It's a weird feeling leaving Tanzania. I hate leaving Africa in general. I hate the feeling that life there continues without us. But I believe that this can be a good thing too. There is much to explore and I'm sure some other forms of wild. So, at the same time, I'm also very excited for this new season and the doors that are opening before us.
We arrived at Schiphol right around 7:00am, found a slightly more quiet corner and put our bikes together. We had a lot of people watch us. Watching people put things together is like watching fire, or TV, I guess.
By 10:00 we were ready for more coffee. After the encouragement from the man selling train tickets, we cycled to Haarlem. Why would you train if you have bikes to ride anyway? We met up with friends for dinner and after an evening stroll around the city, we settled at our host family's house for the night.
Just like that, we are in Europe and I can still taste and smell the curry we ate in Arusha the night we left.
We spent the full day in Haarlem today. After breakfast we rode down to Kennemerland park and ran along the sandy trails. Spent a good couple hours this afternoon people watching in the squares and then stopped by Corrie ten Boom's old home. Tours were not running at the time so we just looked in the windows at the watch shop. We picked Lauren up from the airport around 9:30. Got lost a number of times trying to understand as google maps read out Dutch street names in her American accent.
We rode 20 kilometers from Haarlem into Amsterdam today. Bought some cheese and salami from a small market on the way to add to our left overs from yesterday. Ate lunch on a bridge over a canal. I took a group photo for a bunch of British kids smoking cigarettes, feeling rather proud of their Amsterdam rampage. We then went to Centraal station to figure out our route to Berlin and we have decided to bike to Rheine, Germany and then catch the train from their to Berlin. Should take us 3 days. We rode back to Haarlem in time to buy some wine and help get things ready for dinner with our hosts. Tomorrow we start our move East. We are eager to get some miles under us. We are always overwhelmed with gratitude for the generosity of strangers.
We rode 83 Kilometers today through some very beautiful sections of country and some sketchy areas around Amsterdam. Lots of parks and forests and hard packed gravel roads. After a late start, a visit to the Santiago Compostello starting point and a few turns arounds, we managed to make it in to Amersfoort in time for dinner.
We used a mix of google map's cycling routes and the local bike network system. Tomorrow we will buy a map as we hate having to look at the iPhone screens all day. We are being hosted by relatives of ours last hosts. Another amazing family. We enjoyed good conversation over dinner and talked about the differences we see in the cultures we know. We are very lucky to be here and are extremely thankful.
We rode from Amersfoort to Holten today via Apledoorn and Deventer. The first 40 Kilometers were our favorite, through beautiful farm land and quiet country roads. None of us have done much long distance cycling before and today we could feel it'll take some getting use to.
I came dangerously close to peeing my bike shorts at a shopping setting in Deventer.I have a relatively small bladder and I'm still readjusting to the fact that you cannot pull over and pee just about anywhere, the way I can in Tanzania. This will be a reoccurring issue for me, I'm sure. Thank God, and the fifty cents Karly had in her pocket, I was able to go in a bathroom I found in the media room. Holy moly.
We camped in Holten, at a disappointingly boring and expensive campground. "Camping" in Europe means something much different than Tanzania. Its our first time using all our camp gear though. Despite the short rain and heavy fog, we stayed dry and warm all night.
We left Holten by 10:00am this morning and rode through Rijseen, Borne, Oldenzaal, De Lutte, and then crossed the border near Guildehuis. After Bad Badthium I got us on some round about wrong road through Ohne but we finally made it to Rheine at about 6:00pm.
We did well to have an early lunch and to eat as much as we had. We're learning to eat before we are hungry to avoid "bonking".
Lauren found us a warm shower host who after feeding us, letting us set up our tent in his yard, helping us buy our train tickets to Berlin, and serving us plenty of beer, showed us a series of PowerPoint slide shows of his bike tours all over the world. We were thrilled by his pictures of his pilgrimage to Santiago. He has been all over. This is the first time I've used the warm showers network and I'm really looking forward to continuing with the opportunity to meet people and know them in their own space.
We rushed out the door this morning following Englebert, our warm shower's host, determined to not miss our 9:42am train to Berlin. He was very effective with his cycling hand signals. We made it to the station about a minute before boarding.
Once in Berlin, we met up with our good friends, Trevor and Audrey Welch, under the Brandenburg gate. They will be joining us for the next few weeks as we make our way towards Vienna.
We spent the day exploring the city's neighborhoods by bike. Our warm shower hosts are a sweet couple originally from Romania. They were a bit late coming home to let us in to their 16th floor apartment so we ended up making a rice and bean dinner on the side walk out front.
Tomorrow we plan to explore the city in more depth.
*Under the Brandenburg gate, by the Starbucks, we met up with a group of freelance tour guides at 11:00am. They work off tips and did an amazing job leading us on a two and a half hour walking tour of the the city. Karly took notes in her little Tanzanian notebook.
*I drank the best expresso I've ever had at a place called Cafe CK (cafeckberlin.com/)
*We raced an incoming rain storm to an amazing Turkish restaurant in Kreuzburg. Pulled in under the awning as the downpour hit.
*We rode back through the city after dark to our warm shower host's apartment. I love riding at night and in a group through a crowded city. Feels like flying.
We've found it pretty hard to not get turned around at least once everytime we come in or go out of a bigger city, but, after a few tunrs arounds, we were on our way south west towards Brück. We had lunch in Postdam. Sat on a bench looking accross the water to a castle getting a facelift; it was mostly covered by scaffolding. Someplace a little past Ferch, in what I'm pretty sure was national forest, we tucked behinds few thicker trees and set up our first "stealth" campsite. We slept well and stayed dry despite the short rain in the middle of the night.
On the 12th we rode to Wittenburg, on the Elbe. We met a sweet French girl while biking. With a baloon strapped to her rear panniers and bright pink bar tape, she looked like she had a lot more experience exploring by bike than we have. She said she was lost and slowly making her way back to France. Also, she comitted that her bike wasnt built to be ridden as fast as ours so we should not stick together.
We stayed at a campsite in Wittenburg , right on the river's edge. It felt amazing to shower. I don't think I had in about five days. We had dinner with a young British guy, making his way back to Berlin where he is apparently starting a syrup business.
Today, we enjoyed the flat windings of the Elbe. We are traveling up stream to Prague, through Dresden. Its a gentle climb and a relaxing stretch of well marked bike paths. By about 5:00pm we found a spot under a bridge on the south side of Torgau, where we planned to come back after dark to set up our tents. As we made our way into the center of Torgau, we were humured to find posters announcing this weekend to be a celebration of America (the USA, not the entire continent). When we got to the town center we found a massive carnival with a stage up front and a bunch of Germans in costume line dancing. This was not what we were expecting to find in Torgau. Then, after a series of incredible events, of which Audrey Welch is the hero, we ended up meeting the head of the local power company and not only did she have our pictures taken and our story recorded for the local paper, she also bought us all rooms at a small bed and breakfast in the middle of town! No one was saying it but non of us were that excited to go back to the bridge with the light rain coming down.
We are amazed, everyday, at how well cared for we are and how far out of the way strangers will go on behalf of other strangers. We are extremely grateful to have made it this far and cannot belive how much fun we are having, celebrating America in Torgau, Germany tonight.
In the very short time that we've been here, Dresden has won my heart as my favorite city we've seen so far. Maybe it's the sun that's just come out from the heavy layer of clouds, but the vibes are sure good here.
We arrived around 2:00pm after a night of wild camping outside of Riesa. We slept in a perfect little spot under some big old trees right next to the river. As we pulled up, two small dear ran out and we knew it was good. The owls were loud all night but gave us the sense of being looked after.
This morning we saw a small fox and a number of squirrels as we made our way south east up the river. As we've travelled the landscape has become increasingly interesting with woods , rock formations and larger hills. You can only enjoy flat fit so long.
The ride from Torgau to Riesa was fairly uneventful. We did have our first real ran while in route. I loved it. It gave a little sense of thrill to the relatively straight forward ride.
We are growing stronger everyday. I've loved listening to Karly speak German. She amazes me more every day.
We spent a leisurely morning and early afternoon enjoying Dresden. Karly and I got up early and stole away for a couple of hours alone. We watched the sun light move down the cathedral while we splurged and had four cups of coffee.
Dresden has an incredible artistic feel about it. I enjoyed wandering around without any real sense of what's what or where I was going. It feels small enough that it's graspable and knowable, but full of variety.
We biked through the rain for about twenty miles until dark, made dinner under the shelter of the tourist center and slept on the edge of the river in a field right in sight of the small town of Stat Wehlen.
We made it to Czech Republic on the 17th, passed a circus in Decin, took note that people love roller blading here, and slept between two train lines and a highway in the loudest camp ground I've ever been to.
We've been blown away by the beauty of this area of Southern Germany and Northern Czech Republic. The rolling greens and the winding rivers are extremely refreshing after the flat of Holland.
On the 18th we biked to along the Elbe until Melnik, where we split off and headed south along the Vltava towards Prague. The bike paths are not as well kept here in Czech; we've ridden through lots of muddy single track and carried our bikes up multiple flights of stairs. We slept 40 miles from Prague in a field on the edge of the river after meeting a couple and their Ridgeback pup, the show champion of Poland. It was honor. She was a beautiful dog.
We made it to Prague around 1:00pm on the 19th. It's an enchanting city, horrible for bikes, but beautiful architecture. We are staying with some very old friends of mine and taking the next few days to regroup, clean all our stuff and enjoy seeing a city by foot and public transport.
Today we are tucked up in a perfect coffee shop watching the rain. We just said good bye to the Welches. They are a delight to be with and will be missed.
*with all clean and dry clothes we left our hosts a little before noon
*tucked into a funky little bar to dodge a rain downpour and had our first taste of what we called "Dirty Coffee" (basically a more aggressive version of cowboy coffee). We were the only ones there minus a group of teenagers smoking in the corner who showed us how to get on the internet.
*had a little wake up call as made our way up a massive climb leaving the Vltava. Europe is not all flats and bike paths.
*had lunch in a tin bus stop to get out of the rain for a bit.
*found a spot in the woods next to a field of cows and spent the night warm and dry.
*Met an incredible Australian couple as we made our way West out of Linz along the Danube. She was a hoot and we loved talking with her. He was an honorary citizen of South Africa due to his decision to boycott the Rugby games there during the Apartheid. He has a letter from Nelson Mandela to prove it.
*Enjoyed being on bike paths along the river again
* Spent the night just East of Passau on the border of Germany
*I fixed a broken spoke in Passau and bought a few extra for back up
*We followed the river to Deggendorf and ended up camping in the front yard of a small bed and breakfast. The owners were a sweet older couple who loved Karly's German.
*Headed South West along the Isar and through friends of friends we stayed with a family a few kilometers outside of Landshut. They welcomed us warmly, we showered, did laundry and shared stories of Africa as they lived in Tanzania some years ago as well. We were inspired to live like them and to host as they hosted. It was hard to leave.
*We made it to Munich in time to drink liters of beer at the Oktoberfest and to make friends with a rowdy bunch of Australian young men.
We spent the night, two nights ago, in the parking lot if City Cycles Bike shop. We slept amazingly well. The girls didn't even wake up when the night guard came by and talked with me for a bit. He was happy to let us sleep once he knew we had been invited by the employees to camp out there.
The bladder of my air mattress has rotted out and will no longer hold air and seems to be un-patchable so once we got up we stopped by the massive sporting goods store, Transa, to see about prices for a new one. I couldn't bite the bullet so will have to do with the non inflated pad and a Maasai blanket. All is good.
After a massive oatmeal breakfast in a very neat and tidy park that I guess use to be known as "needle park" for what you would imagine, we found wifi and made a plan for leaving.
We made it to Baden by the afternoon and within a half hour of being in the city were invited to spend the night in the garden of an incredible Swiss family. We were very lucky to set up our tents under the porch and stayed out of the rain. It poured all night. We have been fed a superb breakfast and are almost all packet up and headed towards Biel.
We finally can see the Alps. My word they are stunning. We appreciate their power and beauty more so now then ever before, having come to them on bike. They seem a little more majestic than I remember them from high school. We took an over night bus then and woke up in the mountains. Watching and feeling the land grow as we bike towards them now is magic.
We are having lunch in Solothurn now and will be in Biel by this evening. We free camped on the side of the national cycle route 5 last night, in a little cobble stoned courtyard. Tonight we plan to sleep with warm shower hosts. Switzerland is expensive compared to Germany and very expensive compared to Czech Republic. We've been lucky and have only paid for a place to sleep once since being here, a plush RV camp ground on the Bodensee.
Our warm shower hosts generously let me use their bike shed and tools in Biel. I had an amazing night, worked until 2:00am re-greasing everything, adding a few links to Karly's chain, grinding out the slot in her brakes so her shoes sit a bit lower and the pads better reach the rim of her 700c wheels and then rebuilding my rear wheel. I originally built it in Texas without knowing what I was doing and with no trueing stand. So I've had to continually re-adjust it and actually broke a spoke while we were still in Austria. The father of our host family was an incredible mechanic and worked with me until midnight to make sure I was on the right track. With his teaching and tools I ended up with a very close to perfect wheel and I have hardy been able to think about anything but bike mechanics since that night.
We spent the night in Bern on the 10th. After cheese fondu with white wine and black tea we rode around the city to check out the film festival and have drinks.
Lauren's foot woke her up in the night in so much pain and swelling that we decided to rest the morning of the 11th and then train to Thun in the afternoon to avoid any extra stress. Thun is absolutely gorgeous. It sits on the lake's shore looking at the Alps across the water. We've been invited to stay as long as we need by the 24-7 community house here and are so thankful to have a place and space as we try to figure out what to do with Lauren's foot. We anticipate being here at least three nights.
We saw a doctor earlier today who seems to think its a Gout flare up. We have no idea but should have the results from the blood test he took later this afternoon. I'm already a bit antsy to get back on the road but I think the rest is the most important thing now. Lauren is incredibly tough, so the fact that she doesn't want to ride must mean that it is hurting horribly.
From Thun we biked to Fribourg, Lausanne, and then on Geneva. Biking in Switzerland is made easy with the very well marked cycling routes that traverse the entire country.
We left Switzerland along the Rhone River. The girls were nervous as we headed into a new country where none of us have any experience with the language. We had also been warned that the French would never even try to communicate with us if we didn't speak perfect French. As Lauren wrote in her journal,
"We have found that to be quite the contrary and have stumbled upon the most incredible, tender hearted people you will ever meet. Earlier this week, we were flying high and setting up camp after a sunny day cruising down the Rhône River, when we met two lovely ladies, Sabine and Frederique, fishing with their kids on the river. We chatted for a while, and said our goodbyes, only for them to return 20 minutes later with wine and an invitation to stay with Sabine's family that night in the small village nearby and another invitation to stay with Frederique's family in Lyon a couple nights later. We had the most amazing time sharing stories and culture with both families and loved our time with them. Such a sweet time of connection and over the top generosity that won't soon be forgotten. We biked away from each home feeling equally inspired and encouraged with smiles plastered to our faces."
As we made our way along the Rhone and away from the Alps, we were amazed at the amount of elevation we were dropping. It felt like we spent the entire day wearing out our brakes as we descended beautiful winding roads. We spent the night camping just outside of the small town called Seyssel.
The next morning in a still-half-asleep attempt to clean up from the night before, I managed to slip and drop our entire set of nesting pots and dishes off a 8 foot bank and into the very cold river. I threw off my leather boots and crashed down the ledge after them. Immediately filled with water, the pots disappeared under the surface and in horror I watched as our bowls, like two boats, chose the high road and began floating down stream way out of my reach. Forgetting the pots I scrambled bare footed up the bank and ran through the woods to where a small tree lay toppled over in the river. I balanced my way out on the trunk and to my relief the bowls were right there, trapped between the current and the tree. I then went back to where I had originally dropped everything and waded through the water. I was just about to give up when I caught my right foot in the opening of our main cooking pot and swooped it up in one smooth movement. I was never able to find the handle but was sure glad to not have lost our cooking system all together. We were able to make due without the handle just fine.
The majority of the Rhone River is practically a dreamland for cycling and camping. Incredible views and old villages connected by quiet roads and bike paths. We got spoiled big time.
* Things got a little more crowded and crazy once we reached the Mediterranean coast
* We slept in an abandoned water park and listened to drag racers screwing around in the parking lot next to us all night long
*We finally had our first flat tire
* We finally had to book a night at a hotel (twice) due to no camping places being open, our bikes almost getting stolen, prostitutes lining the edges of the road, and no warm shower hosts to be found.
* The roads had no shoulders and cars felt dangerously close
* We got shot at by a very distracted and clueless pheasant hunter
* Our tan lines really started to look established
* We dodged the Pyrenees and crossed into Spain by riding the winding coastal road through Banyuls Sur Mer and along the Costa Brava
*Finally had our second flat tire
*Slept in what felt like a spanish castle with two other cyclists from Australia and the UK
*Spent two nights in a camper van, parked in the garage of a Spanish Mountain bike champion
*Ate all kinds of Tapas and celebrated Karly's birthday in Barcelona
After an amazing four days of rest in Barcelona we were thinking clearly again. Knowing that we had to be in Lisbon in just over two weeks to catch our flights back to the USA, we decided to scrape together the last little bits of money we had, rent a car and cruise across Spain to the border town of Badajoz. From there we could bike the remaining 250 Kilometers or, if needed, catch a train from Évora (about half-way across Portugal).
We were able to break the drive up in two days. We spent the first night pulled over in a quiet construction site, right next to all the machinery. The second night we met up with some of my old friends in Madrid, rested well and made it to Badajoz by around 4:00 pm the next day. Lauren started coming down with a nasty cold. So we took it easy and hoped for the best.
The next day, after dropping off the rental car, we were back on our bikes and headed west. We crossed the border into Portugal about an hour before a massive rain downpour caught us coming in off the Atlantic. Soaked to the bone, Lauren was brave enough to admit this sort of riding was not ideal for her health. We got lucky and found a bus that would take us to Évora for 7 euros and let us squeeze our bikes and all our gear in the underneath compartments.
From Évora we made it to Lisbon the next day and spent the last two weeks of our excursion soaking in the last bits of vagabond travel with lots of little day trips and explorations around Sintra, Cascais, and some of my old stomping grounds. We spent a lot of time reconnecting with my friends from high school, went to a lot of concerts and started dreaming about bringing my songs back to Portugal and touring sometime in the next few years.
We were very grateful for our time in Lisbon. It was important that we ended our trip with the time and space to reflect on the last three months of adventure and misadventure.
We set out in September to experience the land and people of the countries that we would cycle through. We went without a plan. We invited risk and vulnerability in faith that the world is more good than bad, people are more generous than suspicious, and that if we remained open and as generous as we could be, we would be taken care of in one form or another. We connected with friends and friends of friends. We were invited into the homes of strangers, shared incredible conversations and food and wine with people we would have never met had we booked our accommodations in advance. We found incredible rest and beauty on the banks of so many different rivers and in the shelter of many different forests. We tested our endurance and patience. We learned to push a little harder and further and to admit that we need rest.
Now, back in the USA, we are all figuring out what is next for us. Lauren is in Burbank dreaming of good to come. Karly and I are in Austin, Texas chasing a career with the music scene here and trying to convince people to travel and explore this beautiful world more. We carry the confidence that if we remain open and as generous as we can be, we will be taken care of in one form or another. We look forward to hosting travelers with the care and attention that we felt while we were on the road. If you are ever in Austin, Texas and need a place to crash, don't hesitate to ask.