Sleeping on my new air mattress was a dream. It was a whole centimetre thicker and it stayed inflated. In comparison to last week I was now sleeping weightless, floating comfortably as you might in the Dead Sea.
So comfortably in fact that I slept straight through the commotion happening right inside my tent.
When I woke up I was none the wiser. I sat outside my tent, made a hot drink in the cool morning air and began packing down. Just as usual. When I was emptying my tent, I noticed bread crumbs and torn paper on the left hand side. I inspected closer.
I had discovered a mouse sized hole in my tent, and a mouse sized hole in my bread! Tenacious little devil. I sealed it up with the ever handy duct-tape, finished packing and continued my picturesque meander along the river.
Germany really does have some stunning countryside. I spent another two or three days leisurely cycling along and around the river, choosing the nicest campsites. I didn’t even know what day it was unless I looked it up in my journal; my sense of time had changed. Every day was a Saturday. I felt no rush to be anywhere, I was submerged in a rhythm of doing whatever I wanted to do, and I was basking in it. This week was when I caught the traveling bug, I knew that I wanted to do this again.
The book that was donated to me in Mainz was read and re-donated at a ‘take a book leave a book’ station made from an old telephone box. I found it along the river that evening and I sat on a bench to watch the sunset.
Continuing my pedal powered adventure the next day, I noticed someone had taken the lights off my bicycle. I assume they acted out of kindness. In hopes of making my heavy home on wheels that little bit lighter. That’s what I’ve been telling myself anyway.
On the subject of kindness I was invited for tea that evening. I waved at a fellow camper as I made the pitch my home for the night. He was an older gentleman and he spoke very good English. I forgot to write down his name but he wandered over as I was prepping for dinner and we had a chat. He told me that he and his wife used to go on a road trip every summer. She passed away a few years ago but he still goes each year in honour of her memory.
He invited me for tea when I had finished my meal and we shared stories. He did most of the talking, but I was happy to listen. He spoke about his kids and grandchildren a lot. I think he misses them joining him for his trips too. After pouring me at least a litre of tea and talking the stars into the sky, he said goodnight and I left for my tent. He caught me again the next morning for one last cup, this time with biscuits. We wished each other the best of luck and I left the campsite on an overcast morning.
The sun and the clouds continued their longstanding feud. Our prevailing giant star that afternoon enticed me into buying more beer than I should drink alone in one afternoon. But I did it anyway. My surroundings simply demanded it.
Cycling with the sun on my back and a hangover in my head, the next day I peddled my odometer over the 1000 mile (1600km) mark. In total I was averaging roughly 30 miles a day, paired with frequent rest days I had found my perfect balance of time on and off the bike. It was long enough to feel like you were getting somewhere, and short enough to be enjoyable every day. I took this milestone as a sign to stop at the next opportunity and nurse my hangover with some fried food.
I picked a terrible place to camp with a headache. I was in a small village with two churches. One went off every 15 minutes, the other every 30, right into the evening. After failing at a nap I spent all afternoon with earplugs in performing campsite chores.
The following day I was making ground towards Würzburg, the next city along the river. It was another green and blue ride, the kind that never get old.
Sometime in the mid afternoon, after cycling away some warm and sunny hours, I passed one of the many campsites that occupy the rivers edge. What this particular campsite had though was an outdoor swimming pool. It had a cold pool, a warm pool and a water slide, how could I resist? I made a stop at the supermarket to grab supplies, pitched my tent and then I was straight in the pool.
A swimming pool to myself in the sunshine felt like a rare treat and I relaxed there until the sun disappeared. Unfortunately it was the arrival a storm that caused the sun to disappear. As the threatening clouds gathered, I retreated to the shower rooms to wash and get dry before having to batten down the hatches.
It was a rush to get everything off my bike and into my tent in a way that I could still squeeze in. My tip for anyone thinking about their first bicycle tour: Get a good size tent. Sacrifice a bit of extra weight for the added comfort that more interior space can provide. You’ll appreciate it on rainy days and rest days.
A German couple camped close by offered me a spot under their awning to join them for a beer and watch the storm roll in.
Instead of making a break for my tent before the storm arrived I ended up becoming caught in it.
The rain came down, It came down hard, and it barely stopped for four days…
Want more? Read the next story – Four days.