Thursday, November 01, 2018

Uphill Battle Tour

For their autumn tour Jack and Richard chose two Moulton bicycles to ride from near Oswestry, Shropshire to Lewes in Sussex. Rupert to join in for the second half on a Brompton.
Jack arrived at Gobowen by train, with Moulton. Collected from there. Abi curry in evening. Next day walk along the canal to breakfast at Village Pantry, Llanymynech. Explored Heritage Area, and estate. Couple of pints in Cross Guns that night, very quiet. Set off next morning about nine.
Jack's Moulton (fourth Bike-to-Work purchase!) is a 2013 TSR27, with SRAM Dual-Drive, ie 9 speeds on a cassette, with 3 hub gears. Much modified: telescopic Brompton seatpost for extra height; raised handlebar stem, straight bars replaced by drops. Replacement brakes to accommodate the new levers. Richard’s is an APB R18, ie 9 speed cassette, 2 chainwheels. The R18s were the final and best specced evolution of the APB model. Preceded the introduction of the TSR range.

Day 1 - 5 Sept 2018

Very big first day. No accurate mileage to hand but we believe circa 85 miles, breaking the all-time tour record. Extraordinarily hilly route selected by the satnav to Wenlock Edge. Much needed drinks in Bridgnorth. No route along the steam railway. Shoulder after shoulder of hills, quite dispiriting. Just like the hilly sections of the Vélo Birmingham were, and we are staying overnight in one of those parts, Bewdley, at the Mercure. Declaration of insanity to the hotel staff scored us a free pint. Jack had a very slow speed off, pulling away, in Shrewsbury, possibly the result of a pannier jamming the steering. Minor cuts but nasty bruise to thigh, exacerbated by Jack's insistence on wearing rubber pants. We ate in at the Bewdley Mercure and the Gloucester Sawmills End Ibis. Good fare at both, not over-priced. Both too exhausted to venture elsewhere! Mercure Bewdley, Heath Hotel, Habberley Road, Bewdley, DY12 1LA. 1 twin room: £98.11.

Day 2 - 6 Sept 2018

Bewdley to Gloucester, via Stourport, Ombersley, Worcester and Tewkesbury, perhaps about 60 miles. Stops at Ombersley (posh cafe) and Worcester (Severn Cafe). A number of hills, but with a purpose, taking one up onto ridges, not like yesterday's endless roller-coaster. Some light rain. Drivers well behaved. Gorgeous views of the Malverns. Unfortunate rear puncture on my APB just five or six miles short of Gloucester, but sorted in half an hour. Good digs at the Ibis. Ibis Gloucester, Sawmills End, Corinium Avenue, Gloucester, GL4 3DG. 2 rooms: £88.

Day 3 - 7 Sept 2018

Gloucester to Bath, in all likelihood about 70 miles. The toughest day's cycling, in terms of hills, I've ever experienced. As we exited Gloucester we went into the centre to Eastgate Cycles in order to replace the accident-causing pannier, with one which clipped more securely to the frame. £20. Friendly service from proprietor who told us how tough trading conditions were for a traditionally-run cycle shop. Lovely first section along the canal. In an effort to get away from the A38 we ended up climbing Frocester Hill, up the side of the Cotswolds Hills. At 10%+ this was a long slog of a walk. Lovely roads over the top though, including along the Fosse Way, quiet fast miles. Beautiful around arboretum.
Bath expected to be hilly, but not as much as it turned out. Utterly exhausted, up hill and down dale to get to the university. Devonshire and Combe Down railway tunnels, now part of a cycling route, fantastic pieces of engineering - the latter is over a mile long - but do not appear to provide access to the university, much as the geography suggests they should. Had to double back, down hill then back up. Long push up final Medlock Hill to the University. Jack exhausted. (A subsequent examination of Google Maps suggested that there may well have been a much gentler level route to the university from the end of the second tunnel - confirming Richard’s speculation at the time based on place names. Pity the locals we asked did not know about it!)
Believe we have done c.220 miles over the last three days. Day off tomorrow, with just a journey to Bradford-on-Avon and back. Rupert joins the tour tomorrow afternoon.

Day off - 8 Sept 2018

I am riding a Brompton six-speed titanium ‘M’ model from 2008. (Jack's first Bike-to-Work bike, kindly on loan from Andy Thomas.) I take the train Lewes-Brighton. Then 09:00 direct service to Bradford-on-Avon, via Southampton, arriving midday. Lunch at Ravello, 1-2 St Margaret's St, Bradford-on-Avon.
To Moulton Bicycle Club Rally at the factory, with the Moulton fundies. We manage to negotiate a reduction for me on entry at £5. Pump up the tyres on the Brompton, badly needed. Cycle to Bath University, Claverton Down, via Kennett & Avon canal towpath, pushing the bike up Claverton Hill at the end. Overnight in cheap and cheerful digs, grub and beers in Uni bar. Reminded me of the old days in Durham. University of Bath, Eastwood, Norwood Avenue, Claverton Down, Bath, BA2 7PD. £38 approx per bed night. Good value.

Day 4 - 9 Sept 2018

For me the 'deep end' as I join the tour. We retrace our steps to Bradford-on-Avon via the canal towpath. Stop at Tourist Information for directions. Instead of continuing south-east to Trowbridge, we cut south-west to Farleigh Hungerford, where we see a motocross event and the ancient castle. A bunch of passing cyclists are headed to Longleat. We carry on to the Cross Keys pub at Rode, Somerset, where Pauline and Mark provide a free cup of tea. It is just amazing how fair people can be. "Come back and stay!" they say. A classic Bentley convertible pulls up to ask for directions.
I lose the boys on the A36 and turn off to Dilton Marsh, hoping they will catch up. I reach Westbury and cut south to Warminster on the unpleasant A350. I divert via Upton Scudamore in search of quieter roads. On the approach to Warminster a service area is disappointingly closed for repairs, so I head into town in search of money and grub. After cashing up at Barclays I stop at Coffee #1, 30 Market Place, Warminster for a snack - a cheese croissant is put in the microwave in error and turns out a sticky mess. I'm too hungry to care. The boys aren't far away as I head out of town looking for a turning to Sutton Veny. Beyond I stop at The Courtyard Café, The Ginger Piggery, Boyton - recommended. Despite phone contact the boys have got ahead and we meet up much further down the track at the The Royal Oak, Langford Rd, Great Wishford, where we sit in the garden opposite, dosing on ice creams, tea and cola. We carry on to Wilton.
Our route takes us into the centre of Salisbury where we stop briefly at the Cathedral. Many jokes about Russian visitors and Edward Heath.
I get tailed off on a long climb in the countryside and feel thoroughly discouraged (following National Cycle Route 24, drifting too far east.)
I reach Romsey in error where I stop to ask a man on a Brompton the way to Ower. He directs me on to the only route up a busy dual-carriageway. At the top of the hill he stops in his Honda in a layby to rescue me. I fold the bike for the short car ride to the Mortimer Arms, Romsey Road, Ower, SO51 6AF. An act of kindness by a Knight of the Road. 70 plus miles - too far for a first day. Booked table for excellent huge meal. 3 rooms reserved: £178.50.

Day 5 - 10 Sept 2018

Via Totton to Southampton, where a large cruise ship is docked. We cross the Itchen on the busy road bridge - I cycle all the way as I'm too frightened to stop. Shortly we are in aircraft country with many historic associations, monuments etc. Pitstop outdoors at Jenny's Cafe, High St, Hamble-le-Rice (in a cobbled street opposite The Victory pub).
First of three ferries from Hamble to Warsash in a pink tub. We head for the coast, past an airfield and hovercraft museum, to Lee-on-Solent. Pitstop at seafront Leon's Bistro, 15 Marine Parade W, Lee-on-the-Solent - pretty average, unfriendly staff.
Ferry from Gosport, across Portsmouth Harbour, to Portsmouth. We see Brompton Dock for renting Brompton bicyles. Then eastbound for Hayling Island ferry.
Shouts of "Man in the water" and "Man overboard." We are in the middle of a real life emergency. He hasn't fallen from our boat but he is in the water alright, in a vicious rushing tide. I make myself useful by signalling to him that we have seen him (not virtue signalling). I hold the rope while a crew member lowers a ladder and we haul the bloodied man from the water and rescue his upturned rowboat. We have to return to dock on the Portsmouth side to await an ambulance. A Mayday call to the coastguard has to be resolved. Eventually we reach Hayling Island and all is well.
We take the coastal Hayling Billy bike path to Havant, route of an old railway line. I marvel at the toughness of modern Schwalbe bike tyres for they are being truly punished here. (Havant was the jumping off point for the Broken Spoke Tour in 2016.) Welcome pitstop at Caffè Nero, 8 West St, Havant PO9 1PF.
Hard charging on A259 to Chichester. To the George & Dragon, 51 North St, Chichester, PO19 1NQ. £195 for three rooms, incl breakfast. Good value. Choice of real ales. Very welcoming chap at the bar.
Walk to Prezzo, 61 South St, Chichester. At Prezzo Jack works his magic whereby a special offer obtained by phone from the internet significantly reduced the bill.

Day 6 - 11 Sept 2018

A coastal run from Chichester to Lewes, via Brighton, pushed along by a strong westerly tailwind. A little rain.
We depart town via the Chichester Canal southbound for Bognor. Macaris Cafe, 46A London Rd, Bognor Regis, for coffee stop in a pedestrian area of town (indoors much like an old folks home). Then following the seafront where possible.
We get separated in an interminable housing estate, as I miss a difficult-to-see roadsign. Then I'm stuck on the A259 towards Littlehampton. Watching the destination boards on the buses for clues as to which way to go. I cross the Arun by the footbridge adjacent to Littlehampton Marina, via Ferry Road. Working my way eastward forced back to the A259. Cut south to Goring-by-Sea. Irritated by signs saying "to the station" - what damn station? Held up at level crossings. At last a sign for Worthing and I'm charging along the seafront to the pier when Richard emerges from a cafe on my left. We meet up at View Café & Bar, 70 Marine Parade, Worthing. Suitable.
We crossed the River Adur via the Adur Ferry Bridge, just after passing The Waterside pub. Jack is now in familiar territory and we enjoy the industrial vibe of Shoreham Port, crossing back over the river at the lock gates and proceeding along Basin Road South. Through Hove to Brighton where I get my first look at the British Airways i360, a tall observation tower. We reach Lewes by mid-afternoon. The stretch from Southampton to Brighton could occupy a pleasant week with time for attractions, museums etc.


1. To save weight, apart from a couple of local walking maps we did not take roadmaps for our route, especially the more difficult and exhausting first 3 days. We thought we could rely mainly on pre-planning and satnav. Mistake! When slightly lost, we ended up mystified as to the direction of travel in relation to signposted towns.

2. The National Cycle Network routes/signage are generally very useful but in some key places the signs completely disappeared (eg middle of Salisbury). There were also routes which were downright dangerous due to fast-moving heavy traffic.

3. The Moultons were excellent, and definitely more capable and comfortable than Bromptons, but the unaccustomed handlebar grips over such long distances caused Jack to have lasting numbness in palms and fingertips from which recovery has been slow.

4. The supremacy of Brompton luggage arrangements remains unchallenged.

5. Overall, a very hard ride!

Friday, June 22, 2018

BC or Bust roadtrip

Pic by RLT.
A one-way trip to my new little house in the west. Mostly following the Trans-Canada Highway from Toronto to Sidney on Vancouver Island.
(I could have gone via the USA, but a combination of rudeness and paranoia at the border is off-putting. Their financial loss.)
My 2005 smart car, with trusty diesel motor, never missed a beat.
Thursday 7 June.
Depart 05:30 with a full tank of gas. Bye bye Hogtown. Election Day in Ontario and reports on the radio of a deadly shooting in Scarborough, with a cop being saved by his kevlar vest. Take the 400 Hwy north initially but turn off via Kleinburg, Nobleton, Thornton on Hwy 27. Taking a last look at familiar places. Back on the 400 Highway at Barrie.
Pitstop at Tim Horton's, 35 Lone Pine Road, Port Severn. using up Tim's gift card. Coffee $1.77. Past Parry Sound through the rocks towards Sudbury. The 4-lane highway runs out in Canadian Shield country.
At Sudbury I divert into town for Esso Sudbury #253, 1813 Regent Street South: diesel $18.40 with discount card. Subway lunch at E4-2408 Long Lake Road, Sudbury. I leave keys in ignition.
Out of town past the giant chimneys at the mines hereabouts.
Listening to Steppenwolf - "Magic Carpet Ride"; Toby Keith - "I Love this Bar."
Now westbound thru Massey, past Elliot Lake, Lake Lauzon, Blind River, with road works and hold-ups. Arrive 15:25 at Delta Hotel, 208 St Mary's Drive, Sault Ste. Marie. Views of namesake town in Michigan across the river.
While watching election coverage in the hotel View restaurant + bar a woman is loudly dropping the 'F' bomb at regular intervals at the top of her voice. Attending a "heritage conference" is this what women fought for? (Bar tab $25.14, no alcohol.)
I take a stroll by the river. A random woman asks "Are you graduating today?" Me: "Why would I be graduating?" "You could be getting a Masters in Psychology." Me: "That is very flattering!" End of conversation.
A giant laker is in the St Mary's River: MV Indiana Harbor.
429 miles.
Friday 8 June.
Dep 05:30. Start with a wrong slot, straying west to Gros Cap, instead of north. Wasted most of an hour in the boondocks running short of gas. High anxiety. Happy to reach Trading Post Esso, The Trading Post, 1332 Great Northern Road, Sault Ste-Marie at 06:34.
Through miles of gravel roadworks to breakfast off the road at Twilight Resort, Hwy 17 North, Montreal River Harbour. A self-described greasy spoon in a shack, we talk of the old days. This was a camp for conscientious objectors in WW2, mostly Mennonites, who were interned and put to building roads. There were also POW camps in the district, some prisoners stayed on after the war. Nowadays there is a mixture of holiday makers and contractors working on local building projects at this lakeside resort.

Pic by RLT.
I stop to talk to Dale Walker, cycling on his Trek 520 to Minneapolis to see family. I help him out with some water and three energy bars. I couldn't help with "medical marijuana." He has been on some epic cycling tours:
I stop at the Visitor Centre for Lake Superior Provincial Park on Highway 17. A kind lady from Abbotsford B.C. takes an interest in the smart car with the "B.C. or Bust" sign. I see more cyclists.
I stop for gas at Esso on the main highway at Wawa: $10.05. Then at Tim Horton's I encounter a couple from Zurich/Montreal who are attempting Ottawa to Vancouver by bicycle. I stop to help another cyclist but no help required - he is simply walking up a hill - no shame in that.
Through Schreiber, ON, a railway town. Stop at Esso Terrace Bay, Hwy 17, diesel $17.40. A man with relatives in Blighty takes an interest in the smart car.
Across the new Nipigon River Bridge, with triple tower cable-stay design.
Arrive at Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel & Suites, 17 Cumberland Street North, Thunder Bay, ON, P7A 4K8. Hotel kitty corner from the old CPR railway station. Noisy - freight trains and partying - but great view of Lake Superior. I am not feeling too good so ice cream for supper.
Listening to: Johnny Paycheck "Take this job and shove it!"
464 miles.
Saturday 9 June.
Dep 05:42. Find Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) no trouble. Gas at Shell Canada Products, 4794 Highway 11 & 17, Kakabeka Falls at 06:16. Happy to find diesel at this early hour.
Breakfast stop at Black Spruce Motel & Old Country Kitchen, south of Upsala. Breakfast special $5.99, coffee with refill $1.99. Sixties music playing. The good ol' boys have been fishing.
Listening to CBC "bang on" politically correct radio - some lady gardeners calling themselves "eco-feminists" (since when was gardening a political statement?), endless global-warming baloney (what Canada could use is warming up a bit!).
Past Lake Wabigoon (Wobegon?). Tim Horton's at Dryden, ON, arr 09:35, lose an hour. Ask for mug, not disposable cup. The drive-through is choc-a-bloc. Nearby take gas at BG Fuels Gas Bar #3878, 647 Government Road, Dryden, ON. ($16.11). Clean windscreen. Stop at garage sale on exit of town, there is a table of tools but nothing has my name on it.
Endless pickup trucks towing boats. The road is empty for stretches - motoring as she used to be.
Divert through Kenora and Lake of the Woods. 12:40 reach Manitoba, three days of riding through the rocks comes to an end, as I have reached the Prairies. Speed limit rises to a more sensible 100km.
On to Winnipeg - arrive at Travelodge at 14:39 but it is sold out. So to Canad Inns Destination Centre Windsor Park, 1034 Elizabeth Road, Winnipeg, where I apparently get the last room at 15:10. A peculiar hotel where they demand a $200 deposit on the room. Crash out until 21:00 approx - I must have been tired. Snack in hotel $17.67 incl tip, avoiding mayo. There are freight trains and a busy road at the end of the street.
Good Lovelies play Mariposa Folk Festival, Orillia, ON, Sunday July 8th.
432 miles, running total for three days 1,325 miles.
Sunday 10 June.
Dep 05:00. Signposted out through Winnipeg city centre, not a snag at this time of day. Turning left at Union Station, I can't help thinking of George Ernest Willmett. Followed by a cop car for a while - unnerving. Take gas at Petro-Canada, 2607 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, at 05:35: $15.
Early morning fog, past Portage La Prairie, to a stop at Sidney, Manitoba - a rather dog-eared town with a rusty old Pontiac Parisienne taking pride of place, amongst other vintage tin.

Pic by RLT.
Stop at Brandon on TCH for fry-up at A&W (The Dub). The good ol' boys are in residence:
"You going out to the lake?"
"Don't do anything till I get back!"
Listening to The Farm country radio: Chris Janson: "Drunk Girl" (are drinking songs back in fashion?); Dierks Bentley: "What was I Thinking?" Radio reception much better on the Prairies.
Gas at Esso Amethyst Stores Ltd, Trans Canada Highway, Elkhorn at 10:13 - $14.40. Past Moosomin, SK, where the Red Barn is a favourite stop.
Wind and hail warnings on the radio. Travel-trailers fishtailing on the highway. Horrible wrong slot at Regina - a sign simply says road closed ahead - no advice about what to do. I turn south drifting eastward to Krona.
After a spell on gravel roads where I am cursing loudly I regain the TCH, finally back on the black stuff. After passing Reed Lake I reach the Holiday Inn Express, 1301 North Service Rd E, Swift Current ($125.67). The local Co-op is closed, so I dine at Tim Horton's, making a big effort to rehydrate.
551 miles - the Queen Stage.
Monday 11 June.
Dep 05:43. A mama duck and brood are attempting to cross the TCH. I hoot loudly and they flee in another direction. I fear for them. Soon after a stag is crossing the road in front of my car, more hooting to deter two followers. Let us hope they made it. Too much roadkill on the highway testifies to daily carnage.
Gas at Gull Lake Esso, Junction Hwy 1 E and Hwy 37 N, Gull Lake, SK at 06:32. The cashier berates me for cleaning more than the glass on the smart car: "No washing!" Good breakfast at adjacent International Diner, Gull Lake, deserved $5 dollar tip. I'm told the boss is an Englishman, speciality English fish and chips.
Gas at Shell Canada Products, 1343 TransCanada Way, Medecine Hat: $10.
Drizzle. I can see the Rockies at last from 100 miles away. Stop at splendid rest area. Chat to local couple heading out to a summer job with a big rig.
Gas at Calgary Co-op Edgefield Gas Bar, 140 Edgefield Place, Strathmere, AB: Total $13, $1.229 per litre. (Due to a collapse in civility in Canada you have to prepay for gas in many places, which leads to a guessing game as to how much you need. Get it wrong and you have to go back for change - that is two transactions instead of one.)
To Co-op store, bought lunch, on quick look round prices seemed higher than in Toronto. Buying beef is everywhere promoted. Cowboy hats are popular in store, both customers and staff.
I take a huge loop around Calgary, with a pitstop for a pic-nic about 50 miles short of Banff in another rest area. Views of snowy mountains. A huge traffic jam is developing eastbound.
Banff has succumbed to mass tourism and is not a pleasant experience. Prices are through the roof. I drive the strip as endless tourists disembark from buses. Managed to find a room at Bumpers Inn: interminable check-in procedures, crashed out at 18:00. $232.37.
402 miles.
Tuesday 12 June.
Dep Banff 04:55 for a day of endless mountains. Good idea to go early avoiding traffic and grockles. To Lake Louise for a short tour, taking in the old log railway station from 1910.
Kicking Horse Pass (fantastic), stop at spiral railway tunnels, then down Ten Mile Hill. Cyclists are coming the other way. Crazy. Dropped in at the tiny village of Field, BC, but it was closed. (I am now in B.C.) On to Golden, BC, for gas ($20) and A&W breakfast. Through Rogers Pass to Revelstoke, a railway town with museum, where I take tea at the Main Street Cafe, served by a girl from Melbourne, Australia.
I cut south towards Kelowna, pitstop at Safeway Vernon Square, 4300 32 Street, Vernon for gas $15.00 and a drinkable yoghurt $1.04.
Then at helpful Kelowna tourist information with maps. Over the mountains to Merritt, after struggling to find turn-off. I consider stopping here for the night but think better of it, plenty of cheap motels but not much more than a logging camp.
I carry on to Hope, arriving at Best Continental Motel, 860 Fraser Ave at 17:25 approx. I manage to negotiate a room on the ground floor at Seniors rate, $89.27 - saves battling upstairs with luggage. Good value. To Rollo's Restaurant, next door, a delightful old-fashioned diner, three courses $27 incl tip. Friendly staff, recommended. I take a short stroll after dinner and spot a row of charging points for Tesla electric cars.
Pic by RLT.
Hope has the mountains like Banff but none of the gouging. I prefer it.
467 miles.
Wednesday 13 June.
Dep 05:00. Find Chevron gas station at Hope - open early. Take coffee while chatting with the cashier about the old days on the Saanich Peninsula (where I am headed) - he laments the loss of commercial daffodil growing, pushed out by development of subdivisions.
Running in the rain in heavy traffic on the TCH. Stop at a welcome rest area where there are many rabbits. Through the southern outskirts of Vancouver.
Reach Tsawwassen for B.C. Ferries "Spirit of Vancouver Island" 09:00 sailing to Swartz Bay (Undersize vehicle and driver: $72.50). Take Starbucks breakfast at Tsawwassen Quay Market. We depart ten minutes late but the captain says he will make up the time. Car alarms keep going off on the car decks. We pass "The Spirit of British Columbia," headed the other way, in the narrows. Rapid unloading at Swartz Bay and I arrive at the house in Sidney at 11.02.
107 miles, total for trip 2,852 miles.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Brexit Tour - May 2018

Pic by RLT, click to enlarge.
For our Brexit bicycle tour we chose to ride from Prague to Hamburg on the British Brompton bicycle, broadly following the Elbe river.
Cobblestones plagued our route, more suitable for tanks! We enjoyed numerous sightings of Skoda, Tatra, Trabant, Wartburg, Barkas, Ape and Simson. The two-stroke culture of the old DDR continues to fascinate.
A tale of spokes, sporks and spargel, it was a case of "Auf Wiedersehen Pet!"
553 miles plus in total.
Tues 1st May
Rail: Lewes to Koln. Lewes - St Pancras - Brussels - Koln. Ticket PBZHBW 1st class. Depart Lewes early doors for the smoke.
08.54 St Pancras to Brussels-Midi 12.02. Breakfast on the train. Train quiet after Lille.
Change at Brussels-Midi, the station in a shambles amid remodelling chaos, befitting the capital of Europe.
12.25 Brussels-Midi to Koln Hbf 14.15. Interesting station at Liege.
IBIS hotel, Koln Am Dom, Bahnhofsvorplatz Altstadt-Nord, 50667 Koln (actually part of the station) +49 221 9128580. 1 night, 3 rooms. €249. Top digs.
Walk across the Hohenzollern bridge and down the Rhine river. Welcome meal at Curios Bistro & Cafe, Theodor-Heuss-Ring 62, 50668 Köln. Doleful beagle begging at tables. Beers at Le Bar Perron, Wyndham Köln Hotel, Breslauer Platz 2, 50668 Köln and also back at the hotel. Warnings everywhere about scofflaws and pickpockets. Good plan to finish the night safely indoors. (Richard visited the cathedral, next to our hotel.)
Wed 2nd May
Koln to Prague Rail: Koln - Berlin - Prague Ticket 37D3GD 1st class.
08.48 Koln Hbf to Berlin Hbf 13.06.
Train via Wuppertal (suspension railway) and Wolfsburg (VW factory, home of the diesel software scandal).
The train ran late and we missed our connection for Prague at 13.19. We went into the DB First Class lounge at Berlin, (view of the Reichstag), for complementary beers and snacks.
15.19 Berlin Hbf to Praha hl.n arr 19.35.
Happy hour starts at the Czech border in a restored vintage dining car. Gambrinus bottled beer. We detrain in good order at Prague.
Bicycle to apartment. I arrive at the digs long before my companions and obtain keys. Satnav takes them to another apartment, 200 yards away, with very similar name.
Prague Royal Apartment Serikova, Serikova 7, Prague 11800, Czech Republic. Tel: +420 739 544 128. 2 nights: 2 bedroom apartment €401. Generally good but collapsing beds.
Late evening at nearby bars: Kamparium cellar bar, Říční 540/9, 118 00 Malá Strana, very cheap beer. Then Klub Ujezd - Hieronymous Bosch-like bar furniture.
Thurs 3rd May
In Prague. Gargantuan three-course breakfast at Café Slavia, Smetanovo nábř. 1012/2, 110 00 Staré Město, a spacious elegant dining room, est 1884. Tram spotting through large windows. Kyla Brox poster. Wenceslas Square with McDonald's and Starbucks. To Cafe Arco, Masarykovo railway station. Tobruk Cafe: asked for English breakfast tea, received English breakfast. €5 tip soothes the situation. Discussed route out of Prague - agreed to take the tram to avoid traffic and cobbles. Beers in Kamparium, then Pizzeria Capretto, Újezd 590/8, Malá Strana, 150 00 Praha 5-Malá Strana-Smíchov.
Fri 4th May
Stage 1, 36 miles: Prague to Roudnice nad Labem.
I have had little training for the tour, limited to about 40 miles, due to the severe winter in Canada. Jetlagged and road weary, I can only ride myself back to fitness.
Start the day at Artic Bakehouse, Újezd 11, 150 00 Malá Strana, Prague, for breakfast outdoors, then cross the river on our bikes to catch #17 tram to the Zoo (24 Kč each). The official tour commences westbound by the Vltava river, adjacent to a canoe school. The early going is deceptive on smooth tarmac, but deteriorates rapidly. This is rough stuff for Bromptons, meandering close to the river. We take tea at Restaurace Aramark, in a college at Řež.
Just when we conclude that no sensible Brompton rider would be going this way we encounter Karl-Heinz Genther on his custom Brompton with Schlumpf mountain drive. We compare notes. Should we have crossed the river and tried the paths on the other side? Coffee stop at Máslovice at a "No Name" cafe: three Turkish coffees, two hot dogs and a bowl of lentil soup with bread, €1.50.
We had intended to go on via Melnik but we notice a short cut on a map away from the river by way of Ledčice. Lunch stop at Nová Ves, in parkette next to roadside foodstore. Sporks deployed. A large hill looms ahead which we succeed in bypassing.
Arrive Ubytovani v rodinnem dome, Zizkova 706, Roudnice nad Labem, 413 01, Czech Republic. Phone +420 777 292 261. 3 rooms reserved. B&B with very good breakfast included, €80 for three, outstanding value.
A bike race is in progress with all the attendant hoopla - the Course de la Paix Juniors.
Beers and supper at Restaurace U Faustů, Pracnerova 701, 413 01 Roudnice nad Labem. The barman is anxious that we take dinner - the Czech menu being decoded by google translate - full marks for initiative.
We repair to a bar in town - cafe bar Giraffe - where a local 'builder' is displaying his bum at the bar. They claim to have no beer so we move on to Caffe & Grill Ztracená No 2, Špindlerova tř. 798, Roudnice nad Labem, altogether more convivial.
Sat 5th May

Pic by RLT
Stage 2: Roudnice nad Labem to Decin, 47 miles via Elberadweg.
To Litomerice (Czechoslovak Legions railway display), Masarykovo lock (met Swiss cycling couple on six-month trip to Baku via Kaliningrad) then lunch at Usti nad Labem (nearby a tatty administrative building is flying the EU flag, a sad reminder of this failed experiment). Last stop at roadside shack.
Hotel Ceska Koruna, Masarykovo nám. 60 , Děčín, 40502, Czech Republic, +420 412 516 104. 3 rooms reserved, Breakfast inc, €164. Good value.
A Tatra T613 is parked in the square outside our hotel. To China Restaurant Peking, in the square, where a hard-working guy is both barman and cook. Watching Giro d’Italia on TV, while twitchy patrons wait for the soccer to start.
Sun 6th May
Stage 3: Decin to Dresden, Germany (44 miles).
Enter Germany via Elberadweg. Stop at Schöna (Germany), ferry across river to Hřensko (Czechia). Hotel Labe for coffee outdoors.
Richard and Jack cross the bridge at Bad Schandau. Königstein Fortress on left, high above the river, a prison in WW2. On the east bank I am cliffed out and traverse the hillside, mostly on foot, for about 3-miles in mountain bike territory.
Ferry Stadt Wehlen to Potschau. Regrouped at Pirna bridge. Elberadweg closed, bridge under construction. Richard and Rupe cross precarious metal channel with bikes. Jack balks at excessive vibration. Regroup near Pillnitz. We arrive in Dresden via the Thomas Klewe Brücke, the Blue Wonder bridge.

Pic by RLT
Motel One Dresden, Am Zwinger, Postplatz 5, 01067 Dresden. Phone +49 351 438380. 3 rooms reserved. 2 nights €414.
I take a short cut on final approach and am there in time to order Radeburg beers for the boys on arrival in the modern foyer bar. To quirky Hans im Gluck for supper. Dessert in traditional Paulaner's.
Mon 7th May
In Dresden Motel One, Dresden Am Zwinger - as above.
Bergbahn x 2. All day tickets, tageskarte, on trams, buses, etc purchased from helpful lady near our hotel. Jack posts excess clothing home.
Ascend via Standseilbahn (funicular), drinks at Luisenhof with spectacular views of the city. Long walk and bus ride to descent via Schwebebahn (suspension railway, as in Wuppertal). Interesting chat with cafe owner at top of the suspension railway. Evening pizza in Enotria da Miri, Kleine Brüdergasse 1, 01067 Dresden.
Tues 8th May
Stage 4: Dresden to Gohlis (48 miles) via Elberadweg.

Pic by RLT
We back track to Radebeul-Ost on the east bank to see the steam railway and Dresdner Backhaus, Sidonienstr, Radebeul, a stop on a previous tour. Then to Meissen for picnic by the river (Lidl €.9.95). An unhelpful kid upbraids me for parking my bike outside his cafe, so I decide to move on from this tourist trap.
Ferry at Niederlommatzsch. The boys are about half an hour behind. Somewhere en route I notice a broken spoke.
Jack punctures at Grodel, unaided by unwelcoming householder, suspicious workshop owner.
Back together for drinks at Hotel Moritz, Dorfstraße 2, 01619 Moritz / Zeithain bei Riesa. A welcoming oasis.
Broken spoke removed at Gohlis.
Pension Remenar & Lorenz, Lindenstraße 20, Gohlis, 01619 Zeithain, phone+49 174 3336956
Apartment, in Gohlis nr Zeithain, reserved €60. (No breakfast).
Walk to supper at soccer club: SV Königsblau Sportkantine Gohlis, Waldstraße 14, 01619 Zeithain. Table knocking.
Weds 9th May
Stage 5: Gohlis to Leipzig (63 miles) by road, via Riesa.
Pitstop for coffee at Ferienhof Reichert, then breakfast in the square at Hofmann's Hutte, Oschatz. Wrong turn out of Liptitz, Jack and Richard double back, Rupe goes own way. Very few places open, very hot day.
Apartment in Leipzig reserved €84: WELCOME appt, 25 Volksgartenstraße, Nordost, 04347 Leipzig Phone +49 1522 3162914.
We split up as I head for a bike shop in Leipzig: Bike Department Ost GmbH, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 31, 04107 Leipzig. After circling the town I reach the store circa 17:30. They are initially reluctant to help but after some wheedling two new spokes are fitted by about 18:40. €33.50 for repairs and they refuse a tip!
My tour is saved. I am so elated that I set off in the wrong direction. Despite phone contact I cannot find my companions so check into Pentahotel, Großer Brockhaus 3, 04103 Leipzig - a bike-friendly hotel very welcome in the circumstances. Club sandwich and Beck’s beer at the bar. €157.50 for the night incl bar tab.
Thurs 10th May
Stage 6: Leipzig to Dessau (48 miles) by road:
Not wishing to waste time we arrange to meet on the road, which happens by chance at Delitzsch. Everything otherwise closed - Ascension and Fathers' Day. Flowers and balloons on local bikes. Burger at roadside Thuringer Rostbratwurstgrill. Ice-creams at Raguhn.
We separate on final approach and I head for the station for necessary pitstop. I can't find the digs so I settle outside the Bauhaus where the boys finally appear. I am so tired I can hardly stand - carrying the bike up three floors at the hotel finishes me off. Richard, having shed weight all along, buys a heavy book at the Bauhaus.
Dessau 3 rooms reserved: Hotel 7 Saulen, €180, breakfast inc, near the Bauhaus. Ebertallee 66, 06846 Dessau, Phone +49 340 619620. Good hotel but no lift.
Later beers at hotel and dinner at Greek restaurant nearby: Athos, Kornhausstraße 1, 06846 Dessau-Roßlau.
Fri 11th May
Stage 7: Dessau to Magdeburg (approx 54 miles).

Pic by RB
Visit to Kornhaus by the Elbe river before leaving town. Early separation so I am back on the blackstuff and unusually for me heading the party as far as Schönebeck. Coffee at Groß Rosenburg. Ferry non-existent at Werkleitz on River Saale, so via Calbe, then stop at ice cream shop: Jannys Eis, 60, Friedrichstraße 54, 39218 Schönebeck, where the boys catch up, after various re-routings. Lidl lunch, then L51 to Magdeburg. Final approach along top of dykes. Drink in garden at Restaurant "Die Kirche", Alt Prester 86, 39114 Magdeburg. Derelict bridge on left, subject of rescue mission.
B&B Hotel Magdeburg (in Altstadt), Otto-von-Guericke-Straße 34, 39104 Magdeburg, Phone +49 391 59768280. 3 rooms reserved €402 for 2 nights. Rude receptionist, dealt with.
Shopping for shorts at C&A (€25.20), toothpaste, drugs etc. Supper at Magado, Ulrichpl. 10, 39104 Madgeburg.
Sat 12th May
In Magdeburg B&B Hotel, as above.

Pic by RB
Buy tageskarte at transit shop in town. To Green Citadel - modern "Green" building, painted pink – including courtyard coffee shop. To IKEA by tram, past Woolworth's - no sporks. Then bike shop. S-Bahn from wrecked station, in search of tower. Day trippers on vintage tram.
Evening nibbles and beers in Rupe's room, watching Giro d'Italia. Too tired for dinner.
Sun 13th May
Stage 8: Magdeburg to Stendal (53 miles).

Pic by RLT.
Breakfast a zoo at the hotel, poor value and a mistake. Magdeburg by road north to Stendal. Climb up to inspect Elbe Havel Kanal. Drinks at Angern. Then via Wolmirstedt, Loitsche, Rogatz, Angern. Sandbeiendorf, Tangerhutte, Gohre, Dahlen, Demker, Heeren.
Everywhere Sunday closing: supermarkets, cafes, shops. Ice cream at petrol station. Barkas van.
Altstadt-Hotel, Breite Straße 60, 39576 Stendal. Phone +49 3931 69890. €186. 3 rooms reserved. Good digs.
Stendal altogether pleasant. Beers at Cafe Muller, opposite the hotel, then indoors at Italian restaurant: Ristorante Gelateria Italia, Breite Str. 5, 39576 Stendal (€80.20).
Mon 14th May
Stage 9: Stendal to Domitz by road (73.4 miles).
The Queen stage, no supermarkets, cafes, shops - this is rural country. Rupe no water.
Stop at helpful bike store at Binde: Radkultur Starck.
Divert to Wolfshotel am Arendsee, then backtrack. Landlady making song and dance about serving lemonade and ice cream. How hard can it be?
On arrival cross to north of Elbe over bridge on B191 to Domitz.
Domitzer Hafen Hotel, Hafenplatz 3, 19303 Dömitz. Phone+49 38758 364290, 3 Rooms reserved, €212.
A bike-friendly hotel hugely welcome at the end of a long day. An old converted warehouse in a harbour with maritime-industrial vibe. Baffled by master-switch in bedroom. Restaurant on site - litre steins of beer with supper. Panorama Cafe on 4th floor for breakfast, great views. Recommended.

Pic by RB
Tues 15th May
Stage 10: Domitz to Luneburg (51 miles). Cross to south side of Elbe, then Damnatz (time-wasting wrong slot which kicks the stuffing out of me). Now in lockdown just hoping to survive the day, walking on the flat! Main road all the way. Stop at roadside trödelmarkt, a bust. Rendezvous at Di-Ma cafe, Dannenburg, for ice-cream.
Town centre, apartment reserved, €135. Wohnung in Luneburg, 19 Sülztorstraße, Altstadt, 21335 Lüneburg. Phone +49 176 82139462.
I lose the boys on final approach to Luneburg and am too mentally tired to go looking. After a pitstop at FRIEDAs am Wasserturm, Am Wasserturm 15, 21335 Lüneburg, I continued about 10 miles to Hotel sur Linde, Bundesstraße 8, 21423 Winsen (Rottorf). A German knight-of-the-road paced me on his electric bike and sorted out the arrangements at the hotel. The landlady arrives by smart car. €49 incl breakfast. Supper at Taverna Bei Kosta, Bundesstraße 34, 21423 Winsen (Rottorf), salad and spaghetti, a short walk from the hotel. Suitable. Bicycle racing on TV at hotel.
Weds 16th May
Stage 11: Luneburg to Hamburg (36 miles – less for me).
Set off in good order next morning to a tea stop at Soetebiers Dorfbäckerei, Harburger Straße 8, 21435 Stelle. Puzzled by "H-H" signs, which meant "Hamburg-Harburg." Not much use when in either. Finally I climb a tall dyke which gives a view of Hamburg mitte - I can see the distinctive Elbphilharmonie building in the distance. While working my way through the docks another Brompton comes up alongside and we stop with a bunch of hipsters at Odo's Kaffeeklappe, a trinkhalle in an old container, complete with grafitti, for coffee and lemonade. A Citroën DS décapotable pulls up outside with top down.

Pic by RLT
I come upon the historic Elbetunnel-St Pauli and emerge into a part of the city known to me. Made my way via the Hbf to meet the boys at a cafe table in the Hansaplatz. Lunch at Turkish restaurant: LauRes, Kreuzweg 12, 20099 Hamburg. No alcohol served.
Boutique 020 Hotel Hamburg City, Ellmenreichstr. 20, St. Georg 20099 Hamburg. Phone: +49 40 244440. Reserved 2 nights 3 rooms €564. No breakfast. Close to central station.
Thurs 17th May
In Hamburg. Accounts evening up. Breakfast at Stadt Backerei, Mohlenhofstrasse. Visit Chilehaus. Guitar shop. WW2 Anti-Aircraft tower, now music shops and school. Truncated Beatles tour at Grosse Freiheit. Rinder Market Halle, veggie Jalfresi, happy hour at Vino Fino.
'S' Bahn to Hbf (€1.60 each). Walked away from seedy St Georg district to supper at Prego Restaurant Pizzeria, Lilienstraße 36, 20095 Hamburg.
Fri 18th May
Return to UK - arcane argument at Hamburg Hbf DB lounge as to our eligibility in the first class lounge. DB up to all their usual tricks and displaying their poor judgment. How many classes of first class can there be? Baffle your customers with BS.
Rail: Hamburg to Blighty
08.46 Hamburg Hbf - Köln Hbf 12.50
13.43 Koln Hbf - Bruxelles-Midi 15.35
16.56 Bruxelles-Midi - London St Pancras 18.06
Ticket: 18DC73 1st class £427.
Overall: Not the longest but probably the toughest tour to date, due to cobbles and uneven surfaces. Comments below echo previous tours:
Plus Points: We were better prepared than before. Minimal luggage but could be cut further (excess posted home); weather mostly good (no rain but two days very hot); health benefits (the gift that keeps on giving). Bromptons generally reliable. Mobile phone mitigated separations but not infallible. Painkillers (Ibuprofen).
Downsides: One puncture, two broken spokes. Michelin GPS navigation/direction finding a mixed bag - can lead you up the garden path. Getting separated particularly late in the day when fatigued; too much bushwhacking.
Learning points: The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyre a must for touring, particularly beneficial on rear wheel. Fit later-type stronger Brompton front wheel to earlier models. Investigate lighter bag and luggage. We had some energy gels on tour but not enough.
Overall: Toughest tour yet, but still felt good to be alive.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Four Countries Tour - part 3

Scandinavia - Sweden and Denmark

Depart Prague on Czech Airlines propeller plane ATR 72-OK MFT. We fly north over a large off-shore wind farm, nothing is turning. We arrive Landvetter Airport, Göteborg. Get rapid cash and bus ticket, then Volvo bus to downtown train station, travel time 30 mins approx. Short walk to hotel. Back in streetcar world.
Hotel Eggers, Drottningtorget 2-4, 411 03 Göteborg, Sweden (a traditional old-style hotel).
Lunch at Wayne's Coffee - Ostra Hamngatten 30-34/149.
Evening at hotel - 3 x Vega Azalea Lager 5.2%, 2 x veggie burgers, 1 x lemonade, 600 SEK including tip.
Thursday 20 July
Station Announcement: "Beware of pickpockets. Never leave your luggage unattended." Not the Sweden I remember.
To Trollhättan - direction Karlstad. 09:15 train 356 Vasttrafik SJ regional, track 8. 248 SEK for 2 return tickets - ticket with QR code - travel restricted to chosen train out and back. Castle on left at 09:26. Walk to Saab Museum past Erik Carlsson Roundabout.
8th June 1980 - last 96 off the line at Saab-Valmet, Nystad, Finland. Total of 730,607 made 92 + 93 + 96. V4 engine introduced August 1966. Raymond Baxter film at Mantorp Park, described as the drag race HQ of Sweden.
Walk via canal to Trollhättans Arbetareforening, Stifford 1867, Strandgatan bistro and bar for lunch outdoors: fish and chips, juice, 300 SEK. Watching boats on the canal, then walk via lift bridge to:
Jarnvagsstation 14:07 platform (spår) 2, delayed to 14:15.
Supper from Netto near hotel, a bit grotty - picnic on bench by the canal, then hotel bar.
Friday 21 July
To station to buy day ticket x 2 for bus-train-boat, SEK 90 each.
#16 bus to Eketragatan (baffled while we discover no trams are currently running on this route), then #32 bus to Arendals Skans (Volvo hybrid bus). Motor cuts out at stops, sounds like electric launch (initially intriguing but streetcars have been doing this for over a century).
Volvo Museum: entry 100 + 80, total 180 SEK. Volvo 1927-2017 - 90 years of innovation. Horrible litter outside the museum.
Founders Gustaf Larson, Assare Gabrielsson. Open-door management policy.
1st car - OV4 of 1927 (sidevalve, 3-bearing crank, 1940 c.c.)
Volvo PU444 - 1947.
PV544 Fixlight 1180 accessory.
Volvo P1900 - 1954, fibreglass, 67 off.
Volvo 66 - 1976, ex-DAF, CVT transmission.
Volvo 480 - 1st front-wheel-drive.
Volvo "Lego" car.
Nedcar in the Netherlands.
Boat engines:
Some great models in cases.
Wittenborg coffee machine, multi-language, touch-screen - with Volvo images. Coffee/tea SEK 25 each.
Huge Volvo campus. Altogether a more corporate feel compared to the Saab Museum. Grupo bus tours arriving - mass tourism. Litter had gone when we left.
#6E M.A.N. bus back to town.
We take the antique tram to Liseberg and back.
Saturday 22 July
We are disappointed to learn that the streetcar museum is closed on Saturdays. But the "just show up" mentality kicks in and we head out to see what we can see. After getting on the wrong tram to Gamlestaden, we backtrack to Göteborgs Spårvägmuseum, J Sigfrid Edströms Gata 2, Gårda, Gothenburg.
By chance we arrive at the rear of the streetcar barns and bump into Gustav Gotthardsson, who greets us cheerily and takes us on a tour of the museum. (A different approach to that shown by the execrable Škoda Museum - see PunchBuggy Passim.)
Up until 1967 trams boarded on the left, but then Sweden switched to driving on the right. The collection includes #15 from 1902, the oldest electric tram. We also saw the Czech Tatra T7 B5 party or conference wagon, decked out for special events.
Afterwards we walk past the new streetcar barns at Göteborgs Spårvägar, then birdwatching in the cemetery at Stampens Kyrkogård.
We cannot resist taking the antique tram to Liseberg once more as Gustav shows up in uniform. SEK 25 each rtn.
Lunch at Rosenkaféet - prawn open-face sandwich, prawn salad, lemonade - outdoors in the flower garden, SEK 301. Recommended.
What looks like a JAS-39 Gripen jet fighter flies overhead, waggling its wings.
We tour Trädgårds Föreningen, a botanical garden with greenhouses. Appearing in the park that evening Per Gessle solo tour (ex-Roxette: "It must have been love" etc).
Supper at "Pane Fresco" in the Nord Mall: Pizza, Carlsberg x 1, SEK 179, SEK 200 incl tip. Evening at bar in Eggers Hotel. Beer: Melleruds Utmarkla Pilsner Ekologisk from Mellerud.
We talk to bar manager and actor, David Lindström, seen on History Channel "Vikings." Turns out there is a local film industry in Göteborg and Trollhättan (aka Trollywood).
Sunday 23 July
Dep O8:40 Göteborg Nils Ericson Terminalen, #1051 Mercedes-Benz bus to Göteborg-Mölndal. Then train #1051, wagon 11, seats 14-17, Öresundståg 1 Klass, destination Copenhagen.
Annette enjoys crossing the Øresund Bridge.
Check in to Absalon Hotel, Helgolandsgade 15, 1653 København (3 nights). In room at 12:51. Hotel has good buffet breakfast, bike rental, Duralex glasses.
Walk to Dansk Bank. We witness a bicycle accident - lady hit by car and decked - fortunately not serious. Rainstorm.
Thai supper at Poonchai Thai Restaurant, Istedgade 1, 1650 København V. Singha beer DKK 39.00, total DKK 406.00 plus tip.
Monday 24 July
07:21 First Class train København to Rungsted Kyst. Stops Nørreport, Østerport, Hellerup, Klamenborg, Skodsborg, Vedbaek, Rungsted Kyst. Then "Togbus" (rail replacement) to Helsingør.
Statues: Hamlet and Ophelia by Rudolph Tegener; end of pier HAN by Elmgreen and Dragset.
Elsinore town walk with 20 signposted stops incl Kronburg Castle. Build-your-own Lego ship at the Maritime Museum.
Kitchen shop Snork Maiden spoon SEK 79.95.
Kaffe Juice Fabrikken (JFK), Stengade 52, 3000 Helsingør - curious American-themed coffee house, 25 x 2 filter coffee, Bodum cup. Shakes and drinks named for U.S. Presidents, including Trump. "Better Latte than never!"
Ferry Helsingør to Helsingborg 11:28 Mercandia IV. Very rapid turnaround of car ferry for 20-minute crossing back to Sweden. The boat is a floating duty-free grogshop. Hop the 12:11 train to Malmö, riding in quiet car.
Stops: Landskrona, Lund C, Malmö C. Grafitti: "Bust the Boom and sleep til Noon!"
Quick lunch at La Pasta Veloce, Neptunigatan 28, near station, 2 x Pomodoro SEK 128.
Walk to old police house used in filming "The Bridge."
14:33 (dep 14:37) Malmö to København. Second crossing of Øresund Bridge. Back at hotel 15:29. Beer at hotel bar. There are hookers lurking about outside. Lidl supermarket total DKK 44.75.
Tuesday 25 July
Walk to Polititorvet (another location from "The Bridge"), then Fisketorvet Copenhagen Mall. We have come to see the Bryggebroen (The Quay Bridge), a bicycle and pedestrian bridge. Parts of it are bicycle only but we also observe runners and a drunk with a skateboard. This is a top place for bike watching - Riese and Muller, Bullitt, Nihola cargo bikes etc.
09:28 boat Bryggebroen to Nordre Toldbod. On arrival we can see the Little Mermaid in the distance, but mass tourism drives us away. The cruise ships dock beyond.
We head for the Design Museum Denmark - Dursley-Pedersen Cykel (also produced the world's first internal-gear-hub for bicycles).
Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971) architect SAS Hotel - first skyscraper in Copenhagen. "Gesamtkunstwerk" - designing the building and all the contents.
Via Staerekassen, August Bournonvilles Passage, to lunch at Café Diamanten, Gammel Strand 50, 1202 København K: crabcakes, smorgasbord (also Duralex glasses).
Then to Kunstforeningen, Gammel Strand 48, 1202 København K, for the Tove Jansson Exhibition. Moomin cartoons first appeared in 1947 in the newspaper "Ny Tid" then the Evening News in England, 1954-1960. Jansson hated school, dropped out. Produced political cartoons during WW2. Her brother drew some of the Moomin cartoons in the same style.
Copenhagen Historic Grand Prix, 5-6 August.
Wednesday 26 July
We are determined to make the most of our last day. We walk to Aldi, Ingerslevgade 60, following the railway line past the international bus stops. Next door we spot bicycle store, rentals etc. We chat to Neils Bonefeld who tells us about the African connection. They ship old bikes to Mozambique for re-use (apparently there are 500,000 bikes abandoned in Denmark each year). Unfortunately this relationship has lately gone to the bad, and they are considering hooking up with Bogota, Colombia, where the Mayor is apparently doing good things. Across the street is home to Generally in Copenhagen you see few bike helmets, perhaps 50/50 male/female riders.
Drinks at Espresso House, Fisketorvet: "Dear Tea Society - Very Merry Rooibos", Coffee El Salvador special. At Elgiganten electrical store we admire a Moccamaster coffee machine "Handmade in the Netherlands."
At Dybbølsbro we spot a Puch motorbike. We note a district heating scheme is being installed nearby:
Walk back to hotel, then 2 x 36 Zonebillet tickets for train to airport. 14:35 take off, last view of the Øresund Bridge.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Four Countries Tour - part 2

On to Czechia (also Czech Republic, aka Szkicia): Saturday 15th July
Our train, Berlin hbf to Praha h.ln, EC171- Carl Maria von Weber - hurtles on towards Prague. First stop in CZ: Decin h.ln, then Usti nad Laben hl.n; dep 10:16, (cable car, large railyards, dereliction), then Praha - Holesovice. Destination Praha-hl.n - touts and robbers offering to change money are on the concourse. Not a good first impression.
Switch to Track 4S 12:22 EXP143 for Ostrava-Svinov, arrive 15:34.
Stops: Praha-Leben, Kolin, Pardubice, Ceska-Trebova, Zabreh na Morave, Olomouc, Hranice na Morave, Ostrava-Svinov.
Going back in the direction just travelled S3 15:42 to Studenka. Stops: Polevka nad Odrou (DNS), Jistebník, Studenka.
16:11 Two car train with open-ended carriages. Stops: Sedlnice, Pribor (charming town), alight Kopřivnice - Zastávka.
Walk to: Interhotel Tatra, Záhumenní 1161, 74221 Kopřivnice, Czech Republic (1 night). A Polka band is playing Saturday night in the square.
To the Brown Frog in hotel: Pilsner Urquell, Penne and salad 305.00 CZK plus generous tip 400.00 CZK for two. Chris Froome retakes lead in TdeF and yellow jersey. Hotel noisy all night.
Sunday 16th July
Breakfast - funky coffee machine Bravilor Bonamat, second cup. The town has a collectivist feel with architecture (we didn't see the old town).
The lady at the hotel desk kindly phones the nearby Technické Muzeum Tatra (Tatra museum) on our behalf: contact Mr. Zatopek, curator (speaks English), but not there during our visit. Tatra used to have a factory in Bratislava. In 2 to 3 years there will be a new museum in the local factory (took photos of Tatra factory).
Exhibits: 1967 marathon de la route #65 type T603 B 5. Tatra with Vignale styling. 1920-1930s Zenith carbs. A Hyrail with artillery wheels. Jikov (1936-37), also Solex carbs (1935-1937). Paris-Dakar truck entries 1988, 2009. Special Exhibition re Emil Zatopek, the runner.
Walk to Oldtimer Kopřivnice Auto Moto Museum, Stefanikova 220 - Czech motorbikes: Manet M90, CZ, JAWA, Ogar.
Exhibits include: Skoda - 1908, Skoda 966 Supersport, GAZ M-20, Velorex Czech microcar. Recommended.
Depart Kopřivnice - Zastávka 12:19 for Studenka on 2-car train, watch run around at Studenka while we wait for the 12:58 to Prerov, sunny. RegioJet train roars through in direction of Ostrava.
Prerov direction Brno. Stops: Suchdol nad Odroui, Hravnice na Morave. Changed Prerov where we're refused boarding the 13:59 - private LEO Express train - listed in our Eurail intinerary.
Switch to 14:16 departure for Kolin. Stops: Olomouc, Ceske trebova, Usti nad Orlice. Cheese and crackers lunch, Zlatie Ovesne biscuits. We are stuck with a nutty woman, who curses the ticket-inspector: "Bureaucratic Devils".
16:29 Kolin - Nymburk: directed by the conductor onto the wrong train. We end up at Praha-Masarykovo.
17:51 S2 to Nymburk hl.n. Slow train with many stops: Praha Uysocany, Praha-Horni Pocernice, Zelence, Mstetice, Celakovice, Celakovice-Jirina, Lysa nad Labem, Ostra Stratov, Kostomlaty Labem, Kamennne-Zabozi, Nymburk.
Take #38 bus to Mladá Boleslav. Walk to "Pension Telephone" Bozeny Nemcove 559, 293 01 Mladá Boleslav. Arrive at 20:00, three-and-a-half hours late. Wait until 20:15 but no one is there to let us in. Our booking dishonoured, hungry and tired, we walk to the Hotel Forman, Markova 693, also shut. Taxi to Hotel Venec, Rohacova 188/37, 2400.00 CZK, third floor. This hotel puts the sketch in sketch republic - Hotel Venec turns out to be a relic of the communist era with ancient Grundig TV with a vertical hold fixation, old Ikea furniture, and a serious attitude problem at check-in.
We retreated into the bar across the street, too late to get fed. Restaurace Zlata Kovadlina, Zelezná 33, 29301 Mladá Boleslav. The one decent place we found in Mladá Boleslav. Drinks 120 CZK.
Spotted a convenience store at closing time. Snacks 64 CZK.
Monday 17th July
Walk to the Skoda Museum - closed for the day - "State Visit" PITA. See PunchBuggy Passim. Skoda now a VW-satellite with suits speaking German, totalitarian approach.
The past 24 hours has been like a crash course in crisis management. Adding to the gloom Mladá Boleslav turns out to be a Craptown. Take 09:05 bus to Cerny Most, 45 mins. Bus fare 75.00 CZK x 2. Lady bus driver like Wreckless Eric, swerving on the highway. Yellow line underground to Florenc, red line one stop to Hlavni Nadrazi, 24.00 CZK each.
Falkensteiner Hotel Maria Prague, Opletalova 1402/21, 110 00 Nové Město, Prague, Czech Republic. July 17 - 19 (2 nights).
Arr hotel 10:20, a short walk from the main station. Wait for check-in in foyer (with coffee), in room by 10:55. Good service. Endless Brexit on TV. Tour de France - catching up with yesterday, win for Bauke Mollema, now Rest Day.
Walk to lunch at Pizzerie Green Tomato Restaurante, Jindřišská 938/18, 110 00 Nové Město. Antique decor, tram watching. Choice of 3 flavours of iced tea. Czech Wine: Veltlinske Zelené 0.2l, 55.00 CZK x 2; broccoli and tomato soups, pizza and pasta pesto. Total 622.00 CZK. To Henry's Belltower nearby, then walk to Wenceslas Square.
After time out, walk to the Czech Orthodox Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror. (The Czechs disposed of their chief Nazi tormentor rather more efficiently than the Germans. They took him out.)
Walk to Charles Bridge. Art installation: Victoria pragensis - a labyrinth of 936 potted medicinal plant species by Czech architect Juráš Lasovský, at Václav Havel Square, National Theatre Piazzetta. Besides classical buildings there is much modern architecture in Prague, for example the Dancing House.
Hotel Bar: Apple Juice, Budweiser Budvar beer x 4 (one free with welcome drink coupon) 300 CZK, 360 CZK incl tip. Bar empty. Thankful not to be drinking U.S. Budweiser! Later watching TV: Silk Way rally from Moscow to Xian - Kamaz and Tatra trucks.
Tuesday 18th July
We blunder into Cafe Arco, patronized by Kafka etc: "the most peculiar part of the rules was the offer of 'severance pay' for incorrigible guests in exchange for a written undertaking that they would never come back to Arco again".
Nearby to Praha-Masarykovo station named for Tomas Masaryk.
Walk across bridge over the Vltava River, climbing through a park to Národní technické muzeum (National Technical Museum), Kostelní 1320/42, 170 78 Praha 7, Czechia. Arrived at opening time. Mercifully the "Technical" name cuts down on tourists, especially early in the day.
Exhibits: Model of Josef Božek's steam car from 1815 (recognizable as a car). Benz Victoria 1893, first car in CZ. NW Prasident - 1898. Lavrin & Klement 1913/1921 of Mladá Boleslav. 1919 new Tatra marque at Kopřivnice. Tatra 11 - 1925. Jawa 750 -1935. Mercedes Benz W154, 1938-39. Aero 50 HP - 1939 - British Registration "GGO 941", also CD plate.
Switch on Nazi takeover from left to right steering wheels. Germans enforced driving on the right. General Alois Elias was Prime Minister, 1939. "In 1942 the Nazis executed General Elias for his activity in the resistance movement." WW2 Three Czech fighter squadrons with Spitfires.
Bill Ivy killed on 4-cylinder Jawa motorbike.
Tour of transport hall takes 1 hr 40 mins; then Kantyna 45 ck x 2 espresso coffee, Kavarna Muzeum, Kosteni 42. Then "Technology in Households" gallery: Filter Coffee machine A-Reiss Hoffspengler Viden 1870-1890. Alcohol burners were placed under two vessels. Photographic studio; Chemistry Around Us gallery explained the science behind everyday materials.
Walk to Billa Store at Modletice 67, 2 x water, chocolate 37 CZK. Then #26 tram from near museum to main train station. I sat in the stammtisch (best seat).
Near hotel spotted "Larry the Lada" Riva 2105, 1295 cc on the Mongol Rally - "keep the CarMa running". Conversation with crew: Dianna Taylor and Gonzalo Palacios. Five weeks; 200 cars; 10,000 miles. Rules call for an old car with a small engine, unsupported (no road back-up). Ten events held already. Arrive Ulan Ude north of Ulan Bator. London-Bruge-Prague controlled stage. Then free-for-all route to Mongolia.
Pitstop at hotel. Walk to Cafe Milani, Jindrisska 23. Rescued a ladybird. Snack lunch 394 CZK, 450 CZK including tip.
Mucha Museum, Panska 7. Museum entry 400 CZK (240/160). Mucha (1860-1939) is among the first to be arrested by the Gestapo, dies in Prague, 14 July 1939. (Germans occupy Prague 15 March 1939.) Alfonse Mucha (a Mason) designed Fouquet jewellery shop in Paris.
Spotted Toyota Tsusho Hybrid.
Visit Central Station to check out airport bus depart 07:30, busstop AE for terminal 2 at airport. 60.00 CZK x 2 - tickets bought in advance.
Nazareth play Lucerna, Praha, 29 August (four piece band).
Bookshop Neopalladium purchased: "Today We Die a Little" by Richard Askwith re Emil Zatopek, 299 CZK.
Supper once more at Pizzerie Green Tomato, 928 CZK - 1100 CZK including tip.
Wednesday 19th July
Bus to Prague airport: impressive, modern, uncrowded. Czech Airlines keep adding additional charges. 09:00 in Coffee Shop - SO! for coffee. 200 CZK including tip.
Exhibit at Vaclav Havel Airport: SKODA 422 - 1930.
Annette bought a copy of the Guardian (a claimants newspaper), hazelnut chocolate, a book: Mucha - an Illustrated Life by Roman Neugebauer, total 430 CZK.
Czechia is now a German colony once more with Autobahns and Lidl installed, the commanding heights of the economy, e.g. Skoda, back in German control. Many towns look delapidated as uncompetitive industries closed down. They replaced socialism with shopping (with a nod to the Plastic People of the Universe). They have good beer. Prague is plagued by mass tourism, but has much to commend it off the beaten track. Overall I cannot recommend a holiday in Czechia. It is too much like hard work.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Four Countries Tour - part 1

For our summer tour this year we decided on a trip to Germany, Czechia, Sweden and Denmark. We booked everything ourselves online.
From Toronto Icelandair flight FI 602, departure 21:00, stopover in Keflavik, Iceland; then FI 510 scheduled arrival at Hamburg 13:05 on July 4th. Miserable stopover at Keflavik on way across Atlantic - the airport is a shambles.
Binge-watching "Deutschland '83" on the plane, a German TV-series about DDR activities on both sides of the Wall. It is all good clean fun until somebody gets hurt!
The reality is that the two German states were conducting a low-level civil war in the 1980s. Star player for the Stasi was Carlos The Jackal, who bombed the "Maison de France," a cultural centre in Berlin in 1983.
Our plane arrives at Hamburg 12:45, some twenty minutes early. A Chinook twin-rotor military helicopter swoops right in behind us on the runway. Welcome to the G20 Gipfel (summit).
We take the S-Bahn to Landungsbrücken, 30 mins approx, €3.10 each. Our Einzelkarte is stamped 13:18.
Past the Hbf, one stop short of the Reeperbahn. There is graffiti galore. The posters say: "G20: Welcome to Hell." A banner in our neighbourhood says: "G20: Ein festival der Idiotie". Reportedly there are 50,000 visitors, plenty of protestors and rows of police vans.
We check in to Hanse Clipper Haus, Dittmar-Koel Str. Our apartment has two floors. This is in the "Portuguese quarter" - many Italian, Portuguese, Tapas restaurants, cafes etc. Lunch outdoors at restaurant Ciao Ana, Ditmar-Koel Str 10: Arabiata, penne tonno, Krombacher Pils, €22.70. Some old buildings survive, also many bicycles, Ape x 2. Afternoon crashed out.
Later at nearby Bairro Bar bar-lounge-cafe, Dittmar-Koel Str 24: Becks x 2, €3.90 each, tea €2.90. To Rewe City, Brauerknectgraben 47, for grocery, very convenient, €15.41 plus 63 cents for milk. Photo: VW 1500. Smart cars everywhere.
We catch up with the Cavendish-Sagan saga in the Tour de France on TV.
Museum Day. Police mustering near the Elbephilharmonic. Walk to Schanzen Backerei, Holtzbrucke 7: coffee x 1, €1.60.
Waiting for Miniatur Wunderland to open at 08:30 - model trains, moving vehicles, a working airport, great variety of cars - smart, Ape, Thing, Goliath etc. You can see the Control Centre which operates and monitors the layouts. There is a temporary G20 Hamburg sector with visitor messages: "Impeachment NOW!" - "WENIGER AUTOS" - "STOP SEXISMUS" etc. Depressing how half-baked public sentiment turns out to be.
G20 apart, Annette rated Miniatur Wunderland overall as "mindblowing." €13, €11 seniors.
Walk to stylish Prototyp Museum, Shanghaiallee 7, which we can't find due to wrong directions. Eventually we get there - near the Maritime Museum. Cafe Erlkonig, at Museum: Pfankuchen mitt Nutela, Ham and cheese sandwich, coffee x 2. Snack €9.40. F1 movies from the 1950s are playing in the cafe. One of the major exhibits is a shrine to Taffy von Trips. Rare German racing cars. Entry €10 each.
Walk to Hbf, book seat reservations on train to Berlin. As we leave the station folk are boarding-up the Nike store opposite.
We see the G20 "Zombie" protestors at the Chilehaus - 1000 Gestalten. They are dressed neatly in grey, with grey faces. They shuffle slowly and do not speak. Their discipline is impressive. If only I knew what point they were trying to make?
We walk back to our digs. Dinner at Luigi's Pizza, Dittmar-Koel Str 21. (Recommended by Kaleb Kowalski at TD Bank in TO.) Busy bustling place, good service. Pizza Milana - mushroon, oregano €8.50, Pizza Vegetarisch €8.50, 2 x Flensburger beer €8.40, Large water €3.80. Grappa and Zambuca bottles and 2 shot glasses arrive with bill, help yourself: €29.20 plus €4 tip. Take home half of each pizza.
The day of the self-guided Beatles tour, devised by Annette, after comprehensive research. (None of the organised tours fitted our schedule.) We started early in the morning to avoid both G20 protests and the more tawdry aspects of the Reeperbahn.
Walk to Dat Backhus, Hopfenstrasse 5, "Ein Stuck Hamburg das schmeckt." 2 x Croissant €1.80, 1 Mozarella Baguette, 2 x Coffee €8.40.
Next to our breakfast stop there is a nursery with signs saying: "the children are afraid" - "Politikfrei zone!" We are to see many signs vaguely sympathising with the protestors but asking to be excluded from the mayhem: "No G20, Spare our Store!" This did not work in all cases.
We start the Beatles Tour at St Pauli Police Station, 31 Spielbundenplatz/Davidstrasse, where Paul McCartney and Pete Best allegedly spent the night after some shenanigans. There are a number of police cars parked outside, making for a photo opportunity.
On to Top Ten Club, 136 Reeperbahn; Beatles Platz; Paul Hundertmark Western Store, 9 Spielbundenplatz (where the Beatles bought cowboy boots for early photos, shop now defunct); assorted venues and digs: Kaiserkeller, 36 Grosse Freiheit; Star Club, 39 Grosse Freiheit; Indra, 64 Grosse Freiheit; Bambi Kino, 33 Paul-Roosen Strasse; Lennon Doorway, Jager Passage, 22 Wohlwill Strasse; Hotel Germania, 8 Detlev-Bremer Strasse; return via Top Ten Club, 136 Reeperbahn.

Pic by RLT
During this tour we come across what looks like the HQ of the Black Block anarchists, "Rosa Flora" or some such. You have to wonder why anarchists need an office? (You don't have to be an anarchist to hate the slavery of a desk and telephone.)
Then walk to Lieblings Cafe, Detlev-Bremer-Strasse 50, for coffee on the pavement opposite a Postbank. Coffee x 3, €8.60. We see smart cars, bicycles including Brompton, also an electric BMW drives past. Small children are being shepherded to school on bicycles - it all looks very hazardous in the traffic.
Lunch at O Pescador, Dittmar-Koel Str 17. Complementary salad and bread, Mittagliche Karte: #5 Gegrillet fisch plate, €7.50; #7 Nudeln mit geschreddertier hunchen fleisch, Vino verde 0.25l x 2, wasser still. €26.10.
Russians at the next table are having a G20 blowout: huge steak lunches, drinking (wine, beer, hard liquor) and smoking. It is an ill wind!
Visit to St Michaelis Church, €2 donation.
G20 on TV: Wasserwerfer (water cannon), sirens, helicopters. Estimated €12 million damage for the whole gig, mostly vandalism and fire raising. This is a made-for-TV event: the whole aim being to bring scenes of chaos to your screens. In that the protestors succeeded.
The democratic credentials of many G20 leaders/attendees are also in short supply. The rot is not confined to the protestors. While we were in Hamburg democracy was missing in action. Why did they choose this city, a known centre for agitators?
TV: "Hollen-Demo Escaliert" - the hellish-demo escalates! By now we are looking to get out of town in one piece.
Depart digs at 06:45 and walk to Stadthausbrucke S-Bahn. Two stops to Hbf, where we are denied entry to the empty DB First Class Lounge with our Eurail Pass. (Once again some First Class passengers are more important than others. We have reserved First Class seats, which DB failed to provide. Our train does not arrive. We travel second class on another delayed train and have to queue for half-an-hour in Berlin to reclaim our reservation fee. On this day of all days DB utterly failed to rise to the occasion. Their concept of customer service is out of the dark ages. This is not a one-off - we experienced delays and indifferent service in 2015.)
Breakfast at Kamps Backstube - "Backerei trifft Leckerei!" - on the terrasse at the Station: €11:40. We nearly bump into a squad of armed police in "Star Wars" outfits. We wait for 08:51 Hamburg to Berlin, Wagen 262, Platz 54, 56. Announcement: "Train delayed due to Police Investigations."
Eventually we switch trains - Dep 09:30 ICE (originally the 07:38). Ride in nearly empty 2nd class carriage. (Chatting to Monika, who recommends Hotel Metropole, Brussels.) Stops at Ludwigslust, Wittenberge (DB Werke Wittenberge), Berlin-Spandau (arr 11:03). €3 coffee on train. 76 minutes delayed. Queue for refund first class booking fee €11.30. S-Bahn to hotel, one stop to Bellevue - check in at 12:35: AMERON Hotel Abion Spreebogen, Alt-Moabit 99, Mitte, Berlin 10559.
Lunch at Paulaner Im Spreebogen, Alt-Moabit 98, including Salat Pfifferlinge, €27.40.
To school Grundschule am Barbarossa Platz, via U-bahn. Walk to Hansaplatz, U9 to Berliner Strasse then U7 to Eisenacherstrasse. Jenny, the schoolteacher, says: "Leipzig and Dresden are rivals; Leipzig is left-leaning and proud of its part in the revolution. I suggest a visit to St Nicholas church, the centre of the revolution. Dresden has the better architecture but is more conservative."
Shopping at Rewe City, Bartningallee 3, (Hansaplatz) €9.56 (snacks, wine etc).
At trendy Konditorie G Buchwald, Bartningallee 29, 10557 Berlin, for breakfast outdoors €18.00, sharing the space with sparrows.
Sign: "Hansaviertel Internationale Bananstellung 1957 und Erganzurgen" - 60 year annniversary of Interbau IBA, an international architectural competition to rebuild the Hansaviertel district following destruction in WW2.
We take the S-Bahn to Westkreuz, changing onto the S41, one stop to Messe Nord/ICC, in search of the Avus Motel/racing circuit, which we find fairly quickly near the Messegelände. The motel and a grandstand survive (managed by Avus Tribune Gmbh). We take coffee/tea at the Avus Motel, Halenseestraße 51, in the delightful round tower: €5.80. There are photos of racing cars, including the Opel 2 Rocket Car, on the table tops.

Pic by RLT
Graffiti: "Merkel Muss Weg!" Is this the writing on the wall?
Walk to Messe Sud for S-Bahn to Spandau, S5. To the mall Spandau Arcaden, purchase Clack Keramikei Hase €29.30 (a novelty item for opening boiled eggs), 2 x egg cups €5.90 at Cookmal! €29.80 total.
Walk to Alt Stadt, promenade in old town. Encounter Woolworth store. We decide to lunch at Satt & Selig Steakeria, Carl-Schurtz-Strasse 47, 13597 Berlin. The service is so bad that we get up and leave. Spandau turned out to be rather charmless.
Take train at Rathaus Spandau on U7 to Wilmersdorfstrasse, then S7 to the Tiergarten. We look round the Trödelmarkt (bric-a-brac): I particularly wanted to buy Gedore and Hazet wrenches – German brands coveted in NA, on par with Snap-on. We weren’t planning to check luggage so I passed.
We bought cheese sandwiches at the Tier Garten, €5.60, and walked through the Hanseviertel to a picnic on a park bench.
Photograph Simson Schwalbe scooter (1964-1986, built at Suhl).
Return to hotel, then S-Bahn to Tiergarten, arrive 19:35. To secluded Restaurantkniepe Giraffe, Klopstockstrasse 2, 10557 Berlin (spotted earlier) - baked potato & chicken, veggie tart, Berliner Pilsner Bier, Iced Tea, €25.30, €30 with tip. Great value, recommended. S-Bahn back to hotel.
S75 to Friedrichstrasse, U6 to Kochstrasse, breakfast at Kamps Backstube, 41 Friedrichstrasse, (opposite Starbucks): 2 brie baguettes and 2 enormous coffee, €10.60.
To Mauermuseum Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie, admit two €29.00: "Mauer Muss Weg!" The escapers tried every trick in the book to get out! Recommended - get there early, allow plenty of time.
Film: "Das Wunder von Berlin" ("The Miracle of Berlin") made in 2008 for TV, set in 1989 etc.
Mass tourism: tourists posing at Checkpoint Charlie with pretend US soldiers - "starts in tragedy, ends in farce."
Walk to Hallesches Tor U-Bahn, ride to Kurfurstenstrasse, wrong slot! We lunch at Coffee Deli "Queen of Muffins" Pohlstraße 65: Salad with quinoa, edamame and avocado, Cranberry Chicken Sandwich, Fresh mint and English Breakfast Tea, €15.00.
Then take U-Bahn to Kurfurstendam, walk to Käthe Kollwitz Museum, Fasanenstrasse 24, regular admission €7.00 each. A garden oasis in the big city. (Her house in Berlin was on Wörther Platz, destroyed in an air raid 1943, now Kollwitzplatz.) Nearest U-Bahn to the museum turns out to be Uhland Strasse.
Julius Elias was the first to draw attention to Kollwitz in 1893. The Prussian Akademy of Arts forced Kollwitz to resign in 1933, when she was prohibited from exhibiting by the Nazis.
Walk to S-Bahn at Savignyplatz, back to hotel.
TV series "Der Gleiche Himmell" (The Same Sky) - Berlin Wall Story. "It was all built on lies!" Story lines: DDR spy seductions and murder, sports doping, tunnel and hang-glider would-be escapers.
Dinner at Lanniger Restaurant in hotel, summer menu: Matjes mit Almbluten €13.00, Roasted Poussin €22.00, bottle of mineral water €7.50, plus €5.00 tip, spendy at €47.50.
MONTAG 10 Juli
Depart hotel 07:00, S-Bahn to Hauptbahnhof, arrive 7:15. (Hotel staff report the Abion is due for refurbishment.) Frühstück: Heberer's Traditional Bakery (joined with Spar Store): Joghurt, Pastries, Coffee, €11.30.
08:15 train to Dessau, RE7, Gleis 13. Through forest and heathland to Dessau on the Elbe River. Bicycles on train, among them a ladies pink Sachs-dreigang mixte, Brompton. Stops: Zoologischer Garten, Berlin-Charlottenberg, Wannsee, Potsdam-Medienstadt-Babelsberg, Potsdam-Rehbrucke, Wilhelmshorst, Michendorf, Seddin, Beelitz-Heilstatten, Borkheide, Bruck (Mark), Baitz, Bad Belzig, Weisenburg (Mark), Jeber-Bergfrieden, Roßlau (Elbe), Dessau Hbf.
Walk to Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, Gropiusallee 38, 06846 Dessau-Roßlau. €7.50 x 2.
Walter Gropius (1883-1969) materials/methods: factory assembly, use of light, glass block walls, garden plots, stress on self-sufficency, influence of Marxism. Masters' houses: Gropius' house destroyed during WW2, replica there today. Junkers works at Dessau sold heating systems, airplanes.
1932 Bauhaus school closed by the Nazis. There was a Kulturkampf. In a totalitarian state only one style of architecture was acceptable. The Nazi architecture was monumental and imposing. But half a decade of the Bauhaus changed the face of the city of Dessau.
The Bauhaus movement was previously in Weimar (Thuringia) for six years, left in 1925. (There is a Bauhaus museum now in Weimar.) Staatliches Bauhaus Dessau 1926-1932. Bauhaus moved to Berlin 1932 and closed down 20 July 1933. Bauhaus personnel scattered - Mies Van der Rohe to Chicago - see PunchBuggy Passim.
We see the iconic Bauhaus B3 tubular chair. Book: "Ornament is Crime!
At Dessau Hbf we bought egg rolls at Steinecke Brotmeisterei, had a picnic on a bench. On the other side of the station we take Tram #3 to Junkers Park and back. Tageskarte €5.00.
14:06 S2 dep Dessau dir Leipzig-Connewitz - finally in first class. Stopped at Dessau-Sud, Marke, Raguhn, Jessnitz (Anh), Wolfen, Greppin, Bitterfeld, Petersroda, Delitsch und BF, Zschortau, Rackwitz, Leipzig-Messe, Leipzig-Nord, Leipzig-Hbf tief.
Couldn't find the hotel, needed a snooze. Check in at the splendid: Steigenberger Grandhotel Handelshof Leipzig, Salzgäßchen 6, Mitte, 04109 Leipzig.
Supper at Rizzi (pizzeria, spaghettieria, cafeteria), Katharinen Strasse 2: Spaghetti Aglio Olio €6.90, Spaghetti Ricotta €7.95, Bier Ur-Krostitzer Fin Herbs Pilsner half litre €3.90, Fresh peppermint tea €2.20. After dinner, walk round town. Beer in bar in "enclosed courtyard" at the hotel. "No name" island bar: Radeberger Pilsner vom Fass €5.50. The bar is a mess - needs to illuminate the bottles to sell more liquor. Red and stainless steel at the back clashes with oldtimer theme. The entrance is not enticing - you cannot see the bar from the foyer. Three beers, €16.50 - Brasserie le Grand.
Walk to Schnell & Sauber, Dresdener Strasse 2: a launderette past the ring road. We are stuck for coins, but Annette heroically rounds up breakfast from Netto - 4 croissant, two coffee €8.20; 2 yogurt & 1 Orange Juice €1.37 (two purchases to maximise change). Laundry also €8.20. We take the #7 tram €1.80 x 2 back to the Hbf.

Pic by RLT
We learn that the BMW electric car is made in Leipzig, (Porsche also have a factory here).
We walk back to the hotel, then to Stasi Museum at the old HQ at "Runden Ecke." All the brutality and banality a staggering effort: cell blocks, filming, photography, mail opened, shredding machines, cassette tapes, miniature cameras etc, etc.
Lunch at Barfusz Cafe-Restaurant-Bar, Markt 9, Leipzig: Grune Erbensuppe €4.90, Tomatensuppe €3.90, Ziegeu Kase cheese sandwich, peppermint tea €2.50. Sketchy service in tourist quarter.
To free coffee museum: Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum, Kleine Fleischergasse 4, 04109 Leipzig. Artifacts: KAFFEE HAG decaffeinated coffee poster, Ludwig Roselius developed decaf in the early 20th century in Bremen; player pianos in Leipzig coffee houses; Dorag coffee machine, Berlin; Melitta Bentz from Dresden invented coffee filter paper in 1908, company now in Minden (since 1929). Recommended.
Charger for camera battery €30.00. To travel centre to purchase Sachsen-ticket for Leipzig-Colditz-Dresden travel day; money from Deutsche Bank, Augustusplatz 14, Leipzig.
Hans Im Glück (chain, Hamburger joint reinvented), Augustusplatz 14, for supper. Reception: good; ordering: good, menus on table; ambiance: funky tree decor, music but not conversation destroying; beer: 0.5l €3.90 x 2; tafelwasser: 0.5l €2.90; beer and food came quickly. Omas Geheimnis Schokoladenkuchen, Vanilleeis & Sahne, €5.00. Total €34.70, €40 incl tip.
Street bands outside Galleria Kaufhof, Neumarkt 1: Brazz Banditen, 9-piece brass band (pink hair, no connection to Fager they said). Great Leipzig vibe: a city at ease with itself: Aha "Take on Me"; Britney Spears "Toxic" etc. Duo on guitar/ukelele "The Renegades", singer being from Manchester, Matthew Kerr.
All the while bicycles are whizzing past. A local yells "Achtung!" as he throws litter in a bin close by.
Leipzig is famous for coffee culture so we visit Kaffeehaus Riquet, Schumachergasschen 1, for breakfast (near the hotel). Wiener Frühstück €5.10, Französiches Frühstück €6.60, with coffee x 2 €17.10, including tip €20. Advertisement: "JJ Darboven seit 1866."
Walking tour of the 1989 sign-posted revolution sites/sights including the ring road, partly Goerdelerring. The revolution gained momentum as more and folk paraded round the ring road on Mondays. They feared retaliation at the Stasi HQ and the Hauptbahnhof.
Lunch at Emil & Moritz - Feine Schnitzelwirtschaft, Brühl 1, Schweineschnitzel Zweibel €6.90, Brottasche Gegrikkter Lachs €9.90, Apfelsaft. €26.90, €30.00 incl tip.
N'Ostalgie museum, Nikolaistrasse, 28-32, €6.50 x 2. GDR artifacts: Simson SR1 made from 1955-1957, the first DDR moped; Simson SR2 1957-1959; Export model SR2E from 1959, available in the DDR in 1960; KR50, Simson Spatz, Star, Mofa 1 (VEB - Simson - Suhl). VEB Minol was the state oil company. Brandenburg moped had a MAW motor. Scooters: IWL, Troll 1. MZ motor cycles (Zschopau).
Tour de France on TV. Trip to McPaper, Grimmaische Strasse 14, Schreiblernstift HB x 2 (pencils) €3.38; Lidl, Peterstraße 36/44, for supplies: €8.69. Bar in hotel.
Check out, walk to the magnificent Hauptbahnhof, #4208 luggage locker €3.00. Breakfast at Erntebrot at Hbf €9.65. Mitteldeutsche RegioBahn 09:06 MRB train RB 110, direction Dobeln, change at Grimma. Using a Sachsen-Ticket €32.00 for two (unlimited travel in Saxony for 24 hours).
Stops: Sellerhausen, Paunsdorf, Leipzig-Engelsdorf, Borsdorf, Beucha, Naunhof, Grossteinburg, Grimma (station in a bad state). Change to Bus 619, bus stop #1 (Mercedes Benz bus, splendid, nearly empty). Saw Trabi wagon at Grossboten, later another Trabi and Simson. At Colditz: Simson posters, spares in shop window.
Colditz Castle entry €4.00 x 2: the view from the castle provides a panoramic view of the town, which must have taunted the inmates. The Allied prisoners suffered here during WW2. Worse befell slave labourers in the surrounding district. We walk to Colditz railway station and freight shed, retracing the steps of the prisoners arriving in the town. The railway line is now defunct.
After picnic lunch in the bus-shelter, we see three storks in a nest and an eagle, spotted from 619 bus on return to Grimma from Colditz. 619 bus morphs into 690 bus at Grimma, goes straight to Leipzig Hbf. We pass The Monument to the Battle of the Nations (Das Völkerschlachtdenkmal) in the bus in Leipzig.
Rapid retrieval of luggage from locker, then RE50 train depart Leipzig Hbf 14:00. Stops: Leipzig- Engelsdorf, Borsdorf, Wurzen, Kuhren, Dahlen, Oschatz, Reisa, Glaubitz, Nunchritz, Priestewitz, Niederau, Weinbohla, Coswig, Radebeul-Ost (Museumsbahn, Lößnitzgrundbahn - we rode the steam train on a previous visit), Dresden-Neustadt, Dresden-Mitte, Dresden Hbf.
Tram #3, then #4. Painless check in to Steigenberger Hotel de Saxe, Neumarkt 9, 01067 Dresden. Then #4 tram across the Elbe river, getting out of "tourist town" for dinnner at Nordsee, Haupt Strasse, counter service, no tip required, grilled salmon, veg, rosemary potatoes, peach iced tea, 0.25l of wine €30.05.
Wine Festival, Haupt Strasse, Kitzer Reisling €4.50 plus €1.00 deposit on the glass. Three piece band playing US oldies "Bad Moon Rising", "Take it Easy", "Twist and Shout" etc.
Dresden: Alfresco Frühstück at Edelweiss Alpen Restaurant, An der Frauenkirche 7. A hokey Swiss restaurant: scrambled egg €5.90, Bircher Muesli €4.90, two large coffee, total €19.60, including tip €25.00.
Sitting on ramparts (terrassenurfer) of Festung Dresden, watching trams (strassenbahn), trains, passenger boats (with steam whistle), Augustusbrücke, Carolabrücke bridges. Second visit to Verkehrsmuseum, Dresden, Augustusstraße 1, (transport museum). Exhibits:
Trabant P601, Wartburg 355: "these two vehicles were the mainstays of the DDR car industry".
AWZ P70 - 1956 (made 1955-1959, first duroplast car).
EMW 340/2 (Eisenach Motoren Werke) - 1952.
IFA F 9 TYP 309/1 - 1955, made in the Audi plant, Zwickau.
Möve modell 15 - 1956 (1954-1959 VEB Möve-Werk Mulhausen. Plants also in Sangerhausen, Chemnitz.)
IWL SR 56 Wiesel - 1958 (Ludwigsfelde IWL = VEB Industriewerke Ludwigsfelde)
Simson SL 1 S - 1971
Simson Mofa 1, ceased 1972
IWL TR 150 Troll 1 scooter - 1963
Simson KR51 Schwalbe - 1967. The first of the "bird" series which ran from 1964-1986. Waiting times up to 5 years.
Mifa Universal model 510 - 1984 bicycle
Mifa model 903/1 -1981 folding bicycle
Diament bicyles (taken over by Trek 2002), Multicar commercial vehicles - surviving companies.
Goliath pioneer 1931 three-wheeler
Phanomen Bob 30 - 1939 motorcycle
Hanomag 2/10 PS - 1925 (central headlight)
BMW i3 eDrive - range 160 km
Special exhibition: MZ Trophys & Trophäen, MZ-Motorräder aus Sachsen 1952-2005
MZ = Motorradfabrik Zschopau (near Chemnitz)
MZ-VEB Motorradwerk Zschopau MZRT 125/3 Pitty and Wiesel Mopeds
RT125/4 - 1963-1965 Export only
1945 - factory shipped to USSR
1991 - bankrupt
1992 - MUZ founded, four-stoke Rotax motor
2008 - closed. Attempts to revive MZ 2009-2013 failed.
MZ trophy model T, DKW connection "das kleine wunder". Annette to the Albertinum, Tzchirnerplatz 2, €10.00.
Main floor "Sculpture Hall" from Rodin to present, Second Floor "New Masters Gallery" art from Romanticism to the present. Free audio guide in choice of languages. Local artists - Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Hermann Glockner, and Otto Dix.
We went for a walk to the Kreuzkirche Lutheran church, Kreuz Strasse. Woolworth, Prager Strasse 2, for 3 x drinks, souvenir bag €3.88 - "Woolworth Seit 1879" with Michael Jackson muzak. To Rewe, Prager Stasse 1, (grocery), "Vegan und Vegetarisch " section. Cheap.

Pic by RLT
Prager Strasse: Old Time Marxists x 2 waving Soviet flag and distributing "Junge Welte" Communist newspaper etc.
Hotel: watching Friday F1 from Silverstone, Tour de France.
Supper at Hans Im Glück, Alt Markt 24, €29.80 including tip, Veggie Burgers, lemonade. Konsom express, Neumarkt 7, icecream x 2, €5.00, then Terrassenurfer. A punk rock band is playing on the far bank of the river but all we can see is the back of the stage.
Walk via Kreutzstrasse to breakfast at Schwerdtners, Prager Strasse, Backer Seit 1937, €15.00 incl tip, good value.
Dresden Hbf depart 09:08 on time for Prague, carriage 263 České dráhy 1st class, národní dopravce.
Bad Schandau dep 09:38, following the valley of the Elbe. Train uncrowded through scenic gorge. Tip: sit on left Dresden to Praha.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Skoda Museum a complete PITA

We travelled all the way from Canada to visit the Skoda Muzeum in Mladá Boleslav, Czechia, on Monday 17 July 2017.
 A spokesman for the Skoda Museum said (loose translation):
"We are closed for the day - only VIPs allowed. (Only robots in a suit permitted.) We don't act responsibly, we will shut the museum as we please without warning. I don't care how far you have travelled. You cannot come in here. You are an untermensch! Get lost!
"At Škoda we hanker for the good old totalitarian days - if anybody had the cheek to complain back then they would get a visit from the StB. We had all the socialist big-wigs visiting the factory, and nobody dared say a word if we shut down the museum without any notice.
"Our German bosses feel much the same way, after all they took over the Skoda works in 1939 without an invitation!"
Travel tip: The Skoda Museum is surely the most unfriendly attraction in the Czech Republic. Best avoided.
We found Mladá Boleslav to be a craptown with atrocious hotels. The trains weren't running while we were there. Best feature: the bus to Prague, good value, rapid departure.
If you wish to see Skoda vehicles while in Czechia I suggest you look elsewhere:

* NATIONAL TECHNICAL MUSEUM, Kostelní 1320/42, 170 78 Praha 7, Czechia.

* AUTO MOTO MUZEUM - OLDTIMER, Štefánikova 220/24, 742 21 Kopřivnice, Czechia.

Both the above are recommended. Some Skoda vehicles are also on display at Vaclav Havel Airport, Prague.

See also PunchBuggy Passim.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Eight States Tour

Ludington, MI. Pic by RB.
Thurs 18 May:
Richard and Jack to Toronto: Air Transat Flight TS323, Club Class, LGW to YYZ Toronto. Depart 12.00, Arrive 15.03. Great service on plane, plenty of drinkies, cute diminutive cruet set to take home.
I pick up hire car at 14:22 from Enterprise Rent A Car, 859 The Queensway, Etobicoke, ON, M8Z 1N8: White Chevrolet Malibu, registration BZAN 523, reliable and suitable with capacious trunk, a bland inoffensive vehicle from "Government Motors" with poor rear visibility.
Pick-up Richard and Jack at airport, drive to Inverness B&B, 287 Humberside Ave, Toronto, M6P 1L4, Ontario. Tel: 416 769 2028. Evening at The Station, 2457 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6S 1P7. Mill Street Organic lager, 4.2%. 90F degrees and muggy. Richard and Jack note that, in Bloor West, many signs reading "Say no to double density." (Creeping condos unlikely to be stopped though.)
Fri 19 May:
Leave Toronto 06.55 a.m. for Ludington, MI. Heading west, 08:28 took gas off-highway at Pioneer Energy, 151 King George Road, Brantford, ON: $71.50.
09:00 breakfast at 230 Truck Stop, 535 Mill Street, Woodstock, ON, $46.75 plus tip. (What has become a traditional stop when heading out on a road trip.)
Enter USA at Port Huron, across the Blue Water Bridge over the St. Clair River, arriving 11:30, departing border post at 12:00. A result.
Pitstop at tourist information for state map, then Tim Horton's, 8099 Gratiot Road, Saginaw, MI. (Tim Hortons don't use the apostrophe, but I do.) Old Tractors for sale on the road to Marlette. Many houses are mobile homes. Then via Route 66 (different one) from Six Lakes, then Hwy 10 after Barrytown, passing through Nirvana, to arrive at Comfort Inn, 5323 West US Highway 10, Ludington, MI, 49431, before 18:00. $118.66 per room.
I did all the driving on day one, fairly tired on arrival. After scouting near hotel take taxi to town and bars. Supper at ersatz Sportsman's Irish Pub, later watching Delilah Dewylde and the Lost Boys. Then nearby Michael's Bar & Grille. Richard provided assistance to a girl chalking up band details for the next night.
Sat 20 May:
Dep hotel 07:00. Stop for photo-shoot on East Ludington Avenue in town.
09:00 car ferry S.S. Badger, Ludington to Manitowoc, WI, across Lake Michigan. Last coal-fired steam-powered passenger vessel in the U.S. Twin-axle Squarestream loaded in reverse. Fairly calm four-hour crossing with tailwind, arrive 12:00 approx with time change. During sailing sat in empty saloon as staff bedded in on the second day of the season. Mexican wrap for lunch. (Bingo onboard.)
First sighting of Piggly Wiggly at Manitowoc.
Fuel at Mills Fleet Farm Gas Mart, Denmark, WI: $25.25. Map $5.99 plus tax. Also tyre pressure gauge $3.10, addressed rear low tyre pressure warning possibly due to 'bump' on car ferry.
To The Attic Books and Coffee, 730 Bodart Street, Green Bay. US10 after Waupaca, through Custer, (not the last one seen), Hwy 10, Subway at 6018 Main Street, Auburndale, WI 54412: $18.28. Final approach on Hwy 12. Hotel booked whilst on ferry, press on to: Super 8 Eau Claire WI, 1151 West Mac Arthur, Eau Claire, WI 54701. Rooms $95.34 incl tax. Suitable.
Walk to supper at Green Mill, 2703 Craig Rd., Eau Claire, WI 54701. Drinks at the bar, then table service where staff are curiously anxious to get everybody to vacate. Restaurant bill $70.63 plus tip. (Venue holding many graduation parties.)
Sun 21 May:
To Duluth, MN. Dep 07:25, then 09:20 Subway, 1201 Elm Street, Cumberland, WI 54829, for breakfast, $23.15. Hwy 12 to Elk Mound, 40 to Colfax, 170 to Wheeler.
Hwy 63 at Turtle Lake (first reference to Turtle Fence). 53 divided-highway from Spooner. McDonald's, 2115 E 2nd St, Superior, WI, for coffee and wi-fi. Cold and wet.
First photo-shoot at aerial lift bridge, Duluth, a Transporter Bridge until 1929. Major tour objective achieved.
Duluth is the largest freshwater port in the world. Retreat into Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center to get warm, where Richard purchases book re transporter bridge. Attributed to Mark Twain, probably apocryphally: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in Duluth." But stuck due to its validity.
Lunch at Grandma's Saloon & Bar, 522 S Lake Ave, Duluth, MN 55802. They have their own brand of ketchup - nobody knew where it was manufactured beyond "Made in the USA." I am trying to find out.
To Lake Superior Railroad Museum, 506 W Michigan Street, Duluth. Difficulty finding parking, and then paying for it, turns out to be free on a Sunday.
Just in time to catch 15:00 excursion train on North Shore Scenic Railroad for 90-minute round trip. Sit in largely-empty unheated carriage away from the crowd. Lake Superior Kayak beers on train.
Quick tour round museum on return. Lincoln's Funeral Carriage. Giant steam engine from Missabe range, #227. Articulated loco that could haul 18,000 Tons. (Rupert points out the stupidity of Hitler thinking he could take on the USA.) Could easily have spent several more hours at the museum.
Overnight at Duluth MN. Holiday Inn & Suites, 200 West First Street, Duluth, MN 55802. Sneaker's Sports Bar & Grill, part of the hotel, was rather down home but had no hot dogs. Typical sports bar with intrusive TV screens. and a quiet but bitter argument breaks out between the beer-pouring barmaid, and the barman who circulates among customers, as to who should have taken our order when we wanted to order food.
Mon 22 May:

Duluth, MN. Pic by RLT.
Breakfast at hotel in Duluth, where waiter reveals the hotel was due to close for refurbishment. Second photo-shoot at Transporter Bridge with marginally better weather. Leave Duluth for Oshkosh, WI, original home of the trendy baby dungarees.
Via Hwy 2, take fuel at Mobil, 9670 E US-2 CR-D, Poplar, WI 54864. Through Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Bear Crossing, 107 E Broadway St, Glidden, WI 54527 for lunch supplies. Second breakfast ordered through hatch. Hwy 13 through Butternut and Phillips.
15:15 checked out strip mall at 2707 Schofield Ave, Schofield, WI 54476. Richard scored Skyscraper book for $5 at Goodwill, Rand McNally Road Atlas $9.99 plus tax at Target. Cuppa and wi-fi here. County Road J through Shantytown, deer crossing the road.
Pitstop at Subway in gas station, Fremont, WI, Hwy 110, at 90 degree turn, last stop before Oshkosh.
Overnight at AmericInn, 1495 W. South Park Avenue, Oshkosh, WI 54902. $222.48 incl taxes. Booked that morning via The car park is full of white pick-up trucks, belonging mainly to Latino gardeners/road crews. Short walk to supper at West End Pizza, 1414 West 20th Avenue, Oshkosh, WI - cavernous shed, choice of beers, good service, opposite airport. $98.88 plus $15 tip.
Tues 23 May:
To Chicago, IL. A picture of the Concorde plane in the hotel looks like it was at the nearby Oshkosh airfield, strangely dubbed Wittman Regional Airport. When you have a world-renowned name why not use it? The Concorde appeared on a number of occasions at the famous airshow.
We make a stop at a Horicon thrift store, but it was not yet open. Through Slinger and Ridgefield. Gas at County Line BP, Colgate, WI 53017: $26.17.
Pitstop at Peiffer's Piggly Wiggly, N81W15182 Appleton Ave, Menomonee Falls, WI 53051, including purchase of Andy's Seasoning Fish Breading, $2.19. The man packing our supplies studied English literature and is keen to talk to three Brits.
Stop at Milwaukee Harley-Davidson Museum, $48 for three after $12 discount applied. Particularly enjoyed Topper scooter and H-D XA (Experimental Army), a BMW-inspired flat-twin shaft-drive motorcycle made for the US Army during WW2. The bikes on display are not restored, but in fine condition.
Lunch in "Motor" Bar at the Museum, 401 West Canal, Milwaukee 53204 - Jacket potato, Burger, Salad, 2 beers and Sprecher Cream Soda - $64.51 plus $10 tip.
Leave for Chicago, via Kenosha, Zion, Highland Park. Stop at Starbucks, 3300 W. Grand Avenue, Waukegan, IL 60085.
Great run-in to Chicago from north through Skokie and Wilmette, then along lakeshore. Richard elected to drive. Jack impressed by view of city from lakeshore.
2 nights Chicago: Essex Inn, 800 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605. They had fouled up our booking and still could not find it after the reservation number was quoted. Eventually we made it indoors. The hotel has seen better days, and looks due to be demolished in a redevelopment. Restaurant and on-site parking already gone, one lift out-of-order. $47 for max 36 hours parking nearby.
Walk to popular Lou Malnati's, 805 S. State Street, Chicago, IL 60605, with coupon from hotel, brushetta, 3 x deep-pan pizza, 3 x beer, $67.96. Enough for take-away snack next day.
Weds 24 May:
Day in Chicago: walk to Studebaker/Fine Arts Building (an early tall building), Artists Café breakfast muffin, walk to Hector Guimard Metro entrance at Van Buren Metra station, start of Route 66 at Michigan and Adams, The Bean, Trump Tower, Lakeshore Drive double-decker bridge, then 10:00 a.m. Architectural River Cruise (Michigan Ave & Wacker Dr). Lunch at Corner Bakery, 360 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60601, $16.44, walk to Union Station (much refurbished since previous visits).
12:44 Old Navy, 150 North State Street, Chicago, IL 60601: Jack bought socks, 2 pairs, $11.47 incl taxes.
Rode 'The Loop' train to Chicago Architecture Foundation on Michigan Ave to view city model, which features annual updates using a 3-D printer. Discussion re Chicago Skyride, which operated 1933-1934 (though not a transporter bridge, claimed as such by the Americans). I purchased a tray with Chicago cta passenger rail map.
After in-room snacks to Kitty O'Shea Bar at Hilton Hotel, lamentable service and small tip, retreated to Artists Café at Fine Arts Building.
Thurs 25 May:
Out through south Chicago, direction Indy. Through Hegewische, Calumet, Lansing, IL. 08:40 pitstop for food/gas at Dunkin' Donuts, Dyer, IN, - at the state border with Illinois - avoiding high gas prices/taxes in Illinois. Sign in shop: "No Illinois taxes here." Old Lincoln Highway nearby. Encounter intoxicated driver on the road, Jack rightly cautious.
To Lowell, IN, checking out the antique stores. Richard scores toy tin cash register, $15, from Hodge Podge Fine Furnishings, 307 E Commercial Ave, Lowell, IN 46356; Jack pink Chicago Bears shirt, as new $12, from Aunt Nae's Gifts Old & New, 250 E Commercial Ave, Lowell, IN 46356.
Through Morocco, IN, to 11:48 McDonald's, 104 N 7th St, Kentland, IN 47951. Through Fowler to 14:12 Subway, 3605 Osborne Lane, Lafayette, IN 47909, $12.59. Across the flatlands along Hwy 47 through Lebanon. Back in Eastern Time Zone.
4 nights at Staybridge Suites, 535 South West Street, Indianapolis, IN 46225. Top digs. Our host: Kate Burzynski, Guest Services Manager, Roadtrips:
Hoosier 100 for sprint cars in the evening at The Fairgrounds is cancelled due to earlier heavy rain. Disappointing, but learnt about Saturday night race in Anderson, IN. We make a rapid return to Basey's Bar, 419 S West St., Indianapolis, IN 46225. The bar owner Greg Basey lets slip that the former Indy F1-race was worth more to him financially than the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 combined - folk stayed longer. His shtick is to insult his out-of-town customers. The novelty soon wears off.
Called sissy-boys when Rupert makes his customary request for gnats (weak beer), and refuses to take the Budweiser Intestinal Challenge. (This becomes our self-deprecating nickname for the rest of the tour.) Elysian Space Dust beer 8.2%, and Jack had a 9% beer whose name he could not remember even shortly after drinking it. In conversation with a Kiwi Elfin-FJ owner and driver, Bruce Edgar, Rupe mentions a front-engined Elfin but Bruce declares that it cannot be - they were all rear-engined. A little research later at the hotel proves Rupert correct - of course!
Fri 26 May:
In Indy: walk to Post Office and Lucas Oil Stadium. 10:17 Colts Pro Shop Store, 500 South Capitol Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46225. Jack buys $50 Colts football shirt.
Carburation Day at the track pretty average - only an hours practice, lots of yellow, plus 40-lap Indy Lights race. Not exactly hardcore. $20 parking, $30 entrance per head. Dismayed to find my ticket didn't cover this. They let me in then kicked me out again. They were obviously as confused as I was. The very small print at the bottom of the ticket told the story. You would need glasses to decode.
Fernando Alonso fifth in final practice. Local opinion has it that he is an F1 sissy-boy, getting far too much publicity, who can't possibly win the 500. By the way James Hinchcliffe blew his motor in final practice.
The Indy Lights "Freedom 100" race was won by Brazilian Matheus Leist who led all the way. Third was Canadian Dalton Kellett. Reba McEntire sang the "Star Spangled Banner" intro - son Shelby Blackstock was ninth in the Lights event.
The concession stand ran out of beer. They insisted on checking my ID - political correctness gone mad - can't The Donald do something about it? Rescued somewhat by display of old Indycars and warm weather. We had tickets to Indy Hall of Fame (visited previously) but it was so crowded that I couldn't face it.
Overall I wouldn't bother attending Carb Day again. Much ado about nothing.
17:00 by hotel bus to Roadtrips Reception, Sheraton Hotel. Not many in attendance but good bunfight with beer and snacks. Bus back to Basey's Bar, bill $19.99. New barmaid Mila, from Belarus, coping well with bar-room nonsense from patrons.
Sat 27 May:
In Indy: we decided not to go to the track, even though we had tickets for Keith Urban. Watched Monaco quallie in private sitting room at the hotel on the big screen. I said "Great performance by Kimi - will Ferrari tell him to let Vettel thru?" Suffice it to say Vettel won on the Sunday.
Walk to downtown Monument Circle for the parade. There are Jesus Freaks everywhere, promoting oddball brands of religion. Then to "Soupremacy," 7 E Market St, Indianapolis, IN 46204, a friendly coffee shop opposite the Hilton Garden Inn.
10:00 The Circle Center, Carsons, 1 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204. Jack bought some Levis, $42.
Watching parade in the sunshine, which proceeds at a glacial pace. Vintage bicycles, Police Motorcycle Display Team, Marching band with "World's largest drum", Camaro pace cars, cheerleaders, horses etc.
To Hilton Hotel to buy a copy of the Indianapolis Star. There were apologies on the PA re protestors - who could they mean?

Anderson, IN. Pic by RLT.
Dep 16:00 for saturday night at the PAY LESS "Little 500" presented by UAW/GM, a sprint car race at Anderson, IN. 16:09 Speedway Indianapolis, 46225: gas $25.95 ($2.199 per gallon). Sprint cars feature 900 bhp V8 on quarter-mile asphalt oval. Winner was #5 Kyle Hamilton of Indianapolis. Former NASCAR champion Tony Stewart was third. Veteran Ken Schrader also in the field. The race was a sellout with capacity crowd. We had to stand on uneven pavement throughout. Accompanied by Bruce Edgar, the Kiwi FJ racer, due at Mosport later in June. Delayed departure as we'd lost Bruce. Woman complaining of migraine from our car headlamps, apparently not brought on by 33 roaring V8s.
Anderson, IN, is an old GM town, which has lost many plants and jobs. On the way to Anderson I note a billboard promoting South Bend, IN: "An Urban Playground." I've been in every state of the union and never felt more frightened than in South Bend: "Where they close the cash machines at sundown" would be a more accurate slogan.
Sun 28 May:
Indy 500 - police-escorted coach #2098 from Staybridge Suites to the race.
Started watching Monaco G.P. in the hotel. Then satellite TV and Apple phone on the bus. The handheld filled in the gaps when we lost the satellite among the skyscrapers in Indy. Lengthy walk to Paddock Stand, high rows, opposite pits. Much confusion among race-goers about where to sit.
Planes towing advertising banners overhead. Much hoopla before the start of the race. Mike Pence, VPOTUS, makes an appearance to warm applause - he is after all a Hoosier. There is a parade of old drivers: A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Arie Luyendijk, Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford, Kenny Brack, Dario Franchitti, Gil De Ferran, Bobby Rahal, Al Unser Jr.
Scott Dixon, the pole-sitter, and Dario Franchitti had been robbed at gunpoint in a Taco Bell drive-through earlier in the week by two young punks, bringing unwelcome publicity all around the world. An Armed Forces parade proves they have forgotten how to march.
Music by Jonathan Jackson + Enation, an indie rock band. They did not get a mention in the running order. (The Indy 500 is desparately trying to attract a younger audience before all the old geezers in the stands die out.) Then numerous anthems, hymns, invocations etc. "Back home in Indiana." Finally the main event gets under way. An interesting race, with good information on placings and number of laps, until Dixon has a crash with Jay Howard on Lap 53, which looked bad but both walked away. This brought out the red flags.
Alonso and Hunter-Reay both had a Honda engine grenade. Alonso, with rookie stripes on the back of his car, looked like he had been doing this all his life. Later picked up R-O-Y gong.
In all there followed 50 laps of yellow at varying intervals, which added significantly to the time the race took to complete and frequently spoilt the excitement of the close running and overtaking. The loudspeakers encouraged the crowd to look forward to all the restarts - more than the race itself, it seemed. Max Chilton (4th) and Helio Castroneves (2nd) faded in the late going. Ed Jones was 3rd. Takuma Sato, with Honda engine intact, won the Indy 500.
(A reflection on the race event demographics: Jack noted only 3 Afro-American people among the 350,000 crowd. One was on the stage singing, and two were VIPs in the pit-lane.)
Basey's was occupied, but doors locked front and back and entry impossible, so anticlimactically we went to the Holiday Inn for a nondescript pasta and a few beers. The lone waitress, surprised to be serving at the only open bar in the neighbourhood, did very well but was run off her feet.
Mon 29 May:

Indianapolis, IN. Pic by RLT.
Solo walk round the downtown. Great old buildings, motel, welding shop etc. To Eli Lilly HQ: "Research is to see what everyone else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought." - Albert Szent Györgyi.
There are fresh bike paths everywhere. Indy has Pacers Bike Share, Blue Indy electric cars (part of an effort to make Indiana the electric-car state? Electric cars do not reduce congestion? Are these just fads?) Why doesn't Indianapolis create a cycle-highway from downtown to the race track? They could incentivise race-goers to arrive by bicycle? Provide secure bicycle parking? Get some eco-kudos? Motor racing is often criticised for wasting gas - most of which is burned up by the spectators getting to and from the track and sitting in jams.
New buildings - J.W. Marriot Hotel, Lucas Oil Stadium, Convention Center - evidence of renewal. Walked to the interesting new bus station, opened in 2016, along "The Franciscan Way" past the Monon County Jail. Many streets have alternative names for race drivers e.g. Alonso Ave. Much evidence of the town trying to re-invent itself, boasting 28m visitors annually. Still too many people sleeping rough and high anxiety using cash machines. The race also attracts religious crackpots.
Second visit to "Soupremacy," Market Street, a friendly coffee shop opposite the Hilton Garden Inn.
10:30 Leave Indy, heading south for Kentucky. 252 Hwy to Morgantown, IN. Richard buys vending machine at yard sale, $8.

Martinsville, IN. Pic by RB.
Back track to Martinsville, IN, Car Show. Firehouse Pub, 21 N Jefferson St, Martinsville, IN 46151. Busted Knuckle beer turned out to be rocket fuel, much too strong. The Campaign for Weak Beer suffered a severe setback. Richard and Jack tour car show. Hwy 37 past Bloomington. Now in karst country, place called Oolitic. Turtle crossed road - second reference to "Turtle Fence." Through Orleans and Paoli. Junk at Hardinsburg. Corydon, IN - Purchase of Pyrex insulator, Snap-on socket, cheap tyre pressure gauges, Corydon Panthers Tee-Shirts. Mauckport, IN, then across Matthew E. Welsh Bridge over Ohio River.
Overnight stop at Days Inn, 2010 N Mulberry St, Elizabethtown, KY 42701. Cheap and cheerful. Purchased beers from Etown Liquors next door.
Supper at Texas Outlaw BBQ, Commerce Dr, Elizabethtown, KY 42701 (after walking-out at Ruby Tuesday). I enquired: "Are we in the south?" Answer: "Can't you tell. Everybody talks to you!" Verdict: Glad we switched.
Tues 30 May:
Walking in downtown Elizabethtown we blunder into Bullmoose Brothers Bicycle shop (Bike Friday etc). Meet owner Adam Lobert. Walk to Vibe Coffee, 34 Public Square, Elizabethtown, KY 42701. Tea kindly provided by local networking club. Thanks!
Swope's Cars of Yesteryear Museum, 1012 N Dixie Hwy, Elizabethtown, KY. Copy of letter, from Clyde Barrow to Henry Ford, commending the Ford motor car. Do not miss this free attraction.
Into central time zone beyond Upton. Photo-shoot of concrete wigwams at Cave City, KY.
National Corvette Museum, 350 Corvette Drive, Bowling Green, KY 42101. Lunch in café. Museum now makes much of famous sinkhole incident.
16:07 T Mart, 625 North Main, Franklin, KY: Gas, $28.91. ($2.099 per gallon). 3 nights at Fairfield Inn & Suites Nashville Downtown/The Gulch, 901 Division Street, Nashville, TN 37203.
Pub crawl on the lower Broadway: Legends Corner, Rippy's Smokin' Bar & Grill, Tootsies, Second Fiddle, Roberts Western World. The bouncers wanted to throw me out of Legends Corner for drinking out of a glass: "Nobody does that in here." They thought I had acquired it elsewhere! (You know you are not a redneck when you drink out of a glass!)
Having said that Legends had the best music, most insults of the audience and, no coincidence, most alcohol drunk by the band. A hapless patron admitted to being Australian at which point the didgeridoo noises started. Impressive "Won't Get Fooled Again" at Rippy's. Drank Falls City Hipster-Repellant IPA. Then Tootsies, Second Fiddle (Richard chatting to pedal-steel guitarist from Legends), and finally Roberts Western World. Taxi to hotel.
Weds 31 May was "Guitar Wednesday:"
Visit to Gibson Custom Guitars went pear-shaped, so proceeded to Carter Vintage Guitars, 625 8TH Ave S, Nashville, TN. Early lunch at busy Arnold’s Country Kitchen. Then GIG museum at The Lila D. Bunch Library, (corner of 17th Avenue S and Acklen Avenue, near Beaumont Mansion), where we had a conversation with George Gruhn. On to George Gruhn Guitars shop and Antique Archaeology (American Pickers southern store), old Marathon Motor Works building.
Early evening drinks at the bar in the historic Union Station hotel, 1001 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203. Relaxing in splendid surroundings. Spendy. A charming but limited local financial-adviser enquired, "How far are you from that lake you go rowing on, is it in Germany? Turns out she meant Venice.
Station Inn closed for private gig, so supper outdoors at The Pub, 400 11th Ave South, Nashville, TN 37203, in the Gulch (Calamari starter, salmon and rice etc).
Thurs 1 June:
To Lane Motor Museum, 702 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37210. My third visit, helped by manager David Yando with research into Hobbs Transmission, Tatra, Wartburg and Jikov. Trip to basement, 250 more cars! We tried to go to RCA Studio B on Music Row. No direct access so boys to Country Music Hall of Fame, but no Studio B bus side-trip due to museum snafu. Richard negotiated a 50% discount. Jack a return visit to Carter Vintage Guitars. Time out for me.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Nashville rooftop bar at hotel, great if you like watching freight trains (which I do), but cheerful bar staff could not mask slow sketchy service. We headed for Otaku Ramen, 1104 Division St, Nashville, TN 37203, for supper. Good food, service and ambiance.
Station Inn, 402 12th Ave South, Nashville, TN 37203 - Rachel Baiman, support Adam Chaffins, not really bluegrass but folk, too many slow dreary songs, best number the lively Do-Re-Mi (Woody Guthrie). Enough virtue-signalling! Time to go.
Fri 2 June:
Leave early at 06:50. Retrace our steps to Bowling Green, KY, then second breakfast at Waffle House, 2026 N Mulberry St, Elizabethtown, KY 42701. To Bardstown, KY, then via Blue Grass Parkway to Lexington, I75 to Cincinnati and Dayton. Visit to National Museum of the United States Air Force, 6 miles NE of Dayton. Arrive 14:45, entry free. Checking out Douglas B26K aircraft, which served in the Congo in the early sixties. Very wide range of post-WW2 jet fighters.
Overnight at Red Lion Inn & Suites, 6960 Miller Ln., Dayton, OH 45414. $84.91 x 3. Hooters for drinks, then supper at Max & Erma's, 6930 Miller Ln., Dayton, OH 45414. No cold beer, but suited us Brits fine. Best veggie burger of trip. Doing good take-out business.
Sat 3 June:
Breakfast at hotel - best scrambled egg of the tour. Leave early for Dearborn. More yard sales. Some items scored free of charge.
Turn off highway to Lima, OH, old steam-locomotive town, visit shop with Huffy bicycle for sale (made in Dayton, OH), Salvation Army sale: $2 suitcase, four 'T' shirts $1. Lima Museum closed but Shay engine #10 on display in window. Pitstop at nearby McDonald's Restaurant, 575 Market Street, Lima, OH 45801.
Yard sales around Ottawa and Leipsic. 10:44 Walmart, 1720 North Perry Street, Ottawa, Ohio 45875. 11:57 Tim Horton's, 1508 Wooster Road, Bowling Green, OH 43402: $19.72.
Past Toledo, drive on to Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn MI. Very helpful receptionist encouraging realism about what could be seen in the time available. Among the exhibits in Henry's giant toybox is Jim Clark's Indy-winning Lotus 38/1, the last remaining Dymaxion house in the world.
Overnight at Hotel St Regis, 3071 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit MI 48202, situated in Midtown. Valet parking obligatory. La Musique Restaurant: bar bill $147.34. We learn that the first leg of the Detroit Grand Prix has been won by Graham Rahal.
Sun 4 June:
To Toronto, quickly across the Ambassador Bridge and through the border to Tim Horton's for breakfast at 1875 Huron Church Rd, Windsor, ON N9C 2L6.
We decide to avoid the highways and take the pretty way home through rural Ontario. Quilts on sides of barns aplenty. Further yard sales. Pitstop at Tim Horton's, 41 Park Ave E, Chatham, ON N7M 1V8.
Late lunch at Hicks Café, 61 Ontario Rd, Mitchell, ON, nice to avoid the chains, friendly in an old historic building, stayed open just for us. Recommended.
Jack and Richard to Inverness B&B, 287 Humberside Ave, Toronto, M6P 1L4, ON. Jack and Richard to Mackenzies: "very good food, decent service, diverse, too noisy."
Mon 5 June:
Day In Toronto, drive to Sherway Gardens (Lunch at Szechuan Express, $52.87, Indigo, The Bay), hunt for Milani cosmetics at Rexall - "a drugstore brand." Canadian Tire, Lowes. Dark Horse pub in the evening.
Tues 6 June:
Jack and Richard fettled B&B owner's Brompton bicycle and Pashley trike. Day in Toronto, drive to Cherry Beach, walk by the lake and then T&T Chinese Supermarket. Return hire car 13:02. Total 3165 miles (5094 km). Dinner for four at Kenkou Sushi, 2370 Bloor Street West, Toronto, M6S 1P5, $122.04. Then Dark Horse pub.
Weds 7 June:
Bike ride downtown, 20 miles approx. Two Bromptons and 'Goldie' Traveler bike. No bike issues. Lavazza Coffee house, Good Neighbour Espresso Bar for tea. Evening at Yellow Griffin pub, understaffed but trying hard, some items off menu, choice of beers, unhurried.
Thurs 8 June: Day in Toronto then Richard and Jack bus to airport and fly to Gatwick, all on time. Air Transat Club Class Flight TS422 Toronto to LGW. Depart 22.05, Arrive 10.05 on Fri 9 June.