An absurdly early start - The Hills are Alive (with the sound of wheezing) - CycleBlaze

September 11, 2020

An absurdly early start

...to make the train back from Vienna

Well, that's the first time I've ridden 50km before 6am before.

I had a great free camp at the santioned zeltzplatz by the Danube, right in the national park. There were only a couple of other people about most of whom were very quiet, but I did get chatting to an extraordinary chap from Estonia, who has been travelling Europe for 6 months without money. He told me one time he went 3 days without eating, and has lost 10kg over his travels — I'm not surprised!

Anyway, the guy was so unassuming and agreeable — when he found out I was from England he immediately gave me a £5 note he had kept in his wallet since his last trip to London — that when he told me he had a frustrating problem where his cooking pot had been stolen from a campsite, and it was hard to get hold of a replacement, and obviously difficult to cook food otherwise, I damn well gave him mine. It's served me well over 10 years, and if anything I felt embarrassed to give him something so worn — but I hope he gets some good use out of it.

Anyway, the reason I camped here was reasonable proximity to Vienna, so I could get in in the morning and catch my 6.50am train. Unfortunately a quick calculation suggested it was still 40km, so I would need to get up early. It was a warm and still night so I didn't bother setting up the tent, and just lay on the matt under the stars. It was actually hot.

I figured I needed 3 clear hours to make it. With a safety buffer, I set the alarm for 2.40am. Gah, positively monastic.

Getting blearily up and quickly gathering my possessions, I turned on the lights and hit the road. It was a moonless and now overcast night, and it was dark. Deer barked as I sped along the road in a kind of cycle fugue.

Part of the Donau radweg was closed off, as I'd learnt from my Estonian friend. I detoured on the empty main road, speeding through silent villages. Soon I regained the radweg, which was perfectly straight, flat, and unlit. For 6km I focussed on a single light in the distance. I was worried I wasn't making time, then looked at the spedo and saw over 20km on the clock.

Through an enormous refinery reeking of burnt rubber, crossing the Danube over an annoyingly-stepped bridge, then past the Vienna harbour, where huge gantries transferred containers from barge to rail. Then I was in the city, and jiving with commuter traffic, with the sun was just coming up.

I reached the Hauptbahnhof just before 6. My GPS died in the last kilometre, but by then the route was clear. Looking at the computer, it was actually closer to 50km. But I'd made it with plenty of time. Finally I bought a coffee and pastry — I'd had nothing since waking.

Yeah, it was really dark. Fortunately my light held out well.
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The radweg was very thoroughly closed for maintenance. More by luck than judgement I managed to bypass the closed section.
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Past the huge and acrid-smelling refinery
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Vienna harbour
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Stadt Wien — we're getting close. 5am and it's still very dark.
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The cycleway goes up this amazing helical ramp
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Journey's end — at the Hauptbahnhof just before 6
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This left plenty of time to figure out the train — always useful, as at the best of times it's complicated and this was a rare occasion when I could take the bike on an international express ICE train, which have a grand total of 3 bike spaces. The Shift was loaded in good time, and that's where I am now, with more coffee and plenty of time to recover over the 5 hour trip to Frankfurt.

This is much faster train than I normally can take with the loaded bike
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Today's ride: 48 km (30 miles)
Total: 1,053 km (654 miles)

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Rachael AndersonWow! I’m impressed! Glad you made it safely. I look forward to hearing more about your trip.
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4 months ago
Jon AylingTo Rachael AndersonThanks Rachael! I've had some last-minute dashes for transport before but this was a but crazy. The tour was pretty varied so hopefully should make for interesting reading!
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4 months ago