I was rather comfy under the bridge just outsde of Offenburg, but I knew that by 7am I needed to get going. People were starting to move about.
I cooked up some porridge, and headed to the local internet cafe to see if I could get a hold of Markus. I checked and re-checked his phone number, and in the end decided one more time to call him. Sure that it would make no difference, I added the ’0′ to the number. Markus answered right away, and he was in Offenburg to pick me up with half an hour.
Markus is not your typical German English speaker. He sounds Canadian. Very well traveled, and mad on cycling. He once cycled 280km in one day. Great stuff. He is planning a Germany to China cycling trip beginning in February next year: Cycling Without Borders
We headed to his parent’s place; his father breeds rabbits, and there were two skinned rabbits handing from hooks near the kitchen bench. That is not why he breeds rabbits however. In the entrance to their house the first thing you notice is the cabinet chock full of trophies. Markus’s dad breeds some very pretty rabbits.
We went out for a walk around Gengenbach, a beautiful small town with traditional Germand houses and narrow alleys. Jolly nice wee town.
Dinner was roast rabbit with ‘Spätzle‘ noodles and gravy. Very nice indeed.
Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 72.5km
Average speed / 平均速度: 13.8km/h
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: 5h 15m
Max speed: 35.5km/h
I was hoping to get in contact with some Couchsurfing people in Fribourg last night, but unfortunately I only emailed some people yesterday morning. It was far too last minute, and many were not home. However, I did manage to find a secluded spot in a park to sleep for the night – feeling rather too conspicuous in my bright yellow sleeping bag.
The result was that I didn’t sleep too well, and woke in the morning feeling a litte tired already, on top of the fatigue from yesterday. I did need to make it to Offenburg that night however, so I could meet up with Markus, a friend I met through my website. Markus (http://cyclingwithoutborders.wordpress.com/) is planning a Germany to China epic cycling trip for early next year. He came upon my website when looking for resources in his planning. Markus had offered for me to stay at his place, and I was not one to pass that up.
I set out from Fribourg at about 9am, and headed out into the unknowed. I still didn’t have a map of the area, so I was just following road signs. Somewhere in the middle of the day, I ran into a medievial festival in a small town called Kenzingen. The organisers were charging a 2 Euro entry fee into the main street, but I was waved through after I asked whether I was going to have to go around the town to get past.
I must say that at least this part of Germany reminds me a lot of New Zealand, especially Southland. Forested hills, a few pastures. Therefore so far I’m not particularly excited by the surroundings. The German people however make up for this lack of enviromental stimulus. Kind and friendly, they are interested in what I am doing. They take my mind off my yearning to be back in the wide open hostile spaces of Tajikistan.
Now the plan was to get in contact with Markus by the evening, so he would know that I was heading in his direction. However, the whole experience of trying to get in contact with him was a great learning experience. Let me show off my recently acquired knowledge:
If a phone number in Germany has a ’0′ at the beginning, it means that you have to dail it.
I tried many times to call the number that Markus had given me, but I was always dropping the 0 from it. I always got reponses from the other end from confused German people wondering why I was asking for Markus…
The result was that I couldn’t get in contact with Markus, and ended up sleeping under a bridge. Just as well I was under the bridge; it rained cats and dogs at night.
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.
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.
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.
So with squeaky clean bearings and a new GPS, I am ready to hit the road once again tomorrow and head into Germany.
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.
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.
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 CouchSurfing.org 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.
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.
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 CouchSurfing.org 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.
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.
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.
Ah, rain rain go away. It has been raining non-stop today here in Bern, so my grand plans to get out into the city were thwarted. Instead, I played around with Patricia’s Mac computer and made a wee video clip…
Here’s to hoping the weather sorts itself out for departure towards Luzern tomorrow.
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.
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 BoardFree.co.uk 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!
I arrived in Bern early afternoon, and met up with my CouchSurfing.org host Patricia in the evening.