Updated: Oct 10, 2019
They say you should never go back. You will never recapture the moment. Never feel what you felt again. Clearly the people who say this have never tried riding through unknown territory in Europe. We are one day in and all my old friends are back. Garmin unable to cope with city centres - check. Torrential rain - check. Irritating recurring mechanical fault - check. Lack of signage for bike routes - check. It's like I never left or made it home last time around. Today it took us 8 hours to ride 126km. Mostly because it took 3 hours to ride the first 32km through Hamburg. We finished in a torrential downpour and thunder and lightning. Which we would have missed if we hadn't lost so much time trying to navigate over every bloody bridge in Hamburg. Do you know what else was the same as last year? It was bloody brilliant that's what. I was riding a bike with my son and sharing an adventure. After the navigation issues and many kilometres going through the suburbs, we found ourselves on a deserted road riding through a beautiful forest. These are the moments I came for. The fact that it was only deserted because I ignored the road closure signs is beside the point. We were 5km in before we reached the actual roadworks and I pretended I couldn't understand what the fat German guy was shouting at us so we carried on. The highlight of the day was after 5 hours. Michael and I came across a very long straight road through another forest and averaged 36kph for the next 7km swapping turns on the front. It was great fun and only served to remind me how great it is to have him here. And that's without mentioning the many kilometres I spent sitting on his wheel. Sod it. I'm paying for him to be a domestique, so you won't make me feel guilty.
The Crucial Questions of the Day Why Hamburg? Well, because Michael and I went there for a weekend to celebrate his 16th birthday. We cycled around the city, ate and drank, did some sightseeing and watched a German Pride parade which included open topped busses with the scariest looking drag Queens I'd ever seen (not that my experience of drag Queens is vast you understand, but I digress). Still, this left Michael less traumatised than my previous experience of bringing one of my sons to Germany; when my eldest Danny was confronted with hard core porn on his hotel TV as soon as he turned it on. Come to think of it there was also a Pride parade that weekend also in Dusseldorf. Coincidence? Anyway, I really digress. Hamburg seemed as good as anywhere to start from. Why Verden? If you are from Warwick you should know the answer to that of course. Originally we were going to go to Bremen but when I saw the chance to get a cheesy photo, I couldn't resist. If you are wondering, yes we specifically rode to Verden just so I could take that photo. Michael's Bit.
Apparently writing a blog is as easy as riding home from Milan and to prove it Michael is going to write something every day to "improve my blog". The cheeky swine.
At the end of this journey, one of us will have proved their point. That is for sure. On one hand, my lack of training and reliance on youth may yet prove to be enough to get me through this journey, in which case I will never let him live it down. The far more likely case, however, is that at some point, on some non-descript rural German backroad my legs will give in, and I shall have to resign to sitting on the back wheel of the world's smuggest man. For the next half a thousand kilometres. Deep joy. As for today, I have much to say, but I'll keep this brief. Last year I remember reading Dad describing the traffic of Milan as a ballet, a dance of cars and bikes alike. If that's the case then Hamburg is one big never ending German waltz. Our crawl through the warren of passages and paths, weaving past traffic and inevitably making mistakes was agonisingly slow. The straight road blast was fun and the rainstorm funny- less so when I found it had soaked my underwear. As a baptism into long distance cycling, I couldn't fault it, and I consider myself a convert. Until my legs give out, that is.