I'm awoken from my slumber by my cobbled together bike alarm. This consists of leaving the washing up out at night in the hope that it either rains or an animal licks the stuff clean. I place the pots, pans, lids and cutlery under a tyre of the bike and prop them up. This way if the nocturnal bike thief tries to make off with my pride and joy the alarm will sound and I can thwart my adversary with a laptop to the head. This however is not quite what happens when the alarm is set off for the first time. I'm sound asleep and the pots clink and clank and I jump awake. Unfortunately If you have ever tried to do anything quickly whilst waking up in a tight fitting mummy shape sleeping bag you will know that not a lot happens. It is as if I'm already in a straight jacket and my sleepy wriggling is making it tighter. My arms are by my side but in my comatosed state I try to wave them about thinking they have room. This leads to me falling off my mattress and nearly bringing the tent down. After what seems like an age of wriggling and contorting I find the resources to shout out (mid-dream style). By what is probably the next day by now I finally get loose from my bag and get out the tent to find nothing and the bike still there, pots and pans in place. This happens again later in the night but because of the infernal cold I'm more awake but refuse to leave the comfort of my bag and just shout a lot. Later when going for a pee I notice the bike is still there. I chose my super light, super small, super old sleeping bag over the bigger, newer, warmer one. Epic Fail!
I seem to have put the tent behind the only tree creating a shadow and have to wait an age to dry everything out. Up and at em, and a Netto appears before my eyes asking me to buy bread. I pick a sort of olive baguette thing that seems unnaturally expensive, but like most german breads its heavy and delicious.
Aim of today is to go into Ulm proper and taste some lager. I arrive at a bike shop in the centre, after some bits to fix my side stand. A cool guy called Max who speaks great English sorts me out with some bits for free but doesnt think it's the right stand for the bike with the amount of luggage I'm carrying. Epic Fail! Whilst there I pick up a new security cable so last night's fiasco can hopefully be avoided. I also purchase some new handlebar grips with built in bar-ends. These have turned out to be an absolute god send. No wrist ache or numb fingers and lots of positions to lounge in whilst clocking up the miles or to pull you up the hills. Epic! I get chatting to Max and he kindly looks up the addess of the oldest brewery in town and also offers to bring in some German bicycle maps for my GPS if I can hang around 'til after lunch. I can't pass a kind offer like this up. I decide to stay in Ulm for a few hours, what with the beer and also the fact that everyone who I've told that I'm going to Ulm has said that I need to go up the minster: the highest Church tower in the world apparently. So that's a few hours nicely filled and the sun is shining. Max also points out that my chain is a bit loose but thinkig it's an easy job to fix I decide to leave it until it really needs doing. Epic Fail!
I leave the bike and luggage at the shop: “Bike Line Ulm”, great staff, sweet products. The new Santos Rohloff Beltdrive in there particularly took my eye...drooly... only 4000 euro I think the rep said.
I wander about a bit asking directions for the brewery and an Iraqi couple out walking their toddler point me the right way. We walk together for about ten minutes and the kind insists on me joining in his game. He gets a bit upset when I leave. I find the brewery but the shop only sells souvenirs not beer. When I tell Herr Hemmilreich, who is in charge of this area, about my story he is most interested and disappears for a minute. When he returns he brings three different beers and a water that the brewery produce. I stop and try one of the hefe weissbeirs and have a chat and get a photo or two. He tells me he used to be a lorry driver and we chat roads and countries. I may well be back Mr Hemmilreich. In the general jolity I forget my small brass Penny Farthing I have had in my purse to show people. Keep it safe Mr H.
Jolly from the beer I step outside into the lunchtime sun and head for the minster. The sign at the bottom says 768 steps to the top. Wow! My walking and climbing muscles have not been used much and after about five minutes I'm really panting. Luckily there are different levels and I have a little rest and look round to get my breath back. Needless to say the view is spectac, You can just see the Alps. I drink in the view in the direction I'm going and think about how far I have come and what lies ahead.
On the way down the spiral stairs are so tight and I can safely say I've never been so intimate with so many men and woman in my life. Squeezing is definitely the order of the day:)
Back to the bike shop and Max has bought his laptop in so I can sort out the maps. I offer Max the beer of his choice and I have the other one whilst sitting at the bike shop's bar. Yes, it has a bar.
I've spent a long time off the bike but it's been well worth it for what I've achieved. Top Man Max, the GPS is working a treat, you're a star.
I follow the Danube bike path North East and although fairly early I find a little path that takes me to a nature reserve/ lake. It's empty. The lake stretches for about 2km and as the sun sets I've got it all to myself. I find a great little spot out the way and get the dinner on and do all sorts of little chores I've been meaning to do. I crack open another beer and for the second time today drink in the view. Huge dragonflies dance about, fish leap out of the lake and a beavery looking creature swims from one bank to the other. Beautiful. I chop up some hearty chunks of bacon and have a good helping of pasta and go to bed very very happy.