Day 338 – SWITZERLAND and GERMANY: From Basel to Fribourg

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 74.6km
Average speed / 平均速度: 14.2km/h
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: 5h 14m
A big thank you to Randall for putting me up for the last two nights in Basel. Thanks to his great help with finding outdoor shops and cycling shops in town, it was a very fuitful stay.

It was hot today. I sweated like a…like a…like a person skateboarding with a pack on his back. I found my rhythm early however, and after leaving Randall’s place at about 11am, I was cruising along happily on the smooth roads of France.

Aye? France, I say?

Just past the border with Germany, there is a big dam on the Rhine River with a lock, where pedestirians can cross the river freely. I skated across and ended up skating about 30km along the west side of the Rhine in France. Not that it felt like France. All the town names were German-ish names.

A lock on the Rhine River in southern Germany.

Crossing the border from Switzerland to Germany was no worries. I had to ask for a stamp in my passport!

This skateboarding caper is hard work. On the flat I can average about 17km/h to 20km/h comfortably. But usually I can only keep this pace up for about 30 to 45 minutes before needing a rest. I figure that this is more to do with the fact that all the little balance muscles in my legs are still getting used to the load. On a bike – especially a recumbent – these balancing muscles don’t need to work at all. I hope that my body will adjust enough for me to be able to keep up the pace for up to an hour before choosing to stop for a rest.

The road conditions are varying. A good smooth road allows me to skate almost without thinking about my balance or the rhythm of swapping pushing legs. However, if the road gets just a little rough, like where overhanging trees have deteriorated the road slightly, skating requires a lot of concentration. It is like cycling on a sealed road compared to a rough gravel road. Speed drops, and more concentration is required.

Day 337 – SWITZERLAND: Hanging out in Basel

Adventure logistics was the name of the game today, and what a successful day it was.

I had fun with Randall’s computer, putting together a couple of video clips of the last few days. After lunch I headed out into town to find some grease to overhaul my bearings with, and to find out about GPS units.

Markus, a regular visitor to this website, and a valuable source of tips and advice as I travel, advised that Garmin GPS may be difficult to find in southern Germany. Therefore I took his advice and had a look in Basel. Randall suggested going to Transa, an outdoor and bicycle shop chain. The bicycle section happily supplied me with the grease I needed, and the outdoor section happily supplied me with a Garmin Gecko 201 handheld GPS unit.

I walked out of the store without paying a thing. Thank you Transa Travel, Outdoor & Bike in Basel for your kind support of my journey. I will now be able to extend the lifetime of the bearings on my skateboard, and most importantly keep an accurate track of my distance, speed, and other important data.

The Garmin Gecko 201 GPS unit will give me accurate average speed tracking with a function that gives me an average speed for only the time I am moving. Just what I required. Also, accurate GPS tracking of my distance will be important once I get to North America to begin my world record attempt at the long distance sateboarding world record.

Bearing overhaul complete in Basel, Switzerland

So with squeaky clean bearings and a new GPS, I am ready to hit the road once again tomorrow and head into Germany.

Day 336 – SWITZERLAND: From near Olten to Basel

Urs and Elizabeth in Kappa, Switzerland

After saying my thanks and goodbyes to Urs and Elizabeth, I headed up the hill towards Basel. Urs was keen to see how much my pack weighed before I left; 15kg. That was at least 3kg worth of food that Elizabeth insisted I take with me. They loaded me up to the hilt, and sent me on my way. Thank you so much!

It was uphill for most of the morning…

(click on image for a short video – video will open in new window)

The rain however held off for all day. That was a rare enough occurrence to make me suitably happy. The mostly downhill stretch downhill to Basel after the hard uphill was rather welcome too.

Things really fell together today, actually. My Black Diamond pack had developed a fault in the stitching just before I left Anzere (where I had worked for two months in Switzerland). I had emailed Black Diamond in Switzerland soon after the fault developed, and they replied saying that I should visit their headquaters in Reinach, on my way to Basel. So I did just that, and by the end of today I had a new pack on my back. They didn’t have any of the black colour in stock, so I have an olive green colour pack instead.

I arrived in Basel, and promptly got acquainted with the Rhine River – the river which will be my companion for the next four or so weeks as I skate through Germany.

A close fit on the Rhine River in Switzerland

Massive ships either heaved against the current upstream, or steamed effortlessly downstream just clearing the underside of the bridges as they went.

Basel has it’s charm. The seemingly landmark buildings are all red.

Town hall in Basel, Swizerland

While I was sitting on the shores of the Rhine, a group of four guys walked up looking somewhat suspiciously at my skateboard. I explained to them what I was up to, and they gave me a flyer for a circus happening later in the evening. Having nothing better to do and still not able to contact any hosts, I decided to go along.

Wow. The Basilisk Circus is a circus performed by 7 to 17 year old people. During the year, they go to circus training one hour a week, and then for two weeks a year, the performance is held. It is a very professional affair, despite the age of the performers and the fact that entrance is free.

Joshua the juggler at the Basilisk Circus in Basel, Switzerland

Slack-rope walker at the Basilisk Circus in Basel, Switzerland

There was trapeze, juggling, clowns, tight-rope and slack-rope walking, an act involving long lycra ‘curtains’ up which performers would climb, and perform all sorts of mind boggling acts.

Circus fellas at the Basilisk Circus in Basel, Switzerland

From left is Joshua, Sebastian, Jason, and Sven. These four were the ones who invited me to come to the Basilisk Circus. A great friendly bunch.

When the circus finished, I wandered outside to find a host I had contacted waiting outside for me. He had recieved my email saying that I would be at the circus that night. It was Randall, a fellow Kiwi working in Switzerland. He’s from the North Island, but I won’t hold that against him ;-). We headed to his apartment, and I promptly crashed and slept like a log till morning.

Day 335 – SWITZERLAND: From Bern to near Oltu

Rain, rain, go away. Generally shoddy weather, but nothing too tough to dampen the spirits too much. When it wasn’t raining, I was skating…

(click on image for a video clip – will open in new window)

It was a day of small quiet back roads, following cycling route 34 through the Swiss countryside.

Mooooo! (near Olten, Switzerland)

I stopped for a bite for lunch over the road from a large farm house. An almost as large dog came sniffing over, and I had flashbacks to Turkey, with the massive scary dogs. This one today was just content to bark every so often. Enough for me to get nervous, and for the elderly owner to raise her voice at the big fat pooch.

I am being somewhat spoiled at the moment with wild berries. Rasberries, blackberries, cherries. I was innocently picking some massive black cherries towards the end of the day when an old man wandered up. I said hello, and him being seemingly pleased that he had on his hands an English speaker, struck up a conversation in English. He was most apologetic towards me for the Swiss once again winning the America’s Cup (sailing competition).

“Just pure luck,” he kindly explained.

He laughed at me using a doggie poop bag to collect my cherries, and then invited me to his house for a beer. I accepted, and was led to a big apartment-like building. It turned out that Urs and his wife Elizabeth had retired two years ago from the baking business. The lower floor of their building was the bakery. Urs still bakes occassionally. What was supposed to just be a beer turned into a loaf of fresh bread, cheese, sausages, and a bed for the night.

Urs showed me his bow and arrow and other shooting apparatus of varying kinds, including a couple of guns.

“It’s my hobbie,” he proudly claimed.

Elizabeth scoured their house for maps of the area for my skate over the hill to Basel. In the end they just ended up drawing a map.

Urs and Elizabeth drawing a map for me in Kappa, Switzerland


Day 333 – SWITZERLAND: From Fribourg to Bern

Right, so physically, this skateboarding thing seems to be working out pretty good. Logistically, however, things are a little more tricky.

I got away from Fribourg bright and early, only to be stalled for 30 minutes under a bridge waiting for the rain to stop. I read some more of Complete and Utter Failure by Neil Steinberg while waiting.

Crying statue in Fribourg, Switzerland

The rain stopped, and I carried on through puddles and spitting rain.

I discovered today however that cycle speedometers are not very suitable for skateboards. The small vibrations from the road travel through the board into the delicate computer unit, causing water to be vibrated in. By the end of the day, the computer unit was showing all sorts of crazy characters on the screen.

The moral of the story is that I think I will need to get a GPS to track my progress and speed. The not so good thing about a GPS unit is that the batteries only typically last up to 12 hours. That’s about 1.5 days of skating. But I will see what can be done…

Big thanks to Stefan Roth from Sport Boerse in Bern for giving me some windsurfing foam rubber for my board. Dave from inspired this idea – it not only saves your feet from the vibrations from the road, but also gives better grip and durability than the standard grip tape that skateboarders use. The grip on my board was already rubbing off after only three days on the board!

Smooth riding with surfing foam in Bern, Switzerland

Smooth riding with surfing foam in Bern, Switzerland

I arrived in Bern early afternoon, and met up with my host Patricia in the evening.

Days 331 and 332 – SWITZERLAND: Galavanting in Fribourg

This weekend involved more cycling than it did skateboarding. On Sunday I had the pleasure of joining the Fribourg ProVelo group for a cycling tour around the area, checking out some of the ancient Roman remains near Lake Murten.

On a ride with ProVelo in Fribourg, Switzerland

A friend of Mirjam kindly lent me a bike for the day. It was one of those funny ones that most people ride. You know, the ones with the little seat that makes your bum go numb? But it was a great day out despite the saddle sores and thunderstorm that pelted down rain and electric bolts from the heavens just as Mirjam and I were beginning the 17km ride back to Fribourg.

Saturday was a great day outside also. Mirjam knows the area well, and we went for a walk through the amazing sandstone gorge that Fribourg has built itself around.

Near the river in Fribourg, Switzerland

Fribourg is a relatively small city. 30,000 inhabitants live in and around the area surrouding the old city. About 10,000 of those are university students.

Old town Fribourg, Switzerland

It was a great weekend spent with Mirjam (a great host). A big massive huge thankyou!

Day 330 – SWITZERLAND: Resting in Fribourg

I spent the majority of today sleeping on the grass in parks around Fribourg.

Fribourg skyscape (Fribourg, Switzerland)

It was a good opportunity for a rest, as I was waiting for my wonderful host, Mirjam, to arrive back from work at 6:30pm. After yesterday’s big effort I was suitibly knackered. My muscles weren’t sore, but I was feeling understandibly stiff. I am much more committed to stretching now; if I didn’t, I think I’d tense up completely.

Energy in Fribourg, Switzerland

So I ate peanuts and watched children expertly dodge each other as they rode bicycles and scooters around the park. At 7pm I met Mirjam – an enthusiastic, open, and well-travelled woman who loves bicycles. Along with some other cycle enthusiasts in the city, she is involved in a new organisation called ‘Pro Velo’. Her organisation promotes the use of bicycles as part of one’s lifestyle.

“Forget the lycra and speedy fasionable bikes,” she says. “Ride your bike to work, to the grocery store. We like to encourage Fribourg to become a more bicycle-friendly place.”

My sentiments precicely. I was more than a little gutted that I wasn’t still riding my bike…

Day 329 – SWITZERLAND: Lausanne to Fribourg

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 55.52km
Average speed / 平均速度: 12.26km/h
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: 4h 32m
Total skateboarding distance to date / 今までスケボで走った距離: 55km
Total cycling distance to date / 今まで自転車で走った距離: 11,800km
Ascent / 上り: +825m
Descent / 下り: -865m

(data above is data from reset approx. 30km into ride)

Well, I thought I’d never make it. Fribourg is 83 kilometers from Lausanne, along the route that I took. It was a tough day, but I made it.

My really big success for today was becoming proficient in pushing with both legs. I do seven pushes with each leg that goes something like this:

push, push, push, push, push, push, push, step, forwards, push, push, push, push, push, push, push, step, backwards, push…

When I have this rythym going, I can skateboard at a faster pace uphill than I could comfortably cycle at on my loaded bicycle; I passed two fully loaded cycle tourists today while going uphill. On the flat, a bicycle can cruise at a much faster pace.

Cardiovascular-wise, skateboarding is much more demanding. If I am switching legs well, then my muscles do not get too tired, but I am breathing much more heavily than I ever did on my bike (with perhaps the exception of the high altitudes in Tajikistan). I do enjoy it though; I am looking forward to my body adjusting to the extra load, and to be able to skate for longer up hill without getting too ‘puffed’.

Hilly terrain for a skateboard (near Oron la Ville, Switzerland)

Typical topography of the lowlands of Switzerland

The downhills are plenty of fun also. With my ‘sail’ out, I maintain a comfortable speed of about 35km/h. Any faster than that and my speedometer doesn’t register the actual speed. I guess the speed sensing unit cannot handle the high revs of the small skateboard wheel. Above 35km/h it just stays at 35km/h. In practise this just means that my recorded average speed and distance will be slightly less than the actual speed and distance.

Another thing I have discovered is that I need to be really careful of bumps and dips in the footpath.

The board bottoms out easily (near Oron la Ville, Switzerland)

This seemingly innocent rise threw me off the board. I instinctively looked around afterwards to make sure noone saw me. Kind of embarrassing…

Due to the fact that I arrived in Fribourg much earlier than I had anticipated, I couldn’t get a hold of my host. I found a nice little barn in a secluded area of Fribourg, near a dam, and slept soundly for the night.

Day 327 – SWITZERLAND: Lausanne

I was a guest speaker at the International School of Lausanne today. Heidi arranged for me to come in at lunch time to speak to students interested in my journey. The small room was packed with about 50 students, many of whom had come to know of me from the reports of other students who had been part of the Village Camps week in Leysin. The presentation was well received.
I left them with this quote:

If you had one shot, one opportunity, to sieze everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it, or let it slip. – Eminem

I had a very productive day logistics wise also. I figured out a shoe-saving strategy for the big hills, and connected up a speedo to measure my speed, average speed, max speed, distance etc.

The shoe saver in Lausanne, Switzerland The shoe saver in Lausanne, Switzerland

The big shoe saving idea was inspired by a fellow Village Camps colleague, Julian. He suggested I duct-tape a bit of bicycle tyre to my shoe. That would work also, but using a car tyre inner tube seems to be the way to go at the moment. Easy to put on and take off, and doesn’t require any major taping up.

The obvious drawback is that it looks rediculous. No, I won’t be wearing it all the time. It’ll only make an appearance if I am doing any really long downhill stretches. Plus, the ‘parachute’ works very well in keeping my speed down enough that I can jump off the board if neccessary.

Speedo on the skateboard in Lausanne, Switzerland

Speedo on the skateboard in Lausanne, Switzerland Speedo on the skateboard in Lausanne, Switzerland

Now this is the thing I’m most excited about. I have hooked up a standard cycle computer to read the speed of my skateboard. The wheel size is accurately set to 305mm – the circumfrence of my skateboard wheels. I will update this size regularly as the wheel wears down. The magnet that is usually attached to the spokes on a bicycle wheel is screwed into the solid rubber wheel. The sensor which is usually attached to the forks of a bike is attached to the axle of the skateboard. My trucks (the name for the axle part of a skateboard) has very convenient holes in them, which allows me to easily attach the sensor in just the right spot.

I had to buy a new speedo for this. The US$5 one that I bought in Uzbekistan was going strong, but the mount didn’t hold up to the vibrations of the skateboard.

Last but not least today is some exciting news on the sponsor front. Skateboarding protective equipment manufacturer TSG, who are based in Switzerland, have agreed to supply me with a superlight skateboarding specific helmet and some lightweight knee pads. Big thanks to TSG , and I look forward to wearing their gear.