woensdag 4 september 2013

Summer vacation 2013

Kockengen – Münsingen – Kockengen

Friday, July 26th, Utrecht – Batenburg 75km

We start on Friday, the new Solo is just ready and it's first real ride on the road is fully packed with a destination some 800km away, Münsingen on the “Schwäbische Alb”. There is some stopping and adjusting required to get everything working well, I have some trouble with the chain tube which always slides forward due to the pressure of the chain.
Because of the stops and because of the late departure we cycle until Batenburg.


Saturday, July 27th, Batenburg – Jüchen 106km

Somewhere around 11 o'clock the dark clouds which were threatening the whole morning finally dropped their load above us, the first rain for the paper mache bike. The back wheel throws water inside the bike through the chain hole and the chain tube keeps sliding forward. I try fixing these things while we are waiting at a filling station. Later that morning, my (too) quickly built rain cover looses it's grip on the front and blows into my face, after the third time I abandon that idea and decide to make something less dangerous for the vacation. I buy some Velcro and cut a piece from our plastic sheet in the evening. Works fine for what it is, not a beauty but better than a wet paper bike...Besides these two things, my speed-o-meter stops working.
That night we are invited by very nice people in Jüchen. We may camp in their garden, use their shower, drink their beer and share some story’s. Great that there are people like these. If you read this, thanks a lot!

Sunday, July 28th, Jüchen – Remagen 109km

Before we leave our new friends, we are invited for coffee. At the second stop, I install my new speed-o-meter. The bike doesn't need so many pit stops anymore, which is good, but there are some things that bother me today:
  • My back light broke off the bike
  • the bottom of the bike keeps sagging, I helped that with the magnets from my first rain cover
  • the chain tube keeps sliding forward, I need more tie-raps!
  • The screw from my right brake got loose and scratched the spokes while riding down hill, a lot of noise and quite some luck, could have cost me a wheel and a vacation
  • in Bonn, believe it or not, my front chain wheel broke. I've never seen that before. Luckily Marlies packed in a smaller one for the hills to come, so I will finish that vacation on 57 t instead of 65 t
We finish the day on a nice camp site along the Rhine.

Monday, July 29th, Remagen – Marienort 109km

Nice ride along the river, in Koblenz we stop at the “Deutsches Eck” to have a break and of course fix the chain tube again.

While sitting there the rain washes over the roof of the cafe we are in. So we stay there until 17:00 o'clock.
We cycle further until campsite Marienort where we meet Matthias Ge in his white carbon Quest. He came from Freiburg that day, 275km through the black forest to stop at the same camp site as we did. What a nice coincidence.

Tuesday, July 30th, Marienort – somewhere near Worms 97km

We say good by to Matthias who wants to catch the Roll over Europe tour in Koblenz and keep cycling south. A so called short cut turns out to become the steepest hill that we will have on this vacation. It isn't very pleasant with full luggage in the sun and we suffer a lot. But this “short cut” brings us in one direct line to Mainz. Unfortunately someone failed to put a post sign for the cycle-path on the road and I failed to see that I was going straight onto the motorway until it was almost too late. Fortunately We were able to push the bikes back along the road and cross the road through the traffic to climb through a ditch onto the safe cyclepath. What an adventure...
We keep on cycling until somewhere near Worms and are allowed to sleep on the side of an onion field from a nice farmer.

Wednesday, July 31st, Somewhere near Worms – Klingenberg 140km

An example of a nice vacation-cycling-day:

Breakfast in Ludwigshafen at Bakery Grimminger, a lot for a reasonable price.
A big slush ice cream in Heidelberg, a huge Schnitzel in Neckargemünd, a big ice cream in Eberbach and some nice cold beers in Klingenberg.
In Klingenberg we are allowed to sleep on the grass of SSV Klingenberg, A local soccer club. Very nice people who invite us for beer and a good shower in their new club building. Are we lucky people or not? We are, by the grace of these nice people. Thanks a lot SSV Klingenberg, we are fans!

Thursday, August 1st, Klingenberg – Unterensingen 98km

We make a detour through Ludwigsburg because I want to show Marlies the planned city. She isn't impressed because of all the hills and the warm weather. Maybe she is right...
We cycle back to the Neckar, eat a Schnitzel in Stuttgart and pitch our tent in Unterensingen behind the fire brigade.

Friday, August 2nd, Unterensingen – Münsingen 54km

We get up at 5:30 and are ready to go at 6:20... Today is the day that we will climb up the Schwäbische Alb and we are a little bit nervous about it after our hill climb adventure before Mainz. I have to say that this might be the most beautiful part of our ride. Of course we go up hill, but it's not as heavy as we thought and the nature around us is beautiful. Slowly, slowly, up and up we go until we arrive in Münsingen. There we have to cross the valley and go up again to reach our destination: Hofgut Hopfenburg, a camp site where you can also sleep in nice little wooden wagons. Which is what we do. The reason for coming here was a wedding of a good friend of mine.

Monday, August 5th, Münsingen – Stuttgart 82km

Only now that we are going down hill I realize what a climb we made on Friday. Downhill cycling over gravel paths just like a mountain bike, but than in a velomobile, we really take them to their limits. Still very impressed by the feeling of cycling fast without doing much, we quickly arrive back at the Neckar where we go north to Stuttgart. At Neckartailfingen we stop at a nudist beach and dive into the water. While drying in the sun we can watch a funny picture. Around our bikes are four or five naked men looking curiously and debating about these strange vehicles.
We spend the night at the newly weds house and arrive there before them. After everything is packed in and we are settled we have a nice diner together and sleep on their balcony. What a good life.

Tuesday, August 6th, Stuttgart – Bad Rappenau 100km

We say goodbye to Anne and Daniel and cycle on along the Neckar. Before Besigheim we are being overtaken by a storm. So we stop at the side of the road, and put the plastic sheet on top of our bikes. I always enjoy building huts and because it was so cozy there, I fell asleep while the thunderstorm went by.
It must have been quite a big storm, all the cycle paths are littered with fallen branches and what else. Cycling is a bit slower now. We finally stop at another Soccer club in Bad Rappenau. No beer and no shower this time, but a very nice field to sleep on.

Wednesday, August 7th, Bad Rappenau – Hofgut Petersau 117km

The day starts with rain, so we decide to turn around and sleep a bit more. After the morning coffee we cycle on and take the second breakfast in Neckargerach where they have very strange rules in the bakery. I have to pay for my coke inside the bakery, the bread we buy we have to pay outside at the table, we aren't allowed to take the bread to the table ourselves, but it is brought to us by the waitress who doesn't seem too happy. Maybe she is also wondering about the reason of all of that.
We can ride on along the Neckar. In Neckargemünd we have to go back to the “Alte Scheune”, our trusted restaurant to have a nice meal.
Today we say goodbye to the Neckar and follow the Rhine again. The nice managers of a horse stable along the cycle route let us sleep on a field of theirs. We even have entrance to toilets and a little wooden house with water and electricity. Again, thank you guys very much. You really made our vacation!

Thursday, August 8th, Hofgut Petersau – Hattenheim 87km

After being invited for coffee by the nice stable
manager we cycle on. Everything is fine until shortly after Hamm am Rhein. The official cycle path is nothing more than a mud trail and I do not exaggerate on this one. Kilometers of mud and mud and more mud. The fact that this is an official cycle path makes me so angry after a while that I have to piss on the path out of sheer protest. We wanted to meet up with friends in Wiesbaden but we aren't lucky. Their hotel is somewhere in the hills and after spending three hours on 10 km we don’t feel like going off our route and into the hills again. So after a good diner at a mexican restaurant, we feel much better and cycle further until Hattenheim where, for the first time in my life, we have to pay for our bikes on a camp site...For the people interested, it is Campingplatz Brückenschänke in Hattenheim-Eltville, nothing special, besides their business model ;)

Friday, August 9th, Hattenheim - Remagen 125km

I am a bit slow today, so it is my fault that we sit extra long in the bakery in Rüdesheim this morning. What I didn't know is that Rüdesheim seems to be a very touristic place. We take the ferry across the Rhine and meet a nice guy in a Mango Sport who explains us a lot about the best way to cycle further. Unfortunately it is so much input that we forget half of it. But anyway, it's nice meeting him, he remembers us from the Oliebollentocht and even invites us for diner, but then we would have to go back which we don't want to. So we cycle on to Remagen where we arrive just in time to get a meal specially made for us by the nice chef of the camp site “Goldene Meile”. It tastes very good.

Saturday, August 10th, Remagen – Cologne, 53km
We sleep a bit in and hit the road around 10:00 o'clock. Cycling goes well today. We stop in Bonn to have a look at the map when we get to know Barbara and Stephan. They spontaneously invite us to their home around the corner where we drink a beer together and share some storys about our travel and their life. Great that you can just meet nice people on the street. After a little photo session for Stephan's blog www.blog.milsystems.de we follow our way further to Cologne where we will spend the rest of the weekend with Moritz and Mareike. They wash our clothes, buy food for us and provide us with everything necessary to have a good time. Always nice again to stop by your place guys, thanks for spoiling us.

Monday, August 12th, Cologne – Asten 132km

After a good breakfast with friends we go out to try to find our way from village to village.
At the border Marlies invites me to Dutch Patat. When we ask for a place to stay for the night at a sportsclub in Neerkant the friendly people there explain us the way to a very nice little campsite which is called "Camping Wetland". It is very beautiful, very affordable and it offers free hot showers. What more do you need?

Tuesday, August 13th, Asten – Kockengen 142km

School has already begun again in the south of the Netherlands, everywhere hangs an end of summer feeling. Partly because of the continuous rain and the Grey weather I guess. While we are sitting at the Hema we watch children buying wrapping paper for their new school books.
We have to take three ferry’s today and arrive back home just in time to watch our chicken going to bed.

That was our summer vacation with the Vrijwiel Solo's. As you can see, the bike made it. I hope that I was honest enough, there were some problems on the way, but nothing we couldn't solve.
Other problems with the paper bike are already solved or are being solved at this very moment. For example the problem with the bottom. As I wrote earlier, I did some bodging in order to get the bike ready in time. I didn't have time to make a proper bottom, so I;ve glued in a piece of cardboard. That was the piece that grew in contact with water. There weren't any problems with the laminated pieces. That convinced me that paper is a good material for a velomobile. I cut out the misshaped sagged bottom of the bike and put in a triplex plate. That offers more stability and is less sensitive for water. I've also changed the drive train so that the chain runs smoother along some pulleys instead of the ever moving chain tube. Next thing I'm busy with is water proofing the wheel wells. 

If you are interested in a ride with the prototype, just let me know.

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