Six miles. That’s the furthest distance Kellie had pedalled on a bicycle, before this European cycling trip (or honeymoon) we’ve embarked upon. I‘m not too far ahead, with 16 miles.
The aim is to get from Amsterdam to Florence, via The Netherlands, Belgium and France.
Yesterday, on our seventh day of riding, we managed 45 miles, our biggest distance so far, riding from Antwerp to Gent.
There may be bumps ahead
It’s not a huge amount I know. But our burning thighs and heavy eyes, scream that it is. Sleep is not a problem each day, staying awake is.
The whole thing is ridiculous concept for two extremely unseasoned cyclists, the idea dreamt up by Kellie in a moment of madness. I think she regretted it the moment the words left her mouth, “let’s cycle Europe”. I immediately said, “YES”. Her face instantly replied OH SHIT!
The weight of it all
Without being too cruel to our much-loved Donkey (our bike), he is the cheapest tandem bicycle we could find. We could have quite easily called him Elephant due to his immense weight. But his wheels go round, and that’s all that matters.
Then there is at least at least 35-40kg of luggage, gear and food that we carry with us each day.
Oh yeah, I also forgot to mention we did no training for this. Zilch! We thought any amount of training would just scare us.
It’s a world away from the comfortable house sitting gigs we’ve had for the last 16 months. But sometimes it’s a necessity to escape your comfort zone.
We sped (not sure that’s the correct term for our snail pace) through the Netherlands in the matter of days, cracking a smile as we passed the België sign. The realisation finally hitting home that we are actually doing this, CYCLING EUROPE!!
When we hit Belgium, the wind formed a barrier. “You shall not pass!” seemed to be its message, but we creaked on ever so slowly for two days. Although the question of, “what the fridging hell are we doing?” was on both our lips.
Then we arrived at our accommodation each night, completely knackered, but happy. We did it! We made it through the day.
For us it is a big challenge, but one which we desperately need. Each day we wake up and have a goal, to get from A to B. On rest days we get the glorious pleasure of doing nothing, or taking in the city sights, or eating the delicious local pastries (Kel hates me a bit for this as her parasite recovery stops her from doing it, she has to watch me stuff my face).
Antwerp is definitely one of our unexpected highlights so far
Not having a function each day was something I often struggled with when house sitting. I set targets, like learning to make websites, or attempting to learn a new language, but these came up short to this current physical challenge.
Maybe I’m weird, but there is nothing more satisfying than being physically exhausted at the end of the day rather than mentally drained.
The divorce bike, as tandems are often nicknamed, makes us work as a team. When we are tired mistakes are inevitable, and so are frustrated snaps. But those moments pass quickly, we pedal through them. Suddenly Kellie is excitedly shouting, “Look at the little lambies!” as we pedal through spring in the flat open countryside, past the fields and canals.
Spring in all its cuteness
This adventure is definitely one to share and a tandem suits us perfectly.
We have settled into nice little routines in the morning. Kel makes breakfast, organises lunch and the food bag. I pack the panniers and carry out essential bike maintenance (or EBM as we now call it). I have become geekily addicted to a spot of EBM, making sure our bike is roadworthy each day.
Our cycling day usual involves this: Pedal, stop, eat. Pedal, stop, eat. Pedal, stop, collapse, stretch, shower, eat and finally bed.
Then there is the daily laundry to keep up with. Underpants and socks join us in the shower, getting a squirt of shower gel and good foot stomping. It’s important to keep them fresh with only 3 pairs of undies to choose from. I wouldn’t want to inflict my cheesy feet on anyone.
It’s an uncomplicated way of life. All you need is an average bike, an average level of fitness, and some cream to stop chafing and away you go! I wish we’d done it sooner.
We have ourselves a challenge, and despite our achy legs, all the moaning and groaning each day, we are hitting new highs in our travelling life.
Tomorrow we make haste to Bruges!