Today's Route: If you have a premium account, you can download my route from today's ride here using Strava. Anyone can view my rides on Strava where I go by the alias, Lava Monkey.
After many delays and despite an unusual reluctance to initiate my latest little adventure, this morning, at about 10:30 am, I departed Hamburg, Germany heading west towards the Netherlands on my Niner RLT 9 Steel gravel bike fitted with rack, panniers, and a top-tube bag from Blackburn Design. This is the beginning of what I anticipate will be 10-16 days, possibly more, of bicycle touring through Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and the Czech Republic. This will be my second adventure into the bicycle genre often described as "light touring". My first was only a month ago when I visited family and friends on a seven day tour of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, a region known as New England in the United States.
My plan, on this autumn tour through Europe, is to complete a 12-1500 mile (1920-2415 km) counterclockwise circle that includes Hamburg, my home for the next six months, at the 12-o'clock (noontime) position. This morning, after a short ride through Hamburg, the second largest city in Germany and the second largest port in Europe, I arrived at the historic Elbe Tunnel. A narrow, one-way, road and adjacent two-way pedestrian sidewalks completely fill the narrow tunnel which can be accessed by lifts, including car lifts, on either side of the Elbe River. There is no fee to use the tunnel, and pedestrians, if they prefer some exercise, can access and exit the tunnel using metal stairways. From the top of the lift on the south bank of the Elbe, I initiated my great circle route riding west. At close to dark, I arrived at Varel, Germany on the North Sea, well over half the distance to the Netherlands, thanks in part to a chilly but otherwise enviable tail-wind most of the day. Given my progress so far I anticipate that I'll cross the border from Germany into the fortified village of Nieuweschans, Netherlands, by noontime tomorrow.
Prior to my departure this morning, I spent most of a week visualizing routes and then carefully transferring those ideas to a GPS format and file size optimized for my Garmin Etrex 20. For this task, I relied on many digital and a few printed resources. Foremost among them was the GPS route-building software RideWithGPS. Among its many excellent features is the ability to overlay (build) routes on a map layer known as OpenFietsMap. The map layer was developed for cyclists by a well known open-source map provider, OpenStreetMap, Among it's many, excellent, cycling features, integrated onto the map layer, along with roads, etc, are bike trails, paths, and cycle-ways all conveniently highlighted using colors and line patterns. For example, the EuroVelo #15 cycling route along the Rhine is easily distinguished on the map as a prominent blue-red dashed line. After building my routes, I went to OpenFietsMap and downloaded a base layer, a base map, that covered the area where I intended to ride. I'll be relying on the accuracy of my OpenFietsMap base map for the full-extent of the trip.
Often as an initial step before tweaking in RideWithGPS, I also made significant use of another internet-based, route-building, software provider, RouteYou. Among RouteYou's options for cyclists interested in building routes through areas that they're not familiar with, RouteYou offers categories, such as "Race Cycling - Nicest", that users can pick from. Based on the users selection, the software will suggest a route, through the unknown, between waypoints. If you want to take the scenic route you can choose "Recreational Cycling - Nicest". Alternatively, for the quickest cycling option between two or more waypoints, you can choose "Race Cycling - Shortest". Whatever you choose, the software does an excellent job finding a bicycle-friendly-way to your next destination.
Tomorrow, a few kilometers into Holland, I'll load the third of about twenty GPS routes (gpx files) that I have stored on my Garmin Etrex 20. With GPS routes as my guide, I'll turn south and ride through Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, often passing into and out of Germany, eventually into northeast France. Once inside of France, I'll turn southeast towards the Rhine and the village of Lauterbourg. From the French-side of the Rhine, I'll cross the river and begin a long northeast traverse through central Germany towards Cheb in the Czech Republic. From Cheb, my route turns north towards the Elbe, the River where the journey began about 12 days before. When I arrive at the west bank of the Elbe, in the vicinity of Magdeburg, I'll locate and then follow the Elbe River Cycle Route all the way back to Hamburg. That's the plan anyway, assuming no serious delays, apocalyptic weather, spontaneous alternative routes, etc. Of course, I can always take advantage of Europe's exceptional train system and quickly return to Hamburg if that should become necessary.
The sun was low and the temperature was dropping from cool to cold when I arrived to Jaderburg, Germany at about 5 pm. I quickly located a grocery store, forgot to restart Strava, and then rode-on a short distance to Varel where I found AirBnB lodging for just 28$ including tax! At the moment, I'm settled-in, fed, comfortable, and looking forward to riding into the Netherlands, a country I've never visited, around mid-day tomorrow.
Guten Nacht from Varel, a German village on the Nordsee, formerly the home of Charlotte Sophie Bentinck (1715-1800), confident of Voltaire and Frederick the Great, and Lothar Meyer (1830-1895), co-developer of the Periodic Table (more at wikipedia.com).