The trip started with a short stage from Zwolle to Huissen. It took some getting used to riding a loaded bike. Also to know you won't finish the day where you started. This meant, that starting with a headwind doesn't mean you will have a tailwind at the end of the day. Bad luck for me then.
That evening I stayed at a friends place, had a barbecue and a beer (or two) and a good nights rest.
View details of day 1 here.
Starting out on the first day where my finishing place wouldn't be too certain. Somewhere in Germany along the river Rhine.
First thing was to cross the Rhine and get into Germany. For the most part there are roads right along the river. These are often not the busiest roads and there are cycling paths anyway.
Again a headwind all the way. I didn't enjoy this day that much. After just short of 150 km I found a campsite a bit outside Düsseldorf.
View details of day 2 here.
The third day started with a short ride to the bridge in Leverkusen crossing the Rhine and a drive through Cologne. I like this city. Even though I didn't want to spend a lot of time here I took the time to see the Dom.
When I wanted to continue it started to rain. I parked the bike under a bridge and made a coffee.
Hoping the weather would have passed by the time I had finished the coffee, I sat there watching the rain get heavier and heavier. I was contemplating to change the route I had planned. Initially I wanted to go south along the Rhine to where the Moselle meets the Rhine, but I was considering going more south west towards the Eifel and then Belgium. I checked the weather reports and figured it wouldn't make any difference. By now I had finished the coffee and decided it was a good opportunity to test my Arc'teryx jacket for waterproofness.
Strangely enough the rain made me enjoy the riding more and more. After a couple of hours the rain had stopped and the scenery was quite beautiful. The industrial heart of Germany, the Ruhr-area, was well and truly behind me.
I was enjoying this trip now. Finally. And before I knew it, I was in Koblenz, where Moselle meets Rhine.
I had done 125km and after Koblenz I continued along the north side of the Moselle. It was getting close to 6 o'clock, so I decided I would start looking for a campsite. I could have gone on. I didn't feel tired and my legs were still working fine. 30 kms outside Koblenz I stopped at a campsite in a small town where I thought I'd find a restaurant.
As it turns out all you could do was taste wine. Everything that looked a bit like a restaurant was a wine house offering tastings. Eventually I found one that served something to eat as well.
View details of day 3 here.
Rise and shine! The sun hit my tent quite early. I tore down the tent, packed my bags and went off. I was leaving the mostly flat terrain I had until now, due to the fact I was following rivers. I was going to drive into the Eifel mountains. First find a bakery for some breakfast.
I followed the Moselle upstream for a couple more kilometers and took a right turn in Cochem. The road immediately went almost straight up and I very quickly ended up in the lightest gear available. Which I found out, isn't light enough for this climb that averaged around 10% for 4 kilometers with some 12% bits. This was when I realized that doing this test would result in some changes. I will write about this another time.
Once I was up it was very beautiful though.
From here on in it was up and down, up and down and so on. At some point I looked at my Garmin and noticed that it tried to send me in a big curve around a little hill. Since I saw a road going over it and I could physically see the hill and thought it wasn't that big of an issue, I decided to take a shortcut. What I couldn't see was that the road over the hill wasn't tarmac, but gravel... well pretty course ground gravel, more like rocks.
I was slightly apprehensive about cutting a tyre, but actually this was a great test again. In Scandinavia I will encounter gravel roads as well. The tires held up, also proving to be grippy enough for some off roading.
For the next 125 km's or so I kept going up and down and I got used to it quite quickly with speeds varying from 7 km/h to almost 70 km/h. Again a great test: On one of the faster downhills I figured I should put my helmet back on, that I had taken off on the uphill section because I was getting a bit hot. On the downhill at 40 km/h I realized I wouldn't be able to put the helmet on one-handed, so I used both for a few seconds, leaving none on the handlebar. This was no issue at all. The bike stayed extremely stable and straight.
After some time it was dinner time and in one valley there was a nice picknick place with tables and benches. I parked the bike, made some diner and changed the sweaty clothes for some fresh ones. It had cooled down a bit and the sticky clothes didn't feel very comfortable.
It was a little past 7pm by the time I finished and I figured I would drive for one more hour and find a campsite then. I had done 138 km so far and wanted to complete the 150 for the day.
After the final hill a little after dinner it was downhill all the way. I could see the Rhine valley and all the industrial areas of Düren, Kerpen and whatever was situated there. I was going so well, I didn't pay attention to time or distance. I was just thinking about how tough I thought the first day was and how easy it felt now. And I had been in the saddle for 12 hours now.
By the time I reached Düren I found a cycling path that followed the river Ruhr. By now it was close to 9pm and I thought since this was a test, I should just keep going and see where I would end up.
I used my Garmin to figure out a route north. It is possible to make a route on the Garmin, but if you want to decide not just destination, but also which roads to take, it is a bit of a hassle.
I crossed the border into the Netherlands near Venlo around 2am. I was getting a bit sleepy, but funnily enough I wasn't physically tired. I must add, that I genuinely love cycling at night which maybe helped to keep me going. I grabbed a coffee at a gas station, that had a 24h service. I drove through Venlo finding signs to "Nijmegen" and followed them. I was riding on the cycling roads along the N271 wich follows the river Maas all the way to Cuijk. From there I kept going north and by the time it was around 4am I had done 300 kms and entered Nijmegen. By now I was struggling. I had a stomach ache and had some difficulty keeping water or energy bars in. I drove through Nijmegen and figured that by the time I would be in Arnhem the first train to Zwolle would be leaving.
Those last 20 kilometers from Nijmegen to Arnhem were terrible. I couldn't keep any food or drink in and had terrible heartburn. My bum was hurting, my neck was a bit sore as well, but my legs felt fine, amazingly.
I arrived at Arnhem station 15 minutes before the first train to Zwolle would leave. A little - almost inaudible - voice told me to keep going by bike, but it was very easy to ignore. I bought tickets for me and the bike, went to the platform and waited for the train.
And there I was watching the second sunrise in one trip. Almost.
View details of day 4 here.