I started with the intention to see how far I get. 300 Kilometers is quite a distance to cover by bike, but as always I am first thinking about other things, like adding kilometers to my Win4Youth contribution, rather than how many hours I would have to sit on my bike for example.
The idea came from a colleague of mine, Timo Giesen. We had never met before but I emailed some colleagues in Germany who had been biking a lot this year for Win4Youth and Timo suggested to participate in the Ruhr2NorthSeaChallenge. We then met at 3.30am on June 20th in front of the Schauinsland Arena in Duisburg together with roughly 100 other people. As it turned out, only 3 of them were women. And I was one of them. The orga team knew my name when they met me, it was a curious situation.
To the north sea!
The day had started for me at 2am by getting up and then taking a train from Düsseldorf to Duisburg. On a Friday night/Saturday morning this was the time when most of the people around me returned home, totally tired and exhausted from a party night in the Altstadt of Düsseldorf. I got many strange looks in my sports outfit and the packed bike. Though the best moment was when I was standing in front of the train station in Duisburg, turning on my navigation app and someone in the group of three standing there for a smoke asked me “Where in the world are you going on a bike at 3 in the morning?” and I only said “To the north sea”. The looks they gave me were invaluable. And to be able to say that, the trip was already worth it.
The group started in the dark and we quickly divided into smaller groups. The first stop after 50 Kilometers provided us with fresh coffee, twix bars and bananas. At Kilometer 100 we had a stop for breakfast in a small town bakery. Here we had time to see the dark clouds piling up closeby. Just when we started again it started to rain. Somewhere between Kilometer 100 and 150 I lost sight of Timo. When I took my rain trousers off he still had not caught up and thus I made an effort catching up with the group of racebikers I had just lost when stopping and whose pace I found comfortable. We had already been on the bike for about 7 hours and I really wanted to finish. Going slow just didn’t seem like a valid option.
Finding the group
At Kilometer stop 150 we had a break at a small barn. I had just raced with the group, always staying at the top of the line, sometimes leading, exhilarated by the speed we were going at and the sensation of still not dying from pain, like on my last long distance tour. This was awesome. I was restless during the break and only refilled my bottles and gulped down a snickers and twix bar to get going again. A group had just left and I caught up with them. My previous group of racebikers was still at the barn and I wasn’t up to waiting for them. If they were quick on the tyres I was sure to see them again. And so I did.
Suddenly they were there again and we quickly got up to speed again, the long straight going roads were perfect for that. We ended up as a group of five for the rest of the trip. We were now very far up north. You can see the landscape changing. Houses have a different style, they are typically neatly kept (literally nothing else to do around there), build with white or red bricks. The more north you get, the straighter the road becomes, the more farms you see. The farms have large houses and even bigger farm buildings. The predominant smell is cow shit. And then the landscape opens up and you only see green energy windmills until the horizon, hundreds of them covering the fields.
Meeting the dark place – 200+
At this stop we were feasting on spaghetti bolognese in the parking lot next to a small supermarket. In front of it sitting and smiling, laughing and constantly smoking older woman who enjoyed the many bikers coming to her house. Plus she allowed us to use her bathroom. With a new hip and a new knee she still takes her bike to the supermarket 10 kilometers down the road. She had so much fun with the buzz around her, I liked her.
We agreed to go slower, finding a pace at 23 kmh. But somewhere behind the last stop my knees gave up. Every push started to be a pain and every time we had to stop for a crossing or a red light my bottom was on fire and my knees felt bruised. But oh well, their problem, they had to just deal with it. No way I would give up. The longer distances without stopping went smoother once the pain from the initial push ceased.
Wie das Land, so das Jever.
At Kilometer 170 we made our last stop, in the oldest pub in town. Everybody enjoying a beer in the sunshine, not wanting to eat any more cereal bars but wanting to finish now. We had been up for 13 hours since starting in Duisburg, exhausted but not tired. We did not stop for long.
The last hour felt extended. It was a stretch on the long never ending roads, the sun now back out again after having big heavy rain clouds hanging over our heads during the day. The wind had also become a lot less, feeling more like a breeze now.
We made it, finally, until Bensersiel and finished at the harbour, the sun already starting to go down. The last thing to do before getting on the bus again were a beer and a pizza, making the “I made it!!!!!!” phone calls to the family and then hopping on the bus and falling into a stone like sleep.
Unfortunately I did not have time to exchange contact details with my new bike friends but I hope we meet somewhere on Facebook and perhaps get to go on another tour some other day.
A few things that I missed yesterday and that have to go on the Pack-as-little-as-you-can-and-as-much-as-necessary-pack-list:
– overshoes for the bike shoes to keep the feet warm and dry
– long socks: as it gets warmer you can just pull them down without stopping
– proper waterproof pants, mine were really too large, especially at the feet
– less food since there is plenty to take from at each stop
– first aid kit
What I did find useful:
– my action cam
– my Vaude bike bag
– gloves, it was really cold and one of the guys used plastic bags
– glutenfree cereal bars
– stuff for a flat tyre (I didn’t have a flat tyre!!!)
– battery pack to keep your smartpone fueled
– 2 water bottles, though in hotter weather that would have been too little
– a wind proof jacket, a T-shirt and a long armed shirt
– spare change
(If you think there should be more things on the list, please leave a comment below)
And thanks to the cool guys, whose names I mostly don’t know but were really kind in letting me ride along and making sure I don’t get lost when slowing down. You made my day a blast!!
Also, thanks go out to my uncle for surprising me with a phone call, wanting to know whether I made it, though he already knew by following me through the tracking website all day and for being so happy for me!