We had clocked up 9,650 miles so far. Which is of course no where near as impressive as 10,000 miles, and certainly not as memorable. I had to keep on looking it up in our log when asked how far we had biked. We were staying in various parts of Scotland whist we waited for my bike to be re engineered to take the much bigger tyres that I had for some time realised it needed. Glorious and perhaps even unseasonal, were two ways you could describe this late spell of warm weather. An Indian summer would be a third, and I hope you holding in your mind a picture of American Indians there. They did so little work during the hot summers of the south west, just sitting in the shade and hanging around chillin. When the weather started to cool off, then and only then did they get on with chores such as hunting for food and planting crops. Thus, the phrase ‘Indian Summer’ was coined.
As soon as the bikes are ready, why don’t we ride to Hamburg? That would make it up to 10,000 miles. So I started to do a bit of web searching. Now you could catch a ferry to go to Esbjerg in Denmark or a ferry to Amsterdam, and those are your only options. Being the way of things, you have to go hundreds of miles south to Harwich in order to end up sailing north. Or you start in the North at Newcastle and sail South to Amsterdam. We have ridden the area around Holland before so we favored going to Esbjerg. That was until I looked up how to get to Harwich by public transport. Four changes, the last two of which had coach icons in the online system I was looking at. Not an option then with two heavily laden touring bikes. Newcastle to Amsterdam it is then, and the wind should be from our backs or side at the very worst to Hamburg at this time of year.
The bike frame arrived straight from the very hands of Mr Dave Yates. And on to the work stand of ‘The Bicycle Repair Man’ in Edinburgh on Saturday morning, cutting it a bit fine for our expected 4.00 pm Saturday train down to Morpeth. I say Morpeth, when in fact it was a place called Stobswood which is a few miles from there. All our gear was with our friends who live there within a stones throw of the railway line and a small station. Unbelievably, and in a rare bit of integration, it was possible to catch the only train that stops there on a Saturday from Edinburgh. So we did. To the last our friends assured us ” I don’t think it even stops here”, which is not one bit comforting.
With half an hour to spare the bike was road ready and pushed towards Waverly Station in Edinburgh. Esther walked behind carrying a massive folded cardboard box, weaving between surly shoppers. The box was going to hold everything that would not fit on the bikes and would be rather cleverly, courierd to Hamburg. It had been the largest box we could find for sale. There may be bigger out there, but not many.
Now, just because you have in your hand a ticket for a train, and on that ticket is a section detailing the bike space that you have booked. You must never relax for one minute. Always allow argument time with rail staff who will tell you that the bike space is not valid or as we have had in the past ‘does not exist at all on this service’. We responded quickly, and went up the chain of command. Had we not given ourselves the time between guard ” not valid on this train”, to guard “push it down the front and tie it up to the rack”. All would have been lost. You may even have to reroute, taking two sides of a triangle or even go north to eventually travel south, so must assume nothing when traveling on a train with a bike! Factor it in, you will thank me one day and it may even be quite soon.
We still could not get a straight answer about any bike spaces on the connecting train. As it turned out there were none. We were the only passengers, so all was fine with Geordie guard who cheerfully waved us on ” Don’t try this during rush hour, will you”. Next morning we managed to pack everything into the cardboard box and load all essentials onto the bikes by just after 11. We had cracked it. Back on the road again and with a Google print out of the 25 mile route down to the ferry terminal tucked in our Ortlieb front box. It was even sunny, “It’s like a summers day” came the Geordie response to our passing cheerful “Good mornings”. Well that was stretching it a bit at 8*c on my bike meter. They are of course of legendary hardy stock in these parts.
“Are we the last touring cyclists of the year”, I asked the boarding pass guy. I so much wanted to be a bit special again. Bikes stowed, up we went to our cabin. We lay down for a bit of a rest only to find ourselves in the only cabin not celebrating a “HEN” or “STAG ” orientated festivity. Every time we catch a ferry from Newcastle it is like this. The only way to respond is to swiftly get a change of cabins before you settle down. If you can hear cans being opened anywhere near within the first 5 minutes, then move. It will not improve.
We slept well and woke to thick fog. Bit of a disappointment that. I had mistaken it for condensation on the glass as it was that thick. It will burn off and be a glorious day, we thought. No, it will not and it will be with you for the next five days. But we did not know that yet and we were in good spirits. We love arriving with our bikes by ferry. It is such a great way to travel. So little stress when compared with flying. We knew our way out from the ferry terminal from our North Sea Cycle Way tour of a couple of years ago (Here to Stavanger in Norway in 3 and a bit weeks! ). We also knew that it was bewilderingly complicated and disorientating, which a great deal of Europe and its bike routes are. Which is why we are now using a GPS system -a Garmin Vista HCx. This was the first test.
We were a bit anxious using a GPS. Which was not improved by trying to save skip loads of cash using maps downloaded from questionable internet sites. It all worked though. As you zoomed out, there was a distinctly recognisable large area of blue to the left and the mass of Amsterdam was slowly redrawing in the blank bits to the right. Amazing, and still one of the bits of modern technology that makes me go “Wow “. Thank you so much the Pentagon and US Military, thank you so much.
We were off in the right direction in mainland Europe. It may well be late November and freezing cold but we are back on the bikes. Our plan is to ride across it and up it from Portugal, just as soon as possible. Exciting stuff, I hope you will agree. You may want to have a little look at the equipment tab at the top of the screen. I am writing a few reviews of the things we use. It is an ongoing thing so have a look.