sunday 11th July
I managed to escape from unfriendly Netherlandish campsite. Eventually I came to the conclusion that the manageress, who when I attempted to purchase my second night of beer supplies asked me my plot number then warned me to bring back the bottles, probably had nothing against me personally. I found the whole site like a stiff suburb of some Dutch town, definitely not cool progressive Amsterdam. Those people, mostly middle-aged some slightly younger with children, just sat on their chairs in their white replica homes, the women cooking even vacuuming up aftewards. It was an achievement to get a muttered greeting and eye contact. I felt like an outsider. In the night there was fantastic sheet lightening and rain. Today’s riding, 135 miles was the best of the whole trip a route that hugged the Mosel from just after Trier to Cochem (which I just pronounced so badly to a friendly well tanned and well oiled anglophile German who welcomed me to the site, that he had no idea where I was talking about till I showed him the word on the map. ) There I had a lunch of sausages and bacon in a kind of glazed onion sauce with beautifully chilled bitter lemon. It was the perfect place to stop. Then I headed off the river route and found myself near the Nurburgring. (That’s an ex-formula 1 race track for those who don’t know). I had been toying with the idea of paying for a circuit to kill time (not myself) tomorrow. I pulled up by the side of the road along with a few dozen others and watched for a while. It was mostly cars with the occasional bike and they were going SO fast – tyre squealingly fast that I gave up immediately any idea of trying it out. After that I missed a turn and Emily directed me down what turned out to be 4 mile gravel track through a deeply wooded valley, complete with hairpin bends damp and dark at the bottom. I rode incredibly cautiously but thought that this is what the GS is made for. It certainly coped with the slippery terrain.
Despite nearly stopping at an impostor site just a mile away from this one, I found site number 509 in the asci book, 509 being the number of the house I was born and grew up in. This site is very different to the previous Dutch suburb. I was greeted first by the garulous gardener I mentioned then by a Dutch woman appologising for her lack of English. Like other German sites from last year I remember, if not full of the ubiquitous sober Dutch, Deutsche sites can be filled with working class Germans, with their loud radios, and big dogs. In fact there was a dog fight followed by a big argument with racial overtones as one family sounded distinclty eastern to me, as they replayed some of the argument as they walked back past my tent cannily planted under trees unlike at the last place. ‘Fuckyoo’ was what one of the women was asked to do. There is a word for the English that non-English speakers speak to eachother. I can’t remember what they call it, but this would be an example of it. On the steps to the 1950s style washrooms sat a heavily sweating woman of great bulk and slightly advancing years, explaining to me some woe that included her beating her breast and saying Mea Culpa. The showers seem to need a coin called a 1 Munt piece. I don’t have any Munt with me, various euros and cents but no munt.
Tomorrow the ferry leaves at 2200 hours. The ride should take 3 hours. If I left at 10am I could ride there, back here and then back again and still make the ferry. Tonight its the world cup final, Holland vs Spain and they will be showing it in the bar. I can’t wait. I wonder if there will be violence.
Monday 12th July
What a day. I’m sitting in the dry safely in the odd Stenna terminal restaurant that has rebranded itself as a Sushi bar since I was last here complete with Japanese waitresses. After keeping dry all the trip 5 minutes away from the terminal, riding along the narrow raised road to the ferry, the heavens opened, the sky darkened and a fierce wind blew up. Within a few seconds I could barely see anything through my annoying sun glasses, also the wind was driving me sideways toward the bank apart from when one of the many big trucks went by in which case I was sucked into the oncoming traffic. Scary. At the first opportunity I pulled over onto a cobbled road sloping down toward some houses and sat on the bike with the hazards flashing feeling, in a matter of five seconds, the rain get into my boots which filled up, down my neck and into my trousers. In the sideways wind on the slope I couldn’t do a thing even kick the bike out of gear so sat there in a state of shock, with the traffic roaring by and the trucks sending plumes of water down over the bank. Bit by bit I managed to regain some composure and get some proper glasses out and the rain abated enough to contemplate getting back onto the carriageway. A large truck coming to a stop in the traffic left a big space for me and I started moving the bike back up the slope to the road but a white van, driven by white van man doubtless (or white vaan maan) sped passed me about a foot away as he shot off the main road. Trying to look (for the benefit of the truck driver watching this from a judgemental height) like I get close to an accident everyday, I pulled out and could just about see enough to proceed on the remaining mile or two to the terminal. When I got here, slightly shaken, I must say, I emptied the rains out of my boots and rang out my gloves, sitting on the edge of a pillar on a place on the concrete that I have sat one or two times before in my interminable waits here.
Last night I joined a motley crew of a Dutch couple, the manageress and cook (one person) who sat right in the background in the campsite and a rather mad bearded German (who continually got up to shout ‘Rousch rousch’ to watch the world cup final which annoyingly went to extra time. The concensus in the bar was for the Netherlands, of course but personally I was pleased that Spain won. I thought their players far more good looking with nicer hairstyles than the largely bald Dutch. Whilst at the campsite I did wonder that none of the buildings resembled the rather classy restaurant that features in the ASCI handbook (and the well-stocked shop that’s mentioned was nowhere to be found). As I rode off I noted that nice looking classy building in what appeared to be another campsite the entrance to which was at the other side of the carpark I stopped in and did not spot. It turns out I had stayed with the plebs in the site that seemed to be aimed at a clientelle on benefits but don’t regret a moment. My ham omelette was personally whisked for me by the sweet lady who called me the Englander and added up my bill’s three components wrong. and the potato salad with hard boiled egg chopped in done fresh every morning. During the night I am sure I felt a muffled movement inside my pillow. I came to the conclusion that I had set up camp over one of the many rabbit holes in the ground and that a rabbit was attempting to pop out for a midnight excursion exactly underneath where my head was. I checked this out in the morning to see if my theory was right but there were no burrows to be seen. Strange. The gardener came back and gave me a small token which was a really touching gesture.
Today, with about seven hours to ride the 3 hour journey I also managed to drop and lose my gloves but retraced my steps at one of the service stations and recover them and then drop my Garmin unit taking chunks out of the screen. Finally for such a dramatic journey, about an hour into it, while still in Germany, the sky turned brown and a hot wind blew up. Leaves careered across the motorway. I wondered whether this strange dust storm was blowing over the border from the Netherlands in some kind of mourning for their lost football match. Its still windy outside, promising an interesting sailing. In the parking area of a service stations I discussed the heatwave and humidity with a very elderly man with a noticeably younger wife while he was stamping out a cigarette. He made a point of telling me ‘in the bed room it is very hot’,
Today I’ve learnt that when one minor disaster happens, just keep calm and do nothing as a more significant one may happen as a result of your lack of composure. For the remainder of today I just need to successfully ride the bike up to the ferry deck without falling off and make it up the stairs to my cabin. I am looking forward to dinner and a glass of wine and to showering and getting in to dry clothes.