I was struggling to get back into work. A couple of hours in the morning was all I could manage, before the urge to get out and do something else was irresistible. By now, I had repaired the bicycle case, cleaned out the old garage, and checked over and cleaned the bicycles.
What was left to do? This morning, the kitchen tap broke and parts were needed. The specialist shop was only in the regional centre of Kolding, so I needed little excuse to set out on the bicycle once again. Kolding may be 17 or so kilometres along the road, but I decided to ride east and along the Jutland coast.
Soon I arrived at Hejlsminde, an old fishing village that had become a holiday destination. Up the coast I went, following ‘Route 5’. Winding farm tracks through villages, dirt paths along the beach, stony tracks where only a few walkers dared to tread. A few Danes were still seeking their last chance of holiday. But autumn was already wanting to arrive, with wind and clouds and the threat of rain. Those on the beach wore jackets rather than swimming costumes.
The tap parts were found in Kolding, on the edge of closing time at the shop. I had hoped that the headwind I experienced all the way would become a tailwind home. It was not to be, as a rider knows all too well. Now it turned, straight in my face all the way home along the direct road. Initially, I had been looking forward to a cup of tea on my return. But after pushing into the wind for an hour or more, I felt more like a beer.
She may have had enough riding for a while, but I had not. I needed some parts to repair my Brompton’s transport case: one of the small wheels on the base had come loose, with a crack in the case. Since there was no hardware shop in town, I had to ride to Haderslev and back.
The sun may have shone on my departure, and I took my time, savouring the quiet of the fields. By the time I left the shop and mounted the bicycle for my return, the clouds were heavy and dark and the wind was up. I raced the edge of the blackest cloud, with a line of rain just on my back. They caught up with me as I turned the last corner in Christiansfeld, but I was quick enough to fold the bicycle and step inside before the downpour began.
In the morning, it was more Marx. At first light, we sought out the house where he was born. On the way, we rode under banners saying ‘Wir sind Marx’, announcements at the museum of a special display concerning Marx, and yet another visit to the statue.
Soon our early train would depart from Trier, to wind our way northwards, via Hamburg and a technical breakdown on the rail bottleneck north of Hamburg, eventually via an odd collection of regional trains to Kolding station deep in the night.
From Kolding to Christianfeld is 17 kilometres, through the countryside and without roadside lights. She has a simple flashing light that might do for town riding, but not in these conditions. Fortunately, I have a dynamo light that shines up the heavens and the earth. So I rode in front, lighting the way forward on a pitch-black night. A little before midnight, we rode into the village, returning to the point from which we had begun a month earlier. Over more than 1500 kilometres, much had changed in our sense of life, but we would find out only as the weeks and months unfolded.
Perhaps today was a foretaste of what was to come, at least weatherwise. It was hot, even for Denmark (southern Jutland). The country was already in drought and total fire bans were in place. We did not notice it so much today, given the undulating farmland and smooth bicycle paths hereabouts.
The day was mainly about getting used to being on the bicycle again for a slightly longer time and sorting out our riding rhythms. Having grown up in Denmark, she loved the flats. One could pedal all day in one gear without stopping. If there was a slight rise – which the Danes tend to see as a challenging climb – she would get a run up and be over the top in no time through momentum.
I loved the real climbs, so even with a Danish hillock, I would change down and get into a comfortable rhythm for the climb. I also like to stop frequently – for a photograph, a drink, a piss, a minor adjustment.
Brief though they may be, such stops can be frustrating for another rider. So she rode in front and I behind. At times the gap between us was larger, at times shorter, for she could stop, rest and wait for me at a time of her choosing.
We found an old-style Danish hotel: Sølst Kro was directly opposite the roll-on-roll-off port facility in Aabenraa. The price was not old-style. Then again, a bargain in Denmark is unexpected. It was 800 Danish kroner, plus 100 for breakfast – or over 100 Euro.
The first day was what they call a ‘positioning ride’. She needed a maintenance check on her new bicycle (a Dutch Batavus) at the bicycle shop in the town of Haderslev, since the village of Christianfeld does not have such a shop. Spare tubes, a pump and some chain oil would also come in handy.
I needed to make sure that the seat on my fold-up Brompton was in the best position and that the machine in general was running well.
That evening, we decided what to take with us and what not. We would leave our laptops behind, for it was to be a month without work. This caused somewhat more separation anxiety for her rather than me.
We were certainly not the conventional tourers, for we did not have matching panniers and outfits. She began with an old bag strapped to the back and a granny basket in front (rear panniers were bought on the ride). I had my special Brompton front bag and a small makeshift one with the heavy material strapped the to the rack on the bag. My ride last year along the ‘Mittelland Route’ through the middle of Germany had taught me what I did and did not need. Less of the former and more of the latter.