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Old 06-23-09, 10:21 AM   #1
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4 days, 4 countries 400 miles - trip report

A little while ago I posted about my upcoming trip around Europe, I completed this ride last weekend and thought I'd provide a little update.

We ended up raising some sponsorship money for the alzheimer's society here in the UK because my Grandfather was suffering badly from it. Unfortunately he died on Friday, 4 days after I got back from the tour.

Anyway, here's the report, I'll try and post pictures later.

Our trip got off to a fun start, the tube strike meant the London roads were busy and a navigation error meant we did 2 laps of Victoria park; "hey this looks just like the place we were at 10 minutes ago, that's funny isn't it, even the sign looks the... oh, wait a minute..."

93 miles later the check-in lady was explaining that I hadn't actually booked the bikes on to the ferry. It was 22:45, wet, cold and we were being told that they couldn't find space on an 8 storey ferry for 2 push bikes. They made us get on the ferry with the cars, those big slippery ramps onto the ferry are no fun on a push bike.

The next day was a much better affair, bright sunshine, clear cycle paths, and only 99 miles through Holland to our hotel. Everyone cycles in Holland and no-one thinks it's a big deal. The only other person we saw wearing a helmet was a girl on a moped who was also sending a text as she zoomed by; they must have to maintain some level of danger.

Amsterdam was great but we were just passing though. We stopped long enough to have a drink in a café and buy tickets from a machine for a ferry. The ferry we took turned out to be free; I have no idea what the tickets we bought were actually for.

We rolled into the hotel just as the restaurant was closing, so had to roll back out again to the next city to find some food. We ate in the happening part of town (is it still cool to say 'happening', in fact, is it still cool to say 'cool'?), there's something very groovy about everyone getting on their bikes at the end of the night.

On day 3 we were up early to face a breakfast of cold meats, bread, cheese and 3 different kinds of chocolate sprinkles. The Dutch are so civilised.

Everyone we stopped when we were lost (that's a lot of people), when asked if they spoke English said "a little bit" then proceeded to rattle off a grammatically perfect set of directions.

About 30 miles into the journey I fell off my bike. We had stopped at a traffic light, I went to put my right foot down and suddenly lost balance and started to tip left, towards my CLIPPED IN foot. After I'd picked myself up, dusted off the stones and stopped the bleeding on my knee, we were off again.

We stopped for a drink in the afternoon and after 5 minutes of me trying to order in a mixture of German and French the girl in the café finally asked "do you speak English?". The look on her face made it quite clear that I'd wasted everyone's time.

The ride across the border to Germany and into the town of Kleve was quite fast, at about 15mph for the last 5 miles, partly because we're superheros, mainly because it was nearly 10pm and we were worried the restaurants would close.

Luckily we found a pizza place that was open for a further 10 minutes. The waiter/chef/head chain smoker looked at us and guessed what we'd like, we were too tired to argue and it turned out to be the best pizza ever. At the end of the meal he also guessed the price, maybe he didn't know where they kept the menus.

Ten minutes into day 4 and the rain started. 50 miles later we were in a bus shelter eating soggy cheese croissants and bananas and wondering how we'd got ourselves into this.

Half way through Holland the rain stopped and we were able to dry out a bit.

Half way though Belgium our map stopped and we were lost. It was 9pm on Sunday and nowhere was open to buy maps. There's a lesson in planning here.

Luckily we were able to use the sat nav on my phone. Unluckily, the battery died when we were about 3 miles from our destination. It was 1am and we were in the dark Belgian countryside. Cows seem particularly sinister in the dark.

An hour later and we'd muddled our way to my brother in law's and found him waving from his front door. We chatted, drank cups of tea and ate enormous amounts of pasta that his wife had cooked before going to bed hours earlier. A great way to end the day and an incredibly warm welcome given it was 2am.

Over the 4 days we actually cycled 445 miles and over 148 miles on the last day. It's amazing how far you can pedal when you're lost, cold and hungry, and there's a promise of hot pasta.

We have 2 options next:

1) We could cycle from here to Monte Carlo in a week (700 miles). If we camped we could do more miles on the flat bits so we have more time for the Alps.

2) Next April, there's a canoe race down the Thames. It's 120 miles non stop from Devises to Westminster, I believe it's hard to get lost on a river.

Day 1: London - Harwich (England): 93.24 miles @ 13.75mph
Day 2: Hook of Holland - Bovenkarspal (Holland): 99 miles @12.08mph
Day 3: Bovenkarspal - Kleve (Germany): 104 miles @ 12.21mph
Day 4: Kleve - Reves (Belgium): 148 miles @ 10.61mph
Day 5: Home (England): 15.59 miles @ 9.85mph

(Sorry that this is a direct copy of the report posted in the Clyde forum)
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