Winding down

We got off to a rough start on the Ems River. Our 9-1/2 hour train ride morphed into 12 hours — in the sweltering heat, with no air conditioning. Ten hours into the ride, the train made a stop, and then just sat … for nearly an hour.  There were periodic announcements, none of which we could understand. After one such announcement, people cheered, then just got up and exited the train. With the help of some passengers who spoke English, we were able to figure out that the train was cancelled and we had to quickly switch to another one — which of course, meant getting the bike and trailer up and down two sets of steps.

A temperature map from our train day.  Yowza!
A temperature map from our train day. Yowza!

It was complete mayhem, with throngs of people everywhere. The Germans don’t queue up politely like the British. It was a free for all. I ran to the track, frantically trying to find the train car, struggling to get close enough to see the writing on the cars. Meanwhile, Jeff was getting the bike and trailer to the track, carrying the bike up stairs, against a sea of people going down, none of whom would budge an inch to let him by. Stressful to say the least. But we did eventually get on the right train, and make it to Emden. I had a mini-meltdown after walking into our 100 degree room with no air conditioning (and its requisite down comforter), but calmed down in the hotel’s garden restaurant over a beer and dinner.

A sheep looking for shade from the blazing sun.
A sheep looking for shade from the blazing sun.

Change is always a theme, in life, for all of us.  But bike touring has a way of bringing it to the forefront of our awareness.  From adversity to pleasure, and back again.  Sometimes we lose it (e.g., my hot room meltdown), but mostly we learn to take it in stride.  We know that whatever it is, it will change — weather, wind, surface, terrain, fatigue.  It all comes and goes, quickly and over and over.

Fishing boats outside of Emden
Fishing boats outside of Emden

The Ems river route was a pleasure, particularly after the heat wave broke. The terrain was interesting and varied; starting at the North Sea, where it was decidedly maritime, with harbors, locks and dykes, transitioning to country lanes and forested paths. It was really quite beautiful. We were both sorry to see it end. But end it did. Thursday was our last day of cycling. We are in Münster now – a lively city, with a great feel and a lovely, shaded promenade circling the center where the city fortification used to be. Today we take the train to Mainz, and pack up the bike.

An old ship trapped in a canal in Papenburg.
An old ship trapped in a canal in Papenburg.

This journey feels so long. We started riding May 16th. Some of the experiences feel fresh; some of them seem so long ago, it’s hard to believe it was the same trip. The season has changed; birthday and anniversary come and gone. One thing that hasn’t changed is our wardrobe. I’m still wearing the same damn black pants and gray shirt! Bike touring is not for the fashion conscious.

A very cool old time manual time piece.  In addition to time, it tracks the sun, moon and planets.
A very cool old manual time piece. In addition to time, it tracks the sun, moon and planets.

I don’t have many pictures for this one.  We’re so engaged that we just forget to take them.

7 thoughts on “Winding down”

  1. Wow, Lissa! That heat doesn’t sound like much fun. Have so enjoyed your commentary— you are a wonderful writer! Travel safely home. It’s not exactly cool here, but nothing like you’ve experienced.

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  2. Deutsche Bahn and air conditioning – those two just don’t seem to go together. Again and again a source of annoyance for unnerved travellers. I’m sorry that you had to make that experience, but maybe your trip wouldn’t have been complete without it.
    It was a pleasure to meet you and get to know you a little bit better through this blog. We wish you a safe flight home (with functioning air conditioning ;-)) and a happy reunion with your loved ones, two- and four-legged.
    Be sure to let us know when you come to Germany the next time – maybe we can arrange to meet.
    All the best for the two of you!
    Monika and Otmar

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  3. Lissa & Jeff, Thank you for taking us along your wonderful journey. I’m sure when you return home it will also feel like a vacation too. Have a great time and a safe trip back to the USA. You two are amazing!

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  4. Another great chapter in an incredible story!! We followed your lead and have spent the last three days in Dresden…you guys were right…a special city! Thanks for sharing…

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  5. This one brought tears to my eyes, but I’m ready to come home! Praying that your travels home are safe and uneventful, see you at Wooly’s!

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