October 9, Along the Nord-Ostee Kanal, 93km

written by bryan on October 16th, 2006 @ 07:46 AM

Today’s pictures on flickr

We couldn’t quite believe it, but there were bright blue skies when we woke up this morning! Well, they weren’t so bright because there was some fog and the sun takes it’s own sweet time coming up these days, but there wasn’t a cloud to be seen.

A good wind, but it was a cross-wind, so it didn’t affect us too strongly. It died down during the day, though. It could have kept coming, by the end of the day, it would have been more at our back!

Just like any farmer’s diary, you will probably find a weather report in every entry. It certainly has a big impact on our day. No temperature reports, it’s been between 15 and 22 every single day so far. September at the high end, October at the low.

After a couple of wrong turns and false starts, we got ourselves out of Schleswig and headed to Rendsburg. There are lots of good cycle paths in Germany, and we have a relatively good map of cycle paths. But, it is still hard to follow. We’ll be cycling down a path, and then there’ll be an arrow pointing to the left saying a cycle path. Chances are, it’s a different path completely, and we should keep going straight. But when we have a left coming up, we have to check it out closely, and sometimes guess. Neither are the routes on our or the signs are labelled; the only labels are for the towns and major features; we just have topography and distance to go by. The scale of our map is 1:150000, so it’s detailed enough that we usually get it right, but it is hard sometimes.

We were more or less following the railway tracks between Schleswig and Rendsburg when I got a flat tire in my rear wheel. I fixed that while Bethany scouted around to make sure that we were following the right path. Sure enough, we had made a wrong turn.

As we were getting close to Rendsburg, we made the decision to bypass the city. Cities slow us down substantially; the route zig-zags a lot more, and we usually get lost. So we decided to get lost in the country instead.

Maybe we didn’t decide it, but that was the effect of trying to detour. I think we turned early once. Once we realized that we had probably made a mis-turn, we didn’t try and backtrack. That’s disheartening when every mile is hard-won. We just decided to keep heading west and south; eventually we’d come to a town that was labelled on our map.

Of course, the path we were following got more and more minor. It turned into gravel, but we didn’t want to back track. Grass started appearing in the gravel, but no back tracking. Then it wasjust a couple of tracks in the grass. Then it got to the point where the deer were the major users of the path, but we didn’t want to back track. It stayed like that for a couple of kilometres. I enjoyed it, but I’m fairly sure that Bethany did not.

We got ourselves back on track, or so we thought. We were following a major road, when suddenly the road ended with a lift gate, and an armed guard manning the gate. Yes, the path ended at an army base. We tested the English of an officer and two enlisted men, but we didn’t get very far. So we went around the base and got back on track. We’re still convinced we were on the right track, though… The base must have grown into the road.

Our path then took us right beside the Nord-Ostsee canal. Canal’s are awesome things to bike along. They provide interesting scenery, they’re straight, and they’re flat. The canal is a heck of a lot wider than the Rideau and is still used regularly by some pretty large ships, which travel at about 15-16 kilometres an hour. It’s pretty catching up to and passing a huge ship on a bicycle!

For supper, we noticed a butcher and a bakery right beside each other in a small town; there didn’t appear to be any large towns between us and our destination, so we picked up some bread and some meat for supper. What an excellent decision. The meat was excellent, and the bread was perhaps the best bread I’ve ever tasted. It was a dark rye bread, with whole seeds of a large number of different grains, including what tasted like mustard seed, which really tasted great with our meat!

Close to our destination, the path changed from concrete to paving stones. These paving stones had shifted a bit, making for pretty rough terrain. The tubes I’m using in my bicyce have those funky European valves. Not Presta, not Schreader; I think they’re called Woods valves. Anyways, our guage does not work on these valves, and I have no way of knowing how much pressure I have in the tires. But I obviously didn’t get near enough, because I hit a sharp edge after a lowered stone and POW, a blowout.

We were only about 3 kilometres from our destination, so Bethany went on ahead to start setting up camp. She wasn’t back by the time I finished so I assumed that she found it and it was open. Unfortunately, I ran into her and she hadn’t found it, so we decided to head on to the next one.

Luckily, we stumbled across the campground in the gathering twilight. Another night setting up in the dark.

That certainly is one huge disadvantage of a bicycle trip in October, the nights are lengthening fast. During any camping trip you end up turning into one of those people that goes to bed when the sun goes down and wakes up when it comes up. There’s not much to do after the sun goes down, and it’s hard to sleep when it comes up.

This is fine in the summer time, but we’re past the equinox, and dawn to dusk is substantially under 12 hours now. It takes us over 2 hours to make breakfast, eat, shower, tear down camp and pack up in the morning. Hitting the road before 10AM is an early start for us. Throw in a couple of meals, some time to get lost, a couple of mishaps and some sightseeing, and suddenly 70km is a full day rather than a good afternoon’s ride as it was back home, without 25+ kilos of gear in unfamiliar territory!

Postscript Random factoid: the mosquitoes here are super tame. I’ve been bitten twice, so I do know they are mosquitoes, but I’ve been ignored by hundreds more.

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