To the North! Fire&Ice – days 1&2
On the morning of the first day I took it easy, packed the last missing things and set off for a smooth ride on motorways at a quarter to ten. Soon after I crossed the Dutch border, I was passed by three Belgians on BMWs. This is not remarkable as such, I was in a relaxed mood and decided to go at 110 – 120 km/h the whole day. The second rider had a personalised number plate named ‘Siberia’. Was this their destination? I could give them some advice…
I knew that some rain would come in Northern Germany, so I put on the rain gear very early. The predicted rain was not very heavy though and I lost quite some time in road works on the A1 where no filtering was possible. Later I passed Bremen and proper sunshine came back although accompanied by a strong wind. I was joined by my lucky charm – Shawn, the Black Irish sheep. He has joined me through America and Russia, not to speak of many places in Europe. I had washed him in winter and attached him safely behind the windscreen. When in motion, his arms and legs are happily flapping around so it looks as if he’s really enjoying the ride. Every time I look at him, it puts a smile on my face. 🙂
The last 60 km I had to go on nice country roads though the ‘Altes Land’, heading towards the Elbe and the coast. I was about to take off my rain gear when I spotted some dark clouds at the horizon. I left it on and indeed, 6 km before my today’s destination, the rain poured down. When I arrived at the house of Michael and Christiane, I took off my rain suit and….was completely soaked??? This kept me thinking for a while. I couldn’t find a hole….that’s not good news for the rainy climate in Iceland!
My visit was long overdue, for many years actually. So we had much to talk about and the rain did not invite to leave the house. We had a nice meal together, they both are fantastic hosts and I crawled into the bed only after midnight…(there’s a song for every occasion, right, Michael?😄)
I got up not too early the next morning and we had a sumptuous breakfast together. I knew I didn’t have to go far today so I was not in a hurry. I filled up and hoped I would stay dry until I would reach the ferry across the river Elbe. This plan only worked for the first 5 km. Luckily I could pass the long line of waiting cars and roll directly on the ferry. The “Elbfähre” is the only crossing west of Hamburg, connecting Lower Saxony with the Western shore of Schleswig.
At the other side, I did not have to ride wrong very long – a second visit was due. This time it was Ralf and his wife Kirsten. You would think the North of Germany is flat, flat, flat – but they live on the slope of a small mountain that provides them with a view over the low lands.
Ralf joined my first XBR Alpentour in 1994 and was riding a lot with me in subsequent years. He is proof that you can pass many, stronger bikes in the Alps with a heavily under-maintained XBR, failing breaks or many other shortcomings…
The picture at the left is from the epic XBR Alpentour in 2003 when he demonstrated that you don’t need ANY fork oil to master gravel passes in the Alps…
Kirsten made some tasty “Bauernfrühstück” and Ralf and I had a lot to chat about, after all we didn’t meet so often recently. I had never been to this place (no surprise, being up in the North), so it was another, long overdue visit. Much later than planned, I started the XBR again.
Well, the rest of the day was set: going up north on the B5 and crossing into Denmark, leaning into the strong wind. I had enough time left, so I could visit a rapid antigen test centre near Esbjerg. Last week, Iceland decided that a certificate of full vaccination would not be enough to enter the country, I would need another negative RAT (rapid antigen test) result. After some cueing, the testing and 15 min waiting time, I received my certificate. I filled up the bike and topped up the oil, all ready for tomorrow. I entered Esbjerg and check into my hotel. Remarkable here: the receptionist wears a pair of braces and a bowler hat and has a quirky humor. Maybe he’s a fan of Clockwork Orange….(should I be worried?).
In the shower, I tested if the rain suit had a leak, but I couldn’t detect any. I had a good dinner in a nearby restaurant with Tuborg beer from the tap. Rib Eye steak with a freshly prepared Sauce Béarnaise. Being used to Belgian restaurant prices does immunise you a bit when exposed to Scandinavian prices. You realize you’re in Scandinavia when you confess to the waiter that you have left your wallet in the hotel and propose to get it from there and he only replies: “yeah, all right”.
Tomorrow will be another relaxed day along the coast as my destination (Hirtshals) is only 330 km away.