So who actually said their prayers to the weather gods last night? Because it didn’t work. I woke up at 05:20, pitch black outside and pouring down with rain. Oh man.
I knew it would take me about 45 minutes to get ready, eat, pack up Bikey etc. so I carried on with my preparations, hoping it would stop before I left. The rain did ease over the course of the next three quarters of an hour but it was still waterproof weather. You can literally see me a mile off in my full high vis jacket, front lights, back lights. The Dutch don’t do that; they’re just too cool, effortless and chic.
We set off again at 06:20, in the rain, heading for the German border. It was only about 7 miles away so that was going to be some early excitement for the day. I had visions of a big checkpoint, with guards, someone checking passports, a big sign saying “Welcome to Germany!” so I was highly disappointed when all it was was a measly little sign, that I actually missed on first passing. The rain was coming down fairly hard so I just had my head down, concentrating on turning the pedals. It was only when I checked the GPX that I had crossed the border. Disappointment 1 of the day.
Disappointment 2 came in the form of the German “cycle paths”. Honestly Germany, get your act together. There was a pathetic attempt at continuing the excellent Dutch cycle paths post-border crossing for all of about three minutes, then it’s as if the Germans thought, “never mind about the bikes, take our busy roads!” So from then on it became a day of some cycle paths, some back country roads, and some roads. (I love the Dutch.)
I can’t lie: I really wasn’t feeling it today. From the moment I set out in the rain, I knew it was going to be hard going. The rain didn’t last all day, I did lose the waterproof at about 25 miles in, but my mind and body just weren’t in it. This is day four of back-to-back riding, and these rides aren’t like popping to the Co-op for a pint of milk. They’re long. And sometimes on boring roads. Sometimes on busy roads. It’s hard work shifting a bike and all my gear as well, which is something I’m not used to. I did one training ride to Scarborough (80 miles – shoutout to FF my excellent riding partner and M for support!) with kit on my bike, but even then I didn’t take it the whole way!
I am also a bit sore and in pain. Road bikes with drop handle bars and hard saddles are not the most comfortable and after nearly 250 miles, you really do start to feel it. I think you get the idea…
So all in all, today was tough. Mentally and physically. I stopped after about 21 miles and had some fuel (Clif Bars are the one). I was inundated with messages of support when I put out a post saying I was having a tough day, and honestly, it was the best thing ever. I stopped so many more times today than I would have liked, but every time I did I had a new message of support and it so lifted my spirits. So if you’re reading this and you sent me a message today, thank you. Genuinely, it helped so much.
I mark out the towns along my route so I have pointers along the way to aim for – second breakfast here, coffee stop there, lunch stop here etc. But when you’re travelling as slow as I feel I’m going, they seem to take forever to come! My mile 30 marker was a town called “Titz” and at one point today I actually heard myself say, out loud “where the hell are you, Titz?!” As a heterosexual woman, that’s one phrase I never thought I’d say…!
Disappointment 3 came twenty miles away from my destination. I was going steadily along a back road, which was lovely as there were no cars around, then out of the blue this huge viewing platform/structure appeared. It was so odd. Lots of steps leading up to a vantage point. I thought “ooh that looks interesting, bet there must be a good view up there” so I proceeded to stop and go and take a look. I then got my bike shoe stuck in the pedal. I couldn’t unclip it. It was stuck. Somehow (with extreme balance and adroitness) I managed to get my foot out, leaving my shoe attached to my pedal.
What a palaver it was to fix it; I had a little cry first though. I then rode the final twenty miles in my trainers as I need new cleats on my shoes. That meant unpacking and repacking Bikey in the midday sun. Not ideal. I then proceeded to be “catfished” by the tower as I went to take a look at the view from the top (easier said than done, getting up stairs with bike legs!) and the viewpoint was over a massive industrial quarrying plant! Not quite the beautiful German countryside I had imagined was going to be on show.
From then on it was a slow and steady slog to the finish. An interesting battle with the busy city of Cologne ensued before I eventually made it to my hotel. Thank god.
I had a shower with the intention of heading out to restock on water and snacks. Instead, I fell asleep in my towel for an hour and a half….this bike touring is tiring, apparently!
Anyway, to end on a happier note: 1. I’ve made it to Germany! And 2. I HAVE A REST DAY TOMORROW! This brings me immeasurable amounts of joy; no alarm, chance to rest the legs (and, ahem, everything else) and hopefully, see some of Cologne. A trip to a bike shop is also on the cards…
245 miles down…755 miles to go