Circles: Bouncing Off the Boundaries of Western Europe - Grampies Go in Circles - CycleBlaze

April 5, 2013

Circles: Bouncing Off the Boundaries of Western Europe

Back in the Spring of 2011 we caught the "Crazyguy" disease and pedalled out the driveway of our Vancouver Island, British Columbia (Canada) farm, headed for the other side of the continent. (

7652 km and 141 days later, we had endured the seemingly endless roads through the Coastal Mountains, the Prairies, the Great Lakes, the City of Toronto, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and so forth. Seemingly endless or not, it did end. Only thing, at the end we found we were not ready to quit.

"So is that this continent's best shot?" I said to Dodie. "Can you suggest some other continent to challenge?".

In that way, our second tour was born. The next year we crossed from London, England to Vienna, and back. ( )

It was swell, and in the end - we were not ready to quit! So not long after we got back, in Winter, we again rolled out of our driveway - and headed for Mexico. (

When we hit Mexico, we said " Y'know, we're not ready to quit! If we hang a left here, we could head for Key West!".

We didn't make that left turn just then, but when we got home we started planning. First up, we needed to spin our five year old grandkids, Avi and Violet, across Idaho - as a way of introducing them to cycle touring.


Next, we realized that heading for Key West was a project best kept for Winter/Spring, since we had already seen how brutal the hot/dry western desert can be, while exploring the area in our van.

So, what else does the World have to offer? We are too old and tired and sick and stupid (*) to tackle places like Africa, South America, China, or the "Stans" (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afganistan), so we are not about to say "Hell, let's just go right 'round the world". How about New Zealand and Australia? You bet - they are on the list.

But for this time, since Europe was genuinely so terribly swell (bike paths, restaurants, bakeries, drop dead gorgeous countrysides and towns, cathedrals, history, OH MY!) we thought we would give it another go.

So where, exactly, would "another go" go to?

We had started out with Europe sort of following the path of Tricia and Ken Graham, West to East. They went Paris to Vienna, landing up finally in Venice. (

For their encore, they then went North to South, Copenhagen to Milan. (

I guess we could have done the same thing, but we would not want to be accused of being total copycats. So we will start in Amsterdam, and pedal to Copenhagen. Ha ha, no chance of a plagiarism claim there! From Copenhagen, we are drawn by both the fact that Dodie's dad came from Berlin and by friends having given us the Bikeline guide to the Mulde river Radweg. The Mulde runs east of Leipzig.

The next influence was Peter Mayle, who wrote a series of books glamorizing Provence. So, hey, let's head there.

From Provence there are some great cycle ways (Voies Vertes) through Toulouse and over to Bordeaux. Let's hop on those! And oh, we better get back to Amsterdam before our flight leaves, so we better keep heading North (weather permitting).

So that's the goofy way that a roughly circular route evolved (and is still evolving). It will take us about 4500 km and bounce off the North Sea, the Baltic, the Mediterranean, and the Bay of Biscay. That is, off the watery boundaries of what you might call western Europe. Here is roughly what the circle looks like:

Thank goodness for the big thick blue line, because this route is still very approximate. It could also change a fair bit. For example, initially we were mostly bypassing Switzerland, choosing to follow the Rhine, just North. But now we plan to pass from Konstanz to Geneva on Swiss Route 5. This takes us through Switzerland, but not in the mountains. Ultimately, we could decide to go to Andermatt, and really cut through Switzerland to Geneva, following the Rhone, then, literally from its source to the Mediterranean. Plus, the circle will be closed to a lesser or greater extent by a train ride, depending how far we get around it. The Schengen agreement only gives us 90 days to leave the continent, and our plane tickets, as it happens, cut that to 84 days. We'll see how we do, but we know for sure this will be a great ride!

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