It’s been a strange week, but one that I will never forget. Later in the blog I’ll tell you how I came to acquire a new home (tent) but first let’s get down to the arrival in Freiburg which was pretty memorable too!
The route from Strasbourg was again a nice mixture of surfaces as I sometimes followed the network route, but also struck out and explored other tracks. I mostly followed the Rhine and the Canals so navigation was pretty easy.
What was very noticeable was the arrival in Germany, not only because there was a ferry on the Rhine which brought you across from France, but the cycling signs suddenly became very easy to follow. Typical German efficiency, every turn was clearly marked with numerous destinations and the distance to them, with the Eurovelo route having its own bicycle sign, which amidst all the other cycle signs made it easy to stay on route.
As I passed through a small village called Rust, I was beckoned to pull over by the owner of a nice big mercedes who asked if he could talk with me. He had seen the solar panel and wanted to know where I’d bought it and also take a picture of it. As we chatted it transpired that Hans was an ex professional cyclist from the Eddy Mercx era and now spent his time making maps for Bikeline. To my surprise after fiddling about in his boot, he produced two maps of the area and handed them to me as a gift – I handed over one of my cards, still a little stunned as we agreed to keep in touch. But things got even better…
I had said in my previous blog that I would call in on Supernova and see if I could sort out the faulty USB charger, and with their headquarters being only 5km outside Freiburg it was pretty easy to find. I unpacked the bike onto the loading bay and rang the buzzer, whereupon I was ushered inside and introduced to Gregor, followed quickly after by my bike once I had explained why I had turned up at the factory. When things go wrong it’s only natural we complain, but I must also give credit where it’s due. Nothing was too much trouble for Gregor and his team as they set about replacing the headset and capacitor with a brand new updated model, which Gregor asked me to watch them test. The difference was stunning as it charged at very low speed (6km) and also at very high speed (I think we took it up to 90km), obviously they had fixed the problem with the previous version. Then Gregor suggested we change the rear light for a new version, 4x brighter – no complaints from me! So after being plied with ice cream too, I cycled away a very happy man and my previous misgivings are well and truly quashed – Supernova’s after sales service is second to none and I would certainly recommend them.
I’ve been a little bit lazy when it comes to Warm Showers (the cyclist hosting network), probably because I’d sent off a couple of requests and not heard anything. With Freiburg being such a great cycling city I decided to try again and was pleased when Martin, a Swedish cyclist studying there offered to open up his home to me. It was an enjoyable couple of days as I met his flatmates and girlfriend Finley, with my stay lengthened by the poor weather (more rain!) which sort of curtailed my photography. I must mention that Martin rides a recumbent bike which he designed and made himself, but it was at his home in Sweden which is a shame as I’d liked to have had a go!
Can’t thank them enough for their hospitality and the highlight was listening to Finley’s beautiful voice as she sang folk songs while playing the guitar. See you again in Sweden…
The Kindness of Strangers
I’ve used this phase a couple of times in the blog and it was really brought home to me this past week, with a pretty unusual happening. Last Sunday I received a message on Facebook while I was online, asking if I had a few minutes to chat. Of course I said yes and ended up chatting with someone myself and Caroline (my dearly departed wife) met when we organised the charity ride The White Rose Challenge back in 2008 to raise money for cancer charities. I’ll give you a brief background to that day:
John was taking part in the event and brought along his wife who he introduced to us as she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and told she needed a mastectomy. At the time both myself and Caroline were on treatment, Caroline had not long since had the mastectomy herself and so spoke openly with Susan (John’s wife) about it. Susan was concerned that John would ‘lose interest’ in her if she had the breast removed, but both myself and Caroline discussed this in length and told her it actually brought us closer together.
John informed me his wife died last year, but that without our intervention, they most likely would not have enjoyed the extra 3+ years they had together. Then he told me he wanted to help me, as he had read my blog and in particular my comments when I replied to Frank about people wanting to be me = “When the sun is shining and it’s warm then it’s fabulous, but when it’s rained for over a week, everything is damp or wet because there isn’t enough room in your lightweight tent for all the gear, then it’s pretty damn hard.” I wasn’t moaning at the time, simply trying to point out that it wasn’t always good.
Despite my initial reluctance, John informed me he wanted to buy me a better tent (something I had been wanting, but could not justify the cost of) and his words “please let me do this Derek, I have more money than what I need” resulted in me accepting his kind offer.
I’ll post in another update how I got the tent out here, but the old one, along with a few maps and books has been safely dispatched back to Tim in the UK.
Next up I’ll report on riding into the Black Forest, accompanied by torrential rain as I make my way to Switzerland…