Tuesday, 31 July 2012

10. Dear Diary

July 6th.

As promised- or threatened - I will give a short day by day account of our continental jaunt. I'll try to keep it brief so as not to bore you too much. I'll also post a few photos but I must warn you that the mistiness that lays across most photos is not a fault in the camera, it will be rain or mist or a combination of the two.

Anyway.... I can thoroughly recommend the Stena Line service from the Harwich to the Hook of Holland. The worse bit is cycling up a steep causeway onto the ferry. One really doesnt want to be seen pushing the bike at the very start of the trip, especially as all the car drivers are lined up behind you. This being the case we all selected a very low gear and pedalled like mad up the ramp- at the same time trying to look cool and unconcerned as if this was no effort at all. A difficult trick to pull off and I think that I can safely report that we failed.

So, after our last night on a comfortable mattress we cycled off the ferry and onto Dutch soil and .... the rain. We found our way in and out of Rotterdam comparitively easily with only our spirits somewhat dampened when we passed a sign that said Nijmegen 230KM- we had thought that we might reach it on the first day- well it didn't look that far on the map.

For some reason it was difficult to find a route beyond Rotterdam and we foolishly [ a phrase that might be oft used] took the advice of someone who directed us to Dordrecht. After getting to the town and obviously taking a wrong turn on a cycle path we ended up in the suburbs. After cycling around aimlesly for some time we came upoon a map of the town. There is one thing about town maps, if they haven't got a 'You are Here' sign on them then they are absolutely no use at all. However, our confusion did have a positive outcome in that a friendly Dutchman carrying his young child on his bike asked us if he could help- the kindness of strangers will be a running thread through this blog.

Fred and Bruce perfecting the lost and confused look. This would come in extremely useful throughout the trip.

He then said that he was going to the railway station, which is where we wanted to go, so we followed him there and so we then knew exactly where we were on the map. After thanking him profusely and waving him goodbye it only took us two minutes to get lost again. However, in our defence I must say that we followed signs that took us around in a complete loop and posted us back to the spot where we started. After about an hour of dead ends and frustration we finally left the town promising never to return again.

Fred exiting the seven circles of hell that was Dordrecht.

Once Dordrecht was safely left behind us we made good progress and almost on the fifty mile mark we passed a sign for a campsite but resolved to push on to the next town, Werkendam,  where there was a marina and so, we reasoned, there was bound to be a campsite- wrong.

Anyway, we got to the town and stopped for a beer- another constant theme throughout the trip- and also had to shelter from a thunderstorm. We asked if there was a campsite nearby and only got directionjs back to the campsite that we had passed. Then some people on the next table remembered there was a forest campsite about 12 miles on and so we decided to go for this rather than turn back and go the way we had already come.

After a fair amount of cycling we arrived at the campsite at Lingerbos and settled down for our first night of camping after travelling over 66 miles- not a bad first day at all.

Fred and his tent. I swear it had a cellar because I still can't see how he managed to get himself and all his gear into such a small space.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

9. The Return of the Crazy Dreamers

Morning all.

Well the Crazy Dreamers are now safely back in Blighty.

We were on the road from anything from ten to twelve hours a day- about six to seven of them were spent cycling and the rest were given over to eating, sheltering from the rain, and trying to find signposts- particularly on the Upper Rhine- the signs got a lot better in Austria.

After having got up at between half past five and six, left the campsite [ or bijou railway bridge], between eight and nine, cycled and sheltered for 10/12 hours, set up tents and found something to eat, there really wasn't any time for finding internet connections or anything. Huge thanks and gratitude to Anthea for keeping the blog going- a very noble effort.

We did 830 miles in sixteen days- the most we did in one day was nearly sixty nine miles, and the least was ten miles. However, that was the day when we accepted that the total distance would be about 1000 miles so we had to catch a train to make sure that we would be in Vienna in time.

We reckoned that it rained for about 50% of the time and there wasn't a twenty four hour period that didn't have rain. Despite this, it was a very enjoyable experience and none of us regret a minute of it- that is except for the night where it had been raining for 12 hours, my tent leaked and therefore I was being dripped on from the inside, and the rain showed no sign of abating- I must admit that the spirit flagged a little but only for a short time.

Luckily the two best days were when Anthea and Hilary flew over and we had a great time walking around Vienna.

This is just a short entry to say that we are back and that over the next week or so we'll sort out the photos and try to give a flavour of each day.

Thankyou to all of you who have left comments- I'm sure that would have been beyond me.

We all kept remarkedly healthy, if damp, and I am sure that this is in no short measure due to the 'Assos' cream that Jim Harmer recommended to me. As I put in a postcard to the Harmers

Assos to Assos
Dust to dust
If the cycling don't get you
The chafing must.

But in reality it didn't.

Will blog soon.

Ignore the tent at the very back. Here you have Big Bear [ at the back], Mother Bear- at the front, and Baby Bear safely tucked in in the middle.

Even by our standards the first Sunday was a very, very, very wet day. Here we are outside Xanten after reaching a low point by sheltering in a Netto entrance. We just couldn't find a Waitrose.

Photo to show two things- a] the sun did shine, and b] these are beers to celebrate getting to Passau.

Important landmark- 800 miles cycled.

Equally important- the triumphant entry into Vienna. I've photoshopped out the cheering crowds, the podium lined with civic dignitaries and the marching bands who were all there to meet us.

More photos and details to follow.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

8. Thursday 19th July

Thursday 19th July

Our trusty cyclists are well on their way to Vienna having cycled from Passau to Melk since Tuesday. They have their last two campsites sorted out between Melk and Vienna, and with a bit more luck and hopefully better weather, should have an easy ride into the city as planned  on Sunday. Google reckons it to be 48 miles - then they just have to find the hotel!
Hilary and I travel out on Sunday, no doubt to be regaled with lots of stories.

I am expecting the next update to be added by David / Sam on our return on Wednesday next week.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

7. Sunday evening, 15th July

Photo of Passau, very pretty where they will be tomorrow ( Monday) - over the border into Austria and then not quite 300 miles to Vienna and 7 days to do it in. Perhaps they might have a holiday on route!

6. Sunday afternoon, 15th July

Hello all,

Anthea again - its just like being here, so wet yesterday they caught the train to Regensburg which I reckon with a bit more luck and the wind behind them might just get them to Passau today or tomorrow. That is then an easy cycle into Vienna along the Danube, it took us a week some years ago but we only did 30 ish miles a day. Fingers crossed they get better weather, they deserve it. Will let you know.


Friday, 13 July 2012

5. 14th July

Hook of Holland, Dusseldorf, Koln, Mainz,  Frankfurt, going on to Nuremburg, Regensburg. Passau then along the Danube into Vienna.

Hello everyone.

I spoke to David last night, all well apart from wet weather and the industrial outskirts of Dusseldorf which is where they ended up under a railway bridge for the night. Not their finest hour!

486 miles so far, averaging 60.6 miles a day.

The frame of David's trusty pop up tent snapped so is now held together with duck tape and a teaspoon, very inventive!

Today they leave the cycle paths along the river which add  a 100 miles, so they are taking a short cut across country. This could be very hilly and knowing from experience all about short cuts I wonder if they might be better to stick to the river! Time will tell.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

4. Thursday 12th July

Its a whole week since they set off and despite a bicycle repair stop for Bruce at the biggest bike shop in the world they are now south of Frankfurt.

Well done! Hope they are all enjoying it.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

3. Wednesday 11th July

Hello everyone, Anthea here. I have been asked to keep the blog updated as very long days in the saddle are preventing them getting to the internet, so here goes for my first attempt at blogging! (Thanks to Louise).

Harwich on Thursday evening was hysterical - the bikes were very heavy and they almost failed to get on them at all! Anyway, they eventually peddled off to the ferry, all well, and they set off as planned Friday morning. 2 good days with lots of help from very kind Dutch people (I am guessing they were lost occasionally) knocked off about 120 miles then Sunday was a reality check with poor weather and a short 48 miles. Not that I could do 48 miles on a very heavy bike. Even worse, with no campsite in the area a handy railway bridge by the Rhine was their campsite for the night. Its a wonder they weren't arrested! I think Johnnie Walker helped them to sleep well!

They were almost at Koblenz last night so hopefully good scenery and a good cycle path down the Rhine are helping them on their way.

Thanks to everyone who has been in touch with me.

2. The Germ of the Idea

The Germ of the Idea.

Anthea and I went on a cycling holiday down the Danube tow path. We went from Passau [ just insde Germany], to Vienna. I don't know how long ago that was but we can find no photos on the computer so it must have been pre digital- that long ago! It was one of those trips where your luggage was carried from destination to destination and we spent each night in a comfortable hotel. The scenery, cycle paths and and following the river made this a very enjoyable experience.

As we were going along I came up with the notion of cycling from Holland and ending up in Vienna- the difference being that it would be by taking everything on the bike and camping all/ most? nights. Completely understanably, Anthea wasn't so keen on that idea but it was something I posted to the back of my mind and thought might be a good retirement project.

I kept mentioning it every now and then - just to keep the dream alive- and got on with working and earning a living. This state of affairs continued and one of the highlights of the intervening years was that we went to see Leonard Cohen at the O2. There might be a lot of Lenny in this blog, but then, everything  comes down to Lenny in the end- as WE ALL know.

During the concert the wonderful Lenny said that the last time he had played London was sixteen  years ago when he was sixty and ' just a kid with a crazy dream'. Lo and behold, the equally wonderful Anthea, gave me a card for my sixtieth with a picture of me, a map of East Anglia to Vienna and the caption of  'just a kid with a crazy dream'.

This was like getting official approval so I started dropping it into conversation to those who I thought I might be able to sucker into joining me. Bruce, with his history of long distance cycling was up for it, and Fredwas so enthused that he actually went out and bought a bike- we call it one of those basic requirement sort of things. Special mention here must go to Jim Harmer who could have easily made us up to a quartet but Celia's birthday and a confusion of dates got in the way.

Special mention must also go to Jim for recommending 'Assos' cream which is apparently wonderful for your nether regions [ somewhat appropriate as we are going through the netherlands] when cycling. One would like to think that Assos is an ironic play on words but the ointment is manufactured in Switzerland so I think that dispels the witty, ironic theory.

Vague plans, such as, ' which way do we turn when we get off the ferry?' were made. Bookings for planes and ferries took place. Lots of maps were consulted and now, here we are ready to embark upon the crazy dream [ thanks Lenny].

When I left Robert Peel I was overwhelmed with all the good wishes, presents, and kind words. A number of presents were cycle related and the very best of these were three tee shirts with 'Crazy Dreamers- Holland to Vienna' printed on them and our names on the back.

So, that's eight  paragraphs to tell you how the blog name came about- this could be a long trip [ for you].

There were other ideas for the group - The Socialist Cycling Club- motto 'Cycling for Socialism' and variations around that theme. Another idea was ' The Chain Gang', other suggestions are welcome - but will be ignored.

Strategy meeting.

Deciding that we would cross the border into Germany somewhere near Arnhem [ they wouldn't be expecting that].

More planning, more maps.

Frightening- isn't it?

Trying to decide which way up the maps should go.

Thanks Robert Peel- although I never realised what a fattening colour bright orange was. Suppose that explains why you never see a thin Dutchman.

Last photo- I suspect there might be stories about pop up tents that refuse to pop down.

Right - this is the last entry before we set sail- the next entry should be from foreign shores.

Louise- I did the above as an individual page [History], but it didn't seem to register- after much hunting around and cutting and pasting I think/ hope I've recued it. I did the page and clicked 'Publish'- did I miss out a step?

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

1. Before We Go

A late addition--- because it's difficult to follow the chronology of the blog I've tried to put all the entries in chronological order. The astute amongst you will have worked out that this is entry 1. the next entry 2. and so on. I realise that the majority of people who would have looked at the blog and therefore this late, helpful change comes far too late. Such is life.

Welcome to the Crazy Dreamers [ apologies to Leonard Cohen ]  blog.
Hopefully this will catalogue our triumphs and disasters as we sweep through the continent from The Hook of Holland to Vienna.

The three of us comprise of Fred- he is there for languages and interpretation.
Bruce, he is there for technical expertise and also because of the fact that in his youth [ a very, very, long time ago], he cycled to Australia, and a few years ago he and Mary, his wife, cycled all the way to the south of France  and back. Basically a cycle trip to Vienna is like a trip to the shops for Bruce.

The third member of our party is me, David. My function is to make the other two look good.

We realise that the Tour de France- or the ' prelude' as we like to call it, has set off before us but we really think that we are the real deal. I mean, if you view the Tour de France where are the tents? where are the panniers? and who needs all those cars and motorcycles?
         Fully loaded.


The plan is to land at the Hook of Holland- navigate our way through Rotterdam, head for Nijmegen [ which I can't find on this map- worrying] and then power our way into Germany. We hope to be following the rivers- flatter terrain- and so we should be next to the Rhine and enter Germany near Werkendam- ish.

Not many pointers on this map- we shall be mainly following the Rhine and should pass near Essen, Cologne- or Koln as they misguidely call it, Mainz, perhaps Nuremburg - or at least we'll rally there [sorry], and then on to Regensberg where we pick up the Danube and then onto Passau and into Austria.

From Passau we follow the Danube all the way to Vienna.
We think it's about 800 miles- Fred is doing the journey in Kilometers which means that he'll be faster than Bruce and me. We have sixteen days to do it so we have to do ??? miles a day- I put the question marks in so that you could, as the Americans say- do the math.
If its more than 800 miles then we are, as the English say, b**g***d.

It's all in the preparation.
Packing was a problem- in the end we decided upon three of everything. This means three pairs of underpants , three pairs of socks and so on.
One theory is that these are changed and washed daily, the other, favoured theory, is that one pair is worn for six days, the second for six days, and the last pair should see us into Vienna.
    Three weeks' worth- the shirt will get washed- occasionally....