We have arrived safely here in Berlin—the city that will be our base of operations for the next month. As it was Shannon’s first cycling tour it was a significant challenge for her, and in turn both of us. We ended up taking the train for the last leg of the trip so I could make my gig on the 27th and Shannon would have the stability to work on her current writing project.
I was very close to doing the last leg on my own as my ego was very against skipping a such a large leg of the Amsterdam to Berlin section. However, it was suppose to rain over the following days and it was convenient to arrive a day or two early while not being totally exhausted.
On my own I am use to riding minimum 80kms and gorilla camping in a bush or making whatever distance was needed to reach my next host. Shannon however has a lot less experience in the saddle and was accustomed to a little more luxury. So each day we would ride anywhere from around 40-80kms. I found the slower pace very challenging and the ability to stay in Air Bnb’s and hotels unnervingly alien.
However with give and take we we’re able to do a number of good days of riding and lucked out with a number of fantastic hosts. And Shannon has agreed that staying with gracious hosts is a more pleasant and rewarding experience than staying in comfortable, but often sterile, paid accommodations.
During my last day in Amsterdam I went to a cricket tournament that Sam (my cousins husband) was playing at. It was a nice bike ride out with their kids and enjoyable to see such a bizarre british sport.
Oddly enough there was a fellow comedian named Ken whom I had contacted through Facebook who was coincidentally also playing in the tournament. After hearing there was a comic from Canada around he tracked Shannon down, but I had just left to meet a friend for lunch. Fortunately Ken and I met up for beers at a bar called Check Point Charlie and we got along swimmingly. With the help of a few pints we shot the shit for a few hours. Ken’s been at the entertainment game a while longer than me so it was nice to get some perspective on things and I look forward to connecting with him the next time I am back in Amsterdam.
Our first day’s ride was probably our hardest as we had to do just over 80kms to make it to a room in a “castle” that Shannon had reserved for us. Turns out it was an old monastery but it was never the less stunning and it had it’s own moat. That day was a long days ride from about 1-9pm and we made one particular wrong turn into a farmers pasture and were promptly swarmed by the local bovines.
The next day Shannon and I were both pretty drained so after some arguing we settled on doing a short ride to Zwolle, which turned out to be an absolutely stunning Dutch town that had a canal around it in the shape of a star.
I had confirmed a Warmshowers host for the following night so we had to push ourselves a little to make it, culminating in Shannon collapsing in the brush next to the bike path. A nice female german cyclist pulled over and assumed something terrible had happened. She looked at Shannon and asked “are you a alright” I responded “she’s good just super tired”, and the lady looked at me with a glance that said “no crazy looking bearded man, I’m going to confirm that you have not abducted this poor tired young lady.” So again she looked at Shannon and asked “are you ok?” to which Shannon sighed, laughed and said “she was fine, but thanks for checking.”
Poor Shannon had a number of spills while on the trip because she also was just getting use to using clip pedals. On one of her spills another kind german lady pulled over in a car this time to ensure everything was alright and a bruised, mildly bloody and aggravated Shannon again thanked her for her concern but said she was fine.
With our first Warmshowers host we lucked out. His name was Hans and he was located in the German country side, living in a gorgeous spacious house surrounded by ranches. Hans and his wife worked as translators for novels and his son Jacob was also around to host us. The first night they treated us to wonderful Chinese take out, wine and fresh grapes from vines in their back yard. In the morning we ate a wonderful breakfast in their garden and with warm hearts and full bellies continued on our trip.
Again because of how hard we had to push the night before Shannon elected to do a super short day of 36km. We took a small detour to a little swimming lake and got stuck on a sandy back road where Shannon took another spill and fell into some cursed stinging nettle. The lake looked nice but was not the best for swimming. Shannon described it as “I am with a mediocre man at this mediocre lake.” We had a room booked in a very small town, where when we called the phone number to get in no one spoke English, so we had a random stranger help us out.
Much of the riding was quite the challenge for Shannon and it was hard to see her struggle through something I find so much joy in, but fortunately this was the first day she really enjoyed biking. We made good distance and had a nice tail wind all culminating in Shannon whizzing down a hill with a smile saying “I’m doing it, I’m doing it!” We stayed in another small hotel that night and both ate a full uncut pizza to ourselves! It should also be noted that every god damn place in Germany has carbonated water. I hated it so much but recently it’s beginning to grow on me.
The next days Shannon was really not feeling well and we had to cancel on the host I had confirmed. We ended up staying in a super expensive hotel that was bland a newly built, but it did have a fantastic continental breakfast. I will admit this was the most frustrated I had been on the trip, and I was really struggling with having to meet someone else’s needs. For me cycle touring is about pushing yourself, battling though the pain and doubt. And living on a shoe string budget. We were doing a much more lavish and leisurely trip and it was entirely not something I was use to.
But we persevered and the next day aimed to make it to Hannover. However, we got rained out 26km outside of the city and we opted to stay at a hotel that was close. The 4km to the hotel were the first bad biking conditions we had to face. We got stuck battling rain and a headwind but I feel it’s important to face adversity like this, it makes the nice days that much sweeter. I was also quite happy to only have to do a meagre 4km in these conditions.
We had an amazing meal that night at this little hotel run by a wonderful couple. I however ate too much and made myself sick. I woke up the next morning nauseous and with a throbbing headache so now the tables had turned. When Shannon was feeling unwell over the precious days I had really pushed her to keep peddling so now I was very sluggish and we limped into Hannover. We scored a wonderful host couple Alex and Nin through WarmShowers again. They had competed at 14 month 11,000km tour and were absolute dreams to stay with. We did pizza and beer in the night and then trained out the next day in the afternoon. It was nice to swap bike stories and they faced very similar struggles while biking together.
Here in Berlin we’ve lucked out again with a host named Stefanie who put us up for a total of 4 days including 2 days while she’s out of town. She made us a nice meal and breakfast on the days she was around and I cannot emphasize enough the generosity of our hosts. We also spent 2 days with a home town friend, Kevin, whom has been living in Berlin the last 10 years. Spending time with him felt like a nice dose of British Columbia and it all culminated in meeting his brother Eric who at the time was wearing jeans, plaid, a Calgary Stampeders hat and carrying a Tim Hortons cup.
I’ve already done 3 shows here in Berlin and tonight I get to headlined a super cool club called Cosmic Comedy Berlin. We have confirmed a room to sublet for 3 weeks from Oct 1st-21st and it will be a big relief to be able to leave my stuff in one place for an extended period of time.
That’s it for now, thanks for reading!