Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Damp to Denmark

Fall held back for just a little longer. A pretty stiff wind blew as we wound our way north along the Ostsee Radweg, sometimes the wind was with us, but most of the time it was at our side or at some diagonal - not helping, not as bad as a head wind. The east coast of northern Germany is beautiful. Even though Damp had a couple of strange high-rises, perhaps hotels built in the 80s, the attraction of the waterfront is not diminished. Hundreds of sailboats dotted the horizon. Maybe thousands.

It is fair to mention here that bicycle touring has some benefits over other forms of travel. We haven't mentioned this at all, mostly because it is so obvious to us. But perhaps you can think of these things throughout this and all future posts; when riding through a country on a bicycle, you are often taken by tourist interest points as well as to vistas and long stretches of beautiful seaside, forest, or man-made dyke that are not accessible by car. Some places are fantastic partly because there is no sound of traffic, no smell of exhaust. Of course, you can walk many of these places, but cover much less ground over a longer period of time. Some places we have found ourselves in would take a day to walk to. (This is by no means a criticism of walking. Walking is awesome, too, just different).

We followed the path in that photo above for a few kilometers, then wound through the town of Damp, and came out the other side to again follow along the seaside, just above the beaches, sharing the path with families, dog walkers, runners, and other people on bikes. We stopped for lunch along the path where it went by a campsite, and there was a picnic table. Our view?

We watched a lone seagull catch and eat crabs near one of these jetties.

As you can see, it continued to be sunny and clear, and the rains of just a week ago were almost forgotten. The coast is interrupted again by a fjord, so once again we found ourselves heading west along sheltered paths, up and down rolling hills, and once we hit the fjord itself it was in and out of view as we wound back and forth through unexpected forests. The path surface was constantly changing. My only forest shot is blurry, sadly, as I was more focused on making it through the muddy patches in the road. But we post it anyway.

At one point, we evened out with the fjord. It looked like this:

We rode up a little rise

And emerged onto the top of a small dyke, complete with small bike path

Sometimes, the path was covered with kelp

Somewhere during this afternoon, when we had decided to push on to one more campsite while the sun was out and the wind died down, Joshua had his first spill. We were riding along a narrow path with grass on either side, but the grass was tall and the path was uneven. Joshua and I were both riding in the grass because it was a little smoother. All of a sudden, Joshua was rolling on the ground, arms and legs in the air. He had turned to go back onto the path and his rear wheel had slipped out from under him. He survived. I made him walk it off, make sure he wasn't still in shock and injured without feeling it yet, like he did when I took a spill. We both had some Rescue Remedy, just for fun. But I didn't even need to bandaid him.

We camped at Camping Steinberghaff, another very friendly campsite, this time the woman who greeted us spoke excellent English and was curious about our trip. There was even a place to have dinner in the tent camping area.

In the morning we started up again fairly early, with the sun shining once again, and the wind blowing a little bit harder. Still nothing daunting, but we were already starting to get sick of the sound of wind. And  it was crisp out. Fall was on its way. The previous night had been our coldest. We had started to see ripening apples and pears, an exciting new treat for us. This was the best apple I had ever tasted.

It wasn't too far to get to Flensburg, the border city with Denmark. However the last 12km we followed the bike route through a huge park or national forest of some kind, and it was hilly with a dirt and rock path surface. We were expecting to be in town quickly, 12km could have taken 25 minutes, but it ended up being slow going and technical riding. We even had to push our bikes up a very steep ramp that was hard for someone without a fully loaded bicycle to use. With all our weight, it was very challenging. In Flensburg, we sat at a quayside cafe that was entirely outdoor, with a sandy floor and little beach shelters. We saw a few people eat big ice creams and then pass out in their beach seats, sheltered from the wind and warmed by the sun. Afterwards, we got some groceries and crossed into Denmark.

The first stretch included more pushing up hills, this time on very gravelly roads. Luckily, we were very close to the campsite, and what a campsite! Apparently the campsites in Denmark are some of the best in Europe and Scandinavia. This one was recently renovated. The bathrooms, including showers, were heated. No more drafty showers! There was a fancy kitchen, with many, many burners, ovens, and spaces to cook and eat.

And the wind. The wind picked up overnight, and in the morning, when I took the stakes out of the rain fly, the whole tent tried to wander away. It really looked like rain, too, but even though we were both fooled into thinking it would rain, the rain never came.

But oh the wind! We rolled into Aabenraa with hopes of a quiet place to escape to. We found a cafe, but didn't want to leave the bikes outside alone, so we almost got lattes in our laps during the big gusts. Rolling racks of clothing tried to wander down the street, away from store fronts. Not exactly hospitable.

We can follow the 3 almost all the way to Hirtshals, if we want to

We battled some pretty harsh wind as well as harsh roads on our first full day in Denmark. The southernmost part of national route 3, the Hærvejen route, seemed to contain the full 20% of non-paved roads. And they were recently gravelled, some of the worst surfaces yet. In really big gusts, the wind actually made me lose what little traction I had on the gravel and I fought to keep the bike upright. When we arrived in Vojens at the campsite, we opted to pay a little more for a cabin, just to get a break from the wind and sleep well after a rough day. The campsite had a warm bathroom, and a kitchen where we happily had a cozy dinner. Danish campsites also often offer cabins. These were kind of irresistible.

Towards the end of the day, we had run into a woman touring on her own. Naturally, she was Dutch. She said she was doing a practice ride for what she hoped would be two years on the road, starting next year. She was very excited to hear about our trip, and gave us a cheer when we told her we had sold all our things and moved out, with very few plans for the future. Her optimism and enthusiasm helped get us through the last hour or two, and she told us that after about 50 more km, the landscape gets more interesting and beautiful, which gave us something to look forward to. If only we had been heading in the same direction - it would have been a lot of fun to ride with her.

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