Thurs 30th Aug.
The longest day on the bike.
I left my spot behind the residential area early, not to cause any alarm or arouse suspicion. It was one of my earliest starts yet at 7am and needed to be as I had a long day ahead. I saw the only thing I wanted to see at the start of the day, a bakery, my new morning regime. I ordered a white coffee and two treats, one for now and one for later. One was called ‘Bienenstich’ and was a soft pastry, a sausage roll-type shape, with cold cream inside, sugar glaze on top with chopped almonds. It was very dense and filled a sizeable hole, which with coffee made the perfect start for the day.
I had become increasingly tired over the last few days, I was always a bit tired with the bike and camping, but yesterday I pushed into a deeper darker realm. I know I was an inch away from getting ill, I made sure to watch what I eat and made an effort to give my body the things it needs to help fight while it’s low. I knew sleep would help cure this too, which I would have again in Berlin.
I was all charged up for the day ahead, I knew I wouldn’t get to Berlin, but I wanted to get as close as possible and was revved up for the day. Now that I knew I had come so far, I was running on pure adrenaline for Berlin. I could feel I close I was and it felt amazing. It was nearly a year ago to the day that I first conceived the trip, to cycle from Barcelona to Berlin and how it grew since then. Now I was a day and just over 100km away, it felt like I was racing there the whole day.
Something I haven’t written about is the feeling of warming up and then keeping a good rhythm and consistent strong pace. It takes about an hour and a half sometimes, maybe two hours of riding, until your fully warmed up and then it feels really good. Just riding a pace of around 22kph without stopping for as long as possible. That’s what gets the distance done. If I go much faster I burn out after an hour and much slower isn’t enough to get into this trance-like zone. When you get it right it’s like meditating, you get into a head space that feels good and you’re able to stay there for some time.
One of the first areas I cycled through was a forest full of big green trees thirty feet high. I don’t know what it was about the forests I’d been through, but they always felt like they provided company, at least something to look at. After I was through the forest, it was all flat roads and fields again. I was bored and tired, but I didn’t mind as I was so close to my goal. I saw the first sign for Berlin around midday. 101km. Not bad.
The terrain stayed the same, one long road going through fields, upon fields. Often when I passed the outskirts of a city, there was a cycle lane, but other than that there were no lanes out here which was unusual for Germany.
I pushed on and did my best to maintain the pace, but struggled after several hours. The fact I was close was comforting, but I was still miles away. I got into a town (possibly Herzberg) and stopped for my second German staple. Another kebab. This was run by a mother and daughter and maintained the high standards of the previous two. The meat was well cooked and lean for a kebab and there was loads of veg. I ate everything and took the time to let it go down, although I never gave food enough time when I was riding. I always got too impatient and started cycling after about twelve minutes.
For the rest of the day, I pushed on and cycled at the best pace I could. At one point, I found myself on a highway. I was annoyed at how often this happened, you never got a sign, you would follow the road you were on and end up on a road, as roads are built for cars, there wasn’t always consideration for cross-country cyclists, and understandably so. But it was unusual for Germany. I had to stay on the highway for quite a while but got off as soon as I could. Now that I was in Germany again, I had been using the GPS, but with no way to charge it, I had to be very selective.
It was getting late, I got off the road and ended up in a small, quiet town. I started looking for a spot to camp, but spotted a restaurant with beer umbrellas outside. ‘Why not’ I though, I’d earned it and I wouldn’t be long. I had half a litre of their Weizenbier (wheat beer, my favourite type), drank it quickly and had to wait around to pay the waiter.
Within about two minutes of being on the bike, I found one of the perfect spots to camp in the entire trip. It was like I was rewarded for the long day. The path off the road was easy and no cars were around. I pushed further into the woods out of site and set up. The ground was soft, so I knew I would sleep well.
I was close to a town called Trebbin. I looked it up in Berlin and my overall distance for the day was 135km. Not world-record breaking by any means, but it was by far the longest day of the trip.