The morning of the 11th April was grey and cool and overnight Mike had strayed from our learnt keeping-warm technique of sleeping in the sleeping bag silk liner, cover yourself in a cheap Ikea blanket, all enclosed in our sleeping bags. It's unbelievably cozy and does make getting up difficult on such grey, cool days. Mike was cold overnight because he neglected his silk liner AND the blanket. What a sausage.
We really wanted to get into Bremen to stay with our friends Nina and Rasmus by that evening since the 12th was my birthday and we were hoping for our first full day off. This meant a 135km day - the longest so far.
The night before we had stopped in the town of Meppen to and bought supplies for our long ride. To be honest, those were mostly chocolate bars, but we also had some delicious German muesli bread rolls which we ate with bananas and Dutch jam that we bought from a charming little roadside honesty shop (the bakeries here are AMAZING, and cheap, and everywhere).
We had loaded up on carbs the night before, and with more carbs in our bellies we were ready to hit the road again. Like previous days we planned our ride on a town to town basis. This has helped us break the ride up into more mentally manageable chunks, as well as provide useful top up stops. It turned out Mike was on a hungry day so we needed lots of stops along the way.
Hungry days are funny things, sometimes one of us will just feel the need to eat almost constantly, and others we will be able to ride with not much more than a normal day's food. We have learned that Mike must eat at 3pm, whatever the situation, or he'll face a bonking. It's not even so much the energy, but the need to feel something in his stomach that makes eating necessary.
The ride itself was pleasant enough. The German cycle ways mostly run alongside main roads, so they are often very direct between towns but not very varied. Despite that, they are not always in the best condition, and can be very bumpy because of plant roots beneath the tarmac. Every time we hit a root a jolt would shoot through our wrists and elbows, and we would have to slow right down and speed back up again, which, with heavy bikes can be hard going, even on flat ground. After a few hundred kilometres of these we've been a bit concerned about carpal tunnel syndrome, especially for Mike whose hands were getting very sensitive, but with a bit of a rest those troubles are clearing.
There were two real, and unexpected highlights to the day. Firstly we had a short detour from the main road and through a beautiful pine forest, which was a real welcome break form the dozens of lorries passing every hour. Second, as we neared Bremen, Mike noticed a sign for "High Stones" just off the roadway. Curious, we turned back and down a short bridleway, and there, just tucked away in the woods was a brilliantly preserved neolithic mass tomb, built around 5000 years ago to hold the remains of the dead. We learned from Nina that there are many of these tombs in the area that she and her friends used to (not terribly respectfully) play on. Nevertheless, we were amazed by the sight and in particular the fact that, after all this time, the capstones were still in place.
We pedalled on our merry way to Bremen, the last kilometers still passing with ease, where we were met with hugs from Nina, a delicious and much needed dinner of nutritious roasted vegetables, a glass of wine, a hot shower and a very comfortable bed. And then a long night's sleep. A great day.
Next up: time in Bremen, and the unpleasant trip to Hamburg (saved by a lovely man called Dennis), and a small change in route.