August 18, 2016, in Worms, Germany:
Today marks exactly three months since we landed in Paris and rode our bikes out of the Charles de Gaulle airport. We’ve come a long way, both literally and figuratively since those comical first few weeks of our trip.
Here are some stats thus far:
- 3: The number of hotel rooms we’ve stayed in (near Paris, France; Boulogne-sur-Mer, France; and Schoonhoven, Netherlands) [Correction: We have stayed in three, not two hotels.]
- 5: The number of countries we’ve ridden through (France, Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany)
- 5: The number of hostels we’ve stayed in (Boulogne-sur-Mer, France; Dunkirk, France; Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; Cologne, Germany; Worms, Germany)
- 9: The total number of private homes we’ve stayed in (and a big Thank You to all our hosts!)
- 50: The average number of kilometers we ride on any given day
- 84: The most kilometers we’ve ridden in a single day
- 1442: The total number of miles logged so far
- 2671: The total number of kilometers logged so far
As you’ve read so far in the blog, we had a very steep learning curve our first few weeks. I’d say that the first month we were fumbling fools. The second month we finally felt like cycle tourists, albeit not exactly a smooth-running machine.
Now, after three months, we actually feel pretty good. Not seasoned veterans, but we have a good handle on what we’re doing:
- Our bodies have toughened up.
- My butt has healed enough that while I continue to have twinges of pain (will it ever fully heal???), I no longer worry that it will scuttle our trip.
- We know how to use our GPS to best effect (and to ignore it when it tries to take us astray).
- We’ve memorized exactly where in each pannier each item goes, so we don’t spend hours hunting for any particular item.
- We went crazy in Amsterdam…(No, not partaking in local vices. Get your mind out of the gutter!)…We went crazy in Amsterdam buying furniture. Collapsible chairs, to be exact. No more sitting in the mud for us! Now this is glamping!
- We have internet sorted out at least enough to maintain a tiny amount of data on our cell phone for emergency situations (like today, when we found the campground our map directed us to is permanently closed, rain was imminent, and we needed an emergency youth hostel).
- Although each day is drastically different from any other in the particulars (this is an adventure, after all!), we have a general routine: eat, ride, eat, ride, eat, ride, eat, sleep, repeat.
Over the last three months, the purpose of our trip has evolved – at least in my mind. Originally, cycling wasn’t an end in and of itself. It was supposed to be the means to an end. Somehow, I imagined that we’d ride through big and small European cities to take in all the culture they had to offer.
Over time, I’ve realized that this isn’t realistic. We’re on heavily loaded bicycles. There is no practical way for us to leave our bikes unattended so we can spend hours inside museums, learning about local history and culture. And, with so much history and culture around every corner and under every rock, it would be impossible in six short months, anyway.
As our trip has progressed, I’ve realized that cycling is an end in itself. And so is seeing Europe in its natural habitat, so to speak. Not museums, but the real world. Real people, real countryside, real architecture, even the real industrial underbelly – the smoke stacks, the junk yards, the power plants that keep modern civilization running.
There is so much to take in each and every day just by riding our bicycles 50 kilometers from one town to another, that the thought of visiting a museum is anathema to me now. I don’t have the brain cells to try to take in art, or history, or how a town’s famous cultural icon came to be (Gouda and its eponymous cheese, for example).
Instead, I revel in seeing the gradual changes in geology, architecture, scenery, cuisine. In meeting other cycle tourists who are (almost) as crazy as we are. In meeting and staying with locals – the real way to experience a new culture. In running errands (like grocery shopping) and seeing the differences from one town to another, one country to another.
Every day is a completely new adventure. We never know what new and totally unexpected surprise will astound us that day. We’ve camped in so many different types of places: an abbey, a pony club, even a nudist campground! None of it was planned, it just happened. And we’ve met wonderful, warm, generous people all along the way who have invited us into their homes and shared their lives with us for a few short days, giving us a glimpse into their worlds.
It hasn’t all been fun. Riding our bicycles through Europe is not easy. As you well know from the blog, we’ve been dogged by rain almost incessantly all trip. And living a nomadic life, where nothing is the same from one day to the next, is exhausting. But it is incredibly rewarding.
I can’t wait to see what the next three months bring us!