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Europe by Tandem

From Castellon (Spain) to Northern Cape (Norway) by Tandem supporting the fight against cancer.

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Day 21. Berlin- Magdeburg

Posted by admin On Julio - 30 - 2010

156 kilometers. 7 hours and 55 minutes.

JL: We left Berlin after a two-day rest. One rest day had been planned in advanced and the other had been forced off on us under the circumstances. The tandem rear wheel had the same problem we had when cycling in Avila: one of the rear hub cones was loose. So, there was no way out but to pull the entire wheel off the rim, adjust or replace the cones and, assemble the whole thing again. This isn’t something you can do in 30 minutes, let alone in a bike store in Berlin where you have no membership card.

At least we took advantage of these two days to relax our heavily overloaded legs, to eat our fill and to put on some lost weight (some grams that are really necessary when it’s cold and rainy), and to do the laundry. We planted ourselves at the hotel reception wearing our last half clean T-
shirts and said: “Hurry up! These are our last decent garments.”

Berlin has left an indelible mark on us. We feel really bad about leaving but we have to move on; if not, we’ll get used to the good life. Today’s stage started off a bit late because we wanted to snap a series of shots to the remains of the former Berlin Wall. Its outline was simple and without much history, though. We arrived in our destination around 7:30 p.m. We are really looking forward to getting into mountainous areas, and that ain’t no lie. We’re fond of mountains passes. Stages of winding roads are a real legbreaker and which make us go through more muscle pain.

Not only could we see amazing woods again; but also large cereal croplands where machines were harvesting wheat. This is a good harvest season because the weather is dry; otherwise some of the moisture from the harvested grain would have to be removed. We also went by some cherry (in German “kirsche”) production regions. The cherries fell off on the road and formed a sticky paste that mixed with the road dirt, which stuck to the tandem wheels.

We had some qualms about cycling in Germany while our bicycle bag was waving the Spanish flag. As you know, the Spanish soccer team beat Germany in the World Cup semi-final and won the Euro Cup over Germany. In the end, we left our flag on the show. We thought nobody would interpret it as bragging or as if we were waving the bloody shirt.

We are getting closer…

Day 19. Sczcecin- Berlin

Posted by admin On Julio - 28 - 2010

151 kilometers. 8 hours and 22 minutes.

JL: A Straight road. Good weather. No wind. Cycling along approach roads to major cities isn’t that nice for leisure cyclists, but there is no choice if you want to visit those places. Thick traffic, fast speed, multi-lane roads, motorists in a mad rush, and the feeling of being at the bottom of the food chain: easy prey.

There are three key issues as to cycling safety: road- surface conditions, bicycle tune-up, and motorist behaviour. Broadly speaking, roads in Poland are weathered, patched, potholed and rough. They have no shoulders, except for some high-speed roads. But the story doesn’t end there. Either gravel or earth is accumulated in the right-side lane, which means that you can’t move away from it. Our tandem bicycle, equipped with 25/28 inch bicycle tires, isn’t cut out for those conditions. It would have needed, at least, 32-inch tires.  Fortunately, we didn’t have any problems. Regarding motorist behaviour, well, although we are aware that hasty generalizations may lead to fallacious arguments, our first-hand experience counts. The more pressing the basic needs, the less the motorists’ sensitivity towards the rest.

The weather gave us a break today. The sunbathed landscape is a horse of a different color, let alone the mood. When the morale is at rock bottom, you feel like sawing the tandem bicycle off and like saying to the other, “you are on your own”: “Don’t move so much! Can’t you keep still?”, “Pedal harder, will you?” “Hey, am I the only one pedaling today?”; “Don’t make me stop again”, “But if you only took a leak 30 minutes ago”; “Don’t change gear that often or you’ll kill me”; “This is such a shitty saddle, I told you we should have replaced it”; “See, the slicker does let water in, we should have bought the expensive one.”

We are like Superman: the “sun” is our source of energy. If the weather is nicer and our willpower is stronger, comments aren’t that hostile : “Are you doing fine or do you feel like taking a break?”, “Shall I take over from here?” “Do you have enough water or shall I give you some?” “Great move!” How well you have negotiated these bends!” “Come on, dude, you’re as strong as an ox.”

In Poland, you can eat well on the cheap. On the whole, accommodation is inexpensive. For instance,  fair-quality accommodation in a rural area, doble room, dinner and breakfast (for 2 human beings as hungry as a bear) included: roughly 80 euros plus VAT 22% . Items of clothing are relatively cheap; public transport, as well. However, gas is more expensive than in Spain; cabs aren’t that cheap either; toiletries and brand products aren’t that far from Spain. Well, this is just what we could see at first hand; our day-to-day activities are rather military-like.

Today the important thing, more than the road in itself, was to get to Berlin. In our route plan, Berlin kind of symbolizes our Equator and, besides, it’s a city we wanted to know. We’ll take a day-off there. We have to tune Paco up. He’ll have to attend a review session; it won’t be up to us. What’s more, we have to do the laundry. The only clean garments we have left are the underpants we are wearing. We’ve been wearing the same shorts for 17 days. Their wear and tear can just be compared to John Wayne’s spats. We’ll also try to get a leg massage just to see if we recover a little bit. Our legs are dry, hard and in pain. I don’t know if we’ll have enough time to do everything, but we’ll give it a go.

Berlin is the last large city we’ll cycle around. Big cities make us waste lots of time and approach roads are too dangerous for our “long vehicle”. Up to Castellón, we’ll try to trace a route out that takes us around rural areas and that goes through tiny towns. So, we’ll leave Paris out. I think we’ll save some time.

We arrived in Berlin in time, just after lunchtime; thanks to our early rising and our excitement about getting to Berlin. As soon as we got there, we left our trolley and bags at the hotel and off we went to ride the streets of Berlin. We cycled along one of the main avenues in Berlin at 47 kilometers per hour.  What a waste of energy! We were swept away by the thrill of knowing Berlin and by a surge of pure adrenalin. Thank God we have a day-off tomorrow.

Pics, chats with American, French, English, and, of course, German people. OK, Here go some photographs:

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4578 KM = 5028 € by
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