Thursday, 8 April 2010

Day 1 - Reading to Cochem

The tunnel crossing was booked for 8:20, which required check-in by 7:50 am.  Although I thought I'd left in plenty of time, at 06:00, it didn't turn out that way.  The sun was just rising as I left home, and the blue skies augured well for the journey.  Although the temperature was about 6°C It was uncomplicated, and the route was mostly free of queuing traffic, but this was  an ordinary week-day morning and there were many places with slow moving traffic due to road-works.  It must have been this that extended my journey time, because I checked-in at 7:51, and the nice machine told me that I was to late and had missed my booked train, so I was allocated the next available one which was at 08:21.  I still don't understand how this works, given that there are three trains per hour, but, as always, I was immediately directed to the train, avoiding the terminal building and waiting time that other vehicles are generally subjected to.  I was slotted on at the back of the train, unusually the only bike, and there was one empty carriage behind me.  The crossing was as straightforward as ever, and I advanced the time on my phone and satnav by an hour, wrote a few text messages and checked the security of the bags on the bike, and we arrived in Calais on schedule at nearly 10 am.

The journey to Brussels through France and Belgium was unremarkable, but I stopped for coffee to ease the discomfort in my knee, which has been getting weak lately.  I must exercise it more.  As I had filled the tank in England at Maidstone (Junction 8, M20), I didn't need petrol again until Rotselaar in Belgium, about half way.  This was perfect as it lasted until my destination, which had a petrol station practically next door to it.

The route I had chosen to get to Bruttig-Fankel was nearly on motorways, which were busy, and pretty dull to drive on.  The sun disappeared behind clouds in the middle of Belgium, and it started to drizzle.  For the last four hours of riding, it had rained constantly, though lightly.  My new Hein Gericke gear kept me nice and dry, but once the rain started, it did get cold, even though the temperature was now around 11-12°C.  I was quite tired and cold by the time I arrived at the hotel, about 16:00.  But the welcome from Klumke and Matt de Bruyn was wonderful.  Almost the first thing Klumke asked me, after welcoming me was, "would you like a coffee, or a beer?"  Beer it was, and I was surprised to find it was Bitburger.  In fact, because of the way I had found the hotel, I had not realised we were so close to Nürburgring until I passed signs for it not far back, and to get here came right through Cochem, which is a short way up the road.  I was here in October with my friends when we stayed at Adenau and hired Nürburgring for the day.  I had done eleven laps of it and earned the right to put the sticker on my bike!  Well, here I was again, so I lost no time in texting my pals to tell them I was drinking Bitburger near Cochem.  They were envious!

Matt knocked me up a lovely pizza with spinach and tomato and cheese on it, while I supped draft Bitburger and chatted to Klumke in the bar (her name is a nickname that means little clog in Dutch, as she is quite small).  There were various people in the bar, one German man who had worked on the trawlers from Penzance and the oil rigs off Aberdeen.  He had spent a lot of time living and working in UK and his kids had been born in Scotland.  Divorced now, he does odd jobs around the place, but holds out no hope of getting a full-time job again.  He was up and down a lot during the conversation as he seemed to be advising or helping with some building work here to install a bathroom in one of the rooms, a job that was behind schedule as someone is supposed to be staying in that room tomorrow!  It won't be ready. He asked about my route here and suggested a much better one for next time - from Brussels ring road, head towards Luxembourg, on E40 (A3), stick to E40 around the edge of Liege, then the E42 (A27) towards Malmedy, Wittlich, Cochem. Much less traffic and good roads, apparenetly.

After dinner (which was thankfully quite early, as I was really hungry), I walked around the village and took some photographs.  On returning to my room I was very tired, so I thought I would have a rest for a moment before returning to the bar and the conversations there, but I instantly fell asleep until my phone made a noise.  So I got into bed at 20:45 and slept solidly until 05:30 the next morning.  This place is brilliantly quiet at night, not a sound.  I heard the birds waking up one by one, and then got up myself and redistributed my luggage in the panniers and top box.  I was ready for my breakfast at 07:00 and had a few more nice chats with Klumke and Mat.  It wasn't like coming to a hotel, more like visiting friends.   I must make a note in the online booking pages about what a good place this is to stay!

I packed up and loaded up and was ready to go at 08:00 on schedule.

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Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

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