Our adventure begins - The Bartletts Bike the Baltics - CycleBlaze

April 24, 2019

Our adventure begins

Chaos at the koblenz train station

For us, there is no feeling like the anticipation of beginning a journey. It is a mixture of 99% excitement with  niggling doubts about the route, are we fit enough?, can we lighten the load....(right, we are the problem, not the gear)..... But those thoughts instantly disappear once we are on the bike. There is no feeling that compares with what we feel when setting off on our bike, fully loaded. As the expression goes, “the world is our oyster”.   Anything is possible and the sense of adventure is alive and well.

Easter w/e is over, Clara is back in Giessen at university, Georg has ridden his bike 25 km to Limburg and then taken the ICE a train to Bonn for work, and it is time for us to hit the road. So we got up early (for us) and got ready for our departure. We will ride the 25 km to Limburg train station with Cora, take the train to Koblenz, transfer to a train to Wesel on the Rhine, then ride 25 km to Rees where we will stay tonight.

Last minute adjustments to Seavo before we head out. We love our new Canadian flag that we purchased from Terracycle in Portland. We have long searched for a flag that is tough and reflective. The irony is that it is designed in Calgary and made in Portland.
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Seavo is ready to go, shiny and clean with beautiful new hydraulic 4 piston brakes on the front, upgraded Avid BB7’s on the rear,  new tires, headset and Buster, our Canadian bear mascot, is hanging on the handlebars, raring to go.

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After many years of touring with our beloved Canadian Arkel RT40 panniers (RT = recumbent style), we finally had to replace them. They are mounted on Terracycle’s underseat mount that gives Seavo great stability. The huge battery for our motor is carried in one of these panniers.
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Sharon PledgerLet the adventures begin! Looking forward to following along!
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6 months ago

Since arriving in Germany, we have enjoyed incredible, unseasonably warm, sunny weather. It has been a joy to ride unencumbered by rain gear and layers of warmth. It was the warmest Easter weekend in 30 years for this part of Germany. Nonetheless, the forests and farmland need rain. Like at home, forest fires are a big concern, even this early in the spring.

We truly love the riding in this region of rolling hills, forests and farmland with historic villages nestled in the valleys. This morning, the air is fresh and a beautiful time to ride.
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We have made it in record time to the train station at Limburg on the Lahn River.
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It has been a lovely week with Cora and her family who are such great hosts and friends. See you in 3 months, Cora.
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Georg, who is an expert on train travel, has taught us which trains have appropriate bike cars that have room for our big rig. Some trains have a very small bike section and we risk being ejected if the conductor chooses or if it is busy. As well, we choose the time of day which is less busy.
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We met this delightful young man, a bike mechanic on his way to work in Koblenz with his dog.
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What a mellow, lovable dog. He understands the routine of his day -train and bike shop with his best friend near by.
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Oh Koblenz Bahnhofplatz...the stairs are steep and we have no idea what is coming.

We knew that we had 23 min to change tracks in Koblenz. This means that taking the stairsdowb and up with our bike and gear is not a problem.
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We were feeling pretty proud of ourselves getting from track 2 to 5 in record time. The screen shows that our connecting  train will be on time and so we get to relax and wait. However, just before it’s arrival, the screen flashed to show that the track had changed ...to track 2. Yes, that is the track  that we originally arrived on. So, we ran with the trailer and panniers, down and up the stairs back to platform 2, and arrived to see the train just starting to leave, and on time! 

Meanwhile, Seavo is still waiting for us on track 5.

As we look back at platform 5, a forlorn looking Seavo is hoping that we won’t forget him.
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This is a bit frustrating, as we must wait an hour until 12:13 for the next train to Wesel.  No problem, this gives us time to get food and eat some lunch while waiting. We checked in with the DB supervisor on track 2 and he assured us that the upcoming hourly trains to Wesel would all be on track 2.  Well, 12:13 came and went, and no train. We found the supervisor again, and he shrugged apologetically - it was cancelled. But no problem, the 1:13 will come to this track, # 2.  We checked in with him again later as we noticed lots of changes for other trains. The message was to stay at this platform.

This train was a mystery as this should be our train, but it passed by without stopping and it never came back!
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Well, you guessed it, as the time got closer to the 1:13 departure time we began to get concerned.  At 1:12, there was no train, so Barry went to ask again about the track and if the train was perhaps running late.. The supervisor said it was on time, but that there was a platform change and we needed to get to track 8 ASAP as the train was in and about to leave. Barry took Seavo and had to manhandle our big rig solo up and down the stairs. Mary Ellen took the trailer and panniers which meant double trips on both sets of stairs. We had agreed that whoever got there first should get our stuff on the train and hope for the best. Worst case scenario, the one left behind could take the next train.

As fate would have it, the bike car was at the far end of the platform, the last car on the train. Barry never rides our bike on the platform at a train station, but needs must....he rode.

Mary Ellen dropped the panniers on platform 8 and ran back down the stairs to try to carry the trailer up the stairs.  As she was struggling, many  men rushed by but none offered help. A lovely woman, dressed for business with heels and dress clothes, dropped her briefcase and helped with the trailer. Wow!! I could see Barry running from the other end to help but as the train was leaving he gestured to get on. So the woman came back out and helped me on to the First class car. I don’t know her name, but I will always be grateful to her. 

Barry found me and we carried the panniers and trailer the length of the train. What an exhausting process and we had changed platforms with no elevator or escalator In just 3 minutes! A record for us. We have some bruises as souvenirs and Seavo needs 2 new bottle cages as they are kaput. Nonetheless, we got on and are on our way.

We really liked the charm of Wesel, plus it was a relief to get off the train as it was running late. We have been wanting to get a trunk bag for our bike, so we stopped at this promising looking bike store.

And what a bike store -so many bikes and lots of interesting gear.
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Werner was very helpful and took much time showing us our options. We were pleased to get a bag that is insulated, has an insulated pouch at the back for our thermos and locks on to the rack.
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A German bag to add to Seavo’s collection of Abus frame bags, Canadian Arkel bags, and American bags: Lone Peak bag for the stoker from Washington state and a seat bag from Portland.
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Jorg and Werner offer great service in this expansive, well stocked bike shop in Wesel.
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Wind turbines are so prevalent in Europe - we are reminded when we travel of how behind we are in North America.
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Whew! What a day we have had. We are exhausted and feel that a day of travel like this is far harder than any day of riding we have had on our bike. 

The weather is changing and we can feel the humidity rising as a storm is coming. To add to the challenge is a strong headwind and sidewind. We pedal on and are glad that we have accommodation booked in Rees, 25 km from Wesel. It is great to travel in the off-season as we can take advantage of greatly reduced rates. Our hotel is directly on the Rhine with a great view and offers much comfort. We could not afford such a hotel if we were travelling later.

Too tired to write our journal, plus the wifi is not too good. So this has been done at a later date. Early to bed. 

Despite the frustrations of the train today, we have had a great, but exhausting day. In retrospect, I would rather be a frustrated customer than a supervisor who has to deal with the chaos of schedule changes and upset customers. After all, we are retired and off on an adventure. What is there to complain about?

Today's ride: 52 km (32 miles)
Total: 175 km (109 miles)

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Marvin PaxmanWhat a lovely attitude! It can be frustrating in the moment, but if you can focus on the positive and keep perspective on the challenges, it really makes for a wonderful holiday, doesn't it ? So glad you are on your way, we are really looking forward to following you. This is mostly a stay at home summer for us in our first year in Mill Bay. We now live just 10 minutes from our dear friends, the Grampies. Hopefully there is a good chance we will get to meet you in the future when you are back from your adventure.
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6 months ago
Scott AndersonOh, my gosh. This brings so many frustrating train memories to mind, but this tops them all. Glad you made it in safely, and hopefully your backs and knees are fine. Funny about the woman who lent an hand also - that seems to always be the way, in our experience - the guys watch, the women pitch in.
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6 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesHere at Grampies home base there is a strong faction that asserts this account is the greatest, most hair raising, bike onto the train (with stairs) story ever. But some have promoted our own account of a seat (and post) thrown under the train while under attack by not one but three conductors, as a pretty worthy contender. At least we all have by-passed the bikes at the airport genre!
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6 months ago
Suzanne GibsonWhat a tour! Love it that you are enjoying Germany so much. I don't know how you survived your train and bike experience - all those stairs with your heavy rig!
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6 months ago