Back across the North sea - The Hills are Alive (with the sound of wheezing) - CycleBlaze

September 12, 2020

Back across the North sea

Trains, metros and ferries

With so few bikes loaded, the train from Vienna to Frankfurt was a relaxing break after my morning excertions. Since I had 6½ hours I took advantage of the restaurant car to have a pretty good and inexpensive meal.

The food on the German/Austrian express trains is surprisingly good
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Unfortunately, things got more complicated after arriving in Frankfurt. The train for the next leg, oddly further East into Germany to Hannover, was delayed by 15 minutes. Not a big deal in itself, but with the potential to again have a domino effect on my connections into Holland.

As I rode on the couple of hour trip towards Hannover, I rather frantically cross-checked the arrival times and possible other connections. The train was delayed by  12 minutes, frankly the most annoying amount, meaning a connection was still theoretically possible but giving me just 8 minutes to make the change to the next four hour leg several platforms away. These quick changes with the laden bike are by far the my stressful and physically draining, especially stations crowded with hurrying people, and having to shift the bike up and down levels. I was almost hoping for the delay to get worse so I wouldn't need to bust myself trying.

Right up to Hannover we ran late. Then, inexplicably, we pulled in right on time. I had over 20 minutes and made the change comfortably.

Strange, and I had more strangeness in Amersfoort. The last leg was meant to take me all the way to Rotterdam - but the train seemed to have completely vaporised. Every 10 minutes (!) trains left from the right platform to Utrecht, but there was no mention of Rotterdam anywhere. I had run out of water — last refilled at a pump by the Slovak border — and hadn't eaten (there are no restaurants on the standard intercity trains) so this may have added to my confusion. In the end I just went to Utrecht and changed again there, weirdly arriving just 15 minutes later than planned.

Extremely glad to see Rotterdam, I pedalled through its disconcertingly festive (and herbal-smelling) streets to find my hotel. The Dutch really are the most chilled-out people. At one point consulting my map a car had to manoeuvre around me, and a guy stuck his head out the window, I assumed to have a go at me. Instead, to my astonishment, he and the other passengers just burst into song. This left me with a big smile on my face.

The wonderful Hopper-esque neon sign for my hotel was a very welcome sight
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I found the hotel, checked in with the jolly lady on the front desk, and frankly collapsed. 16 hours of train transport, after a 50km ride, and I had been up for 21 hours after sleeping on a wooden deck so was pretty much done. I was out of food and euros, and didn't much feel like going out to obtain any more, so contented myself with the single beer I had bought in Amersfoort and chewing on dry pasta before passing out. It doesn't get much classier than that.

The Shift stored safely on the hotel courtyard. Rotterdam had thousands of bikes, but as the receptionist warned me, also "unfortunately a problem with bike theft"
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I slept the sleep of the dead, and since I decided to skip the €12 hotel breakfast, got up and out only at 10:30. I was still feeling pretty washed out, so while riding 30km to the port at Hoek was one possibility, I decided to take advantage of the metro.

Yes, you can take your bikes on the metro!
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Unfortunately on the metro I had another moment of stupidity, when I somehow managed to drop the bike even while holding it, and it fell fully-loaded onto a solid steel post. So the long-suffering Shift now has earned a (minor) dent in its top tube. Much cursing and googling later convinced me this adds character rather than compromising structural integrity — it's less than 1mm deep and those Surly tubes are strong. Still, it hardly seemed to be what the Shift deserved after such  faithful service.

The ferry check in was quiet, and I was the only cyclist returning to the UK. I grabbed a meal as soon as I was on board - I'm several meals behind, I think. Currently we're making our stately way across the calm North Sea, back to the port of Harwich.

This freight driver tried to drive his massive truck through the passenger entry to the ferry, causing much consternation, shouting and great difficulty reversing out. Perhaps I was in a bad mood after dinging the Shift, but I'm afraid I laughed out loud at how puzzled he looked.
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Getting ready to board. The chap in the van in front called out "nice Surly!" and we had a touring-related chat.
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It's quite an empty ferry — probably because of the quarantine reqirements
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Out in the open sea — a good time to update the journal (by abusing the ship's free WiFi — turns out you can just repeatedly reset the free trial)
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We'll dock in Harwich in the evening. It's now inevitable I'll have to quarantine for 14 days at home upon arrival in the UK - normally I'd get back under my own steam, but thought it wise to avoid public transport, so Caroline will kindly pick me up at the port. This will entail some dismantling of the Shift, so let's hope I can avoid committing further violence upon it.

In the mean time I intend to have at least one more meal to assauge my massive calorie deficit, and buy some duty-free whiskey. Regulations are not to leave the house, and it seems rather unfair to delegate my booze buying to Caroline for that duration.

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Scott AndersonWelcome home, happy quarantine. Looking forward to filling in a few gaps in the tale.
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4 months ago
Kathleen JonesWhisky is medicine, especially under quarantine. Glad you're home and fattening up.
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4 months ago
Jon AylingTo Scott AndersonThanks Scott, I'm now thoroughly settled into a lazy quarantine life. I should finally get around to filling in the empty section with the actual cycling in now!
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4 months ago
Jon AylingTo Kathleen JonesThanks Kathleen, oh yes combination of whisky and and exhaustion has meant some very restoring 10 hour night sleeps. Also cannot stop eating!
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4 months ago