I made it as far as Nijmegen in the Netherlands, so country number three out of four. If I am not totally stuck because of snow, I will make it over the border to Germany tomorrow, so far everything is going as planned. It’s been a great ride so far, fighting some odds on the way. I have to keep it rather short and simple, as my time on the Internet is restricted, but I will hopefully get some more news up in the coming days right on the evenings. But even if it seems easy, this tour is far away from gentle riding through lovely landscapes with the odd tea stop. It is, indeed, pretty hard work. It took me 20 mins of proper pain to fell my hands again today, but at the same time it was rather satisfying looking at the pictures that caused my hand problems. The hospitality of the people on the way is amazing, as is riding through a frozen Europe, most of this makes up for the pain. I have a head full of stories, and will take proper time to type them after the trip, there is enough to fill a book, and I might discover that idea. It’s also an amazing opportunity to test me and the gear if we are up for the challenge, and so far I am very happy with the results. Thanks to Montane I am now a proud owner of a warm Flux Jacket, a high vis Velocity DT Waterproof Jacket, a high vis Featherlite Velo Jacket, a new base layer and some warm gloves that will be tested in the snow tomorrow. But here the first days in a nutshell.
Saturday’s start was a right desaster. After sampling two little Gluhwein on the Xmas market in Edinburgh I was totally off my head, and had to sleep instead of eating and packing. Plan B was to wake up at 4.30, and get everything done in the morning and I managed to do that. By 11 I was on the bike, too late to make the most of the day as I had planned. But despite the fact that I had not eaten well, I had a blast for the first few miles, and all the worries from the morning were gone. The slight tail wind and sunshine did their best to get me safely to North Berwick, to enter mostly unknown cycling territory from there. My journey took me down to Dunbar, and then from there south, the aim was to get to Berwick that day. Running a bit late I had to give my new lights a first outing, and off I was on the A1, a quite busy main road, to the Scottish border. Funnily the Scottish flags on the opposite side were lit up, not so the English counterparts on my side, maybe the savings already had their effect there. Coming into Berwick the challenge was to find a suitable and affordable place to sleep, and to my surprise the only backpackers in town was booked out. So I had to ignore my tight budget and sleep in a cosy B&B, for the first time ever when travelling with a bike. And it was worth it, the room as warm, and with a pizza in my belly I had a good nights sleep, and a very successful first day with 121 km cycled.
On day two I took advantage of being the only person in the B&B, and got a proper breakfest with porridge, vege sausages, scrambled eggs, toast and a whole cafetier of coffe for myself. The plan was clear: to get to Newcastle on day two, and the tailwind seemed to do a good job. But with the challenges soon to come that plan seemed to need renewal shortly after. I managed to find the correct signposts to follow the Sustrans 75 route down the coast, but soon after the tarmac I found myself on the coastal dirt track. Both Swobo and me managed to ride well in the mud, until the really thick patches began, and some pushing was the only option left. After the mud came the ice, yet again unridable in its own way. I managed to stay on the bike and did not fall, but gave up after 4km and another driver telling me it’s gonna get much worse. Lesson learned, bikes and ice don’t make the most sense. Imagine a road where it’s even hard to haul yourself over walking alone, only the same but with a fully loaden bike. Back on the main road I managed to cycle down the side roads from Bamburgh further south, and met a fellow cyclist to ride down to Seahouses. I was even invited fo a nice cup of coffee and cake, an offer I could not decline, but still keeping an eye on the time, and it was too late already. After 80km I could feel the first day in my body, and riding was not made easier when I had to opt for the main road to Newcastle, as all incoming cycle paths were unpasable. After 15 miles on a pitch black dual carriage way I made it into Newcastle, and was schoked how few things I could remember. After an epic search I managed to find the Youth Hostel, after 156km on the road.