Hamburg-Luebeck, approx 70km
If this were a stage race I'd already be a DNF (did not finish) as I am currently about 20km south from where I intended to be. Long story, so let's start at the beginning, which was already not pleasant.
Because one thing I hate about mornings is being woken up by an alarm. Fortunately I am not a late riser, so generally I don't use an alarm. Today was different and I could have killed that damn thing at 5:45. The fact that I went to bed at midnight didn't help and while I am a last-minute person, it wasn't entirely my fault. I was helping someone with a few computer questions, which took away precious packing time.
Then I made the next mistake, getting to the train station early - I usually like to cut it closer than the four minutes I arrived ahead of my 7:03 departure. Time spent waiting on a platform is wasted time, in my opinion. Especially if you could have used the time to do something useful, like printing a valid ticket. I printed the ticket alright, but because the toner was low, some black parts appeared in red and the scanner from the conductor couldn't read it.
He just let it go and I had some time when changing from the local to the long distance train, so I printed out a better ticket at an internet cafe. Less wasted time, I like it!
Having a reservation was a joke. I could hardly see any other passengers, the flight traffic must have resumed. In fact I think there were more bicycles than passengers. At one stop three guys started to put in bicycles like crazy. They must have added seven or eight. But when they got off I saw that the other three or four were in a different car, loaded with about 20 bags. Ok, so 4.50 for the reservation down the train/drain.
At least the railway gave me a good laugh in its freebie magazine that they distribute in the long distance trains. They had a special about Austria and they said about this one dude that he has finished a regional Austrian Ironman four times. "He belongs to the group of really tough athletes. Because besides running a full marathon (42.2km), in a triathlon you also need to swim 3.8km and bike 18km."
I am picturing Lance Armstrong in his next Ironman, where a course marshal taps him on the shoulder after a mere 10 miles. "Sir, it's OK, you can start your marathon now."
The total time of train travel was eight hours and 26 minutes (an even 8h30 if I count the four minutes I came early at the beginning of the trip). But it was not as bad as it sounds. I met some nice people, I slept some and I enjoyed the scenery. I haven't been to this part of the country since the mid-90's, I think.
The start in Hamburg was easier than I thought, no wrong turns or anything. I could write another whole blog entry of what I think about Hamburg's bike paths, but I'll spare you the details.
The weather was good for the most part. I had three three-minute hail showers, as I remembered that in the south we are truly blessed with warmer weather. No wonder why the solar power lobby sits in the south and the wind power advocates in the north. Speaking of wind, I am probably not supposed to say this as a cyclist, but it didn't come from the front. It was a heavy cross wind, but mostly from the cross back side.
I had a few intercity bike paths and in some parts they were actually shorter than the road. But in many places they were in poor quality, with bumps from tree roots, cobbles and some broken glass. Near a soccer field I had a flat tire. Lifting my arm was not an option, as there were no team cars around.
The tires were not new, but still in decent shape, or so I thought. There was large cut now on the back tire, about three to four inches long. I put the back tire to the front, the front to the back, with a new tube. A dog-walker told me where the next bike store was, seven miles away. Of course I managed to get there ten minutes after closing, with various door bells not giving me satisfactory results, either.
When I looked at the map things got worse. Trying to get to the store, I was going south, where my intended direction was north! I called it quits in Luebeck and hit the youth hostel there. Good place, with internet connection and a nice pizza for dinner.
Guess tomorrow's stage will be longer :)