Day 102: Merkenich (Koln) to Krefeld (Duisburg), Germany - Grampies on the Go - Again! - CycleBlaze

August 29, 2012

Day 102: Merkenich (Koln) to Krefeld (Duisburg), Germany

Following the goofy procedure set out for us the day before, we returned the key for the washroom at a house beside a restaurant, somewhere near the camping. It was up a flight a stairs. We rang the bell and waited a longish time, until a man appeared and returned our 10 euro deposit. It seems like a lot of trouble for them and us, to keep the supposed hoards of , what – vagrants? from peeing in their luxury facility (not!).

Setting off toward Dormagen, on the general way to Dusseldorf, we bumped in to a welcome supermarket, this one a “Penny”. Pennys are in a class of small market just like Lidl, and while their produce is weak and bakery is weak, they will keep you alive.

This Penny had some sizes and styles of Ritter Sport chocolate that we have not seen before. Ritter Sport catches our eye, because it is one of the semi decent chocolate brands available back home, but not in the variety that we see here.

One thing not available at Penny, or any other grocery, is Campingaz. Only dedicated camping stores (like Inter-Sport) seem to carry this, or any other camping supplies. “Camping” here in any event is not what we understand it to be in North America. The use of tents here is quite minimal, and there is no concept of a semi-private spot in the woods where you commune with nature over your campfire, or at least Campingaz fire!

We decided that our minimal chance of finding fuel would actually be zero, if we followed the prescribed Rhine cycle route, which assiduously steers for the river and away from the towns. So we had a fling with going through a town, which happened to be Zons.

In Zons we did not find Campingaz, far from it. But we immediately recognized that we had stumbled into a special place. Zons was a fortified town, involved in lots of wars and originally strengthened in order to collect tolls on the Rhine. Much of its original wall, and some towers remain, plus the town itself is interesting. There are no painted or half-timbered buildings, yet they seem interesting none the less.

Having struck out (gaz-wise) with Zons, we had a crack at the bigger Neuss. Neuss, of course, used to be a separate place, but now is part of a continuum that is Dusseldorf. Dodie spotted a bike shop and pulled in, on the slim chance that a bike shop might know something about camping supplies. Here, she hit the jackpot. Not only did the man in the shop, Andi, speak English well, not only did he know about where to get Campingaz, but he had one under the counter and basically gave it to us!

Since we were doing so well with Andi, I showed him my loose Bike Friday headset. Out came the needed two large wrenches, and soon the disturbing play was gone.

Andi had recommended the “Obi” store for more gaz. We found the store and were surprised to find that it was exactly Home Depot, down to the orange colour of everything and the lawn tractors at the entrance. Only thing, they took a page from Canada’s “Beaver Lumber” and have a beaver (biber) as their advertising symbol. And yes, they had more Campingaz, so now we can cook seven course gourmet meals any time we want!

Our next step was to get lost in Neuss, and waste up to two hours getting out. We entered a semi-industrial wasteland, ad battled busses and old rail lines and warehouses and such for a long time, until we finally burst out back along the Rhine. Across the river we could then see the skyline of the main part of Dusseldorf. We paused for lunch, and were approached at out park bench by Joachim, an interesting fellow who had done much cycling over the years. Joachim offered us tips about the location of the youth hostel, and things to do in Dusseldorf. However, of course, we seem to just want to get on with getting to Holland.

We continued along the Rhine, actually in fairly nice surroundings, and came to a camping about 4:30 p.m. That was too early to stop, but we could see the next camping would be up to 60 km away. So that meant a wild camp. We had little water, so would have to find some to even wild camp. And battery power was low after last night’s camping that had had little to offer.

We set off, but were soon confronted by a head wind. Within 5 km, this, plus maybe dehydration, maybe not enough food, had sapped Dodie’s strength. She said we should go back. I didn’t believe the Dodie who had so bravely insisted it was too early to stop, just 5 km ago, could be that beat now. I said the wind would surely drop soon and we surely would be in a town with restaurants and water soon. So we carried on.

After one more km, Dodie got off the bike and collapsed beside the path. I had seen this before, and implemented a standard protocol – I lay down beside her. That way, helpful and curious people think it’s just two crazies sleeping in the middle of nowhere.

After a while, Dodie arose, and we staggered on. The promised towns and restaurants turned out to be kms and kms of industrial wasteland – nothing but refineries and gated manufacturing. We finally came to a major intersection, and disagreed about which way the route should go next. This used up the last of Dodie’s energy, and she sat down on the street corner, too weak to move.

I moved the bikes just off to the side a bit, onto a small square of cobbles in front of a disused shed. Then I unpacked a stool, and lifted Dodie wholesale to this new refuge.

I could see on the GPS both restaurants and guesthouses about 3 km away, but Dodie wasn’t going anywhere. After about 30 minutes, though, she was strong enough to walk, and I tried leading her toward this new oasis.

She followed for a while, but then decided we were “off route”. This rallied her resources and after some “lively” discussion, we sallied off in a different direction. We trailed out along the river, past a “Chempark”, and finally came to a stop behind a disused building behind a church.

The tent went up and at last there was a good place to rest.

Coming up is more industrial desert, but with one more day and a fresh start, we should make it to Holland or almost so. Of course, we have no idea what we will find, but we do hope at least camping will be easier to find!

Here are the day's photos - complete captions hopefully soon...

Giant Ritter Sport
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Some sort of gift version? It seems to be called a "Congratulations"?
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chemical indutries dominate this area
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The towns here are pretty plain
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But pastries are still excellent
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Part of old Zons
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Tghe swinwe statue at the entrance to town commemorates some sort of swine feud, but tourist information had no more information.
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Brass pigs from the swine statue
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Downtown Zons
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Snow white will be playing at the Zons outdoor theatre
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Strawberry pickers seem to be local.
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The bikes wait as we search in vain for Campingaz at Edeka supermarket
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The bike store in Neuss
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Andi and the headset
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The OBI - a version of Home Depot
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The OBI may be "Home Depot", but in Germany it has to have a bakery!
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... and a curry wurst stand.
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OBI also uses a beaver, It is not a Canadian ripoff - there are beavers in Germany.
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So many bike paths, if you know what they mean, but rarely a consistent chain of signs to follow.
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We passed these nice houses a few times as we patrolled back and forth following different directions from various people.
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The super cute Citroen Pluriel
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Setting off into the "desert"
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Desert
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Desert
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Desert
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Desert - are you getting the idea?
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What is a desert to us looks good for this trucking company.
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Lunch - our last good food for a while.
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Dodie and Joachim - interesting tips and facts about the city
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Dusseldorf
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Bonk!
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Mean streets if you are completely out of strength.
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There were restaurants and guest houses within 3 km, but little hope of getting Dodie that far and through the big roads.
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Dodie's corner. She tried to rest on the yellow block until lifted to just off the sidewalk and away from the traffic.
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The type of thing we found while looking for a place to camp.
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Our final campsite.
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Today's ride: 76 km (47 miles)
Total: 5,155 km (3,201 miles)

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