact, the valves in my spare tubes won't even fit through the hole in the rim of the wheel. Not only that, but I couldn't buy a new tube as it was well past closing time of the local bicycle repair shop – and it's Sunday tomorrow – a day when almost everything is closed.

The only option was to patch the punctured tube – and that has always failed in the past. Unlike the two last punctures, this one was in the rear wheel. Not funny. Front wheels are easy in comparison. I took the rear wheel out of the frame and removed the tube. Hands now covered in oil from the gears and chain. I'd borrowed a good air pump from the youth hostel receptionist and it rapidly inflated the tube so I could look for leaks. I found the leak very quickly – in fact it looked like a row of leaks but thankfully only one of them appeared to be discharging air.

I stuck on a patch, put the tube and tyre back on the wheel and waited. And waited; eating an ice lolly that JP had appeared with. All appeared to be well.

Day Thirty One – Friday 26 August 2016

 Day Thirty One – Friday 26 August 2016

Worms to Dusseldorf – by train.

Quite early in the morning I visited the bicycle shop to take some photographs. It's a real Aladdins cave of cyclists goodies.

I also did a little sightseeing in Worms, including the church of St. Magnus:

In the afternoon we let the train take the strain as far as Dusseldorf. In many places we could see the path on which we should have ridden on rather than sweat it out in the non-airconditioned bicycle compartment of the train. It gave us some insight into what our next year's tour should be like (if we do the second half of the ride).

There was a delay at one point in our journey caused by someone walking on the track. Why walk when you can go by train? How silly.

We arrived in Dusseldorf about half an hour late and rode off to the huge youth hostel. The place was very busy as there is some sort of festival just starting, so we were very lucky to get a room at all – good job we booked it before we left Worms.

Despite it being a relatively easy day, we both felt exhausted. JP went to bed at about 1930 hrs. After having a rest, I stayed up quite late working on my photographs.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Day One - Link to missing page

Day One seems to be elsewhere - It is at URL:

Day Thirty – Thursday 25 August 2016

Day Thirty – Thursday 25 August 2016

Still in Worms, Germany. Back on the road.

Had a busy morning. Went to the railway station to find out train times to Hook van Holland, then to a bicycle shop where I bought a cheap second-hand bicycle. Back on two wheels again!

This afternoon we relaxed with an ice cream in the heat:

then obtained our tickets to travel to Dusseldorf tomorrow where we have also booked a room in the youth hostel.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Day Twenty Nine – Wednesday 24 August 2016

Day Twenty Nine – Wednesday 24 August 2016

Still in Worms - Rest Day - and a little problem!

I hardly had any sleep last night. JP and I went to bed at 2100 hrs. and by 0630 hrs. I'd only had about 15 - 20 minutes sleep, so I decided to have a rest day.

This morning, we cycled down to the banks of the River Rhine and watched a few barges go past, then called into a bicycle shop to get some chain lubricant.

This afternoon, we went to the swimming park, which JP always enjoys. On returning to the bicycle park we found that my bicycle was missing; presumed stolen. JP offered me his bike to ride and said he would run alongside - what a hero!  I didn't accept his kind offer, so I walked back to the youth hostel where we are staying. I then went to the police station and reported the missing bicycle.

I'm now working on what to do next. We need to get to the Hook of Holland by about 30 August and get to Harwich where Grace will meet us. Of course, having no bicycle means I have no way of carrying all our camping stuff, let alone riding anywhere.

I'm thinking about a few options so all will be resolved in the near future. Just another of life's little challenges!

(Incidentally, I have just updated yesterday's blog page.)

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Day Twenty Eight – Tuesday 23 August 2016

Day Twenty Eight – Tuesday 23 August 2016

Sightseeing in Worms

We decided to go sightseeing today, first visiting the cathedral.

Again, JP lit some candles for Annelise, this time in the shape of a cross.

We then walked to the Luther Memorial:

We continued our walk past a memorial to infantry soldiers:

And viewed the old city walls:

Later, as it was a very hot day, unlike yesterday, we made for an ice cream place that had been recommended to us:

I left JP watching the TV and had a walk to the Jewish Cemetery: