Day 3: Zwolle to Oldenburg

  • Distance: 191km 🙂 — This is once again…a very long way.
  • Climbing: 392m 😀 — This part of Holland and Germany is really flat.
  • Undercarriage: ☹️ — the less said about this the better.
  • Route: 🙂 — Well, I guess it was flat.
  • Body: 😔 - hands getting quite a lot worse
  • Bike: 🙂 — There’s an irritating rattle from somewhere but it keeps going.


The day dawned in Zwolle and, apart from a drunken maniac shouting his unhinged madness in the square below at 3am, I slept pretty well.  That being said, I got fairly grumpy just after waking up.  The Apart!Hotel (how I hate that !) has the usual system where the sockets don’t work unless you have the key in the room. This is a giant pain in the bum when you’re trying to charge all your stuff while out for dinner.  The even more giant pain in the bum is that the heated towel rail which you switched on before leaving the room…doesn’t turn itself back on again when you come in from dinner.  You have to manually turn it back on again.  So while I blissfully slept dreaming of dry shorts and socks, in fact they were lying soaking on a rail drying through evaporation.  Or rather not drying.  I packed and climbed into my cloyingly moist shorts and top.  Ugh.

The only human interaction at the Apart!Hotel in Zwolle is the breakfast.  It appears you can’t serve breakfast remotely using an app. Who knew eh?  I was very pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a perky waitress — who gamely overlooked my damp clothes and offered me infinite coffee and a feast for breakfast.

A feast fit for a long distance cyclist

Fresh scrambled eggs and bacon, bread, cheese, ham. I couldn’t have wanted for more and, indeed, I really hardly managed to make a dent in it.  There was a lot of food left after I’d tried — and failed — to lay waste to the fabulous breakfast.  Had I known what was in store for the day, I would have tried to stuff in that extra couple of bread rolls, the boiled egg and the apple.

Zwolle was pretty and quiet as I rolled out of town.  The “undercarriage” was complaining a bit after yesterday but the legs didn’t feel so bad and I started grinding out the kilometres. 

The Netherlands continued to be delightful for a cyclist.  I have settled into a bit of a rhythm.  I don’t listen to podcasts for the first 50km and I try to get those first 50km under my belt before finding somewhere to stop for my mid-morning coffee.  Here’s a video of what those first 50km were like.

They were like this

I also saw one of the traditional windmills actually working.  I thought they were just maintained for tourists like me to take pictures of them.

Look ma, it goes round and round.

Dutch is an odd language.  Many words are close enough to English that you think you might understand it.  For an English speaker, it’s in an uncanny valley…close but not quite what you expect.  That being said, I had to stop and take a picture of the most Dutch looking phrase I had seen on the way.

It means “thrift store of the snuffle goose” according to Google

I had hoped to stop in the unfortunately named Slagharen but, in a portent of things to come, there was nothing open although it did have a London Eye sized ferris wheel and a tumbled down roller coaster.

Come to Slagharen and ride the ferris wheel

A few more km down the road was Coevorden.  It was absolutely rammed because it was market day.  Pushing my bike past the stalls selling giant polyester underpants and tooth-rotting fried sugar treats for the kids, I found a cafe and had a really nice coffee and a submicroscopic Diet Coke.

Let’s have a coffee and then buy some more giant pants Hans.

I headed out on the road again.  At some point, my Garmin told me the next turning was “left onto WestlifeStraße” and I was in Germany.  Isn’t Schengen a great thing…

I was on a cycle path on the left hand side of a fast two lane road and there was a big canal.  I think it was the Küstenkanal. It was long and straight and had a lot of barges on it which, come to think of it, rather defines what a canal is.

This is a big kanal
And my view looked like this

This is what it was like.

And it was like that for just under 100km.  Apart from the occasional motorway junction with traffic lights, this was what it was like.  Cycle path on the left hand side of a straight road.  No towns, no garages, no sign of habitation.  Four hours later, it still looked like this.  Try looking at that photo for four hours.  That’s what it was like.

This is what it was like four hours later

I listened to podcasts and tried not to think about my dwindling supplies of water and food.  However fascinating More Or Less is or listening to Campbell and Stewart violently agree with each other, it starts to pale a bit when you’re hungry and bored.

Finally, six hours after my last drink and eight hours after my last food, a garage appeared.  I was actually so hungry, I could barely eat. 
 
The bike is in the background, the croissant was a saviour.

I only had 40km to go at this point and once I’d got some caffeine in me and a bit of marzipan croissant, I was feeling a lot more perky.  However, today’s pain hadn’t finished yet.  

The heavens opened and I got very wet.  I only own one piece of clothing which could be called “hi-viz” — because hi-viz is for dorks…I’d rather get squished etc etc — and I put on my hi-viz rain jacket only to find out that although it is very high visibility, it’s also got a high porosity and I was almost immediately soaked.  
I’m too old to hang out in bus shelters

Oh and the boring identical road suddenly got exciting as road works intervened.

Oh crap

The last 20km were really miserable.  They were very wet and with appalling road conditions.  The only saving grace is that the south-westerly wind which had been blowing me along since (effectively) Hoek van Holland, continued to work in my favour.  I think if I had had to do this into the wind, I might have got the bus instead. 
See, exactly the effing same but this time wet.

Just as I reached Oldenburg, the rain stopped and as I sit rehydrating and refuelling it is a lovely sunny summer’s eve it seems like quite a nice place.  It would have to be because there doesn’t seem to be anywhere else within 100km that is open.

Don’t judge me.  I deserve steak and chips.

I’ve had two back-to-back 190km days and I’m feeling a bit wiped out.  I have another 160km day to Hamburg tomorrow and I had intended to keep powering on to Denmark but I think I’ll try to make to to Hamburg and have a day off on Monday.  My “contact points” will almost certainly thank me for a day to recover.  

Comments

  1. First off, well done so far Ewan! Mad to do it of course, but I knew that anyway. I’m struck by how clean and litter-free the Netherlands are (“is”? - grammar struggle). It’s not like that in independence-obsessed government-lacking Scotland! I’m also amazed by your seemingly calorie-light exertions. Call that a steak? It’s not like that at The Butchershop in Glasgow (sorry to remind you!). But I suppose much of the point is the finding of things that aren’t “like that here”. I remain in awe. Paul x.

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  2. Great work, Ewan! Very impressive!
    Small piece of advice, those slots in hotels where you have to insert your room key work with any sturdy card, e.g. credit card or even a business card, so you can leave the sockets on and take your key.
    Good luck with the rest of your journey!
    Take care,
    Juan

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