Friday, August 6, 2010

Meltdown on the Europa R1

After Höxter, the German R99 joins the Europa R1 going northeast. We turned west, and followed the R1 towards Holland. The rules for European bike paths include clauses like: must be wide enough for 2 cyclists to ride beside each other, must be 80% paved, and must have fewer than 1000 car trips per year. These dictates make for fantastc bicycle routes for idle cycling. Our first day on the R1 delivered. We had lots of great talks and bucolic views. However, the trail diverted us around cities and towns. This proved to be difficult because we missed possible camping places, cafes, and markets not to mention opportunities to see sleepy dorfs and busseling stadts.

Ramona had a rough night's sleep and woke up tired. The day before we pushed out 70k between 15:00 and 19:30, which is quite fast for us. Our maps for this leg of the journey are old and the Europa R1 pops in and out of view on it. If you are not familiar with touring, you might not understand how psychologically exhausting not knowing where you are is or (more importantly) how far it is until you can rest/eat/shit/etc.

I had also developed a niffty little crotch rash (my hot balls are cured - this is an exciting new irritation) which made me uncomfortable.

As the afternoon wore on, these factors began to tell. After lunch, the headwind stiffened and the backsides of windmills appeared on the horizon. Windmills are bad omens for the cyclist because they indicate that for at least 70% of the time a strong wind will be blowing in the wrong direction. Plus, they are huge and ominous looking - anyone recall The Tripods? At this point we've travelled 8 hours with a break for second breakfast and one for lunch and we'd covered ~80k.

As we rolled out of a beautiful nature park we began to talk about our plans for the night. We had done some Internet planning and had a nice looking campingplatz west and south of detmold another 20+k But should we try to contact Erdmute? Wouldn't it be silly to be so close and not take an opportunity to visit? Should we just chill and let the German/Europe bicycle route system take care of us as it has so many times before? Wild camping? Our map was proving worse than useless as the hours passed and our location more confused when cross referenced with road signs.

System Check
  • Blood sugar low? Check.
  • Unknown location? Check.
  • Unknown destination? Check.
  • Riding west into a headwind, the setting sun, and up hill at the end of the day? Check.
  • Possibility of committing a major family faux pax? Check.
  • Crushed marble road - imagine riding over loosely packed jagged stones the size of pears and plums? Check.
  • On the wrong side of a chocolate high? Check.
  • Wacky directions given by an older gentleman in a mix of French, German, English, and Italian that lead down a huge hill in the direction opposite our current heading? Check.
  • Out of water? Check.
  • Flat tire? Check.

All systems check! Major meltdown imminent!

We stared dully at our map and desperately at the road signs. Ramona was despondent. I turned and saw a friendly face on a bicycle. I managed to ask in fractured German if he could help us find our campingplatz. This turned out to be Winifried, who resucued us.

But not before leading us up a hill in the direction of our elusive campingplatz (which was actually located about 300 meters away from where we were standing; another map failure). After about 3k we found ourselves standing at the bottom of the steepest, longest hill we've seen so far. Forget Fargo. Forget any of those insane hills in San Francisco. Fuck it, forget the Alps! This shit was huge. I steadied my nerves and Ramona started to cry.

Once when I was hitchhiking through Mexico with my girlfriend Julia Frank we caught a ride with a truck driver who was extremely nice. We were on our way to Puerto Vallarta and he took us nearly the whole way there - some 6 hours or more. He made me speak Spanish and stopped for snacks often. He brought us to his house and his wife fed us. Sometime during the trip I developed a cough and by the time dinner was over I was feeling rotten. He offered us a room for the night, but my fever addled brain could only think of pressing on. We caught a bus which put us in Puerto Vallarta well after midnight. There were no rooms for under $300 US so we we opted to sleep on the beach. We were robbed while we slept. In the morning my fever was raging and I spent the next week near death in a cheap hotel room with another sick American, completely delirious. I often imagine what would have happened if we had taken that family up on their offer.

Winifried offered to take us to his home. We accepted. He promised it would be all downhill and he was correct. About an hour later, we were showering and waiting for Winifried to return from the store with beer. A beer later, we went off to the Greek restaurant for a delicious dinner.

Winifried is a cyclists cyclist. He is recovering from lung cancer - totally cured if we understood correctly. He is fiftyish with the eyes of a twenty-year old. When he crossed our path, we was out on his nightly 60+ km loop. He was dressed in a tshirt and jeans - nothing fancy. He said that riding was good for the brain and the body. He is married to a woman from Samoa and has two daughters. We didn't meet his oldest daughter (at college) or his wife, who was on holiday at the Bostalsee (which we had passed on our way to the Nahe). We did meet his youngest daughter Nicole. She told us that it is not uncommon for Winifried to bring strangers back to the house to stay. Sometime they are in need and sometimes they are just interesting folks that Winifried happens upon.

Fed and watered we stumbled to bed and slept like the dead. In the morning, Winifried made us breakfast and offered to accompany us to the Ems, the next river we were going to follow.

Winifried was camera shy, and told us only a few photos of him exist. So we didn't take too many photos. And none that he is aware of.

The wind was against us all morning and Winifried pulled us almost all the way to lunch - 30km/hr at times.

To ensure we were heading in the right direction, he helped us find the Ems after lunch. And then, to make sure we went the right direction on the Ems, he even asked someone else for help. The two of them escorted us past some construction where the signs were lying on the ground and we would have missed the turn.

Thanks Winifried, for helping us through our first crisis.

:: rolling post. ride on.


Anonymous said...

what an adventure. Good people meet and help good people.

Keep on keeping on.

<3 Nyrie

loving kindness said...

Winifried is universal. He could be Californian, or Swiss,or Norwegian. What a saint. Keep in touch with him, send him postcards, he deserves it.can you email me his address just in case I,ll drive by? Bussie Von mir

Allison said...

Yeah, what a happy ending to a long day!!

loving kindness said...

Winifried is universal. He could be Californian, or Swiss,or Norwegian. What a saint. Keep in touch with him, send him postcards, he deserves it.can you email me his address just in case I,ll drive by? Bussie Von mir

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