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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 27. Ringsheim- Dannemarie

Posted by admin On Agosto - 9 - 2010

125 kilometers. 5 hours and 47 minutes.

JL:

“I have been keeping a watchful eye on you for a long time, where are you wheeling these two men to?”  said the wind to the tandem bicycle. “I’m escorting them to accomplish a mission,” replied the tandem bicycle. “What sort of mission do you refer to?”  inquired the wind. “The mission is to help people see things differently,” answered the tandem bicycle. “That is not hard to get; I am used to doing it since I possess the capacity to change my outlook continually,” said the wind with a laugh. (after thinking for a while)“You do it without really knowing why because you have an innate capacity; it’s in your nature. However, people do need to be deeply touched. The two men know about it. Follow them closely and you will be able to get a sound grasp of this,” said the tandem bicycle. And the wind remained silent.

Today we entered France through Marckolsheim. We crossed the border, the Rhine and the famous Maginot Line. This line was a line of concrete fortifications constructed along the French border to protect France from Germany and Italy. It was built to deter the Germans from attacking France. It was a linear defense and it was composed of a system of  forts and bunkers interconnected by anti-tank obstacles and by an anti-personnel obstacle system made primarily of very dense barbed wire. It was constructed 10 kilometers from the French-German border and spread along it and it varied in depth from between 20 to 25 kilometers. Striking figures show the marvel of engineering and the of military strategy. However, the Germans eventually flanked the Maginot Line, as it usually happens, where they least expected it: by breaking through Belgium. There is a cycle path today that lays out alongside the old Maginot Line. Crossing the path by tandem presented no problem for us; we were just equipped with a bicycle pump and a video camara.

Once you crossed the river, the road turned southward and it ran parallel to the Rhine, making use of a strip of flat land between two chains of mountains; orchard crops, apple fields and, above all, wheat fields dotted the landscape.

We are in Alsace, a beautiful, rich area strategically located in the center of Europe; a long-disputed region, such as the Duchy of Milan, which has changed hands many times in the last centuries. 

The road surface posed no difficulty to us; however, river valleys are, as usual, wind tunnels. Apart from getting a flat tire 400 meters after setting off, we had to cope with the wind, again.

Being in a different country entails getting used to a different language, different products with different uses, a different time zone… and a wealth of tiny details that make the process of adaptation easier. Coming across people who speak English is not an easy task, contrary to what happened in the Scandinavian countries, Poland or Germany. So much so, that I went into a drugstore to get some vitamins and the druggist wanted to explain to me the difference between 11-vitamin tablets and 11-vitamin tablets plus a ginseng complex. I guess she didn’t know how to put it so it occurred to her to make a gesture with her hand like saying “it’s for male sexual virility” as if it were the most natural thing in the world. So, imagine I was standing there wearing cycling gear and saying “Oh, I see” while I was trying to choke my laughter back. What a professional!

Today we are staying at a road hostel. Don’t get confused by its name. It’s probably the most decent place we’ve stayed at since we started this challenge. We didn’t miss the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the people at the hostel dining room. Full bellies, we go to bed to get our strength back.

See you tomorrow! More kilometers added to the counter!

Day 12. From Ange to Bollnäs

Posted by admin On Julio - 20 - 2010

172 kilometers. 8 hours and 30 minutes

To start with, we’ll say that the tour de France riders only covered a distance of 168 kilometers today and they weren’t carrying 35 kilograms of luggage behind. I don’t want to draw comparisons but…

In Norse mythology, the Vanir is a group of gods associated with the sea, the wind, the fire and fertility. They are considered an omen of good weather, good sailing and good hunting. Today we’ll honor them because, from early morning until noon, we enjoyed fair weather thanks to the tail wind that helped us cover almost 100 kilometers in 4 hours.

We are moving towards the south and, luckily, the weather is turning milder. Today, halfway through the road, we dared a swim in a lake. We thought the water was going to be icy, but it wasn’t that bad. There goes a pic. By the way, there was an old bus at the lakeside fitted out by its owners for accommodation. You could stay there for the night for 21 Swedish kronor (more or less 3 euros). Not suitable for luxury lovers, mind you; but suitable for those who want to enjoy a unique experience of spending a long and moonlit night by a beautiful lake.

The landscape is mellowing out little by little. The beauty of the north in the Arctic Circle is enchanting and threatening at the same time; something drops a hint that you are in the kingdom of Nature, and that nature is the undisputed driving force of the place; if you brush it off, you’ll regret it! Farther towards the south, the wind, the clouds, the colors, the shapes and the overall perception of the surroundings become more familiar and friendlier to our senses. Now, we feel safer but we miss the feeling of authenticity that the wild spots arouse.

Back to the issue of traffic signs we come across when cycling. Today we were dumbfounded at a road sign we bumped into. We tried hard to come to grips with its actual meaning; we even bounced some ideas around; a brainstorming which made us get off the tandem bicycle; we couldn’t keep it straight because we couldn’t help laughing our heads off! If anybody knows what this sign means, please let us know. Actually, we can’t truly understand what that sign is doing in the middle of the woods.

A promise is a promise! We want to thank Manolo from MAFER, our neighbor and friend, for building an articulated metal arm which lets us capture images like these:

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