Day 5: Höxter to Goslar

  • Distance: 124km 😐
  • Average Speed: 18.2 km/h ☹️
  • Legs: ☹️☹️
  • Undercarriage: 😐
  • Bike: 🙂
The combination of a surfeit of chicken fried rice with extra pork bits and a radioactively hot towel rail pumping out heat in the bathroom caused me to have a pretty bad night.

When I finally dragged myself out of bed at 6:30, Höxter was looking lovely in the sun.  It made a big change after yesterday and I went a bit mad and decided to change my nutrition strategy.  Rather than falling on the breakfast buffet like a pillaging Viking, I would have a light breakfast and eat along the way.  It was going to be a shorter day and I thought I would try to enjoy it.
A light breakfast with my bean

Of course the gods of cycling laugh in the face of the hubris of attempting to enjoy a day cycling.  

The only bridge in Höxter over the River Waser was completely closed for extensive repairs and neither my Garmin nor Google Maps seemed to be able to work out a way around this.  I blindly struck out in a random direction following the river and after 10km I found the next bridge.  My Garmin unerringly directed me back to the point 75m from where I started but on the other side of the bridge.  That’s 20k I didn’t expect to do and there was worse to come.

Almost immediately the roads began to climb.  The lovely descent that I’d had yesterday had to be paid for and there were some long grinds at 3% and 4% on the tab but these climbs went well because I was feeling good and the weather was nice.  I even shot a video of how nice it was.

A lot of Germany is like this

The second climb took me onto some beautiful logging tracks — all brand new tarmac — which also resulted some video footage.  It’s very hard to capture what it’s like just cycling across Europe in still photos and maybe video is the way to go.
A lot of Germany is like this too

I saw my first sign of the Cold War which reminded me that I was riding through one of the most fortified borders in recent history.  Within my lifetime, tanks performed war-game manoeuvres on these very roads and fields practicing for the day when the USSR rolled across the Elbe and we all turned into radioactive dust.
No idea what this means but maybe if I was driving a tank it would make sense

The day wore on and I started to feel hungry and, although the route took me through lots of little farming villages, there was absolutely nothing open.  No cafes, no bakeries, no shops. As the hours passed I was getting awfully hungry and, indeed, so hungry that I was taking short 3k detours into other small villages which also didn’t have anything open.  It had been five hours since my light breakfast with my hateful bean and any internal reserves I had left were running low.

Eventually, I arrived in Einbeck which appeared to be a retail big box wasteland but out of nowhere a lovely main square appeared and I got some food at a bakery.
No, I really do want two sandwiches..

It took a while to convince the person in the bakery — who was the first person I met in Germany who didn't speak excellent English — that I wanted both sandwiches.

My German is basically the following words
  • Bremsstrahlung
  • Eigenvector
  • Gedankenexperiment
  • Danke
  • Ein grosse bier.
This limited vocabulary doesn’t really help when you’re trying to convince somebody that you want quite a lot of food.

After a lot of humiliating pointing and nodding I got both my sandwiches and felt a lot better.  Out of Einbeck, I rolled along, musing on various things because at some point, pedalling on the flat just becomes automatic.  Your mind wanders and you sort of get into a zone.
🎶The long and straight road🎶

Sometimes you are wondering about weighty matters like politics or science or finance but sometimes about why somebody would throw a used condom out of their car in the middle of nowhere.  “Hans, why haven’t you thrown out that used condom?”  “No idea Helga, it’s been on the dashboard of the BMW for a week.  I’ll just flob it out of the window here in the middle of nowhere”.  “Good plan”!  And with such thoughts you don’t notice that the cycle lane is about to cross the road and…you get another graze on your knee as you hit a barrier.
I blame Hans and Helga.

I knew there was a final big climb 30k from the end and so after a quick smash and grab at a garage for a Twix, I started up the climb.  The first bit was a sustained 6-8% which is hard enough.  This is the sort of gradient that you get for sustained periods during events like the Mallorca 312.  It’s not easy — especially wrestling an angry hippo — but I can cope with it.

Then I saw the dreaded sign.
Bloody hell

15% for 2km.  Even without 750km in my legs and without a kidney bean made from pure neutronium I would struggle up a 15% slope.  I got into the lowest gear and out of the saddle.  The bastard bean rocked around on the back, the bike creaked and groaned and I creaked and groaned.  I completely emptied myself on the first kilometre but then I cracked.  A spectral Carlton Kirby from GCN shouted in one ear “Kirk’s cracked.  He’s pedalling squares.  I think his day is done Sean”.  Sean Kelly’s monotone droned in the other ear “He’s given a hundert percent and he’s been on the rivet for long enough.  He’s majorly hurting here”.  Finally…I walked the walk of shame up the last kilometre.

I tried to take a triumphant self-timer photo at the top but I misjudged how the iPhone timer worked.  I think this premature photo gives a better impression of what I really felt like
Smile please

Even on the descent, I was finished and just freewheeled down trying to recover.  Given the gradient on the other side, freewheeling was a 70km/h white-knuckle ride but I was beyond caring.  Let the bean of doom do its worst.   

As an aside, I am a little obsessed with the whole “statistics” thing in cycling.  I know my FTP — if you don’t know what this is, don’t worry — I know how my body responds to exercise:  power, heart rate, cadence.  I spend a lot of time looking at the various readouts on my Garmin head unit and I think I’m pretty well calibrated.  Once I got to the bottom of the descent, all this stuff was out of the window.  I can put out 900w in a sprint and 220w for 20 minutes normally but on a tiny 2% grade on the way into Goslar, I was struggling to put out 110w and my heart rate was low.  Tired, spent, body not responding properly…just horrible.

Arriving at the hotel was a blessed relief and they put me in a room with a properly huge towel rail.
The best thing about today

Wandering around Goslar in a bit of a daze, I eventually found nice restaurant which does meat based mains with potato based sides which is all I really need apart from beer.
Google Translate calls these “Grandma’s balls”.  Tasty.

The route tomorrow is a bit unclear.  The proper towns with hotels and restaurants are few and far between in this part of Germany and, although I was hoping to cross into the old GDR tomorrow, that would be a good 180-200k which is a bit ambitious after today.  So a short day of about 100k to Staßfurt.  Let’s hope that the bridges aren’t out.  I think I might try to join the EV2 route again.  It’s a bit longer (as usual) but I can potter along.

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