This is being written in a Laz-y-Boy recliner, fueled by cucumber-mint tea served in a massive mug. That’s right folks, the GT is back in the states.
Since we last wrote, the Golden Tandem has carved a fiery arc across northern Germany and Scandinavia, creating a mini-media sensation. Thanks to some family connections, we were interviewed in Husum about our trip, why we would do such a silly thing, and why we would end up in the glorious but lesser known northern lands of Schleswig-Holstein. We want to say it didn’t go to our head, but we definitely did a few extra laps around town before heading north, bound for Denmark.
We’ve commented on it before, but cycling on a bike path is generally way better than riding on streets: no traffic and a more intimate tour of the landscape can be found by turning off the country highway. We enjoyed the paths along the Rhein, and the cycle routes of the UK, but nothing we rode this summer compares to the extensive network–nay! interweb–of bikepaths that lace across northern Germany and Denmark (and probably Holland and other places too, we just didn’t get there this time).
We were joined this week by Christine’s dad Wallace, who joined us for our ‘victory lap’ into Copenhagen. If Ian’s parent’s superpower is finding fruit, Wallace’s is finding ambiance. W guided us to the end of our trip and back into polite society by gently reintroducing foods like vegetables into our lives, as well as encouraging us to find places where using a napkin is more appropriate.
We easily found a set of maps for the end of the trip showing local cycle routes which inundated the landscape. Between every town we could choose from two or more routes, all traffic-free or very low traffic. We could navigate on the fly, knowing that even if we took a wrong turn we could probably get back on track within half a kilometer.
Why are there so many bike paths up here? We have no idea, go read some articles on it. What we do know is that the norhern half of Germany and all of Denmark is saturated with bike infrastructure, and as a result everyone, their mother, their three year old, and their grandmother is biking. It’s that convenient, safe, and easy. If you think spending money on bike paths is a waste of time, go to northern Germany or Denmark and check out how people get around. When seeing 80 year olds independent and mobile on a bike is common, you know you’re doing something right.
Day 61-63: August 7, 8, 9 resting in Husum
We had a lovely time with family in Husum swimming in the Nordsee, wandering in the Watt, eating delicious food, and biking as little as possible. Ian got some sweet-ass kicks that he’ll be rocking at work this year. Thanks, Ulli! Ulli, Christine’s mom, completed our all-parents-must-ride-with-us project by cycling with us ten miles out to Haselund for a grillfest, and she did it on a wacked-out bike seat that kept shedding intregral parts. Respekt.
Day 54: August 10, Husum to Haselund, 37.4 miles
Ian turned 28 this day, so it was guaranteed awesome. We saw some awesome sheep antics along the dikes holding back the Nordsee, enjoyed an awesome headwind cycling inland to Christine’s cousins, stopped at an awesome café to buy an ungodly amount of birthday cake in Viöl (four varieties, lots of cream), and were surprised by an awesome birthday celebration and presents by Christine’s ever-awesome cousins! Everyone was jazzed.
We often cycle to Haselund along a bike path next to a main road (but separate), but this time our route was brand new. With our maps and ubiquitous cycle signs pointing to the next town, we simply meandered out by the sea and then followed our noses back towards town. In the future we can simply wend our ways around the countryside, free from traffic noise. These maps were worth every euro.
We finished the night making mixes on Spotify, drinking beverages, and eating potato chips. Quite lovely.
Day 65: August 11, Haselund to Glücksburg, 30.6 miles
In Glücksburg we were very fortunate to have the use of Christine’s great aunt’s summer house. We could have gone straight there along the main drag, but again, with the power of maps (and decades of investment in bike paths), we simply cut inland. We spent sometime by the main road, but the worst cycling we experienced in Germany was better than some of the best in the US.
We arrived in Glücksburg with enough time to shower, eat caprese salad, and enjoy some zombie time on the internet before cousin Lilli arrived with her family for an afternoon of fun. Activities included shaming Ian into swimming in the super-scary fresh water pond with muck on the bottom, long boarding, tandem rides, dinner by the Ostsee, and water bottle fights. This was our last chance to see family in Germany, and we enjoyed every minute of it!
Day 66: August 12, Glücksburg to Svendborg (Denmark), 77.3 miles
Sticking to tradition, we did a ton of miles with family! Wallace was a good sport, and even did a little bike hiking with us on the way from Flensburg, Germany, across the border into Denmark.
Denmark, like Switzerland, has a series of national cycle routes that ensure gorgeous views and lovely roads and bike paths as you cross the country. Once in Denmark, we simply started following the Route 8 signs and focused our energy on making fun of Danish names. We are as inept and immature about the Danish language as we were in France. We need to work on our cultural sensitivity.
We had our first taste of Danish cuisine in Sønderborg, where we ordered hotdogs a la Denmark. Just to make sure he understood the subtleties of taste, Ian ordered three. Full of food, we cycled from mainland Jutland to the island Als, from whence Christine’s family’s name comes, and then to a ferry to the island of Fyn. Along our way we were amazed to find that Danes cycle tour with the whole family, apparently starting at the age of zero. Seven-year olds were out there, laden down with mini-panniers on their little bikes. Babies snoozed in trailers, and parents pulled massive loads of child and food split between trailers. Our theory is that the Danish thigh circumference must be, on average, half again as big as any other country. These guys are bad ass.
Our evening, though late, was some of the prettiest cycling of the trip. Route 8 kept looping out to the edge of the island, where farmland and woods met the sea. The pictures are the best way to show this, but if you’ve cycled on Block Island or in Maine, it was a bit like that, but on bike paths or country lanes. Any exhaustion was well worth this evening.
Day 67: August 13, Svendborg to Guldborg, 69.4 miles
We spent our day on protected cycle paths in cool, breezy weather, but after the paradise of yesterday we mostly harumphed at not seeing the see. Spoiled.
Any entitlement was forgotten, however, when we arrived at the B&B where W would be staying. A renovated farm under the care of a kind older couple, it was the most picturesque homestead we’ve seen. W’s room was glorious, complete with Danish literature, half-moon windows and thatched roof. This place was the lovechild of Rivendell and Hobbiton. We almost stayed ourselves, but contented ourselves with camping down the road and crashing the party for breakfast the next day.
Day 68: August 14, Guldborg to Rødvig, 52.9 miles
Breakfast. BREAKFAST. We’ve eaten a few, but this was the one. Served in an impecably decorated Danish farm house dining room, we were presented with more food than we can emotionally process. The challenge was made explicit when our hostess kept coming in to check on bread levels with a scolding: “but you haven’t eaten anything!” comment.
Denmark may have rocking cycling infrastructure, but it’s got even better wind. The highest quality, we experienced: unadulturated, relentless, soul-searching 20-30 mph headwinds all the way to Rødvig. In an attempt to find a more sheltered way to town, we asked W’s hostess about Rødvig, but our accent was so bad she couldn’t find out where we were going. Danish ≠ German.
The road was gorgeous, and the windiness was tempered by ocean views and a lunch under a willow by a pond (to be fair, branches broken by the wind kept falling on us). Wind beaten, we arrived in Rødvig a little emotionally raw and seriously hungry. We made it into bed without fighting over the last tortellini, our minds reeling over the fact that tomorrow was our last day of cycling.
Day 69: Rødvig to Copenhagen, 54.3 miles
The big closing. Our legs were tired. Our asses just COULDN’T. Our hearts weren’t quite done with our trip yet, but Copenhagen loomed near. And a thunderstorm loomer nearer. Inspired by a rest in the city and an intense desire not to get wet, W dropped the hammer. The tailwind may have helped, too. Dancing along the edge of a massive storm system, we watched lightening bolts hit nearby farm fields, which evidently sent energy jolts of speed through W’s-still-dry self. We even passed by a field recently struck, still smoking with patchy burn-marks.
Our ride in was appropriately curated with sea-side cycle lanes and a steady increase in biker density as we approached the city. Ten miles out we were slow-moving rollers in a speedy current of spandex-clad roadies. Five miles out we were just one of thousands of tourists out to enjoy the weather. In the city limits, we weren’t even an aberration. Massive cargo bikes, laden with children, cargo, and lovers trundled along in a surging stream. We experienced our first-ever bicycle traffic jam, as well as our first ever left-turn light for cyclists only.
Coming into the city center and our host’s neighborhood, the crowds crescendoed in a blur of bodies, glitter, and color. It was Copenhagen Pride! Giddy, we followed the parade floats with the crowds, showered in confetti and dancing to Madonna. Our introduction to Copenhagen was seriously rad. As a gnarly old German man once said to us, Respekt.
Day 70: August 16, Copenhagen
Our hosts Iann and Marlene were amazing. Not only did they let us into their lovely home and feed us, they also let us shower them, emotionally and physically, with the bags, boxes, and logistics of leaving. We spent the day before flying home frantically searching the city for a bike box on Sunday, a day when almost all shops were closed. We managed to get a single-bike-box from a kind rental company, along with some scrap cardboard. In the cool of an apartment basement, we dismantled a very battered Golden Tandem for its trip home. It’s earned a full once-over, and maybe new wheels. It shall bike another day!
W then made sure we enjoyed the city a little before leaving with a lovely afternoon walk and muscles in a cafe by the city lakes. That man knows ambiance. Also, just look at these bikes!!!
Day 71: August 17, Copenhagen to Boston, ~3,655 miles
We bid goodbye to Ian, Marlene, and Katzen the cat Monday morning, and set out for the Copenhagen train station. Each carrying a 40 pound duffel full of rank clothes and bike parts, carrying two extra backpacks, two personal carry ons, and a tandem, it was a rather trying ordeal, but it gave the morning wave of cycle commuters something to look at. We gawked one last time at the bike parking lot at the train station, hucked our gear onto the train, and set out for home.
In Rekjavik, halfway home and starving, we ate in the airport food court. We realized this was exactly where we had eaten on our way there, and wondered at how it felt like yesterday. Somehow this summer, as full as it was, has blipped by in its own little time bubble. Like a python digesting a cow, we will, little by little, over the next few months, process all we’ve done this summer.
Long trips work this way. We are privileged to leave our home, and normal rhythms of life for these summers. We endeavor, in fact, to make such trips normal for us. Every trip ends, however, and all we can do now is post our photos, think back, and annoy our friends by saying “one time, in France…”
Thanks for reading. Get on a bike and go outside if you haven’t in a while. It’s a good time.