REAL-TIME UPDATE: Currently we are cosy in Nelson where the sun never shines and your rent receipt is just a handful of marijuana that you skillfully craft into far too many brownies and they sit on your counter and then in your freezer because who can possibly ingest that many pot brownies and still be a functioning human being?
It rained the day we planned to leave Berlin, so we did the sensible thing and waited until the next day. It rained that day too. But we had been in the city for over a week and when we saw our chance on the radar we left our home-away-from-home. Less than five minutes into our ride, Jon got a flat. And then again within another ten minutes. It was a Sunday, which as we discovered in Europe is the nothing-is-open-and-that-includes-bike-shops-day, so we were feeling a little put out. Thankfully third time was a charm and we were able to make it out of the city in order to pitch our tent that night.
The next day we travelled due west, and by the end of one very long, very sweaty day of biking on and off road, we had made it to Wolfsburg. Here our hosts suggested that we head south to avoid the inter-city garbage and cycle along the the Harz Mountain range. Based on google maps it was just over 80km to a campsite in a small town called Wernigerode, nestled at the base of the range. It sounded easy enough, but after a few more busted tubes, a 4km cobblestone road through farmland and a campsite that didn’t actually exist (thanks google), we treated ourselves to the world’s worst schnitzel, snuck into a campsite at the top of a hill and went to bed.
The next morning we found a bike shop mechanic who not only offered us the new wheel and tire needed to stop the succession of flats we had been faced with (as it turns out, Jon’s rims had been worn so thin from his brakes, that the heat was causing the tubes to burst), but we were also served coffee and alcohol while we waited. Then we were back on the road! At least until one of us started doing sweet victory tricks in the mud that resulted in one of us face planting on the pavement. The arguably more sensible party tried to administer first aid without making matters worse (admittedly there may have been some inadvertent prodding with the sharp tip of a knife while trying to cut bandages) while being all kinds of thankful that the accident occurred on one of the few segregated bike lanes (slash side walk?).
Following the accident, we took an expensive campsite because we were feeling a little defeated and sorry for ourselves. We did our very best to make our experience worth the money by dragging a table and set of chairs to where we had pitched or tent, thus creating what we can only assume is the porch experience of the one percent.
Around this time we had half-advertently collided with the Euro Route 1 and were following it west to the Netherlands (we had heard rumors that it would take us all the way to The Hague). The route was mostly well signed, but in standard Northern Europe bike trip (mis)guided by google fashion, we found ourselves occasionally turned around and on a few occasions, straight up biking through forests. Like, sometimes we were even unclear as to whether or not we were biking on footpaths never mind bikepaths.
Overall, Germany was good to us. From this point onward we were offered overnight refuge by a community pastor in his youth drop-in centre, by a generous warm showers host in Munster, and by a man walking his dog in the middle of nowhere close to the Netherlands boarder.
We crossed the boarder on a sunny day and almost immediately things changed. First, our side-of-the-highway camping forests had all but disappeared, or transformed into residential neighborhoods and quaint, treeeless farmland. Second, our decently signed routes became immaculately signed routes. Like, bicycle highways that ran alongside real highways to give you that shortest line between two destinations that we had been searching for this entire trip. The intentional bicycle infrastructure was so thorough that we made it across the country in two breezy cycling days.
Regrettably we lost our cheap beer and easy stealth camping, but we gained all the stroopwafels we could eat. We breezed through Utrecht and Gooda and were stoked to run into other commuter cyclists doing awesome commuter cyclist things like carrying litters of children on their bicycles for leisurely 30 km rides.
The Hague (rhymes with the word vague in case yah didn’t know), was all canals and beaches and beautiful old buildings. We stayed for a week, and then left in the madness of a storm that saw us sharing a $40 bottle of beer outside of our tent which had been desperately pitched in a dog park on the edge of town. Seriously, we are nothing if not resourceful (and often damp).